A Working Girl's Job


bryan_icon.gif veronica3_icon.gif

Scene Title A Working Girl's Job
Synopsis … ain't ever easy. But for Agents Sawyer and Buckley, their undercover interview with another undercover agent yields some answers and more questions
Date August 17, 2010

The Rookery

If only daddy could see her now.

Up off the grimy streets of the Rookery and a crooked staircase leading up to a second floor motel room, Veronica Sawyer may have a fallback career if working for the Company falls through. Tall boots clunk up the exposed staircase, leading the balcony above where sky blue paint peels off in strips from crumbling plaster walls. Numbered doors facing the parking lot are missing digits and one of the motel rooms has plywood over its window,s praypainted with a noose shape and the words DIE SCUM. It's a welcoming place to be working the corner, and agent Sawyer makes a startlingly accurate hooker.

What would Brian Winters say?

"You look fuckin' hot," is probably what he would say, but those words come from Francis Riveria, currently operating under the alias of Diego Marks, a dark-haired and dark-eyed Italian man somewhere in his thirties. No one here at the Econo-Lodge situated on the northeastern coast of the Rookery is who they say they are. Not the pimps, not the prostitutes, not even the drug dealers. If Shakespeare was right and all the world's a stage, the people headed towards room 210 are ahead of the curve on realizing that.

"You know it's kinda' nice," the undercover DEA agent offers with a crooked smile, "you know, seein' a girl who don't look like she blows all her money on somethin' other than food. I get some real shitty ladies out here, nice t'know the Rookery's still got a few good girls in it with the Dagger gone."

Being led to 210 by Sawyer, Riveria is only passingly aware of the circumstances of this meeting. Undercover federal agents, a murder, and a whole lot of questions.

Hopefully ones he can answer.

The tall boots were chosen especially for doing double duty — in the tiny skirt and skimpy top Veronica wears, there's no hiding her guns and tasers, but the thigh-high boots allow for weapons storage. She feigns the giggle of a prostitute's feigned "interest," for anyone within hearing shot.

"That's sweet of ya to say. I mean, a girl's gotta get her kicks, but I'm not plannin' on stayin' here forever. I'm not gonna end up like Fat Lulu, ya know?" asks the undercover agent, referring to a 40-year-old woman pushing 200 pounds who works a corner a couple of blocks away. "I plan to go to Vegas one day, and you know, the sky's the limit," she bubbles, unlocking the door and letting the agent inside after giving the room a quick sweep through her fake-green gaze. Her hair too is not its usual color but a dark auburn that doesn't look natural on her skin color, but then, no one's looking for "natural" in the Rookery.

"You know there's a pretty big market out in Vegas, Linderman owns the whole city but I hear pay's good an' all that shit. If I had the stones for big-time work, you know I'd be out there in a heartbeat." Riveria's commentary is kept light and snappy, that east Brooklyn accent snugly fitting around his words and keeping them clipped and energetic in cadence.

When Veronica unlocks the door to the room, the dark interior earns an askance look from Riveria as his brows furrow and lips creep up into a nervous smile. For the barest of moments he looks hesitant to enter, until Veronica herself does. Smiling in a way that is entirely theatrical, Riveria follows her inside, shoes softly reporting against thick shag carpet.

"Kee-rist," is exhaled more than said, "look at this fuckin' place." Faux-wood paneling on the walls, shag carpeting, a single bed that is little more than a mattress on the floor and water stainso n the ceiling. Were it not for a bathroom door partly closed on the far end of the room, it would look more like a garishly decorated prison cell than a motel room.

"Alright get undressed you're on the clock," Riveria orders as he pushes the door shut with a click, the only interior light filtering in through the narrow space between drawn curtains.

When Riveria closes the door, Veronica turns and moves toward him, as if to begin the actual deal, her arm reaching past him as she tips her too-heavily made-up face towards his, arching a brow at the words that might be a touch past the line, since they were mostly inside the room already. She locks the deadbolt behind him, then slides the chain-lock in place as well before stepping back.

She gives a nod toward a chair and she moves to a small "boom box" set up on one of the cheap dressers, flipping it on to help mask their voices, then turning it up to help fill the silence. She leans against the dresser, and tips her head toward the bathroom. "Thanks for meeting with us. This week suck for you down here or what?" the ditzy fake hooker tone is gone, the slightly Southern drawl she'd been using dropped as well, and Veronica's usual terse business tone, though in her husky voice, is back in place as she waits for the third member of their hotel party to join them.

When the music starts, the bathroom door swings open on cue. The man that steps out is dressed not unlike many of the gangbanger pimps on Staten Island. He may put the money his whores earn to his own use, but he's not rolling it in to the degree that he'd be a target. Still, as subtle as the success he wears is, it's still there. When he emerges, Bryan Buckley pulls a headset from his ear, letting it drape around his neck. His steps match the baseline of the music as he walks from the bathroom to Veronica, only to pluck a beaded barette from her hair as if she were nothing more than a statue. Once the microphone has been switched off, Bryan turns his head to look at Riveria, a smile spilling across his lips and pooling to one side.

