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Scene Title Firewatch
Synopsis A joint case file between the NYPD and SESA stands to grow larger and gain more attention as Cesar, Emily, and Lance look over compiled evidence regarding recent arsons and hate crimes.
Date June 8, 2021

Emily Epstein and Lance Gerken haven't been back in the office for an incredibly long time, but it feels like it, being restricted to desk work as they have been. Emily sits half-slumped against the side of her desk, elbow to table with her knuckles leaving an imprint against her cheek from mutually propping the other up. The other hand lazily taps the spacebar at intervals, no attempt like usual being made to quiet the action while she reads.

Eventually, she lifts one hand to rub at the side of her face, fingertips digging into the corner of her eye to stave off boredom-induced tire. There were plenty of off-site things happening in preparation for the forecasted nearing of the fires, which left those consigned to the office… with both plenty and not much to do depending on where they fell on the ladder of things.

So naturally, it was only a matter of time before things changed for those without much.

Fort Jay

Governor's Island

"Hey, Diaz," comes one such bearer of load redistribution. Jim Wells is a known face for being there at the start of any investigation, verifying initial information for a given case before passing it on to others, but the manilla in his hand is thicker than that. "Would you be able to help me, possibly, with this information the NYPD'd put together a while back?"

"There's some older hate crime cases they're now linking to the arson spree that happened last month… with the original incidents being very firmly anti-Slice, they passed over all the information and flagged it for immediate attention what with all the… fire concern right now. Anyway." Blanching, he flips idly through the folder of info with testimonies, pictures, and reports. "Looks like Gerken was our agent on site for one of the past reports– an attempted arson case last year."

"Is this something you'd be able to follow up on?" he asks, all signs clear that he hopes the answer is yes. "Think the NYPD is looking for us to validate their conclusions, check in with an eyewitness from last month, and escalate if needed."

Cesar Diaz is only one face of many at Fort Jay who have been hunkering down to do the legwork as the agency assigns without question. He is, after all, quite fond of the exercise. "Wells," he says with a reach over to pause the ancient looking iPod and uncorks one ear of his wired buds, "I can't believe the juniors already got you using their lingo. Anti-Slice? Really?" Shaking his head, Cesar mutters a playfully deprecating coño as he holds out his hand to take the thick case file.

"Thanks for not just dropping it on the desk," he says, flipping open the cover and leafing through a few of the top papers. Eyes scan across the initial info of the reports with practiced focus, though most of the sweep is cursory at best. "Where is he now?" Cesar looks up from the file to Jim, then in the direction of the junior agents' desk pool to seek out Lance or someone who might know where the younger man is.

There aren’t too many signs of Lance’s injury now; he doesn’t have to use a cane anymore (although some may know he still has it, folded up and in a desk drawer), he’s regained the weight and color he lost convalescing, and there’ve even been a few small pranks that’ve happened in the office since his return.

Today, he’s at his desk. Click. Click. Click. The mouse in his hand moving slightly left, right, as he stares at a spreadsheet on the screen with an expression that suggests maybe getting shot was better than whatever it is he’s doing at the moment.

Spotting Lance at his desk, Cesar rises from his and scoops up the case file. He takes a moment to tuck his old iPod and earbuds down in a desk drawer. A silent look passes to Jim Wells. Cesar angles his head over in Lance's direction, then an arching brow lifted in askance and mischief. You in?

Jim gives an awkward smile, and then nods right Lance's way. "Gerken's still on desk duty, so he should be free to help." He narrows his eyes afterward teasingly and chides, "Slice isn't just a thing for the kids, by the way." More earnestly, slightly more awkwardly, he professes, "It's… a natural evolution of the designation put on all of them. A way to make it sound more human than clinical. I think that's worth embracing, at the end of the day."

With a slight shake of his head, he clears his throat and then begins to stride over to the desks. He spies Emily sitting across Lance with a similar bored expression and he arches an eyebrow at her. Once she realizes she's being watched, she sits upright, then smooths her hands down her skirt as she stands, looking between Cesar and Jim both before seeing where their attentions were originally headed.

"Emily," Jim greets her, having more than once been begged off of using her surname. Then he moves on with a heavier, more attention-grabbing, "Gerken."

He nods to Cesar and indicates, "There's some follow-up vetting on the arson cases for last month. NYPD has new evidence they think ties it to a failed arson case you were on last year." His head dips. "You might have a good eye for this, to work with Diaz and validate what they were reporting." He runs his tongue over the back of his teeth for a moment before looking to Cesar and stressing between them both, "If they're right, and it looks like these are all related… this is escalate-to-the-Director material. Have your ducks in a row, make sure it's not just a gut feeling we can't prove, but don't sit on this."

