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“Aces high, know what I mean?”
The first man cackled. Short, round, and balding in the middle, he leaned down his large nose, plugged one nostril with a pudgy finger, and inhaled a long line of cocaine.
“Whoo!” he said. ‘What a rush!” his voice was gravel, his eyes permanently bloodshot, but piercing.
“Hang on a minute.” The boss tilted his head back, spread his arms wide, and closed his eyes, rolling his head back and forth on his shoulders. It was the best he could do, lacking a neck.
He then lowered his lidded eyes and opened them.
“Now, what do you want?”
“Things are a mess.” Compared to his boss, Albert was thin, wiry even, and weak.
Except between the ears. Where God had skimped on muscle in his creation, he’d made up for it in brains. If he’d gone into the military, he would have led men with strategy, brilliance, and creativity.
But he couldn’t do a pushup to save his life, and the idea of shouting “Hoo Rah!” about anything seemed like a genuinely stupid idea to him. That would mean drawing attention to himself.
But his boss, also his uncle had noticed his intelligence and skill. Paid for his college, recruited him as an advisor for his business.
Albert had not known for sure what his uncle did was illegal, and certainly not the extent of his criminal operations, but once he did, and understood the seven figure salary he could earn if he “played his cards right” as his uncle had put it, he lost his conscience for the most part. Other than an occasional twinge when it came to murder and certain types of mayhem, he didn’t feel a thing.
If he ever did, a quick glance at his bank balance and investment ledger quickly put those feelings to rest.
“Well?” his boss/uncle interrupted his thoughts, and he realized he’d just stopped speaking after his last sentence.
“Things are a mess,” he started again. “The Queen is dead. Nakamura is out chasing some lead, trying to find Jack and something he has. Our competition seems to be closing in, and the FBI and the gaming commission seem to be stepping up their efforts.”
“In what way?”
“All I know is there is some kind of secret task force. We need to be careful until we know more.” Albert waited.
His Uncle Barry, who he never called that, sat down at his desk. He brushed away the leftover cocaine, probably enough for another line, Albert thought, to the side. He opened a laptop, and keyed in a password.
Albert knew it, but he would never reveal the fact that he did. He was saving that knowledge in case he ever needed it.
In fact, he’d secretly installed a key logger on the laptop as a part of “security upgrades” his uncle insisted that he do. He knew all of his uncle’s passwords and could read every email or message sent from this machine.
All that knowledge proved both useful and as a way to keep himself safe. He knew the topics to avoid, what his uncle was passionate about, and the ideas he thought were best to develop next.
It made it easy for Albert to always be in the right place at the right time.
He would have liked to romanticize himself, make his role seem like that of the dwarf in Game of Thrones, but he knew he was no Tyrian Lannister. He didn’t drink and didn’t so much know things as he researched them.
It was certainly part of the “brilliance” his uncle so admired and relied on.
On a giant screen behind the glass desk where his uncle now sat, an Ace of Diamonds appeared first. A cursor appeared, and he tapped on that, entering yet another password.
Only one character off from the first, Albert thought.
Then a map appeared, and his uncle turned to look at it. There were several locations marked around the world, some marked with numbers, indicating there was more than one “target” located there.
“Zoom in,” his uncle said out loud. “Sector V.”
The map shifted, the view zoomed, and they were looking at Southeast Asia. There were targets all over Vietnam. Several were green, but many were still marked with red dots.
“We’re so close,” he said. “So close.”
His voice was soft, almost reverent. Normally loud-mouthed, his uncle softened when he talked about one thing. Treasure.
Quite specifically, treasure in Vietnam.
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