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Realistic or Modern LOVE, LOSS, REVENGE

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LOVE, LOSS, REVENGE
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a 1x1 between dreaming enthusiast dreaming enthusiast and SquigglyWiggly SquigglyWiggly
 

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CHARACTER INTRO: Damien Blumenthal
38 | 5'11 | sharp grey eyes | dark brown hair greying at the temples

There were very high hopes for Damien Blumenthal growing up. Always the model son and student, in his youth the man excelled in both academics and sports. He was the type of person who, irritatingly, made everything he did look effortless. With an impressive track record after graduating high school, a whole world of possibilities stood before him. But there had never been any doubt in his mind as to what he wanted to become.

Damien went to college for 2 years to get a criminal justice associate's degree, then promptly joined the police force at the age of 21 after successfully passing the NYPD entrance exams. He immediately gained himself the reputation of a positive and hard-working recruit, eager to serve. It was obvious he had lofty ambitions of making detective, and within a couple of years this goal seemed right in sight.

That's probably why Damien's arrest was so shocking to everyone around him.

In a whirlwind of events, Damien was put on trial and found guilty of the killing of his partner, Michael Kell, someone he'd grown up with and that had been by his side every single step of the way. The persecution claimed it was a crime of jealousy spurred on by a bitter career rivalry. As a matter of fact, both men had been acting strangely in the weeks leading up, constantly on edge. And it had all culminated in homicide. The motive was there, as was the evidence. Shortly after his 23rd birthday, Damien was sentenced to prison for second degree murder...

Now, 15 years later, the man has been released on parole. Some claim being set free after an extended incarceration can feel like stepping into an alien world. That's especially true when the people you once cared for - colleagues, friends, family - don't want anything to do with you. Indeed, everything's different. The city has changed beyond recognition. But so has Damien. A bit more gray in his hair and a little less light in his eyes, now a single desire drives the ex-policeman forward - to find the people that killed his best friend and framed him.
 

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Kaden Finch | 36| 6'2" | Dark brown eyes| Black hair |


Kaden Finch had spent the first half of his life as a stain on the earth.
Naturally, attempts had been made to blot him clean, but when you were born so close to dirt each metaphorical swipe smeared away more substance of being than character flaw.

Society came to accept this after Kaden's third escape from foster care.
He'd chosen a tough woman with a heart made of leather and hands like stone instead, not as a mother but as a mentor.

Now as a man he's feared and respected as the Butcher of the Black Dogs, infamous for being the resident cleaner and someone who still routinely gets his hands dirty despite his high rank.

And yet his empire threatens to crumble. The sister clan Nakurra is being sliced open by police raids and enemy gangs smell blood in the water. If the clan falls the power vacuum will be catastrophic.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Kaden's boss and mentor has disappeared without rhyme or reason at the worst possible time. The last thing he needs is the Black Dogs - or even worse, the High Rise gang discovering she's missing, but he's never operated without her on such a grand scale.

He needs her counsel. He needs to find her before its too late.
 

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Has November in New York always been this cold? That can’t be right. The man's memories of late autumn are sunny, tinged in the beautiful oranges and browns of fallen leaves - the type of comfy weather right on the cusp of chilly, fit for going on a walk, or a jog, or out with friends. These biting winds tugging at his trench coat feel new. Same goes for the small piles of snow (more dirty sludge, really) left unmelted behind the dumpsters between the towering buildings of the city, their concrete facades blocking out the sun. Thinking about it, maybe the numbness currently setting into Damien’s fingertips has something to do precisely with the fact that he had spent the last hour hiding out in the shadow of two such buildings, in a small alleyway where curious eyes are unlikely to wonder. Not the most comfortable place, but it is the best spot to observe his destination from undetected.

The Moonlit Wolf Outpost. Damien has been here before, once back in the day. He had been looking for something then too, though that investigation hadn't yielded much, merely one impromptu arrest made with the aid of a civilian. It was a rather insignificant occurrence Damien would have completely forgotten about, if he hadn't later realized that the young man who’d tipped him off to a crime in progress - some creep trying to spike another person’s beverage - was a criminal himself. A member of the Black Dogs, of all things. And the two had even shared a drink...

A puff of smoke escapes Damien as he exhales, yet another cigarette falling from his hand to join several more littered on the ground around his feet. A glance at his wristwatch reveals it to be 5:50 PM. About time. The last embers of the cigarette butt still desperately clinging to life are unceremoniously stomped out as the man exits the alleyway, heading directly across the street where the Moonlit Wolf beckons. No going back now. In one swift motion, Damien throws open the entrance, striding willingly into the beast’s maw.

What greets him on the other side is warmth and the soft sound of ambient music. Honestly, it would be a welcome reprieve from the outside world if he wasn’t so busy scanning the interior for a somewhat-familiar face in a sea of unfamiliar things. At this hour the bar’s main floor is, predictably, mostly empty - it’s just Damien, what he can only assume are a few eager regulars, and a bartender still in the process of setting up shop.

“Welcome,” the man behind the counter calls out in that overly friendly tone all bartenders seem to have, “We’re not quite open yet, but come in.”

Damien reacts to the invitation readily, as if the permission to enter has unstuck him from the uncertain in-betweenness of the threshold, walking towards the bar with calm, measured steps.

“Haven’t seen you around here before.” the bartender continues. His pleasantries go unreciprocated, acknowledged only by a small nod as Damien takes a seat, his elbows resting against the wooden top, “Right… So, what can I getcha’?”

How helpful. It’s not about what, though. It’s about who.

Suddenly leaning forward, Damien's sharp grey eyes lock onto the server's own, a single sentence leaving his lips in a low almost-whisper, “I’m looking for Kaden Finch.”
 

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By the tail end of the 1960's the prohibition was just a distant memory and Mexican cartels turned their eyes on greener pastures.

There were over twenty cartels smuggling drugs into the U.S.

As of 2022 there are three, far richer than the original twenty combined and several times more feral.

Kaden knew this, not from any hidden knowledge that comes from being a kingpin, but by scrolling through his Instagram feed at two in the morning one night when insomnia was at it's worse.

Oh, and avocados were steeped in a less than savory production, and overpriced regardless.
Nevertheless, he enjoys avocados on toast every Wednesday and Friday consecutively.

It stood to reason that Finch would be punished for such pointless decadence, at least eventually.
Yet here he stands, alive and well and she...
Well, he has no idea.

The place is ransacked. Not just hopelessly cluttered as he remembers.
Books everywhere, pillows torn, dishes shattered into constellations on the kitchen floor.

