Gotta Start Somewhere


bill_icon.gif joseph_icon.gif

Scene Title Gotta Start Somewhere
Synopsis Bill brings dinner and a little insight into the time ahead.
Date September 7, 2009

New Jersey Abandoned Prison

He gave up a little while ago, the speaking, the trying to appeal to the occasional sound of foot steps outside where an armed guard makes a lazy saunter along the arching, concrete hallway. The knowledge that there is nothing he can say to do anything, to change anyone's mind, is slowly starting to settle in him like a sickness. They care if you want to go to the bathroom, usually. That's about it.

It's getting cold. He can't see the light coming in front the barred window up high behind him but he imagines maybe it's dimmed into nothing. Joseph's head is bowed, allowing the bag that still covers it not to hang against his face, breathing in clammy air and trying not to let the continual scratch and itch of the fabric drive him crazy. Every now and then, he presses against the restraints, the locks at his legs and his wrists, straining for movement, and his thoughts have a similar kind of rhythm.

His navy suit jacket has accumulated wrinkles and dust from the trip from Greenwich to wherever this is, and the lighter blue shirt beneath that is rumpled, uncomfortable. He's still wearing his Sunday best, from polished shoes to once immaculate suit, to the tiny golden crucifix hidden against his chest. Relaxed into his chair and restraints, face covered, Joseph appears like he could almost be sleeping.

Which is probably why a loud and abrupt clang to the barred doors along with a "Wakey wakey!" cmes jarring thorugh the room. A moment after the crash, there's a clattering of the bars, a jostling creak of protesting metal and the crinkle of paper. Footsteps scuff against the floor, and languid footfalls carry unfamiliar tones of voice closer. "So you're the Pastor I've gone an' heard so much about. Hot damn I didn't think we'd get to meet."

A scuffing sound of wood on stone accompanies the movement of a chair, then the creak of wood straining against weight. Something else, that soft crinkle of paper, and then the scent of something peppery — food. "Can't rightly eat your dinner with a bag on yer head now can'ya." There's a tug, some hair and cloth caught together, a tug that makes it clear hair's been grabbed, then a more gentle pull at the corners of the bag as it is stripped off of Joseph's head to reveal the very close and rosy-cheeked face of a large man with a receeding hairline dangling a bag that says Taco Bell on the front in one hand, and a burlap sack in the other.

Settling back down in his chair, the bag is opened and left on the floor, followed by the large gentleman getting up with a grunt and sauntering around the chair Joseph is tied to. "Name's Bill," he explains with much aplomb, "an' I pretty much run the show around these parts." Or, at least that's what he likes to say, or maybe would put on his resume — Managed multiple ex-military associates in coordinated wargames scenarios in urban environments. — it look great right above his GED and working at a car dealership for twenty-three years.

"So, Joe," intentionally rhyming, "what's your story?" Behind the Pastor, Bill crouches down and the restraints tighten. There's a tug at the restraints on Joseph's hands, followed by a single click, and one whole arm is freed, though the other side of the cuffs is soon returned to the chair with another click, giving him at least one arm.

The sensory overload of the one man and his presence, in contrast to the silence and peace a moment before, is enough to render Joseph silent and blinking at first, shaking his head once its free of the bag. He sucks in cold air gratefully, hair lank and greasy, and really only becomes alert when one arm comes free. Curling it against his chest, the pastor gives a single shudder, eyes darting down to the fast food bag. The simultaneous sensation of his mouth watering and his stomach turning over restlessly leaves him a little unenthusiastic, and takes the time to use his free hand to ruffle through his own hair, curing the itch the burlap left behind.

Been wanting to do that for hours. "Bill," Joseph repeats, with a spark of recognition for the same, twisting around in his seat not to look at the man, but observe the window. The barred slice of night sky confirms some suspicions, before he settles back again.

"I, uh. Pretty sure you people have all the story you care for, now, don't you?" Joseph finally states, voice shaky and small in his throat, small and sullen and resentful.

