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Catch The Rabbit Started by: Billy_Mastrosimone on Sep 25, '19 13:51

New York 5:40 AM The Following Day

The coffee had been poured and the pancakes were just being served. The rest of the family was still asleep. Tara was up, Billy wouldn't have been sure she slept at all had he not held her himself and felt her breathing. Gavin and what happened to this family had taken a big enough toll. That's why he didn't tell her about Charlie, not yet.

"Alright Tara, we need to get in touch with ChristianBlack and Tsukina_Sakamoto. We will have to ask them to do us a favor and track down the other loose end that Charlie and Addie couldn't after what happened to Gavin."

Tara nodded and pulled open the Rolodex flipping through till she found the right card and then spun the phone around to dial the number.

"This is Tara Mastrosimone looking for Mister Black and Miss Sakamoto... Yes I will wait."

Billy reached out and snatched the phone from his daughter. He mouthed an "I'm sorry" to her as he saw the shock on her face.

"You're speaking with Billy now, and I will not fucking wait. Get Black on the phone right the fuck now. Make me wait and you will regret the final seconds of your life."

There was a whimper of an answer on the other end as he handed the phone back to his daughter.

"Oh? Yes, sorry about that Mister Black... Yes my father has asked me to reach out to you about a matter... I know it's very early... yes please come to the manor if you could... yes we will have breakfast waiting for you... see you then."

She yawned and then sipped her coffee, holding it more for the warmth of the morning, still wishing she were in bed, still wishing yesterday had never dawned.

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Christian had been seated at his desk, quietly staring out of the window and watching the night sky slowly transitioning as the sun rose in the east. It was early yet, but never to early (or late) for a Black... He rose from his seat and closed the books and files on his desk before making his way to the kitchen.

"Amelia..." he called out as he wandered the dark hallway toward the sounds of her squeezing fresh juice and baking the day's breads.

A startled chirp from the kitchen followed by a woman's voice made Christian chuckle. "Yes, sire?" the woman had called back.
 

"How are you this morning? Did you rest well?" he asked as he rounded the corner to meet the woman's gaze. She stood in her uniform, her long, strawberry-blonde hair pulled up into a bun and hidden beneath her bonnet as her hazel eyes stared at him. She nodded and quickly made him a glass of fresh juice. "Here you are sire, the bread is not quite ready yet... I'm so~"

**RIIIIIIING**

"I'll get that, sire... Don't worry!"

Christian smiled and turned to head back to his office as Amelia answered.

"Black residence, how may we help you today?"

She was always so willing and eager to help and care for the house and family. Christian was happy they'd found her and raised her. She was a wonderful asset.

"Ah, yes ma'am. He just headed back to his office... Please wait and I'll have him pick up."

As Tara started to say she'd wait and Amelia began to smile, Billy's voice cut through and ripped the band-aid right off. Amelia yelped and Christian spun around and looked at her, the look on her face in shock as tears welled in her eyes. He rushed over and took the phone, covering the end with his palm and looking at Amelia...

"Who is it?"

"T-T-Tara, an-and, Mi-mi-mister Mastrosimo-mo-mone," she huffed out. "He seemed so angry, said I'd regret making him wait..." Christian put an arm around her and placed his chin on her head as he nodded, understanding now. "It's okay... Nothing will happen to you. Do me a favor and go sit by the fire for a moment. Take some breaths, calm yourself, and don't worry."

As Amelia waked toward the den, Christian removed his palm from the receiver of the phone and answered.

"This is Christian, I'm certain there's a damn wonderful explanation that my hand-maiden is in tears..." His words were nearly as cross as Billy's had been. As much as Christian respected the man, and knew there was a reason for it, he never took kindly to threats toward his own. No matter -who- uttered them.

As Tara explained in no detail that he had been summoned, Christian knew it was bad whatever the reason... Nothing else explained Billy's frustratingly mad tone, or the early phone call. Finishing the call, he spoke softly. "We'll be there within the hour."

The phone clicked on it's hanger and Christian spun, heading to his office. Things needed to move quickly. It was roughly a forty minute ride into the city to the Mastrosimone Manor, and they needed to make it in record time.

"HIRAM! SALVATORE!" he yelled out to his brothers who lazily emerged from their corners of the house and peered into the office where Christian was slipping his coat over his shoulders. "Get Tsukina up. No time for make-up or being presentable. We move now and we're already late. Mastrosimone has summoned. It's urgent, and she needs to pack..." he looked at Hiram as he spoke and the man took off to rouse the woman.

"Salvatore, get the car..." Christian called as he checked both of his 1911s and racked them before sliding them into their shoulder holsters. "Get the Phantom, it's faster."

Taking a quick glance at the extra magazines and box of ammunition in his desk drawer, he yelled out before the door shut behind Salvatore.

"And tell SamStone to meet us at the Mastrosimone's as soon as he can..."

"AYE!" Salvatore called back as his hasty footfalls echoed down the vacant hallway. Christian took a deep breath and gave himself a once over in his mirror, his black on black suit tailored perfectly. With a nod, he exited the office and walked down the hallway. His dress shoes clicking with each step until he reached the front door and opened it.

"Amelia... Finish the bread and take care of yourself. Rest. It may be a long night..."

He looked to the woman in the den who smiled softly and nodded before he exited the front of the manor. Salvatore pulled the car around as the door closed, Hiram and Tsukina already inside. Climbing in himself, Christian sat and looked at his watch. Seven minutes. They could do better next time.

"Drive, Sal..."

The youngest brother put his foot to the ground and the car rocketed down the long drive, swiftly on their way to Billy Mastrosimone's.

