It'll Come Back Around, Part I


merlyn_icon.gif ricky_icon.gif

Scene Title It'll Come Back Around, Part I
Synopsis You can't outrun fate.
Date June 12, 2021

The market for stolen goods in the New York Safe Zone changes like the tides.

But one thing that never really changes is Staten Island. Sure, there may be a fresh coat of d’Sarthe-brand paint slapped over the Rookery that lets them call it New Chinatown, but it’s still the Rookery in its bones, no matter how many bougie coffee shops they try to prop up on every corner. At its heart, New Chinatown will always be the Rookery to its locals, and the locals will always influence the ebb and flow of the tides of criminal activity in the Safe Zone like they were a moon unto themselves.

Chief hangout for fences and thieves alike is an unofficial city block of New Chinatown called “Lexi Lane.” Landmarked as such by the salvaged roadsign hanging above the alleyway entrance to the inner heart of the block. In that dimly lit alley, surrounded by former highrise, and low-income tenement buildings is a back-alley casino called Risky Business. By night the establishment is a gambling den for everything from poker and blackjack to mahjong and roulette.

But by day, it’s more like a flea market.

Risky Business
Lexi Ln, New Chinatown
Staten Island

June 12th
3:12 pm

“This is a piece of shit and you should feel ashamed of yourself. Get the fuck out. Next.”

A pickpocket trying to pawn off fake watches gets ejected from Risky Business faster than a gas station hotdog through a digestive tract. It’s what the locals call Getting the Business. Not everyone is thrown out of Risky Business, but a lot of folks are.

“Alright, jesus. Whoever the fuck is next please try not to be pawning off granny’s rolex.”

One of the arbiters of what is bought and sold at Risky Business during the daytime hours is a connoisseur of garbage, New Chinatown’s trash bandit, Ricky Daselles. Daselles has the charisma and energy of a fat old raccoon and his curly mullet only adds to the ambience. He sits at what by night is a poker table, stacks of cash at his side, boxes of trash behind him. But you know what they say about one man’s trash.

Ricky groans at the crowd, reaching for his grande mocha latte he’d picked up from one of those aforementioned bougie coffee shops. He puckers around the sippy end of the lid and comes up wanting, tipping the cup upside down to be certain it's empty. “God damnit,” Ricky hisses.

“Jesus christ, I said next!

"Seems like you could use another."

The voice comes from a somewhat short, rather petite blonde woman. Dressed in a pair of comfortable but snug jeans and a dark blue blouse with little white flowers embroidered on it, she has an ordinary backpack slung over one shoulder as she approaches the table with a relaxed air of ease and comfort. She gives Ricky a once over, as if she were assessing him rather than him assessing the goods before she takes the red backpack off her shoulder.

"I'm sorry to say I didn't bring any coffee with me, but I can promise I don't have any rolexes or watches of any sort." Holding the backpack from the top handle with both hands, Merlyn shifts her weight just slightly as she looks back over. "What exactly are you in the market for right now? I know better than to offer something no one's going to buy." The backpack clearly contains something good, but she's waltzing into the trash panda's domain and ready to make Ricky do the hard work.

Ricky shifts his weight to one side in his seat, sliding his tongue against the inside of his cheek. “You.” He says with a knowing squint. “Alright, show me what you got. Swear to god if it’s another skull—” He draws in a sharp breath through his nose. “That thing took me months to get rid of.” Then, under his breath. “I dunno what I was thinking.”

Brushing off the poker table in front of him, Ricky drums his hands on it and then makes a gesture up to Merlyn. “Go on then, dazzle me with your wizardry.

"What you were thinking was that you'd make some money off it and you did," Merlyn's eyes sparkle with amusement as she rests one hand on her hip. When Ricky indicates that the king is ready for his offering, she opens the red backpack with a careful motion of the zipper. She's taking care with whatever this is.

