“To be honest, I’m surprised…
You’re not the first to track me down but you’re the first to want to meet over drinks and not weapons. Or to come with an offer.”
Sterlyn leaned back into her seat and took a sip of her whiskey, eyelids droopy but gaze focused sharply on the wolf. She kept silent and let him speak.
“You know my record. Anyone who knows enough to find me like you have has to know what I did. And it shouldn’t exactly inspire confidence. So, why?”
“What can I say? You’re an interesting character.”
She took another sip, leaned forward, and crossed her arms on the table.
“From what we’ve read, you’d be a good addition to our merry band,” she said, a toothy grin playing about her lips. “So, what do you say, Levy? Interested?”
Rook didn't move from his position of reclining in his seat, but he narrowed his eyes, considering her offer. It had been many a year since he'd had anything to do with mobs and mafias and organizations--and many a year since he'd wanted anything to do with them.
"I've got a feeling your plan's not to just let me walk away free if the answer's no," he said. He knew how these things went down. But he had actually found himself considering this even before the meeting, for reasons beyond what this group might try if he refused. "And regardless of how you think that might go..." he trailed off and raised an eyebrow, giving the stoat a pointed look before continuing: "I might be interested." Perhaps against his better judgement. Maybe such a long time alone was getting to him. "But this is on my terms as well as yours, keep in mind. And under the condition that you don't call me that," he added, showing more teeth than necessary.
Sterlyn chuckled quietly at Rook’s first words and rested her chin on her hand. While the wolf spoke, Sterlyn studied him closely, her feigned drunken appearance gone.
“You sure do catch on quick,” she said, stealing a glance to the black bear whom had been sent as her escort. He didn’t seem to be paying attention to them as he drank at the bar, but that was his job: guard when needed and stay out of everything else. The wolf’s pointed look didn’t affect her, but she did give him a wry smile in return.
“Oh, yes, yes; this is on equal terms,” she said, showing her palms to him as she sat up. “I’ll just keep things on a first-name basis, if that’s how you want it.”
Sterlyn finished her whiskey and leaned back into her seat. “Now, what would get a veteran like yourself more interested in our business, mm?” She tapped the table to signal a waitress to refill her glass.
“Is money motivation enough for you, or are you into something… more?” she asked, her brows lowering and smile broadening. Foshog had told her to entice Rook with whatever he wanted, but she had a feeling that the senior criminal wouldn’t need much pushing. He had intelligence enough to know they meant business, and she liked that about him. Fools had no place in the Mob.
Rook laughed a bit. “Money will do,” he said. “Enough of it, anyway.” He caught Sterlyn’s glance at the bear seated nearby. But the guard wouldn’t be a concern as long as the situation continued the way it was going. “So, Arizona you say. Sunny year round.” He took a drink from his glass, studied the amber liquid, then put it down, leaned forward and crossed his arms on the table. So far this group, its choice of representation and approach, was seeming alright. So far. “But it’s the work I need to hear more about. And the individual in charge of all this.”
“Money’s simple enough. Makes my job a lot easier,” Sterlyn said, relaxing into her seat and eying the wolf.
“Sunny year round and hot as hell,” she said, snorting. “Wouldn’t be so bad if we were based around here. At least the beach is right around the corner. All we got in Arizona is desert.”
When the waitress placed another whiskey beside her, Sterlyn took the glass and took a sip.
“I won’t go into all the details here,” she said, swirling the alcohol in the glass as she lowered her tone. “You’ll get the chance to meet the Boss when you get there. I’ll let you in on something, though: he’s a bit of a hard-ass.”
The last part, she leaned in close and said in a whisper, but after a long pause, she burst out laughing. She quieted down after a moment, placed her hand on her face, and shook her head.
“In all seriousness,” the stoat continued, a frown replacing her grin, “although we’ve only been active a year or so, we’ve made some progress in arms dealings for people south of the border and a bit closer to home. We dabble in business affairs, too, but that’s not my forte. The Boss has been looking for other profitable dealings, but with our current numbers, it’s slow going.”
Sterlyn grew quiet, the whiskey in her glass still once more.
“Well a desert’s better than bloody Siberia or some other such nightmarish snow and ice place,” Rook said, wrinkling his nose at the thought, or the memory. “I’m going to miss the beach though,” he added with a longing glance out the window. As for this boss, he supposed he’d have to judge for himself, although by the time he got that far the deal would likely have been already sealed. He grinned at Sterlyn’s next words though. “Ah, that’s exactly my area,” he said, straightening up in his seat. “The Organization did quite a bit of arms-dealing and business affairs both. The USSR was a good place especially for the former; Europe and most everywhere else for the latter. Though that was just a part of it all--they’d find trade if there was trade to be had.” Whereas some criminal groups operated with the model of a family in mind, the Organization had been a business first and foremost. And a cutthroat one more often than not.
Sterlyn chuckled and smirked as she thought on the cold Rook had had to deal with.
