Arms Race

Tony, a sizeable looking canine with just the faintest hint of grey at his temples, was situated at his usual booth in the restaurant, waiting for their visitors. This was a prime location to discuss business matters, as he owned the place, so there was no need to be concerned over any prying. Any cops who ate here knew better anyway.

He looked across the table to where his young daughter was situated, where she was currently erecting a tower out of cream containers and sugar packets. He scoffed at her, shaking his head. "Will you knock that off? We got people coming. You don't wanna embarrass me, do you?"

"Maybe." Ellie stuck her tongue out at him and he grinned.

"You do and I'll never take you anywhere again. You wanna see how business works, don'tcha? You gotta know this stuff.  You're gonna be doing this some day, so pay attention!"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah! You'll see. It's not all fun and games and makin' messes." Tony swiped her tower off to the side, dismantling it.

"It would be if I was I charge.~"

"That'll be the day, kid, that'll be the day."

    • Lilly Teal
      Lilly Teal

      If the canine was sizeable, the man who blocked the daylight in the doorway as he arrived was a mountain. Ducking slightly to allow his wide, powerful horns to fit through the door, his eyes made a cursory examination of the room. The usual. Where the exits were. Who could reasonably pose a threat. If anyone looked suspiciously armed. Familiar faces.

      Ah. Speaking of that last one...

      It was a nice restaurant. He looked forward to patronizing it more now that he intended to make more permanent residence. Maybe he could even bring Lilly someday. ... when he wasn't here on work. It wouldn't do to have people who knew him connect the two of them together.

      She was so new to this city and had such a habit of getting into trouble, and he hadn't felt comfortable leaving her to her own devices in the least. But what else could he have done? Excusing himself on 'business' as she browsed the nearby bookshop, he had given her strict instructions not to wander too far before ducking into the restaurant.

      "Good day, Mister Scapelli," a deep voice rumbled, a large shadow falling over their table.

      • Red Nova
        Red Nova

        Ellie looked up with wide eyes. Her father kept some interesting friends, many of whom were intimidating in some form. Their guest had horns the size of which she'd never seen before, and she couldn't help but to stare.

        Tony smiled warmly at the new arrival, reaching out to offer up a firm handshake. "A good day is always a profitable one, ain't it? In that case, it's a very good day for you. Please Mr. Halden, have a seat, make yourself comfortable. Lemme know if my daughter's starin' a hole into your head." He raised his brows over at her and she relented, though the two shared grins.

        There were a few other patrons there, wait staff, a bartender, and a few other canines situated at the bar, both wearing suits.

         

        • Lilly Teal
          Lilly Teal

          "Mm." He made a non-committal noise, though he smiled pleasantly enough as he took the invitation to make himself comfortable.

          "No trouble at all," he said with much more sincerity, giving the young lady a polite nod. "I'm used to it. A pleasure, Miss Scapelli."

          My my, he did have gentlemanly manners, didn't he? For his impressive physique, his kind, polite manner didn't seem to fit, but it was a pleasant subversion of expectations.

          Goodness, he needed a drink already. Leaning back into his seat a little, he took a deep breath.

          "I suppose it's best to get things out of the way from the beginning, Mister Scapelli. You might not be so pleased to see me when I tell you my stock has become noticeably diminished."

          Not bad stock. 'Diminished stock' for him simply meant he now had much the same stock as everyone else, if of high quality. But Scapelli had been a good customer with an interest in some of his more... special stock and he had no desire to let a good customer and friendly associate commit himself to any further custom without his eyes open.

          • Red Nova
            Red Nova

            Ellie nodded back politely, despite her impish grin from earlier.

            Tony regarded him seriously however, though his pleasant expression didn't fade just yet at the news, surprisingly enough. "Oh? Diminished, y'say?" The canine leaned forward, "An' by diminished, just how scarcely d'ya mean?"

            Of course, there were always plenty of explanations behind such situations. Shipments could be lost, mistakes made. There were other explanations too, but nobody ever got anywhere good by jumping to conclusions. Tony was a formidable man but also a reasonable one.

