Looks Deceiving


ingrid_icon.gif ryans3_icon.gif

Scene Title Looks Deceiving
Synopsis Ryans discovers he has a second shadow.
Date March 17, 2011

Central Park

At night Central Park should technically be empty of all people and for the most part there is a certain stillness and silence to it… well as silent as a park in the middle of a city can be. The trees stand black in the darkness with long gnarled reaching out with clawed fingers. Path lights throwing them into eerie relief, making it look in some places like the haunted woods in the movie Snow White. Shadows cast just right making things look sinister.

However, looks can be deceiving.

There is no doubt homeless seeking shelter within the park, but they hide where a lone figure moves through the treeline, steering clear of the path lights. It's not like he really feels he has to worry about being mugged. Benjamin Ryans is not one to be messed with, even if he's still got a healing gut wound.

When he said he was getting off that island, he meant it.

It's still cold enough for a jacket, the with light wind moaning through the trees, making them move and creak, makes the old man's brown duster flare behind him like a cape. It shifts and moves around his legs, with the fedora — his father's fedora — rests on his head, shadowing alert and hawkish blue eyes.

Why he's in the park at night, is his business.

It is also the business of anyone who might be looking to get him on the other end of their knife or pistol and demand that he empty out his pockets onto the thawing grass, and although Central Park might not be as dangerous to cut through after dark as Prospect Park over in Brooklyn, where it is rumoured the people living there turned to cannibalism during the Great Storm a year ago, muggings are commonplace enough that when rapes and murders make the papers the next morning, no one who reads about is surprised.

There are rumours, too, that some of the rapes and murders committed on the park's fertile ground are perpetrated by the military patrols charged with the task of sweeping it after curfew, but if there are any eyewitnesses who could provide testimony more reliable than hearsay, the threat of being disappeared after coming forward has prevented them from taking their stories to the media.

Ryans knows he's being followed around the time he passes over a stone bridge with a creek running beneath it, the meltwater bubbling crisp over ice and rock. Whoever it is, they're a great deal less experienced at this game than he — he can sense their presence even without steering a look over his shoulder to confirm it.

There is no reaction though, he still seems intent on his journey as if nothing is wrong. Hands in pockets to keep the tips of his fingers from being chilly. Ryans is alert even if his posture is casual, giving off the effect of being not so aware.

Hiking boots, scuff over stones, virtually without sound. He's trying to bring too much attention to him… well at least not more then he already has.

Ryans' path takes him off the bridge, the light of one of the lamps spills yellow light over his hat and shoulder, before the darkness swallows him up. To the inexperienced, he simply seems to vanish, not emerging into the light of the next. The old man having used the darkness to side step off the path — with only a soft snap of canvas fabric — and behind a tree and disappear to the others eyes… Hopefully.

From behind the tree, Ryans sees his second shadow come into view a few moments after he has disappeared from it. The figure stops at the bottom of the bridge, wisps of hair blown about in the nighttime breeze as she — and it probably is a she because her frame is too small, too delicate to belong to an adult male — searches the treeline for any sign of the man she was clumsily tailing.

She of course finds none.

There is the familiar clicking sound of a hammer of a firearm being drawn back, before the tall imposing figure steps out of the shadows to one side of her. Looming out of the shadows really. The flash of silver as light shines down along the short barrel of a revolver. Aimed straight at her.

"Who are you?"

The words are short and curt, snapped out in a deep rumble. "And why are you following me?" He adds voice flat and cold, holding none of the suspicion he feels. She can't see Benjamin's gaze fall over her form, from dark shadows of that fedora. Judging her threat level. By the way the end of the barrel dips down a little, clearly she doesn't come off as much of a threat.

The fact it is still pointed at her is clearly experience. Small doesn't mean not a threat.

The girl's breath catches in her throat, an audible hitching gasp that answers the sharper snap of Ryans' cocked revolver. She takes a step back but does not bolt, a hand going out to steady herself against the side of the bridge, the other drawn into her chest with fingers curled. Lamplight illuminates the side of her face that isn't veiled by her flyaway blonde hair.