"The war changed a lot of things, but people always want to return to how things were in some way. Be it the way society is or the fact that some things just are harder, often impossible to find, people are looking to the past to find some way to feel good about themselves. How do people feel good about themselves and reconnect to the old days? Alcohol."

The bottle she presents in sommelier fashion to Ricky isn't perfectly clean and pristine, but it is entirely intact. "Wine. French wine. Almost twenty year old French wine." She offers the bottle forward for inspection. The label depicts a lovely French manor with the words Château Belgrave in calligraphy below it. Beneath that boasts the year as 2002. "I got my hands on a case, I know a guy. So there are six of those, no broken bottles, all ready to go for your… discerning customers."

Ricky looks at the bottle, then up to Merlyn and reassesses the young woman. “Okay,” he concedes, reaching out to take the bottle. He inspects the label, turns the bottle around to make sure it isn’t cracked or chipped, then sets it down on the table. “I can definitely arrange a buyer for that pretty easy, I’ll take it off your hands for—”

“A steal.” Someone else says over Merlyn’s shoulder. “Ain’t that right Gargamel?”

Merlyn feels someone behind her just in time for a hand to clap down on her shoulder. There’s a hint of tobacco and whiskey that comes with the man’s close proximity as he steps in beside her. Short blonde hair silvered at the temples, a worn canvas jacket, five o’clock shadow with enough gray in it to show his age.

“Six hundred, with inflation.” The stranger says, slowly letting his hand fall off Merlyn’s shoulder. “Unless you wanna haggle?”


“Kain?” Ricky asks with a deadpan stare. He tilts his head to the side, lips parting slightly and then averting to the tabletop. “You uh, look—good for a dead guy.”

Kain Zarek turns a side-eye to Merlyn, then glances back over at Ricky who in turn flashes Kain a nervous smile, then goes back to inspecting the bottle as a way of minding his own business. People tend to live longer when they do that. While Ricky is otherwise preoccupied, Kain slides a sideways glance over to Merlyn.

“As fer you,” Kain says with a crooked knife of a smile. “Wonderin’ if you wanna’ talk a little business somewhere other’n here.”

For Merlyn's credit, the hand doesn't cause her to flinch despite being unexpected. Her gaze flits between the familiar and the unfamiliar figures. There's a clear assessment of the relationship between the pair before she finds the sale of the wine to be the lesser of the two prospects. The blonde looks towards Kain with another assessing gaze, the empty red backpack is zipped without looking at it.

"I'm always up for business chats, networking is a bit of my specialty," she nods in Kain's direction before looking sidelong at Ricky. She doesn't ask for his verdict, simply waiting for his decision on the product.

Kain lets her shoulder go, turning his attention over to Ricky. “Don’t go tellin’ no ghost stories now,” he says with a languid drawl. “Wouldn’t want anybody thinkin’ yer outta’ yer mind.” But, in a way, Kain counts on Ricky doing exactly that, and coming off as precisely as crazy as he’d sound.

With that seed planted, he turns his attention to Merlyn. Kain briefly glances down at the backpack. But it’s a non-sequitur question Kain offers rather than anything pertaining to the backpack. “Y’all eat noodles?”

Slinging the backpack over her shoulder casually, Merlyn raises an eyebrow at the question. “Entirely depends on who’s paying,” she answers smoothly, her tone still casual. “I find they taste better when I’m not the one on the tab. Funny how that works.”

Kain looks over at Ricky, who has finished counting out six hundred dollars. He offers it out to the Cajun between two fingers, and Kain pinches the wad of twenties with the same gesture, then gives Ricky a wink. He slides twenty out for himself, then hands the rest over to Merlyn.

“Looks like you’re payin’.”

Not Long Later

Nuojin He Jia
New Chinatown

Nuojin He Jia is one of the best-known Cantonese restaurants in New Chinatown, but not just for its food. The restaurant-slash-laundromat has long been a front for organized crime, first the Triad, then whatever carnivore of criminal enterprise moved in after them. It’s a cramped, warm, and densely decorated space with tiny, wobbling tables, but some of the best food in Staten Island.