 


 

The vehicle pulled slowly up the drive as Hiram fidgeted for a cigarette and a lighter before looking helplessly to his brother and Tsukina. Christian sighed and produced his own cigarette case, offering one to each of them and taking one for himself. Lighting it, he shook his head. "We don't know what Mr. Mastrosimone needs, yet, but be on your best behaviors." He eyed both of his brothers, and pointedly didn't bother addressing the concern to Tsukina. She wasn't a worry to him, knowing she could handle herself properly.

As the car stopped, Christian was the first one out, not waiting for Salvatore or Hiram to open his door. Long legs carried him quickly up the pathway to the door where he knocked hard then waited, puffing on his cigarette.

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Sam was seating on the side of his bed when the phone rang, he picked it up after the first couple of rings. Instantly he knew that the Black Family was calling. No one knew Sam's number except ChristianBlack and his family, they were also kind enough to set Sam up with his own apartment. The voice on the other end started talking even before Sam could say a word, by the tone of the voice he knew it was Salvatore, the younger member of the Black Family.

"Understood," Sam instantly replied.

Sam stood up and quickly got dressed. After making his routine pocket check making sure he did not leave anything behind, he locked the door upon exiting.

It was still very early in the morning and the sun was barely up but Sam still managed to find a taxi. After a short drive, Sam finds himself looking out to Mastrosimone manor through the taxi car window. He gave a quick pat on the driver's shoulder from behind signalling to stop directly in front of the front gate. 

Sam walks up to the front to find the gates open, fresh tyre tracks on the ground. He takes another look around and there were no guards. Sam made his way into the compound, walking at a faster than usual pace. Sam wasn't surprised to find the Black Family already at the front door together with Tsukina_Sakamoto. He gave a respectful nod to all of them and waited.

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Billy made his way to the front door himself and pulled back the curtain at the side window before opening the door for his guests.

"Come in folks. Sorry for the early morning and the terse phone call, yesterday was a bad one and I need some help."

He closed the door behind them and started toward the dining room. The house was still full of guards round every corner and they kept a close eye on the people going in and out. The only people who rivaled the guards in number were the children. Not only were Billy's here, minus his eldest, but he also had a nephew that very likely was his charge now, and Charlie and Addie's two children running through the house. It was a nightmare in trying to get things done and organized, but if made for laughter that was desperately needed.

Upon entering the dining room, the sight of the table filled with pancakes, french toast, sausages, bacon, eggs, toast, and various juices might make one's mouth water. Billy gestured toward the table.

"Please, have a seat, help yourselves. I have a feeling you three are about to have a very long day. You see, yesterday my son Gavin was mistaken for me, and he was shot because of it." He waved a dismissive hand before anyone could say anything. "He's fine, but thank you for the concern. The real issue is that his would-be-assassin is still out there. I have been able to get very little information about him. I do know two things. He's American, and he's working for a man named Mattaranzi. It would appear that he belongs to this Italian. He does not work as a hired gun, he is the man's American go-to. And Jethro Springer is his name."

He slid a folder with a photograph and a short description over to Christian.

"There's not much to go on, but it seems like he might have been involved in the death of my cousin's brother as well. That was back in Sicily. If there's anything I can do to help you, tell me, but I'm putting this in your hands gentlemen, and lady of course."

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Christian slid the folder further and spun it to face him, opening it for his brothers, Sam, and Tsukina to see what little info they had to work with.

"Jethro Springer..." he spoke quietly, closing his eyes as he committed the picture of the man to memory. Raising it, he passed it to Hiram who handed it to Sal, to Sam, to Tsukina, then finally back to himself. Leaning forward, he rested both elbows on the table and looked over the dossier.

 

 


Jethro Springer 

──────────────────────────────

Full Name: Leroy Jethro Springer

Aliases: Unknown

Location: Unknown

Associates:

  • Giancarlo Mattaranzi, Godfather of Venice
  • Unknown handler

Ex-Military, sharpshooter, to be considered armed and incredibly
dangerous. Approach with caution.

 

Christian looked up from the file before him, blinking. "If he works with Mattaranzi in some form or another, then one would have to ask themselves what they did to incur the wrath of Sicily on their household." He eyed Billy carefully, guarding his words to not set the man off on a tirade.

"So while I'm more than happy to spend resources on hunting this man down for what he's done to your family, I have to ask... Why are you and yours a target for Mattaranzi? Is there something we should know? What connection do you have to Mattaranzi?" He paused, reflecting on the comment about Billy's cousin's brother... "What has caused your family to be marked?"

Christian returned his gaze to the picture and the less-than-helpful dossier on Jethro Springer... "We can help. We can find this Springer. I will focus on this and let you worry about the rest... Until you ask for our help."

He looked up again. "Where was your boy shot? We'll start there and see about anyone who might have noticed your shooter." He tapped his chin. "Speaking of, how were you able to identify Mr. Springer? Any witnesses might be of use to our finding him."

He looked at Sam and Tsukina, wondering if they had any input. "What about you two, you're awfully quiet. Thoughts? Opinions?"

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Sam taps his fingers on the table as he listens to the words being exchanged between Billy and Christian. The information that Billy provided was helpful but it would've been better if they had more information in their hands. Sam looked over when Christian asked him for an opinion. Sam gave a long thought before giving his input on the situation.

"It might be useful if we knew where the shooting took place, then we could probably track down witnesses."

Sam turns his head towards Billy and straightens himself in his seat before continuing.

"If it's not too much to ask, where is your son now Mr.Mastrosimone? Maybe we could ask him a few questions, see if we could get any leads."

Sam knew it was a stressful time for Billy and barraging the man with questions certainly does not help with Billy's emotions but to best help Billy and his family, they need as much information they could get.

"I understand it's a difficult time for you Mr.Mastrosimone but any additional information we could get would certainly be helpful."

Sam turns his attention back to Christian again and suggested another idea.

