Know When To Fold


bowie_icon.gif etienne_icon.gif veronica_icon.gif

Scene Title Know When To Fold
Synopsis A fact-finding mission ends up finding out few facts. Except that pirates are jerks.
Date March 16, 2018

Ruins of Staten Island

During daylight hours, the Crooked Point — exposed stonework, bare timber, a smokey hearth — doesn't feel as nefarious as you imagine a dive bar in Staten Island should be. The people it sees every day tend to be, but even criminals and villains occasionally require somewhere dry and warm to shelter themselves from the icy mornings or wind-swept afternoons. The air smells of slowcookery and beer and smoke, and conversation is intermittent. It's a clear day, but very cold because of it. The sun has had time to melt the frost and icicles off window glass and frame, and a fire built up early means that to open the door from the outside is to be met with a sudden rush of damp heat.

And likewise, dry cold whistles through, which is why Etienne Saint James, with a kick, slams it closed again with the heel of his boot.

He doesn't acknowledge anyone, familiar or otherwise, just makes his way towards the bar. He looks like the kind of man who is maybe a decade shy of being a grizzled regular at places like this, long hair cut choppy and wind-tangled over the wool-lined collar of his leather jacket. His hands are gloved in wool which he peels off, revealing rough palms and a couple of scratched up silver rings. Doesn't obviously appear to be armed, save for a knife sheathed at his belt.

At the bar, he mostly grunts affirmation at the man behind it, who slides him a can of beer before disappearing into the kitchen. Etienne, who seems well-worn despite that there hasn't been a lot of day, takes crumpled dollar notes out from within his jacket, and leaves some on the bar before he goes to find a corner for himself.

Not too far from that corner, Veronica and Bowie sit and wait, trying to look like they're not sitting and waiting. There's an art to it, of course. A ratty baseball cap obscures most of Veronica's face while a thick, woolen coat and scarf help to bulk up her slim frame. She takes a drink from the glass of whiskey at her hand — the fact they're paying customers helps to sell the illusion, because why would anyone who could afford better drink the bottom-shelf swill they've been served.

When Etienne moves to the table, Veronica's eyes slide over to meet Bowie's. It's go time.

She gets up and moves, a little slowly so as not to make anyone jumpy, toward Etienne's table. "Etienne, yeah? Been a while." Or it's been never, but a girl's gotta start somewhere.

Bowie has a glass in front of him, too, but it doesn't look like he's had much of it. Or any of it. Perhaps th swill is not to his taste. He's dressed down and bundled up, which is not his favorite look, but he's trying not to stand out.

When their man shows, he looks over and lifts his eyebrows. And then looks to Veronica. He follows her over, of course, and rests a hand on one of the chairbacks at the man's table. He doesn't say anything, but he nods to what his partner says.

Having secured a table in decent range of the hearth, Etienne is focused on opening his beer can with his blunt nails by the time the sounds of company creak nearer over old floorboards. He looks up, a doubtful, reproachful kind of angle, from one face to the other. Hard to say if they've put enough dirt over their mainland, government agent polish, but there's no immediate bristle of hostility.

There is a sharper look at Veronica's angle of how much of a while it's been, as he cracks open the beer.

And glances around the tavern, and tips his head towards an older man possessing the far end of the bar. "Alef'll take passengers if you buy him a round," he says. His accent is immediately a marker of being not from around here, and it isn't easy to pick about where he is from. Vaguely English, with an odder cadence. "Otherwise I'm not headed out again 'til tomorrow morning."

Veronica flicks a glance over her shoulder at Alef, before reaching for one of the chairs at a table next to Etienne's, sitting casually and sideways, one arm over the back of the next one. "Good to know, but I think we've got a ride back when we need it," she says lightly. Her body language is nonchalant to an untrained eye — to someone better at reading people, there's a tension in her muscles; she's poised to move if she needs to, if things go wrong. Like Etienne, there's no obvious sign of weapons on her, but bulkier, winter clothing makes it harder to see the tells.

"My buddy here was looking for some information. Someone said you were the type to know things," she says, glancing up at Bowie where he stands, then back to Etienne. "You have a rate for that?" Her voice is low but not a whisper — too low timbred for nearby tables to pick up, not so quiet it should draw suspicion.