"Thanks for joining us," he says dryly, the tips of his fangs just visible beneath the edge of his upper lip. "We understand the sacrifice of your time. It's appreciated."

Looking nervously to Bryan, Riveria's eyes flick back to Veronica for a moment before he finally realaxes and rolls his shoulders, trying to work out the remaining tension. "Yeah, naw it's cool. Look, I'm just as spooked by this as I figure you guys are. I'll try and keep this short and sweet, so we can both get out of here and get back to our jobs."

Stepping away from the windows, Riveria walks across the room towards the foot of the mattress, hands tucking into the pockets of his jeans as he turns around. "Here's the thing, I never saw the Senator out here on Staten, not once, not a single goddamned time. This ain't really what you want to hear, I know, but it gets weirder. Most of my work is done with a group running cut Refrain they call Flash. They run hard non-evo shit too, but these guys have some serious ties to cartels down south and we're close to getting an idea of when their next shipment of Refrain is ready to roll out…"

Glancing to the window, Riveria furrows his brows, then looks back to Bryan and Veronica. "The ringleader, a guy named Dan Espenosa, has an eye for underground fights. Most of his spare time is spent at this place out in Port Ivory, dog fights, cock fights, they even have fucking homeless people fighting each other out there. So I spend a lot of time getting to know this place."

Lifting a hand to scratch at the side of his head, Riveria shifts around anxiously. "There was a guy, one of Espenosa's buyers who came to the fights, liked to bet on them, went by the name Renton. Renton fucked up one night, bet like eight large on one of the bum fights and lost. He booked it before he could pay, the guy who runs the fights took off rigt the fuck after him."

This is where Riveria's story takes a turn for the strange. "I didn't give a shit about it, really, and I was headed back with Espenosa when we heard screaming coming from down the street. Like, really fucked up screaming, the kind that sticks with you, haunts you?" There's a swipe of one hand over his forehead as he talks. "Espenosa gets in the car and I decide to walk, make up some excuse about shit I have to do. I take a look at what went down, and I find Renton face-down on the ground, covered in blood. He was already dead by the time I got to him. I pulled his wallet, and sure as fucking shit, Renton was the Senator. But here's the big fucking weird part, Renton didn't look like the senator, and the corpse I found? It was wearing Renton's clothes, but it wasn't wearing Renton's face."

Veronica's brows raise as she listens, arms crossed perhaps a touch defensively across her scantily-clad chest. Those brows knit with confusion as he speaks of Renton becoming the Senator's corpse. "Wait. Let me get this straight. This guy Renton welshed on his bet and then you overheard the incident happening? Could you hear anything else, another person, or just his screaming? And by not wearing Renton's face — well, it wasn't wearing a face at all, is that what you mean?"

She reaches into a purse on the dresser, pulling out a notepad and pen. "Can you describe what this guy Renton looked like? Build, coloring, any marks that make him stand out, the usual?" Her green gaze darts to Bryan. "Possible shapeshifter or metamorph?" She nods back to Riveria. "Renton known to be at all Evolved? Anyone who knew him that you could put us in touch with — Espenosa, of course, anyone else? We'll respect your cover of course."

"That's dangerous ground to sniff," Bryan says with a disappointed tone and a shake of his head. He leans back against the wall near the dresser and tucks his hands into the pockets of his jeans. "We know Portman was Evo," he muses, letting his eyes drift to the ceiling as he goes over the facts. "If I were a senator with an anti-Evo platform who liked to get my kicks on the wrong side of the tracks with a bit of dope and a bit of action…I'd definitely want a different face to do it with." The fanged man hums to himself, drawing his lips tight.

"Did Renton have a woman on his arm that night, or any night you saw him?" If it was Portman with another man's face, or a face of his own design, there's still a chance he indulged in the one vice he'd been known to on Staten Island - the ladies of the evening.

"Renton usually came alone, though I heard he had some girls, nothing he ever took with him to the games though. I don't deal much in that business, there's some dangerous pimps out here…" and Riveria cracks a smile, "Present company included," he adds jokingly. "I heard through the wire that Portman was being investigated for Prostitution connections at the Dagger. That shit burned down like a year ago or something, and if it was Portman that means he was himself, you know? No funny-face business, otherwise nobody'd ever have been the wiser."

Though when Riveria angles his attention to Veronica, there's a furrow of his brows and a nod. "'Course Renton was Evolved, I mean he was a steady Flash buyer and that shit doesn't work on ordinary people." There's a shrug of Riveria's shoulders at that, brows pinched in a furrow. "Renton was a pretty big guy physically, over six feet, probably like six-two or six-three or something? Broad shoulders, bald too, which is the really screwed up part. Renton had a shaved head. He was that big kind of gorilla-build sorta' guy… but the body I found in his suit? Dude har a full head of curly hair and was smaller than Renton. It was the same damned suit though, same clothing… I dunno."

