Detective Smith has just been handed the case of a lifetime. One that can take him out of the hole he's currently in and on the path to the good life; retirement at 70, clean running water and flush toilets.
But first, he has to master the art of the deal.
It was a rainy February night with a warm wind coming down from the North as my Dragon squad car pulled into the Manhattan Corporate Centre. Say what you will about Chinese cars, they handled the wet pavement like a mother with a new born. We had been sent to the MCC by the board of directors of New York Security. There had been an “incident”, a bad one; the type that might just rattle the shareholders if they found out about it and make them want answers. The Manhattan board of directors were scared of the fire that had started and they wanted NYS to put it out before it got too big.
My name is Smith. W. My friends, if I had any, would call me Dubya. I’m a cop. With me was Jones. S. Big shot lawyer from Harvard. We work for the Regional Security Services of New York Inc. To much of a mouthful to say over the phone, so we just call it New York Security or NYS. Before the abolition of government, we would have just been called NYPD and Jones would have been an ADA. Assistant District Attorney.
NYS’ contract had been picked up by the Manhattan board and we have worked for them for the past 5 years. Pay’s not so great but the benefits keep me on the job. My specialty is homicide. And based on the meet I had just had with my Captain, my job was about to get a lot more difficult.
Seems someone didn’t particularly like his coworkers. Really didn’t like them. So much so, this someone went through his office and shot about 30 of them. Point blank range, no hope of survival. Nobody knew where this somebody went afterwards. NYS had confirmed he had left the island. As long as he was no longer in the Corp. of Manhattan, it wasn’t our problem. We weren’t paid to do someone else’s job.
But the board of directors still needed to clean up another mess before it became a story. The Corporate media had agreed to accept a waiver of interest - in the form of a cash pay out of several thousand - not to report the story; but there was a problem. The illegal media had got a whiff of the massacre and the lid was about to blow.
The illegals. Knowledge Mill in cop talk. Internet bloggers, underground newspapers, pirate television and radio stations. Always making life difficult by telling facts that shareholders don’t need to know. Every time we shut one of them down, another takes their place. Every cop remembers the scandal of ’56 when a Knowledge Mill blew the roof off Miami by publishing the details of a secret deal between the Miami board of directors and the Columbian Cartels. The plan was to run coke up from the city into the rest of the Regions while Miami Security looked the other way. The reaction of the shareholders was so bad the board had no choice but to kill the deal. It cost the corporation billions in lost profit. The CEO had to resign and, incredibly, there was even talk of bringing criminal charges against some board members themselves.
The Manhattan board was determined that this experience wouldn’t be repeated. That’s where I came in. The Corp of Manhattan retained its “legitimacy” by ensuring that there was no crime in the city that wasn’t punished. Crimes rates had to be seen to be almost non-existent by the shareholders if the Corporation was to be thought of as successful. A crime like this, wasn’t supposed to happen any more. It was a throwback to the bad old days of government, City Halls and public services. The CEO was scared and I knew why. This didn’t just put his job at risk. It could make the shareholders start questioning the whole concept of Corporate governance.
The mess at the worksite had already been cleaned up but the illegals had gotten their hands on the crime scene photos and were about to go public. We got a lead on who had the photos and where they were set up, but by the time the Manhattan board had completed negotiations with SWAT to carry out a raid, the Mill was long gone. Worse, indications were that they had crossed into the Boston Corporate area and the Boston Security Service was demanding a small ransom to take the case.
Now the Manhattan board was looking to offer NYS another contract. A special “one time only, talk about it and your dead” contract. The higher ups on the NYS board passed this nugget down to my Captain who called me in for the job. It was to be a real goldmine if it was played right. He didn’t know the details but this offer meant something big was in the works. I was to get the deal, but to squeeze the board like lemons in getting it. That is where Jones came in. He was to handle the legal aspects and keep me from getting snowed.
Jones and I walked from the parking lot under the pounding rain. “Can you believe it used to snow this time of year?” Jones remarked. Lawyers. If they were moving their lips, their brains would seize up. “What’s snow?” I replied sardonically.
We walked into the board room of what was once City Hall and took off our raincoats. Jones and I sat down at the end of a desk so big you furnish it and charge rent and got the low down from the CEO. He was a big man but years of comfortable living had made him soft. His tailored suit bulged in places that made me think it was stuffed with marshmallows. As he spoke, telling us his tale of woe, he kept delicately manicured hands on the table in front of him, like a school boy eager for us to notice he had cleaned his fingernails. “So where NYS come in?” Jones asked when he was finished, sounding bored and disinterested.
The Marshmallow CEO leaned forward and fixed us with a “don’t frack with me boys” look that I was sure usually made any of the monkeys on the board wet themselves. “We want you to go to Boston, find those criminals and retrieve our property. You are authorized to take any steps necessary to see that this is done completely and permanently”.
