Lambskin - The Wash


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

With NPCs by Chinatown.

Scene Title Lambskin - The Wash
Synopsis It all comes out. The Remnant gets a call from the local orphanage-keeper about unsavory presences.
Date August 16, 2010

Staten Island

It is a shithole.

Brian called at almost ten in the night. He must have known that his description was inadequate to the threat— small guy, no scars, not visibly armed, long hair and beard, some gray, but the threat wasn't constituted by the size of the stranger nor his combat prowess so much as by the underlying truth. There was a forty-year-old man of unknown affiliation watching the Lighthouse. An initial coincidence of walking on the beach, and he'd stopped to speak with the elusive new kid Cherise about her new driftwood find, but he didn't walk a straight line to his car, and it was nearly too dark to see before Brian had seem him sitting there, a dark silhouette behind the windscreen of the wind-pocked van, hands bridged on his steering wheel.

He wasn't doing anything. Not even smoking.

Case confirmed when the Remnant came calling. It was a small wonder that he hadn't cramped up enough to need to stretch his legs, over the course of the half-hour he was under their surveillance, indifferent to the row of gulls who watched the diminishing effulgence of sunset across the water with him, failing to notice the movement of vehicles without their lights on a half-mile down the road or the silent tracks that the tall men made. License plate number, model and make of the cruiser, glue-white and black rubber, information that is practically meaningless for any denizen of Staten Island—

But some problems go wider than the coastal edges of New York's no man's land. Eventually, the grizzled sentinel turned on the ignition and rolled off in the dark, didn't turn on his headlights for ten minutes. Maybe he just forgot. His home turned out to be an apartment a half-mile from the Rookery's waking lights, the size of a shoebox, in tall, half-vacated warren of red-brick, graffiti snarled on the walls of the lowest floors and a street light felled outside of it like a tree. An alley on either side, some lights on across the street, residential. One eatery, lights on, no one home. He stayed for only five minutes before he was out again, the vehicle starting up with a cough, rumble, undertone to the bumbling lullabies that Eileen's pigeons are giving each other. Gabriel had seen nothing but untouched kitchen-space, a pile of clothes.

And cigarettes.

Under different circumstances, perhaps in another life, Jensen Raith might have made a pretty good burglar. Or maybe the lock on the apartment door is just that low-quality. With a few final clicks of a pair of rakes in the mechanism, the handle turns and the door is nudged opened just enough for the King of Swords to extract his tools. With a glance back and up to his partners, he rises up from his crouch while drawing a silenced Glock. With one hand, he pushes the door inward, slowly revealing the inside of the apartment to be seen. So far, so good. Maybe he's just some creepy guy and there's nothing to be worried about.

For now, however, Raith takes a few cautious steps inside and flicks on a small flashlight, moving out of the way to allow Gabriel easier access as he does. Maybe he'll recognize something under the beam of light he saw earlier that didn't seem noteworthy at the time, but on closer inspection, actually has some significance.

"No one home." They knew that, more or less, but it's a nice confirmation — takes Gabriel a few seconds of pausing in the doorway, concentrating enough to determine that the fuzzy suggestions of conscious brains sending feedback to his astral radar come from below and above. Different floors, different scenes, and whistling emptiness ahead of them. It's for that reason that he steps in by foot, instead of by ink, and moving through time instead of freezing the world. It's nice to take a break.

His demeanor has been coolly professional, antagonism left settling like an uneasy swamp back at the Nature Centre, or so one might be able to just from the neutrality of his expression, blank as a pond surface. No weapons in his hands, or on his body, save for a knife tucked into his boot, or the glistening pin of military badge worn concealed on the inside of his jacket, as he sometimes does, whether deliberately or forgetfully. He moves ahead of Raith, twitches a hand to bend the flashlight's stream of illumination to sweep where he dictates it to on its own accord.

Releases it a second later to beam ruler-straight from the bulb once more, to go where Raith turns it.

Contrasting tones of black wool and leather differentiate between Eileen and the shadows her slim figure is draped in like a French monarch wears ermine. The pistol she wears under her coat is a precaution only — her primary weapons are the birds outside and, if she's being honest with herself, the two men in her company. She hangs back, mutely appreciative of her ability and the fact that it's allowed her to adjust her hunting strategy rather than abandon it altogether.

Right now, her role involves dividing her focus between the apartment and the street outside. Based on what they know about their target, it's highly unlikely that they're in danger of being ambushed but old habits are difficult to break, and there are other factors to take into consideration like an established history of Feng Daiyu showing up at exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time.

Light flushes darkness into the corners and the musty gaps underneath the furniture. There still isn't much of anything other than the darkness. Low light, sparse furniture. A single folding table stands in the cramped room that probably technically suffices for both dining table and coffee, if the man ever dines or entertains company here.

That seems unlikely, considering it's festooned with an almost even layer of napkins, matchboxes, flyers to parties, receipts describing cash purchases or credit cards that don't match, a few dirty glasses, unused chopsticks still sleeved in white paper. There's a blood-colored carpet on the floor, a cabinet covering one window and a set of heavy black drapes at the other. Some lonely fucker.

Bedroom and bathroom lead out of the main room. Doors open, betraying fleeting first impressions to those outside. The former, characterized by a mattress on the floor, dishevelled sheets. Boarded windows: Staten Island staple. Milk crates shelving the dim sheen of a bong, more paper; a fat soupcan holding up the dresser. The bathroom is streaked with fluid stains, dots and rosettes at the sink and fat lines radiating out of the toilet bowl.

The floor doesn't click and explode into flames under any of their respective strides. Whatever his purpose was, he was no kind of ninja. Either that, or this apartment wasn't all that much of a priority.

