Who the Fuck is Kain Zarek?


joey_icon.gif merlyn_icon.gif

Scene Title Who the Fuck is Kain Zarek?
Synopsis Merlyn returns to her fellow grifter to tell her about her latest job.
Date June 12, 2021

Sheepshead Bay: Joey Stark's Apartment

There’s a short stack of bills on the coffee table, freshly counted out, that is honestly a dwindling stack of bills compared to this time last week. Rent’s due. Not on the new apartment — she’s got that covered, and goodbye trailer park — but the warehouse. Joey Stark’s Stark Raven Studio sees a steady stream of business, but it’s Wally Gage’s enterprise as a fucking Tzimisce that brings in the money, and that miserly fuck hoards his wealth like a dragon. And sets fire to it like one, too.

God, it fucking kills her to watch so much money go up in smoke, when she could be living so well. Buying her way into all the right circles. Finally catching a fucking break.

Well. What’s he going to do? Perform his Slice magic out of his houseboat? Gramps doesn’t want anyone to bother him where he lives. Joey sits back against the faded tweed upholstery of her second hand couch and lights a joint. She briefly considers lighting up a dollar to use like a match, just to see what it’s like, but even a dollar is too much to give up.

She likes to hoard wealth, too. It’s just that it’s rubbing two nickels together right now, rather than swimming through doubloons like she’s Scrooge McFuck. (Not a typo.)

When the rattle of metal and the protesting screech of the window being dragged upward breaks the silence, Joey doesn’t even flinch. “Hey,” she greets nonchalantly. Her boots are visible over the back of the couch, the cloud of smoke wafting upward from below, where Joey’s dark hair is brushing the floorboards. “How’d it go with Slick Dick Rick?”

Despite the number of times Merlyn's come in from the fire escape, it always ends with her almost ungracefully on the floor. This time her dress snags on a splintered piece of the window frame, pulling her slightly off balance before she rights herself and brushes herself off. When she comes to a stop behind the couch, she leans forward over the top of it.

"Six fucking hundred," she states proudly, a Cheshire cat grin on her face. "He said it wouldn't be any trouble to find a buyer. He certainly seemed to think it was the real deal–or that he could pass it off as it." Green eyes settle on the table and its diminishing paper stack. "How much do you need?"

Merlyn damn near gets kicked in the face for her efforts when she tells Joey the score, and the other woman scrambles to try and get herself upright. “Holy shit!” One hand braces on the floor, the jay held between her lips as she simultaneously tries to shift her balance to lever herself up with her momentum.

That might have worked if that bracing hand weren’t pinning her hair to the floor. “Fuck!” she cries as she goes somersaulting backward off the sofa, knees colliding with the coffee table and sending it about a yard away with a loud bang and further hissed curses.

These two deserve each other.

Joey pops up from the floor, peering with wide blue eyes that blink owlishly as she asks for confirmation. “For the lot?

"Each. Would have probably gotten less than that but some guy put the pressure on Ricky and drove up what he'd likely have given. Not used to a tag team for something like that, but I guess his name means something to certain people. Kain Zarek?"

She shrugs her shoulders at the name–to her, it doesn't mean anything.

Merlyn's bright grin continues as she circles around to the front of the couch and slings the faded red Jansport backpack off to let it land next to the coffee table. It clearly no longer contains their precious cargo of gently rebranded booze. "You did a stellar job on the label, we could probably get a few more of those out before anyone would catch wind of it. Apparently, though my name's on the wind enough to attract a job offer. Maybe a little sketch, but the money's good. Real good. Enough for us and some to bring a little good karma to the world. It fucking needs it."

Each?!” Joey laughs with her disbelief. “This must be the good shit,” she declares, pinching her weed and giving it an accusing look. “I’m pretty sure you just tried to tell me that dumbass is going to pay six hundred apiece for those—” Resting one arm along the back of the couch, her chin comes down to sit atop it while she smokes and ponders.

“I’d have to be careful about making them look too pristine. And you’d have to make sure we don’t oversaturate the market, or Ricky might smell the vinegar.” Her eyes narrow faintly, looking at Merlyn dubiously. “Just tell him he has to pay up front if he wants to sample the goods himself. I mean, the fun thing about wine is that you can tell someone it’s expensive, and they’ll think they’re drinking the best shit. They’ll turn their nose up at a fine vintage if you tell them it only cost ten bucks. We’re just reversing that effect. No one loses here. Least of all us.

With a dreamy little sigh, Merlyn’s accomplice stares into the kitchen of her apartment where seven more bottles sit, sans labels, waiting for the application of her handiwork, and their alchemical transformation from weak grape juice into the finest wine. “I’m gonna buy so many canvases.”