Finch picks up a glass of whiskey, nearly untouched save for the smudging of lips around the rim and the fact the ice cubes she would always, without exception, have with her drink have long since melted.
The glass isn't even somewhat cold.

"I promise -" the man plastered into the corner doing his best impersonation of a wet dog starts up again.
"I had nothing to do with this. It looked this fucked up when I came in."

Finch takes a long, levelling inhale. The glass clinks coldly as he sets it down.
He steps over the terribly small bird cage she keeps, noticing not for the first time the dead parakeet lying with a twisted head inside.
It had had a long miserable life in the type of cage only seen in a thaumatrope illusion.
The stranger's attention is drawn to the milk eyed thing, then back up at Finch who towers over him.

"I believe you," he says, and the man looks half way to hopeful. He wipes a bit of blood from his chin, further staining a sleeve.

"You wouldn't nearly be enough to do this. Not to her."

"No- absolutely! I wouldn't-"

The word goo spilling from his mouth suddenly dries up as Finch opens a smell metal case from inside his jacket. The tips on the injectors reflect and bounce the light.

"Wait- wait wait, now hold on- you agreed I didn't do anything-" the stranger can't go any further into the wall, but he holds up a hand as if to put some barrier between him and the needle.
In reality, whether he realizes it or not he's more or less offering himself up to Kaden and he accepts.

"You are going to help me though. Or die attempting to do so."

---

"Tell me why we're going to this shit hole again? It's not to bark up Martin's ass is it?"

The car is blissfully silent for a moment, before the tough looking man sitting in the passenger deigns to enlighten Finch with the melody of his voice.
After the failed search and interrogation not an hour ago Kaden's patience is worse for ware.

"Martin has been a loyal member since his father and Delilah settled his debts a decade ago," Finch says, "No barking has been necessary."


"Settled his debts..." The Black Dog scoffs, going back to his least favorite activity of people watching as they wait, parked on the side of the road.
The man's foot jogs.
"You mean bottlenecked him into being a Black Dog."

After amassing a million dollar debt, from protection and the loans his father took out for houses, college, a yacht...
Joining the Black Dogs was a far better alternative and Martin's father had gladly shook the devil's hand, regardless of the fact he was selling his son's soul as well.

"The Moonlit makes better money laundering than it ever did with protection, Cade." Finch rests his gloved hands on the steering wheel, tapping a finger. At the current temperature of the car the leather around his hands is trapping cold air and the tips remain numb.
They are utterly useless as gloves and destined for a garbage can.

"Yeah, after a fucking year of gradually increasing the books so it wouldn't bring the cops down on our ass. I swear we could make better money..."

Finch leaves the unending babbling of his subordinate unanswered. Such arguments rarely had a satisfying conclusion.
Not with this man, who was just as argumentative as his tattoos and shorn head would suggest. His self proclaimed brother, made on no basis aside from a similar shared first name.

"You posted the men I asked for inside and outside the bar?"

"Yup," Cade nods, the wolf inked onto his neck contorting with the action. "I even gave Martin a heads-up. If a guy's there asking for you you'll get a text."

Speaking of the devil, one of three phones Finch keeps on his person buzzes against his thigh.

"You think..." Cade leans in, blue eyes darting out the windshield of the car at the less than savory people walking up and down the sidewalk. As anticipated, the bar doesn't look like it is going to receive many visitors tonight. Though that is difficult to deduce. It is only evening after all.
"This guy's got something to do with her disappearance?"

Finch stares ahead at the Moonlit's front sign. Cade is the only one who knows. So far.
"No, I do not."

The door cracks open, letting the cold air rush in. Cade caterwauls about it, before being promptly cut off by the door slamming shut once more.
November has no right being this cold.
Finch buries his hands into his coat, despite the short walk from car to bar. The bouncers who had planted themselves at the entrance as soon as the expected guest had moved in nod at him as he passes. The capo doesn't envy their job guarding the entrance, not in this weather.

The Wolf is pleasantly warm however, but he doesn't allow that to lower his guard.
A woman in the corner is picking upside down chairs off tables, setting them just so on the floor. The Outpost hadn't been able to afford live music in years and Finch didn't see the point in it now that its his. Yet the boxed, quiet murmur of music playing overhead makes him rethink that.
There's something always odd about entering a place fresh open, a feeling as though you don't belong.
Similar to being alone in an elevator, stuck listening to equally terrible music. If purgatory is a real concept than it is a bar not quite open or a elevator playing waiting music that never reaches your floor.

Finch saddles up at the bar, leaving a stool between him and a man he has to scrape the inside of his brain to remember.
He never forgets a name or a face, but this one's trying him even supplied with context.

Martin pales considerably at his arrival, rubbing an already clean glass with a cloth as is seemingly obligatory to a bartender.

"Banana daiquiri," Finch says in a voice that you wouldn't think would ever ask for a drink like that, smooth and silky. Refined.
Normally, he wouldn't care for such a drink either but there's an overwhelming smell of smoke, even in comparison to the interior of a bar and something fragnant will hopefully coat it somewhere.

"I texted you as soon as I could Mr Finch," the man says and the sudden onset of nervousness gives Finch a glance of the youthful boy he used to be.

"I'm aware," he says, and Martin looks faint as he nods and pushes away from the bar to go rub another glass.

Finch tries a glance at the ex-cop beside him.
Long time ago they shared a booth in the corner somewhere. Taking the bar had seemed too... Adult then.

Now the bar seems too pedestrian.

"You've aged significantly," he says matter of fact, tracing a ring left in the wood finish.
 

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Waiting around at the bar was tense, at least for the bartender. There was no other way to describe the server's change in demeanor at the mention of Kaden Finch's name or the rushed text he'd "subtly" shot off mere moments after a jumble of "I don't know who that is" and "I'll see what I can do."

In a half-hearted attempt at alleviating some of the awkwardness, Damien ordered a drink. Well, he asked for water. It's been years since he's had anything proper, and technically he still isn't allowed anywhere near alcohol. Technically. A part of the man really wants to give in to the desire, the mere thought leaving him parched. But another part rationalizes that remaining in full control of his faculties this evening would be wisest. That's how he got stuck nursing a barely touched glass of water, a lemon slice he didn't request bobbing on its surface. At least it feels grounding to hold onto something, distracting him from the everpresent need to smoke, the anxiety still evident in the bartender, and the growing suspicion that the "regulars" hanging around the Moonlit Wolf aren't some die-hard customers. Keeping his gaze down, Damien counts the minutes as the meager warmth from his palms begins to melt the ice cubes.

Fortunately, he isn't forced to bear the suspense for too long before the man of the hour makes an entrance. Managing to worsen the bartender's nervousness. Impressive.

