Follow The Gunpowder


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Scene Title Follow The Gunpowder
Synopsis The morning after an act of arson in Jackson Heights, the NYPD group with an assigned SESA agent to spread the latest knowledge on the incident.
Date April 20, 2021

The Watchtower never sleeps, but come shift change in the mornings, there's always a certain energy. A gathering of the minds and the spirit they bring with them. Even groggy companionship found in those nearby drives a unique sense of belonging, whether it's to those closest on your team, or to the group as a whole. Morning briefings about the day's assignments, the latest word on the streets and faces to look out for, isn't always eventful.

The briefing room is more crowded than it used to be, more faces among the force than when it was re-inaugurated nearly this time last year. The walls are lined with chairs to go with the sea of them in the center of the space now, too. Nearby the door, SCOUT Detective Modi is standing, leaning against the wall and swapping a quiet story with one of the beat cops, Officer Nguyen. The latter lets out a quiet laugh, sipping at his coffee, expecting that the excitement of the morning meeting will likely end with this exchange.

It doesn't. Modi looks up first on seeing an unfamiliar suit— brown in cloth, tanned in face— coming in with Captain Wilson, a closed laptop pressed to his side while he walks. The detective glances down at his conversation partner and then back up to those entering now. "Well, this is curious," he murmurs less quietly than he means to.

"Good morning, everyone," Wilson announces in a polite sort of tone that indicates best behavior, please, in front of their professional guest. "If you'd all get settled in, we'll get started with a brief related to an arson incident that took place yesterday, provided by Agent Wells from SESA, and then continue with from Officer Hart from SCOUT." He looks across the room as officers finish filing in or otherwise shifting in their seat to focus on the presentation.

Settling into her seat a little later than she’d like, Detective Demsky looks exhausted. She cradles her coffee like a talisman to ward off the rest of the day, slouching into her seat and squinting against dry eyes. Domestic life might be nice, but raising a child is significantly more work than she had ever anticipated.

Elisabeth Harrison is only steps behind Wilson. Normally the morning briefing is either herself or Modi, but today's is a bit more formal. She's not dressed any different than usual, though — professional-looking in gray slacks and a royal blue collared shirt, blonde hair held in a clip at the nape of her neck and her badge clipped to her waist. She too carries coffee, from her own stash because as seems always the case in cop shops, the available coffee in the squad room is scary sludge — and she's had enough of that. Good coffee is a must. She's spoiled, sue her.

Taking a place back against the wall behind Wilson, it's a rare opportunity for the Lieutenant to simply observe and study all the faces. There are a couple of people she wants to keep an eye on reactions from.

Detective Gordon, though, goes hard in the opposite direction from her Lieutenant. A jokester by nature, one whose defense mechanism is deflection by humor, she plays up the cool and collected persona - sitting in a chair turned backwards, head supported by one hand propped up on the back of that chair, but a giveaway of the stress that they’ve all been feeling recently being her other hand, the left, holding the coffee, is trembling slightly, a pool of off-brown under-creamed coffee appearing on the plastic lid of the overfilled WE ARE HAPPY TO SERVE YOU takeout cup, welling up from the drinker’s opening with each tense sip. One lock of her hair feels a little fried from the smoke and heat and fire of yesterday’s call, and the flyaways are sticking out at weird angles from the rest.

Elliot Hitchens and Wright Tracy, on loan from Wolfhound, enter the room late and quietly. They’re dressed in similar near-black tactical pants and polo shirts, accented with a black hoodie and motorcycle jacket respectively. Wright takes a seat beside Colette, offering her a quiet greeting. Elliot remains in the back of the room, lurking by the door.

Carrying her helmet in one hand, Hailey plunks it down on the table next to Wright and then slides into the last seat right behind it. She gives both women a cheery smile and a chipper, "Morning!" Unlike most of the people in the room, the empath doesn't have coffee, she's got a glass bottle of OJ as bright and sunshiny as her attitude. If Disney princesses were real people, she'd be the perfect embodiment of one right now. There are little songbirds nestled in the tree branches outside and they're singing as happily as Hailey is.

Settling in at the front of the room to the side while the visiting SESA agent is plugging his laptop into the projector wires placed at the podium a few feet away, Wilson seems content with the state of things enough to proceed. It's as quiet as it'll get. "As some of you know, yesterday evening there was a bomb threat reported in Jackson Heights, which escalated into something more serious than that still. Fires were intentionally set on multiple floors of the building we received the call for. Follow-up with the 911 reporter revealed a misunderstanding in the arsonist's methods, but not their intentions. There's enough found already that we'll be partnering with SESA on the investigation, owing to some key factors Agent Wells is going to highlight for us." He turns to the agent and gives him a nod.

Agent Wells returns it smartly and with a tap of his keyboard, presents an image across the poorly-erased whiteboard at the front of the room without looking that way. It's a photograph of graffiti on the side of a floating building, water visible in the margins of the picture. The shape of the graffiti creates the silhouette of a flame, save for a beaklike curve away from what looks like an eye socket indent.


