Somebody Knows Something


liza_icon.gif niki_icon.gif tuck_icon.gif

Scene Title Somebody Knows Something
Synopsis Niki and Tuck compare notes and share what they know with Liza.
Date March 6, 2018

Red Hook Market : Tuck's Office

Tuck was sort of stressed out before this whole food fiasco. Since then, he's been even more tense and doing a lot of running around to reassure market vendors and to try and work out some logistics. Logistics like increased security and the co-op securing food from some of the vendors in lieu of rent. Some were more willing than others to strike such a deal.

"How much trouble do you think we'd get in if I tried to kick out anyone trying to price gouge?" asks Tuck rather rhetorically. He's sitting behind a large wooden desk in his rabbit warren of an office. Every surface is piled high with this or that. There's also tons of knick knacks that would seem useless to most people. You can take the pawnie away from the shop, but you can never quite kill the instinct to horde potentially useful items.

Rhetorical or not, Niki has an answer for him. "Trouble? I'll throw them out myself," she grumbles, arms crossed over her chest. Leaning against the door frame, she watches Tuck's nervous energy with concern. "If they want to take advantage of a building crisis, they can go try their luck on Staten Island as far as I'm concerned." This is a community and she expects the merchants to band together and act like it.

"The question is…what's the line between gouging and supply and demand? That's something I struggled with back in the day. Speaking of Staten." Tuck frowns as he goes over papers. "You heard any rumours? What're people saying out there? People get whispery when I walk past. Or maybe I'm paranoid."

That one she doesn't have an answer for, other than to shrug. "You can be both," Niki points out, teasing gently to lighten the mood. The situation is tense, but it won't do either of them any good to get so worked up that they can't think clearly. "As a matter of fact, speaking of Staten… I've heard that shitbag Arrowood was hanging out around the market." They banned him for life about half an age ago. "Same night the food went missing. Rumor is that he was looking for people to buy for him."

"Yeah, I've heard the same. And he seems to not like me very much, from the rumors. Though I can't imagine what I did to him." Tuck pushes his glasses up his nose with his thumb. "But really, it could be any number of things. Could've been something from the old days. Could be 'cause I'm a dirty Evolved lover. Could be he had a conversation with me once." The last bit is drawled self-depreciatingly.

"Could be because he's a piece of shit stuck to the bottom of someone's shoe," Niki offers, pushing off from the wall to approach the desk. "Come on. Don't beat yourself up. Whoever did this? They got past all of us." Or one of the Watch was in on it. She doesn't want to admit to that possibility.

Tuck tosses a pen onto the desk and leans back. His chair isn't the best, so it leaaans back far. It's a great PI pose, if nothing else. He sets hands on the top of his head. "What matters more than passing blame is what the hell we're gonna do about it. People get hungry, they start going at each others' throats. Other people get greedy. Then the co-op becomes a free-for-all."

"I know." Niki frowns and leans forward to rest her palms against the edge of the desk, staring off toward the corner of the office lost in thought for a moment. "SESA is going to step in," she says absently. It's no secret that she has a good amount of faith in the organization. "They have the resources and the authority to dig into this." Her gaze shifts back to Tuck. "We'll figure something out."

"The other thing we gotta look out for is scapegoating. I think we should resist the urge to talk about our theories and try to get the council at least to not engage in it, at least anywhere outside of closed doors. People hear us bandying theories about, we might have some vigilantism to deal with." Tuck reaches for his cup of coffee, sips, then promptly spits the ice cold and slightly congealed stuff back into the cup. Bleergh.

She pulls a face in sympathetic disgust as Tuck spits his coffee back into the cup, only ruffled for a moment. "I agree. We need to be a unified front. People are going to speculate no matter what we do…" With her palms still braced on the desk, Niki takes two steps back, leaning to stretch some of the tension out of her muscles. "But the less fuel we provide to that fire, the better."

Tuck snap-points at her. "There was this little Italian kid who could walk through walls. I overheard some people talking suspiciously about him. I mean, he could've been involved, but somehow I doubt it. I think he was stealing - don't get me wrong, but I think just to feed himself. This job smacks of organized crime, not an industrious kid."

