Tricky Ricky And The Pony Express


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Scene Title Tricky Ricky and the Pony Express
Synopsis "Tricky" Ricky Daselles may not be a mailman, but a member of Wolfhound gets the mail from him anyway.
Date February 23, 2018

Ruins of Staten Island

Staten Island is one 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 has only spread like a cancerous growth across its rambling, overgrown urban wilderness..

Under clouded skies and coo temperatures, the neighborhood that was once the Rookery is little more than a ghetto of collapsed buildings and wild growth sprouting up from vacant cellar holes. 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. This particular neighborhood where Berlin Beckett has come is considered the start of Staten Island’s fatal criminal infection, a place that even in its hay-day was a tumble-down ruin of derelict apartment complexes and those that still stand lie boarded up, with burned out husks of cars on the street side, and graffiti covering nearly every building and surface. Steam rises up from trash-clogged sewer grates, rain soaked newspaper pages lie patch worked across the sidewalk, and homeless junkies are huddled in shallow alleyways and stoops of closed up businesses.

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. Near the pawn shop entrance, there is a stoop entrance to a stairwell marked with a smashed in intercom and 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. Ricky was a loose-associate of the Ferrymen during their time, also a known drug runner, and generally untrustworthy pile of shit. But Berlin Beckett has dealt with him before, dealt with “Richard Daselles” on his own terms, dealt with Staten Island and dealt with the sight of human detritus that it is filled with.

Seven hours ago, while visiting the Safe Zone, Berlin was approached by one of her former smuggling contacts. The name Tricky Ricky came up as having come into possession of documents pertaining to the stuff prosecuted at the Albany Trials. Genetic engineering, mad science sort of things. Ricky apparently has been shopping the info around, and it’s exactly the kind of information Wolfhound uses in their hunts. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The location could have been better.

When Berlin pulls open the shattered frame of the doorway that leads to the apartment stairwell and heads up the concrete steps to the second floor, she can hear the muffled and distant sounds of an argument; a man and woman's voice raised, something smashing, a child crying. Her boots crunch broken glass underfoot up the stairs, nose rankles at the scent of marijuana in the air. There is no electricity in the building, and all light spills through blown out windows that allow a cold breeze through the halls and their walls of peeling paint and split wood.

Another floor up a dog is barking and someone has their radio on too loud, but far enough away that only the generic bass beats can be heard through the ceiling. Apartment 201 is the first door on her right, same as before. It's numbers have long since been peeled off — they were copper, but copper is valuable — and all that remains now are the faded markings that ghostly show suggestions of numbers with red permanent marker poorly filling them in. Beyond the door, the sound of a too-loud radio prattles muffled through the too-thin walls along with shouts of, "You’re a good girl! I know you want it! I know you want it!"

Ricky loves his shitty music.

Berlin does not like trips like these. The smell never seems to leave her hair, for one. But more so, the company is less than desirable. But the information leads here, so she's followed it right to the apartment door and the truly awful music. She rolls her eyes, as if needing to get it out of her system before she knocks.

It takes a few moments.

The sound is loud and firm, to cut through the music and make sure he can hear her. And then she steps back a bit from the door, perhaps not wanting to be that close when he eventually opens up. She fiddles with her gloves, tugging on them and tucking them up under her jacket sleeve. It's not necessary, really, but she's filling the time and trying not to pay too much attention to the shouting and barking and things breaking against thin walls. It doesn't work all that well.

“Hold on, hold on!” Comes hollering through the door and the music cuts off. A few shuffling steps later, and Berlin is greeted by a door with three chains on it opening enough that she can have the barrel of a handgun pointed in her face. “What the fuck— ” The barrel is lowered, and Ricky Daselles looks marginally embarrassed by his reaction. “ — brings… you— out here? Friend?”

Awkwardly grimacing, Ricky shuts the door only enough that he can unlatch the three chains. Dark eyes flick up and down the hall, and then square on Berlin again. The smell of cheap cologne, macaroni and cheese, whiskey, and pot wafts out of the apartment behind him. “What ah…” Ricky swallows anxiously. “What brings you back, uh, this way, Lin?”

Behind Ricky, in the apartment, there is a gas-powered space heater with a frying pan on top of it that is melting slices of American cheese over macaroni salad and a can of beans.

Turning back at the yelling, Berlin lifts an eyebrow at the trio of chains and then folds her arms at the appears of a gun. She's pretty sure he's not going to shoot, anyway. She can't help a chuckle at his embarrassment, although it comes out sort of dry. "Nice to see you too, Ricky." When he unlatches the chains, she comes back over to the door, suddenly much closer when he reopens it again.

She smiles.

"You have more chains this time. Been making new friends?" Berlin narrows her eyes a bit at all this anxiety. She wasn't terribly suspicious when she got here, but now she is. "You gonna let me in or do we have to talk business really loudly out here in the hallway," she says, volume turning up, as it were, toward the end.

