Cards On The Table


richard_icon.gif zachery2_icon.gif

Scene Title Cards on the Table
Synopsis In an attempt to change a pattern, Zachery makes a gamble. Richard provides better odds than expected.
Date December 7, 2020


Zachery Miller has been in Richard Ray's office what feels like too many times already. The first time he was in there, it was to ask for a job he did not expect to get, wearing a mask far too clean and crisp to be genuine, back straight and words carefully rehearsed.

But he did get that job. As thanks, the times he's visited since then have almost always involved bad news of some sort.

"So, I committed a murder."

And today, it seems, is no different.

He sits in the chair across from the desk, unshaven, shirt creased, all melted slack with one arm hanging past the armrest, his head lolled back as he hears the words leave him with far too much nonchalance than ought to be attached to them. He angles his head just slightly so as to find a view of Richard, and to check what his face happens to be up to at this moment. "I thought it might be…" He pauses for a beat, then adds, "Relevant?"

Over the past several years, Richard has been learning how best to be a father. He’s even read some books on the matter, and one of the things that he learned is that when they come to you admitting they did something wrong - not to be angry with them, because then they won’t come to you in the future. Instead, calmly work out how to fix whatever happened with them.

He never really thought that would apply to his work life until this very moment.

“Oh… kay,” says the executive, leaning forward slowly until both hands fold on the surface of the table, both eyebrows raising a little, “Can you tell me who, why, and what the chances are that law enforcement will be showing up to look for you?”

Please don’t let him say it was Nicole.

But fortunately for both of them, if it had been Nicole, he would never have come here.

He answers without delay. "Sure, let's go in that order. The who - that's easy. A Humanis First member. The why - well, there were bullets flying, ostensibly in my direction, and then I was already on top of him and I had… these," He lifts his fists up by his face, fingers relaxing outward again when he drops them back down. "So I… used them?" His brow knits in the spaces between words, darting a glance to the side as he recalls. "A lot. On his face. Until it was no longer much of one. I will assume that's why he stopped breathing."

He considers his own words… but no, that sounds right. His eye finds Richard again, this time properly facing him. "Then, the last matter of consequences. Would you believe Gideon d'Sarthe just happened to be nearby to pick up the body for me."

It is not with any amount of pleasure that he says this last sentence, stare hard and expression sinking to an annoyed scowl.

“Okay.” Richard brings one hand up from the table, sliding along up the bridge of his nose to pinch between his eyes, “I’m not going to shed any tears about one less Humanis member, honestly, I’d give you a biscuit for that if I had any on my desk.”

He’s been reading Harry Potter to his kids lately, and it shows.

“Why don’t you… give me the whole story, so I know how we need to handle this?”

At first, Zachery offers little response other than a sigh, shallow and deliberate. This isn't the worst response he could have gotten, and yet…

But then, like he suddenly remembers he's a grown man in his mid-forties who can buy his own damn biscuits, he barks out a laugh. "Handle this? Oh, no— no, this, ah-" He leans forward, one hand planted against the seat of his chair. "That's not really why I'm here. I'm not looking for a solution."

Richard opens one eye, crooking a single brow as he looks back at Zachery.

“Doctor Miller,” he says calmly, “We are a team. And we are a team that now has a member that has been put in a blackmailing position by a crime lord. Do you not agree that we should discuss how to handle the situation?”

"You make a good point," Zachery is quick to admit, what remains of his laugh still lingering in a grin that pulls slightly more one way than the other. "I'll give you that. Exceedingly. But consider this—"

He fixes Richard with an unwavering stare and holds both hands out in front of him as if the following novel concept is physically laid out on top of them. "There's nothing either of us can do about it." His hands drift apart, fingers splaying, clearly novel concept sent tumbling to the floor as he gives an exaggerated shrug. "What are we doing to do, go to the bright new faces of the retrained NYPD and tell them very nicely that if this theoretical situation comes up, I'd like to put in an insanity plea ahead of the queue?"


The edge of Richard’s lips tugs up in a crooked line. “Doctor Miller,” he observes, leaning slowly back in his chair with a soft creak, hands folding together over his chest, “You mistake me for someone that goes through conventional avenues to get things done, as opposed to a former career criminal that can kill anyone in the same room as him and leave no evidence behind.”

One eyebrow lifts, “So why don’t you go over what happened, exactly?”

