des_icon.gif etienne_icon.gif

Scene Title Different
Synopsis Des finally tracks down Etienne and finds out about the ghost that haunts them.
Date May 28, 2018

The Crucible

Des does not get to see the fight. The next one has begun by the time she's squeezed her way into the crowd populating the Crucible one damp May evening, a light rain coming down through the broken rooftop, shown up like glitter where spotlights criss-cross from on high. It smells like bonfires, human sweat, spilled beer, and smoke, and the air is a busy ambiance of voices, shouting, laughing, cheering, and the rattle and clang of diamond wire fence as fights are thrown up against their cages. Although these nights have come less frequently since the main proprietor of this venue disappeared off the map, it only means that when they do come, they tend to be a little wilder.

Flashes of light thrown green illumination from one corner of the Crucible, a flicker of energy as blows find flesh. In another cage, a woman fights with skin thickened into a scaled armor, pieces break and bleeding in places. None of the men or women currently battling it out are who she is looking for.

But Etienne is hard to miss.

Broad shouldered, the bared skin of his torso and arms still dark from a sun that burns brighter on lighter shores than the American east coast, he is roaming away from one the fights. His knuckles are split from punches landed, and another laceration has opened up at his brow, streaking crimson down his face, spattered on his bare chest. Long hair is bound back, tied off at the nape of his neck, sticking to his skin. If he won, it was just barely.

Breathing hard but steady, holding onto the last of his adrenaline before it can leave his body like an exorcised demon. There's a bar, of kinds, that serves a uniform series of warm beer bottles, and he is quick to take one and twist it open with a squeeze of one leathery, work-worn palm.

He's a hard man to find. Des has always been two steps behind the man, and she has to admire his ability to lay low. She always seemed to be found eventually, and while she's found him, she suspects it's because he's ready to be found.

Her usual skirts and sweaters have been ditched in favor of black denim jeans and a dark blue tank top, untucked and rumpled like she's possibly been sleeping in it, under a navy blue raincoat. Her glasses have been left behind. The hood pulled up isn't so unusual around here and serves well enough to obscure her identity at first glance.

"You're gonna break that nose of yours again," Des comments as she slides up beside the pirate. Her chin is lifted so he can get a decent look at who's talking to him. "I'd ask comment allez-vous, but that answer seems self evident."

Of the people that might have sought him, Desdemona is not one of those he would have guessed. He glances sidelong, light eyes taking in her appearance, her manner, her clothes, before bringing his beer up to drink. It's a long, healthy swig of the thirsty, and looking at him, one can imagine that bitterness washing away the taste of blood. A burn mark shines on his shoulder, and bruising is already developing beneath an eye, in shadows along his musculature.

He wipes his mouth with the bag of one marked up hand, seeming to silently cycle through the possibility of banter, maybe a quip about what happens to noses when they're poked in places they don't belong, before he only asks, "What do you want?"

It seems like the most pertinent question.

“Your boss sent me to find you.” There’s no sense in prettying that up. “I guess that makes him my boss now, too. The little one seems concerned as well.” And it’s perhaps for Sibyl’s sake that Des didn’t allow herself to become discouraged. “So, I suppose I want to ask you to come back so I don’t have to listen to another lecture about perseverance or whatever tear he’s on this time.”

He’s got to understand that desire, she imagines.

“Margaux’s got better stuff back at the penthouse.” As much as she might want a drink, that beer is not tempting her in the least.


The corner of his mouth turns up at the mention of a lecture, mid-swig. Oh, Etienne knows, but fear of lectures is probably not why he's letting himself getting beaten to a pulp in a cage match, and returning the favour with great effort. "I'm back," he says, confirming at least one of her suspicions. The words come slow, a little like he has to concentrate. Maybe this isn't his first beer, or maybe that's just what happens when you take hits to the face. Even his face. "Now. Had to go to ground for a time."

