A Hound In Wolf's Clothing, Part II


ace_icon.gif elliot_icon.gif gideon_icon.gif

Scene Title A Hound In Wolf's Clothing, Part II
Synopsis Request received, Gideon receives Elliot at Howland Hook Terminal for an audience… where it turns out there is a task in mind for him to complete.
Date February 19, 2021

"You have 1 new message."
"First message…"

"Mr. Rosen,"

"We spoke the other day at Rossignol. While I'm ultimately still looking into the matter you're hoping to resolve, Mr. d'Sarthe did express an interest in meeting with you directly, seeing as certain pieces of information you were willing to give only to him."

"I'd love to have you come in and visit us at the Group's complex out at old Howland Hook. Come to the central complex when you arrive, and I'll escort you to Mr. d'Sarthe's office. How does Friday evening sound, right at 4:15?"

"I look forward to seeing you again."

d'Sarthe Group Complex

February 19, 2021

4:10 pm

In some ways, this area of Staten Island is thriving better than it ever has. The reclaiming of Howland Hook Terminal not only revived the shipping yard to its former glory, it's taken and thensome to a properly respectable level. Buildings have been demolished and rebuilt— warehouses and industrial construction alike. The gated entry nearest the main cluster of buildings even have dirt and greenery in their traffic dividers, the shrubs evergreen while spindles of recently-planted trees wait for spring to come.

Outside the administrative building, Ace is waiting in the mild, high-forty-degree weather that rapidly will chill with the setting sun. The suit he wears today is a grey tweed with an ivy green tie, jacket worn buttoned while he smokes a cigarette.

Elliot approaches the complex on foot, not looking winded or rushed. He takes in the scenery as though he's only just decided to meander this way on his evening stroll. When he spots Ace the other man gets a short upward nod of recognition.

He takes a moment to secure the rest of the buttons on his blue suit jacket as he slows to a stop just outside of second hand smoke range. "Ace," he says amiably, "Good evening."

Ace lifts his brow as he observes Elliot's approach. "You should have let me know you needed a lift," he remarks with a touch of rue. He takes one last drag off of his cigarette before pressing the stub of it out against a metal plate on a thick, plastic disposal container. Once extinguished, he flicks the butt into the container. "I could have come to get you."

There are few cars parked along the side of the building at this hour, leaving the path between Ace and Elliot and them to the door a straightforward one, at least. "If you don't have a ride back to the ferry, I can at least oblige that," he suggests lightly. The offer is made with a momentary flit of green-greys back to Elliot, then he sets his hand on the door to let them both inside.

After that, he wears a different face entirely. Professional— cordial, yes, but with more distance. "This way." Inside the front lobby, the receptionist looks up briefly. A hand is lifted to greet Ace's return with before she goes back to what she was doing, and he in turn heads for the elevator past the lobby.

It's a short wait for the doors to chime their way open, and he gestures for Elliot to enter first.

“No worries,” Elliot says. “I have a ride.” He leaves it at that so Ace can wonder who is waiting around for Elliot to leave this meeting. He steps into the elevator, leaving plenty of room for Ace. He’s calm in the elevator, not needing to worry much about being kidnapped here. Wright is nearby and streaming everything. Ready to cede cognition to him if it helps him think his way out of a jam. Ready to call in backup should things go even further south.

“I’m pleased that Mr. d’Sarthe would take the time to meet with me,” he says pleasantly. “I hope I’m not taking up too much of his time. Or your own. I hope Rossignol isn’t without management in your absence.”

"Not at all," Ace replies in kind, turning to Elliot once the doors close. He's not yet pressed a floor number for where they'll go— second or third. Just as easily as his previous statement, he explains, "I'll have to ask that any weapons you have, you turn them over before we head in."

His palms come up from his own sides, in expectation, but not to be handed something. "Arms out from your sides, please."

Elliot takes a moment to unbutton his jacket with one hand before holding his arms to the side. He’s unarmed, in fact he has no possessions on him other than the silver card case and his fountain pen.

But those are facts the man patting him down would be remiss in not confirming before inviting someone face to face with his employer. Ace straightens after checking Elliot's ankles with a crackle of knee as he comes back to his own feet. "Thank you," he says, leaning aside to key the button for the third floor. "Though color me surprised. You're a confident man to be walking Staten Island without protection, no matter how reformed the Army would like to claim it is."

