Return to Red Ace Chapter Eight

Red Ace

Author: Nika
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimers: I don't own them, I won't make money off them, I'll leave that to Joss Whedon and the rest of the gang. They've been sanitized for your protection. I'll put them back when I'm done.

I was really seeing red now. If they wanted me to stay away, they were mistaken. They didn't know me. Whoever was behind all of this was going to be sorry, I promised myself that as I drove down to the docks.

I scoped out another low dive until I saw exactly whom I needed to see. I grabbed him from behind and slammed him into the wall.

"Heya, Red long time no see. Why are ya wrinkling the suit?," he asked in a puny voice.

"You were outside of Bogarty's shop the day he got plugged. What did you see?" I asked nicely while pushing him harder against the stone.

He squeaked out like the mouse he was. "Ouch! Hey ease up. I see by that shiner on your face you haven't had a nice day, but don't take it out on me."

I put my hand around his scrawny neck and squeezed until I saw his eyes bulging out of his head. "I'm gonna ask one more time real nice and then I'm gonna get rough Andy boy, what did you see?"

He was starting to turn purple and I eased my hold. He wheezed and gulped for air. "Awww geez. It's not safe in this town no more. Where's the masked avenger when you need him?" I was about to squeeze again when he cracked, "O.k., o.k... look just don't tell anyone I told ya or I'm as good as gone for good."

I thought That be one improvement in this town.

"I didn't see much I was rounding the corner when I heard shots, I hit the deck and when I raised my head a car was peeling out."

I eyed him up, he was holding something back, "What else?"

He gulped and avoided looking directly at me.

I grabbed his crotch and squeezed harder than I had squeezed his neck. He yelped both in surprise and in pain. "One more time Andrew... now, you'll give an answer and I'll give you back your balls, what else?"

He sung like a canary. "I-I saw one of Mickey's boys getting in, in a hurry... y-you know hi-him... 'wolf man'."

I twisted and raised my hand, raising his pain. "You're lying!" I yelled in his face.

He was in tears now. "I swear Red. I swear... Oh... God... I swear!" He was desperate. I let go and he crumpled to the floor grabbing in between his legs and whimpering.

I tossed him over with my foot a hovered over him. "If you're lying... the pain that you just felt won't be squat compared to the one I'll make you feel." He nodded and I left him to wallow in his pitiful cries.

A part of me couldn't believe that Danny would be involved with Mr. Bogarty's death. It was one thing to be a runner or a muscle man once in a while, but a killer? Was Danny so far gone that he would execute a hit against a man that had carried us on his knees when we were kids? A man who had always been a good and decent worker, someone who gave us candy apples on Halloween and jobs in the summer when were teens. I was shaken. The further I got into this case the deeper I fell into some kind of black hole where every minute it got tougher to breathe.

I stopped at the first phone booth I saw and told Anya that whoever made it to the office first was to meet me at Lucky's back alley. The alley was dark even in plain daylight, just like my mind. I would need back up if what Andrew had said was true. I had stood in there in the shadows for about an hour, my thoughts were a whirlwind, bits and pieces that didn't seem to fit together at any angle. I wanted desperately to be wrong about Danny. That Mickey would put the hit on Bogarty didn't add up either. The pawnshop was on Carmine's territory, off limits to Mickey. To kill someone in Carmine's family or on his turf meant war. They had negotiated peace and each had kept their end of the bargain for almost three years. Why jeopardize that now? Even an ancient stone wasn't worth a mob war, all the families would be dragged into it. I was sure nobody wanted that. Was Mickey acting alone without the consent of the other bosses then? Again, more questions and zero answers.

Xander eventually showed up and pulled me out of my reverie.

"Hey boss. What's a nice girl like you doing in an alley like this?" he quipped.

"Waiting for you so we can tie up a wolf," I said without a trace of mirth in my voice.

He was still smiling, "What?"

"I think Danny whacked Bogarty or was with the thugs that did it at the very least." I stated choking on every word.

Xander lost his smile and paled. "He wouldn't... I mean... he wouldn't, would he boss?"

I looked down at my shoes. "I wish I knew for sure. Let's go in there for awhile and see if he shows up, if not we'll visit some of his other usual haunts."

"You called cause you don't think he'll go quietly..." he said almost in a whisper.

"I don't know what to think anymore." We walked deeper into the alley and entered the bar from the back door.

Danny wasn't at Lucky's, we waited for awhile and by what the bartender had said if he wasn't there already he wasn't likely to show that day. I Had Xander call the office to check for any incoming information. He came back in hurry, already putting on his hat, I jumped from my stool. "What's the new bad?"

"Your neighbor Mr. Clem called the office five minutes ago someone broke into your house."

"Never a dull moment," I muttered following Xander to the car.

My place was a mess, but nothing seemed to be missing. I kicked a couple of turned chairs in frustration.