"Oh, yeah. Not creepy at all." On that, everyone will surely agree with Raith. That it's not creepy, at all, when in fact, it is. The ex-spy flits away from the door and further inside the apartment, angling himself towards the bedroom. The flashlight beam continues dancing around the room, now free of Gabriel's control (for the moment), illuminating just how sad a case this John Doe is. "Don't suppose you saw anything incriminating when you jumped in his head?" he asks, "If I can get out of touching anything in here, I think I will."

For the record, Gabriel isn't touching anything either, or avoiding the most of it. He doesn't mind the state of other people's houses — his own space tends to be nicely kept, cleaned at the very least, but he can't help but allow a small frission of disgust to pull his mouth, angle his eyebrows. "Nothing," he denies. "It was just a couple of seconds. Saw the kitchen," and he tilts his head, birdish, towards the kitchen area, glancing at it in live HD now. He remains in the main space, skims his fingertips very lightly down the edge of heavy, pitch drapes.

"What do you think he came back here for?" he wonders out loud. Rather than make use of Raith's beam of light, he conjures up his own slightly weaker but more widely spreading light source, gathering like a turning disc above his hand before sending it on its way. The mini-UFO skims over kitchen counters, spills illumtination up the face of the fridge.

Eileen places her hand on the wall outside the door, feeling the texture of the brick beneath the tips of her fingers. She usually prefers to wear her lambskin gloves on outings like these, not only to avoid leaving prints but to protect her hands as well, but her splints make this impossible — if she wasn't already in debt to Constantine, she'd consider seeing him about a quicker fix than letting her fingers heal on their own and may still, depending on how aggravated she is by the end of the night.

"Look for stationary," she recommends from the doorway, "or something that he might've written on. It doesn't matter if you can see anything — the impressions should still be there."

There could be phone numbers on the matchboxes, but it would take somebody a mind-numbing amount of time to go through them, and the cavalcade of napkins that might-or-might-not have seen some kind of use in the past few months of their existence. A Dan Brown book is tented on the floor, close to the impact of Gabriel's next footfall.

The refrigerator has two magnets on it: one the shape of a rooster, the other mimicking a postcard from Vegas. The latter holds up a stained sheet of paper, printed with a neatly tabled calendar of events for September. The title reads, JOHN GOLDEN SCHOOL. The events describe a half-dozen idiotic events, a fund-raiser, Labor Day, deadlines for new club petitions. Idiotically noted also: the first, official day of Autumn.

There's food in the fridge. Takeout in cartons.

The beam of Raith's flashlight slices through the gloom, seeming to lift motes of dust off the floor. The circle it makes on the floor picks out a scuff mark, a sock, a rumpled edge of clothing. The corner of a magazine, a boy's face beaming at Raith out of it. New York Family is logoed at the bottom corner of it, pink and black, and when he raises his head—

—when he raises his head from the mess and magazine on the floor, it comes to the ex-spy's attention that it's not the only edition of it. There are several, along with a scattering of other publications dealing with the care of children. Nothing that would be out of the ordinary for a young, first-time father, even if the locale they're in causes a small amount of cognitive dissonance. "No stationary in, here." That brief pause is very likely the first red flag raised for Gabriel and Eileen that, stationary or not, he may have found something.

The light beam he commands glides across a poorly arranged stack of photographs sitting next to several others, looking more like a pile than anything, before it quickly jumps up to the wall when Raith clips it to his belt and stuffs his sidearm under his arm, freeing his hands to grab a small sample of pictures when he kneels down next to them. Candid pictures of families, with the kids as the focus in many of them, aren't necessarily a cause for concern. However, when one particular subject keeps appearing in scattered solo portraits, sometimes only half-clothed and in all cases no older than Liette but smiling in a way a child should not be, the human mind begins to see a terrifying pattern emerge. "Gabriel, bedroom." That's an order. "Right now."

Gabriel is caught with his arm stuck in the fridge, takeaway containers gripped and their contents angled for him to peer inside, but more feeling the draining warmth still captured in the containers despite the chilly air. There are some investigative mental processes at work, there, implications of that recent depature as well as his imminent return to finish his dinner, but then Raith is calling him to heel. The food is set back inside, Gabriel kicking the door closed as he makes swift work of walking from the tacky lino of the kitchen through to mottled carpeting of the bedroom.

"What is it?" he asks, edged irritation when no immediate threat presents itself. Slips further inside anyway to answer it himself, ghosting up behind Raith to peer past his arm and at the gathered clips of images in the man's hands.

Something about Raith's tone has Eileen lowering her hand from the wall and drifting splinted fingers across the front of her coat. She unfastens the topmost button and the one directly beneath is, exposing a sliver of pale throat and shirt she wears beneath it — she's either very warm or eliminating the first few steps involved in retrieving her pistol from its leather holster before it becomes necessary. Booted feet creak over floorboards, and she takes a few steps into the apartment, her movements cautious and carefully measured.

She and Gabriel have the same question, and he's already voiced it.

Liquor bottles, tossed linens, and the bong reflect the glow of Raith's light. The trove on the floor skews into view for Gabriel as quickly as he walks, and Raith's flashlight has already separated the negligible details from those important. Family Magazines share space with publications that discuss the proper care of children. Feeding, the best hospitals, all recent enough to be pre-Bomb. Mingled into the mess, there are photographs, cheaply produced candids.

Likely, the subjects hadn't been aware that the pictures were being taken at the time, running across playground tarmac of waiting blank-eyed at school buses, a few ecstatic dogpiles snatched from soccer games. The one prominent exception is a boy whose face is portraited several times, sometimes seemingly without his shirt on.

He can't be older than thirteen, and is occasionally smiling. The photo closest Raith's foot, the shot of the child who he was looking closer at, is such a one. White teeth, though the right incisor is slightly crooked, and in his eyes there seems to be intent toward the photographer that is far too mature for him.

It's the stereotypical sty of an unkempt teenager, or an impoverished bachelor, minus pornography and television.

