The Inside Man

May 07, 2017:

Gotham Wharfs

The wharfs of Gotham, a notorious hotbed of criminal activity.


NPCs: Kroslimov, Don Chiatelli



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

"A grand -each-?"

Don Chiatelli smashes a grossly oversized fist against his desk, making the baubles atop it jump and scatter.

The tensions in the room abruptly crystallize as the temperature drops. The four men in ill-sitting suits in front of his desk tense and their hands drop. The fifth, a lean, almost withered fellow with high cheekbones and dark eyes, stares at Don Chiatelli unphased.

"The explosives were not easy to procure," says the fellow. Dmitry Kroslimov, a Brigadier in the Russian Mafia— and currently the man in charge of the Russian docks, where the explosives had been stolen. His English— impeccable and slow, compared to Don Chiatelli's spittle-flecked Italian accent.

"Had to bribe guards. Obtain shipping manifests from abroad. Break into secure section in docks, which will cost us other shipments over time. A thousand, each, is more than reasonable," the lean Russian says.

Don Chiatelli grumbles under his breath, the corpulent fellow torn between objecting more strongly and not wanting to alienate his foe/counterpart. His eyes flicker to his advisors for input.


There's a murmur from the arrangement of advisors, all standing about listening and using their respective specialties. Carlsbad, the lawyer. Murray, the ex-military. 'Belle' Scarpato, the gunrunner. And then, they all go silent, as there's a flick of a cheap black Bic lighter, a Marlboro Red being sparked to life behind them. In the shade of the study, sits Sid Cancer, his left leg propped up on his right knee, the flame flickering a shade across his pale face as he compulsively shields the flame. He drops the lighter and pulls the cigarette slowly from his mouth with his left hand, exhaling slowly with a faint rasp of his throat and lungs.

"Mr. Kroslimov was correct to hire me on retainer for this matter," Maxwell Sidney shares, his voice a soft purring American farmboy's closed cadence. "This will require an unusual solution, Don, in the world of men such as yourself, and our esteemed colleagues gathered," he says with a gesture of his right hand, his Rolex glinting as his hand emerges from the shade. He takes another drag, slowly.

"Money is a trick of the eye, to make finance simpler. But if simple does not work, we must be complex." He exhales again, this time his breath smoother as he uncrosses his legs and stands, a low chuckle as he sees the uncomfortable look from the lawyer as he walks to the side, peering out the window with his cigarette, a restless, habitual movement that comes from nowhere and fades just as fast as he turns about, his eyes glassy as he regards the Don. "Perhaps you can offer something you have that you can offer at a lower price to yourself, that would be more valuable to us at a higher price?" His mouth turns into a gentle smile, as he taps ash off in a nearby ashtray, brought specifically for him. The female arms dealer frowns and looks away in disgust as a flicker of ash lands outside the glass tray and on the wooden table.


Don Chiatelli eyes Sid Cancer suspiciously. "The Closer". One of his nicknames in the circles of the underworld. There wasn't a deal that Sid couldn't lock down, not a bargain he couldn't drive. It was rare for someone to come away from negotiations with him with the argument incomplete. Most left the meeting with less than they wished, having given more than they desired, and with the sure knowledge that had Sid really wished to, he would have cleaned them out completely.

"I know this guy, this guy here," Chiatelli says, waggling a beringed finger at Sid. "You brought in a hatchet man to a business meeting, huh, a hatchet man?" he asks the Russian, dubious anger in his voice. "I thought this was a friendly meetin', right guys?" he implores his half-dozen cronies in the room. "Why you gotta bring Sid Cancer here?"

Anger in his voice— and something. Something else. Concern. Sid's offer seems to have hit worryingly close to home.

Kroslimov hears it, too, and quirks an interrogative eyebrow at the man.


