Always a Fee


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Scene Title Always a Fee
Synopsis Lions and Tigers and Mobsters, Oh My!
Date January 20, 2010

Linderman Building


Somewhere on the sixtieth floor of the Linderman Building, this particularly average Wednesday afternoon is made unusual by the presence of a young woman stepping out from the elevator. Green eyes dart around the elegantly decorated office hall, attention paid to the pair of tall, white marble statues on either side of the elevator's entrance. Smoothing down a mussed tuft of dark hair, Colette Nichols backpedals from the elevator, eyes still focused on the statues before bumping in to a secretary on her way busily back to her desk from lunch.

Grimacing and offering up a stammering apology, Colette weaves around past the now muttering woman and makes her way down the hall, following directions she was offered in the building's front lobby. It's a labyrinthine place, this building, and for her first time actually inside of it, all the more unfamiliar and foreboding. It's the frosted glass door of the public relations department that has Colette's attention stolen, and as the girl carefully pushes the door open, she's nearly walking into someone on their way out.

"'Ey— //" Comes the momentarially startled response of the tall, blonde man juggling a coffee and a cell phone, "watch it// kid." A blue-eyed stare is flicked down towards Colette as she ducs her head down and sheepishly makes her way into the office as Kain Zarek is making his way out for a late lunch. As the door slides shut, she makes her way quietly over to the secretary desk positioned in the middle of the well-appointed room. "I ah— " her throat is cleared, posture still not quite straight. "I've got, um, an appointment with Robert Caliban for one thirty?"

The clock on the wall reads 1:44.

Glancing up from her work, the secretary tucks the phone she was on under her chin and against her shoulder, putting the party on hold. Her stare is silent for a moment, before she points towards the glossy black door with the name Robert Caliban, Linderman Group Public Relations. "Mister Caliban has been expecting you." The secretary states with an only mildly off-put tone of voice.

Ducking her head down and sliding away from the desk, Colette just grimaces broadly and makes her way with clunking bootfalls towards the door. Pausing as she catches her reflection in the gloss surface, she reaches up to straighten the lapels of her unbuttoned suit jacket that is — rather casually — worn over a hooded sweatshirt in some odd minegerie of Goodwill fashion sense.

Knocking on the door at first, Colette gingerly leans into it and pushes it open, squinting one eye part-way shut as she eases herself inside. "Um, m— mister Caliban?"

When you work as a publicist for Daniel Linderman, as Caliban purports to, you develop a disdain for tardiness. If he tallied up all the time he's wasted waiting for late appointments and added it to his life, he'd be a great deal grayer than the few silver hairs at his temples. This may be why he and his companion for the afternoon have broken out the Woodford Reserve and the rosewood humidor he keeps on the bookshelf behind his desk.

A snifter of whiskey in one hand and a Cuban cigar in the other, leather loafers propped up on the edge of his desk as he leans back in his leather chair with one arm folded across his middle, Caliban turns his head to regard the young woman finally joining them with a chilly blue stare that would be friendlier if his eyes didn't resemble two chips of ice.

"Miss Nichols," he greets, his voice a low, throaty purr, "how nice of you to keep your appointment."

After a coffee or seven since the A.M., a good take-me-down is expensive whiskey before the afternoon's even begun to crest its peak. It's what happens when you're not getting a lot of sleep, the need for chemical alterations to force the appropriate mindset. Logan would know.

He's relaxed into his seat, nursing his crystal glass and surrounded now by the low haze from a smoldering cigar. His winter coat is shed by the door, and he's down to what he refers to his Linderman Group best, which is a pitch black suit, a stark white shirt, and a scarlet tie. Still too evening in its angles and shine to be considered tasteful, and his shoes, propped up on the other corner of the desk, have scales in the patent leather, an oily shine casting subtle purple in the inky black, and gold gilt.

They come down and set against the floor at the sound of the door opening, nudging his seat around to glance back. Enough that he can roam pale green eyes up and down Colette's gawky frame.