“Fucking— just— ” Ricky backs away from the door and waves one hand in the air flippantly. As flippantly as he is dressed in a blue and red robe with a Cleveland Indians logo on the back. The fuzzy blue slippers are something else entirely. “Shut the door behind you. God.” As he ambles in to the apartment, 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 racks of glowing blue Refrain vials in a glass-doored refrigerator.

Ricky breathes in and turns around, looking down at his “food” sizzling in the skillet. “Alright, so, my ammo supplier is bone dry. Some bumblefuck named Buddy bought him out of every last round of .357 rounds last week. So uh, I think that’s what you were packing?” Ricky looks at Berlin’s arms. “Was it a Glock 9? Fuck. Man, I can’t remember.” He picks up a spatula from off the couch and starts scrambling his meal.

“Unless this is a social call?” Ricky looks side-long at Berlin. Then, deadpan, “Ok nevermind that one.”

Following him in, Berlin is more than happy to shut the door behind her. She doesn't latch the chains, though. He's just going to have to feel safe having her here. Lingering between him and the door. Her gaze flicks over to the fridge holding vials instead of food, then back to him. "You know those things are supposed to hold meat. Milk. Butter. Apples," she notes dryly.

Her hands move into her jacket pockets as he starts to talk and she stares back at him flatly. He is correct to edit his last suggestion. "I'm not here for ammo. Not that kind. Heard in the zone you had your hands on something good. Something they talked about in Albany." That's as close as she comes to saying it outright, but she watches his reaction. Not because she's worried he won't understand — she knows he will — but because she wants to see if that's what's making him anxious. More than the Refrain, maybe.

Ricky eyes the refrigerators, then looks back at Berlin. “Well, when I can make a cool twenty grand selling milk and eggs, I’ll stock up.” Ricky continues scrambling what can only be considered a crime against the culinary arts as he talks. Her request goes a little ignored, at least at first. That’s the way things are with him, it seems like buffoonery but it’s stalling tactics and power plays.

“What’ve you got for me, Lin?” Ricky asks, looking up to her and holding out his hand. Browsing costs extra, the waggle of his fingers indicates as American cheese burns to the bottom of an old metal skillet.

While he stalls, Berlin watches. Her mother never taught her that it was rude to stare. But it's her own power play, to look more like predator than prey. Someone here is, even if they both have different ideas of which is which. "You're gonna burn the place down with that," she says with a nod to the sandwich.

"I've got to know if you have what I'm after or if I'm just here for the company," she says with a glare sent in his direction. "And I need to know if it's actually any good. Then we can chat about pricing." Bartering is what it's all about these days, after all.

Sliding his tongue over his teeth, Ricky grabs the skillet by the handle and pulls it off the heat, setting it down on a nearby formica table to cool. He drops the spatula in the pan with a clatter, then shuffles over to where he’d left a can of beer, picking it up and taking a swig on his way over to the kitchen cupboards. There’s— no food in them when he opens them, just gallon plastic bags full of pot, and one yellow USPS envelope, which he slides out and starts walking over.

The bubble-wrap padded envelope has already been torn open a the top, but the contents appear to still be inside. Ricky comes walking over, then slides out one creased paper file from among what looks like dozens. It’s an internal memorandum from the Commonwealth Institute of Massachusetts as evidenced by the stationary letterhead. The title reads, Article b. Revision: Safe House Call Signs. There’s a photograph paper-clipped to the page, but Ricky is covering it with most of his hand.

“Acquaintance of mine was hired to do a smash and grab at a place out on Phoenix Heights,” Ricky notes with an incline of his head in the direction of the Safe Zone. “B&E, double homicide, arson. He’s really sweet.” The file is tucked back into the folder, and Ricky keeps it in his hand. “He dropped off a milk crate full of jewelry, antiques, fucking mail — whatever he could grab. I went through it all,” Ricky’s eyes flick to the envelope and back to Berlin. “I was gonna ask for two grand, but, since you’ve classed up my joint with your presence, I’m going to drop it to fifteen hundred.”

Berlin can't help but step over to peer into the skillet when he steps away. Just to see if it's actually food in there. But she turns back to watch him soon enough, hands pulling out of her jacket as he retrieves the envelope. He's right to keep a hold of it, because she reaches a hand out toward that single file when it's revealed. The letterhead gets a scowl and she pulls her hand back without really making a grab for it.

"Yeah he sounds like a riot," she says, a sideways look going his way. But she turns more fully his way when he starts naming numbers and she folds her arms. A nod is sent toward the Refrain. "Seeing as you're sitting on a cool twenty grand," she says, "seems to me you can afford to make it an even thousand." It's a song and dance, but she's aware that the steps aren't skippable. Even if she'd rather.

