Like a Thief


delia_icon.gif jaiden_icon.gif

Scene Title Like a Thief
Synopsis Something valuable is stolen from a family man that can never be regained.
Date July 17, 2011

Brooklyn Jaiden's garage

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. "Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe

When Delia makes her way into the garage-turn-safehouse on Sunday morning, there is a murmur of voices from the living room below the stairs. The first thing she sees as she makes her way into the room is the silvery flicker of the television, and then the light illuminating three figures on the sofa — two small, and one larger. Jamie, Mitch and Ann.

Jamie, the last Delia saw him, was still well enough to be mobile, Mitch and Ann less so. The latter two should be in bed, unless they've improved.

Mitch is lying down with his head in Ann's lap; she has herself propped up in the corner of the sofa rather than sitting by her own power. Her eyes are now completely red but for the irises, and her face glossy from her fever. Jamie sits on the other side of Mitch, his lap a resting place for his little brother's feet.

On the television, Woody is arguing with Buzz Lightyear.

She wants to take the mask off, so she doesn't look so clinical around the trio but she can't. Not in good conscience. Not anymore, at least. Delia's eyebrows furrow in the center as she regards them, her rush toward the kitchen counter ending in the slow placement of some more coloring books and crayons on top of it. From there, she pulls the end of her glove a little tighter on her hand. The snap when she lets go is a little too loud.

"You shouldn't be out of bed," the obvious statement doesn't really register to Delia before it's out of her mouth when she takes a long breath in and bites down on her lip.

There's no hello or anything else, nothing for either Jamie or Mitch before Delia sprints down the hallway in search of the fourth member of the family. She doesn't want to head straight into the bedroom, so the first place she looks is the bathroom. Knowing he can't be in there. He's been too weak to get out of bed by himself since before she found the family.


Jamie's head turns to watch with wide eyes over the edge of the sofa; Ann simply closes hers, and doesn't call out to stop Delia. The redhead appointed herself their caretaker; this is part of the job.

When Delia enters, at last, the bedroom, Dave is covered by a sheet, his wife having done that much after ushering the children out of the room. The white sheet is spotted crimson at the nose and mouth, but there is no movement, not the slightest flutter of the thin cotton, to suggest the man beneath it is breathing.

Kneeling on one knee next to the bed, Delia draws the blanket down slowly to look at the sick man and wrap her warm hands around his cold one. She doesn't attempt to move him, not yet. Not while the rest of the family is in the one place she would have to drag the body through but there's other things to be done at the moment.

"Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth: patiently bearing till he receive the early and latter rain…" the small prayer in lieu of last rites was something she's been memorizing for the past week while she watched and waited. Her voice is low enough that the rest of them can't hear, it's nice to think that the words she might have to repeat will be new.

When the prayer is finished, the young nurse pulls the sheet back up and tucks it around the body. She'll have to roll it later, when she can ferry the children out of the common room to somewhere, she hasn't decided where yet.

By the time she returns to the living room, Buzz is being fished from a claw game.

Ann hears Delia's footsteps, and lifts her head. Tears glitter in the red pool of her eyes. "I'm sorry I didn't warn you," she says quietly, as if her voice won't be heard over the movie, though of course it must be for Delia to hear.

She glances at the boys; Mitch seems oblivious, eyes on the television, but Jamie has curled deeper into the corner of the sofa he sits in, arms around his knees and eyes downcast.

"I … we couldn't stay in there any longer," she murmurs. "What do we do now?"

Delia perches on the arm closest to Jamie and places her gloved hand on his shoulder. "I understand," she says quietly, not really sure of how to approach the subject around the boys. "I wouldn't have been able to at all, you're a lot stronger than I am." Perhaps it's out of necessity that Ann seems to be made of stuff that's more resilient than her nurse is. A young woman that's already beginning to show signs of breaking.

"I can run a cool bath for you guys, if you feel strong enough to take care of them while I uhm.. get everything ready." A glance toward the stairs is all the signal she gives to Ann in regards to her intentions. Looking down at Jamie, she touches his forehead with the back of her fingers. Even through the gloves she can feel the heat. "Then we'll get them to bed, do you want me to make the beds out here? So we can talk? You won't have to be away from the boys."

The older woman's brows knit together, and she nods, following Delia's gaze upstairs. "I can give them a bath," she agrees, but the second question seems to confuse her. Unable to make a decision, she shakes her head no, then nods, then shrugs.

