The Straight Story


cat_icon.gif judah_icon.gif karen_icon.gif nicole_icon.gif

Scene Title The Straight Story
Synopsis Catherine responds to a call.
Date February 16, 2010

1326 Broadway

It hadn't concerned her when she twice left messages returning the call she got from Mother, even with the warning from Jensen Raith. Cat has her reasons for that. She went to the monitoring room, there checking out footage from the security cameras both internal and external, covering both the immediate outside of the Verb and providing views for the other side of the street too.

The perusal, done at fast forward speed to cover more recorded time, was soon interrupted by the NYPD call. It brought her out of the penthouse and to the building where campaign headquarters had been. Concern exists, that her presence should be requested, but the full scope of things hasn't yet occurred to her. She hasn't reason to believe an event such as Jensen said someone tried to contract for would take place yet, or even be possible. The purple Neon is parked near the location, she steps out and makes her way toward the entrance.

Blue and red lights flash, illuminating the side of the building that houses Chesterfield Campaign Headquarters at 1326 Broadway. Already, the steel access doors that provide a shortcut into the north stairwell from the street outside have been blocked off with yellow crime scene tape flapping loosely in the breeze between skinny orange cones the colour of the uniforms worn by the city's traffic personnel.

This late at night — or this early in the morning, depending on how Cat wishes to look at it — the only people out on the streets past curfew are the ones who are authorized to be. Jennifer's daughter is expected; none of the police officers lingering by the squad cars parked on the curb hassle her as she makes her way toward the building.

Seated in a folding chair, almost looking forgotten by the police surrounding the area is the haggard form of Nicole Nichols. It seems - or she hopes, at least - that she's run out of tears to shed. The slamming of another car door shouldn't draw her attention, but she lifts her head anyway. Blinking through the harsh light of flashing cherries to finally focus on the approaching form of Catherine Chesterfield.

It feels like her throat is closing up. She doesn't raise her voice in any sort of half-hearted or well-meaning greeting or offer a wave of her hand. Instead, Nicole simply bows her head and takes a slow drink from the cup of coffee clutched in her hand. She'll leave the bad news to the professionals.

No hassles. There might have been, at most, one or two patrol cars coming up behind her on the way over which backed off after checking her plates and turning up the name, being instructed by dispatch to let her pass untroubled about curfew. Cat's boots crunch over snow on the way to the building, the hood of her winter coat pulled up versus weather. Alert eyes survey the scene, and a wariness begins settling in. Just what the hell is going on? A thwarted attack? Nicole is spotted, her demeanor and appearance noted, but no attempt to approach is made. The goal is going inside, or speaking with whatever official of the NYPD is there to meet her.

The lock on the steel doors snaps open from the inside, a lever-style handle is depressed, and a moment later two figures are stepping out into the winter chill. Commissioner Karen Lau's long black hair has been hastily pinned up into a knot at the back of her head that allows loose strands to blow across her face when she crosses the threshold, followed by the taller, more muscular shape of Detective Judah Demsky. Both are dressed in civilian clothes — Lau's more rumpled than Demsky's — and like poor Nicole slouched in the folding chair, the slimmer of the two has thin fingers wrapped around a styrofoam cup of coffee that billows steam.

At least one of them got out of bed for this.

"Miss Chesterfield?" Lau asks, passing the cup to Judah who in turn pawns it off on one of the uniformed officers leaning against the hood of his squad car. "May I speak with you privately for a moment?"

"Doctor Chesterfield," she corrects mildly, with eyebrows raising. "Certainly, commissioner." Both faces are studied briefly, their demeanors mentally registered, as attention lingers upon them. "What's going on?" Cat's become more concerned by the words chosen in this greeting. They aren't saying there was an attempt, or a burglary, or any some such. It begins to take on the character of a notification about a happening the panmnesiac still discounts.

Nicole rises from her seat when the doors open, gaze falling first on Commissioner Lau, and then Detective Demsky, which is where they settle. She's watching his face, looking for any sign that they may have found something she missed. She takes two steps toward them, but then stops, her mouth setting in a grim line. Her breath hitches, evident in the stutter of the visible stream that issues from her lips. Now, she watches Catherine's face, even if she isn't quite close enough to hear what's being said.

Lau leads Cat around the side of the building, away from intermittent glare produced by the flashing lights. Here, the street lamps provide a softer glowing, bathing the snow in sallow white illumination, and the pair is shielded from the eyes that would otherwise follow them and study their backs. Many of the officers who responded to Nicole's call have been in situations similar to the one that the Commissioner is in now — the only difference is that they were fortunate enough to be able to deliver the news on someone's doorstep rather than outside the crime scene itself.

"Your mother was found unresponsive in the north stairwell shortly after eleven-thirty. Her personal assistant placed a call with Emergency Services, but I'm sorry to inform you that she's passed away."

It's a shock. Her body goes rigid on hearing the words, the head shakes a few times. "What happened?" Cat's inquiry is followed with a second. "Why the crime scene tape, all the presence here?" Silence settles in as she flashes herself back to the scene outside when she arrived, counting official vehicles. The number of patrol cars and ambulances, specifically.

