Close to the Chest


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Scene Title Close to the Chest
Synopsis Teo and Constantine make a gruesome discovery back at the clinic.
Date March 11, 2009

Filatov Clinic

Despite the easy cash and the steady stream of clients, willing or otherwise, Constantine is slowly growing to hate Staten Island. The idiot fight club has been drawing too much of his time, lately, time that would be better spent on any number of other projects. But, his complaints about it only silently on the short drive home. For starters, the occupant of the only passenger seat in the small, two-door pickup that should've stopped running ten years ago is Ranger, and while the bulldog is certainly interested in leaning out the window, he is much less interested in hearing about someone else's problems. The only other set of ears belongs to Eileen's Italian friend, and he's sitting in the back. No help there, and silence is his only option as he half pulls, half coasts to a stop in front of his clinic, the aging diesel engine shuddering in protest before it falls silent as well. Whether it will ever start again is a matter of conjecture.

Exiting the cab, Constantine's first words to Teo are a simple, "Were you touching my stuff?" as he shuts the door behind him, moving to the passenger-side door to let Ranger out. The sooner he can be done with the day, the better.

Eileen's Italian friend came sailing out of the back of the truck over one hand on the raised edge of the cargo bed. He finds a sharp halt on the asphalt, leans back against the momentum of his landing only to find himself hanging his shoulders up in astonishment that translates just as easily — or mistranslates just as quickly — to guilt. "No, signor." Teo angles a sidelong glance at the great chrome box behind him, assuring himself that he did not, in fact, touch Constantine's stuff.

His rue holds for all of six seconds.

"I'm sorry, I really want to tell Eileen," he bursts out abruptly, like carbonated fizz breaking the meniscus of a glass of soda. "I just— I— I don't— she probably didn't tell you, but that last fight— ! She'd want to know— how well everything— "

His hands flip in the air, trying to articulate haste in a way that might be more polite, more socially acceptable. The truth is, he had been bouncing in the pickup for far better reason than the Rookery's shitty road maintenance or boredom. He's been all nerves, too-excited, his normal paranoia mangled by a certain sense of elation that not even that final look Logan had given him could undercut. He shuts up, lips finding a flat line, stares at Constantine dolefully for a moment.

And then, like a kid having confronted his parents on the stairs in Christmas, he makes a break for it, rabbiting off toward the clinic's darkened face with an ecstatic shout: "Eileen!"

On the bright side, this does mean that Teo will stop stutter and tripping over his words. It's the bright side for Constantine, at least. In response to Teo's ecstatic cries, Ranger gives a gruff snort before he himself makes his way towards the front door. "Tell me about it," Constantine replies in agreement. Hefting his travel bag off the inside floor, he slams the door to the truck and treks towards the door himself without bothering to lock up. No one would try to steal this piece of crap. "Don't get too excited, friend. The door's locked." Standard operating procedure, no pun intended.

"Eileen!" Pun would've been fine, given Teo had experienced a rather nonstandard operating procedure and still hasn't found the words to say about it. Patter-patter go his feet, dashing across the asphalt, almost heedless of the old man and the old dog behind him. Constantine's note gets a backward nod out of him, Okay, si, yes sir, I understand, non problema, and he almost trips over a scattered scrap of garbage on his way. "Eileen!" He hits the door fist-first, drubs a noise like a drum through the clinic's small space. "It's over—!"

For once, there are no footsteps that cause the floorboards to creak and groan beneath their weight, no key turning in the lock to retract the deadbolt. Instead, the door — which was not quite closed — swings open under the insistent hammering of Teo's fist and casts a long shadow that stretches from one side of the clinic to the other, but not before it spills across the small, prone form sprawled out at its center.

Among other things, the clinic smells very strongly of candle wax, and yet the only light brightening its interior comes from the street lamps outside and illuminates the floor like a sea of stars.

There's glass everywhere.

Even from his location crossing the front walk, Constantine is more than able to see the door openly slowly and, more importantly, without lights, guns or anything other than darkness behind it. Eileen would know Teo's voice, she wouldn't offer him such a cold welcome, and it's that fact that prompts Constantine to break into a jog as he draws an old Soviet revolver, pulling the hammer back as he reaches the porch. Whether or not Teo is still there when he arrives will be seen, but the doctor does not immediately stride through the door. Not into the darkness and waiting gunfire. He knows better, and the overpowering smell of candles and alcohol and chemicals doesn't help to calm him down. "Eileen?" he calls out, although he's not foolish enough to expect a reply. This is not good.