But there was a question in there, a comment that wasn’t just throw-away. Joey shakes herself from her reverie to squint at the blonde. “Zarek? Name doesn’t mean shit to me. Either he’s small potatoes, or that’s an alias.” Not that Joey knows every major player in the underground. Her niche is art. There’s a lot of other pies she’ll never dream of touching. “What have you gotten yourself into, Merl?”

"He sure seemed to think of himself as a whole steak-and-potato meal, and Ricky sure seemed to think he was a big fish," Merlyn makes a small face of displeasure, mostly at the suggestion that she'd be dealing with someone a bit troublesome. Trouble was bad. "Retired big fish, I'd guess, but decent enough fellow for the kind of people Ricky deals with."

She follows Joey's gaze into the kitchen. "Total payout is at least five grand. It's got risks and I'll have to lay low, but that payout is guaranteed if I get the job done. Who knows what I can manage to pepper in to sweeten the pot on the way." Merlyn holds up a finger before Joey can protest. "I'm not gonna bring anything down on your head if something goes awry, so staying here is off the table. Way too risky even if you don't know anything about the deal."

Joey lets out a single syllable laugh. “I’d say no one who deals with Ricky is decent, but we deal with Ricky…” Her eyes shift ceilingward briefly. “Nope. Still no one decent.” Shaking her head, she frowns. “Lay low?” Then, her posture shifts. Something about five grand works as a muscle relaxant. “Don’t worry about me, toots. You can hole up here. I’m not scared of shit.

Another moment of consideration and she amends her statement: “Except the IRS.”

"Fuck the IRS, the job regards stealing from a guy who does some jobs for d'Sarthe. I don't think that's a hornets nest I want to shake up, but this Kain guy seemed willing to let me throw him under the bus if I needed to." Merlyn rubs the back of her neck, a habit she picked up from being unsure what to do with her hands when worrying. "Anyway, the money should be worth it even if it may be a bit of trouble. Besides, taking a few days off for a vacation never hurts when you have two grand to cover it."

“d’Sarthe?” Joey’s brows knit. Maybe five grand isn’t enough for this job, her expression seems to say. “I mean, you’re not wrong… What are you supposed to do for this, though?” Her lip curls faintly. “I’m not saying I lied and that I’m scared of something in addition to those government bloodsuckers, but that guy doesn’t fuck with shit.”

“Theoretically it should be an easy job, he’d probably have done it himself if he wouldn’t look so out of place. He wanted someone local who wouldn’t raise suspicion. I don’t normally do B&Es ‘cause of the risk involved, but this guy shouldn’t be there, it’s a safehouse.” The tone in Merlyn’s voice is almost enough to sound as if she’s convincing herself more than Joey.

“It’s just personal stuff. Like a laptop or a journal or something, whatever’s there. I even warned Zarek if this guy did jobs for d’Sarthe that it could fuck me over. You know what he said? He basically said to just name drop. Tell ‘em that he was the one who sent me. Ricky seemed to think this guy was supposed to be dead.”

The blonde takes a moment to rub her face. “The money’s good and I’m not gonna lie, I’m intrigued. But I’m gonna have to lay low for a couple of days after, just to be sure. It also sounds way too easy to be true, so I’m kinda hoping it doesn’t blow up in my face.”

Joey listens to the explanation, the requirements, and slowly nods her head. “Alright.” Her tone of voice suggests that she thinks this is anything but alright. “So you grab this stuff and you hand it over to the Zarek guy? Easy breezy beautiful?”

“Grab the stuff, lay low, drop it off at the location and retrieve the rest of my payment. Simple as that. If it turns out alright it’ll probably be the easiest and quickest payday I’ve had in a long time,” Merlyn says, the touch of skepticism still lingering in her voice. “I do want to look into what this guy’s name means to people. Quietly, though. Probably gonna need to know what hole I’m digging for myself.”

“Here,” Merlyn’s friend says, holding out her joint, “have this.” It’s clear she’s already on to something, so taking it from her isn’t really optional. Once she’s unladen by the smoke, she reaches under her sofa cushion and pulls out a Yamagato Awasu tablet. Unfolding it, she waits for the screen to light up before she speaks. “Hey, Lycos! Who the fuck’s Kain Zarek?”

Merlyn takes the joint, suddenly deciding that she needed it anyway. She takes a pull from it, blowing out the smoke with absolutely no creative shapes in the air. She settles ungracefully on the floor, legs tucked under her as she simply waits. “As long as he’s not got some beef with d’Sarthe I should be golden,” she says, mostly to herself.

There’s a yip! that sounds from the tablet the signifies that her search results are ready. “Good dog,” Joey praises in that weird way that she often does. Not just with tech, but with various other little inanimate objects. Chip clips have been known to be thanked for their service. (Oh shit. These still crunch! Thanks, chip clip!)

