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Scene Title Accruements
Synopsis The death of an informant sets Wolfhound on the trail of the Institute.
Date February 23, 2018

Ferrymen's Bay

Sixteen hours ago a journalist named Devin Bradley — a resident of Ferrymen's Bay, Safe Zone, NY — was found murdered in his third floor apartment. Safe Zone Military Police assembled to investigate the murder and determined the cause of death was a robbery gone awry. The case was filed, closed, and Devin Bradley's body turned over to his family for burial.

Nine hours ago, at 2:00am in Rochester NY, Rue Lancaster received a voicemail from Bradley's parents. The message said:

Miss Lancaster, I'm… My name's Greg Bradley, you… I think you knew my son Devin? The military police are saying someone— broke into his apartment last night, tried to rob him and— Devin's gone. I um… I saw Devin the night before, he was acting— he was acting unusual. Scared? He left something at our apartment, a package with your name on it. We're at 1980 Brown Street in Phoenix Heights. Could you… would you mind picking it up? We don't know if he was— if he was into something or— just— thanks.

Five hours ago, Rue Lancaster requisitioned an emergency flight from Rochester to the Safe Zone aboard the Rook with the conveyance of Wolfhound pilot Avi Epstein. Three hours ago, the Rook touched down at Floyd Bennet Airfield.

Two hours ago, Rue Lancaster arrived at the residence of the Bradley family only to find it torched. Emergency rescue and fire were already putting out the flames, the entire house was a loss, along with the adjacent residences. Safe Zone Military police were still investigating the fire to determine whether it was arson, but no survivors were recovered from the blaze. No personal effects either.

Thirty minutes ago, Rue Lancaster retrieved Devin Bradley's home address in Ferrymen's Bay from a contact at the Brooklyn Army Terminal and went back to the airfield for Epstein. The two walked the one and a half mile distance from the airfield to Bradley's neighborhood.

One minute ago, they arrived.

"Well, it's not on fire." Avi Epstein has a steel-trap grasp of the obvious. The looming gray concrete warehouse-come-tenement building is marred with graffiti and pockmarked with bullet impacts from the war. Two burned out cars rest out front of the building, though they've been sitting there and rusting for the better half of five years. On through the door into the foyer, the two Wolfhound operatives find the tenement building more of a flophouse. Mattresses line the lobby, some with huddled people curled up and sleeping at this morning hour. Blankets hang over the windows to keep out the daylight. Rats scurry by, heedless of human peril.

The urgency of this travel is spurred on not by its suspicious nature, but because of the real identity of Devin Bradley. In 2015 Devin Bradley took the stand at the Albany trials and openly spoke about his role in the human research experiments done at the Commonwealth Institute offices in Cambridge Massachusetts. Devin was a lab technician, and after his testimony he left applied sciences and became a journalist, chronicling the stories of survival of people impacted by the Institute's research. He has, for years, shared intelligence from his time in the Institute with the US Government and Wolfhound. For him to turn up dead in a break-in is suspicious, for him to leave something behind for his Wolfhound contact Rue Lancaster is worrisome, and for that package to go missing and his family home to be burned isn't a coincidence.

As the two reach the freight elevator that will take them to Devin's loft, Avi removes his sidearm from the under-arm holster in his jacket, looking back to Rue. He doesn't say anything, not really. Just snorts like a big horse and hits the call button, eliciting tired old mechanisms to whine and groan as the lift comes down.

"Couldn't just have been an early birthday present," Rue mutters under her breath, almost droned out by the creaking rattle of the lift. Avi's motion is belatedly mimicked. She hasn't decided yet if the place will have been long cleaned out of any clues they might hope to find here, or if this is a trap waiting to spring on them. She glances over to her partner. The thick rubber heels of her boots bring her the extra couple inches needed to match him for height.

For him, she can flash the flicker of a smirk. An upward turn of one corner of her teardrop-shaped mouth, gone as quickly as it comes. When the cold knot starts to coil in her stomach, she takes a deep breath. She isn't so much afraid as she is angry. Informants - especially ones with information like Bradley's - are difficult to come by. There's no going to the market to replace this kind of asset. Years of effort are gone in an instant. And she'll be even more furious if this somehow did turn out to be a robbery gone wrong. Coincidence would actually make this worse.

