Just Like Marseilles


delgado_icon.gif felix_icon.gif melissa_icon.gif raith_icon.gif sasha2_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Scene Title Just Like Marseilles
Synopsis A game of blackjack goes awry when Raith and Teo interview an old friend about Eileen's whereabouts. Melissa assists.
Date July 7, 2010

Staten Island: The Hog's Breath

Nightfall offers little respite from the heat and humidity smothering New York City like a wool blanket doused in a bucket of sweat, which is incidentally what the Hog's Breath smells like on the inside. Florescent lights hanging from a low ceiling struggle to penetrate the cigarette smoke that hangs above the heads of the bar's patrons, both at the bar itself and at the individual tables scattered throughout the small, one room establishment with the sign that proclaims a maximum seating of seventy-five, though regulars know that evening crowds used to double this number back when the Pancratium was still in business.

These days, it hovers around fifty give or take half a dozen greasy-haired heads with eyes on their cards, their money and their women— or, at least in Sasha Kozlow's case, somebody else's woman. Leather jacket draped over the back of his chair and booted feet lazily crossed at the ankle on the empty seat beside him, he sits across the table from an older man with a head of thick black hair and no jacket or shirt at all. Instead: the words Mara Salvatrucha tattooed across his left bicep and barbed wire twisted around his right forearm. A boxer mix, too, not of ink but the real deal panting heavily under the table with brown eyes squinted shut.

It's the skinny blonde at the stranger's side that has Sasha's attention rather than the dog, but this may have something to do with the fact he's so drunk the only thing keeping him upright is his elbow braced against the edge of the table. Not for the first time tonight, the cards go down, rumpled bills are pawed across the table and the dealer to the Russian's left collects the discarded hands for shuffling. "Moab Federal Penitentiary," Sasha is saying. "You burn it, they build another. Bad luck for people like us, eh?"

Sometimes you need to follow what should have been a relaxing afternoon with a few drinks at a bar. And that's the sort of day that Melissa is having. A beer or two, maybe a shot, that's all she really needs tonight. Yet even that much is enough to have her avoiding Shooters. Call her superstitious.

She walks into the bar, dressed in black jeans and a black tee-shirt, hair pulled up, because let's face it. It's hot and long hair doesn't help that little fact. And despite a shower, she carries a faint scent of salt from the ocean. Not that it stops her from strolling towards the bar, absently looking around. Most of the people don't get a second look, but Sasha…she's seen him before…Hasn't she? Maybe he's just got one of those faces.

He knows better than to be on this damned island. He died here, once, not so very far away, heart's blood spilled out over filthy sands. Maybe that explains the jumpiness that Fel just isn't able to shed. He looks nothing at all like the sleek and self-satisfied Federal agent who received that medal a year and a half ago. Fel's starveling gaunt, dressed in plain and threadbare clothes, sporting a salt-and-pepper goatee to match hair gone far more silver than it was. He's just come in with another, taller man, conversing quietly with him in rapid-fire Russian.

The Rookery: Nowhere on Staten Island will you find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. And really, that suits Jensen Raith just fine. 'Wretched hive of scum and villainy' is as close to his element as he is going to get without parachuting into the middle of Afghanistan. Despite it still being hotter than hell (or Texas), the ex-spy strolls inside of the Hog's Breath not long after Melissa does, although long enough that it doesn't look like they arrived together, wearing a long coat that would be good for concealing firearms (although it's not quite longer enough to permit him to hide a rifle or shotgun, so everyone gets off easy tonight). It is, of course, just as impractical for the weather as the sunglasses covering his eyes are impractical for the time of day. One of those guys.

He doesn't linger by the entrance, stepping just inside and giving the whole room a quick look over while he waits for his wingman. Even if he's not fishing for a date, it'd be a bad idea to ask the kind of questions he's about to without backup: He's not Batman. Sorry Colette.

