Buried Treasure


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Buried Treasure
Synopsis Eileen and Gabriel visit a forgotten Vanguard safehouse in Germany.
Date August 22, 2010

Munich, Germany

The safehouse in Warsaw no longer exists, razed to the ground, smoothed over with thousands of gallons of dirt to pave the way for a public park. In Prague, the old butcher who owes Kazimir Volken his life tells stories of Feng Daiyu pulling up all the floorboards in the apartment above his shop, leaving nothing except a fine scattering of dust and the boot prints in it. Munich, with its ornate inner city palaces, baroque churches and old cobblestone streets, is simultaneously Eileen's best and last hope.

The train arrived at the station a few hours after dark, but for all its old world charm, the capital city of Bavaria, Germany runs on electricity. Stepping onto the platform, she and Gabriel were greeted with the glare of the lights reflecting off wet stone. It rains here, too, and an hour's walk from the station to the crumbling old building converted into a network of flats by the Nazis during the Second World War has left them both thoroughly soaked.

She's kept conversation to a minimum since their departure from St. Petersburg for reasons that would be more of a mystery to Gabriel if her body didn't grow tense and its language closed every time it comes close to his. Although latent hostility has replaced the majority of her anger, she will inevitably succumb to pressure and break. This isn't a matter of if — it's a matter of when.

On the third floor, at the end of a hallway that hasn't been swept in more than a month, she removes a set of keys from her coat pocket, deliberates between two that are similarly shaped, using the edge of her thumb rather than her eyes to make her final selection.

It fits in the lock, turns.

His hands dangle at his sides, patchy with burns and scrapes and lacking the bandaging he's since peeled off since their journey via train and then on foot, some strange little destructive habit. It may have to do with the person who applied them. It may have to do with the person who owns the injured hands. It may simply be practicality, adhesive gone loose in the rain, a desire to let seared skin breathe despite the way the marks tingle with continual heat.

Inside the hallway, Gabriel's footsteps make puddles on the ground, rain enough that they may as well have both been dipped in water. Habit has him standing solid and supposedly patient as she goes to grind key in lock, instead of, say, becoming as intangible as smoke— more so, because smoke can be contained— and crossing through solid door. Or punching through it with, on the flipside, skeletal density and unscratchable skin.

It's gonna be a fun one to test, when they get home. When he gets home.

The flat is small, distinguished, no more than two or three rooms including an outdated kitchen with original hardwood floors, and decorated in a Victorian style. The wallpaper is complex, contrasting shades of deep purple and gold that bring out the metal accents in the fireplace and antique clock in front of the mirror on its gilded mantle. An upright piano snug against a sculpted indentation in the wall, several wooden chairs with velvety upholstery and a chaise lounge covered draped in a blanket round out the rest of the living room, which also features a gramophone that may or may not work. The bedroom door, if it is a bedroom, is closed.

Inside, the air is stale and cold but blessedly dry, the curtains drawn. The first thing Eileen is tempted to do is remove her coat and hang it on the hooks at the door. Instead, she ventures inside, tracking rainwater across a faded Persian carpet that's older than either she or Gabriel. Everything looks to be.

She tries the light switch for the hanging lamp in the living room first. When that doesn't work, she fishes the matchbook from her sodden coat and lights a gas lantern left on the piano bench by the flat's last occupant, and who knows who or when that was. "You can take the bedroom," she says, her voice a hoarse whisper, a beat of hesitation at the end as she pauses to consider whether or not that was right. "Do as you like," sounds like an invitation rather than a command or even a suggestion, and grimly satisfied she lapses back into silence.

Gabriel's expression is neutral, out the corners of whatever eyes she might be using to see him. Air hissing up through generous nasal cavities, the smell of dust and musty furniture and unseen mold like history itself. Air exhaled again, a sigh of kinds, not completely literal but still deliberate, and his broad back turns to her, his gaze swimming around the crowded little apartment room. Thick fingers tug and pull through the wet tresses of his hair, itching his scalp, before moving for the bedroom as commanded.

Suggested. Invited. There is no stomp to light foot steps, his hand placing down on the handle to gently test its give. Finding it satisfactory, Gabriel levers the door open, fingertips pushing it back. Light spins in a disc above one raised hand, then, tiny motes of light drifting around in galaxial rhythm before it tilts, and spears a dim beam of light into the depths of the bedroom. It flickers and holds the golden taint of the has lantern.