The gangster's opening remark probably should have surprised Damien a little more than it actually did. Good thing he didn't have any expectations.

You've aged significantly. Coming from another person, in another world, another Damien might have laughed good-naturedly at the comment. He might have remarked how the ceaseless passage of time had indeed turned both into middle-aged men; might have even reminisced on the good old times and all the happy memories accrued over a lifetime of fulfillment. Unfortunately, the present meets none of those conditions - Damien is who he is, Kaden is who he is, and there are no happy memories to speak of.

Instead, his expression remains completely neutral as he turns to properly face the man - the stranger - seated at the bar, a single stool left between them.

The statement isn't false. The ex-police officer has aged, in some ways not so gracefully. His short brown hair is shot through by premature stands of grey, his skin has a pallid complexion, and he's definitely lost some weight. Though not fully visible to an outsider, Damien can feel it by the way certain parts of his old clothes don't quite fit right anymore. And the changes go beyond the physical. He used to smile a lot more in the past. Constantly, really, as his plentiful high school and college photos the media plastered all over the news years ago keep reminding him to this day. That other Damien - the one with the happy memories - would probably have had pretty pronounced laugh lines by this point. Not the case in reality. The wrinkles are still there, just in different places. Worst of all are his eyes - once eager and full of zeal, the best way to describe them now would be calloused, irises the color of cold steel. There's still a fire behind them, somewhere beyond the dark circles, but it's the type of fire one carries when they don't care if they burn themselves along with others. The bright-eyed and bushy-tailed kid is dead, replaced by whatever golem the years have molded this man into.

"Yeah, that's what time tends to do to a person." Damien's otherwise soft voice is cut through by a constant raspiness at the back of his throat. He takes a sip of the glass of water as if it's an actual drink, briefly forgetting he'd willingly passed up on the opportunity. Half of him regrets that decision. "You've aged as well, I suppose. Can't really tell. Didn't get too good of a look before."

That's a lie, but the gangster doesn't need to know. Damien had spent months after realizing exactly who Kaden worked for agonizing over the decision not to go back and arrest him. Technically, he'd met the Black Dog twice, the first time during a police operation to break up one of the gang's activities. "Paid protection" they called it. It had been one of his first large-scale endeavors on the task force, an ambush set up to hopefully put a lot of dangerous criminals behind bars. Many had been caught. Some had escaped. Kaden Finch had been one of the latter. Imagine the luck of stumbling into the man at the Moonlit Wolf Outpost sometime later on a completely separate investigation. Damien could have brought him to justice, but a stupid honor code nagged at the back of his mind to "let things go" after the other's intuition had actively led to a good deed. Stuck in indecisiveness, Damien had continued mulling over the issue right up until his badge was stripped from him and he was thrown in prison. Yet not even there was he granted the privilege of putting Finch out of his mind, the Black Dog inmates making sure it would be difficult for an ex-cop to forget anything related to the gang.

In hindsight, maybe something beneficial will come of that.

"You've definitely... changed, Finch. Risen through the ranks, I see. Or is that too much for me to hope for?" Damien gives the Black Dog a once-over, before glancing at the bartender out of the corner of his eye, "Was I expected or something?"
 

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"Not at all," he replies loosely.

In all honesty this man could be here to kill him. No one searched him, Finch didn't specify such a request.
But he had a hunch and in his life as a Dog a hunch might as well be instinct and he's smelled this man's scent before.

He isn't going to kill him. Or make some shoddy attempt at arresting him.

It isn't in his eyes.

His hollowed out, storm filled eyes. Those he remembers. You didn't often see too many people with grey eyes, and definitely not like this man's.
When they were young you might've thought they were baby blue under the right lighting and his smile would only encourage such an assumption. Now Finch can't understand how he thought that.

Furthermore, they are remarkably clear.

The daiquiri arrives, ridiculously yellow and contrasted with a delightful if not unnecessary pink umbrella. He takes it in hand, looking up at the pale bartender.

"Did you salt his drink like I asked?"

Martin's eyes shift to Mr Blumenthal for a moment before he clears his throat. On the off chance this dead eyed man is wired, Finch doesn't want audible evidence of his attempts at roofiing his drink.
"He ordered... Water. I thought..."

Using the tiny umbrella Finch stirrs his drink.

"No, you're right. It wouldn't have dissolved properly and it would be quite noticable on the tongue."

The tension in Martin visibly seems to snap and Finch isn't positive he won't still end this meeting picking a body up from the floor.

"Not as prepared as I would've liked anyway." He turns to the ex-cop once again as Martin stumbles away with his tail between his legs.
"I assumed given your life's context you'd be an alcoholic."

That left the only probable solution being the man's questionable sanity.
And here Finch is having a drink with him.

The capo takes a sip of his drink, delightfully pleased it replaces the stale aftertaste of ash with the vaguely preferable taste of fruit and excess sugary alcohol.
It only takes one inhale however for both smells to mix and that is far less enjoyable.

His nose wrinkles with a wince as he slides the glass aside.
"I hold a favorable position in my life but that's neither here nor there. You're keeping me hostage socially by withholding information. It's..."

Finch huffs and settles on, "Rude."
 

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Wait, had Finch intended to drug him? Even with zero expectations, Damien finds himself a little caught off guard, though he doesn't allow any modicum of surprise to show on his expression. He has to stay calm, in the presence of someone he's realizing might have become more dangerous than he anticipated, especially if the bartender's abject fear is any indication. Poor schmuck. He'd even added an umbrella. Not that danger is necessarily a bad thing, not with what he's here to ask for. But still, isn't it a little farfetched to preemptively plan to spike someone's drink? To what end?

On edge, are we? Damien's right eyebrow quirks up inquisitively as he searches Kaden's face for an answer. He has to consciously push down old instincts to stop himself.

At least the alcohol craving is completely gone.

"No, that's not a vice I've developed a taste for. Even with the "life context". A little difficult to do, what with the lack of access and all that." the man takes a good, long sip of water, purposefully making no mention of the exchange that transpired in front of him. His tastebuds tingle with an unpleasant bitterness he knows is not really there. Just ignore it.

"Hmm. Sorry, haven't had the opportunity to brush up on my social etiquette. Guess my manners aren't what they used to be," there's almost a note of sarcasm in the ex-cop's words, though it's hard to catch under the monotony.