He lifts his hand to briefly and generally gesture toward the projection before he speaks again. "This tag is associated with a less-successful arson attempt from September of last year. Single arsonist, masked, targeting an SLC-E-employed salvage business located in Ferrymen's Bay. While we didn't get any statements from the perps at that time, they left notes that imply the intent of their attack was owing to the Expressive status of the employees." With a click, images of the same building from a different angle appear, with graffiti scrawled over the siding as well as the windows. The text declares in bold black lettering SLC < PE and Umano è il Primo— the message that had been dropped for the world to see during the attack on the Itinerant Dawn launch.

"A lack of security footage made that one hard to follow up on, but the perps yesterday weren't so lucky. We've got footage, and one of them was kind enough to look into the camera." The next image that pops up is one of two hoodied figures mid-activity in wrapping chains around the front door of the apartment building from the fire yesterday. One of them is focused on getting the locks in place while the other significantly shorter one, who holds a fire extinguisher in one hand, is looking up directly at a camera posted in the front hall of the building which can see the activity outside.

They wear a Guy Fawkes mask, the likes of which pings Elliot and Wright's attentions— and a moment later the height difference between the two arsonists clicks into place too.

They've seen these two before.

"Same graffiti tag from September was painted near the front door; reportedly went up night before last. We're still examining security footage to see if we can pinpoint when the sabotage of building safety measures took place. The fire detectors in the front hall and second floor did not activate by sensor. The building super gave a statement that the intruders headed directly for his door, gave some inflammatory remarks about letting only to Expressive residents, then set an incendiary in front of his apartment. It was only after he called 911 from inside his apartment was anyone except him aware of the fire."

Agent Wells glances up for a moment, looking into the sea of faces looking for Erin— but not finding her quick enough ends up turning to the easier-to-find form of Elisabeth. "Do you or any of the team who responded with you have anything you want to add, ma'am?"

Jesus Christ,” Colette mumbles into her hands as she drags them down her mouth, shoulders hunched forward and elbows on her knees. She sits up and scoots forward, white eyes staring unfocused ahead. She recognizes the tag, recognizes what it means in the larger picture of things. The fact that she’s still fighting the same war after all these years is demoralizing.

Sympathizing with Colette, Elisabeth's jaw is tight. Second verse, same as the first. She feels old right now. "Detective Gordon and one of our Wolfhound liaisons went in — Gordon, you see anything else in there you want to add?" From her perspective, Wells has pretty much covered it all.

Erin sits up and back for a moment and considers her memory, nearly toppling off of the chair before she realizes that she’s sitting in it backwards and catching herself before she makes a fool of herself. Instead, she puts her chin back on her fist, propping it up in a thoughtful pose with one hand and continuing to fidget with the coffee cup, sitting on her left thigh, with the other.

“The only thing that I can think of,” she says slowly, measuredly, “is that there were no fire doors on the main stairwell. I can’t say whether it was neglectful building management or an intentional act to make the fire spread worse - which it definitely did - but I did notice that when Clendaniel and I first entered the lobby.”

A sip. “Even if it was a coincidence, it definitely didn’t help. With all these fires going on, maybe FDNY should send out some fire marshals to try and make sure there are appropriate fire doors in every residential building. Even the apartment doors were regular wood, or at least the one that I used was.”

Reading the room, she does not joke. But if it were the regular morning meeting, just the squad, she might have said something along the lines of, but I will say that if the fires had been set today…well, 4/20 blaze it.

Wright and Elliot quietly remember what they saw that day, how Elliot believed he had misread their ill-intentions. He carefully contains an I fucking knew it. He’d love to hit himself for purposefully excluding this information from the composite memory he constructed from the memories of witnesses to the murders.

Wright raises a finger to get the speaker’s attention before volunteering what she and Elliot know. “I believe my partner and I have met these two before,” she says, turning to catch the eye of Lieutenant Harrison. Elliot makes no movement to include himself in the conversation. “Last October, before the unusual deaths which happened during a political rally outside of Red Hook Market, we noted their behavior as suspicious.”

“Once the crowd began to panic over the deaths, they went off to assist a woman in distress in the crowd, so we discounted them as bad actors in the then-ongoing event.” She remembers with Elliot who they went to, a young blonde woman standing beside someone they now remember as well, Robyn’s guest at the diner where poor Tom manifested.

“The tall one was addressed as ‘Ev’,” she says, “And the shorter as ‘Rome’. As far as I know they entered the market with her and another Safe Zone resident I have a mutual acquaintance with, though I don’t know his name.”

Folding her arms over her chest, Hailey's face sets into a grim expression as she listens carefully. Her eyebrows knit together as they're shown the graffiti and she rolls her shoulder annoyedly, as though attempting to work out some imagined pain. Outside the window, a crow caws angrily and begins to fly at another one of its agitated fellows. They lift off and then fall out of view.