The sparrow under Eileen's collar flits out into the open and swoops low over the chaise. A last second flare of its wings sharply adjusts its flight path, swinging it up onto the the lip of the gramophone's yawning speaker where it perches and flicks pinhead-sized droplets of rainwater from its feathers. She tracks her finger through the dust gathered on the record's vinyl surface, nail creating a dull clicking sound, and as Gabriel creaks open the bedroom door her footsteps retreat elsewhere.

Inside, the bedroom turns out to be even smaller than the living area, but with less furniture to occupy the cramped space. A queen-sized bed with spartan sheets and a heavy goose down quilt for additional warmth takes up most of the room, but there's a locked cabinet above a wooden writing desk as well, and judging from what Gabriel glimpsed when she opened the door to the flat, Eileen hasn't the key for that.

Given its age and build, she doesn't strictly need one. Neither does he.

Whoever set up this safehouse must not have ever intended for it to be found. It wasn't a necessarily a bad assumption to make — Daiyu hasn't hit it yet. His former employers with the CIA have to be equally oblivious to existence.

Possibly, one could live here. Away from America, where people are less likely to double-take at the familiar sight of Gabriel Gray's oft publicised mug — not enough that he'd go around like that all the time, of course, not with his homies sending armored friends to infest the globe like ants over a sugar cube. The fantastical idea is shortlived, a flicker in the dark, kind of like when he'd invited an amnesiac Eileen to run away with him, or when he'd made plans with Gillian to drive away from the cratered city with the only direction being westwards, his own whimsy of starting anew after Antarctica. He is, after all, here for a purpose.

The makeshift flash light dances on over the locked cabinet, before contracting back into its hovering disc to rest above the door like a doctor's lamp. It casts its light down on his face when he approaches the thing, hands out to touch the aged wood before he takes out his knife — shiny clean — and wedges the tip into the thin edge of where the door meets its frame.

"You know." He levers the weapon to snap the thing open. "I only broke his head because I needed the other guy's fear to do it." There. Spoken what's been bothering him to mention probably since Russia.

He's rewarded with a shrill splintering sound too soft for Eileen to hear in the other room. Likewise, Gabriel is mostly deaf to whatever it is that she's doing, but if he listens for it he might be able to detect shuddering hinges and the tinkle of glass from what is probably the kitchen. "Drowning is a terrible way to die," she says, and the flat's acoustics are nothing like the high ceilings of the Dispensary or its smooth stone walls. It puts a muffle on her.

"It could have been much quicker." Envelopes and yellowed sheets of paper fill the cabinet's interior, a flimsy cobweb strung from one corner to the other without any sign of the spider. Either it's moved on or perished in an insect famine. One journal at the bottom of the pile, so thin that it could easily be missed if it weren't for the texture of its cover setting it apart from the cabinet's wooden frame.

"I shouldn't have hit you."

Dust comes streaming out like water from within the cabinet, a wave of it directed to evade his face before it settles to disperse on bedsheet covers and creaky floorboards, and save for where its stained paper and leather and wood, the interior of the cabinet is a lot cleaner than how it began. The light is pushed inside to disperse in a refridgerator's illumination inside. "No," Gabriel corrects, just loud enough for her to hear. "I punished you, you punished me."

Then he punished her again, but—

His face was hurting at the time, so, he can't be held accountable. His fingers seek out the texture of the journal, before he exacts the thing. "I felt like you were taking a high road that you didn't have a right to take." The yellow paper is sifted through, taking care not to cause an avalanche. "It makes my journey a lot lonelier, you know."

"It started with a cough," Eileen says from the other end of the flat. "I slept, but never woke up feeling rested. Fatigue set in, then the lethargy. I thought it was the H5N10."

Each envelope is filled with bank notes of a different currency – dollars and dinars, francs and kronor, pesos, euros and pounds. He could go anywhere, and although he doesn't know how much the cabinet contains altogether, Gabriel can safely assume that it's enough to keep him comfortable for a little while if he's wise about how he spends it.

