Conflicted Interests


cooper_icon.gif gillian_icon.gif

Scene Title Conflicted Interests
Synopsis Cooper visits the home of Gillian Childs to get more information.
Date March 03, 2018

The New York Safe Zone: Elmhurst

The brownstone in Elmhurst is quite nice, surrounded, in fact, by other nice townhouses. Everything about the street seems well kept. Probably because at least one member of the SZC’s Citizen Watch happens to live here. Gillian Childs makes sure the trash gets picked up, makes sure that those who live there have their needs heard. A neighbor often comes by to mention problems, when once they would be asking for a cup of sugar, or something similar. But today the knock on the door did not come from a concerned neighbor.

It’s from an agent of SESA. One who’s been to her townhouse of the last few years at least once before. Under very different circumstances.

Once she had the date and time of the meeting, she sent Hailey with her siblings, making sure the bottom floor looks presentable, but as soon as the doorbell rang with a gentle ting, she opened the door. She might have been pacing by the windows and saw him approach.

“Thanks for stopping by,” she responds with a smile that shows off her dimple, but doesn’t quite touch her eyes. “It’s good to see you again.”

Nevermind that she’d never actually called him back. She’ll blame work, not her anxiety toward men.

Caught Red-handed as he was in the middle of trying to rub out some powdered sugar that he saw right after he knocked. Doh! Fingers let go of his tie quickly, an awkward smile offered in return. “Gillian,” it might sound a touch strained and mock surprise, hand smoothing down the tie. “Uh… hi. Yeah, I… am not going to lie,” he starts glancing past her into the house, “I was kind of surprised when the file landed on my desk and a note stating you had personally requested me to handle this.”

Pale eyes, wander over her features, openly curious, but also maybe remembering… previous… meeting? “You look great by the way.” The look moves up to her hair. “Like the blonde.” Wait… maybe he shouldn’t have said all of that out loud. He glances behind his shoulder to make sure Rhys isn’t going to show up behind him suddenly and comment as such.

“Ah… so the case.” Thomas quickly steers things back to why he is here, file held up with both hands. “Shall be begin?”

For a long moment, Gillian almost wants to apologize. It’s so tempting. She doesn’t even know why his name specifically came to mind immediately after she forced herself to dismiss Veronica as possibility. But it had, and she doesn’t regret that, even if she can’t help but fidget at the long sleeve of her shirt for a minute. She’s barefoot, which means the small butterfly tattoo on her ankle is visible when she steps back and lets him inside. Few people these days know what tattoos she has now—

But he does.

As well as the strange black handprints that almost looked burnt into her skin. Those weren’t tattoos. But she’d never get them removed, either.

“Yes— the case. Come on in and have a seat.” The living room looks the same, with a few small additions here and there— and a yellow cat that’s decided to sprawl out and take up the entire loveseat, pretty much. He makes a sound as he looks over, tail beginning to curl up at the end. Instead of going to join him, she disappears into the kitchen and returns with two small bottles of water from the fridge. Natural spring water. Straight from… a tap somewhere, probably. And filtered.

Two coasters are set down and she takes a seat in one of the chairs. “What all do you need to know?”

The cat is eyed a bit warily as the Agent skirts around it. Maybe it is the fact that Cooper has only ever really owned Guinea pigs; Al the third being the current one.

“This isn't awkward at all,” Cooper murmurs under his breath once she is in the kitchen. Oh God, the kitchen. “Don’t think about any of it. Your a professional.” Maybe, he should have brought the kid with him. Rhys was good at keeping Thomas on track… most of the time.

When she steps out of the kitchen again, he is seated and that boyishly awkward smile has returned. The water is accepted graciously with a softly spoken thanks. “I wanted to hear your side of things,” he feels the need to add, “on the case.” Cause that was what he was talking about, not the fact that she never called back.

“She came to you after all. What is her relationship to you?” From an inner coat pocket, a small flip book is produced and a pen.

