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Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi

Mr. Occheto's Translator, In charge of Asian Exchanges

0 · 979 views · located in Chicago, IL

a character in “The Black City”, as played by ThrillerNight

Description

Image


Image
Name: Kazuki Takahashi
Nickname: Daniel
Age: 19
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 138 lbs
Occupation: Stopped one year from graduation with a B.A. in Global Affairs from Yale, minoring in Italian and Russian. Now he works as "Big Daddy's" translator
Sexuality: Straight

Likes:
- Classical literature
- Learning New languages
- Studying
- Being organized
- Video games
- Tea
- Takoyaki
- His mother's cooking
- Being comfortable
Dislikes:
- Meeting new people
- Being surrounded by large groups of people
- Feeling uncomfortable
- Being indebted to the underworld
- His mother's illness
- Hamburgers
- Illiterate people

Personality:
Daniel is the bookish nerd that everyone had in their high school; not the one everyone knew and hated however, the one nobody noticed until he was placing first in all the standardized tests. Needless to say, he is the epitome of a wallflower- always sitting out of the conversations or attempting to attract as little attention as possible. When he is dragged into the center of attention he tends to shrink into himself and speak as softly as possible, especially when the main subject of the conversation or his conversation partner is a pretty female. Although he isn't good at conversing with them, he is infinitely kind to women and will do anything to take care of them, a remnant of living solely with his mom for his entire life.
His shyness doesn't extend to all aspects of his life, however, as he is willing to fight to make good grades; which isn't totally unexpected as he grew up with the stereotypical strict Asian mother. He is constantly trying to improve himself in any way possible and can be found anywhere at any time with his nose in a book reading up on anything from Gilgamesh to astro-physics. Even though his love of education stemmed from his mother's urging, he is truly passionate about learning. This passion is one of the reasons that he attended Yale, despite the fact that he nor his mother could really afford it.

History:
Born to a Japanese mother and an American military father, Kazuki spent his early years living with his parents in the city of Tokyo. However, when he turned five years old his father was re-stationed and the whole family was forced to pick up and move to the United States. Because he was so young at the time, the moving was more of an adventure to Daniel than anything else and he quickly forgot he missed Japan and his family there, but his mother never let him forget his heritage- speaking to him every day in Japanese so he wouldn't forget the language. In America, the small family settled in to a neighborhood full of different ethnicities. This new neighborhood was the beginning of Kazuki- now renamed Daniel-'s love for and interest in languages; while he and his parents lived here, it was the happiest he was for his whole life.
Shortly after his eleventh birthday, Daniel's father was deployed to Iraq- where he lost his life in a raid. Although his mother could have returned them to Japan, during the time they lived in the U.S. both her mother and father had died leaving her with no relations to depend upon; so instead, she chose to keep them in the U.S.- working around the clock to support her and her son. Even though she was always tired and constantly stressed, she made sure that her son studied hard and got everything he could when it came to his education. Daniel was sent to the best private schools she could afford, and would have had tutors if he'd ever needed them. In turn, he did his best to make his mother proud- eventually skipping both fourth and fifth grade and graduating high school at the age of sixteen.
Despite the fact that he argued and fought her tooth-and-nail, Daniel's mother forced him to apply for the best schools in the country as a business major so he could put his big brain and language skills to use (by this point he was already fluent in not only English and Japanese, but Thai, Korean, and two dialects of Chinese as well). A few months after sending in all his applications, he received an acceptance letter from Yale University. No matter what excuses he made- he couldn't live her alone, they couldn't afford it, etc- his mother forced him to accept, and before he knew it he was in Connecticut. Everything was going perfect- he even made the Dean's list- until he got a call half-way through his junior year. His mother had collapsed at her job and had been rushed the the hospital. That day Daniel packed up and flew home, knowing he'd probably never see Yale again, but worried about his mother.
When he arrived home the doctors informed him that his mother had a heart disease and that she would need to stay in the hospital indefinitely. Later that same day- while cleaning his mother's small apartment- he found her bank account statements, and realized just how much debt his mother had piled up for his education. With nowhere else to turn, Daniel found himself in the darkest part of the city looking for someone-anyone willing to lend him the money. That's when he met Mr. Occheto, who had been willing to lend him the money to pay back his mother's debts and to help pay for her hospital care. The only thing required in exchange? That he pay it off by working for the man. Daniel couldn't refuse, and soon he found himself under Mr. Occheto's employ, translating documents and accompanying his new boss and his associates on international business deals. The only way he could sleep at night was to tell himself it was for his mother, and that at least he was using the degree he'd studied so hard for.

So begins...

Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi's Story

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Daniel Takahashi

A heavy sigh rattled through the small office, sending a couple sheets of paper flying across the tiny room. "Office" was more of a misnomer than anything else, as the room was actually a transformed closet- lacking even a ceiling fan or a tiny window, but it was where they'd set Daniel up to work, so he considered it his office. Stacks of papers lined one wall of the tiny room- making it difficult to get in and out of the only chair that occupied the room, which meant that the thin man currently seated in it and to wriggle his way out from behind the desk. Once he was free of the constricting space he stretched his sore arms high above his head- fingers brushing the low ceiling as he bit back a yawn.

Daniel had just spent more than six hours translating a horribly-written log book sent from one of the suppliers overseas in Bangkok, and it had not been a fun experience. All he wanted to do know was slide the translated copy he'd just printed into the manilla envelope, put it in Big Daddy's office, and head home to a warm cup of Earl Grey. The only obstacle to that was passing through the downstairs bar area, which was always occupied- even at this time of night. Another sigh escaped him as he prepared himself for the arduous journey, hoping that there would be few enough employees still there that he wouldn't be noticed.

After unrolling his sleeves and pulling on his thread-bare blazer, he exited his tiny office- making sure to switch off the light via the tiny pull-chord before he shut the door. He deposited the records he'd spent so long on just inside the main office, not bothering to switch on a light, before gathering his courage and heading down the stairs into the bar below. To his surprise and relief the room seemed to be almost completely empty, except for the two girls sitting quietly at the bar. Daniel took a circuitous root toward the kitchen door to avoid them- certain the front was locked- but stopped just before opening it when he heard shouting on the other side.

