James Cartwright stared at the Colombian. The cartel underboss, as was his custom whenever he was in town, had taken Cartwright’s chair behind the desk at the Millennium Casino’s back office. The diminutive man acted like he was twelve feet tall and king of the world, his three armed bodyguards constantly at his side.
The Manager, as he had become referred to, caught his reflection in a glass display case to the side of his desk. His face weather beaten from years of riding his bike, the skin around his eyes wrinkled from the constant exposure to the sunlight. His once handsome face beginning to sag with age. Every day, the fight against middle age weight grew harder, the pounds slowly building.
How long can a person continue this lifestyle was a question that lingered in his thoughts more and more each day? Nearing the age of fifty, he was on the old side of the game. Younger and tougher men kept rose up through the ranks, their actions testing his endurance. Will I live long enough to ride off into the sunset, he wondered, or die like so many others in this cutthroat business.
Cartwright figured himself for a brutal, hard assed boss, but even he was paled by the savageness of the Colombian cartel. To lead in the dark world of criminal organizations, he’s had to do the unthinkable to lead this group and quell challengers; a moment of weakness shown and his life would end in the rugged mountain wilderness in the foothills of the Rockies, his body left to the ravages of the wild animals to pick his carcass clean.
This city wasn’t like the movies. The mighty Bow river running through town was too shallow to disposed of bodies; instead, a short distance away was a vast dumping ground where he, himself, had vanquished several unlucky victims, their bodies never recovered.
He turned away from his reflection. The meeting with the Colombian underboss was to discuss the future expansion of their burgeoning territory from the west half of the city into Wolves territory on the east side, a golden opportunity. One of which both the Warriors and the Colombian’s planned to exploit, a chance to increase their market in the lucrative drug business.
Cartwright’s cell phone rang interrupting the discussion. Listening to the caller, Cartwright waited before asking questions.
“The whole damn warehouse is gone? How and the hell did this happen?” He breathed deeply, regaining his composure.
“The truck driver I sent to haul the product beat your men and burned down the warehouse?” He asked incredulously. “The man’s a loser. How is that possible? A beaten down truck driver slips past all of you and blows up the damn building?” Irritability crept into the Manager’s tone. He paused, fighting down his rising anger.
“What!” “No. I only sent one guy; I have no idea who this other guy could be. What did he look like?” The unmistakable sound of wailing sirens bleated across the phone line. The Latino informed Cartwright of a call already dispatched to the boys at the Warrior clubhouse in Castlegar and the orders for the capture of the truck, and the death of the men responsible.
“I’ll take care of it from here,” Cartwright told the caller and disgustedly ended the call. He remained silent, aware that the underboss was staring at him. He thought through the implications of the information before relaying the negative news to his visitor.
“That was Diego…the warehouse came under attack. He took a bullet, and the building, destroyed…” Cartwright looked at the wall behind his desk, repeating the phone conversation verbatim.
“And your men. Have they caught the fuckers who did this, Parcero?” Quintin Rojas, the underboss asked, using the Colombian slang word for partner, his face remaining emotionless. “I want those men alive…I will deal with them,” Rojas said staunching any argument. James Cartwright, the Manager, typed away at the keys of his cell phone, the Colombian’s instruction relayed. The two men dropped the unwanted interruption and resumed discussing the expansion into the Wolves side of the city.
“I have met with big Roy, the leader of the Wolves, but he refuses to partner, so I propose we put Satan’s Wolves out of business once and for all…I just hope the boys are up to it.” He snapped, his anger still visible from the bad news. The underboss stressed the importance of the forthcoming hostile takeover along with delivering a promise to send reinforcements when the Warriors move against their rivals.
A couple of hours later, the meeting were again interrupted by Cartwright’s phone. Cartwright's face drained of blood as he listened to the caller's report. He hung up the phone and sat motionless until Rojas broke his reverie.
“You don’t look well, Parcero?” The Colombian stated, urging the gang leader to talk.
“Our men failed to retrieve the truck and our shipment. It seems the boys ran into Thundercloud’s men outside of Cranbrook.” Cartwright said slamming his phone onto the desk.
“Maybe we are backing the wrong gang…I am beginning to wonder if the misfits under your leadership are equal to the task.” The underboss retorted. Wounded by the lack of faith the Colombian showed, the Manager busied himself typing a text message. ‘All eyes be on the lookout for our stolen shipment.’ Several minutes had passed before a reply pinged on his phone.
‘Have the truck and the Wolves in sight. Following east on Highway 3.’ Came the response.
James Cartwright stared at the Colombian, the sting of the man’s words and the underlying threat palpable. The Manager glanced at the phone in his hand, checked to make sure it still worked and then placed a call to the Warriors clubhouse. When his right-hand man answered, the Manager spoke loudly, angrily, belting out new orders to counteract the Wolves’ actions; he had to regain control over the situation fast. A means of saving face and preventing the Colombians from losing faith in his abilities as a leader which could prove very dangerous for his health.
“Don, round up the men. We've got a problem, and you need to move now. Right now." Cartwright explained about the stolen shipment of drugs and the destruction of the warehouse. "Round up every available man. Tell them to be ready to ride. When the guys are ready, call me back. I’ll have the route the shipment is taking.”
The Manager punched a button ending the call then dialled a number associated with the text from the member who was following the truck.
“What happened?” Cartwright quizzed his man. The biker told of the battle on the highway west of Cranbrook and how he alone was tracking the shipment of stolen drugs, along with the Wolves biker escort as they drove east on Highway 3 toward the Alberta border.
“Keep me updated on the route those bastards are taking,” the Manager barked into the phone. “I want to know their every move and which highway they use in returning to the city.” He paced the office. The conversation of the take over was forgotten while he fumed about his men’s failure to recapture his shipment of drugs.
Quintin Rojas sat behind the desk and watched the leader of the Warrior’s pace back and forth. Cartwright ignored the Colombian, making several calls to his men, leaving little room for doubt as to what he expected to follow. A large contingent of bikers from Calgary hustled to their bikes and headed for the southwest corner of the province anxious to intercept the stolen shipment and the Wolves of Satan.
When the Manager completed his calls, the Colombian broached another serious problem. “What happened to the phone? Have your men located it yet?” He asked.
“I had a cop at the house before the smoke from the guns cleared,” Cartwright told the underboss. “My man retrieved all the phones at the scene.” The Manager took another long breath. Locking eyes with the Colombian perched behind his desk; his mind briefly flitted over the thought of how his world was spinning out of control. Be strong; he steadied himself. “None of the cells contained the video. I think the old man either hid the phone and or was bluffing. My guys have checked other locations connected to the three at the house, but so far we’ve come up empty.”
“Do you think the old man was…how do you say… jerking our chain, perhaps?” Rojas asked.
“If he was, the old boy has got mega sized gonads,” Cartwright answered, glad for the change of topic even if it shed light on another problem he had yet to resolve.
“I don’t think I need to remind you the importance of getting our hands on that phone.” Then Rojas started to laugh.
“What the hell is so funny?” Cartwright asked the laughter grating on his already dour mood.
“The manager…isn't that what your men call you. Hell, if you worked for me at a Wal-Mart, I’d have to fire you.” Rojas’ laughter stopped, his eyes narrowed. “If this situation continues, Parcero, being fired will be the least of your worries, comprender.”