Dead Men Tell No Tales



Scene Title Dead Men Tell No Tales
Synopsis Another productive work day in the progression of not-quite-Catholic Sundays. While the rest of Phoenix has been tasked to search Staten for the missing man, their little leader checks if he's actually a dead one.
Date February 8, 2009

Staten Island — Coast

The coast of Staten Island is as much of a presence as its inland, with rivers that invade right into its heart as well as cutting off the circulation of transport from the rest of New York City. The coastal regions reflect a lot of this borough's rural nature, with rough shores and plantlife, broken brick, and general abandonment. The harbors are left to the devices of those that freely come and go, a conspicuous lack of official presence - a number of them notably overrun by the developing crime syndicate, but there are still quite a few, particularly on the coasts nearest to Brooklyn and Manhattan, that are accessible to the lawful public.

The other half of that equation, which he has diligently subtracted from all conversations with Phoenix, is that Norton Trask is dead.

Old man hyena showed him a zag of sharp yellow teeth. Carrion crawler. Not to push that metaphor too far. You're late to this party, he said. His voice sounded like it was blowing through desiccated autumn leaves. Most of the good shit is gone.

That coruscating gem of wisdom cost Teo forty dollars.

Staten Island — Not Much Further

His navigator leaves him at the dumpster with directions to the next one, which he appreciates, because not the scrap of cloth pulled up over his nose isn't nearly enough to stop the cloying reek of decaying meat and vegetable. Little doubt, the smell will soak right through the fabric and leave the fibers smelling like it long after he leaves. Wrong material to stand up against the stink. A doctor would know. Probably should've asked Sonny for advice. Couldn't have asked Sonny advice. Despite that the mean temperature over New York state hasn't risen far above freezing, a week between water, pests, and the waste heat of rotting urban refuse will do a lot to a corpse.

He's pretty sure Sergei wasn't hiding tits underneath that scarf, so he leaves the first two be.

The third is a fucking kid.

The fourth is a pair of legs dangling out from over the lip of the corrugated metal. The skin and flesh of ankles is spongy from cellular deterioration, the consistency of boiled mushrooms. There is a little too much gives when Teo wraps his gloves around it and hauls. This corpse is male, trim, and is burnt black-and-red from the colorlessly stringy scalp down to shredded chest. Liquid contents rock audibly in the body cavity.

After a very long time, Teo crosses himself. Drags the garbage bag out of his jacket, and then a switchblade. Microtech. By Christian's recommendation.

And well-recommended it is. At first, the steel smiles brightly under the seesawing light on his forearm. Enough hacking and sawing later, and the gleaming refraction grows sickly, oily, but no rougher. The cross-section of wrist bones and sinews glistens brighter, slick gray relief to the slack jell-o and soup of muscle matter.

He wonders what Helena would have said to the girls if she'd been at the picnic on Friday. Aw, you want more hugs? Personally, he wouldn't mind. Might have been able to squeeze a coupon in there after Yggie or Cat fell to the defensive or mathematical rationalizations. Fuck. He resents having to do things that he can't talk to a priest about. He guesses, if someone has to do it, might as well be one with enough dirt on his shirt already.

The next one is an even smaller kid. With worms in her. Smells so ripe, he's reminded of sun-bloated fruit.

Dead just means dead. For all the glorious rhetoric of afterlife, Teo knows that. There's no point freaking the fuck out. Maybe it would be better if Phoenix was left with a narrow ledge of intrigue to cling on, the remote possibility that their Sergei is still alive even if he isn't. He knows. Mostly… mostly, he just wants to be able to tell Liz that they did everything they could.

Staten Island — Shitty Motel

No, he isn't meeting anyone here. You can shut up.

Perhaps pointlessly, Teo decides to operate out of the bathroom. The smell smell on him is going to fuck everything up anyway, but at least tile doesn't stain, and there's hard white fluorescent light. The showerhead doesn't detach, so he turns on the tub faucet and sluices water over the pieces, one by one. Each one generates a slightly different shade of orange runoff. He has to go to the toilet and spit into the bowl a few times. Sailed enough choppy water and hangovers to know how to delay puke for choked increments of time.

