A Real Sweetheart



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Scene Title A Real Sweetheart
Synopsis Veronica's plans to follow a lead veer into witnessing a murder and "escorting" the murderer back to Primatech for questioning.
Date March 13, 2009

Brooklyn, Barber's Pawn

Brooklyn is located on the westernmost point of Long Island and shares its only land boundary with Queens. The East river borders and defines the borough's northern coast, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Manhattan beach are to the south, and the Narrows separate it from Staten Island to the southwest.

Downtown Brooklyn is one of the NYC's largest business districts. Between the Bridge and Prospect Park, brownstones, townhouses, and high-end restaurants are dominant. The culturally diverse communities of Williamsburg and Greenpoint are snugged against the East River to the far north. Close by are far more criminally active neighborhoods such as Brownsville, Crown Heights, and Bushwick. Regardless of the social situation, the so-called Borough of Neighborhoods is packed to the gills in post-bomb NYC.

Church Ave is a a narrow and pot-hole riddled streett in the heart of Brooklyn, flanked on either side by brick-faced buildings with plywood boarded windows spraypainted with forclosed in large red paint. Parking on both sides of the street causes the one-way traffic to run a harrowing gauntlet of parked cars and pedestrians darting out at all improbably angles from between the vehicles. Thankfully for Agent Veronica Sawyer, the inclement weather in spite of the unseasonable warmth of this day has most people staying indoors.

With the sun long having set, it is the glow of her headlights and the streak of windshield wipers that guide her way down this narrow road to a lonely pawn shop situated on the west end of Church Ave. The only building with its own parking lot, Barber's Pawn.

Only one beat-up and rusted car graces the otherwise empty parking lot, and while the lights are on inside, the neon sign on the door prominently reads Sorry, We're Closed.

Undeterred, Veronica turns her car into the parking lot, coming to a stop in a space facing the barred front windows and the flickering fluorescent lights sputtering inside of the store. When she slides the car into park, her eyes wander down to the click on her dashboard.


Veronica sighs, and pulls on her jacket so that her various guns — the revolver and the tranq gun, in their holster — do not show on her lean frame. She opens the door to her car, and steps out into a puddle that thankfully doesn't seep through to her skin thanks to black vinyl boots. Sure, leather's nicer, but vinyl's water proof. She first glances into the other car, to make sure nothing's out of the ordinary there. If not, she'll head up to the shop itself, to peer in and see if there's anyone visible within.

The old Buick parked a few spaces from her car is empty, though as she makes her way closer to the front of the pawn shop, she notices the driver's side door on the other side of the car from her is open. Peering through the bars of the pawn shop's front door, she notices nothing out of the ordinary. A wrap-around glass counter filled with watches and jewelry, a few free-standing metal shelves lined with DVD players, VCRs and stereos. The only thing that seems even remotely out of order, is a thin trail of smoke coming up from a television situated behind the glass counter, the television's screen cracked. It's hard to tell from the angle Veronica can see it how it was broken though.

One hand on her hip, to hold onto the gun should she need it, Veronica moves to the door to rap on it sharply. She's dressed in down to earth, inexpensive clothes that keep her from looking out of place, and the car is a nondescript sort, though not as beaten up as it should be to fit in here. "Anyone here?" she calls, hoping to draw the attention of the pawnshop owner inside, if he's hoping to make another buck or two before the end of the night.

The only response Veronica receives is the echo of her knuckles on the glass. There's no sign of movement from the inside, no sounds, nothing but the roar of rain hitting the roof and running off to spatter on the concrete block sidewalk and the sound of the rain further out hammering on the parking lot and the cars situated in it.

She's all alone out here.

Veronica sighs. She pulls out her cell phone and dials Winters' number quickly. "Hi. I'm at Barber's Pawn in Brooklyn, place looks closed, but I'm gonna see what I can find. Listen, in case you hear anything that suggests something's gone wrong and … need to come get me," she murmurs into the device, before pushing it to "lock" and slipping it into her pocket. Her other hand goes to her free pocket. Meanwhile, her hand rummages in her other coat pocket and comes up with a lockpick case. She turns the doorknob to test if it's unlocked for some reason, and if not, bends down to begin to work at picking it.

When Veronica gets off of the phone and bends down to look at the lock, she notices some bending and scraping on the metal, and more unsettlingly that the lock has been shot out. The rain continues to roar down from the skies, creating a loud backdrop of large, heavy droplets that drowns out much of the sounds of the city, making her feel even more isolated in this dark and out of the way parking lot.