Predictable as the Earth is dense, Teo indeed fails to be at the door anymore when Constantine gets there, no. His greeting had faded away into a different tone, the same name expelled in a tone of query and shock before he pushed himself in through the door with a hand on its frame. Scraped into a crouch, Glock in hand and head low under the edge of the counters. More of a lipservice salute to caution than real caution, but it might serve the same purpose, in the end. Smaller target is a smaller target.

Eileen looks very small.

"Eileen." He and Constantine have yelled at her — how many times, now? He should probably have put two and two together and arrived at the conclusion that this exercise is pointless, but that doesn't shut him up. Throwing a haphazard glance through the room, his brow buckles into knots of consternation at the faint intimations of disturbance in the dark; his lips part; growling a curse, he scrabbles over to the girl's prone frame.

Teo, you idiot. Constantine doesn't spend long mentally berating the young man; what good will it do? However, when he isn't shot the moment he runs through the door, or the moment after, Constantine gets the hint as well and steps through the portal, immediately moving to and flicking on the overhead lights. And for an instant, just for the briefest of instants, he finds himself transported back to the old days, to Leningrad. But there is no artillery in the distance threatening to end his life, no Nazi lurking around the corner with a bayonet. It's only for an instant, and then he's immediately back in the present. His bag and his pistol are hastily placed on the floor, and with stray shards of broken glass crunching under his shoes, he arrives crouching at Eileen's side, immediately checking for her pulse and forcing her to look upward at the ceiling lights, waiting, hoping that her pupils will still contract.

Waiting, hoping that at this critical moment, Teo doesn't panic and make things worse.

Panic seems like a good idea, but Teo lacks the creativity required to make this worse. She's all fucked up. On first pass, that is the beginning and end of the Italian kid's grasp of Eileen's medical situation; he has an ear to her mouth when the older man has his fingers to her neck.

By the time Constantine is guiding her eyelids back and checking their response to the light, Teo looks like he's seeing in monochrome, all shades of red, his breath coming through the white grille of clenched teeth in arid cadence. He lurches onto his feet. Kicks glass, and starts to walk through the room, glancing through windows, circling around to the door to hurl it shut. Slam.

Eileen isn't conscious — this is the first thing that becomes apparent when the overhead lights flood the clinic and cast her face in a sterile white glow. The second: she probably hasn't been for a very long time. Blood mats the thick curls of raven black hair plastered to her brow, but like the coagulated mess stopping up her nose and mouth, it lacks the vibrant red colour that's so often associated with it. This fluid is so dark that it's almost black, and has adopted an almost syrupy quality where it hasn't already begun to cake or crust.

She has a pulse. That's positive. Her pupils also contract, filling her eyes with a gray-green ring of iris outlined in pale gold.

That's reassuring, but still not good. In fact, it's still very bad. "Hey!" It's directed at Teo and not Eileen, but that may be difficult to tell. Constantine needs the conscious of the two to help him. "Pull yourself together, I need your help!" The first order of business is to clear Eileen's breathing passages, and the doctor uses nothing more than his fingers to force as much of the blood as possible out from the girl's nose and mouth. The smaller cuts and bruises can wait; band-aids won't help if she stops breathing or finishes bleeding out.

"'M here." And Teodoro is here. And closer, here, after a moment, his boots scattering back through the broken glass and accumulated sludge of mixed rain and spilled pharmaceutical chemistry. He drops into a crouch and hits the floor with his knees, the force of momentum gasping a brief passage of movement through the panels of his jacket. "I don't think there's anyone else. I don't know what fuck—"

He knows what the fuck happened. He can guess at the timing, at least, in much the way that Eileen had guessed at the true origin injuries given to him long before he awakened and rasped out the pirate's name and that of Jack's beleaguered little boat. Teo swallows the sharp-cornered lump in his throat; hazards a glance up at Constantine. He's gone white. "What do you need?"

Bruises appear on Eileen's skin as ugly splotches in varying purple shades, burst capillaries oozing into the surrounding tissue to form moderate contusions on her naked arms and the delicately sloping curve of one exposed shoulder. They aren't the sort of injury Constantine would expect bare hands to inflict on a body, even one as petite and bird-boned as Eileen's — these are the work of a blunt object, or the toe of somebody's boot.

It's not hard to scoop the blood out of her mouth. Her saliva lubricates Constantine's fingers, allowing him to complete his task with less time and even little effort. What matters is that she's still breathing, and apart from outward appearances, there's no indication this will probably change before he or Teo can move her to the examination table that hasn't been overturned. Beaten women and battered children often look worse than they really are.