"I'm ready to jump to conclusions." Which is, of course, why Raith shoves the handful of photos he's picked up at Gabriel. "So thumb through those, and then tell me if conclusion jumping is warranted. Because if the one I reached is the same as yours, we might have a slightly more serious problem than some creepy guy hanging around the lighthouse at weird hours." Even though Gabriel's brought his own illumination, Raith unclips the light from his belt to provide easier seeing, using the opportunity to holster his weapon now that he's sure no one is going to leap out of the shadows and try to eat him.

He takes the photographs, of course, remaining standing as he cards through them like shuffling a deck. One flips in his hand a little, a hesitation as he skims dark eyes over the glossy image. Pale limbs and a round face, youth masquerading as something else, and Gabriel's attention skips away like a pebble over lake surface. "We should wrap this up," he says, as if without hearing the nudge about conclusions. "Soon. I don't think he's gonna be out for long. If you both close your eyes, I can take some more time to look around.

"Should we take these?" He's good at creating crime scenes. Not as good at handling them, so he asks, though this isn't— technically— a crime scene. But the question does answer a question, in that yes, conclusion jumping seems warranted enough.

"Does someone want to tell me what the fuck it is we've found?" sounds deceptively mild, but Gabriel will experience the electric crackle and hiss of irritation sparking off Eileen all the way from the other side of the apartment. She hasn't moved very far from the front door; in spite of her frustration and the anxiety making a stone knot of her insides, her priorities are still straight.

Nonetheless, she closes her eyes at Gabriel's request. Wonders if it actually makes a differencee.

"Creepy photos of kids they aren't his, Eileen." Raith, too, closes his eyes, although he still has the sense to answer Gabriel's remaining question. "We'll snap a shot of Rerun there-" Likely the kid that keeps appearing- "See if we can figure out who he is before Pervy McCreeper makes his move, and put things back as close to the way we found them as we can. Have Special Activities follow and document his day, if we find enough reason to."

Have Special Activities followww…

Gabriel takes a breath of the sty-slash-apartment's stale air as he feels time slowing to a halt around him, grinding like a training pulling up at the station, and even Raith's words seem to elongate, stretch out as time flow does. …annnd doccccuuumennnt-uhh… Until it's quiet, deathly so, like the inside of a coffin. Photos in hand if only out of absent mindedness, he starts to move, first on his feet, then flowing with ease of movement in a more inky form. It runs like untangible silk over rumpled bedsheets, its burn marks, the rings of sticky alcohol on dresser surface, flecky dried remnants of marijuana, stalk and leaf.

Passed a frozen Eileen Spurling, his feet find the floor just behind her as Gabriel resumes his pick through the kitchen. Fingertips overturn the crap scattered on the table, unsure what he's looking for but tenaciously unwilling to leave rock unturned. There's pause and hesitation, something— maybe not found but puzzled over. All the time in the world allows him for another round before he's kicking the wheels of time back into motion.
…hhhis day, iffff weee ffiiind enough reason to.

"You can open your eyes," Gabriel says, only a few seconds after his instruction, really, and now from out in the main area, suddenly, though he's moving passed Eileen, back into the bedroom to rejoin the group.

When Eileen's eyes open again, her head is at an angle, chin tucked against her collar as she listens to the sound of Gabriel's footfalls and tracks his real-time progress through the apartment. When he passes her, she does not move to follow, though he'll sense that gnarl in her stomach growing tighter and the ice water in her veins. A hand drops to her side.
Abilities that affect the flow of time make her uncomfortable, but so do the implications attached to their finding in the bedroom. One more than the other, and in this particular case it's obvious which is which. She hasn't relaxed.

Raith's eyes also open, although it takes him a moment longer to put together what Gabriel did. Doesn't matter. "Gabe's right, we need to become scarce." As he speaks, he brings out his phone and activates the camera function, holding out his other hand to accept the photos back. "I'd rather not risk having to shoot this guy, just in case this whole thing isn't as sinister as it seems."

The photos are delivered over neutrally. Gabriel doesn't glance back at Eileen, for all that the fishing wire thread of her empathic conciousness is nagging at his own. Rather than reflect those vibrations with the sensitivity of spider web, he is lessed moved, locked up. "The place is a mess all over, but I found something odd," he says, with a twitch of a shrug. "Powder, on the dining room table, if you go looking. White, some blue flecked in it. I couldn't find anything stashed, but it looked like he used the toilet for it — the tank's marked up. Empty now."

His hands rub together as if trying to remove filth, though they're clean, turning a shoulder to Raith as he glances Eileen's way, headed for out.

You paged Eileen with 'Especially now that she's blind, Eileen probably has a pretty decent visual memory. There's a striking thought that this man possibly uses drugs, there's the faded smell of it in the air. White powder implies cocaine, or something. Blue makes her think Refrain, and crystals would indicate cheap shit cut in.'

The most Eileen initially does is make room for Gabriel in the doorway so she doesn't impede his exit. White powder could be anything — detergent, cocaine, some other residue. It's the colour blue that causes her to hesitate, lift her chin and pay more attention to the stale smells lingering in the air than she did when she first moved inside.

Through one of the broken windows in the hallway, a sleek gray bird with darker markings wings between two pieces of glass and hooks around the door frame, narrowly missing Gabriel's left ear by a few inches. Too small to be a pigeon but too large for a sparrow or a washed-out bluebird, it drops down onto the edge of the indicated table.

She crosses to it, touches her fingertips to the powder and rubs it between them: an experiment in texture. Lifting porcelain nails to her nose and mouth immediately after is a little more risky, brazen. "Turn on the light on your way out."