Veronica murmurs, "Door's shot open…" Clearly she's just talking to voice mail. She sighs and pulls her gun out, holding it loosely by her side. Her free hand takes the phone out of her pocket. "Gonna call for back up, I think. Check with Goodman about what to do next," she murmurs quietly into the phone, and disconnects from Winters' voice mail. She dials the next number, sighing "Dammit" under her breath, feeling once more like a failure, having to tell Goodman she's in over her head with the big guns here in NYC. She waits for her boss to pick up on the other end, her eyes in their fake blue lenses sweeping the area, her fake auburn hair getting darker in the rain, through the leaky awning.

"Goodman." Comes the calm and clear voice on the other end of the phone, slightly crackling due to the piss-poor reception in this area. "Agent Sawyer, is there something I can help you with?" Even on the phone his tone comes across as mildly disinterested and calm, it's perhaps the most fortunate thing about having him as a boss, he never seems too put off by any particular situation.

Veronica feels a bit calmer just having that voice on the other side of her cellphone. "Sir. I'm at a pawn shop that has some connection to the case," she says in a quiet whisper, "and it's locked though according to the hours, it should be open. The lights are on, but the lock's been shot out. There's a smoking television inside… Not sure what's going on here," she says. "I just thought it'd be a quick interview with the guy, but now I think I might need back up."

There's a long delay on the end of the phone, and when Goodman returns to the conversation he sounds marginally distracted. "Assess the situation, you're trained for this sort of situation. Where, by chance, is your assigned backup and his half dozen identical counterparts in all of this?" Despite his distracted tone, Goodman's voice edges on amused at the situation.

While she speaks, there's a flicker of movement inside of the pawn shop. Nearly sending Veronica's heart leaping out of her chest, the young Agent spots a dark-haired man in a leather jacket pass by an open doorway beyond the television, a tatoo of a serpentine dragon coiled around his neck and up one side of his face. When he disappears past the other side of the doorway, there's the muffled sound of a silenced gunshot from inside of the pawn shop, accompanied by a muzzle flash.

"Brian was supposed to be reporting to you about the fact that he negotiated with way more than we have, because I wasn't going to be the one to take the flack for that," Veronica hisses, and ducks down as she sees that movement inside. "It's… there's a guy in there with a gun and he just shot at someone. Looks like Triad. I think this pawn shop guy mighta just got offed… so no more information there for us, dammit. I didn't think interviewing a guy at a pawn shop was going to require an army of Winterses…" Apparently she's not so nice and charismatically respectful when she's in danger.

"Ah I'm— not in the United States at the moment, you'll have to forgive me." Well, that explains some of that, "I'm current in Sweden handling some business work for a company I moonlight with, I'll be indisposed for the next few — " Goodman cuts himself off when he hears the rest of Veronica's words, the phone going silent for a brief time.

"You've been trained for this, Miss Sawyer. If the gunman is still alive, there is still someone to interrogate. In a one on one situation, I am confident you are capable of handling this situation… provided you are not distracted by the phone, of course."

"Got it. Hanging up now. Thanks." Veronica disconnects and slips the phone into her pocket. At least two people know where she is — as if that's some form of consolation. She stands slowly, though staying away from the window, and slowly opens the door, biting her lip as she makes a mental prayer to the gods that it's been well oiled. When she's got it open just enough for her slim body to slide through, she checks first one way, then the other, her gun held aloft as she begins to creep along the wall to the other doorway, intending to disarm the gunman within. She extricates the tranq gun from the other holster so she carries both. Her eyes sweep the room continually, trying to catch any shadows moving, anything that might spring out suddenly.

The interior of the pawn shop looks immaculate as Veronica creeps in, stalking across the thinly carpeted floor towards the L-shaped glass case, then around it to pass by the smoking television, one that conveniently shows a prominent bullet hole in the screen and some blood spatter on the floor. When she feels the slip of her boots sliding in a spot of blood, her eyes divert to the floor, where a few more droplets lay.

