The Gang Leader


Also: the richest man
Photo by Tecio Leal / CC-BY-2.0

5237 words · 25 min read

“By some account, he was the richest person in the country.” The line came from the obituary of Super Man (Man was his last name), the gang leader who once terrorised the populace of the Republic of Slofland, and who later ripped money off the same populace. Towards the end of his life, he became wealthy and, as a result of his wealth, respectable.

When his mother read that line, she smiled with pride, as if the mere fact that her son was rich were more than enough to compensate for the fact that her son was dead before she became a corpse herself: he was only thirty. Mrs. Man, like so many others in the Republic, didn’t really care much about how one’s wealth came to being, so long as one has a fuck load of it.


The Abandoned kid

Mrs. Man hadn’t always think that way, for there was only a handful of tried-and-tested ways of becoming rich in the Republic of Slofland, and reigning over a criminal organisation wasn’t one of them. You have to either become a government official so that you can rip money off people by taking bribes, or you have to become a businessman who bribed government officials so that you could rip more money off people. Since the second route required a minimum level of start-up capital beyond reach of most people, the first option was the only realistic one. When she was pregnant with Super Man, she would say to Super Man:

“You have to become one of the top government officials.”

Wealth was just one of the many privileges of being a top official in the Republic of Slofland. Mrs. Man knew that because she was once a mistress of top officials of the country, and Super Man was the product of the only night she slept with Colonel Man. She didn’t get any reward for what she did, nor did she receive any support when Colonel Man learned of the pregnancy. In fact, he didn’t give a fuck to anything related to Mrs. Man, who wasn’t officially his missus. Mistresses came and went through his house as if they were transported through a conveyor belt that circulated women through a network of top officials. Colonel Man didn’t know who his bastard son was until they two meet face-to-face more than twenty years after he impregnated the mother.

Like every child in the country, Super Man was sent to a State school at an early age to receive the education and training for the country’s future servants. A top student in writing would earn an entry-level job at the propaganda department, a beautiful young woman graduate would either become a honeypot to seduce the enemy or a mistress for top officials, and the most strong-willed student would become a spymaster. Education in the Republic of Slofland was brutal: any disrespect for their Head of State, also known as the Führer for reasons only the Führer himself knew, would earn quite a beating, failure in the ideology test would earn to expulsion, and some students were even executed publicly for disobeying rules. Super Man was a bad student: he failed his Mathematics, he failed his History, he failed his English, and he failed in his Ideology, because, like his father, whom he didn’t know at the time, he didn’t give a fuck. His future was going to be bleak.

“You fucking retarded,” Mrs. Man yelled and hit her son’s head. “We are finished! Go fuck yourself!”

He was twelve.


The first contact with gangsters

The streets of Sloflandia, the capital city of the Republic of Slofland, were rife with crimes. Two blocks away from his home, a street that was always busy during the day would be cleared at night for gangs fighting, and for two months, the same two gangs held their nightly fight there. On one side was the Dragon Gang, whose boss, Dragon, had a large scar on his rough face. His biceps were as thick as the thighs of his girlfriend, Phoenix, while his torso was as solidly built as concrete. On the other side was the Unicorn Gang, whose boss, Unicorn, wore a black eyepatch over his left eye, concealing the injuries Dragon made to him when he punched his face and made his eyeball dropped. They began to fight two months ago because Phoenix had disappeared, and Dragon accused Unicorn of stealing his girlfriend, which he denied. For two months, the two gang bosses fought while their respective gangs standing around them cheering. The fight remained a draw for two months, and Phoenix was nowhere to be found, so on the night of Super Man expulsion from school, the nightly one-on-one fight escalated to a full-on battle.

Super Man was watching while hiding inside a shop: he broke into the bakery at ten in the evening and stayed inside, eating as much as he could and then rested for two hours before the gang arrived and began the battle. He fell asleep while sitting behind the counter, and as the battle broke out, the shouting and the noise of clashing knives shook him awake. He hid behind the store window and watched the battle, his heart was pounding, and his hands were sweating. A gangster ran towards the store window, which frightened him. So he ran back behind the counter, hid under it, and peeked through the surface of the counter, only to realise that the man was in fact running towards another gangster who stood a few yards away from the store window, and whom was killed after a brief exchange of knife clashes.

