Akim Novikov and his longtime comrade Alexander Sokolov both stood and watched as Akim's private jet slowly taxied toward the runway to make its departure from Moscow's Domodedovo International Airport to the United StatesâLos Angeles, California, to be exact. The twenty-one-hour flight would make one stop before arriving at LAX and their new business associates would be back safely to their home. Akim smiled, turned toward his comrade and spoke in Russian: “Well, my friend, it looks as if we now begin this new business arrangement with Taz and the Network. I'm confident this should prove to be very profitable for us and all parties involved.”
“You should be confident; you've put a tremendous amount of time and effort into this decision to deal with Taz. It's been over six years now and we've missed out on a lot of money in America because of you and your patience with this man. My question for you is, why did it take you this long to make contact with Taz? You have told me numerous times how you trusted Won totally. If that was the case I figured you would have made contact with Taz and put everything in motion years ago.”
As they turned and began to walk toward the airport exit Akim's smile seemed to brighten when he spoke. “That was my dear deceased friend Won's request. He wanted me to sit back and be patient and watch Taz from a distance to make sure he was in fact ready to do the type of business that Won and I had planned on doing. Won was never one to jump into anything without being absolutely positive things would come out in his favor. Even in death he prepared for everything to work in Taz's favor. He wanted to make sure Taz was in fact ready to take on such a tremendous responsibility being the leader of the Network. After six years of watching Taz lead the Network to soaring profits I felt it was time for us to help him soar even higher. Just as Won predicted Taz is a leader in every sense of the word. The power given to him by Won made him a man with enormous resources. Those resources accompanied with the intelligence and ruthlessness Taz has displayed over these last six years has shown me that he is more than ready to embark in our very profitable business ventures. Taz is not a man to be taken lightly. I respect that and I am anxious to see how this evolves.”
Once they were inside of their chauffeured limousine Alexander asked, “What about the rest of the council? You know they aren't going to accept what Taz will tell them about the drugs.”
“This is true, comrade. Taz loathes drugs; the council knows this. The Network's primary profits come largely from the distribution of drugs. The fact that drugs have made the Network very rich is secondary to Taz. He possesses the power to take the Network well beyond their current position. Taz will make sure that this transition within the business dealings of the Network will go smoothly.”
“And if there's any problems?”
Akim smiled. “Then we will assist our American comrade.”
“This should prove to be very interesting.”
“That indeed, comrade, that indeed,” Akim said as he relaxed in his seat and lit a cigarette.
Taz, Wild Bill, Red, and Bob made themselves comfortable as the G5 smoothly lifted off the ground and was airborne headed home. It had been a long, tiring week spent in Moscow. Taz smiled as he thought about the fun they had while in Russia. Partying with Akim and Alexander had been something he hadn't expected. Those Russian mafia guys sure know how to kick it. Shit, he still had a slight hangover from all of that vodka he drank while partying with them.
What surprised him most was how they handled their business. No word games or beating around the bush with Akim; he got straight to the point and laid down the rules and what he expected from Taz and the Network. Taz respected that. Now it was time to bring this to the attention of the council to see if they would agree with the decision he made while in Russia. He really didn't care but he had to do it the politically correct way. So far, he chose to never throw his weight around the council and for that they seemed to have more respect for him. Again, this was something he really didn't care about; as long as his crew was with it and by his side he would do whatever he wanted to. Won left him in power and he was determined to make the best of this, not only for Won but for everyone that was important to him: his crew, Red, Wild Bill, Bob, and Tari; his family, his wife Sacha, his mother Mama-Mama, and his children, Tazneema and his twin sons, Keenan and Ronald. Every move he made was for the well-being of his loved ones and Won's memory. He was winning so far and it felt real good. Real good!