Sid stands there, having picked an odd spot, with an almost subconscious lurch to his posture that does not translate into his actual position with the naked eye. "Don't worry," Sid assures the Don, noticing the finger with the ringer on it being wagged. He reaches up to his nose with his right hand, rubbing his forefinger beneath his nose to sooth a sudden itch, looking away as he does it. It's a reflex gesture. Without apologizing for the perhaps rude lack of self-control, Sid says, "I'm not here to close you down, Don, I'm here to make this deal work. You want this product, we have nobody else to sell it to. You have power of your own."

Sidney makes a dry mouthed gesture with his tongue and lips briefly, a mostly hidden display, before he hits his cigarette again, looking at the lawyer contemplatively, giving Kroslimov his space to watch his rival and analyze him. "We just want a return on our investment," he explains. Then, Sid looks to Kroslimov. "Perhaps, sir, we could also give the Don something he needs, but may not want." He tilts his head to the right with a raise of his eyebrows at the Don, putting the ball in his court. "Your organization needs this material for something hard. My client procured it with something soft." He moves around to the side of the desk opposite the advisors, switching his cigarette to his right hand and holding it away from both of them with a slightly feminine gesture. "Could we perhaps speculate on a long term return for a speculation with a short term investment?"

Sid turns to the Don, grinning and showing a missing incisor. "It depends on what this material is for." He puts his hand up. "But that is not for me to know."


There's a hard stillness to the air at Sid's question. The Don's eyes narrow to fat, shining slits, and his hands quit thumping on the desk in nervous irritation.

"Y'know, I don't like people asking questions, Sid Cancer," the Don says, spitting Sid's name out with a mocking tone. "I don't like people asking about my business. I don't like people talkin' funny sideways about hard an' soft trades," he says, rising to his feet with a lurch.

"And I 'specially, don't like, it, when MEALY MOUTHED, arrogant lil' SHITKICKERS like YOU—" he jabs a finger at Sid, "try to welch their way through a done deal!"

He grabs a heavy revolver from under his desk and brings it to bear at Sid. His lackies draw steel. The Russians draw steel. Guns *click* and *chak-ak* as safties are switched off and rounds are chambered.

And just as his finger caresses the trigger of the revolver, all the lights in the room go out at once, plunging the room into darkness barely broken by slits of moonlight peeking through the cracks in one painted-over windowpane.


Sid Cancer's mouth quietly clicks shut as the Don rises, listening with a frown that turns into a slack insinuatory look at the jabbing finger. He knocks the situation he's in, his client having drawn him into a deal with a 'Mustache Pete'. Sicilian honor guard Mafia from the old country, or at least in culture. Feuds, vendettas, emotions. No sense of business, only a sense of honor. And as the revolver comes around, a compulsive laugh comes from Maxwell's mouth, his arms frozen at his sides instead of going up, staring at the Don. As the entire room draws guns, there's not a single prayer for survival going through Cancer's mind, only a craving for nicotine that beats anything any modern cowboy has ever felt. He feels his adrenaline pulse, jaw clicking shut after the guffaw escapes and he stares, his face unreadable to anyone, even him. Inhuman.

And then, the lights go out. Sid's nerves flash into action without understanding what just happened, a sudden mix of panic and initiative jogging through his mind as he drops down to a crouch, beneath the barrel of the gun and behind the desk's side. Only the ember of his cigarette in his right hand gives him away, not thinking to allow it to drop from his rictus clenched fingers, as if giving it up right now was even a remote possibility without an extra moment of thought. His eyes are in the pitch, unable to adjust to the inky blackness, mechanical forethought gone from his mind and replaced with pure animal survival.


An outraged, surprised chorus fills the room when the lights go out. Objections are voiced in Sicilian, English, and Russian.

No one starts shooting blindly, at least. There are muffled bootsteps and the sound of slick Italian loafers on the cheap hardwood underfoot, nails and floorboards creaking.

"Shit, shit shit shit," someone hisses.

There's a short, terse conversation in Russian. A flashlight clicks on, held by the arms dealer. A second later, one of the Mafiosos with a bull neck flicks on his own light. The lights pan around the room. "Who turned off the lights? What's going on?"

"Mikey! Go check the lights!" the Don bellows.

