Read Never Play Another Man's Game Online

Authors: Mike Knowles

Tags: #Mystery, #Suspense

Never Play Another Man's Game (14 page)

BOOK: Never Play Another Man's Game
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CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

“M
oney? What good is money now?”

“Makes the world go round, Ruby. Turns shit into apple pie if you have enough of it. With money, you can get out of the city forever. Without it, the cops will find you a few days after the bikers finish with you.”

“And where do we get this money? I don't think next Friday's truck will be so easy.”

“Your boy paid off his debts in cash last night?”

Ruby nodded.

“Well, that's a start.”

Ken brought David to with some smelling salts from a medical bag on the floor beside Franky's futon.

“My head fuckin' hurts.”

“Well, my stomach and my wallet are empty,” I said. “And since I have the gun, we'll deal with my problems first. Ken, get me something to eat while David tells me where the money went.”

Ken protested, but Ruby pushed him to do it. She knew she needed the money back, and that she couldn't get it without me.

“Do I have to tell you what will happen if you call the cops, Ken?”

Ken stopped in the doorway, looked at me, and then shook his head. I told him anyway. “They'll arrest Ruby and your kids. The bikers will get David and Franky, if he pulls through, on the inside, and Ruby will get to rot until she gets cancer for real.”

“I know that,” he said.

He started to turn for the door; what I said next was a verbal speed bump that stalled him on the threshold. “You get it in your head to come up here with more than a sandwich and it will be worse. Twice now, you and your family have tried to kill me. You go for a hat trick and I'm going to start killing back. Starting with the vegetable.” I lifted the Glock off my knee and extended it towards the bed. Ken followed the straight line from the barrel of the gun to his unconscious son. “Understand?”

Ken's right eye fluttered. “Start with? You put two bullets in my son.”

Ruby sprinted across the room putting herself between the gun and her son. “Just do what he says, Ken. Please.”

Ken whirled towards Ruby, ready to unload on her, but her sobs deflated the sudden burst of anger he was riding.

“I don't have anything left. No more cons or scams. I can't save him. I thought I could, and look what happened.” Ruby stepped back and took Franky's limp hand. “Look what happened to my baby because of me.”

“This is on me, Ma, not you,” David said.

The look Ruby gave him let everyone know that she wasn't taking all of the blame. It was an eighty-twenty split, but the twenty on Ruby's shoulders was a heavy fucking weight that the frail old woman couldn't add any more grief to.

“I let it happen. I should have known better.” She looked me in the eye. “I should have known. I can't lose any more, Ken. We need to get out of this. Whatever it takes. So please, just do as he says.”

Ken's shoulders slumped and I could see that he was spent. He had no fight left in him, not for her, not for me. The old man nodded to Ruby and walked out of the room while I got David to start telling me about the money. He had been lying low for a week waiting for the job. He owed two hundred grand to the triad and it was due seven days ago. He had been a regular at underground poker games in Toronto for a while and, according to him, he was good. It didn't matter if I believed him; the triad believed him enough to let him sit at the table for the high-stakes games. He hit a bad streak and ended up in the hole to some very bad and very greedy people.

He had been down with the triad before, not to the tune of a few hundred grand, but he had been treading water in the red. He had done some armed robbery — gas stations, convenience stores, even a few banks — to get flush. Hearing him brag, while barely concealing a smug smirk, about his stick-up work explained the steel nerves I saw on the day of the robbery. David was a degenerate with a skill set. The money from the hold-ups was never enough to pay off his debts entirely, but the few thousand he picked up on each job always bought him more time to cover his losses. The triad had been smart: they didn't kill David, or even mess him up a little; they just let him rack up more and more debt. Big River kept on giving him time to pay them back because they, like David, were gamblers. But unlike David, their bet had paid off.

“Two hundred grand. That's all the truck had?”

“Just a bit over that. There wasn't a double load this week,” David said. “Guess they fixed the trucks early.”

David took two hundred grand to the home of Yang Tam. Yang was a big name in the Big River triad. He was an underboss who ran everything illegal west of Toronto. I had heard his name attached to a bust of a hundred-million-dollar drug ring that ran from Hamilton to Niagara a few months back. I'd heard his name, but the police never even knew he existed. The cops only managed to snag middle management and put a temporary kink in Yang's operation. It took him less than a month to be back in business again.

“You know where he lives?” I asked.

