Filthy Habits


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Scene Title Filthy Habits
Synopsis Harry introduces Kaiya to Rossignol and discusses her new opportunity. Tensions are high among the other staff, some whom have their own business to attend to.
Date May 26, 2021

Staten Island

An hour before doors, Rossignol is mostly quiet as Ace Callahan unlocks the front and makes his way inside. There’s a quiet din of indistinct conversation that drifts toward the unmanned host stand, the participants not yet in view. Ahead of him, the stage waits, not quite empty. An upright bass stands near the elaborate grand piano, music stands placed in intervals, chairs lined up in front of the ones downstage.

The lights there brighten, then dim. They turn off completely before the spot flips on. First over center stage, where a vintage style microphone stands lonely. Then off again, only to light up the piano instead. The stage lights come back up to a level low enough not to draw focus, but enough to allow the future occupants to see their way up and to their places.

Ace flips the keys into his palm, then pocket, and strides further into the venue, making his way down the gentle slope that carries him past the tiers of tables and cozy booths. He can see the bar, where the staff have gathered around to have a meal. No one is in uniform yet, lest there be a risk of staining their work attire while they eat. Many of them look incongruous with their sleek coiffures, dramatic make-up, or flashes of jewelry contrasted with their street clothes, and it’s likely most regular patrons of Rossignol can’t imagine the staff looking differently than they present themselves on the job.

It’s an image well-maintained by all involved.

Rich brown leather upholsters the seats, sconces stud the walls with an amber glow. Everything feels closer than it is, but not in a claustrophobic way. Everything about the carefully curated space gives a sense of intimacy. A gathering of friends or associates can feel like they have their own little space. Candid conversations can bloom, given a sense of privacy. People can grow closer in the dark that’s not too dark. Like there’s a whisper of possibility in the ear of anyone who wants to listen for it.

Going along, there’s still a half-emptied crate of bottles set out at the much smaller bar tucked away on the other side of the space, serving as more of a glorified beverage station for the waitstaff to assemble the least complicated drink orders. To his left, one of the surreptitiously placed waste receptacles tucked against the wall is missing its polished brass dome, showing the peek of white bag that’s tucked around the edges of the mouth of it, making it stand out among the other darker, warmer tones of the space it occupies. One of the bleached white towels is still left out on the bar, but it will doubtless see one more use to clean up after pre-show dinner.

“Are you still planning to take the solo for the first set?” Around a mouthful of tofu, a willowy blonde asks her question behind one hand. “Or do you need to rest your voice?”

There’s a quiet sound that could be a signal that someone almost swallowed wrong, or simply that they needed to clear their throat. There’s enough of a pause afterward that it isn’t readily apparent, save that it isn’t followed by any coughing.

“There’s nothing wrong with my voice,” Ace hears his fiancée assert from her place at the end of the bar. Even though her tone is level, neutral, he can almost feel the annoyance, and knows uncertainty no doubt immediately follows it.

“You sounded a little scratchy during rehearsal is all. I just don’t want you to overextend yourself,” the first replies, somehow without a hint of condescension. She could be genuinely concerned, or she could be just as ruthless as the woman she’s speaking to.

By now, Ourania Pride can be seen pivoting in her seat to smile at the bartender, who’s leaning over a box of take-out, but seems to know in an instant that he’s being sought out. “Mn?” he hums as he hastily picks up a napkin to wipe his mouth while he chews his noodles.

“Could you get me a tall glass of water with a lemon wedge? Perhaps I just need a little more hydration.” Ace knows that tone of voice very well. He hears the smile that she wears and it evokes the notion that she’ll be bringing a book to bed. “I don’t want you to worry about me, Ciera.” Her cocktail is slid away from herself to make space for the softer drink.

It’s going to be a thick medical text tonight, then.

Back where he stands in casual observation of the readiness of the establishment, Ace-come-Harry remains with his hands in his pockets, in no rush to insert himself in any particular conversation. No, the woman following behind him is where his gaze ultimately turns back to. "As it is, better to get to know everyone with more honest faces," he tells the wiry woman. "Especially those you'd be working most closely with, yes?"

