A Higher Standard


logan_icon.gif sasha2_icon.gif

Scene Title A Higher Standard
Synopsis Logan seeks Sasha out for confirmation and finds the Russian sicker than he left him.
Date March 17, 2010

A Seedy Motel

Thunk, thunk, thunk.

That's the end of a cane connecting with a motel door, Logan already resolving to break in, some way or another, if there's no response. Not because he particularly wants to break in, but doing so increases the likelihood that coming out here actually means something. How fast can you move from the interior of a taxicab, across the sidewalk, and into the interior of the building across from it in the middle of a blizzard? Never fast enough, is the answer, especially not when the cold feels like it's sinking hooks into a right leg containing a whole manner of old and new injuries. Stitches twinge and deeper sorenesses ache.

Thunk, thunk. Logan never calls ahead. No need to give them warning to leave, or to set up a trap. Thus, the world he exists in, where social niceties are cheating. Stepping back from the door, steam billows from his mouth even in the hallway when he sighs out a breath, his winter jacket near arctic, fur-lined and snow dotted, gloved hands gripping onto his plain cane of black wood and silver. Stress has his brow crinkled as if this were a permanent feature, posture stiff and alert.

It's bold to confront a predator in his den, but slightly less so when that predator doesn't have a family to defend and in this respect Logan is fortunate. The resonate sound of his knock booming through the motel room is not answered by an equitable number of gunshot blasts blowing chunks out of the door he's standing in front of. Instead, a chain rattles, a lock turns and hinges creak in low protest as it opens a fraction of an inch — just enough to give Logan a sliver-sized view of the room inside and a partial profile of the man on the other side.

Blue eyes aren't uncommon as green. Still, there's no mistaking Sasha Kozlow's for anyone else's or the silent snarl created by thin lips peeling back over teeth less preserved than Logan's own. "What do you want?" the Russian asks. Then, the sound of a hammer being pulled back immediately followed by: "How did find me?"

"Didn't you hear? This is my city, now. I know everything." Logan lists his head to the left as he studies what he can see of the man through the crack of door afforded him — still some bruises on his face, rosy marks across his nose and jaw from when his car had slammed into a bus, other related injuries covered over by layers of clothing, although if anyone could by chance tell what damage there is, it's the man on the other side of the door. "Woke up, it was supremely cold, my leg hurt and I thought of you. Can I come in?"

The side of his cane skitters up against the edge of the door, as if he could somehow lever it open wider. "I'm not armed," he adds, voice becoming a little more even to convey a sense of seriously, the mostly silent. Knives never count, and a man with a cane doesn't stand up to a gun even if he has a blade in his free hand.

There are men, Sasha included, who might disagree on that count. He does not ask Logan if he's alone — this is something he can see well enough, even as he steps back away from the door and admits the Englishman entry into his motel room, which consists of a double bed, wooden armoire and an adjacent bathroom with the light left on. The rest of the suite is dark, but it's also too small to contain any surprises that Logan might not be anticipating. You'd have to be Bebe-sized to hide anywhere except behind the door itself.

Even the bathroom lacks a proper shower curtain.

In spite of the weather and the radiator clicking away in the background, he isn't dressed in anything more than a pair of denim jeans that sit a little too low on his hips, leaving his large feet and bare chest covered in reddish-brown hair exposed to the open air for the brief moments that the door remains open. In the hand not holding the pistol: a handkerchief covered in blood.

The surroundings are bleak in their modesty, or so Logan assesses as he moves inside. Reminds him of his life in Staten Island a year ago. Maybe a little cleaner, and just as cramped and dark. A shrug of his shoulders has his coat sliding off them, cane switched hand to hand as he goes to drape his coat on the corner of Sasha's bed, a designer sweater loose on his torso, a steely kind of blue and grey with ties closing— or not closing— it at the throat, scarf unwound.

"You'll forgive me," he says, with a glance back and down towards the bloodied rag in Sasha's fist, "for not shaking your hand. We're past introductions anyway." From the pocket of his jeans, he extracts a flimsy piece of paper kept dry and intact possibly via willpower alone, crumpled though it is. Logan holds it up pinched between two fingers, pale eyes kept focused on the healer's face.

Sasha tucks his pistol down the back of his pants and the handkerchief in one of his pockets, hands wiped off on the front of his chest. It doesn't do much good; his body is covered in a fine sheen of fever sweat that would soak his shirt if he was wearing one but isn't quite thick or heavy enough to make a difference as far as the more durable material of his jeans are concerned.

He rakes his fingers through the mop-like tangle of light brown hair at the top of his head so damp that it makes him look like he just came out of the shower even though there's no moisture clinging to the bathroom mirror and the air in the motel room's interior feels almost arid in comparison to that outside. "And that is?"

