Worth A Thousand Words


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Scene Title Worth A Thousand Words
Synopsis Richard Cardinal catches up with a long-lived man and questions him in his residence.
Date March 5, 2010

Speakeasy Hotel and Casino

Dim orange light sheds sparse illumination from a single desk lamp into the meager accomodations of a decaying hotel room. Paint peels off of the walls like torn parchment paper, a single window viewing the outside shows nothing more than the dingy view of the Red Hook skyline and the island of Manhattan in the distance. A single steamer-trunk and suitcase are tucked at the side of an immaculately made bed, untouched and unslept in. Lonliness pervades this room with all of the infectious characteristics of a silent poison.

Seated in a ratty armchair opposite of the bed, a tired looking man in his thirties sits with one hand stroking his beard. Albert WInslow is a man who has lived for an untold number of years, and the way he looks now is far and beyond what he resembled that night in central park. Hair has been cut and trimmed, his beard neater than the shaggy and grown in mess that had appeared after the revivification process began.

Collar of his shirt undone and tie loosened, Albert's occupation consists of staring at the lamp beside his bed, eyes half lidded and tired, head bobbing forward in a slow nod. Photographs and a Polaroid instamatic camera are scattered on the desk beside his chair, the kind of camera and film that's almost impossible to find these days. Most of the shots are of New York City, people, passers-by, some are just hidden beneath the stack of images.

But for a single shadow in the room, everything is more than just simple.

Everything is a clue.

"Memories…" Memories…

An eerie, whispering echo of a voice, the dim illumination of the hotel room's simple desk lamp concealing the appearance of the speaker; drifting in and out as if there was unheard static on the 'line' of speech and hearing. "…they fade, but the past is always there. A picture is worth a thousand of them, though, or so they say. I imagine you find them rather precious. Good evening, Mister Winslow." Mister Winslow…

Winslow's immediate reaction to the voice is a startled jump, chair toppling over and one of his hands smearing through the photographs as he tries to balance himself, sending the Polaroid pictures scattering to the floor. Staggering back and away from the sound of the voice, Winslow nearly trips over his suitcase, shaky hands held out and eyes wide. "Who— who's there? Get— get out of my apartment!" He's not going for a gun, which may very well mean he doesn't even have one.

"My— My money's in my wallet," he waves a hand towards the jacket hung up by the door, "take whatever you want. I— I don't need it just— just leave me alone." As the pictures fall from the table, the shadow slithering around them begins to notice something about most of the photographs.

They're of Peyton.

Now isn't that interesting? Not memories, perhaps… but a target? Or something else?

There's silence from the shadows for a moment, before they reply as whispering dust, "I don't want you money, Mister Winslow… I'm not here to hurt you, either. I'm simply… curious." Curious…

"I know what you can do. Interesting little ability, that. I've seen something… similar, before." Kazimir…

A breath is hitched in the back of Winslow's throat, chin lifted up and eyes narrowed. The dark-haired man moves along one wall, jaw set and back pressed up against it while his eyes dart back and forth across the room. "I— don't know anyone by that name. Who are you?" His brows furrow, nervousness hitching in his voice. "How— " How is a silly question in this day and age. "What do you want, I— I'm not doing anything wrong. Just leave me alone, I just— I just want to be left alone. I don't know what you think you know and I don't care."

Wetting his lips with a slide of his tongue, Winslow glances over his bed towards the hotel room door, then back towards where he'd last heard the ovice. "Why— don't you come out where I can see you. It's not polite." That's probably the oddest reason to ask an intruder to step out of the shadows, if ever there were one. "Please…" he adds emphatically, "just— just leave me alone. I just want to be left alone."

A hollow, bitter little chuckle echoes through the room at the man's demand. "I'm afraid that I can't… come out into the open where you can see me, that is. There isn't much left of me these days…" These days…

And yet, the man might notice the movement, around the periphery of the desk's light - rent, fluttering shadows like curtains set to flame, rippling and fading as Richard Cardinal makes himself as visible as he can of late.

"I saw you in Midtown, Mister Winslow. Don't worry… I really don't care that you did… what you did. You chose a mugger instead of someone innocent, which says something about you, at least…" At least…

Rolling his tongue over his lips, Winslow tenses as he presses himself into a corner of the room. It seems that his longevity does not also infer any sort of immortality, otherwise the palpable fear he is experiencing would not nearly be so great. "Then… what do you want? I— I don't have much, if you're looking to blackmail me. I know the police are looking into this, and— and I plan to be out of the city before the end of the month. I don't want any trouble, I just— I just want to be left alone. I… I don't want any trouble, please."

Nervously looking to the photographs, Winslow angles a stare back at the direction Cardinal's voice hissed from, and a hand is wiped across Winslow's bearded mouth, followed by an exasperated sigh. "Whoever you are… whatever you are— I'm just— I'm not a bad person. Just— please… please just take whatever it is youc ame here for and go."

"I'm here to talk… nothing more… nothing less…" The darkness moves in a rush, spilling across the wall like a tattered flag cut down by an enemy's blade - over the floor, then, mottled shadows spreading over the polaroids, adding shade to their colour and brightness. "…what's your interest in this girl, Mister Winslow?" Winslow…?

Winslow's eyes flick down to the photographs, and that look fo fear comes over his face again, either from the living shadows slithering over the photographs or from the question itself. "Nothing— " he clips out sharply, "N— Nothing. She's no one important, just— just some girl I saw. I thought she'd— I'm a photographer. It's— she's no one."