'Click!' "I assume there's a reason other than tipping him off that you want the light on," Raith remarks. 'Click!' Two's enough. The photos go back down into the pile on the floor, and Raith follows after Gabriel back towards the door they used to enter. "If anyone has a cloth, we can take some of the stuff back, run chem on it." Or, you know, take a shortcut. "Hit the light, Gabe. I'm morbidly curious, now. But do it fast. Sooner we get out of here, the better."

Gabriel's knuckles brush against the light switch, though he isn't leaving — curious too, maybe. "I know," he says, to Raith, before he depresses the switch and lets light flood through the apartment.

There's no difference between the substance on Eileen's fingers in the light than in the dark that either Gabriel or Raith can discern. Largely because their eyes are human. The Englishwoman's are not.

With a reedy flutter of its wings, her bird jumps between the table's edge and her wrist and curls little black feet around her splint. There's a pause, a distinct thinning of her mouth followed by a moment where it looks like she might taste it. Says instead, "Possibly a change of plans. He's Evolved."

24 hours of surveillance later

It's an almost identical pile of cheap Italian carbohydrates, smothered in oil somewhat less than extra virgin and some spiced tomato confection to the plate that he'd ordered yesterday. After roughly twenty-four hours of surveillance, the Remnant has learned about this particular dietary habit of his as well as the fact that he frequents a surprising range of petty criminal habitats, not all of which he is suitably dressed for. That club last night, for instance, seemed to be home to a subspecies of crack-dealing blipsters that couldn't have been older than college age.

He's back at the Rookery today, though. The sunlight filters in a queasy yellow shade through the windows, panes streaky and flecked with dust. The laces on his left boot are undone, and the zipper of his jacket hangs loose, agape over his flannel shirt, partially unbuttoned, and a snarl of chest hair. He is chewing mechanically through his food, between intermittent snatches of conversation with a thickset Irishman with a wide, gold-toothed smile and funny stories about the grocery store he owned before the Jews and the Koreans put him out of business. Funny to the bartender, anyway.

"Now you're here." The barman is the third person in here at noon, seemingly unperturbed by the sweat massed around the collar of his own shirt and beaded on his ruddy brow. His voice is thickly accented with Jersey and, like everything else in the chipped and worn establishment, seems to swell and stink slightly in the greenhouse effect of the scudded front window. "Jacking cars, was it? Or is Lulu still working for you? If you're trying to sell her to Eli, you oughter really know better by now: he ain't been the same since 'is wife. Right? Y' wife."

Yeah. Elijah nods his head, and wipes grease from his mouth with his fingers. "My wife."

Craig's gotten through half of his tall glass of beer, lightly amber and still frothy, which is starting to make him smell like a typical patron of such an establsihment, saturating his breath and give him a few more glasses and he'll be sweating it too, in this bookend of summertime. Tight curls cut close to his skull, lantern jaw, bright blue eyes — he has the kind of face that could either by cop or criminal, transient, without having to put too much pretence in either one. Which isn't too important — Gabriel fancies himself something of an actor.

And the best kind is the one where you don't have to try too hard. His tongue wipes down the front of him teeth as he sets his glass back down, to make sticky moisture rings on the table, one of which he's played with, drawn starburst fingers of collected water with his fingertip to make a wet sun on the table. Sunglasses hang from a cord around his neck, and his grey T-shirt has a trail of moisture from the nape of his neck, to the small of it, his leather jacket slung over the back of his chair. His watch is expensive, perhaps notably, some mark of status that his plain clothes deny at a glance.
Next week, Remnant can sell it and have a nice dinner for a couple of nights.

A little wild, a little unkempt, the young woman sitting beside Craig in the booth doesn't have a beer in her hand or on the table in front of her. She's nursing a cigarette instead, her wan mouth pressed around the filter and pale eyes downcast. Her tangle of dark hair has been left long and loose, sweaty ringlets plastered to her cheeks, the nape of her neck and the gentle curves of her narrow shoulders, bare except for the straps that hold up the short black dress she's wearing.

Eileen may have worked at Burlesque, but her wardrobe contains very few pieces that might allow her to effectively pass as a prostitute. Fortunately, what she does own can easily be dressed up or dressed down, and in this case it's the latter. There's no jewelry in her ears, at her wrists or around the slender column of her throat. Her perfume and smoky make-up are her only accents, the latter deliberately smudged to give her a more disheveled appearance.

On the subject of nice dinners: she acts like someone who hasn't had one for awhile, seeming to pay more attention to Craig's watch than she does Craig himself, but that's part of the game too.

And finally, sitting across from Craig is the third party at the booth, rounding out their trio. Craig Christman- or Gabriel Gray to an extremely select few- has leather jacket and grey T-shirt to stand contrast to the black suit jacket and white collared shirt that Jensen Raith is wearing, unbuttoned enough to be relaxed and with no tie. Beer for him too, a light pilsner to keep him cool, although removing his jacket would almost certainly help with that as well.

His attention is divided between his glass and the two sitting across from him, but a good half of it continues to slide over to the bar, to the flannel-clad man eating his lunch. Finally, he turns his attention fully to the man across from him, ostensibly his partner in crime (perhaps more literally than not), as if looking for some hint of confirmation, before sliding out of the booth and onto his feet, giving the front of his jacket a quick brush off and grabbing his glass before he makes his way over to the counter. "Gen'lemen," he says, inserting him into both the conversation and the gathering, sidling along Elijah Warner's right flank, careful not to get too close to him.

"Sorry t' interrupt, very sorry, but I got a question or five for yer friend here." A lazy gesture towards Eli will remove doubt as to who he means. "First o' which is-" Another lazy gesture, this time back to where he came from- "Would y'mind joining us? Got us a, couple o' very small problems, hear you might be able t' help us with 'em. Cover yer lunch, if that sways y'one way or another."