Grimacing awkwardly, Colette tugs at her lower lip with her teeth. "My— " she points over her shoulder as if to helpfully indicate direction, "My cab got stuck in traffic. Some douchebag skidded off the road on 3rd street 'cause of all the ice and backed up everything for like five blocks." Wrinkling her nose as if taking severe offense to the notion, Colette quietly eases the door shut behind herself, then rolls her shoulders and tucks her hands into the pockets of her jeans as she walks a few more steps into the office, eyeing Caliban's guest with a side-long stare.

"Hey don't— " The teen's lips purse together, "didn't you take my sister to a strip club once?" Not the more appropriate thing to be asking in the middle of the meeting, Colette. "Ah, um— a— nevermind." Both of her hands rise up, waving back and forth dismissively as she takes another meandering step inside, sniffing slightly at the smell of the cigars. "I'm really sorry about bein' late. Um, you— " Green eyes get a little bit wide, "you do still have time, um, to— to talk right?"

Caliban's mouth curls around a smile as he brings his cigar up to his lips. It isn't fat like the type Winston Churchill used to favour — it is, in fact, a skinny little thing as far as cigars go — dark and potent. He sets his snifter aside on a glass coaster, removes his feet from the desk and adopts a more professional posture with his back straight in his chair and his chin indicating the empty seat beside Logan.

"You're too young to drink and your teeth are too white to smoke," he says, pointedly ignoring her question. This is probably a good sign. "What can I get you? Some tonic water? A Fanta?"

"So when did you start booking meetings with young girls?" Logan asks, relaxing back into his seat, turning his own cigar around in his fingers as he lifts his chin to Caliban, a facetious smirk hooking at the corner of his mouth. The lines that naturally run beneath his eyes are deeper than usual, shadowed, but it doesn't stop him from dealing a brief wink over towards the older man. "Isn't that my area of expertise?"

He leans forward, tapping excess ash into the shared ceramic tray between them, still not really looking at Colette after that previous once over. "Nichols. No, you're mistaken. Your sister took herself to my strip club, and we've been good friends ever since."

"I— ah, nn— I'm fine." Colette awkwardly dismisses with a roll of one shoulder and an awkward look to Logan. "Look I— I'm already late so, so I don't want to take too much of your time. It's really cool that you even wanted to talk to me." Really cool, hear that Caliban you're really cool. "I um, got some… uh, stuff…" Moving right over to Caliban's desk as if it were show and tell time, Colette unshoulders her green canvas messenger bag and slings it up onto the desk with a heavy clunk of god knows what she keeps in it.

As she rummages around inside, there's a smile cracked and a side-long look over to Logan with an unusually bubbly laugh. "Yeah, okay that sounds about right. She owuldn't take me," Colette appends at the end with a roll of her eyes, turning to look back down inside of the bag, rummaging through stacks of folded papers before pulling out what looks like a page that was cut from an old road atlas.

"My um, my friend— Pastor Sumpter— was kidnapped a few weeks ago, like I said on your voicemail." Because Colette invariably acts like she owns whereever she is, she begins spreading out the atlas pages on Caliban's desk. "This girl I know who has this uh— " Colette's nosr wrinkles, "she finds people. Um, she pinpointed Joseph to this building here." This map has crayon markings on it, a city block is circled in green, arrows are drawn in odd places, some streets are scribbled out in red. It looks like a map of Midtown's accessible roads.

"He— um," Colette is rambling at a babblingly-fast rate, assuming that since she's already late she hardly has time to dawdle. "I went to this guy who does object readings, he said that Joseph was probably going to these Refrain anonymous meetings at the Suresh Center. So— um," green eyes dart over to Logan. "I— I dunno." She's exceptionally nervous. "I just— I know you and mister Linderman were there that day I met you, and— he said he could help if I needed something, so— I just figured, I mean…" there's a tight swallow and Colette makes an awkward noise in the back of her throat.

She really didn't think this whole presentation out further than "make a mess on Caliban's desk."

The look that Caliban fires off across the desk at Logan is withering, and when his attention shifts back to Colette, the manner in which he scrutinizes the state of his desk isn't much nicer. "I'm a publicist, Miss Nichols," he berates the girl, though the tone of his voice is carefully measured, almost gentle. "My job is to portray Mister Linderman in the best light that the political climate will allow. Please don't take offense when I tell you that there's very little I can do for this pastor of yours."

