March 17th, 2010
11:30 AM Boston time
Abel Beato was in a very tight spot. His family-owned restaurant, The Sao Paolo Grill, was losing money like a sieve. The problem was two-fold. First off, the rent was increasing. He wasn’t the only one to have to deal with this. For some reason, all across Maynard, landlords were raising the rent every few months, despite the fact that it was 2010 and the worst economic crisis in recent memory had just occurred.
The other was paying off his wife’s “entry fee.” When he had come in from Brazil several years ago, he had been trying to get his wife out from the slums. However, the bureaucracy had moved too slowly for him, and things had been getting worse in the favelas. So he had made a deal with a man known as Marco Gonzalez.
I would have been better off dealing with the devil, Abel thought as the door opened and the Cartel scumbag walked in. To the everyday observer, Marco was just another businessman, probably Abel’s partner. Every Wednesday, a little before the restaurant’s opening, Marco would come in, holding a briefcase. Abel would fill it with the required sum of cash, with neither man saying a word. Most often, it was full.
Today, however, that changed. After Abel finished filling the bag, Gonzalez commented, “You’re short.” In the four years he had been coming to the shop, this was the second time Gonzalez had spoken to him. The first was when Abel came to him to get his with out of Brazil.
Abel nodded. “Yes,” he said, trying to keep himself from stuttering or sweating, “and unless you do something, it will get smaller.”
“How is this my problem?” Gonzalez asked, taking a stack of bills and flipping through them.
Abel silently cursed the arrogant bastard. Of all the years they had been doing this, Gonzalez had never once looked at him. “The people in charge of the buildings in this town,” Abel said, “The landlords, they’re raising rents. If you collect from anyone else…”
“Not my problem,” Gonzalez said, closing the briefcase. “By the way, I’m raising the rates. Two thousand next week, plus the fifty you owe me.” He then walked out, not sparing Abel a second glance.
After Gonzalez left, Abel spent a good ten minutes cursing out the bastard (it was in Portuguese and in a whisper, he wasn’t that brave.) Once he was satisfied, he turned the Closed sign to Open and called out the hired help from the kitchen. Pretty soon after, two Asians, a brother and a sister, walked in.
Not only were they regulars, but they were also recent immigrants struggling to make a living, so Abel greeted them. “Hello Lang, hello Biao Zi,” he said. “I see you are finally dressing better, Lang.”
The brother, Lang, was in a ratty suit and tie and carrying a briefcase identical to the one Marco had just walked out with instead of the usual, equally ratty basketball jersey and jeans. “There was a business opportunity,” Lang said, smiling with satisfaction.
Bao Zi was dressed in a cheap suit and skirt, her lopsided hair falling down the left side of her face, and her usually impassive face rendered much more so by cheap sunglasses. “It isn’t worth talking about,” she said. “There is quite a bit of time before we can tell if it will work out.”
Later, when Abel and his wife got home, they found a familiar briefcase. Taped to the case, there was a note that had been typed up and printed out. It read:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Beato,
I have noticed that your “protectors” (at least, I assume they are selling you some form of insurance, if you know what I mean) are uninterested in your welfare. We also know that the prices you are paying your protector are exorbitant. We can offer you protection, real protection, for half the price.
We can defend you from your former protector and provide other services, such as negotiating lower rent. If this offer sounds acceptable seems acceptable, please leave the briefcase with five hundred dollars inside outside your rear door by Tuesday next week before you leave for your restaurant. Then, when the man who collects your taxes comes by the next day, refuse to pay.
Do both these things, and you shall have an invisible, silent, yet very real friend as long as we get our five hundred dollars each week. If you fail to do either, we will wash our hands of you.
Your humble servant,
The Jade Emperor
March 18th, 2010
“Yes, I understand,” Roberto Montana said in Spanish to his boss. “No, sir,” he lied, “I haven’t been skimming! Why would… No, sir, they are LIARS! Are you willing to trust sneaks and whores over…”
Marco Gonzalez watched his boss talk on the phone for a little while longer. At first, he had been worried. After all, the briefcase he had taken from The Sao Paolo Grill had suddenly become empty. Then he had learned that not only his boss was being investigated by his boss, not only had three other collectors been hit this month without his knowledge, but his was the least amount stolen. After that, Marco had become bored.