Interested clearly even though this isn't a task she's been called in explicitly on, Emily looks between the two agents back to her junior deskmate with a grim curiosity.

Thusly chastised, Cesar rolls his shoulders back in a light shrug and nods to Wells' reasoning. "Guess I've got to get with the times, too," he says thoughtfully as they approach the junior agents sitting on their section of the office floor. A twist of a smile upturns at the corner of Cesar's lips, and a flicker of his glance bounces between the pair. "Unless you're inclined to sit this one out," he tacks on to the case assigner's words.

“Hm?” At the mention of his name, Lance looks up– blinks off the lingering screen-hypnosis– and brings a hand up to rub between his eyes. “Arson– oh! Right, right, the…”

He waves his hand a bit, “Searchlight Salvage case? Where those three hotti– three, ah, women were the witnesses?” A brief grin flashed, sheepish for his slip, “Yeah, I remember. We finally got a lead on that?”

A look between the two of them, questioning seriously, “What do you need from me?”

"Take a look over the combined case files with Diaz, see if you agree with the assessment. There's an eyewitness that could be followed up with from the Meredith Gordon dorms, if needed. It's an…" Jim has to think about it, and then he waves one hand. "S-name, can't remember."

In the process of waving his hand, he catches sight of what time it is on his wrist and starts to let out a swear– that he carefully bites back. "Ping me if you need anything else on this, I gotta run for now, though," Jim says in apology, then begins to backpedal toward his own desk. "And thanks again!" he says to Cesar before passing.

Emily lets Jim retreat a handful of paces before she leans up against her desk, palms pressed flat against the space around her keyboard, and looks up to Cesar with a dire expression. "If you've ever cared about my mental health at all, I strongly would consider letting me look at that case with you two," is how she makes her case without going so far as to beg. "There's nothing else going on around here otherwise for me."

Us, she would have said, before it looked like Lance was about ready to leave her alone in boredom territory.

Cesar angles a testy look at Lance's initial slip, but that's as far as it goes when the younger man catches himself. Mmhm. As Jim abandons him to other duties, Cesar breaks off at the head what would have been a protest about Wells leaving him to the wolves. That leads him to look at Emily, for all her words and the lean, hungry look on her face needing something to sink her mental teeth into. Cesar's finger taps a couple times against the thick case file's folder. He sets the paperwork down at the edge of Lance's desk, close enough to where Emily can scoot over. "Come on then," he waves her over. "Give me a quick rundown what you can remember, Lance. And I don't mean the hotties' measurements."

Lance flushes a bit at the call-out, and then he’s ducking his head back to his computer - clicking a few times to close what he was working on, working to bring up the files in question. “Hey Em, c’mon over then,” he greets once Cesar gives the nonverbal go-ahead, and then he’s giving the rundown, “So the tee-ell-dee-arr was– someone tried to set Searchlight Savage on fire. Seemed like a pretty amateur job; unfortunately for them, one of the employees was nearby, fortunately for the employee they were gone before she got there to start putting the fire out. Unfortunately for us that meant she didn’t see anything.”

A file folder’s open, some screenshots pulled open - graffiti. “There’s this symbol– looks like a fire, or maybe a bird? Stylized, anyway. And then there was this– ‘SLC less than PE’ and some Italian that translated into ‘Human is First’. The mix of two organizations’ names there - and the unfamiliar symbol - suggested to me that this wasn’t part of either group formally, but a home-grown bunch of racists taking inspiration. All three of the employees were Slice.”

He waves at the screen, “At the time we didn’t get any hits back from this symbol, though, from the organized crime or hate group databases. Which reinforced the theory of some local bunch.”

Emily takes no time at all in running around the cluster of desks to reach Lance's across from hers, pulling a chair from the desk next to his to get comfortable in. She slips the thick folder off the side of the desk to begin to skim it while Lance pulls up the old case's files, skimming through the top case's bundles. She blinks twice as she goes through them, focused on a printed page with a photograph pinned to the top of the second bundle.

She looks down and then back up again. "Uh, yeah," she says in a quiet enough voice to show she's unnerved. "I think you're right." Emily opens the folder fully and sets it on the desk, leaving the second case's paperwork plainly visible after pulling the clipped photograph free and setting it in front of Lance for review. The outline is the same– this photo taken with a flash camera of spraypaint written on an interior stone wall of a condemned building.

