A Visit from the King

June 12, 2017:

The Kingpin checks on his estranged, claimed daughter.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: None

Plot:

Mood Music: J.S. Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G major - Prelude


Fade In…

Tucked in a deep corner of Soho, on a night like any other, is a wine bistro reviewed in the Village Voice as a 'hidden gem'. Past vine-wrapped walls of white brick, past the stylized sign in white and red letters, and up a staircase, the bistro is a darkened room, made moody with candlelit tables and wine-colored tablecloths. Twenty tables in all, there is still enough room for a black piano, set upon a slightly raised stage.

Entertainment, for clientele who can afford the menus, which don't mention prices upon them.

Maya Lopez has seen dozens of recitals since a child, since an orphan. It used to be community centers, it was almost Juliard, but having past her early twenties, she's a tag on a wall in coffee houses and a for-hire pianist who, much like this mildly damp evening, is performing a post-dinner recital for the bistro's guests.

( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhfxM5FOzjQ )

With her head down and eyes towards the keys, Maya plays the first notes of a song from her childhood, from her home, a sonorous piece of chamber music. Slender ankles curve in press upon the pedals, painting a dark figure before the piano, wearing a stylish black dress, artfully straightened hair, and, casual to those in the known, her fingers painting over the keys…is effortless. A stolen skill.

*

Wilson Fisk approves. He approves of the exquisite bistro. The hidden quality of the place. The genteel beauty of the ambiance. The fantastic food, the exquisite drink.

He approves of the music, the selection, one of his very favorites. He sits there in the table at the very back, shrouded in shadows, dressed from head to toe in a tailor-made white suit, sipping on a spiced Vienna coffee.

A man stands behind him. The bodyguard is in a black suit and glasses which reflect the light and conceal his eyes. He'd look sinister, were he holding a gun. But he is not holding a gun. Tonight, Claude's whole purpose in life is to hold the one dozen carefully selected white roses which have been set aside for the moment the woman Wilson Fisk claims as his child finishes her beautiful recital.

Fisk used to wait in the wings of various recital locations, holding flowers like this in his own arms, but the venue doesn't really make that an option, and he has decided that he must choose the moment that he will be seen. And since he absolutely can waste a man on nothing more than keeping Maya's flowers unrumpled and fresh, he chooses to do so. A perogative of his station and status. A perogative of hers, as he sees it.

Something about the man at the back table radiates an air that has sent the guests at the tables closest to his packing, calling it an early night rather than allowing themselves to take in the recital. Perhaps it's the creepy spectacle of the bodyguard. Perhaps it's just Fisk's presence, which tends to convey uneasy feelings to the lizard brains of gentler folk even when he's just sitting there. Whatever the reason, he approves of their early flight, too. They would have sullied the performance with their cowardice and uselessness alone.

*

Across the years, the tone of Maya Lopez' recitals have been a living, breathing memory. Her first, before she was two digits in age, came shortly before her father's death. It was a flowered memory then, and after his death she turned to Chopin, to selections from Philip Glass, morose tones for a sense of mourning and hope that came from the security she found in Wilson Fisk after she was left without a father. Over time, the older she grew, the more she wore the dresses of women and graduated from flowered dresses and Mary Janes, she found joy again in the clouds of Gershwin.

Two months ago, after a bralw and gunfight with a dozen paid men, she'd found her father had died from a decision somewhere within the families. The paranoia has settled in, placing somber notes and sway into her timing at the end of her recital.

The crowd applauds.

A tiny smile, they receive, when Maya Lopez rises from the bench, crosses one ankle over the other, and dips her head to them, politely greeting applause she cannot hear with a silent thanks of her own.

*

Fisk rises slowly, deliberately, setting the coffee drink aside. It's mostly finished anyway, and it's not really what he is here for. He gestures to Claude without looking at him. The bodyguard lays the flowers into the crook of his left arm. He makes his slow, unhurried way from the back to the front where Maya accepts her well-earned applause. He stands there, and waits until she has straightened, waits until she sees him.

The thick fingers of his right hand move. He learned sign for her; it was nothing he would have bothered with before he took her in. He's as fluent in it now as he is in the other languages he speaks. He does not need to speak the words aloud like some do out of habit when they attempt to bridge the gap between the world of those who hear and those who do not. And this suits him too, because the conversation he wishes to have is not for the fools here. It is for Maya alone.

"Your music," he signs, "remains as exquisite as ever."

He sweeps her a slight, courtly bow, and then proffers the flowers, exactly as he has on other dates and other occasions. Of course. On all those other occasions she knew only the lies. Now she knows at least part of the truth.