"Whatever this is... it can't be good..." he mumbled to himself as he stepped away and went to stand awkwardly at the edge of the bar, trying his best to not attract the attention of the two girls seated there.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi
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Daniel Takahashi

After a few moments the sounds from the kitchen seemed to abate slowly, and at one point a man even emerged from there- dragging off one of the bar-girls to some other room. Daniel hesitated a bit longer, his hands shoved in his pockets as he debated the consequences of checking out the scene and trying to slip through the door and escape. Not only was he seriously starting to long for his tea and his own warm bed, curiosity was slowly creeping up on him and he began to wonder what had happened in the back. He was almost positive he'd heard muffled gun shots earlier, but since there wasn't any more and the sounds had become much more subdued he figured most of the fighting was over.

Finally curiosity and the drive to go home won out over his better sense and he pushed open the swinging steel door to peer into the back room. The first thing he noticed was the pool of blood on the floor; after suppressing the initial feeling of nausea the engendered in him, Daniel forced himself to think logically- there was no way the person was dead, at least not loosing that amount of blood. Next, movement caught his eye as he saw the tiny bartender that had to be the boss's daughter dragging a body out of the back door, leaving a trail of blood.

"Oh shit..." he mumbled to himself- dark grey eyes going wide- this amount of blood on the other hand... Well, he was just glad he didn't know the poor fellow and that no-one had noticed his presence as of yet.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Jackson William Mathis
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Bearing her weight against a wall after leaving Rocky just a few feet away, Maria groaned. Her eyes followed her brother and his posse out the back doors. Soon enough, a secret door budged. It gave way, opening inwardly away from the ivory kitchen walls. It blended in perfectly except for a few rough lines that traced the door. It wasn't visible unless someone looked hard enough and really scrutinized it. With an exasperated exhale, Maria slipped off her heels and set them beside the door. But someone else was again there to intrude, to interrupt.

She turned her gaze away from Rocky to meet Takahashi's eyes. With a macabre, feline smile, she drew a single finger to her lips and whispered, "Our little secret." She jammed the door open a bit wider as she prepared herself for the feat. Turning back to Takahashi, she shrugged, "You know what you're translating for, right?" Running a hand through her hair, she continued, "Or rather, who; sweetheart, you just threw yourself into a warzone. We handle drugs and weapons before dining etiquette." He was gawking, surely astounded by the situation. She would have felt awful if her rage had died down a bit. She still regarded him considerably well. "You gonna' stand there or help me?" Grinning, she turned back to Rocky.

"Guess not," she resumed her grasp on Rocky's now bruised wrists, pulling him painstakingly down the first few stairs, "You better go home or help yourself to a drink, then." At least when she was at the bottom of the interminable stairs, she could just dump him there and brush her hands off. The next day, one of the enforcers would handle the body. She mewed and grunted as she used what felt like every single muscle in her body to get the corpse down each step. When she was met with the flat, basement floor, she had to dance on it a bit to verify that her work was done as far as body-hauling went. Finally, a smile spread across her face again.

She stalked up the stairs again, shimmying out of her clothes and tossing them onto a rack while she fetched bleach. Blood could be removed, bleach couldn't! She removed the gun that was tucked into the side of her bra, tossing it onto the pile of clothes. Generously pouring bleach and warm water on the floors, she mopped lazily. In the morning, she'd call one of the linecooks to clean up properly. They'd know what to do. She'd throw in a personal check for their labor. Spreading some old towels on the floor, she used her feet to drag them around and dry the tile. Beneath her tan skin, her muscles tensed prominently.

When she returned to her clothes, heaped onto an aluminum table, she looked them over before putting them on again. Her skirt was unscathed for the most part, but her peach shirt wasn't so fortunate. Unhappily, she resorted to her coat and skirt only. Her feet slid back into the pumps, deeming her 5'10" again. The gun was safely tucked into her coat pocket.

Someone gasped, muttering about her face. She had completely disregarded the fact that her face might be dirty. When she caught her reflection, she was taken by surprise; blood streaking her cheeks and her eye swollen. With a reassuring laugh, she waved a manicured hand and assured the staff, "My idiot brother smashed my face with the closet door by accident. I must have smeared the blood from my nose." Some of them breathed a sigh of relief, others weren't so convinced.

She strode to the bar, fetching a damp rag to dab at her face with while she spoke, "I don't expect you all to want to hang around much longer, so I'll make this brief." Once her face was clean again, she threw it into the sink and absentmindedly hung a few martini glasses, "We're in the heart of Chicago. We don't see the nicest things around here. If you have a safety concern, bring it to our attention and we will address it. We don't want any of our employees feeling unsafe." She threw her hair to one side, streaming her fingers through it, then continuing, "Just always keep your location in mind, and never mix work and play." She smirked at her employee audience, who all nodded briskly and began to gather their things.

"Now rush on home, don't get too wet or you'll catch a cold." She announced over her shoulder as the group disappeared through the doors to the kitchen. She watched through the small windows to ensure they all left without question. Maria shifted her gaze to Jackson. Her regard for him was rather cold, then again she was still feeling manic despite her relaxed and motherly demeanor.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skye Keaton Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi
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Daniel Takahashi

"Oh shit," the explicative left his mouth in a breathe as he jumped- his finger clutching the metal door- when Maria spoke to him. He'd never had a conversation with her before and was in fact surprised she even knew who he was and what he did, but what surprised him even more was her cool tone and the words that she spoke. Daniel found himself still gawping at her as her words sunk into him; he knew that this scene shouldn't surprise him, but every time he saw something like this it chilled him to bone and left him in complete and utter shock. The shock made him unable to respond to Maria's call for assistance, despite the fact that he desperately wanted to help both because she was the boss's daughter and because he had been raised never to leave a girl in need of help.

By the time he'd managed to get his body moving, the woman had already disappeared down into the mysterious room. He took a step toward the back door- intent on making his escape- but stopped when he realized the puddle of blood stretched directly across his path. Revulsion and nausea stopped him dead in his tracks, and he was still standing a foot inside the kitchen door when Maria appeared again. Not paying him any mind she began to suddenly strip; the minute her lacy under things appeared Daniel was rushing back through the door he'd just exited- his face on fire.