With beer mostly finished, with only a lukewarm froth and maybe a mouthful more of liquid settled at the bottom of green glass, he shoves it back across the bar. "If you were abandoning ship," he says, "you might've jumped in the wrong boat."

“Perhaps.” Des pulls back her hood and tips her head to one side. Her brows lift as she looks him up and down once. “Glad to have you back. So, why don’t we get you cleaned up and—”

Dark blue eyes narrow faintly as she considers something. “Do they have a healer around here somewhere?” With the kind of fighting they’re doing in this place, she figures there has to be someone with a gift. Keeping fighters healthy is, so she thinks, essential to keeping the crowd interested. It’s no good if the prize fighters are out of commission for too long.

Maybe she can get two birds with one stone on this run.

Etienne's reply is initially just an exhale through broad nasal passages, dismissive and affirming at the same time. Yes, there's a healer. "Expensive," is his singular complaint as to the economy of the Crucible. With a business model designed by John Logan, that there is a fair amount of money flowing in rather than only out is likely on purpose.

And yet, people come. A cheer rumbles through the crowd, rises to the rafters.

Barely a moment later, a bookie has slithered through the crowd, coming up around the other side of the bar, and sliding over an envelope, smeared through condensation and beer spill. "Don't come back too soon, mister," she says, flashes Des a smile, and moves onto the next. Etienne's lack of interest in his winnings is communicated in the absent way he pulls said winnings towards himself under the flat of his hand.

Complaint is not refusal, however. "And what," he says. It's not a challenge. He wants to know. Like maybe he had plans for the evening. Maybe those plans involved unconsciousness. "Get me cleaned up and what?"

“I was going to say back to the penthouse and whatever form of oblivion you might prefer…” The faster she gets him back, the sooner she gets Alister off her back. And knowing where to send him to find a healer… Well, so much the better.

“I can pay for it. If you wanted to see the healer, I mean.” Again, Des shrugs her shoulders. It’s Alister’s money, after all. It may as well be put to good use. “Or I can patch you up again.” She wonders what the other guy looks like. “Unless you’ve got better plans…?”


Etienne straightens up, folding up the envelope of money without looking at its contents. He turns to her, now, as he slips it into the back pocket of his trousers — the better part of a foot taller, he looms by nature, and his attention in full feels a little like she's being circled by something even if he remains unmoving. "We should speak, ja. After the healer." On Alister's dime.

Collecting his things is a manner of routine — a shirt that looks like a wash-rag in his hand, a leather jacket that has certainly seen better days but has a modicum of integrity, two knives that Des has seen before, and a few other sundry bits and pieces that disappear into pockets with slow, laboured movements. The healer is easy to point to and even easier bought — a young black man and his crossdressing girlfriend who squeezes Etienne's forearm with painted claws as she applies a needle of thick, syrupy healing blood to his veins.

They leave with Des' pockets a little lighter and Etienne not much better, but it takes, after a time: the laceration at his brow slowly closing, the bruises on his face beginning to dim before they had a chance to ripen. Once out in the hazy, cold air, he seeks out a cigarette from his pocket, pausing to light it. The smell of rain and woodsmoke doesn't cancel out the fact he certainly smells like he hasn't washed in something like a week. At least, not well.

With the healer located, and the effects noted for later reference, Des is content with herself. This is a job well done, she reckons. If this doesn’t please Alister, then she isn’t sure it’s possible to get in his good graces at all.

When he pauses for a cigarette, Des fishes a silver case out from her raincoat and lights up as well. The corner of her mouth ticks up in private amusement at the irony of someone in her profession smoking. She can’t remember when she picked the habit up, either.

“So. I suspect we have an awful lot to talk about, non?” It would be too much to hope for that her conversation on the radio had gone completely without eavesdrop. Not that she was being particularly secretive. Odessa has an answer for everything. Now, she’ll likely have to prove that.

Etienne grunts in a way that Des can be at least mostly sure is an affirmative fashion.

