It'll Come Back Around, Part II


vf_kain3_icon.gif ricky_icon.gif

Scene Title It'll Come Back Around, Part II
Synopsis You can't outrun truth.
Date June 13, 2021

Staten Island was once of the most dangerous places in proximity to the Safe Zone, a haven for drug and gun running, human trafficking and murder. Even with the end of the civil war and the establishment of the Safe Zone across the Hudson River, the rot that infected this place starting with the Rookery spread like a cancerous growth across its rambling, overgrown urban wilderness. But with the arrival of the d’Sarthe Group and the 91st Military Police Battalion, things have begun to change in Staten Island for the first time in over a decade. It is proof positive that you can, in fact, polish a turd.

New Chinatown
Staten Island

June 13th
5:44 pm

Under clouded skies and cool temperatures, the neighborhood that was once colloquially known as the Rookery now stands branded as New Chinatown. The green and white highway sign for New Chinatown has been defaced several times and now reads ROOKERY in vibrant red paint. Residents of Staten Island have been slow to accept their rebranding, no matter how hard it is pushed.

The architecture of “New Chinatown” also looks at war with itself. Partially-completed high-rise condominiums abut vacant lots of collapsed buildings surrounded by construction fencing, abut wild growth sprouting up from vacant cellar holes decades-old, abut crumbling old tenement buildings that are more than a decade out of disrepair. The smell of freshly fallen rain overpowers the stink of gasoline and sweat that seems so common here among the shanty towns demarcated by blue canvas tarps and carboard boxes sitting across the street from a shiny new coffee shop.

New Chinatown is a place that even in its hay-day was a tumble-down ruin of derelict apartment complexes with many from that era that still stand boarded up, with burned out husks of cars on the street side, and graffiti covering nearly every building and surface. But now that carcass is getting a fresh coast of paint. Steam rises up from sewer grates as public works crews clean garbage from them, rain soaked posters for niche music groups playing at manufactured bars with a faux dive aesthetic plaster every telephone pole, and tent camps are broken up by military police pushing out the destitute and unhomed from gentrified neighborhoods.

On one particularly run down street, there lies a brick-faced building of crumbling appearance with barred windows on the ground floor and pock-marks from bullet impacts in the brick. The old sign that once proclaimed “Tucker's Pawn Shop” is so badly faded as to be illegible and is in the process of being removed by a pair of workers on a ladder. Near the former pawn shop entrance, there is a stoop to a stairwell marked with a smashed-in intercom and nonfunctional buzz-lock system that leads up to apartments above the derelict pawn shop.

It's here where a man known on Staten Island as Tricky Ricky resides—perhaps has always resided and may continue to reside forever. Today he's shouldering open the door to his run-down tenement building carrying an armful of groceries from the Fresh N' Save that opened down the street. Ricky heads up the concrete steps to the second floor, where he used to be able to hear the sounds of a community-in-proximity: the muffled and distant sounds of an argument; a man and woman's voice raised, something smashing, a child crying. His shoes would crunch broken glass underfoot up the stairs, now cleaned up by the property management company that bought the building. The lights even work now thanks to the newly connected electricity grid and the wallpaper is almost completely replaced by an unoffensive gray paint to match the new gray hard surface flooring.

Another floor up and there used to always be a dog is barking and someone who had their radio on too loud, but far enough away that only the generic bass beats can be heard through the ceiling. But they've all since moved out. Rent went up 500% since the new property management company took over, and Gideon d'Sarthe's vision of New Chinatown began to take shape. All around Ricky are familiar shapes and silhouettes with none of the life he'd come to know. It's like looking into the eyes of a corpse, dressed in makeup to look alive, but having none of the light in its eyes.

Ricky's apartment is the first door on his right, same as it’s been the last ten years, and it twists his guts to imagine that might not be the case for much longer. The permanent marker that once numbered his apartment is covered by a fresh coat of paint, and the numbers were replaced by black iron digits that read: 2 0 1. Ricky fumbles with his new keys and an armful of groceries before shouldering the door open to—

—a gun. In his face.

"I've got Chunky Monkey in uh, this bag. So if I could put it in the freezer…" Ricky says, eyes focused on the barrel of the gun, then to the blonde-haired Cajun brandishing it. Ricky slides his tongue across his teeth, watching as the gun is lifted away and the ghost of Kain Zarek steps aside to let Ricky into his own home. Beyond that threshold nothing has changed, no renovations to Ricky's moldering den of iniquity, with its shag carpet with bald-spots showing visible plywood beneath, its dust-covered stag head mounted on the wall, quilted cloth sofa, stacks of cans and bottles, and—the sole improvement—a brand new refrigerator.

"Y'know I heard there was a look-alike out here working on Gideon's dime but…" Ricky nervously chatters as he hurries into his kitchen, unloading his groceries while noticing the .45 he usually keeps in the freezer is missing. He tries not to show is increased nervousness as he puts his ice cream away. "What'd you do, get plastic surgery?" He asks.

"Ah'm a doppelganger from a parallel universe," Kain says with a lopsided smile, to which Ricky rolls his eyes.

"Cool story. Can you tell me what you want and then kindly get the fuck out of my apartment then?" Ricky asks, motioning to the door. Kain instead chooses to take his time, meandering across the bald spots on the carpet, tapping the barrel of his gun against his thigh as he does.

"Ah' need a hook up, an' word is yer still the guy t'go to when you don't want Giddyup Buttercup t'know what's been had." Kain admits, casting a smug look at Ricky, who flusters a little.

"Man if you want Refrain you're like way too late I got robbed of that shit a long time ago. You want coke? I got—"

"Ah' ain't here fer drugs." Kain says through clenched teeth. "Ah' know you got some military surplus you've been sittin' on since the war. Now Ah' tried t'be a good boy an' Ah' didn't go tearin' yer apartment apart lookin' fer it. But if y'all ain't gonna play nice Ah'm gonna have t'start probin'." Kain motions with the barrel of his handgun toward Ricky, who raises his hands slowly in response and motions to the couch.

"It's a trunk. Open it up." Ricky says with a wiggle of one finger. "Latch is in the front, opens like a pull-out."

Kain turns to look at the couch, lowering his gun. He takes a few steps over to the couch, pauses to consider, then reaches down and feels between the cushions. Sure enough there's a nylon strap that his fingers work around. With a tug he hoists the frame of the couch up and it unfolds much like a sleeper mattress, except its an accordion storage case lined with zippered nylon bags with optical desert camouflage patterns. Some of them stained with blood.

"If you're gonna rat me out to Gideon you can just take that shot now," Ricky requests, tapping his forehead with his index finger. "You know if I got a choice between that and being turned into human beef stew." Kain can't help but laugh in response, clicking the safety of his handgun back on before tucking it into an underarm holster inside his jacket. Slowly, Ricky begins to relax. But now confusion and curiosity start gnawing away at his nerves. "The fuck is it you want, anyway?"

Kain unzips one bag and smiles from ear to ear.

"A guarantee."

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