He stood for a minute against the wall beside the metal door, trying to catch his breathe and wipe the image from his mind. This proved a harder task than he was prepared for and he was still leaning against the cool surface when Maria banged out of the kitchen to address the normal employees. Unsure of what to do now, he stood silently where he was until one of the girls that Maria had been addressing disappeared into the back. Minutes passed until she reappeared, looking sick and holding a bag and helmet in her hands, both dripping blood. The urge to assist a girl in need reasserted itself and Daniel approached her slowly, clearing his throat before asking quietly, "Umm... may I help?"

Setting

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Jackson William Mathis
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Maria eyed the translator, curiosity of feline expression playing on her face as a smile tugged at her lips. Positively, she had unraveled his mind with murder and potential temptation. As she finally closed up the bar, she fantasized happily about the searing shower she'd take when she reached her house. She propped her behind up on the bar, fastening her jacket around her like a safety blanket and peering around the dim, quiet bistro. The silence was broken when Jackson strode down, and she disregarded him again.

"You speak English really well," Maria teased from the bar towards the translator, squinting inquisitively at the translator who was looking a cross between grief and fear stricken. Her teasing was more of a comforting mechanism than actual toying. It was her way of showing the newer folks, under certain circumstances of course, that life went on. Finally, she turned her head slightly towards Jackson, musing, "Men love messes." She ran a hand down each of her arms in a coquettish manner, smirking.

"Don't get your panties in a bunch now, Jacks," She slid off the bar slowly, turning to face some bottles and checking her reflection, "I've lived with my father longer than you." Primping herself, she ran a delicate index finger along the bruising on her face, a momentary frown falling upon it. "Are you getting soft on me, Jackson?" She grinned, running a tongue along her teeth as she did so. Jingling her car keys near his face, a few inches of intimate space between the two, she whispered, "I like you better when you're mean; sweet is so… so cliche."

"Besides, mean drives me to 'go and prove myself'." She was making jabs at him, it was her nature. But it was really all in good fun. She didn't truly like to antagonize anyone unless a situation really called for it. "You know," she breathed hotly, trailing a finger down Jackson's sternum, "I think men have this pulpy spot somewhere deep inside them." She hooked her finger into his shirt, "It's somewhere under their breast plate, and with enough prying I can claim it, you know how I know?" With a soft, sinister chuckle, she shook her head, "Because I've dealt with 'Jacksons' before." Grabbing a handful of ice, she held it to her eye as she leaned against the counter. The night was dragging on, it was getting late. She often got in these moods after a tiring day; where she found fun in batting an intelligent man around like a cat with a ball of yarn.

"Enough of my BS-ing, I'll sweet talk my dad into forgiveness. Stop being such a tattle tale, though, will you? I'm not afraid to come in extra early to clean up my own goddamn messes." Again she sighed, rubbing her own neck.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Jackson William Mathis
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"Oh for fucks sake. That boy was a bitch." Jackson was feeling the memories of war and the shit that he had done, the torture, mass murder, all of it. It was so very real and terribly brutal. He stepped in closer letting his chest rest up against hers. He took a big hand and tilted her headslightly, eyeing over her bruises and cuts and looking her in the eyes.

"You know, I am immensely pissed of because I just got back from my fucking vacation. Not one, single, fucking day of peace. That's what really pissed me off." He leaned in closely his smile apparent in his voice as he talked into her ear, a winding tone of rage, concern, and a predatory grate, "I'm calm because I kill like you mix drinks. Doesn't it piss you off when someone really ducks up at what you breathe night and fucking day?" He was really obscenely vicious. And he wanted to throw her up on the counter right then and there. His gaze didn't even look as he spoke to the Asian translator. "Fuck off, now." He snatched the keys out of her still upheld hand and gave her a kiss more lien to Ann assault, tasting the blood on then with a little lick as he drew back.

"Another day in the Buca." He sorted. "Let's get the Fuck out of here,I need a hot shower." Jackson was not just kind of a sociopath. He was one. Southern raised and government trained. Sometimes the mask slipped, and below it,a primal monster that could reason and plan like a chess master, and beat a mans brain out of his skull with a brick without thinking twice. But hell, not everyone could know that. He had a reputation to uphold.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Jackson William Mathis
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"Easy!" She swatted at him blindly as he took her face in his hand. "Easy with those beast hands, man!" Her voice was coy, kitten-like and sultry. The way he breathed in her air, talking truculently of his affairs and experience, it intrigued her. She smirked in a matter-of-fact fashion, "Leave the poor kid alone," she rolled her eyes, a bit of sassiness playing on her crimson grin. Before she could jump to the defense of Takahashi further, Jackson's lips crashed against hers. Pulling back, slightly appalled, she wagered, "Speaking of fucking everything up for someone, you just put your job on the line."

His animal-like militancy thrilled her but worried her all the same. Even if her mind was racing and her heart was fluttering, she couldn't just go home with him. Besides, men were a waste. They were a dangerous, goddamn waste. She leaned away, "What you just did, right there," she ran a finger along her lips to elaborate, "Is something you wouldn't report to my father." Inquisitive enjoyment was written all over her face as she crushed some ice in a dainty hand, shaking it off in the sink.

"Now you're making demands," she fanned herself in a mock manner, "My my, Jackson Mathis, you may be biting off more than you can chew." She popped an ice cube into her mouth and chewed on it so that it broke into a few pieces, letting it slowly dissolve in her mouth. She snatched her keys back.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Jackson William Mathis
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Daniel Takahashi

So many things had happened since he'd come down from his office that Daniel'd usually clear and concise mind was in a complete whirlwind; he couldn't think of a single thing to do other than stand awkwardly near the back entrance, hands in pockets. His head whipped up when he realized he was being addressed. "You speak English really well," he wasn't sure at all how to take that, was it a jab at him, was she stating a fact, or was it meant to be teasing? Any way he was saved from responding by the entrance of a tall man who he instantly recognized as one of the enforcers he'd worked with on occasion.