Montana finally slammed the phone. “You,” he snarled at Marco in English, “Next week, you will get all the money your debtors owe you. If they don’t have it, you rob a fucking ATM on your way back here. You get me, bitch?”
Marco considered mentioning that if he had known about the other hits, he could have prepared. He decided it wasn’t worth it. “Yes, sir.” He said.
“Get the fuck outta here,” Montana said. Marco left. God, he thought, this job is so boring. I wish something interesting would happen.
March 19th, 2010
Robert King had just arrived at another town meeting. As usual, the people there were on his case about fucking rent. He was a legitimate businessman, using a legitimate strategy. So were the other landlords in town. Besides, was it really their business that there were empty storefronts on Main Street?
Apparently, a lot of people in town agreed with him. The only people who showed up were landlords and shop owners. There were also a few students there, but they were there for a meeting about the school’s radio and TV station, WAVM, or to man the cameras that broadcasted the meeting via said channel.
When a selectman came on to tell the people that the other selectmen would be a few minutes late, Rob got up disgustedly.
“Where are you going?” the selectman asked.
“To take a smoke,” Rob said. “There’s no sense in staying here if we won’t get anything done.” As he walked out, he muttered darkly about how everything that would happen at the meeting would just be a waste of time.
As he was using his lighter, a gold zippo with fancy silver filigree and his name engraved on it, a young girl in a green peacoat barreled into him. A series of notes she was carrying fell everywhere and Rob dropped his lighter and cigarette.
“Oh shit,” the girl said, as she began trying to organize the papers, “sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry!” Rob watched impassively as the girl apologized. He noticed, with some annoyance that the girl’s accent was foreign, possibly Chinese. Great, he thought as her head, covered in long, messy dark hair bobbed up and down, now I’ll have to listen to yet another person attempt to speak English.
Eventually the girl stood up. “Oh, hey!” she said, her face brightening, “You’re Robert King! I’m Mai, from the Maynard High School student newspaper and…”
“I didn’t know the high school had a paper,” Rob said.
“Well,” Mai said, “it’s still being approved. Anyway, I was just wondering if you had a few minutes to spare to talk about the rents in downtown Maynard. For instance, you’re charging over twenty dollars per square foot for a storefront that only looks out on the Main Street parking lot and…”
Rob sighed. “Listen, kid,” he said, “no one cares about rent prices in Maynard, except maybe the renters and the landlords. If you’ll notice, not even the Beacon showed up, that’s how boring this is. What the hell makes you think the people in your school will care?”
With that, he turned around and stalked back into the meeting. If he had paid attention, he would have noticed that Mai, instead of becoming disheartened, shook her head and smiled. Rob also failed to notice several other things.
When Rob finally got to his large house overlooking Wyman Drive and Widow Rites Lane in Sudbury, he decided to check the mail. After leaning out from his Mercedes-Benz CLA250, he noticed a letter from Life, Liberty, Happiness, and Prosperity Property Solutions. Due to how official it looked, he decided to open it. His brow furrowed as he read it.
Dear Robert King of Kingmaker Realty
We have uncovered new information that your properties on Main Street in Maynard, MA are about to suffer a significant decrease in value. Due to both your practices as a business owner and circumstances beyond your control, we believe the properties will force Kingmaker Realty into bankruptcy.
However, we are willing to buy your properties for $500,000.00. This is below market value, we know, but that is only because we know what will happen. If you wish to avoid the damage, please call the number above. We recommend you do this within a week, as that is when we believe your property value will begin to deplete.
