Italian Ice


bao-wei3_icon.gif bella_icon.gif

Scene Title Italian Ice
Synopsis Kismet acts again as Bella and Bao-Wei's paths cross in Little Italy.
Date August 28, 2010

Little Italy

Every year a little more of Little Italy disappears to the advances of cultural gentrification of the surrounding neighborhoods. The bomb was not kind to this tiny neighborhood, consisting of just two main streets; Mullberry Street and Mott Street, and several smaller intersecting streets of Hester, Broom, Grand, Kenmare, and Spring Streets.

Visually, Little Italy looks like much of Manhattan does these days, and that is to say it looks tarnished. Many once famous businesses are boarded up and closed, some buildings have minor structural damage from flung debris and the shockwave of the bomb that ravaged the city, and the public works condition of the neighborhood leaves much to be desired, with large pot-holes in the roads and cracks in the pavement and sidewalks where weeds grow up through.

Much of the neighborhood has been absorbed by Chinatown in the last few years, as immigrants from China and other East Asian countries moved to the area. The northern reaches of Little Italy, near Houston Street, ceased to be recognizably Italian, and eventually became the neighborhood known today as NoLIta, an abbreviation for North of Little Italy. Today, the section of Mulberry Street between Broome and Canal Street in Chinatown, is all that is left of the old Italian neighborhood. The street is lined with some two-dozen Italian restaurants popular with tourists, and seemingly very few locals. Unlike Chinatown, which continues to expand in all directions with new immigrants, little remains of the original Little Italy.

Notably, Mott Street has become a large area of influx for Chinese immigrants, and most residents of New York City know that Mott Street belongs to the last and most powerful of the Chinese Mafia in New York City, the Ghost Dragons.

It has been an endless cycle of sun and moon, ever since that night the hospital fell- Bao-Wei Cong has spent all of these awake, unhungered moments in relative solitude, save for contact on so few occasions. In that form he had reconstituted, he did not need to sleep, nor eat, nor breathe. It has been a silent struggle to reassimilate himself with these functions; breathing was savorable enough, but it came as a shock when he fell tired- and when he simply felt that gnawing feeling on the inside. Necessary human things had become forgettable.

Being forgettable himself is another matter. It is not in his nature to be forgotten. But now, it is something necessary. That long, heavy, insulated coat that Bella had seen care enough to leave him, surprisingly enough, makes this much easier. Cong can pass as an unmentionable presence on the streets. Being without a 'place', and being without a self- it makes living nowhere simple, as everyone assumes him to be just another destitute. The low-slung hat helps less than the unbearably warm-looking coat and woolen pants, yet he seems to have taken it regardless. These, in addition to tattered winter boots and a pair of leather gloves, makes sure that nary a soul approaches him when he moves street to street, and assures him safe passage through areas where others- like him- are dwelling, scrounging, and otherwise surviving.

Bao-Wei has made it to his old stomping grounds as of today, taking his time in getting to the area around Mott Street. Sitting against a wall in a dirty alleyway is not how he envisioned the end of summer. Nor was the corpse-like state of his body, frozen in a mid-thaw, flesh oft refusing to stick and breath still coming out in plumes of smoke.

There is a reason he is here, however. It is a singular reason on his mind, having so little left. So little left that he has resorted to becoming venomous for old ideals and equally old enemies.

Would you believe that Bella is just here to buy fresh pasta?

The semblance of normality that resuming therapeutic sessions has granted her has given Dr. Sheridan a further sense of boldness. Neither disguised nor over-shoulder glancing, pointedly unafraid, Bella ventures into Little Italy in hopes of locating a shop that is still a remnant of the old guard, a place run by some Napoli family whose great grandfathers got off at Ellis Island. The slow consumption of the place by Chinatown is viewed with maybe the slightest latent Orientalist anxiety. What about the bistros? What about the gelato?

Her search for just the right ingredient, and her what might be called strange giddiness, makes her search rather rambling and prone to following up strange leads. Old signs, trying to track the source of a smell… She jaywalks freely, daring the city to upset the normalcy of her day.
Tempting fate.