Seven hands. It had required more exclusion criteria than trim blond man to narrow it down, believe it or not. Teo hadn't been aware his market niche was that crowded.

Each of the seven gets its own Ziplock bag and an accompanying packet of dry ice. Bubble-wrap, a stint in the refrigerator. The cardboard box isn't much bigger than the one you puzzle men's shoes into at the department store, and the block-lettered text card reads, helpfully, Verrazano-Narrows. It isn't going to get past whatever initial layer of security the PD has up, but that's okay. Better.

Might get where it needs to go in time to make the week's obits and then maybe, maybe, they will figure out what to do next. Actually, what he needs to do next is get the bleach out of that CVS bag. It fucking stinks.

Staten Island — Inland

There's something about the fringes of Staten Island that will always inspire sentiments of unease. After the bomb, much of Staten Island has fallen into glorious disrepair, so much so that places that were already in stages of decay look more like monuments to entropy than once urban settlements in decline. While much of the island was suburban residential areas before the bomb, there were two crowning moments that drove this borough of New York into an early grave. The first was the mass exodus of survivors and panicked people fleeing Manhattan. They came by foot, bicycle and car across the bridges to Staten Island, all manner of desperate and frightened people flooding into a crowded place. While some fled through to New Jersey, others simply couldn't — or wouldn't — go further. This, like in Queens, led to an eventual chaos that would in time eclipse the pandemonium in the eastern edge of New York after the bomb.

Staten Island was in the direct path of the fallout from the explosion, and after thousands fled to the island, the entire populace was forcibly evacuated. Those few that managed to stay, clung to their homes desperately, and those few who did would suffer from radiation sickness and the ever-escalating crime rate. By the time Staten Island got the "all clear" from the government, the damage had already been done.

What was one suburban neighborhoods and parklands is now a monument to decay. Houses lie in various states of disuse and ruin, and like much of New York has seen property values nosedive. Few want to move out to a formerly irradiated zone, and even fewer want to return to a place so rife to violent crime. Now, much of Staten Island lies in various states of decay. Houses abandoned by families that fled the city, were forced into forclosure and were never resold, or simply places where entire families went missing and are now squatted in by any number of transients line the once peaceful streets. Staten Island is a home to crumbling infrastructure, spotty electricity, and people who wish to remain undiscovered by law enforcement. Few police will willingly go into this now infamous island.

The analog clock on the wall reads seven o' clock and the sun already feels too high in the sky, a cynical eye baleful, pupilless but all-encompassing. It's less heartening than you'd think, coming to the realization that God doesn't actually particularly want you dead.

Overnight? the clerk frowns and shifts his eyes left and right within a mouse-sized frame, glancing past the precinct address printed on the label. You seen the river traffic lately? Screening's gonna take at least—

Another forty dollars, plus postage. It's fortunate he's freeloading lately; Teo feels weird enough paying salaries out of Phoenix's coffers, never mind bribes for pieces of corpse and agreeable paper trails or whatever the fuck. He signs under somebody else's name and leaves before the headache begins to hurt inside his teeth. He swears to God, for real, if Trask shows up on the feedback from any of those seven, he'll shoot himself and find a ladder out of Hell just to kick his ass. What the fuck.

Outside the store, he stops on the sidewalk in time to avoid being body-checked by a grocer in an apron wielding a metal baseball bat, in hot pursuit of some gangly teenager with ramen bags spilling out of his sports jacket. Teo resists the urge to help, first. To call the cops, second. Not on Staten Island. There's a reason the mountain must come to Muhammad, after all. Fucking Muhammad.

Teo then decides he's tired of proverbs.

The inside of his nose still seems to smell like putrid human slough-off. He should… go… get rid of that.

Half a pack of cigarettes, maybe. Two beers, and then, he promises to himself, maybe after he finally shaves, something… something to eat.

February 8th: The Dying Warm
February 8th: Sneezy, Grumpy, And Speedy
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