A Cat And A Mouse


felix_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title A Cat and a Mouse
Synopsis Even when you come from very different worlds, there's commonality in books.
Date May 13, 2018

Outside Yamagato Park

New York has changed. His old neighborhood in Brooklyn was wiped off the map, the beats he walked in the long ago days before September 11, before the bomb, before the war….gone. It's still his city, though, in wreckage and ruin, in the way that the city he was born in never was. But Fel….he's frankly meandering, not moving with the old brisk purpose, wandering up to the edge of Yamagato's complex with open curiosity. Dressed in an old army shirt, t-shirt, fatigue pants - just clean and healthy enough to not be immediately tagged as homeless. But there's still something about him that reads as not entirely civilian.

For at least the last block, Felix has had a shadow. It's not a very good shadow, but then the kid who's behind isn't exactly trying to stay out of sight. Sure, she's picking her way through a more circuitous route, and it could be conceived that she's trying to dodge notice. More likely it's chance that has her on the same path. She hasn't shown a lot of interest in the old man's wanderings. Squeaks looks nearly as destitute as he does — that half-way-to-homeless look is a pretty common sight. She might be clean and in slightly better fitting clothes, they still hang loose on a frame that's seen a lot of hungry nights.

The girl is just starting to turn away from the park when the lagging pace catches her attention. Of course, she may have finally decided to make open notice of it. That place just seems dangerous to her, so she's always avoided it. Too fancy. But instead of speaking up and warning the man of her suspicions, she takes a quick survey of her surroundings. It's a little less ruinous here, so hiding in an abandoned car is a little unavailable. So she makes due with a lamppost and ducks behind so just her eyes are peeking from around the pole.

He wasn't much of a spook even when he was FBI - he was focussed far more on organized crime and counter-terror than real spy vs. spy stuff. But she's no KGB agent in terms of her shadowing skills. So when he finally turns away from his contemplation of the main gate to Yamagato, he says, casually, "You can come out. I'm not going to bother you. Well, not beyond talking to you." Fel's got his gaze fixed on where she's peeping at him from behind the lamp-post, but he makes no moves in her direction.

It's not a very good hiding spot. Anywhere else in the Safe Zone and she might have done better. There are some places where she can even seem to disappear, in that practiced way of people who need to hide to survive. Here, near Yamagato, the choices aren't so great. Squeaks regards Felix with suspicion, also a well practiced habit. But she does partially come out of hiding, with a hand lingering on the lamppost as though it were safer that way.

Gods, she's small. Just a kid. His expression doesn't soften, not much, but there's a deliberate looseness to his posture. Trying to look less threatening. Good luck with that. He was never much for the 'good cop' part of the routine. "You were following me," he says, tone matter of fact, but not accusatory. "Do you need something?" Like she's just been lurking there trying to work up the courage to ask him for bus fare, or ice cream money.

"I was going this way too." Squeaks' statement is likewise matter-of-fact, and almost like she'd dare him to prove otherwise. She starts to go behind the post again, her arm bends as she steps near it. But the kid doesn't totally drop behind it again. "I go where I want. Maybe you're following me." Unlikely, given she was behind him, but it could happen.

There's just a prompting lift of his brows at that. She's not armed….but then, in the age of the Evolved, one hardly does need to be to be a deadly threat. "Oh, okay," he says, with a little good-humored disbelief in his voice. "Right."

She really isn't much of a threat, small and scrawny as she is. The girl huffs quietly and folds her arms across her chest. Felix gets eyeballed, that suspicion of him not wavering even slightly. He's a grown-up after all. "Maybe I am right." She takes a step to the side, edging around the light pole until she's set to the side further from Yamagato.

The edge of mockery dies away at that, a furrow coming in to his brow. "…..do people often follow kids in this town?" he asks, doubt in his voice. He's seen some very ugly things concerning kids, and god only knows how many orphans and refugees have gone missing.

That question causes Squeaks to pause and frown herself. "I don't know?" She has never been followed. At least she doesn't think she has been. There was that one time, a couple weeks ago… but she's pretty sure Zhao just happened to find her and Joe, and not that they were followed. She thinks on it for a minute longer and then shrugs. "I don't think so."

It's not his business, anymore. Not his job….but Fel can't help himself. A nod from him, lips thinned out into that grim line. "You from New York, originally?" he settles on, after a few moments' silent consideration. He's got nothing to offer a homeless kid, not even a place to crash. The old resources are gone.

It's a shrug that answers for her first. "I used to be in a big house by a lake," Squeaks offers. "Then got moved to a small house not by the lake. When I ran away, I lived in the Underneath during the fighting. And after." It's about as vague as anyone can get, but her answers sound at least truthful.

Of course. Felix's been down into that dark realm a time or two, himself. Though not as much as the old transit police cops. "Smart," he says, gently, then adds, belated, "I'm Felix." She's surely far too young to have ever seen those old cartoons.

