Courting Violence


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Scene Title Courting Violence
Synopsis Ace Harry Stoltz has his eye on another party he wants to add to the d'Sarthe Group collection.
Date May 26, 2021

It's a sunny day in the Safe Zone, and Ace Callahan sees it as one ripe with opportunity. He pushes back a pair gold-accented sunglasses against his face, hiding the coloration of his eyes, and closes the door to the Porsche he drove to this mid-afternoon date. He lowers his eyes from the skyline and looks to the outdoor seating arrangement at the seaside Merlot Joe's, nose wrinkling before he reins in his attitude.

He needs to doff his usual demeanor, and instead don his other– that belonging to Harry Stoltz.

Expression easing, he steps across the street toward the restaurant.

Merlot Joe's

Sheepshead Bay

Harry sits with one leg crossed over the other while he waits for his lunch guest, swirling a low glass of dark wine. Green-grey eyes sweep the view out the long windows, the sleek grey of his suit jacket swept aside to reveal a dress shirt of pale salmon.

For all his cool calm exterior, he struggles with patience, his excitement quietly contained. One way or another, he's determined to capitalize on the opportunity afforded to him by having this invitation for drinks accepted. He just has to play his cards right on the first play…

…but the one who has done the accepting has her own series of – excuse the pun – aces in the hole, up the sleeve, etc, although this rather nice wine bar has no holes in its facade other than the beautiful plate glass windows and her shirt is sleeveless, the kind of well-to-do grey tank top that would be at home in a Nordstrom of the before days. It hangs ever so slightly off of a very slight build, an indicator that the home yoga routine is not nearly so effective at retaining the muscle of advancing age as having gone to a studio five times a week, but still, the math of years on the planet is not everything, and things change more rapidly these days than ever before, it seems.

Kaiya Jeffery walks with an atmosphere of command. She always has. She is beyond the rhythmic clicking of high-heeled pumps in hallways of low-quality vinyl laminate, a flooring that was almost laughably silly when one stopped to consider the decisions of important magnitude that happened in the rooms branching off of those passages, decisions made behind dreadful pine doors that the almost metronomic cantor bounced off of as an afterthought as she swooped by in a classic ‘80s power walk to keep her heart rate up. No, instead she’s transitioned to sandals in the waspy power of retirement, one of which is dangling loosely off of her foot as she sits with painfully perfect posture at a bistro table and summons the waiter to order a chablis before even addressing her lunch companion. The matter of imbibement settled, Kaiya places a square handbag on the floor by her seat and regards Harry with calculating brown eyes. She does not remove her sunhat, sitting low over her brow.

"Ms. Jeffrey," Harry offers up with a close-mouthed smile. "I'm delighted you accepted my invitation. I've been interested in your movements of late, and believe there are ways we can mutually benefit each other." He slips a business card from inside his jacket, one that identifies him as a representative of the d'Sarthe Group, and sets it on the prim tablecloth before leaning back. "I happen to specialize in the entertainment of exclusive clientele, and believe it's long-overdue that we've made acquaintance."

He gestures loosely with his wine while he explains, "From what I'm hearing, you've withdrawn from the public eye. A fine woman of business such as yourself hopefully is engaged well enough in that reclusion, but I'm quite happy to leverage my resources to ensure that time is satisfyingly-spent." A sip of his glass later, he sets it aside and relates, "My skills are based in travel concierge, but if you have local interests, I'd be happy to work with you on those as well. Really, I'd like to set down that the world is our oyster."

"So long as you'd have an interest, of course," Harry demures with a tip of his head.

Kaiya takes the card in well-manicured hands, the nails a shade of maroon gel on acrylic that, in these days of scarcity, positively banshee-shrieks cash to burn. Even her lotion is a subtle rose fragrance that passes a waft in small movements. She casts one impossibly quick look over the woven parchment card and fixes him with a hot stare, a stare which does not break as she leans slightly to her left, grabs her handbag to place on the table instead, opens the bag with a flick of the wrist, and drops the card in with dispassion.

“Oh, Mr. Stoltz, you old-fashioned charmer.” Her voice still clear for her age, but not without the gravel of a former smoker. “Our – ah – business interests have been circling each other like cats in an alley for years. What makes you think I’d have a change of heart just now? Where’s the fun in that?”

The waiter arrives with the chablis. Kaiya instructs him to leave the bottle. He does.

"That's just the thing," Harry replies with a smile that quirks up only one side of his mouth. "The world now is different than the one that was, and in the one we find ourselves in today, there are entirely new opportunities." His hands part before he professes, "I feel the need to reiterate I'm not here to be so bold as to ask for some kind of joint business venture. The way you've established yourself in the Safe Zone serving the residential area and the way the d'Sarthe Group at large is fishing up commercial space, I believe both of those businesses are thriving just fine on their own. What I'm proposing here is a bit more…"

He smirches his tongue off his palate and summarizes it as, "Personal."

