Favor For A Friend


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Scene Title Favor for a Friend
Synopsis Aman opts to chase down a long-shot lead on a psychometer, one that might just pan out after all. For Cassandra, the details he has to offer her for his ask start to bring back a familiar headache.
Date March 25, 2021


The weather outside has been getting warmer, effects that only slowly transition to the basement levels of the Red Hook Market… save for the few spaces that effuse comforting heat three-hundred-sixty five days a year. And Cassandra's has been open about that long now, thriving in synchrony with the expansion of the coffee-serving café opposite it.

For a Wednesday, it's not particularly busy down here— a pair of college students buddy up over laptops in the corner, taking advantage of the wifi outlet recently run down to the basement while they tackle their joint assignment. It's nearing noon, and the passingly-familiar face of one of the messengers from Pigeon Courier Service enters the bakery by its open gate.

'Aman' isn't in the greys of his usual uniform, though, wearing a brown jacket paired with a winding of a thin red scarf of nearly sheer cloth twice about his neck. He takes a look over the state of business, shoulders settling some in subtle, unspoken relief it's not busy presently, and then he approaches the counter, not even looking to consult the case display of pastries and other baked goods.

Admittedly, those aren't the services he's hoping to procure today.

With the morning rush already taken care of, the coffee urns are busy being disassembled for their daily cleaning by the cafe’s two employees, the stainless steel and brass laid on towels near the counter, the larger drums taken back to be washed out. Once they’re done, they’ll be hauled back across the aisle to Eleanor’s coffee house, ready to be returned the next day, refilled with the black gold that has made her place famous outside of New York.

The owner of the place, Cassandra, has been in and out most of the day, with the majority of her time today spent in the confines of the kitchen or in the small office, trying to track down a shipment of molasses that was supposed to arrive well over a month prior. She wasn’t running low just yet, but it was getting to the point where things were starting to need to happen, and the last thing she wanted to do was to bring any sort of attention to places that might not need it. Staying quiet has been the way she has slowly started to rebuild her life in this place and, to be fair, quiet was a good thing.

Right now, though, Cassandra is manning the counter, jotting notes in a spiral notebook that’s on its last few pages with a mechanical pencil. Glancing up as a customer approaches, the pencil is clicked twice, the lead slid back inside, and the whole thing is tucked into the notebook, which is shoved over to the side, out of the way. “Good…” a glance goes to the clock on the wall, scavenged from some subway station long destroyed. “Afternoon, sir. Is there anything you’re looking for?” She looks to the shelves behind her. “We’re kind of picked over right now, but I can see if I have anything in the back.”

Aman takes a moment to follow Cassandra's gaze to the clock and back, smiling small when she makes her initial offer. "I'm— actually here looking for you, I think. You're Cassandra, right?" His hands slide from the pockets of his coat as he lifts his head in a small nod. He's confident he's facing the right person. "My name's Aman. Would you have a minute to chat?"

“I guess it depends on what you’re wanting to chat about. Eleanor’s boys are taking care of the place, so we’re not in any need of any sort of protection, I’ve got plenty of suppliers for just about everything I need, contractually locked in, the power for the place is taken care of by the solar arrays and is included in the monthly rent, along with the water, sewage, and trash delivery. Donations of product are taken care of through the Red Cross…” Cassandra ticks off things as she talks, trailing off after a second or two. “And no offense, but you don’t look like a long lost brother or cousin. I’m also not trying to find a relationship right now, and…thank you, but no thank you, I’ve already got a subscription to the Safe Zone Siren and the New York Times. If you’d like to read them.” She points to a rack right by the door. “Free of charge to any customer. If it’s not any of those…” Cassandra straightens, looking at the man. “What can I help you with?

Aman's smile returns in a small, guarded twinge. "Wow," he observes on a faint laugh. "Must get a lot of solicitors out here." To think that he's got something to discuss that doesn't meet any of that criteria is both reassuring, and…

Well. Who knew if she'd talk to him at all.

"If I've got the wrong person, by all means send me off, but I'm hoping you might be able to help me out," he explains apologetically, one palm turning up. "I have a friend who's been looking for answers for a long time, for something personal to them. I've hit up what feels like every avenue possible from personal ads to the internet to talking to a guy who knows a guy… trying to find any kind of psychometer who might be able to help them get these answers."

His palm turns— hand now silently pleading to hold on if there's a kneejerk reaction to send him away. More driven than before, Aman quickly tags on, "I can pay you for your time. And you have no idea how much of a help this would be, miss." Brown eyes dance between the lighter of Cassandra's. "Please."

Arms crossed across her chest, Cassandra blows a flyaway strand of hair out of her face, brushing it back with her fingertips in an attempt to be nonchalant which, honestly, fails. “Yeah, I get about two or three people a day that want to supply me, contract me, or marry me in some combination of that order. I’m thinking of printing up a sign.”

