The Ghost Of Kain Zarek, Part I



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Scene Title The Ghost of Kain Zarek, Part I
Synopsis Laura Morgan receives an unexpected visitor on returning home one afternoon…
Date February 8, 2011

Le Rivage

The lobby door closes with a muted metallic clang, though the noise of construction workers inside of the lobby drown out much of the sound. Blue jumpsuited men stand around the opening to an empty elevator shaft, one shining a flashlight up into the hole, another working a screwdriver back and foryth to pop off the panel of the elevator's controls. Finally, after two intermittent years of being out of order, someone is finally getting the elevator at Le Rivage fixed.

Snow-dampened shoes squeak across the tiled lobby floor, past the mailboxes and past the unoccupied reception desk to the familiar stairwell that all second and third floor residents utilize in lieu of a functional elevator. The door swings open, right into the path of several gentlemen in brown UPS delivery outfits and someone in a tan jacket and baseball cap, which shows some sort of emblem on the front of the cap displaying a pine tree and an eagle with its wings spread. "Ma'am," one of the delivery men states, folding a few dollar bills into his pocket as he passes by into the lobby.

It's busy, here at Le Rivage, and Laura Morgan's return home in the late afternoon comes in the midst of much a'do. Up one flight of steps, it smells like one of the neighbors let their wet dog sit around in the stairwell again. It hadn't happened in over two months, and maybe it's because Laura hasn't seen Detective Demsky, his teenage daughter, or their shaggy mutt of a dog in that same amount of time. Maybe the smell of wet animal means they're back?

Out onto the second floor hallway, Dolores Parker from apartment 203 is just stepping out of her apartment, turning to look over her shoulder at the sound of approaching footsteps. There's a smile spread across her lips, drawing wrinkles tight across her usually sagging face. Squinting behind her glasses, the old woman steps away from her door, forgetting her keys in it, to greet her neighbor's return.

"Laura," the old woman welcomes with both arms out wide, her puffy maroon colored winter jacket making her look as though she were made of several rings of off-colored tires. ""It's good to see you, my grandson Ernie says you haven't called him yet…" the old woman offers with a crook of a smile and a shake of her head. "He's a good boy Laura, I told you, you should call him." Gray brows lift, and behind Mrs.Parker's back her keys continue to swing in the doorknob.

"You know a woman your age…" Mrs.Parker opines with an imperious tone of voice, "doesn't have that much longer to find someone to settle down with y'know?"

Eight feet from her apartment door. So close, and yet so far.

Some days, it's clear she should've waited until curfew. Entered via window, in peace and quiet. It wouldn't be the first time.

Laura grins brightly at Mrs. Parker anyway.

"Now, now, Mrs. Parker," she chides amiably, "you know that's a forbidden word for our entire gender." The pale-haired imp has the temerity to pat the older woman's shoulder — and then ruffle her hair in passing, as if their ages were reversed. (She is unobtrusively quick to get out of arm's reach, after.) "Age. Age!" Pivoting as she walks, Laura tips her head down just enough to cast a glance at the grandmother through her eyelashes, pouting expression the very image of a sulky, pride-wounded adolescent. "She says that like I'm old!"

The act crumbles apart in a moment's laughter and a playful wave of the younger woman's fingers as she unlocks her own door.

Feigning being put off, Mrs.Parker exhales a breathy laugh and offers a side-long look to Laura's retreating form, lifting up a hand to straighten out her curly gray locks. "You'll be there soon enough!" The old woman teasingly retorts, wagging one gloved hand in the air, before noticing in her peripheral vision her keys hanging in her own apartment door. "Oh, look at me, off without my head screwed on…"

As Mrs.Parker is tottering over to her door, Laura is deftly slipping into hers. The first sign that something is wrong is the crinkle of plastic underfoot when she makes way through the door, and before the door can even be brought closed, the smell of animals assails Laura's senses like a baseball bat. Her eyes focus to the light coming in through her apartment windows, diffuse and gray from the cloudy day outside. A shadow alights onto her counter in the kitchem, followed by the clatter of pots and pans and the flick of a gray and black ringed tail.