"Well it looks like they didn't have enough time to wreck everything. The upstairs is still intact," Xander yelled from the second floor

Mr. Clem who was standing at the door spoke up. "I probably scared them off. I heard the noise and stuck my head out the balcony. I yelled 'hey whoever is there I called the fuzz so beat it'." He said proudly.

I sighed, "Mr. Clem I appreciate that really, but in the future be careful they could've been dangerous."

"Don't worry I wasn't so heroic. I basically yelled and ran inside locking everything up tightly. Say would you all like some lemonade?"

"No thank you. You should get home," I said as I started to pick up the mess scattered on the floor.

Xander came down and stared at my face slack jawed. "Boss what the hell?"

I guess he hadn't seen my bruise in the dim light of the alley and bar and he had been too focused on driving to notice it when we got outside. I rubbed my cheek automatically and shrugged my shoulders. "I got jumped outside the university. I'll give you the details later."

He shook his head, "Gee whiz you were right, never a dull moment. I'll get you some ice."

"Nah. There's no time for that. I gotta go see someone. Where's Tara?" I asked feeling concerned for her safety.

Xander rubbed his nose and gave me a strange look. "She's with Buffy. I think she felt a little uncomfortable staying with Anya and she asked Buffy if she could go with her."

"Alright. That's good Buffy can handle herself should trouble arise."

"Well after what's happened, what do you want me to do? Stay and guard the fort or come with you?" He asked visibly worried about me.

I thought it over for a few seconds. "You better stay. I can handle this."

He still seemed uneasy and I loved him for it. "Just so we're on the same page... who are you going to see?" he asked.

"I'm going to rock the boat a little. I'm going over to have a little talk with Carmine," I answered with a gleam in my eye and tiny smile.

The woman detective walked down her old neighborhood streets lost in thoughts that oscillated between the present and the past. She looked fondly at the soda shop's front window, remembering better times gone by.

The redhead acknowledged the clerks presence and offered him a smile. "Hey Tony, is he in?"

The man behind the counter smiled in return. "Well hey to you too and long time no see. Go right in. Artie step aside for the lady," he instructed the heavy-set man that stood guard to the side entrance.

Willow took off her hat and knocked on the office door before entering. Two men looked towards the entrance in a tense anticipation. One was seated behind a big oak desk smoking a cigar. He was big and had graying hair neatly slicked back. The other stood stocky by his side with one hand ready inside his jacket, he was tall, bulky and the crooked nose that sported a scar that ran all the way to his cheek gave him a menacing look for sure. Both men relaxed their stance as they realized who the unannounced visitor was.

Carmine rose from his chair opening his arms. "Cookie!"

The gumshoe gave him a small crooked smile and accepted the big man's offer for a hug. "Hello Carmine."

The big bulk beside Carmine also gave Willow a brief hug that he ended by lightly punching her in the arm. "Hey kid. How come you come around no more and woah! What's wit that shiner?"

Willow took a seat and shrugged her shoulders at both men. "You know how it is..."

Carmine puffed out a big cloud of smoke and squinted his eyes. "Cookie, who did this to you? You tell me right now and I'll set them straight."

"Yeah straight to the river," the other man said cracking his knuckles.

"Settle down boys I appreciate the sentiment, but it comes with the job. I came here on different business altogether."

Carmine shook his head from side to side he loved his goddaughter but for the life of him he would never truly understand her. "I always respect your wishes, but if you change your mind all you have to do is say the word. Now what's on your mind cookie?"

Willow smiled at the term of endearment. Carmine was the only man who could ever get away with calling her by a pastry name. Besides old habits were hard to break and he had been calling her that since she could remember. "I don't think I have much time so I'm gonna just cut to the chase. I know you have people inside Mickey's organization and I need some info on him now."

Carmine scrunched his eyebrows together and regarded the detective thoughtfully. "Cookie... why are you snooping around Mickey's affairs now? You know the deal."

"Yeah. I know the deal. I also know something's going on in this town and I have to know what exactly." Willow knew she was asking a lot, but she hoped Carmine would come through for her. Besides she had a hunch that if Carmine did know something he'd want to share it, even if only to rattle Mickey's chain.

The big man rubbed his chin as he contemplated just how much he should say. First he had to assess just how much the detective knew on her own. "You tell me first why you're digging around and what you know so far."

Willow didn't hesitate. She knew if she did then Carmine would never tell her more than she already knew. "It's for a case and it's important to me. I think he's involved with a guy I'm tailing. I know he's got more security down at the docks and that he's brewing up something big with my guy, but I haven't been able to figure out exactly what that is. Someone sure doesn't want me finding out though." The redhead decided not to share her information on Danny's possible involvement with Mr. Bogarty's demise. She wanted to give him a chance to explain and if Carmine knew that he had been seen running from the place, Danny would be doing all his explaining to Saint Peter at the pearly gates.

The old man blew out one final ring of smoke and stubbed out his cigar. "I'm sure I may live to regret this, but I'm doing it for your own good. I'm going to tell you what I know and then I'm going to pray that you walk away. If you've got a beef with Mickey let him be, he's about to hang himself on his own rope. You know better than anyone that we negotiated peace with him and his backing families almost three years ago."

