Lucky Day


aviators_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif samson2_icon.gif

Scene Title Lucky Day
Synopsis Escape attempt number two goes slightly better than attempt number one.
Date July 7, 2010

The Rookery

It's easier to make peace with death when it's something that's happening to someone else, and although Eileen isn't dying — not yet — she feels like she might be. Rain drums against the veterinary clinic's upstairs windows and roof over the Englishwoman's head, filling the hallway with the stale, musty smells of decaying linoleum and sodden wood, stench compounded by the heat still rising off the pavement outside. With no pocket watch and the basement window blocked off after her last abortive attempt to liberate herself, she's had no way of counting the days that have passed since, and no way of coordinating her next.

She isn't surprised to find it already dark out, the sounds of the Rookery on either side of the clinic's walls muffled by the sopping, oppressive weather and the jackhammering of her heart, blood a dull roar in her ears. Pip, her cardinal and a bobby pin contorted into a lock pick have gotten her this far, but in the blackness of the upstairs, the two birds are almost as blind as she is and of little help when it comes to nighttime navigation. One small hand guides her along the wall, bare feet silent on the muddied linoleum floors. The other clutches her wolf's head cane around the middle and points its tip down at the floor in front of her, feeling for obstacles with the potential to impede her progress.

There's a knife and a photograph of Gabriel's dead mother in the pocket of the oversized flannel shirt she wears. Everything else she's left behind.

The lobby of the clinic is surprisingly empty, the distant street lights outside shine muted through grimy windows. There's no furniture up here, save for one folding chair laying discarded in the middle of the floor with a piece of broken plywood partly pressed over it. Most disconcertingly, as Eileen makes her way to the front of the abandoned veterinary clinic, is how stifling it feels upstairs.

There's no breeze, no real ventillation. The heat of the day has not cooled off of the lobby and it feels like the stuffy inside of a small, enclosed room despite its size. On reaching the front door, Eileen's shaky fingers wind around the doorknob, even as her cane clunk-thumps against the door to feel its dimensions.

The knob turns after being unlocked, but as she tries to push the door open it only budges a few centimeters. A few more sturdy shoves and the door refuses to open the rest of the way. With Pip's vision slightly better out here due to the distant street lamps filtering in through the grimy windows, Eileen is able to see what's blocking the door when the bird flutters onto the window sill.

It's been boarded up shut from the outside, nailed closed.

Of course, smoke doesn't use doors.

Eileen makes a low noise of frustration at the back of her throat, vocalization hoarse. A swaying step to one side finds her in front of the window where Pip is perched, the hand that had tried the door trailing fingers along the edge of the frame where glass meets wood, beads moisture and leaves a gritty substance on her nails where they graze against it. It's not as durable as the windshield of a car, but it isn't as brittle as some of the stuff Samson keeps in the cabinet downstairs, either. A chair hurled through the pane would make short work of the barrier, and this is probably the course of action she'd take if she had the strength to hoist a piece of furniture.

Right now, she barely has the strength to lift her cane, but lifting her cane is exactly what she does, both hands gripping the slender column a few inches beneath its snarling grip. Her first swing connects with a loud clunk that reverberates through the clinic. The second, even with less force behind it than the first, spreads glittering veins through the glass. It's the third that shatters it, raining broken shards onto the pavement outside and the floor at her feet.

A quick sweep with the side of the cane dislodges some of the longer teeth still clinging to the window's frame and minimizes the amount of blood Eileen smears on her way out, arms and torso protected by the plaid material of Samson's shirt. Her feet and pale legs below the thigh do not make out quite as well, though these injuries are inconsequential in comparison to the poison still lingering in her system and the gunshot wounds under the gauze that separates the tauter skin of her lower stomach from her borrowed clothes.

Rain plasters hair to her face and carves down her legs, washing away the dark fluids oozing from the gashes there before it has the opportunity congeal there. Two blocks down, siding illuminated by the glow of the street lamps, there is a payphone. Pip alights on its roof several minutes before Eileen's rain-slicked fingers are curling around the edge of the door and prying it open.

On the inside, the phone booth has that metallic tinkling noise of rain battering on its roof. There's very few actual phonebooths left in New York City, and coincidentially Staten Island is one of those places where these vestiges of an older era of communication still remain. So many things on Staten Island don't work anymore, though, and judging from the way the phone dangles off of the hook this may have been a fruitless endeavor entirely.

Rain runs in rivulets down the phone booth's windows, making Eileen visible in the unlit interior on all but one side. When a slender hand lifts up the receiver and sets it back down on the hook, there's a clink from the phone, a rattle and a clank as change is expelled down into the coin slot.

Just this once, it's Eileen's lucky day.

If she calls Gabriel from a payphone, would he even pick up?

Eileen rests her head against the side of the phone booth as she picks up the receiver again and angles it under her chin, using her jaw to pin it against her shoulder. Whether or not she can see, blinking away water is a natural reflex. So is pursing her lips to prevent it from gathering in the corners of her mouth.

Shaky fingers take a few moments to explore the number pad in front of her. The Braille designations don't help because she doesn't recognize them, and it takes her almost a full minute of ghosting over the buttons before she's confident in her selection.