The doors open and she steps inside first after nothing jumps out at them. Once he's boarded, she presses the floor button with the pad of her thumb with a little more force than is strictly necessary. Rue rolls her shoulders as the doors close again, trying to banish some of the rigidity from her posture.

Avi makes a noise in the back of his throat as he walks in, bending down to adjust the strap on his knee brace. "Fuckin'. Thing." Fighting with the straps for a moment, he looks up to Rue, then braces as the freight elevator slowly begins winding up. "Fucking place like this still has electricity, but…" he cuts himself off, closing his eyes and reaching up to pinch at the bridge of his nose.

"Just uh, a word to the wise," Avi begins in a mumbling tone. "Try and ask questions first and shoot second." It's mostly advice to himself. "I… don't think anyone's going to save my dumb ass twice." Nor would he want them to.

Rue's brows shoot up and he earns one of her very rare genuine smiles. "Hey, now. Do I look like— " She shakes her head, a ginger curl slipping free from the bun atop her head, falling to frame one side of her face without obscuring her vision. "Never mind." This isn't the time or place to poke fun at their colleagues. That's usually done where they can actually hear it, because she's all about fairness. She may like to be called Rumor, but gossip is a trade and not a hobby.

Since he happens to be here, that makes him fair game. "Don't tell me what to do." The edge on her words is a false one. He knows her well enough by now to recognize it. "I'll save your dumb ass as many times as I fuckin' please. I didn't give you permission to die, Avi." A huff of breath sends that errant curl fluttering. Her elbow nudges his arm gently.

When the lift comes to a stop, her expression becomes serious again. A hand on his arm silently tells him to stay back and let her head out first. There is no glance made toward his old injury. He's capable even while ailing from it, but she's protective of him more than she is of any of the others. And there's no one she'd rather have at her back. Her sidearm is pointed at the floor, in a two hand grip once she's started to move forward, intent to make sure the hall's clear.

The freight elevator opens right out into the loft after a short hall. It's sparsely furnished with old, salvaged furniture. A ratty ottoman, a high-backed red velour-covered chair with patches of fabric rubbed practically bald at the arms. A leather sofa patched and re-patched multiple times. To the right is a kitchen, broken glass everywhere, the faint stink of spoiled milk hangs in the air, wafting from an open refrigerator. To the left there's a mattress on the floor swaddled in blankets, a few bookshelves stacked with clothes beyond. This isn't an apartment, it was a safe house.

As Avi comes in behind Rue, his broad shoulders cast a long shadow on the floor from the light spilling in from a wall of tall windows. There's a blood stain on the floor ten feet from Rue, dark and still tacky. Drag marks where the corpse was hauled into a bodybag. No signs of bullet holes, though over by the chair and couch there's an upended metal strongbox. A few dollar bills are on the floor, loose change, cigarettes. Anything could have happened here.

There's a hiss that sounds between the woman's teeth as she takes in the scene. "Fucking sloppy," she growls. Whether she means the authorities or the perpetrator is anyone's guess. Maybe it's both. Rue steps further inside, around the tacky mess on the floor. She knows better than to get close to any of her informants. They could all meet an end like his, and if she wants to keep doing what she's doing without going mad, she has to compartmentalize and detach.

A detective February Lancaster is not. She doesn't have the complete skill set that allows her to reconstruct a crime scene and figure out where it started from how it ended. The broken glass in the kitchen seems like a good indicator of where things probably began. But it's the strongbox that has her attention. If it was a robbery, and there appears to have been no gunfire, the thief shouldn't have been in so much of a hurry that they left behind something of value.

But if what you're looking for isn't here, then there's nothing to take, is there? Rue takes spares a moment to ensure there isn't anything creeping behind the sofa before she tucks her gun away and crouches down to inspect the scattered contents of the strongbox. "We should check with some of his other contacts," she says softly. If he had something that was worth killing for - twice - then he knew what was coming. Maybe someone he worked with knows who.