Resumes walking, bringing the cigarette down to his side with the swing down of his arm, a wisp of smoke trailing. His hair has been dragged loose of its tie, now left to hang in its sweat-damp tangles around his shoulders. Crimson is drying and flaking in his whiskers, and he checks the knuckles on his other hand. The swelling has ceased, and gone down, and the open splits are no longer actively bleeding. He brings that hand up, closing his mouth around a knuckle to remove the still drying blood gathered near the wound.

Not one for manners, apparently. "The man in the radio," he says, "you know him. The woman in the radio, I met her."

“He knows me,” Des corrects gently. “Though I have my suspicions about who he is.” She may as well own up to that much. “But… you met her?” No wonder he’s been laying low. “How? Where?” Vee’d fingers bring the cigarette up for a drag that’s motivated by a sudden stress more than anything else.

Figures he didn’t just fuck off to avoid the boss for a while.

“You found Natalie Gray?” Perhaps the most important question. But the others will help her track the mysterious voice on the radio down. Manners dictate that she blow the smoke out of the corner of her mouth, away from her conversation partner. “Tell me everything.”

The walk from the Crucible evokes ideas of a lost jungle island, if you don't look too closely at the trees. Torches light the path, which is made of mud over packed earth, and firelight crackles off the undersides of branches, sending strange shadows with each toss of the wind. The wind brings the smell of the ocean with it.

To go on foot to the Trade Commission would be an unpleasant hike through the dark. Etienne leads her to where his boat is tied off nearby for the roundabout but swifter, infinitely more comfortable travel by water.

"Pohl was forthcoming," he says, "in his last moments." He flicks ash aside, a brief spray of fine, orange embers, and it seems as though he is not quite ready to spill everything as requested — open, though, to persuasion. "What is she to you? Your people, before you left them? Besides an enemy."

“We have no idea what she wants with us. With… them.” If there’s one thing Des is good at, it’s being a leaver and not a joiner. “Right now? What she is to me is a threat to my friends. As far as they told me, they have no idea who she is or why she wants them dead. I’d be curious to know her motivations.” And if her mind can be changed. Wishful thinking.

Laughter comes out as a smoky exhale. “So he met with his accident after all…” Saves her some trouble. Ultimately, she told herself she wouldn’t be able to make the decision until she looked the man in the face. Not that a little thing like personalizing kept her from doing something awful before.

“I don’t know what they want from me. If they expect me to be an ally or if they’re setting me up to pick me off…” Odessa tosses her half-smoked cigarette into the water in a motion that betrays her frustration. She’ll regret that later. Her smokes are a finite resource.

Etienne keeps his cigarette trapped in his fangs as he sets about freeing the Salve Regina from where it's tied off. A more obscure, broken down pier than the main harbour, avoiding notice even now.

He welcomes her into the wheelhouse, where it is warmer, out of the rain. He procures a bottle of liquor — gin, half-finished — and sets it down heavy on the little bolted down table, the cramped booth surrounding it free for her to take for herself. A hammock is laden with some personal items — heaped clothing, mainly — and swings a little in time to the lurch of the ocean beneath the hull, as does the small electric lantern that he allows as the only source of light.

"She says she is Eileen Ruskin," he says, looking back towards her. More clear clarity through his eyes, now, as if seeking a response, a reaction, that would award him with some clue. "And she says she is different. More than only that she is alive."

Boots thump on the deck of the boat as Des embarks and follows the captain to the wheelhouse. The gin is accepted with a nod of gratitude before she lifts it to her mouth for a drink. She’d like to be well on her way to oblivion at the moment. It’s been a while since she’s felt safe enough to do that. This isn’t an exception to her rules.

“Son of a bitch.” Etienne’s information is rewarded with reaction. Des is both angry and disappointed. She had wanted this to be a new chance with Eileen, but now it perhaps explains some things about what was said on the radio that day.