            • Lilly Teal
              Lilly Teal

              A valid question. Oh Tony don't ask me valid questions...

              "Ordinary," he said seriously. "I can guarantee you they are still of higher quality than the likes of Munson and Ackles, and you have always been able to hold me to those guarantees. But... I no longer have access to the more... specialty items that drew you to me. Nor will I in the future. The source has been... closed."

              He died, is what I don't want to say.

              "Uncle Matthew!" Lilly chirped, and the fur on the back of his neck immediately raised in surprise and defensiveness. Lilly beamed down at the serious faces on the table. And Ellie. All happiness, all big eyes and a bright smile.

              "Oh goodness. Is this your meeting? I'm sorry to interrupt!"

              "Mister and Miss Scapelli, Lilly," Matthew said wearily. "Lilly, Mister Scapelli. Miss Scapelli."

              "Pleasure to meet you."

              • Red Nova
                Red Nova

                Of course that was the speculative part of it all, just what had the source been and why was it closed now permanently? Tony tried to purchase from reputable sources, like Matthew's, but he also made sure that his tracks were covered, and any sort of activity that seemed even slightly suspicious drew concern. He was momentarily distracted however, and perked up at the new voice joining them, looking over at the young girl who arrived.

                "Pleasure's all mine! I didn't know y' had your niece with you. Go on, no need t' be shy, take a seat and get whatever y' like! Hungry?"

                Ellie especially sat up in her seat, eager for a chance to talk to someone her own age at one of these things! "Hiya! I'm Ellie."

                 

                • Lilly Teal
                  Lilly Teal

                  "Hi, I'm Lilly!" she chirped, taking a seat. "I'm a little hungry sir, thank you!"

                  Ellie and Lilly, isn't that so cute? Matthew didn't look like he agreed, his smile was slightly fixed as he looked at Tony.

                  "I hadn't intended to bring her along," he explained. "Lilly... ah... doesn't know anything about my business and I didn't want to bore her."

                  It was all in the wording. Not knowing anything about THE business implied at least some knowledge as to what the business was. Not knowing anything about HIS business... well.

                  Nudge nudge HELP.

                  "I was in the bookshop next door and decided to explore around a bit," she said, nodding. "Oh Ellie, do you have to sit and listen to all the business talk? Negotiation over factory machinery doesn't sound like the most exciting thing."

                  Wow okay, so she REALLY had no idea.

                  • Red Nova
                    Red Nova

                    Tony's brows rose before he nodded in understanding. "Ah. I gotcha. Say, why don't you kids get some goodies from the kitchen an' maybe walk around outside for a bit. It's such a nice day out, you don't wanna spend it indoors listenin' to us guys talk about work, do ya?"

                    "NO!" Ellie sat up straight then, "That's what I said like an hour ago! But you made me sit here, said it was important for me to know how to make transacti-"

                    Tony sent her a sharp glare, pointing a finger at her from over the table, "Now you listen here, missy. You better thank your lucky stars I don't put you to work back there scrubbin' the dishes, but I just might if you keep up the backtalk. NOW, I so very kindly offered for you t' leave with Miss Lilly, but if you'd rather sit here for another say, oh, three, four hours-"

                    "UHHH-- on second thought, great idea, pops! C-come on Lilly, I bet we could get the chef to serve us some of his world famous tiramisu cake, it's great! Nice to have met you, Mr. Halden!" Ellie squeezed out of the booth, looking to Lilly eagerly to say her goodbyes and get movin', before he changed his mind!

                    • Lilly Teal
                      Lilly Teal

                      "Right," Lilly nodded, standing up with a warm smile, amused at Ellie's urgent desire to get away from the table before she was really put to washing dishes or sitting around bored out of her mind. "It was nice to meet you, Mr. Scapelli. I'll see you soon, Uncle."

