The Smooth: Perfect Gentlemen

Summary:
August 10, 2014: Kwabena's ongoing quest into a new street drug, 'The Smooth', has him taking care of a mutant who's become severely addicted to the stuff. Neither of them expect to encounter one of the region's most notorious hitmen. (Vulgarity and drug references)

Mutant Town

Mutant Town isn't so much a slum or ghetto as it an enclave. Sure, it started
out as something else, but it's big enough now to have its own personality
and, frankly, subcultures within the larger… uh… subculture.

Regardless, it's as eclectic and unpredictable as its inhabitants. Which
means: Very.


Characters

NPCs

  • Charlie Adams
  • Cafe owner
  • Strung out bystander

Mood Music:
"In The Air Tonight" by Phil Collins (spotify)


Mutant Town.

Its been on the news lately, perhaps a bit too much. Gang-related shoot outs are a hot topic, and the rather desolate nature of the neighborhood in general is perhaps understandable, especially as night sets in on a Sunday evening.

On a darker street, not more than a few blocks from where the shoot out took place, there is an all-night deli and cafe. The street outside is relatively empty, occupied only by one or two homeless people and the occasional piece of litter, blown down the street by a light wind. Rainfall earlier in the afternoon has left the sidewalks and asphalt glimmering with dampness.

From within the deli, there is very harsh light cast against the darkened street outside. The place is sparsely occupied; a downtrodden man, either a drunk or a junkie, sits slumped in a booth by himself. The owner works tirelessly behind the counter; he's a mutant who never needs to sleep.

The only others are a pair, perhaps a couple on some kind of date. Kwabena Odame is one of them, wearing a hoodie and a ball cap to help conceal himself from the street. He's seated with his back facing the front window. The girl across from him couldn't be any worse for the wear. Young, probably beautiful, if it weren't for the sickly palor of her skin and the messy makeup on her face. She sits hunched over a mug of coffee, her fingers trembling upon the porcelain.

*

Gangland shootouts in shitty neighborhoods populated by marginalized metas may not be a major priority for the city's authorities or newscasters, but when someone mows down a block party with high-end military hardware, apparently over a rather mysterious drug epidemic, there -are- parties in the city that take notice. Some are competitors, disgruntled with the shaking of the status quo— more than one upset apple cart. Some are vigilantes, disgusted by the lack of precision and control the city's underworld exercises, and looking to clear out the gutter of the lowest of the low. Some are -both-; all that and more.

The shadows outside creep in on the borders of that spreading fluorescent light, long shadows cast by the scant lighting mingling as if almost alive— and at the moment, one might be. Only one form crosses that threshhold across the cafe's facade, however, approaching the front door dressed in a long black coat that's entirely too fine for this neighborhood, hanging open around a crisply tailored suit in matching midnight jacket and slacks, the shirt a bloody crimson complete with silken tie. The door jangles when it's opened with one smooth, perfectly forceful motion— or it would, if the bell weren't old and busted, providing more of a rattle and clank.

Jackie's mostly-finished cigarette is tossed aside into the street as he crosses the threshhold, hooking thumbs in the pockets of his longcoat and walking up to the counter. "Milk, and a cheeseburger." He asks of the mutant working the grill with a sly half-smile, not immediately settling in: instead, Estacado takes a long moment to shamelessly survey the others gathered here, considering thoughtfully. It's easy to miss the light rustle above the diner, inside the dropped ceiling and above that track lighting.

*

"You've nevah been hooked before, have you?"

Charlie Adams shakes her head to the negative. She lifts the mug and takes a drink, some of the contents spilling down her cheek.

"It'll pass, eventually." Kwabena's voice is quiet, somewhere between stern and caring. "You've been on a long binge, and your stash dried up. It's not gonna get any easiah, not for some few days."

Charlie nods her head shakily and sets the mug down, ignoring the drain from her lips.

Truth is, Shift doesn't know if it'll pass. He hasn't done the smooth, he can't know if the withdrawal symptoms will be similar to dope. He's also lying. Her stash didn't dry up; he took the rest of it. The truth hides behind a well-drawn poker face as he reaches across to wipe her face with a napkin. The gesture pauses for but a moment, when the look in Charlie's eyes grows, for lack of a better word, spooked.

She's in a position to witness the shifting of the shadows, after all.

Kwabena thinks nothing of it. Effect of the withdrawal symptoms or something. He finished wiping her mouth and reaches for his own coffee, but there's a look on his face when the door rattles. Silver eyes track the man who enters. There is something familiar about him, but… he can't quite place it. He doesn't miss the rustling sound, he just consider it to be a mouse infestation upstairs. Charlie draws his attention back.

"How long will it… will it last?"

"I don't know. But tell me. Who gave it to you?"

Charlie doesn't answer. She looks frightened.

"Was it Rex?"

A tear forms in her eye.