The detective nodded her assent. She remembered that time well, it had been taxing on her whole family and she had experienced a couple of close calls before the deal had been made.

"You know the terms of the pacts that we made. Well now I got people telling me that ol' Mickey isn't happy and he's working outside the proper channels. I have no concrete proof yet, but I'm getting it. I just don't understand what he's thinking. Keeping the peace has been good for all of us and nothing good can come out breaking this agreement, at least not if I have something to say about it. These 'kids' today got no honor. They're all running around thinking that they're characters out of a movie. They pose for the cameras and want lime light for Christ's sake! It used to be that we didn't want unnecessary attention paid to our activities. Now... this Mickey Malone wants to be Mickey Cohen, I can tell you he ain't no Cohen. I'm not the only one who isn't happy either, this guy is going against 'family' orders if my information is right."

Willow raised her eyebrows. It was just like she though Mickey was stirring up trouble for himself. "Carmine... why? He's no genius, but to go against family orders..."

Carmine sneered with distaste. "He's cocky. He thinks since they've given so much control over to him, he can just take some more and he figures nobody is watching him. Beyond that he's also greedy. With him it's always been about the numbers. What he's doing now... I can't say for sure, but I'm betting he's thinking of making this deal and disappearing somewhere south of the border."

Willow ran her hands through her hair and blew out a frustrated breath. Before she could ask the question that was burning on her mind Carmine continued.

"Look cookie... I don't know if I should tell you this, but like I said before I'm hoping to answer your questions so you won't have to go anywhere else. Your pop would rise from his grave and smack me if I didn't at least try to put you out of harms way. Awww, jeez... this business... it used to be different you know. Rum running, a little gambling and knocking over cigarette trucks that those big companies wouldn't miss anyhow... you know, steal from the rich and give it to the poor at half price." He smiled "You know in this case we were like that guy in the movies... Johnny help me out... the ones who wore tights and stole from the sheriff..."

Johnny scratched his head. "Uh... Peter Pan?"

Carmine smacked him in the gut. "Not peter pan ya mook..."

"Robin Hood?" Willow offered in hopes that Carmine would get to the point already.

Carmine smiled brightly. "Yeah that's it. We were like Robin Hood's... hey... Robbing Hoods? That's pretty good."

Willow chuckled in spite of herself and sighed waiting for Carmine to get back on track. After Carmine laughed at his own wit he finally decided to continue. "So anyhow... a little liquor and gambling is one thing, but dealing dope is quite another. On the one hand it really messes people up and on the other the heat doesn't let up when you get your hands dirty with the stuff. With the other kind of business, well you give a dime here and a nickel there and you've got no troubles, but with the dope... most cops don't sell out if there's drugs involved. Most of the old school bosses like me agree that the families shouldn't get involved with this, it's not worth it. Mickey seems to think that it is, so the word is that he's got some out of town business partner and that they're making some deal, when they have the cash they're going to trade for a shipment of dope. He's got some very MEAN boys down from Chicago handling the warehouse and they don't mess around. That's why you gotta stop asking questions about Mickey and stay away from the docks. I gotta make like I don't know what's going on, so if you go looking for trouble I won't be able to help you."

Willow's head buzzed with thoughts. Drugs now? On top of everything else it had to be drugs now? "Carmine I can't stay away until I figure out this whole thing. There's one more thing I have to ask you..." she swallowed loudly and took a breath before asking. "Carmine when pop... when pop died I came to you to check out his death. You told me it had been an accident, was that true or did you tell me that just to keep the peace?"

Carmine raised his eyebrows in surprise and looked towards Johnny before answering Willow's unexpected question.

Tara waited patiently while Buffy went from one locksmith to another trying to identify the key that Willow had given her. She stepped out of the car to buy a newspaper when she felt someone twirling her by the arm. She gasped in surprise. "D-Donnie..."

Donald Maclay sneered, baring his teeth like a wolf and squeezed his sister's arm in a rough manner. "Hello sis, been busy? Forget to call me perhaps?"

Tara twisted away from his grip and refused to let her tears fall. "I'm sorry Donnie, but there's been nothing to report really. They don't seem to know anything more than you do."

The dusty blonde man looked at his sister with questioning eyes. "I better not find out that you're lying," he warned in a menacing tone.

Just then Buffy walked out of the shop Donald Maclay caught a glimpse of her and walked away shooting Tara a warning stare.

Buffy eyed Tara's demeanor suspiciously. "Was that your brother I just saw you talking with?"

Tara nodded and forced herself to smile. "Yes, he just wanted to say hello and tell me that he'll call me tonight at Willow's place."

Buffy nodded and made a mental note to keep a closer watch on one Tara Maclay and also to add her words of warning to her best friend and boss, because right now she had a bad feeling that wouldn't go away.

Continue to Red Ace Chapter Ten

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