In six years Taz used the influence Won left him to hook the Network up and take their criminal enterprise to an international level. Won had a game plan and he secured contacts for Taz with some very serious criminal organizations. Sicilian mobsters, South American drug cartels, Cuban drug lords, Asian gangsters, and finally the Russian mafia. Originally Taz wanted to remove the drugs from the Network, but he saw that would be basically impossible because the distribution of narcotics was where the majority of the Network's money came from. So he bided his time and waited patiently. He even made some stronger moves to help the drug trade elevate for the Network through Won's connection with the Orumutto family in California. The money earned from their X pills was enormous.
So far every move Taz made had been the right move and that gave him the confidence to make this next move with the Russians: weapons arms dealing. The money they would make in arms dealing with the Russians would surpass all of the drugs they dealt ten times over. He knew he could be greedy and make these moves with the Russians and keep the drug trade the Network ran intact and everything would be good.
But that's not what he wanted; he still loathed drugs and wanted no part of it any longer. At the next quarterly council meeting he was going to present his plan of removing the Network from the drug game altogether. Not only did he dislike drugs or selling them, he felt that it was too risky of a business to continue with. It was only a matter of time before things got wicked. Yes, they were not the average street-level drug dealers; that didn't matter to him. He wanted peace of mind and as long as the Network was involved with drugs he would never have that. Sooner or later the DEA or the FBI would catch wind of certain people and when that happened the snitching would begin. That meant murder would come in play because he knew without a doubt he would order the death of anyone he even thought was running their mouth. Though every move that had been made thus far under his leadership had been calculated to a tee it didn't mean every move had been made right. To him they had been extremely lucky and luck runs out sooner or later. It was time for the Network to switch shit up. Time for the drugs to stop. If the council didn't agree with what Taz was going to propose then there were going to be some serious issues, issues that would most likely make Taz use his position of power, and that meant a division within.
Taz thought as the jet reached its cruising altitude. He reclined in his seat and wondered what his wife and sons were doing at home. He yawned and closed his eyes and began to doze as the rest of the crew was doing.
By the time Taz woke up Wild Bill was arguing with Red about who had the most money between Diddy and Jay-Z. For the life of him Taz couldn't understand how two men in their early forties could have such a childish argument. But these were his lifelong friends and nothing they did could ever destroy their friendship. He sighed and said, “Will you two fools shut the fuck up, acting stupid and shit.”
Red, the biggest man of the crew at a little over six foot two, smiled at Taz and said, “You know this little man gets to tripping when he's wrong, G. Everyone knows that Diddy has way more money than Jay.”
“Little man? Nigga, I can still out bench your big yellow ass any day, anytime, so kill that little man shit, fool!” They all started laughing because Wild Bill was extra sensitive when it came to his height. Any reference toward how small he was set him off instantly. Red knew this and used this tactic frequently to piss his friend off. Wild Bill, the smallest member of the crew at five foot seven, was extremely strong; his muscular physique was something he was very proud of, that and his long, permed hair that he refused to cut even after Taz and Red decided to cut their long braids for a more conservative businessman type look. Wild Bill laughed at them both and told them that he was like Samson: his strength came from his hair. Another one of his funny moments.
The next member of the crew was Bob. Bob was another comedian of sorts. Over the last few years since becoming a father he had calmed down considerably with some of his wild antics. His wife, Gwen, had a lot to do with this transformation. They were a perfect match for each other. She was the only person other than any crew member who could keep Bob in check when he got to tripping.
Bob was five foot eleven, with dark skin and a four-inch knot right in the middle of his forehead that made him the brunt of a lot of jokes over the years. Only from the crew, though; several men and women had been punished for trying to clown Bob about his knot, and he did not play that at all. Though his wild days seemed to have been behind him, Bob still was just as dangerous as the rest of the crew.
Taz, also at five foot eleven, was the head of the crew in a way but chose to lead by example. He tried to make all of the right decisions when it came to his friends. They were crew, but they were friends forever in his eyes and he loved them all like brothers. They had been reduced to a four-man crew when originally they were a six-man crew before losing two of their close friends in a beef with some Hoover Crips in their hometown of Oklahoma City. That beef nearly destroyed Taz and his relationship with his daughter Tazneema.
