Little Fish


felix4_icon.gif heller_icon.gif kristen_icon.gif russo_icon.gif

Scene Title Little Fish
Synopsis Kristen and Russo head out to Staten Island on an anonymous tip.
Date November 23, 2010

Staten Island: Reclaimed Zone

It does not look like the site of a massacre.

It doesn't look like much of anything. Abandoned buildings are a dime a dozen on Staten Island, and there is little about the parking garage on the very edge of the Reclaimed Zone that differentiates it from the derelict gas station across the street, patches of weeds growing out of the cracks in the pavement and covered in frost, or the row of houses behind it with roofs that collapsed last winter under the weight of too much snow.

There are a few cars caked in rust whose engines have been in hibernation for the last four years, many stripped of vital parts light enough to be carried by urban scavengers: hubcaps, tires, radios wrenched from sooty interiors. Some of the seats are gone, too, but scrounging isn't what's brought Russo and Kristen inside the garage to the level marked P1 where, according to their anonymous source, at least five civilians were lined up against the wall and dispatched by the local military with one bullet to the back of the head each.

If there were still bodies rotting here a few days ago when they received the tip, they aren't here now.

The only difference between investigative journalism and being a detective is really where the paycheck is coming from. While both Russo and Kristen are mostly political journalism, the instincts remain the same. They're both (mostly) intelligent people and they both have fairly good reasoning skills.

On top of that, Kristen watches too much television.

"Well… if they were against a wall, you'd think there would be chips or something in it. Or a recent repair job." Using her cane, she steps up to the wall and begins using the camera on her phone to take a few snaps, emailing each one to a freemail address as it comes up… and then deleting the sent mail but not the picture. Kristen Reynolds is also quite careful.

Try flashing the light up here, see if you can find anything? I want to take a snapshot of every little spot…" Then she pauses to narrow her eyes at Russo and before he can say the words she adds, "not puddle."

Brad shuffles against the wall and presses his hands against it. "Could've just been some source dicking around. I used to pull this kind of crap all of the time when I was younger," which shouldn't be a surprise considering his general propensity for mischief. His lips press tightly together as he raises the light to the corner.

The host seems less host-like today in blue jeans and an oversized black hoodie— dressing warm in this weather is all about layers. He clears his throat and shakes his head, "I mean… a person needs to take these tips seriously, but honestly, you can't tell me you're not wondering the same thing. It's not like it's the first time we've been punk'd…"

Peeling paint and aged graffiti make finding chips in the concrete a challenge, but not impossible. She locates one at a glance, but whether it was created by the force of a bullet impacting the wall after punching through the back of somebody's head—

Well. Her camera phone couldn't say, and neither does Russo's light, but the luminol he spritzes on the area Kristen indicates pulls out shapes that do not match the graffiti's intricate design, spatter patterns briefly illuminated in the dark by the chemical reaction pulling the iron from the hemoglobin residue too stubborn to be scrubbed clean.

"One down…" The producer clicks away, taking more time than necessary per picture due to the emailing and deleting, of course leaving the original on her camera. "Now… if they lined them up execution style…" The thin woman hobbles a few steps to the side and measures her body from the bullet hole using her cane. "They'd probably have them four to six inches apart, wouldn't you think?"

Using her Law and Order gained powers of deduction, she stands in front of where she believes the next bullet to have landed. Her leather gloves are finely crafted and thin enough to be considered a second skin, making the task of feeling the wall for the next irregularity a little easier. "My question is… Why would the military be executing civillians… Who gave the order?"

The shapes are more than a little unsettling. Russo swallows hard as he backs up. Something went down here. His jaw tightens as he cranes his neck to catch Kristen's gaze. "K… I think…" his eyebrows furrow tightly together. "The tip was real." Or plausible given the evidence. Anonymous tips are a crap shoot that way. "Something happened here."

He shuffles down the wall as per Kristen's assertion. "You'd keep them close enough to make the job easy." He spritzes the luminal a good four to six inches down the wall. "An order like that had to come from high up," he considers his own brief stint in the military. "Or… just the perfect tempest in a teapot. Things were crazy a couple weeks ago— people do crazy things when they're afraid. Even soldiers."

There weren't soldiers here. No sign of cops or the military. But there's a funny rushing sound, like a distant subway train pulling into a station. Abruptly, there's a figure blocking some of the light coming in from the entryway of the garage. Faceless, anonymous, and androgynous in black armor, complete with polarized facemask. No sound from it, not even breathing, though it cocks its head with a funny, raptorish motion. And what are we doing in here?

