Bad Things Happen


calvin_icon.gif ingrid_icon.gif

Scene Title Bad Things Happen
Synopsis Bad things happen to good people and bad people and people who fit somewhere in between, but not to them (today).
Date June 4, 2011

The Edge of Midtown: Calvin's Apartment

Calvin's been doing business, today.

He attends to business on most days, now. Has to.

It's part of running a successful speciesist coup on existence? Apparently?

Anyway so he's been doing 'business,' in quotation marks, which might be deduced from the crisp white of the dress shirt he's wearing half unbuttoned under a black and grey waist coat (all the way unbuttoned.) Might or might not, seeing as he also dresses this way to go for walks on dystopian beaches or trips to get groceries.

His crap apartment is on the sixth story or so, narrow and cramped and lit in a smear of sallow yellow under old lamps and occasional flashes of violent orange. There is a locked steel briefcase full of money atop his secondhand coffee table, behind which Mister Sheridan is seated on his secondhand couch, one leg crossed over the other in danger of having bits of spark and ash littered across dark denim from the oil-lit rag he has suspended a little ways ahead of his mouth on a straightened coathanger. White powder is brushed light through the bristles of his anchor beard and smudged across his cheek.

The same dusty white substance that he huffs forth after a beat into a stream of draconic, burning breath through the rag and black across the television screen glass showing through a largeish printing of Georgia Mayes's face that he'd taped over it. At some point. Hair blackened, one eye missing, lips bubbled and cracked into a leering, clownish split.

Baking powder, then.

The news natters on in the background, disaffected by smokey black worn in splotches over technicolor pixils. People dying. People panicking. Low-cost clinics filled to capacity, bodies stacking up in waiting rooms and the like. An interview with someone with a southern accent, somehow.

After a pause spent listening and resting his breath, Calvin reaches sideways for the sack of baking powder and his spoon.

Beyond that, the snowy white stuff razored out into cleaner lines across a mirror next to his briefcase is most definitely cocaine.

Calvin Sheridan, you have Problems.

Whether or not the young woman standing on the other side of his door counts as one is maybe a matter of perspective or opinion, but either way Ingrid must not think very highly of her ability to influence him because she's been giving him a wide berth. Benji, too, although for entirely different reasons, and it isn't loneliness that has brought her to Calvin's apartment.

Well, almost to Calvin's apartment. If she's being technical about it, and completely honest with herself, she isn't at Calvin's apartment until she sets foot inside it or at the very least makes an effort to by knocking on the door. Right now, her hand is hovering in the air a few inches away from it with the tips of her fingers curled against her palm like the legs of a pale hermit crab retreating into its smooth white shell.

The warmer weather has allowed her to alternate her wardrobe, trading the heavier woolen fabrics she folded around herself in winter for breezy floral patterns in colours that reflect what's in bloom outside. A sleeveless summer dress in lilac and white is a little loose on her small, slender frame, but fitted around her hips with a woven belt that matches her shoes and the ribbon she used to pull back her hair this morning but she now wears tied around her wrist as a bracelet after the wind mussed it up to the point where no amount of fussing in front of a mirror at the DoEA offices during her break would fix it.

In the end, she decides against knocking. That makes more noise that she is comfortable with. Instead she asks in a voice so quiet it almost cannot be heard over the television: "Calvin?"

Calvin's next great, fiery breath licks off short into a mute tongue of flame through his teeth when his profile swivels and his eyes fasten cold upon the door. The rag flickers on, blue and orange at a little liquid flame until he thinks to stand and cross out of the living room into his kitchen.

There is a hiss.

Then he returns, damp about the face and swept back dreads, crossing again in the opposite direction. Bagged cornstarch is slung back down onto the couch in a sound poff and fog of filmy off-white dust where he was sitting; a half-conscious gesture resituates his metal briefcase atop the slab he was organizing fresh lines onto via one hand while the other transfers whiter residue from the television's top edge to the pale glisten of his gums. His face is clean, at least. And his hands.

His holster.

Which he shrugs into as a kind of restless afterthought, gun pulled out've his pants and put into the. Thing. Where the gun fits. Where the gun — fits.

Has some trouble with the tab.

Skips it.

He has to double back for Mayes, who is still hot when he crumples her in his hands and flings her blearily into some doorway or another. Perhaps the toilet.

