House Of The Rising Sun, Part IV


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Scene Title House of the Rising Sun, Part IV
Synopsis Kain Zarek's business in New Orleans concludes with one final visit…
Date July 31, 2009

St.Louis Cemetery

New Orleans, Louisiana

The day has left, a long time ago. Nearly a half an hour after the sun dipped past the western horizon and the long shadows of the Big Easy came crawling up to fill every nook and cranny of the swamplands, a single black sedan rolls beneath a wrought iron arch flanked by a pair of granite pillars. The car's tires crunch gravel and the windshield reflects the moon overhead in its glossy surface.

The glow of headlights divides long shafts of light between the bristling silhouettes of headstones as it rounds a corner, rolling along gravel paths designed for hearses. Eventually, the dark vehicle comes to a stop, headlights turning off, leaving only the soft ambiance of the moon and the glow of red tail lights to illuminate the cemetery.

It's a long while before any sign of life comes from the vehicle. It feels longer than it really is, feels longer thanks to the protracted silence since it left the airport and took the drive out here to the edge of the city, where urbal sprawl meets swampy bayou. When that back passenger's side door finally opens up, Kain Zarek's polished black shoes touch down quietly on the gravel underfoot; not as quiet as the dead, but close enough.

The door opposite of his opens, leading way to a large, dark silhouette that rises from the car and causes it to lift from the release of his considerable weight. In the dark of night, highlighted by the moon's glow, Dixon looks just as monolithic as some of the statues that rise up from the damp soil underfoot.

Wordlessly, Kain begins to walk away from the car, his hands tucked into the pockets of his slacks, eyes shielded by dark aviator sunglasses, a tangle of his blonde hair hanging down in front of one lens as he makes a very knowing path between grave markers. He's been here before, he knows where he's going. Even if he doesn't say so much verbally.

And yet in all the years Dixon has known him, he's never once spoken about this cemetery.

Not once. And even on the way there, he somehow doesn't dare to ask. Questions burn on the tip of his tongue, naturally- but Dixon is a very prudent and polite man. It never comes, and so he stays silent the entire way there. Before getting out of the car, he does pause a moment to get his bearings. He has been here at least once before, when Estelle's aunt died in some winter that seems eons ago. Anthea was a bean, back then. That's how he measures years now, it seems.

Kain knows where he is going, and so Dixon follows, like always. Not so much the loyal attack dog- one lion of a pair, more like.

It's not far from where Kain asked Manny to park the car that Kain eventually stops. He stands over an old headstone overgrown with weeds around what might have been planted flowers at some time, now just soft marshy soil and a tangle of briars surrounding a moss-crusted granite headstone. Immediately, Kain's shoulders slack and his head comes down into one hand, fingers winding up into his hair and raking back across his scalp.

"Ah've got a favor t'ask a'you, Dixon…" He only talks once the heavy footfalls that have turned soft on the grass stop nearby. "Ah'm gonna' need you to do me a favor… an Ah ain't gonna' ask it twice." Reaching inside of his jacket, Kain removes his .45 revolver, the same one he just killed James Ford with an hour ago. He turns it around, holding out the grip towards he bodyguard as he turns around. "You take it, and you don't give it back…"

Visible now when Kain turns, the inscription on that untended headstone is legible under the pale moonlight.

Irene Zarek

May 8, 1949 - April 11, 1969

"Take it," Kain urges too quick for Dixon to have even responded yet, proffering the gun with a heft of his hand, eyes still shielded by those dark sunglasses, hiding whatever emotional turmoil has been boiling over in him for the last several months. "Take it… 'cause Ah' know you got questions."

There is no need to ask him a third time. Two is enough. Dixon's hand folds over the revolver as its butt is wielded for him to take. The giant has been taking in the ground cover, the placements of the different, aged headstones, the brooding creasing of Kain's forehead under his hair and just behind the rims of glasses. Notations are made in stony silence, and Ulysses plays his part of graveyard gargoyle rather well for what seems like an eternity. He observes the ground at his feet as Kain shifts, brows lowering at the same time.

Even after Kain lets out that he knows Dixon has questions, the bigger man does not say a word during the awkward phase of cricket-filled Louisiana night after. Yes, questions, of course, but it takes a great many attempts to word them correctly. Instead of looking right at his friend(Kain is decidedly not his boss right now), he looks to the brambled Earth nearby. If there was one reason Dixon came so far in this business, it would be because he was considerably sharper than the other meatheads.

"That's your birthday." Dixon observes out loud, watching out of the corner of his eye for Kain's reaction to each part, allowing an answer to questions and things he already sounds sure of. "And I know you wouldn't be like this about an aunt. 'S your mama, right?"

