Breathtaking was the only possible way to describe the offices of Counselor Moisha S. Bravinski of one of Washington, D.C.’s premiere law firms, Blue, Hatchett, Lutrell & Kuhns. Indeed, it was offices, plural. On the seventh floor of one of the older buildings downtown, one floor below the large conference room and one floor above a veritable fleet of young associates, some ten feet from the elevator was Mr. Bravinski’s reception area. It was a small but elegant part of an entire floor commanded by Moisha Bravinski.
The reception area featured several stunning black and white photos of nearly every awe-inspiring monument and elegant building in Washington, D.C.: the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial (a favorite of Mr. Bravinski, one of the firm’s senior partners – the other partner based out of the D.C. office was Clyde Kuhns, son of founding name partner Clyde Kuhns, Senior. He was very old and ‘worked’ out of his home in Bethesda). The photos were awesome not only for their exquisite elegance, but also their size. Many were blown up to span an area of six or seven feet squared. At the end of the reception area was a large floor-to-ceiling window, darkly tinted, giving the room a cool, quiet feel.
At the other end of the area sat Elizabeth, Mr. Bravinski’s personal secretary. Elizabeth sat behind a silver-inlaid desk, rounded to half a circle that seemed to dwarf her a bit. It was kept immaculate, save for the phone and neatly stacked papers in the middle. Elizabeth had worked for Moisha for many, many years, and her late middle-aged beauty belied the enormous stresses placed on her by a demanding senior partner at the firm. Today, her reddish-brown hair was done up in a conservative bun, as it was most days. She sat behind her desk, slightly smiling as she did with all visitors to the office, and discreetly adjusted her cravat.
To the left of the desk was a plush leather couch, a light brown to match the wood in the room. There were no magazines to read – Moisha Bravinski hated to keep guests waiting.
Moisha’s inner office was even more impressive than the waiting area. Fully three times the size of Elizabeth’s reception area. If the reception area was a photographic altar to Washington’s most prized buildings and monuments, then Moisha Bravinski’s office was an altar to the old man’s political fortunes. Pictures adorned the wall from nearly the floor to the twenty-five foot ceiling, and a cursory glance offered up a clue as to why the firm of Blue, Hatchett, Lutrell & Kuhns paid him as much as they did. There were photographs of Moisha Bravinski with every president since Kennedy – some presidents appeared on the wall multiple times. There were photographs with senators, congressmen, ambassadors, generals, admirals, cabinet secretaries, not to mention CEOs, leaders of foreign countries – including, unbelievably, Fidel Castro – and celebrities of every ilk. There was Charleton Heston with his arm slung around Moisha’s shoulders. Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. stood on either side of Moisha, all in black tie, smoking cigarettes and laughing. There was a younger Goldie Hawn, gazing at a very handsome Moisha Bravinski. Everyone liked that one. There were many more.
A further study revealed something else impressive about the photographs in the office. Most of them – especially with the political types – were action shots, not just posed. This was a silent indication that Moisha had influenced world policy, had participated in American democracy at the highest levels. He worked and played at the highest levels, too. There were plenty of images featuring a drink in Moisha’s hand, a golf club in Moisha’s hand, or Moisha poolside at the elegant home of some Hollywood producer. Or on some famous person’s yacht out in the blue water. To scan the room was to take in the extraordinary political evolution of Moisha Bravinski.
The large, dark wooden desk in the corner of the room, opposite similar floor-to-ceiling windows (now with the curtains closed, darkening the room greatly) was nearly too imposing. It was conspicuous for its lack of paper, lack of junk. There wasn’t even a phone on the desk.
As Ritchie Torres took all of this in, that is what he wondered: Where did the old man keep his phone? It was odd. Ritchie thought of his own desk in his own slightly cramped office he shared with Kurkel Neekelwender on Capitol Hill. It was a messy affair – he didn’t know how having one client could generate so much paperwork – with scraps and memos and stickies everywhere.
Next to Moisha’s imposing, clean desk was an armchair, giving the whole corner a bit of a confessional feel. To the right of the room was another leather couch, this one black, and two more matching plush chairs crowding just a bit a small glass coffee table in the middle. The coffee table featured two oversized books stacked one on top of the other. The one on top was entitled “St. Petersburg, Russia: A Pictorial History,” compiled by a man named Ivan Kornikov.