A blue eye opens wide and she parts her mouth enough to answer his question— demand—

Or would, if she was capable of forcing out a sound. She isn't.

Well… that's not exactly the reaction he expected.

She might be able to see a shift of dark brows upwards to the brim of his hat. Ryans' revolver dips down a little, then moves down to his side. He realizes that might be the problem. but doesn't go away. "Cat got your tongue, girl?" He grunts out with a small shake of his head, before he glances around them, as if expecting she's just bait.

"I asked you a question." Ben points out mildly, reminding her. The revolve rests at his side, ready just in case."Not to mention a girl like you shouldn't be out in a place like this. You'd a walking magnet for bad things to happen."

If she's just bait, then the trap hasn't yet been sprung. The night is cold and empty — even the sky lacks clouds, stars. It's only when the revolver is at his thigh that she manages to find her voice, and even then it's soft enough that he has to strain to hear it and separate her words from the new leaves trembling in the branches that blot out the city lights at their back and cast strange shadows on the frozen pavement at their feet.

"I'm sorry," Ingrid bleats. "I thought— I thought you were somebody else."

The tall man studies her for a long moment, before finally Ryans grabs the edge of his duster — stained in many places — and slides the revolver back into it's holster under his left arm. "I apologize for the gun, but you should be more careful, especially in Central Park," he chides, hand lifting to pull the fedora off his head and wipe his sleeve against his forehead, even with the cold the stress of the moment making him sweat.

"It's after curfew." She couldn't be much older then his own girls, Ryans can't help but note. So he feels compelled to add. "Look… you are going to get in serious trouble if the authorities find you out here… or worse. Some man out looking for…" He motions to here with an slow up and down sweep of the hat held in his hand, but he doesn't finish that sentence. She's lucky it was him at least.

"Let me walk you at least to the edge of the park." It's offered in a gentle rumble, the old manners of an older generation surfacing. Lynette would probably have something to say about that.

Ingrid is getting better at lying. Fortunately, the mixed emotions on her face could spring from any number of things, and the wariness in her eyes is genuine. She tucks her chin into what might be a nod but chooses to keep her distance, hand drifting down to her side as she advances off the bridge, giving Ryans' tree a wide berth. Her small feet leave equally small, shallow prints in the snow where she steps, and it's due to her size rather than stealth that she keeps the amount of noise she makes to a minimum.

Her gaze darts between his face to the hat in his hand, then back again, and she stops on the opposite side of the path from him, saying nothing.

She can't see the hint of amusement that has Ryans' mouth tugging up just a little on one side. "I almost wish my own girls were as quiet," his tone takes on that amusement, clearly trying to but the girl at ease. The hat is lifted and settled on the top of his head, the seated with a light push down. "My name is Benjamin Ryans. Or Ben. whichever." Whichever helps put her at ease. He's trying even if he knows he's might come off as scary, especially after that.

Benjamin glances down one way and then the other and motions her to indicate a direction. "Please, let me do this for you at least. I can even show you ID if you need it." He forces himself to drop the mask enough to give her a small smile.

It's what Ryans says last that bumps Ingrid out of her stupor. Her lashes flutter in something of a bewildered blink and her head tips to the side in a quizzical expression that bleeds some of the shock and awe from it. "Your identification wouldn't tell me anything," she says, "except maybe that you are who you say you are, but there's nothing in names or numbers or signatures that guarantees you'll really take me where you say you will.

"If there was, then nobody good could do anything bad."

The chuckle that escapes Benjamin rumbles softly, like the soft roll of thunder in the distance. "Excellent point, but yes I just wanted to show I was saying who I was." There is a moment of regard for her as he ponders out this dilemma, fingers resting lax at his side tap lightly against the fabric of his coat. "Then it seems we are at an impasse." Brows lift a little at that as if saying 'well there you have it.'

"It doesn't feel right to leave you here to the predators." Ever the gentleman, Ryans is having a hard time with the idea. One simply didn't leave clearly defenseless woman in the middle of dark parks at night. It's old ideals, but still.