"Whatever's easiest. You've… you're doing so much. You shouldn't have to do this," she says, with a nod toward where Dave lies. "You're too young. You shouldn't have to see things like this, so young."

Ann's gaze drops to her sons' faces, the youngest victims of them all, and she presses her lips together, turning her head away before they can see her cry.

"It might be easier if I could make the beds in here, that way I can clean the other room really good before you go back." Delia drops down to the couch cushion, her long arms wrap around Jamie to pull him onto her lap as she attempts to get a little closer to Ann. "I'm really sorry, no one should have to go through this. Is there… Is there anyone you want to call? Family? They won't be able to visit… but hearing their voices might be good."

The cellular phone in her pocket is drawn out and she checks the signal before offering it over. "I can start the bath," then down to Jamie she smiles and shucks his chin with one finger. "I brought you some new coloring books, some new movies, and grapes." Because according to Delia, everyone should love grapes.

Jamie's arms lift from where they were tucked around himself, and he wraps them around Delia's neck. The hot wet tears against her neck is enough to let the redheaded woman know he understands what happens, if Mitch doesn't.

"Thank you. I … I can't, not yet," Ann shakes her head, glancing at the phone and then setting it down again. "We aren't close to our families anymore, and they'd blame us for … for our beliefs."

Mitch looks up, brows furrowing in confusion, then rests his head back to watch the movie.

There's a sniffle and a nod of understanding from the young woman as she hugs the older boy close. "Okay, I'll figure everything out… uhm.. somehow." Leaving Mitch to his mother to carry, she lifts Jamie easily in her arms and swings him up onto her back. Maybe if he was healthy, she wouldn't be able to do it.

"Let's get you into the bath to cool down your fever, okay? Then Mitch can pick a movie and you can pick what kind of breakfast you want." The choices are the same as every day. Oatmeal, cream of wheat, some other gunky stuff that she got the recipe for from the internet. They chose the last one once, never again.

The bath is cold, since Delia never bothered to figure out how to rig the water heater. Giving clean cloths to Ann, she closes the door silently behind her and leaves them in solitude as she tends to Dave.

Ann struggles to her feet — it's hard enough to carry herself, but Mitch is down to about 30 pounds; he's a small enough burden to bear. She nods to Delia, a whisper of "thanks" is not loud enough to carry, but the sentiment is there in her eyes.

Getting into the subway was fairly easy - hopping a gate or two and slipping past a wall that had been chiseled out just enough for someone of Jaiden's frame to get past. Down the darkened tracks at least 200 feet before the flashlight came on, and even then, a trek through the sewer tunnels that led to his hand-carved tunnel.

The lights in the underground escape passage are still flickering with power, which is an interesting sign. That means the generator is working, the power hasn't been cut off, or some odd combination of the two.

Still, he was careful, with .45 drawn as he climbed the ladder into the generator room, the racket deafening. It was good to see the old place again, and as he tucked the gun back into it's shoulder holster, Jaiden stepped out into the safehouse part of the apartment and looked around.

Someone has been here. Things have been used and taken, and the doorway leading to the apartment was left wide open. The sound of a bath, too, was barely audible over the racket of the generator - easier to hear once the door between the generator and the safehouse was closed.

It's about that time, Delia slips out into the hallway. Her gloved hands going to her face to pinch the mask to the bridge of her nose as she tries to keep her emotions in check for the job she has to do. Upon her entry to the kitchen, her back is turned to Jaiden as she digs through some of the drawers trying to find something to help her.

Of course it's all organized.

Which means she can't find a thing.

"God damnit…" she mutters, finally turning around to see the large man with a gun. Ann and the boys might discount her blood curdling shriek to a movie, if they'd been watching a horror. But they weren't because the boys are young and Delia frightens really easily.

"Spider!! Don't worry!!" She calls out to the remaining family members in the bathroom, then to Jaiden she hisses. "Jaiden, what are you doing here?!" Nevermind that it's his house.

The sound of the bath, the sound of Toy Story on the TV (Oh, that slinky dog…his favorite character!), is a confusing thing to walk in to. His gun was still in it's holster, the large man dressed in black pants, black shirt, jacket, and akubra hat (the stereotypical australian one), but when he sees Delia in her mask and surgical gloves, his eyes widen, the man taking two quick steps back to the 'safe house to grab one of the surgical masks from the bin by the door, hastily covering his mouth and nose.

