Dead Letters


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Scene Title Dead Letters
Synopsis Richard Ray beings Nathalie LeRoux and Taylor Epstein together. They prove themselves to be 100% Epsteins.
Date July 1, 2021

Even after the world ends, there’s always going to be a place to drink.

The poorly-painted sign outside declares this particular one to be the ‘Dead Letter Office’ - a clever callback to the days when the postal service still ran, when mail that couldn’t find its sender ended up in such an office. These days, people who can’t find where they’re going end up in a bar like this.

It’s made from a couple shipping containers welded together and with windows and stairs cut into them, the bar and tables made from whatever wood could be gathered and the chairs an eclectic mix, the harsh metal walls livened up with faded postcards and old bills that people have gathered up over the years and slapped on them to add to the bar’s theme. The idea is to make the place a little less depressing.

It only partially succeeded.

Dead Letters
The Delphi Floatilla

July 1st
3:17 pm

“So it might sound weird,” Richard says as he sets down a trio of drinking vessels - a glass mug with a broken-off handle, a plastic cup, and an old coffee mug - down on the table, “But I’ve actually heard a lot about you, Taylor.”

The booze here is moonshine at best, and probably both extremely unhealthy and likely to send someone around the corner into Drunkville™ rather quickly. They’re probably going to need it before the conversation goes too much further.

The drinks set down on the table, he drops down into one of the chairs, glancing between the other two at the table, chewing on his tongue a bit before adding haltingly, “I mean. Not you-you. Uh. You’ve heard about where we’re from, right?”

Tay reclines back in his folding chair and the aluminum joints creak. “New York,” he says, ignorant of the truth. He reaches for his old coffee mug full of what might as well be paint thinner, tipping it back for a small sip as if this were a drink. “I know the Manhattan Pelago gets a bad rap for being full of weird assholes, but I don’t think y’all are that weird.”

Tay cracks a smile over the brim of the mug, every jab delivered with a little smirk. It’s not mean-spirited, it’s the only way he knows how to bond.

With a glass of moonshine in front of her, Nathalie looks between the two when it looks like Richard is just jumping right in. And her eyebrows raise at Tay's response. "Well, shit," she says, a hint of dry amusement in her tone. "You're gonna need another mugful," she says with a nod toward his drink. She takes a gulp of her own, and the lack of reaction speaks more to how bad the booze she's had access to has been, rather than to her constitution.

"You guys didn't tell him where you're from when you got him to agree to this… road trip?" It's somewhat euphemistic, calling what they're about to do a road trip. But not a lie, either. She glances around, just making a mental note of anyone getting too close or paying too much attention to them. As for explaining, well, she's leaving that to Richard.

“Apparently nobody did,” Richard admits, slanting a wry look over to Nathalie as he settles into the seat, “Probably didn’t want to come off seeming like a crazy person. You know, like any rational person who doesn’t know about my mother’s work would.”

The plastic cup is brought up in his hand to sniffs at – and he leans back slightly as the smell hits him like a knife to the nasal cavity. He doesn’t put it down, though. He’ll probably need it too.

“Long story short, yeah, New York. Not this New York. You ever heard of parallel worlds before? Sci-fi shit. One world where you decided to take a left turn, the other where you took a right?”

He motions a bit with his head in a generally downward movement, “My mother was the director down in the Ark. That’s what she built down there. A way between those worlds.” Simplified. But he doesn’t need the details.

Tay tips back his drink, another short and sharp sip. The look he fires between Leroux and Richard is a suspicious one.

“Ark?” Tay asks, rather than entertaining the clearly delusional nonsense coming out of Richard’s mouth.

Nathalie looks toward the ceiling, understanding so very, very clearly why the others might have been worried about looking crazy. She drinks, then lets out a sigh. "The Arcology, in Massachusetts. When there was a Massachusetts. Became a more Noah-esque ark when the flood happened. It's— it was under the water. Relatively safe, except that if you lock people in a box at the bottom of the ocean…" She stops there, twirling her finger by her temple to indicate the strained sanity of the Ark's denizens in the most flippant way she can think of.

"But even before the flood, it was… you know, Mad Science Central. Messing with things humankind ought not and all that." She looks over at Richard with a crooked, apologetic smile, "No offense to Michelle." But, really. "I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's not. He's not kidding and he's not craz— well. He's not crazy in this context. I grew up there, in the Ark."

“No offense taken,” Richard replies a bit wryly to Nathalie’s comment, shaking his head, “If mom never messed with things in the first place…” One shoulder lifts in a shrug as he trails off. There’s no putting the horses back in the barn after they’ve already trampled half the town, after all.