"My lungs withered and shrank. I had to breathe through a cloth, which I washed every day so no one would see. That's lonely, too." From one of the envelopes, a photograph flutters loose: a woman with thin lips and kind eyes, the sort of passing resemblance that can be applied to multiple people he knows. The name Serise is scrawled across its back. No date, but judging by the photograph's poor quality and desaturated finish, it's very old. "Coordination and balance went first,” and the Englishwoman's voice is quiet even without the wall between them. "When it spread to my eyes, I knew I was dying, and if they hadn't tried to finish the job, I would've." Died. "Odessa liked it slow. You have that in common.

"It isn't about taking the high road, Gabriel. I'll walk with you, but please don't kick me when I stumble. Don't punish me for what suffering makes me feel."

The journal yields more than the envelopes or the yellowed sheets of paper, which appear to be letters written in a language that Gabriel doesn't understand. Neither does Eileen, unless she picked up German along with her French when he wasn't looking. The handwriting in the journal matches that of the letter-composer, but the entries are in English, and when he opens it, it's to the last of them.

August 2, 2008

I am admittedly anxious for the trip overseas. It has been many years since I last set foot in America, the very concept feels so alien to me. I will not be alone, not like the last time I left Europe for the US shores. I was hesitant to commit to bringing Munin with me, hesitant to put her in harm's way. For as much of a disappointment as she is scientifically, she has blossomed in ways I had not quite anticipated. Ways I worried I was incapable of ever feeling for another living creature. I am torn on my own emotional divide.

Genetically, Munin is the inferior of my hoped outcomes. While her ability has proven to be cerebral in nature, the clairsentient abilities that I had hoped her breeding stock would have produced did not bloom. I have taken liberties to arrange close proximity for Salucci for the duration of our stay in the United States. Perhaps if long-term plans become necessary there will be some merit in my earlier supposition about their union producing the desired result.

Statistically, Eileen should have possessed some precognitive talent. All of my research over the years would have indicated that likelihood as a certainty. Perhaps I should revisit my evaluations made during Icarus. I will have time to think on the boat.

The light saps out from the old wooden cabinet, and a layer of illumination coming to settle upon the age-spotted pages of the journal he holds in his hands as delicately as one might a baby chick. Gabriel moves as he reads, not far, turning his back against the papered walls in a lean, a finger picking out the skinny rows of written text without actually touching the paper. The envelopes and letters and money goes ignored for now, though the photograph is placed in the seam of the journal's spine, between front page and cover.

His response comes distracted and with pause, a break from reading as he glances up towards the rectangle of open door ahead of him, face lit gently from below from the excess light that illuminates words. "We were both making him suffer. To excess. You act like you're exempt from responsibility because you can tell the blunt instrument to go gentler or hide what it's doing to his friend. It was annoying.

"I found the buried treasure, by the way." He slides down the wall into a comfortable crouch, eyes returning to the journal.

He'll feel it, the concession — an unspoken admission of either guilt or fault that pulls the thread between them painfully taut before relaxing again. If there's another argument to make or more to be said, it's cut short by his by the way. He should be hearing her footsteps creak through the flat, drawn to the bedroom, but it's met instead with more silence. Uncertainty. "So've I," she says. "Payment ledgers. The Invierno, Verano. Our stipends. Funding for Rasoul and Hector Steel. The paper trail goes all the way back to the late eighties." Which is when Eileen was born, and she's undoubtedly made that connection herself, though if she knew what Gabriel has uncovered in the bedroom, she'd probably abandon her search to aid his.

Other entries in the journal, further back, are absent of her influence unless Gabriel counts the photographs the author used to mark specific pages much like the one he himself placed inside, though these are all much more recent and the majority in colour, including a shot taken by the ocean, her hair wild and windswept, dark mouth smiling. She looks younger. Youngest at age six or seven in a creased picture with pale eyes that take up most of her face like a small cat's and delicate features destined to grow sharper and more severe in adulthood.

February 27, 2007

Somewhere in all of this time I've stopped sleeping. I'm not sure when it actually started, I think after I first took Agent Santiago's body. I slept less then, but maybe it was because I was killing more? I wonder at times just how far from human I've strayed. I am the monster than others have written of, and that there are more like me out there is a terrifying notion.

Without sleep, the dreams don't come like they used to. I wonder sometimes if that was the last scraps of my sanity slipping through my fingers. They were worse during the war, worse out in the desert before Santiago came. I have to wonder if it was because of Allègre's presence, my anathema.