"I, personally, recognize the contributions you've made to the Safe Zone and admire them. I find your long history of acute business acumen to be fascinating, and believe that any opportunity to establish a relationship with you, even if it's one that begins in service, is one worth taking." One of Harry's brows ticks slightly higher as he meets her gaze and indicates, "Eventually, d'Sarthe himself will be gone. And I'm learning what I can from him and his, but there are so many ways to run a company, to run a city." His smile flashes a little wider, sharper. "So I'm interested in knowing, Ms. Jeffrey, what I could do to pull you back from this reclusion you've entered into simply for the joy of watching you work."

“Oh, Harry,” Kaiya rebuts, swirling the chablis in its cavernous glass, “you really have learned that flattery gets you everywhere, haven’t you?” She draws her lips thin, and then takes a rather large gulp of the expensive vintage. “What is it that makes you think I’ve become reclusive? Is it not acceptable for a woman in her 70s to give herself the gift of some peace and quiet after years on top of the world?”

Perhaps the shift to first-name usage was a good sign. Harry cants his head to the side and demurely allows, "Everyone needs a break now and then, sure and true. But eventually… tell me you're not itching to find something new to get into; something to work on or tear down, even." He gestures a hand forward. "Driven individuals don't stop being driven, not even for age."

He’s getting at something, Kaiya thinks. Oh, yes, that much is obvious - the coded language, the words that so clearly work around something that the shape of that space of that something is plainly visible - but he’s getting at something. She downs the rest of her glass in one gulp and refills it with the abandoned bottle, gesturing then to fill his glass as well.

“I suspect that you’re not speaking of my real estate ventures any longer. I haven’t torn down a property in months. And I haven’t had to, with all these fires!” A dry laugh, so dry the desert weeps. “I’m sure that my partner in –” and she stresses this very pointedly, “– proverbial crime has been very bored lately. It is noon and I am a quarter of the way through a bottle of wine. Let’s be plain, dear. What is it that you are asking of me? To create a business partnership? To learn what it is I do with my leisure time?”

When dared to be plain, Harry lets out a quiet, surprised laugh. He has to take a moment on that one, and offers his glass out for refill while he considers the shape of his reply. It takes another deep sip of the new wine and its taste to feel certain in himself.

"I don't always intend to be in my current role," he admits. "And I don't intend for my moves to be lateral ones, either. But I'm a firm believer in having a good education, and that doesn't come from any one singular source… even one as prestigious as the d'Sarthe Group offers." With a flicker of a small smile for that reflection, Harry goes on to point out, "And I could stand to learn from someone with an eye for assessing risk and opportunity; someone who knows how to capitalize on it when it's found."

Tipping his head slightly, he concedes, "I am looking for a business partnership, if you are willing. A personal one, where I truly am interested in seeing you navigate complex situations… for simplicity's sake, ones that pertain to the d'Sarthe Group." Swinging his unoccupied hand out in a gesture of openness, he goes on, "And I'm willing to go to reasonable lengths to make that engagement as interesting for you as it is for me."

"Because I'm willing to bet there is something still out there for you to explore in this exciting new era we've found ourselves in." Harry pulls his hand back to his lap and sips again. "It's just a matter of setting that up for you."

“Well!” Kaiya chirps, sipping the wine a little more freely. “That’s better, isn’t it? After a lifetime of navigating these overly-complex social situations, I tire of the song and dance, if you get my meaning. Please, tell me more about your proposition.” She places the wine gently onto the tablecloth and steeples her fingers.

"My dear Ms. Jeffrey," Harry chides as he sets down his own glass. "At some point, you'll have to tell me what interests you. I believe I could make a fine case to bring you on as a part-time consultant at the d'Sarthe office out of Howland Hook, to give you a bird's eye view into what's coming and going out of our proverbial and literal port– but I don't know that office life, even of a different calibre, might suit you."

Canting his head, he acknowledges, "Several of those I've had my eye on have found themselves more comfortable in an environment like Rossignol offers, as well, though I would struggle to know where to place you in such an environment. You hardly seem the type to tolerate being subservient in any way, and such is the mask many roles there need to don in order to get by." Harry turns over one hand as he circles back to, "So I cannot iterate enough that I could find a business case for you in many capacities… it truly is just a matter of your choosing."

Kaiya grins at this. “To be honest, I am extremely tired of office life. I’ve spent so many years flitting between countries and toppling foreign exchange and what-have-you, but all from inside a cubicle. A cubicle! My word, can you imagine how stifling this was during the Cold War? A world hiding behind the shell of nuclear terror and I couldn’t even experience the night life because of the absurd hours of international exchange openings? It was all I could do to hide a well-aged scotch in my luggage and sip it before the big deals! You could do that back then, you know.”

