bebe_icon.gif mu-qian_icon.gif

Scene Title Clue
Synopsis Mu-Qian bequeaths more than a few clues to Bebe in regards to all sorts of allegorical things.
Date April 24, 2009

Sheung Wan Kitchen

It's not just the large selection that makes Sheung Wan Kitchen special - it's the quality, the sights, the atmosphere, and the friendly service. This is a very small restaurant with only a handful of seats in front of a large, flat counter where meals are prepared in full-view by some of the Rookery's more knowledgeable chefs. Stacked high against the far wall are wicker baskets full of dried sea creatures, mystery animal parts, deer antlers, wine with whole king cobras, heaps of herbs and twigs and tree barks. Although these are meant to go into the dishes that are served here, it is not impossible to haggle for them.

A large chalkboard behind the counter advertises the kitchen's special menu, though some items are more difficult to read than others. Most popular is the Tree Lizard Soup - cooked with yams, Chinese dates, ginseng, medlar, and something called tragacanth, which is reported to be good for asthma, colds, lungs and the heart.

The ideal hour to attend to the business of dining out has long since come and gone. In fact, the hour has drawn on so late that the kitchen has been declared closed in an official capacity, even if it still caters to the culinary whim of one woman in particular keeping company with another out in the otherwise empty dining area. They table they occupy seems somehow out of place, still bothered with bowls of this, that, and the other thing in such quantities that might suggest they were (or had) six other hungry mouths to feed in addition to their own.

"…girl behind the counter recognized me," says the pale-skinned creature of the night from just over the lip of her bowl of rice, two chopsticks stabbed into the sticky stuff in preparation for more of it to be shoveled into her mouth shortly. "I didn't want to cause a scene," she says, ducking her head by a degree while still tilting her chin to favor her companion. Bebe considers Mu-Qian thoughtfully before daintily striving to sate her extremely healthy appetite.

"She would have done the same to me," Mu-Qian says, her accent more melody than misstep, gesturing dismissively with her chopsticks, as if Abigail were an infinitesimal gnat to be plucked out and crushed with the points of her eating implements. The metaphor can't be pushed too far: there's nothing so vulgar about the half-Asian woman, who is the furthest imaginable thing from a killer short of an actual corpse.

She selects the blushing plump of a shrimp-stuffed dumpling out of its wooden receptacle. Daubs it in soy sauce with fingers as dainty as the lady in white is wont to be. "It is good for my interests. I'm sorry if you suffered for it. People like to pick sides. Logan picked yours for you."

"She's a little bit too self-righteous for a woman who stabbed a man in the eye, if you ask me," says Bebe, her tone of voice bordering dangerously close to something acrimonious without having the heart to fully commit to the sentiment. The bitter taste left in her mouth after saying such a thing is swiftly washed away by some miraculously still-warm tea.

"Don't worry," she then offers with what might actually be the hint of a genuine smile hiding in the corners of her mouth. "I'm used to it." The lie leaves her lips a little too easily. It very nearly isn't untrue; she's used to someone making her decisions for her, just not Logan. Yet. Give her another month or three. Let another year go by and see if it doesn't become the God's honest truth.

That would be such a pretty tragedy. Something worth framing to go up on the wall where the prophetic painting was stolen from Logan's office.

"Logan wasn't the first to lose an eye," the woman remarks wryly, that fractional sense of maternity with which she occasionally regards the Englishman and the plagues he invites upon his own house. It's only a matter of time, she thinks, before he leaves it to the cleansing of fire. Finds somewhere else to visit his greed and pestilence. It's kind of cute. Young people are.

Mu-Qian doesn't really believe Bebe is used to it. Being a whore invites a great deal of criticism. Being a whore in the employ of John Logan invites worse than usual. There's proof of a soul somewhere between those hard words finding their mark and the armor flung up against it. At least, after tonight, the younger woman will have had food for strength to drag it around. "Felix was badly hurt tonight."