"Yeah… Will, I think his name is?" Niki straightens back up and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. "Again, I agree with you. I might have to go walk around Staten Island tomorrow… See what I can see. That amount of food doesn't just disappear. Somebody knows something, and they're gonna slip up."

"Niki," Tuck looks over the top of his glasses at her. "That doesn't…" he sucks in a breath. "You sure that's a good idea? The last thing criminal assholes who stole a bunch of food would want is you sniffing around and asking questions on their turf." No matter how much he's tried to change over the years to do things for the greater good, he's still a bit of a cockroach. And a cockroach always has one eye on self-preservation. Arguably, it's what's kept him alive this long.

"Are you worried about me?" Rounding to Tuck's side of the desk, Niki leans back to half-sit against the edge of it, careful not to disrupt any of his mountains of paperwork or bric-a-bracs. Niki lifts a sculpted eyebrow and smirks, amused. "I'm not afraid of them."

"I am," says Tuck. "I've been threatened by them. I've had my fingers broken…" He waggles a hand with swollen knuckles and a few fingers that aren't entirely straight. "I've been locked up, beat down and had my shit wrecked. I've had people I cared about hurt because of me. And hell, I've been on the other side. I was a leg breaker for the Russians. I couldn't stomach it, so I just got so goddamn high before a job that I didn't know what was happening anyway." He drops the hand back to his desk. "Another fine line we walk is the line between being push-overs and picking our battles."

Niki — Jessica — was the one breaking fingers and legs and… every other bone in a man's body. Sure, she's been extorted before, threatened, but her experiences don't align with his. It puts a knot of guilt in the bottom of her stomach. "Tuck…" She rests a hand on the side of his face and leans close—

A knock on the door interrupts her thoughts and Niki lifts her head, looking over her shoulder. "Come on in," she calls, standing up again and turning to face whoever's come to call. With her arms folded over her chest, standing off to one side of where Tuck's seated at his desk, she almost looks like an enforcer. In some ways, she is.

The door swings open to reveal a petite blonde. She takes one look at the pair behind the desk, then offers a bright-but-polite smile. "Oh, hello! To both of you. I hope I'm not interrupting any important dialogue or discourse. Apologies if I am."

Liza straightens herself up to try and look taller. "I'm Elizabeth Messer from the SLC-Expressive Services Agency. I'm here on behalf of SESA to do some investigating on the disappearance of all that food and I was hoping I could ask some questions if you have the time."

Tuck tries to push down the troubled look on his face after that knock on the door. He doesn't quite succeed. He does however, slide a few potentially confidential files aside and tucks them under a folder as Liza enters. His desk is piled high with a half dozen towers of such files. The walls are lined with shelving full of seemingly random items. Despite the fact that there's an excessive amount of clutter, it gives the impression of organized chaos.

The man himself sort of only looks like someone in charge. The suit jacket says 'community leader' but the faded t-shirt with a few holes and an obscure band logo says 'but don't ask too much of me.' "Hello Elizabeth Messer from the SLC-Expressive Services Agency. I'm Gil Tucker, but everyone calls me Tuck. I have some kind of title but…" he looks up at Niki. "What's my title, again? Market Coordinator? I thought they were gonna add something else on the end of that to make it sound fancier but I think that got deferred at the last meeting for not being the least bit important. I think that was my motion, as a matter of fact. And I make so few motions that I tend to get my way when I do."

He looks back to Liza. "I'll let her introduce herself 'cause me doing it for her is a bit like ordering for someone at a restaurant."

"And Grandmaster of Commerce, I think is what was put forward," the woman at Tuck's side provides his supposed additional title. Humor is a great way to defuse tension. "Niki Zimmerman. I believe we've met before, Agent Messer." Company memories are not fond memories for many, but if anybody's willing to leave the past dead and buried, it's Niki. "We'll be happy to answer your questions as best we can."

"Well Tuck, you can call me Liza, I prefer it anyway." Liza seems a lot more at ease by the way Tuck conducts himself. But Niki is a familiar face. That was a long time ago. One full of both good and bad memories. She is happy to leave the past where it is though. "It's good to meet you again, Ms. Zimmerman." Pulling out a small black hardcover notebook and a pen, she gets ready to write down some answers.