Brown eyes that have seen more than their fair of rises, falls, and seedy bars than they would ever admit in civilized company sweep around the room. Her lips pull thin and taut, and Kaiya Jeffery removes a sleek silver cigarette case from her poshly-oversized purse. “Do you mind if I smoke in here?” It’s not a question, and as though to punctuate with a period despite the rising tone at the end, she lights up. “Don’t smoke. Filthy habit I picked up from some even filthier executives back in the day.”

Now Ace’s question is approached. “I daresay we need …” A pause to consider voicing, which is then thrown out the window in favor of the bold. “My dear, I can’t tell if you mean for this to be a game of mutually-assured destruction, or what the real offer you’re making is, but by all means, an honest face is a helpful one.” She lowers her voice conspiratorially and winks. “Except, of course, don’t mention the facelift I got in ‘03, which is the most dishonest thing about it.”

There’s someone he hasn’t seen before in Rossignol, in a time where the general public isn’t allowed admittance yet. On the other hand, she’s standing over there near Ace, so supposedly she’s been vetted. However, Luke does take his job of security seriously, and so he makes his way over to the two of them. He gives Kaiya a brief sweeping look from head to toe, then turns to Ace. “She here with you?” he asks, rather than addressing the matron patron directly, though he does keep her in his peripheral vision; a thumb is jerked in her direction in case it’s not obvious who he’s talking about. The smoking doesn’t even make him bat an eye, despite the fact that it looks pretty incongruous for an old granny to be a chain smoker.

"That'll be the last cigarette inside, I'm afraid," Harry answers Kaiya's not-a-question. "And as for the offer… well, for now, it's a matter of seeing what you think of the environment, and potential coworkers." On that note, he seems pleased when it's Luke who's come to greet him. Not just because he's doing his job well, but also because, "This is Kaiya Jeffrey. We're recent acquaintances, and she let me know she was in the mood for a change of pace. I couldn't think of a more welcoming environment for her to try something outside the norm than here on Staten… at Rossignol, in particular."

His voice is a touch more than it needs to be, broadcasting to more than just Luke for the sake of not having to repeat himself later.

Flashing a smile as he looks back at Kaiya, he shares, "Ms. Jeffrey said she had an interest in security, potentially."

At the bar, Ourania’s head lifts when she catches the sound of Ace’s voice. “Oh!” The vocal note signals to her knot of associates that’s my cue! “I should go say hello.” She picks up the glass of water that’s set in front of her and offers a dazzling smile to the bartender as she sets to abandoning her dinner. She likes to eat light before taking the stage anyway. “Thanks, Mikey.” She’s already up and moving away when she asks him, “Tuck my leftovers in the fridge?” Waving over her shoulder, she trills, “Thank you!”

Then it’s striding up through the tables to meet the others where they are, making sure her route puts her in view, rather than suddenly appearing in their periphery. Upon arrival, she leans in, resting her free hand on Harry’s shoulder as she drops a peck of a kiss on his cheek. “Hello, darling!” She nods to the man on security in a more subdued, but no less warm greeting. “Luke.”

Letting her hand slip away from Harry’s shoulder, she smiles brightly. “I wasn’t sure I’d see you tonight!” Then her attention turns to Kaiya as she reaches out her hand. “I don’t believe we’ve met!” She takes the initiative on the introduction, rather than letting it fall to her partner. “Ourania Pride.”

Filthy habit.” Comes a raspy voice from within arm’s reach of Ouriana at one of the tables. Redd has a halfway-finished cigarette dangling from his bottom lip with a crooked length of ash at the end. His knife-like smile is mockingly directly at none other than Ace.

“Since when did we start letting the Upper West Side in here?” Redd asks Ouriana of Kaiya, plucking his cigarette out of his mouth as he does to gesture at her with it. The fringe on the sleeves of Redd’s battered leather jacket sways in the gesture. “‘Cause I ain’t seen a wasp that big since we fumigated the warehouse.”