Her backside leans against a wall, eyes close and hands settle on knees as deep breaths are taken. Heart attack? Aneurysm? Sudden stroke? Murder doesn't surface as a possibility yet. It takes some seconds during which she gathers composure before she states somberly, "You need me to provide identification."

Nicole drags her fingers through her dark hair and starts digging through her purse for her cigarettes. Once she finds them, she's quick to light one up and puff on it. With Lau around the side of the building with Catherine, she approaches Judah. She doesn't know how to even approach this situation, so she doesn't. Instead, she rests a hand on his arm briefly as a sort of greeting now that she's less hysterical. "Have you heard from Colette?" Common ground. Not much happier than the situation here, but something to fill the time. Settle frayed nerves.

"You can provide it at the morgue," Lau says, taking a step forward, readying herself to steady Cat if she needs it. So far, the wall is doing a fine job of supporting her. "I can't speculate what may have happened. We're still in the process of gathering evidence so we can determine a cause of death and proceed with the investigation from there." Although she does not tell Cat that foul play is suspected, her words are heavy enough to imply it.

Around the corner, Judah has fixed Nicole with a sharp look, his dark eyes like a hawk's. "She's not staying with you?"

"You make it sound like this wasn't a medical issue," Cat states as her back straightens and she pushes up to full height. The face turns hard, her eyes flash with a variety of emotions. Loss, surprise, rage. It's a steely will that chains back the latter and mutes the two former, keeping herself businesslike, but still it remains clear she's affected. Shaken.

"If she was murdered, Commissioner, tell me the straight story now, and take me to the body. The bodies. There would have to be three or four, she has a security team." The reason she's until now discounted that possibility, not to mention the absence of seeing those men.

"We are the most irresponsible well-intentioned guardians ever," Nicole surmises with a shake of her head. "No, she's staying with friends. She's also lost her cell phone." It's not the whole truth, but it may be close enough for their purposes. "I know she's technically an adult now, but I think we need to start cracking down on her." Nicole listens to hear own words, hardly believing herself. At a time like this, she's talking about stepping up their parenting.

"I can't let you go up there, Catherine." Apparently, Lau is quick to drop formality in situations like these. Her eyes shine obsidian black in the absence of natural light, the shadows under them made worse by her face's angular features and the way it plays off them. "Our technicians are working, and as soon as I hear something one way or the other then so will you. I haven't seen your mother, either, but if you have questions about specifics then I suggest you talk to Miss Nichols over there."

Judah reaches into his jacket pocket with his left hand and brings out his own phone cupped in his palm. Its luminous display indicates what time it is and that he has a text message from a colleague asking him who's in charge of handling the press. No unheard voicemail. No missed calls. "Later," he tells Nicole. "We'll talk later."

It's decision time. Try to bull the commissioner into telling more details, or let it ride and seek information in other ways? Accompanying this is speculation within the woman's brain. No comment to confirm or deny it was murder, but if it didn't seem the case that would've been said up front, Cat reasons. But what doesn't add up is the absence of questions regarding possible suspects. Enemies who might've performed the crime. Of those, there are a few. One in particular stands out, but no name is spoken. "I want all the details when you have them, Commissioner," Cat asserts. Her voice carries a bit of an edge in uttering those words, but is kept at conversational volume. The eyes, the set of her jaw, shows determination to stay atop the entire matter and be made aware of all details.

Moments later she's turning away from the Commissioner and making her way over to Nicole and the male detective.

Nicole nods slowly. Later would be a much better time than now, wouldn't it? "You know how to reach me." She stares down into the cup in her hand, frowning. "Who do I need to harass for more coff- Oh, God."

Deep down, Nicole knew she'd have to talk to Jenn's daughter, but she's just not prepared. Her face pales, leaving the puffy redness surrounding and dark circles beneath her eyes that much more evident. "Ca-" Nicole stops and clears her throat. "Catherine." Cigarette between her lips, she extends her free hand. "I… There are no words for how sorry I am." What else do you really say at a time like this? The sentiment is honest, at least.

Lau does not pursue Catherine around the corner. Either she trusts Judah to be able to handle any disputes that arise between the two women, or the disputes themselves are not as important as the investigation itself. Like the detective's colleague back at the precinct, her mind is undoubtedly turning toward the press conference that will have to be held in the morning and whether or not the other mayoral candidates should be discouraged from commenting on Chesterfield's death until they have more details to provide the public.

Judah is silent, saying nothing, his attention divided between Nicole and Catherine as apologies are made even before Jennifer's daughter has opened her mouth. He glances up at the window belonging to one of the rooms that comprise Chesterfield Campaign Headquarters, a solitary light left on in memoriam.

"Thank you," Cat replies quietly to Nicole's expression of sorrow, and in that moment the moisture of tears surface. It's not something she wants to happen, and she won't let herself break into full on sobbing, but some things can't always be hidden. Eyes showing that sense of loss, the grief, remain on Miss Nichols; other emotions are visible there. Suppressed rage, determination. Fear? Absent.