"Did either of you see or hear anything out of the ordinary prior to or near the food theft? Anything at all might be useful. New people hanging around, suspicious incidents…"

Tuck snaps. "Grandmaster. Yes. That has a good ring to it, if a bit ostentatious. Do you think they proposed that title because they wanted to calm me down or fluff me up?" Tuck says this to Niki. It's really hard to tell sometimes if he's asking serious questions, because he sometimes asks about serious things in joking tones.

He looks back to Liza and adjusts the blue plastic glasses perched on his face. "Before I give you any names, I want to know how you're going to go about conducting this investigation. You have to understand that we're a community here. There's some people here with bad pasts they're trying to leave behind, and for the most part we give them the benefit of the doubt. And if you go around and question people too aggressively or make accusations based on anything the Council told you, then we're gonna have more of a mess on our hands than a theft and food shortage."

"Six of one…" Niki murmurs, doing a little seesaw motion with her hand to Tuck's probably not serious question.

Tuck's caveats are nodded along with. "Everybody here is just trying to start fresh after the war. We don't ask questions and we don't hold the past against anyone as long as they don't start causing trouble." Unfortunately, someone is clearly causing trouble.

Liza tilts her head to the side at the question before she nods. "That's fair. Well, I'm not here for some kind of shakedown or anything of the like. Everyone has pasts they want to leave behind and so there will be no aggressive questions or harassment. That's not how I do things and not how SESA conducts business. Anything the two of you share with me will be in confidence and won't be tied to the Council."

The petite agent offers another friendly smile. "I'm not here to get anyone in trouble save for whomever committed this theft. I'm here to help."

Tuck may not be SLC-Expressive, but he's generally expressive. That's why it's notable that he goes a bit poker-faced in his response to Liza's explanation. Niki knows him well enough to know that it's a bit unusual. It could just be a bit of protectiveness, or maybe it's just an in-grown distrust of law enforcement in all its shapes. He was a career criminal, after all. "It's just kind of a…piece of advice in general," he rolls his wrist. "You could end up digging in the wrong hole, chasing what looks like a good lead. Instead, you find someone with a lot of secrets who is trying to move on. And those secrets don't involve anything about stealing food."

He takes a breath and sits back, leaning more than he intends to because of a busted spring in his chair. "There was a man, Arrowood and his buddies. Jackasses. Got kicked out of the market awhile back for public drunkenness. Definitely seemed the type who'd steal food, just out of spite if nothing else."

"Eugene Arrowood's a piece of— Work." Niki confirms with a sour expression. She has no affection for either of the Arrowoods. "I've heard from a couple people that he was hanging around nearby the market the night the food went missing. Looking for people to buy things for him." It's clear where she would start, if she was in Liza's shoes.

"Like I said, Tuck, I'm here to help, I give you my word." Liza smiles genuinely. She at least looks like she believes what she says, if nothing else. Her pen flies across the page as she hears the name, scrawling it down and making a few notes.

"Eugene Arrowood. Gotcha. I'll see about if there's a connection there. He seems like a promising lead, at least if it's not him maybe he's got some buddies who would be interested in doing such a thing." She's mostly musing the last part to herself.

"Anything else come to mind?"

Tuck takes a long breath. He looks from Niki, then over to Liza. "I'm going to give you a name, but this goes back to what I just said. And also…I don't think he has anything to do with it. But others might mention an Italian kid who can walk through walls. His name's Will. If he's involved at all, it's because someone made him. He's just young, maybe, ten, eleven?"
Then he pauses for a moment and taps his lip as he recalls a memory. "The night of the robbery, I thought I heard something in the vents, but they're too small for anyone to move through. I thought it was just rats or something. Oh… Niki…remind me…rat traps." Then, "There aren't any vents into the food storage area though. So it was probably nothing."

"I could see him being coerced into something," Tuck's partner agrees. "I've never known him to get into any trouble, but… I've only seen him around maybe once or twice? I'm not sure if he's got family here, or if he's from the orphanage." Niki uncrosses her arms and rests one hand on the back of Tuck's chair. Not to lean, but to surreptitiously ensure it doesn't go back any further.

Liza frowns at the thought of someone, a kid, coerced into doing anything. "I'll be sure that he's handled in an appropriate manner. I wouldn't let anyone bully a kid." If she means a SESA agent or whomever may have coerced Will, it's hard to tell. "So someone may have used the vents, but nothing directly into the storage."