"Oh there ain't no reason to be like that!" BIll notes with a generous slap to Joseph's shoulder, coming over to the chair he dragged close, settling down with a creak of the wood. Reaching down, Bill picks up the bag again, unrolling the top and fishing around inside before offering out one paper-wrapped burrito. "It's chicken, I don't trust the beef there, I always heard it was rats, n'thats just gross." Another burrito is taken out of the bag, which is robbed of its napkins to lay across Bill's lap. "Gotta eat, keeps yer strength up, n'all that."

Rolling down some of the wrapper, Bill's eyes flick up to Joseph. "Joe, you got yourself in a bad situation here, but it ain't gotta' be all doom n'gloom." There's a flash of a smile, then a cursory glance down to the exposed front of the burrito before a messy bite is taken; one dribbling line of orange grease rolling from the corner of Bill's mouth. The chewing is loud, open-moutned and obnoxious as he considers the man seated before him. "You gots a family, Joe? Wife, kids?"

Of course, he takes the food, dark eyes studying it for a moment, awkwardly pushing back the paper with his fingers, before he risks a bite. It tastes better than it probably should, enough that Joseph is quick to take a second bite, despite the audible sound of the other man doing the same just across from him. His gaze flicks to Bill's face, then past him, towards the barred door. Only the guard's looming shadow stretches along the ground - no sunken-eyed apparition skulking around to listen.

"A wife," he confirms, with some reluctance. The ring that would indicate as such is wrapped as it should be around the appropriate finger, glimmering dull gold in the low light. "No kids. And she's not in this city." You know, in case they were wondering, suspicion flaring a second too late.

There's a laugh, the kind of deep belly laugh good old friends share as Bill responds to the last bit of what Joseph says. His face lights up with a smile, some bits of lettuce stuck between his teeth. "I used to have a wife too, Joe. Used'ta have that whole family unit. Got myself a little girl, nice house, good job, everything was pretty fuckin' stars and bells." There's a wrinkle of his nose, and another bite of the burrito, the same stain of grease and sauce rolling from the corner of his mouth.

"But you know what happened?" There's a sneer, mouth still half full before swallowing down the rest. "One'a you fuckin' people took all'a that away from me. Did'ja know tha'? Na, y'probably didn't did ya. I don't know what it is you can do, but t'be honest a'really don't care either."

Regarding the half-eaten burrito the way one might the front page of a newspaper, Bill's dark brows furrow. "Lost me a good whole lot, you all did, but look— I turned out alright a'guess. It ain't th' anger so much as th' frustration that really grinds m'gears, y'know?" There's a hard bite taken out of the burrito, eyes leveled at Joseph, and as Bill chews, there's a long period of slurping silence, followed by a snort.

"Now look a'me, leavin' the new family I got, because th'w orld's too fucked up t'actually go'n do something about y'freaks." He flashes a slightly orange smile from all of the seasoning on his burrito, "Best gotta start somewhere, right?"

It could be all the slurping and the gnashing and the grease that puts Joseph off his food, but it isn't. It's that sentiment again, the needless hate like cold slaps. Despite himself, he eats. It may be trash as far as food goes, but it's something. Hand shaking, however, out of a very tired brand of anger that seems to rattle him, bone deep. He brings up a sleeve to wipe at his mouth, trembling fingers still clenched around the burrito, and swallows down chicken and lettuce through a tight throat.

"That you do," he agrees, forcing himself to meet the man's gaze rather than shy away from it. "Then there's me, I guess, and I try and convince people like you an' me that we're equal men. Because I know you're scared've us, and there ain't nothin' to be scared of. Unless you go around and lock us up and beat us down, then you're gonna have good reason to be scared. Heck, you'll wish you started sooner, you son of a bitch."

The words tumble out of him and they don't hold the steely edge that would give them power. There's a whine, and a tremor, and a certain rawness that undercuts it, but it's all he has for now.

Bill's expression turns sour, and he regards his burrito with a frown, casting it down to the floor with a wet slap. "You kiss your God with that mouth?" He questions with a sneer, rising up from his chair. "You know, maybe we got off onn'a wrong foot?" There's a quirk of his head to the side, lips pursed together then curving down to a frown. It only takes that moment for Bill to wind up and backhand Joseph across the side of the face, the smack of the hand hard enough to break skin thanks to his class ring hitting cheekbone, but it's not so much the hit of his hand but the momentum it carries that causes the real headache; as the chair Joseph is in teeters off two legs and then crashes down to the floor, sending the Baptist's head cracking against the concrete.