Voice tightening as he says those words, Winslow looks down at the shadow with his eyes narrowed. "Why do you care about this? About me? Can't— can't I just be left in peace? You said it yourself, I— I acted discretely. That— that man was going to kill me, it's not my fault. What… what information do you want?" He seems willing enough to play ball, even if it is just ot save his own neck.

"I know who she is, Winslow…" The darkness spreads over the photographs like a cancer, tendriling and seething over their scattered portraiture, "…what I want to know is what your interest is in her. There's far too many pictures here for you to've simply caught her on film." On film…

Cardinal's voice holds more than a touch of sharpness now, of warning almost, carrying clearly through the whispered tones as a hissed threat.

"I— I have no intention of hurting her." Winslow breathes out the words, cagey about the topic. "How… how do you know her?" Winslow is slow to lean away from the wall, hands wringing as he approaches the shadows, brows furrowed and tongue striking out over his parched lips again. "Do— Are you— " friends with her is a ridiculous question to ask a pool of living shadows. Immediately, Winslow goes on the defensive, feeling himself to be going too easy, too trusting.

"What do you want with her?" Immediately the older man's voice is harsh, accusing of Cardinal. "How do you know her?" Comes barked out next, a few more footfalls taking him across the carpet. "What gives you the right to come into my home and question me about my life!?"

There's silence from the darkness for long moments, living shadow pooled upon the photographs for a tumble of rapid heartbeats before the whispering hiss of Richard Cardinal answers, "I have whatever rights that I care to claim, after what I've done for the ungrateful human race…" Munin…

"She is under my protection. What is she to you, Winslow? I can have FRONTLINE here in less time than it'll take you to escape, although I'd really rather keep this… amicable." Friendly…

Nose rankling at the statement, Winslow narrows his eyes and looks to the door again. "She's nobody to me. Now get out of here!" Pointing towards the door with a snap of his arm, Winslow's face begins to redden, a vein bulging out on his neck. "She— she is no one, now— now get out of here and leave me alone!" Chest rising and falling rapidly, Winslow's eyes redden at the edges and his hand trembles, jaw tensed and nostrils flaring from the sharp breaths he intakes.

"I— I don't care about her," Winslow admits shakily, "she's nothing, just— just a picture." The way Winslow's jaw trembles is something of an answer, if not a puzzling one. The depth of his lack of answer is a familiar one to Cardinal, in the way that he seems to be — albeit misguidedly — trying to protect Peyton from Cardinal. Maybe he's right to, in all respects.

"No." Voice and echo both in tune this time, a whisper to a scream that refuses the demand of the other man.

"If you didn't care about her, Winslow, you wouldn't be staring at her photographs… and I'm not convinced you aren't a threat to her…" A threat to her… The darkness of Richard Cardinal lingers upon those polaroids like some shadowy guardian, as if he had some power to prevent the other man from simply reaching through and picking them up. He doesn't, of course, but the vitality-eater doesn't realize that. "…and I'm not leaving until I am. What connection do you have to Peyton Whitney, old man?" Old man…?

Scowling, Winslow's eyes narrow and he breathes out a fluttering breath. "There's no connection," the age-stealer murmurs, moving to walk towards Cardinal and then— much like the day in Central Park— step on him as he hastily moves to retrieve his jacket from the floor, pulling it on with a frustrated look on his face. "She and I have nothing and I will keep it that way. You can watch a painting from afar without needing to have painted it." Buttoning up his jacket, Winslow looks towards the suitcase and steamer trunk, nose rankling and lips pressed together in a thin line.

"Leave… please," Winslow manages to plead, tension in his posture when he realizes he can't just leave his possessions behind. "I'm not going to hurt her, I— I would never hurt her. But— there's no connection between us, none, and I prefer to keep it that way."

"You want to protect her…" Protect her… A quiet, thoughtful hiss of Cardinal's voice, the shadows stretching lazily to crawl up and over the steamer trunk like a fall of black lace across it, "…I can respect that, Winslow, but you realize… that I have to tell her about this. I can't keep this a secret…" A secret…

"…unless you give me a good reason to."

Jaw clenched, Winslow's brows furrow and his lips press thinly together. "If you have any interest in keeping her from getting hurt," the weary man states with a furrow of his brows and a tightness in his neck, one hand moving up to rub against his cheek and draw fingers across his mouth, as if trying to subconsciously keep the words in place.

"You won't ever let her know what kind of monster her father is."

"I think you underestimate your daughter's fortitude, Mister Winslow… or whatever your real name is…" Your real name… The shadow's voice is softer, though, quieter and less aggressive as Cardinal crouches shadowy atop the steamer trunk, "…she's faced far worse than you could ever be. She's been tortured, beaten, but never broken. She's doing good things, important things. You should be proud of her. I know I am." I am…

"If you are her father." Her father…

"I think you underestimate me." Winslow murmurs, eyes peering towards his door, then back to the pattern of frayed shadows. "Now you have what you came for…" Jaw tightening, Winslow sucks in a sharp breath and swallows nosily, lifting his hand again to motion to the door. "Get out," without so much as a hesitation, Winslow is evicting Cardinal again from his residence, "and don't ever come back." Whether or not he is proud of Peyton goes unsaid, and he makes no attempt to prove his heritage to the young Whitney woman.

Whoever he is, and whatever he's done, it's clear that he wants their relationship to be one kept at a distance and through the lens of a camera. No closer.

This time, the demand isn't refused - directly, at least. Perhaps Cardinal's content with what he's learned here, at least for now. The dappled shadow and light spills away from the steamer trunk, melting off into the shadowy corners of the room away from the lamp until it's no longer visible.

"I'll leave for now, Winslow… but we'll speak again. I guarantee it." I promise…

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