An Ocelot Walks Into a Bar


alister_icon.gif chess_icon.gif etienne_icon.gif luther_icon.gifsibyl_icon.gif tibby_icon.gif

Scene Title An Ocelot Walks Into a Bar
Synopsis Alister goes looking for trouble and finds it.
Date March 10, 2018

The Crooked Point

The weather advisory recommended against being out on the water, and those who have chosen to heed it congregate where there's both warmth and liquor. The Crooked Point is one such establishment on Staten Island. Rain whips against the yacht-club-turned-dive-bar's windows and wind shrieks in the trees outside, rattling the thinnest branches and causing thicker ones to loudly bemoan the storm.

The mainlanders who are stranded on the island for the night are complaining, too. With even the most shoddily-constructed clandestine ferries out of service until the weather system passes, they crowd around tables or warm their hands by the fire, speaking amongst themselves in low, strained tones. Most of them are smugglers themselves, or scavengers that alternate between the tangled ruins of Staten Island and the more lucrative but unstable labyrinth of bombed out buildings that used to be the Bronx.

No one is going anywhere tonight except to bed, if they're able to find one in the neighboring Rookery.

Among the travelers waiting for passage back to the Safe Zone is a small, squat man surrounded by cages and cages of exotic birds stacked twice as tall as he is. A low peal of distant thunder sends a panic through the hodgepodge flock of brightly-colored parrots and lorikeets, their voices shrill and wings aflutter. The man uses a handkerchief to wipe a wet white smear off the shoulder of his suit jacket — or tries to. It isn’t coming out.

Sometimes, a man just needs to get a good stiff drink. Not the kind to be found in the Safe Zone, but something harder and more - possibly - illegal. For the moment, Luther has a drink and a booth to himself to wait out the weather. The man's looking outside, watching the storm, but glances back around when the thunder scares the birds nearby. He looks concerned. Not for the man's suit jacket, but for the birds.

Alister stands there are the door blows open from the wind, his Colonel Sanders suit he decided to wear today blowing in the wind. He clearly has a large revolver strapped to his side as he walks in, slamming the door shut. "I need something to make Eileen stop scratching things! De-claw her!" he shouts at the exotic bird man.

There's a New York newcomer seated by the windows, holding in his hands a steaming mug of warmed, dark red wine, obviously bought for the heat it disperses through ceramic and into his rough palms rather than strictly its taste. Etienne Saint James hasn't had much time to dry off, with rain water still dotted on his leather jacket and hair hanging in damp tails. He is currently entertaining company in the form of a mainlander standing hunched over him, doing most of the talking, finally taking out some folded bills to offer out, which draws Etienne's attention back in.

A sharp word has that money disappearing again, and the mainlander grouses, pushing away. Apparently, a ticket back to the mainland, in this weather, comes at a heftier price than that.

As the sudden shout for declawing rings out, he looks to Alistair with a curious, baffled flick of an expression that has the journey his wine takes up to his mouth pause in mid-lift.

Chess is currently winning.

At darts, anyway.

She's pissed off at being stuck on Staten, as the scowl on her face might indicate, but she may as well win a few bucks. She knows not to hustle or overuse her ability too much, but it's helpful in giving those darts a little extra speed and spin. It's not enough to notice — though if Luther glances her way, he might suspect she's playing with more than just luck and a smile.

"Cheers," the woman says, nodding to the other contestants and folding the bills to tuck into the courier bag at her side. She moves toward the bar to order a whiskey, glancing over at the shouting Alister, brow lifting curiously.

The man, who goes by the name Eshaan Guzman and deals in exotic wildlife, uses the tips of his fingers to fold his handkerchief. He stares at Alister from across the bar and squints. With only the light of the fire and scattered candles to illuminate the bar’s interior, it takes him a moment longer than it normally might to recognize Alister— or Alister’s mustache as the case might be. “I’m sorry, Mr. Black?” he asks. “You want me to do what?”

Unsure of what to do with the soiled handkerchief, he simply tucks it into his pocket for later disposal. Alister’s sidearm gets a brief glance, but that’s all. "To what exactly are you referring?"

"Declaw Eileen, that goddamned ocelot!" Alister slams his fist against the bar rather hard. "I paid good money for that thing, and it's clawing up my furniture. I expect you to take responsibility!"

