This week is pivotal for poor Joe. He is zeroing in on just what kinds of business ventures his organization is involved in. He needs to try to find out more information and determine whether to stop things in this timeline, or venture back to try to prevent them from happening.
I’m honestly not sure what new twists and turns will take place, but I feel like the story is reaching a climax. Please enjoy this installment of Extra Innings.
If you want to catch up on the previous installments of this serial, you can click on these links:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30
Joe found himself experiencing something surreal when he entered the warehouse. He had never been in this facility before, yet it felt familiar to him. As he migrated from timeline to timeline, this blending of things he had experienced in the other lifetimes with the sense of never having been there was starting to freak him out, especially when he spent time as his grandfather and found himself attracted to his grandmother at some level.
This was no different, he entered the warehouse and new instinctively where the office was. It was in the southwest corner of the building on the second floor. He could see a light on with shadows moving behind the blinds.
Joe crossed the vast warehouse floor passing pallets filled with boxes tightly bound together in stacks with plastic film they were placed neatly across the floor with gaps between the rows and columns of pallets that were large enough for a small forklift to move between them.
Joe reached the metal staircase and mentally prepared himself as he ascended toward the office to interact with his nemesis from the original timeline, Johnny Provenza. Johnny was now apparently a business partner and his brother-in-law.
The office door was made of metal with a frosted glass panel that covered much of the top half. The class had wire crisscrossing its way between the two glass panes which were cleverly stenciled ‘OFFICE’. Joe opened the door and found Johnny Provenza sitting behind a vintage grey metal desk. He looked up at Joe with a look that was brand new in their relationship. Johnny looked nervous and intimidated.
“Joe. What are you doing here? You don’t trust me either, do you?” Johnny said.
Joe had anticipated many reactions, but this was not one of them. He had to think quickly.
“No, Johnny. Relax. I’m just here to help. I thought we could walk through what’s going to happen so we can make sure it goes smoothly. You don’t have to be nervous. Once we walk it through, I’ll leave you to it. I don’t want to get in your way. I just want to make sure you’re successful.”
“Sophia put you up to this, didn’t she? I can do this. I just need a chance.”
“She doesn’t even know I’m here,” Joe answered truthfully. “I need to score some points with her. You need to score some points as well. It’s a win-win for both of us.”
Johnny seemed to visibly relax.
“I’m sorry, Joe. You’re right. It couldn’t hurt to walk it through. I appreciate the help.”
“No problem. That’s what family is for,” Joe said trying not to throw up a bit in his mouth.
Johnny tapped the screen on the tablet that was in front of him.
“Where do you want to start?”
Joe didn’t really know the answer to this, so he improvised.
“Let’s start at the beginning. It couldn’t hurt to review everything from start to finish.”
“Alright. We’ve got a couple of hours. The beginning it is.”
Johnny tapped the screen a bit more.
“Okay, Joe. We’ve got 15,000 units that were delivered two weeks ago. Our guys prepped the units and repacked them. The pallets are out on the floor in sections A1 to G10.”
Joe didn’t know what the ‘units’ were, but he didn’t want to be too curious. He had to think of a creative way to find out more. He thought he’d try some normal sounding questions.
“So, of the 15,000 units we got in, none of them were defective or damaged in shipping?”
Johnny looked up at Joe.
“They were packed pretty good and our supplier is pretty reliable. We had about five units that were slightly damaged, but our guys were able to refurbish them. The buyer will never be able to tell.”
“What was wrong with the five units?” Joe asked, hoping to find out more.
Johnny seemed a bit annoyed at the question.
“Why do you want to know this? It’s way too detailed for someone at your level. It’s grunt work. You know, more at my level.”
Joe found himself empathizing with Johnny. In the original timeline, Joe was the one with the inferiority complex because he wasn’t part of the Provenza family. Now, in this timeline, he was part of the family and he was starting to realize that there was a hierarchy, even among blood relatives.
“Listen, I want you to succeed. If you succeed, I succeed, if you know what I mean.”
“Things that bad with you and Sophia?” Johnny asked.
“They are,” Joe answered and based on the past 24 hours, he believed that to be the truth.
“I told you to be more discreet when you met with that Beth. Even though, like you said, you were just getting together with an old friend, Sophia is like a jungle cat. She will scratch anything that encroaches on her territory.”
Joe thought of what Sophia said about parts of Beth being all over Western Pennsylvania and he thought that sounded like a bit more than scratching.
