eileen_icon.gif ghost2_icon.gif

Scene Title Forewarning
Synopsis Posing as "Ian", Ghost helps with a supply run in order to warn Eileen about Daiyu Feng and his intentions.
Date June 18, 2009

The Garden

Situated in a copse several miles away from the nearest stretch of asphalt, the Garden is accessible via an old dirt road that winds snakelike through the woods and dead-ends at the property's perimeter, which is surrounded by stone wall plastered with wicked coils of rusty barbed wire to keep would-be intruders from attempting to scale it. Those with a key can gain entry via the front gate.

The safehouse itself is a three-story brickwork cottage over a century old and covered in moss and ivy. It slants to one side, suggesting that the foundation has been steadily sinking into the wet earth; incidentally, this may be one of the reasons why its prior occupants never returned to the island to reclaim their property when government officials lifted evacuation orders and re-opened the Verrazano-Narrows shortly before its eventual destruction.

Inside, the cottage is decorated in mismatched antique furniture including a couch in the living room and an armchair nestled in the corner closest to the fireplace that go well with the safehouse's hardwood floors and the wood-burning stoves in some of the spare bedrooms. A heavy wooden table designed to seat eight separates the dining area from the rest of the kitchen, which is defined by its aged oak cabinetry and the dried wildflowers hanging above them.

Afternoon brings the supply truck to the Garden. The driver is familiar— an old gent with arms like baby trees and a brogue that makes every other word he says sound like it was purloined out of a song lyric. The man who arrives on the shotgun side, ready and willing to help move boxes is not familiar.

His presence is, however, made entirely explicable by the vast hoard of goods that need to be delivered. Stacked packages of disposable phones, the cartons of toothbrushes, canned goods, printer paper and other stationery, an unexpected bouquet of cucumbers, a lifetime's worth of batteries in varying sizes, a new clock to replace the thing lagged to quiescent death on the kitchen wall. Both Ferrymen greet the presiding keeper of the Garden's house and premises in like words of easy salutation before they begin the business: unbolting the back, dragging down the ramp, a hubbub of clangor and rough words.

"Eileen!" The matron in her work boots twists her head up, scans the glistening strip of second floor windows underneath the ragged flutter of vines. "Hey, the boys are wondering but they're too damn shy to ask— tampons or Maxi pads?"

One of them goes scarlet, but excuses it with a rough-hand held up over his cheek, an ignoble mumble about sunburn, and that might be adequate as well. The weather's changing with the seasons, inexorably warmer, the elevation of the sun's malignant eye unstoppable in the curve of the sky.

There are footsteps on the stairs leading down from the second floor to the first, and a few minutes later the cottage's front door clatters open on its hinges. Eileen isn't wearing any shoes when she descends the front steps, but that's all right — she sticks to the beaten path, bare crunching gravel and rustling through tall grass as she makes her way toward the truck. This is, she imagines, how the children at the Lighthouse feel every week when volunteers unload groceries for Brian's kitchen along with boxes of donated clothes and books from the mainland. Not quite Christmas, but something like it.

She offers the matron a tight-lipped smile on her way past, the soft cotton material of her layered skirt brushing against milky white legs in a way that suggests neither option necessarily applies today. It's nice of them to be thinking ahead, though, and of her; you'd be surprised how few times that question was asked during her four years with the Vanguard.

"Whatever you've got will do the job just fine, I'm sure," she says, coming into earshot. Veiled beneath dark lashes, her gaze lingers on the driver's companion longer than is probably polite for a first meeting, gray eyes clouded over with curiosity. "Need some help?"

There's an awkward riffle of flustering that goes through the two men, some head-scratching: the younger one fakes a punch at the driver's ribs before they break apart amid laughter. The matron's, mostly. Boys. The woman is left shaking her head, ponytail flipping at the base of her neck; she accepts the new analog clock into her grasp, communicates where the rest of it should go with a series of militarily brisk motions of her hand, and then she's off in a bustle, clock in hand, mumbling about where the Hell she put that hammer.

"Hi." He notices her; cracks a grin that's half teeth. He's about Ethan's age, the stranger. American accent and a Caucasian wash to his features, dark hair and a pair of blue eyes, lean like he's spent more of his life running than carrying heavy objects. Still, he manifests little strain as he drags the lighter box of fresh bedclothes out from the top of the stack, catching it broadside his chest with a hollow thump. "Sure, thanks.

"How about this one?" He extends it toward her, nothing plastic about his smile, despite that it's the sort that promises that the box is light.

