Black And Gold Go With Everything


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Scene Title Black and Gold Go With Everything
Synopsis Yamaguchi swings into Piece of Cake Bakery for a donut and Deckard baiting, as detectives do. His first homicide on the grid is nearly his own.
Date August 18, 2009

Piece of Cake Bakery

The front room of the bakery is a long and narrow one. A great glass window covers the wall facing the street, so that anyone outside can see in. The door is glass as well; on bright days the shop is filled to the brim with sunshine. Drop lamps abovehead help at night, casting a warmer and softer light. Classic black and white tiling collects smudges more often than not on the floor and walls. In the back is a hallway which leads further to the kitchen, a small bathroom for customers to use, and a set of creaky stairs that go up to the second floor. The entire building is warm, and the air is redolent with the scents of pastry both savory and sweet, cookies, muffins, chocolate and fruit, bread and more.

A long, waist-high counter is on the left after stepping inside. The top is flat so purchases can be set down, and baked goods of all sorts are on display inside. Down at the far end is the cash register: leaving means walking past all the tempting wares all over again. Though it isn't particularly fancy, a coffee machine next to the register has a sign that reads "Donations": the cups and plain coffee are free, but change dropped inside goes to local charities. Three small bistro tables sit along the right wall; it's a tight fit, but three (or four if they're close friends) people can sit at each to enjoy a bite before going on their way. A bell above the door jangles merrily whenever it's opened.

It's getting late. Close to closing time, and after being here since a little before six in the morning, Deckard is barely conscious. Clear eyes hollow in his head, greying hair trimmed short and five o'clock shadow roughing in at a rate that can't possibly be human, he bears more resemblance to an axe murderer than a seller of cakes and fine pastries. But the white of his dress shirt and the middling khaki of his slacks are clean of blood smears and bits of broken teeth, and it isn't an axe he has poking him in a holster settled increasingly uncomfortably into the base of his spine.

Both hands braced on the display counter next to an ancient-looking cash register, he's taken to staring blankly at the span where there far wall meets the floor while classic rock fizzles in tinnily through an old radio.

The door opens. Ken Yamaguchi walks in. The door closes. It lacks drama, but so it goes; not everything deserves its own prime-time episode.

Clad in a simple suit and — bizarrely — a sweater-vest and tie, the detective wanders in without obvious purpose, as though the bakery has somehow materialized in front of his idle stroll. Eyebrows rise over his discovery of display cases, and he stops in the middle of the open space before them, blinking with vague fascination. Pastry. Gosh.

He points a mute finger. Donuts.

Deckard's only been on the job for something like two days now, but he has enough experience in sales to straighten up when Yamaguchi comes strolling in. Unfortunately, the effort stops at his spine. His shoulders retain their slouch and his face retains its length — longer, even, than usual through the hard lines carved in around his mouth when he tips his attention flatly down to follow the point.

"They're donuts," he says after a long moment, voice like dust over gravel. He hooks a finger up under his collar. Lifts his eyes and finally a brow, wasting energy that he doesn't look like he has to waste. "You want to buy one or are you in here after a free English lesson?"

"Okay." Yamaguchi is agreeable. "Always wondered why they're round. Round," he repeats loudly after a split-second's thought, reaching into his pocket to retrieve his wallet. He enunciates it carefully, as though addressing the hard of hearing. "R-O-U-N-D."

It is a well-known fact that people who do not understand one's language only need to hear things at greater volume to break through the glass floor of ignorance and plummet into the chasm of epiphany. Yamaguchi holds up a five dollar bill. "Mo-ney," he says kindly.

Nose rankled against ill-suppressed irritation, Deckard reaches beneath the display with deliberate sloth to napkin his way around a fine looking donut. Then, donut in right hand, he punches keys tack tack tack CHING into the cash register with his left, watching Yamaguchi without blinking all the while.

The donut tips forward an inch when he reaches past it for the cashola, scattering little crusties of frosting across clean glass.

He does not care to offer over the prize or say anything until the drawer has slung itself open, maybe making this the most unspokenly aggressive donut sale in the history of such things. "Seventy cents."

Yamaguchi lays the bill carefully on the counter, parallel to the edge of the cash register. It is brand new. (The bill, that is.) And now Deckard is to give him change. The detective regards the clerk with the seraphic interest of an avocado meeting its very first blender. "Hey," he says. "Can I have one of those other ones instead?" And he points at a virginally whole pastry still in the display case.

Still holding the donut aloft, left hand now flat as a slab of slate over the five dollar bill, Deckard has to work his narrow jaw around a little to get it into a set that won't let any words come out before he turns his entire upper half around to target the white pastry still in the display case.

He has to think about it.

It takes a little while.

When he's done, he sniffs to himself, draws in a stiff breath, and decides: "No." No he cannot.

Yamaguchi considers this reply. It is, in all fairness, a reasonable one. "Okay," he says agreeably.