Super Man looked around and found a gun on the table behind him, and next to it was an opened door leading to a stairwell. He took the gun and ran to the door with his back bent down. The narrow stairwell led him to the rooftops of the two storied building, from where he could survey the battlefield. His legs were shaking, his hands were shaking, his everything was shaking. In the middle of the battlefield were Dragon and Unicorn, both of whom he didn’t know at the time, and around the two leaders were members of his gangs fighting a messy battle. A dozen or so of the fighters had already fallen, and a dozen more seemed wounded.

I should stop this! Super Man thought. But how? He was only twelve, he had no way to contact the police, and calling police would only draw attention to himself, for he himself was a thief. All he had was a gun, and he knew nothing about it. It was just a small handgun with at most hold a few bullets, which couldn’t do much. Even if he had a machine gun, what could he have done? Shoot all of them?

He aimed the gun at the centre of the battlefield, and he tried to shoot, but he didn’t know how. He tried to pull the trigger, but the trigger didn’t move. Then he tried harder, and the gun fired. He didn’t seem to have hit anyone, and the battle went on. A few seconds later, he tried again.

From the middle of the battlefield, a frightening screech pierced through the thick noise of knives clashes.

Someone had fallen.

It was Dragon.

Super Man shot him in his head.

The Dragon Gang stopped and looked at their fallen leader with horror. One of the lieutenants approached the dead body and pulled it away, while the rest of the Gang retreated amid the loud and celebratory cheering of the Unicorn Gang. But Unicorn knew what happened.

“Fuck! The Police must be here!” he shouted. “Run!”

“No, boss!” a follower said and pointed to Super Man. “There’s a kid with a gun up there!”

“Go get him!”

Fuck! They discovered me!

Before he could run down and find his way out through a back door, Unicorn and his followers were already storming into the bakery, through the stairwell, and up on the rooftops. They grabbed him by both arms, moved him to the ground, and put him onto one of their cars.

“Leave me alone!” he shouted as the car sped away from the death scene.

“You stupid kid, where did you get this gun from? You almost fucking killed me!”

“Leave me alone!”

“If your shot veered a few inches, you would have killed me instead of that fucker! Tell me! Why did you do that?”

“I don’t know! I picked up the gun in the bakery and shot randomly!”

“You shot randomly, but you aimed at my direction!”

“That wasn’t intentional! Please! Don’t kill me! I killed your enemy!”

At that, Unicorn went quiet. He then gestured to the two buff men holding Super Man to let him sit unrestrained. Super Man sat stiffly and remained quiet until a few minutes later when the car stopped outside the old barrack. It was the Gang’s headquarters.

“What’s your name you fucking moron?” Unicorn asked.

“Super Man,” he replied timidly.

“Super Man? Hahahaha! Who gave you such name?”

“My mother.”

“Well, you mother is a fucking moron to give you such stupid name.”

Well it isn’t like “Unicorn” isn’t a stupid name, he later thought to himself.

As he walked side-by-side with Unicorn, whose foul mood earlier had turned celebratory, Unicorn laughed and announced to his people:

“I’ve defeated Dragon! Hahahaha!”

In the midst of a few dozens of men welcoming their boss, a woman was standing by a column of the building. She was tall, with glowing skin, dark eyes, and a mesmerising smile. As she walked to Unicorn, the gang moved away to make way for her. She and Unicorn embraced as Super Man watched them.

“I’ve killed him, Phoenix!”

“I’ve heard that.”

“No, actually that is not true.”

He pushed her away and put both his heavy hands on Super Man’s shoulders and pushed him forward.

“Super Man shot him!”

“Well done kid!”

From that moment on, Unicorn took Super Man as his disciple, forgetting the fact that he could have killed him. Since his mother kicked him out and asked him to go fuck himself, he had nowhere to go, so he stayed.