Daniel jumped again, nearly smacking his head on the wall as the man who looked more than a little insane at the moment told him in a very explicit way to leave. Had he been in his right mind, Daniel would have scuttled out of the door as soon as the words came out of the other man's mouth- but a mixture of shock and sleep-deprivation was keeping his feet rooted to the spot. At this point, he couldn't even reason properly and the only thought in his mind was, This place is insane.

Maria's defense of him suddenly woke him from his stupor, and he managed to gain enough control of himself that he could slip through the back as the two locked lips. Not sparing a glance for the floor which he was sure still looked like a murder scene- heck, it kind of was one- he yanked the keys to his mom's old Nissan from his pocket and headed to the rusted car through the downpour. Ten minutes of careful driving later and he was pulling up in front of the apartment building his mother and he had lived in for a good portion of his life. The rest of the night consisted of him barely making it through the front door before vomiting into a trash can, stripping haphazardly out of his clothes, and falling onto the couch to pass out.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Jackson William Mathis
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Jackson had had a long, tiring day. He wasn't really in the mood to get into a philosophical debate about the criminal life. Out in a box, that was a rich bit. He smiled a little to himself, walking calmly over to the sink and washing his face off with cold water. The incidents of the day felt like they were running down the drain. With his wet hands, he brushed his fingers through his dirty blonde hair with a stoic expression on his face.

He sat the bottle down next to the sink, and had just left it there. The thought that was running through his mind, like a tweaker juiced for the first time in a marathon petty crime spree was this: the real truth is, there are only two kinds of people in the world, those who can and will do and be anything to survive, and those who don't. He backed away from the sink and wiped his face with a towel, turning around to face Maria and her incredibly depressing attitude.

"Mae, " he never called her that."I'm only going to say this one time." he strutted over to her, shoulders slightly hunched, head held high. His eyes fixated on her curious eyes. "You don't know how close you are to being in the box already. You couldn't fire me if your life depended on it. Your old man and I have mutual interests, and he gets really goddamned pissed at you because he knows you don't belong in this shit. You don't know what I do, because if you did you would have only two options. You could stay, and this family would be penniless and dead within the year. Or you could choose the other option, and you could leave and never see or hear or speak of this place ever again."

Jackson left her a moment to think about it, walking up to the VIP room and retrieving his jacket. As he walked back down the stairs, he was closing his phone. He adjusted his tie with one hand in a little left right left motion and walked with his hands shoved in his pockets back past the Asian American and shook his head at him. "Sorry man, didn't mean to rattle you. Tell you what, I'll send you an apology gift soon."

Jackson tilted his head to one side slightly as he walked up to Maria, looking totally icy smooth again. He looked like he was a devil out of some horror movie. No blood, no hair out of place, just smiling and staring at her with the truly amused smile of a cat playing with a ball of yarn. He strolled up in the manner, flipping his phone open. The numbers kept names from making sense, but the message was clear.

-I kissed your daughter, tried to make a move. Got shot down, figured you would appreciate the story from me instead of the translater -

-Fuck you, I'm sleeping. Don't bother me with that again shit again. Just keep her safe. -

The phone snapped shut. Jackson was beaming with satisfaction when it slid back into his pocket. He headed over to the kitchen entrance and finished his point with a wink in her direction. He polished off the evening with his final comment before he headed home to bed. "No one doubts your abilities, least of all me. Isn't that enough?" He could be heard whistling as he moseyed through the kitchen, the tune..eerily was - Jeepers Creepers- echoing through the empty room until his exit. The kitchen back door, with a metal slam, and the automatic latch clicking into place.

((OOC to clarify he showed the messages to Maria))

Setting

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Jackson William Mathis
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Daniel Takahashi

Somewhere in the small apartment, something was beeping loudly over and over again. Daniel groaned loudly and rolled over to try and hit at where the alarm usually was- only to find himself experiencing a short fall and a sudden impact. "Itaaiiiiiiiii....." he moaned in Japanese as he pulled his face from the industrial-grade carpet, blinking heavily as his mind slowly informed him of his location. Suddenly the night before rushed into his brain- trying to overwhelm him again- but he successfully managed to push it back, running over a series of vocabulary words he'd memorized for his Italian class to block out the visual images. Mumbling the words aloud to himself, he stumbled upright and collected his clothes from the day before. After depositing them groggily into a basket in the closet he yanked a grey-button down, black vest, and tan trousers from their hangers, and clicked off the alarm which blazed 9:00 in bright red numbers.

Daniel went through the motions of his morning routine with precise movements, switching into a list of Thai vocabulary half-way through his bowl of rice and miso soup. After he'd cleaned the utensils from his breakfast and placed them on the drying rack he returned to the bed room and settled down on the perfectly folded sheets to open up a large volume with the words "Ancient World Law: Hammurabi's Code and Other Ancient Documents" embossed down the spine. Before he knew it the alarm was beeping again, signaling that it was time for him to leave for the bistro. Mechanically he stuffed the thick volume and a few much-creased dictionaries into a worn backpack that he slung across his shoulders and headed out the door.

Before he knew it he was pulling into the employee parking area, where he parked near the back as his grey eyes had caught sight of Jackson on his bike near the kitchen door. Although the burly man had apologized for his earlier behavior, Daniel wasn't too keen on running into him first thing in the morning. So- being as quiet as possible- he snuck from his car and around to the front of the bistro- praying that the door would be unlocked. Luck was on his side, and as he yanked on the front door it opened easily for him. He tiptoed through the nearly empty dining room stopping only when he realized the door to the back was propped open; suddenly movement caught his eye and he noticed Maria standing with an angry posture surrounded by cleaning fluids. Something about the way she was standing made him a little worried and- despite his better judgement- he walked slowly toward the open door, "Umm.... is... is everything... alright?"

Setting

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Jackson William Mathis
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The rumble of an engine beyond the doors of the kitchen caused Maria to look up unenthusiastically as 10AM rolled around. Half the staff drove motorcycles. It could really be anyone. But it was probably Jackson. No one else should be there so early. She narrowed her lively jade eyes which were framed by her dark, wavy hair, not in the mood for any more capering. Her father's goodbye statement was cold and bittersweet. "You look like your mother." She lingered, standing for a moment with a hand on her hip and her wrist to her forehead. Maria then heard another noise. A voice. She whipped around, her hair shrouding her face for a moment as she stared out into the dining room.