The pen slowly comes to a halt as Liza finishes her notes. "Anything else you might have heard of that seems odd, even if you think it might be unrelated?"

"There's plenty odd around here, madam, but nothing else that I can think of attached to this." Tuck looks over at Niki to see if he's forgetting something. "And I do hope we'll have the support of your agency as we try to manage this situation. Hungry people aren't rational people."

Niki shakes her head slowly. "Nothing else I can think of. If we hear anything or think of something else, I'll be sure to give you a call, Liza." She offers a smile at that. They may be worried about how this will shake out, but Niki seems to have some faith in the investigation.

Business cards are offered first to Tuck, then to Niki. It has Liza's contact information and a smiley face drawn in pen. "Right then, please do give me a call if you think of anything else. Or if you have any other issues, don't hesitate to contact me. I'd like there to be a good working relationship between SESA and the people of the Safe Zone. The kind where people get their fresh starts."

Liza tucks away her notepad and moves for the doorway. "Good luck on your end, I'll do my best to see we hold up ours. Tuck, Ms. Zimmerman." She nods at them both before disappearing out the door.

Tuck and Niki might have a good understanding of one another and be on similar wavelengths, but trust in law enforcement and government agencies are where things diverge. Lived experience can't quite erase that sensation for him, even if he's ostensibly part of one of those organizations. "We'll reach out if we hear anything else significant," he says.

Niki lets out a deep breath after the door closes behind Agent Messer and the sound of her retreating footsteps fade away. She steps behind the chair fully and rests her hands on Tuck's shoulders. "Relax, handsome. The Safe Zone is an experiment the government wants to be successful." Not like the Eltingville slums. "They're not going to jeopardize this."

"If they want it to be succesful, they'd back up a truck full of food," Tuck slumps against the desk and shakes his head slowly. "Why did I get into this position? How did I get into this position?" He looks around the office. "I shoulda just stayed in Toronto."

"You're not alone." Niki bends down to press a kiss against the side of his neck. "You need to remember that. You have ten other people at your back. And… I'm glad you didn't stay in Toronto." She squeezes his shoulders, smiling even though he can't see it from where he's slumped. He can hear it in her voice. "I'm glad you're here. You're doing good here, Tuck. Don't let someone else's misdeeds make you question that."

"I came here because I understand wanting to live somewhere not under the heel of someone else. Like Yamagato. Like the government. That's why I stayed on Staten as long as I did even after the bridge went down. Self-sufficiency is empowering." Tuck reaches up and tugs off his glasses. He hooks them into the front of his shirt. "But every time something like this comes up all I can think of is how ill-equipped I am to handle it. I can coordinate logistics all day, every day, but handling sensitive situations?"

"And that's why you're not alone," Niki reiterates. "Listen to me, huh?" Her tone is gentle, chiding. She understands his guilt and his instinct to bear the weight of the world on his own shoulders. "We can't all be good at every single thing. That's why it's not a council of one."

"Can I just…opt out of the problems like this? Please?" Tuck looks up at her with mock puppy eyes. "Pretty please? I'll do all the photocopying and make coffee for like…a month if I can just not have to accuse people of stealing."

There's a sympathetic pang in her chest. She reaches out to cup his face in her hands and brush her thumbs over his cheekbones. "You don't have to accuse anyone of anything. I will be the bad guy if it comes to that, and you owe me nothing in return for that. You've already paid me an advance about a hundred-thousand times over."

"I am an absolute expert at avoiding conflict, if you hadn't noticed." It's part of why Tuck cracks jokes so much. Diffuse, redirect and distract with humour in difficult situations instead of addressing it directly - that's his MO. And when it comes to dealing with squabbles in the market, it works fairly well. This? He can't joke a food crisis away. He looks up at her, eyes wrinkling a little. "OK but I'm still making the coffee. You don't make it strong enough."

Brows lift in mock surprise. "What? I hadn't noticed!" Niki pats his cheek once and lets her hands fall away, laughing softly. "We're going to be fine, hon. Everyone is going to be fine. And you can make the coffee just the way you like it and I won't even complain."

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