"But you're right. No point beating around the bush." the old Damien would have stood up and left right then and there. Actually, he wouldn't have come to the Moonlit Wolf in the first place, except with an arrest warrant. But concepts such as pride or morals are a luxury the new Damien can't afford - useless things he discarded long ago now. Otherwise, how could he have the audacity? "I want your help, Finch. I need to find the fuckers that set me up. They just so happen to be the type to frequent the same circles as you. By all indications, they're still active - given the size of the operation they were running even 15 years ago, I find it impossible to believe they've left the scene. So, I need information. Information I'm hoping someone in your... favorable position can provide."

Damien lets a pause linger in the air, hawkish eyes waiting for a reaction. Seconds later he adds with a shrug, as if an afterthought, "I don't really care what you ask of me in return."

As much as he is proficient at keeping his nerves in check, the man can feel a restlessness straining in his limbs. He taps his index finger lightly against the counter, deciding that reaching into his coat pocket out of nowhere would be a dumb move, "Mind if I smoke?"
 

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Hindsight's twenty-twenty, he should have anticipated this ridiculous request.
And yet it comes completely unexpected. The unjustified confidence and general smugness should have come from somewhere, but apparently Blumenthal was pulling it from his ass.

"No-" he says and then adds when the man makes a move, "no smoking."

Finch rubs at his chin, scratching the pad of his finger on the barely there bristles.
His eyes go over the ex-cop again before resting on his face, scrutinizing.

He allows himself the satisfaction of one smile.
The man can't possibly have Delilah, and even if he did he would've used her directly rather than indirectly to bend Finch's arm. Kaden drove here with Cade, cantankerous but otherwise fine. The only thing left anyone would know about is Pawl and there's no scratches marring this man's wrists. Not that he can see.

Still...

He can't be serious.

"You do...Do you want to kill yourself?" His words breaks the short lived silence. There's no lilt to his voice, this is a genuine question. He searches Damien's face for an answer, leaning in.
"You... you were never going to leave here alive. Not likely. Didn't you... Wasn't that obvious? The location, the men, the drink... Me."

There is no anger, not even vengeance. Maybe once, twenty years ago but Finch knew now revenge is expensive.
No, this is principaled. Practical. Natural. Kaden is a fox who eats foolish geese who land in his den. This one has wandered in and asked for his teeth. Straight to his face without even saying please.
The man knows too much, seen too much and simultaneously knows nothing. Set free, the cop would just be a fly in the ointment and Kaden can't afford that. Not right now.

"In any case what could you possibly offer me, Damien? You have nothing. You  are nothing. You're so out of your depth it'd be sad if it wasn't so insulting. What favor are you hoping to cash in with me? When you didn't turn me in after I stupidly gave myself away to help you with your investigation years ago? You're still just a guppy but without the youth and enthusiasm to make it even half as endearing as it was before. All you blues are the same. Thinking you know better, thinking that you're doing any good, and only getting in the way. You arrogant, self-righteous little shit!"

He inhales sharply, stiffly, holding the ice cold breath in before letting it slowly ease out.
Martin is on the other side of the bar, putting his heart and soul into cleaning the counter.
With a hand Finch sweeps some errant hair back from his forehead.

"Drowning in the harbor during this kind of weather shocks the system. It hurts worse and lasts longer. The drugs would've acted as sedation once my curiosity was spent. It would've been like slipping into a warm bath. Comparatively." He leans back with a sigh, a tired one.

"Unless you have something else to say it's spent, Damien."
 
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It's not the worst he's heard over the years. Far from it. Coming from Finch - someone whose opinion he couldn't care less about if he tried - it's just a series of facts Damien's already acutely aware of. No, the shit that can really break a person is the disappointment and disgust written across the faces of your loved ones when they believe you've done something even they can never forgive you for. Now that stays forever.

Damien doesn't voice his inner thoughts, though, patiently taking the verbal lashing with that same impassive stare, unashamedly holding the gaze of the Black Dogs' topman the entire way. Afterward, he allows quiet to settle over the bar for several moments, accompanied solely by the sound of cloth against wood as the bartender's attempt at keeping busy suddenly feels excruciatingly loud.

Making sure the tirade is over, the man sighs, "You need to learn how to relax."

Well, that's ironic coming from him. A voice deep inside Damien's head, some part of his most primitive lizard brain, is screaming at him to shut the fuck up. Not that he'd listen. He hasn't for years, "But you are right about some things. I have nothing. I am nothing. I mean, if I still had access to my old resources, do you think I'd come asking for help? But I don't. I'm not a cop anymore, and I have no interest in pretending to be one. This isn't about self-righteous justice or whatever. It's unfinished business."

"Years ago we'd been... looking into something."
his tone borders on conspiratorial as he leans forward slightly, still keeping a more than respectful distance, "The station higher-ups refused to take us seriously, so we went with the only other option and conducted the investigation on our own time, completely unsupervised. Let me tell you, it was big - what we originally assumed was a single money-laundering gig connected to several other businesses - big ones, reputable ones - and the web kept branching out. Whoever was running things behind the scenes was making bank and needed a lot of places to convert the cash. Some of which I'm sure went towards paying off police officials. It was stupidly difficult to find a name, though even then there were whispers of something called the High-Rise. They're probably still active. That's what my contact on the force believes. And I believe them, but they can't go digging around or they'll end up like me. Maybe even worse..."

For the first time, Damien looks off to the side, voice hitching against his will. Damn. He hadn't meant for that to happen. A second later, he has seemingly recentered himself, "Regardless, this contact has left with the impression that the current state of the city is... tentative, let's say. For both police and organized crime. As it happens, I'm not affiliated with either. And I am an ex-policeman, all things considered." The clear meaning behind his words hangs loosely in the air.

"It's your choice what you do with all this information. And with me. I came here knowing it was more than likely your people's turf. I made a calculated choice to seek you out, specifically because of your help in the past. I'm not cashing in a favor, though... I'm asking for help, and not for free," there's no malice or mockery in Damien's words, no opposition, just the weird mixture of resignation and determination of someone that's come to terms with the future.

"Plus, an old man in prison told me you were a good kid."

The Marlboro cigarette he'd snuck out is already held in his teeth as he says that, hand pulling up an engraved chrome lighter. The handgun securely tucked against his flimsy bulletproof vest is making its weight painfully known to the man. Damien would much rather not have to use it - it's registered in Nat's name, and she'd reluctantly lent it to him for "self-defense purposes" only. A suicidal shoot-out with the Black Dogs is likely not the scenario she'd envisioned.

"That's it. That's all I have to say. Hope you consider it," a small flame comes alive with a flicker, illuminating Damien's features as he leans back and takes a long, blissful drag of the thin cancer stick, "Just remember - I walked out of here alive once before." Inhale. Exhale. Maybe he did want to die. But not quite yet, "I'm going to walk out of here alive again, Kaden."
 