Elijah doesn't like having a stranger nudged up that close to him, even if it isn't too close by Raith's estimation of things. It rankles, obviously, a hackling that triggers motion through the skinny, massed muscle all through his seamy clothes. "'Ey," is as much protest as it gets, with a hairy eyeball, and his head twisted up to glare. "Who the fuck are…" There's a lapsing pause as his eyes move past Raith, and onto Craig and Eileen at the table, squinting waterily.

His eyes are on the man more than the girl, before they rove back up to Raith. His knobby, scar-notched hand pulls out of his coat lapel, and he shows a grin with no sincerity to it. His incisors or yellow and startlingly long. "A'right. Ben, and—" a beat. He flicks his fork irritably at the former grocer. "Whatever y' name is, please excuse me." Chances are, he was merely looking for a good excuse to get away from the humid, cloying talk of the good old days, of honest living. He scrapes back in his stool, lifting up his plate, nodding at Raith go ahead of him.

Puts down the food, first, with enough clackety ceramic clout to send a wave of its peppery stench across at the skinny whore and the man beside her. He drags a chair up for himself, regardless of whether or not there was already a place for him, and there's a statement to that, somehow, nothing overtly hostile. He's used to working out of the Rookery.

With absolutely no ceremony or questions louder than a quirk of pepper brows, Eli slaps his posterior down on his new seat, and starts at his plate again, cloudy cheese raked in half, daubed over an obscure chunk of meat, plastically plump noodles.

Two fingers to Craig's temple, and a lazy salute of greeting is executed — a little contrived, to be honest, but maybe it's meant to be, but this effort might be wasted on the man who's content to sit down at their table and dig snout back into trough. His ice-chip eyes flick towards Raith, elaborate disinterest defining the planes of his expression as he tips up his chin at their guest. "This the guy?" he asks, his accent a little Brooklyn, but sharp in the way education might define the way you talk.

It's largely rhetorical, too. Hopefully shady!Raith is not inviting random losers to their table and buying then lunch for his and the hooker's entertainment. It's a prompt, an impatient nudge to get the conversation rolling, got better places to be, yadda yadda. He sips some beer.

Eileen's attention shifts from Craig's watch to the dirt under her fingernails, largely because it's easier to feign. There's a bird in the bar, somewhere, hidden behind the lip of the dusty mirror on the other side of the counter, or maybe in the tangle of brass bells above the front door, but that seems like a bad place for a bird to be even if there aren't many people coming in and out this time of day.

Smoke streams from her nostrils and she lets the cigarette dangle from between two knuckles, her mannerisms subdued, submissive. It wasn't very long ago that she played a role similar to this in earnest — for her, it's less about acting and more about remembering. Her unfocused gaze contributes to her tousled look and suggests to the casual observer that nicotine might not be the only chemical in her system. She rests her dark head against Craig's shoulder.

"This is him." It's an honest sounding answer, although Raith maybe isn't feeling quite so sure when he takes a moment to observe Eli sitting down and immediately digging right back into his meal. This 'maybe' is cinched into near-certainty when he adds, with the faintest tone of apology, "Probably." The fact that he drains the rest of his glass in one go likely isn't improving Craig's opinion much.

"Like I was sayin'." No sense in putting it off, so he immediately turns his focus to Eli and launches back into why he brought Eli over in the first place. "We got us a couple o' very small problems. An', like I was sayin', we hear y'might be able t' help us with 'em. I hear y'might be able to help us with 'em." How quickly this changed from Raith and his associate trying to solve a problem to Raith trying to fulfill a promise to his associate to solve his problem. "Anyways, 'less I'm mistaken, yer in the business of procurements. 'specially o' things that're otherwise difficult to procure without help from a, uh, 'specialist,' if y'get me." "'e gets me," accompanied by a look of reassurance directed at Craig, is surely very reassuring. He gets him, you can tell by the way he is more engrossed in his food than the possibility of making money. It's a sales tactic. Probably. Hopefully.

"This is him." It's an honest sounding answer, although Raith maybe isn't feeling quite so sure when he takes a moment to observe Eli sitting down and immediately digging right back into his meal. This 'maybe' is cinched into near-certainty when he adds, with the faintest tone of apology, "Probably." The fact that he drains the rest of his glass in one go likely isn't improving Craig's opinion much.

"Like I was sayin'." No sense in putting it off, so he immediately turns his focus to Eli and launches back into why he brought Eli over in the first place. "We got us a couple o' very small problems. An', like I was sayin', we hear y'might be able t' help us with 'em. I hear y'might be able to help us with 'em." How quickly this changed from Raith and his associate trying to solve a problem to Raith trying to fulfill a promise to his associate to solve his problem. "Anyways, 'less I'm mistaken, yer in the business of procurements. 'specially o' things that're otherwise difficult to procure without help from a, uh, 'specialist,' if y'get me."

"'e gets me," accompanied by a look of reassurance directed at Craig, is surely very reassuring. He gets him, you can tell by the way he is more engrossed in his food than the possibility of making money. It's a sales tactic. Probably. Hopefully.

The gray scraggle of Eli's gaunt face shifts slightly. His eyes move left, then cut right again, making suspicious examinations of those around him without particular effort to disguise it.

After all, Raith's pitch is nervously made and that— nervousness in turn starts a jockeying for assertion between reciprocal nerves and the predatory smugness of observed advantage. It's going to be one or the other. Hard to tell which, for Elijah just yet. He wipes his mouth again, this time with the thick, already yellowed roll of napkin. "Mos' people just say 'speed' or 'pot' or girls or dogs, you know," he says. "Maybe Refrain. Guns.

"And besides, I ain't the person you see for any of those things. What are you fuckin' talkin' about?" Fockin' tuokin' about. His accent thickens proportionally, aggression riled up, feeling out the oscillating space left by Raith's signals of fear. Not to push them into retreat, just to tell them who's boss. He isn't going to be talking to Raith. Raith is just a flunkie. His bony face turns sharply to pin Craig with a stare, then, expectation made a demand.

