P A R T I
Burning the midnight oil
December 31st, 2015 - 23:53 | Essence, a gentlemen's club in Midtown, Manhattan
The reception was unusually crowded, Samuel noted, though perhaps not unusually so for New Year's Eve. He had just stepped through the door, the blissful warmth already thawing his frozen face. It was a decidedly unusually cold night, the temperatures dropping as low as 10 degrees, according to the radio channel Samuel had been listening to while getting himself ready for tonight. Having walked from his lodging to Essence, Samuel had no trouble believing it. He smiled innocuously as the club's patrons turned their heads at the new arrival, and proceeded to walk towards the dressing rooms. Normally the staff entered the building through a back entrance, but that door was locked and under guard per request of the firm which had hired the club. Samuel didn't even want to know what it would cost someone to book up the entire club on New Year's Eve.
With the bow tie in place, Samuel took a final look in the mirror to make sure he looked appropriate. He did. Dark, tall and lean with a clean-shaven, warm face and not as much as a wrinkle on his clothing. Just as he was leaving the restroom Mr. Cox popped his head through the door.
"There you are, Samuel!" The old man entered the room, his posture impeccably straight as always. "Have the others told you what you will be doing tonight?"
"Yes sir." Samuel answered. "I am to serve the company leadership on the top floor."
"Just so. These are important guests, so I want you to be even sharper tonight, if possible." Mr. Cox said, looking at him. Samuel nodded and smiled. His boss left the room, Samuel following soon after.
With the elevator reaching the top floor, Samuel stepped out. The top floor was furnished much like the rest of Essence - traditionally British, dark mahogany, with elements of alder, zebrano and even Indian laurel. Wood, basically. The decor was sparse and tasteful, the intent to look as luxurious as it was. Yet the top floor was more extravagant than the others. Perhaps not obviously so. The furniture was the same as the others, the colors the same if perhaps using a slightly lighter palette, and the art of a similar nature. It wasn't the prices but rather the design of the floor that made it luxurious. The symmetry, open spacing and lines in general were incredibly tasteful, Samuel thought. Pretentious, clearly, but also appreciated amongst those who understood interior design. Samuel was very impressed by the state of the club in general, but this floor in particular was extraordinary.
The top floor was unsurprisingly less crowded than the others. Most of the tables had been removed for the night, only a handful remaining. Samuel went to the bar and was greeted by the other staff, before being asked to deliver an order to a side table.
"Where you waiting for me to take this?" Samuel asked.
"We heard you where on your way up." the woman in the bar answered. She hesitated. "Sam, we're pretty sure these men belong to the mob. They have armed guards on every floor. This order is for their boss." She looked worried, but Samuel laughed it off. Even though Samuel had only worked at the club for a few months, the staff was already looking up to him. He was handsome, confident and above all very good at his job. Dealing with important individuals came exceedingly easy to Samuel. He had noticed that several men in the club where armed, primarily those located at exits and the elevator. He was hardly surprised.
"It doesn't matter who they are Beth. Tonight they're just here to enjoy themselves. It's perfectly fine. We have guests like these often, if perhaps not occupying every floor."
Nevertheless, Samuel did take the order. A salmanazar of very fine champagne. He looked at his watch. 23:55. The midnight toast, he figured. He put the champagne in a large bucket of ice. It was a tight fit. He then placed it on a silver plate along with glasses, turned the corner and went for the table.
Lightly puffing on his cigar, Wilson Fisk turned his head. A waiter approached the table, putting champagne in front of him.
"Would you like me to pour, gentlemen?" the man asked.
"If you don't mind.
" Fisk answered, smiling. The waiter nodded and set two glasses for them before filling them. "That is all.
" The waiter nodded again and left. Fisk looked at the young woman opposite him once again. Maya Lopez was a mere sixteen years old, but she carried herself with a grace that far surpassed her young age. Her father, Jensen Lopez, had been a trusted worker of Fisk's, before falling victim to drugs. The man had become a problem, and Fisk had him killed about four years ago. With the rest of her family already gone, Fisk had opted to take Maya under his wing. Perhaps it was out of a feeling of guilt, but Fisk felt more inclined to believe it was due to Maya herself. She was a remarkably talented musician and dancer, intelligent and incredibly likable. She had a way of appearing casual and proper simultaneously, effortlessly mingling with any crowd and winning over anyone to her side with nothing more but a glance and a few words. It was a quality Fisk respected and deeply envied at the same time. The dress she was wearing tonight was hardly appropriate for her age, but Fisk had already learned that trying to control Maya was the quickest way of losing her trust.