"You preachin' tolerance about you fuckin' freaks, an' you think it's okay to just parade aroun' how superior y'are to us? How much you're better'n us all? Well y'aren't!" Bill's voice raises, his temper flaring and face turning redder, eyes watering and teeth clenching together enough that a vein in his forehead throbs visibly. "Yer'all jus' pieces'a shit that're cloggin' up the gene pool!"

Chair goes down, Joseph with it, a sharp grunt of pain as his head hits the ground and his arm traps beneath the back of the chair. A haphazard tangle of furniture and bound limbs, the burrito a spattered mess a foot or so away, Joseph squeezes his eyes shut as Bill roars his anger down at him, freed hand braced against the ground, the sound of his quick beating heart in his ears. He hisses in a very simple prayer under his breath beneath the words, a plea for strength as his split cheek aches where it was struck.

"We're not better," he manages to gasp out, blinking open his eyes to swivel a way look up towards Bill. His words come more frantic now, pleading. "Neither're you. Please. That's all I preach. You're creatin' a fight you ain't gonna win. Spare yourself that. Spare your daughter that. You say you run this place? Do somethin' right and let us go."

"My daughter," Bill hisses, "died the day I foun' out that she wasn't even mine. Because I sure as hell didn' spawn no freak like you!" Hop-stepping ahead, Bill plants a swift kick to what is intended to be Joseph's midsection, but instead ends up somewhere near his ribs, "I ain't responsible for spittin' out one'a you!" There's a hissed breath again, and Bill staggers back, one hand at his chest and a clang of bars from his back hitting them.

Heaving breaths bring his chest rising and falling, the vein pulsing on the side of his head seeming so pronounced before he exhales a ragged, hacking cough and stares down at the crumpled preacher on the floor. "Let you go," Bill breathes out the words with a wheezing scoff. "We're gonna' make you wish y'were dead, an' then we're gonna' make a public example of y'." There's a seething venom in his voice, eyes narrowed. "Yer' gonna' show'm all just what we mean. You'n everyone else you blabbed about on that little list."

The kick gets a flinch, and a choking gasp, Joseph's freed arm coming to curl against his own chest defensively, shrinking back as much as he can against chair and grimy cement ground. Despite the sleep-deprived courage of his words before, fear rattles through him once more at the display of physical power he can't defend himself from, legs twitching against where they're still tied sturdily to the chair legs. Don't talk. Shut up, Sumter.

All the same, he risks a look towards Bill at those last words, breathing hard. Not about to ask what, why, who, distrustful of his own words. A ribbon of red leaks down from the split at his cheek towards the side of his nose, and gets wiped away with a hasty sense of shame.

"You're only makin' martyrs," he can't help mutter, quiet and subdued, but loud enough to be heard. It's nothing to celebrate. No one wants to be a martyr. Not even the martyr wanted to be a martyr.

"Well you know— if we line up enough martyrs there ain't much'a them left now is there?" Though Bill's words are spoken from that huffing fit of rage, his face begins to lose some of that bright red color, the vein in his forehead softening as he breathes in and exhales out a slow breath. "You said you had yer'self a wife?" Bill's tongue comes out, licking at dried lips, one foot shakily moving in front of the other as he makes his way towards where Joseph's been toppled over.

His eyes settle on the dark-haired pastor, brows furrowed, and then breathes out a tired sigh. "You got yourself a nice big ol' church an' she lives outta' down?" His mood seems to change like the tides, and with one large hand, Bill grabs the corner of Joseph's chair and lifts it back up onto four legs with a click of the wood. "She leave you?"

He doesn't cringe back any further as Bill approaches, simply lying still as if waiting, before his free hand jerkily grips the edge of his seat as the chair is righted with solid thunks of wood against concrete. Joseph studies the other man for a long moment, before his free hand comes around to touch where his skull smacked the concrete. No blood marks his fingertips upon observation, as he swallows dryly, considering the question.