Hailey continues to scowl.

Erin has no idea how gladly her refrain is appreciated. It's something Captain Wilson might comment on later, but for now, everything proceeds professionally. Wright's input receives a raised brow from Agent Wells, whose hands remove from his laptop as though he'd like to jot down what's just been noted. He meets a look from Hart who nods and taps her brow before shifting the closed laptop in her arms. She's on it.

"Let's talk after this?" The SESA agent says with a gesture between Wright and himself. "If we can get enough information to put out a more complete profile for these two, then I absolutely want to get on that as soon as possible."

Hart meanwhile is reading files through her fingertips, her laptop closed but not asleep. "Evran Foster and Roman Santos?" she wonders aloud, perhaps not with initial intention to, but she takes her chance to elaborate now that she has. "They're orphans whose families were affiliated with Humanis First, at least one of them were involved with a stabbing last year, in a homeless settlement in an abandoned building in Jackson Heights. Victim survived, gave a statement Roman had lashed out after learning he was SLC-E…" She trails off, looking to Wells, who in turn looks to Wilson.

"Sounds like there's enough there to name them as persons of interest," the Captain agrees. Wilson nods to Hart. "Let's get their faces circulated, keep an eye out for them."

Wells looks back to Erin. "I can note your observation and pass on the recommendation. Doesn't sound like code was being followed, so it's worth the follow-up." He taps his spacebar to go to the next slide, a simple blue background with a giant white question mark. "This was all the information I had to present at the time. I'd just like to emphasise if there's anything we can do to hasten certain aspects of the investigation through our various partnerships, please don't hesitate to share any details with me. We all share the same goal in finding who did this and bringing them in."

"Any questions?" Agent Wells asks the room.

Wright gives a nod of confirmation to Agent Wells. Robyn should be easy enough to contact, seeing as she works for his department. The rest may be easily communicated without anything as invasive as the composite memory they’d built following the Red Hook Market incident.

Hailey glances around the room before shooting her arm straight up in the air. Almost as soon as she perceives a nod in her direction, she pipes up, "Is there any information on the incendiary? Like what kind of chemicals were used or anything that could help us find more before they go off?"

“All I’ve got is the super,” Erin answers. “I found him in an apartment on the third floor, and his apartment seems to be where the fire on that floor started. He said they knocked on his door and threw some sort of bomb and the fire was pretty much immediately huge. Sounded almost like a quasi-Molotov to me. I’m sure there was no security footage available from management, right? Not even from the lobby? That would be too easy.”

Colette’s been quiet for a while, considering the Humanis First connection. She sits forward, running a hand through her hair to tuck an errant lock behind one ear.

“Do we have any connection between Foster or Santos and the Humanis First or Pure Earth operatives that were running the human trafficking ring on Staten Island?” Colette asks, her thoughts going back to a binder full of corpses, to Tavisha, to the fires they lit on Staten Island that night. “Did SESA ever get us anything from that embedded agent? Sandoval?”

"So far, no," Elisabeth answers Colette's question about the connection. "Doesn't mean there isn't one, just that we have no evidence thus far." The blonde glances toward their presenter for an answer on their embedded agent. There are days she wonders if they ought to just obliterate Staten — damn place has been a put for decades.

Agent Wells nods to some of the questions being asked. "Definitely was a thrown bottle used to disperse the accelerant. Specific materials are still unknown; my understanding is they're running analysis to see if anything unusual or particularly identifying was present." He moves his hands back to the laptop screen, tabbing back through the images from earlier. "And we do have security footage available, lobby only." He brings back up the still of the two arsonists attempting to lock the occupants inside the building.

"As far as connections to HF or PE elements in the Zone, none listed. While they've used tags with those typical slogans, they've also got their own calling card they seem to be using. For all intents and purposes, they may be— for a lack of a better word— auditioning to grab their attention." Wells lifts his head to find Colette in the group, visibly blinking when he sees who it is that's addressing him. He shakes his head and continues on professionally nonetheless. "We did have an agent was embedded, years ago. They've since been reassigned."

In not so many words— people learned who the embedded agent was. As diplomatically as possible, he elaborates, "We don't have other covert operatives I have information from at this time."

Wilson takes a step toward the podium and indicates to the room at large. "That's only the first order of business we've got here this morning. If you've got follow-up questions after this, or additional information you'd like to share," he says with a nod to Wright, "then please find the Agent afterward. He should be on this floor for a while yet this morning."

When Wells nods and unplugs his machine from the projector, Hart steps forward to take his place. "Also if our SESA contact happens to be out of the office, I can field questions or pass them on, too," she adds with a glance back to the visiting Agent, giving him a small smile before turning back to the group. "Morning, team. Here to provide a quick summary of other notable activities that happened across the precinct yesterday, task some follow-ups, and announce other assignments for the day, including for our Wolfhound attaché."

"Let's get started."

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