Another sip. “But you were correct earlier. This alarms me. I don’t know whether my absence has been noted on a broader scale, or if you are simply keener than most.” She winks one warm brown eye, and carries on her speech. “I have indeed had some changes in my life recently that are, quite frankly, pushing me more towards the – ah – rough and tumble side of things. I don’t know if you would be aware of this, but I’ve been practicing martial arts since the early 1980s, after a year I was working abroad in Japan trying to groom some major economic players. A woman has to get her aggression out somewhere besides the boardroom!”

A high and trained false laugh punctuates her statement, and her eyes darken again. “I would be so saddened to become one of those retirees who just wastes away their years of unscheduled freedom, watching television or playing solitaire all day. I’ve never been to Rossignol, I’ll admit. But just a change of scenery – well, that would be nice.” Aggressive eye contact returns, as she circles one thin finger along the rim of her wine glass, eliciting the softest, slightest tone.

There's something oddly endearing about this woman, and Harry finds himself returning her grin with a subdued one of his own as she announces how things were back then. He wonders how he would have fared in such an environment– one less dominated by technology that could detect him should the not-Harry part of him engage in his gifts. He tamps down a potential widening of his smile by taking another sip of his own glass.

It also masks his surprise when she admits where her life has been leading her. He's on the verge of offering a way out of the rough-and-tumble before he realizes as she goes on…

She wants to be there.

He tongues the back of a canine in idle interest, looking her over again as if he's seeing her for the first time– and shows her openly that he still finds her fascinating with that tilt of his head and the gleam in his eye. He remarks with another, smaller smile, "I suppose people would be more at ease around someone of your figure, compared to some of our other security staff." There's an implicit but in the air as he goes on, "I would feel horrible, however, if your services were called on and you became injured by larger, drunker parties…"

He meets her gaze, waiting to be told off for doubting her.

“Oh, dear lord, however would I get out of that one!” Kaiya gasps, donning the NIMBY facade that was so easily and readily cultivated before 2008. “Why - imagine if someone were to snatch my purse? It would be such a shame if some injury were to come of some poor brigand trying to rob an older woman of her livelihood and fortune.” A dramatic sigh, the look of disappointment at the youths of today. “It would take us all back to the dark ages, the New York of the ‘90s, god forbid!” A pause. “Although, I have to say, tragic as it was, I was not terribly sad when those awful towers came down. The loss of life was horrible, but they were such an eyesore on the skyline. Big, boxy, ugly things. I can’t believe I worked there for so long.”

Her phone, nestled in its secret pocket of her oversized purse, beeps once. “Mr. Stoltz, I must say, your proposition, such as it is, is certainly piquing my interest. I have a driver available outside. No offense intended, but I had told him to check on me in twenty minutes to ensure that I was safe and, ah, remained interested. Just in case I needed an out, you understand. But I do not need an out. I would like to continue this conversation in more … amenable quarters, where the conversation can be a little more comfortable.” A sly wink here.

A thinly pressed breath leaves Harry's nose over Kaiya's humors. If she's intent on this, she's intent on this. If she breaks something in the process of putting others down, well– that'll be part of her living out her desires for rougher living, certainly. He'll just have to play things right to ensure it doesn't put her off entirely. His eyes dart to her phone when it goes off, his chin dips when she makes her backup plan plain.

He doesn't say he's glad she doesn't have to resort to it, but he does produce his wallet to leave several bills on the table to account for their current tab. "Should you want to send them off," Harry proposes as he comes to his feet. "I'd be happy to drive us wherever."

“Well then, by all means, what are we waiting for?” Kaiya replies playfully, with a subtle wink. With the deftness of someone raised on mobile phone technology, she fires off a response to her driver – not sending him off, per se, but absolutely giving him the go to meet in a different pre-arranged safe spot – and fishes her sunglasses out of her purse to put on. “Lead the way.”

Offering his elbow in a gesture of gallant gentlemanhood, Harry waits and then adapts if his offer isn't taken up, at least opening the door on the way out. "And where are we off to?" Once outside, he slips a hand into his pocket. A parked sleek black Posche Taycan chirps in reply to the fob pulled from Harry's slacks.

A quick consultation of his watch reveals, "I have some time before I need to be by Rossignol before the house opens, but not the entire day."

“Take me there, then. To Rossignol. Lord knows I’ve never -” Kaiya bite her tongues just before the distasteful phrase slums it crosses sticked lips. A readjustment. “I think a taste of the question you’ve been dancing around suits me just fine. I need a bit of a thrill, and I can’t give you an answer until I know what that question is.”

Brown eyes flash and an eyebrow raises, and The Landlord lets herself into a strange gentleman’s car.

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