#DIV/0! Part III


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Scene Title #DIV/0! Part III
Synopsis Elliot visits Staten Island hoping to get the attention of the proprietor of Rossignol.
Date February 12, 2021

This is, hopefully, Elliot’s penultimate intermediary. The stakes are higher here, this is the first person who he doesn’t know in the tango line of knows a guy. Elliot never had much reason to visit Staten Island since it was initially lost to nuclear fallout and civil war. Finding this location to be such a statement of progress comes as a surprise.

Staten Island

February 12, 2021
4:15 PM

His eyes flicker across the room, glad to see he doesn’t need to fight a wave of Happy Hour patrons fighting for half-priced drinks. He marks the exits and angles as he meanders toward the bar. He’s wearing a tailored black suit and shirt, augmented only by the bright splash of ivy green on the tie he borrowed from Wright when she suggested that his printer color wheel options might seem gauche here. Defying tradition, he isn’t even wearing sneakers.

He’s not dressed to impress, rather to blend in. There’s a delicate balance to appearing just interesting enough to get the attention of his target without lingering in the memories of the venue’s clientele. He approaches the bar, seeming in no hurry to be served as he continues to appreciate the decor.

Only a pair of other patrons are there to compete against with the establishment having opened for its Friday evening run a handful of minutes ago. Without a doubt, the only one dressed as well as him presently are the waitstaff as they continue preparing for the busier hours of the evening. As he comes up to the bar, it takes the bartender a moment to put down the crate of cleaned glasses he was bringing from the back, head lifting slightly in a polite acknowledgement. "Afternoon. Something I can get you?"

Or perhaps he's not the bartender. His rolled-up dress-sleeves don't match the style of the other waitstaff, the inside of the cuffs a pale lavender. The man swipes one palm across the opposite, green-grey eyes observing Elliot's unfamiliar countenance with a touch of interest. His freckled face tilts, styled hair stiff as it follows his head. "If you're waiting for someone, can we get you a table?"

Elliot’s eyes flicker over the other man’s appearance and aesthetic appraisingly. He’s puzzled over how to begin this conversation. Over-preparation has led to more social faux pas recently than he’d like to admit, so he adlibs.

“It’s just me this evening,” he begins. “I’ve been directed this way by a contact who said I may have luck pursuing a personal matter if I were to contact the proprietor of this establishment. Lovely, by the way.” He doesn’t look around as he adds the complement ostensibly about the room, his eyes remain affixed with the bartender’s.

As such, he has a clear view on the subtle lift of one eyebrow the man on the other side of the bar reacts with before his expression smooths. He doesn't let silence linger between them, arms falling to his side. Gone is the body language of helpfulness, now in full appraisal instead.

"What's the nature of business you'd like to discuss with Mr. d'Sarthe?" he asks almost amicably, voice like crushed velvet possessing fine, sharper edges than first let on. When another one of the waitstaff rolls out several cases of drink on a dolly to begin restocking only to pause at seeing the interaction taking place, he's almost dismissively waved on by the man behind the bar to continue.

The man with light eyes remarks, "I don't believe we've had the pleasure, Mister…?"

“Rosen,” Elliot says. It would be hard to prove that he isn’t, as he gained access to the island with a fake ID and left his phone at home. It’s been a while since he has had to get into character, but this certainly isn’t a place he should behave like himself. “And we certainly haven’t, I’m sure I would remember.”

He sits back as if to get more comfortable, one hand drumming idly on the bar for a moment. “I’m looking to arrange a friendly conversation with somebody who hasn’t been seen in polite society of late. If this is something I can accomplish without wasting any of Mr. d’Sarthe’s time, all the better.”

The man across the bartop smiles thin but pleasant. "What a curious piece of business, Mr. Rosen," he remarks calmly, without a shred of curiosity in his voice. With a certain amount of politesse, he proceeds, "Mr. d'Sarthe is indeed a well-connected individual, and the d'Sarthe Group well-endowed in reach, but I do wonder who set you on the path to thinking this would be a matter he in particular could assist in."

He gives the matter a moment's consideration before lifting a hand in a gesture to follow as he exits behind the bar to leave the actual bartender to their work. Fashionable wingtips click on the ground as he angles them toward an empty table out of earshot from the other guests. "Just who is it you're hoping to acquaint yourself with?"

Elliot isn’t getting the right vibe here. He drops his flirtatious affect and cocks an eyebrow as they approach the table. “A friend from my old life sent me here,” he admits. “From my time in the Linderman Group.” It feels strange to bring up his old job twice in one week after not speaking of it for the better part of a decade.

He looks around to check that they do have a comfortable buffer for this conversation. When they’ve finally reached the table, he says, “I’m hoping to speak to Pete Varlane.”

One hand opens in a gesture for Elliot to find a seat, and the man who's lead him there settles in a moment after, thoughtfully casting his eyes down. "From the Linderman Group," he repeats, mulling these details as much as the phrase old life. With a lift of his head, the man in the dress shirt drums two fingers along the top of his knee.

"I'll do my best to help you. My name is Ace, and as intimated, I am a member of the d'Sarthe Group with access to Mr. d'Sarthe. However—" With a shake of his head, he explains, "I regret to inform you in this particular matter, Mr. d'Sarthe would not have anything to offer you. Pete Varlane was one of many names on lips after that prison break last year, but always and only in the sense of I wonder where that bastard might find himself now. Never," he promises with a small smile, "in more specific terms than that."

