colette3_icon.gif judah_icon.gif tamara_icon.gif

Scene Title Incorrigible
Synopsis After fleeing an unexpected turn of events, Colette is recovered by perhaps the last person in the world she ever expected — and also the one she should have expected.
Date July 31, 2009

Condemned Tenement: Boiler Room

Every run-down apartment complex has one. An enormous cavern of a room filled with furnaces, boilers, pipes, conduits, and all other imaginable forms of arcane technology required to keep the inhabitants comfortable and paying rent on time. Unlike most of the abandoned structures in the city, the utilities still seem to be operating here. The furnace is burning, keeping the building at a comfortable temperature. The lights are on. There are carefully tended valves and levers labeled 'GAS'. Locked cages separate the utilities into sections, preventing casual urban explorers from causing too much trouble.

Fear comes in many shapes and sizes, many colors and tastes. Fight or Flight is one of the most common examples; the urge to tuck one's tail between their legs and run, or turn around and stand up against all odds.

Flight, not fight, is what has taken over the heart of Colette Nichols-Demsky. Having run most of the night and stayed spottily awake as she crashed from her adrenaline rush, the young girl found her way from the bloody aftermath of the shooting across town towards Manhattan's Lower East Side. The trip out to Brooklyn to take a ferry back to Staten Island was simply too long of a walk for her. Colette's legs ache, her stomach twists and turns in knots, and a migraine throbs at the back of her head and behind her eyes.

The end of her flight took her to familiar surroundings, and an abandoned tenement building vacated after a fire gutted half of the structure two years ago. Forsaking places that looked recently lived in, Colette has hidden herself away, curled into a small and tight ball in brick alcove beneath one grimy basement window. By now the light of a cloudy morning filters gray through the dingy glass, illuminating a painting faded and cracked on the brickwork behind her; a macabre display of a dark and lanky woman's silhouette crouching over a man in extreme agony, stripping flesh from the bone of one of his arms with gleaming white teeth.

Arms wrapped around her legs, she struggles to stay awake, eyes fixed on the sports watch on her wrist, waiting for the time to tick over to when the busses will start running again. Dirt and grime spots her cheeks, tears and holes in the black stockings covering her legs show pale skin beneath, and the pleated fabric of the black skirt she wears is tattered on one corner from getting hooked on a nail.

Puffy eyes show that she's cried herself out long ago, cried away the fear, cried away the horror, cried away the trauma that remains lightly spattered in dark red droplets across one cheek. No phone, no way to call for help, she remains seated here in the dark of the basement, hidden by the memories of PARIAH and the tomb-like silence of a boiler room long since left abandoned.

The footsteps on the stairs belong to someone large and heavy. Rotted wood bemoans their weight as they descend into the darkness of the basement armed with a flashlight and a pistol concealed beneath the dusty leather material of a jacket worn to protect long arms from splinters and rusty nails like the one responsible for the tear in Colette's skirt. Although the tenement is a popular place to lay low after curfew, it's a far cry from Judah Demsky's definition of safe.

As he reaches the bottom of the stairs, a glass syringe crackles under the heel of his shoe and he kicks it away with a small sound of disgust snarled under his breath. The flashlight's beam sweeps across the boiler room, illuminating the fine particles of debris that hang fairylike in the air. He wouldn't be surprised if it contained some asbestos. Perhaps the detective and his much slighter, slimmer companion for the morning should have invested in a pair of mouth masks before venturing inside.


The tread of Judah's feet on the stairs obscures the second, lighter set of footfalls. The girl who makes them remains behind the detective, quiet, equally unperturbed by darkness, rusty nails, dust, and broken glass. She wears faded blue jeans and a violet tanktop, in complete disregard of any hazards the environment might pose. Tamara's hair, however, is incongruously bound into a long braid; she carries a small shoulderbag, the faint of its fabric against her shirt also fading into the background, ceasing altogether as she stops moving, letting Judah enter first.

Judah's voice sends Colette's eyes wide in a snap of rather immediate panic. The young girl tenses, sucking in an easily audible breath that is clamped down on as she presses her back up against the brick wall. For the barest of moments she can't figure out how he would have found her, how he if all people would be here. But the sound of footsteps accompanying his practically breaks her heart, realizing that for all she thought she was alone in this flight back to Staten Island, she'd forgotten the one person she has the most faith in.