A long story made short and simple for Ingrid, who only witnesses its culimination moments later, Calvin opens the door partway to frame himself like a rail, hard-nosed, arrogant irritation fallen blank off the haughty arches of his skull the instant he recognizes her there. A beat wasted reeling later, he closes the door back down to a relexive, paranoid crack to peer uncertainly (not stealthily) past her. Presumably for backup.

Calvin looks past Ingrid. Ingrid looks past— behind Ingrid, half-expecting to see someone there who wasn't a few moments before. She doesn't, of course — only the peeling wallpaper and water damage that makes this building appealing for the sorts of people who might choose it as a place to lay low for awhile. People like Calvin. People, maybe, like her parents and their peers at the worst of times even if the worst of times weren't ever a subject open to discussion around big-eyed little girls with hands forever trapped in the protective clasp of their mother's.

No Joshua. No Astor. No anybody she might expect (or hope) to be watching her back. She experiences disappointment and relief in equal parts as she turns her head back around and searches out Calvin's eyes with her own, hedging and timid.

Vaguely hopeful. "Is now a bad time?"

Yeh. It kind've is. If only on account've all — the times. Are a bad time for her to be here.

Mouth hung open on the hinge of automatic affirmative, he scuffs a sleeve self-conscious like across his face and half turns to look across his place, which. Looks like a coke-dealing gorilla resides on the premesis. For some reason.

Pupils pinned, avoidant, and neck sunken past the clavicles until his groping of himself finds temporary distraction in the act of buttoning his shirt the rest of the way up, he steps out into the hall naked holster and all after her and closes the door, eyes everywhere else. Like the ceiling. Ceiling's nice this time of year. Night.

"Ahm," he tells her, at length. Ahmmm.

Ingrid knits her fingers together, hands held level with her stomach, and mentally wills herself to stop fidgeting. It works. Mostly. "I was wondering if I could maybe come inside," she says, watching Calvin instead of the door now shut. She is pretty sure that neither Joshua nor Astor is on the ceiling, either, and this time her eyes do not go where his go. Instead, they remain on his face, assessing damage — the kind that's found beneath the surface of the skin. Exhaustion. Psychological trauma. Things she wishes she could do something significant about but is ultimately helpless to.

"Benji didn't send me," she's compelled to add. "And. Benji doesn't know where I am. I didn't tell Jolene, either." In case that matters.

Calvin hasn't looked the door, but does not want Ingrid to come inside.

No doubt. Trying to think of a legitimate reason to deny her entry is an intimately visible process while he's high, an impulse towards nervous laughter restrained to a taut show of his teeth and a clench of bare monkey toes to tatty carpet. That he hasn't been sleeping's another easy given: the darkness around his eyes have less to do with makeup than it does being dizzy with sleep debt.

"Naturally," intoned off key to the wall after more of an uneasy pause re: Benji and his lack of willingness to sacrifice the littlest lamb at the expense of his righteous position, he scratches his chin and peels his eyes dry away from a glance at her to peer at his closed door instead. It's still closed.

Because he closed it.

"Why d'you want to come in? S'just a place. An apartment place. Looks a lot like this hallway." Which his expression implies could stand to be more impressive.

Ingrid had been expecting resistance, but now that she's confronted with it she's not sure what to do. The lengthy explanation she'd composed in her head on the way here flies right out of her head. Suddenly, her tongue is dumb and her lips are numb. Why does she want to come in?

"I was worried," she says. "Am. Am worried. About the way you're living, I mean." Her mouth pinches into an anxious knot when she realizes how that sounds. "I could help clean up your apartment place, maybe. Make you something to eat." What she means is that he doesn't look good, and while she's being entirely honest about her motivations for wanting to come inside, she cannot hide her anxiety or keep from bleating when she speaks. "Please?"

Oh fucking dear she's said please in the little voice.

Backed into a corner, now — some kind of magnetic, irresistably infinite loop of propriety the likes of which it's immediately apparent he has no hope of wresting free from — he's left to look at her more directly, now. At a loss. No reason not to. He won't be rid of her.

Exhausted exasperation creeps in to fill the void left by more obstinate resistance. A heavy-lidded blink carries some of the same sentiment as a roll of his eyes might. He turns his hands out at his sides. If you //insist//. But.

