The Weakest Link


kain_icon.gif muldoon_icon.gif

Scene Title The Weakest Link
Synopsis Kain attempts to make Muldoon see reason.
Date March 14, 2009

Financial District — Muldoon's Office

Muldoon's Manhattan office is defined by bold lines, straight edges and a sparse collection of modern furniture, including his desk, which overlooks the New York's Financial District and the looming shadow of the Linderman Building only a few blocks away. It doesn't take a lot of time or effort to arrange an appointment or gain entry, however — unlike the way business is arranged on Staten Island, it pays to be open and approachable where civilized society is concerned, especially when your livelihood is based around your lucrative career as an investment banker.

Kain Zarek's face is a familiar one around these parts. Muldoon's secretary had neither any suspicions nor qualms about waving him through at the time of his appointment, though the expression the man himself is wearing when Zarek enters the office isn't quite as amicable as his employee's. "Is this as pressing as I've been led to believe?" he asks, his face a facsimile of patience, no warmth in his eyes.

"Ah' like t'think money's always pressin' Mister Muldoon." Looking far more clean-shaven and far less drunk than he has in the last few weeks, Kain Zarek's quiet entrance into the office is accompanied by the click of a steel cigarette case opening as he makes a sauntering path towards the desk. "Y'mind if Ah' smoke?" Kain offers, blue eyes moving from the case in hand to his host as he comes to stand behind the chair, sliding a black-papered cigarette out and between two fingers.

Muldoon's gaze drifts up to the smoke detector affixed to the office ceiling, but rather than deny Kain his request, he leans over and cracks the window, allowing a breeze to whistle in through the gap, filling the room with the chilled winter air. Satisfied, he settles back in his seat, leather chair creaking, and folds his hands on the edge of his desk, fingers interlaced. "If you smoke," he says, "I'd appreciate it if you'd also sit."

"Ah'm thinkin' this is a sittin conversation, yeah…" Kain inclines his head with a lopsided smile as he circles around the chair, sliding the case into his breast pocket and retrieving a chromed lighter in the same motion. One flick of the flint creates a crackling spark and a tongue of flame that laps over the tip of the cigarette, and one slow inhalation begins to suck air inwards, burning the edge of black paper to give way to a papery scent of something like cloves.

"So Ah'm hearin' all'a these things 'bout your business investment down on Staten Island," smoke wafts out from Kain's lips as he speaks, some thin tendrils of smoke filtering out of his nostrils. The cigarette, pinched between two fingers, is drawn away to use as a pointer, gesturing in the southwards direction of the island. "It all ain't the most flatterin' things, what Ah'm hearin' either." After a moment of considering the glowing tip of his cigarette, Kain's eyes drift up to Muldoon, "How's ol' Johnny boy doin' these days?"

"There are very few flattering things one can say about Staten Island in general," Muldoon observes mildly. "You know as well as I do that it's part of its appeal." He draws in a long, slow breath — perhaps to help maintain his composure, perhaps in order to better appreciate the heady perfume of Kain's cigarette smoke — and looks out the window in the direction Kain is gesturing, chin tipped at a contemplative angle. "Logan is doing as well as can be expected. Some dumb bint tried to poison him, but that's what we keep Mu-Qian around for, isn't it?"

Truth be told, the attempt made on Logan's life has been the least of their worries — it's a diversionary tactic that leads down a line of conversation Muldoon is a little more comfortable following. "Assassination attempts are to be expected. Losses are to be expected. Who have you been talking to, Zarek?"

Having been drawing on the cigarette while Logan speaks, Kain withdraws it again and breaths a jet of smoke out each nostril, "It ain't takin' no Oracle to know what went an' exploded and cost you an' me an arm and a leg…" Kain's eyes divert down to his lap, his free hand flicking away a spot of ash on otherwise immaculate pinstripe slacks, "Way Ah' see it, any business partnership's only as strong as the weakest link is. You got a man actin' a fool out on you, makin' fool mistakes, makin' fool enemies, an you got yourself a weak link." Kain's focus shifts from the smoke at the end of his cigarette to Muldoon again, a slight tilt of his head wordlessly implies you following me?

"Ol' Johnny boy's got himself in a heap a'hot water, James. He's gone and pissed off a lot of people who've got big friends, and big sticks. Now Ah'm comin' t'you as a concerned party, because me an' a lot of people who've also got a lot've ornrey friends have a lot of money ridin' on this here investment a'mine. Which means, if all'a this gets flushed down the toilet because'a one pimp's shaky hand…" Shoulders rising into a shrug, Kain flicks the ashes from the tip of his cigarette, there really aren't any ash trays around, and it ends up a smudge on the carpet.

"Ah'll be straight with you, James. Ol' Johnny boy's a ham-fisted small timer, who's got himself some fancy ways a'gettin' himself in a whole world a bad news. Now Ah' heard what happened with that healer you gone an' lost, and that's gonna' make business a mighty bit harder on you, and me." Kain's dark brows raise, "An' now you've gone and proven that Johnny boy can't protect your assets, and they any old goon with a gun can steamroll your operation. Now the impatient man," Kain rolls the cigerette between his fingers, "He'd go an' get more guns, an' more gorillas', and get ready for the next shoot 'em up, an' hope the sign over his head ain't the O.K. Corral."

"Me? Ah' ain't much of an impatient man…" As if to show his patience, Kain brings his cigarette back to his lips, letting the silence and the popping crack of the sugared paper fill the void. When he does speak again, it's rather direct and to the point. "Ah'd do things differently, an' if you're interested, James… Ah' can give you an out on this situation you got yourself in that doesn't end with me high-tailing it outta' Staten Island while the healer-girl's friends burn all you got to the ground 'cause Johnny boy can't hold his weight." There's a purse of Kain's lips, "But that's jus' mah southern sensibilities talkin'."

