“You want to fight the Kolmek?” She barked a single, sceptical laugh. “Three kids against one of the strongest, most ruthless gangs in Montreal?”
“We’re not just kids. We might be young, but there’s something different about Alexis.” Danni didn’t deny it. “And I’ve got resources. Contacts. And there’s you.”
“Me?” She crossed her arms over her chest. “You think I’m going to help you?”
“I didn’t really have a choice, I don’t fancy my chances going back to my place.”
“Because you helped us,” he said.
“Listen, kid. Don’t start thinking that I’m a fountain of charity. I did what I did because I didn’t want blood on my hands. That little trick nearly got me killed,” she said. “What you’re asking? That is so far beyond asking me to defy an order to execute a child. Helping some fools try to tearing down the Kolmek? That would drown this city in blood.”
“Blood?” I said, “Have you seen this city? The streets are flooded with poison. It might not be as messy but people are still dying.”
“Alexis has a little crusade going,” Mike said, leaning back again. “Touchy subject.”
“At least that’s a choice,” Danni said to me.
“A bad one. I’m not going to stand by and let people make that it,” I replied.
“So, what? You’re going to take on the gangs to save a bunch of addicts? They won’t thank you for it you know. They’ll kill you before the Kolmek.”
“They can try,” I said, getting to my feet, not even feeling the pain. “This place is shit. It’s a shitty place to live. I’m fed up of it. I want to be able to walk through these streets without constantly thinking I’m going to get a knife in my gut because some junkie wants loose change for their next fix. I want to live in a place where a fucking twelve year old doesn’t get kidnapped, filled with that shit and sold into prostitution. Where someone actually cares when it happens. Where I can walk to school. Where…” Where I can see Beth. Where she’s okay.
“Alex,” Mike interrupted.
I brushed my eyes with the back of my sleeve and began to regret saying anything. I should have left Mike to do the talking, he was always good at talking. I could hit things, I wasn’t much good for anything else.
“I’m fed up of everyone living in fear.” I said, sitting back down. “If you just sit and watch it happen it gets worse. It grows. Festers. It needs stamping out.”
“You not going to achieve much on your own.”
“Exactly.” Mike said.
She sighed, and rubbed her face with her hands. “Well, I need to stay here for a few days at least. I don’t want to leave until things have settled down a bit. I’ll give you some time to persuade me. But how exactly are you going to go about taking down a gang as big as the Kolmek?”
“I’d say we’re half way there,” Mike replied, mouth twitching up at the corners. “If you follow the history of these things… they are all rather unstable volatile organisations, gangs, cartels. That’s the thing about criminals: they don’t like to stick to the rules. Such a large organisation doesn’t work well without rules. They tend to eat themselves, self-destruct.”
“So your plan is just to sit here and wait for it to collapse?”
“No. My plan is to poke at the rather unstable supports until we can bring it down in a controlled fashion. My brother, he’s not made for this. He thinks he is, but what we’ve seen shows he’s not got what it takes. It won’t be long before he goes the same way as my father. The guys on the ground are already losing confidence in him. He’s been seen to fail too often. You’d heard of Alex hadn’t you?”
“Yeah, people talked.” She was frowning, thoughtful.
“What had you heard?” Mike asked. He was on his feet, pacing. Danni looked at me.
“Äiatar. Devil. They say she walks the streets at night and slits your throat. That she pretends to be a weak child then cuts off your ba-” She glanced at me again. “Cuts you.”
“I never cut anyone’s throat,” I protested.
“Doesn’t matter. You got in their heads.” Mike said, “Every time a rival knocks off one of their men they’re going to think it’s you. Someone cut someone’s throat and no one knows who. You did it.”
“And you’re quite good at escaping,” Danni said. “I’d love to hear the stories they come up with of you surviving an execution. There’s always a nut with a stupid story.”
“What’s your theory on the best? She’s actually a clone and there are hundreds of her. Even if you kill her there’s going to be another to hunt you down.”
“No, she’s already dead. Her brain is already turned to mush, she’s an animated corpse. It’s why she can shrug off bullets. That’s why she so merciless. No soul.”
They laughed. I frowned. “Hey. Shut up.”
“If you didn’t want this kind of shit stop getting up after being shot in the head and running around covered in blood.” Mike said wiping a tear from his eye. “You did a damn good job Alex. Even scared me shitless for a moment when you got up after that one.”
An awkward silence hung in the air, odd after the joking. Mike took the opportunity to return to the details of his plan, “She’s already started, we continue picking them off one by one, force them to keep to groups. That will eats into their profits, increases tension. We don’t need to do much. Word of mouth will do the rest.”
I had no such plan when I’d started doing what it was I do, I was just… taking thugs off the street. That was as far as my goal stretched.
He continued, more animated, “You’re a shadow in the night, striking anyone at any time and disappearing before they work out who or what…” I saw a flash of white teeth. “Genius Alex!”
“Okay, what then?” Danni said. “You’ve got a bunch of scared violent criminals without faith in their leadership. So they turn against your brother, that’s not going to change anything. Not in the long run.”
“You’re absolutely right,” Mike said, slapping his fist into his open palm. “We can’t get rid of every one of them, that would be idiotic. Even if we did, there are other factors. Other gangs. Territories will re-shuffle. There’d be a vacuum where the Kolmek existed and the boundaries of the others would absorb the area. There’d be a lot of bloodshed but ultimately it would settle into this unstable equilibrium we have now but with a different name at the head.”
“And your solution?”
“We fill the void. We take it over.” He shrugged. “The only time that kind of group is strong enough to stay together without chewing itself apart is when it has a leader strong enough to force it together. All the big successful gangs, cartels, everyone is defined by its leader. Drug barons, mafia bosses. It’s a clear pattern throughout criminal history. My grandfather managed it for thirty years.”
“And you think you’re that person?”
“Actually, no. My father has a reputation. My brother will. That will eat away at my grandfather’s. They won’t stand for another Laas at the helm.” He looked at me. “No. They need someone to really fear. And who better?”