"First, we get her off the floor, off the glass." Yes, the glass. It's everywhere, and it's the reason why Ranger has decided to stay near the front door, where the least amount of it is. "Get her legs, and on three, we lift. Onto the table there." From there, a shot of adrenaline to raise her heart rate, warm her up and, more importantly, make sure her lungs don't close; he hasn't forgotten about the asthma. But after that, beyond disinfectants, sutures, the mysterious F7-19 and perhaps a steroids to reduce any swelling in the spine or brain, there isn't much to be done. "One, two, three." Heave!


The gentle grip of hands around Eileen's legs doesn't waver though Teo's eyes keep straying back to the bruised face framed in her stringy hair. Her shins wind up packed underneath Teo's armpit, his fingers twined into the thick fabric of her clothes. His facial expression almost isn't one at all, the skin of his face pinched and drawn so tight from worry that it's almost like the topography of his actual skull is showing through, bleached white and hollow-eyed. He walks crabwise, keeps the line of the girl's torso parallel to the table until they sling her onto it.

She's as light as he remembers, bringing her head into collision course with her own prison cot. "Why the fuck." It doesn't sound like a question, but is one. He coughs; looks up, expectant, wondering.

The instant that Eileen is on the table, Constantine is going somewhere else, fishing key out of his pocket to open some of his many cabinets and rifle through them. It's only a few moments before he returns to the table with a pair of steel scissors, a medical stapler, and a small autoinjector. "If she stops breathing," the doctor says, "Jab that into her thigh, hold for ten seconds. And whatever, whatever you do, do not leave her. She didn't leave you." As if those words possessed some sort of magic, the doctor again departs, this time running back towards the kitchen with a lightness and stride he hasn't felt for decades. If only for a few minutes, the doctor is a man of thirty again.

A man of twenty as he pulls the door of his walk-in refrigerator opened, grabbing a half-liter bottle of F7-19, just in case, before shutting it again and returning to the front room. "I'm sure she'll be happy to hear your story when she wakes up." If she wakes up. Constantine can't ignore that possibility, as remote as it thus far seems.

Crazier shit has happened, yeah. Like Eileen getting the shit beaten out of her in a medical clinic while Teo was on ground zero between an erstwhile serial killer, former terrorist cell leader, and Staten Island mafia. He tries not to think about that, really. It's a waste of resources while he's better off expending his energy toward frenetic head nodding, stalls out with another pinched look on his face when Constantine says those words.

Better than magic, they actually work. Or succeed, at any rate, in keeping him shut up as he accepts the autoinjector and yanks Eileen's leg bare. He stoops low, listens to the escape of thin air through her nose and mouth. If she stops breathing, Constantine says. If she stops breathing. Just stick her with this. Straightforward enough.

God don't let her stop breathing. His head turned to keep his hearing parallel to Eileen's profile, Teo watches the man out of a blank expression. Blank, even as Constantine morphs and remorphs mid-stride. Crazier shit has happened, yeah.

Finally, with all the tools at hand he could reasonably need, Constantine feels able to take things a bit slower. Once again, he checks Eileen's vitals, and remains satisfied with them. As satisfied as he can be at least. On to the rest of her though, one bit at a time, and with an unspoken apology, he lifts the scissors and cuts opens the girl's shirt. She looks less like a girl underneath it, and more like and apple that was rolled down a flight of stairs, so bad is the bruising. "Ribs are bruised," the doctor says, as much for his own record keeping as for Teo's benefit, "Broken, maybe. No organ damage. She'll recover from this." And on down, or rather, up the list. "Jaw, with this bruising, is at least cracked. Possibly broken as well. That will heal, given time. This-" With a finger, he points at a nasty looking bruise covering Eileen's temple- "This is a concern. Blunt trauma to the head."

As he outlines the situation regarding Eileen's skull to Teo, he checks the rest of it, and the base of the brainstem, for abnormal pressure. "Appears to be no cerebral swelling or spinal damage, but this-" Again, he indicates the bruising on Eileen's head. It takes him longer to form a sentence than it did the last time, not because he's admitting bad news to Teo, but because he has to admit it to himself. "I, can't promise that she's going to wake up."

"Shut u—" Teo manages to close his mouth before he finishes being rude, which is a good thing despite that his teeth come down on his tongue and he tastes blood. His weight has lapsed onto his elbow with bruising force against the table, leaning. Over the course of the doctor's prognostic explanation, his eyes had made a jerking, saccadic jump, pinpointing the corresponding location of her body.