She couldn't even talk to him before, really. After she found out.

Embarrassed, uncomfortable, fidgety and tense, he turns enough to reach and lever the door open to allow them both passage inward. Living area and entry are one and the same, cluttered for all that the space is sparsely occupied. There just isn't much space to be occupied. Sparsely. By newspaper and couch and television and cornstarch.

Ingrid isn't sure what's going on in here exactly, and she isn't sure she wants to know either. It smells a little funny, like most apartments on the edge of Midtown do, and the objects scattered about the room do not make sense in relation to one another to the point of making her uncomfortable. Her talent has everything to do with picking out important details — what to do with them, unfortunately, is not as simple in this situation as copying them down onto a piece of paper and making all the right marks.

She lingers in the doorway and rests a hand on the frame. The other she balls up and places over her heart as she surveys the dingy interior of Calvin's apartment and resists the urge to make a squeaky sound at the back of her throat.

Perhaps sensing Calvin's embarrassment, the most noise she makes is a shaky exhale that's as soft as it is resigned. It is worse than she imagined, though not by very much. "Are you sleeping okay?"

Stupid question.



Deeper into the apartment, Calvin puctuates himself with a trip of the light switch and the living room goes all the shadier caught between light filtered in from the hall behind her and deeper in. City light barred orange through blinds in the bedroom. Not so dark that it's hard to see him turn and pace into the kitchen and back out again without the gun after a solid thud and a rattle of rusty silverware in its drawers.

He's thinner than she recalls. Cut more like his father, cleaved down to bare bone and muscle, he stands immaculately upright. Spine straight, collar turned high, ginger mane swept clean away from his face. The thing to do seems to be to light up a cigarette, so he sets to busying his hands with that in the space between rooms while fresh pain warms up through his wrist and across his forearm.

It is stupid, too, to ask if he wants some medication for it. If Calvin wanted medication, it stands to reason that he'd get it himself instead of relying on someone like Ingrid to get it; she pulls the door shut behind her with a gentle, understated click, and squints at the cigarette between his fingers, wondering what else there is to offer apart from what she already has.

There isn't much except for her company. "Finals are over," she says as if making conversation, but there's something deliberate about the way her mouth structures the words. She isn't just talking for the sake of it, or to fill that uncomfortable silence. "And I don't think Miss Pak will mind if I take a few days off of work, especially if I tell her it's a family-related emergency."

Family. He is, she means. "I won't get in your way or give you any trouble. I promise."

Calvin watches her carefully while she speaks, eyes colorless, glittery slits in the dark, smoke turning thin from the orange point of what smells like swisher sweet across his narrow living room. The acrid tang of warm steel that tends to accompany his temper is slower to sink in, but eternally present, now: sunk in close to couch cover and weathered carpet. It's in the walls and ceiling and air, as clingy as cat hair and nearly as irritating to the sinuses.

He's been here undiscovered and undisturbed for some time.

"Y'don't have to," is all he can make himself say, at weary length. "Benjamin'll be upset if he finds you here."

"Benji won't." Ingrid steps away from the door and moves toward the kitchen, giving Calvin's furniture a wide berth. She is kind enough, or at least polite enough, to take off her shoes regardless of the carpet's condition — her bare feet don't make any sound until they hit the linoleum, and then it's a sticky half-whisper that she makes a mental note to remedy with a bucket of hot, soapy water as soon as she's assessed the contents of Calvin's fridge.

If it has any contents at all. She isn't counting on it. The door pops open and she's short enough that she doesn't have to bend at the middle to get a good look inside. "Not while I'm awake, anyway. And even if Benji did, it's not Benji's decision who I stay with — or who I don't stay with."

In the refrigerator: a couple've bananas, poptarts, a box of cereal, bottled water, leftover Chinese and an open bottle of wine. In the freezer: three bottles of vodka and one of tequila. Patron, even.

He allows her past without more than a glance down after her, yellow light largely ignored in its spill around her shadow. The aforementioned gun lies abandoned on the counter next to the sink, where it isn't in immediate, easy reach of twitchy fingers and achey pride. A bass thrum resonates once through the building structure instead, wiry muscle lined taut through the stiff of his arms and around a blunt push of breath through his sinuses; abruptly, his eyes ice over and ignite blue at her back. He's rounding. On her.