Like the proverbial puppy puzzled by the surprising sound produced by the gramophone, Bebe tilts her head while still chewing her food and hastily strives to swallow so that she might be able to ask "What do you mean?" without spewing out little bits of spicy beef at the woman in white. Chopsticks down. Interest piqued.

The perfect stones of Mu-Qian's fingernails flex out underneath the ceiling lights, partly for vanity, partly a shooing motion at a waiter who'd been about to step in, inquire if the Happy Dagger's women would mind a couple drunken louts who just sloughed out of the nearby bar in search of something to sop up the liquor in their stomachs. Yes, Mu-Qian would mind. No thanks. "I felt it," she answers. "In the parts of his body that I healed. He almost died.

"Somebody saved him. On Manhattan, I believe." Her own chopsticks flit out behind her, pointing through the window where the lumbering shadows of drunkards fling bumble into retreat. North-northeast, if Bebe has any idea. Sailor she was trained to be, she might well. "I do not know what happened."

"Would you like to?" Bebe asks — no, offers a bit hastily. Ever since she discovered Mu-Qian's amazing ability — you know, the one that allows her to control John Logan in such a way as to beg off Bebe's time away from the Dagger with seemingly little to no effort in the asking or repercussion in the absence — Bebe has almost literally been at the woman in white's beck and call. The sort of supplication that allows her to keep her clothes on has always suited Bebe best and her big, brown eyes light up at the unspoken opportunity to embark upon a fieldtrip to the mainland in order to suss out this little mystery.

It would be exciting! The corners of the Asian woman's eyes thin slightly, a smile that takes up her glossed mouth as well. She chases a last grain of rice around her bowl with her chopsticks, plucks up the single glistening granule with the unerring accuracy of a mainlander.

"That would be wonderful," she says. "Thank you, Bebe! And since he knows who I am now—" she lapses into a thinking pause. "I wouldn't mind if your conversation gave him more information about you and I. That John Logan has no idea about what was done for him. That I have an interest in… Eileen Ruskin, Ethan Holden, and other associates of my late husband.

"I hope to find the one responsible for murdering him." This is as conversationally casual as the weather or a funky taste in the tapwater, or whether Bebe would like another bao to go with the beef slices.

Amazing. In the barely the blink of an eye, Bebe has miraculously managed to increase her intimate knowledge of Mu-Qian's motivations by almost three fold. While the rumors whispered about the woman in white had always included some mention of mourning, it was never entirely clear to most folks — or, at least, not to Bebe — as to who she had lost or how. Now she knows. And with this new knowledge comes the unfortunately inappropriate realization that Mu-Qian's personal mission in life for the moment has come to resemble a board game that Bebe used to play before everything turned into a cliché. The question is… has Mrs. White just asked Miss Scarlet to team up with Mr. Green — Mr. Green was the gay one, right? — in order to solve Mr. Body's murder? Mrs. Peacock and Colonel Mustard are persons of interest.

If she had to hazard a guess now, Bebe might be inclined to say it was the absent Professor Plum in the conservatory with the lead pipe. But, before she opens her mouth, maybe she ought to wait for her hand to be dealt…

There's a temporary pause as she considers saying something other than what eventually finds its way out of her mouth. "I'll see if Jack can take me back over in the morning." A few hours later than now, at any rate, when the sun might actually be up. "Any idea where he might be?"

"At the hospital, or on the job," Mu-Qian replies, swallowing the single last grain of rice. They say that every fleck you leave in your bowl will be another pock mark on the face of your eventual betrothed, and Mu-Qian's adherence to that habit probably says something ill of her equally close commitment to the mourning rituals of her people. "Perhaps Old Lucy's.

"If you want to, it can't be impossible for you to make peace with the little waitress there." Bartender. Either the woman doesn't know the terminology or drops the slight like an unneeded feather from her otherwise immaculate plumage. "She might feel better if you share experiences. Tell her your freedom is going to be purchased soon. That you need friends in the world outside."