Ribs are bruised. Jaw. Temple. Head, spine. Brain. The impossible size of Eileen's eyes are sealed away behind eyelids that seem to have the same color and wrinkled texture as tissue paper. They'd been worried about him — practical strangers, barraging him with text messages as soon as the raid was gone, Get out. Can't save you. Mission successful. Get out. He'd been careful. Watchful, armed, uplinked to both Anne and Hana, safe as could be. He had never thought

"She'll be fine," he amends, with an awkward stoop of his eyes. His throat moves. "If you can just keep her alive for… for a few hours, maybe a day— or if we can get Tavisha, she'll be okay. If fucking medicine won't do it, then there are other ways. People owe her." As Constantine had made out in no uncertain terms, Teo is one of those people. He looks up, more faded than a twenty-six-year-old is wont to.

"No. Not Tavisha." Just like his statement of who Teo is, Constantine says this in no uncertain terms. "Not anyone. Take a look around." With a sweeping gesture of his hand, Constantine indicates that he's talking about, everything. "Not ransacked. Broken, smashed, in disarray, yes. Not a single lock has been tampered with or damaged, nothing was taken. This wasn't a robbery, it was an assassination. Words travel fast on the island.

"And as soon as it's out that she miraculously survived, then whoever is responsible, I think we each have a guess who, will come back to finish the job, and I can't be everywhere at once. Better the world believes that she died while we consolidate. You agree that everything goes much more smoothly when there's a plan, executed by a calm, thinking mind."

The hands that Teo closes on the edge of the table are white and red, knuckles peaked so sharply underneath his skin that they look like they might break through, his gripping fingers eliciting an alarming creak of compromised wood grain and adhesive. "We need to bring someone," he snaps, his voice scraped out at the bottom of his throat, rough, like he had laid a ton of bricks on it to stop it from rising into a yell.

"Maybe not nowmaybe not this fucking instant. Maybe yeah, all right, fuck, we can afford to wait until whatever the fuck it is you're planning about is done germinating in the fertile flowerbed of tactical bullshit, but that — bringing someone is part of the fucking plan, right? Getting her better. We can't let that asshole have finished the fucking job while we consolidate."

It's good he put down the injector for a brief moment. Stopping short, he snags it back up in his hand, stares at the level of adrenaline inside. His brow furrows. He glances up to check, again, that Eileen is still breathing. "How long?"

"A few days," Constantine suggests, "A week with steroid treatment. Brain's not swelling, no apparent nerve damage. If she wakes up by the time a week is up, then we'll have our answer. If not, we'll still have it. Don't forget that as long as the world believes that she's dead, no one will have any reason to come back and finish the job."

For a brief moment, he looks directly at Teo, fixing him with the kind of stare better suited to the face of a soldier. "Do not, fuck this up," he half says, half snarls, "If word gets around that she survived, if anyone other than you comes here to look for her, I will show you that there is life after death, and that God has nothing to do with it." If Teo has anything to add to this, Constantine is not interested, returning his attention fully to Eileen, save for a single sentence. "Don't make the mistake of thinking that this is somehow more difficult for you than it is for me."

A week in normal people time is like a year in terrorist time, and Teo would need twenty one hands to count all the people who've died in the past one. Nevertheless, the certainty with which the doctor talks about his ability to keep the girl alive for that long reassures him in some small, mildly disbelieving way. He hasn't seen any life-support equipment in here, but if Constantine can get it, that says nothing bad about his competence.

One year in terrorist time is certainly long enough for a guy to go insane. "If what you figure is true, she can't just fucking come back to work here even if she wakes up within a fucking week, anyway," he grates out. The autoinjector rolls between long fingers. "There are people who would hide her and protect her better than either of us ever could. What the fuck am I supposed to tell her friends?"

He conveniently forgets, for a moment, that Eileen no longer has any she would admit to. Penance. Teo's chosen all his loyalties for its sake; in some cruel irony, the dark little sylph of an Englishwoman had effectively abandoned all of hers for the same reason.

"Tell them to accept that sometimes, bad things happen to good people and there's nothing they can do about it," the doctor replies, "There is no good or evil, friend. Only decisions and consequences. Someone tries to kill someone else and fails, and there are consequences. Someone takes action against me, in my own home, and there are consequences. They never come immediately, not from me, but they always come. This marks only the second time someone on Staten Island has acted against me, Teodoro. Rather than dwelling on the second incident, perhaps you should consider the reasons why it didn't happen until long after everyone forgot about the first."

March 11th: Nobody Expects...

Previously in this storyline…
Nobody Expects...

Next in this storyline…
Bloody Legacy

March 11th: My Favorite Color
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