"Oh, Takahashi…" She sighed, her pronunciation far more impressive than her father's. "You scared me half to death," she breathed, a hand fluttering to her collar bones and the other smoothing her hair. Her right eye was slightly more purple and swollen than a couple hours before, but other than that her tan skin was unflawed. With an altruistic grin, she ventured, "Here early to do some homework?" Stretching, she turned away from him and got on all fours again to resume her scrubbing. She refused to leave until the place was goddamn spotless.

The words stained her brain like blood on tile, "You look like your mother." She repeatedly played it back in her head with each powerful thrust of the hard bristled brush against the floor. Her hoop earrings rocked in motion as she continued scrubbing the tile, her shirt falling from her shoulder more and more with each stride. The quaint muscles in her arms jerked with each movement as she cooed, "Make sure you lock the front doors, at least, if you're hanging around for whatever reason." Truth be told, she wasn't expecting company. It was still so early, and Big Daddy's company, no matter how brief, was more than enough.

She knew her father was over protective. But she also knew that he thought she was vulnerable, susceptible to insanity and danger. This caused her to only act more manic when something snapped inside of her. Anyone who knew her would say she wasn't hungry for power, oh no no. She simply wanted appreciation once in a while. In Maria's eyes, she wasn't that hard to please.

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi
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Daniel Takahashi

Standing awkwardly beside the open door, Daniel fidgeted with the strap on his backpack. Although he'd never win an award for being socially conscious or personable, he was pretty sure that Maria was one, not ok and two, not going to talk to him about it. Despite the obvious dismissal she'd given him, he didn't feel quiet right just leaving her there, but at the same time he wasn't altogether sure what he could do. Not only was she the boss's daughter and a chip off the old block, but a good looking, independent woman to boot. Honestly, Daniel wasn't the best at talking to women on any normal occasion- much less in one such as this, where he'd watch this girl drag a dead body down a set of stairs just the night before and was now watching her clean up blood stains with a black eye. An internal war raged with-in him, one side telling him that he couldn't leave a woman in such a state and another telling him to turn tail and disappear back into his tiny office-he really did have work he should be doing. Mentally he cataloged all of the work left that needed to be finished by Monday and he grimaced inwardly, that voice telling him again that he really should just leave- he owed it to Martin to finish all the work he'd taken on so the other man could have his day off. But then an image of his mother on all fours scrubbing the floor of some hallway in an office building came to him and he realized there was no way he was going to leave Maria here to work on her own.

"Ummm, I was going to do some... 'homework' I guess, but it can wait." The words tumbled awkwardly out of his mouth as he trudged into the room, his grey eyes focused intently on Maria's hands and the floor so as to avoid looking anywhere near the end that was pointed his direction. Daniel deposited his bag on the kitchen counter and began to roll up the sleeves of his neatly-pressed, cheap shirt. He sidled around her, still carefully avoiding looking anywhere near her rear, until he stood by the bucket of cleaning fluid. Once he was beside her head he cleared his throat and began to bend down clumsily, "I can do this, I don't think you need to, I mean...shouldn't have.... don't....uhhhh..." Curse his self-consciousness, now was not the time to become tongue-tied. His usually prolific vocabulary had suddenly flown from his mind and he crouched there beside her for a moment, unsure of what he had intended to say.

"Umm... ah... I-ah.... I don't think you need to be so near cleaning chemicals... with your eye like, well... like that..." He managed to force past his mental block, his eyes focused intently on the floor as he tried to picture the blood-stains as no more than scuff marks or a spilled drink. Another thought suddenly popped into his head and he turned his eyes quickly up to her face, "Oh and, ah, you can call me Daniel by the way."

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Chloe Henrickson Character Portrait: Lilith Hunter
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"Sweetheart, no. No." Maria waved a hand at the approaching Asian translator, then pulled off her gloves and threw them aside so that she could run a hand through her naturally volumized dark hair. His discomfort was so thick she could have cut it with a knife, so she looked over him and noted it mentally as she relaxed her muscles, "You were hired to decode languages and make sure my father and the opposite end of a deal understand. Not dirty your hands." He was adorable, really. Young and naive, eager to help but so socially repressed. He crouched beside her to which she glanced at him playfully with intrigue.

"Besides," she stood and rubbed her hands together to try and shake the sensation of rubber and chemicals on her skin, "I'm almost done. This ended up being a full scale project but --- I figure the kitchen needed a good sweep-through anyway." With her frail knuckles, she nudged the young man's shoulder and added, "You should tend to your homework… Oh and, don't be so nervous, kiddo." She was sure he was only a year or so younger than her, but pet names helped jump-start her memory in a way she adored. Nostalgia.

She sniffed fervently as Chloe then, too, stormed through the door, going on about something her grandmother gave her. With a smile and sarcasm tinted with a hue of honesty, she asked, "Am I missing something? Why is everyone here so early?" Chloe's hair was perfectly styled, her lips like bubblegum. Maria suddenly felt like a goddamn mess, her hair in wavy untamed tresses falling to her waist, her eye blackened while she sported large gold hoops, an old tee shirt and yoga pants like some bum. Her irritation was heightening, having expected the bistro to be to herself for a few hours.

"I hope you got more than a clock," Maria added, slipping the gloves back on as she grabbed the bucket, "And I hope you have as much free time as you say, because I need my liquor cabinets restocked before we open tonight." Just as she was about to add another chore for Chloe, the kitchen phone rang. Unusual. Cocking an eyebrow, Maria put the bucket down and trotted to the phone and picked it up. On the other end was her father, surely watching the security cameras like a hawk.

"Yeah, I don't really know why --- uh..." she replied to a question unknown by her peers, "Okay." He told her the phone call and texts were being delivered to extend the invitation that was well, mandatory. She was even asked to get Jackson to get ahold of the redhead and tell her to come too. Oh boy. The conversation was brief, and she hung up the phone and looked at Daniel, then Chloe. "Apparently we aren't opening today at all. We're having a 'staff' party at Windy City club around seven; he's reserving the bar and the second floor for us and everything." The thought of it was pure dread to Maria, knowing her father wasn't just throwing kind gestures around. He had something to say, and chances were, it wasn't going to be pretty. Maria instantly decided in that moment that she would spend her night jamming twenties into one of the girl's g-strings and staying as far away from the staff congregation as possible.