And if Colette was anyone else, that would be the end of the conversation. Fortunately for her — and fortunately for Joseph — she's also the younger sister of one of Linderman's most valued employees, which means she gets preferential treatment in the eyes of Nicole's co-workers. Or at least this one. "That said," he continues, "I will attempt everything that's presently in my power. John, what do you make of it?"

During Colette's presentation, Logan sits in cynical, apathetic silence as he regards her, her words, the map. The change over from that to avid interest is near invisible, but it happens somewhere while Caliban is replying. When his name is summoned, Logan stands up, setting aside his glass of whiskey to peer at the atlas a little better, as if trying to recognise the location from some dregs of memory that he's forcing himself to scrape into coherency. "Dunno," he tells Caliban, bringing up his cigar to take another thick cloud of smoke from it, letting it out in dragon curls that mist out a moment later. "But it's a familiar location."

He looks at Colette with a moment of suspicion, unfair in some ways, but it bridles. "So you know the where, but not the who?" he deduces, leaning a hip against the edge of the desk, a hand up to smooth wrinkles from his dark red tie, thumb playing along a golden tie clip. "Are you sure your friend is kidnapped? What else do you know, about what's going on in there?"

"Pub— Publicist, right." Colette makes a quiet, embarrassed noise, reaching for the atlas page hesitantly, then snatching it up and folding it, tucking it into her bag again. "Sorry I— " one of her hands brushes shakily through her hair. "When I asked her about you, Sis' said you were like, the guy who fixes everything. I just— I— I'm sorry, I saw the cigars and the booze and I thought— for a minute— maybe all the mobster stories were right." There's a strangely disheartened look on Colette's face, like she was just told unicorns aren't real. When her shoulders shrink forward, it's Logan's comment that the location is familiar that gives her pause.

Green eyes go up to their near mirrors in Logan's, and for that brief moment there is a glimmer of hope— hope from John Logan— how twisted is that? "I um," his questions give her pause, even if momentary. "I went and checked it out, it's super quiet on the outside, all boarded up and stuff, but the thermal goggles my friend had said there was movement on the inside from people, and heat. Most of the abandoned buildings on the edge of Midtown don't have heat anymore, 'cause they got cut off when the land lines broke."

As if this was an entirely ordinary conversation to have, Colette slides her bag off of the table and sets it down ont he floor with a heavy clunk. "Um, I dunno much else about it. But— he had to have been kidnapped," she says in the way a teenager is certain about everything. "He didn't tell anybody where he was going, he abandoned his dog, and he just— he disappeared. The last time this happened Humanis First had him, and— I just— I don't— want something like what happened before to happen again."

It's relatively obvious, especially to Caliban, that she should've— could've— gone to the police about this. Her adoptive father is an NYPD detective, this sort've thing should be up one side of the NYPD and down the other by now. But she hasn't, which means she's got something worth hiding.

It just so happens that secrets worth hiding are Caliban's specialty. He abandons his cigar, still smoking, on the lip of a nearby ashtray and spreads both his rough hands across the map to smooth the wrinkles from it. "You'd be surprised," he says, not unkindly, "the lengths that some addicts will go to for the sake of getting a fix. You said that Sumter was attending Refrain Anonymous meetings at the Suresh Center?"

There's an arch of both his blond brows, but the question is apparently a rhetorical one because he does not allow Colette the opportunity to answer it. "If you want our help, we're going to need full disclosure. What is said in this room stays between the three of us and Nicole if she is so inclined to participate in this little adventure. Why did you come to us before the authorities when your father has built a career on this sort of thing?"

Continuing to lean against the office desk, Logan finishes off his last sip or two of Woodford, and sets the empty glass down with a noisy clink. "Not all the mobster stories are right," he says, fingernails clicking against glass as he regards her for a moment. "Only the good ones. Robert's right, though. You've got your sister in with us, but your father's in the NYPD. Aren't you a little young to be disillusioned by the authorities' effectiveness?"