The accidental gang leader

Unicorn did steal Phoenix away from Dragon after all. Her appearance did match the legend about her: alluring and never old. No one knew how old she was, but legend said she had had a string of lovers, most of whom had died. Unicorn often commented that she remained as young as she was when he first saw her fifteen years ago when she remained in love with Dragon, and Dragon, likewise, boasted that his lover always looked like his first lover after he stole her away from her previous lover. 

For a few years, Super Man, like Phoenix, stayed within the barrack most of the time. He was too young to be following the veterans out and about, and Phoenix was a delicate woman who was forbidden by Unicorn to join the Gang’s activities, so Phoenix became a mother-figure to him for a while, until he became as tall as Phoenix; then she became a elder-sister-figure, until he became taller than her, then she became a little-sister-figure, until he became infatuated with her, because she was the only woman who stayed in that place, who now looked younger than he was.

Meanwhile, age showed its mark on Unicorn: his skin became as rough as sand paper, his old wounds hurt even more now than when they were new, he could no longer stand straight, and he could no longer fulfil Phoenix desire. As Super Man grew from a fucking idiot to a handsome idiot, Phoenix turned to him. When Unicorn went out with his lieutenants and his gang, leaving Super Man and Phoenix alone in the barrack, she would bring him to his own room and ask him to pleasure her. On the first occasion, Super Man was scared, and he didn’t know what to do. He followed her instructions and saw from her face how satisfied she was. When he himself was drawn into a momentary bliss, he became even more infatuated. Although Unicorn did try to train Super Man to become one of them, Super Man didn’t seem to show enough promise, so most of the days Unicorn didn’t bring him along and let him stay, which gave him way too many opportunities to be alone with Phoenix.

Their affair lasted for a few months before Unicorn discovered it. Unicorn returned to their base early after an unexpectedly easy fight again the last remnants of the Dragon Gang, so he blasted into the barrack in jubilant mood when he found Phoenix and Super Man embracing and kissing. At that, he roared and opened fire at the ceiling, which, for the rest of his people, was even more shocking than seeing Phoenix and Super Man together, for everyone except Unicorn had long had some inkling that they were in a passionate relationship.

“I challenge you a duel!” Unicorn announced.

According to the Gang’s tradition, when their boss called for a duel between he himself and one of the Gang’s member, the winner would become the new leader of the Gang. No one knew where such tradition came from, and no one had ever questioned it. But now, the duel would be between the most experienced and powerful man of the gang and an idiot. In the event of Super Man killing Unicorn in the duel, that idiot would become the leader. Not that anyone expected Super Man to win, of course, but no one could rule out that terrifying prospect of having an idiot leading the Gang.

At seven that evening, all members of the gang showed up and stood in a large circle in the large empty field. Inside the circle were Unicorn and Super Man standing five hundred feet away from each other. On the side standing far away from them was the judge, who announced:

“When I count to three, you two can start shooting and move forward, until one of you fall.”

“Ready… One… Two… Three! FIRE!”

A shot was fired. 

Unicorn was the one who fell after that one and only one shot. He hadn’t even fired once before he was shot in his head.

Super Man became the new leader. He was twenty.


The gang leader’s father

Super Man didn’t care much about doing the actual “field work” of the Gang. He would spend most of his time receiving reports from every corner of his gang’s operation and directed his operations remotely, which wasn’t a great way to win trust from his subordinates, but a great way not to mess up their works. Indeed, even he himself sometimes realised that he was getting in the way of his followers. Increasingly he didn’t even try to direct them, but instead spent his days and nights indulging in drunkenness or carnal pleasures, until one day when he received an unexpected invitation.

Slofland was in political turmoil: oppositions were rising, demonstrations were frequent, and the government was incapable of suppressing protests. Colonel Man, now the second-in-line to succeed the Führer, faced an impossible situation: the government’s law enforcement and army were not capable of crushing the oppositions, but if he couldn’t crush them, his head might be crushed some day. In desperation, he sent an invitation to Unicorn, an old friend of him who had always offered good advice when he needed. What he didn’t know was that the now Super Man had become the new leader, and that Super Man was his son.

When Super Man received the invitation, he panicked.

“I don’t want to have anything to do with an army guy!”

“Relax,” Phoenix said. “Unicorn used to meet up with Colonel Man every year or so. They were good friends.”