Closing his eyes, Kain nod shis head slowly, turning from Dixon to look back at the headstone. "Ol' Mama Zarek…" Kain says with a hint of bitter sarcasm not appropriate for the dead at rest. "She was the first life Ah' ever done gone and took…" dark brows crease together, and Kain's shoulders rise in a tense shrug. "Ever since th' day Ah's born, Ah've been nothin' but a killer. S'what mah poppa' always used'ta say…" Kain's jaw sets, his neck muscles tense, and one hand lifts up to finally remove those dark sunglasses from his eyes. The dark circles beneath them, the redness to what should be white, it all shows a level of emotion not normally reserved for Kain.

"Ah' showed mah' daddy he was right today." Kain's voice is tight, pressed down upon by the emotion rising up in him, an emotion he is so fond of; guilt. "It'll be the last thing he's ever right about too."

"You din't kill her…" Dixon can say that much in good faith, not that Kain seems to be listening otherwise. Lips all but mash together in forced silence as dark eyes watch Kain and his now red ones. Even when the implication comes at the end, all Dixon can do is stand there, rigid as he tucks the .45 away.

"That man." Not 'Ford', he makes a point to miss the name. "Was he…?" There is not much else left to ask, and so it hangs there like a loose thread on the square of a quilt.

"It was gon' get done anyway." Kain all but confirms Ford's identity with that nod of his head. "Danny got word of it, let me know… asked me what Ah' wanted t'do." Kain looks down to the headstone, "he tol' me if'n Ah' wanted him t'get t'safety he'd let me… told me Ah' could send him anywhere. But then Ah' read his papers, found out that he was the same drunken bookie… same bastard that let me turn int'a this." Kain's fingers curl up, one hand shaking as he holds his sunglasses in them. "So's Ah' told Danny Ah'd handle it m'self… Came down here officially t'get ol' sourpuss we dropped off at the airport, but this…" he looks down to the headstone, "…it was personal."

With eyes partly closed, Kain turns to look over at Dixon, the corners of his mouth downturned into an obvious frown. "Dixon… Ah' ain't never told you a lot of things, things Ah've done…" he glances back at the grave, then to his old friend again. "You remember back this winter, back when Danielle died? It— it wasn't just her gettin' killed that had me spooked. Ah've done somethin' bad, Dixon. Ah've done somethin' terrible and there ain't no comin' back from it."
Of course it was personal. It didn't look like anything else.

The revelation of who Ford actually was- that gets no rise out of Dixon. Somewhere, in there, he understands why Kain did it. What he doesn't appear to understand, however, is the admission that comes next. "Terrible is a relative term, Kain." But as it is, he is prepared to hear him out. "I've been here for sixteen years, man. I've seen things that I'd rather not have, done the same- but I'm not a bad man. I know damn well that you're not either." Dixon reaches in his blazer pocket for something- it isn't that revolver he pulls out, but a white kerchief to hand over- and someone only like Dixon could ever really pull that off. Manny looks a bit funny, and Kain can't really carry one for fear of the same. "You look like you put your head in a bowl of onions. But I think it suits you." A masculine way of saying that it is okay to cry.

There's a rough snort back of a nostril full of snot as Kain eyes the handkerchief, but in a fashion so very similar to the way he always acts, he brushes it off with just a smile, wiping at his eyes with his thumbs as he only then realized it was obvious he was so upset. "When they found that girl's bones out there in the field past the power lines, Ah' got all spooked… cause she ain't the only person buried out in that field in Yonkers…"

When Kain's reddened eyes turn back to Dixon, it looks like the guilt of this is killing him. "Back when Ah' first came to the city, back af'er Danny saved mah life from all'a that hurt Ah' got durin' the bomb… that next winter, he had me go out on a job. There was a cop that Danny tried t'get me t'pay off. Ah'was supposed to bribe 'em and get 'em to stay quiet…" Blue eyes dip down to the gun Dixon took from Kain, then back up again.

"His name was Spencer." Just saying it makes that overwrought look cross Kain's face again. "Shit went wrong… an— an Ah' shot'em. Ah' gunn'ed 'em down and his partner who was on the take helped me. We had a doc in the Bronx doctor up a different corpse, and we took Spencer's body out t'Yonkers— buried him out in a field." Kain's eyes wrench shut, "We made it look like he done got offed in a drug bust gone bad…"

Spencer, Spencer. The name is on the tip of Dixon's tongue, but just as his mind connects the name to a face, Kain spells it out. "Spencer Damaris." Kain's adam's apple bobs up and down as he swallows noisily. "Ah' gunned down Kay's husband… Ah' took a little girl's daddy away from her… Ah' did it because Danny saved mah life. If Ah'd just died back in Midtown, they'd still be there. Kay'd have her husband, her little girl'd have a daddy…"

More pieces of puzzles fall into places that are a little tight, or a little malformed. But they fit. Names, situations that have long since passed by.