As Laura's eyes adjust to the dim lighting, the fact that her entire apartment is covered in large sheets of painter's plastic becomes apparent. While her home always had few personal touches, it was still home. Now, it looks like it may be more of a barn than anything else.
A bleat greets Laura, followed by the clip-clop-clack of hooves on a plastic-covered hardwood floor as a sheep ambles into her field of view, mouth working from side to side, chewing the unknown thoughtfully, big, dark eyes staring up vacantly at the pixie-haired woman. Before it can all totally sink in, bright and outrageous pink catches Laura's last vestiges of attention, taped to the corner of a counter across the apartment in her kitchen.

A heart-shaped card with black marker across the front that reads:

Dearest Laura.

Closing the door behind her mostly out of reflex, the imp regards the semitransparent plastic draped over floor and furniture, then the fluffy bundle of wool standing in the midst of it. Huh.

A long moment of bemused study ensues, before Laura's lips stretch in a grin rather less exuberant, but more sincere, than the one previously given Mrs. Parker. "Well, well. What do we have here?" She steps far more quietly across the plastic, pausing to give the sheep its own affectionate tousle of curly wool. "Aren't you an adorable little thing? Dreadfully out of place, though. I'm afraid the decor just doesn't suit."

Patting it once more on the head, she continues into the kitchen. "Pink. Fair," Laura pronounces, tapping fingers against the card's edges before proceeding to flip it open. "Though not what I would've used…"

A letter written on lined notebook paper is folded up inside of the card, torn right out of a spiral-bound notebook with the tattered fringe still intact. The inside of the card itself reads: Try to get me back now in the same black marker as the front. The letter within, is a couple pages, written in blue ink from a ballpoint pen that was clearly running out of ink at the time. As she surveys the letter, there's a clank and clatter in the sink where a raccoon is investigating a spoon, held aloft between tiny clawed paws. Dark eyes reflect dim light a yellowish color as he stares at Laura, then ducks back down to become a furry, scraping lump in the sink.

The sheep remains idle in the living room, nosing around the coffee table and sniffing at the plastic covering everything. Beyond the coffee table, a pair of chocolate brown rabbits are leaving tiny brown presents for Laura all over the plastic, noses twitching and ears shifting as they move about.

The paper of the letter crinkles when opened, and it's clear in the first line who it's from, if it weren't clear to Laura already who'se responsible for this animal disaster.

If you're reading this, I guess I'm dead.

It's an auspicious way for things to begin, and the ghost of Kain Zarek is not a vengeful one to Laura Morgan, but rather a mirthful and gift-giving one. Even if some of those gifts come as comeuppance for a series of pranks that can go on no longer in his absence.

I thought long and hard about how best to get back at you, after what you and John-boy did to me while I was away. I'm hoping you're reading this now, crinkled and old in whatever nursing home you've been shipped off to, and I hope you're torn between laughter and frustration, knowing that my dead ass is getting the last laugh.

Now given the kind of life I live, I'll admit that maybe it's optimistic to think that you'll be a wrinkly old bag by the time you get this. But my life wasn't ever full of much optimism, so let me have this much.

If Manny followed my requests to the letter, this is reaching you after my formal Will has been read and my public assets have been divided up. There's a lot that the world at large didn't know I had, and a lot that the world at large didn't know about me. So to my confidants, rivals, and maybe people I could have called friends I'm giving up a portion of that wealth. Consider this the Second Will and Testament of Kain Zarek.

To you, Laura, I'm leaving the one thing I know you won't be able to resist: A challenge.

Reaching the end of the first page, Laura catches the sounds of another bleat from the sheep, directed this time at the rabbits. These aren't the most complementary collections of animals.

Hopping up to perch on the edge of the counter, feet swinging idly back and forth in the empty space beneath, Laura spares the animals only a moment's glance before yielding her attention to the letter.

"Notebook paper? Seriously?" Holding up the offending folded sheets, she gives them a rustling shake, then unfolds the creases. "Didn't you learn anything?" Laura huffs, shaking her head, then actually reads what it says. "Hah. Keep dreaming," she muses aloud, blue eyes lifting from the pages to survey her apartment. Or such of it as is visible from here. Mostly the raccoon in the sink.