The storm known as Alister entering draws several eyes, including Luther's. Not that he wants to eavesdrop, but they're being obvious enough. And it's not until he sweeps the rest of the room that he sees Chess there, and the man sits up straight at the recognition. Slowly, he pushes to a stand, grabbing his drink and moving to approach the darts section, expecting to catch her while she's still there.

It's a crowded bar, and so one cluster of chaos is easy enough to ripple throughout the press of bodies. Those nearby shifting away from the argument, some leaning back into their seats to crane their necks and get an eye on the confusion. Etienne is more among the latter, having had plenty of time before now to eye up the man with the animals, and so now watches Alister.

The start of a crooked smile at his face as the mustachio'd gentleman makes his demands. Etienne knocks back a gulp of wine — spilling partway from the corner of his mouth — before he gets to his feet, and starts to move. Not for the darts.

Alister's mention of declawing an ocelot gets a look of disapproval from the young woman. "Maybe don't buy exotic animals if you can't handle them," she mutters, more to herself than for Alister's ears, or for the man who is meant to do the declawing. She shakes her head slightly, turning to head toward the bar, stopping when she sees Luther's barrel chested form in front of her.

"Tell me you're not trying to babysit me again," she says, but it's in a wry tone, lips quirking into a half smile.

"I'm not entirely sure what you expected an ocelot to do with your furniture," Guzman admits, a little sheepishly. "And I do seem to recall warning you about that particular animal's proclivities before you purchased it from me." He sniffles. Water collects in his beard, the tips of his dark eyelashes, and his hair, which is plastered to his neck beneath the black felt songkok he wears on his head.

"Would you rather I took it off your hands for you?" he asks. "I can't refund you the full amount, of course. Kittens go for a premium and I imagine it's a fair bit larger now than it was a few months ago. Seventy-five percent of your original purchase price sounds fair, hm?"

"Seventy-five percent?!" Alister practically explodes, starting to pace back and forth. "I am a benevolent leader, Bird Man, I am not generally one to lose my temper. Perhaps declawing is a bit extreme." he looks over at Chess, because whispers do not escape the sphere of Treachery.

But, looking back at Bird Man, he takes a deep breath. "I will give you one week to find a trainer for this ocelot. No, I am not going to say 'or else', I'm not going to answer 'who are you to make demands', and I am not going to give you more money." He points at the man, dramatically. "You have one week. A trainer. You should know where to send this trainer."

"Chess," Luther says with a quick glance to the men who talk about ocelots, like he didn't really hear that right. But he did. Then it's back to the woman, and a wry quirk of a smile twists up. "Not here to send you to your room if that's what you're expecting. You got a drink to go with that victory?" He nods back towards the bar.

Chess actually laughs, which is a thing he hadn't seen the last he'd seen her. "War dad, it's good to see you," she murmurs, and gives him a quick, back-slapping hug, before moving away. Nothing too maudlin — they're in a den of iniquity and all. "Not yet. You need a refill?" she asks, before glancing at Alister when he relents a bit on his declawing scheme. "Perhaps," she murmurs, faux haughtiness tingeing her words.

Now Guzman is narrowing his eyes at Alister. "A trainer," he repeats. "You want me to find a trainer for your— " He shudders in a deep breath, removing his songkok to adjust his thinning hair and sweep the straggliest strands back into a more flattering shape. "Look, Mr. Black," he starts again, and his is very careful to keep his tone even and deferential. "What do you take me for? I'm a businessman, not a ringmaster. I don't have animal trainers at my disposal. For all I knew, you wanted the animal's skin, not its company. I—"

Whatever excuse he was about to feed Alister next is cut short as a yowl rises like a banshee scream from outside the bar. The animal in question strains at the end of a long, taut leash, and plows inside a few paces behind Alister. Oversized paws galumph over wood.

Gripping the leash in two white-knuckled hands is a small girl dressed in a wool coat with a rabbit fur collar and black cotton dress bleeding dye down her legs. She reels back on it like a fisherman wrestling a shark, even though the animal is tinier than she is. Rhinestones wink in the ocelot's collar and its eyes shine with excitement when it spies the caged birds squawking on the other side of the room.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Black," Sibyl says, blinking away rainwater. More pools around her boots and streaks her cheeks. "I know you asked us to wait outside, but she won't— she doesn't listen."

