An Ever Thinning Thread of Hope


colette_icon.gif judah_icon.gif

Scene Title An Ever Thinning Thread of Hope
Synopsis After failing to secure the attention of an elderly woman outside a tenement near the Crown Heights Police Station, Colette shows a passerby a picture of her sister and asks if he's seen her.
Date August 27, 2008

Brooklyn — Outside Crown Heights Police Station

Brooklyn: New York City's most populous borough, packed to the gills with ethnic enclaves that house so many people from so many cultural backgrounds it would be the forth-largest city in the United States were it considered an independent entity. As the sun sets, bathing the streets in an otherworldly orange glow, Detective Judah Demsky descends the front steps of Crown Heights with his coat slung over his shoulder. Even on the cusp of night, it's warm enough that he doesn't need anything more than the dress shirt and slacks that he wore to the station this morning. Nearby, on an adjacent street corner, two youths dressed in black occupy themselves with quiet conversation, and although they seem content to stay standing right where they are, their eyes rove the surrounding area, their bodies filled with nervous energy. One of them carries a briefcase tucked under his arm.

"You're sure?" A bit of a conversation could be heard by Detective Demsky as he approached the stoop of a tenement building, "Please, just take one more look?" In front of the brick-faced building a middle-aged woman stood with paper grocery bags under each arm. It didn't take detective skills to see that she was just mildly put-off by the obstruction between her and the steps that went up to the front door. Said obstruction was a young girl, in her mid to late teens with a messy mop of black hair. She stood up on her toes, boots scuffing the sidewalk as she held something in her hand—the angle was all wrong for the detective to get a good look at it as he passed.

"If you don't get the fuck out of my way right now—" Tempers had a way of flaring up in the summer heat, and from the way the increasingly agitated woman shuffled the heavy looking bags in her arms, it was clear she was about to blow up. The dark-haired girl recoiled a bit at the verbal rebuking, "I didn't see shit, now get out of my way!" Her shoulders sloped as it continued, head lowering, and she shoved whatever it was in her hand into the pocket of her jeans. As she moved even a bit out of the way, the older woman muscled past with a derisive snort, heading up the steps to the front door where she set down one of her bags, proceeding to fumble with a set of keys.

"Miserable bitch." The younger girl grumbled under her breath as she crossed directly in front of the detective, stepping right into his path without seemingly noticing that he was even there—

The first year Judah worked as a police officer for the NYPD, he learned that a cop is never off-duty. Even after you've punched out, the sense of dutifulness remains, clinging to you like a wet sponge — or worse — a child at its mother's knee. It's hard to say no, hard to turn away, and so — when the teen steps into the detective's path — he reaches out and gently closes his hand around her shoulder, partly to stop her before she gets too far away and partly to ensure that they don't collide and end up an angry tangle of arms and legs on the pavement. "Whoa there, kiddo. Watch where you're going."

The girl's first reaction was to pull away from the hand on her shoulder, her free hand swatting it away reflexively. When she stumbled to a halt, still within arm's reach, there was a momentary look of wariness and fear on her face. Swallowing nervously, the girl didn't say anything for a moment as she took in the man standing across from her, but slowly she lowered that hand down to her side, "Sorry." She hung her head, teeth drawing across her lower lip, and it was with this motion of her head that her bangs shifted, revealing the milky-white blindness of her right eye. She was, quite literally, blindsided by the detective. "…Sorry." Quieter, this time, and both hands found their way into her pockets as she curled her shoulders forward. With her brow furrowed, she nodded her head once, as if acquiescing that the older gentleman had the right-of-way, and stepped to the side to let him pass.

For a moment, it looks as though Judah is about to take the girl up on her invitation to pass. Then, wordlessly, he glances up the tenement steps at the old woman wrestling with her keys at the door. It's impossible to say whether it's duty or simply curiosity that causes him to pause and linger, the corners of his mouth creasing into a frown. "It's fine," he assures her, his voice softer, more subdued than it was when her first spoke and reprimanded her. "She does look kind of miserable, doesn't she?"

Colette faltered as she began to take a step away from Judah, a grimace spreading across her lips as she realized those hastily mumbled words had been less than private. That moment of humility, though, was short lived. The young girl's expression shifts to something more stern as she lowers her brows, looking up to Judah for a moment, then over her shoulder to the woman she had been speaking with, who was now finally shuffling through the front door. "Yeah…" Her voice is still subdued, and she watches the taller man for a moment, "We all are, right?" There was some hesitation as she shifted weight from one foot to another, and then began to unwind the tied sleeves of a hooded sweater slung around her waist. "Hey, you have a minute?" She pulled the black hoodie up around her shoulders, leaving it unzipped, "I ah…" She fumbled around with one hand in her pocket, producing a bent and partially burned photograph from her pocket. "Could you take a look at this? Tell me if you've seen her somewhere?" It was the same thing she was showing to the woman at the apartments—the girl was tenacious, if nothing else.

The photograph she held up was a candid, the background scenery looking like a restaurant or maybe a bar, dimly lit. Taking up the majority of the picture was a black-haired woman in her twenties with hazel eyes and fair skin. She was smiling, that kind've honest smile that was hard to find in recent years. The other half of the picture was burned away, browned and blackened on the edges and warped. It looked like she might have had her arm around someone, but it's hard to tell.

