Family Bonding


barbara_icon.gif monica_icon.gif niki_icon.gif

Scene Title Family Bonding
Synopsis Stale cologne leads two sisters and a cousin to a fresh lead, and more questions than answers.
Date October 30, 2010

Las Vegas, Nevada - Doctor Spencer's Office

The waiting room attached to Dr. Iris Spencer's office looks like a glossy page torn straight from an interior decorating magazine rather than the sterile environment with clean lines that the trio of women might have initially imagined when they decided to investigate the workplace of a deceased plastic surgeon with ties to both the Company and the Linderman Group. A Persian carpet in shades of pale gold and deep burgundy red fills the space, and both compliments and contrasts the furniture, which is an eclectic mix of classic Victorian pieces that aren't really antiques but were instead purchased from a local boutique that specializes in custom-made furniture with vintage appearances.

Not that Niki, her sister or her cousin-in-law have any way of knowing where the lobby's decor comes from. What they do know is that it's difficult to navigate in the darkness even with a flashlight, and although their chances of encountering Stillwater Security on this side of the country aren't as high as they were in New York City, there is still an element of risk involved in what they're doing.

A bronze nameplate affixed to a door at the end of the hall behind the reception desk leaves nothing to chance, but breaking into the wrong room isn't what the women have to worry about. It's the fact that the door is already open and a pale gold light is leaking out from the crack.

Well, that was… not entirely unexpected. Niki puts a finger to her lips, as if she really needed to urge the other two women to be silent in this situation. She rolls her shoulders and reaches up to split her ponytail, gently tugging the two ends in opposite directions to tighten the binder against her head.

Then, she reaches for her gun. A fairly standard pistol, when compared to some of the more… Let's say exotic weaponry that Jessica has amassed over the years. It's also got a silencer screwed into the end of the barrel. It doesn't make that nifty little thwip! sound that the movies suggest, but it does cut down on the noise when it counts. Hopefully it won't be put to the test tonight.

With a wave of her arm, Niki gesture for Barbara to stay back, and then tilts her chin to the ajar opening, motioning for Monica to flank the opposite side of the doorway. For now, she's content to listen to sounds of movement from within, judge how many people are inside, and what they're there for.

For the most part, Barbara is just hoping that tonight goes better than her and Niki's previous outing. Granted that had gone pretty well in the end, but that one rough patch could have gone a lot of ways and frankly Barbara would rather avoid anything like that at all.

Which admittedly begs the question as to why she's here at all. The things some people do to be around family.

Almost tripping over her own feet, Barbara looks in the direction of the flashlight's light, then up at Niki, nodding as she is urged to stay back. She slinks back, almost putting her back to the wall as she watches Niki closely, then a glance over to Monica. She opens her mouth to speak, and then closes it quickly, remembering better after a moment. Instead, she just slinks down and waits… and admittedly worries a bit.

It's all very Charlie's Angels. Monica pulls her gun out almost exactly the same moment Niki does, and she doesn't even seem to need the signal to get into position to follow the blonde among them toward the doorway. The good news is, she's good at staying quiet. Which is probably why Barbara gets a bit of a wink from her when her mouth opens and shuts again.

The office itself is silent. Through the opening, Niki will see that the source of the glow is a Tiffany lamp that someone left on at the corner of Dr. Spencer's desk. If there's anyone inside, they're either making an effort to be as quiet as the women are, or their fate is the same as Iris'. Fortunately, the air smells clean; no scent of blood or fecal matter to foul it. Potpourri clouds their senses instead and, if they're paying close enough attention, what might be the lingering traces of someone's perfume.

Scratch that. Cologne. The closer the trio moves to the open office door, the stronger the distinctly masculine scent becomes, but there's also something old and stale about it that suggests the individual wearing it is no longer in the immediate vicinity.

Niki flashes a look to Monica as if to ask do you smell that? Once she's assessed that her partner is ready, the blonde pushes open the door and waits for any movement or retaliation before she pushes it all the way to the wall, in case someone were to be using it for cover.

Barbara's inching forward a safe distance behind Monica and Niki - just close enough to smell the perfume, though it brings forth little from Barbara besides the winkling of her nose and a strong urge to cough, one she manages to keep in check for the moment. Cautiously, she continues forward, an askance look offered to Monica, then Niki.

It takes a moment after that look from Niki, but Monica gives her a nod in response. And when she moves to open the door, she moves to cover, gun at the ready in case someone in there is going to do something crazy like pop out or start shooting… or call the police. Which could be very bad just now. Unfortunately, she's pretty focused at the moment, so Barbara doesn't get a response.

To Niki and Monica, after the door has been coaxed the rest of the way open, the office appears as empty as it sounds. The same cannot be said of Barbara.