                      Now that she wasn't likely to overhear anything, Matthew's smile was much more genuine as he nodded to her. "Don't get into trouble now, Princess."

                      "We won't, we won't."

                      A fine hope, when she could accidentally walk in on a weapons negotiation without meaning to...

                      As they walked away, the duckette turning to her new companion with another bright smile and a "You really think we could get some cake? It really does sound delicious", Matthew relaxed visibly. he gave Tony an apologetic half-smile.

                      "Thank you for that. I don't suppose we can share a drink while we talk?"

                      • Red Nova
                        Red Nova

                        "'Course we can get cake. We can get anything in here! My dad owns the joint. Get whatever you want." Ellie flashed Lilly with a grin, eager to make their escape.

                        Tony chuckled meanwhile, shaking his head. "No problem. I know how it is. It can be tough when you've got kids runnin' around. I didn't get all these grey hairs for nothin', y'know. That one gives me trouble more than anythin' I've ever put up with in my entire life." He jerked a thumb towards the retreating kids for emphasis before waving over one of the waiters.

                        "What'll you have?"

                        • Lilly Teal
                          Lilly Teal

                          "Strongest thing on the menu?" He made the request with a wry smile. Outwardly he was composed and professional, though he was suppressing the urge to watch where the kids were going, not trusting his niece not to get into further trouble the minute she was out of sight.

                          She looked nothing like him, not in the least, and he appreciated Tony's discretion in not prying. But then, he owned the other man answers to much more important questions, which he had been good enough not to ask about either.

                          "Let's see if it can knock me down."

                          On the other side of the restaurant, pushing open the kitchen door, Lilly bounced on her feet and took Ellie's arm. "Well then what are waiting for! Oooooh things smell so lovely already. I am glad I came here by accident."

                          • Red Nova
                            Red Nova

                            Tony nodded up at the approaching waiter. "How's about you get some of th' good stuff for my associate here. Make it two."

                            Of course disruptions or not, there were matters to attend to, and the pressing thought still stood. Answers were sorely needed.

                            "I like importing commodities where ever I can. No expense spared for quality, and definitely not for one of a kind items. Forgive me for pryin', normally I don't make another man's business affairs my personal interest, but when I have an investment in somethin'...or someone...I like to know what's what." Tony offered a tight looking smile. "You understand, I'm sure."

                             

                            "HEY CHEF!" Ellie yelled out, and a few clanging of pots could be heard. Steam rose from a few of them, simmering away at the stove top, and said Chef turned to face them, stout, but still an intimidating presence.

                            "Oh no. Not you. You get out of my kitchen you little bambino viziato!" He snarled, brandishing a frying pan at her, and she held up her hands, grinning nervously.

                            "Aw come on! Cut me a break! We have a GUEST here, and you know how pops is about the way we treat our guests. You don't wanna scare her OR HER INCREDIBLY BEEFY, SERIOUS LOOKING UNCLE AWAY, DO YA?!"

                            The Chef paled slightly, grumbling. "How beefy?"

                            "Beefier than your ragu, and that's pretty beefy."

                            "RRGH, FINE. What is it you want?"

                            "A slice of your world famous cake for my new friend and me?" Ellie waggled her eyebrows.

                            "For your friend? Yes. For you, diavolo? No."

                            • Lilly Teal
                              Lilly Teal

                              "I understand Tony," Matthew sighed. "You have every right to pry. That's why I want to be as up front with you as... I feel I can."

                              This was a lot harder than it should be. It should have been so simple just to tell him that the source was not longer. Working.

                              Alive. It was final. It ended questions. At least along that avenue.

                              And yet it was hard. Because it wasn't just anyone. It was Johnathan. The man who had been so kind to him. Who'd not had any idea that his tech was being taken such advantage of. ... whose daughter was giggling in the kitchen, oblivious to everything.

                              Deep breath.

                              "Those one-of-a-kind items were only designed by one particular technician. And he's dead," he said bluntly, ripping the bandage off and keeping the steel shutters down behind his eyes, trying to betray no emotion except professional regret. "So I'm afraid there won't be more, unless I'm extraordinarily lucky enough to find another designer like him."

