Got No Strings On Me


veronica_icon.gif doyle_icon.gif

Scene Title Got No Strings On Me
Synopsis Eerie calliope music and an empty marionette theatre make for a creepy but successful bag and tag of Doyle for Veronica.
Date May 11, 2009

Marionette Theatre, Central Park

The marionette theatre in Costa Verde is long since a burnt-out husk, and the information available to Veronica suggests that Doyle - at least, the 'future' Doyle - is probably somewhere around New York City still. Where, however, is an excellent question, and one that's been a bit of a headache for the agent. Finally, however, her investigations note at least one possibility. There was a complaint about the Swedish Cottage in Central Park being shut down and the people running it out of touch - but apparently they answered the door for the police, and everything was fine. 'Renovations'. It's still been shut down, however, and there's been at least two 'disappearances' in the area of it recently.

So it the little cottage that Veronica heads to, with one of The Company's very special agents in tow — Esteban Rivera, a power nullifier. It's dusk, so that the park is less populated. "Stay close to me," Veronica murmurs to Esteban. She's carrying on her small person her usual armory: gun, tranq gun, handcuffs. "If you stay close to me, then he can't use his power on either of us." She starts to walk around the little cottage, examining it for any hints of people coming and going, listening for any sounds inside.

They're recent disappearances, so nothing the police are actually acting on — yet — but it's enough to rouse a bit of suspicion, at least. Especially in someone who knows what they might be looking for.

All the windows and curtains are shut on the cottage, and there's a painted wooden sign hung on the front door that reads in merry little characters the simple message 'CLOSED - We'll be back to entertain you another time!' followed by the usual hours of opening. Of course, the current hour falls well within those hours. Occasionally someone meanders past, glances at the sign, and keeps going.

When one gets close, the sharp of hearing might hear faint calliope music from within.

Vee heads to the front door, pulling Estaban, who is nothing but a college-age kid with scared looking brown eyes, along with her. "Don't look so worried. You're the one who can't be manhandled, remember," she grumbles to the kid. He's probably only a few years younger than her, but there's an eternity between 22 and 27. Her hand falls on the door knob, testing to see if it's locked, but quiet enough not to rattle it. Her free hand goes to her holster, slipping her tranq gun from within to the pocket of her blazer.

The door is, indeed, locked. It's also in good maintenance, so it doesn't rattle at all, especially as careful as she's being.

"Never that easy, is it, Este?" Vee says with a smile. She sighs. "Okay. We're a couple. Look normal." She lifts a hand and knocks on the door. "I know you're closed but I lost something the last time I was here…" she calls in a sweetly husky voice, sounding almost as innocent as Esteban looks. "It won't take a minute… Hello?"

There's no answer at the first knocking, and the call, but after a moment the calliope music shuts off. Dead silence.

Three minutes later, the locks rattle, and it pulls open just enough for an older gentleman to peer out through the crack, past the chain. "H-hello?" A slight quavering to his voice.

Veronica looks like she's about to turn and give up, but turns at the opening of the door. "Oh, thank you! Can I just come in and take a look? It's something very small, a ring, my grandmother's ring, my little girl was playing with it the last time we were here, and you might not have noticed it if you were sweeping up…" she says, clutching Esteban's arm as if excited at the chance to come in and find the lost trinket.

"Ah-ah am sorry, ma'am, but we are closed. Ah will look for-for the ring, and call back, yes, call back," the older man says tightly, pausing before adding, "You do not want to come in." Then he pushes the door closed, firmly, right in her face.

Her hand reaches out quickly, before he can lock the door, to grab the knob and open the door swiftly before he can lock it, her hip slamming against it in case he's leaning on the other side. She may be small, but she is strong. If the door opens, she pushes the old man out of the door, and pulls Esteban in, while drawing her tranq gun and swiftly scanning the theatre for Doyle's whereabouts.

Those fingers slide into the door, and her hip slams against it — and she manages to keep it from closing, but that chain's still there to keep it closed. The chain rattles, the door opening a bit wider as the old man stumbles back with a startled shout in Dutch before going off running through the cottage, "Marsha! Marsha! No, please, don't…" Around a corner, further words obscured.

"Dammit," Vee says, and lifts her silencer-equipped gun and shoots the chain out — there'll be some noise, but it's not like she has the element of surprise on her side anymore. The chain is broken by the bullet, and she pushes forward, hissing to Esteban to stay low and to have his tranq gun at the ready.

The chain's ends clatter to either side, and the door's easily kicked open then. The front room of the cottage is dead silent, empty and dimly lit by the light near the door only. More light spills down the hallway, from the theatre proper, and there's some rustling and panicked whispering from there before silence falls once more with a sharp clack of wood.

Veronica nods toward the hallway. "Come on," she whispers to Esteban, keeping him in front of her — no way is she going near Doyle without him close by to keep the puppetmaster from making her his little doll. "Those people are his prisoners. We need to help them." She calls out, "Let them go, please. I'm sure they'll be happy to let you have their cozy little theatre in exchange for their lives…"

There's no answer, at least not yet. Dead silence ahead, the light a cheery little beacon from the theatre room.

