Valley Of Shadows – Snippet 25

She glanced at him, obviously considering something.

“Our security people told us that you were recently promoted. Congratulations.”

Kaplan figured that they had information that was probably almost as good as what the bank had on them.

“It wasn’t how I would have chosen to get ahead,” Kaplan said. “But a zombie apocalypse is sort of like a war, am I right?”

“Dark humor, yes, I understand that quite well.” She tilted her chin a bit. “I grew up in the wreckage of the former Soviet Union, so a touch of nihilism is quite familiar. Your Mr. Smith seemed to have the same sort of humor, when we last met. Have you worked with him long?”

“Tom?” This was not going the way Kaplan envisioned. “Yeah, we’ve known each other, off and on for a pretty long time. Only just started to work together again recently.” He pointed towards the window and some of the smoke columns in view. “Pretty much since that started happening.”

She followed the direction of his gesture.

“Yes, the burning is more now. In New Jersey too. One wonders if the fire can be put out.”

She looked back to Kaplan. He thought that she might be studying his face before she turned to look out the window again.

“Do you think it can be put out? Do you believe in this plan of Mr. Smith’s?”

She was definitely not into him, Kaplan decided. He could guess from her questions who had caught her fancy. Fucking SAS pretty boys.

“Probably,” Kaplan said, shrugging. “Tom’s a planner. Long-term plans, short-term plans, mid-term plans, contingency plans woven in and out of each of them. He wants to keep the bank going, somehow, because we are going to need some kind of economy in order to recover from all this. The banks have the money and the incentive to make that happen. Plus, he took their salt. You know the term?”

She glanced back sharply.

“Yes. Where I grew up isn’t so far from…places where that matters still. Very much.”

* * *

“So, what you want is for me to convince the chief of police and the mayor that we need to not only tolerate the gangs that are collecting infecteds and making vaccine, but actually cede effective police control of much of the City to them and endorse their activities?” Kohn’s fingers tapped the polished wooden table. “What makes you think that I can do that, Mr. Smith, even if I wanted to?”

Kohn was conversational. Dominguez looked like he might do himself an injury throttling his barely controlled rage. Matricardi’s earlier smirks hadn’t helped.

Tom understood negotiations and appreciated where his opposite numbers were, emotionally. Frankly, the cool response from Kohn concerned him more than the twitching in Dominguez’s right hand.

“Ms. Kohn, I want rather more than that. I need you to help me organize a citywide agreement. The City and the police”–Smith carefully didn’t add “what remains of them,” but gestured to the captain instead–“the banks which have resources sufficient to contribute,” he tapped his own breast, “and the entrepreneurs who have already shown a degree of initiative,” he inclined his head towards the chair where Matricardi slumped cheerfully, “must work together to reduce the wasted competitive and policing effort in order to eliminate more infecteds, faster, and accelerate vaccine production. Competition is normally a good thing. Unrestrained violent competition, war if you will, means everyone loses.”

He pushed a carafe of sparkling water towards the cop. It slid easily in its puddle of condensation. Looking back to Kohn, he answered.

“At least when it’s merely the four of us, can we use less formal address? Call me Tom. Why do I know that you can deliver? For a couple reasons. For example, I think that the mayor is out of the picture in his less than totally secret private estate on the east coast of Antigua, where he has been these last several weeks.”

Both Kohn and Dominguez froze at that, but Dominguez flicked his eyes rapidly at both Smith and the gangster. His hand twitched a bit more.

“The deputy mayor is, pardon me, your bitch,” Tom continued. “And I know that he has yielded operational control for the NYPD-led vaccine materials collection and infected control up to the OEM. I know that you and Rafe here go back a fair piece and I know that you are already closely coordinating with the police regardless of the mayor’s intentions. I know that you are covering for the dozen or so people who really run the City and have promised them your protection in exchange for ongoing and future considerations. I also know that Matricardi’s competition is already trying to cut a separate, if smaller deal, with some of Ding’s colleagues, though without his knowledge.”

This time Matricardi reacted, adjusting his posture so that he was sitting, if not straight, then at least more attentively. Dominguez hadn’t yet unfrozen from the revelation that Smith knew about Antigua.

“Hey, we’ve gotta protect our interests,” Matricardi said. “And it ain’t like we’re the only one. Seventeen is so far up Overture’s ass the precinct chief’s practically family. We’ve had people killed by cops working for them, direct. An’ worse than killed!”

“Which is an example of the issues,” Tom said. “We’re trying to save our civilization, our respective organizations, our families and ourselves. We’re not going to succeed if we simultaneously have to fight what amounts to a civil war.

“Mr. Matricardi’s organization and the banks can deal directly with the City through you and no one will itch, as long as the captain of the most prestigious precinct seems to be in agreement. You get to retain the trust of the power brokers who, incidentally, are all already largely absent–so I have to wonder…How will they compensate you, caught in a city overrun with infected?”

He sat back.

“Well, Tom, let us suppose that you are right?” she said, smiling thinly and effectively ceding the points that Smith had made. “How do we know that you can reciprocate?”

“I give you the location of one of our refuges as a gesture of good will,” Tom said. “We exchange trusted subordinates to participate in our respective organizations. I guarantee your evacuation not later than the flight before my own extraction and that of my family. You keep the number of ‘insider’ personnel to our agreed upon limit. You go over, it’s on you.”

He looked over at Matricardi, who still hadn’t spoken.

“Cosa Nova gets the same payout,” Tom said. “In addition, they gain the benefit of our summed intelligence and use it to serve as a counterweight to Overture and the remaining Triads in lower Manhattan. Cosa Nova acts in our combined best interest and they contribute to the vaccine stockpile while endorsing the integrated approach to sharing infected territory. They also agree to a price structure that permits the city and the banks to buy what they need. In exchange, you don’t raid them. If you raid anyone, you raid those who are not party to the agreement.”

Smith added one final point. The entire point.

“The purpose of this agreement is to build a citywide cartel and give the whole system the longest possible interval to turn the situation around. If that fails, our group of four will have something and somewhere from which we can rebuild. I like to think that despite our differences, we can all agree on that.”

“I like it,” Matricardi said. “Oh, there are details, but in general I like it.” He looked to Dominguez, and laid a hand on his own lapel. The carnation caught the pale light from the window. “Captain, with the deepest respect, I pledge to cooperate with you and your colleagues.”

Dominguez met Matricardi’s look, his eyes narrowed.

“If we can actually stop the Plague, or worst case–survive this for real, and get the family out, then I’m in.” Dominguez looked back over to Smith. “Secrecy is going to be hard though. How many people actually know about the whole plan?”

“This part of it?” Tom relaxed a fraction. “We four. The refuge locations, disease forecasts and the long-term chances? Maybe thirty in North America. As we get closer to pulling the handle, to actually evacuating, the number will go up.”

“I’m in.” Dominguez nodded. “Provisionally.”

“I agree as well,” Kohn said decisively. “The Devil will be in the details. We will have to discuss quid pro quo’s of course, and select the liaison personnel…”

At the head of the table Tom looked to the Cosa Nova chief.

“Will you make it unanimous?”

“I think we got a deal.” Matricardi stood and stretched. “I know just who to lend out for the bank team. Say, anyone else hungry? I could murder a lasagna.”