“I… look, I know we all sound crazy,” he admits, free hand lifting a bit as if to forestall that assumption before falling, “But long story short– in another time, another place, I was a good friend of your father’s. As much as he has friends, anyway. Avi was never an easy man to get close to.”

Tay puts down his drink firmly, snorting. “Right,” is said like a curse and he’s up and out of his chair the second his father is mentioned. Richard recognizes this behavior, it’s Avi from years back, Avi without a support network or any measure of coping strategies. The worst he’d ever been.

“You pull this shit again,” Tay says with a gesture to Nathalie and Richard both, “you’ll fucking wish you hadn’t. It ain’t funny.”

"Pull what shit," Nathalie says, heavily dropping her glass to the table, "exactly? Coming to a bar and seeing who can sound the most outrageous? We're not doing a comedy routine here, man, Richard is trying to tell you something." As much as her words seem meant to help, her tone is too annoyed to make it land quite right. She looks over at Richard, gesturing to Tay, "I guess Avi wasn't the best name to drop."

Her hackles are up as well, it shows not only in her tone, but in the grip of her hands tightening around her glass.

"Can you sit down for five fucking minutes and let the man talk?" That's back to Tay. And then she picks her drink up again. And drinks.


There’s no hesitation in Richard’s tone now, no half-joking tones or uncertainty, just steel as he looks up at Tay – one hand lifting to sweep the glasses off his face, eerily-dark eyes focusing on the other man’s own without wavering.

“Sit the fuck down and listen, because before we go on this fucking trek across the goddamn country there’s something you two need to know about Avi’s time in the CIA, with the Royals,” he states flatly, motioning to the chair, “I don’t care what you do after. I don’t care if you believe me, you don’t, you walk off, or you haul off and punch me afterwards, but you need to know this.”

Tay wheels around like an angry junkyard dog, grabbing his chair by the back and just throwing it over onto the floor. He slams his hands on the table, rattling everything on it. “My father didn’t work for the fucking CIA!” He screams. “He was an air force pilot! He got shot the fuck down in Afghanistan in 03 and they sent his pieces home in a fucking box!

Tay grips the side of the table with both hands. “We had to have a closed casket funeral!” There’s so much raw, unprocessed emotion and absolute rage in Tay’s eyes. Pushing him even an inch further will likely lead to senseless violence.

“So you fuck off with whatever hustle this is!” He continues to yell, pointing at Richard and then waving that hand wildly around. “You keep his name out of your fucking mouth! You’re paying me to get you somewhere, not to listen to your bullshit!”

While Tay starts tipping toward violence, Nathalie turns less surly. A thoughtful expression comes to her face as she regards Tay. She almost seems not to notice the yelling and the anger and instead pays attention to his actual words. Richard mentioning the CIA isn't a surprise to her, but she has the privilege to know what her parents were into. Even if just a hint of it. But the date given, the details about Tay's father's funeral…

"He's right, Richard," she says, a finger tapping the side of her glass, "I mean, he's not right, but maybe this isn't the time." Maybe there simply is no right time to explain things. Her hands come to rest on the top of the table, as if she might worry he's about to topple it as well. "It's not a hustle, though. I know you have no reason to believe that, but we're not trying to trick you into anything. It's important to me that you know that."

Richard draws in a slow breath as Taylor starts shouting… and then Nathalie agrees that it’s a bad time, and he just breathes it out, picking up his glass, shoulders dropping. “Alright,” he surrenders, closing his eyes, “If you don’t want to know, you don’t want to know. Sorry for bringing up a sore point, Taylor.”

The drink’s picked up, and he tilts it back to his lips to take a harsh swallow of the cheap home-made liquor. Coughing a few times as he lowers it, he waves his other hand vaguely to dismiss the point, “— I won’t bring it up again.”

The look Tae gives is an uncertain one as he searches Nathalie’s eyes from side to side, then Richard’s. He slides his tongue across the inside of his teeth, brows furrowed and shoulders square. Expecting more of an argument, it’s like Tay doesn’t know what to do when it ends. He swallows audibly, rolls his shoulders, and nods a few times while searching for something to say.

Failing to find the words, Tay just sniffs loudly and brushes his thumb against his nose and turns to leave the bar with an obvious tension in his shoulders. He has all the posture of a dog that wants to bark, but now has nothing to bark at.

Nathalie looks dead ahead as Tay makes his exit, hands staying flat against the table. Her head only turns when he's farther away from them. Far enough that she feels okay with shifting toward Richard. And speaking.