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Kaden is no stranger to monologues or difficult people, neither is he unfamiliar with people who think their bark and bite is all that.
But this speech is in a ranking of its own and Kaden doesn't see the merit in this self-torture.

This man is trying to appeal to his better nature, which Kaden has outside of work but not within. And somehow it really rubs Finch the wrong way. He's stomached so much worse in his life he can't understand why this man of all people would get such a rise out of him.

The blistering red tip of the cigarette holds his attention, bleeding bright orange on every inhale.
Exhaling a heavy plume of noxious chemicals between lips.

The smell swirls in Kaden's lungs, through his brain. He reaches a hand across their divide, slow. Gently he grips the cigarette between his pointer and thumb, his gloves too thick for any warmth to sink into his cold fingers.

He takes the stick, studying it before his eyes flick up to take Damien in. This cop drove him into raising his voice. It won't happen again.

"I've considered. There's the door," he says, quiet, and points with the cigarette to the exit framed by two of his men.
"Walk out."
 

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Somehow Damien's dull grey eyes become even more downcast.

"Damn it, Finch," his voice is spat out in a rushed hiss, halfway angry, halfway defeated. It's the most emotion Damien has shown since he stepped into the Moonlit Wolf. His head hangs low, knuckles tightening on his knees and trembling ever so slightly now that the cigarette is no longer there to ground him, plucked away.

He'd always considered the possibility of failure, yet now that its reality stares down the ex-cop in the form of a man with too dark eyes and an unshakable will, he doesn't want to accept it. He rejects it with every fiber of his being. What it feels like is not exactly disappointment. It's desperation. Even for Damien, this is pathetic.

He should leave. He's been given an out, and any rational person would take that unbelievable generosity and run, lest it be rescinded. He can't. He won't. He'd always been aware, of course, but the facts of the matter reaffirm themselves in the moment, harsher than ever before - he has nowhere else to go.

Words swirl in his head, things he could say to convince Kaden, things he could offer. Bargain, grovel, threaten. But the sentences are forming in jumbled, unintelligible messes, an impending headache looming on the horizon. It's everything yet nothing.

In the end, there's only one thing Damien can think to say, something he hasn't tried so far, "Please."
 

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Contrary to popular belief Kaden wasn't born to this job. He was a puppy for a long time before he became the animal he is today.
Particularly on the subject of torture.

It isn't something he'd say he liked, but getting results filled him with a satisfaction he struggled to find anywhere else.
Under his mentor's hand it didn't take him long to realize interrogations were a transaction. This for that. Sometimes it was fingers for information. Other times money for drugs.
It could even be a smile to get a hello.
And after he made that conclusion the realization every human interaction followed similar rules was disheartening as much as it was enlightening.

So when Damien finally hits his breaking point, bends the knee to the more powerful man in the room, Kaden can finally take a breath because these rules still apply.
He just had to know where to press.

"I won't burn this out on your face," he says to the man he's bruised but far from broken. Kaden knows him enough already to suspect rolling over is just another front. But it's a little too late for politeness.
"That's what you get for please."

Damien has no bargaining chip. He never did.

Finch whistles and the solid looking men at the front leave their post as he beckons with a hand.

They flank Damien on either side- Jackie and Markus. Good boys, don't talk much, do their job well. Jackie however looks wide eyed at the cigarette pinched in Kaden's hand.
Finch doesn't like anyone smoking, especially inside. The expression is something a child might make when being treated unfairly by a parental figure.

"Nearest body of water, gentleman," Finch says, flicking the cigarette into Damien's glass where it sizzles before sinking to the bottom. There's a scuffle, grunts, blows landing.
Of course Cade considers the appeal of using his gun, but he's already been such a pain to Martin he can't justify making that kind of mess. No one would really care all that much if an ex cop - ex convict's body showed up ventilated, but its cleaner all way around if he goes in the drink.

Finch's left the stool when Cade comes in, scraping his sludge covered shoes off at the entrance with marked disgust.
The wet shoes make an audible squeaking on the linoleum.

He winks at Markus and Jackie, both of which are huffing after getting Damien under some semblance of control.
Cade saddles up to the bar, taking the abandoned daiquiri. He sniffs, puffs out a breath at the lingering scent of smoke.

"This the guy?"

"Regrettably."

"...You don't let me smoke inside."

Finch pinches the bridge of his nose.
"Because it gives me a headache."

There's an awkward silence that stretches too long.

"So you're washing 'im?" Cade asks around the straw. He makes a delighted expression that looks almost wrong as he points at the drink and smiles at Martin. Smiles like a cat.
"In the Hudson."
"He's Damien, right?"

Finch freezes, cranes his neck to look at his second in command.

"With a fucking E instead of an A," Cade says, showing too many teeth as he enonciates.
"Dame - Eh - en. You bleed blue, right? Or did."

The man swivels on his stool, leaning his lower back against the counter. Finch inhales, crosses his arms as Cade approaches to satisfy his curiosity. The man's always had a way of looking at people like they're things, rather than people. He smiles at Damien, but it doesn't reach his eyes.
Like he's knocking on a door, the Dog taps Damien's chest.

"He's rock hard."
"What?" Markus sputters and Jackie rolls his eyes.

"No- I mean." Cade takes a larger than necessary step back. "He's packing."

Both Markus and Jackie hold in a smile and if Finch wasn't here he's sure Cade would be the butt end of some relentless teasing.

"Fucking hell, assholes," Cade huffs, "he's wearing a vest! That's what I mean."

"Oh of course. That's what we assumed you meant," Jackie murmurs softly. A solid cuff across his face that's already starting to show some color hasn't seemed to dampen his spirits much.

Finch allows a smile, just a little one.

"My point being he's got his own connections, Finch." Cade flings a hand at Damien, still flustered.
"Even if they're old he does. Bet that gun he has is registered, too. Only so many places he could get something like that and a good boy like him wouldn't kill another blue for it. So..."

Finch narrows his eyes, taking two steps to close the gap between him and Damien. The man's chest is hard, featureless, but restrained as he is Finch can feel where armor ends and giving flesh begins. "He could've stolen it," he says at Damien's grey eyes.

"Then waste him. You're the bossman. I'm just saying since Bill got busted we haven't had anything close to an insider for like a year," Cade says and his voice takes on a certain tone.
"And right now we could really use an ear."

Finch stands there, longer than should probably be necessary, rubbing his chin with a knuckle. It's not too far fetched, not any further than anything he's attempted so far.

"You said you had a contact on the force," he says, looking down at Damien.
"If you can convince them to cooperate with me, even temporarily, we can renegotiate."
 