When the wolf straightened up and spoke, she entwined her fingers together, elbows on the table, and listened intently. She had read about some of his adventures in Europe with the “Organization” he spoke of. She hoped he would reveal some extra information—by accident—that she didn’t already know.
“Wow,” she said, leaning closer and placing her head on her hands. “I forget how old you are. You're almost as old as the Boss.”
The stoat grinned and took another gulp of liquor.
“You’ll be useful from the get-go, which is good, since we don’t need any slackers,” she said, licking her lips.
After a minute, she sat up and clapped her hands together.
“Now, for the boring but necessary part,” she said, looking to the black bear, whose attention she’d gotten. “Barry, bring the papers.”
The bear crouched down, picked up a suitcase beside his stool, and walked over to their table, setting down the suitcase and turning around to scowl at some passersby.
“Thank you,” Sterlyn said sweetly as she opened the suitcase and rifled through various paperwork. “Here we are,” she said to herself, pulling out a handful of papers, and placing them neatly in front of Rook with a pen.
“The official papers will be done in the office back home, but these ones here are pretty much saying that you agree to come along,” she said, turning to a different page and placing a claw on a paragraph. “That says that you know if you run off before we get back, you’d better run far and fast, ‘cause we’ll find you.”
She paused and looked to the wolf with a wry smile, removing her hand from the papers and placing her cheek on her wrist.
“Of course, you wouldn’t do that. You’re smart. Jack just likes it in writing.”
“Yes that’s exactly what I wanted to be reminded of,” Rook said with a grimace at her blunt mention of his age. At least she seemed to have some respect for the experience that went along with it.
He raised his eyebrows as he watched Sterlyn pull the stack of papers out of the briefcase and set them in front of him. Professionalism, impressive. “Jack, eh?” Sliding the papers closer, he leaned forward and scanned over their words with a critical eye. Nothing he wouldn’t expect, but it was smart of them to get it in writing. The corners of his mouth twitched up in a momentary smirk when he read over the running clause again, but he didn’t plan on running. He picked up the pen, and felt a moment of hesitation before putting it to the signature line. So he was really getting back into all this. He found from their brief conversation that he’d sort of missed it, the business and dealings, but at the same time…. He could only hope it wasn’t a mistake. The years had definitely not left him unscathed. Sterlyn’s comment earlier had reminded him of that concern, not that he would want to let her or any of them know that. But what else was he doing with his life right now?
He put pen to paper and signed with a flourish. Then he picked up his glass and drained what was left of it in one swallow. “Well, here’s to this,” he said with lowered brows and a wry expression that wasn’t quite a smile, clunking the empty glass back onto the table and looking the stoat in the eye.
“It was a hell of a lot better than my first mob introduction—but that’s a story for another time.”
Sterlyn nodded, watching the wolf as he took the papers and skimmed the page.
“You’ll meet Jack when we get back. He likes to keep papers on everyone and everything. It’s a pain in the ass, but he’s a good guy,” she explained, eying the pen as Rook signed his name.
The stoat leaned into her seat and grabbed the signed paperwork. She turned to the page with the signature and nodded.
“One thing down,” she said, looking up when the wolf spoke. Sterlyn picked up her own glass, downed the last bit, and huffed out a breath.
“Barry, take these out,” she said to the bear as she stacked the papers and placed them neatly into the suitcase. The bear nodded and took the luggage as soon as she shut it, and he headed off towards the bar’s exit. Sterlyn watched him go, but after he left her line of sight, she turned to Rook and caught his gaze.
“Okay, now, Rook: if you have anything you absolutely need to bring with you, you’re gonna need to pack it quick. The flight back is in an hour, and we aren’t bringing shit we can’t buy more of later. No fine china or desks or AK-47’s,” she said, waving her hand a bit as she spoke. “If there’s something you can’t leave behind, go get it now, ‘cause we aren’t comin’ back.”
“Of course I do,” he said, meeting this news with a glare. “Couldn’t have scheduled this a bit less short notice?” He had quite a few things he wasn’t about to just go ‘buy more of.’ Fortunately most of what he considered his essentials had yet to be all unpacked from his last move, and the ones that had been he could get in a hurry. But still. He slid out of the booth quickly and stood up. “They’d better be fantastic seats.”
Sterlyn laughed derisively. “The Boss doesn’t like to wait. You’re lucky he’s letting you bring anything at all.” She rolled her shoulders and stretched out.
“If you need to bring anything that can’t go on a plane, the Boss might just be nice and send someone out to fetch it.”
The stoat yawned and watched the wolf as he left his seat.
“First class; private quarters. Nothin’ but the best,” she said, sitting up and looking to the door as Barry came back in. “Meet us at the airport in forty-five. I need to make some calls.”
“Good,” Rook said, indignation a little mollified, if not by much. He still planned on grabbing as much stuff as he could. “But you owe me a record player and who knows what else if he doesn’t,” he said, looking back and pointing an accusatory claw at them as he headed out.