Jackpot. We were being asked to take a hit team into the centre of a rival corporation and to shut down a Knowledge Mill. Permanently. Code word for “kill them all”. Jones looked at me and silently acknowledged that we were now in my area of expertise. I didn’t want to overplay my hand though; that was the mistake Boston Security had obviously made. There was a lot of competition out there that would be only too willing to undercut our bid if I came in too high. Mess up this deal and the NYS board would bounce me out the door. I decided it was cards on the table time.
“A job like this is big. Really big. We aren’t just talking about shutting down a Mill any more.” I got up and went to the window. The wealthy section of the city was brightly lit in stark contrast to the rest of the city, which was dark and somber. Most shareholders, myself included, couldn’t afford a 24 hour electric charge and so lived with only a few hours of electricity a day. It was too expensive to use it lighting homes when candles worked just as well. I couldn’t help thinking that life was pretty good in the wealthy section, with flush toilets and running water clean enough to drink. A deal like this could put me there if I didn’t blow it. I continued with my proposal without turning around.
“You have already alerted Boston by approaching them with this contract. They will be expecting to close the deal. If not, they will know you subcontracted it to another supplier. Boston Security doesn’t like competitors messing around in their backyard, especially not since that hostile takeover bid by NYS a few years ago. So if they know we’re there, we can expect a firefight.”
I turned around and stared at Marshmallow with a “take it or leave” look. “We will need a team of five officers, specializing in tracking, eavesdropping, hacking, and assassination along with a team lead. We will need papers, good ones, the type that can pass a security check, and expense money for bribes when they don’t. We will need a car; a good one that can make the distance from here to Boston. The Dragon is a nice ride but it screams cop and NYS doesn’t have anything else in its fleet. Flying in is a no go since no NYS officer could pass security. Driving is simpler but it will cost. We will do the job for 500 plus expenses.”
My heart was pounding out a drum solo so loud I was sure the people in the lobby could hear it. 500K could net me a bonus big enough to consider retiring at 70. I might even be able to afford a private health plan to supplement the piece of crap “emergency services only” plan the NYS offered. I had to calm myself down, not get crazy and start spending money I didn’t have yet.
I glanced over at Jones to see if I was out of the ballpark, but he was giving me a Mona Lisa smile and seemed impressed. The CEO stared. Silent. I knew what was going through his mind. He was sizing me up with the greasy assurance of someone who just assumed he was superior to everyone else in the room. Here was some dumb flatfoot who made 19K a year and took a pay cut every year since joining NYS. He knew I survive only on bribes and shakedowns and even then kickbacks to NYS were getting higher each year. 500K was more money than someone like me would see in 10 lifetimes whereas he crapped more than 500K in a single afternoon. Did I even know what I was talking about?
However, what was the alternative? He could play hardball, refuse the deal and let us walk. But that would mean another cop, another negotiation. More time lost. They had already blown the first opportunity by playing hardball with SWAT; did they want to risk that again? Besides, I knew the details of the story now. Maybe I want to go freelance, give the story to another Knowledge Mill. Smaller amount sure, but a pay days a pay day. That would make me another loose end needing to be tied up; another cost to be factored in.
Marshmallow spoke slowly, leaning back and linking his fingers together. “We have already spent a lot on this case already”. There was the cost to New York Security to investigate the whereabouts of the shooter, the cost to Health Services to take the bodies away and cremate them secretly, the cost of confidential cleaning services to clean up mess left behind. We have to begin asking at some point are we getting a good ROI for all this expense?”
Damn. He was going to hardball it; see if he could talk us down a few 100 thousand. I knew the game but what marshmallow man didn’t understand was that he was now playing by a different set of rules. This wasn’t the cozy boardroom anymore, it was the NYS gutter where the average shareholder lived. It was Jones’ turn to speak and he gave this suit the facts of life.
“ROI is meaningless to you if this story goes public.” He said, going straight for the jugular. The families of those shareholders will lawyer up the moment they know the facts behind this story. You will see civil actions that all the tort reform in the world won’t stop. Add to that, other shareholders will begin to question whether you have their best interests at heart. So, yeah, 500 grand plus expenses is a damn good return on investment. This isn’t open to negotiation gentlemen. You either agree to our terms or we are done here and you get yourself another contractor.”
There was a silence so thick you could spread it on toast. Then the CEO smiled one of those engaging, “we’re all friends here” smiles I’ve seen on the faces of hard luck cons just before they try and gut you like a fish.
“Okay” he said with the smoothness of 20 year old scotch. “We have a deal. But...” He let the word hang in the air for a few seconds then leaned forward and pointed a saber like finger at Jones and me; “If you fail…if this story goes public…I will crush NYS into powder and feed it to the hogs. Understand that.”
Jones and I walked back out into the rain and when we were far enough away from the MCC security cameras and perimeter mikes, he slapped me on the back. “Holy crap on a cracker Smith” he laughed, “500 Grand is twice as much as I thought they’d pay. You must have ice water in your veins, you didn’t even flinch. We are in for a HUGE bonus.” Jones continued laughing and having a good ol’ time. It was easy for him, his job was over and he was getting his payday. Mine had just began and my payday wouldn’t be until the job was over and I was back home in New York. I pulled up my collar and walk to the car in silence.