Seated across from Merlyn, Kain Zarek glances down at the bowl of noodles in front of him and the beer he ordered but hasn’t touched yet. He looks away long enough to appraise the wait staff conversing by the kitchen door, then turns his attention back to the young woman he brought here.

“So word is it you’re a pickpocket and a scam artist?” Kain asks, and it’s leading. Word isn’t anything of the sort, but he wants to see how she reacts to him saying it is.

"If that's the word you're getting, you don't know the right people."

The ease at which Merlyn sits on the wobbly chair and carries on with her food betrays the sort of grace and comfort that only comes with familiarity–perhaps she's never been to this particular restaurant, but she's in her element. She takes a bite or two before she finally follows up fully on the leading question. "If you were talking to the right people, you'd know I perform magic."

Kain laughs, a practiced cruelty designed to provoke a reaction. His smile all but says, I don’t believe you, in the way people can dismiss those younger than they are. “Pretty sure Ah’d’ve heard if you could wiggle your fingers and Bippity Boppity Boo up some treasure,” he says out of the corner of his mouth. Practiced cruelty, designed to provoke a reaction: confession.

Merlyn’s been around long enough to know the tactic, that Kain is trying to goad her into giving him more information than he actually has. He doesn’t know her well, and he assumes that by questioning her credibility and undercutting the skills he knows she does have, she’ll go on the defensive and tell him everything he wants to hear. It’s familiar, but it’s also striking. She almost missed it. He’s been at that linguistic game a long, long time, she assesses.

Old dogs don't always learn new tricks.

Merlyn's eyes flick to look up at Kain briefly, though she dismisses him by looking back at her bowl of noodles, proceeding to take a bite or two. She's handling the situation in her own time, at her own pace. When she wipes her mouth with a napkin, she looks up. "Are you familiar with pick-up artists?" It's a rhetorical question, she's quick to cut him off before he even gets an answer in. "One of the most common tactics I've heard employed is one where they use a combination of a compliment and an insult to provoke someone's attention."

The line of thought isn't followed up with anything further, just presented before him like evidence of some crime. She glances at her bowl again, as if assessing the noodles before she lifts her gaze again. "Maybe you haven't heard of any magic words or wands, but you have heard of me. Unless you were lying earlier when you said you'd heard word of me… in which case maybe we should get on more honest footing, hm?"

Kain snorts out a laugh, brows rising. “Not bad, hoss.” He says with a wide, bright smile. “Okay, y’got me, fair’s fair.” He spreads his hands in surrender. “Ah’ might’ve heard a thing’r two about you, an’ from what Ah’ gather you’re good at what’cha do. Use t’be that people said that about me, an’ used t’be that Ah’d tell ‘em t’keep their yaps shut.”

Reaching inside of his jacket, Kain takes out a thin paper envelope and presses it down to the table, then slides it across the table. “What Ah’ need is somebody who’s known ‘round here, a familiar face that ain’t gonna raise no alarms bein’ places. An’ Ah’ need them t’do a little breakin’ an’ enterin’ for me.”

Moving his hand from the envelope, Kain takes his beer and finally sips from it. “There’s an address inside that envelope. Place is a safehouse for a fella’ with some connections. Private little flop-house. Ah’d be right interested if you could slip on in there and liberate it of anythin’ that looks like a computer, a phone, or a journal.” Kain takes another swig of his beer. “That’s half. Other half on delivery.”

Merlyn takes a moment to lift the flap of the envelope to peek inside before she closes it again, the brief glance telling her enough of something. "Mmhm. Normally I don't just do 'b&e's, I hook people up with the experts so they aren't having to find someone with the right skills. Safer for everyone. You needing someone who can blend in, though… interesting, especially the mention of someone with connections. If I'm going to potentially do this, knowing what sort of connections I might be fucking with is a bit of a must."