Teo probably has the wrong face for this, but he has the wrong face for most things, these days. Date. Diplomacy. For the former, you want someone passably good-looking but not overly distracting. For the latter—

—the element of surprise helps, sometimes. Maybe not in Raith's times. Maybe that's why he's here. The Sicilian is wearing flannel over a T-shirt, jeans, ragged head of hair, a scar gouged into his cheek, the bulk of a jacket not quite bulky enough to conceal the fact that he's armed, the grip of one weapon poking out of the back, a knife at the wrist, which is probably just for show. Most people get kind of uncomfortable at the idea that you came planning to cut parts off. Everyone has a gun around here.

"Should we go in smoking?" he asks, treading up at the older man's side. He tips his head forward, peering over dingy counter-tops, at stained velvet, three or four interchangeable thugs, a Fed, and Melissa's ass. "A cigarette," Teo adds, helpfully. He might be joking, possibly at his companion's expense.

"Worse luck for them," the man on the other side of the table corrects Sasha in a thick, rolling accent. "You been living under a rock, hombre?" Two fingers tapped against the table's grainy surface indicates that he'd like another card — por favor — and that the game of the night isn't poker but Blackjack, Vingt-et-un or Pontoon, depending on who you ask.

Sasha takes a drag from the cigarette in his mouth, blows out twin trails of smoke through his nostrils on the back of a low, breathy laugh too quiet to be heard over the radio blasting in the background. "Messiah," he says. "I know." Too drunk to do anything about muzzle now huffing hot air against the inside of his thigh under the table except to shove the boxer's head roughly away with his knee, Sasha certainly doesn't notice Felix's entrance, but it helps that his back is to the door, giving his fellow Russian a view of his muscular physique and a long, bare neck. He flashes the skinny blonde a smile, similarly oblivious to Melissa's presence. "What do you think?" he asks. "Terrorists or fighters for freedom?"

Well not, not just one face she's sure she's seen before, but four? Melissa's lips curve in faint amusement, and she shakes her head, lifting a hand to Teo especially, but Raith and Felix are included as well. Of course, the word 'Messiah' grabs her attention instantly, but she forces herself not to show it. At least not too much. She does glance towards Sasha's group, head tilting slightly, but her face isn't one of intense interest, really it is.

Felix hasn't yet noticed Sasha. He's deep in conversation, or more accurately, argument with his companion - his Russian's deeply accented, and he's accompanying his little soliloquy with almost spastic gestures of his hands, diagramming something. Describing the virtues of a weapon, though slowed down and with more tenderness of expression, he might be sketching the curves of a lover's figure. And then he realizes where they are, and shoots the taller man an accusing look. His companion is phlegmatic in contrast to Fel's mercurial swiftness, the stolid, blockily-built sort that's practically a stereotype in and of himself. The mention of Moab has Fel looking over, fiercely, and then scowling at the back of Sasha's head.

"No smoking," Raith says back to Teodoro, "Tonight, our mouths ask questions, and are not otherwise occupied." Got that, gay boy? "I see someone worth asking a few questions to. Over playing cards there-" A quick nod of his head in Sasha's direction- "A couple someones, maybe. Here's the plan." Briefly, Raith pauses to hike up the shoulders of his coat a bit, just to make himself seem a tad larger.

"I'm going to go and sit down, see what I can work out of them. You go to the bar, get a double of something strong and don't drink it. If it starts looking like I'm getting in a fight, hang back and make sure the odds stay stacked in my favor. If it looks like I'm in deeper than I can swim, cast Fireball, and we'll take it from there.

"It'll be just like Marseilles, only less French and with worse credit ratings. Got it?"

Teodoro looks irritated at the initial set of instructions. He has a boyfriend! Raith knows he has a boyfriend. —Oh and he wouldn't just give any random Joe Schmuck a blowjob on Staten Island, either. Or not even on St — "Fine," he answers, a huff of a sigh. "Try not to use the floozy as a meat shield, all right?