"I was getting data from my server an' thought I could use a few things….what's going on?" He gestures to her, to her mask and gloves. "What's all this?"

"I uhm.. well the place was raided.. you said," Delia begins, her eyes flitting toward the bathroom before she lifts one shoulder in a meek shrug. "I didn't have anywhere safe to bring them. This place was abandoned… their neighbors tried to burn them to death. I just figured since there wasn't anyone here."

Until now.

Folding her arms over her chest, she raises her chin and frowns in his direction. "Well since you're here, you can help me with Dave… err.. Mister Martell." She waves one hand toward the bedroom and takes a few steps to lead him there. "If you have some plastic sheets, can you bring them? We need to wrap him up." Her wording might be enough to indicate what sort of condition the man is in.

"It was raided. Or at least it was supposed to have been. You think I would be on the run still if it wasn't? I got a text that said 'they're coming, get out' and I did, no questions asked…." Jaiden trails off, letting out a sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose. None of that matters much anymore. A quick glance down confirms that, yes, Delia is still wearing her anklet, which means people know where she is….great.

"Mr. Martell….not doing to well, I take it?" There's a pause as he fits on a pair of indigo surgical gloves in large size over his hands, pulling them down over his fingers, tucking them down just so, before making his way to a small rack where, at the bottom, six black pouches rest. Body bags. A glance to Delia has the man retrieving one of them, tucking it under his arm before standing. "Regular or Evo flu, Delia?" he asks quietly. "'Cause these gloves and masks….hell, a NBC suit would be what I'd choose for this job."

"Red death, if you'd come in the other way, you would have seen the little sign I had on the door." Granted it's a really small sign but it's there. Once they get to the room, Delia points to the body under the spattered white sheet. "This is Dave Martell, his wife Ann is in the bathroom with their two boys, Jaime and Mitch." Why they're not at a hospital as opposed to here is briefly explained as she gently pulls the sheet off of the man to get him ready for disposal. Or whatever they're going to do with him.

"Sorry, I just figured since you said the place was raided that it'd be okay to bring them here. I can't take them to Eltingville and I didn't think anyone… uhm… not official… would be here. You know?" She sniffles once and wipes her eye with the back of her long sleeve. It's cool in the apartment compared to the humidity and heat of the New York summer outside. It's not due to air conditioning because she couldn't figure that out either but the fact that it's underground.

"I mean, if they're watching it and they came down here…" They'd be greeted with a virus they have a very slim hope of living through.

She says it so casually, it's almost like it was nothing, but the simple term 'red death' conjures up all sorts of horrid things that will need to be done before Jaiden can leave, up to and including hot, scrubbing shower and clean clothes, never taking the mask off, and whatever he's wearing, burning it to ensure no-one else gets hold of it.

The body bag is unrolled, a plastic sound as the heavy waterproof cloth canvas material unrolls and is laid on the floor next to the bed. Jaiden kneels there for a moment, looking at the man he's never met, and shakes his head slightly. "Go in the bathroom and bring me a washcloth, a razor, and a comb, please." He pauses for a moment, looking to Delia. "Bloke doesn't deserve to go out like this." Jaiden intends to clean the man's face before he goes into the ground - a measure of humanity in a very very inhuman world.

When Delia returns with the things he asked for, Jaiden quickly and carefully cleans the flecks of blood from the man's nose, mouth, and face, shaves the several days' growth of beard, and combs his hair straight before standing and heading to his closet.

Nudging open the door with his toe, as to not touch the knob, Jaiden pulls out a clean, white shirt that is more than likely two sizes too big for the man along with a tie in bright yellow and blue - colors of the spring sky and daffodils - which are put on the man once the pajama top is removed and put into the body bag. "Let's get him in, and then let his family say goodbye, at least." Jaiden says softly, reaching up to the bedside table where, still sitting there, is his little change dish. Two golden dollars are withdrawn and tucked into the man's breast pocket.

"Most faithful God, lively is the courage of those who hope in You. Your servant Dave Martell suffered greatly, but placed his trust in Your mercy. Confident that the petition of those who mourn pierces the clouds and finds an answer, we beg You, give rest to Dave. Do not remember his sins, but look upon his sufferings and grant him refreshment, light, and peace. We ask this through Christ our Lord. " And jaiden crosses himself.