Avi slowly holsters his gun as Rue does, circling the blood stain on the floor as he moves toward the kitchen. There's a bowl, smashed on the floor, milk and cereal everywhere. The refrigerator door is open, melted stick of butter next to a bag of bread. He circles the small island in the kitchen, pokes through a few cabinets, then comes back around. "Whoever it was, they got him eating breakfast. Based on the time of the call, that would've been around four in the afternoon yesterday when they found him. He probably died that morning…"

As Epstein is circling back, Rue overturns the strongbox. There was a simple padlock on it, smashed off. The money on the floor amounts to $16.75 in dollar bills and loose change. There's no sign of anything else. A nearby ashtray is full of cigarette butts, the stink of them clings to the air. "Two possibilities," Avi explains as he stands behind the sofa. "These big fucking windows don't open, so the killer either came up the elevator… and Bradley didn't greet whoever it was. So it wasn't unexpected. He's making breakfast."

Turning around and resting a hand on his hips, he looks over to the bed, and starts walking that way. "Could've been evolved, too. Someone who could phase through walls, teleport… some other kind of infiltration ability. So we're either dealing with someone he expected, or someone he couldn't see coming." Stopping at the bed, Avi looks at the blankets, then over to the clothes on the bookshelf.

"Bed had two people in it," Avi notes, "only men's clothes in the bookshelves. Can't say if he had anyone else living here or not." To the best of Rue's knowledge Devin Bradley didn't have any long-term relationships.

"So this guy…" Avi starts making his way back. "Former Institute, gets off from charges for selling out his bosses, becomes a journalist to try and make amends. Could be one of his former experiments decided to say fuck you as loudly as possible." Dark eyes scan the blood stain on the floor. "I'd need t'see the body…" Exhaling a sigh, Avi sweeps a hand over his face slowly. "Fuck, alright. So… this is suspicious as hell."

"I wouldn't have dragged your ass out here if it wasn't." Rue climbs back to her feet and meets him in the middle. With a shake of her head, she takes it all in again. "He had something, Av'. Otherwise why…" Again, she shakes her head. She doesn't have to spell anything out to him. It's suspicious as hell. Lower jaw juts out slightly in tandem with a heavy exhale. "Fuck." Stepping around him, she makes her way toward the mattress. Not because she expects to see something he didn't, but because it looks a hell of a lot more purposeful than agitated pacing. Which this absolutely is, just that she stops and doesn't turn around again until she's stared hard at every object on the bookcase in a silent demand for answers.

"Mother of fuck." There are few people she'd let see her this frustrated. He's one of the lucky ones. "Okay, so we go see the body. — There had better still be a fucking body for us to see, or I'm going to—" Suddenly silent, Rue reminds herself to breathe. "After that," she begins again, more subdued, though her gaze is still roaming the shelves in a desire to put off turning around to face her partner again, "we figure out who he was working with. See if anyone knows what he was working on."

Talon-like fingers grip at her heart, cold as ice. There's an answer to this, and she's sure she isn't going to like it.

Avi draws in a deep breath and walks over to the windows, looking out their grime-ringed panes. He's reluctant to admit it, but Rue is right. As Avi turns around he starts taking long and uneven strides across the floor toward the freight elevator.

He's frustrated. "I was supposed t'get a fucking haircut today."

Two Hours Later

Turning Leaf Funeral Home, Bay Ridge

It took forty minutes for Rue to track down where Bradley's body had gone in the last several hours. His family had been quick to make funeral arrangements, denied permission for an autopsy. It was enough to make the hairs on the back of Avi's neck stand up. By the time they tracked down public transportation and crossed the Safe Zone to Bay Ridge, it was already approaching noon.

Bradley's body is held in the cool, windowless basement of the Turning Leaf Funeral Home, a surprisingly welcoming and warm establishment for all its macabre purpose. But the comforting wallpaper, vases of flowers, and display caskets of the upstairs stand in sharp contrast to the concrete walls and cold steel of the basement. "I've heard quite a bit about you all," comes from a willowy twig of a woman named Sofia Webb, the owner of the funeral parlor and mortician. "Wolfhound, it's all so dramatic, really."

