Dripping Dry


bella_icon.gif tamara_icon.gif

Scene Title Dripping Dry
Synopsis Bella receives a mysterious call from Tamara which comes, of course, just in time.
Date June 1, 2010

Staten Island Hospital and far-away park.

The life of a project director is not all glamour and inhumane experiments. The good comes along with the bad, and with the excitement of ethical transgression comes all the ugly paperwork of making sure ethical guidelines are transgressed according to the proper protocols. Even the forces of darkness have standards and, true to form, they are enforced through red tape.

This sad reality has landed Dr. Isabella Sheridan behind her big desk at Staten Island hospital, a pair of reading glasses resting low on her nose as she leans back, scanning line after line on a proprietary program. That means the government, wanting to get more bang out of taxpayer buck, skimped on the aesthetics of the user interface - its all ugly as sin, lines of cramped text that must often be read twice so as not to miss anything. Shipments, requisitions, shortages, future projections of next month's needs - Bella gets the distinct feeling that her considerable talents are being wasted. But one always gets that feeling when performing busy work, and much of this information is too sensitive to give to a drone.

It could be worse. The northeast has thawed to the extent that she can tune into NPR again, and she streams the latest edition of Fresh Air with Terry Gross, something comes, in the mustiness of braindead labor a welcome breath of, well… you know. She'd settle for a breath of smoke at this point. Goddamn government jobs - she could really use a toke right now. Bella is close to praying for some sort of crisis, something to give her an excuse to leave this for a later date.

Somewhere very, very far from Staten Island, in physical terms, a young woman sits outside on a park swing, its surface long since cleared of melting slush by kids who were actually using it at some point to swing. She isn't — swinging. No, she sits with her feet braced against the thawing ground, knees bent, loose blonde hair draped over her shoulders. Tamara sits, quiet and still, except for her fingers worrying over the slick plastic case of a cheap cellphone. Someone else's phone, someone else's number; they may be inconvenienced by her usurpation of it, but odds are it'll be okay. The people she could call, might call, should call — if they take interest in the phone's owner, it'll only be to meet disappointment.

Tamara doesn't want to use the phone.

The seeress lifts her eyes, looking towards the small scrap of space sometimes referred to as this neighborhood's park: sandbox, slide, a clear space that probably used to have grass, before the snow. Doesn't see any of it, but instead watches metaphorical sands fall. There's only so much time for her to delay in before a final decision must be made…

…and that time is up.

Drawing in a deep breath, Tamara's fingers fly across the phone's numberpad, dialing a number she didn't know before, won't recall after, but only needs for the space of this one fleeting moment.

Presto from Vivaldi's Four Seasons shivers out of Bella's cellphone. It's a bad ringtone for her, since she rather likes that movement, and making a song you like into your ring tone is a sure way to ruin it forever. Still, right now she couldn't be more happy to hear those tempestuous violins stroking a storm of chords. Summer's nimbus comes as a ray of sunshine. Bella pushes her glasses up to the bridge of her nose as she reaches for her phone and glances at the little glowing display.

Number unknown? Bella frowns. Such number belong to nobody at all, or someone rather important. She's really not sure which she'd rather. A moment is spent perusing the display, considering. But really, the decision is already made for her. It takes a single glance at the alternative - the computer screen - to make her it quite the forgone conclusion. Her thumb flips the phone open and she answers with the inquisitive tone that marks all answers to all unknown calls since the advent of caller ID.


There's a beat of silence after the salutation, but not too much; the longest hesitation she can get away with. Then: "Bella." Two syllables, punctate in their enunciation. The speaker's voice is quiet, one recognizable for recent exposure — and mind-boggling for being among the very last Bella Sheridan might expect to hear on the other end of a phone line.

Tamara hesitates another beat, her breath audible in the phone's speaker. "Do you have paper?" Which question is less about the paper, inevitably, and more about the doctor's preparedness to write on said thing.

The voice is recognizable, but not instantly recognized. By sheer dint of context, Bella is unable, at first, to believe her ears. Did she give the crazy girl her card? Is Bella herself going crazy, and the first thing she hears is the remembered voice of a fellow lunatic?

Tamara's question grounds the doctor, however. Without thought, Bella glances around her desk. She's got an agenda book. She has a pen. This combination qualifies. "Yes," she answers. The impulse to press for questions is weaker than one might think. She's still too taken aback to inquire further. Rather, she waits for explanation. Which, from Tamara, is rather a lot to expect, at least in plain English

There is, in fact, no explanation forthcoming at all. No acknowledgment of Bella's reply, no 'good' or 'are you ready' that most people would subsequently offer; simply the crisp delivery of four numbers, a street, a neighborhood: an address in Manhattan. Tamara pauses after that, the swing idly swaying back and forth with the lifting of her feet from the ground; its chain creaks at the end of each slow arc, sound faint but evident. "Water drips, nearly dry. I can give you one question, before." She smiles in the following pause, though Bella can't see the thin press of lips, can't see her expression — only hear the tense undercurrent in the seeress' voice. "No promises."

Bella's handwriting isn't as bad as that of most doctors, and even though she is rushed in marking out what Tamara tells her, the result is clear: an address in blue ink rests in the topmost margin of yesterday's appointed page. She does not recognize it. It is intelligible as a location, but not a locale. There is no known significance here, but much that is significant in its very unknownness. The pen lingers in Bella's hand, tip hovering above the end of the address.

One question? Better make it good. And quick. Tamara's delivery lends a sense of urgency that is contagious. Bella does not bother to question it - even if she had the presence of mind to, this is much more exciting than what she was doing before.

"What do I do there?" is what she decides upon.

What does she do there? Tamara blinks once, dark eyes gazing into an unreachable distance as she collects the fragments that, together, describe Bella's role in an event which hasn't happened yet. The sybil studies them, weighs them, in a silence that stretches almost to the point of breaking. But just as it seems a reply won't come — it does.

"Trade the iron collar for a paper leash."

Two beats of silence, and then the fuzzier, stifling emptiness of a cellphone's closed line fills Bella's ear.

And that's… it, then? Bella knows the sound of a disconnect, yet she can't help but check. "Hello? Are you still there?" But no. She's not. Bella is alone again, with an address and a cryptic message to show for it.

So what is she to do? As in, what is she actually to do? Not whatever it is Tamara has decided she is to do. Bella stares at the address blankly. The answer is so very obvious that it takes her a moment to process it properly.

A few merciful keystrokes banish the hateful task Bella was working on, and a few more pull up the Institute's not-inconsiderable database. If there is anything she should know about this address, it will be there. Tap tap tap - a public library? Bella likes public libraries, spent many a happy childhood and helpful adolescent hour in them. But… what's this?

A single note has been added, very recently, to the record of this location. A subject extraction operation. This is too close to coincidence. She pulls up the details, using her full administrative clearance. It's going to happen today. No! It's happening right now. And the subject?

Mortimer Alex Jack. This is a name she knows.

Context is all Bella needs. She grew up on children's books, fantasy novels, Greek myths and all their riddles. An iron collar for a paper leash. Her hands fly over the keys. From the looks of this operation's time of commencement, she has almost no time at all.

The last drops of water are dripping dry as she types.

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