"If we knew where the shooting took place, maybe we can make a quick stop at the police station later and see if they picked up anything. Reports or witnesses."

Sam paused for a while and lets his ideas sink in.

"What do you think?"

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Billy nodded and looked to the three.

"Battery park, that's where to start, as far as where Gavin is now, he's resting. He needs it too, so no, no questions to him right now."

Then he sighed.

"As far why Mattaranzi seems pissed. I'll give you the long version another time, the short version is, his only daughter ran away to be with a man who was working for me in Las Vegas. When the city got attacked, they didn't make it out, but my wife and I did. He's had a grudge against us ever since. Now you would think that killing my father-in-law would have been enough, blood for blood, family for family. No. He took my cousin's brother too, a newly married olive farmer in Sicily. Still not enough mind you, he also killed my brothers-in-law two of them, and his wife. Now he's tried to kill my son. I've had enough."

He picked up his fork and jabbed it into a sausage and began cutting.

"So, any other questions? Because to be quite frank, I have a Godfather to kill."

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"Battery park, there's where we'll start then." When spoken to about Gavin, Sam replied in a more compassionate tone, "Understood Mr.Mastrosimone, the boy needs all the rest he can get."

Sam listens intently as to why Billy's family is being targeted and the blood feud between the two families have lasted long enough and has claimed innocent lives. Sam shakes his head slightly after he learns a bit about the losses of the Mastrosimone family.

Turning his head towards Christian, Sam tries to read Christian's facial expression which didn't reveal much. He leans towards Christian and asked softly.

"Anything you want to add boss? We can either go together to the park or split up and search from multiple angles, what do you think?"

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Christian held up his hand after Billy had finished talking. Sam said it for all of them, Battery Park was where they would start. His face, as expected of him, was devoid of emotion. He stood from the table and offered Billy his hand.

"Mr. Mastrosimone. Every bit of my resources are at your disposal. I promise you, we will find your boy's shooter. Just one last question, even if I feel I know the answer... Dead, or alive?"

And there it was, a bit of a smirk on the ever-confident features of Christian Black; eerily copied by his two brothers that flanked him, even if they couldn't see his face.

"However you want the man delivered, I give you -MY- Black Label guarantee that it will be done..." Christian nodded as he and Billy shook on the deal. "And afterward, whatever you need is yours. Until this matter is put to bed we will not sleep. In fact, I'd like to leave Salvatore here with you if at all possible. He's particularly handy in situations where emotions are at an all time high. Consider him like a drug of choice for whatever mood you possess..." Christian looked at his brother. "He can keep melancholy and despair from touching this household while we hunt. However, he may increase and intensify boldness."

Looking back to Billy, he offered the man a nod. "We'll get to business, Mr. Mastrosimone."

Christian looked at Hiram, Tsuki, and Sam before turning to the door. The three of them followed him as Sal plopped down in a chair to stay with Billy.

"Don't worry, Mr. Mastrosimone," the youngest of the three brothers started. "I'm sure Hiram and Christian can find Springer alone... Having Mr. Stone and Miss Sakamoto with them?" He chuckled and tucked a long, black, wavy strand of hair behind his ear and flashed his icy, "Black family blue" eyes at their city's leader. "That will only speed up the process."


New York 7:33 AM Same Day: Outside the Mastrosimone Manor

 

Christian headed straight for the car but stopped. "Gather around, we need a game plan. Tsukina, I want you to speak with any of the young men in the area, perhaps some of the women too. See if they've seen Mr. Springer here. Sam? I want you to investigate the scene where Gavin was shot... See if we can't easily pinpoint what direction the shot came from. If so, go and see if we can find and clues about our shooter's mindset. Remember, he's ex-military so he'll likely clean up after himself so we need to be thorough. Hiram, you've seen more of this life than me, and you've become one of the most efficient trackers I've ever known. I need your expertise with Sam. I'll wander through the park and speak with anyone willing to talk about the shooting. See what I can't learn. Are we all agreed?"

Hiram nodded, "Aye. I'll drive." Christian nodded back to him then turned to Tsukina_Sakamoto and SamStone to see what they thought.

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Sam nodded to every word Christian said. Christian was right, this guy was ex-military so they need to be thorough and extra careful. Sam was more worried about what to do when they finally find the guy, probably not a good idea to face him head on. 

Bringing his head back to the task at hand he looked to Christian, "Agreed, we should cover the whole area and make sure we don't miss anything." Sam opened the car door for Christian and Tsukina and gestured for them to get in, "shall we?"

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The four of them reach Battery Park and it was still early hours of the morning. The sun was rising and there was just enough light for them to start their investigation and as planned, they went in opposite directions and Sam headed straight to the middle of the park followed closely by Hiram, his gut feeling telling him that Gavin must've been shot where there is a clear line of sight, probably somewhere open. Sam's eyes fixed to the ground as he walks, his head swinging left and right looking for a clue for where the shooting might've took place. Their steps trailed off towards the edges of the park nearby the waterfront.

"Look for blood stains Hiram, if the Mastrosimone kid took a full bullet then he must've lost a lot of blood and there must be evidence somewhere."

Hiram scoffed, Sam could imagine the smug on Hiram's face even though Hiram was behind him.

"Way ahead of you kiddo," Hiram replied.

"Sam!" Hiram called out shortly after. Sam turns and see Hiram pointing towards the ground and running towards it. Sam made his way over to Hiram and as Sam was within earshot, Hiram looks to Sam and uttered softly, 

"Look," with his finger pointed to the ground. Sam bends forward to examine what Hiram found and it was exactly what they were looking for, dried blood stain, clear and obvious on the grey colored pavement just beside the waterfront.

"Good eyes brother."

Sam stood up straight again and looks around, trying to guess from where the shot came from. Sam looks behind him and there was more evidence of blood on the floor.

