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

Judd is waiting for Mr Big. They’re meeting in a club this time, it’s dark and dimly lit but there’s an air of sleekness and modernity to the place that was missing in the pub where they met the first time. There is a lot of stainless steel and chrome around and Judd thinks that this is much more Mr Big’s style. There are no staff around, Judd wonders if Mr Big ordered them to go or if they’re usually not here by now. Mr Big appears at the door, startling Judd.

“I am glad that you are early my friend,” Mr Big says as he walks towards the table where Judd is sitting. “It speaks well of you that you are a punctual man. That holds great promise for our possible future dealings with one and other.”

Judd rises and reaches out to shake Mr Big’s hand.

“I’m glad that you agreed to see me again,” Judd says, “I would like to apologise for my behaviour last time. It wasn’t a good day, truth be told, but I shouldn’t have let my personal life get mixed up with business,”

“Yes I am sorry to hear about your father,” Mr Big says, patting Judd’s shoulder in condolence. “It is hard to see our fathers become different to the men that we thought they were. I hope that things work out for the best for you and for him,”

Judd raises an eyebrow in surprise. He had not expected Mr Big to know these things about his own life. He doubts that even Obo knows about the trial his father is undergoing. Then he realises that Mr Big is a businessman, through and through, he needs to know about his competitors and his business partners. It only makes sense that he would be asking around about Judd. He feels violated though, his privacy invaded. He takes a deep breath to calm the white hot anger threatening to spill out and ruin the meeting.

“Let us get down to business, no?” Mr Big says, taking a seat. Judd sits down opposite him, “Do you have some of your stuff as I asked?”

“Of course,” Judd says, smiling.

He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small bag of cocaine. He holds it out to Mr Big between his forefinger and his middle finger, the drugs dangling enticingly in the baggie. Mr Big smiles and takes the bag. He lays out a line and delicately snorts it up. He sits back and snorts before coughing slightly and wiping at his nose. He sits there for a few minutes, waiting for it to kick in completely. He looks a little spaced out. Judd sits and waits, holding his breath. He knows the drugs are good but he just wants to hear it from Mr Big. Finally the other man smiles broadly.

“Yes, yes,” he says, “Very good. You were right, your stuff is good. If I did not know that you used the same supplier I would almost say that yours is better than Obo’s stuff.”

“Thank you,” Judd says, bowing his head, “I assume that means that we’ll be doing business?”

“Yes my friend,” Mr Big says, “It certainly means there is the possibility of us both working together. But first I would like to talk to you about something else,”

Judd was about to get out of his seat and shake hands with Mr Big but his words make him sink back down. He can’t understand what Mr Big could want to talk to him about, they are there to make a deal and nothing else.

“I see a lot of myself in you Judd,” Mr Big says. He leans back in his chair and wraps his fingers together over his ample stomach. Judd raises an eyebrow, “Oh not in looks, you are far more handsome than I was at your age. Such is the problem of having a very hairy Turkish father.”

Judd laughs nervously. Mr Big smiles fondly, like he is looking at a favourite grandchild.

“I mean that I see the same drive in you that I once had,” Mr Big continues, “You know what you want and you are going for it with all of your attention and determination. Believe me, that sort of drive is hard to find nowadays. You are dedicated and smart, driven almost to the point of ignoring everything else around you. I like you Judd, despite your temper, and I am not sure if the path that you have chosen for yourself is the right one. Why are you in the drugs business my young friend?”

“The money,” Judd says sharply, “I want to make enough money to care for my father like he used to care for me. And I like the respect I get,”

“An honest answer,” Mr Big says, clearly impressed, “You are a smart man so I will not mess you around by talking in riddles with you. This business does not give you respect. It gives you power, certainly, but not respect. You are treated with fear, fear for what you will do to those who cross you and fear that you will not give the people what they want. People do not work for you because they like you or respect you. They work for you because they are afraid of you. Or if they do not fear you they want something from you because you have the power and the money that they desire.”

“Reece and Emmet are my friends,” Judd says defensively, “They respect my views and opinions and they care about me,”

“I am sure that they do,” Mr Big says, “After all, they followed you in to this business. But that may not be why they stay. They may stay because they are the friends of a powerful man. I am sure that they respect you, as a person, but I doubt that they respect you as a drug lord. I have lived a long time and I have seen many, many things. I have seen many young men in your position come and go and they rarely find what it is that they are looking for. I fear that you will become the same and that is something that I do not want.”

“You might be right about the respect,” Judd says slowly through gritted teeth. “But you aren’t mentioning anything about the money. I make plenty of money and I’m far better off than most people my age.”

“That is because you are lucky,” Mr Big says, “You have a good brain and you use it well. You think like a business man, you treat the drugs like a business. If more people did the same as you there would be drugs all over the place. But there is another way to make more money. You are very smart and you have a good eye for business. Even before you took your degree I am sure that you had that eye already. Your father raised you well and taught you much about business. You understand that world in a way that few do.”

“So?” Judd says, sneering, “Just because I understand it why would I want to be a part of it?”

“For the very reason that you are a part of the criminal world,” Mr Big says, holding out his hands, “You enjoy the money. But you must look around you. I make a lot of money, and only a very small amount comes from the deals that I made with Charlie. Most of my money comes from my businesses, my clubs and my bars. Each one is legitimate and has all of its paperwork in order. Even before I started dealing with Charlie I was making more than enough money. Charlie’s business has just given me the ability to expand my own ventures sooner than I thought. And you too could do the same,”

Judd is listening properly now, leaning forward on his chair with his arms resting on the table in front of him.