Suddenly, there's quiet. Zachery's breath leaves him with no words attached, and he lifts a hand to rub it roughly across his face, then up into a biopsy scar-dotted hairline. "So, what— so you can kill Gideon d'Sarthe?" He asks, sarcasm taking up the space feigned cheer was occupying previously. "Because yes, actually, that would help."

Still, his eye leaves Richard's face, gaze trailing down and to the side as his grin loses strength and he considers. Whether he's considering further words or how quickly to make for the door does not yet become readily evident.

“I’ve considered it before, but I prefer an organized criminal presence to a disorganized one,” Richard replies without missing a beat, one eyebrow lifted, “And he and I have a … somewhat amicable relationship for now.”

“Unless that changes. So, Doctor Miller… what happened?”

He watches the other man’s face steadily, waiting for his response.

Zachery's response comes faster this time, even if his voice is pulled lower with impatience and annoyance both. "You're interrupting my very important reminder to myself that I'm in here as a display of trust, rather than expose what could be perceived as further, unnecessary reliance."

But that opens up a whole new subject he doesn't want to talk about. So! Moving on, and quickly, Zachery's focus rubberbands back to Richard's face. "Where to start. Right. Something I've been meaning to bring up for a while— something - or someone - that starts with the letter O."

He pauses, eyebrows popping slightly higher as he waits.

“Doctor Pride, I presume?” Richard brings one hand up, scratching briefly at his cheek, “Alright, what is it that you’d like to bring up— I assume these two things are connected, of course.”

"Bear with me, we're taking the scenic route," Zachery decides. "So she arrives, and I say nothing. I think I know more than I should, and yet, I say nothing. Then, I know, and I say nothing still. Because maybe, just maybe, she's changed. Yes?"

“She’s been released legally from federal custody,” notes Richard with a slight tip of his head in a nod, his own cards kept close to his chest as far as his tone and expression is concerned, “SESA requested that we accept her interview, at least, and she’s been doing good work.”

"Oh, we're doing this song and dance," Zachery replies, laughing once more. Colder and shorter than before, but the act still seems to remove some of the tension that had been creeping slowly back into his posture. He melts back into his seat again, what's left of his grin growing wry.

"She's been superb. Genuinely brilliant and incredibly helpful. It's so admirable that on some days, I almost forget to wonder how they managed that particular car's paint job. But - and I promise we're very rapidly approaching the sharp turn into On-Topicshire - I suppose everything's for sale if the Price is right, yes?"

He lifts his chin. "Get it? Price? Would you like me to reference the city in Texas, or…?"
Richard rolls his eyes, one hand coming up to rub against the side of his face. “I just confirmed you were right,” he says dryly, “If you were paying attention, which I know is sometimes difficult for you.”

He gestures with one hand, “So what’s this have to do with her, then?”

There is so much Zachery could say in response to that other comment - and yet, he freezes, jaw tightening. And then, the moment's passed. And a question's been asked.

"Alright," he says through gritted teeth, in the distinct tone of voice denoting someone filing something away for later. "Her boyfriend. You're familiar?"

“Unfortunately,” Richard replies with the sort of tone that suggests he’s also familiar with cockroaches as a concept, “Yes.”

Suddenly, Zachery wheezes out another laugh, remembering clearly a little late that— "Right, shit, you'd have seen him at my wedding. This scenic route may have just veered off into a fucking bog. Wonderful. Alright."

He pushes himself to his feet, words growing slightly sharper while he mentally recalibrates. "Anyway, so you know he and I have met, but not that we met in prison, where he saved my life," he continues, starting to pace in whatever space the office affords him, "And you might think I seem like a poor judge of character, but here's the fucking thing."

He gestures vaguely at Richard, whatever energy's got him walking also fueling the grin he levels over. "I'm willing to bet it's so much worse than you think."

“Given that I have security footage of him striking her across the face,” Richard observes stormily, leaning forward slightly, “I can only imagine that it is worse… I already know he’s involved with d’Sarthe in some way, but— “

He motions a little, “Don’t let me interrupt. Go on.”

It takes a moment. Zachery's gait slows at the mention of security footage, and he dryly swallows back his grin as he recovers his line of thinking from muddied waters.