"Don't worry, Sibyl." Alister's tone is very different with her than with the Bird Man, he speaks in a very kind, nurturing tone, and even offers a genuine smile. "Eileen is a beast from the lowest levels of Hell, who only exists to torment, just like the woman I named her after. The chef made ice cream for you, you'll have some when we return home."

He sighs, looking over at the birds. "Eileen is hungry. She devours life whenever possible. The more helpless and the highest its potential for suffering, the more hungry she becomes." He walks over to take the leash, not wanting it to tug Sibyl around anymore. "Bird Man, I'm going to let you go for now. My young student has to learn that there are times when one should be benevolent and forgiving, and times when one should punish a lack of accommodation."

He looks down at Sibyl, calmly explaining. "I considered shooting that man in the arm, and do you know why I didn't? Because that man truly didn't have the means to give me what I wanted. It would have been senseless cruelty. Never commit cruelty when you truly have nothing to gain, when someone only wronged you out of pure ignorance and oafish incompetence."

It really is a surprise for Luther to see Chess, but he looks glad to see her. The hug returned with a light squeeze, nothing too outwardly affectionate but warm nonetheless. "I could go for a refill," he says, a step after Chess. His gaze swings back towards the ocelot-related conversation, and then slows an extra step at the sight of the wildcat followed by the woman behind it. What. The man narrows his eyes then turns away with a low grumble. "A refill is definitely needed."

"You ought to keep walking," comes a voice from Alister's flank. Deeply gravelled and strangely accented, Etienne sounds like perhaps he did originate in Britain at some point prior to the islands, perhaps toured some African coasts, before landing on American soil. He's not so much tall as he is built big, broad shouldered, and now leaning against one of the stonework supports just nearby.

Between his fingers, he's rolling tighter a twisted cigarette, and he glances down to Sibyl, then back to Alister, light blue eyes flatly assessing. "And take the girl — and the bloody cat — out of here."

Mouths like that don't tend to go unbloodied, in these waters.

"Huh," says Chess when the menagerie in the little bar gains another member, this one of the feline variety. "You know, they tell you stories, 'don't go to Staten Island or you'll be shanked.' They never warn you about the parrots and ocelots, though," she asides to Luther, putting a bill on the bar and lifting two fingers to the bartender. "Whiskeys," she says, because crappy whiskey will at least get her drunk, while crappy beer won't.

She glances over her shoulder as Etienne shows Alister the exit, looking amused and a bit intrigued — her eyes dart to Sibyl, though, and she tilts her head curiously.

"I'm standing right here," Guzman reminds Alister. "And I can hear you."

Other people can hear him, too. Two men dressed in leathers and wool have risen from the fireplace, their eyes gleaming a little like the ocelot's, only it isn't Guzman's product that's attracted their attention. Sibyl is only half-listening to Alister's guidance; living alone on Staten Island has instilled in her an innate sense of cautiousness and connection to her surroundings. Her gaze tracks the pair's approach, and she instinctively shrinks back against the wall, making herself appear inconsequential beside Alister.

She's not the one that's drawn their interest, either.

"Took me a minute," one of the strangers says, "but people keep bleatin' Mr. Black, Mr. Black, Mr. Black, and I finally figure you must be Alister. Grand Poobah over at the Trade Commission, yeah?"

It's phrased like a question and even has that distinctive lilt at the end. But it isn't. The stranger's companion rests a hand on the pistol he keeps holstered at his hip.

Etienne was right. Alister should have kept walking.

"Not so fast, friend," the stranger says to Etienne with an easy smile. "No need for anybody to be gettin' a move on just yet."

"Oh… really?" Alister looks down at Sibyl, then over at Etienne, then he just starts laughing. "I should keep walking, take the girl, and my cat… HAHAHAHAHA oh boy…"

"Sibyl, a lesson that I want you to remember, is that you should never simply accept disrespect. Some people, when they see you, when they see your propriety, they take you for someone who's never strangled a man with his bare hands before."