I should find him again, but I am afraid of what I would do if I did. If I would not have the resolve to kill him as I should, or if I would let him poison me with words. Maybe I am looking for an excuse for him to end me. Maybe I am just hoping that he is still out there somewhere to find, and that I did not murder the only person in this world who could ever truly relate to me. Maybe I am just afraid that I am truly alone now. I am so very tired.

Relevant to Kazimir. Irrelevant to their reasons for coming here. If the journal holds more answers for Eileen, it will take some searching to find them. "What do you have?"

"Money. Different currencies. I think it's ours now." Finders keepers, and everything. A thumbnail gets gnawed at, the edge nibbled as eyes search the written page beneath serious eyebrows before he's gently shutting the book mid-sentence, a one-handed close that has errant dust coming up off the pages, tickling his lungs when breathed in. "Some letters. It might make more sense to you than it does to me." Their brand of empathy is difficult to read, or at least, difficult to read with any kind of articulate specifics. Right now, there's distantly anxious decision making, plucking a mutual chord of understanding before it dims out entirely. His hand travels out, then, to pull out a drawer from the writing desk, scaring a spider when his fingers scrape within its emptied cavern, this repeated within its neighbour until he discovers the brittle pencil with its crumbly lead.

Uses it, then, to scribble something additional on the back of the photograph, before it's slipped again within the folds of the book.

He stands, tucking the journal into a pocket that is usually more used to the presence of clips, concealed firearms, in the inner of his coat. Today, it disguises thin, worn leather and mottled pages, and he won't worry right now about the rain and smearing text. Pitching the pencil off, Gabriel then two-handedly gathers a mess of envelopes from within the cabinet, the rustling of paper audible from the next room.

Whatever Eileen has on the other side of the apartment, it isn't as conclusive as she hopes letters will be. She emerges into the bedroom doorway, gray eyes dark and solemn, a glass of wine in one hand to warm her. If the electricity in the safehouse doesn't work, the gas probably won't either and it's a cold night outside. At some point, she discarded her coat, leaving her in a densely-knit wool sweater and denim jeans paired with her leather boots: traveling clothes. Her sparrow wings in over her shoulder and comes to rest on the edge of the desk, little black eyes darting between the cracked wood and the envelopes in Gabriel's hands. They skip over the discarded pencil, the open drawer. His pocket.

She has no idea. The glass of wine she holds closer to her chest, arm bent across her middle, slender fingers curved around the flute. When she crosses to him, she sets it down on the desk beside the sparrow and rests her hand near Gabriel, physical proximity without the contact. "Something's wrong."

It's upon the desk that he sets down his findings— the one's he's willing to share right now, anyway— and absently pushing them into more ordered shapes and piles, tucking foreign bank notes back within their slips of paper when they slide out. The letters in German and whateverthehell other languages with which Kazimir held correspondence that had slipped free from the journal are laid down as well, before Gabriel is straightening his back, inspecting his palms for streaks of dust and grime and cobweb. "What is?" sounds careless, despite the fact they are semi-breaking and entering. The door is fine. The cabinet isn't.

It's probably only then that he sees the glint of glass and wine, reflecting his manufactured light at the corner of his eye, and only then that he deigns to look at her — bird first, then her face as if consciously aware of it, where his eye is meant to go, the difference between peering through the camera lens versus meeting its holder's gaze.

"I felt—"

Eileen hesitates. She isn't sure what she felt, and the ease with which he asks the question makes her reexamine it. Unfortunately, this isn't as simple as glancing back at words in a book or trying to recreate a tune from memory; she can't recreate what she experienced unless he initiates it again. The sparrow hop-skips across the wood to inspect one of the letters with its head cocked, wings tucked against its sides. "I don't speak German," she confesses, reaching out to touch the tips of her fingers to the letter, moving it aside in case the one beneath it is written in English or even French. It isn't, and he can almost feel the sigh she breathes out through her nose.

The problem with asking someone to translate these is the probability of sensitive subject matter contained within. Things she would prefer people like Catherine and Francois not know, especially if it reveals something personal about her. There's a reason that Gabriel is here with her and not Jensen or Abigail. "It isn't a very large flat, but there are lots of places he could have cached things." There may be more, she means. Her hand lifts from the bed, hovers in the space between them. For the first time since St. Petersburg, she reaches out to touch him, fingers making a fan across the middle of his chest. "Jewelry we can sell." The tips of her fingers curl inward. She closes a fist around the front of his coat, the material clenched tight between angular knuckles going white. "Other material possessions."