Light is good, because so is Eileen. She gathers the box in her arms and pulls it into her chest, the very tips of her fingers curling around the cardboard edges. It takes some adjusting before the young woman decides that she's comfortable with the grip her small hands have secured, but when she does she peers out over the top of the box at the stranger, nothing visible beneath the point of her little button nose. If she's smiling behind the load, it doesn't quite reach her eyes — though there's warmth in her voice when she tells him she's, "Got it."

This is usually the part where she inserts her foot in the proverbial door and shoulders through to introductions and the inevitable chit chat that follows, but she finds herself at an uncharacteristic loss for words. She could ask what happened to the regular guy — Gary, wasn't it? — or she could implore his replacement for his name. Instead, she directs a glance back over her shoulder toward the cottage's ivy-covered stoop, silent for an extra moment or two. "Did you bring any medicine?"

There is half a stare hanging loose on the side of her frame and face, just as inquisitive but perturbedly quiet as the mood that pervades the girl himself.

Fortunately, he doesn't do anything super creepy like snatch his eyes away and start talking too loud about other shit when their eyes meet. He considers this with a slight dent in his brow. "Bandages," he says, slow with the effort of recollection. "Penicillin, painkillers, some disinfectant stuff besides alcohol, but nothing really, uhh. Specific. Are you sick?" The box in his arms is a heavier thing by the look of it and the faint convex bulge to its cardboard base.

More because of playful politeness than any other reason, Ghost tilts on his feet, balancing on one that he can rest the ball of his shoe against the door, nudging it open for the girl parked in the shadow-dappled uncertainty of the threshold. Hinges ease open like jaws, threaten to clap back shut on her if she doesn't scoot quick enough and get him in, too.

Eileen maneuvers herself sideways to squeeze in through the gap, ducking her head for good measure so she avoids bumping skulls with the doorway's wooden frame. Her feet scuff against the hardwood and gather dirt between her toes. "It's not contagious," she assures Ghost. "I was hoping for some Bactrim, Septra, but you know — wishes are fishes."

Once inside, she carries the box over to the kitchen table and deposits it on the seat of one of the accompanying chairs, careful not to jostle the furniture any more than required. Not that it matters. Most of the pieces were brought into the cottage with utility and comfort in mind rather than style; the table itself is banged up to the point where new nicks and scrapes wouldn't be noticeable to anyone except those who possess an intimate familiarity with it.

"You're new."

"Well," Ghost answers, "technically, I'm Ian, but new works. I haven't been back here in months. Most of the time I'm on the mainland. Completely forgot what Mage is like— show her an unnecessary bit of… sensibility, and she'll get rid of it for you really quick. Considerate that way." A quizzical expression flits through his brows, holds long enough for him to lever the box onto the dining table. Despite its recent episode of abuse and fresh battlescars, the furniture holds steady underneath the weight of the thing upon it.

Ghost doesn't appear to notice the minute notches of change and, in this particular respect, appearances are not deceiving. "Bactrim Septra," he repeats, belatedly, a little surprised. "We have… iodine?" Circling around the desired destination for this conversation is a lot like blundering on that flail of hopeful logic: that anything with 'bact' and 'sep' in it is supposed to stave off infection. Superficial, except she wears no immediately apparent injuries. He jerks box-cutters out of his pocket, starts to rend the lid open. "That's pretty specific. I could run a request up to St. Luke's if you need."

"Need is the wrong word," says Eileen. Rather than take a seat at the table, she moves into the kitchen and places a kettle on one of the stove's open burners. One casual flick of her wrist later, the electric coils are warming and beginning to take on an orange tint — trust an Englishwoman to boil water for tea without asking whether or not her visitors are interested in it. "We get a lot of people going out, coming in," she explains. "Nobody's got a clean bill of health, not really. Bactrim's great for ear infections and little girls who have trouble pissing, but you've got your diabetics, asthmatics, blokes with high blood pressure. Heart medicine. Now that would be nice."

Eileen pauses to reach up, wiping at a runny nose with the back of her sweater-clad sleeve. "Sorry," she says, the apology punctuated by a sheepish curl of her lip and a hangdog-like flinch. "If you're gonna put up in an order, I'll stop running my mouth and draw you up a proper list. Cream or sugar?"

They brought tissue too! Just— not in this box, apparently. Peering down into its recesses, the ghost turns the corners of his mouth down into a frown. Reaches in and pulls his fingers through its contents, flushing a small eddy of styrafoam peanuts out under the crook of his elbow. He digs out a very tall square glass. Frowns it. Finds another, and then a giant, wheel-sized salad bowl with triangles patterned all over it.

"I swear," he mutters, in a figment spate of very real consternation. "We brought Kleenex. Fifty blue boxes. Just sugar— thanks.