Further spoken words are somber and solemn. "I need to know everything you saw, Nicole. The Commissioner is being scant on the details."

Nicole doesn't answer right away, brows furrowing. "It was murder," she says finally after a long moment of deliberation. "I… You don't want to know." She drops her cigarette to the pavement and crushes it beneath her shoe. "Not with a memory like yours. You don't want to remember her like that…" Her hand rubs over her mouth, thumb brushing under her nose and disguising a sniffle.

Murder. Her eyes darken further, the jaw clenches again, fists form at her sides. Fury builds, kept in by sheer power of will. "I can handle it, Nicole," Cat utters quietly, "tell me. Also, was there anything in Cyrillic lettering around her?" In a momentary stretch of silence, she turns away from the assistant to scan the area. The murderer might be around somewhere, watching the aftermath, perhaps to take some sadistic pleasure in it.

While she performs this visual scan of the area, a second burning question is asked. "If it was murder, how many bodies are there? She kept a security team with her, where are they?"

"We weren't surrounded by security people in the end, Catherine." Nicole shakes her head. It's just not something they accounted for. "The election was over, and your mother wanted some peace. She was… She was just supposed to come down and get into a hired car." While Cat seems able to keep it together, Nicole does not. She starts to cry again, burying her face in one hand as her body shakes. "I don't know what-" She stops herself. She's already told her story once tonight and that was hard enough. This is worse. "Maybe it was a robbery? There was money scattered around. I don't know. I didn't…"

Nicole practically peeks through her fingers at the other woman. "Cryllic? You mean like… Russian? No. Nothing like that." That's an odd sort of question to ask, to her.

"Thank you, Nicole," Cat replies. Her stoicism still shows cracks, and maybe she might soon lose it, but the odds are she won't let anyone see it if she does. For the moment, she doesn't seem opposed to providing the comfort of being leaned upon. Silence settles, grief and guilt build, over being stupid. Over having assumed Mother, as a candidate publicly declared having the SLC, would always have security around. Humanis First are still out there. Danko is still out there. Both things Mother definitely knew about. Money scattered around? Robbery? But why would the money have been left, if it was robbery?

"So she was shot," the panmnesiac concludes.

Nicole stares down at her feet. "I… She wasn't shot." But she isn't quite sure what the cause of death actually was. The backs of her hands are clean now, but she remembers Jennifer's blood on them. "I… Her throat was cut." By what, she doesn't know. Despite her own suggestion, robbery doesn't seem entirely plausible. "I don't know what happened. I should have-" Doubling over for a moment, Nicole lets the empty coffee cup fall from her hand so she can brace against her own knees, sobbing too hard to speak for several seconds.

"I should have walked her out. Oh, Jenn."

That… That's not possible. How could someone get so close and do that, without his or her blood being turned to water? Or pure salt. Made to clot instantly. Cat is visibly stunned now, her eyes blink several times with the effort to wrap her brain around it all. Negator? Maybe. If there wasn't something like that in play, she could still have been cut and killed, but… the killer's body should've been with her.

It narrows down the range of suspects, however. Humanis First isn't known for slitting throats. They shoot people, or hang them in public. No, this was a sadistic message meant for her, she reasons. And the timing. Now she has a prime suspect.

A hand reaches out to rest on Nicole's shoulder if allowed, she quietly advises "Don't blame yourself. You didn't do this. Whoever did will be found."

Nicole lets Cat's hand rest on her shoulder. It quiets her some, it seems. She straightens up slowly and wipes her eyes. "Jenn was one of the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure to meet, and certainly to work so closely with. She was so proud of you." And I hope you're proud of her, too.

"H- Here…" Nicole reaches into her purse. Digging, digging, digging. Finally she comes up with her prize. "I… You should have these. I know they gave your mom a great deal of comfort." Mason Chesterfield's cigarettes.

The packet is taken and held, studied in silence for some moments. Cat's eyes close. The wetness is framed against descended lids across that span, until they reopen, coursing down cheeks. "Sometime soon I want to tell you a number of things, Nicole, but now is not that time. Mother had courage. That won't be forgotten, even without the tremendous memory." Her hand squeezes again, once, then comes away from the shoulder. "Go home. Rest. I've got people to talk to, arrangements to make." Killers to find and kill back. Agents to speak with, who she can share the classified story with. Parkman. Sawyer. Maybe Kershner the Shark too. "I'll be in touch, Nicole." Then she's slowly walking away, iPhone brought out, a text message being composed.


Mother found murdered at campaign headquarters. Believe killer is Sasha Koslow, Vanguard name Skoll. DHS to be involved over and above police. If Allen is at Mother's, advise him to evacuate. Shelter available with me.

If he's there and needs transport, she'll provide. But barring that, the next stop is her penthouse, where immediate anguish and suppressed rage will be let out.

In the morning, she'll be replacing workout room equipment again.

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