He remembers distinctly when Kain asked him what would happen to his daughter if he were to fall. That was a question that seemed out of place. It doesn't anymore. Dixon's forehead has creased somewhere between a familiarly forced neutral, and a raised mid-brow that just short of signals perhaps pity- perhaps confusion- perhaps a degree of awkward pause. Whatever it is, it is obvious that he's not sure what to say next.

"Even if you were dead- even if we had died back then-" Remember? He was right in the next bed over, hooked up to the very same kinds of machines. "-what makes you think that he'd have not sent someone else? That it wouldn't have gone wrong no matter who got sent? I'm not convinced that you haven't just been …a victim of circumstance all of your life, Kain. You may have pulled the trigger, but you didn't send you there." In a roundabout way, he does blame Daniel, rather than Kain. "Fate has a bad sense of humor, and you're often the butt of her jokes." Strange enough, Dixon is being completely serious. "But there's a reason for everything. Even that, in some terrible way."

Still wiping at his eyes, Kain nods his head slowly; he knows. He knows just how much Dixon's been there by his side, soaking up the bad karma along with him. "Dixon…" Kain swallows hard again, "I took a daddy away from a little girl, Ah' can't even look Kay in the face anymore. If it weren't for her bein' out in Vegas right now with Mischa," his brows furrow together, "Ah' was gonna' ask her t'come out here with me, instead'a you… an' Ah' was gonna' give her that there gun… and tell her what Ah' told you."

Looking up to Dixon, Kain's eyes have this weak, pleading quality to them, one that shows a man who has taken no love in the life he's led up to this point, and yet taken so many lives, enough that the ones that have been tallied are starting to drag him down. "D'you think she'd be so forgivin'?"

Dixon has to be honest about this- it calls for it. "She would either shoot you through the eyes on your mama's grave, or leave you on God's green earth to live forever with what you did. No, I don't think she would forgive you at all. On one hand, she could have killed you. But that wouldn't bring him back. I'm inclined to think that he would have you suffer.

"And you're suffering now, but not in the ways someone would think. There's nothing you can do to bring him back, but you can make things better for everyone else. You don't have to always be the dog- the guy that does the dirty work." Dixon could say the same for himself, but Kain is simply in a better place to take such things to heart. "God won't judge you 'til you die. Noble as the gesture of giving her a forty-five may seem, it is a coward's way out, and I doubt you'd rest even in death if she'd have done you in."

A coward's way out. Those words make Kain flinch and look away, eyes closed as his jaw trembles. "Af'er Ah' got back from pullin' Danni's bones out of Yonkers…" his eyes move to the gun, then away, "Ah got drunk up in my apartment, had mah gun and tok out five bullets, left that last one in there." There's no semblance of pride as Kain recounts his lowest moment to Dixon here by his mother's grave.

"Ah spun the chamber, took a drink of tequila, and put the gun under mah chin and pulled the trigger." Swallowing tensely, Kain reaches into his pocket, but doesn't pull his hand out quite yet. "It clicked. So Ah pulled the trigger five more times." That equals six, ad yet here he is. Now is when Kain's hands comes out, holding a bullet the palm of his hand, still in the casing.

"Th' bullet never fired." His hand raises, offering the round out to Dixon. "Half'a me thinks it wouldn't let me take the easy way out. Half'a me thinks tha' jus' maybe it was waitin' for the right time, an' the right place t'take me out…"
Dixon fights the temptation to ask 'And What Did We Learn?'. Instead, he looks as solemn as he ever does in times like this. A big, dark hand lifts up to take the lone little bullet from Kain, the hand around the butt of that revolver flexing as if the metal was warm.

"God knows it ain't gettin' a second chance now you've told me." Dwarfed in his palm, Dixon curls his fingers around that shiny little round. "It only needed you to realize that your game's not over yet. It's done its job. Now let it go…"

Let it go… It always sounds easier than it is. Kain considers the words, those dark brows of his furrowed deeply as he wipes at his eyes with one hand again, turning to look down at the grave. "Ah' ain't got nothin' tyin' me t'this old city no more," Kain mumbles, jaw hardly moving as he talks, one of the many tells of when he's actually showing emotion. "Ah' ain't got nothin' here… n'at means th' man that came here ain't the same man who leaves here."

"Ah' duno how t'be any different than Ah' am, Dixon." Swallowing noisily, Kain looks over to his longtime friend with a weak, world-weary expression. "Ah' dunno' how'ta change, or— Ah' don't know how t'make up for all'a horrible thinbe Ah've done in m'life… How d'you do it?" It's a loaded question, one lobbed with direct eye contact and a tired frown. "How d'you do what we do, and still tuck your lil' girl in at night?"