Ace cautions as he leans back slightly, "That isn't to say perhaps the man isn't out of sight somewhere in the Safe Zone or its peripherals— after all, no better place to disappear than the city, even one as changed as New York is." He arches an eyebrow as his hand lifts visibly from his leg, palm up. "Might I ask what compels you to find him?"

Elliot settles into the proffered seat, settling in casually while Ace explains the particulars. Ace’s sly smile certainly casts doubt on the truth of his assurances. Elliot leans back in his seat, resting one arm on the table. His study of Ace becomes more blatant for a moment, a look of piecing together exactly where in the hierarchy Ace actually stands. The review ends with a dissatisfied sigh and a roll of his fingers on the tabletop.

“I’m looking for information on a job Varlane worked some years back,” he says, ignoring Ace’s suggestion of looking elsewhere in the city. “As a step on my way to follow up on a personal matter. As I’ve said, my intention is not to cause any sort of disruption to Mr. d’Sarthe’s business operations. If you would be so kind as to communicate that to Mr. d’Sarthe I would appreciate it. Perhaps such a reassurance would cause Mr. d’Sarthe to talk about Varlane…” he gives a smile somewhere between wry and cutting, “In more specific terms than that.”

Ace's smile makes its own return, less friendly than previous iterations. "Mr. Rosen— if that is the name any of my contacts who were also previously of the Linderman Group in fact know you by— you've given me very little incentive to trust your intentions." The falseness in that sympathetic tone of his is made more plain with how it stands at odds with the thin smile he wears. "Your contact is nameless. Your purpose vague. Your present occupation also a cipher, though it seems you've left behind a life of business."

"Should you like to make it off this island with more in your hands than when you arrived, I'd suggest you re-examine your approach." As amicable as his tone is, Ace's eyes are stony, cold. He remains still, patient for a shift in approach. "Believe me, I'm a man interested in solving unique problems— but not just for anyone."

“My contact is nameless,” Elliot says with the affect of civility, “Because they requested that I not give their name to anyone other than Mr. d’Sarthe. My purpose is as I have described it, the desire to arrange a conversation with a third party. I certainly have no reason to trust the details of that conversation to you before it ever happens.” He splays his hands before himself, It is how it is.

“My current occupation is immaterial to the discussion, as I’m not making this request within the capacity of my profession,” Elliot continues with a sigh as though he clearly shouldn’t need to belabor that point. I hunt PISEC escapees for a living would almost certainly not play well in this circumstance.

“As for my past life of business, I was in fact an employee of the Linderman Group, though my position there was in logistics, and not front-facing. My contact would be happy to confirm who I am, should Mr. d’Sarthe wish to know their name, and expects to owe Mr. d’Sathe a favor for this introduction. An inevitability they are familiar with.” There’s a slight raise of an eyebrow as Elliot leans on the idea that, whoever his contact is, they may have owed the proprietor a favor in the past.

Ace smirches his tongue off the roof of his mouth, finding interest and maybe a smidgen of truth in what Elliot has to say. "And as for you?" he wonders.

What does Mr. Rosen expect to have to offer up in exchange for being pointed in the right direction?

“I’m open to negotiation on that,” Elliot replies simply. He certainly didn’t think this information would be free.

"Given your current status as a relative unknown, I believe that would depend on any information we turn up about you," Ace explains without hesitation, head tilting slightly at the thought of someone coming forward without something specific to offer already. His brow lifts. "So we'll need to get back to you on that, on how you can be most useful."

With a disaffected sigh, he waves the matter aside. "Provide me with contact details for you, and I'll make some inquiries. See what kind of presence your unsociable friend has been keeping and where. And what it will take to set up this discussion you'd like to have with him."

"You came in here respectfully enough, Mr. Rosen. The least I can do is look into this for you," Ace elaborates, following it up with an expectant extension outward of his hand.

“As you say,” Elliot replies as he reaches into his jacket pocket for a silver case and a black fountain pen, “I am a relative unknown. But, if Mr. d’Sarthe is interested, I would be happy to provide him with the name of someone who could vouch for me and my capabilities both professional and discrete.”

He removes a textured business card from the silver case. The heavy white paper is blank but for the image of a serpent tied in a figure-eight knot, a head at both ends of its body. He returns the case to his pocket and unscrews the cap from his fountain pen, writing a phone number in crisp, flowing script on the back of the card.

With his pen returned to his pocket, Elliot lifts the card from the table and directs it to Ace, careful not to smudge the wet ink. “I look forward to hearing from you, Ace.”

Turning the card over to look over what exists on it naturally, he runs his thumb over the imprint of the two-headed snake, thoughtful. Ace looks back up across the table without reviewing the provided number immediately. "I'll be in touch, Mr. Rosen," he indicates, holding up the card before he slips out of his seat and stands again.

"Do feel free to stay a while, enjoy a drink, perhaps some music. The band will be out shortly." He gestures to the stage with a tip of his head. "Let whoever serves you know your first drink is on me."

Whether or not Elliot does isn't something he concerns himself with, turning and heading for a drawn curtain off to the side of the stage and near the end of the bar. Ace parts the curtain with a brush of his hand and disappears behind it without looking back.

Elliot nods graciously to Ace as he walks away, staying at the table for a moment. He looks around the room as people slowly trickle in, then stands. He’ll check out the music some other day. He looks at his burner phone on the way out as a means of avoiding eye contact with anyone else and steps onto the dusky street.

“Decanter,” Wright says, tagging a memory of their youth. Wright watches the employee walk round the corner and away, giving him a solid three-count before turning to Elliot with an incredulous look. “Wow,” she says, “What a fucking asshole.”

Elliot chuckles as he turns into foot traffic in search of his ride home.

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