Tempting fate is much harder than avoiding it, somehow.

There is that peculiar feeling of something amiss when Bella first passes by the view afforded by the opening of walls; he sees the red hair, the familiar gait- but none of it registers until she is crossing at the center of the street, picking up her heels and walking through as if the world were all good and kind. But, it is not good and kind, and the people are not good and kind. The day, however, is. Nothing is going to adversely affect her, while she's out. Not unless she counts the stalker she acquires upon wheedling past the alley and its denizens in the nooks and crannies.

Provided she is not completely at ease, it doesn't take much to notice him tailing her, even at a distance.

Bella hasn't totally overcome her paranoia. In fact, her appearance of normalcy is built rather on an oppositional basis. 'I won't look over my shoulder. I won't do it, even if I want to' - a line of thinking that builds into an anxiety that has to be appeased with the occasional 'excuse'. 'Oh, wait, where was I, I have to check the street sign I just passed.' 'Hold on, did I miss a storefront there?' Little reasons why she can fulfill her otherwise suppressed desire.

Just the coat alone may not have rung a bell. The hat by itself, too, may not have sufficed. But both… both is too much. Incognito is itself a look, and when you assembled that look yourself, it gains a whole new level of conspicuous.

She doesn't react, not visibly, not a first. She keeps walking until she stops at a street corner and purposefully lingers by the traffic light, lifting a hand to her brow, shadowing her eyes as she scans the signs, both street and store. Waiting. Killing time. Letting him catch up.

The last thing that he needs is to chase her across a street and get sent into a billion more popsicle bits. She lets him catch up, and he does, in a few moments. The very first thing that he does, coming alongside, is peer over and down to her- his features are that icy, drained color- but it is Bao-Wei, however decomposing he may be. One glove lifts up to tilt the front of that hat up, and he narrows his eyes.

"…This is not conspicuous at all." Did he make a joke? Sure, if you want to think so. Using that perpetually irritated look while doing it makes it difficult to pull off.

Bella will take it as a joke, but that doesn't mean she's react with mirth. She glances at him just once to confirm it's… oh yes… that's him, or what's left of him. Oookay… Looking away, at somewhere else, as if she doesn't know him, is much easier now that she knows what she'll be missing.

"If you want to lead me to a more private locale, please, by all means do," Bella replies, with just a touch of waspishness, likely her own form of joking, though similarly difficult to be certain of, in great part because it's not particularly, you know… funny. More just wry. "I'm glad to see you are getting out, though. Why here, might I ask?" Why anywhere, really?

He squints again, somewhat unsure of where she was going with that. Bao-Wei is the master of taking things in the completely wrong way, making it personal, you know. Making it personal is exactly what he is doing here. Hands stuff themselves wrist deep into pockets. Unlike Bella's edginess, he steels his gaze on her.

"Here is as well as anywhere." Cong tips his head in a nod towards a sign a ways down the busy street, hanging innocently off of the side of a building, an arrow pointing down into the basement level. "Wo-Hop. It is the seat used by the Ghost Dragons."

Because all organized crime operates out of restaurants.

Bella wouldn't even have the faintest guess at who the Ghost Dragons are if she didn't know about Cong's past with the Triads. As it is, she must guess (if correctly), and ask for corroboration. "Old associates?" Bella inquires. Must be, right? "Then here is more than just anywhere. Here is Wo-Hop, the seat of… whoever. …Doctor Cong, could you tell me what you are doing? I don't want to-" a pause, a hesitation, she still has to tread softly with him, "I would like you to be able to tell me. I ask only that I be permitted to advise you - I won't interfere."

"They teamed up with Linderman and took Chinatown. No associates of mine." Bao-Wei practically hisses, brow and mouth wrinkled in the best of cantankerous looks. "I plan to make it clear they made a terrible mistake." Simple as that. Doctor Cong passes a glare to a man that peers back at him after strolling by; and in turn the man abruptly speeds up.