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Kaden's issued command to his men destroys any hope the ex-policeman had left.

Time seems to slow down around Damien as his hand hovers over the Ruger LC9 tucked into his waist holster, right against the bulletproof vest. He has a split second to choose whether now is the right time to reach for the gun... and he decides that it isn't. There are at least three people in the room he has to worry about, most of all Finch, and who knows if there aren't others waiting right outside. Best to keep the firearm concealed until such a time as they've dragged him away somewhere more isolated, hopefully with the Black Dogs' leader nowhere in sight. That's when he'll try to escape.

For now, he should just put on a show of resistance.

Damien stands up abruptly, the bar stool losing balance mid-way. As it topples over, his right hand has already formed into a fist aiming straight at the jaw of one of the approaching brutes. It connects with a familiar sound. Blumenthal packs an unexpectedly decent punch. Years of consistent training have made sure of that fact. But the Dogs pack better, made excruciatingly evident to the man when he receives a heavy blow in return, a dull pain instantly numbing his cheekbone.

What follows is a flurry of movement. Hits coming from both sides, hands holding onto clothes for a better purchase to beat the shit out of each other. Damien is keeping his arms firmly in front of his torso in what appears to be an adamant refusal to get restrained. Really, though, he just doesn't want them to feel the plating of the vest beneath his shirt. Instead, he does everything possible to make his limbs and head targets.

And the gangsters eagerly oblige. Goon One lands a solid hit on his brow, causing him to briefly lose focus of the situation. Goon Two takes that opportunity to shove Damien backward so hard against the counter he is practically lying on its wooden surface. In his periphery he catches a glimpse the bartender cringing as the scuffle threatens to move to the area behind the bar. Fortunately for him, Damien is soon enough yanked back by his collar into the fray.

The beat-down doesn't carry on for much longer after that. Eventually, when it feels appropriate, the convict's struggle dies down and he allows himself to be hoisted up roughly, resting almost limply between the aforementioned Goon One and Goon Two. While he managed to get some good hits in on them, it's evident by Damien's state who came out on top in the conflict - there's a red spot on his left cheek which is sure to bloom blue come tomorrow morning and a small cut on his eyebrow is bleeding more profusely than the severity of the injury calls for. He's breathing heavily and sore all over, but all that matters is that his captors seem to still be unaware of what he's carrying. He'll take the small victories wherever he can.

They probably would have remained unaware if a new figure hadn't walked onto the scene.

The shorter man causes Damien to grimace as soon as their gazes meet, and he doesn't deign any of the remarks coming his way with a response. The way this stranger is smiling makes a series of alarms go off in his head - he reeks of trouble.

Fingers tapping on his chest instantly prove the ex-cop's instincts right.

Damien's vision begins to blur, partially because blood is gradually pooling into one of his eyes, partially because it dawns on him he's landed himself in deep, deadly trouble. And the cherry on top - in the background the people he's at the mercy of are laughing like pre-schoolers to the most stupid accidental innuendo. Wait, is Finch smiling??? Are you fucking kidding me?!

The one that discovered the vest just keeps babbling, all while Damien is losing it on the inside. There have to be other ways to escape. It's been years since he's gone for a proper swim, especially in cold water, but he used to be quite good at holding his breath underwater back in high school. That has to come in useful somehow... right?

Just as things are looking depressingly grim, aid comes from the most unexpected of places.

Suddenly, the tattooed man feels like Damien's best and only friend in the world. Hell, if his arms weren't currently wrenched behind his back, he might have just hugged the guy for keeping him alive that bit longer. It might have even been funny, considering how the Black Dog's own comment had made him all embarrassed. The least he deserves is a proper thanks for getting Finch to entertain a possible negotiation. Too bad it involves the one person Damien definitively wants to keep out of this mess.

Not that that matters... There was only ever one answer the ex-convict was going to give Kaden's offer.

"They'll cooperate," he nods, voice back to the measured tone it'd had at the start of the evening, if a little winded. He pauses. Damien's eyes- or, well, one of them (the one he can still see out of) is holding Finch's own in an unwavering stare, "Not with you, though. They won't agree to a direct arrangement with the Black Dogs, but it's not like they need to know. I just have to play the role of middleman."
 

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The blood makes a striking contrast with the color of his eyes. Well, eye.

"I'll allow that," Finch gives a nod. He's not unreasonable. Though Damien would probably beg to differ.

"I'll inform you on everything I know on the way there and if I'm satisfied with your informant I'll further assist you as necessary."

Cade huffs, shaking his head gently. He's clearly pleased with himself and sees fit to reward himself with the stale peanuts on the counter.
Markus and Jackie look less than thrilled, though Finch is sure that's more tied to letting Damien off the hook after such a trying fight than it is the lack of cold blooded murder they were going to inflict.

"You wanna search 'im, Cade?" Jackie offers, "like you said he probably has a gun."
"Or maybe he's just happy to see you. You did just save his ass," Markus adds.
"Wasn't funny the first time, guys."

That does pose a final obstacle. There's no guarantee Damien won't lead him into a trap, gun or otherwise. He has no reason to believe Damien's friend on the force won't try something either.

Finch plucks the silver case from inside his coat, cracks it open to pick from one of the needles in the second layer.
"Hold him still."
 

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Damien's not granted even a second of respite before his well-being is threatened once more.

His fight-or-flight instinct kicks in immediately at the sight of the needle. Flight is not currently an option, so he defaults to the other...

The painfully strong hold his captors have on him ends up coming in handy, since as soon as Kaden is within reach Damien lets his weight rest firmly back on the Black Dogs and he kicks up, trying to knock the mystery injection out of the other man's grasp. Even with half his vision currently impaired.

"Fuck off, Finch!" he says through gritted teeth. Goon One and Goon Two have already reaffirmed their grip on the man - even punched him once more for good measure - but he keeps talking as if he's in any type of position to be bargaining or making demands, "Search me if you want, I have nothing to hide except for what you already know about. Your buddy's right, I have a gun - that and the vest are the only fail-saves I came in with, in case things turned sour. So, take them! I don't care. But you ain't sticking me with that."
 

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The kick is expected and yet it nearly clocks Kaden.
Finch can't blame him for trying, but he still feels a glare.

"Oh, yes I am. Or you're not getting my help."

Firmly, Finch grips the ex-cop's throat, just under his chin. With a thumb he feels where Damien's pulse is, hammering away. Again, the gloves act like a barrier between him and any warmth.
The needle tip sinks in like a knife through butter.