Huffing out a sigh, Colette looks back and forth between Logan and Caliban, her dark brows furrowed. Can she I these people? When that thought goes rattling around in her head, there's a lot of things layered in there that make Colette wonder. Their employer has taken good care of Nicole all these years, healed her sight, and they're keeping her ability a secret. Biting down on her lower lip, Colette folds her hands behind her back, then angles a side-long look down Caliban's desk.

"I— have… kind've a lot of reasons." Colette notes in a hushed tone of voice. "Um, see— I— I don't want to put my dad in like," her teeth toy at her lower lip, "in a bad spot, you know? Like— he's already hiding a lot've stuff, you know?" Rolling her tongue over the inside of her cheek, Colette's dark brows furrow and she exhales a sharp breath.

If she can't trust her sister's friends, who can she trust?

"I've got a lot to hide." Colette notes in a quiet tone of voice, holding up her hand with fingers closed. When she unwinds her thin digits, there is a luminous butterfly made from solid, radiant colored of purple and red, blue dappled spots glittering on the wingtips as they flap open and closed. She smiles, nervously, and as her fingers close around the butterful, it breaks up into tiny firefly-like motes of colorless light.

"So— so there's— you know, there's other people who have stuff to hide like me." Scratching at the side of her cheek, Colette looks down and away from Robert and John. "Maybe Joseph helps… hide people who have things to hide?" When she finally does look back at Caliban, it's with an anxiously pensive expression.

"If the police got involved, they— they might find out stuff that I don't want them to." Because clearly these two upstanding gentlemen would never use priviliged information to their benefit!

"It would be helpful," Caliban suggests, "if we knew what it is you'd like to keep private, otherwise how are we to handle what we might uncover during the course of our investigation?" His eyes track the progress of the twinkling motes as they dance playfully through the air like lit embers without any of the heat. "I've heard rumours," he adds, tone neutral, "about an underground railroad that smuggles American men and women across the border into Canada and Mexico so they can escape registration."

The chances of Caliban's office being bugged by anyone except Caliban himself are slim to none, and although he takes special care when it comes to choosing his words, they carry a kind of confidence that isn't often heard except by people who are asking questions they already know the answers to. "Were Pastor Sumter to be involved in such an effort, I feel as though it would be both to our benefit and yours if you told us everything you can about his associations should he have been targeted because of them."

Moving away with all the unobstrusive coming and going of a house cat, Logan moves towards the bottle of whiskey they'd been sharing to refill. The span of his back is clad in nondescript, expensive black, and that he turns it gives very little away as to what he's thinking and feeling about the conversation, from Colette's tentative attempts through to Caliban's more practiced prying. For now, he remains quiet, listening while amber alcohol trickles into clear crystal.

Making a sound in the back of her throat, Colette wrinkles her nose. "I— don't know if that's such a good idea. I mean it— it doesn't really matter why something happened to him. I know where he is, and I know it's this building," Colette offers a squint to her bag, "I just— I don't know what to do or— or how. The last place he went was one of those Refrain meetings, I just… don't understand how that makes any sense."

Sighing quietly, Colette brushes her face over her face and makes an uncomfortable noise in the back of her throat again. "I— I really can't tell you anything more about them, m'not supposed to even tell you as much as I did." Which, in a way, is confirmation of Caliban's suspicions. "Either you… you know something that can help, or you don't. But— I can't just break all those people's trust, not— not for one person." Swallowing awkwardly, in such a fashion that she's not sure if she said the right thing to Caliban or not, Colette flicks a look between Logan and the older man.

"I just… I don't know where else to turn for help. All've my friends aren't around to help, so— so I just— " Colette's brows furrow, fingers curl into her palms, and she looks up to Caliban again with a somewhat more resolved look. "If it comes down to it, an' you need to know more, I— can… get you a meeting with someone who knows more. But— but that's only a last resort."