“Are they? But we are gangster, and he’s the government, the ‘good’ people.”

“What makes you think that the government are the ‘good’ people?”

So they prepared the best attire and arranged the best car for their boss. Super Man’s hands were shaking when Phoenix opened the car door for him and push him in, and just before he left, Phoenix put a tiny, black ball inside his suit pocket.

“What is it?”

“A recorder. Unicorn always brought this with him when he met the Colonel.”

“Why?”

“Just in case he could uncover some dirt to use to his advantage.”

On his way, he saw a large crowd of people camped out in the huge public square in front of the government house, and some of them were having a battle with the police right at the main entrance. The police fired tear gas to the crowd, and the crowd sprayed water onto the canister; the police fired rubber bullets, and the crowd threw Molotov cocktail; the police beat the protests with batons, the crowd beat the police with wooden planks. It was chaotic enough that Super Man’s couldn’t enter. He had to park the car way outside and walked in through an obscure door that led to an underground tunnel towards the government house.

Once he arrived, a woman in military uniform greeted him and led him to the State banquet room, where Colonel Man was waiting. They both stood still and were speechless as they lay eyes on each other.

Who is this man standing in front of me? they both thought.

Colonel Man remembered how he himself looked when he was twenty, and the man standing in front of him was how he remembered himself at twenty.

Is that even possible that one of the women I slept with bore me a bastard son who’s now standing in front of me?

Meanwhile, Super Man was thinking: This Colonel couldn’t be my father, could he?

“First of all,” Colonel said and raised his glass of wine. “Congratulations to your recent ascension to the throne of the Gang.”

“Thank you very much,” Super Man raised his glass in return.

“Unicorn was a good friend of mine. It’s a pity he died. I will miss him dearly.”

Did he know that I killed him?

“Whenever I had problems with the running of this country, I send for him for advice.”

If you need my advice, I have no idea what to tell you.

“I need him more than ever now, but he’s gone,” Colonel Man drank another glass.

“If you don’t mind,” Super Man said. “You can tell me the troubles you have. I may not be able to help you, but I will be discreet.”

“Well, you’ve seen it yourself! The crowd just outside! These people want to destroy this country! If I can’t get rid of them, I am done!”

“Can your army not crush them?”

“How? These vermin are everywhere! Every city, every province! The police force, the secret service, the army, they are all overstretched! I’ve even ordered the fire brigade to help, but nothing’s working. I may have unlimited money, but there are limited people I can mobilise.”

“What would Unicorn have suggested to you if you were consulting him on this matter?”

“How would I know? He’s never seen something like that, and neither have I.”

Super Man nodded, not knowing what advice he could offer. They ate and drank more, and their conversations turned into ever more nonsensical as they both became progressively more drunk.

“Yeah, how nice it would be if we just don’t have to care about anything!” Colonel Man laughed.

“If money can solve your problem, then it’s not really a problem.”

“Yeah,” Colonel Man joked. “Can I give you some money to crush the protests!? Hahahaha…”

Colonel Man was clearly drunk when he said that, but Super Man was still sober enough to make some calculation in his mind.

If he gives me one billion, I will do it.

And so he said to the Colonel about this, to which the Colonel laughed.

“Good, if you do it, I give you one billion.”

When he returned to the barrack, he laid down next the Phoenix and played to her the recording from his spy recorder.

“Wait, he’s your father?”

“Maybe, maybe not.”

He fell asleep when the “one billion deal” was played back, and Phoenix was amazed that she woke him up.

“He was drunk,” the half-conscious Super Man said.

“Who knows if he was really drunk! You have this recording! You can use this as a leverage, for blackmailing him!”

He fell asleep soon, so Phoenix talked to him again the next day. At first, Super Man remained unconcerned about the offer, but Phoenix persuaded him to have a second thought.

“Never mind if it’s really drunk talk. You have this recording. You can threaten to expose this if he denied it. You have the network in the whole of Slofland to do what he wants you to do! If he doesn’t have one billion for you, you can force him to give you other things.”

She’s right.