He huffs out an irritated sigh, "If I'm going to leave you out here do you least have something to protect yourself with? Tazer… gun… some sort of an ability?" She ust have one right? To be out here this late, without an escort. Hands going out into a helpless gesture.

There's another beat of hesitation, and Ingrid resists the temptation to show him her hands and confirm that she isn't carrying any weapons, but he can already see that well enough. The fit of her coat is ambiguous — if there is a pistol or a tazer concealed beneath the red wool, vaguely purple-maroon in the absence of real light, it is concealed well, though Ryans knows better than to assume it doesn't exist.

"You can walk me to the edge of the park, Benjamin Ryans," is the decision she eventually arrives at, but it comes with a gently spoken caveat. "Just— please don't ask me any questions."

Now that is suspicious.

The narrowing of his eyes is luckily hidden by Ryans' fedora, but there is no missing the suddenly neutrality that over takes his features. "Not even to ask the name of the young woman that I'll be escorting to saftey?" The words even and emotionless.

But Benjamin isn't waiting for an answer, a look is cast over his shoulder in a certain direction, jaw tightening a little. "Either way, thank you for making me not have to follow you. I am sure I can suffer the walk in silence if you if." His gaze slowly drifting back to the smaller woman, his feet shifting to start walking. "Cause I am pretty sure I saw a few individuals lingering in the shadows thinking they were hiding." Not for the observant.

"Clearly, waiting for me to walk away and leave you alone out here." Ryans pauses mid- starting stride and motions her to lead the way in.

"Especially— not the name of the young woman you're escorting." Ingrid's feet crunch over the brittle gravel as she starts after Ryans, tugging her coat a little tighter around her frame and chancing a look in the same direction Ryans steers his. She didn't see anybody, and there's a dubious twist to the shape of her mouth that isn't unkind but rather disbelieving.

She likes to think that if she was sharp enough to pick him out of the crowd in the first place and follow him this far into the dark, she's sharp enough to identify shadows that do not belong.

But Ingrid Raines likes to think a lot of things, like how nice it would be if Joshua kissed her. Or how good it would feel to hold Astor's hand. What she wants is not always what is true. "I only asked you not to ask me any questions," she says. "That doesn't mean we can't— talk."

There is a small shake of his head and another rumbled chuckle. "You young women are all alike. I'll never understand." Ryans problem with his own girls, the lack of understanding for the more delicate gender. He's use to the fighting, the use of violence to solve things. "I have two… daughters that is." He offers conversationally, moving along with her, stride shortened to accommodate hers. "Once they turned into teenagers…" He trails off, lips pressing into a fine line.

"So fine no questions." Which is like telling a cat not to hunt mice… or try to hunt a bird as it searches for seed along the ground. This was going to be difficult. "Fine," he repeats softly, tucking hands into the pockets of his duster.

So what the hell does one talk about? The weather? "I'm glad to see the spring rolling in, I don't know about you. Can't stand the winter, since the that big freeze last year. Hard times." It also served as a marker for the changes in his life. "I do like the spring, beginning of the gardening season." Just saying that brings a twinge of homesickness. He'd be prepping his garden for planting. "Time of new beginnings and fresh starts."

"I like daffodils," Ingrid offers. "Narcissus, actually. That's the genus. Geraniums fall under it, too. They flower in the spring, mostly," in case there was any confusion as to how this relates to his proposed topic of conversation, "but sometimes in autumn when everything else is starting to turn. We mixed them up with the onions one year. The bulbs, I mean. They're poisonous because of the lycorine — that's a toxic crystalline alkaloid that inhibits protein synthesis, but not very serious. Or at least not cut up into soup, which is what we did. Everybody got sick, passing around the same bucket. My mom, my sisters, my nnn— my nephew."

She slips her hands into the pockets of her coat. "Grew them in separate plots after that."

The fedora topped head turns her direction slightly, a small smile tugging up the corner of his mouth, while he listens to her story. Only a ghost of one, barely noticeable. "I enjoyed growing food. Fruits and vegetables. I guess knowing I can grow to survive if anything dire happens. Well, barring upset daughters weilding baseball bats. They don't stand a chance against that abuse." Ryans points out quietly. He doesn't continue for a long moment, before he states, "I like Dianthus myself. If I had to pick a flower. Hearty little plants, grow virtually anywhere."