Eileen's ruse is well-executed. One, final look-over, clinically rather than salaciously examining her face, chest, then the speculative dip toward waist-down, and then she is effectively, utterly discarded, no more substantial than a whorl of dust-motes in the sweltering air encased inside the room.

Stare is met, stare is exchanged coolly. Craig is impassive to it as much as he's impassive to the girl resting his head on one around shoulder, for the time being, wearing her like an accessory that doesn't currently need preening. "He gets you," is agreement after a few short seconds of staring, sending a tired glance Raith's back, then back to Elijah. "But he's pretending like he doesn't, but that's okay. Maybe that's 'cause we aren't all friends yet. My name's Craig.

"I'm hoping to have not come out all the way to this shit hole for nothing and instead have a constructive conversation, but we can let you get back to your meal, mister, if my friend is mistaken. Hey," he juts a chin towards Raith, "introduce yourself. Don't be fuckin' rude."

"Ah, right, right." Raith doesn't mind being the flunkie in this case. Especially if it might look kind of weird if the big boss got up to get Eli's attention himself. "Sorry." The apology is offered as much to the well-kempt Craig is it is to the less-well-kempt Eli. "Kurt. There's uh, there's more to it'n that, sure, but Kurt's good." And throughout the introduction, 'Kurt' keeps his hands to himself. "Yeah." And for a moment, his full attention is focused on Craig. "You, uh, want another one?" is added with a gesture towards the not-yet-empty glass of amber beer. Getting himself another one is, apparently, not yet something he's willing to ask.

Eli lapses into a sharp silence. He glances between the two men, for a long moment, and then abruptly drops his attention back into his plate of shittastic food. Possibly, too abruptly. It's a distinctly cagey shift. "I donno where you are you think you're supposed to give stuff fancy treatment," he grinds out, chain-smoker's register. "We're in the fuck'n' Rookery. You want somethin', you ask for it.

"I'm not in the fuck'n' Yellow Pages." This place certainly isn't. His fork rends another stiffening, wrinkly wad of cheese in two, and he punctures it through before a twirl of fork takes up the carbohydrate stems slippery underneath it. "And I don' operate outta Manhattan. Talk, or move." He plans on keeping the table, he means. He turns his raw-boned face off to the side, aims a spit at the adjacent table's cigarette tray. It lands with bizarre accuracy, a wide red-rimmed spatter, tomato-soup.

Craig gives a subtle headshake of denial. He's good, with his drink. Stay. "You want me to ask?" he says, leaning back enough now to curl an arm around Eileen's shoulders, cinching her in possessively, his knuckles brushing down by her jaw, before tucking beneath her chin. By half an inch, he angles up her face as if to show it off. "You got it before. I'm looking for girls. I heard you're, uh," and his mouth goes into a crooked smile, some shared joke passed to 'Kurt' before his attention lazily swings back to Eli, "something of a talent scout for that kind of thing. I need 'em young.

"Don't go anywhere." Leaning back a little more, he twists enough in his seat to dive his hand into the pocket of his hanging jacket. What comes out is, plainly, a fold over of cash, hundred dollar bills clipped in a golden clasp that looks too dim to be fake. It's flopped onto the table like it's nothing. "And don't lie. I hate it when they start lying. Slows down the conversation like a motherfucker."

Eileen averts her eyes, dark lashes low, but tolerates the hand at her jaw and then her chin, dutifully still in Craig's grasp. That she's a little self-conscious about the cuts on her chin and jaw where Odessa's scalpel left its mark helps — genuine shame is difficult to fake. She lowers one hand to the table, cigarette trailing smoke, and places the other on his upper thigh, tension visible in her slender arm and the way her elbow bends as if desiring to turn her face away but ultimately too obedient to.

She murmurs something low and thick against his knuckles, her mouth moving against his hand, voice too soft to be made out by the other two men at the table, though it sounds a little like please.

Beneath her mousy exterior, she's relaxed but alert, confident that things are going well. She isn't the willing victim she pretends to be.

With no more than a nod to acknowledge that he understands- Craig needs no more booze- 'Kurt' backs off and keeps quiet. When the money comes out, that's the surest sign that 'shit just got real,' even if the whole thing is an elaborate farce to get information out of Eli. Craig's in charge of the discussion now, and can count on his flunkie not butting in until he is told to do something.

The rangy old predator stares at them each in turn. Admittedly, Eileen not for quite as long as the others, admittedly, but something about the combination of her slight frame with the big-handed man beside her apparently requires study. He exhales, slow, grease-vapor staining the sweating air almost visibly in front of him. Finally, he lays down his fork and picks up a napkin instead, brow in a furrow. "'S interesting," he says, looking up thoughtfully. "You be askin' about that.

"I was just thinkin', yeah, your girl looks almost like—" and Gabriel's vision wormholes, suddenly, the nerves in the hand he has underneath Eileen's chin going numb as if he'd taken boltcutters to his tendons except that his hand is still up there. Darkness in brutal bites despite that his eyelids are still moving, static filling his ears like wads of cotton wool, despite that he is upright, lungs still drawing breath.

Two things happen at once, abrupt as a dogbite. Gabriel goes slack, and Elijah lunges to his feet, a broad arm catching Eileen by the neck and yanking her up to meet him upright. His gun is out quicker than you would have thought, from a man his size, or at least quicker than Raith's reflexes in that moment spent under the disguise of adopted persona, but maybe it's just something about the heat. Dulls the senses. The fat, cold nose of the pistol grinds up at the base of the girl's spine, promising a wide, fireworks-spatter of spinal fluid and sharded bone should he pull the trigger.

"Who the fuck are you people?" he snarls. "Who the fuck sent you?" It doesn't occur to him, plainly, with the barman and the former grocer bailing now like bunnies, that he should have just cut his losses and run.