"She's half as wide as you are." Equipped with this vague facsimile of gentlemanliness and the tiny teeny allowance a certain Frenchman had flapped in his direction mostly as a joke this morning, the Sicilian turns away, taking his startling scar out of the easy trajectory of view for the card-players. Starts to stump off toward the bar, scratching his jaw just below the bunched up tissue with one hand, unwrinkling the bill with his other.

Skinny Blonde turns her face against her companion's shoulder, head lolling tiredly, and reaches out across the table. A flick of her fingertips implores Sasha for his cigarette; unsurprisingly, he is more than happy to oblige, his smile becoming wolfish as he passes it across the short distance between them and makes a point to brush his hand against hers during the exchange. "Terrorists," she decides—

—and before she can get any further than that, Sasha is silencing her with an outstretched finger. "I used to think this also," he says. "In Chechnya, I fight rebels for what you call the Russian Federation, but it is not so black or white. You ask Elza Kungayeva. Zelimkhan Murdalov."

Though Melissa is still listening to Sasha's group, she leans against the bar, murmuring an order for a beer. When she spots Teo heading her way, she splits her attention between him and the group discussing Messiah, and she smiles at him. "Hi Teo. How's it goin'?" She glances towards Raith, then back to Teo. "Don't tell me you've ditched Francois. 'Cause I'll totally have to be on his side, all things considered."

The urge to do something quixotic and stupid is rising. But….really, there are cleaner methods of suicide than calling Kozlow out here and now. It doesn't mean Fel won't try, in a minute or two. His companion drags him to the bar, literally clamping a hand around his elbow. At least he doesn't fight it.

Teo shuffles off, and Raith shuffles over. Sasha Kozlow is an old face, but so is the guy sitting across from him. Been a long time since that little encounter, and probably plenty of hard feelings too. "Things are messy, that's for sure. Almost as bad here," he says to anyone at the table who cares to listen, coming in just at the tail end of Sasha's name game and trusting others to fill in what he means. Next, however, he addresses the Russian directly with a simple and plain, "Zdravstvuite, tovarishch. I'm so glad you have a moment to answer a few questions for me." Whatever Felix's urges are, it may well be that someone decided to do something stupid, if not quite quixotic, before him. Better luck next time.

Teo has successfully ordered his drink, and is now on the scintillating ninja tactical detail of: waiting for something to happen. As such, Melissa's arrival and Felix being bodily dragged over behind her is a mixture of welcome and unfortunately distracting. Every grown-up terrorist or spy has to have learned how to multi-task, however, particularly in the fine art of surveillance, and so it is with the blendered results of the ghost. "I'm all right, thanks," he answers. "I'm good. No, I'm still— he and I… I'm not—

"I'm not here for that," he finishes, realization, consternation, and then hastening reassurance tangling in his brow. Not to get overly defensive or anything. "'S work. I'm being discreet." He makes a small yet expansive gesture of his callused hands, framing his immediate situation between long fingers. This here is discretion, as long as he's talking about it in a quiet voice. "Good to see you're back on your feet and not ashamed of battle-scars, signorina," he says, tipping a gesture of his ragged head down at Melissa's summer clothes.

"Vithar," Sasha greets Raith, running his tongue over his front teeth, "or is it the Sword King again?" A rhetorical question, for the most part. He gently extracts his cigarette from Skinny Blonde's fingers, touches his tongue to the filter as if tasting the essence of her — or at least the lipstick she left smeared on the paper — and then uses it to gesture to her companion, the dark man with the tattoos. "This is Angel. Angel, my old friend," in the loosest sense of the word, "Jensen Raith.

"You want to make some money, Sword King? Better money than shooting at little girls in dark alleys? You talk to Angel. He fights dogs in the city."

Melissa watches Felix curiously as he gets dragged over, then shakes her head and looks back to Teo, shrugging. "If I hid all my scars, I've be covered from head to toe like those Indian woman. You know, where you can only see their eyes? And that is so not my look. And speaking of…thanks for the patch up job last week. Sorry for passing out on you. Just…still getting used to that part of my ability. It drains me more than the other."