So he gathered his people around the country into a video conference to announce his decision. Within hours, under his directions, his people began their operation. Where police’s tear gas didn’t work, they threw Molotov cocktail to the crowd; where the army’s rubber bullets failed, they shot real bullets; where the army were thrown stones, they threw grenades back at the crowd. The actual police and army were confused at first: these were gang people whom they used to fight against, but now they seemed to be on the same side. They had no idea what to do, so they stayed put and watched Super Man’s gang finishing the job they failed.

Colonel Man had forgotten about what he said to his son. When the uprising was over, he was all too ready to take credit, and he received the highest of the highest decoration from the Führer for his “contribution to the State’s security.” When the ceremony was broadcast on the television, Super Man was furious that his father had forgotten his pledge. And then, Phoenix reminded him of the recording.

“Send a copy of the recording to him, and see what he will do about it,” she said.

And so Super Man made a copy of the tape and sent that to his office. Within two days, Colonel Man invited him for another dinner at the government house. This time, Super Man brought two of his most fearsome lieutenants with him. Super Man strolled into the State banquet hall with his men, one of each side, to intimidate his father. His father stood there and welcome him with a forced smile.

“My son, what do you want exactly?”

“Well, one billion.”

“I don’t have one billion, you know.”

“But you said you are the government on the telly. Surely you can get one billion.”

“I didn’t say that, my son!”

“No, but the Führer said that! And if my memory serves me right, you said you have unlimited money!”

“Oh my son… please…”

“Stop calling me your son until you give me that one billion. You’ve abandoned my mother and me for twenty years, don’t pretend we are very close to each other. I didn’t even fucking know you before you invited me here last time!”

Where is my mother anyway? Well I can’t care less, but that argument sounds good.

“How dare you! I have an army to crush you!”

“Yeah? Your army couldn’t crush the uprising, but I could. So what’s good is your army?”

“I’m going to kill you!” Colonel Man hit the table, stood up, and spilled all the wine from his cup to the white table cloth. Super Man’s two lieutenants stood up and pulled out their guns, but Super Man remained seated and gestured calmly to his men to back down.

“If you kill me here, or if you imprison me, my lieutenants back in my base will be sending the tape to the Führer and to newspapers tomorrow, and your career will be over, and so will your life, I wager.”

Colonel Man sat down, and he promised to find him one billion.


From gang leader to businessman

Super Man might be an idiot in many things, but he turned out to be a fantastic businessman, and he somehow turned his gang into a real and legitimate business enterprise. In his home city, Sloflandia, he began to use the one billion as start-up capital to purchase land and build houses to sell to rich folks and corrupt officials, including the Führer himself. Within a year, that one billion became two billion; then four billion, eight billion, and so on.

On the other side, however, Colonel Man lived in the constant fear of having the tape of him promising to give his son one billion exposed, never mind the fact that he embezzled one billion from the country’s treasury and produced false documents to hide it. The tape was used by Super Man as a bargaining chip: whenever he had trouble in getting government’s approval for his housing projects, he asked his father to deal with it, with a little reminder about that tape. His father saw no choice but to help his bastard son again and again for the next ten years, to a point that he ended up helping this bastard son even more than his legitimate son, which angered his actual missus.

“Who is that Super Man anyway? Just ignore him!”

“I guess I would have to kill him in order to ignore him.”

“THEN DO IT ALREADY!”

Of course, being a top government official of the Republic of Slofland, he had planned murders of numerous people before without any consequence to himself. But murdering his son was a different matter, and there was no guarantee that killing him would solve the problem: the incriminating tape remained in Super Man’s possession, and he couldn’t be sure that killing him would not lead to the tape leaked somewhere in the public or sent to the Führer, which would perhaps prompt an investigation of the one billion missing money from the treasury, and his dismissal and possibly death.


Death

Inside the State banquet room, the father and son were having another of their regular meet-up. Super Man didn’t suspect anything, and Colonel Man hadn’t planned anything: he didn’t think that killing his son was a great idea anyway. But he had a gun with in, strapped to the belt he was wearing. He always brought a gun with him, and Super Man knew it, so that didn’t raise any alarm at all.

