2012-04-18: Six Vs Thirteen Epilogue



Summary: Business is business.

Date: April 18, 2012

Log Title: Six vs Thirteen - Epilogue

Rating: R

The street was wet, though it hadn't rained for days. A few letters of the neon sign outside buzzed and flickered with a peculiar rhythm that seemed almost deliberate. Intentional.

"I'm here to see Jack," said the woman to the half-face visible behind the open slit in the door.

The man who frisked her was thorough but respectful and Echo allowed him to take her pistol and knife before being ushered further inside. His name was Stan, she recalled, one of Jack's more trusted men. He'd been with her at the bank and done his job quickly and efficiently. Efficiency was to be admired.

Past the second interior door, arranged like an airlock, the air was thinly tainted with smoke. Multiple doors with multiple locks kept the city and the small office well separated, to keep one from unduly influencing the other. "You're late," said the gaunt figure in the high-backed leather chair.

The room, or office, was small with painted cinderblock walls and only a green glass-shaded banker's lamp to fight the darkness in the windowless space. His feet were propped up on a corner of the heavy desk, unafraid or unconcerned about scuffing it's inset leather top.

Pumpkin Jack was either six inches too tall for a man of his weight or fifty pounds too light for a man his height. He played his part well, black and white wingtips polished to a mirror sheen, green socks and green bow tie, and a lurid burnt-orange suit with black pinstripes. Circular mirror-shaded glasses hid his eyes, the lenses painted with cartoonish jack-o-lantern faces, triangular eyes and square-toothed grins leering back. His face was too little skin stretched canvas-tight over too much skull and his near-constant grin seemed more to relieve the pressure than from any real delight he might feel. His dark hair, short and curly, seemed to hold a faint green tint hidden in its coal blackness.

Echo said nothing, hands at her sides as Stan closed and bolted the door behind them, falling into place just behind her and to her right.

"I guess it doesn't matter," Pumpkin Jack continued airily, waving a hand dismissively for the woman to make herself comfortable yet knowing full well that he hadn't provided any chairs. Thin tendrils of smoke curled upward from the cigarette in his right hand, its paper the same shade of orange as his suit. "You're here now. There is, however, the matter of… ahh… fuck, what's-his-name?" Jack falters, raising an eyebrow and looking to Stan for a cue.


"Right. Marvin." Pumpkin Jack paused, tilting his head backwards to take a drag from the orange cigarette. "Truthfully, I'm not even mad. If anything, I owe *you* an apology. It's not entirely uncommon for an entry-level henchman to bolster his courage with a little… chemical persuasion on his first job." Jack sighed, exhaling smoke through his nose. "Still, he seemed fine during the interview. He wanted to know if you'd all get matching uniforms. Honestly, matching fucking uniforms." He sighed again but with a more dreamy, nostalgic quality.

"The money?" Echo prompted suddenly, one eyebrow raised and the corner of her mouth quirked in an unamused but conciliatory half-smile.

"Of course, of course," said Jack, business-like. "Fifty percent of the take, split four ways." From a desk drawer he produced a fat manila envelope and laid it carefully on the desk in front of Echo. "Brings your share to four thousand seven hundred and forty dollars. But seeing as you also held off a bit of superhero interference to ensure the job went off, I rounded up to a nice even five thousand. You've earned it."

Echo unceremoniously dumped the contents of the envelope onto the desk. Two paper wrapped stacks of twenty dollar bills and one stack of tens. She ran her thumb along the edge, the quiet rasping sound of flicking paper bills filling the quiet office space for a moment.

"Good," she said at last.

Stan appeared to relax a little.

"What about the next job?" Echo went on.

Pumpkin Jack's grin faded, though not entirely, taking on a vaguely strained aspect. "Ahh, yes. About that." His orange cigarette gave a soft hiss as he stubbed it out into a glass ashtray, his other hand making a vague shooing motion toward Stan. "Give us a moment, won't you, Stan?"

Stan's forehead creased in concern, the wrinkles travelling far up onto his shaved head. He rubbed awkwardly at his short beard for a moment before shrugging helplessly and shaking his head. "Sure thing, boss. Buzz if you need me." A symphony of unlocking and relocking the heavy door before Echo and Pumpkin Jack were alone together.