Rubbing his hand at the back of his neck, Riveria looks up to Veronica, then over to Bryan. "So, what, you think this guy was a shapeshifter or something? Man I wish I did something like that with my line of work, you know? Instead I gotta' worry about my face getting around and my family being screwed for it. Then again, maybe people like that'll put me out of a job one day."

"They were ah, both white too," Riveria adds on realizing it might actually be important. "Man, his face was all like… clawed off, looked like he did it himself. I dunno, but he just didn't look like Renton, you know? I called it in and ran, because the last thing I needed was being hooked in with that shit. But I didn't see anything happen, and I sure as hell didn't see the fight organizer there either, no idea where the hell he ran off to."

"Interesting. And no one's seen Renton since them, I'm guessing?" Sawyer asks, scribbling down the description, then glancing at Bryan. "We might have to talk to Espenosa, ask around, see if anyone's seen him, to see if they're two people and Portman was just using his face. The other possibility's that it is Renton, and someone else made it look like Portman — for whatever reason. Maybe the upcoming Registration, he's faking his death and getting the hell out," she muses.

She taps her pen against her notepad, a thoughtful expression on her face that contradicts the slutty nature of her "professional" clothing. "He was in Renton's suit, which explains the size discrepancy in the forensics report. Renton sounds like a last name, you gotta first name for him at all?" She knows he might not, as Staten Island residents often don't have real names at all, let alone two of them. Still, she's already pulled out her Blackberry and begins to type in Renton, looking up any hits that come up with matching or likely statistics.

"Sticking our nose anywhere near Espenosa is gonna send up a red flag, Sawyer." The tone is gruff, but Bryan stands a little straighter for a moment before he inclines his head as respectfully as one who isn't used to dealing with an authority while on the field mission can. "There's no real easy way for us to waltz in and start asking questions about that night. We could maybe ask about Renton, but even under the guise that he owes us money, without more information it's a wobbly-ass cover story."

"Yeah, and Espenosa is paranoid. He's killed people just for asking questions like that, and leaning into him too close — especially with unfamiliar faces — might spook him and ruin this operation. That you both came down here to talk to me discretely like this? It means a lot, and I'd appreciate it if you'd keep up the trend." Rubbing a hand over his chin, Riveria looks down to his feet, then back up to Veronica.

By now, Veronica's blackberry has pulled up a hit from the NYPD criminal database. Charlie Renton, 46 years old, a criminal record consisting of extortion, assault and criminal threatening. He was arrested in 2006 in connection with a racketeering charge and was set to plea bargain in a court case against Daniel Linderman but was murdered before he could testify.

"If you wanna' stick your nose in something, you can talk to Gregory Fritz, he runs the fights out in Port Ivory in the abandoned Farm-Co warehouse near the boat graveyard. He's there most nights, short guy, bushy hair, usually wearing sunglasses even at night, bearded. Should be easy to find if you ask around. Just… stick away from Espenosa and his men, alright? If we see each other?" Riveria flicks one hand between himself and the agents, "I ain't see you before."

That Espenosa has killed people for just asking questions makes Veronica raise a brow and glance toward Bryan — a man so violent and paranoid's likely to have sent someone after Renton-Portman to kill for his money, right? But she gives a nod at the request for discretion. "Of course. We've all been in deep cover before. We're not here to screw your efforts, for sure," she says, glancing back to her phone.

Selecting the file on Renton, she raises her brow, finding the mug shot and surveying the face before turning it toward Riveria. "Is this the same Renton you knew?" she asks. The fact the hit belongs to a dead man isn't mentioned, but will be shared with Bryan later.

"Gregory Fritz," Veronica nods in regards to the rest, though she doesn't confirm or deny staying away from Espenosa. He might be the perp, after all. She lifts her eyes to gauge Riveria's reaction to the mugshot on the phone.

Clearing his throat, Riveria offers a slow nod to the face shown in the glowing screen of Veronica's blackberry. "Yeah, that's him alright. I wouldn't forget that dog-ass face anywhere, that's Renton." Sliding a hand down his mouth, Riveria offers a look to Bryan, warily staying away from him in the same way small animals instinctually give predators a wide berth.

Lifting up hands to dishevel his hair, Riveria cracks a smile, flipping up the collar of his jacket and button-down shirt. Then, stepping over to Veronica, Riveria lifts up one hand and makes a bear with me gesture, lifting up one hand to smudge his thumb over her lipstick, then drags it down in a streak across his cheek. "Devil's in the details," he says with a smile, "I'd ask for some better ones but," there's a look to Bryan, "maybe next time."

Stepping towards the door, Riveria offers a tilt of his chin in a respectful show of parting, having a strong appreciation for his cover not being compromised by the COmpany's endeavors. When he unlocks the motel room door and slips out onto the balcony, its with a measured bounce in his step and a cocksure smile of a man who just had money well spent.

For Agents Sawyer and Buckley, time well spent.

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