The journal makes for light, guilty weight in his pocket, but with her hand against his chest instead of searching for the unlined opening beneath the buttoned hem, and a different kind of tension and intent straining her hand into bloodlessness, Gabriel's immediate thought has nothing to do with Kazimir's literature. "There's a lot to pick through," he agrees, a glance over her head to indicate (to maybe no one) the cluttered living room beyond the more spartan bedroom. His hand the rests around her thin wrist, a thumb skimming along the back of her hand as if to soothe tension there — or test it, feel the pressure of tendons beneath deceptively delicate pale skin, the knot of blue snake veins.

"Might be better if we wait until we have some sun to help out." If skin contact assists their empathy— well it doesn't, not completely, but it can trick the mind into thinking that way. The train ride to Germany was tense enough that his demeanor had remained at a simmer, implying searing would they ever have brushed hands before now, to deal scars and wounds as clear as the ones on his knuckles now. Now, his hand just feels warm.

Eileen's grip tightens in response, and she tips her head against his shoulder, face pressed to him as she inhales the dampness of his coat and the more subtle interactions that the rainwater has with his skin and hair. Although the cadence of her breathing is steady, slow, it also possesses a kind of heaviness like dark clouds after a storm before the skies have cleared. She stands like this for a long time before her free hand finds the mane at his nape and digs fingers roughly into it, the bite of her nails sharp but not so sharp as to hurt. The difference in height between them makes crushing his mouth in hers impossible without adjustments, and these are ones that they'd both have to make.

Her clutching hands convey her desire instead, but while there's something unmistakably sexual about her handling of him, that's only a small part of it. "I don't want to go back to New York," she mutters against his chest, and as always there's an important distinction between want and need. She would not have come all this way without intending to return to the States. Would not have been, as Gabriel reminded her, an active participant at the herring cannery. "He's there. Nick. I don't want to go."

The name finds a mark, obscurely, a little over the strength of a flung dart at a brick wall. It would be difficult for its familiarity to not mean something to Gabriel, slightly deeper than the impersonal sense, if nowhere near the density of the bottomless pit of meaning that such a person's carved out for Eileen. Surprise, the darker kind, registers through the understanding of the bird in the room and filters back to the girl in its ghostly reflective form. It is easier, also, to crumble at the will of her hands than her words — his own palms find her waist, his back bows so that he can better land the gentle kiss on her mouth, tentative in its navigation of the wounds he has close by, but used to this. Kissing through injury, his own, her's. You have to be.

His temple brushes to her's, breath snagging at errant brunette curls loose behind her ear. Stays at her level, when he points out, "There's no rush. No deadline. We can take our time." There is a rush, actually, there is a deadline, but they might not matter as much. He doesn't offer to kill Nick, or anything.

Not yet, anyway.

Eileen is pulled between the need — and in this case it is a need — to be gentle and the need — less so — to release the residual aggression in her body and mouth. Her compromise is firm pressure and teeth on his lower lip, mindful not to aggravate his injuries more than the kiss has already. To punish and be punished, these are things she can do without leaving any lasting impressions or hurt feelings if she's deliberate about the way that she does it. "Just a few more days," she resolves, voice suddenly a rough hiss against his mouth, "then Hamburg. I know a pilot there. He can fly us home, a final favour for Kazimir's Vanguard."

Rushes. Deadlines. Her awareness of them is foggy but present, the same as the patter of rain against the windows behind the curtains and the creaky ambiance of the building around them, scratchy reminders that they aren't completely alone here. "Don't let go."

There is the necessity to do so, but only in brief interruptions — his hands move from her hips so that wool can slide down his arms, abandoned coat gathering in a mound on the floor and left there. Her's, too, and she's roughly shucked from it with his guidance, and then it's by his dictation when they're both led away from both garments, and the things one of them could contain, like coins, like confessions. Though aged, the bed supports his weight when he sits on its edge, and he draws Eileen in to stand between his knees, head resting heavy against her stomach as his hands trace paths down the backs of her legs, his gaze wandering on over towards the cash, the letters, making their withered shapes on the desk across from them both.

Journal and its photograph and the improvised note are left behind, for now, but she'll receive it eventually, left open on her pillowcase — maybe in Germany, or back in New York City. Just a few more days, like she says.

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