"What are you thinking of?" she said, while lifting her glass. Fisk dropped his thoughts and met her gaze.
"Tonight, my dear
." Fisk lifted his glass and swirled it lightly before taking a whiff. Very good stuff. "To tonight!
" he said, and took a swig. Maya echoed his words and followed suit. She gave him a curious look.
"Aren't you worried? I'm practically shaking." She clearly wasn't. Fisk offered a weak smile and put the cigar back in his mouth.
"A man, or indeed woman,-
", he nodded, "-is only ever worried if they lack faith in their planning, or lack a plan entirely. I am never worried.
"Well well, boasting much are we?" she answered with a light giggle.
"No, I believe we are toasting, Maya.
" He took another swig and checked his watch. 23:57. "I think it's time we head for the patio, no?
" Smiling and nodding, Maya rose from the table. Fisk did the same and headed outside.
The cold outside hit Maya like a truck. Fisk didn't feel a thing. He took off his white jacket and wrapped it around Maya's shoulders. It was a comical sight. Other than the two of them, the patio was empty save for Jack Rose, one of two men Fisk had planned tonight's engagements with. They were located on the 26th floor, with a very decent overview of Midtown. The snowfall had subceeded, but a few snowflakes were still falling. Thankfully, it was not very windy at all, even at this height. Fisk inhaled, filling his mouth with the taste of the cigar and the cold of the evening.
"Mr. Fisk." Jack Rose was one of very few people in the organization who called Fisk by his name. Hell, he was one of few who even knew it
. Others simply referred to him as "the Boss". "All teams are a go. They are ready to move when you are." Nodding, Fisk looked at his watch again. 23:59. Fireworks were already blazing across the city.
"Why then, Mr. Rose, I do believe it is time to allow the proper fireworks to commence. The operation is greenlit.
"The operation is greenlit. I repeat, the operation is greenlit."
The words buzzed in Samuel's ear piece as he approached the table. Five men were seated along it. He recognized two. One was Jamie Carr, the newest member of the made men of the Maggia as far as Samuel was aware. Their paths had crossed plenty in the past, as they used to attend the same high school. Carr had certainly risen fast through the ranks. The other man he recognized was Damian Adelardi - the very top leader of the New York Maggia. Samuel drew a deep breath. He reached down in the ice bucked and grabbed hold of a sub-machine gun. His eyes met those of a couple of the other servers. They nodded in response. Unceremoniously, Samuel dropped the bucket and lifted the weapon. Without saying as much as a word, he turned off the safety and squeezed the trigger.
Fisk's eyes were intently focused on a building a few blocks west from the patio they were standing on. It was a splendid building, called Enterprise State. Not the exterior perhaps, but the building housed some of the most exclusive organizations and clubs in New York. Too exclusive for Fisk, apparently. The foremost establishment of the building was a gentlemen's club called Essence, which took up twelve floors of the building, including the bottom floor and the top floor. The fact that the Maggia had effortlessly hired the entire building - not just Essence's twelve floors, but the entire skyscraper
- at an extortionate amount that Fisk would never dream of paying irked him. It irked him very, very much. Right now, he was watching that top floor. He was just about to say something to Jack Rose, when the top floor suddenly lit up. The flashes where sudden, bright and above all silent, but there was no mistaking the gunfire. Fisk continued to watch with Maya on his arm and Rose speaking on his communications device. And then, windows of various floors of Enterprise State shattered as explosions lit up the night. "Now those, Maya, are the fireworks of progress.
Samuel wiped his brow. Fire was enveloping the floor, and the heat was already palpable. He couldn't help but feel a tingle of grief knowing that the exquisite designs throughout the place were about to go extinct. Luckily, they weren't the only things about to go extinct.
"Who-who are you?" he heard someone wheeze through their pain. Samuel looked down. In front of him Damian Adelardi lay sprawled on the floor. Judging by the amount of blood, Samuel had probably hit the man all over, but it was the gun shot wound in his throat that caught Samuel's attention. It was impressive that the old fart was able to speak in spite of it.
"I might as well be Jack-in-the-box for all you care, Adelardi." He cleared his empty magazine and started reloading. "In fact, I suppose I indeed am." Adelardi looked at him incredulously. "I jest, old man. I am Samuel Silke, and you - I believe - are dead." He raised his weapon once more and snuffed out Damian Adelardi's life.