Even one such as Wilson Fisk can experience a tension, a tightness around the face and beady eyes, out of concern for how his gifts— and even his presence— may be recieved.

*

It's like a magic trick. Sometimes it always is. From Maya's perspective, the floor sweeps towards her eyes in the downwards bow of her head, strangers before her, clapping politely next to empty glasses of wine. When the world rolls backup, he is there, the stocky figure in white with sad eyes. Nothing one second, his arrival the next.

Immediately, there is a crack in the facade. Surprise at first, washed secondhand in a coat of inner conflict. Though her smile falters, her lip remembers to lift again, smiling softly to him in the final moments of her bow.

"Thank you," Maya signs back over the heads of others now turning to disperse, to return to their dates. "It wouldn't be what it is, had you not placed me in the room with such good teachers."

A hole opens in the tiny crowd, and through it, Maya breathes in slowly. She hooks a strand of her black hair away from her lips and averts her eyes taking the first steps towards Wilson Fisk, eyes lifting to his, filled with questions like 'what are you doing here?' or 'am I being followed'?

Instead.

"You look well, Mr. Fisk." Maya signs, spelling his name with her fingers as the distance diminishes.

*

The smile, the thanks, the acknowledgement of his efforts on her behalf— all of this serves to soften the mien of the man in white. It brings a smile to his lips, relaxes the set of his shoulders. He continues to hold the flowers out to her, even as he signs, 'You are kind to say so.'

Claude remains in the very back, his glasses ever glinting. Rare is the time the man's eyes ever show. He seems unable or unwilling to prevent the phenomenon that keeps them from glinting in the light, always.

Meanwhile, despite the pleased look hovering around his face, Fisk can see the questions in the eyes of the young woman he credits himself as having raised. His daughter, were anyone to press him on the issue, for all that she is addressing him by honorific and surname. As it is, she is one of the very few granted the privilege to touch his name, and it is not only because she does it so very silently.

His massive hand raises to deliver a heartfelt plea.

"Come home, Maya. You are missed."

Even his eyes are pleading, an indignity which he would not normally suffer. "I will find and single out the man responsible and let you kill him however you wish."

An offer given as if giving up the killer and ordering his death at her hands were a bauble she saw in the store and wanted, or a pony that she begged him for. But…for a man who sees the world as he does, this makes perfect sense. She's angry about the death of her birth father, and so, he will offer her the kind of cold vengeance he routinely deals, all neatly packaged up and delivered at her doorstep should she only see reason.

*

Maya steps into Wilson Fisk's shadow. The lighting above and his impressive height swallows her in darkness where the mere flicker of candlelight around them fails to illuminate. Yet, even with the constant light stolen from her, the way her throat tightens in swallow as she reaches for the roses is visible. Conflict, even as she takes the roses and gathers them to her breast, is written across her features.

As is…her restrained respect; it is a lack of want to lash out in the wrong direction and, perhaps one day literally, bite the hand that fed her.

Maya frowns to his face and wets her lip with her tongue, briefly looking away before tilting her chin upwards to better see his face. She hugs the roses to her chest, freeing up both wrists, fingers arcing into eloquently poised sign.

"But I want to find him, myself." Maya frowns in aching, darkening apology to her former caretaker. "I…" Hands slow, how clear the hesitation in chosen words can be, in sign. "…know someone ordered it."

Maya's face falls silent, eyes curious, once more.

"When I'm home, I look at everyone differently now. Every restaurant you take me to. Even Claude."

*

He doesn't say anything right away. Fisk has a habit of being very still sometimes, a stillness which can erupt into kindness or violence without much warning— though violence has certainly never been directed her way. Still, it's not as though she hasn't seen him inflict it on others.

He sighs. His fingers move, both of them now. The gift was received, and that, too, twists at his own heart. She steps into his shadow. Regret creates its own across his face, for a brief moment, before it adopts its normal controlled gaze, the look that gives away so very little. Until he allows a bit of earnestness to show.

"I can respect," he signs, "the desire to track the object of your vengeance yourself." And he actually does, for it is exactly what he would have done. He can even feel proud of it. "But surely you can track him from home, from a seat of power, your seat of power, all that belongs to you. It should speed your chase, and it would keep you safer. I understand you are hurting, but surely seeing things in a different light does not have to be the end. We all grow, change, see things differently over time. It's little more than the process of growing, Maya. Whomever it was acted against us, and should be punished."

Truth?

Or more lies? A willingness to sacrifice someone troublesome to help Maya get it out of her system, someone who may or may not have been involved? Or a willingness to allow vengenace on one who disobeyed him, or on a rival who has since been brought to heel?

