Different Levels



Scene Title Different Levels
Synopsis Logan travels back to the year 1994 to fulfill a prophecy Rhys Blüthner has placed all his bets on.
Date Spring, 1994

James Muldoon's wife maintains her appearance with the same care that the gardener maintains the rose bushes in their front yard.

Prim and presentable, she is a tall, willowy woman with brown hair she wears in curls and honey-coloured eyes that Rhys Bluthner will not inherit, though the little boy waiting on the stone steps outside the house while his mother unloads groceries from the back of her 1980 Toyota Camry already has. It's a Thursday afternoon, which means that the pair has just returned from their weekly shopping trip to the local Sainsbury's, and through the hedge that separates the property from the quiet street on the other side, the man watching them will observe her fishing white plastic bags out of the trunk.

She barely keeps her balance in the heels she's wearing, but when she bends at the middle, she does so in a way that prevents him from stealing a glimpse of her panties. One of these things is more impressive than the other, and it's Logan's pick which — Emma isn't aware that she's being watched. Neither is the boy on the steps, both hands curled around a crumpled box of chocolate mix drink with a fire engine red straw, and although he can squeeze it as hard as he likes, nothing else is going to come out of it.

The Camry's trunk bangs shut.

During his vigil, Logan has succeeded in picking out many important details about his mark, but none is as important as the fact that her husband simply isn't around.

Surrey, England

Spring, 1994

This is weird.

On a few different levels.

The first being that Logan is not, by nature, a voyeur. Being less interested in people for virtue of being too self-interested to make a habit of it, as well as an effect of never looking very carefully, in a physical kind of way. Eyes sliding off things like the tilt of a smile and what it might mean, the raise of an eyebrow, the sarcasm in the lines of someone's eyes, missing these cues when he's not careful for all that he has a keen eye for weakness. It's a little like being colour blind. He just doesn't watch people unless they're scantily clad and bent around a silver pole.

Fortunately, watching Missus Muldoon, with her grace and maintained appearance, her skirts and her coiffed locks, is a little like watching a dancer anyway.

Then there's the kid. Some bizarre irritation for its existence, a mix of irrational jealousy that Muldoon ever had spawn at all, and sharper confusion about how this plays into it. It's not like Logan has a plan to begin with, and one semblance of the beginnings of one is already thrown into complication. He is at least certain that he's getting bored of spying. The cigarette he was working on is crushed carefully against the ankle of his boot, the remnant slipped back into pack. Without his lavish bank account at his fingertips, he's being a little less wasteful.

He's propelling himself across the green with the confidence of approach that implies there is an innocence to being outgoing. His boots sink easily into damp soil and grass, a navy peacoat with brass buttons hanging loose over demure white shirt, blue jeans, less conspicuous than the black three-piece in which he'd arrived. Fortunately, he doesn't have to push the money he was given towards rent. Board had cost him a rock through a window and gratitude towards it not being winter.

"Excuse me," interrupts routine as he closes in on the woman, a smile prepared and glossing over anxiety, bizarre home-sickness. "Miss? I was wondering if you'd be able to tell me if I'm heading in the right direction— do you need help with that?" His accent is switched onto city boy mode as opposed to the generic of polished English he tends to— tries to— adopt across the pond. A hand gesture indicates the white bags of a week's worth of shopping for three.

Or two. Or one and a half, even.

If Emma hailed from London, she might recognize Logan's accent and think twice. Brixton has a reputation. So does this man, but she has no way of knowing it. The way she raises her eyes is better described as cautious rather than wary — her smooth, fine hands suggest that she's had a life easier than most, and maybe she's a little sheltered too because although she hesitates, she does not hesitate for very long. There are no rapes and murders here. The last big incident that made the evening news was when the liquor store down the street was robbed and two shots fired without injury, and she and her neighbors talked about that for days.

"That depends where you're headed," she answers with a genuine smile, however faint, and adjusts the groceries in her arms, steering a glance toward the boy on the steps. "Thomas, can you slip around back for Mummy and open the door for us?"