No one responds. "Mikey? Mikey! Where the hell are ya?"

"I can shed some light on that," comes a dark, gravelling rasp from the far end of the room. Both flashlights flicker that way, illuminating a sinister, shadowed figure wrapped in a cloak, with gleaming, pupiless white eyes staring from behind a fitted cowl.

"THE BATMAN!" someone shrieks. The cowled figure extends a glove— past all the others, and aiming at Sid Cancer. "I'm just here for one. Everyone else can leave now… or leave later."

The cloak unfurls, and two dark projectiles unerringly strike the lights from hands. One light goes out, and the other tumbles into a far corner under a heavy bureau, turning everyone into identical, featureless shadows.


Sid Cancer remains in place as he hears the responses from the mobsters, slowly raising his hand to his mouth and taking a drag of his cigarette, the mark of a true addict beyond any and all psychological benefits induced by his fluctuating nicotine dependent bipolar. He merely listens, and waits, moving down to his right knee to relieve the tension on his middle aged back. And then, Batman appears.

The entire world turns into a nightmare despite retaining the same appearance, a feeling of dread coming over him much more serious than a threat from a Don that's dangerously close to losing his operation and is willing to blow a vital deal over his own personal inadequacy. A broken man can be killed, but the Batman can break a broken man into sawdust that is not dead.

As Batman points at him, it is as if Lucifer has finally decided to descend from the castles of Scotland and take the Irishman to see King James for being a witch. He quietly stands, moving forward after the lights go out, having already made the proper calculation. If he fights, the Mafia will turn him in. He heard the shriek. Trembling as if he's just been arrested for the first time, he steps past Batman, into the hallway, lit cigarette dangling from his lips as he looks at Batman with a shuddering, whispery chuckle breaking up from him as he escapes death, with the help of The Devil.


The Don is paranoid enough that his offices only have one door— one way in, one way out. No one can sneak up on him that way. And once Sid's through the doorway, Batman does… something to the door. It's difficult to see, but the sharp, acrid chemical odor suggests a solvent or adhesive or the like. Locking the Don into the room with the Russians.

And then, the fate of the mafiosos is an utterly less important issue for Sid, because he's face to face with the Batman. Just inside of arm's reach. Close. Too close. Close enough that Sid has all the time in the world to wonder just how many of the rumors about Batman are true or false. He breathes, but with a rhythm that seems almost mechanical. He holds himself to utter stillness, unmoving, like a mannequin come to life. And the eyes behind the cowl are not just lenses— they're without pupil or iris. Unreadable and blank, but they clearly see all.

"Maxwell. Sidney," Batman says, almost invoking the man's name. "You find yourself in poor company."


Maxwell looks down and to his right, instinctively pulling the cigarette out with the standard English right hand instead of the royal Irish left hand as he's politely intimidated. "Well, you know," Maxwell says, pulling up the All American boxer mentality that has served him right his entire life to shield himself from scrutiny. "Business makes for odd fellows," he says with a sigh, before coughing to the side with his head up. And then, with a bit of the defiant danger known to pugilists, he turns to look at Batman directly in his Hades' eyes. "So how can I help you? I assume I'm doing this particular favor pro bono?" he murmurs with a bit of a curl to his voice, the hidden soldier inside his mind becoming evident, but without the lack of control he displayed with the Don. His posture is loose but responsive, although there's a slight curl along his left inner arm, in case he has to leverage himself with the Bat to better survive one of his lethal martial arts maneuvers. The gesture is clearly instinctual, from the way he doesn't shift his facial gestures when he performs it.


In the space of his speech, Maxwell would discover what is, perhaps, Batmans' most single unnerving habit. Still, frozen, barely breathing, too tall, built wide and lean in all the wrong places— most sinister of all, however, is that Batman doesn't blink. Not once.

"Pro bono? No, Mr. Sidney. The fee is that you're on this side of the door when I leave," he rasps, his voice a guttural tone with absolutely zero identifable accent.