"So scratch what I said about the liquor… But you know, you might want to go buy a new outfit, swing by the boutique and see Chantal. You know how Big Daddy is about the girls and staff parties." He didn't pay people generously for no reason, especially the women. He always thought they should be polished and poised. So conventional yet so twisted and decrepit was her father that it nauseated her.

She just wanted to get through with cleaning the kitchen and not have any more surprise guests. Turning her attention to Daniel again, she smiled, "Well then, Daniel, you should probably get that homework done quick. I'll need some male help preparing for this 'party' tonight." The idling of a motorcycle engine outside still rung out a bit, making her curious. Who was that, just sitting out there?

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Jackson William Mathis
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Jackson revved the engine and then cut it off, walking casually up toward the door. The boss had sent him a message about the party, and he'd had to swing by his place and change until his suit in a little while. He'd gotten a new one just for the occasion, and it was a lady killer. He was comfortable now though, and he'd enjoy it while it lasted.

The kitchen back door creaked open. He stood there in the doorway, and pulled a pack of American Spirits from his pocket. His old buddy Ivan had gotten him smoking them, ironic for a Russian arms dealer, but Ivan was a good sort, provided him with information and discounts that would make the Pope blush. Jacksons frame was silhouetted by the glare of the sun as he pulled a zip pocket from his pocket, he lit the cigarette with a snap of the zippo and returned it to his pocket with one hand.

He walked in to the kitchen strutting in a rather exaggerated fashion as he studied the cleaning job, his gun hanging from the inside chest holster in an obvious fashion underneath his unzipped leather jacket. He noticed Daniel and Maria, and seemed not to regard Maria, asking in the sink and washing it down the drain as if it were his own home.

"Party tonight. " he said without looking up from the sink. He pivoted suddenly, pointing loosely at Daniel, " I need those copies and originals done and sealed before the party tonight. Just bring them with you to give to Martin. " Jackson was kind of impressed to see Maria so frazzled and had cleaned the whole kitchen." Nice work, you got plans for the stiff? If not, let me help you, show you how to really make someone disappear. "

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Jackson William Mathis Character Portrait: Chloe Henrickson
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Daniel Takahashi

The results of his attempt to be gentlemanly did not come as a surprise to the thin boy, from what he knew of Maria she didn't seem like the type to accept help especially when it came from someone she barely knew. All the same, Daniel was still a little disappointed that she'd rejected his offer as he'd hoped to at least make up for not being able to help when she'd asked for it last night (especially when cleaning a floor was so much easier than dragging a dead body). However, in the same breathe he was more than a little relieved that his failed attempt at social interaction was being put to rest with such a light hand. He even managed to smile a real smile up at her as she nudged him lightly with her hand before gently teasing him about the work he should be doing. Admittedly she was right about that bit, and the fact that he'd been hired just as a translator which meant he should keep out of other bits of the business.

Daniel's grey eyes popped up suddenly at the sound of the back door opening and caught sight of a blonde girl just as she began ranting to Maria about something he didn't understand, obviously oblivious to his presence- which was not surprising to him in the least. Just as he was starting to tune out the conversation, his mind journeying back down the path to what he was supposed to accomplish today and how long it would take, he caught a bit of the quip Maria made to the new woman. "Why is everyone here so early?" He flinched a little at that, sure she was also alluding to his presence; were he more aware of how to properly break into the conversation he would have reminded her that he was always here this early, just that no one tended to notice. However, the thought remained just that- a thought- as he couldn't find the right time to speak up nor the courage to do so.

While he was still berating himself on his lack of social skills, he pushed himself upright again. Before he could grab his bag and make his escape, Maria- who had been on the phone- turned to inform them that there would be no work today, as Big Daddy intended to throw an employee-party instead. This was something new to Daniel, he had to admit he hadn't been part of "the family" for very long, but this wasn't something he'd even heard of before. Again, these thoughts he kept to himself, choosing instead to pull on his backpack in silence. Still contemplating what a party could mean- surely it wasn't anything good, as good things rarely happened in this business- he nearly missed Jackson's entrance. The only thing that caught his attention was the other man pointing at him, which caused his stomach to sink and his chest to tighten in anxiety. Luckily it wasn't anything unexpected as Jackson just reminded him about the work that was due by the end of the day. Nodding quickly, Daniel mumbled, "I'll have them done." It seemed like everyone was trying to send him back to work as quickly as possible, which he took as a sure sign that he had indeed made the wrong decision in trying to help Maria clean.

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Jackson William Mathis
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When Jackson strode in, halfway to the wet floor, he draped himself against the door frame and lit a cigarette. The sun was highest in the sky at that point, noon about to hit Chicago and ignite it like a wild fire. He disregarded Maria as he strolled right past her, scrutinizing the area and using a cold shoulder. The only thing left for him to do now was drag his bare finger along one of the surfaces to check for dust or grime. But he didn't. He simply stood by the sink. She was somewhat grateful for his inattention, looking the way she did.

She finished up, drying the floors on all fours and then rising to her feet when she heard Jackson address the translator. With a kittenish tone, she pouted and wrung out a rag, commenting, "Poor Daniel, all work and no play." His hands would be plenty full of paperwork and exertion. With a frown, she added, "Maybe next time, huh?" She would have to do all her shopping alone. Or would she? She just hoped the kid could throw together a half decent outfit for the party. If he was uncomfortable seeing her in her bra, he'd faint at the party later on. She made a mental note to be his escort so he didn't have a goddamn heart attack. "It's kind of a black tie event for the men," she said in a helpful voice.