The cane sways forward to enable a step towards the Russian, right shoulder rolling with the movement beneath fine wool. Logan isn't sickly, pale though he might be, dampness attributed to melting snow. "I suppose this is five hundred dollars well spent," Logan says, holding out the clipping between them. No amount of crinkles or finger smudging of the ink can really disguise the larger words of Murder on Roosevelt Island and the name Hokuto Ichihara — even the little photograph of a time when she was able to smile, a thumbnail sized black and white headshot.

Brutish and tempting though it may be to snatch the clipping out of Logan's hand and attempt to smooth it under his own, Sasha denies himself what would be a small pleasure and squints at the clipping from where he stands instead. Knuckles rake over his jaw and the bristle attached, creating a rough scratching sound if it wasn't the only noise in the room except for the thinner rasp of Sasha's breathing and the atmosphere provided by the radiator in the background. If Logan had come a few hours earlier, the wind's shrill whistle might have to compete for his attention, but the weather outside right now is calmer than it has been. He can almost hear the snow falling.

"If you didn't want her dead," he suggests, "then you should have perhaps withheld her name."

Confirmation does— very little. Outwardly. Glass pale eyes go a little duller, and Logan's hand retracts, steering the clipping around to glance at before crumpling it back into a pocket. "Roosevelt Island's getting a makeover. Crawling with the fucking police last I heard. The public face've the people I work for've been pouring money into its reconstruction. New York City's a shithole but it's been changing, you know, you need to know the right people if you want to get away with this kind of thing. It's not back alley Mexico, innit."

He cracks a smile, gleam of white teeth forever chilly. "I sure do hope it wasn't you, Ruskie. This bloke that's got you," and he pauses to dart his attention around the room, "set up isn't having you do this kind of dirty work, is he?"

"Not Ichihara," says Sasha, rubbing his greasy hands together as he paces past Logan on his way to the bathroom, which is presumably where he was before the Englishman rapped his cane against his door. He's either very brazen, very confident, or some combination of both; apart from watching his reflection in the mirror when he squeaks on the sink's faucet, he seems not to pay the other man's presence in the motel room much mind and even goes as far to show him his back while washing his hands in the porcelain basin.

"Trafford," he specifies over the sound of running water. A bar of soap gets a quick rubdown between his palms before he's dragging them over his face and using them to produce a sheer lather that clings like dew to his whiskers. "I decided to leave that one alive."

At a wander, Logan follows by a few paces, although not enough for the doorway to frame his silhouette or even for the bathroom light to fall on him. "Pity," he says, voice pitching up a little in volume to be heard over running water and the echoes Sasha's head might fill with as the Russian rubs down his own face. "Ichihara was one I would have wanted to have known why, although I suppose this way, I haven't lost a customer." The cane swoops up to lean against his own shoulder in a jaunty kind of angle, gaze crawling on over the muscles in Sasha's back and the subtle movements they have beneath slick skin. "Who'd you get to do it?"

"The Americans have a saying," Sasha starts, but he's interrupted halfway through by the bitter taste of soap leaking into his mouth through his parted lips. He pauses to spit into the basin, then picks up a razor with a plastic handle several shades darker than the blue of his eyes, which he uses to maneuver the blade along the curve of his jaw. It looks like something he picked up at the local corner store and is likely to leave irritated skin in its wake even though hiss movements are equally swift, firm and precise. Chances are razor burn isn't very high on his list of concerns. "You do not kiss and tell."

With a step back, the reflection of Logan fades out into shadow as he moves off into the darker room, turning his back on brighter bathroom. Not leaving, mind, not even moving off to pick up his coat — his steps are quiet, even the tap of his cane down to a minimum as he takes a second gander about the room, to look beyond its decor. The tip of his cane pushes bedsheets aside, eyes scanning over surfaces with quizzical curiousity. "But we're not American," he points out over his shoulder, taking a step to graze his fingers down the slit of the armoire's doors as if judging whether it would squeak when opened.

Sasha gives his wrist a flick, spattering the basin with an oily combination of soap, dead skin cells and hair that the water swiftly rinses away and sucks down the drain with an audible gurgle. The next stroke is as meticulous as the one that preceded it. "No," he agrees after a moment of quiet contemplation. "We are not."

Squeak goes the armoire. Logan does not see the Sasha's mirror image flick his eyes over his shoulder at the reflection of the darkened room behind him. Doesn't need to. If Sasha were to pursue, he would hear his footsteps slapping against the tile rather than the scuff of the razor slivering through hair with each pass. "Why is this important to you?"

"I say a name, name winds up in the morning paper. I'm just interested, 's all." Any true search and pillage should not be conducted in the presence of the person you're searching, and the armoire shuts simply with a louder click from the press of Logan's hand. "Curious about what kind of life you expect this— terrorist you're working for to provide you with after how many little women wind up brutally murdered. But you didn't kill Trafford, so, that's something."