Four to six inches isn't a bad estimation, if inaccurate. This time, the luminol catches the edge of something rather than the center, long, thick streaks that roll down the wall and, presumably, gather in an uneven pool at their feet. A hand print, too, fingers splayed as though someone had braced their hand against it in the moments before the trigger was pulled.

Russo and Kristen can at least be sure that their arms weren't behind their backs when it happened.

There isn't much that can crack the impassive manner in which Kristen approaches her job, but the handprint on the causes her breath to tremble a little as she take a gulp of air in. Putting the end of her cane back down on the ground to balance herself again, she pivots and averts her eyes from the scene. "I've seen enough Brad… this is real. Let's go.." Her words aren't much more than a controlled murmur, Russo knows her better than anyone and even he wouldn't have been able to predict this. Only one picture was taken and emailed… the one of the handprint.

The shadow blocking the light is enough to raise the woman's head and she freezes in sight of the armor. Oh ffff— // The curse is even sensored in her head as she stares at the facemask that resembles a motorcycle helmet just a little too much. //— me sideways.

The hand print is met with goosebumps along Brad's arms. He reaches out his own hand to splay in the same fashion against the cement, resting there momentarily, giving him a connection to that person, a life lived. The change in light, however, is enough to draw Russo's gaze away from the cleaned spatter and back to the door. A quick glance is cast to Kristen.

The hand is lowered from the wall as he fake stumbles back towards Kristen, discretely the luminol is returned to his jacket pocket before his arms wrap around Kristen tightly. "Honey I told you— " he manages an easy enough smile, even if his eyes only reflect unspoken tension, "— no privacy here. I know you're all into the public places, but" he casts a wary glance towards the entrance and then back to his producer, his eyes silently asking her to follow along, "I get all skiddish around the people. And it's kind of cold to y'know… out here… in the parking garage… naked…"

He knows what that shimmering glow means. Saw it often enough, in his years in the NYPD and the Bureau. YOu can take the boy out of the cops, but not the cop outof the boy, as the cliche goes. The faceless figure ignores the attempt at song and dance. No greeting, no Miranda rights, even. They haven't apparently been caught in the commission of a crime. "Whose handprint is that?" comes the voice over the helmet speakers, after a metallic click. Inadvertantly reminiscent of one of those ridiculous stormtroopers from Star Wars. "This isn't a crime scene….."

The fading blue glow of the handprint has the producer puckering her lips just a little bit in thought before looking up at Russo and sliding out of his grip with a light smile. Turning toward the armored soldier, Kristen only widens it a little and tweaks an eyebrow upward. "No idea, actually…" Then, leaning back against the host of the show, she curls a gloved hand up on his face and glances at the soldier again. "I sort of have a thing for public places… and germs. You can imagine how hard it is to find a good spot that isn't absolutely filthy."

Reaching into her pocket, she pulls out a little bottle of germex and shakes it a little. It's a staple for nearly all New York City residents, it's unlikely to catch a random person without at least a bottle on them somewhere.

Russo arches a single eyebrow as the gloved hand on his face, shooting her a lopsided grin that she can read like a book he had to try. With a wink he holds his hands out to her, he could really use that germex. More than anything, he wishes to clean his hands of this place.

Finally, with his hands still out, he turns to face the black clothed figure. "She can't stand it when I touch her with my grubby paws. She likes that about as much as being pressed up against a really nasty wall. Of course, it's no dirtier than your average hotel room, right? I mean… this one time we took the blacklight to the bedspread annnnd— wait. I'm sorry, you don't want to know this story. I almost vomited…" He turns back to Kristen, "I'm so sorry about that pumpkin. I forgot to clean my hands again. I know you hate it when I touch you with them after inspecting our loveshack space…"

«I've got a pair of civvies in this garage, and they're using what can only be Luminol,» Fel says, radioing back over the link in his helmet, before he clicks on the speakers again. "STop bullshitting me, citizens," he says, flatly. "I know Luminol when I see it. And it's way too late for Halloween. What are you doing here?…..or I -could- arrest you for interfering with a crime scene. Please, start talking."

Glancing back at Russo, Kristen gives him a pointed look that can only be interpreted as the jig is up. They've been through enough together that he knows that one. "Kristen Reynolds, I produce The Advocate… the television show?" Clearing her throat, she places one hand on her purse and lifts it up. Anyone who watches crime drama knows not to reach anywhere that could conceal a gun. "I have my credentials here, if you want to look at them."