Then the calliope music starts up again, although more quietly, piped over the speakers in the place as a background tune.

"I hate carnival music. Reminds me of that freaky book by Ray Bradbury. Don't you dare get on a carousel, Esteban," Vee hisses, moving forward through the hallway toward the room, toward that light. "The quicker we get there, the quicker his power on those people should fade," she says. "But be careful. They're gonna pop out like zombies or something any moment. Shoot with the tranq gun so they're not hurt… if you can. Shoot with your other gun if you have to, but to injure and disarm…" Esteban's not trained to be a field agent. "No offense, but I wish you were the Haitian, Esteban. You just scream nerves so loud I can't hear myself think." Her whispered babbling is probably to put herself at ease, but her eyes and ears are open and watching and listening for anything that might jump out at them.

There pop out no people, neither controlled nor free-willed, into the view of the agents. No, they have a free route into the theatre room. It's lit from above brightly, all polished bright wood and comfortable carpeting for the children to sit upon, the curtain drawn across the stage of the theatre at the moment. No sign of anyone within.

Over the speakers, a voice clears its throat. "So, who are you from? Homeland? No, there's t
wo of you… and no warrant. Company? Pinehearst?"

She looks up, searching for the source of the voice. She moves toward the stage, slowly, expecting the curtain to pull open. "Something like that," she says, with a chuckle. "I don't need a warrant, and it's better for you to come with us than to wait for the cops to take you in for kidnapping or whatever else you've been doing, isn't it? Maybe you can make a turn of things. Maybe you can work for us, put your skills to some use, Eric. Come out and talk with us?" she says. "Let those people go — it'll be better for you if you do. You know that, Eric. We can talk. Just us."

"Oh, yes, that worked very well the last time," drawls the voice over the speakers, full of dry bitterness, "Just a slightly less restrictive prison, followed by breaking that agreement and throwing me back into a cell for another ten years…"

The curtain rattles open, revealing a Romeo and Juliet scene. A puppet drops from above on strings, dangling loosely by them and slowly rotating. A suit, horn-rimmed glasses, a knowing smirk. "I'm almost offended they didn't send someone more senior."

She draws back as the curtain rustles, raising her gun but lowering it a bit when she sees it's a puppet. "I'm not as young as I look, Doyle. And you don't know what we might be able to offer you… I have a new boss. He might see you as something useful… no more cells. No more prisons." She hops up onto the stage, peering upwards to where the operator should be, and gesturing for Esteban to come closer to her.

The bar of lights glare down at her, but a shape can be made out in silhouette above. In a moment, she'll be able to discern it.

Of course, not even a moment passes before the entire stage-length light fixture and its adjustable lamps comes crashing down towards the woman that's just hopped up onto the stage.

"I wasn't born yesterday, you know," the voice drawls over the speakers, pausing after a moment, "I can offer you something to just go the hell away, though, Agent."

Veronica has quick but not quite quick enough reflexes. As she peers up, she sees the light fixture come crashing down, and she spins and flips to take herself off the stage, but not before being clipped in the shoulder by some of the metal and glass. She lands on the ground in front of the stage, rolling back to her feet with a wince, raising a hand to shoot her tranq gun up into the scaffolding above.

The dart goes up, and there's a sharp 'thwip' as it hits something. A grunt, then a muffled thud from above the stage.

The voice, however, continues over the speakers. "Nice aim," Eric drawls, "I mean it, though, Agent. I'm from ten years from now. I can tell you things that I guarantee they won't tell you."

"Like what?" Vee says, glancing up, trying to see who it was she hit. "Come down and tell me." She looks around for a way up to the puppeteer station above the stage.

"I've been shot with enough of those little darts of yours, thank you," replies the unseen puppeteer with a rough snort, anger edging his tone, "Or are they issuing you life ammo these days? No. Negotiate or hunt, it's one or the other, sweetheart."

There's an entrance on either side of the stage, on floor level, draped with green curtains. Presumably steps up to the top.

"What aren't they telling me?" she asks, not heading up the steps, though she keeps the gun poised for any sudden motions. "Tell me what you know. Maybe I'll change my ways." She peers around the room, looking for other places he might be watching, since clearly the body that she hit with the tranquilizer dart wasn't his.

"Oh, your little Company doesn't have very long… you're just…" A brief pause, as if for breath, a bit laboured, "…about gone, Agent. Finito. Caput. The terrorists… have their day, and you're on your way out…"

There's not many places he could be watching from; there may be security monitors, or he may not be able to properly /see/ them at all. A hint more light spills down over the stage, visible only because the other light fixture's already fallen.