"Hiram, you see that? There is a trail. Follow the trail and we will find where exactly Gavin was shot."

"Aye," Hiram replied with a nod. Hiram starts to follow the trail but stops halfway, he looks behind and Sam was standing in the same spot they were before.

Hiram called out to Sam, "What are you waiting for kid?"

Sam's eyes fixed to the treeline opposite the waterfront, he hurried over towards the treeline and shouted over his shoulder, "you go ahead Hiram, we'll meet back later."

Sam had a strong feeling that the shot must've come from the treeline, it was the perfect place to take a shot and didn't get notice. Sam examined around every tree looking for anything that might give him clues on finding the shooter. Sam knew Springer was smart, he must've cleaned the area after he took the shot and any chances of finding evidence was slim but Sam was determined. 

He looked behind every tree there was, inspected the grass around him and also looked above to make sure he did not miss anything. Sam prayed hard to find something connected to the shooter.

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Sam's hope of finding anything was starting to fade, he felt like he had looked everywhere that he needed to and still could not find anything. He tucked his hands into his coat pocket and lets out an exhausted sigh. He hopes that Hiram is having more luck than him. He looks around and starts to locate Hiram when his eyes caught an isolated bench nearby, he was reluctant to check but walks towards it anyway.

He stands beside the bench and his eyes starts to search for clues. A couple of cigarette butts were on the floor, could be anyone he thought to himself. Further inspection on the bench and he found an open flask, must have belonged to the same cigarette butt person. As he picks up the open flask Sam could already smell the stench of alcohol escaping from it. He twist and turns the flask in his hand and puts it back where he found it. Nothing odd, he thought. 

He moved to the other side of the bench, his eyes still fixed on the wooden structure as he moved towards the other side. "More cigarette butts," he said to himself. Something else also he saw that intrigued him, business cards, one read, Pink Lady Strip club and there was another one that read, Black Squirrel Bar

Sam cocked his head to the side as he saw movement a few feet away, it was Hiram, he found where Gavin was shot. Hiram was waving for Sam to come over towards him. Sam looked down to the bench again and back to Hiram, he was judging distance, line of sight, probability in his head at the same time. Tucking away the cards in his pockets, he quickly made his way towards Hiram.

"What did you find brother?" 

Sam looks to where Hiram was pointing and there was clear evidence that someone was shot at the spot they were standing.

"We must find Christian and Tsukina and tell them what we found." The two looked at each other again and nodded in agreement.

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Kina wandered quietly through the park at a near leisurely pace. The kind of careful, time-taking meander that Hiram would have found vexingly vulnerable. Thankfully, he was preoccupied enough in his tracking that - for once - he'd left her to her own devices. So as it stood, she was able to comb the park in her own way. Slowly she made her way through the twisting walks, her gaze trailing over the many faces that met her gaze. Two young mothers out with strollers, a patrolman keeping a close eye, and a skittish groundskeeper. She smiled at all of them, keenly gauging their reactivity, stature, and mood... carefully evaluating the likelihood of any credible witnesses. 

As expected, the possibilities seemed few and far between. No average witness would return to the scene of a shooting so soon after. The women both seemed blissfully ignorant... giddily chatting away with their infants in tow, not a care in the world. Unlikely. The groundskeeper looked so shaken that he might climb a tree from a simple hello. Maybe. But he began to shake his head the minute Kina met his gaze. Going about his trash pick up a little faster as she approached, he continued to shake. Without her even asking, he began to prattle nervously, continuing to move away from her as he worked, "Look, miss. I don't know nothing. I didn't see nothing. . I'll tell you what I told the police. I didn't hear the shot. No one did. And I didn't see it. They said the kid just went down. No warning. And he was moved outta here before the badges ever showed. S'all I know. Please. I'm just trying to make an honest living for my family. Please." 

The poor bloke looked ready to shit himself. He was pale, diaphoretic, and visibly shaking. No one was good enough to fake those physiological symptoms of terror. He was telling the truth. Doing her best to calm him, she smiled as reassuringly as possible, holding out her hands to calm the man as she slowly moved passed him. "Thank you," she said softly, nodding calmly before turning her back and moving on, knowing she'd get nothing useful out of him. 

The officer, obviously, would be a dead-end... if he were any good at his job. And his stern expression as she approached confirmed that suspicion. If he even knew anything given his low rank, she'd get nothing out of him. Sighing heavily she continued on, silently lamenting the overt absence of life in the normally bustling park. Keeping with her attentive pace, she wandered alone for what felt like ages... fighting the driving pressure to make a valuable contribution by actually discovering something. And yet, on the path they'd provided her, there seemed to be simply nothing. So, she forced herself to stay slow, deliberate, conscientious... waiting for anything that might give rise to a clue. 

Little did she know... 

As she rounded the corner to the street side of the green, a familiar sing-song rhyme met her ears from across the street. Little boys... street rats no older than ten... taunted her with all the brazen vulgarity of grown men. "Chinese, Japanese, bet the bitch has dirty knees," their song rang out over the soft grass, snapping Kina from her concentrated scrutiny with an obscene jolt. Under the harsh fury of her indignant glare, one of the older boys stepped forward and called out impetuously, "My daddy says yellow slits run sideways. That true?" Spurred on by the other boy's uproarious laughter he continued, "Why don't ya life yer skirt, Dirty Knees, and let us see?" 

Kina, much to their surprise and terror, did lift her skirt... just enough to draw the Colt ACP she kept tucked underneath. Several of the boys scattered, nearly wetting themselves. The bravest ones, though... the spokesmen who thought themselves manly enough to cat-call a grown woman - froze on the spot, too afraid to speak, to move, or even blink. Crouching to his level, Kina ran the cold barrel of her gun along the boy's cheekbone, and chuckled softly as he whimpered. "You should be very careful who you talk to like that. Some people don't take kindly to it." She let the boys floundered under her stern gaze for a few moments, before chuckling softly and holstering her gun. In it's place, she fished a fistfull of bills from her purse and held them up. 