Ritchie wondered sarcastically where the old man had scored that. It seemed a rather overt statement coming from a man who would most likely rather die than have anyone know that he represented the Russian Mob.
Behind and to the right of the large desk was a closed door. To the left was another door, and this is where Moisha led Ritchie and Kurkel. Behind the door was a small conference table surrounded by six rolling chairs. It seemed to Ritchie to be very sterile. The room was windowless and had only lamps on small wooden stands in the corners, and three in the middle of the table for light. The most striking thing to Ritchie was the lack of abundant photographs. He was sure Moisha had many, many more in storage. On the wall at the end of the table was a large framed tri-folded American flag with just the stars visible. Behind the head of the table, where Moisha Bravinski took his seat, was a framed photograph of a young man in a Marine Corporal’s uniform. Below that within the frame were a series of colorful but small medals and pins, including, Ritchie was fairly sure, a Purple Heart. Ritchie bothered himself for a minute wondering who the young man was until the obvious occurred to him: it was Moisha himself.
Ritchie felt like complete shit and didn’t think it would get any better any time soon. He blamed his malady solely on the martinis, and rightfully so. When Elizabeth had offered him coffee, he though he would’ve grabbed her and made out with her if it had been physically possible for him to do so. The coffee she’d delivered to him in a quaint, white cup set gently on a saucer tasted like liquid Heaven. He took another sip now and set the cup and saucer on the glass-topped conference table.
Moisha Bravinski had greeted both men with a broad smile and a more-than-firm handshake. The smile was gone now that they were in the old man’s inner sanctum. This worried Ritchie; there had never been a time, to Ritchie’s memory, when Moisha Bravinski had not prevailed. Both Neekelwender and Torres were convinced that the old man would now stick the Tokyo Tigers, and by proxy, the lawyers, with a stiff penalty, forcing the Japanese gangsters to plea with the home office in Japan for help. That couldn’t be good.
Moisha Bravinski was a man who looked his age, but didn’t look bad. He wore his nearly seventy years well, with a mane of silvery gray hair and full jowls. Moisha resembled an aging lion, still filled with fierceness for his opposition or anyone who crossed him. Even today, a Sunday, he was immaculately dressed in a double-breasted pinstripe suit and a tailored, well-starched white shirt, no tie, but highly polished black wingtips adorned his feet. Even in the suit, Ritchie thought Moisha still looked like a Marine, full and barrel-chested, damn tough.
“I’m very glad you boys called me,” Moisha’s voice was low and gristly.
I bet he used to smoke two packs a day, thought Ritchie nervously, realizing he craved a smoke himself.
“Moisha,” Kurkel started, “we were saddened to hear of Blue Hatchett’s loss.” He used the short hand version of the name of the firm. “Did you know the young man?” Both of the young lawyers agreed that a good first approach would be to play to the sentimental side of Moisha Bravinski before getting to the distasteful heart of the matter.
Moisha looked directly at Kurkel with piercing blue eyes.
“Well,” the old man tossed his meaty hands in the air with a sense of helplessness which was utterly out of character. “You see these youngsters running around, year after year. Sometimes they bring you a lunch. Sometimes you see them in the halls. Sometimes you stand next to them in the head taking a piss. Frankly, when you get as old as I am they all start to run together.” He smiled in a melancholy way. “But Jack,” referring to Jack Malveaux, the firm’s operations partner. “Jack assured me that this was a bright you man. A bright young man with a bright future. Franklin was his name.”
Ritchie recalled reading the exact same quote from Moisha Bravinski in that morning’s Washington Post. He’d been prepped on what to say and was just repeating the talking points, though doing a fairly convincing job of being mournful. Ritchie found this annoying and sighed loudly, conspicuously, catching the attention of Moisha, who shot him a look of utter contempt.
“Oh,” said Ritchie, working double time to recover, “it’s just that I remember starting as a junior associate. Those were tough years.” He offered a tight-lipped smile to Moisha, as if to say it’s the best I got, and instantly, Moisha’s look softened.
“Oh, I well remember those days, too.” A sad shake of the old silver head. “It seems very long ago.” Moisha now seemed reflective, staring at nothing in particular.
