CHAPTER: 12345, 6789101112131415161718192021222324252627, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32EPILOGUE

Mr Big is the Turkish gentleman behind a large portion of Charlie’s sales. His personality and his appearance are perfectly suited to the nickname he has been given and he lives up to it completely. He’s a prominent businessman and most see him as a generous and kind man with a strong accent and a big moustache. He has a thick and jolly laugh and smiling eyes. But he can be stern, something that his children, his staff and his business partners know all too well. Charlie, before he disappeared, was one of those business partners. Mr Big owns a lot of businesses, mostly entertainment and food. At last count he had a club, a wine bar, three pubs, an amusement arcade and a kebab and pizza shop that delivers. Charlie took a long time to win the man’s trust but eventually he won Mr Big over. Now most of his sales go through Mr Big’s businesses. Charlie’s men are allowed on to the premises of the club, the pub and the bar, arranging with customers to meet there for deals. The customer comes and spends money in Mr Big’s places and the dealers get somewhere with what is basically built in security to do their business.

Charlie also uses Mr Big’s kebab and pizza shop to do the home deliveries. Clients pay a lot of money to have their goods delivered right to their home but they don’t generally like to let the dealers in to the house, at least not the sorts of clients that Charlie deals, or rather dealt with. And dealers randomly turning up at all hours draw suspicion, even from those in the know. So Mr Big lets Charlie’s guys use his delivery drivers as part of their network. After all, no one looks twice at a pizza delivery. And in return Mr Big gets a small percentage of the profits and is safe in the knowledge that Charlie’s drugs aren’t going to leave him with corpses in the toilets like some dealers do.

Judd has never had to deal with Mr Big. The man’s businesses are all in Charlie’s part of town. He’s heard of him, of course, there’s no one in Farlow within the gangs who hasn’t, but Judd has never met him. He’s nervous as he walks in to one of Mr Big’s pubs and catches sight of the big man himself. He had been planning on getting in touch with Mr Big sooner or later if Charlie didn’t show up but the call last night and the obvious evasiveness in Obo’s voice had spurred him into action and now he is determined to see him as soon as he can. Mr Big is sat at a table, drinking a cup of tea and reading the newspaper. It’s still early and the pub is mostly deserted except for a bar maid wandering around and one of the regulars sat at the end of the bar and already making his way through a pint.

“Mr Big,” Judd says as the man looks up, “I’m Judd, it’s great to finally meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you from Charlie,”

“Not all of it good I imagine,” Mr Big says with a wry smile. He waves at the seat in front of him, “Please, sit,”

Judd does as Mr Big asks.

“I suppose that you know why I’ve come,” Judd says after a moment of uncomfortable silence.

“I know about Charlie having gone silent, yes,” Mr Big says with a nod, “Where is he?”

“I have no idea,” Judd says with a shrug, “I only found out myself from Right Stuff yesterday. Since then I’ve been asking around but no one’s seen or heard from him for a few days, not even his missus.”

“Ah…” Mr Big says, again nodding his head. “So why are you here if you have no news.”

“Well to be blunt it’s about business,” Judd says, leaning forward and lowering his voice, “I’m here because I’m stepping in to Charlie’s shoes. Temporarily of course. I’m just here to keep things going for Charlie until he gets back.”

“Mmmhmmm…” Mr Big says slowly. He sits back now and crosses his arms over his chest, “That is what the last guy said. So who am I to believe?”

“Last guy?” Judd asks, “Who was the last guy?”

“Obo,” Mr Big says as though it is obvious, “He said that he was here to make sure that Charlie still had a business when he comes back, whenever that may be.”

“I’m sure that he did,” Judd says.

“And you are Judd,” Mr Big says, “Obo has warned me of you. He has warned me that your stuff is shit, that it will make people ill. He has said that if I want to keep things running like usual I should trust in him. You have bad shit.”

Judd’s temper boils even more. He realises that he should have come to Mr Big the night before, that he shouldn’t have given Obo the time to work his way into the big man’s ear. The voice on the phone was right, Obo was trying to fuck him and it was already working. The thought of it is just making him angrier and angrier. Mr Big is still looking at him though and he breaths slowly, trying to calm himself.