"Now, luckily for you, I'm not easily offended. And I know just how valuable little boys like you can be. So... what do you say we start over and make friends, hm?" The children gawked at the cash, both boys nodding furiously as they gulped. "Yes ma'am," replied the oldest, elbowing his younger colleague who mumbled a barely audible agreement. "Good," Kina cooed, pulling out one bill apiece, "I want you to tell me everything you know about what happened here yesterday. Especially the people. And if you do a very good job, then I may have more jobs for your keen little eyes in the future." 

Snatching the money from her the older boy shoved one bill in his pocket and handed the other to his companion, "The Mastrosimone boy were gunned down, miss. Saw it with my own eyes I did. Strangest thing. No noise a'tall. Just fell to the ground he did." The younger of the two clutched himself, pantomiming the collapse as the older continued. "Never seen people run so fast in my life. All ways. Billy's boy was rushed off right quick before any of the police showed up. EVERYTHING happened in a rush. Everything but the new groundsman," the boy nodded emphatically, "He was an odd kinda calm. Gave me the willies he did. Not like that jumpy old man that's usually around." Slowing, he tapped his chin for a moment. "Car sped off a little while after. That direction, I think. But I didn't see it. I only heard it... after me and the boys ran away from the new guy. He struck the spit outta Timmy. Cruel eyes he had. We didn't hang around." 

Blinking fearfully up at Kina the boy chewed his lip, "Did we help?" 

Kina smiled, handing them each a few bills apiece. "Yes. Very much. Come by the Black manor in a few days, after things blow over and I'll guarantee a hot meal, a warm bath, and another job for each of you. But no more nasty talk in the streets. I'll not have bigots or chauvinists representing my organization. Capice?" Both boys nodded vehemently before scampering off to the sound of Kina's approving laughter. Smoothing her skirt, she straightened and headed back to find the rest of "her boys". It wasn't much... but it was something. And more than they'd had to start with. It was time to reconvene and plan their next move. 

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Christian wandered through the park, hands clasped behind his back as he walked. He watched people's reactions to his presence. To Hiram and Sam's presence. Even to Tsukina's presence. Most people avoided him... That was both good and bad. No body liked being friends with a connected family when things were popping off. Any other day, everyone would have been greeting him. Good reason? It meant he could focus on the task at hand... Bad? No witnesses would come forward.

Hiram was waving to Sam, they'd found something. Nodding to himself, he began to walk over towards Tsukina as she spoke with the groundskeeper. She shook her head as they made eye contact and he nodded, breaking off from his course and continuing his seemingly lackadaisical saunter around the park.

That's when he overheard the banter of children, and sing-song name calling, "Chinese, Japanese, bet the bitch has dirty knees!" It wasn't often that Christian's anger actually took hold of him, but Kina belonged to him... Well, belonged to his family at least... His steps carried him around the brush to confront the young hecklers, but Tsukina was already lifting her skirt and revealing her perfectly placed pistol. As some of the boys tucked tail and ran, Christian snatched one of the elder runners by their collar and ducked back behind the foliage.

"Hello, boy..." he whispered softly, his arm already comfortably wrapped around the boy's neck and pressing his back into Christian's chest. "Do you think it's acceptable to call a young woman names?" He shook his head as he struggled. "Good. Let's see how your friends handle their situation. We'll play a game... Since you like following them and encouraging their mouths, why don't we let their mouths dictate how you go home, hmm?" He covered the boy's mouth with his hand so he couldn't scream.

"If they give my friend something we can work with, then you go home free of harm..."  Christian slid a blade from under his jacket and held it up in front of the boy's face. "But if they don't give us something, then I start carving your soul out of your body as atonement for your part in their dirty talk..."

Christian covered the boy's mouth tighter as he started screaming and struggling, the cold steel pressed flat against the boy's cheek. "Sit still, or I'll start now..." he whispered harshly. The boy calmed with a whimper, and the two listened as the other boys talked to Tsukina. "Ah, she's much kinder than I am... Look at that, they've called her names and instead are turning a dime... Leaving you alone to answer for their sins..." Christian practically growled into the boy's ear, taking note of a bruise on his cheek.

"Did we help?"

"Yes. Very much. Come by the Black manor in a few days, after things blow over and I'll guarantee a hot meal, a warm bath, and another job for each of you. But no more nasty talk in the streets. I'll not have bigots or chauvinists representing my organization. Capice?" Tsukina finished as she sent the boys on their way and turned to find the rest of the group. She knew Christian had to have been around, she'd seen him prior to the children.

The boy in Christian's hands froze entirely, aside from his head as it tilted back to look into Christian's icy-blue gaze. At that point he realized just how badly his friends had messed up. The frightening situation of being in the grasp of one of the Blacks... And that woman worked for them? No, she'd said her organization? Maybe they worked for her? That made her seem even more frightening. Christian felt the boy gulp and chuckled softly. "Scream, and I'll cut out your tongue, do we have an understanding?" The boy nodded and Christian removed his hand. "Do you have anything to add to the story the other boys told, Timmy?"

Slowly the boy nodded. "Ye-yeah..." He looked down at the ground as Christian slowly released his grip, putting the knife away. "Well?" he asked. Timmy looked around and then looked up at Christian as he stood tall over the boy. "I-I saw the truck... It were a green chevy with tha stake bed on it..." The boy looked off in the direction he'd seen it. "An' he went that way." The boy pointed off back toward the town. Christian nodded and placed a hand on Timmy's head. "So, are we going to call nice ladies names any more? Or let our friends do it because we think it's fun?"

