Need for Apology


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Scene Title Need for Apology
Synopsis Teodoro, Abigail and Felix investigate Ryazan Ironworks and discover something unexpected at its locked gates.
Date November 24, 2009

Outside Ryazan Ironworks, Ryazan, Russia

The name Ryazan Ironworks is, like most things Vanguard-related, somewhat deceptive. For one thing, it's several miles outside the city limits, past a forest of thinning trees at the end of a long gravel road paved with slush. For another, it isn't open to the public. Upon reaching their destination, Teodoro, Felix and Abigail find themselves blocked from the property by an electric fence, though the factory itself is visible from where they stand stalled. It's a behemoth structure fashioned from wrought iron and rich red brick that has only lost a small percentage of its vibrancy over the years, and overlooks a portion of the frozen Oka River. Tall chimneys belch black smoke, and if the trio looks carefully, they may be able to detect light seeping from the factory's plate glass windows, suggesting that it hasn't yet closed down for the evening even though the sun has almost completed its sinking descent behind the horizon.

What stands out most, however, is neither the factory itself nor the 'NO TRESSPASSING' hung on the fence with translations in at least three different languages, including English. It's the makeshift memorial beside the gate, decorated in garlands of baby's breath and blood red poppies. Faded by the elements, its ink beginning to run, a picture of a young woman with hair the colour of cornsilk and a mouthful of smiling teeth is positioned at its center, held in place by a single nail embedded in a modest wooden cross painted white.

Something happened here.

It's weird, how Felix looks at home here. Something about the body language, something about those subtle changes in hair and expression. And of course the actual language; his Muscovite accent and clipped cadence doesn't draw stares here. Not that he's comfortable - he's given the impression of a long-tailed cat in a room full of babushkas in their rocking chairs, nervous, pacing, inclined to go out and smoke at odd hours - as well as refusing to sleep in the room he was issued. Ethan makes for no kind of bedfellow, so he's occasionally curled up in a livingroom chair under his overcoat, tucked his head down. Jet lag's a bitch.

It's also made him considerably less wordy than he was in New York. Maybe English is harder to recall here. Something's sealed his lips, these days. For once without one of those terrible cigarettes, he comes sidling up to the memorial to read the name on it.

It's the memorial that draws Teo's attention, which is probably due to the inertia of the conversational topics he and the pink-haired medic had spent so much breath on the evening before.

Little of which he had spent actually sleeping, despite the verbal commitment to the effort to try when he and Abigail finally scraped back indoors in the armpit of darkness before dawn. The Sicilian's readings and rereadings are almost— not quite— as minty fresh on his mind as speculation as to the origin of this 'Grigori' guy's monstrosity as he tracks over the frosted gravel, the shape of the rented car dwindling from view where it's parked a dozen yards behind.

It's a fleeting, irrelevant thought, that he likes blondes. Of course, he evidently likes everybody. "'S definitely still operating," he observes, giving himself a slight shake. He yanks his gaze up at the smoke columns behind, away from the diminutive flowers and the woman who seemed happy to consider herself the subject of the photograph.

"Don't suppose there's a doorbell we could ring" Electric fences are daunting, scary, imposing. There's probably ten other words in the dictionary that she could use. The woman in the photograph is peered at beside the two other men, Abby's hands deep in the pockets of her parka, hair tamed and tucked under a cream toque that hides the pink from sight. "An employee who died here?" It makes sense really, that's what happens when someone who works at a place like this falls to work place accidents.

Around the corner of the factory, several hundred meters away, a man dressed in black comes into view led by a white Alsatian at the end of a leather leash. The dog is so large that it could easily be mistaken for a wolf if it wasn't collared and muzzled, its legs a little too short, triangle-shaped ears just a little too tall. Although both animal and handler spot the trio as they pass the front of the ironworks on their patrol, they seem unperturbed by their presence at the gates, and the man even raises one gloved hand in greeting before he disappears behind a truck parked in front of the factory's loading dock.

Felix nods politely, doesn't flinch away from the guard's vision. Acting, in fact, like he has every imaginable right to be there. Well, he sort of does, right? Though god only knows if the actual FSB knows he's here. It'll be another concrete cell and some personal time with a lead pipe when they do, no doubt. "We have any floorplan for this place?" he wonders, in muttered English, fishing in his pocket for another of those damned cigarettes. "How up close and personal do we want to get?"