"Bonus points for effort, Kain," the imp pronounces. Her gaze drops again as she turns to the next sheet. "Score's not looking so hot on the subject of style."

Wipe that smirk off your face, is the first thing it says on the second page.

'Cause I know you are.

The challenge is this: When I first started working for Danny, he had me moving shipments of art around the country. Statues, paintings, antiques. Most of them went to private collections and store houses that would never see the light of day again. Most of these things Danny himself wouldn't ever even see again.

Kindred spirits in the Raccoon in the sink, Laura catches sight of it come up with the drain strainer, turning it around in its greedy little paws before licking and biting at the metal, trying to get at whatever crumb of food was stuck in its crevices. The raccoon pauses, looking up to Laura with one ear perked and the other flat as if to give her an opportunity to say something, before politely ducking his head back into the sink, discarding the drain plug with a clatter of disinterest.

Now being the enterprising young man I was at the time, I'll admit that I didn't do exactly what Danny asked of me every time without concession. Now some might consider it stealing, but I sold a few 'choice' pieces that came through my way, kept a few more. I liked to think of it as a transaction fee.

Most of that money went into a private savings in an offshore account. Eventually, Danny got wise to what I was doing, and took the account out from under me, drained it dry and moved the money on me. He told me I could have it back, once I paid off what I already owed to him. I figure that meant sometime after I was dead and gone.

Over the years I tracked most of the money to Las Vegas. Danny had kept it waiting for me in a private vault inside of the Corinthian Hotel and Casino out Vegas way. I ain't got an idea what else Danny's got locked up in that particular hidey-hole of his, but a chunk of it is 'rightfully' mine. Or was, I guess. Now it's yours, the only issue is getting to it. It isn't a widely publicized fact that Danny's gotten sick. Maybe the old codger's kicked off by now, maybe he's still out there somewhere. But whoever's in charge of the Linderman Group right now probably still has my cash, and while they say you can't take it with you, I'd like to at least prove them partly wrong and take it.

Claws scrape on the edge of the sink basin, and clamboring up from inside of the sink the raccoon makes a chittering noise and stares intently at Laura for a moment, before upending his tail and diving head-first back down into the sink, then bounding out and scrambling across the counter towards the refrigerator's direction.

Now I know you ran security for Danny, but this old vault's been around longer I'd hazard to guess. I figure it won't be easy getting in, if you can manage it at all. But given that Danny boy is on the way out, and that a good chunk of that there money is mine to give away by Danny's say-so, I figure it won't twist your moral knobs to liberate a little of the old man's finances before he kicks off. If he's already dead, than there's even less reason to let it all just sit there and collect dust.

Whatever else is in there, well… You'll just have to find out.

Happy trails, kid.

I'll save a seat down here for ya.

A flourish of text at the bottom is signed,

Kain Zarek

Setting the letter aside, now that her perusal of it is complete, Laura folds her arms across her chest and regards the raccoon across the way.


The animal's investigation of the sink is observed with detached interest; she isn't really watching it. It's just the closest available proxy for a dead man.

"See, here's the thing, Kain," the woman muses to the designated representative of the deceased. She snorts briefly. "Why should I do you a favor? 'Cause that's what it is. Enabling you to get away with one last stunt." A glance is cast down to the letter. "For what? Money? I've got that." Reaching down, Laura turns the pages over, holds them up against the afternoon sunlight; no not-so-subtly hidden notes reveal themselves. "You don't even say how much. What kind of ranking do you really think that's worth?"

Dropping the pages back down to the counter, Laura tilts her head back and looks down at the raccoon. "Given you, I wouldn't be surprised if there's nothing in that vault but a cardboard cut-out of the Road Runner." A beat. "Or I guess that's given me. But it would be worth style points."

After another brief silence, the woman huffs out a breath, then drops off the counter and claps her hands sharply, startling the whole menagerie of uninvited guests into attention. "Okay, kids! All of you need places to sleep that are not here. Let's go about getting this arranged, shall we?"

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