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Katte Amongst The Pigeons Started by: JackMezzo on Feb 25, '21 09:27

It had become apparent to Jack over the years, that when he was expecting interruption, be it company, a phone call or delivery, his attention would wane. He would continue to complete his work, just at a subdued pace. A brow would twitch upward, toward the door. His head would tilt to better listen for the ring of the telephone. Every sound from the street outside would suggest the arrival of whatever it was being procured for the operation. He found it distracting, though also found benefit from this state of constant awareness. It made his reactions sharp and kept his mind alert. 

So, when Runa's approach was announced by the old tavern's creaking floorboards, he was already on his feet. As she raised her hand to knock, he had already crossed the room. And when he hand fell, the door opened swiftly.

"Runa, it's good to see you. It seems this old place can betray even your deftly steps," he moved away from the opening and back into the office, choosing to take a seat on one of the plush armchairs away from the desk, "come, come. Sit."

He made the occasion as informal as possible. His desire to develop their relationship on a personal level possibly bled through the consistently professional interactions they had exchanged with each other in the past, he was wary to maintain a stoic from with her. For both their sakes. Mezzo wasted no time in reaching his point. Comfortably sat in his arm chair, his collar popped and jacket button unfastened, he delivered the question without letting his gaze break from hers.

"So, Ms. Katte, do you think you could murder someone?"

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Runa lowered her hand from the door, promising next time to sneak up on Jack just to prove that she could. On second thought, it was probably better to avoid surprising a man like Jack. As he moved to one of the armchairs, Runa moved silently to the one the facing it. With almost anyone else, she'd have filled that silence immediately with chatter, but not Jack. He seemed focused, and she wasn't going to impede him from broaching whatever point he wanted to.

Instead, she just flashed a small smile at him. She would have liked spending time around Jack even if Ada Berg had never crossed his path; she enjoyed his company at the Cat and Phoenix when they were working together, and she'd done her best to impress him, albeit it not directly. 

And, Runa thought to herself, she'd done pretty damn well for herself. She'd made a dozen contacts in the city, and she'd been working without rest to build her skills up. Velvet's club had taught her how to flirt, how to manipulate. Her lessons with Tony and Elle had taught her how to throw a punch- or use a knife. Shit, her adventure with Faro had even taught her how to drive... a little. Thus far, everything had been easy for Runa. She'd been in a couple dicey situations, sure, but every time she'd been able to talk her way out of it. And why shouldn't that be able to continue?

Jack's question, then, hit her like a ton of bricks. Her skills as an actress, which she often used to blend in wherever she went, prevented her face from completely crumpling and dropping her gaze, but she knew Jack could see how unexpected the question was for her. She'd been ready to talk about her life, professional or personal, but not this.

Between her ability at playing a role or sticking to the shadows she could talk her way next to almost anyone or sneak her way into just about anywhere. And it wouldn't take much skill to stick a knife in someone when they weren't expecting it. Granted, no one had ever really taught her how to use a gun, but she did have one. 

Yes, she had the skills that would allow her to kill someone. But that wasn't what Jack was asking, and she knew it. 

She couldn't keep her eyes from dropping to the floor as she thought about it.

He'd specifically used the word "murder" instead of "kill". Kill could be self-defense. If someone barged into the room to kill Jack, Runa knew she'd be able to kill someone to protect him, or to protect herself, even if it would be a lot for her to process after the fact. And if someone tried to kill Elle, Illiana, Faro, Frances, Francesco, Nick.... well, she could kill to protect them, right?

And Runa had known she wasn't joining a social club. Nick didn't give her that many thousands of dollars to help her get started just because he'd made money from really being a saint. It was a criminal organization, and she'd crossed a lot of lines since she'd arrived. Drugs. Robbery. 

She just hadn't crossed the biggest line- taking a life.

Runa had no idea how long she was quiet for, but eventually her green eyes found Jack's again, and they held a steady, if troubled, gaze.

"I... yes. I don't think I'd want to or that I'd enjoy it."

That, at least, was Runa's desperate hope. Her mother, Runa knew, had been killing people for money for decades; the Norwegian assassin was so emotionless that people called her "The Iceberg". What if Runa killed someone and found it... easy? What if it was genetic? She swallowed. And what if she said no, and walked away? Jack would still be nice to her, she was sure. Runa was a damn good bartender, and she was sure that he'd still keep her on at the Cat and Phoenix... but things would be different there. She'd cease being a promising young associate, and she'd become... something else. An old piece of furniture. Expected, appreciated, but what was the future?

"I'm committed to this crew. This family."

In every sense of the word.

"Yes, I could."