Focused back up on the doorway, the sounds of murmured conversation in Chinese drift out from the doorway. With his back to Veronica's angle of approach, the distracted and dark-haired man in the leather jacket paces back and forth, a gun in one hand and a phone in the other. Beyond him, there is a dark-haired man bound to a chair, his head slung back and a spray of red on the wall behind him in this cramped storage room. Veronica takes aim, both the revolver and tranquilizer gun set on the gunman with his back to her. In a very quiet voice, so as not to be picked up by the phone, she murmurs, "Hang up the phone and drop the gun or I shoot. I'd rather you not die, so don't make me do anything you and I'll both regret." Her fingers are both poised, ready to shoot with either or both guns if he looks like he's not going to comply for even a second.

Visibly tensing, the man with the phone turns slightly to regard Veronica over his shoulder, "Shi jian bu zao le," he murmurs into the phone, "Wo gai gao ce le…" Then, flipping the phone closed, he moves his hands up into the air, carefully holding his pistol with one hand, letting his thumb loop through the trigger while he turns the gun around in his palm.

"May I turn around, officer?" He seems to have made the wrong assumptions, "Or will that get me shot as well?" Despite having a firm grasp of English, there's a strong Mandarin accent to his voice. The corpse in the chair, a single bullet in his head and two red marks on his chest, belongs to a man matching the description Cong Bao-Wei gave of the pawn shop owner.

Looks like he had as many friends as Case.

"I said to hang up and drop the gun," Veronica says coolly. "Set the gun down in front of you, and turn around slowly, and if you so much as move the wrong muscle, I'll shoot. Do it fast, as I'm sure you just informed your friend on the other side I'm here." She’s not very amused.

Very slowly crouching to the ground, the man in the leather coat settles his gun on the floor, then lays his closed phone down next to it. As he rises from the ground, he slowly turns, eyes half-lidded and a smile creeping up over his lips. Dark hair once slicked back is in something of disarray, stray locks hanging in front of his equally dark eyes that drift up and down Veronica. "You're awful pretty for a pig," he notes with a lopsided quality to his smile.

"You going take me in, Officer?" Clearly he's made the wrong assumption about the hardened woman staring down the barrel of a pair of guns at him. He stays put where he stands, hands raises, fingers flexing in the air as if to pantomime waving at her, "or are we just going back to your place, chòu biaozi?"

"Keep your hands above your head where I can see them. You have the right to keep your asshole comments to yourself. Should you not be able to do so," Veronica pulls her finger on the trigger of the tranquilizer gun while he's hopefully distracted by her snarky comments, "I'll kick your teeth in so you have to speak with a lisp in prison." Not that he's going to prison right now. The gun of course is almost instant; it will kick in before he can respond with anything too threatening. "Any questions?" she asks, waiting for him to hit the ground.

It's clear he wanted to make a smart-alec comment, but the moment that trans dart slams into his shoulder and sends him sprawling down to the ground, reaching at the tasseled end of the steel injection dart, his eyes are already unfocused, limbs blindly flailing and eyes rolling back in his head as unconsciousness from an injection or horse tranquilizer stills his movements. With the leather-clad Triad thug on the ground, all Veronica is left with is the cold silence of the storage room and the flicker of a fluorescent light overhead, illuminating the body of a man bound to a chair, and the runny red stain on the wall behind him.

Veronica nudges the guy with a boot to be sure he's down, then hurries to pick up the cell phone and gun, making sure to put the safety on the latter before pocketing both. "Ugh," she grumbles, and bends down to pull and tug the unconscious man into a position that she can pull him onto her back in a "fireman's carry." She avoids the pool of blood on the way out, and makes a mental note that it could be worse, it could be Bao-Wei she's lugging out to her car. There, she manages to hold onto the Triad thug with one hand while hitting the unlock button on her keyless remote. The car looks normal, but the backseat is like that of a police car — separated by glass from the front, no handles on the insides. She tosses the guy in, then finds a pair of handcuffs in the pouch on the back of the passenger seat. Never leave home without 'em! She clicks these onto him as well, just for double precaution.

Now in the front seat, she starts the car and pulls away. Her cell phone comes out of her pocket, and another quick call is made. "Brian. Meet me at Primatech. Gotta thug who just killed our pawnshop guy…"

Backing out of the parking lot, Veronica's car treads across the rain-soaked road. As she departs from the vicinity of the pawn shop, she can see the door to the car out front still open in the falling rain, the lights still on inside. But her focus is elsewhere, not on the man dead in the pawn shop, but the man bound in the back seat of her car. Soon, any evidence that she was ever there are two glowing tail-lights receding down Church Ave.

