Helping People Who Need It


eileen_icon.gif matt_icon.gif

Scene Title Helping People Who Need It
Synopsis A chance encounter outside Katz's Delicatessen gives Matt some valuable insight into one of his proposed targets.
Date January 3, 2009

Somewhere in New York City

Seventeen days until inauguration, and Matt Parkman has as much on his plate as Steve Caiati. Doctor Edward Ray may be working on his own predictive statistics concerning the Volken Group's - the Vanguard's? - plot to wipe out 93 percent of the world's population, but Homeland Security's own specialists are analyzing the same data. Certain inevitabilities are creeping into Matt's mind; however, they don't even have the decency to wait until after he's had his morning coffee.

Being on the run so much, Matt's morning libation is acquired at Katz's Delicatessen on Houston, southeast of Ground Zero. He steps out of the busy storefront with a large to-go cup, just the way he likes it, and a bag of bagels. He's dressed for the weather, putting off the airs of someone less effected by the bomb's devastation and aftermath than most. Wall Street? Business executive? Political official? Who knows in that wool coat and suit, but it is obvious by the circles under his eyes that whatever high life Matt may be living (or not living, as the case may be) has had its price.

For every business executive in New York, there are dozens of single parents struggling to raise their children in the wake of the bomb. For every political official, hundreds of people crippled by mourning and thousands more on the street with neither suit nor wool coat — they have dark circles under their eyes too, if for different reasons. Eileen Ruskin is one of these individuals, pale and sickly, her hair dark slick with sweat in spite of the January chill. Her skin, too, has an unhealthy sheen to it; although faint hints of pink brush her nose and her cheeks, her lips are almost entirely devoid of colour, matte like a child's doll whose paint has faded.

As Matt steps out of the delicatessen, she inadvertently crosses his path on her way through the neighborhood, knapsack slung over one shoulder, violin case tucked under the opposite arm. Hiding in plain sight in the presence of other people is the easiest way to avoid getting caught by one of Kazimir's people; as long as she stays on the move and in heavily populated areas, she's relatively immune to any assassination attempts that might happen her way. Homeland Security, on the other hand, is another story altogether.

These days everyone, from executives to indigents, has a lot to think and worry about. Matt's own mental distractions cause him to bump rather rudely into the smallish young woman with the violin, and while he saves his coffee, the bag of bagels drops and one rolls to the dangerous edge of the open bag.

After a short series of unintelligible surprised sounds, Matt squares himself while also attempting to keep the girl upright as well. "I'm sorry," he says with a wholly concerned and apologetic furrowing of his brow, "I wasn't paying-"

A different sort of shock cuts off Matt's speech. Though pale and haggard, the woman in front of him is undoubtedly the same he conjured into being out of Doctor Chesterfield's memory. Matt's eyes widen nigh-imperceptibly as one of the four people New York's and the nation's law enforcement offices are looking for stands at arms length.

"…attention." Matt coughs, turning his head without taking his eyes off of Eileen, fearful she'll disappear like a dream that's too good to wake up from. "Are you alright?"

As small and frail as Eileen appears to be, she isn't so brittle that she'll break at the slightest jostle. She's in the process of righting herself and transferring the violin from one arm to the other when Matt apologizes, so she doesn't respond right away — instead, she casts a reproachful look over her shoulder at the agent, though his face isn't as familiar to her as hers his to him. No recognition sparks in her gray-green eyes, two pinpricks of light swimming in a sea of pallor. "I'm fine," she murmurs thickly, her voice much lower and more coarse than Matt might be expecting from someone of her size, "s'my fault as much as it is yours." She lifts one sleeve to wipe at some moisture beneath her nose, which is wet and runny — with the temperature as low as it is, that's probably no big surprise.

"Sorry for saying so," Matt counters with the smallest of smiles, "but you don't look fine." He bends to rescue the bag of bagels and then holds it open and out to Eileen with a gentler expression. "Here. Call it a New Year's resolution." Matt could stand to lose a few pounds in the abdominal region anyway. "Anyway, let me make it up to you."

Accepting food from strangers has got to be near the top of Eileen's list of things Not to Do, but she's hungry and this meeting was arranged by serendipty rather than whatever ulterior motives Matt might have. The chances of getting sick because she took a bagel are slim to none. Her eyes remain on Matt's face as she reaches out and slips one of her small hands, wrapped in dirty strips of tattered gauze, into the bag, feeling around for the closest piece of bread. No thanks are offered until her hand comes back out with a bagel dusted in poppyseeds, which she examines warily, the same way a wounded animal might sniff at a piece of food before testing it with a tentative bump of its muzzle. "Dzieki," she says, then by sheepish way of explanation, "that's Polish. Thank you."

Shy and apprehensive girls, like kittens with tin cans on their tails, are something that Matt is slightly practiced at. Still, at least with Molly he was sort of thrown into a trustworthy position. Here, he'll have to earn it. He watches Eileen's movements carefully, studying them with a slight squint at the same time he ventures to skim the surface of her thoughts.

"I'm parked around the block, if you'd like a ride someplace? It'd be better than walking in the cold, and it'll make up time." Matt's offering is only slightly eager, toned down and flavored with a sincere desire to make amends. Or maybe it's just that business-type-looking men rarely bump into British waifs who speak snippets of Polish outside Jewish delis.