He stoops to peer through the glass. Warped by imperfections in its manufacture, the surface does horrific things to his face and adds a good 200 pounds to his cheeks. In other words, it redraws him as an American.

"How about that one?" He points to a donut. It might actually be the exact same donut he pointed to before. One does not like to get into the metaphysical or philosophical implications of the words 'exact' and 'same.'

Somewhere around back, behind the closed swing of the kitchen door there's a bump and a shuffle, as if someone or something is moving around. Deckard glances after it, which illustrates nicely the wires of stringy muscle lining themselves out through the sides of his neck. In all fairness, donut #1 is beginning to become slightly deformed in his grip, skewed after the fashion of a soft baby's head struggling to escape a bony vagina with anger issues.

In the end it gets away. He sets it neatly down next to the register to repeat the same process as before, napkin to dough ring and foisted out past the rumpled roll of his sleeve while he paws the fiver into the register and starts to count out change. This time he's looking down at nickels and dimes rather than Ken.

Yamaguchi watches this procedure critically. If the donut is the mangled baby, and Deckard is the angry birth canal, the detective is the slightly puzzled rabbi who has wandered into the warm theater to get out of the rain and discovered he is now attending a performance of the Vagina Monologues.

As performed by John Travolta.

"Actually," he says after a thoughtful moment, "I'm thinking maybe just a cup of coffee's healthier. Less cholesterol."

Rather than finish counting out that fourth one dollar bill, Deckard reaches back 'round and drags the revolver hiding at the back of his belt out to bear, thumb clicking down cold over the hammer on the way. He pulls the trigger once, square into the space between Yamaguchi's slanty eyes, and…

Wakes up.

He's frustrated. Can't help it. It eats through him into the grit of his teeth and the scruffing pass of his left hand up through the previously tidy buzz of his hair. Listen heard enough and you might hear quiet fury twisting taut at his black little heartstrings. But. But.

He sets the second donut down after he's had a few seconds, maybe even more carefully than the first, and turns to zombie walk his way over to the coffee maker.

Yamaguchi is fascinated. He can't help it. It is New York City, he has asked for three different things in under a minute, and he hasn't been cursed at, shot at, or assaulted. He slouches to put his elbows on the counter and starts picking with fastidious fingers at the frosting. It flakes off in sweet little crackles. He eats it, and stares gravely at the back of Deckard's head.

"Or maybe a latte," he says experimentally.

Deckard's a 42 year alcoholic crazy old ex-con working in a bakery who's woken up at 5:00 AM twice in a row for the first time in years. Assault is pretty much guaranteed.

And lo, here it comes. He rounds like a caged stray, shoulders bristled stiff and eyes ringed stark with halcyon hatred, hands clamping into fists at his sides. Two feet to the counter, one springy leap of long legs over it. He's doing the math.

Yamaguchi graduated from college, and he has five fingers, arithmetic-ready, on each hand. He's also capable of intense provocation. Neither of these facts is particularly relevant. On the other hand, he is also a trained cop with years of experience in a violent and chaotic post-apocalyptic urban setting. Thus, he stands up from his slouch over the pastry counter, and…

…and scratches at his rib cage. (It itches.) His badge and gun are on his belt, both exposed by the shove of his searching fingers against the jacket's fabric. Coincidentally, they accessorize well with his sweater vest.

Black and gold go with everything.

Tendons bleached white across the backs of Deckard's hands and corded up into his arms, it takes him a beat to register what he's seeing. His teeth sliver out in a trim line, showing too white for someone who's led his life, and slowly, he unsticks the clench of long fingers enough that they are once again capable of grasping at things. Doesn't mean he has to be nice. "We don't do lattes," sounds a whole lot like, 'fuck you' coming out of his mouth.

Poised where he is, still rigid with the promise of violence, it takes a concentrated effort to get him quick back to the register, where the original five dollar bill is dragged out and flopped on the counter next to the smashed donuts. "Breakfast is on me, Boss."

The change goes back into drawer. The drawer slams shut with a stiff flick of his wrist. He smiles. Thinly.

Golly. The service is amazing. Yamaguchi, still in search of the errant itch, squirms a little until he finds it just by his armpit. Fingernails worry at it with agreeable inquiry before he shrugs himself back into order. "Thanks," he says, mildly. Sleepily, in fact. He takes the bill and drops it in the tip jar — one is not, after all, a complete shithead — and then he offers Deckard a singularly sweet smile and ambles out.

Without taking his donuts.

Well, really. They look like skull-squashed babies. Who would?

How long has it been since Deckard pulled in a full breath? Long enough that his chest sticks on the rise that follows Yamaguchi out the door. He drums his fingers once over the glass counter, ignorant of smudging, and after taking enough time to determine that he's not going to be able to do much of anything until he's broken something, shoulders his way into the kitchen, leaving cash register and discarded donuts briefly unattended.

Thud. Crash. Clatter. He'll be back in a minute.

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