Timmy shook his head, "No sir! I aint mean none of it, sir." Christian smirked and shook his head. "Don't apologize to me child. Come by the Black manor with your friends. You can apologize to Madam Sakamoto yourself. Besides. I could use a good set of eyes out here. Help your friends, and report back to me or any of my family, and you'll be compensated for your diligence. Hot meals, hot baths, you heard her guarantee. It's extended to you."

Timmy smiled and nodded, "Thank you, sir. May I-... May I go and catch up to my friends?"

"Go on, get out of my sight." Christian waved his hand and headed off to find Tsukina, Sam, and Hiram... He knew Tsukina had info, and now he had a color and model of vehicle... Hopefully Hiram and Sam could bring some information...


 

Hiram looked at SamStone and nodded. "Aye, we need to find them. We know he was dropped here." Looking around, he took note that the hot dog stand was vacant and made his way over. "Ralph!" he called out and the large man behind the wiener cart spun around. "HIRAM!" he called out. "Oh am I glad to see you! Business has been so slow what with that Mastrosimone kid gettin' shot! You heard about that right? AHHHHH Who am I kiddin', you Blacks know everything before it hits the pavement!" The robust Ralph laughed, his whole gut shaking as he did so... "What'll it be, three Jersey Slammers? Or you want the Cub Dog today?"

Hiram chuckled as he could see Sam's wheels turning... Jersey Slammer? Cub Dog? Were these code words for drugs?!

"Two Jersey's, add a turnpike on one, and two Cub's, Ralph... You like onions?" he turned to Sam then looked back at Ralph without waiting for an answer, "Fuck it, you do today. Make both Jersey's with a turnpike!"

Ralph nodded and got to work. Two hot dogs in regular buns with mustard, ketchup, relish, and swirled onions, and two in a poppy seed bun with mustard, mayonnaise, chopped onions, a sliver of a dill pickle, and topped with a sweet and spicy sauce. Hiram offered Ralph money and waved his hand when asked about change.

"So, what do you know about it, Ralph? The shooting I mean."

Ralph paused and looked at Hiram, then to Sam... "You're hear because of it, ain't ya? Yeah, course ya are... Why wouldn't ya be?" He shook his head. "Kid took it hard... Straight in the gut. Kid can't be much older than my own. The way he got hit and spun? Man Hiram, I tell ya, it really looks like he got shot from over there..."

Ralph turned and pointed at the tree line, and toward the bench, that Sam had been at previously...

"Didn't even hear a shot though. Just blood, and screaming. Kid was headed this way, you know how I can pick'em, Hiram. I can sense when they're hungry and need a hot dog. He was coming for food, so's I was watchin' him. And just, outta no where..." Ralph fell back onto his stool and sighed. "Kid spins and drops. Was bad, but he was moved quick. I guess there were some of Mastrosimone's men? Oh God, Hiram, They were Mastrosimone's, right? Kid ain't missin'?!"

Hiram held up his hand. "Can't really say one way or another, Ralph. All I can say is you've been a big help." Ralph nodded. "Yeah. I know how it goes... Well. Lemme know if I can help ya, Hiram. Ya always done right by me. Always. Maybe we can get together for another poker game when things settle down." The two nodded and Hiram handed one of each of the hot dogs to SamStone with a smirk. "Trust me, they'll change your life."

They both heard Ralph chuckle at Hiram's comment as they headed off to find the other two.

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"Yes sir... Of course... I will head there now."

Jethro hung up the phone and continued to polish his shoes. There was no reason to rush, either Jim was at the docks, or he wasn't. What was important was not looking out of place, and if he was going to the docks that meant something a little more rugged. He finished his work, placed his shoes in their box and then slid the box under the hotel bed. When he opened the closet door he slipped out a white t-shirt with a couple of stains on it, a newsboy's cap, a pair of slacks that were torn at the cuffs and were just a little too long and a little too big on him, and a pai of suspenders.

Piece by piece he removed his current attire, and slipped into his new skin. His eyes met himself in the mirror and he reached up, tussling his own hair before donning the cap. He looked to the bedside and left the keys. He leaned down and slipped the large steamer trunk at the foot of the bed open. After taking out two top trays he removed a snub nosed revolver and stuck it into his pants pocket.

It seemed like it was time to take a walk, the truck would be too much status for a dock worker. So he nodded and locked the door on his way out. Jim had better not have tried to run. Jethro didn't want to go hunting today.

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Sam's mind was all over the place as Hiram was beside him talking to the hotdog vendor who happened to be a friend of Hiram. Sam looked back towards the bench and the scene where Gavin was shot. Something struck his mind over and over again, it was an easy shot from a short distance, someone as skilled as Springer would surely have no problem with taking the shot. Ex-military, trained, perfect place and time, that Mastrosimone kid should be thankful he's still alive. As far as Sam knew, it's always about one shot, one kill for these military guys. 

Sam's attention got dragged back to Hiram as he heard something he never heard before, "Jersey slammer? Cub dog?" Sam just threw a puzzled look to Hiram and just pretended that he knew what Hiram was talking about. Hiram was talking so fast that Sam didn't even have time to answer him about the onions.

Sam listened intently when Ralph began to reply to Hiram about the shooting. "Straight in the gut," the answer that Ralph gave raised more questions in Sam's head. Sam looked to the floor in deep thought.

Springer was ex-military why didn't he go for the heart or the head? Sam remembered the flask he found, was Springer drunk when he took the shot? Most importantly why was he drinking if he wanted to kill the kid? Was it only by chance that he saw the kid? and why didn't he finish the job there and then? did something spook him and made him flee the scene instantly?

Sam shook his head and took a deep breath. He tried to not overload his head with too many questions. He knew that he could overthink situations sometimes but that's just the way how his mind works, always more questions than answers.