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A nod was all that he expressed. Hands interlocked with his two index fingers pressed against his chin, he mused over the response. It could mean a few things, he thought. She's keen, willing, dedicated. Out to prove herself and the position she could hold within the crew. Alternatively, she feels pressured, easily influenced and conflicted in her own motives. A shaky hand and hesitated shot.

Mezzo was never a gambling man. Nor his family. Efforts had always been made to keep the next generation of out this life, never wanting to risk what that individual might have become. A tradition which was upheld up until his cousin, Louis Mezzo, was taken under their grandfathers wing and groomed to inherit the family business. Now, it was Jackie's turn to make the call. To send his own blood down this treacherous path, or attempt to spare her from a fate prewritten into every mobsters tombstone.

"Good," he lifted himself from the chair and collected a drink from the cabinet, typical he couldn't sit still for more than a few minutes.

"Your target will be one of our own. Someone who has fallen out of favour with the crew," he paced back and handed her a short glass, half full with a dark gold liquid, "they are here, in the old town, the name will be provided to you the week we expect the job to be carried out."

He then perched on the arm of the chair, watching for a flicker of hesitation or reluctance.

"This person should be respectfully thanked for their service before you pull the trigger. Do not show your face at the funeral, however. We will take care of that with someone unassociated to the incident."

Mezzo sank half of his drink then admired the remainder as it returned to the bottom of the glass, confident he didn't need to observe her any longer. He licked the residue pleasingly from his lips and remained focussed on the vessel.

"Any questions?"

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Runa sat in silence for a while. One of the family. She could only hope it was a stranger- someone she'd seen in the headquarters in passing rather than a friend. She felt a deep, dark sadness run over her- but she still didn't hesitate to nod her agreement. This was the life that she chose, and she'd have to find her way to make her peace with it.

"I understand, Jack. I can do this. When you give me the name, I'll make it happen."

She moved as if to stand, then halted and sank back into the chair. 

"I do have a question, but it's not something I'd usually ask. What I'm saying is that it's not something I'd ask you as a boss, but as a..."

Runa searched for the right word- "father" would be overly familiar, and maybe make it seem like she was looking for special treatment.

"... a mentor. Nick's been so busy planning this farm job that I haven't seen him around much recently, or I'd ask him. And I've talked to Elle about it a little- just in theory, hypothetically, of course, because I know what kind of life I picked. But you..."

She cleared her throat, and her keen, green eyes looked steadily at Jack. She respected him- and she couldn't resist her curiosity.

"I guess what I'm asking is that when you do something like... that... what do you do afterwards to help yourself... process? I guess that's my question. I don't want to seem weak to you, Jack. I know I can do this, even though it seems very... big. But I'm not so much of an idiot that I'm not going to ask about things I've never done before. What do I do afterwards? Or is that somethin' that every person needs to answer on their own?"

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It was a question with a dozen possible responses. Perhaps more. There were days when Jack found he was able to decompress by simply enjoying a drink, or busying himself with work. Others, he would take a vacation and travel out to the West Cat to just be alone. It often depended on the relationship to the target. Mezzo wasn't a prolific killer, but like all those in the upper echelons of the underworld, he had a first.

He placed down his glass and leant forward, resting his arms on his knees, "as a general rule, keep yourself aware of who you saw that day, don't return to the scene and get rid of anything that could implicate you."

A sigh followed while he tried to find helpful words. His usual advice would be 'just get on with it'.

"Runa, only you will know how to handle your frame of mind afterward. It's possible it'll leave you feeling unlike anything you've ever dealt with before," he rolled his hand around, flipping it over, "however, that's when you'll know what you need to do to make peace with yourself over it."

He stood up in that way a lot of people would recognise. Jack had somewhere to be.

"The West Cat is always available to you, in Pasadena. It's quiet, warm and nobody bothers each other out there." He collected his jacket, moving around the room as he spoke. 

"You never know though, might well take after your mother."

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Runa listened attentively, like a parishioner in the first row of the church staring up at a preacher. She absorbed his words, then as he stood she recognized the clear signal that the conversation was over.

"Thank you, Jack. I appreciate it. I've been wanting to visit California ever since I first heard about it. Maybe this would be a good reason to make that happen."

She had just smiled at him and was preparing to leave when she heard his final comment about her mother.

Even Runa, practiced liar and infiltrator, knew she didn't cover up her reaction well; then again, she hadn't expected Jack to casually mentioned her greatest fear. Not trusting herself to talk, she forced a smile, bowed her head respectfully, and headed towards the door. 

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1 Week Later

"Might well take after your mother."

Jack's words echoed in Runa's head for days. Deep down, she realized that being like her mother was something that Runa always wanted to avoid. What kind of woman would abandon her husband and four year old daughter? Just to go kill people and live rich?