Mention of work has her glancing to Raith and Sasha, then back to Teo. "So what kinda work is it you're doing anyway?" she murmurs quietly to him. "And who's the guy? I think I've seen him before, but can't quite place where." Tartarus was pretty crowded that night. It's easy to forget.

"Hey, little girls are one thing. Dogs are different." Meaning, Raith is apparently cool with shooting 'little girls,' but dogs are a no-go for him. "And hey, speaking of little girls, one of mine's gone missing. I'm wondering when the last time you saw the bird was. Just noticed that you seem to be in the area when someone on the island goes missing. Especially when someone's girls go missing." It's with a severe look that Raith adds that last bit. He knows it's generally not a true statement. Sasha knows it too. But Angel and Skinny Blonde? They probably don't, and any pressure that Raith can leverage is useful. "So, how about it, Mishka? You know anything?"

"You really don't have to apologize for that," Teodoro says, pushing the practically peat-colored beer that he had purchased over toward Melissa. He makes an invitation out of a splayed hand, and keeps Raith's towering frame in the corner of his eye, Sasha a flickering of long hands and white teeth adjacent that. No gunmetal. It doesn't even look like the tattooed thug who constitutes the background prop (haha) is posturing, so that's nice!

Teo isn't close enough to hear what Raith just said, so he can pretend he honestly thinks Raith is taking the subtle tack. "His name's Jensen. Try not to stare at him directly. He's working right now, too, and he's been in kind of a bitch of a mood the past few days. Short version is— research, I guess. He does some stuff for your old friends, too, 's maybe why you recognize him?" The Ferry, he means.

Angel's jaw has set like stone and brown eyes burn in the sunken sockets of a coarse but handsome face. Sasha's introduction wasn't necessary. Although he might not have known Raith's name until a few moments ago, his expression makes it clear that he at least knows who Raith is. Remembers.

Under the table, the boxer lets out a low growl. "Da," says Sasha, leaning back in his seat with a low creak of old wood and cheap upholstery, "I know she likes my cock better than yours." He taps off the ash at the end of his cigarette onto the floor. "Do not feel badly. It is not your monkey face or your horse teeth. Simply the nature of whores like Eileen."

He exhales slowly, this time through his mouth, smoke leaking through sharp teeth. "I will tell you where she is."

Melissa shakes her head. "I'm not talking about Raith. Him I've met. I'm talking about the other guy. The one he's talking to," she explains softly. "And maybe I don't have to apologize, but still. Fainting is rude." There's a long pause, then Mel's gaze flicks back to the table, and she frowns. She may not know Eileen well, or even trust her fully, but she still doesn't want anything bad to happen to her. "Oh yes, who is that bastard," she mutters, almost more to herself than to Teo.

Raith does not respond by lashing out at Sasha, but rather by very casually removing his sunglasses, folding them up, and placing them in the front pocket of his coat. A very, very important nonverbal cue for anyone who knows Jensen Raith, because it means he is anything but happy. "Alright, Aleksandr," he says, voice on the verge of a growl of its own, "Where is she?"

Oh, that one. Teodoro is doing his best not to stare directly at Sasha, even more than his companion. There is a world of pretend nonchalance in his smile, pristine except for the ruined corner. "Aleksandr Kozlow. He has a tendency toward mercenary fucking loyalties, from my understanding." He waits until the bartender slides off down the counter to attend to the whims of another customer, his long fingers closing around the frosted glass of the remaining beer. "Nearly killed my mom a few months ago.

"We're better, but." But Raith is taking his glasses off, a sign that something's nigh even if there's no cold metal composite drawn yet. "Good way to kill a night, I guess. How's your business lately?"