The offered hand is studied for a second or two, the man attached to it fixed with a somewhat indifferent gaze. “I….” Cassandra says, letting out a soft breath. “No, no, you have the right person. I just…I just don’t do that very much anymore. You see all sorts of things you might not want to see, and it’s tough to forget sometimes.” She has ways, of course, but that’s not something exactly advertised. Neither is the fact that she can do the things she does.

“You don’t need to worry about payment. I’m fine. I may ask for information, though.” Cassandra says finally, closing the register, locking it with a small silver steel key. “Jacob?”

The young man cleaning the coffee urns looks up.

“I’m going to go back and talk to this gentleman. Man the counter. The baguettes should be coming out in about five minutes, so pull those and leave them to cool.”

She looks to Aman, then, letting her hands drop to her sides, taking up a small mug of cold coffee. “Come on, then. Back to my office. We can chat there.”

When Cassandra starts to state her reservations, it takes willpower not to jump in immediately with what he could offer to help ease that. Aman bites his tongue, appearing grateful nonetheless. He waits until he's invited back before moving, slipping around the counter to follow after.

The privacy of the office is all he needs to feel comfortable with bringing up his own situation. "I completely understand seeing things you aren't sure what to do with, things that impact you. If it'd be of any help, miss, I could prevent that from happening here."

Aman sits down in one of the chairs in the office, elbows on his knees. His eyes drift out of focus for a second while he leans, before looking back to Cassandra to explain quietly, "I have a gift of my own. Normally I offer my services to people who are looking for a break from their SLC ability. Usually it's the other way around, where folks would pay me to take their ability off their hands for a while, but in this case, if you were willing—" because for him, that's paramount in this situation, evidenced by the serious look he gives her. "I could take on your psychometry and see if it might be the one that does the trick."

A bit wearily, he admits, "It'd not be the first kind we've tried. And it assumes that what you do, that it'd… fit."

Aman is taken through the kitchen with its large stone ovens to the small office that sits just across from the walk in refrigerator. The office is just large enough for the desk, a couple of chairs, and a filing cabinet that’s seen better days, but is clean, albeit a bit cluttered with the detritus of business running and a few knick knacks on a shelf. The proximity of the refrigerator ensures that their conversation, if heard, would be garbled by the sound of the fans and the compressor. She knows privacy, this woman. Scooting behind the desk, Cassandra sits, the old office chair creaking ominously as she adjusts herself, crossing one leg over the opposite knee, watching, listening, as Aman explains what exactly he wants to have happen.

“I admit, I’m not very familiar with the sharing of abilities. At all, really. I knew a few people back home that could do something similar, and now they’re in all sorts of demand as a sort of force multiplier in various businesses.” After all, if you can have one evolved, the only thing that may make it better is to have two. “That said, I’m not adverse to helping, or sharing what I can do with someone. If I hold on to it, I know what’s going on and how my ability is used. If you borrow it for a while, it gives me the peace of mind not knowing what was seen, but gives me the uncomfortable situation of not knowing what my ability was used for. Catch 22, if you catch my drift.” She takes a sip of her cold coffee, grimaces, and sets the cup down next to another, similar cup on her desk, the collection growing by one, to be cleaned up later this evening.

“You know what I can do, more or less, right?” Cassandra fixes him with a look for a second before she continues. “Which means you probably also know that I’ve not been doing it for a while. I tried to pretty much fall off the planet, more or less and focused on my baking and the shop. This means you really, really did some research to find me or just asked the right people to find the right direction to go because you really, really needed to know something.”

She lifts a hand to fend off protest, if it’s coming. “Just to state this clearly, I’m not saying no. I’m just saying I need a little more information. Just so you know, anything said doesn’t go beyond these walls. Just one of the many services I used to offer. So…” She leans forward with a clap of her hands. “What, in general, are you looking to find? And who told you where to find me?“

Hearing Cassandra is not only familiar with his type of ability but knows of people who are sought after comes as a surprise. Aman arches an eyebrow for a moment before sitting up a little straighter. Yeah, he supposes the way he's coming at this is far less polished than that. He makes a neutral note of acknowledgement when she says she'd rather know.

"To be honest, actually… I don't know for certain what you can do. This was all a…"

No sense in not calling it what it is at this point.

"A gamble. Like I said, I've been looking for a while for psychometers. I met somebody who said there was one named Cassandra here in the Safe Zone, and one jump after another, I've been trying to figure out who you might be." Aman glances back up at Cassandra, coming off his elbows to rest his hands on his knees instead. "I had a pretty good feeling," he admits, "when I walked in and started getting an aura off of you— could sense you had an ability."

Sighing, he goes on, "So I'm not sure one hundred percent how your ability works. The most I got was that it was object-based, which is a step in the right direction." Aman settles back as he begins to explain with a loose gesture of one hand, "The, um— object I'm trying to help decipher is something small. Somehow, it has answers about something that happened to her family. It's a necklace with a penny set in the middle of it."

Blithely, without much hope, he asks, "Is there any chance you can read something that small? Something that's gone through several hands since the point in time we're trying to reach back to?"