"You'll be paralyzed within an hour. Soon after that your heart will stop beating without a dose of antivenom. As I'll be with you, alive and well I'll be able to administer the doses as needed. I'm sure I'm getting my point across, but I'm willing to clarify."

He caps the tip of the used syringe, setting it down on the counter.

"You're naked without your gun," he says, straightening the collar of his jacket.
"You keep it."

Markus let's go first, mostly because his nose is running a mix of blood and snot. He pinches, collecting a fair bit before flicking it away where it slaps wetly on Martin's freshly washed floor.
That display quickly encourages Jackie to release Damien, taking several steps to distance himself while cursing under his breath.

Cade abandons the pile of peanuts he was morosely digging through, swiping his hands clean down on his chest.
"Listen, I'm gonna work on..." His eyes glance at Markus and Jackie before he tucks in, lowers his voice.
"What we were sniffing out before. Call me if this goes anywhere on your end."

Finch nearly forgot about the last poor bugger he poisoned. Damien poses as a more sturdy basket for his eggs than the previous man did, by far. Perhaps he'd been a bit rash before, doing what he did.
Perhaps he's being rash now.

"Any-who," Cade says bringing his hands together in a loud slap, "I'll see you bitches later. Nice meeting you, Dame."

Cade gives the ex cop a finger gun, before drawing the same index over his throat in mimicry of death.
Finch watches Cade's back as he leaves, scowling half to himself.

"You're dismissed for the time being too, boys. Thanks for your help."

"Yeah, no problem. Just put a good word in with Dee," Markus says, wiping a red, gooey streak onto his sleeve.
Jackie, who was still recovering from the previous gross gesture, turns away to gag.

Finch nods, face cold as the boys go to wash up.

"Well," Finch says, ducking a hand behind the counter and coming up with a cloth. A sniff told him it was fresh, at least as far as fresh went. He held it out.
"Whenever you are ready, Damien."
 

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Damien's knees nearly give out from under him as the men supporting his weight finally let go. He manages to catch himself and prevent tumbling to the floor, before steadying his steps and walking over to sit on one of the upright barstools.

All things considered, this meeting could have gone a lot worse. The danger was expected, even wanted.

He should be thankful to be getting away with only a whiff of potential death, but for some reason he can't quite muster a grateful mood. Apart from whatever toxin is now languidly flowing through his system, Damien's blood is simmering with a quiet anger, hidden right beneath the surface. Though it can't burn away the paralyzing agent, the indignation pulsing at his throat is mercifully keeping the man from feeling the full exhaustion of the last few hours.

His one open eye slowly passes over the room, making sure to remember the two thugs and his enemy-turned-friend-turned-enemy (Cade, was it?), before settling on Finch, where it remains.

Nevertheless, he accepts the proffered cloth in an indifferent gesture, using it to wipe away the blood from his face as well as he can, vision finally returning, before pressing it to the cut on his eyebrow, which is still steadily trickling out red ichor. It barely hurts - the only reason it's bleeding so profusely is because of the many surface blood vessels that must have been disrupted in the blow. That is to say, the wound looks much worse than it actually is. His smarting cheekbone is probably going to hurt a lot more in the long run.

As he's holding the towel firmly to his brow, Damien reaches into the same pocket where his cigarette pack is. For a moment he contemplates whether to take one out again - you know, for the sake of pissing off Finch - but the physical memory of cold needle and harsh leather on his neck reminds him he doesn't have the time to be petty. Instead, he takes out a tiny burner phone reminiscent of a Nokia, the one with buttons and built like a brick. An old model - ancient, really, given how fast technology has developed in the past decade or so. But it's what Damien is comfortable with, and it's not like he needs any extra features apart from being able to call and text.

The device's screen comes to life with a blue glow after a few seconds of pressing the power button.

"I'll get my contact to meet up. Somewhere neutral." Damien says, already in the process of entering the phone number he has memorized, "St. Vartan Park, the one on 2nd Avenue and 36th Street."

st vartan park
asap


...

omw
u ok???


The reply comes through almost instantly, and Damien can't help but smile slightly. He can imagine Natalia has spent the entire day glued to her phone, worried sick since Damien vaguely informed her of his intentions to go out "looking for help" and that he'd "contact her at 10 PM sharp" to check in, at her insistence. And would you look at the time? It's not even 8:30 yet.

yes

He pauses, ponders for a moment, and then for extra incentive adds, repeatedly tapping away at the buttons:

bring gauze pads

Damien turns off the phone once more before Nat can manage a worried response back.

Working quickly, the ex-cop reaches over the bar and into the build-in ice bin, pulling back a handful of ice cubes which he wraps up in the now bloody cloth. In his wake, 15 dollars are left on the counter - some for the towel he's in the process of stealing, most for the trouble.

"Let's go. While I can still move on my own." pressing the makeshift cold compress interchangeably to his eyebrow and bruised cheek, Damien stands up and strides towards the door, ready to follow Kaden.
 

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He had nearly, impossibly, forgotten about Nokia phones. It occurs to him, rather suddenly, how far removed Damien is from current pop culture.
The man is under average in every aspect of his life and in this mission he's saddled himself with, and yet he persists.

Kaden tilts his head at Damien's generous tip for a cup of water and an ass kicking.
Setting a timer for fifty minutes, Kaden can't resist the urge to roll his eyes as Damien taps away.
"I won't let you become compromised. I've tested the blend multiple times; you could technically drive for the next fifty eight minutes."

There were many ways the evening could have ended and even so, walking out of the Moonlit with Damien is far from what he had predicted.
The automatic startup has warmed the car, at least marginally. Kaden wastes no time, ripping off his gloves to be folded and carefully set away once he's seated.
The forgotten trashcan they were meant for is a few meters away. Outside. Guarded by trash pedestrians couldn't be bothered to throw away properly. And Kaden's own disinterest.

"Put your seatbelt on," he says, pulling out of the parking lane. He smiles to himself when Damien has to adjust the height of his seat.
Poor Cade.

They haven't yet salted all the roads, but it isn't yet completely necessary with everything half melted as it is.
Still, the Mercedes slips on a patch or two, reminding Kaden it's that time of year again for a tire change.

"How long have you been out of prison?"
 

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Brief annoyance passes through Damien as he gets told to put his seatbelt on... which he was already in the process of doing, without prompting. "Safety first, huh?" he mumbles, but nevertheless goes through with the action, the latch plate clicking into place.

He's just settling in for a quiet ride in the warmth of the car's interior when Kaden speaks up once more.

Ah, should have expected that question. The Black Dog is not the first to ask - far from it - but unlike the others, Kaden's matter-of-fact intonation makes Damien more comfortable in giving an equally matter-of-fact answer. He can appreciate the fact that no notes of distaste are coming from the other man on the topic.