"An Officer Nguyen found a similar piece of graffiti when looking over photos from another case, a–" She grimaces momentarily. "an attempted murder case. Two homeless kids turned on a third after finding out he was SLC-E. It…" Leafing through to the second and third pages reveals other photographs. "Looks like they ID'd suspects for that one? Officer Modi on that incident, though, with– wow, okay– Liz and Devon also on the scene?"

With a slight quirk of her head, Emily looks to the other two and notes quietly, "Sounds like good enough of a link to get the symbol documented, at the very least…"

Leaning over the sitting down pair, Cesar frowns as Lance describes the initial string of arson. "PE, Pure Earth," he mutters quietly among them. This time, he makes no comment on the usage of 'Slice' as a main descriptor. "Have there been other instances of this symbol seen around the Safe Zone? Or have they just been tagged in a more concentrated area? Like how local are we talking?"

Cesar reaches for the opened folder's photo of the graffiti. His frown deepens. "So how far did SCOUT get on these, if anywhere? Looks like there's been time enough for the trail to get cold. And do we have statements from Searchlight Salvage on the arson? No footage from any surrounding buildings or street view?" He turns back to Lance and scans the monitor's info.

“We’ve got statements, but– there’s nothing valuable there,” Lance admits with a slight wrinkle of his nose, “No enemies known, no threats or weird phone calls, no suspicious shit around the site. Mrs.– uh, Lieutenant Harrison knew the girls personally though, so she might have something off-the-record from them. No video. Ferryman’s Bay isn’t exactly Raytech Campus or anything as far as security…”

He looks over to Emily, frowning slightly, “Homeless kids– could be that they’re recruiting from down-on-their-luck teenagers, whatever this group is. Unless it’s literally just a local gang that’s decided we’re– uh– Slice people are the reason they’re not doing well. I’ve got some people I could put out some feelers with, some contacts on the street…”

Frowning, Emily starts going through the office-clipped set of papers for the second case more intently. "They, um…" Another paper copy of a photograph, both sides of it, are pulled free and set out for review. It's a little grainy owing to its production, but the handwriting on the back of the photograph seems to list those pictured by name: Suzie, Evan, Cady, and Roman. She doesn't examine it, looking through the other written details instead.

"NYPD issued a 'watch out for' that got pings on Roman's sister?" she asks in confusion. "He's got an identical twin, apparently…"

From the grainy paper, a face nearly Roxie's stares up sullenly at Lance from the edge of the group of photographed youth. Standing next to him is a face that looks slightly familiar, but just like Roxie doesn't look exactly like Roman to those who know her, seems slightly different as well.

"You're right on it went cold, though. It was like 6 months before the Searchlight thing, and was up in Jackson Heights. The guy who was attacked, after he recovered, ultimately said he didn't intend to press charges even if they were found, and that… stymied things, a bit." Frowning at that detail, another two pages of photos are flipped to, one taken of a tacklebox filled with coins, nails, batteries… disconcerting things enough that she decides to stop leafing through the copy.

Emily finally looks up at the group photo and her brow furrows at Roman's face, then gasps on seeing the one on the far left. "Jesus Christ," she whispers, then touches the side of her neck, fingers brushing against the thin scar on the right side of it. She shakes her head in a stammering gesture and then says a slight edge, "Well, the girl on the left's in fucking jail for a hate crime against a SESA agent, so."

Cesar scrubs a hand down his face at seeing just how young the faces in the photographs are. "Yeah," he agrees on Lance's assessment for certain motivations, "there's enough finger pointing going around that doesn't need a telepath to figure out a lot of it's people hurting and being hurt." A heavy sigh escapes him, and his hand drops back down to the junior agent's desk beside the photograph of four. "Okay. So we're looking at least these two cases being related— what?"

The words 'hate crime' and 'SESA agent' immediately rankle Cesar's invisible hackles. A tightened tone manifests as he looks over Emily, noting her discomfort. "Suzie's the one in custody?" he repeats, eyes narrowing. He reaches over to drag the photo a little closer. "When does the system say she was booked?"

"November 17th, 2019," Emily answers without looking. She doesn't need to.

Lance is paying more attention to Emily’s reaction than the photograph, expression twisting in a sympathetic grimace. He reaches over to nudge her shoulder lightly with his fist, offering her a faint smile meant to be reassuring before looking back to the more senior agent.

“So are we looking to find these people, see if they were involved with the recent– you know– fire? I doubt that bi– prisoner is going to be very forthcoming, but we could reach out to the twin sister,” he clears his throat, frowning, “At the very least we have, uh, probable cause to bring them all in for questioning.”