Tongue pressed against the inside of his cheek, Ricky gives Berlin a level look. “This ain’t a Socialist whatever fuck-party. Just because I make more money doesn’t make my commodities cheaper.” Ricky may not understand how Socialism works. It isn’t the point, either way. “I can do a thousand, if you can do a favor for me in return.” Dark brows lift slowly. “Skinny little fucking broom handle of a guy named Rex owes me two grand for a Refrain deal I helped him land. You agree to shake him down for me, and I’ll consider that a cash advance.”

Ricky’s lips purse to the side, and he reaches into the skillet and pulls out a hot, sticky mess of melted American cheese, beans, and old pasta salad and just pops it in his mouth and licks his fingers. Mouth partly full he asks, “Deal?”

Berlin furrows her brow at his counter offer. Annoyed, maybe. "What am I, your rottweiler? Hell no," she says with a step in his direction. It might be a little aggressive. But that's just her face. "I'll give you twelve," she says with a grimace, "and you handle your own dirty work. If he's just a broom handle. Maybe ask your sweet friend to help you out."

She doesn't get too close, but she looks ready to do so. Which is not great for the negotiation process, since she looks very much like she wants wants in the envelope — amatuer stuff. But then she also looks a bit like she might bite, leaning a little on her organization's name at the moment, so maybe it evens out.

Ricky bristles when Berlin stands her ground, looks away when she forcibly makes eye-contact. For a moment there’s a heavy tension between the two as he chews his awful food in slow, slapping bites like a cow chewing cud. Finally, he swallows and finds his resolve. “Fine,” he holds out one weathered hand and rankles his noise.

“Twelve hundred, and a thank you.” Ricky appends at the end there, one brow raised. “Please.” His mother did teach the Daselles boys manners.

"Good," Berlin says and she steps away again to reach inside her jacket. For an envelope. Smaller than his. She flips through whatever's in there and pulls out some bills before she slips it back into its hiding place. She comes back to press the money down on the counter. Her other hand is held out while she pins the money in place.

"Thank you, Ricky," she says too-sweetly, with a smile to match. Which he knows full well is not in her nature. But she did say it, at least. Her fingers wave over the envelope. Impatient, perhaps.

“Alright, I changed my mind.” Ricky huffs, “Never say thank you again.” He takes the proffered money, riffles through it in a show of counting it, even though he really doesn't. Berlin’s only ever been above-board with him. When he hands the envelope over, there's something on it that catches her eye, something Ricky could never have understood the significance of.

Deliver to: February Lancaster

There's no address on the envelope, no stamps. It had never been mailed at all. Whoever it was that got killed had some connection to fellow Wolfhound member Rue Lancaster and the Institute. On a cursory inspection, the envelope contains a print out of several official looking Institute documents dated November 7, 2011. They may never have been widely circulated.

Some of the documents include photographs of buildings, many of which are in states of ruin. Some photographs are of unfamiliar people on sidewalks, out front of a glass-walled building. This might as well be gold to Wolfhound.

“Alright Lin,” Ricky grabs his skillet and spatula and starts headed for the couch. “Daddy needs to get his groove on and this rose was a courtesy,” he explains in too much detail, motioning to the door with his elbow. “Skedaddle!”

His reaction gets an honest to goodness laugh from Berlin and she gives his request a little salute as she takes the envelope. That expression is gone a moment later, when she sees the name on the outside. Like him, she has a look over her side of this bargain, frowning deeper at the contents. But she folds it closed and looks up at him again.

"Oh god, Ricky," Berlin says with a face at his parting words. "You could just say goodbye like a normal person." But really, if he wanted to get rid of her fast, he picked the right tactic. She turns to head for the door without a goodbye of her own, slipping outside to give him his me time. And to let him lock his door. And to find a quieter spot to look over those documents more thoroughly before she makes the trip back to base.

You're welcome!” Ricky calls from beyond the door — manners — but Berlin is already halfway down the hall by the time he's calls after her. As she rounds the corner, the muffled sound of a dog barking two apartments down, Berlin slides the files out of the envelope.


Commonwealth Institute of Massachusetts

} Article b. Revision: Safe House Call Signs

Effective November 7, 2011
The following executive-level Safe Houses, as defined in article a. section 21 for immediate use in the event of terror attack or war, are now redefined by the following call signs:
Cambridge, MA: The Plaza
Boston, MA: Chapel Hall
San-Antonio, TX: Dustbowl
Detroit, MI: Skycastle
Aberdeen, MD: Sinkhole
Seattle, WA: Emerald City

The list goes on. Flipping past that, Berlin sees dossiers on a handful of Institute employees that look to be taken from an official intranet site, many of whom are still listed on the unresolved list at the Bunker. Then there's photographs, the collapsed buildings she saw earlier look to be from after the war. But there's also photos of a high rise building in a thriving urban center. Surveillance photos show a woman coming and going from the building, and she looks remarkably like the Institute security chief Donna Dunlap.

This isn't just gold, Berlin realizes. Provided they can pinpoint the location of that building, this could be their biggest capture since Howard LeMay. This is a diamond in the rough.

And she found it.

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