And attempting to wrestle with choking disgust at the same time, which only slightly leaks into his tone of voice. "We're separated," he chooses, back stiff against the chair's back, before his dark eyes swivel back towards Bill, hand coming to hang at his side. Changing his mind, he confirms; "She left me."

"My wife left me too," Bill notes in a decidedly distracted tone of voice, walking over to scoop up the remainders of Joseph's burrito with one hand, the paper bag the food came in with the other, joining them in an altogether new purpose — trash disposal. "I found out she was seeing another man, behind m'back, fer months." His tone of voice is bitter, dry, more like someone having a casual conversation with a stranger than someone who was just beaten in a fit of rage.

Bill's brows furrow, "I used'ta be different back then. Gave m'family everything it ever needed; home, happiness, all the good things. But she— a'guess it wasn't 'nough, right?" When Bill's eyes sweep over to Josrph, there's some emptiness in them, a glassy and distant quality. "Lookin' back, a'shoulda seen it comin'. The distance, the dwindling affection, excuses about why she 'ad t'go out and why she was gone longer than she shoulda' been…"

When Bill looks back at him, he's rewarded with eye contact, and Joseph's own are wide and watchful, his mouth shut and posture straight. And it's strange, how willingly words of comfort line up in his throat as this information is shared, and Joseph near has to clamp his teeth shut before they can spill out. They don't come from a place of sympathy, only instinct. His face still aches from the blow, every part of him coiled and awaiting the result of another shift in mood, and there is nothing he wants to say this man.

Carefully does it, however, he manages to stammer out a response. "No one marries without— without expectin' it'll work out. You…" He swallows around a dry throat, and manages to keep his attention on Bill rather than study the floor. "You could only anticipate so much. If you loved her, you saw past the signs. Gave her the excuses." It's like listening to yourself speak. He doesn't tell Bill he's sorry for him.

"A'did love her," Bill notes quietly, rubbing one hand down his face and over his mouth, eyes focused on a crack in the concrete wall. He drops the bag with the burrito down at his feet, then walks over to where the burlap sack that was around Joseph's head lays, picking it up with thick fingers. "Y'know, a'watched her die…" the words are said distantly, as if more to himself than anyone else. "Saw her get stabbed. A'coulda done somethin' bout it but— but a'just stood there'n watched her bleed out. She was callin' out for our baby girl, yellin' her head off for her. But a'just stood there, an' let'em tear her apart like a pack'a rabid dogs…"

Swallowing tensely, Bill's eyes close and his head lowers. "Your kind took her 'way from me twice over." Keeping his eyes half-lidded once they open, he starts to swagger towards the chair. "You people took 'er twice over from me…" He crouches behind the chair, reaching down to take Joseph's free wrist and wrench it behind the chair, undoing the handcuffs in preparation to bind his hands together again.

When the man rounds the chair, Joseph shuts his eyes, brow tense, and gives a soft grunt of surprise and resentment when his arm is grabbed and yanked back. It tenses beneath jacket sleeve and Bill's grip, as if perhaps he were ready to surge out of the chair, but ultimately— he remains still, jaw ticking with tension as he feels the cuff wrap around his wrist. His legs are still tied, and there's a man still pacing around in the hallway. Revulsion seems to bleed into Joseph's limbs and makes it hard, unwieldy work for Bill, but there's no struggle for escape.

"Sounds t'me she found common sense and a bad end. I'll pray for her."

The words are stiff and formal, spoken straight ahead, as if maybe to ease the sting of having tried anything but disdain not moments before.

"You can pray all you want, Paster Sumter." The cold metal of the cuffs click around Joseph's wrists at Bill's words, and the tall man rises back up and rests a hand on his shoulder, leaning over to talk into one ear. "Ain't nobody but God gonna' hear y'down here, so I figure— you best be makin' peace with what time y'have left, cause from the looks on ol' Danks' face when a'saw him last?" There's a squeeze of that hand on Joseph's shoulder, "You ain't got much time left before your meetin's with God're more face t'face."

The hand moves away, and before Bill rounds the chair, Joseph's world is suffocated back into scratchy darkness as the burlap sack is drawn over his head tightly, swallowing up all light.

"Sleep tight, Joe. Hope y'enjoyed yer last meal."

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