She limps a couple of steps forward, away from Russo before issuing a bright smile at the soldier. "You might have caught our last show, if you watch… Are you a fan? No, probably not… You're probably much too busy to catch it. We're opposite Sixty Minutes, horrible show."

Brad arches his eyebrows at his cohort, but there's a twitch of a smile at her assertion about Sixty Minutes, that's enough to amuse the host however momentarily. He follows the producer's lead, no reason to keep up the charade any longer, "Look, we got this anonymous tip to come here and check things out." Russo offers a fleeting shrug as he turns from Kristen and shoves his hands in his pockets.

"And while not all tips are accurate, something happened here." He holds out his hands, showing that they're empty, there's nothing more than what Felix saw.

They're confronted with their own carnival-mirror reflections in his faceplate for a long silent moment. Like he's been turned to stone. And then Fel says, "Tip to check out what? …..and I don't own a television." He pulls down a quarter of a million a year and he doesn't own a TV? The fading imprint on the wall. Blood.The mask swings towards the wall, and then back to them.

He doesn't own a television, bingo. The wheels turn in Kristen's head as she straightens her expression to a more neutral one and raises her chin a little. "Gang violence of some kind. Staten Island's been known to have a little. Well… okay.. maybe more than a little." She pulls her purse back down to her side, gripping the strap tightly with her free hand.

"Of course we were going to call the LEO's after we checked it out… I mean, it could have been a bogus call. Why waste their time for nothing?" Not to mention getting footage of the scoop beforehand.

"We work in the news business. At the end of the day, I'm little more than a glorified investigative reporter and K is my producer. Naturally, when we get tips we follow them up." Russo glances at Kristen and then back to Felix. "Honestly, this time I didn't think we would get anything, especially with the violence that transpired just a few weeks ago."

His eyes narrow a little at the uniform, "Actually you folks are to be commended for how you regained control of the situation. We talked about that on the show just last week. It's impressive how you lot put your lives on the line for a public who is mostly convinced you caused the problem in the first place. Brave, even." His eyes narrow as the smile eases into something more neutral, "I bet you have some great stories. There's something powerful about story. I'm sure it's why anyone cares about anything." His arms cross comfortably over his chest as he asks, "Have you ever thought about sharing some of them?"

It's really, really, really nice that they can't see Felix's face behind the 'plate. Because he's blushing, embarassed. What he does not note is that he was asked to appear on the Advocate, and misunderstood entirely which Advocate was meant. And thus refused. Because of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell thing still applying. He shrugs in a faint rattle of plates, miming nonchalance. "It's a living," he says, laconically. "And perhaps some day. What did the tip say? And what have you found?" Not to be diverted by the idea of appearing on the idiot box. His voice is mostly ironed out by the helmet speakers, and there're no distinguishing features save the armor itself…..and the gray on black Felix the Cat on his left pauldron.

"May I?" Kristen's flash of a smile is accompanied by a raised and questioning brow as she lifts one hand and dips it into her pocket. Pulling out her phone, she flips to one of the pictures taken and holds the screen up to show him. "It looks like someone was shot here," she lifts her cane up and tucks it under her arm to give herself enough maneuvering power to point out special interest areas in the picture. "I think we have a bullet hole here. And as you noted before… the luminol shows plenty of blood." She doesn't refer to the handprint, the long drips, or the puddle specifically. Instead, she turns her body slightly toward the scene and pulls her cane back out to use it as a pointer. "Something strong enough to punch holes in concrete left a mark over there. Could have been a bullet… but we're not really forensic specialists."

Even with the helmet, the sardonicism comes through. "The funny thing is….I was," he says, drily. "I used to be a cop in the NYPD. I worked Homicide for a while. And you're a hundred percent right, it does. This isn't generally gang territory, but….." He takes a few steps away from the entrance, to come up and see what's to be seen around the environs of the handprint.

"It was a field hospital," says a voice from the opposite end of the parking garage, and it echoes in the cement cavern, accompanied by the sound of approaching footsteps. The speaker comes into view a moment later, stepping around the side of a crumbling support column, the metal structure inside exposed to the air. He isn't young but neither is he old — late thirties or early forties with a worn face and early creases around a flat mouth and the corners of his eyes, which are a pale, almost washed out shade of blue.

