Balance of Power - An Action Thriller Novel (A Noah Wolf Novel, Thriller, Action, Mystery Book 7), страница 1
BALANCE OF POWER
Copyright © 2017 by David Archer.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
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Published by: David Archer
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The bar was rather busy for a Thursday night, but that didn’t seem to bother Jimmy Morgan. After all, there was a band playing and plenty of lovely young ladies to watch him with their drooling eyes. He could have any of them, he knew, with no more effort than a flick of a beckoning finger. Wealth and power, he had determined, were the greatest aphrodisiac of all, and he was their master.
“This is how the world works now, Ralphie,” he said to the boy sitting beside him. “It’s like being the king around here, you know? I’m the guy everybody wants to please and nobody wants to piss off.” He tilted his bottle toward the boy and smiled. “High time they all start to understand that makes you the prince. They’ll give you the same respect and obedience they give me, but you have to make them fear you, too. I won’t be around forever, so you’re going to have to make your name just as big as mine before that happens.”
Ralph Morgan was Jimmy’s son, and despite the fact he was only nineteen, he had a bottle of beer in his own hand and was sipping on it slowly. Moments earlier, when a sheriff’s deputy had walked through the door, he had grinned and raised the bottle in salute to the law enforcement officer. The deputy had only grinned back and waved before stepping up to the bar to chat with the bartender for a moment.
“They already do, Pa,” the boy said. “How you think I get away with dating the mayor’s daughter? Ain’t because he thinks I’m some preacher’s kid. He knows damn well I’m in her pants, and I don’t know how many times I’ve brought her home drunk, but he still smiles and pats me on the back whenever I come to pick her up. That ain’t all because of you. These people know I ain’t a man they want to piss off.”
Jimmy laughed loudly. “Well, you gotta keep it that way. The more arrogant and cocky you are, the more the people around here will want to kiss your ass. And that’s going to get even better now that you’re gonna be running one of the shows for me. Think you’re ready for that?”
Ralphie shrugged. “Just tell me what you want me to do,” he said. “I ain’t afraid of nobody or nothing.”
“Yeah, I know, and I’ve been thinking about what to let you take over. We make a hell of a lot of money in a lot of different ways, and I’m thinking you need to head one of them up for me. Got any preference?”
“Nah,” Ralphie said. “Just put me wherever you want me; I’ll do you right proud.”
Jimmy made a show of pretending to think it over, but he’d already made a decision. Jimmy Morgan ran many different criminal enterprises throughout most of Northwest Arkansas, everything from drugs to prostitution to murder-for-hire, and there wasn’t a cop, fed, or judge anywhere in the region who would dare try to touch him. Figuring out where to put his son hadn’t been a bit difficult, since the boy was definitely a chip off the old block.
Jimmy had gotten started himself when he had inherited his father’s junkyard in the small town of Berryville, Arkansas. The old man had been a drinker and had gotten behind the wheel after a dozen beers too many. The car drifted into oncoming traffic and met a gasoline tanker truck head-on. The resulting explosion had left both drivers dead and a half-dozen others severely burned. Lester Morgan had been only forty-two years old, and Jimmy was only eighteen, but suddenly the whole business was his.
The day after they buried what was left of Lester, Jimmy went to the yard and looked at it through fresh eyes. He’d been working there since he was twelve and knew the place inside out, but it suddenly dawned on him that almost all of the cars were more than fifteen years old. Sure, there was a market for the parts, but Jimmy knew there was more money in later-model stuff. When the bank released the business accounts to him, he planned to start buying newer wrecks at the insurance auctions, but then he found out that his father had blown an awful lot of money. There was barely enough in the bank for him to cover payroll for more than a couple of weeks, but that wasn’t going to stop Jimmy.
Jimmy had been a star of the football team and knew just about everyone close to his age within fifty miles. Some of them, he knew, were what his mother referred to as “morally challenged.” As long as there was money in it, there were half a dozen guys who would do just about anything. Jimmy laid off all but two employees and worked twelve-hour days himself for a couple of months to build up his working capital, then went looking for some of his buddies on a Saturday night.
Come the following Monday evening, a number of nearly new cars were driven through his gates and into the big old barn they used for a garage. The boys who drove them in jumped out and grabbed tools, so that by the time the sun came up those cars were nothing but parts, all neatly labeled and put into their proper place in the part of the barn they called the warehouse. Cutting torches took care of what was left of the bodies, slicing and dicing and obliterating vehicle identification numbers, and then the pieces were tossed into the big scrap dumpster outside.