"I don't think we can bury him," Delia says quietly as she gathers the fabric around the man's ankles, readying herself for the lift. Looking down at Dave's face, she tries to keep a neutral expression. Later, when there's no one around, she'll likely allow herself to feel something for the man.

"Have you been in touch with the Ferry at all?" It's a leading question, because the young woman wouldn't bring them up otherwise. A quick glance to Jaiden for the signal is all she needs before she lifts and then Dave is in his new bed. "If you could get a hold of Abby maybe, he can be cremated and you could bring him back… or leave him somewhere and I can pick him up."

Jaiden crouches near the man's head, shaking his head slightly. "Not much contact on my end, I'm sorry." He leaves it vague and doesn't elaborate. The man has truly been on the run for a while. "And we can, if you give me about ten or fifteen minutes….My tractor upstairs can dig a grave fairly easily, assuming I can get it started. If not?" Jaiden lets that trail off, giving a small shrug, lifting the man and settling him down in the body bag with surprising gentleness. It may be a complete stranger, but he deserves respect.

His gaze lifts up to the bathroom where the water had stopped, the sound of splashing and the occasional cough can be heard before it turns to Delia again. "Whole family got it, I guess?" It'll tell him how big a trench he'll need to dig.

"I don't think he should be buried because he's still contagious. We don't want it leaking into the water system and unless you have a spare coffin around this place too…" Delia's voice drifts off and her gaze shifts toward the Australian before she narrows her eyes just a little. "You don't have a coffin here, do you?" She hopes he doesn't.

"Anyway… Abby would be able to cremate him.. that's why I asked. If you can't get in touch with her, I can do it my way…" Where to put the body in the meantime would be the problem. "Besides, I don't think we'd be able to drive a tractor through Brooklyn without people getting suspicious, maybe a cop or two showing up…"

"Good point, good point, and no, no coffin." Jaiden sighs softly and half-closes the bodybag, positioning the man's hands about midway down, crossed at the wrists just above his waist, then zipping it up a bit more. "I'll….I'll see what I can do." He sounds exasperated, very nearly running a hand through his hair but thinking better of it when he remembers the nitrile gloves he's wearing and what might be on them.

"The family needs to say goodbye before we take him upstairs, I think. We can put him in the garage in one of the locking job boxes. It'll do for a crypt until something can be done."

Before Delia brings the family back in to see Dave off, the bedding is stripped and brought to the washing machine. The smell of bleach is prevalent in the air a smell that the family is likely getting used to by now. When she returns, it's with an armload of sheets that were in the dryer from the day before. "I've been trying to keep everything clean," she says quietly as she pulls the fitted white linen over one corner. "I'll make sure I bleach the place before I leave tonight…" It's a good thing she has a lot of time before curfew, she might need it all.

"You'd have done the same thing, wouldn't you?" Her blue eyes squint a little as she studies him, of course he doesn't seem happy. Pursing her lips, she goes back to her self appointed task of cleaning before bringing the two small boys in. In her mind, it's better to present the man in a nice clean room as well as a clean face. "They didn't have anywhere to go."

One shoulder lifts and she gives the Australian a small tick of a smile before she drifts out of the room. When she comes back, she has Jaime in her arms again, Mitch is in his mother's arms and Ann's face still holds the sheen of fevered sweat that she had before she went into the bathroom. Jaime is placed on one of the cots before Mitch is taken from his mother's arms and laid down next to his brother.

"Come on, we should give them some time."

The tall Australian man gives the family a small nod and a smile, but sadly, it's blocked by the surgical mask. Still, there's the hope that they perhaps know that he's the one who set this place up. He's the one who made it ready for Delia.

"Aye, I would have." Jaiden murmurs softly. "It wouldn't be the first time I've seen something like this, and it never, never gets any easier to see, even knowing you're doin' all that you can do." He's read the statistics. He's heard the numbers. He's even read the paper, and recognized the name Martell as a family that was burned out of their home for fear of being infected and, it seems they are. "It's what this place was set up for. Dignity."

When they go back to the kitchen, the young redhead pulls out a pot and begins to prepare a thin oatmeal. Jaiden's provisions, what little are left, haven't been touched. Groceries brought in by Delia on her daily trips include fresh fruit and vegetables, sparse amounts of meat, and bones to prepare stock. Apparently she's been making everything from scratch. Noticeably, there's a remarkable amount of dried herbs and powders lining the counters.