At a distance, granted, cigarette held slightly away from his side. No stalking advance yet made, for all that the threat of one's bitten into a hunch at his shoulders.

"Why are you here?"

Startled, Ingrid looks up inside of twisting a look back over her shoulder at Calvin for the source of the noise. Her hand slips free of the fridge door and it swings shut by itself, albeit slowly and with none of the drama that a telekinetic might bring. When the sound doesn't come again, she places both her hands on the now closed door to steady them and to keep them from twitching with fright as she divides her attention between listening to the building around them and listening to Calvin.

She does not look at him, and not because she is a bad liar and bad liars have eyes that give them away, but because she isn't lying and it's the truth that's making this so very difficult for her. "Because I'm scared.

"I'm scared something bad is gonna happen and not like on the television because the television doesn't care what happens to you. I do."

"Yes," says Calvin, "but sometimes bad things happen out've necessity, or design — and — people deserve them, Ingrid." Ingrid. He uses her name out of sickly affectionate impatience, anger dampened into less virulent exasperation again once he's gusted out another long breath.

"You don't, but a lot've your cousins out there are real bastards, you know? Pak's alright, but for every Pak there are five Mayes and five hundred Praeger's with their thumbs up their asses for whatever little reason — "

"I'm not talking about Mayes or Pak!" Ingrid does not often raise her voice. When she does it often breaks — like it does now — and although her chest isn't deep enough to create the kind of volume that Calvin himself is capable of, it's loud enough and shrill enough that she's visibly taken aback by what comes out even if there's no opportunity for her to marvel over where it came from or — much more likely — apologize.

This is important enough that for once she doesn't allow herself a pause in which she might be able to find something small to distract herself. There's a panicked hitch in her breathing, abruptly shallow, and she brings both her hands into her chest. Still, she does not turn to face him.

She is not quite that bold. "I'm talking about you, Calvin. You and coming to my apartment and telling me what you did and the hurt on your face and in your voice and in your eyes and it's all I can think about and maybe bad things happen but not to you. Not if I'm here."

Quiet in turn, Calvin's polite enough to force out a grind at his molars in place of a laggard I know, tension wound and knotted python-like from shoulders to toes under the taut fasten of his vest and the clean cut of his cuffs. "Calvin Sheridan, then," he allows for her, once he's certain he can speak quietly and at a level.

"Soon to have a 'mass' titled in before his more generic 'murderer.' Why shouldn't something happen to me?" There he finally does sort've — grin jackal-like at himself. Or the situation, teeth shown flawlessly white in the semidark kitchen. Not rebel teeth, by a long shot. They sparkle of health insurance. And electric brushes. Bleach, even.

Until a second solar flare furls erratic across the surface of his ill-repressed temper and he has to force his next breath quivery quiet through his sinuses. "You're imagining things. I have t'go. Walking." At least until he's sober. Cigarillo passed quickly to the flat line of his mouth, he sidesteps out've easy sight. Door is thataway. "I'll return. Don't follow me."

She doesn't.

What she does is trust that he's telling the truth when he says that he'll be back, and listen for the fall of his retreating footsteps to grow soft before turning her head — and her attention — to the kitchen sink. On some level, she realizes that something shouldn't happen to Calvin because she doesn't want it to is a selfish, childish answer. Also: not the one she intends on giving him when he returns. What she's going to give him when she returns is silence, and (hopefully) the luxury of a clean apartment with dishes stacked on one side of the sink and fresh food acquired from the closest corner market halfway to being edible. Potatoes in the process of being peeled. Cut carrots. The stringy remains of topped beans. Telltale flakes of onion skin that did not make it to the trash but will. She imagines a salty broth bubbling on the stove and something that smells like chicken stock boiled out of bones.

Whether or not she gets that far depends entirely on how long Calvin is gone. Walking. For now, she chokes back the lump in her throat, rolls up her sleeves past her elbows one at a time and sets to work.

Nothing bad is going to happen to Calvin "Mass Murderer" Sheridan because Calvin "Mass Murderer" Sheridan is one of them and by coming back together Ingrid "Once I Accidentally Killed a Butterfly by Leaving It in the Jar Too Long" Ryans made a promise that it wouldn't.

To her it is that simple.

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