In less than a year, Jimmy’s yard was known as one of the best places to buy late-model parts in the entire area, and he’d made enough money to allow him to make plenty of legitimat
That was the same year he was paid a visit by his county prosecutor, Roger Anthony, a man who was known to be a lot more concerned about reelection and maintaining his own power base than enforcing the law. Anthony brought along the county sheriff; Sheriff Redford liked money as well, but he didn’t like the punks who were selling drugs in his county. Jimmy had a big enough crew, the two of them suggested, to run them out of the county and take the operation over. For a small percentage—say, 15 percent—Anthony and Redford would make sure Jimmy and his people were able to operate without interference.
By the time he was twenty-one, Jimmy Morgan was a multimillionaire. While there were plenty of rumors about his involvement in the crimes, Redford and the local prosecutors were in on the whole thing, so no charges were ever filed against him. When the feds caught wind and tried to set up their own investigation, Redford and his deputies kept them confused and on wild goose chases that left Jimmy standing high and dry. The money it cost Jimmy, in his opinion, was money well spent.
Over the next couple of years, the operation continued to grow. Through his crew, he managed to find and entice a number of lovely young ladies who were more than willing to negotiate for their affections and move into prostitution. Anthony and the sheriff were more than happy to take another “small percentage” of the new enterprise, and even approached their counterparts in a couple of the neighboring counties and found them just as amenable. Jimmy’s operation spread out, and he grew even more wealthy.
But then a new local city cop started trying to make trouble. Officer Clayton had gotten wind of Jimmy’s operations and was well aware that most of his fellows were on the take, but this young officer had integrity. After learning quickly that Jimmy was well protected, he contacted an uncle who was with the FBI and launched an investigation of his own.
By that time, though, Jimmy had reached the level of being essentially untouchable. His crew was extremely protective of him, the way a man might protect a goose that laid golden eggs. The slightest rumor that a federal prosecutor was considering charges was enough to cause something unpleasant to happen to the prosecutor or someone they loved. It was never anything fatal, but the message was loud and clear: leave Jimmy Morgan alone, or things will get much worse in a hurry. No amount of security seemed to be able to prevent these occurrences, so they were quite sufficient in deterring further attempts to prosecute Jimmy.
Officer Clayton’s involvement in the attempts to take Jimmy down came to light when the office of a federal prosecutor was ransacked one night and word got back to Jimmy. He fumed about it for a couple of days, then went to Sheriff Redford.
“You need to find some way to shut that kid down,” Jimmy had said.
“Shut him down?” Redford asked. “From what you’re telling me, it needs to be permanently. This little shit knows way too much; he knows I’ve been working with you. If he’s gotten any evidence together, sooner or later there’s going to be a federal DA who will come after us.”
Jimmy grinned at him. “Then we need to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
At three o’clock the next morning, fire alarms rang out. Officer Clayton’s house, where he lived with his wife and baby daughter, was already engulfed in flames by the time the trucks arrived. Three badly burned bodies were recovered, and the following day Clayton’s uncle arrived. He stormed into the sheriff’s office and demanded cooperation in his intent to hang Jimmy for the fire, but then he did a strange thing. He went back to his hotel room, where he apparently decided to take his own life.
He had died from a single gunshot to his right temple. The medical examiner, after a brief chat with Redford, didn’t hesitate to rule it a suicide, despite the fact that the man had been left-handed.
After that, even the feds tended to stay away from Jimmy Morgan. Jimmy’s reach grew and grew, until he was the de facto king of more than half a dozen Northwest Arkansas counties.
Now he looked at his son and smiled. “Let me ask you a question,” he said. “I know you been moving some goods for us, and you been doing pretty good at it. The trouble is, you’re young, and kids tend to do some pretty stupid things from time to time. You ain’t been using any of those drugs, have you, Ralphie?”
Ralphie gave him a look that questioned his father’s stupidity. “Aw, hell, no,” he said. “You think I don’t see what that crap does to people? I like keeping my brain fully functional, thank you.”