"Several months. But they put me in a halfway house first to... "reintegrate me into society"," Damien's looking out of the window, at the passing sights he didn't get to see via the subway on his way here, "Felt like a bad dorm at a dry college more than anything, where everyone's trying to smuggle in alcohol and keeps failing their background checks over and over. It's not difficult to leave as long as long as you keep on good behavior. I got out about two weeks ago."

The institution was a stupid waste of time that only slowed him down, and he banishes thoughts of it away with a sigh. His gaze has turned towards the interior of the Mercedes - it's a nice car. The type one has when they're in a favorable position in life. His focus is back on Finch.

"And how long have you been capo? Or is it consigliere?" Damien's eyebrow (the uninjured one) perks up in curiosity. He still doesn't know exactly where Kaden stands in the power hierarchy of the city, but it's obviously higher than he had originally anticipated. Time outside of prison hadn't stopped to wait for the ex-cop.
 
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Kaden listens, eyes on the road. You'll get caught.
That was the understanding of every gangster. Delilah had said it too, and she had never been wrong about anything. And yet he still can't relate to Damien's experience, in prison or in reformation.
He's heard all about it, of course. Known people who went there, even worked with and for people in there.
But he has yet to be on the other side of the bars.

He grips the wheel, looking at Damien.
Two weeks.

"Consigliere." He mouths the word silently.

"It can be difficult to determine. There's no promotions. Someone likes the look of your face, the look of your work better and they keep you around. Trust you with more. Suddenly you're a...Consigliere. I suppose it's similar to the process Cade is experiencing. I like him but... An alliance with me has very clear benefits and he no doubt knows it."
Kaden makes a turn, frowning at another ape who refuses to use a signal while driving.
"Cade being the short, eccentric one who saved your life," he adds as an afterthought.

Kaden holds in a sigh, just barely. Repeatedly, he taps a finger against the wheel.
"It must be seven years now. That's when I gained the Butcher moniker," he says, puffing his chest and holding his head high.
 
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"So he is called Cade, the one with a knack for creative nicknames. I'll have to thank him sometime," Damien hums, still pressing the slowly melting ice pack to his cheek, "It does sound difficult. Both making consigliere and holding onto the title. I guess those three are far from your only subordinates."

He doesn't know, can't imagine what it must be like - the uncertainty of rising through the ranks of the mafia and the sensitivity of the alliances within it.

What he does know is what it's like to climb the career ladder, or at least the desire to do so. Back when he was a police officer, there'd been nothing more Damien wished for than to make detective. And his aspirations didn't end there - sergeant, lieutenant, maybe even captain down the line. He desperately wanted to make something of himself, but instead the zeal to succeed landed him in prison and got his best friend killed.

And the man who by all accounts should have been a more likely candidate to end up behind bars is now in the driver's seat, completely free. If the last years hadn't been so miserable, the situation could almost be considered funny.

Finch shoots the ex-convict out of any further musings.

"The Butcher? Really?" Damien's tone is only slightly raised, a mixture of surprised and entertained. Leave it to gangsters to come up with the most pretentiously menacing nicknames. Images flood his mind of Kaden as both a neighborhood butcher working the back of a deli, and a serial killer in period clothing a la Jack the Ripper. The former is probably more true to reality, taking into account what transpired at the Moonlit Wolf, "Well, I suppose as far as mob monikers go it's a good one. Definitely better than The Cheeseman or Joe Bananas. So, what'd you do to earn it?"
 

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Kaden's title does not inspire the impressed expression he's used to. Nor does it inspire fear in Damien, either. No surprises there.
If Finch didn't know any better he'd say he heard amusement in the man's voice instead. Bewildered, Finch has to survive this night with the man who knows nothing about anything. The ex cop only knows to growl and bite at the first thing that lands in his mouth. No questions, just rip and tear.

He reminds Finch faintly of a tiny dog, the psychopathic breed that girls keep in purses.

Finch opens his mouth to speak, closes it. He can't get  too familiar with the ex cop riding in his side saddle.
"I baked cupcakes for everyone on my crew, Damien. What do you think someone does to gain that kind of reputation?"

He presses his lips into a thin line. It's not that he's ashamed of himself, because he isn't.
They're just two different people, that's all.

Speaking of which...
Damien spent two weeks with the freedom to choose which corners of his life to metaphorically eat and shit in after fifteen years of being muzzled.
Only two, and decided it wasn't for him.

Kaden chances a glance before looking back at the road.

"Did you murder your partner?"
 
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Damien huffs. And he was starting to fool himself into believing the ride might be at least marginally pleasant...

"What do you think?" he mimics the way Kaden had answered.

He contemplates just leaving things at that too. He's had to rebut this question enough times to know that people who've decided he's guilty will keep thinking so no matter what. This isn't about convincing anybody, especially not Finch.

Yet he is actively asking for the consigliere's help...

"Maybe a week or so before things went south Michael told me he felt like he was being watched. Told me he felt unsafe, and that we should pull the plug on the investigation. That it was too much for two nobodies on the force to tackle," it's easy enough to read between the lines that the ex-cop had chosen not to listen to his partner's wisdom, "They found him at home, no signs of a break-in, but the place was trashed like there'd been a struggle. Michael was... he was in the kind of state that'd earn someone a nickname."

Damien stays quiet for only a breath before clearing his throat, "Forensics assumed whoever did it must have been someone he trusted, so eyes landed on his closest people. Me included. Then they found evidence I know couldn't have existed, it didn't exist... Honestly surprised they got me in for only second-degree murder."

His gaze hasn't moved from Kaden, staring at the other man with dead grey eyes, waiting for any type of reaction.

"No. I did not murder him."
 

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Kaden frowns when his question is received by sarcasm.
Finch glances at the man obscured in the dark, the passing of a street lamp revealing his face for a moment before plunging it in shadow and the blue light of the car's metrics.

"I didn't..." He says quietly, too quietly to be heard over the sound of the Mercedes, the din of the city that never sleeps.

Damien opens up. He says things Finch would never, things Damien must've repeated many times to himself and the people around him for what little good they would do.
Finch can only stare at the road, the traffic.

He can feel Damien's stare on his skin, burrowing a hole. Kaden shifts his hands further up along the wheel.
"I believe you."

The buildings and lights give way to a tiny oasis of green. At first glance it's not exactly empty, per se. Nowhere in New York is a location void of human life, but it's vacant enough for their purposes.
Vacant enough they don't have to hunt for a spot to park anyway.

"How long until your informant arrives?" He asks, putting the car into park.
 

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