Kurkel finally spoke up, breaking the silence, but not before a small sip of coffee.
“Moisha, while we’re terribly saddened by the firm’s loss, I do think we should discuss the other issue that is of mutual concern.”
“You’re right. You’re right, of course.” Moisha, snapping out of his brief daydream, waving his hand dismissively as if swatting at the annoying insect, something from his past. “First, boys, let me say thank you for coming down here on a Sunday. I know you probably had to miss church this morning.” Neither Neekelwender nor Torres had to miss any such activity, but both remained tight-lipped, nodding silently in understanding. Ritchie was briefly appreciative to Kurkel for suggesting he wear a suit and tie to the meeting as opposed to the crumpled blue jeans and pullover sweater he was originally going to go with. “We’ve got some issues to address. Yes. Seems we have a matter of missing resources. And I need those resources to make good on a contract brokered by you boys. Stop me if I’m wrong.”
The fact that Moisha insisted on calling the two lawyers ‘boys’ totally rubbed both Kurkel and Ritchie the wrong way, though neither would ever dare speak up.
“We agree, Moisha,” Kurkel said. “We have got a resources problem. Ritchie and I have some ideas where those resources might be. With that in mind, our clients want to respectfully ask for some time…” Kurkel was cut off.
“Now, Kurkel, again you stop me if I’m wrong, here. This was initiated by your clients, not mine. Your clients agreed to the deadline. We all agreed that two million was going to be paid by a time certain. We haven’t seen that yet. Whether you misplaced it or don’t have it is just not our problem.”
Silence filled the conference room for a moment. It was clear what was happening, and Kurkel and Ritchie were simply waiting for the other shoe to drop. Moisha was about to tack on a very large non-payment penalty fee.
Kurkel took advantage of the silence.
“Moisha, I’m sure you’ve heard by now that our clients have experienced a loss of their own. We were hoping you and your clients might be gracious enough to give them an opportunity to… mourn their loss and make the proper restitution.”
Ritchie thought it was a brilliant play on Kurkel’s part, and took a little bit of silent pride in having introduced the idea himself the night before, albeit in a haze of martini drunkenness. Use the sympathy card with Moisha. Hell, everyone has experienced a loss this weekend, let’s all take a step back, breathe, then try it again, no harm no foul. This would give the lawyers and the Tigers time to come up with money from somewhere else, ideally, though both Kurkel and Ritchie could predict what Hideo and Noboru would want to do. With that knowledge, the lawyers agreed they couldn’t burden the Tigers with an ultimatum from Moisha, too.
Moisha took a moment to contemplate his options and debated briefly calling the lawyer’s bluff. He knew there was still plenty of money in various accounts for the Tigers around town, that a payment could be made as early as that day. Still, he played along.
“I think I can get you a couple of days. At most. And that is charity.” He pointed a finger at Kurkel, then at Ritchie. “Charity doesn’t come cheap, so consider yourselves lucky on this one.” Kurkel and Ritchie inwardly sighed in relief. The great Moisha Bravinski was capitulating, meeting their request. The tiny, one-client firm of Neekelwender and Torres had successfully negotiated with the top gun at Blue, Hatchett, Lutrell & Kuhns. It was a red letter day.
Moisha rose from his chair indicating the meeting was over.
“Again, boys, thank you for taking your time.” This, even though it was Ritchie and Kurkel who had called to ask for the meeting. “Remember – two days. It’s the best I can do.”
“Thank you, Moisha. We’ll call very soon and let you know where we are with the arrangements.” Ritchie smiled and wished he’d sipped the last of his gourmet coffee.
“Take care, boys.” Moisha waved to the two young men as they walked through his vast office into the reception area. He walked back in to his office and sat down in his large leather chair behind the enormous desk and leaned back, stroking his chin thoughtfully. There were two slips of paper on his desk, messages taken by Elizabeth. One from a Congressman and one from the Secretary of Labor – people to call back later on the phone which was in yet another chamber in his enormous, labyrinthine office.