Ben twists a bit to hazard a quick glance over his shoulder, cautious. His words almost sound distracted. "My wife, Mary, hated them. They are pretty, a wide variety of colors, but get rather wild when left to their own devices." He seems to relax a little, easing into the conversation. "We had a brick wall we planted them near, it took over the planter… about as bad a the mint I planted one year." He's not normally this much of a talker, but he's trying to get her to relax a little.

"Dianthus," Ingrid repeats slowly, "that's— Caryophyllaceae, isn't it?" The skin between her brows pinches together, unsure of herself. "Mostly perennial. Flowers have five petals. I'm sorry," as though this was something worth being sorry for, "I don't know a lot about plants, and what I do know came from a friend of mine. Well. I say friend, but she's practically family, Junie is. Nobody's thumb is greener."

When Ryans looks back over his shoulder, so does his young companion, blue eyes squinted in the dark. "Do you still have a garden?" she asks. "Here in New York City, I mean. If you do, I'd really love to take a look—"

"Did. My youngest daughter destroyed it in protest. That was before…" Ryans trails off stopping himself from stating the obvious that it had happened before they went on the run. That had been around six month ago.

It felt like a life time ago.

For a only a moment, a flicker of regret and sorrow over the loss of the family home moves over his normally stony features. It's gone almost as quickly as it appears. "That was before I got a bit too busy for it." He glances at her out of the corner of his eye, head only turning a little towards her. "I miss it. With the spring coming along, I can't help but think about it." There is a soft huff from the old man, something like a short sound of a bitter laugh. "Plants are easier to understand sometimes, then people.

"You coax them to grow, nuture them… watch them become something either beautiful… or something that sustains life. Feel like you succeeded." Lips thin out a little, saddness shadows his eyes. "They don't talk back, hurt you, or rebel… think poorly of you when you do your damnedest to protect them." Eyes drop to the cracked pavement in front of them, as Ryans goes silent for a moment lost in his thoughts.

Ingrid breaks the silence with a mousy clearing of her throat. His eyes are on the icy path unwinding ahead of them. Hers are tenatively exploring his face. "Maybe," she says, "but plants don't give back what people do. They don't have arms to wrap around you in a hug, or lips to kiss with. They can't tell you they love you, hold you when you're hurting—"

It is apparently a sensitive subject for her as well, and she's startled by the tremor that enters her voice, causing it to quake, then crack, breath hitching on what she draws in next. "I don't think they're ungrateful. Your children. Maybe just— your children. Didn't you ever talk back to your father? Just once?"

There is a small twitch of his mouth, a bit of amusement shining through for just a moment. "Once." Ryans agrees softly his head nodding up and down slowly. "Then I learned better. But that was a different time when parents wouldn't hesitate to take the belt to you or smack you upside the head. After that I didn't dare. Still don't. Course been awhile since last I saw the old man and my mother." It had been 'yes sir' and 'no sir' even after all those years. He didn't dare visit now.

"I think the tension between me and my father is a small part of the reason why my mother signed the papers that let me join up in the military when I was sixteen." One could argue that's why he was such a hard man. Forced to grow up too soon and face things at such a young age.

Not that he saw it that way.

"And… I don't think their ungrateful. I just think…" There is a heavy sighs as he considers his words, eyes narrowing as he peers out into the darkness. "They don't understand me and what I do… and why, much like I don't understand them half the time." He offers Ingrid a small smile. "So goes the cycle of parents and children. One day they will stand where I am and wonder the same things about their own children."

On this subject, Ingrid's mouth presses into a cryptic line, but that is all. She shies away from his smile, his gaze, and returns her attention to the path, and the distant street lamps that hug the edge of the parkland. It's a still night, though not so still that they cannot hear the rumble of abating traffic, thinned out and soon to dwindle into nothing as curfew takes effect.

She does not live far from here, is what she will assure him upon reaching the border, and promises to hail a taxi at the next corner rather than risk the walk. And although she never tells Ryans her name, she is at least truthful about that.

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