Skimming the surface of Eileen's thoughts is like grazing the surface of a pool with one's fingertips. Although barely noticeable, it creates a series of ripples that expands outwards in every direction and grows fainter the further it gets from its source. Her thoughts are unspoken whispers, soft as water lapping against the shore. He wants something. Nobody's that nice unless they want something.

"It might not," she says, "with traffic the way it is. Walking's faster, and I really have someplace I need to be." Away.

"I'm just trying to be helpful," Matt says taking half a step back and lifting his burdened hands in what might otherwise be a palms-up gesture of innocence. "You look like you could use some, and…well," Matt glances away then, looking more introspective for a moment. "I don't get the opportunity to help one person much anymore. So maybe I'm being selfish. Would it help if I said please?" It only takes a slight intrusion of that pond-like surface for Matt to insert a whisper of his own. He looks harmless, it breathes, Maybe he is just trying to be nice. Maybe he's a changed Scrooge.

Somewhere, deep in the recesses of Eileen's mind, there is a fluttering of wings, the murmuring sigh of feathers brushing against feathers. You thought that about Sylar, too, she reminds herself, Kazimir. Amato. And look where it got you.

There's another voice in the young woman's head, and although it doesn't belong to Matt or Eileen, it's one the agent should recognize. Maybe, Sylar's voice drifts by, the murderers and rapists of desperate New York City will do quicker work the day I don't come to find you.

"I don't even know your name," Eileen points out mildly, back in the real world. Traffic rumbles past as a faint hum in Matt's ears. "Or who you are."

In the shifting of the bag from his hand to under his other arm, Matt is given the few moments he needs to steady himself after hearing Sylar's voice in Eileen's head. He swallows once, which could be construed as a clearing of the throat before he offers a hand. "My name's Matt," he offers, not wanting to trouble the business with last names quite yet. "And I work with a government agency that helps people who need it." It's a vague enough description of Homeland Security, or any government agency for that rate, but the knowledge that the Kazimir group employs many Europeans coupled with Eileen's apparent age has the agent hoping that she doesn't know too much about the current State of the Union and all it's various social offices.

"Social services?" Eileen may not know much about the way these agencies work in the United States, but she knows enough to have kept her nose clean this long. "Do you have a badge?" she asks. "Identification?" Even if he did, she isn't sure she'd get in a car with him. Changed Scrooge or not, she has other things she needs to worry about; every moment she spends lingering here increases her chances of getting caught out in the open by Kazimir's people, and of all Eileen's concerns, this one is the loudest. Matt doesn't need to be listening in order to detect it.

And Matt would be a blind fool if he didn't pick up on it. Someone has tied that can to this cat's tail, and it isn't anyone in the government - unless Kazimir's group already knows about the information now in their hands. Matt looks about them, as if his own suspicions were suddenly touched off by Eileen's own. "Look," he says as he brings his eyes back to her face. "We can talk inside, if that's better for you? No reason to make that cold worse." Still, in order to appease her, he withdraws his wallet and removes his driver's license for her inspection.

Matthew Parkman, it reads, listing an address she might recognize as in Dorchester Towers, if she knows the same for Ethan Holden. "I'm not on duty yet," he explains, holding his wallet closed as he is even more conscious of the Homeland Security badge in the breast pocket of his coat, "so I guess what you could call my 'official' ID is at the office."

Enough talking. Keep moving — there are eyes everywhere. Remember what he said. Eileen, momentarily distracted, she glances back over her shoulder at the bustling sidewalk behind her, eyes scanning the crowd for something. Or perhaps someone. No one left to protect you. The birds would say something if they knew he was nearby.

"Do you have an office?" she asks aloud, only part of her attention paid to Matt now that she no longer views him as an overt threat. Satisfied they aren't being watched, she turns back to him, expression somewhat apologetic. "A phone number I could call?" It doesn't hurt to have a contingency plan.

The only business cards that Matt carries bear the Homeland Security insignia, and so he fishes out his receipt for the coffee and bagels, hastily writing down his cell number on it. "Here," he says handing it over, looking even more concerned at Eileen's distracted behavior. "You call if you need anything, okay?" Anything, asserts a whisper, but it is quiet compared to the chaos going on in the girl's mind at the moment. It doesn't even occur to Matt that he didn't get her name from her, possibly because he already knows it.

Eileen takes the receipt and folds it in half after giving the number a brief once-over. "Anything," she repeats, more to herself than to Matt, and tucks the scrap of paper into her front pocket along with the one Ethan gave her when he threw her out and, more recently, the number belonging to Magnes J. Varlane, part-time pizzaboy, part-time wannabe superhero. "Thanks again for the bagel."

"You're welcome," Matt answers with an attempt at a cordial smile, though concern colors it somewhat gloomily. "Take care of yourself," he offers as he begins to turn, fingers slipping into his pocket to slide along his phone. The expression is as it often is when said - hopeful, but not without the tinge of apprehension. Taking a slightly deeper breath then he otherwise might, Matt withdraws his phone as he gives Eileen his back and begins to thumb out a message to his office.

That's Eileen's cue to take her leave. She departs swiftly, boot-clad feet sloshing through the slush as she plunges back into the flow of pedestrian traffic, a small stone cast into a much larger river and swallowed up by its current.

January 2nd: How Do You Refine a Blunt Instrument?
January 3rd: In God's House
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