Tension released from Pumpkin Jack, his grin fading and the set of his shoulders relaxing so that he all but slumped in his chair. Wordlessly he removed his novelty glasses and set them carefully on the desk, revealing tired brown eyes with crow's feet at their corners.

"Okay, listen," he started, the performance artist gone and simply a skinny man in a funny suit left behind. "I actually don't have any other jobs at the moment. It took me three months." Jack lifted one hand, three fingers splayed as wide as he could make them. "To find out exactly when they'd be receiving their next cash shipment, and to make sure that the silent alarm signal would be delayed… for six minutes." His other hand raised, thumb and forefinger a bare sliver apart. "Three months… for six minutes."

"You'll never hear me admit this again, and if you tell anyone I'll deny it completely, but I'm a small fry," Jack continued, shifting to put his feet on the floor and lean forward with his elbows on his desk. "I'm not a mafia boss. I'm not even a mafia assistant-manager."

There was a pause, an almost hopeful glint in his eyes as he looked up at Echo. She didn't laugh at his joke. With a quiet groan, he went on. "This isn't even my real job. I do this maybe once a month, set up a few wannabe criminals with some job they think is part of an enormous master plan. I don't even make a lot of money from this. I have a wife, a mistress, and a coke habit to support. That's about all it pays for, really. It's more of a hobby than anything else."

"And you?" He gestured with an open hand to the woman standing impassively on the other side of his desk. "I know in six months I'll be kicking myself saying it, but you're too good for this. Believe me, I'd be more than happy if you kept coming back to me for work because I could *use* you. I could use you for so many great things. But I just don't have enough to work with at the moment and that's not fair to either of us. So I'll tell you what I'm going to do."

Swiftly, Jack drew a pen and a business card from the inner pocket of his orange blazer, scribbling a short note on its back. "I know people. That's kind of what I do. If I don't know something, I know someone who does. And if they don't know, I know someone who knows someone who will. That sort of thing." Casually, he flipped the card to the woman, who caught it easily. "Go to that address and tell them you're looking for work."

Emphatically Pumpkin Jack raised a hand in warning. "But for God's sake, don't mention my name or that I told you about them. They don't exactly like me and reminding them I even exist might be bad for my health, if you get my drift."

"I get you," Echo replied, turning the card over. Aside from the address written on the back, the front face of the card held a simple black on white design of a jack-o-lantern's face. "What I don't understand is why you're doing this."

Pumpkin Jack levered himself creakily from his chair, knees popping audibly. He seemed much older now, despite the youthful tightness of his face. He crossed the room to a lacquered cabinet, pulling out a glass tumbler and a decanter of some rich amber liquor. "I like you," he admitted after a moment, pouring two fingers into the glass and adding some ice from a silvered bucket. "You follow orders well. Perfectly, in fact. You've got drive, and you always get the job done. You've only done… what? Three jobs for me so far?"

"Four," Echo corrected, finally picking up the envelope and slipping it inside her coat.

"Four jobs," Jack repeated. "And I feel like I'm wasting you. Maybe I'm soft. Maybe I'm not really dyed-in-the-wool villain material. But you seem like an okay kid." He paused to drain his glass in one swift gulp, sucking a breath through his teeth before exhaling a pleased sigh. "You could do better. Just don't forget me, alright? I can still offer you something, from time to time, and I'd be damned pleased if you'd come back now and again. Come on, I'll walk you out."

He paused at his desk, hitting the button of a small intercom. "Stan, get Miss Six's things, would you?"

Pumpkin Jack's fingers strayed under the lapel of his garish orange suit, finding something and squeezing it to make a soft double-click noise. Like paint washing away in the rain, the orange drained from his suit to leave a deep grey, almost black. The previously black pinstriping faded to a pale white. Aside from his green bowtie and socks, he suddenly looked like anyone who might be seen near Wall Street on their lunch hour.

His eyes caught Echo staring and he grinned appreciatively. "It's some technology they're working on for search and rescue people. Survival vests, finding lost hikers, that sort of thing. It's a few years off from market, but I know someone in the industry." Briefly, his tired eyes twinkled mischievously. "I told you I know people. I'm his stock broker."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License