The wait for the climb of the elevator up is brief, but long enough that he begins to hum the softest of ditties under his breath. Three notes up, three notes down, followed by the beginnings of what would be a whistle, perhaps, if not for their arrival. Ace's eyes flicker when the doors open. Showtime.

He turns his hand out to the hall ahead, to the door on the left rather than the right. "Right this way, Mr. Hitchens. We're right on time." He turns his head just slightly to Elliot. "Thank you for that."

Elliot’s jacket is buttoned before the elevator starts to move. When Ace uses Elliot’s real last name he’s disappointed, though not really surprised. His false identities are rarely deeper than they need to be to get him through the next door. He’s in a situation where he can either deny what Ace obviously already knows, or admit he was lying. So instead he just laughs silently through his nose.

“I’m always on time,” he says. “Can’t get far in logistics without rule number one.”

A thin press of a smirk finds its way into Ace's expression as he pulls open the hall door into a waiting area before a double-doored office. He nods to the assistant seated at a desk outside it, and acknowledges her with a murmured word as she gestures to the door.

That last door is pushed in, and then there they are— in the offices of Gideon d'Sarthe.

While there is nothing bombastic waiting on the other side of the door, the space beyond is nonetheless one to leave an impression. One side your standard office space, the other a more familiar, casual setting. Gideon, however, is at neither, instead lingering in the frame of the window, sans suit jacket, broad shoulders instead under the Y-back of charcoal suspenders. The day is still hanging in the sky outside, illuminating the silver of his features and the cloud of apparent feathers on his arm.

The cloud lifts its head, black beak and eyes arching towards the door,

"Perfect." Gravel thrums in d'Sarthe's voice before he clears it, turning fully to face his 4:15 on the way back to his desk. He moves with a deliberate pace, lowering the bird on his arm to a curved perch nearby. "Don't mind our company… he's been having trouble at home." Gideon's cleared voice edges to a small chuckle, low in his chest as he offers one hand to Elliot, blue eyes ever-bright.

"I hope you don't mind that we've foregone the whole," One shoulder shrugs, expression tentative. Questioning in more earnest. "Alias. We're all friends here, aren't we?"

Elliot notes that they chose to let him know they'd seen through his pseudonym before the meeting began. He accepts the handshake with a measured smile. "I certainly hope so, Mr. d'Sarthe," he says. "And my apologies for the subterfuge. It's a hard habit to break."

If they know who he is, they almost certainly know what he does for a living. That, combined with his ambiguous statement that he has a ride, should keep things from escalating too quickly should they decide he's not worth the trouble.

He decides to keep the pleasantries moving. "I must say you've done good work to revitalize this area. Before stopping by Rossignol I hadn't been to the island since it was mostly scattered piles of gravel."

Ace finds his place somewhere between the two other men, hands coming to a clasp behind his back while he observes with a lifted head, posture straight. "The world keeps turning and rebuilding, and Staten's no exception. It's just fortunate the Group is in a position to bring a touch of class to places in New York that have otherwise sorely suffered a lack of it."

The smile he wears is small, brief, and sharp before his eyes alight on Gideon to see where he steers them next.

"Ah, it still is, though, isn't it?" Gideon's reply for Elliot edges on the dry end of humor, though humor nonetheless, even as he gives a tip of head towards Ace at the other man's words. "Gravel's still here, just… behind fences." A small huff of laughter ghosts at the corners of his blue eyes.

"I trust the club treated you well while you were there. A darling little place, isn't it?" A nondescript fondness for Rossignol says a decent amount towards how he feels inspired for its future. One hand at his back, Gideon's other gestures towards the room at large. "Shall we? Make yourself comfortable and let me know what's on your mind." Less of a 'how can I help you?' and more 'out with it'.

Elliot responds to Gideon’s remark about the ruins largely lying out of view with an understanding nod. You’re right, of course. “The club was an unexpected gem,” he admits as he looks around the room. “I’ll have to revisit it properly sometime.” Sitting in the lounge feels too presumptuous, and Elliot seats himself in a chair opposite the office’s desk.

“As Ace has no doubt informed you, I’m hoping you might be able to point me in the direction of Peter Varlane so I can ask him a few questions.” he begins, nodding to Ace. Then, because the conversation is coming around to it eventually anyway, “My old industry contacts have largely dried up. The only person from my Linderman Group days who knows anything about anything is Nicole Miller. She told me that if anyone in the city would know how to find people who’d rather one didn’t, it would be you.”