The muffled pressure sound of the cane coming down against the ground indicates yet another restless wander forward. In the mirror, Sasha might see the movement of the walking stick coming up in an arc to indicate his humble abode, before coming back down to enable Logan to move forward again. "This isn't exactly the American dream."

"My employer pays me well," Sasha counters, and there's nothing in the suite that supports his argument. This is the sort of motel that charges less than twenty dollars a night and does not ask questions unless there are red and blue lights glancing off the building's exterior. Bars on the windows are reminiscent of the prison cell he'd be lucky to end up in and riveted to the wall by a series of heavy metal screws that could be popped out with a crowbar from the inside if the room's tenant was so inclined, and although one such tool sits on the top of the armoire it does not look as though Sasha has taken it to anything in a fit of rage. What dents there are in the plaster are old. So are the stains on the carpet, and if either of the men were brave enough to undress the mattress—

Well. Sometimes it's better to live in ignorance. Sasha does not need to know what he's sleeping on. "If you wish me gone, you do not have much longer to wait," he says. "The job will be finished soon. I think Mexico City and then Santa Cruz — Bolivia is not so bad."

A soft chuckle winds from the larger space through to the brighter lit bathroom. "Gone is a strong word. To tell you the truth, Kozlow, I haven't quite decided yet where I want you," Logan says, gaze dipping down to the head of his cane, turning it against his hand. "But perhaps you should send a postcard wherever it is you do wind up. Keep in touch." There's the rustle of fabric that follows, indicative of his winter coat being picked back up and shaken out.

The water shuts off. Of course, the sink — like everything else in the poorly-maintained suite — continues to drizzle for several moments after Sasha removes his hand from the faucet, tapering off into sporadic droplets that tinkle in the bottom of the basin and will undoubtedly keep him up for the rest of the night unless he stops it up with a towel.

There's only one, however, and he's using it to dry off his now clean-shaven face as he emerges from the bathroom. "Are you threatening me, little man?"

The look Logan lifts to Sasha is bright, clean, smile only partial as if too distracted with focus to shine the whole thing. "Am I?" he asks, releasing his coat again so that it hangs at a slump, and rolling forward a few steps, even if a height advantage is slotted into Sasha's realm. But if Logan had to look down on people to intimidate, he probably wouldn't be where he is today. "Or perhaps I'm offering you something that you're too fucking thick to see. Unless you're happy playing attack dog for this bloke who cares more about his dead son than he does the likes of you, mate.

"Might've been too coy about it," he adds. "You do clean up nicely. But you're going to wind up dead before this little job of yours is over, you mark my words, and no. That wasn't a threat."

Sasha leans his shoulder into the bathroom doorway and shifts the towel from his face to his hands, sponging away the excess moisture. He might very well wind up dead for different reasons than the one Logan has been alluding to throughout their conversation, and not because of the company he seems intent on keeping. When he coughs into his arm, his mouth comes away bloody, teeth made pink by a combination of saliva and fluid dredged up from the bottom of his lungs.

"Man is a self-serving animal," he croaks as he wipes the mess off his arm with the towel and tosses it at the foot of the bed, his every gesture deceptively casual. "Why should I hold others to a higher standard than I hold myself?"

That smile and avid attention both kind of melt away in the face of philosophy, boy from Brixton staring across at the Ruskie with some incomprehension and mute disbelief. The hand wrapped tight around his cane goes a little white as if considering swinging the damn thing, but he remembers the click of the gun from when he'd knocked on the door, and isn't that stupid. Just partway. "'ere," Logan says, after a moment, "why don't you go write that down somewhere, it's very insightful-sounding, and useless."

He steps back, picking up his coat to sling over his shoulder. "Have fun never seeing Santa fucking Cruz on account of being killed by angry freedom fighting children, you diseased little freak," is fairly snarled as the Brit goes to make his lilting way out towards the door and inevitably into blizzard.

Sasha's fingers curl around the doorway's wooden frame and the paint peeling off it. Tension appears in the deep gouges between his knuckles and the tendons of his muscular arms that aren't going to stay muscular much longer if he gets any sicker and begins to wasting away. Nostrils flaring, he huffs out a short breath through his nose and runs his tongue over his front teeth and then his lip to clear the blood away and swallow it back down along with the bile he can feel rising. He looks more nauseous than he does angry, but the hand that isn't clutching at the doorframe has closed around the pistol's grip at the small of his back without pulling it from his jeans.

Whatever he mutters under his haggard breath at Logan isn't very nice, and although Logan doesn't speak Russian, he doesn't need to comprehend a word of it to understand the sentiment behind what he's saying. It sounds a lot like: fuck you.

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