“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to write down that she was a fan of my book,” Gillian tries to offer, but she doesn’t think that will happen. The girl had come to her. “She doesn’t really trust the government, and considering how this government used to be…” Before the way. “I can’t really blame her for it.

It had been the first time that they’d not actually met that she’d been taken into custody and shipped off to Argentina to fight in war. Against robots. And nazis. Who had a nuclear bomb they intended to flood the world with.

No. Gillian didn’t trust that government, which is half the reason she’s keeping such a close eye on this one. “She was raised in the Ferry, but never got rid of the wariness. She’s afraid if she comes forward that she’ll be forced to register, put on some list and get locked in the Safe Zone. And believe me, I’ve tried to tell her differently…”

“Honestly, I think just about everyone has trust issues nowadays.” The man sitting across from her, might have those, too. Cooper’s pen scratches across the surface of the notepad, making short notes. “Especially, those kids that had to grow up in all of that.” He glances up, giving her a rueful smile, “Ellen didn’t have to deal with as much and even she has issues.”

The pen taps on the edge of the notebook as Cooper turns thoughtful. “The report says she believes it was Pure Earth? Did she tell you why she thought it might be them?” He is in the zone at the moment, though, he can’t help but glance at the tattoo, when he turns his attention to the notebook again, a small smile threatens to crack that professional appearance.

“They took her to Staten Island after grabbing her. She never explained how she escaped, but she did.” As Gillian speaks, the long loaf of fluff starts to move, rolling on the love seat until he starts to stretch and open his mouth into a quiet roar that’s actually a yawn. With his tail swishing, he hops down and makes his way to Cooper, rubbing against his leg with his whole body. Getting both fur and scent of cat all over him. Either the cat remembers him from before, or he’s just that friendly.

Or maybe he smells donuts.

“I’m not sure exactly if they were Pure Earth, but she seemed to think so. Whoever they were, they had access to a negation cocktail, because they negated her.” She takes a drink, before looking back at him. “I think that they targeted her because she was unregistered, alone and outside the Safe Zone. If she hadn’t escaped it would have taken days, maybe even weeks, before anyone had noticed she was gone. She has some family in the Safe Zone, not even including me, I don’t know how often he checked on her where she had set up camp in the Bronx.” Which she is not saying, exactly.

“Even if, whoever it was, only targets people who live outside, there’s still a lot of people that come and go. It’s hard to know if there’s already people missing.”

The cat is watched warily, much like Al might watch one of Cooper’s balloon animals. Cautious and a touch untrusting. Speaking of the little rodent, he wasn’t going to be happy to smell cat tonight. However, Cooper can’t help reaching down to brush a hesitant hand along the cats back.

It pauses as he catches a mention of Staten Island. Lucky him, he has a contact in those parts. He’d have to see if he was willing to cough up some information. “That… is pretty concerning. Pretty sure, human trafficking is coming back… so she’s pretty lucky.” Straightening, he frowns a little as the cat hair clinging to his hand, giving it a flick.

“I’d really like to talk to her,” The agent comments, looking up at Gillian again, brows lifting a little in question. “I know it is asking a lot of her. Honestly, I’d love of her to come in and sit with a sketch artist.” His hands come up quickly, to stop a protest. “But I’m not asking for that. I get it.” He gives her a gentle smile. “Just want to talk with her, maybe have her take me to where she was grabbed.”

Human trafficking. “And they negated her, so they knew she was SLC-Expressive,” Gillian shakes her head, running a hand through her blonde hair as she looks up at the ceiling. How lucky the little girl had been. But trafficking SLC-Expressives? Potentially a nightmare in the making. “I might be able to get her to sit down with a sketch artist, if it’s in a neutral location. Like here. But it was hard enough to get her to go to the hospital.” She rubs her hand over her face.

