Li Yiao had his tentacles spread through the far reaches of the east coast. He was a mobster by choice; a career path laid out by his father and his father before him. He was ruthless, powerful and money hungry. He never accepted “no” as an answer when it came to things that he wanted, including people. His men were everywhere, always watching Noelle, whether she came or went. She constantly changed phones and phone numbers but Yiao was always one step ahead and lately, the first and most frequent call she received on each phone. The sun was rising over the horizon, the orange glow brightening the room as she scanned through his file. Hidden in a pizza box, Maverick had managed to sneak his entire dossier to her. He was wanted for racketeering, prostitution, assault, murder and a laundry list of other offenses. He was infamous for getting his own hands dirty; he was an avid believer that when you killed a person, you absorbed their power from their blood. He was a monster and he was poised to ruin everything Noelle had worked so hard for.
She’d already burned the file and discarded the ashes when the buzzer rang from outside. She whipped the door to find him in her doorway, a smile spreading across his wide face. “Good morning,” he said, stepping around her into the room. “Come on in,” she said as she slammed the door. He was dressed in a blue pinstriped suit, his gray peacoat thrown over his left arm. “Charming,” he said, looking around the loft. She ignored the compliment, eager for the exchange to be over.
“Do you have something for me?” he said as he walked around the room. She held her breath when he peered into the sink and briefly investigated the ashes of the manila folder. He moved on to the island between them, where Noelle had dumped his treasure. “You got what you want. Now I want the tape.”
He ignored her as he untied the pouch and dumped the contents into his hand: the Rose Marie diamond: brilliantly tinted pink and the size of his entire palm. It was worth $10 million dollars easily and Noelle relieved it from the back of a bank vault. “Excellent,” he said, his face spread into a smile as he surveyed his new trinket. “The tape, Yiao,” Noelle said more forcibly. “I think I’ll hold onto it for a little while longer. I have a few more ‘errands’ I need you for,” he said, slipping the diamond into his inner breast pocket. “What?! We had a deal!”
“Deal? You think I built my entire empire on ‘deals’ with people like you? No, my dear, you sold yourself to me and I think I’d like to reap these benefits a little longer.” Noelle resisted the urge to grab a knife from the counter and jam it into the exposed portion of his fat neck. He had come into the unit alone but it spoke more of his lethality than his foolishness. In the dossier was a report about how Yiao had killed a room full of men and escaped with only a scratch across his cheek and two broken fingers. Noelle was aware that he could snap her neck in a single motion he ever cared to. She knew she would need to remain valuable until she came up with a plan. “Infuriating, isn’t it? One tiny slip up and your future, your FREEDOM rests in the hands of a menace,” he said. He dragged his finger under her chin, which caused her to pull away from him. “The difference is, this time you’ll be paid handsomely for your services,” he said. He laid a flash drive on the counter between them. “I’ll be in touch.”
Evan Morris had already had a shitty day. The DOW had dropped 10 points, putting everyone at Chester & Maxwell on high alert. His credit card was mysteriously deactivated and, after an hour on hold with his bank, was told he would have to wait 5-7 business days for a new one. He had no cash so a taxi was out of the question, plus the gridlock was atrocious at 5pm. He had forgotten about the Metro card he stashed in his briefcase. He made the 16 block hike just in time, only to discover his train going uptown was delayed. “Great,” he said as he stood in front of the platform. He took a seat on the bench near the stairs, his feet aching in his brown dress shoes. He texted his girlfriend, Amanda, that he would be late tonight. He sat the phone down and began ruffling through his bag when the woman next to him knocked over her cup of coffee, flooding the seat next to and beneath him with the warm beverage. “Jesus Christ!” he exclaimed, instantly reaching for his soaked phone. “I…am…so sorry! I am a total klutz!” the woman said. He sighed and shook his head. “It’s fine, it’s still working.”
“I can’t BELIEVE I just did that! Here, let me help you!” she said, before yanking a wad of napkins from her pocket and spinning him around. He tried awkwardly to release himself from her grip as she ran her hand up and down his backside. “Hey, whoa, ok! I’m fine!” he said as he wriggled free. “Look, I work for the Gallery on Manchester. Just send your dry cleaning bill there,” she said as he grabbed his bag and boarded the train. “Just my luck,” Evan sighed as the train pulled from the station.
The explosion could be felt 20 blocks away.
Noelle stared at the television as she shook with fury. “Domestic terrorism”, they called it as they rattled on about the details of the “attack”. His picture was shown every few minutes but his face never left her mind. Evan Morris was innocent. The bag that was found contained trace amounts of plastic explosives that incinerated the car he rode in, killing himself and all the passengers. It was the same bag Yiao had delivered, the same bag he deemed “imperative” on the flash drive he gave her. The real bag only contained a laptop (that wasn’t even password protected), an old iPod and several unimportant files. Yiao had used Noelle to kill 11 people.