Before Sam could look back up to Hiram and Ralph, Hiram had already placed a hotdog in each of Sam's hand. Sam looked to Ralph and thanked the man for the hotdogs and followed Hiram as Hiram started to walk off.

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Kina seemed a bit ruddier than usual as she sauntered up to meet Sam and Hiram... not quite shaken, but definitely flustered. One look and Hiram's eyes flashed with an I'll-kill-him kind of anger, which only subsided when Kina began to laugh... at him. She was actually laughing at him. Shaking her head she eyed the dogs with a twinkle. "Ooo Jersey Turnpike," she chipped, snatching the dog from Hiram's lips and tearing into it with vigour. In all the raucous she'd skipped breakfast, despite Billy's meticulous preparations. And suddenly she was famished

... not famished enough to chew through the absolute MOUND of onions, though. Immediately she regretted her decision. Wrinkling her nose she handed the dog back to Hiram. "Too much pike," she mumbled through a full mouth, her expression turning sour as she forced herself to swallow the bite... whole. 

"Ralph, tell me you got the stuff for a Bangkok," Kina beamed hopefully, her hopes dashed as the vendor shook his head forlornly. "You're the only one who ever asks for 'em, Suki. The stuff goes bad before I can sell it," he explained as Kina hung her head. "Alright. How's about a sauced Cinncinati? Hold the cheese. .... and a Chicago. Just for old time's sake?" Kina perked as Ralph silently confirmed he in fact 'had the stuff' for that order, setting to work on her food without hesitation. 

Rubbing her palms together, Kina bounced excitedly on the spot as she waited for her food, her keen eyes scanning the horizon for any sign of Christian. He was just here. Where could he possibly have gone? She wasn't worried... yet. But as soon as the culinary distractions were set aside, she might be. First up was the Chicago. Regular dog, no surprise there. And Kina devoured it ravenously as Ralph prepared her second. It was gone in an almost impressive amount of time. Leaving Kina patiently waiting for the Cinncinati Coney. Giggling softly, she watched the men's expression as Ralph first produced labelled shakers of cinnamon, chilli, and cocoa, and then a bottle of chocolate syrup. 

What. The. Fuck? 

Eyeing the hot dog like a man watching porn, Kina chewed her bottom lip as Ralph dusted it with spice and drizzled it with chocolate. Her expression and audible moans of satisfaction sounding veritably carnal as she dug into the spicy, meaty, chocolately nightmare. There was something seriously, perfectly wrong with this woman. 

In the midst of her food-gasm, she nearly choked as Christian laughingly sauntered up from behind her. Going noticeably silent, she held up the dog with a bashful grin, "Hot dog?" She knew it was silly. They needed to compare notes and fashion a game plan. But none of that could safely be done right here. So best to take advantage of the surroundings while they were able... right? 

At least, that's what she hoped as she watched the other three to take her cues. 

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Sam backtracked to the hotdog stand once they found Tsukina_Sakamoto. Sam silently laughed when he saw Mdm.Kina momentarily stole Hiram's hotdog before giving it back to him. They followed her back to the hotdog stand and not surprising that Ralph knew Mdm.Kina as well.

Sam took a bite from his meal as Mdm.Kina placed an order for her own hotdog and again, Sam have never heard the stuff being ordered here before in his life. Intrigued by the name of the hotdog that Mdm Kina ordered, Sam took a step closer to observe as he took another bite from his hotdog.

The first was normal and no surprises there and as Mdm.Kina was vigorously chewing down her first hotdog, Ralph started work on the second. Sam's eyes widened as Ralph pulled out different ingredients from his cart and even grew wider when he saw Ralph pull out some cocoa powder and a bottle of chocolate syrup. As Sam grew in confusion, he turned and saw Mdm.Kina beaming with excitement as the second hotdog is being prepared. Sam then realized that the first hotdog was already gone by the time Ralph was preparing the second one.

Ralph expertly laid all the ingredients together and delivered Mdm Kina's request and handed it to her. Sam just shot an awkward smile as Mdm.Kina took a bite into her chocolate dripping hotdog, moaning as she munched through the hotdog in a quick pace. Sam's amazement at Mdm.Kina's hotdog was cut short when ChristianBlack appeared out of nowhere, laughing as he made his way over to the three of them.

Sam's reaction was an awkward smile as Mdm.Kina held up her hotdog to Mr.Black. 

"Good everyone is here," Sam uttered. "Shall we share what we found? maybe somewhere more private perhaps?" Sam looked over to Christian for his approval.

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Christian shook his head at Tsukina's offer of a hot dog, the monstrosity in her hand almost literally making his stomach twist. Turning to the other two, he nodded to Sam's question. "Yes, we should convene at the car."

 

As the group gathered, information was shared about freely. The green truck, possible smoker, places he might frequent while in town (The Pink Lady Exotic Club, The Black Squirrel Bar), the direction he'd headed in... No eye witnesses, aside from Tsukina's kids that saw he strange, new, custodial man. With confirmation based off of the picture the group had of Springer, they now knew he liked to blend in to his surroundings and make himself invisible. Or at the very least, not raise immediate suspicion.

"Let's see if we can't spot that truck. First stop, the Pink Lady and the Black Squirrel Bar. Tsukina, you talk to the girls. See if they know anything about our man. Hiram, you go with her. Sam and I will head to the bar. The two are about a block, no more than three down the street from each other... At least we know an area he -might- be located... If those are in fact his business cards."

Christian sighed and rubbed his temple. "He's good. But we're better, right?" He opened to door to the vehicle and pointed at Sam. "You drive us..."


New York 11:28 AM Downtown Manhattan - Same Day

 

The car slowed to a halt on the curb as Sam pulled up next to The Pink Lady.