Robert looked at the note for a second. Apart from the company’s logo, an odd fusion of Revolutionary War and ancient Chinese imagery, the content of the letter was highly offensive. Who the hell did these people think they were, telling him he would go bankrupt? It hurt even more that he was starting to find a hard time finding a new tenant to replace the Siamese restaurant had moved out and his Acton and Sudbury properties were also not doing that great. Still, who were they to tell him what to do?
March 24th, 2010
The week had been a little strange for Abel. It had all started Friday when Lang had brought in some of the town’s more famous delinquents during a half day. Every day since, he would show up with a new group of future criminals, mostly Asian. However, two of the original group kept showing up, one white, the other black.
Abel noticed that whenever someone showed up more than twice, they would wear some article of green, usually a shirt. He also noticed that his friend Timothy Ming, the owner of a local buffet-style Chinese restaurant, was becoming much more harried. Even more disturbing, there had been a fire in one of the other buildings that his landlord, Robert King, owned.
However, he was too preoccupied to worry about these events. Today, he was going to stand up to Gonzalez. Hopefully, something would step in to make sure Gonzalez didn’t kill him. Not completely confident in the power of this “Jade Empire,” he had given his wife and the rest of his employees the day off.
Then, Gonzalez came in, the door chiming ominously. “Beato,” he said, an edge to his normally bored voice, “you got the cash?”
Abel took a deep breath and said, “I told you last week, I can either pay you, or I can pay my landlord. I’ve decided I won’t pay you.”
Gonzalez’s fist moved so fast that Abel didn’t see it move. Or maybe Abel was hit so hard, the half-second of movement was lost to him. He fell down, a tooth knocked loose and his nose bleeding.
“Let’s try that again,” Gonzalez said, twitching nervously. “Where’s my fucking money?”
Abel groaned. “Wrong answer, bitch,” Gozalez said, aiming a kick into Abel’s stomach. Due to the blow to his head, Abel didn’t even feel that kick. However, by the third kick, he was definitely feeling it.
Around the ninth, the bell rang again. “Hey!” a voice with a Chinese accent called out, “Stop!”
Both Abel and Gonzalez looked up. There, standing in the doorway was Lang. As Abel used the opportunity to crawl away, he heard Gozalez say, “Back off! This doesn’t concern you!” He then reached down to grab Abel’s leg. Abel screamed. Gonzalez must have broken it.
“Let go of him!” Lang yelled. Soon after, Abel heard thwack and felt Gozalez let go of his leg. Abel turned around to see Lang and Gonzalez in an intense fist fight. However, it was obvious to Abel, someone who had never won a fight in his life, that Lang was holding back. Lang seemed to be some form of martial arts training as well as a lot of experience in street fighting. Eventually, he pushed back Gonzalez, who stumbled into some tables and chairs.
Gonzalez, his face bloody and one of the lenses on his sunglasses shattered, reached into his waistband. His eyes widened in shock.
From Lang’s side of the ring, Abel turned to see Lang. Lang was just as disheveled as Gonzalez, his suit rumpled, an eye starting to turn black, and some blood dribbling out his mouth. He was also holding a gun, its chrome slide shining in the morning sun. “Looking for this?” Lang asked, slightly short of breath.
“That’s my gun…” Gonzalez said dumbly. “That’s not fair…”
Lang responded with six shots in rapid succession, filling the air with the tangy scents of blood and gunpowder. The bullets, from what Abel could tell, all hit Gonzalez around where the heart and lungs should be. After the last casing finished bouncing on the tile floor, Lang dropped the gun.
“You saw what happened, right?” Lang said. “I wrestled the gun away from him, but he was reaching for another.”
Abel stared at Lang for a moment. Not in disbelief, or at Lang’s face, but at a green dragon lapel pin on Lang’s suit. After a while, Abel said, “That is a nice pin. Is it jade?”
“Yes,” Lang said, a slight smile playing about his lips, “it is.”
March 27th, 2010
The week had been hell for Rob King. After he had left the town meeting, one of his properties had caught fire. Luckily, only a table and some of the tenant’s merchandise had suffered. The police suspected arson, but wouldn’t tell him why. Disturbingly, though, they had asked him for a DNA sample. Then more of his properties began to catch fire, making him regret spending all that money trying to avoid fire code regulations.