Her fingertips tap lightly on the envelope. "No one should go into something like this blind."

Kain nods, as smooth as the sip he takes of his beer. “Fella that lives there takes work from the Big Boy ‘round here, d’Sarthe.” He sets the beer down, casually. “There’s a date and a time in that envelope too, he won’t be around when you go lookin’. Keeps yer nose clean. The risk is real, but so’s the pay.”

Switching to his soup, Kain picks up his chopsticks and leans over, slurping up a little between thoughts. “Once you get what’s in the place, lay low for a couple’a days, then drop it all in the ol’ Salvation Army bin out by the Crooked Point.” No one uses that bin anymore, there hasn’t been Salvation Army activity in the country since before the war. “Yer payment’ll be taped to the underside of the bin.”

"I'm sorry, you want me to steal from someone who has d'Sarthe connections?"

Merlyn's eyebrows raise visibly. Her chopsticks now rest at the top of her bowl, forgotten, and the envelope close to her fingertips is tapped lightly, her lips curving into a bit of a frown. "That's a lot of money and a lot of risk. How connected is this person, because I'm not in the habit of potentially getting screwed by someone working with d'Sarthe. I regularly have to walk on eggshells to make sure I'm not kicking the hornet's nest, and I like it that way. Good pay, but should I even slightly leave crumbs, how can I be sure this won't bring d'Sarthe down on my head?"

“Because yer good enough to not leave crumbs,” Kain opines with a tilt of his head toward Merlyn. “Ah’ wouldn’t ask nobody unless Ah’ thought they had what it takes. And as for how connected they are?” Kain shrugs. “The less you know the better, y’know? An’ if this all shakes out sideways an’ you need someone t’put the blame on, well…” He motions to himself. “You just tell ‘em Kain Zarek sent ya.”

Turning his attention back to his food, Kain takes a few slurping bites of his noodles before remembering something and pointing his chopsticks at Merlyn. “That said, this’d be about where y’try’n negotiate with me fer a couple more bucks. Probably the smart choice.”

"Flattery is a good way to win a girl's heart," Merlyn cracks a bit of a smile. "You do have a point, if you want those items, you're going to want me to succeed… and it's something you can't do yourself." She pokes her noodles for a moment with her chopsticks, as if reading the future in them. "I'm good with knowing just enough not to get me screwed over, I don't particularly want to know why you're looking for this guy's information so badly."

She pauses, looking up from the noodles and straight across the table. "You're right, though, you've really got to pay me more than that. If I'm laying low for a couple of days… well, those are a couple of days I can't do my business and I'll be losing money. Double this, half now, half on delivery."

“Seems reasonable, Ah’ll tack on an extra two grand for yer time lost.” Kain says with a grin. “Now, ain’t that a nice cherry on top?” He lifts his soup up to his mouth, slurping the rest down quickly, then sets the small bowl aside.

“Now, why don’cha hurry along.” Kain indicates with a motion of his head to the door. “Ah’ve gotta take another meeting an’ it ain’t a three-way.” In other words, get paid, go get the job done, and most importantly scram.

“Cherry on top of a quite agreeable sundae,” Merlyn replies with a grin. “I’ll leave you to your evening plans. Perhaps they’ll be as fruitful as this one.” She gracefully removes herself from the stool, settling back on her feet as she glances at Kain for a last moment.

“I’ll be sure to be in touch. It’s been a pleasure.”

Kain offers Merlyn a flash of a smile, lifting his drink up in a silent cheers gesture. As she turns away, Kain produces a battered flip-phone from his jacket pocket and thumbs in a number. He waits to hit the call button until Merlyn is out the door.

“Hey,” Kain says into the phone, attention still focused on the door, “yeah your tip was right. Had t’see it with mah own two eyes, but there ain't no doubt now…”

Kain slides his tongue over his teeth to try and take the taste of bile out of his mouth.

“…that’s Kain Zarek’s daughter.”

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