"It matters." Caliban traces the edge of his thumb along crayon marks on Colette's map. "Why he was targeted and by whom dictates how we approach the situation. Are we walking into a building with minimal security, or are we sticking our necks into a guillotine?" He leans back in his chair again, leather creaking, and lifts both his hands off the desk to scratch an itch just beneath his chin with his fingertips. "I want that meeting regardless of what we decide to do. I've been trying to get in contact with the Ferrymen for years. You owe me that much for agreeing to see you."

"Hang on, Robert." That from Logan, apparently, as if to leash the other man, which is a rarity in itself. The pale-eyed glance he deals his superior isn't apologetic, naturally, simply assessing before he rejoins the conversation physically, turning back towards it with one hand slipping into a black pocket, the other wrapping long fingers around the glass. "You'll get your meeting," he amends, though keeps Colette in his sights. "If Miss Nichols wants our trust, that is. But I know the situation. Somewhat."

He sips his whiskey, shrugs one slim shoulder. "At least I suspect who — one of my buyers is going back and forth from that very location. Knowing her— what I know of her— your friend likely got picked up for being an addict. A pharmaceuticals company, and no, I'm not telling you anything else until you can assure Robert that you'll be very helpful to what he wants from you. I for one wouldn't mind meeting this girl of yours. The one that finds people, as you put it."

He raises an eyebrow at her. "We're not going to be asking you for money," Logan points out. "But there's always a fee."

Crossing her arms over her chest, Colette looks left and right between Logan and Caliban, considering the two carefully for a while before breathing out a tired sigh and nodding her head. After having lost as many hours of sleep on this problem as she has, she can't rightfully turn her nose up at resource that could solve all of this and get Joseph home. It's that nagging voice in the back of her head, the one that tells her not to trust anyone that has her holding her tongue.

"I… I can talk to people. I mean— the whole organization's not like— there's no leader. It's just seperate groups. I mean, I know a couple who're in charge of things, who.. probably would be willing to talk?" One of Colette's dark brows lift up slowly. "I can ask them if they're willing to meet with you guys, but I can't really like— make them."

Shifting a side-long glance to Logan, Colette furrows her brows anxiously. "Is— will that work? I mean, m'not really important in their whole thing. I don't have a lot of say, you know? But— but I can try."

Try is good enough for Caliban. He curls fingers around his snifter of brandy and pauses to drink from it, saying nothing in the interim. Colette has not yet directly addressed Logan's request to meet with her other friend. Or maybe he just wants to see how the younger man handles this now that he's taken the reins.

Normally, Logan is a hard bargainer. Normally, he doesn't have a personal stake in the transaction apart from getting the most out of the deal without damaging it. By rights, he could put on a decent show, here, but uncertainty mutes him for a moment as he regards Colette, who is not exactly the biggest challenge presented after shaking hands with the likes of the Ghost Shadows leadership, various drug lords, crime leaders. The prospect of a girl who can find anyone is an indefinite promise, but rather than solidify it, he says;


Just fine, a slight curl of his lip showing teeth before another sip of whiskey warms his blood stream. "You try, we'll try. 's all we can really guarantee, innit?" He sets down his glass, letting out a sigh sharp with the fumes of alcohol. "So what is it you're looking for? Information? Firepower? The woman in charge or just your friend?"

One black brow goes up at something Logan says, green eyes squinting for a moment in scrutiny at the comment. A year ago Colette would have been too oblivious to notice the suggestion, but thankfully there's at least a little less air between those ears of hers as of late. "Ww— Woman in charge?" She's almost hesitant to parrot back the morsel of information. "I— " the notion of firepower has her both anxious and intrigued, in that same sort of way she is about the Remnant.

"I don't— really know?" Grimacing awkwardly, Colette looks back and forth between Logan and Caliban, shrinking back ever so slightly as she unwinds her arms from around herself, hands tucking hidden within the sleeves of her jacket. "Like, I think— I don't know anything about who's got him, or like, why. So— so I guess that's what matters most. If you guys can find— " Colette hesitates, cutting herself off. "If you guys know who's doing this, and can just— wave your hands and make it stop, then…"

Making an awkward noise in the back of her throat, the teen's weight shifts from one foot to the other. "All I want is Joseph safe. I— " she should be more careful with how she words this, "I don't really care how, just— just as long as he's safe, as long as he can get away."