The man with the long shadow is a man of smoke and mirrors, and the bistro certainly offers few answers.

Above, Claude shifts a little, recognizing his name in the flow of fingers. He is too disciplined to weigh in.

*

While Maya lowers her eyes to his hands, watching the words form, she dips her head to the roses. Breathing in their bouquet, she brushes a thumb over the edge of a stem, eyes intent on the words forming. The expression on his face is lost to her as her mascara-thick lashes hood over her eyes, head canted low, calculating past that which his fingers spell.

Not long ago, their conversations hadn't been this difficult, not by far.

A year ago, this month, she would have kissed his cheek and beamed pearly, white teeth at the white roses that had, by proxy, been her favorite since childhood.

"It didn't keep my father safer." Maya cringes deeply when she signs it, by impulse. She holds a hand out to him before snaking it back in, quickly signing. "I didn't mean you, I meant the companies, the 'allies', the 'whatever' it is called. He didn't have your home or guards of his own. Not that I remember."

Maya falters, breathing in through her nose and averting her eyes. The toe of her heels presses into the floor in a twist, lips flexing either by the ever-present feeling of being pinned to the floor by Fisk's constant intensity, or through inner turmoil.

Somewhere in between is closer to the truth.

"I rent a place, now." Maya looks up to his face, once more, fingers flying close to the bouquet of roses. "Can I visit? Maybe slow. I /am/ hurting. The seat of my own power has helped."

*

He watches her as she works through it. His eyes tighten when she speaks of her father, whether out of sympathy, jealousy, or anger is— tough to say. It's always very tough to say, his fleshy face typically holding itself under tight control until he loses all control. Maybe it's a little of all of it, to be fair. He can never be her father. She wants to avenge him…he might well wish he'd have the grace to disappear into distant memory so he can be her father instead.

But even so, as she points out she's renting a place he can't help but allow a smile of pride to touch his features. He reaches out, gently, tentatively, touching her shoulder should she allow it. It's brief, just a little pat, quickly pulled back should she feel the need to flinch away. But nevertheless. "I respect your desire for independence," say the dance of his fingers at last. "And you are always welcome to visit me. Whenever you like."

A pause, and now? There really is nothing but— if not a father's simple concern— a guardian's.

"While I'm sure you can get all you need yourself, through your own talents, do you need anything? Furniture? Is it a nice apartment? You didn't skimp, now? You didn't get something old or rundown or dangerous?"

Well. For just a moment, anyway, there was nothing but a guardian's simple concern. The question about the apartments might have more than one or two motives behind it, depending on how much time she's spent paying attention to his real estate interests.

*

"I'll call before I come home to visit." Maya signs, ending her sentence with enough time to reach for his hand upon her shoulder and give it a squeeze. The center of her lips goes white, hardening with her eyes as she does so, but the casual twist of her neck sends her black hair covering her mouth enough to hide the worst of it. She's faltered, but in truth, Wilson Fisk is a hard man to say no to. Even harder that she's unsure if he's at the end of the road to discovering her father's executioner.

A change of subject has Maya stepping out of the Kingpin's shadow. The hardness in her face recedes and through an upward cut of her lips, a smile it's often called, her teeth can be seen. Her head dips in beckoning towards one of the tables.

"I found a loft. Enough room for me to exercise and wide enough that I can see the whole place from any corner." Maya replies with her fingers, looking upwards from her shoulder as she collects an empty wine glass.

"It's not…your kind of nice." Maya's voice arrives, now, kept in a low tone for the sake of their privacy. "It's not far from Chinatown, but the elevator and the air conditioning works. Though dangerous?" Maya smiles softly, hair flowing against her shoulders in the shake of her head. "It's getting harder for neighborhoods to be dangerous. Do I need anything, though?" Maya blinks and lifts the wine glass.

"How about a glass of wine, like back then?" Maya offers the laurel wreath. "Any place that isn't the penthouse is always in need of something."

*

Wilson Fisk is content to follow her to one of the tables. She asks for wine, and he motions to one of the waiters. "Bring a bottle of the House red," he rumbles, signing it even as he says it, now, in a way he did not feel the need to before. "And two glasses." Wine now, but also wine later, because he gestures to Claude, who leans down to listen to him. Again, he signs, and he speaks. "Take down Maya's address before she leaves this evening. Have a Howard Miller wine cabinet delivered to her home. Make sure it is fully and completely stocked so that she may properly compliment her meals and entertain any guests she might wish to bring up to her sanctuary."

