Idle Chatter


caliban_icon.gif tuck_icon.gif

Scene Title Idle Chatter
Synopsis Caliban approaches Gilbert Tucker about acting as Linderman's eyes and ears on Staten Island.
Date August 5, 2009

Tucker's Pawn Shop

Every shelf, every flat surface in the entire shop is covered with things. VCRs, DVDs, small pieces of machinery, cheap jewellery - all the kind of stuff worth little money. It's the merchandise that's not worth protecting, even here. If someone wants to steal a VHS copy of 'The Little Mermaid,' then so be it. The primary purpose of the clutter of items is a front - to distract from the fact that the real purpose of the shop is to sell stolen, high-value goods.

The front part of the shop with its knick-nacks and assorted low-value items is separated from the high value items by a counter and a layer of bulletproof glass. There is a slot beneath the window for exchange of money or small goods. At the base of the counter is a chute for larger items. Surveillance cameras keep a vigilant watch over every square inch.

There is a small arsenal of weapons up on a pegboard above the counter. Not just guns but knives, tasers, pepper spray, handcuffs, nightsticks, brass knuckles - all sorts of things meant to cause pain. There's a rotating case at the counter that holds many expensive jewellery pieces, including a few Rolexes and a large assortment of engagement rings. There are expensive cell phones, iPods, laptops and other various small electronics, including listening devices and CB radios. Just about anything worth stealing is displayed behind the glass and up on the walls. Many items however, are by special request. You gotta know what you're looking for.

Business has been, well, bad. Staten doesn't quite feel like the same haven it once did, what with the bombings, the Dagger fire and the Lighthouse destruction. Despite the fact that the island is still free of the law, it's feeling less and less worth it for many of the smaller elements.

Gilbert Tucker's been considering leaving too, abandoning seventeen years on Staten. A semi-legit business like his could make it on the mainland. But this place is his home.

The exterior of the pawn shop is still partially boarded and singed. Only 'Tucker's' in the neon sign glows. Something's blown out the part that says 'pawn shop' underneath. But despite all that, the pawnie is in his chair, as usual, manning the chair behind the layer of bulletproof glass. He smokes a cigarette and goes over a racing form. The last cockroach of Staten Island.

The pawn shop's front door swings open, and a moment later a man in a pinstriped suit steps inside, adjusting the collar of the crisp white dress shirt he wears beneath it. Eyes a shade or two lighter than powder blue survey the shop with the roving scrutiny of a large, wiry predator as he moves across the room toward the front counter, either interested in everything on the shelves that Tuck has to offer or nothing at all.

Approaching the glass, he reaches inside his suit jacket and retrieves neither butterfly knife nor silenced pistol, but a business card dangling between two of his long fingers. "Gilbert Tucker?"

Tuck is used to all types coming through his door. From rebellious rich college types looking for a shiny knife, down on to, well, people like this guy. People dressed far too well to be in a place like his.

He looks up at the be-suited man, takes a moment to consider him and then exhales a mouthful of smoke. "That's what part of the neon sign on the shop says. Well. Half of it anyway."

The man offers Tuck a rakish smile and presses the business card to the glass. Not that there's any need for him to read it — he introduces himself simultaneously, a European accent clinging to the edges of his smoky breath, voice raw from one pack of imported cigarettes too many. "Robert Caliban," he says. "I work with the Linderman Group. Was wondering if you could spare a few minutes of your time for some idle chatter?"

Tuck eyes the card, eyes Caliban. His lips twitch in a way that could either be heading towards a smile or a frown. "I don't want any trouble. I try and stay out of your way. I mean, I'm a small-time operator. Surely I'm not…stepping on your toes." He flicks his wrist and tries to play it cool, but his nerviness is fairly clear.

"Not at all," says Caliban as he lowers his card, spins it once between his knuckles and places it back in his jacket's interior pocket. "It's Liu and Song Ye who are doing most of the toe-crunching these days. More stomping than stepping, really." He pauses to study the small arsenal on the pegboard above the counter, his blond-haired head canted to one side. "The truth is, Mr. Tucker, we've been looking for someone trustworthy here on the Island to keep an eye on things for the boss. Your name came up quite a few times."