The little boy — Thomas, presumably — offers his mother no verbal response. Instead, a short nod as he braces tiny, grubby hands against the knees of his child-sized slacks, spattering chocolate drink across the knee in the process, and disappears around the side of the house into the backyard.

He's very small. But also very clever, one assumes, to be able to navigate the edge, locate his mother's hidden key and gain entry to the house through the conservatory.

Even if it may take him a few minutes. "Are you visiting family?" Emma asks Logan, prepared to pass him one of the bags as they wait.

"More or less."

Curling his fingers around the flimsy plastic handles of grocery bags, Logan shrugs a shoulder and glances over it, as if trying to indicate where he'd been going, as if this hadn't been his exact destination. "Got family that lives down here, and I was seeing the property in the area. I heard there's some houses that might be going on the market soon." So, you know. Not a particularly exciting visit, but one that might explain the roaming through the country suburbs of Surrey and approaching women with their groceries. "I was looking for Hook Heath Road, but I think I'm a ways off the beaten trail?" He turns that last phrase into something of a question, permitting her to deny or confirm.

Logan's doesn't actually know, at least. His cursory study of the map he'd picked up at the petrol station he'd gotten his fags from had implied that sounded about correct for the area. Sneaks a glance into the thing he's holding in instinctive curiousity.

"You're on the wrong end of town for Hook Heath," Emma says with a laugh as, on the other side of the door, Thomas' tiny hands fumble with the lock, then the latch. When it creaks open, his face appears in the gap, and he curls fingers around the edge, coaxing it the rest of the way with the heel of his hand. "But I don't think there's anything for sale there, or if there is I haven't heard about it — and I hear about everything."

The contents of her grocery bag do not yield much information about anything, except for Emma's shopping habits. A package of four Cornish game hens with frost flaking off the plastic has been packed with the milk — 2% — and a bag of oranges with thick, rubbery peels. "You can come in," she adds, crossing the threshold. "I'm sorry about the mess. We usually keep it a bit cleaner than this, but my husband is away on business and my son's something of a handful— Thomas! What did I tell you about your dinosaurs?"

Whatever she told him, it probably wasn't: Leave them all over the entryway floor.

Because. That's where they are. Emma steps over a plastic brachiosaurus with a bent tail, nudges a slightly smaller tricerotops with the toe of her shoe, and then leads Logan into the kitchen, where there is plenty of space on the granite counters for her groceries.

Even before he became the bookkeeper for an underground fighting ring on Staten Island, James Muldoon made good money. "Have you got a wife and little ones, or are you just partial to Surrey's scenery?"

He mumbles something like not at all as he steps carefully around dinosaur parts and pieces, casting a glance around the interior of the building with an eye that looks for something beyond the value of a house. Why James would trade in this for New York City is not something Logan is aware of, and feels a little lacking in his homework by the time he's followed her through to the kitchen, hefting grocery bags up and onto granite. "Mm? Oh. No, not particularly. I'm looking to buy and rent out to people who are, but turns out I'm on the wrong end of town. But, uh." Sticking Nicholas with a knife was easier.

Still, it's not like he can't cheat a little, and his eyes become a warmer green as, for Emma, the day takes on a little more sparkle on a visceral level. "No, I'm not married," Logan completes with a little more weight than necessary. "So's just you and your boy out here, then? Your bloke work in the city himself?"

"Investment banker," Emma says, as if that explains everything. And maybe, at least to her, it does. "Normally, he commutes. It's only about an hour to London from the local station, but they need him to smooth things over in Paris for a few days while they're finalizing a deal. I'd rather he didn't, to tell you the truth. Lately things here have been—"

She makes a vague gesture with her hand, and darts a glance past Logan in search of her son, who has lost interest in the conversation the stranger is having with his mother and adopted a seat in the foyer amidst his toys. An epic battle between the Terrible King of the Tyrant Lizards and Paddington Bear is about to begin, and unless there's Pot Noodle in the microwave, he cares very little about what happens in the kitchen.

