Competing Interests

August 15, 2018:

The murder of a Rand Industries whistleblower prompts a call from one Wilson Fisk. Danny Rand is not a happy camper.

Rand Industries, NYC

It's so shiny!

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

True story: being the CEO of a billion-dollar multinational actually takes time, unless you signed over a lot of your power to other people. Or have people you can trust. Danny Rand has not done that, nor does he have an abundance of people he trusts. That means a lot of long hours staring at things he doesn't quite understand.

It's about 9 PM and he's bent over the desk that once belonged to his father, hands knotted in his a-bit-too-long nest of curls. He's squinting at a long sheet of figures that he's comparing against a computer screen and against an-honest-to-god Accounting for Dummies book.

Danny Rand has been accused of many things, but a lack of effort isn't one of them.

*

The desk phone rings. The flash of the call says it was patched on up through the front desk, which on the current phone system doesn't say much about who is on the line. It simply says whomever it is managed to get past the gatekeeper.

When Danny picks up the line there is no greeting. No introduction. Not even a sales pitch.

Instead, what he hears is a low rumble of a voice. Calm and collected on the surface, it nevertheless carries a seething quality that seems to be amped right up. "Turn on the television. Any local station will do. And stay on the line. It's within your best interests to hear what I have to say when you see what I'm about to show you."

*

Danny's "Hello?" is a little vacant and distracted. He's still deep in the nest of facts and figures, and that voice takes a moment to penetrate. He stops, furrows brows, looks at the number. "Who is this?" Although he thinks he knows. The hair on the back of his neck is standing at attention. He really wants to defy the man on the other end, but something tells him to turn the TV on. The flatscreen flickers to life against the wall at a touch of a panel embedded in that old desk.

*

The anchor stands in front of some crime scene tape, and there is a bustle of police activity behind her. It's all fairly non-descript, with no particularly disturbing images, but her words may be disturbing enough.

"…39-year old Bernadine Nakato was found dead on the steps of her Brooklyn apartment early this morning. Police say she was shot five times at point blank range…"

The man on the other end of the line lets the sound of the report go for a few moments before he says casually, "That would be the whistleblower, wouldn't it, Mr. Rand? The one who sparked off your most recent PR nightmare?"

*

It takes Danny a minute to connect the name. When it does, it takes another moment or two to connect the dots. He tries hard, but sometimes he doesn't put things together especially fast. "What's that supposed to accomplish, Fisk?" He stands up and walks a few steps, straining the cord of the desk phone.

*

"Just this. Right now the press is unaware of that salient little detail."

There's a pause, like he's taking a drag on something. Maybe an expensive cigar.

"It would be a shame if it got leaked to the press. Would start the whole controversy up again. Rand's reputation would be in the gutter for…well. Quite possibly forever. You could be the next Haliburton, Danny. The next Enron. One of the top 5 people think about when they think about the world's most despicable organizations."

He lets that hang in the air while the newscast continues. The reporter is now interviewing one of the neighbors, who is wiping tears away while she describes finding the body.

*

Danny Rand's gripping so tightly on the phone that the plastic makes a soft cracking sound and threatens to destroy the mechanism mid-conversation. He looks up at the TV, then out at the skyline of New York outside his office window. "How many people are you going to kill, Fisk? Good people. Innocent people."

*

There's a soft chuckle on the other end of the phone. "Now, now, let's not get derailed with wild accusations, Mr. Rand. I only thought this news report would be of interest to you. I only thought the risks inherent to Rand would be something you'd want to hear about. I only wanted to point out that if Rand would like to withdraw from certain bidding wars it has gotten into over some properties in Hell's Kitchen it might be possible to help you preserve your company's reputation."

There's a deliberate pause.

And then, enunciating each word: "Your father's life's work."

*

"I'm pretty sure my father wouldn't want me making deals with murderers," says Danny, a hint of venom entering his otherwise well-controlled tone. In spite of the snap, he does ask, with great care and a slow, deliberate cadence. "Which properties?"

*

"Every one in that neighborhood you're bidding on, I think. You've been driving the prices up. That's a problem for me. So. You make one of my problems go away. And I make one of your problems go away. Evidence could show up which indicates Miss Nakato fell at the hands of a jealous boyfriend, in a heinous act that had absolutely nothing to do with her professional activities, for example. Real evidence, which I happen to have access to. Poor dear used a dating service. Always risky, that."

If Danny's venom bothers him he gives no sign from his tone of voice. He could be proposing a joint venture. A new product line. A great new ad campaign. Just business.

*

Danny looks at the screen as a photo of the murdered woman is shown. He swallows, takes a breath. Emery's words echo in his ear. Something about his responsibility to the company and the people who work for him. And his responsibility for that woman's death. Rand might not have pulled the trigger, but his hands aren't exactly clean.

After a moment, he says, "I can't withdraw all at once. It would look suspicious."

*

"Start with five," Fisk suggests. "Tomorrow morning. A gesture of good faith. The problematic evidence will remain a secret as long as I see steady progress. The helpful evidence only comes to light when you are 100% out of my affairs. At which point, Mr. Rand, it would behoove you to remain out of my affairs."

His tone turns darker. "One of you murdered my best friend. My blood brother. My patience is now exceedingly thin. I would advise you to act swiftly. Whatever moral high ground you all thought you could claim is long gone. Now it's just two competing interests, and that's all there is to it."

*

"Murdered…?" Danny is not a good enough negotiator to keep the genuine shock out of his voice. Whether or not Fisk believes it's a genuine reaction depends on whether he thinks the derpy, well-meaning businessman thing is an act. He exhales a breath, brow furrowed deeply. "You know as well as I do that these things don't always move as quickly as they should." A beat. "But I'll do what I can." And then after a moment, he adds, "…I just started the process for a bid on the damaged bodega on West 46th. I'll cancel that tonight." And then he adds, though it pains him to do so, "…as a show of good faith."

*

Whether Fisk believes it or not goes unanswered. He just says: "James Wesley. A good man. Murdered."

Good and evil might mean different things in his world.

But Danny's answer seems to satisfy him. "Very good, Mr. Rand. My people breathlessly await word from your people. Have a pleasant evening."

And with that, he hangs up the phone, leaving only a low dial tone in the young man's ear.

*

When Danny hangs up the phone, it splinters along the fault lines created by his earlier death grip. It lets out a strained chime, then a cacaphony of beeps of a receiver improperly cradled. He leans on the desk, then reaches to tug his cell phone off a charging mat. He thumbs through it and shoots of a text to Matt Murdock.

« I need to talk to you.» and then a second later, « and foggy too probably. Theres been a development. »

Then he slumps into his chair and grudgingly reaches for his computer mouse. He's got a bid to cancel.

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