"I mean," Emily notes uncomfortably. "That'd make good sense to me. We're not even through the files they've got here, though," she says and sets aside the current clip, leaving it open on the photographs of the presumed bomb-making materials next to the folder. The third case is picked up, and she glances over the top page. "The arson at Meredith Gordon Memorial Academy…"

Silently, she's thankful for the officer (or maybe it was Jim?) who keeps starting these files with sticky notes of the threads they felt tied all this together. "A staff member on-site, he was locked in a storage closet in the basement before the water main was shut off. Salem Mayhew? Description of the attacker seemed to match… Roman."

Emily begins skipping through the thinner file to try and quickly glean more details. "There's uh– mostly only eyewitness reports? Little things. That…" She narrows her eyes and then glances up at Lance again. "Wasn't Tyminski a name on your earlier report, too?" She looks back down again quickly. "Fire must have been really extensive, I'm guessing, if they don't have any footage."

Or purposefully targeted, for that matter.

"And I mean– the school isn't explicitly Evolved, but its namesake was. And it absolutely was a targeted shitshow with how nearly every building on campus went up in flames at once."

"Yeah, this is where we can start," Cesar taps a finger on the edge of the photograph of four. "Three still out. We'll need to find out where Suzie is being held, if she's still in the court system or being held somewhere in juvie if she's under 18." They look young to him, given the givens.

Cesar withholds more potential pathway discussion as Emily flips the third arson case open. The line of his mouth flattens further at the mention of the school attack, at the sight of the photo of bomb-building materials, and he cuts a glance back to Lance as well for the others named on the previous reports. "Do we have connections between this cast of characters? You said Lieutenant Harrison knows the girls from Searchlight Salvage. Harrison's also listed as being on site during the attempted murder case that fell through. And look, there's a note on Roman's twin - Roxanne Lopez. One of the officers present at the booking for a public disturbance incident on November 27th, Harrison. Ten days after Suzie's."

Moving to grab a legal pad from one of their nearby supplies, Cesar plucks a pen up and starts writing names. "So we've got localized arson and assault in alleged targeted attacks on SLC-E establishments, and or potentially personal reasons. A list of names we should find and question. At the very least, we've got these kids on what looks like another possibility they were at the bombing of the event from last October, or know who was."

“Wait, who?” Lance reaches over to grab one of the files that Emily’s looking at, his brow furrowing, “Salem? Salem’s one of us, I didn’t even know he was still in town… shit, I need to look him up.” Using witness lists to reconnect social ties is probably against the rules somewhere, but the horse is out of the barn already.

Then he remembers they’re dealing with an arson case and he flushes a bit, pushing back his personal life and looking back to his computer screen. “Tyminski? That sounds familiar for some reason. Yeah, uh– let me–" Click, click, move windows, “there we are. Jason Tyminski, he’s the legal guardian listed for two of the girls at Searchlight Salvage. Want me to bring up his file to see if there’s anything suspicious there?” His brow furrows a little as he mutters to himself, “…why does that name sound familiar?”

Emily blinks back to Cesar, the tessellations of all these connected events not immediately turning up the bend that he sees. "Last October?" she echoes back, then remembers, "Eve's Xpress thing? What makes you…?"

Then she's flipping back through the papers in front of her, finding the pictures of the boys' living space again. The photo focusing on the tacklebox of odds and ends that reads more like a stockpile to her now instead of potential tradeable salvage leads her to pale and look back up to Cesar. "Oh," she whispers.

To Lance she only shakes her head a moment later. "If anything, it's just wild coincidence. He's been a victim, so I'd not suspect he's involved…"

She pulls a book of sticky-notes to her to write down what's been said. "Okay, I probably shouldn't put this in for conflict of interest reasons, but you said you wanted to request an interview with Suzie… we want to try to find Roxie–" Which it dawns on her she's not seen her in ages. "To see if she could help us find her brother. And that just leaves…"

Emily looks at the girl labeled 'Cady' and pauses there, tilting her head as she looks down at the image. She shakes her head a moment after, then looks back up to Cesar. "Who else from our list of witnesses?"

So far, the names Cesar writes down form a sizeable list given the amalgam of cases loaded into this combination. "Yeah, do it," he nods to Lance to authorize the name look up, "maybe we'll be able to figure out a priority here, save us some beat walking."

The mention of the Xpress event along with the look back through the photos of potential shrapnel supply draw a frown from Cesar for several reasons, not the least of which he utters, "The victims deserve answers, justice, and closure. Cooper deserves to at least bag one of those assholes." His pen stops tapping on the legal pad, the agent remembering further the strange supernatural ability that managed to save several more lives that day.

Upon finding the clipped news articles accompanying Roxie's file, Cesar grimaces deeper. With a shake of his head, he dismisses darker thoughts for focus back to their list.