“I could?” he asks uncertainly, “How?”

“By applying yourself much like you already do,” Mr Big says, smiling even wider now, “Were you to apply your mind to making legitimate, legal money you would be even richer than you are now. And you would have proper respect from people such as myself. It would be harder, I’m sure, but I think that you are the sort of man that likes a challenge. Why be in the jungle with the low lives and criminals, living by their rules and laws when you could be rising ever higher in the business world? You spend most of your time, I imagine, fighting off other people trying to take over your place in the drugs world. You probably have to have plan after plan for getting revenge on those who wrong you. That takes time, too much time, I am sure. Even this business with Charlie disappearing is taking up more time than you’re willing to spare I’d wager. Plotting revenge, always watching your back, that is no way for a man like you to live.”

Judd listens closely. Some of what Mr Big is saying has been lingering in his own mind, appearing more and more often lately. He wonders how Mr Big could know all of this, all the thoughts that he’s never shared with anyone.

“Charlie speaks of you often,” Mr Big says, “He sees for himself how hard you make yourself work. He knows that you are not making as much money as you deserve to make. He believes that you spend more time playing the little games of drug dealers. And we both agree that you would be much better off spending your time more wisely. You could spend the time you get back, if you leave the drug dealing world, on something much more satisfying and you would get a much higher return. I think that there are many things that you could put your time to better use doing. Your father’s case for one springs to my mind,”

“You and Charlie talked about me a lot?” Judd asks eventually. Mr Big nods, “Well it’s a shame that he’s gone missing isn’t it. I’d like to hear these things from him. But oh. Wait. I can’t. He’s vanished. And honestly, I don’t think you want me out of the drugs business. Right now I’m the best option you’ve got for keeping drugs in your club. And the bit about me wasting my time dealing with petty crap? It’s bullshit. I enjoy dealing with people trying to butt in. I like showing them the real pecking order. Thanks for the pep talk but I really don’t need it, now or ever. I know what I’m doing with my life and I know where I’m heading.”

Mr Big’s lips narrow into thin lines and he breaths out harshly. A small line appears between his eyebrows.

“Very well,” he says shortly, “Do not say that I have not given you some useful advice, from one smart man to another,”

“Whatever,” Judd says, waving a hand dismissively, “Can we just get down to business? Do we have a deal or what?”

“I am afraid that it is not as simple as that my friend,” Mr Big says. Judd gets ready to argue but he holds up a hand to stop him, “I am not saying this because you have mocked my advice. I am saying this because I am a good business man and treat the people that I make deals with, with respect. I must speak to Obo before anything else is decided,”

“What the fuck?!” Judd shouts. “We had a deal!”

He leaps to his feet, the chair clatters and slides across the floor behind him, tossed out by the force of his legs. A pair of men in suits appear from the shadows and walk up to stand on either side of Mr Big. He holds up a hand to stop them getting any closer.

“I never said that I would make a deal with you Mr Judd,” Mr Big says, “I said that I hoped we could work together. However it is only right that I talk to Obo first. We made a deal together first, before I spoke to you. I must show him respect and give him the chance to alter our agreement. If he does not provide me with a satisfactory offer than I will happily come to you.”

“This is complete bullshit!” Judd shouts. He still isn’t sitting down. “You said it yourself, my stuff is better than Obo’s. If mine is so much better why even bother with Obo at all. Tell him to fuck off and deal with me.”

“Mr Judd!” Mr Big snaps, his voice loud in the quiet club, “I will not insult my business partners by ignoring the rules. All members of a deal must be consulted before that deal changes. It is only right and good manners. I am sure that your father taught you that much. All parties must agree before changes are made. And I do not like to be put under pressure to make a decision, or forced to ignore what I know is right.”

“Oh come on,” Judd says, almost whining, “We both know that’s a crock of shit. You’re scared of Obo just like everyone else. You don’t want to piss him off, that’s all.”

“I fear no one,” Mr Big says. He stands and towers over Judd. Judd hadn’t realised until now how tall the other man actually is. They have always met sitting down. “I do not fear you, I do not fear Obo and I did not fear Charlie. I have manners and respect for people that I do business with and I will not be forced to put those things aside for one child’s tantrum. I ask that you calm down and leave.”

“So that’s it?” Judd snaps, “I have a ‘tantrum’ and you don’t want to do business anymore? Right Stuff chose me to fill in for Charlie, not Obo. What does that tell you?”

“It tells me many things,” Mr Big says, “Mostly that Mr Right Stuff may not be as good of a judge of character as everyone believes him to be. But it is also the reason why I am not dismissing you all together. I want you to leave, to calm down and think about what we discussed earlier today. I hope, for your sake, that you take my advice. But either way I will be in contact soon regarding our deal. I honour my promises Mr Judd and I will talk to Obo before deciding whether to work with you or not.”

Mr Big nods and crosses his arms over his chest. Judd glares at the other man for a few moments. The two suited men take a step forward, closing in on him. He flaps a hand at them.

“Alright, alright,” he says, “I’m going.”

He walks to the doorway and pauses. He turns back to Mr Big.

“You better call me,” he says, pointing at the older man, “Whatever you decide I want to know,”

“Of course my friend,” Mr Big says with a smile, “You will know as soon as I have made a decision.”

Judd leaves, slamming the door behind him.

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