“He has a house up on the Escarpment. It's a hugemansion on a private road.”

“Not in Toronto?”

“He runs all kinds of illegal shit between Toronto and the border, and Hamilton is in the middle of everything. He bought a place here and a few businesses — legit ones that make him look respectable on paper. That's about the only place he would look that way. If you ever met him, it wouldn't matter if on paper it said he gave millions to charity, you'd know he was dirty.”

“So you took him the money and that was that? He didn't ask you where you got it?”

“He did, but I just told him that I got lucky at some tables in Buffalo. I told him I had to play in a bunch of games to make the money back. That's why I was a week late.”

“He believe you?”

“If he didn't, he didn't say. He wasn't mad or anything. He was fine. He let me sit in on a game at the house.”

“Why wouldn't he? You just paid him two hundred grand. Everyone loves a shit player with deep pockets. How long did you play?”

“All night,” David said.

“You came here right after?”

He nodded.

“How much did you lose?”

David didn't have an answer.

“How much?” Ruby demanded.

“Fuck, Ma. Eight, alright. I lost eight. It's no big deal. We had ten left over from the job.”

“You lost eight thousand after we just paid off two hundred?” Ruby broke off into a stream of Chinese that I couldn't follow. I could tell from the speed, volume, and look on David's face that it wasn't a happy conversation.

“I'm sorry, Ma. I thought my luck had finally changed. We got the money and paid off Yang. I thought I could make a little cash.”

“What is he talking about?” Ken asked from the doorway. He was carrying a sandwich and a bottle of water.

I took the food out of his hands before I said, “David lost eight Gs in a poker game with the triads last night.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Ken charged across the room and began slapping his son. I was glad I had taken the food before I said anything. I tried to take a bite of the peanut butter sandwich while I watched the beating, but my loose teeth would have none of it. I switched to the water and drank slowly, enjoying the way it got rid of the taste of blood in my mouth.

Ken eventually tired of hitting his kid and flopped down onto the floor. He looked worse than David. The drinking, lack of sleep, one child almost dead, and the other an uncontrollable fuckup had taken a severe toll.

“What time did the game end?”

David rubbed at his cheeks; they were going red from the slaps.

“Answer him!” both parents yelled.

“I don't know. Around four, I guess. It ended around four.”

“Everyone leave with you?”

“Yeah, we all walked out the door at the same time.”

“What about security? Yang have any guys stay behind?”

“At his house? He doesn't have security living with him. They walked out with us, too. Yang locked the door and turned off the lights before we even got in our cars.”

“Alright,” I said.

“Alright what?” Ruby asked.

“The money is at the house. He didn't move it last night, but you can be damn sure he'll move it today.”

“Why?”

I used the napkin under the sandwich to dab at my forehead — it came away bloody. “Ken, do think you could stitch me up?”

The old medic squinted at me and then nodded. He got up and lumbered to his bag while I talked. “Think about it, Ruby. You got two hundred grand from a guy who gives you a bullshit story about where he got it and the next day you see his face on the news. Are you going to keep the money at your house?”

“No,” Ruby said.

“That's right, because if David gets pinched, Yang knows he'll give up where the money is in a heartbeat. Giving the money back means reduced jail time. So Yang has one choice.”

“Move the money,” Ruby said.

The needle broke the skin and I felt the thread pull through. “He has to move it out of his house and down that private road.”

“So what do we do?”

“That depends. You still have the van?”

“It's out back — stashed in the trees out behind the field,” David said. “We drove Franky straight here in it.”

“You have an Internet connection?”

Ken said yeah as he tied off the stitches in my eyebrow.

“Then we get started.”

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

“Y
ou figure Yang is an early riser?”

David looked at me. “No, he works nights like I do.”

“Yeah, but you just paid him two hundred grand, so you're not all that alike despite the similar hours. Was he drinking last night?”

“A bit.”

“Yawning?”

“Yeah, I saw him do that three or four times near the end of the game.”

“Alright, so we assume he went to bed after you left and that he hasn't yet read the paper or watched the news,” I said as I finished wiping my face with the wet towel Ruby had gotten for me. My face was tender all over from the beating. I put the towel down on the computer desk and opened up Google. I found Hill Street, the private road Yang lived on, on Google Earth and zoomed in enough to see cars on the driveway. The road was off Upper James Street just before the Escarpment access wound down the side of the mountain to the city core. The private road was just before the hill. I used Google street view to move up and down Upper James. The private road wasn't mapped, but I could look down it from the main road. It looked to be maybe a few kilometres long and two lanes wide. Google had taken shots of it in the summer so I had to imagine it without the beautiful foliage.