"I think Mitch is going to go next…" she murmurs, trying to be careful not to let the grieving woman in the other room hear. "He's getting worse instead of better, a lot like his dad." Small handfuls of the different leaves and flowers tossed into mixture gives it a repulsive fragrance and it is left to simmer on the stove as she thins it with more and more water.

"Their religious beliefs don't let them go to the hospital," she explains, "I'm just happy that they came with me… and thanks… for helping me. I don't think I could have cleaned Dave up all by myself."

It's not like a hospital would have given them any better chance, and they couldn't have done much for them anyway. He's heard rumors of people being turned away, shunted into wards and left there 'to be seen later' or 'when the doctor gets in' when in reality it's just a triage and they've been given zero chance to survive.

Jaiden does grab his camera, one of a multitude of them, and takes several pictures of the woman grieving over her husband. To be sent out immediately over the wire. Her face, flushed with fever. His pale and gaunt, freshly shaven and in a shirt and tie not his own. Two sons, unconscious in the background, awaiting the same fate. Someone will need to remember.

"Does anything work on this? Anti-inflammatories, anti-bacterial, anti-viral? I think I've got some acyclovir back there in the cooler that should still be good, if they'd be willing to give it a shot." Sure, it would be like sending good money after bad, but if it keeps the rest of them alive, it might work.

Jaiden watches as Delia steeps her tea, sitting in his usual, if dusty, spot at the end of the bar, clad in mask and gloves. "You're welcome. I wouldn't leave anyone to deal with that themselves."

"Wh-what are you doing," Delia says quietly, not really making the statement she wants and frowning as she follows him toward the bedroom. She's nothing short of horrified when he begins to take the pictures and she turns to go back to the kitchen, leaving him with the family until he comes to join her again. The oatmeal sits in the pot, still bubbling but too runny to be considered anything substantial.

In another pot she's started some other sort of concoction. To be kind would be to say that it reeks. Her forehead is damp with sweat as she labors over the thicker brew, arm straining as she stirs the sickly yellow mixture. "I don't think anything works, nothing that I've read about…" Her blue eyes flicker to meet his olive ones and she pauses for a moment. "I've talked to some.. uhm.. some people who are more familiar with it. One of the ladies said that they have to have something to fight for, if they're strong enough. So I've been trying to keep their fevers down and keeping them hydrated and fed." It didn't work so well with Dave.

"Your pictures, you're not going to.. I mean… they're private people, you're not going to use them in one of your exibits, are you?"

"They're not an exhibit, Del…" Jaiden says softly, tucking the memory card away in his breast pocket before retaking his spot. For such a large man, he's very fast, taking his four or five pictures and slipping away before the woman even noticed he was there. "There was a man, David Kirby, who died from AIDS a few years back. The image of him, with his father cradling him after the ravages of the disease killed him, was one of the most striking pictures. It humanized the epidemic. It didn't make it someone else's problem - it made it everyone's problem."

Jaiden shakes his head. "This is too big for an exhibition. If you'll let me, I'll talk to Mrs. Martell and, with her permission, get it to someone who can do some good with it. Give her something to fight for." He pauses for a moment, quirking his head to the side. "No steam from the shower? You didn't get the hot water working?" He slips from his seat again, walking to a small access panel where, after a little tinkering, one 'click' can be heard as a breaker is thrown, Jaiden returning. "You should have hot water in twenty minutes. Does wonders for cleaning, better than cold."

The argument about the pictures is left alone, instead Delia focuses on the problem with the water. "Bleach is just as good, it doesn't matter if the water is hot or cold unless it's boiling." The idle comment is made as she dishes the oatmeal into small bowls, none of the remaining Martells actually eat enough to warrant a full serving, but she tries. Two of them are loaded with sugar and milk before she sets them aside.

The thick yellow substance is moved off the burner and she places it to the side to cool before bringing it to the family. No doubt the boys will protest as the poultices are spread on their little chests but it's a necessary evil.

"I'll send Ann out to talk to you, if you don't take too long. It'll give me a chance to feed the boys and get them sleeping." Without waiting for his answer, Delia takes two of the bowls and slips toward the door. Pausing there for a moment, her eyes crinkle at the sides, indicating a small smile aimed directly at him. "Thanks for understanding, I just felt so helpless when Nick caught it… I needed to help someone."

"Any time, Delia. Any time." And Jaiden moves to start gathering things to take wtih him.

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