As she leads the pair into the funeral parlor's basement, there's a cold and sterile smell in the air. Sofia takes an apron from a hook on the wall on entering, and the pale fluorescent light from the ceiling washes out most of the color in her face and makes her look practically sanguine. Tying the apron on, she withdraws latex gloves from a small box and snaps them on, circling a cloth-covered cadaver sitting on a metal table. Hoses and tubes go under the shroud, and a machine is somewhat noisily pumping fluids.

"But, this is mister Bradley," Sofia explains, moving the topic from her own curiosity to business, her brows furrowing and eyes flicking up between Rue and Avi. Assuming this is a business matter and that professional soldiers have seen worse, she pulls back the shroud to reveal his blotchy corpse not yet covered with makeup. Bradley's face has been expertly stitched back together from what is evidently repeated knife injuries. One eye is permanently sewn shut. Other puncture wounds are across his chest and hands.

Avi looks at Sofia, then down to the corpse, picking up his hand by the wrist and looking at the way blood has darkened the underside of his palms beneath the skin.

Rue tends to do most of her damage at long range. It affords a certain degree of separation from being the cause of death and actually having to see what that looks like. But, she bet Epstein twenty bucks she wouldn't barf at least until they got back out into the street, and she wants to win this bet.

The state of Devin Bradley is not what she expected, however. In some ways it's worse. Rue winces in a way she hopes looks more sympathetic than squeamish. "Fu—" Catching herself, she flickers an apologetic glance to Ms Webb. The one she sends Avi's way in turn is more to say well, I guess that explains a thing or two. No wonder there were no bullet holes or shell casings. She'd had her money - metaphorical this time - on blunt force trauma.

"Anything else stand out?" Almost, she doesn't want to ask, but she has to. Presumably being stabbed in the fucking face is cause of death, and the defensive wounds are expected, but… Again, she shoots a glance to the man at her side, reluctant to give her thoughts on the matter a voice in front of someone outside of their organization. No matter who she might be adjacent to or affiliated with. In this matter, she'll follow his lead.

Sofia looks over at Rue with a mild expression. "Sorry, I thought you might be…" she shakes her head. "I should've asked if you were ready, that's my fault." Circling around to the head of the body, Sofia grabs a small plastic beaker with measures on the side from a wheeled table. "There was this…" she says in an ellipsed tone that implies uncertainty.

As she comes back over, Sofia hands the beaker over the Avi, who looks down into it with an incredulous stare. "What… the fuck is this?" He looks back to Sofia, who raises both of her brows and shakes her head.

"When I drained him of fluids it clogged up the pump. Had to pull it out with a pair of tweezers." Avi holds the beaker up to the light and shakes it side to side with a rattle.

"Fuck me." Then, looking right at Sofia he blurts out. "Sorry, ma'am." He's been in the wild so long he's forgotten how to behave around normal folks.

Sofia covers her mouth and cracks a smile, laughing. "Oh I'm no prude, I've heard plenty of dirty talking in my time. But you're free to keep whatever that is if it helps your investigation. The military police said the family declined an autopsy, so there's no ongoing investigation with them I need to comply with."

Avi hands the beaker over to Rue, letting her see what's inside. It's a little, half inch long piece of metal wrapped in glass. A subdermal microtransmitter. "How much you wanna bet the Major cracks a smile when we bring this back? Fifty bucks?" Because he's not sure she's winning the other bet.

"I'm fine," Rue insists in the face of Sofia's apology. It's also a lie, because she's looking a little green under all those freckles, but she's determined. The beaker is passed to her and she lifts it up to eye level to look at its contents through the glass. Permission's been granted to be vulgar, and so she lets out a heavy breath.

"Son of a fucking fuck."

Blue eyes dart sidelong to half-glare at Avi as she sets the beaker down, assuming Sofia will be wanting it back and will have something else they can package their prize in. She's starting to feel clammy and the color's almost entirely left her face now. "That's a sucker's bet," she tells him. So was the other, honestly. Her tongue feels too thick in her mouth. She's not going to make it. Fishing into her pocket, Rue slaps a crumpled twenty against Avi's chest before pressing her other hand over her mouth and hurrying from the room.

Avi crinkles the bill between three fingers and looks side-long to Sofia over the frames of his sunglasses. "Twenty bucks says she doesn't make it outside." Sofia purses her lips, brows raised.


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