Jack didn't need this. Jack didn't need this at all. Jack didn't need this dickweed detective to come bother him with his dickweed detective bullshit. Jack didn't need him to put his dickweed little business card in front of his face. Jack didn't need to read the irritatingly shiny embossed green print saying, way too enthusiastically, “Patrick Sloan and Associates: Private Investigators”. Jack didn't need to be interrupted in the most important week of the last three years by some amateur gumshoe with some score to settle or point to prove. What Jack needed was for this man to get the fuck out of his office and let him work.
“Sloan,” Patrick provided, nodding towards the business card.
Jack leaned forward, gripping his pencil quite a bit more tightly than would ever be necessary. “Listen, Mr. Sloan, you must be aware that I am a very busy man. I have got complaints from the lower levels about recent acquisitions not being up to code, I have got an offer for further development in the Narrows that needs to be retooled, I have got accusations of someone cheating at one of my casinos that for some reason felt they needed to be directed to me, I have got a son who needs braces, I have got problems, I have got responsibilities, I have got things to do. None of those things revolve around you. I apologize for the inconvenience, but I do not know how Ms. Painter was able to find a time in my schedule for you to make an appointment because I - sure as God made little shit sandwiches - would not have been able to.”
“Ah, the fault is mine, Mr. Vantas. I should attempt to make this meeting as brief as possible.”
“All due respect, Mr... I'm sorry, what was it again?”
“Sloan,” he replied, this time not breaking eye contact.
“All due respect, Mr. Sloan, if you had any intention of making this meeting as brief as possible, you wouldn't have made it at all. Now you can either get to your point and try very hard to waste as little of my unspeakably precious time as possible, or you can take your nice white hat and your nice white coat right back out my nice mahogany door and fuck yourself with a cactus.”
Patrick Sloan smirked and put his business card back in his shirt pocket. “Forgive me if I do not take you up on the offer, but I ain't here for foliage fornication. My business here involves some kind of rumors I heard regarding an associate of yours named Jack Noir.”
Jack smirked right back into that freak's pathetic excuse for a poker face, knowing it was just barely containing a shit-eating grin. He decided to play along with this asshole's little game of sudoku or whatever. “I'm sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Sloan, but I don't think I have an associate by that name.”
“Oh my, I ain't made a mistake, have I?” Sloan asked, raising his eyebrows in the most irritating mockery of pretend sincerity.
Christ in a pair of handcuffs, Jack thought. This guy couldn't even be cast in a supporting role in a god damn intermission. He'd seen better acting in his kid's class presentations on the four food groups. “I think you may have,” he said. “What was his name again?”
“Jack Noir, Mr. Vantas.”
“Noir, huh. Sounds French. Can't stand the fucking French.”
“That's not a very nice thing to say,” Sloan said, his smirk visibly twitching under the strain of not showing how pathetically proud of himself he was. “I happen to have a very good friend of French descent.”
“Well that's the loveliest goddamn story I have heard all year. Please do type it up for me, I believe I can get you in touch with a publisher and a movie deal. Now I have answered your question, and you have used up fifteen minutes of my workday. Have a good evening, and don't get hit by the door. Remember, it's mahogany. I'd hate for you to scuff it.”
“You ain't foolin' me, Jack. I know who you are.”
Patrick opened up a folder on his lap and let loose with a tile-toothed grin which, as expected, made Jack sick. “Oh, but surely you already know. José Vantas, landowner, casino proprietor, legitimate businessman.”
“This might come as a shock to you, but I assure you I have read my own business card.”
Sloan ignored the comment and continued to thumb through the contents of the folder. “You got your start as a pencil pusher at a pretty cushy, but not very challenging, government job. It all seemed pretty standard, but then, all of a sudden, the governor you worked under just seemed to step down without warning, and she ain't been heard from since. Now that might stop some government staffers, but not you of course. Twelve years ago, you moved here after coming into a large sum of money under, shall we say, somewhat controversial circumstances. You used that money to start Vantas and Sons Real Estate and began buying up and rebuilding large swaths of the residential and commercial districts. Once your investments started making returns, you branched out into the private entertainment business by opening The Midnight Casino. After having established yourself as one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the city, you then made your business name slightly more accurate by adopting a son, an Indian child by the name of Karkat, though publicly you named him Carter because Americans don't like foreigners. Today you are the owner of four casinos – The Midnight, The Dersite, The Prospitian, as well as a new one under construction at Stilson Bog – in addition to most of the property in the lower west side and the entirety of the Narrows.” He shut the folder and smiled that disgustingly self-loving smile.
Jack pressed a button on his intercom. “Ms. Painter?” he said. “Check to see what it costs to commission a book, I think we found an expert candidate for my biographer.” He then turned and stared at Sloan with an expression he hoped felt to the fedoraed freak like a million little Kalashnikov bullets. “We'll be in touch.”