"No floorplans," Teo replies, his shoulders up like bristling despite that his features are as pleasantly blank as the guard's had been before he rounded the bend. A furrow takes up residence on his brow, either a brief use of his ability or a twinge of a headache. "It's an old establishment, and the Zhukovskies weren't evidently made to share. I can see all that other side of the building through the guy's eyes.

"Nothing really stands out. There are security cameras we can't see from here. Hell of a dog, isn't it?" This latter observation is made with a slight wrinkle of discomfort, visceral, remembering the personal experiences that constitute how it is that he knows that. Alsatians ain't no joke. He half-turns, scuffing sleeve against his stubbled chin. "More showy security than you'd expect from a factory.

"Think I'll head back to the car and see if I can't get a closer look." It's only counter-intuitive if you don't have superpowers that threaten to leave one's body crashing over an emptied, soulless meat-sack. The photograph draws another glance. He doesn't remember reading anything about that. "Try 'nd ask the guard what happened?"

"Looks recent, might be in the local news? Can find information at the library?" Abby's digging out her cellphone with a wave to the guard back with an appreciative look for the animal in question. She can appreciate dogs. Flipping through buttons, the former healer snaps off a picture of the woman with the on board camera. It's not one of the uber secure wireless endorsed/encrypted gig's. "Or you could ask the guard oh speakers of Russ-" She stops when Teo's words match hers..

Speaking of the car—

The silhouette of a figure dressed in a heavy woolen greatcoat and leather gloves is reflected in the driver's side window as a man clutching a bouquet of white roses close to his chest flanks the vehicle, head angled in an attempt to get a look at what — if anything — is inside. His light brown hair, slightly damp with sweat, is stiff in the chill, peppered with fine granules of snow, and frames a long, handsome face with blue eyes, a strong nose and a jaw line that looks like it hasn't been shaved in close to a week.

Closer to Felix's age than either Teodoro's or Abigail's, he circles the car once and pauses at the front to dislodge some discoloured slush from the bumper before it has the opportunity to freeze there and cake over with ice like the river on the other side of the electric fence.

"Yeah. Yeah," Felix says, as he cups his hand around the lighter's wavering flame. Once it's safely lit and he's contributing to the general pollution of the air over Ryazan, he calls out to the guard, "Hey, hey, mister! I'm looking for my sister Oksana Smirnov. She used to work here, but she stopped writing, and my mother and I haven't heard anything in months. That….that's not her, is it?" He puts a running sob in his voice that'd be surprising credit to his acting ability if they were actually on the boards. He hasn't seen the newcomer approach.

Despite that Teo doesn't own the car, and hasn't— actually— ever? owned a car in his entire life, there's enough hard-coded masculinity in him that the glimpse of a stranger lurking around the rented one triggers a sprinting half-step out of the lazy gait he'd been looping back, and a sharp clearing of his throat. He skids slightly when he slows, soothing down that reflexive hackle lift, reminding himself that he is a visitor in a strange land.

And God knows, he's had enough experience with that to know better. "Excuse me," he says: in English. "Can I help you, sir?" Older than he looks, he nevertheless looks younger than his age, huffing in his jacket and swiveling his incisive squint between the impressive face located on the front of the stranger's head and the unexpected spray of roses in his hand.

Stuck in the middle with you. Teo's approaching a stranger at their car, Felix is setting up some sort of cardiac… arrest? From the looks on his face and the unintelligible words that are spilling forth from his lips. Pinky just stands there, swiveling her head back and forth, phone and hands sunk back deep into her pockets and stamping her feet to keep up the circulation in them within her boots.

The stranger's eyes move between Teo's approaching shape at Felix at the gate, amusement crinkling faintly at their corners, though the downward pull of his mouth creates a curve that's more rueful than anything else. "No," he says when the Sicilian is within immediate earshot, and without raising his voice. "I thought I might ask you the same."

He speaks in accented English, his pronunciation impeccable and practiced, but not without the breathy foreignness that identifies him as a native of the region. "You should tell your friend that he does not have to worry for his sister," he adds, crisp tone somewhat subdued as his gaze drifts past Abigail, Felix's back and settles solemnly on the garland-swathed memorial. "Her name was Faina."