Cotton in his ears and feeling like it's pushing all the way into his brain, Craig's expression is neutrally out of it by the time he's folding up over the table. A clumsy, deadened hand upending what was left of his beer so that the rich, bitter liquid goes flooding out on the table, dripping erratic over the side. Frothy patches like islands on a map, and he'll be partially drowning in it, breath rippling through the thin layer of alcohol on the surface of the table — not unconscious, no, life in blue eyes as they struggle to focus, a groan leaving his throat.

Just give him a sec'. Kurt's got this.

Eileen's ability allows her to compensate for her blindness. It won't do a damn thing for her if she ends up a paraplegic, and that's assuming she even survives if Elijah pulls the trigger. Her hands grip at the arm around her throat, fingernails biting into their mark's skin — she lost her cigarette somewhere along the way, and it burns now on the floor of the bar, too dim to pose a threat to anyone.

She arches her back, hips angled away from the pistol for all the good it will do her, her upper lip hooking around a choked snarl that doesn't offer Elijah any real answers. This might have gone a little more smoothly if they'd had Ethan or Teodoro with them, but Eileen isn't about to get hung up on what-ifs. The situation is what it is, and ultimately inevitable: in the Remnant's line of work, things go awry from time to time, and as much as she wishes it wasn't now, her best chance is to try and come up with a way to resolve it in their favour.

"Linderman," she rasps out, voice thin, "knows what you can do— wants to hire you for a job—"

Calling this a Mexican standoff isn't wholly accurate, when it's properly a hostage situation. Elijah has a hostage and a gun. All Raith has is a slender throwing knife he slid from his sleeve when the action started, the handle cupped in his hand and still out of sight. He's quick, sure, but not that quick: There's no way he can throw the knife and disable the crazed drug-dealer before Eileen walks the last step she ever will. No, that will have to come later.

"Think o' us like, talent scouts," 'Kurt' states in support of Eileen's story. His gaze drifts briefly over to Craig. "Looks like y'got a li'l more 'talent' than we were expectin'." But just briefly, and then his focus is back on Elijah. "Yer in the business, so you know that Mister Linderman don't pick just anybody when he's got a job t' fill." Casually, but at the same time not too slowly, his hand drifts over the top of the table and comes to rest over the wad of bills. "He picks people he knows can do the job-" Deftly, he picks the cash up from the counter, holding it in such a way that Elijah won't get a look at the actual face values of the bills- "People who appreciate the value t' be had from the job. Now fer some, sure, the value o' job's a, a job well done. But a 'job well done' don't always pay yer bills. Some things y'just can't buy if the only currency y'got's a 'job well done.'

"We on the same page, you'n me?"

"No." It's a hiss that smells like rot near Eileen's face. Some other ability, she might almost think, but it isn't. His mouth has been places, and he has a bad case of gingivitis, among other things. The gun's muzzle prods harder into the subtlety of bone at the small of her back. "D-don't you fuckers lie to me. You feel wrong. All three of you shitheads, you feel wrong. Nobody brings a fucking woman to talk about this. Nobody comes to find me here. This ain't where people do the fuckin' sa—"

He cuts off, abruptly. Sneers, his thin lip curling thick over white teeth that seem to go for an inch before sinking into his mottled gums. "Are you cops?" he hisses, sudden as a snakebite, latching onto an idea that makes his raw-boned face go an ugly shade of sly over Eileen's shoulder. "You're fuckin' cops. Aren't ya? Tell me the truth and I won't fucking kill you all. You undercover? I'll let you go: I know how this shit works, they'll miss three cops."

We're not cops, is what Craig would love to be saying, despite the fact that the dead man who he pretends to be was actually a detective, once, but hey. Unfortunately, he still remains crumpled against the table and face down in his puddle of beer like the worst kind of drunk, face angled away from Eileen and the sickfuck holding her hostage, slitted eyes only just seeing Raith as sunlight spills to slant warmly across his face.

The hand that managed to catch on the surface of the table shifts, fingers spreading some before growing lax again, the other arm caught with upper against table side, hanging limp with curled fingers towards the ground. He doesn't move, but he does shift a look to angle it towards Raith, watching.

Eileen remembers a scorched roof overlooking a city transformed into an inferno, remembers falling several stories to her death on impact with the roof of a crumpled car. More importantly, she remembers what happens in between, and although she's of the belief that their visions aren't a precursor to an unavoidable future, she reaches out with her ability nonetheless and sinks those same hooks into Gabriel's psyche.

His psychic presence has more weight than a bird's. It's fortunate that Eileen's physical size and strength doesn't equate to what she's capable in terms of exerting mental power. Arms elbow-deep in mud that she possesses only a vague awareness of, she reaches slippery hands into the mire, finds purchase and pulls.

Get up.

The mask over Raith's face remains impassive, effectively hiding the flash of confusion he feels. Elijah knows they'll miss three 'cops,' but if they lie, he'll kill all three of them? His threat is flawed on a fundamental level! "Three cops," he begins, "Are gonna come to the middle o' Staten Island, out o' the gove'ment spots, with no backup, t' bust one guy." A momentary pause, as if doing so will give Eli the opportunity to realize the scenario he's implied he's in is insane and unlikely. "Well!"

In a smooth motion, the wad of bills goes into the outside pocket of Raith's jacket, hand kept in plain view so as to not give the appearance of 'wrongdoing.' "Guess he ain't interested," the acting-spy says to Craig before shifting his attention back to Elijah. "Mister Linderman ain't gonna be happy," come words structured and said as if to be a caution for the criminal's benefit, "Ain't gonna be mad, neither, but he ain't gonna be happy. Now, you think about this, pally. Y'only get t' say 'no' once. Do that, ship sails, an' it never comes back t' port. I just want t' make sure y'understand this." With all his knowledge and training, Raith must know that they could probably just leave without keeping up the facade. So by doing exactly that, he's either hoping to get back into good graces, get more information, or buy time for Eileen and Craig- and Gabriel- to pull a rabbit out of their shared hat.