So far, no one had been hurt and all the buildings were pretty much useful. However, as Rob sat in his Clock Tower Place office, he was slowly beginning to suspect worse was to come. A knock on the door broke him out of his ruminations.
“Come in,” he said. In response, two police officers walked in. “What seems to be the problem, officers?” Rob asked.
“We found a slightly salivated cigarette at the first crime scene,” one of the officers said, “and your insurance agency was kind to run it through a DNA test. Want to guess who it matched up with?”
The other officer then added. “I’ll give you a hint: we found his very intricate lighter last night at the most recent crime scene.”
It suddenly clicked. “Wait,” Rob said desperately, “if it’s my lighter…”
“…I lost it on the nineteenth. It can’t have been me, someone’s framing me.” Rob looked at the unimpressed faces staring at him. “Seriously,” he said, “you can’t think I’m this stupid!”
“Considering the stupid idiots who commit crimes,” one of the cops said, “and the fact that you’re the asshole who single-handedly drove The Comic Dungeon out of business…” He pulled out some handcuffs, “Yeah, I’m gonna have to ask you to put these bracelets on.”
Two weeks later, Rob sold all his properties to pay for court costs. His Maynard holdings went to LLHP for a total of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
April 2nd, 2010
Montana was in a tight spot. Not only had the attacks on his couriers continued, not only were his bosses in Mexico breathing down his neck about the skimming, but other local groups now smelled blood. Montana didn’t blame them. If some unknown fucks like Jade Empire bandits could heist shit off someone’s couriers with impunity and take territory without reprisal, then Montana would have decided to move in himself. He just wished that he was unique, is all.
His phone rang. Despite the fact that he was driving, Montana knew he had to answer it. “Montana,” his boss said in Spanish, “we’ve given you a very good deal. Normally, when people skim, we cut off their hands. You just have to make monthly payments. The problem is, you haven’t made a single one.”
“I keep telling you,” Montana said, “the payments are getting intercepted! Besides, some local gangs are trying to take our turf! The Kagemotos…”
“…Are telling us that you’re a liar. They were one of the first to bring this to our attention.” Montana’s boss was now annoyed. “Three of our trusted agents are coming to pick up your money personally. They are staying at the Boston Mariott Long Wharf, room 1001. Go alone and bring the first payment. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir,” Montana said respectfully. He then hung up. He drove to a parking lot and called his most trusted team of hit men. “Hey, boys,” he said, switching to English, “I have a job for you. You know that hotel shaped like a fucking boat? There’s some guys staying in room 1001 that I wish would go away.”
He hung up, then took a deep breath. There was one way he could avoid the cartel’s retribution, and that was to bloody their nose.
April 7th, 2010
Despite the fact that he was back to work, things hadn’t gone back to normal for Abel. First off, his cast wasn’t off. Second, he still tensed slightly every time the bell on the door chimed. There was also the weirdness of how he was sort of in limbo while his rent moved from Rob King to someone else.
However, not all changes were bad. Most reasuringly, Tim Ming was acting much less nervous. When Abel asked why, Tim said, “Things are all over. They’re getting their share now, if you know what I’m talking about.”
Then there was the uptick in customer support. Dozens of people flooded into the restaurant in response to the attack on him. When he was in the hospital, more than a few people wrote to him telling him what a shame that it took an attack on him for them to discover how good his food was.
Today was his first day back, and he was taking the time to travel throughout the restaurant. It wasn’t very big, but it was his. He took a moment to bask in the glow of friends, acquaintances, and strangers all enjoying a meal cooked and served by his staff.
Eventually, he wandered over to the big table. There, he noticed a bunch of the young people Lang had brought in pouring over a newspaper talking about what appeared to be one of the five gang shootings in Boston, Salem, and Worcester that had happened over the previous week. The one black one, Jaime Washington, Abel believed he was called, seemed to be leading the group.