Taking his cues, Bowie also pulls out his chair and sits. Elbows on the table. It's very rude. He isn't tense like Veronica, perhaps because she's there and can make sure no one shoots them while they talk. It lets him be more focused on Etienne than the room at large. "I've got some interest in shifting some items without too much attention." He resists adding Imperial. This place doesn't seem like the place for Star Wars references. Even if it's super fitting at the moment. Instead, he lifts an eyebrow to pose the unspoken question to Etienne.

The sound of footsteps draws nearer, but it's just the man who served Etienne his beer — now he comes bearing a heavy looking bowl and a metal spoon dug in, a little like how you'd serve food to someone staying in your own home as opposed to table service fare. It thumps down on the table, gives off a smell of boiled vegetable and stewed meat, and Etienne doesn't rise out of his slouch. Just drags it nearer with the hook of one big paw.

Doesn't ask them if they mind. He's hungry. But so is everyone.

Bowie's rudeness is measured more than Veronica's tension, responded to in the way one predator creature might notice an encroaching on territory. "Depends on where," he says, eventually, between spoonfuls. "Depends on what's interesting about the items."

Veronica's seated so she can see the bar and most of its customers, including Etienne, easily enough, so there's no nervous movement at the sound of footfalls or the approach of the barkeep bringing the pirate his grub.

She takes a sip of the whiskey she's brought with her — to her credit, she doesn't even wince as she swallows the high-proof, low-rent alcohol. That may be a sign it's been diluted, of course, or she has a high tolerance.

Her eyes go back to Bowie's to watch him volley back to Etienne's return.

"What's interesting about them," Bowie says, his fingers tapping the table as he speaks, "is that they wouldn't go over well in the Safe Zone." He doesn't look over at Veronica, although he can feel her attention shift over his way. He'll have to check on his performance later. "But they need to be sold. Or tucked away for a while. Fast would be nice."

He shifts to lean back in his chair, hands moving to the back of his head. Which does stop the tapping. "Heard a rumor that you would have some insight on that."

Metal spoon scrapes loudly around the inside of the bowl, intent on each morsel, as Bowie speaks. The serving itself is not a lot of food, but its warm and cheap and something and that appears to be good enough for Etienne. Once Bowie says his part, they will just have to tolerate the silence that follows, a little like how if you were waiting for a dog to respond to a whistle for his attention, you might find yourself losing out to the priority of the bone he is gnawing on.

The bowl clatters aside on the table, finally. Etienne drags his attention back to them, lazily shifting out of his slouch and reclaiming his portion of table with his folded arms, and asks, "Who?" From Bowie, to Veronica. Now they have his full attention. "You said someone said. Who said."

Veronica's dimples surface when he looks her way. "Everyone knows you. You know everyone. It really doesn't matter, does it? But we wouldn't want our pal to suddenly be on the outs with you, or it'll come back on us, yeah?"

She leans forward a little, one hand coming up to set a few twenties on the wood surface, holding them in place and covered by her palm. "I have eight friends named Jackson here, if you really need a name. Andrew, if you prefer a first-name basis." She glances at Bowie and back to Etienne. "Maybe if you could, I don't know. Point an arrow in the right direction."

So to speak.

Mister Jackson if you're nasty.

Bowie has the thought, but doesn't speak it. He might have to tell it to Veronica on the way back to Fort Jay. Or Cesar when they get back. He'd appreciate it.

The arrow gets a grin out of him, though, toward Veronica. But he's got it down to a smirk when he turns back to Etienne. "Let's just say we have some product. It's on a timer before it… spoils. We can talk finder's fee for you if you manage to point us toward something or someone who pays off." Perhaps more than the Jacksons on the table, is the implication. "Or pays us. We like getting paid."

Etienne's attention sinks down to the flash of money on the table, and his manner shifts, ever so. A little more conscious of where he is in the world, where they are in proximity to him, who else in the Crooked Point today. There's enough ambiguity to sift through to keep him occupied as they speak, and as far as body language is concerned— he remains in his slouch forward, one arm folded on the other.

Until it isn't, because with the same animal speed as a snapping dog, his hand is across the table and coming down on Veronica's wrist, a thump like the jaws of an alligator closing, the entire table shuddering under the sudden impact of his grab, and a pull that yanks her nearer.