Jimmy nodded, his smile getting even wider. “That was one of the first things I figured out when I started taking over the drug business around here. We sell this shit, we sell it to every dumb bastard out there who doesn’t care what it does to his life, but we ain’t stupid enough to use it. If you can keep that in your head, I think maybe that’s the place to start you out. You been working with Ronnie Sneed while he’s been running that operation, but there’s other places I could use him. I want you to start taking over the business from him tomorrow morning. Couple months, I’ll move him plumb up to the main office, get him out of your hair.”
Ralphie grinned and held up his bottle, clinking it against his dad’s. “I like that,” he said. “I think I’ve come up with a few ideas that might expand that operation quite a bit. Pot and meth are good products, but there are some others I think we’ve been neglecting. Heroin, some of the synthetics, they even got liquid pot now you can use in one of those e-cigarette things. Somebody around here is selling that stuff, might as well be us. Right?”
Jimmy gave him a thumbs-up. “Good thinking,” he said. “Just do me a favor and check with Ronnie about it first. Make sure there isn’t a reason he’s been letting it slide. I’m not saying it’s not a good idea—just make sure it won’t cause us any problems before we do it.”
“No problem,” Ralphie said. “I’m out to make us richer, not cause us any trouble.”
Jimmy went back to looking over the girls, trying to decide which one he wanted to take home for the night. He had never married Ralphie’s mother, and she had decided to split back when the boy was only ten. Trying to take Jimmy’s son when she did so was the mistake that cost her her life, but only Jimmy knew that, and her body had gone up in smoke when a pile of old tires “just happened” to catch fire a couple of days later. As far as Ralphie knew, his mother was living on the West Coast somewhere. He even got a birthday card from her that first year, but his belief that she had deserted him had hardened his heart against her. He wanted nothing to do with her, so the question of her whereabouts never came up.
Jimmy looked up as the bell over the door tinkled and a tall blond man walked in. The guy looked tough, and he carried himself like he might have been a soldier at one time or another. Jimmy instantly recognized the possible threat. Rival gang leaders from around the state had tried more than once to have Jimmy killed, which is why the tables around him were filled with armed rednecks. Each and every one of them was watching the new guy just as closely as Jimmy, but they started to relax when he sat down at the bar and ordered a beer.
Jimmy looked over and caught the eye of Scott Forney, who headed up his security detail. “Any idea who that might be?”
Forney shook his head and slowly got to his feet. He walked over to the bar and sat down beside the blond-haired man, then motioned for the bartender to come over. When she did, Forney ordered a beer of his own and turned to the stranger.
“Hey, man,” he said. “Ain’t seen you around here before. You new, or just passing through?”
The big man shrugged. “That all depends,” he said.
“Yeah? Depends on what?” Forney asked.
The blond man turned and looked h
Forney grinned at him. “Really? And who is your sister?”
“Katie Madison,” the big man said. “Well, Kate is what she goes by around here, but I’ve always called her Katie. I’m Rex Madison, by the way.” He extended a hand, and Forney shook it.
“Scott Forney,” he said. “Kate Madison, huh? I didn’t even know she had a brother. Don’t think she ever talks about you.”
“Yeah, well, there’s a reason for that. See, up until not long ago, I was a guest of the federal government down in Beaumont, Texas. Black sheep of the family, you might say. Katie always tried to keep me under wraps—I guess it doesn’t do a girl’s reputation much good to have a brother doing time in a fed joint. I’ve been out a month, but I can’t deal with all the probation crap back in Ohio, so Katie suggested I come give it a try here. Just got in this morning.”
“Federal time always has probation attached to it,” Forney said. He watched the man’s face carefully while he was talking. “Bloody Beaumont, huh? Is it as bad as they say? I’ve heard stories about somebody dying there every week.”
Rex shrugged. “Ain’t really like that, but it’s bad. I’ve seen both guards and inmates end up dead in the riots, and I saw a guy get his throat slit just for looking into another man’s cell. You learn real quick to keep your eyes on the floor right in front of you all the time. Somebody thinks you’re looking at him, it’s like waving a red flag in front of a bull.”
Forney nodded. “So why was you there?”
“Because Uncle Sam doesn’t like it when one of his DEA boys gets his head blown off. We had one who got into a little operation we had going back in Cleveland, but he slipped up and got found out, and then he got dead. They couldn’t prove who did it, so they just wrapped us all up, conspiracy bit. I did most of five years over that.”
“Man, that sucks. What kinda dope?”