Grimacing sharply, Colette curls up into a tight ball in the alcove, whimpering once before murmuring something of a response. The young girl keeps her eyes closed as she leans forward, shifts her legs to one side, and then braces herself against the brickwork to pull herself to her feet slowly.

Shuffling bootfalls take Colette out into the dusty expanse of colorless light spilling down fromt he grimy basement windows, exposing just how ragged and untended she looks; a dirty mirror of Tamara's unusually preened presence. She swallows, raggedly exhaling a sigh as her eyes open partway, glassy and wet as her jaw trembles, lips pulling thin as her neck tenses and her hands ball up into fists at her side.

"I— I'm sorry," she croaks out, taking a few shuffling steps forward in the light, the colors around her beginning to desaturate slowly with each uncertain footfall.

Judah flicks off the flashlight and reattaches it to the clip he wears on his belt. The shadows of the basement make it difficult if not impossible to discern the expression etched across his unshaven face, but there's no anger in his tone as he closes the distance between them and roughly commands her to, "Come here."

Callused hands find Colette's shoulders, not to pull him to her but to inspect what can be seen of her for any sign of injury. "You're supposed to be staying at your sister's," he grits out, voice low and husky in his throat. One hand lifts to firmly cradle her chin in the seat of his hand as his eyes move from her face to her neck, then lower still in search of blood — be it hers or someone else's. He's been to the crime scene. Knows what he saw. All that's left to do now is corroborate. "Nicole isn't even in the state. Where have you been?"

The seeress steps around the man who is in some sense her unofficial guardian; inasmuch as she deigns to have any. She looks past his arm to the girl who is currently draining the tenement room of its color; there wasn't much of that to be had in the first place, save perhaps the rapidly dimming hues of Tamara's own clothes. She tilts her head to one side, regarding Colette; not searchingly, as Judah does, but with steady and level gaze.

Her expression, in the wan morning light, is softly apologetic. "I'm sorry." An echo of Colette's words, but not her demeanor; Tamara is not hesitant, not uncertain, though it is a phrase she uses with relative infrequency.

Blind eyes move in Tamara's direction, just for a moment, a smile offered to the older girl in response to the apologetic words; one of understanding. Even if she's getting it wrong. It's a brief look, befors she gives in to the feeling of Judah's hand on her shoulder and brings one hand up to her eyes, forefingers and thumb wiping across wet eyes, shoulders trembling and one very ragged half-sob escaping her lips as she ducks her head down. Lying won't work, here, now, ever really. It's only in the presence of real family that the weight of everything she's been dealing with since Pinehearst hits her like a truck, causing her to stumble forward, wrapping her arms around Judah's waist and burying her face in his chest.

Her head downturns, brow resting on his sternum, choking out a ragged sob as her fingers wind into the dark fabric of his jacket, taking a few minutes to cry out the emotions she thought she had run through an emotional wringer already. As she calms, as hiccuping sobs and strangled breaths turn into something more manageable, she mumbles out incoherent words at first, then finally full sentences. "M'so sorry— I'm sorry." Her nose presses against a button on his shirt, one now damp with tears. "Nicole's— she's— " Judah already knows, she realizes that, and the young girl stumbles over herself worse than before.

"I've been helping people," she whines out softly, jaw still trembling as she turns to look at Tamara uncertainly. There's a smile, hesitant in its honesty as she looks up to Judah, eyes reddened and puffy, made all the more unfortunate looking by the smearing of eyeliner and dark circles from lack of sleep around her eyes. "Dad," she manages a weaker smile now, worried, "there's— something bad is happening."

She finally remembers why she was at Old Lucy's, as if the emergency hadn't quite reached her ears yet. "Dad, dad there's— s— someone named Charlie. You— they need my help." She's not making any sense, "Ashley got shot, they— I was supposed to help but— they— " she's working herself up into a panic, Judah's seen it before when PARIAH made their attack on the Citysoft building, how the fear and the anxiety boiled over. "We— we have to help— we— they need me."