Self-evidently, Mu-Qian's games would never fit in a flat cardboard box.

In some subconscious attempt to mirror Mu-Qian's behavior, John Logan's little whore tries her best to find the bottom of her rice bowl without leaving a single stray. It's harder to accomplish than the simple description might make it seem. Bebe's attempts achieve only a mediocre degree of success — she isn't as skilled with the chopsticks as her mentor is — and she's forced to resort to cheating by employing her unassisted fingertips. The prospect of making peace with the previously described as 'self-righteous' Abigail Beauchamp isn't perplexing in and of itself, it's the statement that follows which causes Bebe's brain to abruptly trainwreck on telecast delay with one finger still stuck between her teeth as she lifts her head and looks at the woman seated less than three feet away in order to relay a great big blink. "'S much fun as lying can be, I don't think it's apt to get me very far with her — him, maybe…" Men love that sort of thing. "…but, she'd never fall for a sob story from someone like me."

There is judicious disagreement on Mu-Qian's expression for that, the corners of her mouth and shake of her head. Her ricebowl clinks down on the table-top on the ridged ring of its base. "You should take a closer look at Abigail Beauchamp. She is certainly no less self-righteous than a Federal agent, but not anymore, I think." Unwontedly, the corners of the woman's painted mouth turn upward. She reaches across the table to grasp the tea pot's plump porcelain shape in her fingers.

"Our John hurt her badly. I would expect self-pity.

"Anyway— it isn't as if you would be lying." The momentary slip and slide into girly, adolescent verbiage seems to go from Mu-Qian completely unawares. "Old Lucy's is a good place to wait for Felix Ivanov, and Beauchamp herself may know something too. Any help you could bring yourself to offer me, I would appreciate." The spume of clear green tea is accompanied by a whistling plume of steam, rolls along the bottom of Bebe's cup before escalating against the pristine white walls.

Our John. As if Staten Island's two-bit pimp-cum-businessman belonged to these two women instead of the marginally more accurate reversal of fortune… for one woman, at any rate. For a minute, Bebe allows herself to pretend that it's true in lieu of lingering at the hip of reality and somewhere between there and the tea she finds the strength to muster up a smile and mutter a muted 'thank you' before lapsing back into subservient silence for another second or two. A sip. A sigh. A… wait, what!?

"…what do you mean?" It's up to Mu-Qian to take a stab at wherever the heart of the whore's inquiry might be but… she is something of an expert when it comes to anatomy, isn't she?

You'd think so, for a whore, but even as a whore, Bebe's new to things. That's no criticism: some might say, there's hope yet.

An electronic chirp of Mu-Qian's phone cuts through the silence of the younger woman's astonishment like a knife, despite that the sharpness of its music is softened, blurred, buried somewhere in the cream-colored calfskin of her purse. She's smiling. The woman in white is smiling. Her eyes are dipped down, her slender shoulders eased back, chin lowered, lending her some seeming semblance that she's focusing not on the other woman but on the phone, only, that no one smiles at their telephone.

Not even sociopaths, who might otherwise have difficulty differentiating between machine and fellow man. "I always pay my debts, xiaojie." She closes a hand on the straps of her purse, pulling them upright in a skimming tug of her palm. Tugs her phone out of it, with a cant of sculpted eyebrows.

Oh. Oh! Once she's able to pry her big brown eyes away from the Mu-Qian's oh-so-expressive lips, Bebe seems to suddenly become hip to what the rest of what the woman in what's body language is leaving untranslated. It goes a little something like this: You're a sweetheart. Now go away.

Bebe doesn't need to be told twice. She returns the older woman's smile and ducks her head politely before finding her way to somewhere that's else — far out of earshot, in the direction of the docks at Fresh Kills — that ought to be plenty of privacy. Time to get down to business that doesn't involve being on her back… unless it's for Jack!

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