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The Most Dangerous Men In Ketterdam

Chapter Text

“What brings you to Ketterdam Mister Moriarty?” Van Eck asked, it was far from an innocent question. He knew the answer but expected the lies criminals trying to make a name for themselves in Ketterdam usually delivered.

“One of my income streams was cut off here, I came to investigate the loss,” his guest answered in a smooth tone. His eyes were fixed on Van Eck, taking in every aspect of his host, his smile was not as much a smile as an instinctual upturning of his lips, and his hand idly rapped a pattern on his teacup.

“And what was this loss?” Van Eck asked what he tried to make seem offhandedly. He had heard of Moriarty, the King of the Underworld in the Wandering Isles and beyond. Rumours said he thought himself a god, Van Eck invited him to tell him in no uncertain terms he was not and he was also not welcome to expand his business in Kerch.

“Pekka Rollins,” a flash of recognition crossed the merchant's face. “You know him? Good. At least he did one thing right,” He commented bitterly before continuing. “You see, I was a sponsor of his. I helped him get his feet on the ground, in return he gave me a portion of his earnings. Then, after all my charity, he had the audacity to leave without telling me. But that’s not the interesting part.” He paused to take a sip of his tea for effect. “No, the interesting part is he seemed to be running from something. Which meant he was scared, and I don’t take kindly to people prioritising other things over me. Especially when it comes to fear. Whoever this was, they got in the way of my business, so I’ll be staying here until I can see to them myself.”

Van Eck took in his guest's backstory, then discarded it. His course of action remained the same, threaten or negotiate his retreat, or kill him where he sits. “I must be frank, your presence is not welcomed.”

“I’ll return your frankness, he replied shrugging, “I don’t care.”

“I’m sure we can come to an agreement Mister Moriarty,” Van Eck said smoothly to the crime boss across from him, an idea emerging in his head. An idea to kill two birds with one stone. “For example, what if whoever was responsible for Rollins disappearance ended up in your lap?”

Moriarty shook his head. “I don’t want them incapacitated, that would be awfully boring wouldn’t it?” He asked in a childish tone, “No, I want to meet them at the heights of power, at their most interesting.”

Van Eck sighed, if this were anyone else they would be dead by now, but the merchant council had said to try to negotiate. The crime boss’s power was not negligible, and his death would complicate matters, nonetheless, any means possible were necessary to keep him from Ketterdam. Van Eck tried again, “Perhaps you should put it aside and focus on other matters. I’ve heard Novyi Zem’s borders are set to loosen.” A bribe of the council, not Van Eck, it sounded too close to begging for his comfort. Go, take that country but leave us alone. Still, political pressures were political pressures, and he offered the bribe with practised ease. He expected a flash of interest in eyes, a head tilt at the promise of information able to expand his empire.

Instead man in question only hummed noncommittally. “Tell me Jan, may I call you Jan?” Van Eck opened his mouth to tell him that no, he may not call him Jan, but Moriarty didn’t wait for a reply. “Tell me Janny, is everyone in Ketterdam as boring as you?” Van Eck’s breathing hitched, Moriarty heard it like he heard everyone, the pulse quickening, the fingers twitching from the temptation to ball them into fists.

“I would be more careful with your words if I were you.” His voice was clipped and devoid of the minuscule traces of kindness in it before.

Moriarty raised an eyebrow at that, “Oh, have we moved to threats? I pray they’re more interesting than your attempts at negotiation.” He leaned forward in his chair and Van Eck stiffened. Everything gave him the worst feeling of deja vu. The perfectly fit suit that still looked like a snakeskin he could shed in a minute. A criminal's ploy at respectability. The dark hair contrasting against pale skin, eyes black and a razor-sharp smirk. “Do you want to know the difference between me and…” he waved a hand as if he could describe them in a vague gesture. “… everyone.”

Van Eck met the dark eyes with the pale blue of his own. “Do tell.”

“They all want things I got decades ago, money, power, influence. And when you have it all, it gets so utterly dull. I thought you were different Janny. I thought Ketterdam was different. But if this,” he waved a hand around Van Eck’s office like it was no better than a lodging on East Stave, “is the best the city has to offer. I suppose I was mistaken. I'll tell you what Jan. If Kaz Brekker is as boring as you, I'll take you up on that offer.” The man flashed him shining teeth, that for a split second, made Van Eck sure he was about to lunge and rip out his throat. “But I want you to know Jan, that I’m not here for profit, or business, or power, you and your merchant friends can keep those. I’m here to burn Ketterdam to the ground, in the hopes someone here has the potential to amuse me.”

Van Eck reached for the bell on his desk, the one that signalled to his guards he wanted this man’s corpse on his floor, but his body had already gone limp. His pulse cut in half with a disinterested wave from his guest. “Sleep well Janny,” he said in a sing-song voice. Then in a bored tone, “Maybe you’ll sleep your banality away.” His eyelids slid shut, and darkness engulfed him.

Moriarty looked on at the soundly sleeping man, keeping his pulse low. He could stop his heart, crush it in his chest, but he was in an optimistic mood. Instead, he gathered his things and set out to see the more unsavoury regions of Ketterdam. The day was still young, and the time the city would be untarnished by his presence rapidly shortening.