"Her name is Nicole Nichols." Someone's parents were fans of alliteration, "She's, uh, missing…" So were thousands of other people after the blast, and situations like this weren't as uncommon as it might seem. To this day, thousands are still searching for loved ones lost during the explosion, clinging to that ever thinning thread of hope that they're still alive. "If you recognize her, or, I don't know… If you've seen her around?" She wasn't very adept at talking to others, nervousness was readily obvious in her posture and speech.

Worse, though, the girl in the photo didn't look familiar at all.

Nicole Nichols. Add that name to the pot of thousands, all missing, most existing as nothing more than fragments of bone or bits of fine powder that have settled, like ash, over the city. Judah has long since lost count of the number of times he's been approached by distraught family members inquiring as to the whereabouts of their loved ones. In his line of work, he can't afford to get sentimental. When he inspects the photograph, he maintains an emotional distance, even as he leans forward to get a better look in the fading light. As always, he isn't at all surprised to discover that the subject's face isn't one he recognizes.

"I'm sorry," are the first words out of his mouth because, really, what else is there to say? He tips his head, gesturing the police station with a slight shrug of his shoulder that causes his coat to roll off it and settle in the nook of his long arm. "We can go make a photocopy and put it on file," he suggests, "draft a missing persons report if your parents haven't done that already." Assuming she even has parents. Judah doesn't realize he's made an error until the words have left his mouth. Suddenly tentative, he straightens his back. "You do have parents?"

Lowering the photograph down at the sign Judah didn't recognize her, Colette stuffed it back in her pocket with a disappointed nod. Her eyes drift to the side, glancing in the direction he motioned, remaining quiet all the while. "Nah, cops aren't going to—" She hesitated, realizing the way he phrased the offer, and her posture became a bit more rigid. By this time, though, the detective had already knocked her emotionally off-guard again by asking about parents. "No." She lied. At least, in legal terms she lied. "I live uptown…" She looked the taller man up and down again, suspiciously, "The state of New York is my family, far as anyone is concerned." She bites down on her lower lip, then dismissively waves one hand, taking a wide step back, "Thanks, anyway, for… you know, whatever." That dismissing hand moved up to her face, threading locks of her hair behind one ear as she turned her back on the detective, beginning to walk away.

"Wait." If there's one thing Judah can appreciate about being tall, it's that his long legs give him an edge in a chase, and while he doesn't take off running after the teen, he does move briskly enough to catch up with her after only a few strides. This time, though, he doesn't make a grab for her. Instead, he comes up alongside Colette as he reaches into his coat pocket and retrieves what looks like a business card made out of stiff blue paper. "Here," he says, his tone soft but no less insistent than the sincere expression on his face, "take this. Call me. Please. I need to know who I should contact in case Nicole turns up." He also needs to know who he should be asking for DNA samples, but he somehow doubts that now is the appropriate time to bring swabs up. Later, he can discuss with her the numerous unidentified bodies — and, to greater extent, body parts — that they've been keeping on ice down at the city morgue. If there is a later. That's up to Colette.

Who in their right mind gets their hopes up in this city? "That's okay," Judah murmurs, and — judging by his now-relaxed posture — he's telling Colette the truth. "You have my name, my number. Whenever you're ready." He has neither her name nor her number, and though he might be ready to dive headfirst into the pile of paperwork needed to fill out an official missing persons report for Nicole Nichols, he has no right, or reason, to ask the same of her. He's no expert when it comes to guessing a person's age just by looking at them either, but he doesn't need to be an expert to see that Colette is a minor which might be why he adds, "And in case you don't have access to a phone… you know where to find me, all right?"

Colette's eyes wandered the sidewalk again as detective Demsky spoke, after a short while glancing up across the street at the two people in black standing on the adjacent streetcorner. Looking back after she realized he asked her a question, Colette only gave a shallow nod in response, pursing her lips in thought as she tried to puzzle out what he had asked her while her mind was wandering. "Good luck, you know…" She shrugged one shoulder, "…detecting stuff." She managed to feign a smile at her own awkwardness, "I'm gonna' get going before I'm stuck walking home in the dark, a'right?" She took a few testing steps backwards, her hands lazily hanging in the pockets of her unzipped hoodie.

If Judah is paying attention to the path of Colette's gaze, he opts not to follow it for reasons that are his own. Back on the street corner, the two youths dressed in black are gone. The suitcase that one of them had tucked under his arm, however, sits propped up against a nearby street lamp, illuminated by a pool of dirty light. "Thanks," Judah replies with the slightest hint of a smile, "good luck, you know, not tripping over your own feet."

Colette looks back, wrinkling her nose as she narrows her eyes at Judah for a moment, then only manages to smile—an honest one, before turning back to continue on her way down the street. She watches the street corner for a time, eyeing the briefcase, but then squarely puts her focus back down at her feet as she reaches with both hands to pull up the hood of her sweater as she departs into the ever deepening shadows of the city's dirty streets…

"…in other news, an explosion rocked the Crown Heights Police Station in Brooklyn early this evening, though there has been no immediate word of any injuries. According to Police Commissioner Karen Lau, an explosive ordinance disposal team has been deployed to the site to investigate. A police officer at the scene, who declined to be named, told our reporter the New York Police Department cannot say what caused the explosion, but that the scene itself is littered with brightly-colored streamers — most of them burned by the blast — that read "fortis et liber", the slogan of terrorist group PARIAH.

More on the situation as it develops…"

You'll never take me alive, Copper...

August 26th: Do I Know You?
August 27th: A Good Thing
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License