At this, Kaiya chirps out a laugh that doesn’t quite meet her eyes. “Charming.” She grasps Ourania’s hand and shakes it, just barely, looking around. “I do think it looks rather more like the current Upper West Side here, doesn’t it? In which case, I’m right at home.” Still, she nods an acknowledgement at Redd and then turns to Ourania and Luke in turn before returning to her host. “Yes, Security sounds right. I could use a change of pace. Spent too much time in boardrooms, so I thought my time might be better used now on the ground, as it were.” There is an ever so slight wrinkling of her nose as Kaiya looks around again. The place has clearly been fixed up nicely, but it’s still Staten Island, after all.

“Security, huh.” Luke’s tone is perhaps a tad scornful as he looks her up and down again, then offers his hand as well. If she decides to take it, she’ll feel a painfully tight grip, just a few stages below what would break bones. Well, perhaps a few steps below that since she’s old, and old people are always breaking hips and stuff. “Luke.” he introduces while he tests her out. Gonna flinch, granny?

After all, he’s the last person to judge someone by appearances when powers are concerned.

“Filthy is as filthy does, eh?” he adds with a sly look over to Redd.

'Harry' only has a cut of side-eye for Redd when he makes his appearance, the slimy rat of a soul ever-interested in using his ability to unsettle those around him. He supposes maybe Redd's feeling charitable today, actually– he didn't appear wrapped around Ace's other arm. He supposes quietly to him, "The next time I notice cigarette smoke in here again, I know where the bill's going to," he rolls out in dry quiet before following it with a more amicable chuckle. "I know you're a social creature, Redd, but the next time you want someone to smoke with, all you need do is ask."

He lifts one hand to pat at the pack he keeps inside the breast pocket of his jacket, brows arching high.

"Do you intend to introduce yourself?" Harry wonders, his hand gesturing politely to Kaiya to indicate very clearly who to.

Ourania startles to hear Redd’s voice so close by from nowhere. She refuses to count herself lucky that he doesn’t practically have his face buried in her neck as he scents her perfume this time. That would be allowing him to scrape by with the bare minimum of human decency as the height to aspire to and to hell with that. She can feel the sudden grease slick sensation of his emotions on her skin, making it crawl. “How nice of you to join us.”

Despite the pleasant lilt of her voice, there’s a faint tremor seen on the surface of the water in Ourania’s glass. It subsides as she does her best to conduct this conversation in a cordial manner, smiling at Kaiya as though she isn’t thinking of throttling someone in particular at present. “Ms Jeffrey. Ravi de vous rencontrer.

Already, she’s starting to calibrate herself to the other woman’s emotional frequency, separating it from the already familiar in the event that she’s asked to provide an assessment later. Luke appears to be in a contentious mood at the moment, the plain Ace’s emotional landscape is so well mapped by her by now as to require virtually no study, and Redd… Well, she isn’t sure how creep translates to an emotion, but he’s managed to do it. “I love those shoes,” she confides with a sparkle in her eye.

Redd gives a wink to Luke. “Filthy is as filthy does,” he reiterates, slowly rising from his seat with his cigarette dangling from his lip. “I like that. It’s got teeth.” Slinking around the table, Redd insinuates himself into Kaiya’s personal bubble.

Silas Redd.” He introduces himself with a wide grin clamped down on the cigarette filter. “And don’t let Acey here sell you wrong, you wanna smoke you smoke. Unless the big man’s around, then you do whatever he says and twice as fast.” Redd inclines his head to her, one brow raised and a hand offered out to Kaiya while a bit of cigarette ash lands at his feet.

“‘Acey’?” Kaiya repeats, bemused, lifting an inquisitive but knowing eyebrow at Harry. “I see. Well, it’s very nice to meet all of you.” She offers her hand to each one in turn and grants a cordial nod of the head. “And thank you, these shoes are my favorite. Practical for looking good but also for running, since the heel is only an inch.”

She pauses. “So, er, ‘Acey’ didn’t give me specifics of what you all do here?”