Moisha laced his fingers behind his head and stared at the picture of him with the President at Camp David. When that picture was taken, he remembered, he’d been working on a secret trade deal with Israel, representing an arms manufacturer. He let his mind re-focus on the issue of the day. Moisha Bravinski couldn’t conjure one single scenario in which things worked out well for the law firm of Neekelwender and Torres. And he was a real creative guy.
- - - -
At nearly three o’clock that afternoon, Ritchie and Kurkel arrived at Hideo’s townhouse to discuss the meeting they’d had with Moisha. Upon entering the townhouse and greeting Noboru, who always answered the door, Ritchie took a seat at the dining room table. He rubbed his head, wishing his major headache would at least downgrade into a minor headache. Ritchie fished around in his pocket for an aspirin, but came up only with a mint.
Hideo was pacing, looking agitated but at least sober, the lawyers were mildly relieved to notice. The gangster stopped for a moment and looked at Noboru. He shrugged, as Kurkel sat down next to Ritchie, and kept pacing around the dining room. Neither lawyer particularly noticed the shrug, not that they could’ve deciphered its meaning anyway. With that, Hideo picked up a glass tumbler with remnants of ice and a couple of sips of soda and whipped it across the room, through the living room and towards Noboru, missing his head by only a few feet, smashing it against the wall. The glass shattered loudly and Ritchie let out a tiny peep of anguish as the sound sliced through his ears and penetrated his throbbing brain, sending his headache into a wild, uncontrolled tailspin of despair.
“I know that motherfucker stole our money!” It took a moment, but Ritchie and Kurkel realized that Hideo meant that Moisha must have stolen the money. Hideo was standing over the lawyers now, waving his arms maniacally, clearly ready to throw something else. Had there been anything handy, it was a guarantee he would’ve.
“Hideo, I can assure you, Moisha has not stolen our money.” If Kurkel or Ritchie had been at all in a better mood, both of them might’ve laughed at the notion. Moisha earned millions of dollars a year. Two million was just not that big a deal. He had no motive to do so.
“Fine.” Hideo was being condescending now, and both lawyers resented it. “Then who?”
“Ritchie…” Kurkel turned to his partner, intending to ask him to address the present situation such as it was. Instead, it seemed to spark another idea within Hideo.
“If I find out you two weasels stole our money…” Hideo was hissing, pointing an accusatory finger at Ritchie. In fact, this was even sillier than the idea of Moisha stealing the money. So ridiculous, in fact, that neither of them had even considered that Hideo or the Tigers would or could contemplate it. Now both of the lawyers were visibly annoyed.
“Oh, God, Hideo,” Ritchie was vigorously rubbing his head. “Would we even be here if we’d done something so stupid? And, for fuck’s sake, why would we? Jesus Christ. Just think about it.” He tapped his forehead with his finger, which immediately caused him some pain.
Hideo didn’t speak, just walked casually to the chair across from the lawyers and sat down. He threw up his hands as if to say, well, fine – then tell me.
“Hideo,” Ritchie said, using his quiet voice, “we believe the courier we used. We think he took the money,” Ritchie was deliberately cautious with his language now, “and killed your friend, Jimmy Yakimoto.” It was a huge gamble. First, neither lawyer was sure that Jimmy could be described as a ‘friend’ to Hideo, though he was certainly an employee. The idea was to trigger what Kurkel called the honor response, which led to the second part of the gamble. Hideo wouldn’t ultimately be as pissed that someone took their money as he was that one of his own got whacked. Something clicked in Hideo, he slumped a bit and both Ritchie and Kurkel realized that the ploy may have worked.
“The Deal was a good man,” Hideo offered a resigned sigh. He suddenly looked very tired, defeated even. Like he was doing way more than he had ever bargained for. His bathrobe – he always seemed to be in a bathrobe, though Kurkel was quick to point out to Ritchie that it was not a bathrobe, but a kimono; Ritchie wasn’t sure of the difference – flopped open a bit, revealing a maze of colorful tattoos across his chest and stomach.
Ritchie nodded but thought that Hideo was a bit of a drama queen. He knew Hideo didn’t give a shit about Jimmy Yakimoto, or about any of the other guys who had died battling the Russians.
“Ritchie, this man, this courier,” Hideo spoke with a bit more pep, now, having spent four whole seconds reflecting on his ‘friend’ Jimmy Yakimoto. “Who is he?”