“Oh, yeah. I heard of her. She used to work for SESA, didn’t she?” The coffee cup gets a glance, the allure of caffeine somewhat tempered by the positively lukewarm temperature contained within. With a sigh, her attention goes back to Aman. “She and I had the same first name, but a different last one. Pure coincidence we have similar abilities. She moved away or something, from what I’ve been told.” Apparently Cassandra has heard that there had been another Cassandra that used to live in the Safe Zone, but other than that, she shows no other sign of recognition.

Now they’re getting to the meat of the issue. Cassandra leans back as Aman leans forward, making sure her monitor has been turned so there’s no obstruction between the pair. “My ability does pretty much what you’re looking for. It works on both locations and objects equally well - generally better in locations since there’s so much more to read from. If I can stand in a location where an event happened, I can generally dig it out if you give me enough time. If I can touch or hold the object, I can get it an idea of what the thing went through just by holding it, and I can usually wiggle something free, out, but that may take a little more time, since the threads are a little more tricky to tease out. I’m tenacious.” This is said with a small smile. “I haven’t been stuck yet.”

And then the necklace is mentioned. Outwardly, Cassandra seems cool, calm, and collected at the mention of a simple-sounding penny embedded in a necklace, but inwardly, there’s a tempest brewing behind her eyes that two Advil and a slug of vodka might help temper slightly. “I’ve dealt with objects as small as a penny before, yes.” She says with a small grimace. “I try to keep myself sharp by going through change, looking for ones that seem spicier than most.” There’s definitely more, but that’s left unsaid, that phrase intended to deflect questions about what she meant.

Aman's relief is visible, as is his surprise. Really? Could this finally be the break he's been hoping for in this search? "That's amazing," he breathes out. "You've— no idea how many angles we've tried this from that haven't panned out. So this— this is phenomenal." For a moment he sits stunned beyond that point of relief, finally shaking his head to come back to the present better.

With a blink, he changes his tone away from awed back to something more professional. "So the obvious thing is I don't have it on me. She's got it with her, but I'm positive if I let her know I found someone she'd drop everything to come meet us. So— whenever you're comfortable with, I can shoot to set something up then." Aman flashes a small smile. "She's a private person, so we might get some butterflies from her once we're on-site," and this he knows from experience, "but she's dedicated to finding these answers."

This is something Cassandra has heard a hundred times before and, with a sad smile, she sits up to look at Aman again. “Remember, I can’t change the past. Whatever happened, happened. I can stop the show at any time, I can back you out if it gets too intense. I can make it as gentle as I can. Someplace she’s comfortable will be fine. Somewhere private, ideally, since my ability overwrites the senses and makes what’s real invisible. So watch out for chairs.” A lesson taught many, many times to many, many people. “I’m fairly sure I could arrange a neutral place if that’s not something she’d want to do. A conference room in Red Hook, or at Raytech if you really, really felt the need to be behind several dozen layers of security.”

A dry breath of a laugh comes from Aman. "She works for Raytech, so maybe…" But he has to think, brow furrowing thoughtfully at the description of the ability. "But just to be clear— it changes just what the people around you see? Or would what happens be visible on camera, if we did it at Raytech? Either way, I'll ask her what she prefers."

He dips a hand into the inside of his jacket, pulling out a tin with business cards. The one he produces is simple, with just a name— Amanvir Singh— and a phone number to pair with it. "If you give me a ring or a text, I should know by this afternoon at the latest what her schedule looks like for this."

“To be clear, what you see in the vision doesn’t show up on film. There’s no bending of light or projection or anything like that. I kind of…put blinders on you and show you what I see. You hear and see the things around you. I could probably pull smell and taste into it, too, but some things are best left unexplored.” Cassandra takes the offered card, turning it over in both hands, studying it for a second or two. “Your cell phone, I assume?” she glances up, holding the card in one hand before tucking it in a small box on the desk, withdrawing one of her own cards and passing it across. Name of business, her listed as owner, business address, phone number, email address and…yeah, that’s pretty much all that’s on there.

“You can have her talk to Mr. Ray or Elizabeth about me. I’m positive they’ll vouch for me, if such a thing is required.” Cassandra smoothly gets to her feet, hands straightening her shirt, offering a hand. “Mister Singh, I look forward to your call. I can’t promise I can find out the answer you’re looking for, but I definitely can find an answer out for you.”

Aman accepts the offered hand with a smile, his handshake firm. "Yeah, that's my cell. I appreciate your candor, Cassandra. Thank you so much, again."

Leaving the way he came in, he reviews the card he received in return for a long moment before pulling his phone from his pocket while he walks. It takes until he's hit the street outside before he's decided what he wants to say, how he means to say it. Aman takes in a deep breath before he hits dial, waiting patiently for the rings… for the eventual voicemail.

"Hey, Ranya," he tells the machine with polite warmth. "It's me. Listen, I found a promising lead on that thing I was helping you with. Give me a call back?"

He rolls his jaw, looking off down the road. What else is there to say?

"Hope you're doing well," Aman mutters for a lack of knowing, then hangs up.

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