“…Man, these guys made this happen!” he said. “No way they’re gonna just sit around.”
“They’ve got Maynard,” one of the few girls said. “Shouldn’t that be enough?”
Everyone looked at her. Jaime sighed. “No, Mary,” he said, “Maynard ain’t enough. Hell, the fucking world ain’t enough for me.”
Lang, suddenly appearing behind Abel said, “You’re saying what I want to hear, Jaime,” as he spoke, he walked by Able, “but not where I want to hear it.”
“Sorry, man,” Jaime said, “I get a little excited, you feel?”
Lang laughed as he pulled up a chair. “I feel, man. But you got to control it, man. Channel it.” Lang then turned to Abel. “Hey man,” he said, “I’m paying for these guys.”
“You don’t have to pay for anything,” Abel said. “Not so soon after you saved my life.” At this, Lang’s high school recruits murmured to themselves. “Now,” Abel continued, “what would you like?”
When Abel came back, he heard Jaime say, “…Got a cousin in Jamaica Plains, saying how dope this group called The Jade Empire is in Chinatown. There’s also an uncle who’s sayin’ that a certain Mexican importer needs someone to distribute in Worcester. You in?”
Lang laughed. “You know it.”
Abel left as soon as he could, desperately trying to forget everything he heard.
April 24th, 2010
Jimmy “Chairman” Mao, in his twenty years of working the Boston Chinatown protection rackets, had never seen things get this bad. At first, everyone had thought that the cartel interlopers would just kill themselves and the real Massachusetts residents could just split the territory among themselves peacefully. Then word got out that the Callahans were importing supers.
The thing about that was that everyone knew that you only import capes and other high-end talent if you were going to expand into areas that would fight back. The only people who, in Jimmy’s experience, could get away with importing paras and mercs was the Kagemotos, and that was only because there weren’t that many Japanese willing to join the Yakuza in Massachusetts.
Needless to say, this prompted further hostilities. That was bad for business. Business was down because people were afraid to go into a war zone. Police were turning less of a blind eye to their activities. The Minutemen, those self-righteous asshats, were getting more aggressive. They also were getting help from some unpowered ex-military or law enforcement psychos known as Beret, Ranger and Sewer Rat. It had gotten to the point where people were dying every day.
However, the worst new development was the new guys. The Jade Empire. Jimmy had a hunch that the fact they had appeared at the same time the cartel had its meltdown was no accident. From what Jimmy had heard, these guys had started off by heisting cartel couriers around Acton and Concord. In an effort to get some answers, Jimmy had sent a lot of resources to Middlesex County.
Through this he learned two things. First, if this “Jade Emperor” he kept hearing about had a throne, it would be in Maynard. Apparently, if you wanted to do anything of a less-than-legal nature in that town, you would need the blessing of the Emperor.
He also learned how little being Chairman of China meant to anyone outside of Boston. Apart from general clues and information gathered from people who didn’t even know The Jade Empire existed, he learned absolutely nothing new. Yes, their color was green, yes they were the only gang Jimmy had heard of that wasn’t picky about race. Jimmy knew that.
Actually, that wasn’t true, he had learned one new fact. The Jade Empire was well-armed and knew exactly what was happening on its turf. At one point, one of Jimmy’s guys had gotten close. Then he wound up dead. At that point, Jimmy decided to send a team to scorch the Earth. They had all loaded up with AKs, shotguns, and Uzis, then checked into a hotel in the area. Two days later, the van they had come in on, as well as their bodies, had been found perforated and charred in Stockbridge. When Jimmy asked where the hell Stockbridge was, he learned that it was over hundred and twenty miles from where the hotel had been.
After that, The Jade Empire came to Chinatown and began doing a much better job there than Jimmy had done in Maynard. All it took was a single visit.
Three days ago, multiple raiding parties had arrived via the Red and Green lines. All day, they were extremely busy. However, most of what they did was still not known as one of the first things they did was destroy all the surveillance the various gangs in the area had.