“You’re right, Johnny. I should have been more careful. Anyway, back to the units that were damaged, what was wrong with them?”
“Mostly some scratches, but a couple of them had sights that were a little off and one or two had damaged mechanisms.”
Sights and mechanisms. Joe started to get a bad feeling about these ‘units’.
“Will they work okay, now that they’ve been refurbished?”
Johnny laughed a bit.
“Where these things are going, they don’t know how to use them, anyway. If they’re a little off, it won’t be noticed, as long as they make a big noise and shoot a bullet.”
Now Joe’s feeling of sickness increased. The sights and mechanisms comment told him that these might be guns, but now it was confirmed. He needed to find out more to be sure of how to handle this.
“Okay, Johnny. It looks like you’ve got the inventory under control and the units are ready to go. Tell me about the customer.”
“C’mon Joe. You know them. These guys are part of a pretty scary organization. They’re supplying these guns to get their enemy out of office. They’re good for the cash, if that’s what you mean.”
“What enemy do they want out of office?”
“Don’t you remember? Their latest axe to grind is against that super-liberal Chicago mayor. They want his anti-gun policy to fail. That’s why, as he rounds up and destroys guns, they’re replacing them at a three to one rate. Three guns supplied for every gun seized by the Chicago PD and destroyed.”
Joe saw what was going on now. It appeared that some NRA backed group or some faction of the right wing was supplying guns in Chicago so that the violence that was running rampant in the city would not go away. It sickened him. This wasn’t the early 20th century when gangsters ruled that city, but it wasn’t much different.
“Which side are they supplying guns to?” Joe asked.
“That’s the thing. They’re supplying them to whoever has the cash. The agenda against the mayor is not only moving forward, but these guys are making a profit on top of it. Their getting about $1.50 for every $.50 cents they spend. Isn’t America great?”
Joe didn’t like the question and he didn’t like the fact that his business was involved in this. He had to keep his cool, however, until the timing was right. Then he had to decide if the action he was going to take was worth the fallout.
“So, what’s in this for us?” Joe asked.
“Well, Mr. McLean, you ran the numbers on this. For the 15,000 units, we take in a cool $3 million dollars. We do this four times a year and we pocket $12 million, tax free. Are you testing me, or something?”
Joe had to try to sound upbeat.
“Yes, and you passed with flying colors. What about our supplier? Are they reliable and do they have the resources to keep meeting the demand?”
“This old Soviet junk that they’re selling us is in mint condition. From what they tell us, we can keep this going for another five years. There are warehouses full of this hardware in the former Soviet Union. All we have to do is keep greasing the right palms so they can get it shipped here and we all make a boatload of money.”
Joe once again squelched his sickening stomach. He had the information he needed. It was time to act.
“Well, Johnny. It looks like you’ve got everything covered. You’ve got about 90 minutes before the deal is set to happen. Are you okay?”
“Yeah. A couple of the boys will be here about half an hour before. I should be fine. Are you taking off?”
“If you don’t mind. I think I’ve seen enough to know that you’ve got it under control.”
Again, Johnny looked relieved.
Joe turned to leave the office and, when he was halfway through the door, Johnny called after him.
“Hey Joe. I really mean it. Thanks. I was second guessing myself, but you made me feel better. I’ll be sure and put in a good word with Sophia. She needs to lighten up on you. I know you weren’t sleeping with that Beth. I need to set her straight.”
For a moment, Joe felt some guilt, but, when he thought of the impending deal, that feeling quickly dissipated.
“Thanks, Johnny. I think that will help,” he said sincerely, though, if things proceeded according to plan, Johnny might not get the chance to follow through.
Joe descended the stairs and left the warehouse. He made a mental note of the section of the warehouse floor where the guns were packed in wooden crates that were stacked on pallets.
He climbed back into the Navigator, did a quick search on his phone, and dialed a number that he found.
“FBI, Pittsburgh office. How may I direct your call?”
“Yes. I’d like to report some criminal activity. It’s urgent in nature. May I speak to the agent in charge?”
“What is the nature of this activity,” the gatekeeper asked.
Joe told her.
“Let me put you through to agent Fontino immediately.”
Joe listened to the phone ring and wondered if this was the right thing to do. It appeared he was implicated in this as well since he at least ran the numbers.
“Fontino,” a voice on the phone said. “How can I help you?”
Joe held onto the phone silently for a minute and then he made a decision.