"I want to know about this weapons shipment. The Russians shouldn't have known about that manifest. The Italians have no business with that much plastique. You wouldn't have walked into that meeting without leverage on both sides."

"I want that leverage."


The craving for another hit creeps up Sidney's chest like cotton swabs, but he lets the cigarette burn, the threat with enough implication to cow him. It's not the violent innuendo, or the feudal tongue lashing given to a junior executive that's misbehaved strongly, but the manner in which he's been replied to. It immediately earns respect. For Sid Cancer, respect is all that is needed for cooperation.

There's a slow inhale that forces the welterweight's chest to rise as he moves his right foot back and away, so he can face away from Batman, his tongue dry as he wets his mouth with a squeeze of his cheeks to draw saliva. "The Russians hired me. This one uses soft tactics. Bribery, burglary, theft of documents, hit and fade access theft over time. That's not a standard Bratsva, that's one working for a Krysha, a roof. They've got a credit center and someone on their payroll, and soldiers, I'm guessing. Parasites on the Slavic community, funnel money back to a patron in Russia. They can get just about anything."

He looks back at Batman. "The Italian? His operation is failing. But he's the only one buying that much plastique, like you said. If it's not you they're trying to blow up, it's a turf war. He's decided to try out terrorism, from what I saw in there. If he wanted money, he'd slow invest in ventures, creep around. You only shave off the edges for guys like La Cosa Nostra. They get the run of Blackgate, they have the best lawyers for courtroom manuevers and prison messages, and they have an endemic culture that jackasses like Martin Scorsese love to glorify."

"The Russians have the item, the Italians are on the edge. I just didn't know that the Don was on the edge because he's getting jagged." He puts the cigarette in his mouth, rewarding himself with a long drag and snickering. "Staffing problems."


Batman edges closer to Sidney. Closer. Far too in his personal space, letting the shadows that surround him spread out and close around Sidney. The rumors about the Bat's supernatural powers are all over Gotham, how he can control shadows, bid them to grab people, or kill them or hurt them.

"You're not telling me anything I don't know, Sidney Maxwell," Batman rasps. Even his /breath/ is dry and cold, lacking in humanity. No scent about him, none at all. Not a whiff of cologne or body odor or leather. Those blind, all-seeing eyes bore into Sidney, still unblinking.

"Chiatelli's desperate. Anyone can smell it on him. Like a dog backed into a corner. He wants that semtex for something big. A heist. A robbery, or an assassination. I think you know what he's got in mind. You hear things. At the water cooler," he hisses. "Around."

And as close as he is, Batman hasn't even moved his hands from under his cloak. Utter possession of his person, and pushing Sidney back into the wall by sheer force of personal presence, a snake slithering across the room to back a man into the corner.


Max retreats calmly, against the wall, but not with his lower back, taking the cue. "Someone's cut into his revenue, that's why he can't pay straight capital. And he won't negotiate. And, he refuses to work with the Russians on whatever his scheme is, despite the fact that they could bankroll whatever he wants, in exchange for a percentage of his take. He was planning on a betrayal, I know it. Smokers have a way with people, it's the stink of death. They always let you know when they don't like you, one way or another."

Maxwell's jaw steels itself. "It's not just an assassination. Chiatelli is on the verge of being assassinated himself. You know how I know?" He presses his lips together. "He called me a hatchetman. I work for everyone and anyone, and he thinks I'm there to downsize him. He offended somebody, because he's losing turf, he's killing people over offenses, he's losing talent to other organizations. He's probably got snitches all over him because he won't play nice, and the headcases are the ones that spot the informants. You know what I think?"

"He's in everybody's way. And do you know what old men do when we are on our way out, when nobody needs us anymore?" He lifts the cigarette to the side of Batman's view, pointing up vertically, filter held in his fingertips. "We go out big."


"Hmmm…" It's not a sound that indicates Batman is not considering Sid's proposal. He's considering whether or not the wall behind Sidney would do better with a man-shaped hole in it.

