It Pays to Be a Bitch


logan_icon.gif sasha2_icon.gif

Scene Title It Pays to Be a Bitch
Synopsis In exchange for a letter, Sasha receives updates on his sister.
Date August 4, 2010

The Lucky Monkey

Painted paper fans, bead necklaces, ornate jade figurines and fine china, silk scarves, porcelain trinket boxes in the shapes of the animals that correspond to the Chinese zodiac – there's no shortage of merchandise to peruse at the Lucky Monkey in Chinatown. Of course, if your name is Sasha Kozlow, then peruse roughly translates to shoplift. A sign hung on the shop's door warns that shoplifters will be prosecuted, but the Russian already has more to answer for than petty theft and does not particularly care about the consequences should he be caught. For one thing, he has a knife.

For another, he has John Logan: more effective than any weapon he can wield with his hands. Callused fingers wind a necklace around his knuckles, inspecting its make, but it must not be what he's looking for because he places it back on its hook and moves onto the next shelf, his attention drawn to small abacus with wooden beads painted a deep blood red. A flick of his thumb sends one of them spinning with a noise like a top.

On the other hand, why you'd want to steal from a place with so many single digit prices is beyond Logan, reserved only for rebellion-streaked teenagers and, maybe, bored Russians. Logan can't remember the last time he stole anything. He remembers coming home, once, heavy with the anxiety of telling Sarah that he was leaving the country. Finding it empty and in that fit of irrational anger, pawing hands through the heavy jewelry box on her dresser, picking out the most expensive things in the house, the pink-diamonds and glimmering gems set in silver, set in gold, matching sets of bracelets, earrings, pendants. He'd sold them.

Most of them. His hands are current in pockets, right now, of a light jacket over black cotton, black jeans, boots, and as ever, tends to look washed out when he's not gaudied up in his finery — probably just out of comparison, what the eye is used to associating with him. Maybe it's a learned lesson. Maybe that kind of armor doesn't apply, here.

"Who're you shopping for?" is facetious, aimed at Sasha's shoulderblades.

"Tania." Tania, who probably wouldn't look twice at an abacus unless she's taken an interest in arithmetic since he saw her last, and judging by the way the spinning bead fails to hold his attention for the short time it takes to stop— that isn't a very likely prospect. He rubs his hand along his jaw, scratches at a scab beneath the bristle of his beard and seems not to notice that his blunt nails come away tinged with blood. He's old enough to know better to pick at it, especially coming from the background that he does, but very rarely does knowing better stop him from doing something.

"In case the letter is not enough," he elaborates with a vague gesture of that same hand. Blue eyes squint at a nearby chart designed to help customers identify what animal they were born under. "Dog," he mutters. "Is this good?"

Rather than look and pay attention for that answer, Logan comes to halt in front of a rack containing light foods, dried up, shrivelled fried things dusted with something that he cannot tell from the packaging whether it would be sweet or savoury. Chinese letters print incomprehension on the plastic, bizarre cartoons, and the corners of his mouth quirk up at the thought of Mu-Qian, one of the most beautiful things to come out of China, in comparison to this place. A tip of his finger sends a package swinging on its hook.

Lets out a sigh, wistful sounding, and remembers the conversation he's having. "Pays to be a bitch, in this world," is all he offers, easy comment slithering past his teeth before he really thinks about it.

The corners of Sasha's mouth pull into a toothy frown and he picks up the dog-shaped trinket box, which is dwarfed by the sheer size of his hands. He could probably crush it in one if he had any inclination to — instead, he gingerly removes its head, looks inside and wrinkles his nose. A gruff snuff later, his features are contorting into an expression of disgust and he places the box back on its shelf.

"Your language, he says, then. "Around my sister, it changes." The statement is accompanied with a sidelong glance in Logan's direction, a sliver of watery blue eye visible between two greasy curls of hair that is either brown or a very washed out red depending on the light or weather or not he's showered in the last week.

Bird-like in its twitch, Logan glances towards Sasha, a look up and down before he's back to focusing on his surroundings, momentarily quiet if only because he has about ten different defenses all clamouring for release in his throat.

His fingers dance awkwardly along the edge of a lower shelf, where paper lanterns are folded up and plastic-wrapped, their unfettered counter-parts strung from the ceiling above their heads, and turns a shoulder to the Russian. "I don't know your sister," he settles on. "But she's costing me a pretty penny. Babysitter wants five grand up front, that's if nothing else happens. Not that she's getting any more than that. I've hired men for filthier work and for less."

Sometimes nothing. "But here it hangs in the balance of buying tourist trinkets made by children paid twenty pence an hour. You've got the letter?"

Sasha reaches into his jacket with a hand wrapped in gauze bandages. When it comes out again, he's holding an envelope addressed to someone in an alphabet Logan recognizes but does not understand. Presumably, the letters spell Tania Kozlow's name. It's a flimsy thing, suggesting that its contents are sparse — one page, at most. Nonetheless, his body language is reluctant when he offers the envelope to the other man.

It's sealed.

There's a slight twitch upwards of eyebrows, as if Logan hadn't expected that prompt to achieve results. Facing him, now, he scans over the offering before he reaches to take it, between two fingers like he holds cigarettes. "Ta," he thanks him, less sharply facetious than his default, breaking eye contact to note himself folding the thing over to tuck into a wallet as if it were money. In some ways, it is a currency. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of annoyance for its closure — there are ways to open sealed envelopes without breaking it, should he desire.