So he did have a former Linderman contact after all. Ace shifts a look to Gideon with a slight raise of his brow. A bet might've been made regarding the likelihood of that part of his false identity holding any water. He settles into the chair next to Elliot's, one leg crossing over the other. His elbows come to rest on the arms of the chair, hands bridging together near his knee.

Elliot is fortunate to see some things coming, such as the inquest to who or what may have sent him here. The preemptive answer that he does get, however, earns a slightly more scrutinizing look while Gideon is the last to be seated. Brow remaining knit throughout, the same short look is passed towards Ace, back again.

"I think, maybe, it's for the best that your contacts have dried up." d'Sarthe leans back in his chair, eyes studying the space behind Elliot rather than in front of. "No reason to go disturbing ghosts. I'm not shocked that Ms. Miller pawned you off on me—" An abrupt scoff of amusement breaks free, brows shedding their furrow and arching upward. The low timbre of his voice seems to permeate rather than project. "Provided that she has no avenues to help you herself, I take it? She's not wanting for resources, Mr. Hitchens, so this has me puzzled."

"Not that she's wrong, of course." Gideon's hand moves over his mouth, fingers threading over his bearded face.

“The simple answer is that Ms. Miller’s resources come with a paper trail and SESA’s insatiable curiosity as to why they need to be deployed,” Elliot explains. “With respect, if I wanted an official operation I’m sure I could have downloaded the paperwork from the portal.” He cuts the idea away with a lazy slash of one hand, Not my style.

While this has been an amiable exchange so far, he doesn’t want to end up on the wrong foot. He taps out a short pattern with his fingertips as if absentmindedly, and feels Wright cede some of her cognition to him. He takes in the personal ticks and tones that make up the hidden part of language. Careful not to misstep, or talk himself into a corner. “I’m glad to hear she didn’t send me on a fool’s errand,” he says.

Even then, Ace is still a hard read. The good humor he's worn since the door is a mask which lays as a base to every other reaction, given away mostly in the shift of his eyes. His expression is controlled rather than natural, much like a mask one wears, no matter how effortlessly they might pull it off. His mask bears a smile, thin and knifelike as he looks to Elliot out of the corner of his eye.

"It's true the d'Sarthe Group stands the best chance at finding the man you're looking for," he confirms with an even placidly, even as his brows lift so he can continue with more interest: "But there still is the matter of making this a profitable exchange for both parties. Knowing what we know now of you, were it up to me, I would say information for information seems the most straightforward of ways this could be handled."

Ace's green-greys flash as he tilts his head. "Location for location, as it were. Pete Varlane's, should he be found, in exchange for Wolfhound's— should they so much as sneeze in the direction of a Group holding." His eyes shift away to Gideon. "But there's also the option to extract payment in the form of services rendered," he offers up as an alternate suggestion.

The more effort that is given to a study of Gideon d'Sarthe's body language, the more it is clear that the older man is keeping his tension close and pillowing the rest. Unsurprising for a man of his station, and of course always at odds with the comely smiles he offers, as well as the small laugh into his hand for when Ace holds up Options A & B.

Gideon doesn't give an opinion at first, the raised looks answered by an aside from the large bird watching from its perch, one of its feet bobbing in the air as if for a handshake. "Faisons un marché?"

"You know how it is." d'Sarthe laughs more naturally when Pierre seems to give his two cents, instead focused on Elliot. "The give and take. You could always start your new contacts with me, mister Hitchens." As much as that would be getting a devil's cell number.

Elliot isn’t surprised that they’re hard to read, other than the feeling of general shiftiness he gets from Ace. He nods along, contemplating his options. He’s not certain he has room in his schedule these days for a life of crime, but he doesn’t dismiss the idea of new contacts outright.

“Did you have a specific service needing rendering?” he asks. “While my Linderman Group days were spent getting things from point A to point B I’m guessing you have that all well in hand. I’ve strengthened my portfolio considerably since then.”

Ace continues his look in Gideon's direction a moment after the French is uttered in quiet consultation with the bird. The light in his eyes shifts in a silent contemplation of his own, thoughtful as he turns the angle of his chair somewhere between both the men.