"That's a start, Mr. Maxwell," Batman rasps. "Let's go for two for two. Tell me about Mr. Kroslimov. If he's just another underboss, then you're the tooth fairy. He's almost certainly ex-FSB. I'd say Spetsnaz, but he doesn't have the crew cut or the neckline for it. If I had to guess, I'd say counterintelligence services."

"And we both know that counterintel operators don't quit the service. So tell me, Mr. Maxwell, why you think Kroslimov is so keen to do a favor for the Italians— and what he stands to gain beyond sending a few rubels back to Moscow."


Sid blinks a moment, looking honestly surprised. He doesn't know how to spot military affiliations anymore, he lost the knack when he lost his place at the top of the world. "Not the Italians. THIS Italian. He wants to take out all of his rivals, either one at a time or all at once. That could be an Italian boss, an Irish boss, even Kroslimov himself, if he gets crossed. Maybe take out an entire sitdown. It's something that happens to executives that get fired and then they snap. They want to gut everything."

"If he's counterintelligence, that means that espionage is happening here related to their business or national interests. There's a social movement afoot that interferes with their corporate monopolies and the underworld is shielding them, maybe there's some rich Saud prince that is backing a crime family that is directly opposed to Russian foreign policy, maybe it's a duck hunt of an ex-KGB working for the wrong people. My best guess, though?"

"He's a deliberate false affiliation fit to purpose. Any Russian service member can broker a deal like this. He's not hunting someone, they're just using him to create a vacuum. Move their boys in, after this psycho Sicilian tips everything up. For all we know, an affiliated family could've set up his downfall, knowing he started showing weakness."


Batman stares at Sid Cancer. Silently, for most of a minute. That same steady, metronomic breathing, the way he stares without blinking or moving. A serpent hovering just off the ground, considering whether or not to take a life.

"Not good enough, Maxwell. Not good enough. You're guessing. A man like you, in your line of work, with such… fine suits," Batman says. A hand slides up and gloved fingers caress one lapel between thumb and forefinger. "A man who weasles through the underworld like an eel through seaweed, both sides, neither side. You're a mercenary, Mr. Maxwell, and-" He grabs Maxwell's jacket front and slams him against the wall. The motion's so smooth and fast that there's almost no time to react. Batman doesn't shift his feet or lean or brace himself. It's sudden and explosive. "-you know you won't last a second once someone's sure you don't have dirt on them anymore."

He keeps Maxwell pinned to the wall with that one arm, rocklike and with no visible effort. "So you're going to get the dirt I want, or I'll make sure that the Russians heap dirt on your grave."

His head tilts, minutely. Listening. He jars Maxwell once more, then steps backwards two paces, disappearing into his cloak again. "Gotham PD is here. You've got about three minutes to get clear before they find the place. Don't let me down, Mr. Maxwell," Batman admonishes the man, before disappearing entirely into the long shadows of the hallway.


Sid stares back, his mouth drooping faintly to let his nearly spent cigarette hang down, out the side of his mouth. He looks down slightly, at the hand caressing his suit jacket, before he's slammed against the wall and his cigarette goes flying from his mouth, spinning across the hallway and hitting the floor. His left hand jerks upwards to grab Batman's right arm and brace himself there, his inner self snapping out like a boot cadet resisting a drill instructor too hard and marking himself for squad lead. "Don't call you, you call me, right?" he says with a twisted face, not particularly a look of anything but physical response. The last jar, is responded to by a release from his arm on the Bat's, before he smooths his smoker jacket over his tuxedo shirt and bowtie, straightening his jacket as an excuse to dry his palms. It's a physical reaction to betraying his social culture, the mark of either an informant or a corrupt authority, depending on one's culture. He shoves his hands in his pockets, moving towards a stairwell and descending towards the basement, so he can escape via the cellar door. He says nothing else, the charge of purpose now amidst him with nobody watching but himself. A scowl is warped across his face, as he pushes the nicotine craving away so he can critically think about his escape instead of making a circumspect judgement and make an error based on false architectural assumption.

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