He keeps laughing, he even slaps his thigh with his free hand. "A man, or a young woman, has to strike with the hand of god, raise their hand with righteous fury…"

He stops, pausing when the two men stand up, and he spots the pistol that the man has his hand raised on, then just starts laughing again, before he quickly draws his revolver and fires three shots, two aimed at the man with the pistol's chest, and one aimed at his head before he points the revolver at the second man. "Sibyl, sometimes people don't know their place, and you have to remind them."

The first two shots blow the stranger backwards, and his foot hooks in a nearby chair, sending him straight to the floor. In the same instant, his companion's hand snaps up and a concussive boom ripples through the bar with enough force to hurl Alister off his feet and into the cages filled with birds. The blast crumples metal, fills the air with an explosion of blood and feathers as the cages topple on top of Alister, burying him beneath the a pile of dented steel and hundreds of obliterated bird bodies.

The man on the ground pushes himself back up into a sitting position, his face twisted into a scowl — or an expression of intense concentration. Alister's bullets pop out of his chest and tinkle to the floor, rolling across wooden slats as he shakily rises to his feet.

"You shouldn'ta done that," he tells Alister.

Guzman wisely takes shelter beneath a table.

"If you think that's weird, you ought to see what goes down in Park Slope," Luther replies to Chess as the woman puts her bill on the bar. But. The whiskey is going to have to wait. Luther just happens to look in the direction of the men gathering. When the gun comes out, the man makes a grab for Chess to yank her down to the floor. Whatever is on it, he's not going to think about.

As Alister talks — and laughs, and talks more — in response to his courteous advice, Etienne brings up his cigarette to lick along the loose edge of paper, very much observing what's happening from his lean in spite of being merely feet away from the action. He doesn't say anything to the bros who come a-strolling closer, save to give them a look that communicates, as plainly as possible without any words, that he is absolutely not their friend.

And then the dim noise of the dive bar cracks wide open with gunshots.

Etienne's startle is a little like if you whacked a lion on the tip of its nose with a newspaper, posture stiffening and a chuff of air exhaled through broad sinuses, more confused than afraid, but immediately on his guard, cigarette tumbled forgotten as he brings his hand as he reverses from his position just in time for that slam of concussive force to ripple through the air. He whips a look towards where Alister is tangled up among cages and pierces of bird, blood spattered, feathers sticking in crimson.

Enough fucking around, then. Banking on the element of surprise, Etienne immediately launches himself at the concussive blasts guy at an airborne tackle of hard impact and a knife in his hand, which he intends to get to this man's throat upon landing. Which they do. There's an almighty thump as both crash to the floor, a table upended, cans of half-finished beer going skittering.

Chess has her back to Alister and the men trying to escort him out, though she's just about to look over her shoulder again as the man gives his protege(??) pointers on how to be a crime lord, or whatever this lecture series is about. Luther's grabbing her and she scowls when the gunshots ring out, pulling the barstool she was sitting on down with her, her hands on it so she can use it as either a shield or a missile.

The question is, who does she throw it at? She's not entirely sure whose at fault — everyone seems a bit like an asshole, to be honest. Including the ocelot. Maybe not Guzman.

"Park Slope's a fucking city on a hill, I don't know what you're talking about," she mutters to Luther.

Coming here was normal for the South African woman now and Tibby had wanted a bru and a smoke. She was having that smoke now but the joint was finished. She throws the finished herb to the ground and stamps out the embers before giving her feline friends a look. They're everywhere with her on Staten Island and tonight is no different.

Seven in total and they are of various shapes and sizes. The tiniest of them a small tabby cat shivering from the cold. Mink Mink was her name. Adze came up in the rear, their tails swishing his tail. Oya was no where to be seen. There's a commotion inside and the tiny woman blinks. "Fucking dronk doos."

Tibby cracks her knuckles as she crouches pulling out her pistol and nudging the door open with her butt. She peeks in. "Fuck.." one by one the cat filter in, slipping into the corners of the place.

Tibby feels the mind of another cat, an ocelot. And she gently nudges the feline's mind. Hello friend.

Alister groans, and looks down at the birds that have been crushed under his weight. Well…

Also there's the ringing in his ears, and the horrible back and head pain.

