Hide the Salami


frank_icon.gif peyton_icon.gif

Scene Title Hide the Salami
Synopsis Peyton meets Doctor Witchenstein. He is creepy.
Date March 25, 2018

A gross and sticky butcher.

This little butcher shop has seen better days — and not just since before the civil war. The glass cases, usually full of meats and cheeses and other deli foods, are sparse. Most of the food laid out on display are things that don't spoil so quickly — pepperoni, salami and the like — and the more expensive cuts of fresh meat that many can't afford. All of the prices are higher than they would have been just a few weeks ago — and much higher than the would have been a few years ago.

Such is life in 2018.

The other two walls of the shop are devoted to non-meat items: there are shelves of barbecue sauces and dry rubs, pickles and olives, mustards and other condiments. It's near these that Peyton wanders with a list in one hand, a shopping basket on her arm, and a six-year-old boy with a mop of brown hair at her side.

"It smells weird in here," Jonah says, nose wrinkling.

When Frank enters, he stops once the door closes, shuts his eyes, and then just inhales, very deeply. Old blood, cold flesh, the scent of time, also known as decay.

With each step on the floor, he feels the stickiness of dried blood and other assorted juices, but then the voice catches his attention. He knows that voice, he knows it very well, anyone who was at the Arcology knows it.

He walks up next to her, on the side without the child, and stares at her with an empty gaze. "Peyton Whitney." are the first words he says. He takes in her skin. High elasticity, still youthful, her cells possibly capable of regeneration that could wane in a decade, but still, it's something to behold.

The procedures that one could do on such youthful skin, with minimal scarring… "You probably don't remember me. I was just an intern."

"We'll just be a minute," Peyton says to Jonah with a patient smile. "We're almost done."

Suddenly there's someone walking up to her, and at her side one hand slides into Jonah's, protectively.

She turns to the man beside her, and her eyes widen slightly in recognition — not because she knows Frank well or what work or business he conducted in the Arcology, but simply because he was in the Arcology. An employee of the Institute, and the first she's seen since 2011.

"Oh," she says, in some surprise, before offering a more proper, "Hello. No, not… not really. You do look familiar, though. You're doing well?" It's a polite voice, the kind reserved for the querulous, over-involved PTA mom who criticism grates on everyone's nerves, or the city councilman who has openly censured her school. Pleasantry without warmth, civility without pleasure.

It's okay, Frank's tone and overall demeanor is without particular warmth, except when his eyes linger on her cheeks, or her neck for a bit too long, then there are brief moments of something like artistic inspiration. But he always returns to her eyes, it's essential to make eye contact. "I'm existing. Our former employer was clearly not what some of us thought they were, so I'm not coming from a place of job security." he says before coughing slightly.

He doesn't seem to be joking, he instead starts to look over at the hanging meats. "I came to see this butcher's work. I'll probably also buy salami. But this butcher's work, it's something else. The clean cuts through the ribs, the way that the edges of bone almost seem like they were always meant to be that way. The beautiful marbling, even in a place like this…"

"I'm sorry to hear that," Peyton mumrurs, regarding job security — that is something that sounds actually sympathetic. The young man before her looks too young to have known what he was doing in the Arc; she herself could be argued to have been as well. None of them were totally aware of the madness within Ezekiel until it was too late.

People in glass houses…

But then those looks are a little too long and his words about the meat makes her tighten her grip on Jonah's hand. "I don't know that much about meat. I'm afraid I'll have to take your word for it," she says, a little primly. "Are you a butcher, then? I think I might have given up the laboratory too after…" Well. After.

"I'm something of a freelance doctor now. I've done my share of surgery, people often have difficulty finding proper medical treatment, so I fill that void when I can." Frank explains matter-of-factly, crouching down to stare at the cured meats in the glass. "Biology is nothing to be afraid of." he says with the tone of someone who smells fear in the air, a thing that is in of itself possibly a bit unsettling for some.

"Cured meat can be good. The thing that you have to watch out for are the signs of mass production. Crusts of sugar, pre-sliced ham, the taste of artificial smoke seasoning." he shakes his head in disapproval. "But a place like this, you'll find some surprisingly authentic things."

The way that he explains all of this remains in a level tone, like there's little feeling behind his words. It's all cold, empty, observation, reciting facts. "I never introduced myself." he says, back still turned, eyes still locked onto a salami. "Doctor Witchenstein. You can call me Frank."

Peyton is quiet a little too long to be properly polite, but she finally nods. "I didn't mean to imply you shouldn't care about science anymore. I apologize," she says, glancing down at Jonah who is unusually quiet, leaning against his mother's leg and hip as if he could become invisible by doing so.

"Beggars can't be choosers right now, unfortunately, I think. It's nice to find someone with any sort of variety given the shortage in food. Not everyone's lucky enough to have a shop like this in their neighborhood." She doesn't say she's pleased to meet Dr. Witchenstein, though she gives a nod at the introduction.

"We should get going, though. I hope you find whatever you're looking for," Peyton adds in a little bit of a rush, before she takes a few awkward steps in the direction of the register — it's hard to walk when you have a fifty-pound child attached to one's leg.

"Perhaps I'll see you around. It's always nice to see a familiar face." Frank figures is the correct thing to say, continuing to stare at the salami. He seems rather drawn to it. There's something about it that is absolutely fascinating. "I'll take one pound of that."

"Maybe," is Peyton's response — in her mind, she's questioning why she's taken it upon herself to do the shopping today and cursing herself for wanting to surprise Brad with a homecooked meal he didn't have to cook himself. "Good luck to you."

At the register she pays with cash, thanking the clerk before leaving.

Once she's in the Uber waiting for her, she takes a moment to look through Frank's eyes, to make sure he's still in the store where she left him.

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