"The future's not written in stone. Just paint sometimes," she says, heading to the steps, and pulling Esteban up to go before her. She pushes him, both of their tranq guns raised, ready to hit anything that might jump out at them. She crouches defensively, ready to spring free of any swinging light fixtures — though it might mean a jump to the floor below.

"April'll see to that…" The last is barely audible, as the voice is leaving the mic, leaving, leaving… left. There's a sharp wooden clatter from above as the pair push the curtain aside and rush up the steps.

Just in time to be bum-rushed by an older woman - in her fifties, perhaps - half-charging, half-stumbling down the narrow stair, arms spread, eyes wide with terror.

"Where is he?" Veronica hisses to the woman, showing her HomeSec badge.

"Help— h-help, help, I can't—" Oh, no stopping from the old woman. Neither is she being very careful about where she's putting her feet, as she literally /falls/ into Veronica, if not stopped. The good news is, she doesn't weigh very much, and even in the case of a slip the stairs aren't that tall.

Veronica catches the frail old woman and manages to grab the rail to keep both from toppling over. She sits the woman down. "Where is he?" she demands again, pushing Esteban up the steps a bit more.

"Upstairs," she groans, clutching Veronica's arms, "He— he went— oh, Harold, where's Harold?! He, he needs a doctor—"

Well, she's useless. On the other hand, the stairs are easily navigated by Esteban, up to the stage above the puppetry theatre. An older man (familiar as the one that answered the door) is laying unconscious slumped over the edge.

The only real egress is by the stairs, which one set of can be found on either side of the stage. There's a 'hatch' rather than a window, to let air and light in when necessary, and it's currently slightly cracked open as if not closed correctly.

"Thank you, Ma'am, we'll try to get him. And Harold will be just fine," Veronica assures the woman. She didn't see the man come back down the other steps to the stage below, so she assumes it's the hatch. She nods to Esteban to head that way, glancing down at Harold as she steps over the man. She pushes open the hatch and peers out, to see what it leads to.

There's a slope down the cottage's roof, and then a drop - barely a floor - down to the grass below. At this hour, the shadows are deep in the park. If he went out that way, though, there's no visual confirmation of it.

"Fuck. Este… I'm gonna bait him. But you gotta come after me, at least get near so his power's nulled and try to tranq him," she whispers so quietly that Esteban can only really discern her words because he can see her mouth too. Veronica steps half way out of the hatch — so that her words will be heard from inside or outside, if Doyle is still nearby. "Eric. Come on. I want to talk. Just me… Look. I'm putting my guns down." She puts down the tranq gun, and then the other, inside the window. "Tell me where to go. My partner stays back."

There's silence for a good minute… and then she can hear the sound of a door closing, if she listens carefully. Only it's not the back door, on the side that the hatch is, but the front door, on the other side of the building.

She turns to look at Esteban. "Go back down, out the front. I'll meet you," she says, grabbing both guns and holstering them swiftly. Out onto the roof she goes, and jumps, knees soft so that she can land in a safe crouch on the grass below.

It's a fairly safe landing in the grass, although she has to roll a bit to absorb the impact. The roof's low enough that it's no real danger. The old woman's sobbing over her unconscious husband as Esteban charges back down past them, loose ends to be tied up later, soon out the front.

There's trees about, brush, and paved paths… but either he's taken off in one direction or is hiding somewhere nearby, because he's nowhere to be seen, at least for the moment.

"Split up," Vee tells Esteban — something she told him not to do, of course, because his presence is what she needs to protect herself. But after Adam… she doesn't want to come up empty handed on this one. She nods to one direction, while she heads in the other, looking for any motion, anything out of ordinary in the foliage.

The best thing would've been for Eric to just hit off-road and run, but he's both overweight and a few inches past the line of 'fifty' these days. The puppeteer doesn't run. It's just not something he's really capable of. So it's not far from the front door, behind a short log fence and concealed in the brush that he's crouching. She has a few moments to notice that flash of pale in the bush and call for her partner again - but if she doesn't notice, Esteban'll be too far away to protect her…

Vee knows he can't be far — there just wasn't enough time. She turns, eyes narrowing as she suddenly sees that glimpse of flesh behind the bush. She continues to turn, as if still looking, though she keeps that target in the corner of her eye. Suddenly her hand comes up, and the tranq gun is discharged, a dead aim toward his chest.

Thunk. "God damn it," Doyle hisses under his breath, hand lifting waveringly towards it—his other thrusting into a pocket, as he stumbles back from his hidden crouch, "Not again — idiot — " The brush rustles a bit as he topples back, and for a moment she can feel the faint, desperate tug of his power against her muscle tissue, blocked by Esteban's presence, before it fades.

"Over here!" Vee calls for Esteban, hurrying to the man on the ground, cuffing him. A couple of evening joggers come by the path and she flashes her badge at them, while pulling a cell phone out. "Need a clean up crew here — got one citizen tranqued, plus our mark… Doyle." She gives the particulars of their location in the park, and soon Doyle is on his way back to a Company cell.

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