"They faked his death," she says, less like she needs to explain this to him and more like she just has to get it out or she might burst. Her hands run through her hair and she looks back just to make sure Tay isn't looming directly over her shoulder or something. "I assume for spook reasons and not just to avoid a messy divorce. He wasn't called Epstein when— listen. Look." Her words practically trip over one another. Richard has never seen Nathalie display this much… energy. "I don't want to ruin his dad for him. He's obviously not, ya know, dealt with it or whatever. And he's got a dad he's proud of. Or something. We need to come at this delicately." Because obviously, Nathalie isn't going to not tell him she's his half sister. It's rare here, in this world, to gain family rather than lose it. And she's managed it twice.

“I’ve never been good at getting through the legendarily thick skulls of the Epstein family,” Richard admits with a heavy shake of his head after also watching the man walk away, fingertips tapping against the edge of his drinking vessel as he looks down at it with a grimace, “He’s so much like his old man. And his sister.”

A sidelong look to her, an eyebrow lifting a little – surprised she knows, it seems, although that does make some things easier – and confessing ruefully, “The last time I tried to get through to him I ended up locking him and his daughter in a room since they were stubbornly refusing to talk to each other.”

"He was different," Nathalie says, letting out a heavy sigh, "when I knew him. I was little, though." Obviously. She was still little when the flood hit. She reaches for her glass again, her head shaking. She doesn't particularly want to remember what she had before the flood and she is under no illusions that Tay would be a replacement for that. Nor that she would be a replacement for the life he lost. "I didn't know his name was Epstein, or maybe I would have put this together before this moment. I knew an Epstein was part of my mom's… group. It was in her files. Her insurance, she used to call it." Likely, young Nathalie wasn't supposed to know about the paperwork and photos protecting her family from backlash from Sarisa's— and Avi's— past, but she was her parents' child, after all.

She takes a drink, then looks back over to Richard. "Stubbornness, even anger, it'll pass. You just have to weather the initial storm, then give them time to process." That's her experience. And her own self awareness. "But if he doesn't dig, maybe we can leave out the CIA part. And the stuff, ya know, after the funeral."

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not speaking badly of him, he’s just always been… stubborn, and– “ Richard’s chin lifts a bit towards the chair where Tay was previously seated in, “— it runs in the family. The Avi I knew– we’ve been through a lot together, he and I.”

He smiles ever so faintly at Nathalie’s words, head shaking a little, “Insurance. That’s very Sarisa… and yeah. It always passes, you’re right. We’ll have to see if he’s willing to listen later. Maybe I should just let you talk.”

"It's hard here," Nathalie says, with a nod toward Tay, "to hear about the people we've lost. They've all been gone a long time and it's a wound that's stayed raw for a long time. Everyone here shares that wound." And she does mean everyone. All of this world has been struggling for survival ever since. No time to mourn.

"I'll give it a try," she adds, "but no one's ever accused me of being a good communicator." The fact that they avoided blows is a success in her book. "Maybe we should get some of this swill to take along with us on the trip." As if the swill might help.

“I wish I could say that wasn’t genetic as well, but…” Richard’s lips twitch faintly, “…well, you’ve met our mothers, and me, and now you’ve met Taylor, so… I think between the two of us there’s no sign of good emotional communication genetics anywhere in sight.”

He lifts the vessel again, grimacing at it, “It’s terrible, but we might need some.” Sometimes the only answer to a wound is to pour alcohol over it. Which is probably a terrible point of view to hold, admittedly.

The door to the bar swings back open—is shoved back open. Tay comes back in, arms swinging at his side like a boxer warming up for another round. He stands in the diffuse gray light of day, casting a long shadow on the floor until the door swings closed. He turns, looking at the table Richard and Nathalie are seated at, rolls his shoulders, and walks back over.

Picking up his chair from the floor, Tay sets it down with a purposefully loud clunk, then sits. “How’d you know my father’s name?” He asks Richard, point-blank, his expression tense and frustrated. That detail had been gnawing at him since he left and he couldn’t let it go.

"And as far as I know, none of the therapists survived," Nathalie says in a bit of dark humor. But what other humor is there?

She sits up straighter when Tay reappears, blinking in surprise. She assumed it would be hours— if not days— before he'd be willing to talk. She assumed they'd have time to figure out what to say. Instead, there he is. And asking questions, too.