                              ~~~

                              Lilly giggled, a little quietly. A little shy around too many new faces at once, she was neverthless amused by the exchange going on.

                              "I'll share mine with you," she whispered to Ellie, before continuing in a more normal tone for both to hear, in mock concern. "Ellie have you been bothering this poor man?"

                              • Red Nova
                                Red Nova

                                Tony's brows rose, but soon furrowed, and he made a noise of acknowledgement. He mulled over the explanation briefly before sighing.

                                "I see. Things happen. Circumstances...sometimes they're out of our control. I speak from experience, I know what it's like to lose people in this business. It's not for the faint of heart. It's unfortunate, but it is what it is. I appreciate you's bein' honest with me though. I admire that in a person. You be straight up with me, I'll be straight up with you. That's the only way to do business around here."

                                The waiter arrived with their drinks, setting them onto the table, and Tony picked up his, swirling the strong liquid around. "I admit I'll miss 'em. Your designer had a real knack for it. My daughter was even taken by 'em."


                                 

                                Ellie grinned at Lilly, stuffing her hands into her pockets, "I might, once in a while. He loves it though, look at him!"

                                The stout Beagle growled at her before snapping his fingers at one of the sous chefs, "You! Go fetch these girls their dessert so they might leave me in peace!"

                                "Oh, we'll leave you. But peacefully is going to cost you some ice cream with the cake."

                                 

                                 

                                 

                                • Lilly Teal
                                  Lilly Teal

                                  Unfortunate. That was... an understatement to say the least, but he had to pretend it was indeed just that. Unfortunate. As much as he admired Tony's honesty and professionalism, the real circumstances were not something he felt he could share, no matter how much he might want to unburden. What if it put the girl in trouble? Not from Tony, he knew better than that, but who knew who might overhear and decide she might have some latent talent, or know the location of some blueprints?

                                  So he took his drink, and strong as it was, took a much larger drink of it than was entirely healthy in one go.

                                  "That's what I like about you, Tony. No beating around the bush, no playing with words, no knife in the back," he said with a touch of amusement. "And I'm glad to hear it. He was... a remarkable man."

                                  Steady, Matthew, steady...

                                  "So you daughter has a eye for this sort of thing? Should I be worried about competition?" he joked.

                                  ~~~

                                  Lilly gave a little "Ooo" from behind Ellie, seemed duly impressed by these hard-hearted negotiation tactics. The sous chef in question stifled a laugh as he hurried over, hiding his face from the chef in his effort to very calmly and professionally plate up two slices of cake.

                                  "Do we, uh, give in to their demands, boss?"

                                  "Please?" the duckette supplied helpfully.

                                  Lilly that's not how negotiations work.

                                  • Red Nova
                                    Red Nova

                                    Tony set down his glass after downing it. "That little rugrat's been interested in weapons as long as I can remember. Hell, she could take apart my guns, clean 'em, put 'em back together, all at the age a' four! She's got the knack for it. But she lacks focus. Confidence. She ain't got any faith in herself, she cracks under pressure." He shook his head grimly.

                                    "I need her to shape up. I don't have forever, y'know? I tell her she needs to take things more seriously. She don't listen."


                                     

                                     Chef threw up his hands, "Tu vuoi uccidermi! Mandami in una tomba precoce!" He snapped his dishtowel in their direction, "FINE! But after this, you leave me! You ask no more of me! I am BUSY, laboring away in this kitchen, I do not have time to play games with little diavoli infantili! You go now, yes?"

                                    He snapped his fingers at the sous chef with impatience, urging him to hurry along with their plates.

                                     
                                    • Lilly Teal
                                      Lilly Teal

                                      Matthew made a thoughtful noise. "Normal enough, she's young, but that's not good around weapons. It's not exactly a field you can make mistakes in to gain confidence. Not often anyway."