Mid-step, he starts again. "… So he invites me to a day out, hunting, then surprise," his hands go up in the world's most facetious gesture of celebration. "I'm introduced to Callahan's good friend Gideon, and we're opening fire on people now. The next thing I know, I've stalled on my decision on what to do with that information for so long that I end up walking into the crime scene willingly, realising full well that I've got two choices. Leave, but know too much, or stay. And fit in."

He breathes out a bitter chuckle with a twitch of a shoulder drawing back. "I'm furious with having been tricked. But then— I realise that it feels like progress. That I belong there, exactly there, beating the life out of…" He shrugs, just shrugs, and shakes his head as he comes to a stop near the desk again, real and acrylic eye both narrowed at its owner as he asks, finally, with a calm insistence, "But then why am I here, Richard? If not to pick a side."

“The sides are far more nebulous than most people think, Miller. If you knew some of the things that SESA’s been up to…” Richard just shakes his head. It doesn’t matter, not in the moment.

“I’m not going to say I haven’t enjoyed murdering racist pieces of shit in my time. I’ve killed more people than I care to say,” he admits, hands spreading a little, “It’s probably pretty fucked up of both of us, but there’re worse things to have fucked up about yourself. The difference is, I wouldn’t trick you into killing a racist piece of shit, I’d tell you that was the plan to begin with.”

He regards the other man, “You said Callahan. Who’s that?”

Again, Zachery does not look quite sure of himself. He furrows his brow, before amusement brings him both a lopsided grin and the energy to step forward, planting one hand firmly on the desk and pointing the other at Richard.

"Now that's interesting, isn't it?" He beams. "Who is Callahan, he asks, having met the man already. I did think, from the start, he didn't seem like a Harry."

Richard brings one hand back up to pinch the bridge of his nose. “Yes, I get your implication that Harry is an alias,” he murmurs, “I take it that isn’t his name, which in retrospect makes sense given that you met in prison, and Harry Stoltz has no listed prison record.” Because of course he ran a background check on Des’s boyfriend.

“So who is this piece of shit really?”

There's a pause from Zachery, before he inhales sharply and answers, "I know this might seem strange, considering he was the best man at my wedding, but… I genuinely have no idea. Beyond the fact that something about the man makes me want to strangle him."

An ever more fixed look at Richard is cut short when he pulls promptly away from the desk again, turning around so he can stare off into nothing. "I suspect Callahan might not have a prison record either, but he and d'Sarthe have built up a nice little rapport. Which I… sort of…" He pauses, head half turning back into Richard's direction. "Want to keep abreast of?"

“Interesting.” Richard’s gaze hoods a bit, “What prison and year range? I can run some… checks to see what I can find.”

The tips of his fingers drum a bit against the table, “He absolutely is working for d’Sarthe; he’s involved with a club on Staten, one that Doctor Pride also sings at. Alright. If you want to keep track of this, you have my nod on it, but keep me informed and don’t get yourself too deep. Nicole would murder me.”

Zachery sidesteps toward the door out - if nothing else, his being in a rush to leave remains a constant. Turning to get a last look at Richard's face, his own shows clear amusement in the wry pull of a grin, even if some of it's swallowed down by the time he nods.

He just might be right about Nicole, after all.

"Look for… mid-May, 2018," he answers. "Work back a few weeks from there. There was an agent who interviewed me, but- well." His grin grows wider still, hand on the door already. "When does talking to me yield results, really?"

“Far more often when you talk to me like a person and not someone skirting the edges of a tiger trap, honestly, Miller,” says Richard in dry tones, motioning a bit with a hand towards him, “Try and be careful, whatever it is that you’re getting yourself into.”

Soberly, “Enough of my people seem to be getting in over their heads, lately, and I only have so many ropes to throw.”

Just like that, all the energy that had Zachery pacing and then making his quick way out disappears from him in a slow exhale.

He studies Richard's face for a few seconds, then finally decides, flatly, "I'll be fine." Pulling the door open, the last thing he does as he walks out is cant his head to one side as he grabs hold of an invisible noose around his neck, pulling it upward. "Got a rope of my own right here."

“I’m on your side, Miller, for Christ’s sake…”

Richard breathes out a heavy sigh as the other man leaves, elbows dropping to the desk and hands covering his face briefly as he mumbles into it, “I swear to God, I wouldn’t have these problems if I was just more of a controlling asshole.”

But unfortunately, he’s not.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License