"Ok. First case, Searchlight Salvage arson. 'Slice' based company, related parties: Malaya Ericsson, Denise Ericsson, Lucy Summers, and Jason Tyminski. No suspects, but we've got Humanis First and Pure Earth related paraphernalia.

"Second case, Jackson Heights attempted murder, approximately six months before the Searchlight arson. No charges but we've got one of four in custody for possible suspects and witnesses, Suzanne Osbourn, aka Suzie. No known whereabouts for Evran Foster, Roman Santos, known twin brother to Roxanne Santos aka Roxanne Lopez, and 'Cady'.

"Third case, Meredith Gordon Memorial Academy coordinated arson attack. Staff member on site Salem Mayhew was locked in a closet before the campus was set on fire. At least one suspect matching description of Roman Santos.

"If all of this comes to the same group responsible for the Xpress Yourself bombing, then. Wells said this is something to kick up the chain if needed."

The question is whether or not it comes down to the need. Another look is sent to the photograph of the four young faces. Cesar scrawls a hasty line to denote a break from the case summaries, and rewrites the remaining names. "Evran. Roman. Cady. Roxie. We've got four needles in a big damn haystack, and we're not even sure they're on this farm," he grumbles. "We'll have to start where we can. Get an interview scheduled with Suzie. See if NYPD has gotten any hits on Roxie. And you said you've got some threads you can pull on, Lance?"

Lance’s fingers fly over the keyboard to type the name in and bring up the file; appearing on the screen with all the usual statistics for your average registered citizen of the Safe Zone, including a copy of his state ID photo (he’s not licensed to drive). Round face, scruffy beard, uneven smile, large eyes, bald head. He doesn’t look that unusual, or even dangerous.

The junior agent can’t tear his eyes from the picture, though, and he’s abruptly as pale as he was in the hospital.

It takes him a few long moments - just enough to be noticed - to answer Cesar, and when he does there’s something strangled in his tone. “I– yeah, I– can talk to some people, I– um. Did you– did you say Malaya, Denise, and L-Lucy? With– with the Searchlight Salvage case.”

Emily's nodding as Cesar talks this through, going down through that mental checklist of names. She underlines the names on her notepad and pulls it off the stack, getting ready to come to her feet when Lance begins his stammering. She knows him well enough to know that's unlike him, and it brings her eyes back to the face on screen. She blinks at it bewilderedly, too.

There's a memorial library dedicated to this man, one she's been to. What the fuck?

The additional names, though, jog her memory. She gives a momentary look to Cesar and then leans down to Lance, trying to keep her voice low. "Maybe he's a part of the Facestealer-From-Another-Dimension Gang? You know, the one no one's supposed to talk about?" With that muttering done, she clears her throat and begins to head back to her side of the desk to put in those requests Cesar's asked for.

Lance and Emily aren't the only ones who have a background lightbulb click on at the sight of Jason Tyminski on the screen. Cesar angles forward slightly to eye the registered ID, only starting to mentally start a search of that degree of familiarity with the photo of the man, when he takes note of Lance's hesitation too. The stuttering shifts his gaze from the younger man's computer monitor to his face. "Yeah, the Ericsson girls," he says, a faint smirk curling one side of his mouth, "two of the three 'hotties' at the salvage dock." He's not going to let that one go easily, Gerken. A moment further, he only lifts a brow at Emily leaning over to mutter to her fellow junior agent. His eyes follow her back to her side of the desks.

Eventually, Cesar breaks the brief silence by straightening up to stretch. "You two got things handled then? I'm going to grab a snack from the break room. Get you anything? Cafecito? Nut bar?" He reaches over to scoop up the case files and tear off the top sheet he's written his list on from the legal pad, prepping to depart.

“Yeah,” Lance replies a bit distantly to Emily’s words, drawing in a breath and mentally counting to ten to keep himself even. Thoughts and feelings shoved down to where he can deal with them later.

Luckily, Cesar just thinks he’s crushing on some girls.

“I think we’ve got this,” he says quickly, glancing over to Cesar, “Coffee sounds good.” Irish preferably, but he can’t drink that at work. He’s not Robyn.

"It's not coffee, Lance, it's cafecito," Emily corrects with a glance up as she settles down in front of her computer. She's relieved he's keeping himself together, at least. She pastes the sticky to the top corner of her screen and shakes the mouse, looking back to Cesar with a nod. If she's lucky enough that he interprets she'd also like some, great. If not, there's plenty of work to keep her occupied anyway.

"All right," she breathes out, pulling her desk phone closer for when she's looked up the numbers she needs to. "Let's get started."

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