Nothing else. His other hand is set against the table, opposite sides to the knife at his side.

Unseen: as soon as he's reaching, Veronica is too, though her hand shifts beneath the line of the table, beneath the line of sight, within her coat, to find the cool touch of gunmetal, hidden by fabric. Undrawn.

Seen: Veronica's sleepy-eyed gaze suddenly grows sharp, snapping up to his face and her head tips slightly in a warning look. "Relax. We could be paying you for services rendered. No one's threatening you. We're just having a friendly chat, right?"

The move has Bowie up on his feet. He doesn't reach for a weapon, but his hands press down on the table like he feels the need to hold it against the floor. "Someone might be threatening him here in a minute," he says to Veronica's calmer reaction. He's a scene, a distraction from her readied hand. He's also genuinely agitated. "Hands off," he says to Etienne. He still doesn't threaten, though. No or else is applied to the statement. "You don't want to deal, say so and we'll walk."

Etienne's hand around her wrist is very secure. She'll come away with marks, more than likely, where his fingers sink into her flesh in the kind of firm grasp of a labourer. Remaining seated, but a little poised, keeping a watch for things like pointed guns or movement that trespasses further than only standing up, although he is certainly keyed into Bowie's presence more than Veronica's secret reach for her gun.

To his credit, he tends to be aware of what he can't see too. And aware of what's not being said.

"I know everyone," he says, mimicking what he's been told, the first show of humour in the form of mockery out of him since they closed in. He looks to Veronica, shows teeth a little between consonants as he says, "I dunno you." Etienne turns Veronica's hand so as to leave the money exposed, only relinquishing the circle of his grip around her wrist if she allows it. Pushing his luck, perhaps a little knowingly.

"Hi, I'm Vee," says Veronica with a dimpled smile and mock-cheerful tone, as if she'd simply forgotten to introduce herself. Her teeth are gritted though. "That's Bo." Close enough. She doesn't fight the turn of her hand, doesn't move to protect the money. "Now we're pals."

She glances at Bowie, a slight shake of her head. Hold.

Her eyes turn back to Etienne. "You don't want to play, we don't have to. We can all leave here on friendly terms. No need to draw attention to yourself, right?"

Bowie holds. It may seem a touch like a dog on a leash, with the way he seems to be straining against it. He doesn't go forward, but neither does he move back. He stays there, waiting. For a sign from either one of them, really. He's not picky.

"Oh, I get the feeling he likes the attention, Vee," Bowie says, his tone very nearly joking despite his posture. "But like she says. We're just here to make friends. Schedule a playdate. Maybe to the market."

Vee relents, and Etienne releases her hand to best scoop money back his way with all the satisfaction of someone having enjoyed a minor poker win. Crisp bills folded back into themselves. Reverting back to looser bones and sloped posture, Etienne cracks half a smile at Bowie's commentary. He can't say that he hates it, no.

"I'll keep that in mind," he says, in his peculiar growled resonance, "should we cross paths again."

There's something in there, like perhaps he intends to cross paths again.

"Well, obviously. Look at that hair," Veronica asides to Bowie, though her eyes are still on Etienne's face. Like any gambler, she knows, as the song says, when to walk away — and when to run.

She's not going to run.

"Good. We're on the same page, then," she says, with that art of making it seem like she's gotten what she's wanted all along. She finishes her drink — it's crap whiskey, but it's cold outside, and the mild burn will keep her warm for a few minutes, anyway. The glass is set down on the other table, and she nods to Bowie to follow.

"I hadn't noticed," Bowie says, of Etienne's hair. The Ultimate Insult, surely. He straightens up from the table, then. He watches the money disappear, foregoing drinking any of his own whiskey. Instead, he waits for that nods from Veronica, then peels away from Etienne's table to falling into step next to her.

Shoving his hands into his pockets, he resists a glance back at the room as the pair steps out. And hopefully on to better whiskey somewhere.

As they turn their backs, Etienne reaches, taking up Bowie's unfinished whiskey, and knocks it back. By the time they've put some distance between themselves and the Crooked Point, headed down the wintry cove of Great Kills beach, they might look back, and see his distinct figure on the open dock outfront the rundown venue, watching them go.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License