                                      Another drink was enough to drain the glass, and he leaned further back into his seat, sighing. "Mm. I can't advise you on that, I never had to coach any of my builders. But if you like... I can tour her around the latest stock. Have a chat about the business. Who knows? It might do some good to hear the same thing from another mouth."

                                      ~~~

                                      A snort escaped the sous chef, and he quickly scooped in the ice-cream before hurrying over, lest he also get scolded. Scolding was less gentle when you weren't Ellie.

                                      "Here you go. Tiramisu cake with ice cream."

                                      "Ooh this looks delicious!" Lilly said brightly, taking her plate. "Do you want to eat this outside, Ellie? The weather is so nice, it really is."

                                      • Red Nova
                                        Red Nova

                                        "You said it." Tony shook his head, making a disgruntled noise. At Matthew's offer, however, he perked an ear, his brow raising. "Yeah? You mean it? I'd sure appreciate that. Maybe if she heard it outta you, she'd start taking things seriously. Otherwise, she's gonna have a hell of a time later on. I won't always be here forever."

                                         


                                        Ellie's mouth watered, and she nodded, "YEAH! Let's ditch this place. I've been cooped up all day. Pops never lets me go anywhere fun." She could smell the notes of chocolate and coffee and couldn't resist digging her spoon into it, taking a bite before nodding along to Lilly to follow her.

                                        "Kitchen's got a door out back! We can sneak away, heh heh...." Two kids and some chocolate- how much trouble could they possibly get into?

                                        • Lilly Teal
                                          Lilly Teal

                                          "Mm." Matthew sighed, but nodded in agreement. "I mean it. You're exactly right. It's just hard to make someone understand that when they haven't experienced it. My niece," he tilted his head towards the kitchen door. "She's lost both her parents. Suddenly and at the same time. Nobody sees an accident coming. I do my best for her but it's never the same as a real parent. And... well."

                                          He cracked a smile. "Even on a first impression, does she look as if she's ready for the world at all?"

                                          ~~~

                                          Sneaking away hadn't been the intention but Ellie clearly didn't mean it like that, Lilly thought optimistically to herself, and nodded as she followed, adding a quick "Thank you!" over her shoulder to the chef and sous chef.

                                          • Red Nova
                                            Red Nova

                                            "Ah. That's sad to hear. Such a young kid like that." Tony shook his head, looking down to his glass for a moment. "I get it. I really do." Though he didn't seem to elaborate, there was something there in his eyes, some type of emotion, but it slipped away as soon as it had surfaced. "You do your best. The world never lets you be ready. Sometimes your kids have the fortune of figuring that out early...and some of 'em learn after losing a few things along the way."

                                             

                                            ~~~

                                             

                                            The chef scoffed and gave a half-hearted wave, eager to be rid of the children to regain the ebb and flow of his kitchen, and Ellie slipped silently through the racks of prepared rolls of bread to be baked, and simmering pots rolling to quiet boils.

                                            She nudged open the back door with a shoulder and emerged outside in the alley next to crates of vegetables that had been delivered just that morning. She licked at her fork and turned towards Lilly, "So tell me about yourself!"

                                            • Lilly Teal
                                              Lilly Teal

                                              He raised his glass. "Let's hope the loss is as small as it can be."

                                              Knocking back more of his drink, he gave a little laugh. "I'm afraid our business discussion is over before it began. Thank you for understanding, Tony. But again, my stock is always open to you, whatever I have."

                                              ~~~

                                              Mmmgh? She made a muffled noise, mouth already full of cake. Oh it was so light and fluffy and chocolaty~

                                              "Meff, mm." The duckette swallowed her piece. "What should I start with? Um, I'm Lilly, I like reading, and singing and dancing, and hugs, and since earlier this year I've been living with Uncle Matthew!" she chirped. "What about you?"

                                              • Red Nova
                                                Red Nova

                                                "A small price to pay. Things happen. Just means there's room on the market for other inventions to crop up, eh? Who knows, maybe Ellie'll dazzle the market with somethin'. Hopefully she'll cut her ol' man a deal!" Tony chuckled.