“Too bad Robyn’s out of town. Having her there might have settled some fears, even if just on hand observing. As a reassurance that you’re not going to drag her off and make her register.” Even if, with all this the Citizen’s Watch member of the Co-op wants very much for her to just… register and move into a safe place.

The girl had been shot and potentially trafficked. A worst nightmare, indeed.

“I’ll ask her and let you know.” The girl’s an adult now, she can’t force her. But she can approach the topic. “Do you mind if I bring up human trafficking at the next Watch meeting?” Cause it’s definitely something they should be keeping an eye out for.

Maaaaaybe he shouldn’t have mentioned the trafficking, yet. Oops? “Me?” Thomas asks, brows shooting up. “In front of the council?” Did she forget who he was? How was he going to ease this one down. “Uh… It’s mostly a running theory right now, since people are always disappearing outside the walls. No reason to panic too many people.” Like he did her. Good job, idiot.

“It could just be Pure Earth.” Not really helping there. “Which I hope that is all it is, since it means maybe we can root out a nest of those vipers.”

His mouth shuts with a snap and he sighs. “Look.” Cooper starts softly, setting the notepad on the table with the file, allowing him to fold his hands and rest his elbow on his knees. “We are in uncharted territory right now. It was a lot easier doing this job before.” Before the war, before the government when crazy. “But, I promise you, Gillian. I am going to do everything I can to help.”

He extracts a flat wallet from the other side of his coat, his credentials. He thumbs out two cards and hands them over. “I know there are not too many places with phones, but either you or her can contact me anywhere.” A smirk tugs at the corner of his mouth. “My personal number hasn’t changed either.” She still has that one, hopefully. “So if she doesn’t want anything super official…”

The look in his pale eyes is serious when Thomas adds, “The important thing is making sure to stop these guys before they really hurt someone… like her.” Like his own daughter who was that age.

“Never thought you’d ever have to say ‘it could just be a bigoted terrorist group’ as a better option, did you?” Gillian smiles as she says that bit, knowing it’s not a fun topic for either of them. She wonders if he had different views on Evolved until he found out his daughter was one. They had talked about it— talking about her daughter had been easy at first, she made her sound so grown up. But when he asked for more details, that’s when it got awkward and she suddenly clamped up. She knows there’s members of SESA and the higher government who know about the time travelers, but she’s not about to tell people who didn’t know.

When he stands, she does as well, even if they will find themselves assaulted with cat love as they walk, threatening to trip them. She just nudges Chandra with her ankle, in an attempt to keep moving until she’s standing in front of him.

“I’ll leave out the speculation and just tell the Watch what’s actually happened.” No speculation unless they come up with it. Just the facts. It should be enough to get the warning across, to keep an eye out for things.

She takes the cards, the credentials, with a nod. She hadn’t actually lost his number. She almost called him back a few times, but… she doesn’t want to say that. Or explain how certain past relationships had given her anxiety about starting a new one. Even if it had already started. Sort of. “I have pretty good reception. I’ll call you after I talk to her. I definitely want to stop them. I know of more people than just her who prefer to live under the radar.” And now she’s very worried about them.

Biting down on her lip a moment, she hesitates before adding a tentative, “Did you want to try to… get a drink sometime? Again.” The again part makes her laugh. Cause— well.

Cooper is in the process of gathering up everything when she asks about the drink. He… had not expected that. However, he doesn’t answer right away, using an excuse to give the cat another pet to gather his wits about him. Did he really want to travel down that road again?

He wouldn’t admit it, but it had been a little disappointing to have her just stop contacting him after… well…

Not to mention, the several failed relationships and two bad marriages told him he should steer clear and spare both of them; but, as he straightens and looks at her. Well, he almost says yes, but… something important occurs to him. “Uh… I admit. I really want to say yes…” he answers with a sheepish grin, the edge of the file tapping a little nervously against the palm of his other hand. “I’d… love that, actually.” You have no idea. He looks apologetic as he continues, “I mean it, but… if we want to find these people….”