“I used to know her,” she offers freely. “We were friends once. Then we weren’t. I suppose we still aren’t.” One thing Odessa knows well now not to do in a fight with Eileen Ruskin is underestimate her. She’d rather not fight her again at all, whether or not the other woman has any recollection of their previous… disagreement. “She wouldn’t give me straight answers when I saw her again. I had no idea she would…”

Lips purse, as though the simple act could stem the tide of anger. “What else does she say?”

Etienne watches her and listens as she speaks, someone accustomed to doing a lot of that in his life without giving much away. There is a cant to his head at the news of a friendship between Des and the enigmatic figure he'd tracked through the Staten Island wilderness that night, as if this development is unexpected. But then, maybe it isn't, as Des prompts him for what he'd started to lead with.

He turns, starts the engine, a dull roar that will eventually fade into background noise. The silken momentum of boat over water sees them gliding along the coast, soon enough. "She said," he says, that quasi-English accent dry, as if musing, "that she is different for the people she chooses. People that won't abandon her, betray her. That fight before they run.

"And the colour of her eyes," he adds, looking out the grimy windows. "Those are different too."

Staring out at the darkness, Des mulls over what she knows now. She’ll have to get word back to Kaylee and Richard. And she’ll need to decide if she’s going to pursue Eileen herself. It seems a foolish prospect, but is it avoidable?

They were friends once, too. I don’t know why Eileen would want to kill Kaylee after all this time.” Except that it isn’t Eileen as they knew her. She isn’t the woman that Kaylee told her stories of. Again, her anger flares. Fingers twitch at her sides, but she doesn’t pull any strings.

For lack of anything better to do with her restless hands, Des folds her arms instead, curling her fingers around her arms and letting them dimple the surface just slightly. “I’m glad you managed to evade her.”

Managed to evade her sounds like the flimsiest of outcomes for someone like Etienne Saint James, twice Eileen Ruskin's size and cultivating his own blood-soaked reputation across this muddy little island. And yet, managed to evade is exactly what he did, and his solemn silence is weighted with agreement.

"There is also another difference," he says. "She was dead." He glances over one broad shoulder, then looks back to the dark windows. "Black named his wild cat for her. But this one…"

Well. Maybe he's superstitious enough not to pronounce her alive.

By all accounts, Eileen Ruskin died several years ago. No one has seen her since that day. Not until recently. It’s baffling, but strange things happen in this world all the time. It takes a lot to surprise Odessa these days. And she’s the last person to criticize someone for not staying dead.

“She claims to not know why she lives,” Des supplies in a soft voice. “I’m not sure what to believe anymore.” Once upon a time, she was so certain her old friend was meant to be the ruin of everything she thought of as good in the world. She’d been wrong. So, then what’s the truth now?

Silence, for a time, Etienne leaving Des to her thoughts — and himself to his own, whatever they may be. It's difficult to tell where they are, in this darkness, but she can see the dark shape of Staten Island ahead of her, the more distant coast of New Jersey coming up to meet them as they enter the mouth of where Arthur Kill splits one from the other.

"I believe in restless spirits," he says. "Vengeful ones, come to bring pain and suffering on the wrongs that've wrong them. It's what ties them to this world. Keeps them from facing oblivion."

A rough, smokey laugh. "Never been afraid of that. Reckon I'll make a good corpse, one day."

Maybe that explains why she can’t seem to stay dead either. Des snorts softly and rubs the back of her hand against her nose. “She could be that,” she admits. “If anyone would be capable of binding themself to the mortal coil through sheer force of will and maybe anger, it would be her.”

She has to appreciate the way he navigates the water. She would likely have run aground or sunk a boat by now, left on her own. It sure beats returning to the Trade Commission on foot, the way she has been. The walks are long and lonely. And when they aren’t lonely, they’re just annoying.

After a little while, Etienne chooses to fill the silence with the stutter of his radio, pieces of songs and human voice crackling through the small space of the wheelhouse. Turning down the Arthur Kill sees dark shores, intermittent fire glow, and up ahead, the steadier lights that glimmer out from the windows of the Staten Island Trade Commission.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License