There's a grudging respect when she doesn't flinch at him near-crushing her hand. For him, Luke mainly felt threatened, not by the old lady herself, but by the fact that she wants to horn in on his 'territory'. After all, security is his thing, and he likes to think he's damn good at it, too. So after that, he releases her hand and steps back to let her shake hands with an even more dubious character.

"Where'd you pick this one up, huh? She some sort of cougar?" He slides his gaze from Ace over to Ourania and nods to her with a more polite smile, a contrast to his more crass words. O is one of the main draws to the place, part of his job is making sure she's able to do hers. For Kaiya's question, he gestures to 'Acey'. "He can probably explain best." The frown he shoots him, however, along with a flick of the eyes to Kaiya and back, shows he's not so sure about him bringing her here. "Hope the boss is in the loop," he adds with a faint warning.

"Various here do various things," Ace replies smoothly, glossing over Luke's warning. "But at the heart of it, we all see to it that this fine establishment stays up and running. Rossignol is a city on a hill in terms of class for Staten Island– what we do here is create a place where a higher class of clientele can come to while away their nights. The club is open nightly, with more attendees on the weekends. We have a creative and well-stocked bar and offer a limited dinner menu for our guests; who include a wide swathe of representation from the Safe Zone's hierarchy."

"Fine keepers like Luke," he says with a nod to regard the selfsame man. "Ensure that our suite here allows in only those meeting our standards, and settles any disagreements that might arise between those that can't hold their drink." With a curve of his hand toward the stage, he notes. "We have live music, performed by a number of musicians as well as singers. We have a number of them now," and pulling his hand back to himself, he smiles warmly, "and in that resiliency, there's harmony."

"It goes without saying that with the physical proximity of the d'Sarthe Group's operations that there are certain evenings where guests of Mr. d'Sarthe grace the house, nights which demand a similar amount of grace be shown on our part." With a cant of his head, Ace allows, "And there are a number of us who hold dual employment– as it were– for both the Group's affairs proper as well as maintaining this…" His hand circles in a general gesture indicating the building in general. "Little diplomatic outpost."

Practical also for running. Now Ourania finds herself intensely curious as to what Ms Kaiya Jeffrey’s activities must be like, but that isn’t her question to ask. Not at this juncture at any rate. The warmth of her smile diminishes when Luke’s casual misogyny rankles her. How is it that Silas Redd is looking like the gentleman here?

While her smile remains, her expression is a cooler thing when she turns her head to look at him, tilting it slightly to the left, gaze almost curious. O may not know Kaiya from Adam, but there’s a solidarity that exists among women. “How strange. I was under the impression that you were raised to show respect to a lady. I’ll remember this for the future.”

Luke half-turns away at her words, but his polite smile doesn't alter one bit; only Ourania would be able to sense the sudden murderous fury that ripples through him, sparked by any mention of his mother, however oblique it was. The only outward indication is silence, even despite Ace's flattery, as he works to repress it. All that training to control his anger seems to have paid off, at least, but it's probably for the best that he had already released Kaiya's hand by that point.

Infused with amiability again when she turns back to Kaiya, Ourania makes a small gesture toward the stage. “I’m the weekend headliner,” she explains, brimming with her namesake emotion. “I play piano and sing.” Demuring slightly, she adds, “I’m only here part time, and my other work has many deadlines currently that I’ve had to focus on, but I’m here when I can be.”

Ourania’s blue gaze lifts before her gesturing hand does again. “When Monsieur d’Sarthe is in residence, I can often be found in the VIP lounge. I have an absolutely stunning piano up there that was made custom.” Bringing her hand back to her side, she then clasps both together in front of her.

“Diplomatic,” Redd echoes, flicking the ash from his cigarette straight on the floor specifically because he knows it grates on Ace’s nerves. “Y’know that’s actually not a half-bad explanation of it all. ‘Cause like an embassy there’s soldiers that kick around in the off-time too.” He admits, plucking his cigarette from his mouth. “The boys from up at Miller Airfield like to roll in and have a drink, spend their money, and then go back to being cops with bazookas or whatever it is they pretend to do ‘round here.”