"That won't be necessary, sugar," Maria mewed towards Jackson, stuffing the rubber gloves into the back of her pants, "Pops called and told me there's a flooring crew scheduled to come in after the hard hands seal it away. Besides, I don't have time to learn anything new today." She'd been eyeing up a particular open-back dress at the boutique that she intended to have Chantal fit for her. Now, she had an occasion to wear it to after making the Madame set it aside for her. Between that, other various errands for the party and rushing to the only Louboutin store within a hundred mile radius, she'd be left with all of forty five minutes to wash up and get polished if she was lucky. "I have to do all this running around," her tone was a bit exaggerated, "And I want to get there a bit before the party starts at seven."

She put away all her cleaning props and products, stashing them in a utility closet before snagging her keys off a vacant food shelf. She held her car keys in her palm, the large ring in her free hand. Jingling the collection of various keys, she handed them off to Daniel, "So you can lock up when you're done using the office."

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Jackson William Mathis
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Jackson's phone rang in his pocket. As Maria finished giving the keys to Daniel, he checked it quickly. "Fuck me running." he said under his breath but still audible. "If you're going to the boutique today, take me with you. I need to pick up my suit." the message was the same, one from the boss one from another source. Both said "Ivan called." No doubt the arms dealer was warning his friends that the Russians were up to something. Time to play body guard a bit.

Without saying another word, Jackson ditched the cigarette in the trash can as he pinched it out in the sink. He walked over to the cabinet and opened up the doors, yanking out a dark blue vest. Kevlar with steel inserts. He slung his coat and gun off and put the vest on quickly. Re strapping the holster to his chest, he yanked the Colt out and chambered a round. Replacing it back into the holster he turned to a knife block and pulled a long, thin pointy knife sharpener and tucked it in his boot. They made great shanks, and would tear a knife blade to shit with one good swipe.

"That's not a request. " Jackson said, throwing his jacket back on.

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Jackson William Mathis
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Daniel Takahashi

Adjusting the straps on the heavy bag he'd slung across his back Daniel felt his face flush at Maria's words; despite her cool demeanor earlier he could tell from her tone that she did feel at least a little sorry for him, and that she had really wanted him to come with her- even if it was just so she wouldn't be forced to run errands alone. The little voice inside of him that constantly told him not to let a girl do something alone sprung up again- informing him that he should still offer to go, but he quickly quashed it with one look at Jackson's intimidating face. No. Nope. He had to get his work done, there was no other option if he wanted to keep his mother in the hospital. These thoughts flowed through his head in rapid succession, quickly followed by a new concern sparked by one of Maria's comments. "Black tie.... Shit....,"he quietly lamented to himself, "I don't have anything like that..." And it's not like I can afford to buy something even if I finish my work in time, he added internally.

Daniel's mumbling was interrupted by the boss's daughter once more as she dangled a chain of keys before his eyes. WIthout thinking he took them from her quickly using both hands, and nodded vigorously when she informed him they were to be used when he locked the door. "Ye-yes. Thank you," he managed to fumble out before Jackson cursed to himself. Wrapping his fingers tightly around the keys, the Asian boy turned his gaze quickly to the other man only for his mouth to fall open when Jackson began to strip and then deck himself out in a variety of weapons.

Although he didn't have much familiarity with Jackson's side of the business, Daniel could easily tell that the text he had noticed the other man receive held some sort of hellish or foreboding news. A shiver coursed down his spine and he clutched the keyring tighter as his mind began to supply him with scenarios of what this could mean, each more heinous than the last. He gulped.

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Character Portrait: Maya Stillwater Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Aurora Ivanova Character Portrait: Jackson William Mathis
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Maya and Aurora had undoubtedly left the condo by now, shopping till they dropped or something like that. Maria had no qualms with coming to an empty house to get ready. Though, she had to admit, she was entirely too excited to see all of her girls dolled up at the party. She could certainly count on Maya to be one that stood out among the others and to sit beside Maria in a VIP booth getting a lapdance.

Taking time to tie her hair up in a high pony tail, a bit of sweat forming on her brow, she rolled her neck and watched Jackson retrieve some protection and weapons. Raising her eyebrow through the pain of the swelling, she then rolled her eyes. She didn't want to ask. Besides, most nights she carried a gun, somewhere tucked away in her lingerie or pockets. She didn't need to be asked or told. It was protocol.

Her lips were nude, unpainted by lipstick and nearly matching her tan skin had it not been for the faint pink tone. Telling by the look on his face, Maria knew Daniel was panicked. "You don't have a suit… just go to the boutique and pick one out and our stylist Chantal will fit you right away. I'll let her know you'll be in." With another jingle of her keys, this time in Jackson's face, she announced proudly, "You got it boss." Then with a mock salute, she marched out to her car. It was kind of funny, watching the Italian doll, all 5'4" of her troop away to her car like a toy soldier as her pony tail billowed behind her.

Once they were seated and ready to go, she kicked the car into drive and whipped out of the parking lot. "I need to get fitted, like, now." Scourging around turns and nailing the gas all the way, she grinned and upheld casual conversation. When they reached the rather peachy keen boutique, she killed the engine and hopped out of the car, her hair high on her head and flogging in the afternoon breeze. The sun sank a bit, casting odd shadows over the tall buildings Oh LaLa! was wedged between. A woman was in the display window, her eyebrows arched high and her hair up in a tight bun to expose prominent cheek bones. She was adorned in stilettos and a haute couture skirt, her ribs hugged unnaturally by her corset. The fuchsia lips that accented her face popped into a perfect 'o' shape when she saw Maria. She began waving her hands and talking inaudibly from where Maria stood, just outside the door.

Maria pulled open the door for Jackson, unconventional as it was, she thought it was courteous. "Maria ma magnifique!" Chantal squealed, trotting over in her heels, kissing her cheek then doing the same for Jackson as she meowed, "And you, beau! Sorry, sorry, handsome, dear! As ever!" Flushed with a rosy tone, Maria's cheeks swelled; of course, one side more than the other. "What happened to your face, ma cherie?!" The French woman cradled Maria's damaged face with eager, pedicured hands. Merely nudging the hands away, Maria simpered a bit, "Ah, just a scuffle. I'm back for the dress."