Judah winds his fingers through Colette's hair when she rests her head against his chest. It's an impulsive gesture — one that he doesn't even realize he felt compelled to engage in until he feels her curls in his hand. Dark brown eyes study Tamara quietly, cautiously, as if expecting some explanation, but in his heart he knows better.

His gaze moves between the two girls, uncertain, and not in the desperate, exasperated way it once did. It's been almost a year since Colette stumbled into his life, and Tamara's been a part of him for even longer than that. He can afford to be patient. "Slow down," he tells Colette, then softer, "slow down." As experienced as he is when it comes to disassembling witness statements, it still takes him a few moments of protracted silence for him to wrap his head around everything his adopted daughter has said since staggering into view.

First thing's first. "Who's Ashley?"

Quiet, the sybil listens. Perhaps she even listens to Judah and Colette, the frantic and jumbled half-explanation, the patient consideration. Perhaps not. Whatever it is she hears, Tamara's posture shifts slightly in the wake of Judah's question, her attention focusing on Colette. Her head tips to one side, that angle, that tolerant look, which conveys more clearly than any words a seer's gentle no, I'm afraid you're wrong rebuke. "Yes," she says quietly. Certainty. "Yes, you could."

Tamara's words cut Colette off as the girl's lips open to lie to her father. Wide, white eyes blink back the vestiges of tears as she turns an abrupt look over to Tamara. Breath hitches in the back of her throat, words swallowed down in the realization that all of the denial she was about to offer to Judah was laid out to Tamara long before it happened.

She closes her eyes, tension fading from her small frame against Judah. Her head shakes, chin turns up and eyes open slowly. Colette's lips start to move a few time, aborted beginning to sentences she's trying to puzzle out. "I— " almost, "She's— " not quite there, "I work with her." And there it starts.

"I— I work for people," her lips press together in a struggled moment of emotional response from the openness. "They— they help people like me, people who're in trouble, or who want to hide. I— I've been…" wrenching her eyes shut, Colette leans her head against Judah and murmurs out against his chest.

"I've got so much to explain to you…" she wraps her arms just a touch tighter around him, feeling close to a father she never thought she'd be able to. "You're going to be really upset at me."

A man more sensitive to the needs of children might try to reassure Colette that, no, he isn't upset with her — but not only is Judah someone who has a difficult time empathizing with other people, he's also someone who too often puts the truth on a pedestal. He won't lie to her this time. Can't. Not when she's being so forthright herself.

With another glance at Tamara, facial expression bordering on gratitude, he bends down and slides the stronger of his two arms under Colette's knees to scoop her up off her feet. Whether she likes it or not, she isn't walking out of here under her own power. "Did you know about this?" he asks the waifish seer, and he realizes it's quite possibly the most foolish question he's ever posed to her. What doesn't Tamara Brooks know?

"We found your phone," he adds in clipped tones, this time to Colette. "I thought you were dead."

The braid of blond hair swings as Tamara turns around, sneakers padding back up the stairs. The too-white light of an LED flashlight helpfully appears, illuminating the floor in front of Judah. "The mirror only had two feet," she calls back down the stairs, words presumably having some bearing on the detective's query, "and kittens didn't mix well with cotton or silk. Things get shredded."

There's a quiet squeak of surprise as Colette is swept up off of her feet, turning red at the entire idea, thinking herself a bit to old for that sort of treatment, but at the same time with how far she's walked and how tired she is, maybe she can indulge Judah's parental instincts just this once. Her head turns, resting against Judah's shoulder in a slow nod of acknowlegement. "M'sorry Dad… I shouldn't have left it there, I— " she presses her nose into Judah's shoulder. "The stuff m'gonna' tell you… you have to promise me you won't yell at me until I'm done. N'when we're done… I wanna' tell you about…" Her arm wraps around Judah's shoulders to offset some of her very slight weight. "About me'n Tamara."

With her head against his shoulder, carried back out of the bioler room, Colette's words are quiet. She doesn't even need to speak them for Tamara to hear them, so the words are shared solely for Judah's benefit. There's an awkward smile, and her hushed words to accompany it. Time for honesty:

"Have you ever heard of people called the Ferrymen?"