"Yes, sir," Claude says, signing it as well. Now he allows a bit of a warm smile for Maya, though he is soon pulling out his tablet and tap tapping away. When James Wesley is unavailable to act as Fisk's aide, Claude is there to play substitute, and he does a good job of it. A good thing, since Wesley is often out enacting Fisk's will, one of the few trusted to directly do so.

The man switches to pure sign again as the various players in this drama rush about to do his bidding, and says, "There. That ought to go some distance towards making it a little bit closer to the level of nice to which you are entitled. I suppose all young people need to rough it for just a little bit. The wine cabinet shan't take up too much space in a loft."

China Town relaxes him, or even near China Town; most of his little real estate projects these days have been focused around Hell's Kitchen. Though ratty apartment buildings are hardly the only iron he's got in his fires.

*

Maya carefully sets the roses down upon the table, then finds a chair. She smooths the back of her dress against her legs and settles in with crossed legs and the sort of posture instilled in her from boarding school. She sits tall in her seat, naturally, with proud shoulders and a smile of thanks to the wait staff that honors Fisk's will. After all, she'd hoped for wine. A recital at a swanky wine bistro must come with a drink or two.

Sitting has also freed her of the bouquet, and thus, her hands.

"That's very generous of you." One slender brow twitches while she signs; the casual weight of Fisk's will apparent in her shoulders. "By comparison, it definitely is roughing it," Losing the initiative to say 'no' to the man, she continues. "I'm sure it will fit, but I don't think I'll have many guests. It's a place to sleep, truly. I read, sometimes, but I don't have many friends in the city. I haven't kept touch with my friends from school."

Maya ponders for a moment, one eye narrowing, before she shrugs the invisible weight against her shoulders. Her lips come together, flattening in the way they tend to before she asks a question.

"Is it quiet, there?" Maya tilts her brows to the center as she signs. "I don't know the right words, but I don't want to offend you. If this hunt ends with someone important to your work, I don't want you to be hurt for what I need to do. So, when I visit, I will play."

*

She is frank. And honest. These are qualities that Fisk respects. Appreciates. He listens to her talk about how she hasn't kept touch, and this prompts some concern, for her lonliness, for her welfare. But he doesn't address these things. She shall have a place to sleep and a place to drink.

The sommelier pours the wine for them, and he takes his own glass up. He toasts her with it without saying what he's toasting precisely, takes a sip, ponders her questions. He eyes, with approval, her very proper posture, her excellent manners, the way she fits into this beautiful place.

"When you come," he signs, once he's put the glass aside, "it will be quiet. If the hunt ends with someone important to your work, he will be replaced. You have the privilege of being one of two people more important to me than all of that. This person overstepped. He has harmed you. This must be rectified. I am content to allow its rectification."

What is one life, one worker ant's worthless pooled blood, to that? Unless, of course, it was he who gave the order. But subterfuges pile on subterfuges in his world, and if it was not him it would be in keeping with his character to simply offer the fellow's head out on a platter so that he can make Maya happy once more. Different people have different significance, in Wilson Fisk's world. Some are up near the top, with him. Others are a distant dash down the pyramid.

"I will look forward to hearing you play."

*

Maya waits patiently while her wine is poured. It was a virtue of hers in the past, something necessary for someone in a soundless world without the ability to demand things come quickly. She holds herself in place with reserve, eyes lifting from Fisk's face, past his broad shoulders to Claude and the flickering light from passing cars she can see through the curtained windows. Her center has been found, and when the wine is done pouring, the glass is lifted.

Maya Lopez toasts Wilson Fisk, in turn. Silently, without need or force for reason. Their conversation has become a boundary from which whatever proper toast lives within.

Maya hovers the glass beneath her nose, breathing it in, before she tilts the glass gently to her lips, and sips.

The Hand.

The Mafia.

So far, Maya's investigations have kept her within a certain series of boundaries, as well. Wilson Fisk lives within the boundaries of the dark places she's been peeking into. Only, she does not know the whole of his business, only that he's somewhere within. The poker night she tore apart two weeks ago for answers very well could have been his own men…or someone else's.

"Some people say, when they mourn someone, that their soul isn't at rest as a means to justifying the things that /they/ truly want." Maya signs to Wilson as her glass is set down. Her chocolate brown eyes sharpen his way, not shying for eye contact with the man she grew a bout. "/I/ am not at rest. Hopefully, when this is over, I will be. If I am not, then I will be honest with you about it." Maya pauses, her fingers hanging in the air. "You might be the only one I have left."

And when all is done, Maya may have no one left.

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