Go and tell that long-tongued liar
Go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the backbiter
Tell them that God's gonna cut them down
It was the scar on Rothstein's wrist that served as your strongest warning.
They'll ask you, years down the line when you and Meyer rule the drug and twilight-raise trade from the balcony of the Hotel Nacional - why you'd been so loyal to a man like Arnold Rothstein. They'll sit in your hotel suite, paid for by money you wouldn't have if it weren't for A.R., and not believe a damn word that comes out of your mouth.
It doesn't matter, because public perception keeps you in business. You know the truth, and you'll try to keep telling it to anyone who will listen. Because A.R. taught you good business sense and how to deal with the Manzazu; taught you to wear gold stickpins to ward off the shades and dressed you in blue to signify what you think of as neutrality (but what A.R. himself called "purity", which you never quite understood). He took you and Meyer to the night-markets, showed you just how easy it was to exploit suckers with a quick and dirty raise - tricks from the old bone-conjuring practices that you've turned into the twilight raise. Tiniest bit of the conjurer's life, not the leverage and sacrifice of a full raise.
You'll never be able to repay him for those lessons. You can't even begin to try.
The papers will spin other stories, of how Meyer reminded A.R. of the son he couldn't have with his shade wife, of how you or Meyer were the one who raised Carolyn in the first place. Never mind the scar on A.R.'s wrist - he'd sacrificed his own life for hers, leveraged in accordance with the old ways, and he'd been made fucking charem for it.
And never mind that shades still make your skin crawl, how even the money you make from the twilight-raises itches at the back of your neck. Never mind that you wouldn't and couldn't raise a damned thing and that you feel sick to your stomach even seeing Meyer after a raise.
(The country had a fucking field day with that one: Charlie "Lucky" Luciano, mob boss, heroin kingpin, who gave the nation a new way to raise their loved ones . . . a Null.)
A.R. gave you enough money to buy back your soul. Gave you enough influence to reshape the way bone-conjuring worked. Gave you enough power to wipe out the Manzazu and force the Temple of the Pure to go underground.
And none of it could combat the excommunication. One entire year of your life for every day you spend in America - those were the rules. If you set foot on American soil, your soul began ticking down again, no matter what wards Meyer set or how many bruja Frank brought in to stop it. How were any of you supposed to know Thomas fucking Dewey was a Manzazu playing at Null status?
But after twenty long years, you miss home.
You spend the last two weeks of your life in the penthouse at the Ritz, Meyer by your side. There are so many wards on the place, it fucking glows like Vegas, but nothing can stop the hourglass inside you running empty. Every hour that slips by feels like you're being emptied, and it makes calm, collected, unshakeable Meyer absolutely fucking lose it.
"If you fucking raise me, I will kill you," you tell Meyer, nine hours into day six, when he's so pissed he's practically boiling. "I mean it, Little Man. You fucking promise me."
You don't scare Meyer; he battles Manzazu and eats demons for breakfast. The most powerful bone-conjurer in America.
"No. As soon as you die, the excommunication is satisfied. Conjuring doesn't get better than what you'd be - fresh body, the knife we took off Masseria - and if you think I ain't got the will, Charlie-"
"Fucking promise. I don't want to be raised. I don't want to be Carolyn."
"You wouldn't be," Meyer insists.
You know him better than that; his intentions may be the best, but he's as weak when it comes to cheating death as Rothstein ever was. He'd leverage his soul for yours, and you don't want to be that important.
"Meyer," you say, shoving him against the wall and drawing Masseria's knife - the one you stuck in his back, then Maranzano's a year later, ending the power of the Manzazu. "I'll fucking consecrate this thing before I let you raise me. Take your vengeance, lay waste to the Temple of the Pure, run to Chicago - hell, you can summon up Alphonse fucking Capone and play tenpins for all I care - but you will not bring me back!"
You don't want him to become Rothstein; scar on his wrist, soul leveraged for the woman he loved, and so blind to all the enemies he was making. Meyer is stronger than that, he'll have to be.
He won't look at you, but the words come out: "All right. I promise."
Unlike A.R., he keeps his promises.