With a languid feline stretch, Redd ambles away from the group and casts a side-eye to Luke. Thoughtful, for a moment, he sucks in a mouthful of smoke and then blows it out his nose. “Hey O-Ring,” he calls out to Ouriana. “You know where Pecker-Pete is?” It seems like Redd actually came here for a business reason. Moreover, asking that question in public is nothing short of a power-move over her.

He knows.

Ourania is a fucking professional and she holds her mask perfectly in place. Part of that façade is letting the disgust and revulsion show on her face, putting on display the barely restrained urge to round on him and give him a piece of her mind. It hides the way she’s suddenly been dunked in ice water and she’s grateful there’s no one tethered to her right now to feel the sharp jolt of fear that makes her momentarily sick to her stomach.

“I can see Mister Redd and I have business to attend to,” she says smoothly with a clearly put-on smile. “We can talk in back.” Ourania gestures in the direction of the door that leads backstage. “I’ll be right behind you.” Taking in a breath, she smiles more genuinely to Kaiya. “It was nice to meet you, Ms Jeffrey.” She very deliberately doesn’t even glance in Ace’s direction as she pulls a brass cigarette case from the back pocket of her denim shorts and excuses herself, heading first toward the bar.

I need a drink.

Kaiya takes all of this in with steeled interest, the tip of her cigarette growing longer until, remembering this is not the ‘90s and there are no longer ashtrays allowed in bars, she taps it into a nearby trash bin. As the others take their extremely cryptic leave, and her eyes follow with masked interest in the curious crooner and the crass … whatever Redd is, she turns back to Harry.

“Harry, then? Or is it Ace?” A carnivorous grin flashes in an instant across her lips before she tucks it back away. “And Luke.” A nod of acknowledgement that the other bodyguard is still there. “I certainly would enjoy both the labor and the - ah - interactions that come with the territory.” She takes a few steps away, rests a hand on the lacquered wooden surface of a bistro table, and turns back to them. “I’m not sure whether you mean to use me for my connections or for my abilities, but you’ve certainly piqued my interest yet again.” Another casual inhale, casual exhale, an impossibly delicate stream of tobacco smoke floating into the air that hangs heavy with veiled implications.

“The question then remains, of course, where do we go or what do we do from here?”

To the point, as any good New Yorker should be.

It’s a few moments after Ourania leaves when Luke takes a deep breath and turns back to the group. “Whatever is needed,” he remarks brusquely, slowly crossing his arms. He certainly doesn’t look like he could deal with even a single drunken lout, much less multiples. “Ultimately, it’s Mr. d’Sarthe’s decision what you do or don’t do, if you intend to associate with us.” He's still pissed off, but manageable.

And how Kaiya manages herself around such an individual will speak to how well she can do here on her own. It seems 'Harry' is confident she can hold her own, offering no intervention to the many tones in play.

For now.

"I go by either," Ace tells her lightly, letting Redd and Ourania go their way to finish whatever conversation they need to have. "But Harry by default. As for what happens now–" He looks in the direction Redd's disappeared off to before turning back to Kaiya. "If you've not been warded off by Redd's absolutely displeasing demeanor, we can discuss setting up terms of employment specific to Rossignol."

It's here he glances at Luke pointedly. "And after a brief trial period, should you still enjoy the job, we can arrange an introduction to Mr. d'Sarthe." He smiles briefly. Be nice, Luke, it says. "Security at Rossignol can be interesting. Security for other d'Sarthe ventures around the island even moreso."

"Think of this as a place to get your feet wet, to decide if the change in pace is desirable after all."

Ace offers out his hand to Kaiya, wondering, "Does that sound amenable?"

Kaiya takes his hand in her own, cold from low body fat but firm from weathered challenges. “Oh, Mr. Redd is nothing compared to foreign exchange in the ‘80s. But then, you’re so fresh you probably barely remember the Cold War. Yes, your terms are … amenable. I look forward to the opportunity, to be sure.”

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