“‘Kay. Says here…” Joey scrolls through the results returned from her verbal request, mouth bunching up to one side. “Okay, Ricky’s not wrong. This guy has been dead for a while. Like, a long while.” She holds up the tablet. “See?”

On screen is an obituary for the man Merlyn met, dated November 8, 2010. “This really the guy? He’s supposed to have died in the riots! I couldn’t even drink then!”

“Yeah, I’m sure that’s the guy. Ricky definitely said he was supposed to be dead.” Merlyn glances over the obituary briefly, then looks back to Joey. “So we’re dealing with someone who feels the need to fake his own death. That’s certainly telling. Interesting as fuck, but telling. Riots would be a good time to slip out if you were gonna fake a thing.”

She takes another long pull from the joint. “He didn’t seem to mind that his name was being tossed around, though, so maybe he’s decided to make a comeback? Kinda seems stupid to fake your own death and then undo that work over a decade later.”

“Right? Exactly. If you faked your own death,” Joey frowns, “why would you start going around now and shooting your mouth off to some… I mean, no offense, but we’re both only basically a step up from nobodies.” She at least included herself in that statement. Merlyn is better known than she is, for sure, but the older of the two likes it that way.

Pulling back her tablet, she kicks back to lay out on her couch. “Let’s see… Preceded in death by his dad, no next of kin listed…” Joey murmurs to herself softly as she reads, blinking with her mild confusion. “And worked for… Shit. That’s a name I haven’t heard in a minute.” She tips her head back on the arm of the sofa and raises her voice again to grab Merlyn’s attention. “Says that the guy worked for the Linderman Group!” Her eyes are big, mouth curved into an astonished smile. “That might be a good reason to fake your death, right? There’s nothing left of Linderman now, so I guess it might make sense that he’d finally start coming back around.”

“Yeah, hiding out for years isn’t my idea of a fun time. I could see dealing with that being a huge driving force in death-faking.” Merlyn nods in her direction. “Hopefully we don’t end up needing to fake our own deaths as well.” While there’s amusement, she’s cautiously checking out the surrounding areas.

“At least if we do, I know a guy who can make us look fucking fabulous in our new witless protection gig.” That was not misspoken. The tablet is folded up and hidden under the cushions again. “Maybe I should start working on the sketches for our new identities now. I bet Gramps’ll do it pro bono. After he bitches to me about how I’m an idiot girl for getting myself into shit in the first place.”

She sighs and holds her hand up in the air over her head, just the vee of fingers held up and shaken once to draw attention. She wants her weed back. “Just be careful with this dude, okay? He’s clearly old school mob. You go do that job and you either come back here or straight to the studio, alright? I don’t want you out there by yourself. I told you, I ain’t scared of shit.

Except her best friend getting hurt.

“I’m gonna be careful,” Merlyn promises, then takes one last drag of the joint before passing it back. “At least I know he’s the real deal now. I’m kinda glad he’s just not a ghost entirely. That would certainly be more terrifying.” She’s certainly glad for there being some kind of tangible information. “I’ll try coming here to lay low unless someone is too hot on my trail. I’m not gonna draw attention to you if I can avoid it.”

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever.” Joey takes a toke and coughs afterward, her arm draped off the end of the couch now while she stares up at the ceiling. “I’m an attention whore! Bring it on!” Merlyn can hear Joey’s grin even without looking at her. “Also, you’re buying dinner tonight. You’re taking us somewhere nice.

The grin is contagious and soon Merlyn is grinning as well. "Hell yeah," she agrees. "I can afford it for once, I'm absolutely going to make sure we get something nice out of this. I can't remember the last time I ate somewhere nice." She looks over at Joey for a long moment, thoughts clearly brewing before she begins to speak again. "Thanks for not utterly yelling at me for this. I know it's risky. I'm glad you trust me enough to let me handle this."

She leans back on the floor, taking a moment to stare at the ceiling as well. "I'll be okay. I'm not bringing hell down upon you, though, but I'll at least check in if I have to go elsewhere."

“You’re talking in circles.” Closing her eyes, Joey lets her thoughts drift pleasantly. “I trust you.” She draws in a deep, audible breath, relaxing. “Now, decide where we’re going to drink real good wine.”

“It’s the weed,” Merlyn insists, grateful to have something to blame it on. “As for the food, I’ll have to do a more thorough search to make sure we’re hitting the right place. I won’t have us drinking wine that has clearly just replaced the label.” While the last bit is a joke thrown in, she’s absolutely not going to let them drink subpar wine if she’s buying.

Joey snorts and takes another toke. “Your diligence is, as always, appreciated.” Then she grins, gaze far off.

“Fuck, we’re good.”

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