“Someone I’ve used before. He’s good. I thought he was good, anyway. He’s actually a bike messenger, a courier. You get a lot more information, a lot more intelligence, out of those guys than you think. He’s a bookie downtown, too, nothing big. Anyway, he’s a pro, that’s why I’ve used him in the past. With great success, I might add. The guy is small-time, not tied to you or us in any way.”
Hideo chuckled and decided not to comment on Ritchie’s overt use of “you” and “us,” as if there was some separation between the two.
“Ritchie,” he said. “Did you trust this man?”
“Why would you do it?”
This momentarily confused Ritchie, until he realized the boss was asking a rhetorical question. He just shrugged.
“Of course you don’t know, of course not.” Hideo was standing now, and Ritchie and Kurkel braced themselves for a sermon. “Ritchie, Kurkel – we’re one of the most powerful crime organizations on the East Coast.” Hideo was pacing around the table again. “But you know this. The money is nothing.” Not exactly true, but the lawyers were willing to let it go, as it seemed Hideo might be coming around to their thinking. “We make that much dealing heroin alone. Ritchie, Kurkel,” he was standing behind them now, clearly making Kurkel uncomfortable, exacerbating Ritchie’s discomfort level, “one of my men is dead. For no good reason. For pocket change.” Hideo was sermonizing now. “Jimmy Yakimoto was family, and as his family, we cannot let this murder go without being avenged.”
Ritchie and Kurkel had noticed that several of the Tokyo Tigers, now eight of them, had shuffled in from the back to hear Hideo speak. They found this disconcerting as well.
“So, Ritchie,” Hideo patted Ritchie on the shoulder, “what you have to understand is this. Your courier has killed a member of my family. For a very small amount of money.”
It really ain’t that small, thought Ritchie. And then it hit him – Hideo had no idea how much the recent wars had cost the Tokyo Tigers. None at all. This alarmed him a bit, but he opted to keep his mouth shut until he could share this notion with Kurkel.
“I want this man found.” Hideo was addressing the small crowed near the kitchen now. “We will find him, and we will exact our vengeance. And we will settle our business with the Russians honorably.”
Despite the rising crescendo of Hideo’s voice as he addressed his gang leadership, both lawyers were quite happy with the direction the meeting had taken. Both Kurkel and Ritchie desperately wanted Hideo to focus on finding Baylor Roman, keeping his mind on the money, which was a far more tangible, real, and certainly the immediate issue. They knew that if it were left to Hideo, he’d simply go back to war with the Russian Bratva as opposed to begging the Japanese Leadership of the Yakuza for more cash. This bought them time.
“Ritchie,” Hideo said. “If you were this man, where would you go?”
“I don’t know, Hideo, but I’d guess either Canada or Mexico. Probably south, though. He’s from Arkansas. Maybe he’d stop in at home before disappearing. He sure won’t stay here, though.” Perfect, Kurkel thought, as Ritchie kept talking. Keep them focused on the courier.
“And what is his name?”
Ritchie wasn’t sure, but he thought he saw a flash of something in Hideo’s eyes. He wrote it off to a symptom of his own headache.
Hideo looked at Noboru and his lieutenants standing by the wall near the kitchen.
“Two million to the man who brings me the courier. Dead. Four million if he’s alive.”
This caused Ritchie and Kurkel to both nearly laugh out loud. It was all they could do to stifle smiles. There was no way – simply no way the mysterious Kodama from Japan would approve such a massive reward for a manhunt, nor would he likely allow the gang to ignore the lucrative business of pimping whores, running numbers, dealing drugs and smuggling to go unwatched while gang members chased down a man who by now was likely a ghost. Neither lawyer cared much, though they both knew that at some point sooner rather than later they would have to work to re-focus Hideo on that lucrative business.
The gangsters filed out of the door with a new sense of purpose, leaving the lawyers and Hideo. Noboru had followed the other men. Clearly, the meeting was over.
“Hideo,” Kurkel spoke,” Moisha has generously given us two days…”
But Hideo dismissively waved his hand. He was done talking, and the lawyers couldn’t believe their good fortune. The less they had to discuss with the man, the better.
Previous Chapter : : Click Here
Coming Soon : : Monday in the Air