“You will submit” a man said, cocking his pistol. A small child laid in front him. She was drenched to the bone in pouring rain.
“Because, I am holding the pistol… and that is all that matters.”
She stared up at her assailant in his soaked Armani suit. Breath floated over him mist-like in the frigid air.
“Run along, now and remember everything I told you.”
The man saw the young girl hesitate. He put a barrel on her temple.
“Remember. Everything,” he emphasized slowly.
She nodded, causing him to smile.
The man fired his pistol wildly into the air while the young girl sprinted away as fast as she was able. He watched once or twice as she fell down, laughing to himself.
“She will pay for this ruined suit in the end,” he thought.
Dusk had fallen. The man checked his watch. It was late. Too late. He had wasted far more time on the girl than he had planned.
A black limousine pulled up beside him. Its door opened.
“I assume” an accented voice began, “everything is going accordingly, Mr. Tanner?”
“Not quite as I would like. But sufficient. For now.”
Mr. Tanner crawled into the back seat. The warmth was pleasant.
“Back home, I presume?”
“No, to the office. There are things needing checked up on.”
A look of displeasure took the driver’s face as they drove toward downtown. He knew he would not be sleeping for another night.
The office was, as expected, empty for the time of night (nearing seven o’clock to be exact). Mr. Tanner did not take notice walking past an array of empty cubicles. His eyes were instead glued to the screen of his cell phone.
The game had changed in recent years. People in his line of work hardly if ever saw each another. The world was ones and zeroes in more ways than one. Money changed hands as quick as loyalties and information. It was Phillip Tanner’s job to keep on top of everything. An impossible task for most but certainly not him.
He dialed a number on his phone. It rang five or six times before an answer on the other end. Mr. Tanner was livid.
“When I call you, fucking pick up!” He shouted.
“Calm down, man,” a voice of similar accent to his driver replied, “we were busy here. It gets a little loud in the shop.”
“I don’t care how loud it gets. When I call, you pick up! Comprende!?”
“Comprende,” he replied through what must have been gritted teeth.
“Now, did you get the shipment in?”
“Yes, it’s here. But you won’t be happy.”
“It’s less than we expected.”
“How much less?”
“A couple hundred.”
“When I ask you how much you do not give me a fucking ballpark answer. You tell me exactly how much less we fucking have!”
“Two-hundred-and-ten, all right!? Chill!”
“It’s hard to chill when I paid for a certain amount and it seems you’re duckin' me!”
“Come on, do you really think I’d duck you of all people?”
“Yes, I do,” Tanner said before hanging up. He held the phone up in the air as if to throw it down, before restraining himself. There was someone else to call first.
“Hello, is this Martinez?”
“I need you to waste Gonzalez.”
“Consider it done.”
Phillip Tanner felt relieved. That was the obedience he needed. No questions. Just action. Gonzalez had caused him nothing but problems from day one.
He put his feet on top of his desk and reclined. He needed a nap but was sure he could not afford one. Either way Tanner let his eyes close for a few minutes before his cell phone beeped with a text message notification.
“Gonzalez wasted,” was all it said. Quick. Easy.
Martinez knew to not waste his time with petty details. But even that short response entailed more work on Mr. Tanner’s part. He had to call his liaison with the police, talk to different parties and prevent a power struggle.
Gonzalez had gotten too high up in rank, Tanner realized, thought he was damn near irreplaceable. But he was not. And he could not let others think they were.
It was easier to work with kids. They knew where they stood. Tanner had always had a knack for scaring them as well. The little girl would tell him everything and most importantly, tell them what he wanted them to know. Who would suspect her of lying? Why would she have recourse?