She is definitely not familiar with that one. Blue eyes blink at him, trying to gauge in the grown-up's honesty. Most of her recent experience has shown that typically, grown-ups can be trusted at least a little. But that experience doesn't trump the years that had taught her otherwise. So she's careful. "Squeaks," is offered, with a finger pointing toward herself.

A cat and a mouse….it's enough to make him smile, slowly. "Squeaks," he says to her….and then he bows a little, theatrically. "A pleasure to meet you." Still no attempt to approach her, but he does turn and wander along until he finds a stretch of the kerb sufficiently unbroken to sit down on.

When Felix moves, Squeaks slips back behind the lamppost. It's the safest place to watch and decide if she needs to run or not. Those bright blue eyes peer around the pole, and she only steps out again when the old man sits down. Casually slow steps take her a little closer, a little along the intended direction of travel. But still not too close. "There's a soup kitchen by the market. If you need soup."

"Thank you," he says, gravely, stretching one long leg out before him. "I don't, today. But the day may come. What about you? Have you eaten today?" he asks. There's no pity in his voice, just matter of fact curiosity.

"Yes." The answer, like the question, is plain fact. Squeaks steps off the curb with one foot, the other remaining on, so that each step she takes is at uneven heights. "And yesterday, too."

He's had very little to do with those not yet old enough to be qualified as a adults. No kids of his own, no close friends with them. So Fel's observing her thoughtfully, still. "You've got somewhere good to sleep?"

A sound of confirmation is made. When she's probably a good purposeful step from Felix, that's when Squeaks stops getting closer to him. "Not near here. But I do. There's places that take people to sleep for the night." It's an suggestion, much like when she'd brought up the soup kitchen.

Summer's coming, that's relative ease. Still looking at her as if she were some new species of creature. How much has he missed? "I'm sure," A beat, then he adds, "But I'm lucky. I have somewhere to sleep here. And a more permanent place up state. Do….do you go to school? Have they opened schools here again?" How much does he not know, about the city he used to be so intimately part of.

"I used to go to school. Before." The war goes unsaid. Squeaks shrugs. She doesn't miss school. She's learned a lot more on her own, since she stopped going to school when the fighting first started. And she hasn't wondered about going back. That'll probably change, if her newly made family has anything to say about it. "I don't know if there's schools. Maybe. There is a library." Which is almost the same thing.

Fel's brows go up again. "Do you go to the library? Do you like to read? I used to go all the time, when I lived in New York as a kid. I didn't grow up speaking or reading a lot of English, so I needed a lot of help with it when I got here, and the librarians gave it to me."

Where the old man's brows rise, the girl's go down. Her face scrunches slightly, nose wrinkling and one eye squinting as she looks at him. "I read. Sometimes at the library." Squeaks turns to walk the opposite direction, the low foot going high and the high foot going low. "I know a lot of books. Reading was better than where I lived before the fighting. Now it's just for fun."

"What do you like to read best?" he asks, mildly. She doesn't seem to be in any immediate need of help - not starving, not threatened, and wise enough to be wary. An adult not immediately set up to go be a busybody, it seems.

"Treasure Island." After a dozen steps, Squeaks turns to start back the other way, toward Felix again. "That's my favorite. Also Christmas Carol and Pippi Longstocking. I read a lot."

There's a grin at that, crooked and uneven. "Treasure Island is great," he agrees, nodding. "If you like pirate stuff, did you ever read one called Captain Blood?" he asks, with more enthusiasm. "I like Dickens, too. Haven't ever read Pippi Longstocking."

"Pippi Longstocking talks to animals, and her dad is a pirate." Squeaks skirts around Felix, along the wall that marks the boundary between the Safe Zone and Yamagato Park, then resumes her high-low stepping. "No," is her answer to the book, after thinking on the title some. "Maybe it's at the library."

"Pirates are definitely a thing, then," FEl says, with satisfaction. "YOu're gonna love Captain Blood. I bet it's still in the library system, even now. Actually, a lot of the stuff that author wrote was about pirates. A guy named Rafael Sabatini - he did others. Uh, let's see - the Sea Hawk, the Black Swan, and he did more about Captain Blood. I should track 'em down, come to think of."

"The library has a lot of books. It might have some of those." Squeaks' feet slow down as she turns around, but they carry her backward. "I'm going to see." It's definitely a statement. But there's also an unspoken invitation. Showing the old man where the library is isn't so dangerous as other things she's done — she's not following him into his house on the promise of a hot meal, she's done that a time or two — plus they can talk more about books on the way.

A cue he's bright enough to read, heaving himself up to his feet and dusting his legs off. "I bet it does," he agrees, clearly quite content to let her lead. Surely she won't be leading him into a trap.

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