I backed up the virtual street, pausing every few seconds to look left and then right. I found a parking lot belonging to a bar about a click from the private road. What I had planned would take only a few hours, making the bar parking lot perfect. It looked like the kind of small place that would open late in the afternoon but not get busy until a game started on
TV
.

I went over the plan and made sure everyone had it all straight. Ruby and David were on board, or so they said. The money would be cut in half. I wasn't taking the bigger slice for them trying to kill me — the extra money was for getting them out of the city to a place the law or the bikers would never find them. Ruby and David might have been thinking about trying to kill me again, but that would have to wait until after we had the money. No matter what, they needed the cash and I was the only way they were going to get it.

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

W
e were in the parking lot of the Brass Lantern. The bar was dark and there were no cars out front, or with us out back. We were in the van waiting on a call. Ruby sat beside me staring at the phone on the dashboard while I watched the road.

She and David had followed me in the van while I drove the Range Rover back to Sully's Tavern. I crammed the Range Rover into a parking space, hitting the brakes only when the sound of compressing metal garbage cans could be heard over the stereo. I left the Range Rover behind the bar where Steve would be sure to find it, and took the wheel of the van from Ruby. I got behind the wheel of the van and drove to Upper James. We let David out at the entrance to the private road — he needed to be on foot to do his part. Ruby climbed back up front and we drove to the bar, less than a kilometre away.

I didn't say anything to Ruby while we waited. She seemed okay with the silence at first, but after a while something in her felt the need to try to fill the void. “I'm sorry.”

When she got nothing from me, she went on.

“I mean it. I didn't want it to be like this. I had no choice. The triad would kill David. I had to do something to help him. Look at me, Wilson,” she said as she pulled her kerchief off her scalp. “I did this to my head so I could con dying people out of their homes and possessions. This wasn't how I wanted my golden years to be. I wanted so much more than this, but my demons wouldn't let me have a better life. Worse, they wanted David, too. My demons weren't satisfied with me. They wanted him because I was picked clean. I had to try and save him. I had to. I thought if I helped him get out of debt, he would learn. He would be able to overcome the demons and get away.”

I thought of the eight grand he already lost. What would Ruby have to do next time to pay off what he owed?

“You're thinking he didn't learn anything, aren't you? I know that. It hurts me to see that he is stuck on that path, almost as much as it hurts me to look at Franky lying on that bed. But what can I do? I had no choice. He is my son. I don't want him to end up like me. You have to understand that. You have to.”

The phone rang and the noise shut her up. I picked up the phone and said, “Yeah?”

I listened to David and then hung up the phone. “Someone just pulled into the driveway. David saw them get out. He recognized them as three of Yang's bodyguards.”

“He's moving the money,” Ruby said.

I nodded. Ruby didn't try to talk to me after that. She put the kerchief back on and waited with her eyes glued to the phone. I waited, like Ruby, for the phone, but I didn't stare at it. I waited still as the frozen puddles on the concrete. I knew what was coming. I wasn't anxious or worried. I was ready. The phone rang three minutes later. This time I didn't have to say anything. When the phone touched my ear, I heard David say, “It's on.”

I closed the phone and started the van. We drove out of the lot and got on Upper James without slowing down. We had less than a kilometre to our turn. I rammed the pedal down and watched the speedometer climb. I took the right onto the private road without using the brake. I just took my foot off the gas for a second and then shoved it back to the mat. Ruby tipped into me and then slammed back against the other side of the van.

“You said you didn't want it to be like this. That you had no choice,” I said.

“Jesus, Wilson, slow down! The car is right there!”

Ruby pointed at the
BMW
coming towards us. We weren't slowing to block the road like we were supposed to. The van was merging into their lane at
80
kilometres an hour like a guided missile.

“I had a choice, Ruby, and I made it. I just wanted you to know that I wanted it to be this way.”

Ruby was too busy clawing at the wheel to notice the grin on my face. At the last second, I let her have the wheel. I was more interested in her seatbelt. I unclicked it and a moment later I felt the air leave my chest.

BOOK: Never Play Another Man's Game
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