Chapter Text

One consequence of telling Van Eck that Kaz will slice his throat and paint the Exchange with his blood, is that Van Eck got a touch paranoid. Which made Inej’s job a bit more difficult. Still, she was the wraith, she dropped into Pekka Rollins guarded estate and almost slit his throat without so much as a sound two weeks ago, she could break into a post office. She clutched the envelope with Van Eck’s seal gently, Specht had forged his handwriting with a startling grace no one had never known he possessed. Inside the letter was a nondescript business correspondence containing talk of the sugar silos, nondescript now, this letter would be presented when Van Eck was charged with market interference. She swiftly picked the lock on the deposit box and inserted the decoy into the outgoing slot. A glint of gold wax caught her eye as she turned to leave, the merchant council’s seal. It was a way she had never seen before, crooked, drops of wax were splattered around it signalling the sender had applied too much force. Even in the darkness blots of ink could be seen through the paper, stained and misconstrued. She held the envelope up to the dim candle that burned throughout the night. Ink was scrawled on the paper messily, as if written in a panic, the paper folded unevenly. She could only make out two words from under the candlelight, coming and Moriarty . Approaching footsteps sounded near, but Inej was already out the window before the guards could examine the empty room.

Wylan jumped when he spotted Inej after looking up from his experiments. “How long have you been there?”

She shrugged, “A couple minutes,” she said casually but he could hear the pride under her voice. It was layered under her speech whenever she lived up to her title of Wraith.

“You planted it?” Kaz asked, not looking up from whatever he was planning to destroy his father this hour.

“Yes, I saw something else too,” Inej didn’t wait for a question to describe whatever it was. “He had a letter from the council, it was a mess, the seal was marred, the handwriting was crooked-“

“Someone was in a rush,” Kaz finished, interested but not sparing an upwards glance.

She nodded, “Exactly.”

“Could you read any of it?”

“Two words, ‘coming’ and ‘Moriarty’,” Inej answered.

Across the room Jesper’s heart sunk to his stomach as he looked up from his revolvers, “Jim Moriarty?” He said in a low voice, his tone a type of solemn he hadn’t displayed for two weeks, it had been hard to dampen his mood after outsmarting the entire country.

That caught Kaz’s interest, he looked up at him. “What do you know?”

“He’s a crime lord in Novyi Zem. Drug running, armsdealing, slavers,” Inej tensed minutely at the last example. “He’s Kaelish, but he runs everything in Novyi Zem, owns the black market.”

“I know him too,” Wylan piped in from across Jesper.

“Talk,” is all Kaz said and Wylan didn’t need to be told twice.

“I was at the Kaelish ambassadors a few years ago, I overheard some of the politicians talking about him,” he explained.

“What were they saying?”

Wylan shook his head, “My Kaelish wasn’t very good, I only remember because they seemed…” Wylan trailed off and Kaz rose an impatient eyebrow. “Terrified,” he finished. “Like they were going to faint at the sound of his name. They kept repeating something over and over, croíthe brúite,” Wylan stumbled through the pronunciation, “I think.”

Kaz looked over at Nina, “Zenik?”

Croíthe brúite,” she said to herself. “Crushed hearts,” she translated after a few seconds.

Kaz let out an annoyed huff. “So we have a heartrender crime lord meeting with Van Eck, either that or he’s a philanderer in the Kaelish courts.” He looked down, his face a more casual version of his scheming face. The version that meant a slight bit more sane and slightly less deadly. Though no one in the room was counting on it. “He must be coming soon if it was as rushed as it looked. Only thing we need to know is if he’s on Van Eck’s side. If he is, we get rid of him before he even knows we exist. If he isn’t, he could be useful.” Jesper tensed at that.

“He’s not the cooperative type. He meets us he’ll either want us on his side or try destroy us.” Jesper said.

“How do you know that?” Kaz asked.

“That’s how it went in Novyi Zem. He wanted a city he gave a generous offer, if they refused he burned it to the ground. He wanted someone to work for them he promised them the moon, if they refused their family showed up dead.”

“He doesn’t know about us,” he replied coolly.

Jesper held Kaz’s gaze, “No, but he knows everyone in Novyi Zem.”

And finally Kaz and everyone understood. Colm, it was hard to remember Jesper had a father. A living, loving, recently seen one.

Kaz’s gaze didn’t soften per se, but he nodded as if to say he understood. “We’ll keep you on the sidelines and I’ll clear any records connecting Colm to us or Kuwei.”

Jesper nodded, but he wasn’t relieved. They didn’t know, the fear at his name, the hushed whispers from children and adults alike. Make believe on the playground and one particularly brave child exclaiming that they’re Jim Moriarty. The day being cut short to tell the children you do not say that name, especially in the city, fear glistening in the teacher's eyes. Furtive glances and stories of parents and siblings and cousins recruited or killed by a name they only dared mouth.

A shudder went through Jesper. Once, when the cards and the chips and the tables were new, he was betting the last scraps of his previous winnings and he heard the name, floating on the air of the gambling hall like a ghost. His Kerch was still far from proficient but he managed to ask why that name was on a drunk man's lips. Rumour is, he'd said, he runs this place. Jesper didn’t stay to hear the rest. He found another den to lose his winnings and crossed the street when he passed it.