                                                 

                                                "Wow." Singing, dancing, and hugs, eh? Ellie grinned. "Hey I like dancing too, what kinda sound you into? How come you're livin' with your uncle? What sorta books do you---" She realized she'd been grilling the girl with questions a bit too eagerly and laughed in slight embarrassment. "Sorry. I don't get to talk to a lot of kids my age."

                                                • Lilly Teal
                                                  Lilly Teal

                                                  "Now there's an idea." Matthew smiled. "Maybe she'll do some business with me. Or put the both of us out of business instead, take over the city and rule it with an adorable iron fist. Maybe the girls are already plotting exactly that while we old men are unaware."

                                                  ~~~

                                                  Lilly gave a little laugh, not minding Ellie's enthusiasm one bit. "Don't be sorry! You can ask me as many questions as you want, I don't mind. I'll probably ask you a lot in return. I like swing music, and classical and jazz and all sorts of dancy things. And books with beautiful descriptions and fantastic adventures." And cheesy romance. "And now," she added, pointing at Ellie with her spoon. "YOU have to answer the same questions. Ha!"

                                                  Worrying at the edge of her cake with the same spoon, her voice was a little softer as she tried to answer the more serious of those three questions, though she still smiled. "And I live with my uncle because both of my parents passed away. He loves me very much, takes very good care of me. ... I think he worries about me too much, though. I'm sure I won't get into that much trouble in St. Canard. You don't get into that much trouble, do you?"

                                                  I'm pretty sure the trouble Ellie gets into could be done with or without the backdrop of St. Canard, Lilly.

                                                  • Red Nova
                                                    Red Nova

                                                    "Wouldn't surprise me one bit." Tony grinned in return, beckoning the waiter back over to set them up with another round.

                                                    _________________________________________________________________________________

                                                    "Jazz, same here! My parents met at this sweet little night club, it's called The Stardust. We go there all the time, they always have a real swingin' band playing! You should see if your Uncle will take you! It's a good time. As for books, I don't read a whole lot. I don't really have time to. When my dad ain't breathing down my neck, I hightail it out as often as I can. You spend one minute with him, and you'd see why."

                                                    At Lilly's next words however, Ellie's gaze became downcast. "Sorry. About your parents. If it helps...I kinda know what you're going through. In a way." She scuffed a shoe against the dirt, kicking a pebble down the alleyway. "....You have your uncle though, and that's good at least! Guy's gotta care about a nice girl like you, this city's crawling with degenerates! That's what my dad says anyway." 

                                                     

                                                    • Lilly Teal
                                                      Lilly Teal

                                                      She knew. Ellie's father had been there, so... her mother? Lilly didn't want to assume, but it seemed likely. She seemed a little more sober, and carefully set her plate aside to put her arms around Ellie warmly. The thing about Lilly's hugs was that they were eternally warm, eternally loving, eternally wanting so much to comfort the other person, even if they were practically a stranger.

                                                      Even if they were, hypothetically, a stranger who was the daughter of a gangster who had until recently been attempting some backroom negotiations with a weapons supplier. That doesn't mean they don't deserve the best hug you can give them! So she did.

                                                      "I'm sorry too," she said softly, before sitting back a little again. "But yes! I do have my uncle and you have your father! He says much the same thing, says I have to be very careful because of all the supervillains and other criminals in St. Canard. but I'm sure it will be fine!"

                                                      Optimism, thy name is Lilly.

                                                      "I'll tell uncle Matthew about the Stardust. It'll do him good to get away from work, and maybe we can see each other there!" Wouldn't that be nice? Retrieving her plate again, she continued to eat, before she paused a moment.

                                                      "Ellie-"

                                                      That was when the gunshot happened, kicking up brick dust uncomfortably close to the girls. Matthew's ears pricked up. Muggers? Villains? Whatever it was, it was outside the cafe.

                                                      "Where are the girls?"