Polished boots gleam in what little light there is to illuminate the garage's shadowy interior. "Colonel Heller," he introduces himself, attempting a tired smile that doesn't quite pan out. "Well, more of a morgue, really. It's my understanding that the paramedics weren't able to save many of the people who were brought in. The riots, you know."

Slipping her phone into her pocket, Kristen nods to the Colonel and gives him a small smile in return. "Colonel… a pleasure." The cane is brought back down to her side and she leans on it heavily, as though it pains her to stand without it. "It's too bad…" Her tone of voice wouldn't lead anyone to believe that she's not buying the man's story. Forlorn, somewhat mournful, it hosts the exact right amount of emotional drip that one might expect hearing from a woman that just heard some awful news.

"The riots were horrible, particularly in Queens…" Tsk. "A whole burrough burned to the ground, it's horrible."

Russo's blue eyes turn to the Colonel, his gaze resting on the man in question before flitting back to his producer. "Always a pleasure to meet a man in service." He swallows as he glances back where the handprint had been. "There was certainly a bad way about the riots, wasn't there? And I guess martial law was just one of those necessities to pull us through."

His arms tighten across his chest, a firm barrier to keep his own thoughts inside, concealed against his television-personality exterior. The action helps him hold his tongue and keep his more base-instincts at bay. And then one particular question escapes, "You're sure there wasn't any gang activity here? Maybe pre-riot activity?"

He's missing something. He knows it. But it's disrespectful to keep his helmet on in the presenceof someone who is kinda sorta his superior, and this pair of civilians isn't an immediate, apparent threat. So Felix pops it off with a hissing of seals, exposing that too angular face, all cheekbones and jaw and feline-narrow blue eyes. HE tucks it under his arm, and glances back and forth between the pair of reporters and the Colonel, and says nothing. Only offers the most token of salutes.

The salute receives a faint nod in return. "A necessity," he agrees, "but an unfortunate one. As for pre-riot activity, I couldn't tell you. We only came into possession of this structure a few weeks before the riots, and preliminary explorations didn't yield much. Building of this size makes for good shelter, found some evidence that it was used during the storms earlier this year but not much else.

"If I'd been told the host of the Advocate was coming, why— I could have arranged a tour for you and your lovely lady friend, Mr. Russo. But if there's anything I can do for you now that you're here…?"

Murmuring low, Kristen feels in her pocket for her phone and grips it tightly. "They've had it for a few weeks… huh.." A little louder now, she smiles to the Colonel, "Well if we'd known this was military property, we definitely would have called for a tour. Silly me, I thought it was just a parking garage." A little bit of her Southern twang pops up near the end, something she tries hard to conceal most times. In this case, it's a necessity to add a bit of flavor to her speech.

"When did the military think it necessary to acquire parking garages anyways?" Brad whistles as he inches closer to his producer again. "Tax dollars at work and all. Now that's a story, isn't it?" Russo absently chews on his bottom lip as he reaches into his pocket to grasp the luminol between his fingers. "Also… I'm no medical professional, but as my esteemed colleague was saying before, lots of germs here. Probably not so good for the patients. You should… have any…" he manages a twitch of a smile, gracious and seemingly sincere, "riot-survivors tested for the Superbug or something. That MRSA is a bitch."

Suspicious Russian is suspicious. Fel's face is set in those grim lines, and now he's looking at the Colonel, like a German Shepherd waiting for a signal from its handler. Or a cop who's certain that there's more bullshit flying, even if none of it has hit him yet.

"I'm not sure if you've noticed, Mr. Russo," says Heller, coming up alongside Felix where he eventually stops, hands hooked loosely behind his back, "but there aren't that many facilities here on Staten Island that can be utilized in times of crisis. We have Messiah to thank for that. Now, I'm not sure whose idea it was to turn this garage into a field hospital for our little community's paramedics to use when things got dicey out there, but I haven't heard of anyone coming down with anything.

"The doctors looking after the survivors over at St. Luke's would've told us, if they had."

"Fair enough." Brad's blue eyes flit back to Kristen again before he links arms with her, tugging her a little closer to himself; he's protective of her, even though he'll deny it later with a simple insistence he's merely cold. "Messiah has certainly squelched options for facilities in general." His lips strain into a tight-lipped smile, laced with all of the questions he dares not ask.

