King's Ransom


claire2_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif

With thanks to Cardinal for emits

Scene Title King's Ransom
Synopsis … Not really, but definitely some interesting things in this cache.
Date Jan 27, 2010

Somewhere in Midtown

Amongst the various notes and addresses in the files was a well-buried one, perhaps conspicuous in its inconspicuousness. It's on the other side of Midtown from the library, an old apartment complex that was abandoned after the bomb - probably because the building's teetering dangerously to one side with one of its walls crumbling, a pile of rubble already built up at the foot of the building. The fire escape hangs like a dangling rope, occasionally creaking and squealing in the wind above a set of stairs leading down to a basement door.

Needless to say, it's no longer fit for human residence.

When she finds herself outside this building, Elisabeth stares at the place. "Christ, Richard… you pick the most inhospitable places to stash shit," she grumbles softly. The place looks like it's going to fall down around her ears. She carefully picks her way through the building to the side, considering the matter. Up? Or down? Well…. down might be a little more secure. Maybe? Might as well start at the bottom and work her way up, since the address she has doesn't indicate something so simple as an apartment number in this case. She moves as cautiously as possible to the basement door, checking first to see if it's locked and then chuckling softly as she blesses Alec for teaching her the basics of picking locks and giving her a beautifully professional little set of picks.

The basement door's bolted shut from the inside, but a little bit of working at the lock gets it to open with a slow, reluctant clank, the rusty hinges creaking as it swings open. The basement itself is trashed; half the ceiling's caved in upon it, there's rubble everywhere amongst mouldering pieces of what might have once been furniture.

Ducking under some fallen supports, though, she'll find the bottom half of a door almost concealed by the debris. It looks like it opens inward, and there's no lock evident on the door itself.

She'll soon discover, however, that it's welded shut. From the inside.

Richard never did care for using doors much.

"Sonuvabitch," Elisabeth grouses. Looking around, she considers the possibilities. Getting a bearing on where this particular part of the space is, she heads back out and toward the next level of the building, seeking to put herself just above the secured space. Perhaps a hole in the floor — either already in place or one she can make will get her in there.

The lowest floor of the building is rather unstable, the mouldering carpeting creaking ominously underfoot as she works her way through. The easy part is finding the apartment that was over whatever room is sealed up in the basement - but unfortunately, that floor is still intact.

Old apartment building at least equals fire axe somewhere out there…. she hopes. Liz heads back through the building seeking such a thing. Finally, off to one side of a stairwell that looks like it's going to cave in any second, she finds what she's looking for. Then she heads back to the apartment and strips off her jacket, setting to work using the ax to chop a hole through the floor down into — she hopes — the secured room below. It's a good way to work off her frustration and rage too!

"God" whack "damn" whack "you" whack "Richard!" whack, whack, whack "Always makin' it difficult!"

It's good exercise. She's breathing heavily by the time she manages to get a big enough hole in the floor to see if she can even see below. Please, God don't let there be a metal room or something stupid down there!

The carpet's stripped up, and the axe's blade taken to the wooden flooring. It's not long before she tears through the insulation and finds —


Luck isn't entirely against her, though, because there's an access in the concrete ceiling for a light fixture; if she were to cut the cables leading down there and pull them out of the way, she could probably drop down into the room.

Lying on her stomach peering into the hole, Elisabeth rests her chin on the floor and mutters, "I hate you," to the empty room. Crawling back to her jacket, Liz pulls out the small maglite to tuck into her pocket. An ax is not the best tool for cutting wires, but … the power's out and the blade's sharp, so it works out well enough. When the light fixture pulls out of the way, Liz gives a thought to what happens if she drops into the room below and can't get out. And then sighs. "Fuck it… I'm blowing the door out of the way." It's not like she'll come back here again. She'll just have to hope that blowing the damn door outward won't knock out the support beams holding this ridiculous firetrap together.

She peers downward with the flashlight to see first if there looks to be any real reason to drop down there. A quick text goes to Claire with the address and a notation that if Claire does not hear from her in 30 minutes, come dig her out of the rubble — she collapsed the building. And then she squiggles around to drop her feet through the hole, wiggling this way and that to shove her slender form through a hole that is not meant to accomodate a human being — even one with a minuscule rack.

It's been years since the building was on the power grid, at least, so there's no problem with cutting the wires and hauling up the remains of the light fixture - there aren't even any bulbs in it. The flashlight's beam flickers over the edge of a cot and some shelving, so there might be something down there.