"It was. Tell me."

Charlie nods her head slowly. Her trembling is growing worse.

*

Jackie gets his drink, takes a long pull from the glass to wet his lips, doing little to hide that he's more interested in the exchange between the pair towards the back than the loitering drunk. Intent, richly hued eyes flicker just slightly too yellow even in the intense light, and the counter is left behind in favor of approaching a table— Shift and Charlie's table. Estacado just walks right up to the side, and if that doesn't draw Shift's attention to him (and Jackie's return study of Odame's features), he'll go so far as to reach out and seek to tip the brim of the mutant's ballcap up to get a good look. There's certainly no sign of fear, which with the level of recognition that seems to be at play here, may well be a red flag. After all, Shift is a man that most would be wise to consider with a modicum of caution and deniability. Jackie shows neither.

"You're the one who dragged off that shooter. Filch. Aren't ya?" He does his homework. "He has some wealthy..er friends." Relative to some; but something tells Jackie that Shift already knows that. "Who the fuck's Rex?" The shit-eating grin that the shadowy crimeboss wears is unshifting, like he knows the response he's likely prompting, and is terribly curious to see what form it takes. Tall, dark, and deadly's accent is New York through and through, born and raised, touched by the rougher Italian neighborhoods and the life he's led.

*

Charlie provides much more of a response than Shift. The girl looks alarmed at Jackie's presence, curling up a bit and looking up at him with wide eyes. She can't even break away to look at Kwabena, perhaps forgetting that he's even there.

"Take it easy, Charlie." Kwabena's voice is unchanging. He looks up at Jackie with a thinly drawn frown, and though he doesn't do anything to stop the man from lifting his cap, there's a brief flash of warning in his silver eyes. They almost look haunting, given the harsh light and the shadow drawn by the hoodie. While Jackie speaks, the Ghanaian doesn't answer. The only sign of any variety in his expression is a telltale smirk that's given when their visitor speaks of Filch's wealthy friends. As if Jackie wasn't exactly nailing it on that one. Not exactly.

"Rex." He looks back to Charlie. "Is hah boss. He's a pimp. It's okay, Chahlie." The girl has turned to look back at him with utter alarm in her eyes. "He's treated hah well, til now. Chahlie, why don't you scoot ovah and let de Don have a seat."

She doesn't budge.

"Chahlie?" A sneaker reaches over and nudges her leg. She finally scoots over, grabbing her mug of coffee with shaking hands. "Don't mind hah." He gestures for Jackie to have a seat next to the strung out hooker. "She's coming down off a week long binge on some shit called de smooth." Eyes flash. "Heard of it?"

*

"Who lawyered him up, if it ain't his friends?" Jackie doesn't seem to be surprised that he's missing pieces. In fact, part of his careful consideration of Shift's reaction to his surprise intercession is geared towards picking up just these cues. The dapper don waits patiently to slip into that seat until Charlie makes way, completely unhurried, half-full glass of milk thunked down to the table in the same instant as those intent eyes study Odame a bit longer; then turn to Charlie. "Jackie Estacado." It's offered, along with a hand, to the strung out prostitute, with a perhaps surprising amount of apparent sincere empathy. That, and it's clear that Shift already knows who he is.

The knavish glint returns without overly dulling the warmth or amusement on his face when Jackie's attention returns to Odame, "No. I just heard this place has fuckin' stellar burgers." He obviously, and rather sarcastically lies. A beat is taken to sip his drink, "I know some well-connected fuckers are bringing it in. I know it's being distributed in a real targetted zone, not like you'd usually see in this business." He's seen this business for awhile. "Probably testing the shit, tryin' out a new compound on a bunch of mutants that the city gives even less of a shit about than normal."

Jackie shrugs one shoulder— he's no more married to this hypothesis than the first. "Probably making sure it works on a wide sample, or perfectin' something nastier." There's an undertone of disgust to the easy words, but still no sign of apprehension or concern for the scope of the operation he's describing. "I -know- whatever's behind it, it being here pissed off a real nasty customer who's freaked and focused on it enough to circle his wagons before he eats the return shot. I know I want 'em to chow down." Really, that seems to be his attitude towards both institutions; but Dackleman getting a leg up on the Smooth isn't good for anyone.

*

"Dat's just it, isn't it?" Shift allows for a calculated grin to appear. "It wasn't his wealthy friends." It would be a lie to say that he wasn't enjoying this little bit of dancing around honest answers. If the Don is as smart as his dress implies, he'll be able to figure it out. Odame doesn't just give these things away for free. The first of his plays comes back profitable, for the bit of recognition wasn't enough to secure exactly who this person is. Jackie produces a name, and it's a name that takes only a second to register. In turn, Kwabena's smile lingers in a telltale manner of unconcealed accomplishment.

Of course, he doesn't doubt that Jackie would have given his name. It's the little things, you know.