As always, the vision is as vivid as the reality it echoes, and if she could not sense what's happening to her, it would be easy to mistake the scene playing out in front of her for the present instead of the past.

A slightly overweight woman with a tangled mop of dirty blonde hair and the wild, frightened eyes of a wounded animal sits slumped in the corner, blood spattered across the left side of her face, which she holds in a trembling hand. None of it appears to be her own, but rather that of the man sprawled out on the carpeted floor in front of her, dark fluid leaking from matted hair with threads of gray in it.

He's face down, but even if he wasn't, it's unlikely that he'd be recognizable. The bullet responsible for the blood on Iris Spencer's face and floor has also demolished a large section of his skull and covered the Tiffany lamp in fragments mixed with the pulverized sludge that used to be his brain.

"Now then," says a voice audible to Barbara's ears only, and a moment later a tall, lean man with a hawkish face and pale blue eyes steps out into view. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he's the one holding the pistol. "I don't think I can make myself any clearer."

Behind him, a seascape has been torn off the wall to expose an opened safe. Within it, two black eyes glitter greedily, and a pair of long ivory fangs split into a smile half-human and half-feline, followed by shrill, metallic chittering and a flick of what looks like a long, almost serpentine tail.

"Do we have a deal?" the man with the pistol asks, but before the doctor gets a chance to respond, her lips parted around the beginning of a gasped reply.

Barbara is forcibly wrenched back into the present, and her legs immediately go out from under her.

Niki's shoulders sag in visible relief when she sees no sign of anyone lingering in the office. She waves with her free hand for her sister to join them inside. But when she lets her gaze linger, she realises something is off and is quick to approach Barbara's side when she falls to the ground, a reassuring hand settling against her elbow. "Barbie?"

Her knees hit the ground hard, belaying any attempt at stealth Barbara had been going for, an audible wince at the impact. Even as she's trying to pull herself back up, there's hand at her elbow, and the contact has gaze snapping over to Niki, eyes wide as she realises what's just happen.

"S-shit,"she mutters, grabbing up to Niki's shoulder and pulling herself up. "I-I…" Eyes dart around frantically, fingers tightening on Niki's shoulder. "Paper. I need paper and a pen, n-now." She pause for a moment, looking over to Monica. "I-I saw something. Someone- was shot, and- I don't even know!" She's sounding anxious now, and probably a bit louder than she should.

Slipping into the office, Monica grabs some paper and something to write with from the desk to bring back over to Barbara. Once things are handed over, her hand touches the redhead's hair for a moment, comforting. "Easy, girl. Okay? Easy."

"It's okay," Niki murmurs reassuringly. "We've got you." She's never seen Barbara's power in action before, but she's quick to recognise it. After all, her sister faced down a worse situation and didn't do anything close to fainting then. She wouldn't have brought her with if she thought that she didn't have the fortitude for this particular brand of family bonding. She doesn't ask questions just yet, biting her tongue for the moment. She lets her redheaded counterpart focus.

The paper and pen is grabbed, though a quiet "thank you" is given to Monica as Barbara grabs something to pad against before simply dropping down to her knees and beginning to scribble on the blank side of the paper with the pen in hurried, broad strokes as she begins to produce a picture of what it was she she saw - depicting the final moments of her vision, glowing eyes staring out of the open safe as a serpentine tail hangs out and Iris cowers at the sight of a gun toting man, another dead on the floor. The picture lacks fine detail, but as she offers it up to Niki, she knows it will do for the moment.

"I saw- that, I guess. I'll… put some more detail to it in a moment, but- yeah." She stands back up to her feet slowly, letting out a bit of a sigh. "No one said… much of anything. The man with the gun, he was here for something. And the whatever it was in that safe, something- unnatural was in there…" Or that's what she assumes. Didn't look like anything she'd seen before, offhand.

Monica watches the drawing, an eyebrow lifting as her initial commentary. But when it's handed off, she looks back to Barbara. "You gonna be okay? Need water or something like that? Can you stand up?" A glance is given toward the office, and then she looks back to Niki. "We've gotta see what's in that safe." Obviously. Never mind that adage about curiosity and the cat. It's so outdated anyway.

There's a quiet moment as Niki studies the drawing Barbara's made to express what she saw. Giving a serious look to Monica she makes her gentle demand, "Stay with her." And up she rises to find the wall safe depicted in the vision.

"I don't think that's a good idea," Barbara says with a frown as she looks up at Niki, bracing herself against Monica - she doesn't really need it, but it helps. "I- whatever was in there, Niki, it was- scary." For lack of a better word. "Feline features, an unnerving smile, that tail…" Assuming they all go together.