"In another man's bed, on her back with her legs wrapped around his middle," isn't the answer that Raith was hoping for, but it's probably along the lines of what he was expecting from the Russian. Sasha doesn't know anything, or if he does he keeps it hidden behind his predator eyes and ghoulish maw. "Maybe it is consensual," he says, making a vague gesture with his smoke-trailing hand as if to add then again, "maybe the other man is Feng Daiyu." Another brisk pull from his cigarette, and he's cocking his head, a deliberate invocation of his old Vanguard namesake. "Everyone knows he wants to fuck Holden in the ass, and with Holden gone— the daughter will do."

Melissa thinks for a moment then shakes her head. "Can't say I've ever heard the name before." Though something in the way she says that makes it sound as though she won't be forgetting it again. "Business is business. It's going. You guys really think that Aleksandr guy knows where Eileen is though?"

"Hey, paisano," Raith says not to Sasha, but to Angel, who is likely just as surprised by what happens next as anyone, except for Sasha, who is probably more surprised than anyone: The ex-spy reaches over and calmly wraps his hand around the handle of Angel's half-full beer mug.

"I need to borrow this."

Lightning quick, Raith snatches up the vessel and drives it into Sasha's face, full force, not at all like he would if he were swinging a bottle. Rather, it's more akin to punching the Russian with a boxing glove. Made out of glass.

Neither of Teodoro's characteristically expressive eyebrows budge an inch as he watches the slow-motion car-wreck of fundamental personality clashes and drunken temper come to a head while appearing to watch Melissa and no one else. He exhales a lugubrious sigh, the next moment, stands up with a stolid, percussive scrape of chair legs on scarred floorboards, leaving a palm-print streaked across the bar's surface.

"Nah. Pretty sure work's over, now," he adds, a caption for his former fellow Ferry operative.

The object of demonstration to which the caption belongs is the card table, naturally, and the Sicilian goes there to flip it over onto Sasha with a push of his foot, a vicious arc of kinesis, for no better reason than that the more things that land on him, the more evenly the bad mood distributes itself around. Also, his leg is long enough to reach past Raith without interfering with anything the card dealer may be doing, and if the card dealer has been working here for any length of time, he's probably going to—

That train of thought is interrupted by the sound of Skinny Blonde's screaming, as abrupt as it is shrill.

Fortunately for Sasha, the glass is more brittle than his jaw and breaks first. Unfortunately for Sasha, the blow sends him to the floor where the same rules apply, and his face doesn't stand much of a chance against concrete. He makes a wild grab for the edge of the table but lacks the sobriety and coordination to do much more than slap his hand against it when he goes down. His first thought upon finding it on top of him, if he is thinking at all, is that he underestimated his own strength.

At the same time, Angel is surging up out of his seat and roughly shouldering Skinny Blonde aside before he launches himself across the table at Raith's back. Playing cards flutter through the air, glass shatters, a chair tips over and clatters noisily to the floor all in the span of a few seconds, and in the ones that follow Angel has a meaty arm wrapped around Raith's neck.

The dealer, meanwhile, has popped out of existence with a sizzle and a bang, only to reappear an instant later on the other side of the bar, reaching for the sawed off shotgun management keeps behind it.


Brows lift as Raith goes from talking to violence, but Melissa doesn't seem shocked. A smack in the face with a beer mug is pretty tame compared to her last week. "That's one way of getting your point across," she says dryly. But then things all go to hell and she sighs softly. She doesn't really know any of them, but Raith helped save her ass once, so she owes him.

Melissa takes in a slow, deep breath, and she focuses on Angel. He's the one trying to strangle Raith, after all. Pain, lots of pain. She doesn't need to look like she's anything but an innocent bystander to help, and right now, that's just peachy. And if she can hurt Angel enough to have him letting go of Raith, it's peachy keen. So she amps it up as high as she can, focusing all that wonderful pain right on the bad guy of the moment. Pity she doesn't notice the shotgun being grabbed.