"Maybe we should pay a visit to St. Luke's ourselves. I know a few doctors up there. Always good to touch base with a former contact. Networking and all that jazz. Of course, in the military the connections are different. It's impressive you continue to do what you do, Sir. Perhaps someday you'd like to have a conversation on air about the complications of marital law. And what it does and does not permit citizens to do." He turns to face the wall they'd been inspecting. "Quite the wear and tear on that wall. I guess that's what you get for buying an old parking garage rather than building anew."

A tug is given to Kristen's arm. "Thank you so much for having us, Colonel. And for clearing up this very unusual site.
Lies have a smell. And bovine metaphor aside, it isn't manure. Something sharper and more sulfurous, like gunpowder. Fel says suddenly, "You called and asked me, didn't you? You were the one who wanted to know if i'd be on your show. What …..what do you need, for that?" he asks, hesitant.

Heller is suddenly very quiet. In the crisp winter air, fog curls from his nostrils with every breath that leaks from them and would from his mouth as well, if it wasn't now a stern line pinched shut.

Hey, if Russo is going to pulls her closer, Kristen isn't one to argue. Turning her smile up to Felix, she nods and clears her throat. "Yes, I wanted to do a show… you were very heroic, saving Secretary Praeger all by your lonesome?" Again, the souther drawl, this time a little more pronounced.

Like Russo, she has a star quality smile, even if she only uses it for PR purposes. "Why don't you walk us to our car and I can tell you a little bit more about it? We can maybe set up something? I'll call your people and discuss what you need… the little things, you know… Incentive."

"Very heroic," Russo agrees just a little too quickly as he slowly shuffles them both towards the entrance, but he does take some pause, even if it's semi-off-topic. "Colonel, I don't suppose you have the names of the people that died here? I imagine, since this was a medical facility, St. Luke's would likely have and be able to release that information, right?" His lips press together again as he bites his tongue, but manages to weave the idea further, "It could let us know whether there were any particular targets in terms of the riots— could be useful for the public to know. Maybe they were all Messiah in the end which, should, restore some faith in the order of things…"

Felix makes a little scoffing noise at Kristen. Apparently at the idea of his heroism. "I didn't save him all by myself." Rather than flattered, he sounds grumpy at the perceived imprecision. "I'll call you," he adds. Focussed on the Colonel now, with predatory intensity.

"No," says Heller. "Show our friends back to their vehicle, Ivanov. I wouldn't want them to get lost along the way." He too turns as if to go, but something has him hesitating, his weight on the toe of his left boot, heel angled up off the ground halfway to a step. "I'm afraid the list of the deceased remains confidential until their families have been notified. It's a common courtesy even in times like these, I'm sure you understand, but if it should ever become available to the public— you have my personal guarantee that the Advocate will receive an, ah, advance copy."

"Yes, I would definitely hate to get lost here… I couldn't imagine anyone even wanting to live out here, but then again… terrorists.." With a la-dee-dah flip of her hand, Kristen takes a few steps toward the entrance of the garage before pausing to glance at Felix. "Well of course you weren't all by yourself, but you did get the medal. Why don't you tell me all about it on the way to the car? Oh… and please don't forget to wear your helmet." She gives Russo something of a nervous smile before adding quickly, "Maybe you could get a picture of the two of us, wouldn't that be fun? I'd love an autograph, Mister Ivanov."

"Absolutely makes sense. I'd just assumed the families had already been dealt with. I mean, two weeks have elapsed since the worst of the chaos. But then, I suppose, finding next of kin could be complex." Russo manages one last tight, polite smile. "Thank you, Colonel. I look forward to your phone call. Our visit has been…" the smile turns somewhat sour, "most insightful."

Again he falls into step with Kristen, shuffling towards the entrance, "I would be delighted to take a picture. I think my phone has a camera. Probably. Kristen has a thing for heroes. She swoons over them all of the time on set. It's like… a hobby."

Fel glances at Heller, as if waiting for some further signal. But he does nod once, tightly, and falls into step with the two civilians as they head for their car. "Not much to tell," he insists. Might be false modesty, god knows he preens like a cat over those medals. "Not much I can say. A lot's still classified." His strideis easy and loose, despite the armor.

As Felix leads Kristen and Russo back outside into the daylight where the sun struggles to burn through heavy cloud cover made thicker by the same weather patterns responsible for the snow on the ground, Heller finishes his pivot. Glides back into the dark with the ease of a large shark moving through deep black water with playful fingers that dance across the concrete pillar when he passes it.

For now, the Advocate's producer and host are little fish.

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