"A man doesn't find himself in Wolfhound's graces without a versatile skill set," he acknowledges easily.

It always starts with just a contact or two. The deep end comes later.

"Isn't that the truth?" Gideon eases back in his chair, one hand remaining idle on his desk, the other superficially preening at the lay of his tie. "You were retired, weren't you? And they brought you back on. Was it for the PISEC escapees? Varlane…?"

It's a demure sort of search, questions posed more in the manner of one conducting an interview rather than working out a deal. What Gideon wants is left weightless, a cloud of uncertainty going unanswered. His expression creases with the truthful look of a sympathetic man— it's not an artificial mask, from what Elliot can tell. "Surely more than that."

“I was looking to get back in for a while before I was rehired,” Elliot admits. “PISEC escapees weren’t mentioned. It was partially a financial decision, though I certainly wasn’t in dire straits. Partly to decompress after the war.” Partly because of this investigation, but it seems imprudent to reveal how valuable this information really is to him.

“Honestly I came back because I knew there was work to be done and I’m still qualified to do it,” he explains. “Idle hands, as they say.” Though, even with his hands active he’s still here in the Devil’s playground.

“I asked if you had something in mind because within a few months I’ll be out of the city for an indeterminate amount of time,” he says. He looks to Ace and back to Gideon mostly as a social indicator that everyone is still having the same conversation. “I’m not anxious to see this exchange complete, just noting my availability.”

With an upward tic of Ace's brow, he rolls the news of Elliot's upcoming leave from New York around in his mind with a vaguely displeased expression. This was less fun, potentially, at least long-term.

"That does challenge us some," he notes thoughtfully. He'd had his hopes on a long-term relationship. But he lets his focus go back to the things that drew Elliot back to Wolfhound, allegedly. A man after his own heart, in terms of motivations. Idle hands were something he hated to have, personally.

"But…" Ace supposes with a lift of his tone, looking back to Gideon in a signal of his continued interest.

Idle hands indeed. For his part, Gideon accepts Elliot's answer at face-value. It's technically the truth, and taken as such. As for his own hands, Gideon leans forward onto the desk, fingers fitting and hands folding in front of him, gaze somewhat lost in thought, seeking.

After this pause, Gideon looks heavily towards Ace before leaning into an arm and raising a brow across to Elliot. His mouth twitches at the corner, teasing between light and dark humor. "How do you feel about something longer-term…? I may have just the thing for you. Not terribly heavy lifting to start. More of a — personal job."

Elliot takes a moment to give the offer the consideration it deserves. He leans back in his chair, adjusts the cuffs of his shirt beneath the sleeves of his jacket. His attention remains on Gideon for a moment, then moves to a point in the middle distance.

Getting into this man’s pocket is a flatly terrible idea for a number of reasons, all of them predictable. However, there is a lot of utility for an infiltrator who has access to the city’s only real criminal power player. Agreeing to an undisclosed, personal assignment as a stepping stone to a broader position of responsibility in a criminal organization is morally nebulous at best. Giving Gideon d’Sarthe access to Elliot’s own reach and resources within Wolfhound is obviously not a good idea.

“Hypothetically speaking,” he begins, his eyes turning back to Gideon, “I wouldn’t be strictly opposed to the idea. Though I’m not interested in wetwork. I couldn’t agree to such an arrangement outright in any case. I think it would be more sensible to conclude this article of business as a singular endeavor.”

He shifts in his chair again, waving with one hand as he continues. “If you want the rendered service to be a component of your larger suggestion that’s fine with me; a demonstration of proficiency. Then, assuming all parties involved are satisfied with the results, I’d be willing to pick up this conversation where we left off.”

Aw. The interest in Ace's eyes flicker. So he's not a big fan of murder. Maybe Elliot's not quite the prize he'd thought they'd snagged, but there's always time to grow him into that role, too.

Even if it did have a few months of break time in building up to that.

He uncrosses his legs, feet flat to the ground as he sits up. Ace's air has changed— putting out the indication of someone whose patience and mood has shifted, even if it's hard to tell just how, immediately. At any rate, he cedes the floor for Gideon to describe the personal job he'd like completed.