Despite his secret hatred for his own son, their dinners didn’t usually lead to arguments. They would exchange pleasantries, cracked some jokes, and got drunk, after which they would start talking nonsense. Of late, Super Man would comment about the latest measurement of his own wealth, which floated second-to-second in value in the stock exchange, and the last read of his wealth — his equity stake in his own crime organisation cum real estate developer — was one hundred billion.

The words “one” and “billion” stuck out for Colonel Man, because that was exactly the money he had given his son. He couldn’t hear the word “hundred” at all.

You bastard, your net-worth is exactly the same number I gave you! That means I gave you everything!

“You wouldn’t have any of it if I didn’t give you the money,” he exploded in rage.

“I don’t deny it,” Super Man replied without seemingly noticing his father anger. “But that’s the deal. I crushed the riots, and I got what I deserved.”

“No, you don’t deserve anything, son of the bitch!”

“What did you call my mother just now?” Super Man woke up from his drunkenness at that word “bitch.”

For Colonel Man, Super Man’s mother was just a mistress who bore him a son he didn’t want, and that son was now coming back to bite him. He didn’t know that Super Man had established contact with his mother, and she now lived in the most spacious and luxurious apartment in his latest finished construction project: the Super Man Complex, combining hotel, retail, residential, and offices in one single development that had become the most valuable spot within the city of Sloflandia. Up in the penthouse on the top floor of the residential tower, his mother enjoyed the wealth his son created out of the one billion Colonel Man gave him. She might have abandoned him when he was twelve, but she was his mother who went through the trouble to eject him out of her body and feed him for twelve years.

And Colonel Man? He is just a mother-fucker, literally.

“She’s a bitch, and you are a son-of-a-bitch!”

“HOW DARE YOU!”

Super man roared and swung his fist at Colonel Man’s face. Colonel Man fell to the floor as Super Man ran towards him and tried to stomp on his chest. Colonel Man pulled his gun from his belt and fired at Super Man’s head. Super Man fell on his father’s body.


Colonel Man was too drunk to know what he had done when he woke up the next morning with his son’s body still on him. Within minutes, his people rushed in and reported to him about the latest rumours in and around the city about his one-billion dealing with Super Man.

“Shit, they are so quick!”


Revenge

When Phoenix, who still looked like she’s eighteen for reasons no one could fathom, didn’t see Super Man returned to their penthouse, she initiated the plan to leak the first incriminating tape, along with many other incriminating tapes Super Man collected over the years about the crimes of Colonel Man. When the news of Super Man’s death reached her later that morning, she organised a meeting with the gang’s senior members.

“Colonel Man must be killed,” she concluded.

The members of his gangs, who now mostly wore business suits, all ditched their suits and returned to their root. In the old barrack they once called headquarters, they lined up on a field and marched. In front of them was Phoenix, standing alone on a raised platform.

“We must kill Colonel Man! We did what the army failed to do ten years ago, so today we will defeat the army!”

So they marched in huge formation towards the government house, killing every police and soldier standing in their way. They stormed the government house and massacre every man inside. In the State banquet room, they found the body of Super Man. Phoenix went to hug the dead body and sobbed.

But they couldn’t find Colonel Man.


Colonel Man was already in prison when the gang stormed the government house. The Führer had not only found out about the one billion deal to crush the protests, he had only found out that Colonel man had two hundred dollars more than he had: Colonel Man was worth fifty billion and two hundred.

“And the Colonel had the balls to steal one billion off the Treasury to pay Super Man! Fuck him, he should have use his own money for that!” the Führer shouted.

“What should we do now?” his new right-hand man asked.

“Kill him! And get his money into MY ACCOUNT! What’s wrong with you? Is this your first day at work?”

“Yes, but he puts all his money offshore…”

 Short Stories    25 Apr, 2016
 Fiction    Crime    Politics    Dystopia    Short Stories  
Copyright © Peter Y. Chuang 2018

Peter Y. Chuang is a Hong Kong-born novelist and short story writer who’s lived in London and calls Berlin his spiritual home. He has completed the manuscript of a literary science fiction novel, Twenty Forty-Seven,” and is currently re-writing another literary novel, Only You Know What It Means.”