“You can try my shit if you want,” Judd eventually manages to say as calmly as he can. “It’s good and I’ve never had a single complaint. It’s as good as Charlie’s stuff, as good as Obo’s stuff. We all use the same supplier so there isn’t a difference.”

“Not even with what you cut your shit with,” Mr Big asks.

“No,” Judd snaps. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, “We all get our supply from the same supplier and it’s all already cut with the same stuff. You can try some if you don’t believe me. I know Charlie probably left you with some before he pulled a Houdini,”

“I care about none of this,” Mr Big snaps, waving his hand in the air, “You did not come to me as soon as you knew that there was a problem. This Obo did. He showed me proper respect and so I shall show it back. I am going to let Obo supply my network until Charlie returns.”

“Right Stuff came to me,” Judd says slowly, calmer now, “Right Stuff rang me and not Obo. He asked me for help and not Obo. What does that tell you Mr Big?”

Mr Big sits there for a few moments, tapping his fingers on the table top, one after the other. He scratches at his rough beard, running his fingers through his hair as he thinks about it.

“I am open to working with you Judd,” Mr Big eventually says, “I will need to make sure that you are not lying to me before I agree though. I will not make solid choices without all of the evidence that I need to see for myself. I have only your word and that of Obo to go on. I know neither of you two men. So I will wait, and think it out.”

“This is bullshit,” Judd shouts, leaping to his feet. “Obo is full of shit and he’s known for lying about anything he has to if he wants something. The guy would sell his own mother if it got him a good deal. And if he could find his mother.”

Mr Big looks at Judd as he continues to shout and rant. The anger in the young man scares Mr Big a little, shocks him. It is bad business, unprofessional, in Mr Big’s mind. The young man, no boy, has suddenly gotten so angry over something so small. And here he is trying to do business with him. It just isn’t good. A person trying to do business needs to stay calm, professional, unflustered and a little uncaring in Mr Big’s opinion. They should not be shouting and stamping their feet like a toddler.

Mr Big’s lips tighten into a thin, angry line as Judd tells him over and over how Obo is bad news, is full of shit.

“I have made my choice Judd,” Mr Big finally says, cutting the other man off mid-sentence. “If you can prove to me that your stuff is good and that I can trust you then we will see about doing business between the two of us,”

Judd gawps at him for a moment before closing his mouth and nodding shortly. He turns and begins to leave, not even shaking Mr Big’s hand.

“Judd.” The older business man calls. “I have heard things of you, especially about your temper. Next time that we meet I hope that you will keep calm.”

“What sort of things have you heard?” Judd asks over his shoulder, staring at the ground.

“I have heard that you are hot headed,” Mr Big says, sipping a drink, “And what I have seen today suggests that they are right. They say you are a smoking cannon, a live bomb about to go off at any moment. Charlie was not like that,”

“I’m not Charlie,” Judd says.

“No, you are not.” Mr Big says, “But if we are to do business together you must know that I cannot afford to work with a partner who has a short fuse. I have assets that cannot be moved, legal business ventures that I have built from the ground up and I refuse to put at risk. I have children and a wife to support. My clubs and pubs and bars are real businesses and I run them as such. They are not a front. I like low risk, it is why I eventually agreed to work with Charlie. I calculate risk and I calculate return. I cannot risk everything working with someone who could ruin it all. A safe £100 is much better in the long run than a quick £1000 that may not even come through. Do you understand me?”

“I understand you,” Judd says, turning to face the other man, “And I understand that you don’t know me. That you’re only going off of what other people have told you. Before you judge a person you should get to know them yourself. After all, don’t they say not to judge a book by its cover?”

Mr Big chuckles.

“This is true,” he admits, “But they also say that first impressions are everything and so far I am not impressed with what I have seen,”

“You will be,” Judd snaps. “I’ll be in touch soon about my stuff, you can try it for yourself,”

“I look forward to it,” Mr Big says.

Judd walks out, storms out really, his body practically shaking with anger. The door slams shut behind him.

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