Charlie looks at Shift for a moment, but when the African nods his head, she turns back to take his hand. "Charlie. Charlie Adams." She smiles at him in a moment of sincerity, but a lingering undercurrent of embarrassment runs beneath it.

"Should try de reuben." He gestures to the wrappings of a sandwich finished some time ago, a response to the lie. The burgers here are shit. "I hear," he counters, "it only works -on- mutants. Dulls out dere mutations or something. Pretty obvious dough, by de looks of Chahlie heah, it's about as nasty as rough boy. Maybe worse. Sorry, Chahlie." He looks toward the womanwith apology. "But I gotta keep busting your balls if you're gonna get clean."

There must be some kind of inside joke going on, for the remark causes Charlie to break her demeanor long enough to grin at Kwabena.

Kwabena shifts, reaching for his mug of coffee. With a spare hand, he lifts the hoodie and let's it drop, revealing that the ball cap is one of those all black ones, embossed with the stylized 'C' of the Cincinnati Reds, also black. There is a sticker on the underside with a number on it. True hood garb, something one might not expect to accompany a man with Shift's reputation in the underworld. "You think you know who hit de Brighton Hill Gang, huh?" He asks. The Ghanaian leans back into his booth, sneakers coming up to plop onto the bench between Jackie and Charlie. They lean up against the hooker's hips, and she puts a hand onto his leg. For comfort, of course.

"Tell me something, Estacado. You still in de game? Heard dere were some few things dat went down, some kind of shake up. I hope it hasn't mellowed you out too much." He lifts the mug to casually drink, but his silver eyes are leveled upon the hitman, ignoring the way Charlie nervously clenches her fingers about his ankles.

*

There's an amused— perhaps pleased— spark to Estacado's eyes as he recognizes Odame's gambit for what it is. It does a fair job of hiding any lingering disappointment that his own sharing and caring doesn't prompt a particularly useful amount of information from Odame. Regardless of immediate concerns, Jackie is patient enough; some of the time. That, and it all provides a better portrait of the cagey mutant he's dealing with. Nonetheless, making sure that Kwabena knows exactly who he is— to a point— seems to be Estacado's intention to begin with. "I haven't been takin' anyone's orders on that score for years." He offers up frankly, though the dour, dangerous edge to the words suggests the implication is anything but retirement.

"Funny how much busier that made me… for awhile." Not to mention the several times in that struggle where word on the street was that Estacado -had- been put down; apparently, a great exaggeration. He meets Odame's gaze easily, predator to predator. "Mellow ain't a word too many would pick." Jackie punctuates the oblique but likely clear answers with a toothy, wolfish grin. "Ever. And yea, I do. Same son of a bitch who pulled up roots and tore out of town as soon as his hit went south. I figured he was the one footin' to protect his lackey, but maybe even that's too much credit. Question I got was why he was so spooked; Brighton's distribution here ain't exactly an infantry unit, his boys didn't have trouble with them from what I hear."

Estacado's head tilts, eyes narrowing on Odame, "So maybe they came here expectin' trouble with someone else. Someone makin' a career out of answering troubles like this targetted at people with that.. little somethin' extra." Shift isn't the only one sitting on information or conclusions he hasn't played yet, and Jackie's patience is nested in a deep understanding of that game— and the wisdom in not trusting him outright. "Suppose I told you I had the reach to get your pal wherever he ran, and -guarantee- he tells us everything." It seems an almost arrogant certainty, on the surface.

*

At the traded remarks about being mellow, Kwabena lifts his mug in a mock toast. It's a flair to the sarcastic that is a shield easy to see through; truth is, he's not quite mellow himself. "Well, that's because I spooked him," he answers bluntly. "Dumb son of a bitch thought dat shootin' up a paht if town in his own turf would shake me off." He sucks on his teeth and shakes his head in a manner that is regretful. "Dackleman hit the Brighton Beach clowns, and dat was -aftah- he skipped town. You know what dat means." Means he's still got an operation here. Means he still has an investment here, a goal. It doesn't need to be spoken outright, and frankly, Kwabena doesn't want Charlie to get too much information. His taking care of her was already a liability. Kwabena wasn't one to forge trusting relationships easily, but now he's got empathy for the hooker. That means he's got to keep an eye on her, and he probably can't trust anyone else to do it, which equates to a huge pain in his mutant ass.

"No," he says, drawing his feet back slowly and briefly passing Charlie an apologetic look as her hand returns to its former home on her mug of coffee. "I think he knew exactly who he was expecting troubah with. I think he's probably sitting pretty on his little find, believing dat I've gone away. Which means…" He pauses, lifting his hand to study his fingernails. A bit dirty. He's been busy and hasn't had time to take a good, long shower, which is something he fully intends to do after he makes his way back home and enjoys a nice blunt. "Which means I'm not done rustling da bitch's tree."