Cooper takes a deep breath and lets it out in a huff, “If you want me to stay on this case….” He spread his hands a little. “I can’t… not yet, anyhow.”

Conflict of interest is a bitch…. But, god…. She still looked just as beautiful.

Hm. Conflict of interest.

That’s as good an excuse as any, really, and sometimes Gillian just keeps looking for an excuse. And there are those who are often trying to get her to go out with anyone. They don’t care who, they just want her to be happy, she knows. “It can wait til you close the case. Though it might give you an incentive to work harder.” She’s teasing, with that. It’s not as if she’s trying to give him an incentive to side with her. She’s not the one under investigation…

Though odds are she would not go out to him if he sold Hailey up river or something of the like. Not that she thinks he would.

“I probably should have waited till after to ask, now that you mention it. I’m not good at this anymore. Or ever.”

Ever is probably more accurate than anymore. She knows how her relationships went, in the past and even some futures. “Maybe I should have gotten the warning sign tattoo I always used to joke about.” It’s a laugh, before she moves toward the door, to see him out. “I will give you a call once I talk to Hai— to the girl.”

Both hands now grip at the folder, as Cooper resists the urge to reach out. Professional. He had to remind himself. There is a nervous chuckle instead… he feels like such an awkward teenage boy right not. “Maybe you should have, but… glad you didn’t. Now, I can stop wondering if I lost my mojo.” Just an awkward joke for an awkward moment. There is a whole lot of awkward right now.

He glances down, an amused smirk pulling his smile more to one side. “If it’s any consolation.” His tone softening, as he says, “My track record hasn’t been so great, either.” Eyes lift, even if his head is still angled down. “As you well know.” He hadn’t hidden it…. Not really. “So I guess, you could say I’m not so great at it…” Echoing her own words some. “…or ever.”

“But yeah, let’s get these bastards first, before we start comparing how screwed up we are at dating,” Cooper gives her a wink, before stepping around her, intent on the door.

“Oh no, your mojo was still decent,” GIllian responds with a laugh, that hint that, yes, she has thought about their dates and— well. The other things that came after the last one. Before she never called him back and even left his calls unanswered. She could have blamed the cell service, but she lives in Elmhurst. One of the few places that had fairly decent cell service. And she probably shouldn’t mention what nickname she gave him on her contact list.

“We both got a daughter out of our… difficult relationships. So that’s something.” Even if there was no mention of a daughter in any of the government files about her. One might wonder if the girl she’s helping actually was her daughter, living off the grid.

“I’ll see you later… Agent Cooper.” Not the name she wants to call him. But they are trying to be professional here.

“You have a point, ” Cooper concedes with a small nod. He wouldn’t give Ellen up for anything, so he knows she is probably the same way.

Opening the door, he looks out into the world beyond. For a moment he seems like he might say something, but then he just gives her a smile, “Oh, I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of each other. Good day to you, Miss Childs,” he gives a little bow and that goofy grin with it. Though, once he steps out of the door, where his back is to her, and his expression turns into a pained one. He mouths, Good day?!? What the hell was that, dude?

As much as he is tempted to look back, he continues down the street to the car he and Rhys use for business. Once in the car, he sits there for a moment staring out of the front, both hands gripping the steering wheel and shoulders slumped. “Fuuuuck me.” Then suddenly, his head tips forward and thumps against the top edge of the steering wheel. Twice more, before sitting there and giving a resigned sigh - ignoring the strange looks from people as they pass. He had thought he was over her.

“No… I am, definitely, not over her.”

Inside where it’s safe, Gillian leans up against her front door, eyes closed for a moment. She knows she’s just asking for trouble.

“Not a word,” she says as she opens her eyes, looking down at the cat that looks right up at her with golden eyes. “Not a single meow out of you, mister.”

As if to mock her, the cat does just that. Mrowl.

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