"No— it's interesting to listen to, someone your age with more than layman's knowledge in you, trying to help out." That makes him sound terribly old, Ghost realizes, but he doesn't make a show of grimacing. "You studying to be a doctor or something? Resident nurse? Every safehouse should have one." He essays backward, craning his head. Finds the cabinet he should be tucking the glasses into and does so, with a click-clink that's as musical as crystal.

"I worked with Filatov over in the Rookery for a couple of months," Eileen answers with a minute shrug, rolling her shoulders more to ease the tension gathering in her joints than in a dismissive gesture. "Spent a few years stitching people up before that. Nothing serious, no formal training." The cupboard doors squeak in protest as she hikes up onto the tips of her toes and extends one slim leg behind her for balance like an wounded ballerina, reaching for a porcelain jar on one of the lower shelves.

There's no mistaking the sugar for the flour or even the baking powder; each vessel is clearly marked with a strip of masking tape and chicken scratch in elegant black ink. She pulls it down, goes about producing a spoon from one of the adjacent draws. "To be perfectly honest, I've thought about heading over to Madagascar and pitching in there, but what I'd be good for… Lord knows. New York isn't my home, haven't had one for a long time. Seems almost silly to stay."

Madagascar's further away than some poor construction worker with an indeterminable accent has ever thought of going, so Ghost lets that show on his face. Wonders if his Eileen had been like that too, in the future from whence he'd come. If she'd wanted to go travelling. Maybe. It would have been different anyway, though. Then, she had a home. Bore the marks: photographs where she smiles, enough dishes to furnish guests, a room decorated for a child and a humble box to keep accolades in. He'd paid a visit to her widower in the dining room.

So it is a far more complicated sort of remembering that is clouding Ghost's strangely wrought face now, if remembering nevertheless, but it serves the same for an honest Ferryman with an ear to the grapevine. "Filatov's?" he repeats, studying the sugar jar in her hand with more trouble on his face than it warrants. His eyes gap wider around a tension of minute facial muscles, eyelids twitching back. "Filatov's— in the Rookery? You're — are you Eileen Ruskin? The one that that that Chinese asshole keeps asking for?

"Do you know a man called Ethan Holden?"

The movements that follow Ghost's question are slow and deliberate; the jar of sugar plinks against the countertop and Eileen's hands busy themselves with removing the glass lit. She sets it aside, struggles to smooth the creases of worry from her features as she feels her veins frost over and cake with ice. "I am Eileen Ruskin," she replies, careful to crisply enunciate each word. There's a chilliness to her voice that wasn't there before. "And I do know a man called Ethan Holden."

She turns her head, the lowermost point of her chin bumping against her shoulder's sloping curve, and watches Ghost in her peripheral vision. Steam begins to unfurl from the kettle's spout. "Someone's been asking for me?"

"'Feng.'" He doesn't pronounce it right. Deckard hadn't quite, either, because the name proffered hadn't been done so in the native language, but he wouldn'tve bothered rerouting the language along the proper slant of melody even if he could have. "Not too big a guy," he holds his hand at the level below his chin then weaves it up and downward like an uneasy guess. "Suit like a Fed, looked really fucking serious, and he's been showin' up all over Staten Island with photographs." That Ian hadn't seen himself, apparently.

"Wants to kill you both. You should warn your dad, and the rest of your family if you have more. Be careful.

"I don't think this is the standard fare of HomeSec shit, ma'am. Far as I know, no one in the Ferry's given you up yet, though." He watches her profile and clinches the kick of his heart in his molars, stops with his long fingers white on the rim of the ridiculous sombrero salad bowl. "Crazy fucking world these days. People trying to murder girls and their families, when what you're asking for is medicine—"

Wu-Long would have been the best case scenario; if Eileen wasn't so busy seizing up, she'd reprimand herself for getting her hopes up in spite of there being only so many Chinese men who might set foot on Staten Island in search of her. In search of Ethan.

"Shit," she says, and for a moment it looks as though she might leave it at that. The frigid feeling that had begun to pervade her limbs spreads through the rest of her body, numbing her skin and nerves all the way through to her lips and tongue. She gropes for the appropriate words with which she might fashion some hasty explanation but finds none.

Wordlessly, she removes the kettle from the stove and pours a cup's worth of steaming water into a tall mug decorated in a floral pattern faded by one too many cycles through the dishwasher. For someone whose life expectancy has just dramatically decreased, she displays remarkable steadiness and emotional fortitude, face a neutral mask held together by the taut line of her mouth and a clenched jaw. "Thank you.

"For the warning."

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