Raith is man enough to admit when he screws up (and can't blame it on someone else), and this is exactly what happened here. Fortunately, there is the matter of skill and training to take into account, and however badass Angel might be, he is not and never will be Jensen Raith. When he gets caught in a sleeper hold, he grabs ahold of the wrist that isn't snaked around behind his throat and pulls on it while pushing up the elbow of the same arm and spinning, getting him free and leaving him with the advantage in the fight. Enough of an advantage to smash his own elbow into the back of Angel's head. Maybe not hard enough to knock him out, but definitely enough to give his cage a good rattle. But that's all from Raith in this fight. As soon as he's 'in the clear,' he saves the bartender the trouble of 'asking' him to leave and starts right for the door, trusting Teo to follow. If they don't leave anymore behind than a split lip and a splitting headache, then a couple weeks time might actually allow them to come back inside.

Because obviously this bar is a hot spot and they want to come back here? For some reason? Ever? goes the rhetoric shot at Raith's back out of Teo's eyes, which are narrow with the realization that he has yet to punch Sasha even once for having nearly murdered his fucking mother. Teo doesn't pull out a gun or even his knife, though. He can recognize when it is time to start shooting, and unfortunately, a barfight over crude assessments of Eileen's virtue isn't it.

He twists a turn and runs like a dog at Raith's heels, a gallumph of solid boots on uneven floor. Teo snares a quick backward glance at Melissa by way of salutation, one hand up, wrist to the saliva-mottled hole in his cheek to wipe. See you later.

A thrust of his legs and a twisting hips extracts Sasha from under the table just in time to duck down again as the sound of a shotgun blast sends the Hog's Breath's remaining patrons scurrying for cover like rats plunging off a sinking barge and blows a hole through the front window, spraying the street outside with pulverized glass shards. He's not sure who the dealer was aiming for, but it also doesn't particularly matter to him.

He's a bad shot, and Sasha is in his element. It's the screaming he has a problem with. Skinny Blonde's more than Angel's, which is an agonized byproduct of Melissa's ability rather than Raith's well-aimed blow to his head and is forgivable if only because it doesn't remind him of a telephone someone left ringing. A clumsy fist aimed at her mouth puts a swift end to the sound. Unsurprisingly, he does not have the courtesy to catch her or ease her down when she falls.

Unlike the dealer, the boxer that had been under the table before it was overturned does not have the ability to disappear and reappear at will, but one minute it's barking at Raith, and the next it's back at its master's side, providing him with a strong back and shoulders Angel can use to support himself while he recollects his bearings— or tries to.

The dealer hitches mid-swing, his weapon aimed at Teo's back, but the Sicilian is already turning to go. "I was not playing!" Sasha calls after them. "Ask Nidhogg!"

It's not horrible advice.

When Raith starts to hightail it out of there, Melissa lets Angel go free of her ability. But of course, then there's someone threatening Teo. Since when did the damsel become the one rescuing knights in distress? Another soft sigh, but the pain is turned from Angel to the dealer, while she starts to move as casually as possible towards the door. Nothing to see here. No pain manipulators working their mojo on anyone. Nope. Just a goth heading for the door.

"Ignore him," Raith growls vaguely in Teo's direction as he steps through the door, out of the fight and into the night, whether or not his partner is close enough to actually hear him growling, "Just keep walking."

Teo doesn't know who the fuck that is. Nidhogg. Everybody has a ridiculous fucking handle and the glance he shoots Raith is a little more murderous than the older man probably strictly deserves, but it might make Raith feel better on some level. It certainly isn't bookish indifference. "I didn't even get to fucki—" Whatever he was going to finish that complaint on is bitten off by the backswing clack and squealing hinges of the door.

An instinctual contraction of the muscle's in the dealer's trigger finger. A brief moment of clarity. Sheer willpower. Any number of things could go wrong.

But they don't.

The weapon's muzzle wavers, drops, and the street outside is silent except for the sound of voices buzzing anxiously behind them once the air clears and the actual danger has passed.

There's a brief moment where Melissa is expecting the gun to go off. It's happened before, it'll happen again. When it doesn't, she breathes a sigh of relieve, and drops the pain, moments before she hits the door and hurries out. She doesn't wait, or look for the others, but just hurries off.

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