The thing is, Maggie Konev, Lady Mack, is a legend. And Antonio Bianci is a legend. Corwin knew their stories like he knew Goldilocks and the Three Bears.. He knew them the way he could walk around his childhood home, the way he could reach for his gun and never fumble, never wonder. They were those sorts of people.
Boss B, he ran Detroit and a few other rust belt cities. Everyone knew it and nobody, not the mayor, not the police, not the feds, nobody fucked with him. It was just the way it was. You stayed out of his way, or you got plowed over.
Maggie Konev, people said, was some sort of Robin Hood, except twisted, or, as one friend had put it, “her moral compass points to W-T-F.” She stole from people, gave to people, and flitted through life untouchable by the law or by the criminals. She was the sort of person you avoided if you could, and appeased quickly if you caught her eye. They both were, B and Mack.
And Corwin was up to his elbows in it with both of them, and not a paddle in sight.
He’d fallen into working for Boss B when he was a teenager and gotten big into it when he was in his twenties, ended up a lieutenant before he turned thirty. It wasn’t good work, it wasn’t clean work, but it paid well and, after all, there weren’t that many options in Detroit.
Life hadn’t really been fine or good but it had been going, moving along at a predictable pace, until all of a sudden, there was Lady Mack in town. They hadn’t been sure it was her, at first. The woman had copy-cats who had their own copy-cats, for Christ and the Last God’s sakes. Hell, they hadn’t been sure it was sure it was her when she started showing up at city functions.
They’d been damn sure it was her when she started ruining Boss B’s businesses, sniping in, stealing small but crucial lynchpins, kidnapping the people he’d bribed or over-bribing them, mis-routing shipments, and generally being a nuisance. She wasn’t outright attacking, she wasn’t killing anyone, but she was murdering the Company, strangling profits.
It went on for months. A sneak-attack here, a smile and a kiss on the cheek in public. A missing weapons shipment followed by a friendly card. It was as if Lady Mack was going out of her way to make sure Boss B never forgot she was there. And he didn’t. The Boss grew cranky, and then he grew angry. He grew livid, and then he grew irrational.
Corwin’d been keeping his head down, trying to keep his end of things from getting too fucked with – and, thank whatever was actually listening, so far Lady Mack had been mostly staying away from his stuff, that one shipment notwithstanding. He’d been trying to stay away from the boss, let his closer lieutenants deal with the anger, let someone else take the brunt of it. It had stood him in good stead every crisis before this.
This time, it meant he missed the boss challenging Lady Mack, full on proper challenge. He didn’t miss the actual fight, because who’d miss that, and it was a thing to behold. But because he’d missed the challenge, it wasn’t until Boss B yielded that Corwin understood the stakes.
“Detroit is yours, Lady Mack.” B didn’t even seem that broken up about it. “I trust you’ll give me a day to pack up?”
“Detroit and all the operations.” Her smile was something to behold, but it didn’t look friendly or even happy. “All of them. We can walk through now, if you’d like.”
Corwin was starting to understand why the other lieutenants were antsy. He was getting why they were shifting around, mumbling, looking at each other, looking at the exits. They worked for B. They’d always worked for B. Some of their fathers had worked for B, and their mothers, maybe their grandparents.
And now B was clearing his throat. “Right. You, Corwin.” His gesture was short and only vaguely directed at Corwin. “Turn on the thing so they can hear this in the whole place. Down in the cellars, everything.”
The “place” was the Boss’s warehouse complex, hidden in the middle of the biggest manufacturing plant in Detroit. It had cellars and sub-cellars, offices and holding cells and things Corwin didn’t even like to think about, all of it hiding behind a nice wall of whatsits and widgets. It wasn’t all of the Boss’s assets, not even all of his Detroit assets, but it was a nice central clearinghouse.
And it had speakers wired all through it. Corwin turned on the thing, surprised to find his hand was shaking. He jammed both hands in his pockets to stop that. The Boss cleared his throat. “You would take all of this from me? They’re like my family.”
And Lady Mack shrugged her shoulders and smirked. “You put your family up as wagers often? Next time, you care this much, don’t lose.”
Corwin flinches and doesn’t care who sees it. The boss, however, the boss just smiled.
“Next time, I won’t. All right. If you can hear me, if you are part of my Detroit operation, you answer to this woman now. You belong to Maggie Konev now, and may whatever god is watching have mercy on both you and her. You belong to her now,” he repeated, and Corwin’s gut tangled up and his vision went blurry.
When he could see again, the Lady was standing over him while the other lieutenants gathered around. “Which one are you?”
She had piercing eyes, he noticed, and an equally sharp smile. Corwin cleared his throat. “Uh. Corwin, ma’am. I work in, uh. In human resources.”
The smile, if anything, sharpened. “Oh, really. I’ll get to you later.”
She walked away with Edwin, who handled pharmaceuticals, leaving Corwin sitting on the floor. This, he reckoned, was why they called her Mack. Meeting her was certainly like being hit with a truck.
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