From his office high in the Penobscot Building in downtown Detroit Robert Meadows looked east in the direction of New York City. Meadows was an ambitious man, and it irritated him no end that fate had led him to be the Prince of Detroit instead of the Prince of New York. What did Bradley Payne have that he didn’t have? Other than New York, that is?
Don’t get me wrong, he thought to himself, I’m grateful that old Frenchy designated me his heir. But Detroit! I take over just in time for OPEC’s oil embargo and gas rationing, and the whole damn auto industry imploding, and I have to work my butt off just to keep this city from going down the tubes with it. The city’s supposed to be working for me, damn it! Not the other way around!
Truth be told, the early years of Meadows’ reign had not been good ones. He hadn’t been able to keep control of his wizards after the transition in power, and much of the crime they controlled under his predecessor, Allen “Frenchy” French, came to light as gang warfare erupted in the seventies and eighties. Drugs took over from auto theft and dismantling as a major revenue source, and while there was more income, most of it was frittered away trying to suppress the rival gangs. It really wasn’t until casino gambling was approved that Meadows was able to get back to the Prince’s traditional role of controlling the magical side of crime in the city.
But now after more than a decade of calm Meadows was chafing under the slow growth conditions. He saw the way that New York and Washington, and to a lesser extent Philadelphia and Boston, had sucked up stimulus dollars after the 9/11 attacks and the Recession, and he wanted to get in on that. Every time he met with them the Princes of those cities practically rubbed his nose in it! Argh!
Maybe there was a way. The four cities of the Northeast were starting to have territorial disputes, and the demographics suggested that this was only going to get worse. All the Princes foresaw a day when the Northeast Corridor became BoWash, a mega-city with over sixty million people. Would it still have four Princes, or would the Princes have to merge along with their cities? The Princes of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington were each jockeying for advantage, trying to ensure that if the City Powers did merge, he would be the mega-Prince to rule the mega-city.
While they were sniping at each other, Meadows was trying out a new role for himself — magical arms dealer. A quarter century of clashes with recalcitrant (and well armed!) rivals had taught him a little something about how to fight criminal opposition, both Mundane and Mage, without resorting to scorched earth tactics (which were all too likely when wizards fought one another.) Along the way he’d developed a wide assortment of magical armaments to aid in the fight. Key to them all was they allowed a Mundane (non-magical) foot soldier to direct magic at a target, vastly multiplying the number of potential warriors to bring to the fight.
He wasn’t willing to show any rival Prince how to make these arms, but he was more than happy to sell them to them. If he could only figure out how to do so without risking his source of supply here in his city.
He finally turned away from the view and toward the three men who were waiting in his office. “Martin. James. Randall.” He greeted each of them in turn. “I have an assignment for you. Long term, at least six months. Are you available?”
Martin Caldwell took the lead, as the Prince expected. “Give us a few days to make arrangements here, and I think we’re all good to go. What’s the job?”
“What about you two? Are you able to go away for that length of time?”
“I’m okay with it, long as I don’t have to get no shots or nothin’,” replied James Fuentes.
“Is this gonna be all hush hush?” asked Randall Nieves. He was nervous about the magical compulsions the Prince used. If they weren’t done right things could get messy and fatal. Not that he doubted the Prince’s skill, but accidents did happen.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Nieves. As long as you do your part nothing will happen to you. I doubt anyone will even ask you any questions. You see, all I want you gentlemen to do is open up an office for me in Rochester New York.”
“New York? Isn’t that Payne’s territory?” asked Nieves. “What’s gonna keep him from askin’ questions?”
“Rochester is 350 miles from New York City. Be just a little careful and Payne won’t have a clue you’re there.”
“Gee, Boss,” asked Caldwell, “what are we doin’ in Rochester?”
“Two things,” replied Meadows. “First, I want the three of you to seek out and take over any Mage organizations you might find there.” By this he meant any magical crime. “We’ll go over the preliminary budget this afternoon, but plan on having liberal use of the arsenal to accomplish the task. You’ll also have regular progress and accounting reports to file in addition to your weekly status reports.”
“What about personal expense reports?” asked Fuentes.
“The usual travel per diem applies. I don’t want any corporate credit card activity, so pick up some new cards in Accounting before you leave.” Identity theft was a small but vital part of the Prince’s operations so there were always stolen cards available for incidental expenditures.
“You think the three of us can take over the city by ourselves?” asked Caldwell.
“I doubt there’s half a dozen wizards there who might challenge you. With your arsenal you shouldn’t have any problems with them, and once you’ve dealt with them you should be able to set up a nice little operation.” He turned and started pacing in front of his desk. “I really don’t want to mess with the Mundanes in Rochester, that’s not my priority. I just want to make sure there’s no Mage opposition to detect and report on the second phase of the operation.”
“What’s that, Boss?”
“We’ll need a warehouse and a front office. I want the office to be respectable, classy, but the warehouse needs to be secure. Once they’re set up, then we’ll let the Prince of New York know we’re there.”
“What?” asked Nieves. “You’re gonna tell him? Why?”
“’Cause we’re gonna sell him arms there. Him, and the Princes of Washington, Boston, and Philadelphia.” Meadows turned and faced his henchmen. “We’ll sell them enough arms to blow each other away!”