"Considering I'm a crook, I'm not sure if being called 'trustworthy' is something I should be proud of," says Tuck. He relaxes when he realizes this isn't going to be a shakedown. "If it's a choice between your boss and the Triad running the show around here? Well, you know what they say about the devil you know." He lifts one shoulder. "I have always admired Linderman's ability to be respected and legit at the same time." He doesn't mean that literally, of course. Respected in the crime world, seen as legit.

"Replace 'trustworthy' with 'unlikely to turn on us like a pack of wild dogs'," Caliban clarifies. "It would be a disaster of the first magnitude if the Flying Dragons were to claim an entire borough in addition to what they've already taken. Provided that you're willing to report Triad activity here in the Rookery, I might be able to arrange a way of eliminating your debt while relocating your business to Brooklyn's Red Hook district, should you desire property in a more prominent location."

"Well, whether or not I'd need to relocate would depend on what's going to happen with this little turf war you've got going on here, Prospero." Wrong Tempest character, but from the way Tuck's lips pull into a small grin, it wasn't accidental. "I have a feeling the Triad would rather replace me with one of their own rather than continuing to let me be a neutral party. But I have a good reputation here. I wouldn't be surprised if I got some of them in here looking for information."

He tilts his head and presses what's left of his cigarette into the ashtray. "I'm not going to feed them lies. Not without a good bit of danger pay. But I see no issue in telling you what they ask me, telling you what I hear about them. I know everyone on this island. And they all know me. They know what I'm about."

Caliban barks out a short laugh. "In my experience, people who have the amount of debt you do make very poor liars," he says. "Better that you tell the truth and keep your skin — dead men don't spend their danger pay on anything but their own funeral expenses. How much do you need to get you through the week?"

Tuck clears his throat and pushes the racing form aside. There's what he needs, and then there's what he can blow on the ponies. "It's also a good way to stay neutral. You don't keep anything from anyone and people start to trust your word. And, skin is kept, yes." He pushes air between his lips to make a strange little sound.

"What I need right now is the cash to make this place secure again. Right now I can't keep all my merchandise on-site because kids can pry my wall open with a crowbar." He points towards the front and the singed corner of the building. He's tried to reinforce it with plywood, has pushed furniture up against it. But the arrangement is haphazard at best. "I don't mind doing business with your people. Because you don't fuck people up unless they really deserve it." They have enough power that they don't have to rule with fear. And that's preferable for someone like him.

Caliban turns his head, inspecting the damage in his periphery. Like everything else, he'd only given it a cursory glance when he first stepped inside. "Take a few days," he suggests, "think about how much it might cost to repair things to your satisfaction. When you've got a number, give us a ring and ask for Miranda Moore at the front desk. Name your price and we'll have it to you in cash by the end of the weekend. Or, if you prefer, we can loan you one of our private contractors. It's your decision, of course."

Ah, the dangers of offering a chronic gambler a choice between labour and cash. He wants to choose cash, but, "The contractor might be a better idea. Even with the money, I have a hell of a time finding someone decent who'll actually work this island." And he won't blow all the money on gambling and be that much further in Linderman's pocket. And still with a hole in his shop.

That's why the criminal elements around here like him, see? He digs himself into nice ruts and small pieces of him can be bought by anyone willing to loan him cash at the right time.

"Wise of you," Caliban agrees, stepping away from the counter. "I'll make the necessary arrangements and send someone to patch up your storefront sometime Friday morning." He slips his hands into his pockets, pivots on his heel and angles his shoulder back toward the front door. "If there's anything else you need," he adds, "please don't hesitate to ask. I can't guarantee anything, but Mr. Linderman always does his best to take care of those who are friends to his people."

"I hope I can keep Linderman happy. That's the thing about this shop. People beat their gums about stuff, but it's not always about useful things. Sometimes it's just bullshit. Or personal. Or some small-timer." But that means Tuck turns into a crossroads of Staten knowledge. "And uh, I'd recommend a head's up if any bad shit's going to go down. So I can arrange to be elsewhere."

On his way out the door, handle clasped between his fingers, Caliban pauses. He looks down the street as if expecting to see someone waiting for him on the curb, but whatever he finds there remains a mystery to Tuck for the time being — angles are not on his side. "Done," he says. "If I catch wind of anything, you'll be one of the first to know."

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