"Tsukina, Hiram, this is your stop. Take a picture, see if the girls want to talk about him. Watch their expressions. See if maybe someone -doesn't- want to talk about him either. Be kind, don't, I don't care. Just get information."

Hiram nodded and opened the door, leading Tsukina out and toward the exotic club; which, of course, wouldn't be open for a few hours still.

As the door to the car shut, Christian tapped Sam's shoulder. "Take us to the bar."

The two arrived and headed inside, Christian happy to be in the room away from the beating noon(ish)-day Sun. His typical black on black, three piece suit was proving quite irksome this day, and the annoyance was visible on his face.

"Martini, extra-dry, extra-dirty..." he called to the bartender who nodded and pointed to Sam, getting his order and starting the drinks. Christian slid his jacket off, and the bartender noticed the twin 1911s hanging in their harnesses.

"Hey bud, we don't want no trouble here, yeah?" He pointed at Christian who looked over to him. Two goons walked out from the back room to make their presence known, keeping an eye on Sam and Christian. They talked quietly betwixt themselves, occasionally glimpsing over.

"Nor do we," Christian called back to him as he slid on to his chosen bar stool.

"Just here for a drink, and maybe some idle conversation."

The bartender nodded and continued making the drinks before bringing them over, complete with a small cup of salted nuts if they wished.

Christian took his martini and swirled the toothpick before plucking one of the three olives from it, chewing happily. "Now that's a good martini sir..."

Noticing the picture of Jethro, the barkeep nodded to it as he grabbed a dirty glass and wiped it down. "So what brings ya into The Black Squirrel, hmm?"

"A drink. Time to think and reflect." He slid the picture over. "Lookin' for this fella."

"What's it to ya, hmm?" The barkeep took the picture and looked it over.

"Might have some work for him if he's as good as they say..."

The bartender scoffed and tossed the picture back onto the counter. "Well if ya hire'em, tell him ta come pay his fuckin' tab. He ain't welcome here anymore. Boys threw him out just last night after he couldn't pay because he was still waiting for funds from his last job."

"Oh? So you're not a fan? Good to know... Any idea where he might be staying while he's waiting for his pay? Can't be a great spot if he's not able to pay a bar tab..."

The bartender shrugged and pointed at the guys in the corner. "They might know more."

He walked off and went back to cleaning the rest of his glasses and wiping down the counter. Christian turned to SamStone and then eyed the goons. "What do you think?"

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Sam followed ChristianBlack into the bar, following closely behind. The wooden floors creaked as they made their way into the establishment. Sam scanned his surroundings, no patrons at the bar at this hour. The only person he could see was the bartender.

"Whiskey, on the rocks," Sam uttered to the bartender while standing close to Christian's bar stool.

Sam continued to observe his surroundings while Christian talks to the bartender, his eyes never stopped surveying the area, hoping to find any clues about Jethro. His gaze stopped on two men who appeared from the back, Sam leaned his head to the side and paid close attention to the two men. He didn't want any trouble but if things went south, Sam was ready.

As the bartender pointed to the two men at the back, Sam placed a hand on Christian's shoulder and started walking towards them. Carefully calculating his steps, trying to guess on his way over whether the two were armed, looking around for nearby items that can be used as a weapon. He analyzed his surroundings and targets with detail even before he started to step towards them.

Sam straightened his shirt as as he walks over, eyeing the two men as he approached their table. The smaller, younger goon looked more shaky compared to the older one, so Sam decided to go straight for the smaller one as he pulled a chair and sat with the two gentleman, his body shifted a bit to face the younger one.

"Jethro Springer," Sam said in a soft but firm tone and quickly the larger goon interrupted, "you better not say a good damn word Timmy," the larger goon raised his voice. Timmy looked to his friend and back to Sam who was unshaken in his seat. "We don't need to get ourselves involved with these kind of people. We have enough problems as it is," the larger goon growled at Timmy. 

"We don't want any trouble mister," Timmy said in a soft voice looking towards Sam. "Jethro been coming in here for a few weeks now and acts like he owns the place. He can be hard to handle at times when he gets drunk." Timmy looks to the floor, not happy with himself that he is telling all this but Sam figured that these two had almost enough of Jethro and this was Sam's opportunity to find out where Jethro is hiding.

"Motherfu....," the larger goon started to curse in his seat with his head in his hand and rubbing his temple as Timmy started to open up to Sam. Timmy took a glance towards the larger goon before Sam pulled Timmy back to focus towards him, "continue now Timmy," Sam said as he leaned in towards Timmy.

"Me and Uncle Danny here," Timmy said with a head gesture towards the larger goon, "we try to keep things calm around here but it's nearly impossible when Jethro is around." Timmy looked to Sam while fidgeting in his chair and continued, "you know what I mean?" 

Sam simply nodded and judging by the fresh bruise under Timmy's left eye, Sam guessed that Jethro had caused trouble lately. Sam leaned back in his chair and looked to the two men. "Any chance you can lead me to where Jethro is right now?" Timmy hesitated but the larger goon, Uncle Danny, revealed in a disappointing tone with a sigh, "Paradise Inn Motel, just down the road." Just as he said it, Uncle Danny slumped into his chair knowing that all hell is going to break loose. 

"This is about the Mastrosimone kid ain't it?" Sam turns towards Uncle Danny and cracked a small grin on the side of his lips without saying a word. Sam stood up and thanked the gentleman for their time, "here's a few hundred dollars for your troubles and I'm sure it's enough to cover Jethro's tab because I have a feeling he won't be coming over anymore." Sam pulled out a few hundred dollar bills and left it on the table. He straightened his jacket and turned back heading towards Christian. "I got a lead," Sam said upon returning to his drink and downed it in one swing. 

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