"Ugh… now I have a headache, back pain, and there's blood on my suit…"

He starts trying to pull himself up, then rests on one knee. "I could use someone with a trick like that…" he doesn't seem to have hard feelings or really consider that he just tried to attempted murder the man. "How much?" he asks as he sticks a finger in his ear. Annoying ringing… "What's a little attempted murder between business partners?"

He looks around and spots his gun on the floor, then he coughs a few times.

Ow, his ribs, those hurt too. "How about I hire you both, then you won't have to kill each other."

At some point during the chaos, Sibyl lost her grip on the leash. It hardly matters now; the ocelot is loose, somewhere, but she's at Alister's side, helping him to his feet and kicking away the collapsed cages, which look like they've been pressed by a trash compactor. Blood fills the gaps between the floorboards and trickles down the slanted ground at a tilt.

Etienne's target twists and writhes beneath him, one leg jammed between the other man's thighs in an attempt to lever him off. They're roughly the same size and build, so are evenly matched. He channels all his energy — the non-concussive kind — into his arms, maintaining the space he needs between them to keep Etienne's knife away from his throat. Both his hands grip the arm that wields the weapon by the wrist. "C'mon, Saint James," he hisses, his lips peeled back around what looks like a wolfish smile. "We'll— split it— with— you—"

His partner, the man with either the impenetrable skin or healing factor, unholsters his own pistol from its holster. He wipes the corner of his mouth with the back of a grubby, grease-stated hand. "Don't think so, Mr. Black," he says, pointing the weapon at Alister. "That your kid?" He means Sibyl. "I'm gonna shoot you first so she can watch."

Tibby can't see the ocelot, but she can sense it bristling in the darkness, a growl rattling in the back of its throat.

"So, let me understand…" Alister starts to talk, when his life is threatened. "You're going to kill me, a business man with no ability, who walked into a bar with only a revolver, an ocelot, and a child, who is offering you the courtesy of a business transaction…"

He shakes his head, looking disappointed. "And, after killing me and said child, assuming that I do indeed die, you expect there to be no consequences and to walk out of here alive? Why, because your ability makes you feel invincible?"

"Take the deal." He motions his arm to move Sibyl behind him, then smiles.

"I insist."

Landing on the floor with a pained grunt, Luther is not nearly as quick to get up as his would-be drinking partner. But the man rolls up to kneeling position on the floor. Still orienting himself to what's happening what with birds getting flattened and cats on the loose, he finds Chess with her hands on a barstool. "I heard there's lions in it," he says belatedly to her. And makes sure to be behind the woman who can turn just about anything into an explosive.

Etienne's initial reply is a snarl, teeth bared, spittle as flecks down on the other man's face, all warning and— well, a little adrenalised thrill, bearing down with the blade that shakes between two forces of his grip and the man's defense, the point of the blade hovering inches above the other man's face.

"Nah," he says, between his fangs, leaning down, smell of sour wine and cigarette smoke hot on his breath. "I'll have the whole thing."

He pushes, strength snarled up the backs of his shoulders, and the grip between them buckles. Sharp blade sinks into flesh, up to the hilt, to the sounds of Alister attempting to talk his way out of the second man's sights. Red blood sputters out of the open wound as Etienne yanks his knife back, gasps and chokes as it bleeds out in a growing pool of deep, warm red. He lists back, looking over the dying body he's straddling, and reaches to tug free the gun at his hip.

With a slight clatter of spilled furniture he knocks aside, Etienne moves, attempting to slip out of the periphery of the second man, finger sliding into trigger guard.

"Lions are more fucking sane than this," whispers Chess to Luther, eyes darting from one person to the next. She'd be content to just sit and hide, but there's a kid. Even if she's with an insane person who thinks an ocelot makes a good pet. "Fuck this," she says, and her war-buddy Luther probably knows enough from that tone to worry just a little bit.

She suddenly stands and hurls the bar stool at the man threatening to kill Alister.

"Run!" she shouts to Sibyl — if Alister wants to run too, he can, but her sights are on the young teenager. As the barstool makes connection with whatever it hits — it'll explode, charged as it is like a couple of blocks' worth of C-4.

She grabs Luther by the arm to drag him toward an exit as well.

