Charlie wakes up somewhere else. Somewhere cool and quiet. Empty. It’s similar to the airplane terminal he died in.
Died in. There it is.
The realization that he’s dead sinks in and he exhales. Breathes in the silence. And then he howls because no, fuck, it wasn’t his time just yet and he’s gone and now Meyer’s the only one left —
“I thought old age would have mellowed you.”
Charlie’s scream dies on his lips and he turns around. The man standing behind him in a surprise.
Rothstein smiles cooly, not showing his teeth. “Were you expecting someone else?”
Charlie blinks at him for a moment. “Figured you’d be long gone by now.”
Rothstein’s smile doesn’t shift, doesn’t betray any emotions. “I have unfinished business to attend to. So I’m waiting. It’s been...interesting, to say the least. Seeing who passes through here.”
“Of all the places you picked to haunt, this is where you did it?” Charlie gestures at the terminal around them. “A fuckin’ airport in Sicily?”
“Oh, so that’s where you are.” Rothstein raises an eyebrow. “See, to me, we’re in the Park Central Hotel.”
A shadow passes over his face and Charlie understands. He’s always been a quick learner.
“It’s interesting,” Rothstein says, “seeing what others see here. Mr. Thompson saw the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Such a public place to die. By the way, was that you?”
“Nah.” Charlie shakes his head. “Jimmy Darmody’s kid got ‘im.”
“Darmody.” Rothstein nods, testing the word. “That’s who Thompson chased after. He didn’t stay long, just enough to curse me out when I politely asked what happened and then go chasing off after his own business.”
Charlie looks around. There’s no one else besides the pair of them here. And if Thompson was chasing unfinished business like Darmody, then there’s someone who should be here for Charlie too.
As if he can read Charlie’s mind, Rothstein smirks cooly. “Your associate already passed through. Mr. Siegel.”
Charlie scowls. “That’s none of your fuckin’ business.”
“He told me what happened.” Rothstein shakes his head. “Such a pity, Charlie. I never figured you’d be so cold-hearted.”
“Yeah, ‘cause you’re such a good pal yourself. You remember selling me out to Masseria? Throwin’ me to the cops?”
“You went behind my back. I told you and Mr. Lansky to wait until that unfortunate business involing Gyp Rosetti was resolved...”
“It wouldn’t fuckin’ wait!”
“It could have waited and we could have saved ourselves a great deal of trouble.”
Charlie crosses the space between them. He half expects Rothstein to disappear when he grabs him by the lapels and shakes him, all the betrayal and rage he thought he’d let go of bubbling back to the surface. “You lying fuck! You sold me out! You with your talk, your promises, and the second someone doesn’t do as you want, you toss ‘em to the side!”
Rothstein scowls but doesn’t try to fight him off. “That’s the way the game was played. You waited and you made your bet when it was clear who the winner was going to be. You never understood that.”
Charlie shoves him back and paces away from him. Behind him, Rothstein keeps talking. “I tried to teach you that countless times. ‘Some things you just have to swallow.’ Sometimes you have to hold your tongue and bide your time and wait for the right moment.”
Charlie turns back to glare at him. Rothstein’s insufferably smug smile is back, and Charlie almost wants to punch him. “Yeah, and which one of us ended up gettin’ shot?”
“Which one of us was sent to prison and then deported?” Rothstein sighs. “There’s the rise and the fall, Charlie. You get to the top and then someone new and young comes and takes your place. That’s the way this business works.”
Charlie stares at him for a long moment, breathing hard. “It wasn’t how it was supposed to be,” he finally says. “I cut a fuckin’ deal and then they shipped me back here.”
“The deck is always stacked against men like us.”
“Like you’re one to talk. You with your nice American family, you never had to work a day in your life.”
Rothstein’s mask slips for a moment. “Don’t presume to tell me anything about work. No matter how much money we had, do you think I was ever seen as anything other than a Jew? There’s a reason I had to play the game more cautiously then others such as Mr. Thompson was allowed to, and you know why. Do not attempt to paint me with the same brush as them.”
Silence falls over them for a moment. Then Rothstein clears his throat. “You never did tell me why you had Mr. Siegel executed.”
“He was stealin’ money, him and his girl out West. Joey Adonis, you didn’t know him, he spoke for her, but Benny...his hotel was goin’ down the drain and with the missin’ money, something had to be done. ‘Sides, none of us were getting along too well.”
“Did Meyer agree to it?”
Charlie’s heart clenches at the thought of Meyer. “He did. Eventually. Knew it needed to be done.”
Rothstein nods slowly. “He was very angry when he came barreling through here. Told me the whole story, his vision for his magical city out in the desert. He stayed for a little while. I can only imagine he wanted some company. Of course, why he wanted mine I’ll never know, as we only met a few times and I can only imagine the tales you and Meyer told about me.”
“Guy was probably waiting to kick mine and Meyer’s asses, once we turned up,” Charlie admits guiltily.
“Well, after a while, someone else must’ve died who he knew, and he went chasing after them. If it's a consolation, he seemed pleased to see them. And he was the last who passed through this way. Until you.” Rothstein sighs. “I never much cared for waiting.”
Charlie eyes him suspiciously. “This business you’re waiting for, it ain’t me?”
Rothstein raises an eyebrow. “As highly as you think of yourself, I have other thoughts weighing on my mind outside of you. My wife, for example. I would like to resolve matters with her before I go out and face whatever else is there.”
He pauses. “But, if we are to be stuck here together, I suppose I could say that I do regret how things turned out between us.”
“That your way of apologizing?”
“You went against me same as I went against you. If you’re expecting me to beg your forgiveness, you’re sorely mistaken.”
Charlie scoffs. “Asshole.”
“Is it freeing, to curse me out to my face like that?”
“Yeah, it kinda is.”
There’s another heavy silence. Then Rothstein exhales. “I do regret it Charlie. I was fond of you.”
Charlie looks at him, trying to judge if he’s sincere or not. “Doesn’t matter now,” he finally mumbles. “We’re both stuck here.”
“The waiting room of fallen kings.”
“That’s real poetic.”
“Well, I don’t have much else to do in my spare time.”
Rothstein glances around, as if he’s waiting to see his wife appear at any moment. “So, do you plan on waiting here?”
Charlie considers it for a moment. Being stuck here isn’t exactly his idea of fun, but Meyer’s still out there. Charlie’ll wait for him before whatever happens next.
“Yeah.” He glares at Rothstein. “But this don’t change a thing between us.”
Rothstein chuckles lightly. “If it did, you’d have changed more than I thought.”
Charlie gives him a small nod before turning away from him. Rothstein falls silent and the two wait together. There’s no resolution here, no shining moment of forgiveness. But there’s a new understanding, and somehow that’s a comfort to Charlie.
The two settle into the quiet, and wait.