After a bit of squirming, she can drop down into the room, and it becomes far more evident that someone once lived here. The concrete-walled shelter is loaded with the souveniers of a thousand thefts, rare ceramics and glittering jewels sitting incongruously beside cans of campbell's soup and baked beans. A bunkbed's pushed up against one wall, scattered with mismatched pillows and blankets. Expensive paintings hang on bare concrete surrounded by newspaper clippings of various incidents, beside a simple wooden cross hung on a single nail. A gasoline-powered generator sits in a corner, hooked up to a dark lamp and silent radio tucked into the corner of this forsaken place. A gas can and siphon hose rest beside it. It's an eclectic dwelling, to be certain. On one wall, beneath a pull-up bar anchored into the concrete, has been painted the words: "The best in this kind are but shadows, and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them. - W. Shakespeare"

Next to the cot, there's a milk crate filled with file folders.

As her light plays about the room, Elisabeth stares. Sucking in a deep breath, she reaches out and touches not one of the sparkly things on the shelves but the wooden cross on the wall. So many things she didn't know about the man. So many differences in the lives they've lived for so long. "Oh, Richard," she whispers softly, looking around. This is the single most secure location she's come across… and something tells her that it's more important than the others, not for its contents but for its security. It's his haven. Where he hid from the world. Where he went when he didn't come to her. Blowing the breath she'd been holding out in a slow stream, she reaches up absently to wipe tears she hadn't realized were there until that moment. And then she moves toward the cot with its crate of folders.

Elisabeth sits on the mattress, putting her flashlight in her mouth while she pulls file folders from the crate and pages through them.

The first folder is unlabeled, and what's in it is photographs.

There are plenty of surveillance photos in the files back at the library, but these - these are different kinds of photographs. Rooftop gardens in various stages of life, ones that she's found while checking the various addresses in the files, most dead now due to the frost of the season without anyone to tend them. Views from rooftops that nobody should be able to get to, showing skylines of the city that nobody's ever seen. Pictures of the inside of museums and private collections of art without a single tourist or security guard in the way. Polaroids of an old orphanage from a distance. Photographs of old girlfriends here and there, one assumes, of Xiulan and Gillian. And… a lot of pictures of Elisabeth, asleep on her couch, in her bed, of her apartment in general.

Memories. All memories.

The next file folder has a label - 'THE ZAREK PROJECT'.

The personal photographs make her smile — or blush, when she comes across the ones of herself. The skylines intrigue her. "Good eye, Nerfherder," she murmurs softly. She closes that folder quickly and opens the next one. Zarek… that name's familiar in a way that tells her she should know it and can't place it. And she takes a moment to text Claire with instructions on where her spare car key is and to meet her at the previously mentioned address — we need to move some stuff. Elisabeth skims what's in the file itself — in truth, she spends a long time paging through all his files, trying to sort out what's going to be important and what might be able to be left.

A photograph of Kain Zarek is paperclipped to a brief dossier on the man in the file, along with - curiously - some documentation about the current state of Staten Island and some printouts of real estate laws as pertaining to purchasing public property from the government. There's also copies of the Linderman Group dossier that she'd seen in the Library's files before, with notations on what he believed the company's weak points were, personnel-wise.

Kain Zarek's name is prominent there.

Narrowing her eyes as she reads by the light of the flashlight, Elisabeth frowns. Real estate? Damn… so wait a minute. Zarek, who works for Linderman — which is why his name was familiar, of course — is looking into how to buy property from the government. Pertaining to Staten Island properties? Well, that's not precisely surprising — everyone out there's going to be trying to get a piece of Staten. Especially once FRONTLINE goes in. She's going to have to study this file in a little more detail back at the library, maybe get her father to take a good look at it for her; real estate law is his specialty, not hers. She pulls more files from the crate just to get an idea of what Cardinal was working on, spending only a bit of time actually reading them here — there will be more light, more warmth, and more time back at the library.

There's a few older files in there, a Pinehearst file including notes on all known abilities that Arthur had stolen, a barely-started attempt to match the Moab prisoner list to actual names— there's even a Chicago Air file, with notes on maps for how they'd planned to spread out over the island, personnel lists with certain names circled, notes on the company's assets. There's even ownership papers for a plane, although the location of said plane is anyone's guess.

All she can remember about the plane is that it was housed somewhere in Jersey, she thinks he said. She should probably go looking for it, make some calls. But right now… it seems less than important. It's an asset, and she'll have to deal with it soon enough. For now, though, she needs to pack all this stuff up and get it out of here. Claire should be here soon with the car. She starts packing all the files back into the crate and then moves on to the more tangibly valuable bits — sparkly things that draw her eyes and make her touch and fondle them admiringly before putting them into the blanket that covers the cot, paintings that she carefully stacks against the wall farthest from the door.