Muldoon is silent for a long time. His eyes move from the window to the ashen smudge on the office carpet before they eventually wind their way back to Kain's face. "Southern sensibilities," he echoes, tone utterly flat. With an indignant sniff, he reaches up, drags one large hand over the stubble of his jaw and rubs his thumb over his mustached lip. "What Logan did to Abigail Beauchamp has very little to do with the storm descending on the Rookery. I struck a deal with her people, hoping to avert further bloodshed only to have them throw it back in my face. It's not just that ham-fisted small timer they take offense to — it's our entire operation and the way we do business. Slavery, one of them called it."

He taps the index finger of his free hand against the edge of his desk once, twice. Three times. "I could let Logan go. I've thought about it from time to time, but as impatient as he is, he's also the only negator I have. Dropping him is non-negotiable unless you can provide me with a replacement. I'd much rather prefer we put that excitableness of his to better use instead. What did you have in mind?"

"Ah' know a couple a'them kids, Ah' know what makes 'em tick, know where they get their guns, and know how to make life real hard on them." Kain leans back in his chair, bringing a cigarette to his lips. "The deal's simple. Ah' get them off'a the Rookery's case, make them to not put more holes in your business, an' keep 'em away for the remainder a'their unnatural lives." He brings the cigarette back up to his lips, drawing in a slow breath, holding the hot smoke there before letting the bitter-sweet smoke roll off of his tongue and out his open mouth.

"First Ah'm gonna' need somethin' from you, an that's a bald British fella' who goes by the name a'Wolf, out of the cages and set free. You give me that, an' a lot'a your problems start meltin' away. Next, Ah' go an' talk to those kids an' their friends, lean on 'em with what Ah' know, and make it clear if they make a case a'this…" He looks left and right, for an ashtray, then shrugs slightly, "Well, bad things happen t'good little kids."

Rolling his tongue over the inside of his cheek, Kain's blue eyes flick back up to Muldoon. "Then you fire Logan, cut him loose an' if they want to hunt him down, all'a more power to 'em. Then, James," motioning with his cigarette, he gestures towards the looming sky scraper beyond the office window, "Mah boss talks t'you, an' we work out a deal t'make sure no more accidents like that happen again."

"Ethan Holden has already been dealt with in accordance to the deal I struck with Teodoro Laudani," Muldoon says. "He is as free as you or I, so consider that done." John Logan, on the other hand, is a trickier matter — indecision flickers across his face, pulling his lips into a thin, taut line. This is what happens when you amalgamate the titles of friend and business partner.

"When I said that dropping Logan was non-negotiable, Zarek, I meant it. He's young yet, and he lacks the experience that you and I have under our belts." Muldoon meets Kain's gaze and holds it, steady, level, unwavering. "You said that you aren't an impatient man. Prove it. Don't tell me you can't see the potential in him, not when Linderman saw the same in you."

While the revelation that Ethan is free and clear is news to Kain, it doesn't rattle him as much as when Logan lays those last few words, the uncertainty of just who knows what and how much weighs heavy on his brow. "Your boy's got a bulls-eye on his head bigger'n half a' Harlem painted on his forehead. There's a lotta' people that want a pound of that biblical flesh from Johnny, an' Ah'm finding it a risky venture to go insurin' a business where the feller in charge of it might be gettin' a new smile under his chin."

Looking at his mostly stub remnant of the cigarette, Kain's eyes wander away from Muldoon, "Now Ah' ain't seen with mah own two eyes what rumor says he's done an' gone to Flint Deckard, an' yeah that ol' sourpuss got what he deserved, but the eye for an eye shtick, it ain't workin'. Otherwise you wouldn't be pickin' bullets outta' corpses on that shoreside warehouse."

Breathing out a slow sigh, Kain finally looks back to James, brows knit together. "One'a these days, you gotta' weigh what's more important to you. Friendship, or business, because you can't always have 'em both, an' right now the former's costin' you the latter." Brushing his free hand over his stubbled chin, Kain's focus goes distant, staring out the window. "If Johnny goes an' does somethin' stupid again, like pokin' out an eye or somethin' to the wrong people, Ah' ain't gonna be 'round t'say Ah' told'ja so." Canting his head to the side, Kain slowly pushes up from his chair and wanders a bit from his seat.

"It ain't nothin' that can't wait. You know where Ah' cool mah heels an Ah' know where you cool yours, so we can let this here pot simmer for a little while, see what blows over, and revisit it when we both gone an' thought more about it. But if you sit down an' talk to th' man that pays mah bills…" Kain flicks his cigarette butt into a potted plant, "we both might come outta' this without too much on our hands."

"I'll take it under advisement," Muldoon says, but he doesn't promise anything more than that. Approaching Linderman is a daunting proposition, not something to be taken lightly. He watches Kain go, the faint scent of cloves lingering in the air even after most of the smoke has been carried out the window and into the sopping evening. His mind is clearly elsewhere, turning over the carnage he found at the shoreside warehouse of which the other man speaks. As much as he'd like to ask what leverage Kain has over Teodoro and his people, he keeps his mouth shut, jaw locked, lips firm.

What he said earlier was true. Losses are to be anticipated, and while what happened on Wednesday night was a serious blow not only to his business but his pride as well, it's an acceptable one and nothing he and Logan can't eventually recover from. He's willing to let it slide.

For now.

"I trust you can see yourself out."

March 14th: You're A Freelancer
March 14th: Beating Heart
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