….and who is that, exactly? Felix turns, slowly, limps back towards the car, listening openly. "You know who that was?" he wonders, tone somber. 'Your daughter?" he guesses, quickly, perhaps too much so. English, as well, and accented in turn.

"Just him," Teo answers, after a quaver-beat's silence spent suppressing the urge to answer, a little too defensively, that they aren't friends. His eyes shift sidelong at the skinny Russian loping on over. "Just his sister. The factory's the biggest one in Ryazan, isn't it? I don't know where else she could have gone.

"Excuse us if it sounds like we're poking at sinistra, it's just— we didn't expec…" He chugs into an awkward silence that's either endearing or as suspect as anybody flagging on a script. Hooking his fingers, Teo pulls the car keys out of his pocket, glances at Abigail's pink-cropped figure, tries to guess at where the guardsman's course has taken him by now. He can see neither dog nor master from here, doesn't dare try his ability.

"I'm sorry about Faina," he adds, with a guilty start. Teo's eyes drift at the roses, but return to the stranger's face before he gets there.

Abigail's going to remain quiet, just watching the rose bearing man with quiet blue eyes that for the most part, she doesn't look threatening at all. Just a happy merry member of this expedition. Mind you, there's both men between Abigail and the young man. Just a polite nod in greeting to him.

"I am sorry also," the stranger tells Teodoro as he moves past him, careful not to jostle the roses and their linen white petals already beginning to wilt and rumple. Loose gravel crunches under his boots, crackles wet. "Not only for Faina, but that a man apparently cannot mourn the loss of a life without a pre-existing relationship with the deceased." This for Felix's benefit, though his voice remains devoid of any real accusation.

Abigail's nod is responded to in kind shortly before the stranger arrives at the foot of the memorial and takes to a knee in the snow so he can place the bouquet on the marker. "Unless you are with the police, and you will excuse me for saying so, it is none of your business. Neither was your vehicle mine. I apologize."

We are totally with th- no. Fel looks appropriately chagrined by that implied scolding, lines of his face falling in a mingling of relief and some shame. He stuffs gloved hands in his pockets, shuffles back towards the car. "No, you're right. Sorry," he says, and while his words are curt, his tone is genuine enough.

The clink and jostle of keys in Teo's hand pauses briefly when the stranger — scolds, as it were. The Sicilian glances at Felix as if halving the chastisement between both of them, a grimace curling the side of his nose. He unlocks the door, pulls it open by the handle. Ducks halfway in to pop the other doors open, his eyes swiveling to check, briefly, that Abby is all right, before returning to the man kneeling for Faina.

"No need to apologize," he calls out, presently. "Take care." A palm clapped down on the roof of the vehicle finishes his salutation. Teodoro settles in with a sideways step, an elbow leaning into the cheap cushioning of the driver's seat.

The boys. There's a soft sigh as she looks to her two companions with an imperceptible shake of her head. In sympathy for them, and for rose man. "You'll have to pardon them. They don't mean to be like that. It's like, being left handed or right handed. They're just born with it. The questions, curiosity. Open mouth and words fall out without thinking about them first" Okay, that was a lie. maybe. Sometimes. Her footsteps follow the gentleman's to the makeshift memorial as easily as her southern American tones. She takes to her knee's not right beside him, but kitty corner, twin indentations in the snow as she drops her head and starts to murmur a prayer, palms pressed to one another in her lap. When she finishes, the pink haired woman pushes up, trudging over to the car and her two companions. "God Bless" Called out to him before she opens the handle, sliding into the back seat. Felix has longer legs, he needs the front passenger side.

The stranger listens to Abigail's prayer in silence, his lean face adopting a more perplexed expression when her lips part to begin reciting her whispered prayer. Even when she stands and begins to move away, he does not say anything, not to return her farewell, accept Felix's apology or even offer Teodoro a safe journey in exchange.

Instead, he places a gloved hand on his slacks and squeezes h is gloved fingers around the knee for support as his attention inevitably shifts back to the photograph tacked to the cross in front of them.

Although it isn't impossible, it seems very unlikely that a casual mourner would walk all this way through the snow instead of taking a car or even one of the city's sludge and mud-spattered cabs.

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