Taz and the crew went all out to get revenge for the murders of their friends, Bo-Pete and Keno. In memory of their friends each crew member put tatooed portraits of Bo-Pete and Keno on each side of their chest. So no matter what, as long as they were still breathing their friends would always be with them. Taz took it a step further when he found out that his wife, Sacha, was having twins; he chose to name both of his sons after his fallen friends. Ronald Michael Good was Li'l Bo-Pete and Keenan Mitchell Good was Li'l Keno. Sacha chose the middle names. The crew was composed of four men, but the total number of crew members was five because of Tari, Taz's ex-lover. Tari was a drop-dead gorgeous white woman who had held Taz down for many years after they were first introduced by Won, Taz's mentor/father figure. Their lives took a major turn because of Won and because of those turns they were now on a private jet returning to America from Russia.
“All right clowns, chill, we need to talk some business for a minute here. I thought we would wait until we got back home but since you fools have so much energy we might as well handle this now,” Taz said seriously. Each member of the crew sat up in their seats and gave Taz their undivided attention. “So, you all heard what has been proposed by Akim and Alex. You know I am on board with it because I want to move the Network in a different direction away from the drug game. We don't get our hands dirty directly but if anything ever went left we could all be caught up in some heavy federal conspiracy shit, and I am just not trying to go out like that over some damn dope money. You know how I feel on that shit. Your thoughts?”
Bob reclined in his seat and spoke first. “If you're with it, Taz, then I trust your call. I mean you've made every move the right move since you've become the man over the Network. You've taken us just as far as Won figured you would. You know I feel the same as you do when it comes to the dope game. I say let's roll with these Russians and get this money with the gun thing.”
Taz laughed and said, “Guns thing, huh? It's bigger than that, my nigga, but I feel what you're saying. We'll be participating in some heavy arms dealing. Not just some guns, this will be some major army type shit. Missiles, rocket launchers, automatic assault rifles as well as pistols, silencers, and such. This move will bring us way more money than the percentages we collect from the council of the Network. It will also solidify the Network as major players internationally.”
“I agree with Bob, dog. I feel we should continue to trust your judgment because every move you have made has been on point,” said Red.
“I agree too, but I do have some concerns,” said Wild Bill.
“Talk to me, G.”
“The drugs have been the main get down for the Network since the beginning. That's how Won has always ate and made the moves he was able to make. He kept all of the right connections and did his thang major with the dope game. The entire council except for you have a direct hand with the ho game. True, you collect a large percentage from the drugs as the rest but it's mostly how they eat. By making this move you would be taking from them what they have been dependent on for decades. Two things can come from this: one, they could roll with it and be willing to make this change; or, two, they will not want to make that move in fear of change. Fear of the unknown makes people hesitant, dog. Especially when you're talking about some heavy figures like what they bring in quarterly. I personally feel that if they choose not to roll with you on this it will cause problems within the Network. That will then cause someone to die because if I even feel like someone in that council is thinking about bringing you any harm I will take their head off myself. Real spill,” said Wild Bill.
Taz gave him a nod and placed his right palm over his chest where the tattoo of Keno's face was and said, “Love, my nigga. I feel every word you have spoken. Now let me break it down to you as I see it and feel it. The percentage that we collect, not just me, dog, whatever I get I split with you guys evenly. That will never change. Yes, I am the head of the Network, but we are the crew and that comes before anybody and anything.” Each member gave a nod and placed an open right palm over their chest. “Now, I know that change will be something that won't be easily accepted within the council and that is why I will propose an extra incentive for this move. I will give them one year, one year to get full profits from their drug moves. I will concede my percentage during that year. That means they will make over sixty or seventy million dollars during this last year of drug activity. But when that year is over the Network will sever all ties with all drug business. I think this tactic will make that fear of the unknown a tad bit better to deal with.”