Caliban runs his tongue behind is teeth and continues to stew in silence behind the veil of smoke wafting up from the tip of his cigar, which he has taken back between his knuckles and is holding at a downward angle. His eyes move between Logan and Colette, eventually settling on the former when the latter pieces together her final answer. He can't blame the girl for being tentative — when he was a child, he immersed himself in storybook realms populated by djinns, goblins, dragons and all manner of creatures skilled in deception and trickery. If he was in her position, he'd be careful about how he worded things too.

"It's not that simple," Logan says, voice callous. "Like I told you, I suspect the person in charge of this place," a jabbing point towards the atlas, "is a buyer of mine. I can't just make her operation go away with a flick of a fucking fairy wand, girl."

But at least he knows what she desires, and that doesn't include him spilling everything about his dealins with Dolores Rusk, how he knows the location, why he cares. And what he needs is to think. "Here's what you're going to do," he says, voice taking on a more patient edge. "You're going to gather as much information as you and your little friends can about the place, and forward it to me. Robert's right — we need a clearer picture. We could also stand to know what's going on in there, too."

He glances to Caliban, shrugs. "Somehow I don't think we're dealing with a sodding pharmaceutical company anymore."

Buyers is a loaded term, it has contexts and definitions that are on the wrong side of the thesaurus from where Colette wants this conversation to be. But Refrain is Refrain, and if she didnt think this was all somehow connected on coming here, she certainly does now. "Ah— a-llright." The teen's words come out a bit hesitant, more out of nervousness than consideration now. "Alright," she reiterates with a bit less wishy-washy stuttering, "we'll figure out whatever we can. Then…" One of Colette's green eyes squints some, "exactly how're you guys going to help?"

"I mean— " One of her small hands waves in the air, "if this is who you think it is, or— whatever's going on— how're you going to be able to help? Because once we get information on what's going on inside, I— " Colette's brows furrow, one hand rubbing at her forehead. "I just want to know what to expect. But— I'll do what you asked, I… I just need to know what to tell everyone else."

And likely tell them without naming names, because right now this is one very high-grassed lion's den.

In his pinstripe suit and thinner head of dirty blond hair going gray, Caliban resembles a tiger more than he does a lion. But tall grass is tall grass — what's coming for you doesn't particularly matter as long as it has hooked claws and a mouthful of dagger teeth. As he takes a drag from his cigar and blows smoke through his nostrils and mouth, he rolls the tension from his shoulders and arches the small of his back off his chair to relieve some pressure from his spine.

He beats Logan to it, this time. "John and I will do whatever is necessary," he says. "Nothing more and nothing less."

There's a little relief, when Caliban slides in his answer first. Not visible, but glad for a united front. Logan lowers himself back into his chair, picks up the cigar he'd left alone in the ashtray, smoldering slowly still. "Short of razing it to the ground," he adds in agreement, dealing her a thin smile as he lounges back into his seat. He doesn't take a hit of choking smoke, just studies the burning embers for a moment before asking, flippant, "Was that all, love?"

Uneasily settling the shoulder strap of her courier bag over one shoulder, Colette looks silently from Logan to Caliban and back again at the question offered to her. She's silent, teeth toying at her lower lip, nose wrinkled, everything about her saying pensive things about this agreement. It's only the quietly murmured, "Yeah," that seems to solidify an end to their business arrangements. Colette can tell she's looking more and more like a rabbit in a room full of raptors, and perhaps that's why she squares her shoulders, feigns a confident smile, and nods her head more affirmatively to Logan.

"I'll give you guys a call once I know something, and— uh— " Dawning on Colette's expression is something unusual, a crooked smile of an idea forming. "I think I know who might be willing to talk to you guys too. I'll see if she'll be willing, and then get in touch. You should hear from me soon."

As she starts to turn for the door, Colette pauses, looking back to Logan and Caliban, smiling faintly. "Oh and— thanks." It's a simple, but uncommon gesture of appreciation for their line of work. "This means a lot to me."

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