"Of course I wouldn't ask you to leap right in. Not wetwork, I assure you. Reconnaissance, mainly…" Gideon's hand gestures in an easing sweep; he'd never dream of assuming, mister Hitchens. "I have had eyes on this issue, but I'm at an impasse." A smile shows, small and earnest in its sheepishness; it's not a consistent problem that he runs into— so he handles it with grace and a welcome manner. He has what one needs, if only for a favor or two.

"I have an associate who I've been watching for some time. I know of some of his new associates, but not the specifics of the business he has been conducting outside of my purview. I believe there could be a more constructed reason for this. A more human element." d'Sarthe clears his throat, at last, brows up and one hand running over his beard. The basics set out. "Would that be more your style?"

Of course it would.

That, Mr. d’Sarthe,” Elliot answers, “Is my specialty. Depending on the level of infiltration required to establish the reconnaissance, I should be able to get you what you need.” He shifts in his chair again, not nervous, but settling in as though he’s more comfortable in this territory now.

“If there are people I know involved, it might make the job more difficult,” he amends. “If it’s time consuming deep cover there would also be rather obvious scheduling conflicts, as I can’t drop my professional responsibilities.” It would look odd if he randomly failed to show up for Wolfhound or NYPD work shifts.

“Do you want to discuss the particulars now?” He isn’t sure how long it will take to get him the placement, or even a false front observation site. If the trade for access to Pete takes too long he’ll have problems of a different kind. And it would be awkward if his next visit were on the head of a Wolfhound battering ram.

Ace keeps a graceful quiet when Gideon edges toward the topic he needs assistance with. It's one he understands without a further word needing spoken himself, and one he keeps his own counsel on. Elliot's offer to dive in immediately brings his look back to him, appraising once more.

"I don't expect there to be anyone you know. No promises. Deep cover not required. I need the intel, not a hands-on." Gideon runs a hand over his hair, breath leaving in a slow huff. "I can't make promises in regards to getting you access to Varlane, so it will be best to wait to talk about details in due time. Likely over drop, rather than like this. I'm sure you understand."

No confirmation that he actually has access, either. The implications so far say yes, but of course Gideon isn't the man to confirm anything so quickly; rumor says one thing, the man another. Always a catch, even if he does.

There was once an old game based on Bocca della Veritá, a gigantic stone face that was said to judge liars when they insert a hand into its mouth. You either make it through, or lose your fingers. One may get the sense that Varlane may or may not be on the other side of that maw, and the risk is regardless.

“I understand completely,” Elliot says. He’s intimately familiar with dead drops. Assuming Gideon does have Varlane, he’s not ready to say so outright. This could imply that he’s debating whether or not to fulfill the request at all, or to what extent he should fulfil it.

He quickly checks Wright’s wristwatch. With both avenues of discussion now held up by the need to wait, Elliot feels his time is done here. “Is there anything more you’d like to discuss, or would you like me to get out of your hair for now?” He also understands that a businessman’s day is busy.

"It sounds like we all have an understanding. No further need to hold us all up this late on a Friday afternoon." Ace comes to his feet with that decision, fastening his jacket closed again with a single hand.

"I'd be happy to buy you a drink before you head off the island should you have the time, though," he adds to Elliot with a lift of his brow. Apparently the us in the matter included only Gideon's precious time. Ace looks back to the man on the other side of the desk, regarding him with a respectful look and a small lift of his head. He imagines they'll talk more on this later.

Hands folded in front of him, Gideon's answer comes, seemingly, with a singular, almost impassive look to Ace as he stands to see the Hound out.

"Have a good afternoon, gentlemen." is the older man's reply, a clear-cut end to the encounter. Today's.

“Thank you for your time,” Elliot says as he stands, not expecting a response. The situation is still incredibly precarious, but as of now it remains his only option. His maneuvering here is done, though there’s more to be done elsewhere.

He turns to Ace with a nod of agreement. “I don’t drink,” he tells the bartender, “But if you’ve got anything fancier than a mocktail I’d love one.” Elliot doesn’t expect another face to face with Gideon before this deal is done, so Ace is his primary target going forward. He taps out a note to Wright and feels her gratefully return to full cognitive capacity.

“If you don’t,” he adds as he turns toward the door, “I’m sure I can whip something up.”

Ace meets Gideon's look with a profound one of his own, a deferential tip of his head offered before he turns to follow Elliot, one hand lifting at the man's midback to shepherd him out.

"Let's see what we can do."

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