"He knew him," she says, since they decided she should take a stab at this, "when he was military. But that's not the point." What is the point, Nat? "My mom, she was military, too." Not exactly the truth, but… truth adjacent. "And she and Avi worked together sometimes. And he was— my father too." She picks up her glass, holding it protectively in case he goes for more furniture than just the chairs. "And that's why Richard thought we should talk this out."

There’s surprise as Tay returns, and Richard looks up– but he lets Nathalie take the next step, his head bobbing a bit in a vague motion her way. “My ability,” he offers by way of explaining how he knows the other man’s father, not technically lying, “Keeps me looking young. I knew your father pretty well, though.”

He doesn’t say anything else, though, since that bombshell was dropped immediately and he cuts his cousin a half-bemused, half-disbelieving look. Delicate, Nat, hm?

Tay’s nostrils flare, eyes wide. He looks down at the table rather than bolting up from it. Some part of this must ring true for him. He slides his tongue across the back of his teeth, makes a sour expression. “Yeah?” Sounds like a question but feels like a statement. He swipes at his nose, shifting awkwardly in his chair as he does.

“Yeah, well, he ain’t sendin’ no birthday cards no more.” Tay says, reluctant to make eye contact with Nathalie for more than a few seconds. “I knew he had somebody else, left mom after my baby sister was born.” His mouth twitches, dark eyes scan from side to side.

“So that’s what all this shit is about?” He finally looks at Richard. “You want me to, what, hug it out with her?” He gestures at Nathalie. “Or is there an angle to this? Something you want?”

His paranoia is exceptional. It makes Avi look mellow by comparison.

"Why would anyone want anything from you," Nathalie starts, her voice calm but cutting. The insult embedded in his paranoia stiffens her posture and brings out a hint of her own anger. Not violent like his threatened to be, but meant to cut anyway. "Why would anyone expect anything from you?" She sets her drink back down on the table carefully, as if suddenly worried it might be a delicate vessel on the verge of shattering.

"He knows now, Richard. I've done my due diligence and so have you. We can all jump into this trip fully aware." She stands up from the table, fingertips pressing down on the surface for a long moment. "I'm going to see about negotiations with the bartender. I'll see you back at the convoy." And then, as she pushes off, she looks over at Tay to add, "Prick."

Richard brings a hand up, fingers pinching the bridge of his nose. “Epsteins,” he mutters under his breath as Nathalie storms to her feet– although it’s hard to say which one he’s talking about. His hand drops, and he leans back in the chair, turning his attention back over towards Tay.

“We don’t want anything, Taylor. We just– just thought you should know, is all– maybe you don’t think family’s important,” he brings one shoulder up in a shrug, reaching for his drink, “But we do.”

Tay looks over his shoulder, watching Nathalie leave. Some of the suspicion drains out of his face, replaced by the discomfort of regret and frustration at himself. He scrubs one hand over his head, visibly anxious.

Looking up at Richard, Tay sighs. He only speaks up once Nathalie is gone. “Only family I really ever had drowned in my arms,” he says quietly. But in a way, it’s like he’s punishing himself for how that exchange went. Twisting an emotional knife in his own gut because he fucked up. “My sister, Emily. Fucking North star, pure heart.” He works his jaw from side to side. “Couldn’t pull her up fast enough. Couldn’t…”

Tay sighs, rubbing his hands over his face. Enough self-flagellation for one day. “This go how you hoped?” He asks with a rueful laugh.

“Hoped? No. Expected?” Richard’s tone turns wry, and he brings one shoulder up in a shrug, “Pretty much.” He swirls the moonshine around in the glass, watching it for a moment as he considers his next words.

“She’ll come around. My cousin’s like you– stubborn as hell, temper like a gasoline bomb. Family trait, as far as I can tell. Every Epstein I’ve ever known is the exact same way.”

He glances over the glass, watching the other man, “Talk to her later when you’ve both calmed down and had time to think about shit, it’ll go fine.”

Tay sighs through his nose, fixes Richard with an uneasy stare, then slowly rises from his seat. “Eventually,” is how he puts it, because he’s clearly in no rush. But there’s something there, a kernel of doubt in Tay’s mind, that whatever insane shit Richard said might not be a lie. As much as he doesn’t want to admit it, the world is a frightening and unpredictable place.

“On my own time,” Tay adds, in case it wasn’t clear. He lifts his chin up at Richard in a wordless farewell, then turns to leave.

“On both your own time,” RIchard corrects, raising up his drink in a salute as the other man leaves and leaning back in his chair. He tips his head back, gaze roaming to the ceiling, lost in his own thoughts for a moment.

“At least I didn’t have to lock these in a room to get them talking.”

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