Looking back toward Jackie, Kwabena settles upon a very firm expression. "So, Esto, you're here, I'm here, good Charlie is here sobering up" A brief glance Charlie's way. "slowly but surely. You intahrested in having a little fun in Dackleman's turf?" A very small grin tugs at the corner of Odame's mouth, this one not so intentional. The African clearly has an angle he's working. "I mean, I got no problem flying solo, but de more you shake a shit tree, da more shit falls from de limbs."

*

"Guess he knew which way it was likely to go." Estacado muses rather humorlessly of Dackleman's flight, "That or he's just expecting the pursuit to give him more of an advantage." Jackie's had that experience a few times— but he doesn't seem to expect it to work for the black marketeer in this case. If anything, the idea that Dackleman isn't -just- running scared is more appealing than the guy just slamming the bee hive with a stick and running away. There's a knowing nod regarding the lingering interest in the City, and Jackie appends simply, "Maybe even a tie to the people who're bringin' this shit in." Whether a positive tie or not, well. That's up in the air.

As far as a little fun? Well, Estacado's smile is rather devilish. "Right back at you." He reciprocates the offer— and the willingness to deal with it 'solo'. "I sure as hell ain't here to negotiate a truce for the scumbag. The shit he pulls even on his -own- people…" Estacado just shakes his head. "You may be capable of shaking loose a lot of shit fruit, Odame…" indeed, Estacado seems to have a healthy respect for Kwabena's accomplishments, even if the extent of his knowledge remains shrouded. "But I'm bringin' a shit tornado that'll harvest the whole shit orchard." It's easy to write off the confidence as arrogance, or bravado— one wouldn't even be entirely wrong; but it's likely profoundly unwise, if the dapper don's street cred is even halfway to accurate.

*

Its been a very long time since Kwabena has had a conversation like this. There's a language that most people simply don't understand. Kathman knows it, but he tries not to speak it because it's not his place. Those assholes in SHIELD don't know it, as far as he's concerned, with the exception, perhaps, of Romanoff. Kwabena could care less what ulterior motives Estacado has in all this. Probably plans to make a move in the shitfield he plans to bring about with what will remain of Dackleman's turf. That's not what the African is interested in, after all. His opinion on the bravado Jackie brings to the table?

"Dat will do."

Kwabena takes another drink of his coffee, then reaches up to tip his ball cap down low again. "Give it three days." He's got some other angles that need to be worked before the shitnado goes down, after all. "Let him sit pretty, believing he's pulled it off." If there's a chance that timing might make Dackleman a bit more reckless, then there ain't a damn thing wrong with that. "You'll know where to go," he advises Jackie. "Chahlie?"

Its entirely possible that Charlie's skin has grown more pale within the last few minutes. She's never witnessed something like this, after all, and in spite of the harrowing reality brought about by withdrawal, she's smart enough to know exactly what just went down. She looks up at Shift from the little hole her eyes have been digging in the cheap tabletop, andmeets his silver eyes with a look of terror.

"Time to go." Shift slides out from his seat, pulling the hoodie up and over his ball cap as he stands up. Charlie looks over at Jackie with an apologetic smile as she makes to excuse herself and follow behind. Before the duo can reach the door, however, Kwabena glances back at Jackie with an intently thoughtful look. Might be worth while to dangle one more carrot. "Keep your eyes south."

*

Jackie's initial response is a simple nod alongside a knowing, dangerous smile that lends a glimmer to his dark eyes that speaks of anything but good humor. In some ways, the unspoken exchanges are more meaningful than the cards actually laid down, both men dancing around frank truth while laying it out all too obviously in spite of the oblique details still concealed in hand. "Charlie." The farewell to the addled hooker is warm, genuinely reassuring— a single word somehow carrying a seductive charisma as reliant on eyes and soft smile as words that he seems to flip on like a switch; and in this case, right back off again.

While 'You'll know where to go' is certainly ominous, Jackie does lay down one final piece of his own motivations, perhaps more to draw forth curiousity than assuage it: a burner phone, cheap and unused, is slid across the table with a little spin, twisting about itself to come to a rest right at the corner as Shift rises. There's two numbers preprogrammed into memory: one labelled 'Talk' and one labelled 'Trouble'. Jackie just smiles that dangerous smile as the unspoken offer is made, and caps it with a nod to the tip, "Consider it done." There's something more to those words than common parlance would suggest, an in-joke that Estacado doesn't offer to explain, and one that almost makes him chuckle.

Far overhead, the night air is broken by the urgent flap of a dozen or more leathery, clawed wings, shadowy shapes spiralling higher into the starlit night; flying south. Estacado calmly finishes his milk, and diverts his meal to the hobo's table with a gesture and nod to the tireless mutant who prepared it, following the pair to the door some minutes later.


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