Apparently, in Eli's paradigm of reality, lying pretty much means any answer beside an admission to having done so as law enforcement. Staten Island is a strange land, these days, much time spent waiting for the other shoe to drop— be it aerial plane bombardments or the rumored government sweeps on-foot, behind riot shield, wielding billy club or legislation. The rest of the time, living in sin despite these abstracted fears, conspiracy theories. Rumors. The sinners' paradise can't last. Every sinner knows that: this island and its lucrative monstrosity came out of ashes, and in ashes it'll go.

Hesitation on Eli's face, but not doubt. Raith has lived among too many evil men to know that. He is many things. Maybe he wasn't going to be a murder, too, but what you weren't going to be doesn't always command the highest order of influence or principle over what you're about to become. This isn't to say Jensen Raith does not accomplish his objective. That was a lot of words, and Eli listened to all of them. The time is bought, and then the time is over.

The gun lifts. The barrel aimed squarely across the room at the broadside of Kurt's chest, and his knobbly finger contracting like rat-teeth on th—

— the muzzle jerks up, down, no bullet fired as Eli's hand convulses along with the rest of him, the hand gripping Eileen's throat squeezing in a way that implies it's a good thing his other hand didn't do that. She's partially dragged down with Elijah when he falls, promptly, like a sack of potatoes, collecting on the dirty floor of the bar in a pile of lax limbs that are, for the next few seconds, dead to the world. His gun goes skittering three feet from his loose hand. His astral self, attached by a psychic string, swimming outside his body from the telepathic smackdown it just got.

Rising from the same metaphorical lagoon that Eileen had reached into with her psychic presence, Craig is getting to his feet. A little dimly. Beer makes greasy dampness up the side of his face, stains his white shirt, and now the palms of his hands as he leans heavily against the table, movements laboured. But probably sharper than would be expected, all the same.

"We've got ten seconds," Gabriel says, and though his voice doesn't literally change, there is a familiar Gabriel-esque severity filtered back into it, "to decide what we want to do with him before he comes to."

A hand shot out at an opportune moment prevents Elijah from pulling Eileen all the way down with him. Her fingers hook around the edge of the table and squeak across the wood, beer dribbling the length of her arm and gathering in the hollow on the inside of her elbow. Ten seconds is not a lot of time, but it's roughly how long it took them to reassert their control over the situation, so that's something.

She pulls herself back up with less force than required to help wrest Gabriel free. "It's enough of a qualification for me," she says tightly, stepping around the side of the table to put some distance between herself and the man on the floor. Her hand goes to her throat, and she dances the tips of her fingers across it. She can still breathe, can still talk — whatever soreness she still has by this time tomorrow she deserves for being unable to see that coming.

"His ability'll make interrogation problematic," Raith says, dropping his act and rising from his own seat, "He knows what we look like, and there's still the kids to consider. That leaves our options pretty thin. Too bad for him." With a small measure of glee in his voice- real or feigned is hard to determine- Raith gives Craibriel a clap on his shoulder. "He's all yours."

Craig glances at Raith's profile with only a minor hesitation, before his hand goes out to steal back up his leather jacket, swing it around his shoulders and push him arms through sleeves, adjust the zipper-lined lapels before moving passed Eileen, stepping over Eli's scissor-angled legs. He crouches, glancing him up and down, before, like any good pickpocket, he checks the unconscious man's pockets. A cellphone is plucked out, glanced over, and tossed to Raith underhand, before Craig lays his palm down on the man's shoulder just as Elijah's face begins to twitch with oncoming consciousness.

"I won't be long." Blackness floods across his skin, hair, the angles of his clothing, and seeps over Elijah's body too, engulfing him from head to foot. It's not unusual for Gabriel to take his dinner at the Dispensary and go back to the attic with his full plate to eat alone. This has much the same sentiment, when his shadow-self drags Elijah's similarly transformed body away for private dining, leaving nothing behind but the man's cellphone, spilled beer, and a stack of ones in Raith's pocket.

Eileen folds an arm across her midsection, leaning her hip into the table. Her sparrow flits down from the ceiling and alights on her shoulder — the one that isn't recovering from a stab wound — and darts a glance over at the cellphone in Raith's hand, assuming he caught it. "Check his call history and any incoming or outgoing text messages," she suggests, "then turn it off. If we need to, we can still have Wireless run diagnostics later."

She flicks beer from her fingertips, no napkin that isn't already soiled to wipe her hands off on, but she can't complain. In a few minutes, Gabriel is probably going to have it a lot worse. "We'll wait for him by the truck."

As the idea is voiced by Eileen, Raith's fingers are dancing across the phone's buttons. The most immediately relevant information will most likely be any planned meetings that Elijah has. Or had, as the case will soon be. "Seems like the safest idea right now," he says of waiting by the truck. But that thought is shuffled aside, is only temporarily. "You alright?"

"You should be asking him that," Eileen says, which translates to yes. She's fine. A little shaken, pulse fluttering in her throat, but unhurt. When she moves to leave, it's out one of the side doors rather than the front, to take advantage of the shade provided by the alley before they return to the truck and wait for Gabriel.

She's going to go home, pull on another layer of clothes and reexamine their sting from start to finish in an attempt to pinpoint where exactly things began to go wrong. Or would, if her thought process wasn't interrupted by something buzzing in the front of her bodice. A moment later, she's fishing her phone out of her top and maneuvering it up against her ear as she pushes open the side door and steps out into the light.

"Spurling," she says, her syllables gently rounded and accent unmistakably English. She's reminded to ask her teammates for lessons in imitating Americans. A pause, then. Incredulity sharpens her tone. "You're where?"

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