"You assume that I've had it all figured out, Kain." Dixon passes a weak smile back down to him at that. "Or that I'm going to. I can't do much more than keep each half of me separate. There's work, and there's life. I'm a more practical man than you- it's easy for me to draw a line in the sand, do these things for the sake of something closer to me. It's harder for you cause I know you've never known the two to be different. 'Work' has always been your life." Victim of circumstance?

Dixon's hand comes down with surprising quickness onto Kain's; not so rare, but a usually unseen, honest gesture of what is probably brotherhood. "I don't do it. I think about it all the time. I don't cope. I live with knowing." If it weren't for his job, he and his daughter would be in a bad sort of way. Pragmatic, as always.

Work has always been your life. Dixon's words echo in Kain's head, evidenced by the distant look on his face as his eyes unfocus and he considers exactly what that means. It also, in a way, echoes Kain's sentiment that he's been a killer since the day he was born; it's what he's known since the first breath he drew and all he's known his entire life.

"Ah' don' know how t'change…" Kain murmurs, his hand trembling as he stares down at the damp grass under his feet. "Ah' don' know — " his breath hitches in the back of his throat, words expelled as a tired and frustrated growl, "Ah' don' know nothin' but mah job." Which is to say, it is all he is, and he's never realized it until now.

"Then maybe it's time for a new direction, at least. He can't have you traipsing about hellholes like Staten forever." Yeah, Dixon keeps tabs on you from thousands of miles away, Kain Zarek. "I liked that Lighthouse business, you know. When you guys first got sent out there." Here he is, advising Linderman's main 'PR' guy on how to do the job right. The absurdity is not missed, but this is more from one guy to another- not so much from goon to boss.

"Work may be your life, but it's not your fault that life gave you lemons from the get go." Dixon's tone is gentle still, almost as if he were talking to Anthea on a good day. His hand is still on Kain's shoulder. "Just gotta find the best recipe for lemonade. I know some good ones, and you already know that." In other words, it doesn't sound like Dixon is going anywhere again soon.

Pressing his lips together, Kain hangs his head, but the motion becomes a reluctant nod; head bobbing all the while. "Ah' dunno how t'fine it, Dixon. Ah' don't even know how'm gonna' look Kay in th' eyes when she comes back t'the city. Ah'm just not— " his voice cracks, brows creasing even further as that frown on his face practically hangs off of his jaw.

Blue eyes alight to Dixon's, and Kain's expression becomes one overwrought with guilt. But neither of them, truly, have the answer to how to move on, and in the end that's what pressures Kain the most. He's trapped in a quagmire of his own making, and the more he struggles to get free, the deeper he gets.

"I don't think anyone has the real answers to these kinds of questions. One step at a time, Kain. That's all either of us can do." Keep on truckin'. "It's a big bad world, but we'll do our best."

Dixon's hand moves from Kain's one shoulder to the other one- an attempt to direct him away from the heart of the cemetery. Away from his mother's grave. "But what we can't do is stay here thinkin' about forgiveness and whether or not we'll ever get it. You know that as well as I do." His eyes rove upwards at the sky, which is actually visible at night out here. Never get that in the city. "The time'll come to address a great many things, but it ain't now."

Swallowing audibly, Kain's eyes drift to his mother's grave one last time, then slowly up to Dixon as he's guided away from the headstone away from what he feels — what he believeswas the start of everything. But now, at least, the empty plot of land to the right of her grave marker won't stay that way forever. Soon, Johnathan Zarek will be filling that spot beside the only person in this life he might have cared about.

Looking at the headstone, Kain has to wonder if that's the man he'll turn into; but on his second thought, he realizes there isn't anyone he cares about that much. The notion is disquieting as he hangs his head, nodding a slow recognition to Dixon's words as he's guided away from the cemetary stone and towards the dark car parked just on the other side of a row of tombstones and bristling monuments.

"Dixon?" Kain asks with a quiet voice, swallowing dryly. "D'you think m'a bad person?"

Hey, maybe Kain will retire one day and sit with Dixon down on a porch in Missouri, throwing rocks at kids that stray past the front yard. There's no telling where his corpse will end up- that's not something to really think about, when you've got at least thirty more natural years to go.

"I did, once. Years ago. When we first met. That lasted about a year or so." Dixon answers truthfully, preferring to not try and sugarcoat it at this point. "I know you're a good guy. You just haven't convinced yourself of that."

Dixon is as quiet as he can manage without actually whispering, the hand only sweeping away from Kain's shoulders when they make their way towards the dark sedan. "If I still thought you weren't a good guy, do you think I'd come all the way out here to stand at your mama's grave with you? Listened this long? Stuck with you for fifteen long, stressful years? No, Kain. I don't think you're a bad person."

As he said before, in more words; not a bad person; just a guy with a bad hand in the oldest of card games.

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