"If anyone can handle it, Barbara," Monica says, although it's really probably Jessica who could handle it the best, but that part goes unspoken. She does stay with Barbara, but looks ready to sprint off in Niki's direction at the first sign of trouble. "If the safe is what the shooter was after, it's likely gone now, anyway. Whatever was inside there."

The seascape that had been thrust aside in Barbara's vision provides a flimsy obstacle for Niki. Removing it from the wall reveals the safe itself, in the closed position. The combination lock barring her entry might be more difficult to overcome if she, like the rest of her superhuman family, didn't have an ability at her disposal.

To Monica, there's something about Barbara's sketch that's familiar, but not in the sinister way she's chosen to depict it. Nana Dawson took her and Damon to the Audubon Zoo once when they were small, and Damon had pressed his face up against the plexiglass at the New World Monkey exhibit. Fogged it up and peeled his lips back into a toothy grin at a pair of capuchins all too happy to return the gesture.

That's not a cat. Or a monster.

Niki could ask if Barbara happened to hear or see what the combination to the safe might be. If she even cared about such things. "There could be an alarm on the safe, we may not hear it." She adjusts the gloves on her hands, tugging the cuffs further up her wrists absently. "So, the plan is that I'm going to open this sucker up, we're gonna grab whatever's in it, and we're going to get the hell out of here and sort it out later."

This isn't being put to a vote, apparently. Niki's turning back to the safe and wrapping her fingers around the handle before she gives it a sharp tug or two to pull the door open, or off. Whatever works.

"I-" Barbara begins to protest, and instead just sighs, righting herself back up and off of Monica, shaking her head. "Shouldn't we have looked around the rest of the room first?" she inquires worriedly, looking over at Monica for a confirm or deny. Worst comes to worst, the two of them can give it a once over while Niki gets whatever's inside.

"Well, let's get to it, girl," Monica says with a light chuckle at Barbara's protest. It's a passing glance at the drawing as she helps Barbara back to her feet that makes it click to her. And she turns to look toward Niki. "Hey Nik… be careful. I think it's… a monkey. But who'd keep an animal in a safe…" That's just crazy. "You sure it wasn't a painting or something? The fangs and tail and such?" That part, of course, is to Barbara.

The safe's door crumples under the force of Niki's grip, and if there's any alarm to speak of, then it's a silent one. Inside is not a monkey, or even a painting of one as Monica suggests, but a solitary sheet of paper taped to the back, and it's here where the smell of cologne is strongest.

It's a print. Lifted, by the looks of it, from the gift shop of one of New York City's many museums, and it depicts a naked man with a mane of wild black hair chained to an outcropping of jagged rocks, and a fully clothed woman hovering over him with a basin in her hands to catch the venom dripping from a serpent's fangs, its tail coiled around a branch above both their heads.

Niki shakes her head, "Can't be a monkey in a safe. I mean, maybe it was in the vision, but… Why would anyone keep a monkey in a safe for any period of time? That makes so little sense. …Not that anything has been making any sense lately." Her nose wrinkles at the thought.

To respond to Barbara, Niki reasons, "Someone was here before us. And if I had the information as important as this is supposed to be, it wouldn't be in a desk drawer. I'd have it in a safe." Like this one.

But what's inside causes Niki to pause, falter even for a moment. "We've been beaten to it." She reaches in and retrieves the print. Whatever it may have been, this print surely isn't. Or… She turns the black and white over in her hands to peer at the blank side, and then back again even as she's ambling her way back to the doorway. "Let's get out of here."

Barbara grimaces. She's started towards the desk, just to make sure and look, but Monica's faster than she is, and Niki's decree that it's time to go has her slowing in her steps. "Fair enough, I guess. Couldn't hurt to look, but…" Barbara offers a shrug. Niki and Monica would know better than she does anyway. "Just that picture? You're sure?" The redhead wrinkles her nose at the print, sighing. "A whole lot of nothing then, I guess."

"Not nothing. It might be able to point us toward who did all this," Monica says, giving Barbara a pat on the back. "These things, they don't always go smooth," or never do, "but you just gotta roll with the punches." Her gun is slid back into it's holster as she starts out after Niki. "Can you flesh out the shooter more from your vision? Maybe we can find someone who's seen him…"

"This was left here deliberately. Like someone knew we were coming." Niki passes the print to Monica with a deep frown on her face. With Iris Spencer dead, it's almost a sure bet that someone suspected that they would be along. It makes her seethe. She dragged her feet too long on this. Someone knows that Doctor Spencer had whatever information, documentation they're looking for.

Her gun tucked out of the way, Niki leads the way out of the building and to where they left the car. "We're going back to the hotel, and I'm going to the casino," she announces. "I need to think."

Nowhere better than the blackjack table. Old habits die hard.

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