The next day, when The Empire had left, Jimmy began hearing confused reports about gangs ripping themselves to shreds. One he was actually able to confirm for himself. The Lucky Hand had been in Chinatown ever since the beginning and, while never becoming particularly powerful, had survived everything from Prohibition to hero booms. Now, after a single attack, The Jade Empire somehow had them dead, fleeing, or hunkered down in complete fear.
Jimmy sighed as he parked in front of his command post, an uninviting bar with blacked-out windows and a couple of surprisingly luxurious back rooms. He still didn’t know the damage that had been inflicted on him, except that he couldn’t talk to a lot of his guys. That worried him. A lot.
He got out of the car and hurried to the door of the bar. Being outside, especially without a bodyguard, scared him. However, it couldn’t be helped. In emergencies, such as this, many gangbangers would shut off their phones. Now, the only way to contact people in a timely fashion would be to meet with them face to face. They were in the dark ages, but it was better than being dead.
He regretted the decision as soon as the door swung shut. There was no one behind the bar. There should be someone behind the bar. Before he could turn and exit, he heard the distinctive sound of a shotgun being pumped. “Going somewhere?” a female voice with a Chinese accent asked.
“Fuck me,” Jimmy said, his Boston accent contrasting strongly with the voice of his guest. He stepped away from the door and turned to see two people, probably twins. They were both Asian and in their early twenties or late teens. They both sported grey hoodies over Celtics jerseys. However, the boy wore expensive jeans and some high-end Nikes, while the girl wore an expensive skirt, spike-heeled ankle boots and silk stockings. The boy’s hair was uniformly short, while the girl’s hair was long and luxurious on one side and almost bald on the other. However, it was their accessories, a pistol for the boy, and a sawed-off shotgun for the girl.
“Hello, glorious chairman,” the boy said, or at least Jimmy thought that’s what he said. Jimmy’s Chinese wasn’t that good. “We are here with an offer.”
“I… I’m sorry,” Jimmy lied, “I don’t really speak Chinese.” It wasn’t entirely a lie. If they wanted to discuss philosophy or science, he would be about as useful as a gallon-jug of salt water in the middle of the Pacific, but he could tell when someone was insulting him in it and he could also hold a conversation about finance.
“Not a problem, revered Chairman,” the boy said, switching to English. “We are just here to make a business proposition.”
“Yeah?” Jimmy asked. “What kind of proposition, Mr. Emperor?” He had instantly taken a dislike to the boy and his condescension.
“First off,” the girl said, “neither of us are the Emperor. The Emperor does not speak to lowly thieves and murderers.”
“We are,” the boy said, “the Emperor’s most loyal dogs. I’m Lang, and this is my sister, Biao Zi.” Jimmy knew those words. Lang meant wolf. Biao Zi in this context was bitch, but in others could mean whore.
“Secondly,” Biao Zi said, shooting her brother an annoyed look, “is that we are looking to take control of Boston’s Chinatown, but we can’t take it over and expand to Worcester without recruiting someone to manage it. That is where you come in.”
“What parts?” Jimmy asked.
“All of it, of course,” Biao Zi said. “Surely you have learned the Emperor is ambitious. The Emperor is also generous. Accept, and you will receive a seven percent cut from everything. I would recommend you say yes.”
Jimmy laughed. “Why the hell would I say no?” he asked.
“Ambition, pride, stuff like that,” Lang said.
“Yeah, kid,” Jimmy said, “Let me fuckin’ talk to you about ambition. See these gray hairs? I’m fucking thirty-five and I’m going gray because of all this stress. I’ve almost gone to jail twice and I’ve even been shot a few times. If I get to retire after ten years, I’d be good. That’s my fucking ambition!”
Biao Zi considered this for a moment, then said, “Fine. You have twenty-four hours to prepare your command post and re-establish control over your territory. I shall see you then.” With that, they both walked out the rear exit of the bar.
After the twins left, Jimmy muttered angrily to himself, “Walk right out, assholes. You’ve won the battle. You’ve won the war. But there’ll be another, and I’ll be the one who wins next time.”
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