"I think that perhaps my state gives me license to move. I am here to figure out how."

"What will you do to them?" Bella asks, and it's not a 'goodness gracious, what will you do to them?' It's a simple request for information. If there is tension in her voice is accounts only for her concern, not any nascent sense that she'll try and dissuade him. "There are enough vacant places in this city, certainly. Places to be but not be seen. Does it… is it difficult to stay like that? In so compact a form?" She retains some curiosity as to the nature of Bao-Wei's transformation, though nothing as morbid or fixed as Gregor's.

"I have a newfound love for popsicles." Doctor Cong replies, his tone flat. "It is. It hurts." He gives one short grunt, hand lifting to brace at the other elbow, gripping around it. "I fall apart at the seams if I don't make efforts not to. Literally, falling apart. It is what happened the first time." Bao-Wei quiets just slightly.

"I plan on settling in midtown somewhere. Eventually. Possibly underneath…"

"I'd like to know where you settle, when you do," Bella states, tone brusque, "I'd like to know what you're doing. If something should happen… I'd like to have the chance to do something." Do what, exactly, she doesn't explain. Probably because she isn't sure herself. If there were anything that the the thing Bao-Wei has become couldn't handle, it's not very likely that little Bella Sheridan would be able to do much.

As for popsicles… "Just be careful," Bella says, "don't let them track you down. They'll make you disappear. Killing you is the least of what they could do." That Bao-Wei might be deserving, after his own rather fatal test regimen, of being on the other side of the glass is obviously not a criticism Bella can level.

"There are plenty of hiding places. I will manage. There would not be much you could do." In some vague way, he sounds reassuring. "If I move on them, I will strike deep- I can tell you that much. I know how they operate." Bao-Wei shifts, turning to examine the other part of the street, only to come face to face with the redhead when he looks back. "To be quite honest with you-"

"I would probably welcome death. I do not have much left, aside."

"Don't make this into a grand tragedy, some sort of… revenge story," Bella says, braving a look right at Bao-Wei, trying to drive her point home. She's seen some Hong Kong cinema, she knows the huge cultural jones they seem to have for suicidal vengeance, acts beyond the edge of desperation. Orientalist, you say? Whatever, I say! "If you have nothing… find something. Don't be lazy."

This may have been too much. And Bella knows it. She looks away, then slowly back. "…if you need to die, die. But if you can live, you might as well try."

She was right. He doesn't like being insulted- even in such a context. "This isn't only revenge. It is about making a point. It is the principle, not the outcome." Doctor Cong grits his teeth as he looks down at her, the movement rough in cold muscle. Cold air exhales from his mouth and nose.

"What is there? For someone like me?" Bao-Wei's questioning starts, his volume low and intent, for once in a long time, earnest. "And why, Isabella, do you even care? You have made yourself my only connection through your own actions, but I have yet to figure out that why, in your self-serving wisdom, you began to give a shit in the first place."

"My reasons," Bella says, sounding instantly defensive, "Are purely pathological." Of course, she could never own something like sentiment, could never make claim to some sort of moral basis for her actions. That would be mawkish at best. At best. "There is nothing to understand. There are reasons, but they are not reasonable. I am…" her jaw tenses, "does it matter? Do you want me to stop?" Turning the question around, a classic tactic, as old as they come. And not particularly crafty.

Even on his best days, Doctor Cong's sanity before The Institute was questionable. It has depressed in on itself until this. Though it is not outwardly marking of him, his increasing irrationality shows more and more. For a mind like his, it pains him nearly as much as the ice tearing at his insides. His features are livid, and if they could drain of blood, they would be; as it were, he is already pale enough so that the hollows of his eyes pronounce, and the once rounder parts of his face have sunken. The mismatched eyes are so visible this closeby- and even moreso when his left glimmers lighter under the shade of his brim.

Bella is not dignified with a response, it seems. Or perhaps he just does not want to say the answer to her face. Bao-Wei shifts again, beginning to trek- albeit at a slow, almost cumbrous pace- off of Mott Street and down the walk.

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