There's a boom and Tibby's eyes widen as she watches the barstool become a bomb. Eyebrows raised she moves to the side as the duo come barreling towards her. Adze bounces back with a yowl at the sudden commotion and Tibby goes to peer through a window. "Shit shit." She hold her pistol tight and sends a command to the felines in the bar.


The cats inside the bar all leap to attack. Mink mink goes for Sibyl's ankles, this small cat being the most harmless of them all. The others yowl and claw and bite at anybody they can.

It makes her grimace to do so, maybe she should just butt out and go home. But she's gone and done it now. She keeps prodding at Eileen's mind. Hoping to get to that point where she feels okay taking over a feline's body but this might cause for comfort zones to be destroyed. For both parties.

The man with the invulnerable skin swings around at the chair hurtling toward him and snaps off two shots before it connects with his center of mass. The first shot goes wide and punches a hole through the nearest window. The second ricochets off a metal surface and embeds itself in Luther's shoulder.

He won't notice it until later, not because it doesn't hurt, but because Chess' bar stool is exploding. Windows shatter, bird feathers still floating in the air ignite, and Alister once again finds himself thrown to the floor by the force of a concussive blast.

It's just a different person's ability, this time.

Sibyl makes a quiet, choked sound beneath him, pieces of broken glass twinkling in her ashy hair and on the darker fabric of her clothes. He might not have gotten her to the door in time, but he protected her from the brunt of the explosion.

His suit jacket hangs off him in tatters. There is a cat named Mink Mink nibbling daintily at Sibyl's ankle.

People are streaming toward the bar's exits, including poor Guzman, who scoops up his briefcase, his songkok, and shoulders after Chess and Luther on their way out the door.

The ocelot keeps pushing back against Tibby's mind until it can't anymore. When she next opens her eyes, she's looking out at the carnage from under a table, watching the scene unfold from the ocelot's perspective.

Lions really are more sane than this. Luther knows the tone Chess takes all too well, enough that he's up on his feet by the time she stands to throw her missile. "Fuck," is all he utters because then he's grabbed and semi-dragged along towards the exit. Really he doesn't need a second suggestion. And then, he's more hurtling forward with the force of the explosion, looking pained in more ways than one. It's almost automatic that he pulls his power up, maybe a little too late, but the sheer energy of the blast force pushing past his ability to focus and filter out the extra power. His body starts to glow and heatwaves ripple in the air around the man.

Through the ringing in Alister's ears and the swarming of hissing, spitting cats, he'll feel more than hear the thump thump thump of boots approaching at speed, and then, hands grip the back of his torn up jacket, grabbing an elbow, pulling him up onto his feet with too much ease and helpfulness to be mistaken for some new attack. Etienne propels himself and Alister both forward for the door, and with a shove, sends Alister out into the rain, onto the deck outside, where he'd just moments ago cast Sibyl out.

Etienne seems to have made it out in one piece, himself. There is blood on his hands, and claw marks in the denim around his ankles, and what is very likely pieces of person caught in his clothing from the head-ringing detonation inside. The first blast of icy rain sticks long hair to his face, and makes him squint against it as he eyes up Alister. A huff of a smokey laugh follows, the barest hint.

"You still hiring?"

Still ringing, Alister manages to get one little quip out before anything else. "You're hired…"

That //may/ have been more force than Chess intended. The barstool may have weighed more than she thought — mental estimations aren't her forte. "Shit," she says, stumbling a little as she makes it out of the bar, looking to Luther as he begins to glow.

"Shit, you're bleeding. And like, smoking. You gonna blow?" she says, glancing over her shoulder to make sure no one's chasing after her with pitchforks — or guns, for that matter. "I don't think I'll be allowed back in there, d'you? Can you run?" Because she feels the need to run.

Luther can run.

Because he has to.

Sibyl, in a daze, stares back at the bar, its blood-spattered walls, and the thin plume of smoke dusted with bits of feathers still burning like floating embers.

There's a sound in her ears she thinks she remembers hearing once before, building in volume and in pressure. Two dead men burn in a quietly smoldering bar that will be open again for business by this time tomorrow.

Cats streak out the open door, weaving their way between Alister and Etienne's legs on their way out into the tangled woods beyond.

The ringing sound in her ears reaches its crescendo and darkness crowds the edge of her vision before the world starts to slide sideways just as she—


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