Primatech Research, Level-2 Holding Cell

Badges, flashed smiles, raised brows. All of these things blew by Veronica on her way back in to Primatech Research with a captive. Not a traditional bag and tag recipient, but none the less a "person of interest" to the Company, and one that can be scrutinized with a modicum degree of privacy here.

Brought down unconscious to Level-2, this tattooed gangster is handled by Company medical staff, bound to a stretcher within an isolation cell featuring a one-way plate glass window and an intercom system that can allow Veronica and her partner to communicate with him without requiring face-to-face contact unless they desire.

Given the run of this operation, the medical staff ensures the thug's security within his bound bed while Veronica looks over the contents of his wallet. Ronny Cho-Sung, a twenty-eight year old Chinese-American who has a penchant for keeping old movie ticket stubs in his wallet, and carries around an expired Target gift card and sixty-seven dollars in cash.

Hopefully what's in his head is more revealing than what's in his wallet.

Veronica goes to find a cup of coffee and a snack while Ronny is still unconscious. Lots of cream, lots of sugar, the coffee is her antithesis — blonde and sweet — by the time she's through with it. She grabs a Payday from the vending machine, grumbling a bit about the lack of healthier choices. At least the peanuts have protein, even if they are encasing a log of straight sugar.

She returns to the window to check on her captive. "Hey, Xiang," she asks one of the medical team who's now on her side of the window. "What's chòu biaozi mean?" she asks curiously. "And how long before he comes to?"

William Xiang pales when he hears those words out of Veronica's mouth, his eyes going wide as he looks up from the clip board, mouth hanging open just as large before he splutters out, "It— " there's a shake of his head and he steps away from Veronica, "It's not something I'd feel comfortable repeating to you, let alone in a work environment." His brows furrow together, and he looks through the plate-glass window, "It's— he called you a very inappropriate name."

Tightness at the corners of Xiang's mouth draws his expression into something of a frightened grimace, then shifts his focus back to Veronica. "He should be awake enough for questioning now, he's been stirring for a while now, so… the intercom should rouse him if you don't want to go in and talk face to face."

"Well, I didn't think he was calling me Sugar Muffin," Veronica tosses back, going to press the button. She's not really in the face to face mood at the moment. "Hiya, Ronny," Veronica says in a faux-cheerful voice. "Guess what? You're not in the NYPD. So your mafia ties aren't gonna get you out on bail… I hope you have good connections with your Triad bosses, because God knows you aren't getting paid for crap… maybe it's all in favors, huh?" she says conversationally. "So… if you want to see daylight again, I suggest you have a nice little chat with me about what I saw in that pawnshop. You killed James Barber. Why? Who ordered the hit?"

Struggling against his restraints, the man behind the glass looks bewildered. By the time the drugs designed to get the tranquilizers out of his system have taken effect, it has a noticeable psychotropic effect, much in the way barbituates and methamphetimenes can adversely affect the human body when taken in rapid succession, it creates a certain pliability of the mind. "T-there…" he slurs his speech, blending into either Mandarin or Cantonese for a moment.

"He said there wasn't a hit, exactly." Xiang notes, looking up from his clipboard. Perhaps it was fortunate he decided not to vacate just yet. Furrowing his brows as he listens to Ronny continue to babble, he gives a shake of his head. "He says that he was leaning on the man he killed for information about a man named Tyler Case," Xiang looks up to Veronica, one brow raised as if inquisitive about the name. "He — " Xiang looks back through the window at the sound of more conversational Chinese. "He says he threatened to kill him to make a point to Case if he didn't talk and— the guy wouldn't talk… Christ."

"Dammit," Veronica swears lightly, though her hand lifted off the button to listen to Xiang's translation. "Thanks. Stay here with me, would ya?" She takes a long gulp of her steaming hot coffee as she thinks a moment. She picks up a file and a pen to jot down anything the thug says that's useful.

Her thumb presses the intercom button again. "What relationship did this guy have with Case that made you think he might know where Case is? Tell me anything he managed to tell you — next time I suggest you lean a little longer… You and me? We got all night."

Halfway between consciousness and unconsciousness, Ronny's voice wavers in and out between English and Chinese, and Xiang does his best to keep up with the translation, though it's obvious his fluency in the language isn't that of a native speaker. He's slow to pick up the details, but he does a passable job of getting everything together once Ronny slows down his rambling. "I… the guy «he's the boyfriend of Case's dead sister. She used to run with us» she was with the Dragons, she's — «stupid slut» — he's close to that fucker, he's like an «uncle» to him n'shit…"

Increasingly anxious as he translates, Xiang's fingers curl tightly around the edges of his clip-board. "He's… he keeps saying something about 'the old man'," Xiang's eyes narrow as he strains to make heads or tails of Ronny's nonsensical speech. But something jumps out to Veronica as he hears Ronny's rambling, the word Jittetsu spattered between heavy syllables of Chinese. It's a name, distinctively Japanese in pronunciation, and one that she saw while scouting Chinatown with Agent Winters.