"I'm sorry. This is going to sound strange, but you didn't see anyone hanging about the house when you were outside, did you?"

It was some time in his early twenties that Logan managed to shut off the ability to blush, or else he might have gone guilty red. But that implies some iota of guilt, too, though an eyebrow does tick up in surprise and he sneaks a glance to her that is designed to detect anything like— blame, eyes temporarily ringed with white before he focuses back on his task. Plastic crinkles as he obligingly takes out groceries and hands them off to her, like it were routine rather than particularly invasive. Hooks his fingers in the webbing bag that gathers magazine-cover oranges, and holds them out for her to take as she may.

"I don't think so. Should I have?"

"Maybe." There's something evasive in Emma's tone. The fact that she left the front door partway open is meaningful too, but this probably has more to do with Logan's presence in her home than whatever else is bothering her. She gives a few doe-like blinks of her lashes, laid thick with mascara, and begins removing the oranges from the bag one at a time, then placing them in a ceramic bowl at the edge of the counter to occupy her hands while she speaks. "I'm Emma, by the way — I'm sorry. You know, if you're looking to purchase and then rent out, you should speak with James— that's my husband. He's been doing the same with his old flat in the city since Thomas was born and we moved out here. Might be able to give you a few pointers when it comes to leasing."

"Right? Well, I expect to be in town for a little bit. Perhaps we'll see about that after all." The posture Logan adopts implies leaving her alone with her unpacking and her son. That he has no intention of doing so is concealed in affectation, even as he delivers his name; "I'm John." And it was nice to meet you, is, apparently, on the tip of his tongue, before the affable youngish city guy squints at her as if trying to see something that others would not. "I don't mean to impose, but— you've no need to be sorry. About anything." A mildly crooked smile — he can do symmetrical ones too — that conveys a warmth that never quite makes it to his eyes.

But he's trying really hard. "If there's something the matter or— I mean, people hanging about the house and with your husband being away and everything, I'm not staying too far away." Even if he's almost sure that anyone skulking around and giving her that sense of insecurity might well be him, but—

Maybe not. Not that it matters. "It's not like I've got anything better to do other than getting a feel of the land and stopping by."

"Would you like to get some coffee sometime?" Innocent question. Likely innocent intent as well. Emma's body language isn't that of an adultress — do adultresses have specific body language? — but is instead only vaguely relaxed, nothing suggestive in the shape her mouth takes or her handling of the oranges. "I can't today. I've got to take Thomas to his swimming lessons, but tomorrow while he's in school? There's a wonderful little shop just around the corner. Our neighbor's the owner. Dose Espresso? You had to have seen it on the way in. Red door, chalk board in the front window. Impossible to miss."

At the same time, she's reaching into the blazer she wears over her blouse. Logan will recognize the maneuver long before the business card appears between her perfectly manicured fingers.

It tells him two things he did not know. The first is her office phone number. The second is the fact that she works as an editor with a local publishing company.

The business card is taken between knuckles, and Logan vaguely wishes he had one to give back to her. Vaguely wishes he had a working phone. "I'd love to," sounds genuine, maybe a little more sugary than what Logan is pitching for, but. She invited the date. Not him. He lingers a second, studying her face and knowing a moment's bizarre unease — not for the charade, or the lack of charade. There's premonition in her features and dark hair. Maybe, on the outside, such attention is flattering.

"I'll see you tomorrow," he excuses himself, managing one last smile before he's moving away at a clipped pace, like maybe remembering he's meant to be on the other side of town rather than simply stalking around with better concealment, or getting thirty winks in the house he broke into the night before. He forgets, entirely, to say something endearing, like nice to meet you, Thomas, on his way out. He just wants to be out.

In his haste, Logan will fail to take notice of the tall, lean gentlemen with threads of gray in his blond hair, and the beginnings of a beard worn short on his jaw. Blue eyes scrutinize his exit while a thin mouth adopts a smile around the filter of a lit cigarette.

A young Robert Caliban makes no move to interfere with the stranger taking his leave of Emma Muldoon's house.

There will be plenty of time for that later.


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