The unhappy twist of Sasha's mouth betrays his not-so-secret hope that Logan does not. The floorboards creak under his booted feet as he circles around a wicket basket filled to the lip with colourful silk scarves, some with more elaborate patterns than others but all priced the same. "I want to see her," he says, fishing out a shimmery piece of pale blue fabric. "When you bring her to America, I want to see her." Spreading the scarf between his hands reveals a flowering vine with soft pink plumes and an indigo songbird with little feet curled around it.

A sign pinned to the basket informs him that the price of the scarf is exactly fifteen dollars. He folds it once, twice, and slips it into his jacket.

Suppressing the urge to glance towards shopkeepers, Logan only glances at the fleeting glimmer of scarf he sees. He doesn't protest the stealing. He also doesn't protest the selection, head tilting in some tic of approval, for all that it also has his jaw setting, expression as hard as it tends to be. "The idea is that it's a magic trick," he says, leaning a hip against some angle of furniture. "Now you see her, now you don't. They'll be on you, big boy, as soon as she's gone.

"But we can arrange something." There, hasty patching over, but not entirely insincere. "Just exercise some patience. The point of this wasn't a reunion — it's for you. And you wouldn't be seeing her at all, or writing her, if it wasn't for me. The blue'll look nice on her." Apropos of nothing, Logan allows for a twitch of a smile. "Better, if she had your eyes. But nice."

Nice is good enough for Sasha. He pinches the zipper of his jacket between two fingers and skips it up the center of his chest. "What will you do?" he asks Logan with a lift of his ruddy brows. "The Kershner woman knows we are connected. If she cannot find me," and if the Russian has anything to say about it, then she won't, "she will come for you, is this not true?"

The concern in his voice is difficult for Logan to recognize if only because it isn't something he hears very often, or at all. "Linderman will not protect you from this Institute everyone is speaking of."

Concern meets nonconcern, the latter of which unsure of what to do with the former, uncertainty briefly flaring in pale eyes, a glance away, mouth twists at the corner. That Logan tends to plan for the short term is happenstance enough for him to recognise it, but with the ease of a shrug, he dismisses this entirely.

"Besides that, what's she got on me?" he says. No idea. South London lispiness filters into his speech in familiar bravado of a younger time, mouth tilted in a half-smile. "It's not like you predict everything coming at you in a fight to win, and if I need to vanish myself for a little while, so be it. And I don't know much about any institute, but fuck, I've avoided that for this long."

"I could kill her," Sasha offers, entirely unaware of the significance of the scarf hidden away in his jacket in relation to this brusque statement. "If you asked me to. The glasses man," he curves a hand around his middle to indicate Agent Epstein's gut in case there's any question about who he's referring to, "cannot be with her always. It would be easy."

But maybe not clean is the implication, a beat of stilted silence tacked onto the end of his last sentence before he's turning to feign interest in the wind chimes dangling from a low rafter above their heads. "Please?"

Plotting death, surrounded by wafer-thin paper fans, cellophane fragments arranged in dragon shapes, shining plastic figurines, surfaces that seem to emit as much light and colour as the houselight halos set into the ceiling above their heads. Logan smiles once, scuffs a heel of his plain boot against the smooth floor. "Fantastic plan. Fantasticer if it had've happened in Brooklyn," he says, with some amount of wistfulness, a shrugging motion that flares out the hems of his jackets like wings before falling neutral again.

If Sasha takes this as permission, he makes no outward indication of it. Instead, an imaginary switch flips inside his head, he rolls the tension from his neck and shoulders and lets the subject drop as easily as a small child on the other side of the store loses her grip on a ceramic teacup, scattering pieces of painted porcelain across the floorboards to be swept up by the Lucky Monkey's proprietor with one of the corn brooms also on sale closer to the back.

"I have money today," he feels compelled to say, quietly prideful and maybe a little bit sly. "I will buy us lunch."

And if Logan sees the light switch flip, he isn't about to draw attention either, or assert his right over the outcome of everything. He rocks a step back, the light of the day struggling its way into the cluttered store and slicing over the plain material of his jacket, over narrow shoulders and past long neck. Bats his eyes at these words, or rapidly blinks in mock-surprise, the corners of his mouth twisting into a suppressed kind of smile. He has money today.

(Nicked scarf for his sister, money for food for Logan. If you discount the practicality factoring in on either side, assume that the risk-factor is low enough to not matter: Logan is the winner!)

"I could eat," he decides, for all that he picks up at his food like a bird, has a six pack of beer and an inexplicable half-bag of baking soda in his pantry, a box of cigarettes where soup spoons might be. He probably is too thin and it's little wonder. "You too, I expect." He turns on a heel and heads for out, not bothering to trade so much as a smile at the employee manning the counter and waiting for no purchases from either man.

Sasha, on the other hand, pantomimes tipping a hat that he does not have when they pass, but the woman behind the counter is so distracted by the pieces of broken china posing a health hazard to her other customers that she doesn't notice anything amiss — not even the sliver of blue silk just visible above his jacket's zipper.

He can always eat.

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