She only has one call, she isn't placing it from a recognizable number, and Raith turns off his phone when he's working. Gabriel could be anywhere. Teo—

Teo's is as likely to be off as Raith's is, if she doesn't get a busy signal and find herself directed straight to his voicemail, and while she's not sure she can rely on Avi Epstein, she enters the familiar sequence of numbers anyway. Waits.

One ring.

The streets visible beyond the phone booth are desolate, the rain is keeping whoever might live in this corner of the Rookery off the street and the wet shine of street lights against pavement makes for odd shadows cast along the entire neighborhood. Too far away to matter, she can see a car's passing headlights briefly flash across a street two blocks north of here.

Two rings.

Maybe she dialed it wrong is one of the first thoughts Eileen has, those reflexively nagging worries. Thorugh the water-streaked plexiglass Eileen can see the veterinary clinic's facade two blocks away to her west, down the darkest stretch of road where no building lights are on and no streetlights shine. It's as if the street itself knows what dwells there, and doesn't dare disturb it.

Three rings.

He's not going to answe—

"Who the fuck is this?" is slurred through the receiver, "do you have any fucking idea what time it is? You had better be fucking bleeding to death in a goddamned ditch." Irony, thy name is Avi Epstein.

No, Eileen doesn't know what time it is. She isn't in a ditch, either, but the haggard rasp of her breathing isn't a particularly healthy or optimistic sound. It's accompanied by the squeak of her hand smudging across the glass inside the booth. Throbbing rain.

"Eileen," she says, forgoing any apology except for the remorse in her voice, but even this is surpassed by the long, hard note of desperation it also contains. Under normal circumstances, she might wait for the name to settle in, count how many seconds it takes to register and then use that number to approximate how many drinks he's had in the last few hours, but fear of being hung up on makes such estimations impossible. "Epstein—

"Avi. Please."

Silence for a moment, then confusion.

"Are you drunk?" That's exactly what Raith would say, which is completely unhelpful but entirely in line enough that Eileen can be relatively certain that she's gotten through to Avi and not his doppelganger. "It's three in the fucking morning, can this wait?" He doesn't seem the least bit surprised to talk to Eileen, and given what happened at Central Park, given that someone should have alerted the Ferry that she's missing by now, surely he'd have heard right?

There's a peal of thunder from the cloudy skies, a flash of light, and in that flash a distant figure standing on the opposite side of the street from the phone booth becomes briefly visible. Standing in the downpouring rain, dropping a grocery bag down to the sidewalk with a clatter of cans. Samson Gray is already walking across the street, and the phone booth shudders in response.

Another flash of lightning and a peal of thunder, and Eileen can see the wide-eyed old man standing up against the glass of the phone booth, rainwater running down his face and dripping off of his nose. A split second later the sliding door of the booth is flung open with a screech of metal.

"Don't you fucking touch me!" sounds very far away on Epstein's end of the line. There's a loud, booming sound that has nothing to do with the thunder and everything to do with the dropped receiver swinging on its cord and clattering against the side of the booth. The abrupt hiss as the cane's blade is yanked from its sheath is shrill, almost alien in comparison, though he's likely to recognize the panicked banging of limbs and disarrayed scuffle noises.

She has enough sense to remember that she's still connected to Epstein's cell phone. Not enough time. "Call Jensen," is a plea directed at the dangling receiver rather than the man on the other side of the glass, tinny and almost incomprehensible. "Tell him I'm alive— Rookery—"

There's a groaning creak of metal followed by a reflexive scream as Eileen is yanked off of her feet by unseen hands, cane clattering down into the phone booth when it slips from her fingers. Birds squeak and shriek against the sounds of the struggle. The thick smell of smoke and soot can't be conveyed over the phone, but the shrill whistle of Samson's sedating call can, even if its hypnotic powers aren't conveyed through a phone line.

Swinging his legs from around the side of his bed, Avi Epstein bolts up to his feet, dark eyes wide and one hand pressing to his forehead. "Ruskin? Ruskin!" His voice rings over the dangling receiver, and out his apartment window the rumble of thunder sends flashes of lightning into his cramped bedroom, casting Avi's shadow long on the asylum-white walls.

"Eileen? Eileen!?" There's a clattering noise and more screams on the other end of the phone, then heavy, wheezing breathing and a click of the receiver and a dial tone. Hands shaking, Avi's eyes stare wide and blank ahead as he listens to the dial tone and then quickly hangs up on his end then dials a new number.

Pacing back and forth through his bedroom, the moment someone picks up he practically jumps through the phone at them. "Lisa, I need you to trace the last call that came through to this phone, right fucking now." Knocking the door of his bedroom open into the living room, Avi tucks the cell phone between shoulder and chin, picking up a pair of slacks from where they were discarded over his recliner. "Uh huh, and that's outside of the RZ, right?"

Pressing his shoulder up against a wall to brace himself as he pulls his pants up one leg at a time, Epstein nods to the woman on the other end of the phone. West Flatbrush Street, got it. Okay thanks and— I don't take it you can get a patrol officer out there?" Clicking his tongue and rolling his eyes, Avi nods slowly in response. "Right, right. Yeah okay— thanks."

Hanging up again and dialing again, Avi's already headed towards the door, stepping into his snakeskin cowboy boots since they're the only footwear he has that he doesn't have to lace up. Keys in hand and door open, Avi steps out into the hall, growling into the phone on his way out the door.

"Jensen, stop masturbating and call me back."

Eileen made the right call.

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