Chantal brought both of her hands to her face, her lips tugging with excitement as she grinned, "Oh yes, the pearl couture open-back." For a moment, she disappeared behind some silk curtains, only to re-emerge with a black, pearl studded dress. Maria's hands were clasped just in front of her lips as she tried to contain her excitement. "Now step on up," she said as she gestured the petite Italian towards a round stool, "Dépouiller!" Maria had no shame as she pulled off her shirt, throwing it so that it was draped over a chair nearby. Then she shimmied out of her tight yoga pants, clad in some short shorts and a plain black bra. After all, it wasn't like she was getting naked. It wasn't like she hadn't been to the beach with any of her coworkers.

Holding the dress unzipped and open before Maria, Chantal guided her small feet through the opening and slid the beautiful black fabric up Maria's body. When it reached her neck line, she zipped the side of the dress up, spinning her finger as a cue for Maria to twirl. Slowly, she spun about on the stool, doing a little prance. Finally stealing a glance at herself, the way the material clung to her body and embroidered her curves, she gasped, "It fits a lot better than last time, I… Did I gain weight?" Maria turned her back towards the mirror to admire the openness of the dress, her exposed spine and shoulders. To this admission, Chantal burst into a girlish laughter and fanned herself, "Don't be silly. I fitted it judging by your last gown's measurements; a good wager, I see?"

"One hell of a goddamn wager." Maria tried not to squeak, so entirely thrilled.
"Now get out of it before you stink it up." Chantal snapped, unzipping the dress again. With her lower lip protruding, she obliged Chantal and got back into her other clothes. "Now, for you, Jackson my sweet." Chantal said, seemingly more excited about the suit than the dress.

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Character Portrait: Maria Mae Occheto Character Portrait: Cole Occheto Character Portrait: Kazuki "Daniel" Takahashi Character Portrait: Jackson William Mathis
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While Chantal was assisting Jackson, Maria commented dutifully, "Oh, and, our translator will be in too; we have a formal staff party tonight." She pulled two hundreds from her bra, holding them in plain view, "This is for him and his suit." As Chantal's fingers graced some suit jackets and an array of ties, thin and wide, her eyes locked onto the bills Maria held, "Nonsense, for such important employees, free." Maria paid no mind to the woman, continuing with her information, "He's a Japanese kid, really timid. So don't be too forward." Chantal continuously shook her head in disapproval of the payment.

But Maria would simply not accept this, "That reminds me," she went behind Chantal's cash register, swiping her debit card as well as stashing the money in the drawer, "That's all the cash I have on me. Your gratuity is so often taken advantage of, Chantal." The French woman huffed, perhaps a bit infuriated by the younger woman's actions. A perfectly polished hand flattened against her chest as she spoke towards Maria, "But I have accepted so much gratuity from your family already. I insist you let me reverse the transaction, at least."

With graceful ease, Maria brought an index finger to her puckered soft, round lips. Insisting, Maria still continued, "I'm sure Daniel, the translator, won't be the last to rush in here before the party starts." Relenting, Chantal turned her gaze back on Jackson with an eager, pleasured smile. "I ordered a few Dolce suits, they simply are to die for. I've been wanting to pull them out of the bags," she went to a rack lining one of the walls. It consisted of plastic-encased, pressed clothing, "I have a Martini set that would be just perfect." She pulled away a heavy hanger which garnished a bagged 'Martini Wool and Silk' silver Dolce and Gabbana suit but then sighed a bit as Jackson asked about the suit he wanted specifically, "Oui, oui." She would say, hanging up the suit again.


"Did you know that Mr. Dolce made his first pair of trousers when he was just seven?" She tapped her chin thoughtfully, drumming her dark-polished finger tips against her porcelain skin with her free hand before she disappeared to grab the clothes. When she burst into presence again, shrouded in large boxes and a bag, it was amazing to watch the amount of style and grace she demonstrated with limited vision paired with vague stride.

Maria mumbled something from across the boutique, looking through the displayed selection of elegant, long gowns. One in particular, cream in color and slightly sheer caught her eye. She knew she was dabbling in the section of the store which wasn't free for anyone, even employees. With two swift fingers and darting eyes, she snatched the price tag into her palm to read it. "Mr. Occheto did kind of do a horrible job of giving us ample notice about this party, so I guess I can't really blame them for their short notice routines and I …" she gasped a little, "Holy shit." Sure, she was used to blowing tons of money. But that gown was written up at $13,655.98. "Who made this?" Maria asked quietly from the gown section.
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"Adeline André," Chantal said almost with a tint of irritation in her voice as she waved a hand at Maria, focusing on Jackson who was clad in the elegant, old style suit. Maria rubbed the fabric between two fingers, "Why is the price so high?" The French boutique owner's jaw snapped shut for a second as she shot Maria a look of sternness as if she were an unruly child, "Jennifer Lopez wore a carbon copy of it at some event. That is the only one besides hers, in existence; enough questions!" Catching the tone and taking the hint, Maria glanced upwards to see Jackson flipping a hat onto his head in a picturesque, cowboy sort of way, the tags still pressed between her thumb and index.

The suit looked consummate on him. There was probably no one that could wear it better. With a charming smile Maria crooned, "Easy there, Jesse James," as Chantal rejoined with feigned fainting and squeals of excitement. Maria took a pretend bullet to the heart, seemingly suitable for the ladykiller who was making gestures. And like that, the Adeline dress was forgotten as Maria sauntered away, towards Chantal and Jackson.

"You'll be thrilled to know that I'm going straight to the Louboutin store from here to find a matching pair of shoes." Maria contemplated something for a moment. Perhaps putting a payment on the dress? Her eyes wandered about the boutique, falling dangerously on the gown again. No, no. She couldn't. Finally her green eyes traced back to the Martini suit Chantal spoke of earlier, "I'll take the suit for Cole," Maria said, her voice almost cracking with defeat. She couldn't let her desires overtake her. She didn't like to make stupid, impulsive purchases. Buying the suit was a deflection of her own wants. "But Maria, ma cherie, it has not been fitted. Tailoring a suit takes much longer than a dress," she hated to disappoint, it made her feel like a failure.
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(Chantal in one of her favorite outfits)

"Forget it then, sweets. I'm sure he has a suit it just --- would have been a nice gesture." Clearing her throat, her eyes began to wander again. "I hurt his ego last night." Maria clarified, swiping the black dress, now bagged into her grip.