Runa had always seen her mother's actions as heartless and cruel, but now she saw her own actions mirroring them. She'd left her dad back in Scotland, just like her mother had. She'd done the same damn thing she'd always found so horrible- and she hadn't even recognized it until she'd been in the States for a couple weeks. 

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad, being able to kill someone like swatting a fly. But surely Runa would know by now if she'd inherited her mother's lack of emotion?

The young woman exhaustively reviewed her history, reminding herself of all the times she'd felt empathy or guilt over not helping people more. No, she was normal.

But what if she was too normal, lacking something she needed to impress Jack? To become a part of Race Street?

Runa was wrestling with the issue in her head on her way out of the Cat and Phoenix at the end of her shift. She had just had time to glance at the moon when one of Jack's bodyguards materialized behind her and handed her a slip of paper with a name on it. The he turned and left her alone in the moonlight.

She took a deep breath. It wouldn't be Elle. Elle was the best. It wouldn't be Faro or Frances or Francesco. It definitely wouldn't be Illiana. 

Scarfo had been gone a while, presumably planning that farm job, but...

"Please don't be Scarfo," she whispered out loud, unfolding the paper.

It wasn't him, and Runa immediately exhaled in relief- until she realized she still needed to murder a member of Race Street. At least it wasn't someone she'd ever met. 

*

It didn't take long for her to track down the man whose name was on the paper. She didn't like using his name. He'd spent the last month ignoring Race Street to focus on another world entirely, half a planet away in the criminal underworld of Istanbul. Runa was fairly certain that if her target, who was Turkish, had come to speak to Jack, then Jack would have earnestly made the effort to spare his life. But instead, her target had simply cut off communication.

The Turk and his countrymen could usually be found at a bar downtown- a seedy joint that no one from Race Street would usually be caught dead in. Runa had been there already  as a redheaded bartender. Tonight, she was a blonde waitress. She'd had two different fake ID's, both arranged by Illiana Santoro, and two different backgrounds. Elle had leaned on the owners of a few different bars in New York and provided references. Billy Pilgrim had given her a knife that could be easily concealed in a boot. She even had the M1911 Scarfo had let her keep stashed in the bathroom, just in case everything went to hell. She'd built up her skills through jobs with Elle, Faro, Francesco, Scarfo, Velvet, and Jack. Now it was time to put them to use.

*

Vix would be proud, thought Runa. She could see the four Turkish men watching her in the mirror behind the bar, and she shifted position to gain even more of their attention. They were all hooked- now it was just a question of reeling in the right fish. Her target seemed to be the man in charge, which seemed fortuitous- more likely to claim the attentions of a woman. She'd spent the night serving the men drinks and playing them the way she'd learned at Velvet's place. 

This time, she stumbled when she brought another round of drinks over, spilling one on her target. She could see the anger flash in the man's eyes, but it quickly vanished as she stepped in close and tried to dry him off with a napkin. As she placed her hand against his chest, bit her lower lip, and gazed up at him with wide, doe-like eyes, she knew she'd won. 

Five minutes later, she was kissing the back of his neck as he unlocked his car. As she climbed in the back seat, she looked around. No one else was in the parking lot. Climbing on top of the target and facing him, Runa arched her back, reaching back into her boot for her knife.

"Thank you for your service to Race Street. We regret that it ends this way."

Before the target had a chance to react to the truth dawning on his face, Runa slashed the knife across his throat. Stabbing him would have been too risky, she'd tell herself later. She had to guarantee the kill.

The Turk's life bled out from his neck, gushing through fingers vainly trying to plug the wound. Runa felt the warm blood splash against her chin and upper torso, and for a frantic few seconds she nearly screamed. Then she felt a coldness descend on her and she took a deep breath. Not risking leaving the car and getting noticed, she wriggled into the front seat. She wiped the blood off herself as best she could, then the car lurched forward into the night.

Faro taught me how to drive, thought Runa, as she glanced at the body in the back seat.

She forced herself to look at in the rearview mirror, hoping to feel something. She did feel something. It was sad, seeing him there staring with dead eyes. She wished she'd closed them. But the horror at what she'd done was overwhelmed by the adrenalin of the moment.

Runa would drive the car to an ally of Jack's who owned a junk yard- he'd make both the car and the body disappear without any issue. 

And after that? Well, she'd disappear without any issue as well. Jack had mentioned a place to lie low in LA. Maybe she'd take his advice and head out there. After a while. First, she wanted to be in Philly for a little while, in case Jack wanted to talk to her. Or in case she needed any of her new colleagues. But for now... she just need to go home and hope that the blood would wash away easily. 

 

*

The next day, Jean Ralphio delivered Jack a brief note: 

It's finished. - R

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