When the call comes through from Claire that she's outside, Elisabeth says back, "Okay — I'm down in the basement level and I'm about to …. hell, I don't know. Try to cave in the brick wall in that's holding up the door — the door itself is welded shut cuz Richard never needed keys." And then she hangs up and starts humming a song. Ironically enough, perhaps, "Playing with the Boys." Don't ask her why Top Gun sticks in her head sometimes. She uses the tune to start vibrating the mortar that holds the bricks in place, trying to keep the effect localized only to the side of the door that didn't seem to be supporting a lot of weight already, and then sings out loud, "I said, it's just a boy's game… Girls play too." On the last part, she shoves, trying to use the sound waves to basically knock the wall down.

The cinderblock wall begins to shake and vibrate beneath that sonic barrage, beginning to weaken… and then that sonic barrage slams against it, the door's frame dislodged with a sharp crack as the wall begins to crumble. The ceiling also begins to tremble anxiously, cracks spreading across the concrete.

The car Liz told her to bring is park near the address given to Claire Bennet and the regenerator is standing outside. Her head tilts to the side as she hears Liz's singing, a smirk tugging at her lips in amusement. At the sound of cracking, the ex-cheerleader moves to the back of the car and opens the trunk to get ready to get to work. She's dressed for it, bundled up in a thick winter jacket, but also a gray sweat shirt and blue jeans.

The cracking sounds alarm Elisabeth greatly and she leans on the now-broken doorframe to get it to move far enough out that she can pass the parcels through without damaging them. "Claire!" she calls. "Work fast — I don't want to lose the stuff in here." She starts with the largest things — paintings, and then the milk crate of folders, among others.

The building itself is a condemned ruin at the edge of the worst damage done by the Midtown blast, although fortunately not in the radiation zone; one wall mostly blasted out, the foundation shifted, the fire escape swinging lazily with a screech of metal as the sonic barrage against a basement wall causes it to shift further, drifts of dust pouring out of cracking brick and cinderblock. Most of those clouds are coming out of the outside-access basement door, which has been opened to lead into the basement that Liz is trying to break out of an inner room from.

The door's frame cracks as Elisabeth shoves it open, the welded edge of the door still connected to that frame. After a bit of pushing - and more ominous sounds - the door's opened enough to push things out. Some rather nice paintings that look like they belong in a collection are pushed out, a milk-crate of folders, an actual /bear skin rug/ that was draped on the upper bunk…

Hurrying to the basement door when she see's the duct, Claire is ready to start taking things."What…. is all this?" She asks as she pulls the painting upright and looks it over with a confused look. Eyes go to what's laying on the ground and then to Liz "The man had quite a horde going huh?" She actually sounds amused about that, as she moves to take the painting under one arm and grab the bear skin rug.

"Don't ask," she tells Claire, eyeing the ceiling with concern. "Talk to me when I'm not about to get my ass squished," she says. Even when Claire's busy going from the door out to the car, Elisabeth continues to pass things through the opening she managed to make, fearing that the ceiling will not hold. The crate with its files, then piled on top of that is a blanket-wrapped bundle. She takes one last look around, doublechecking to be sure there's nothing left to find in here — under the bunk or anywhere else, and then she squeezes herself out the hole in the wall as well.

"This is a hell of a lot of stuff." Claire comment taking a moment to help Liz out of that hole in the wall.. "Some of this stuff is like.. whoa…." Her brows lifting some and she widens her eyes. She moves to start picking up more stuff to carry. "What made you look for this?" She asks curiously.. "When I went to text you to talk, I was surprised to see a text from you."

"My report date got pushed back to the weekend. I've been checking out Richard's boltholes — the ones I can find." Once they're out of the (now un)sealed room, Elisabeth picks up the milk crate with the files and the blanket on top of it. Once she and Claire are out of the building altogether, she sets the crate on the back seat and looks at the younger blonde. "I think…. maybe that was his home," she says softly.

"That run down hovel?" Claire asks curiously, glancing back at the place curiously. "I guess that's as good as any place, huh?" She gives Liz a small smile as she wedges an item in the trunk making sure not to hurt anything. "Who'd think to stay in a place like that.. especially if you can just slip in where others can't." Eyeing everything in the trunk she asks. "We taking all this to the Library? There is something there I want to show you."

"Oh, I'm pretty sure he did a lot of slipping in places," Elisabeth says with a soft smile. She'll show Claire some of the pictures, perhaps. That file she plans on keeping put away, it's Richard's personal things. "Some of it we'll store at the library. Some of it I want to take back to my place." She pauses and says quietly, "Let's get going. You can show me when we get there." She holds her hands out for the keys so that she can drive. Right now, she simply needs something to focus her attention on.

With an underhanded toss, the keys are passed to the older of the two blondes."The traffic sucks anyhow." She gives Liz a soft smile. "I think you'll be happy with what I have." That said she slips into the car.

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