An antique shop on Canal Street called Jittetsu Arms.

She scrawls down the translation, and of course the whole thing is being recorded; someone with better translation skills later on can take a look at it. "Ronny," she says, pushing the button again. "What's happening at Jittetsu Arms? And who is the old man? And what happened to Case's sister?" Too many questions at once, really, but she'll slow it down if he can't handle all of them at the same time. She just wants to get them out there while he's still in that fluid, half delirious state, with the drugs acting as some sort of truth serum.

"S-stupid bitch got herself «blown up» when the city exploded— " He swallows dryly, struggling against his restraints, "You're gonna' be so dead when I get outta' here! I'm— gonna— «cut out your eyes»." Xiang winces as he translates that, looking up apologetically to Veronica before turning his focus back to the man inside of the sealed room.

"Jitettsu— s'what the stupid fucker said before I shot'em. Old man who… who «runs it» buys security from us — fnnh" he struggles against his straps again, "Didn't think to— to ask «why he said it before I shot him». Probably— whatever, a bad idea." Xiang shakes his head, looking away from Ronny as he seems to scrutinize Veronica a bit more, teeth nervously toying with his lower lip.

Veronica shakes her head at Xiang's apologetic glance. "Back up, Ronny," says Veronica. "What exactly did he say about Jittetsu? His exact words, if you can remember them. Tell me exactly what he said, up to that point, and what you might have said to him first," she says, and one hand pats Xiang's shoulder to tell him he's doing a good job. Poor lab tech, just not made for this sort of work. Her thumb off the intercom, she says, "I'll buy you a beer or something sometime, to make up for this, promise." She grins, showing those dimples, clearly not too fussed about the insulting and threatening words of the man on the table in the other room.

A snorted laugh comes out from Ronny, head loling to the side as he blearily stares at the wall beside the bed, "I asked 'em t'tell me somethin' that'd matter t'Case… an… «stupid bastard» just blurted out the name Jittetsu and then tried to…" Ronny coughs loudly, struggling to sit up before growling and slamming his head back against the pillow beneath his head, "Son of a bitch m'gonna enjoy «splitting you open.»"

Tilting his head to the side, Ronny stares at the reflective glass surface obscuring Veronica's form, "I got jittery, an' he lunged forward in the chair, an' he got a bullet. I finished the job 'cause he was gurgling, «can't say I'm not merciful.»"

A snorted laugh comes out from Ronny, head loling to the side as he blearily stares at the wall beside the bed, "I asked 'em t'tell me somethin' that'd matter t'Case… an… «stupid bastard» just blurted out the name Jittetsu and then tried to…" Ronny coughs loudly, struggling to sit up before growling and slamming his head back against the pillow beneath his head, "Son of a bitch m'gonna enjoy «splitting you open.»"

Tilting his head to the side, Ronny stares at the reflective glass surface obscuring Veronica's form, "I got jittery, an' he lunged forward in the chair, an' he got a bullet. I finished the job 'cause he was gurgling, «can't say I'm not merciful.»"

"A real sweetheart. Too bad you won't remember a thing," Veronica murmurs under her breath. "What an idiot… he had information on Case, and… killed his… our best lead."

She sighs and takes another long drink of her coffee. "Right. Keep him. We may have questions for him later, and then we'll wipe him. Thanks for your help." She nods to Xiang. She pushes the button. "All right, Ronny. We're going to let you sleep a bit. See if you can think of anything else I should know when I see you next, all right? Anything that might get you out into the sunlight soon. Or even better yet, keep you safe from the cops. Got anything that good, I suggest you spill it."

Veronica picks up her jacket and her cup. "I'm heading home. Call me if he talks any more?" With that, she's out the door, cell phone already out and at her ear, as she tells Winters to start looking up information on Case's sister and Jitettsu Arms.

March 13th: Under the Covers

Previously in this storyline…
Your Hubris Is Showing

Next in this storyline…
You're A Freelancer

March 13th: Matters of Trust
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