Judah follows Tamara's lead and begins climbing the stairs. He takes one step at a time and moves slower than he did when he first came down, careful not to misstep, lose his balance or needlessly jostle the girl he's carrying in his arms. He listens to what both of the girls have to say, and as usual comes to the resigned conclusion that one will always be easier to understand than the other.

"I've heard rumours," Judah concedes as he mounts the topmost step and maneuvers Colette around a crumbling concrete column tagged with incomprehensible smudges of faded graffiti. Somewhere in the ceiling above them, a pigeon buffets its wings against wooden support beams and flutters around in obvious agitation. "Cattle rustlers. Resistance fighters." Some of the other names they use around the office aren't quite so kind.

There's a slow, subtle nod of her head at the recognition. "I've been working for them for a few weeks," she admits quietly against the fabric of his jacket, eyes closed. "I've… I've been helping them, because Tamara knows it's important that I do. Because— because I guess it's what's supposed to happen." The faith is still unwavering. "The building in New Jersey that blew up…" her nose presses against Judah's shoulder, words lost for a moment in hesitation, until she focuses on the colors and shapes Tamara makes up in her strange vision.

"I was there." The confession comes with a weight off of her shoulders, even if it is a small one. "I helped sneak people in… I helped rescue someone who was being help prisoner there, a friend." After Felix's reaction though, she doesn't elaborate on the Gabriel Gray part, not yet. "People got hurt, I— I got hurt. But— but I saved people. I used my ability…" She's proud of herself, proud of herself and not afraid of what she is anymore.

"Everyone told me not to register… everyone told me to— " She cuts herself off, lips pressing together tightly. "I made a decision for myself. I— I'm sorry I didn't tell you," her arms pulls tighter around Judah's shoulder. "I'm sorry… I'm sorry I worried you, that— that I didn't— I'm sorry I've been so… so distant." She swallows awkwardly. "I love you…" her jaw gives a tremble again, "Dad."

Judah considers all the appropriate punishments he might be able to impose on Colette. He could ground her. Barricade her in the spare bedroom back at his apartment and feed her through the gap under the door until such a time that she is too fat to move, never mind get into trouble. God knows he's considering it. "Pinehearst," he clarifies, more for his own benefit than hers. By the time they get home, it's inevitable that he'll have forgotten some of the details, but there are some — like this one — that he can't afford to have escape his notice.

Ducking under a support beam on his way out the front door, he steps out onto the curb and pauses to give Colette another once-over now that he has the dawn's glow to assist in his scrutiny. "I love you, too," he says, the words sounding angrier than he imagined them in his head, "but sometimes it isn't as simple as doing what you perceive is the right thing." Satisfied that the girl is in one piece, he begins making his way down the street to where his unmarked police cruiser is parked illegally in the mouth of a nearby alley. "I can't fudge the paperwork on this one, kiddo. Half the precinct's out looking for you."

There's a hesitant smile as she lifts her head up. "My phone got stolen a week ago," she notes with a faint smile, "I was staying with my friend Abigail across town, and I was too afraid to…" her milky white eyes wander away, then back, "tell you that I lost the phone. I'm an irresponsible teenager who'se used to living on the streets," she notes with a wry smile, "what ever will you do with me?"

Biting down on her lower lip, she adds a clarification. "I mean, you were so worried… and then I called you up from the Village Rennaisance building — I was at Abby's apartment — and told you I was okay." Her lips creep up into a worried, but at the same time gentle smile, "You're gonna' ground me for a month for not calling."

Then comes the wink. She's growing up fast.

Maybe she has something in her eye? Scowling faintly, Judah reaches around to tug open the cruiser door — the back, not the front. Colette has lost her shotgun privileges, if she ever had any to begin with. "Just make sure that your friend Abigail doesn't have the last name Beauchamp," he cautions as he deposits her into the backseat on top of his gym bag and spare change of clothes in the teen's size. "Do you know what the word 'incorrigible' means?"

Drawing her legs in to the back of the car, Colette's brows rise slowly as a crooked smile creeps up on her lips. "I think it means I've got a lot of explaining to do." Her nose wrinkles slightly, swallowing down a lump in her throat, but despite being in the back of a police cruiser with a detective looming over her. Colette can't help but think that in comparison to the last few weeks.

There's no other place she'd rather be.

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