“Oh, but I'm not done, am I, Mr. Noir?” Sloan reached into his briefcase and pulled out another folder. “You are the crime lord Jack Noir, are you not?” He threw it on the desk in front of Jack, who didn't bother to open it. “Jack Noir, also known by the nickname Spades Slick, boss of the criminal organization colloquially referred to as The Midnight Crew? Not exactly the most difficult problem I've had to figure out in my time, Jack. Ain't no secret The Crew been gettin' in a bit of a turf war with some of those fellas that work for Lawrence English, whose own casino and pool halls are the only thing that can pass for your competition in this town. You see where I'm going with this.”
Jack glowered into the pasty white cretin's annoyingly green eyes. Only assholes have green eyes. Any decent human being would have the courtesy to have brown eyes like a normal person. Dear lord, Jack hated this man. “Congratulations, Encyclopedia Brown. Fuckin' fabulous. I think I have twenty-five cents around here for your work.”
“I ain't here for your money, Mr. Noir.”
“Well I should fucking hope not. What did you come here for? You sure as hell didn't come here to try to bring me in.”
“Didn't I? Believe me, the thought had crossed my mind”
Jack tried to laugh bitterly, but it came out as a small choking noise. “You wanna bring me in? Shit, I'd like to see you try. Come on, you come in here, waste my time, spout some bullshit anyone with a copy of Time Magazine and a friend who's a pickpocket can learn, and you wanna bring me in? You ain't got jurisdiction, you're not a cop, you're a private detective. Hell, you're not even a proper detective, you're...” He searched for a word. “You're a fucking problem sleuth, with that sad excuse for a trench coat and that cheap piece of shit you call a fedora. My kid reads books about better private eyes than you, and they're twelve years old.”
Patrick chuckled to himself, which naturally made Jack want to hurl. “Relax, Slick, I came here to offer you a deal.”
“I have no idea what the fuck you'd want from me, but I can sure as shit tell you that there's nothing I'd want from you.”
“Hear me out, Jack.”
“Only if you pick a name for me and stick with it, you insufferable prick.”
“That ain't no way to treat your company, is it, Jack? But fine, I will. Listen, Jack, we do have some service we could provide each other. Me and my associates are having some troubles with a case regarding a certain upstart mobster kingpin wannabe. We don't know a hell of a lot about him, but the few sources we have only know him as The DMK. The problem is that we can't seem to find him, much less get good leverage to put him behind bars. And you've got English and his gang from Felt Manor breathing down your neck; they're drawing away your business for sure, and I know his boys ain't been none too kind to yours. My proposal is simple. If you and your boys do my friends and I a service by getting us a clear angle at The DMK, we could return the favor and bring the heat down hard on English and The Felt.”
Jack was silent for a long time, but it was Sloan who ended up breaking it.
“Whattaya say, Jack? Do we have a deal?”
Jack stared at Sloan for a bit more, then reached into his coat pocket, produced a butterfly knife, and started twirling it. “The very next thing I am about to say will be enormously important. I do not wish to repeat myself, so I would like you to pay extra special careful attention to my words, all right?”
Sloan started to nod coolly in agreement, but was abruptly cut off by Jack's knife being pressed against his throat. “Listen here, problem sleuth, we ain't got a deal. We ain't got shit. I ain't helpin' you with your crummy-ass pansy-ass candy-ass wannabe DMK bullshit. And whatever beef I got with Lawrie English and his gang of green-suited fuckfaces is my own damn business. Now you ain't gonna bring me in in your homemade paddywagon, you ain't got shit when it comes to dealing with a proper boss, and you ain't gonna get my assistance on your face-violatin' nancy rent-a-cop horseshit. Now you are going to go out my door, go down the hall, go down the elevator eight floors, go across the street, climb aboard the idiot wagon and get the fuck out of my nosehairs, do you understand me?”
Sloan looked dead into Jack's eyes without so much as a twitch in his eyebrows. Jack was honestly impressed at the kid's cool under pressure, as much as he hated to find something to admire. “I ain't afraid of you, Slick,” Sloan said. Jack could tell he meant it, which only served to piss him off even more.
“You got guts, douchebag. I'll give you that. But there is a very fine line between being the brave little toaster and being the guy who gets brutally murdered with a butterfly knife. Now either I show you the door, or I show you my stabs. It's your choice, but speaking from personal experience, blood is a bitch to get out of this carpet.”
Patrick grinned. “I'll leave. But I want you to think it over.”
Jack lowered his knife and flipped it closed. “I thought it over. The answer's no.”
Sloan stood up and shrugged. “Why don't you sleep on it?” He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a card. “Gimme a call if you ever have a... a change of heart.”
Jack grudgingly took the card, but paused while holding it. “This is a wallet-sized photo of you posing shirtless.”
Patrick froze for a long moment, his eyes shot wide open with terror. He then quickly snatched the photo back, flustered. “That... that's for something else that I... this was not the card I meant to show you.” He looked around anxiously as if about to say something, then threw down his real business card. “I have to go,” Sloan said, and he rushed out of the office, slamming the door behind him.
Jack stared at the door in contempt and a slight dash of confusion. You can build a city from the ground up, he thought, but there's always gonna be a few toolbags left over.