Not Bartering


daphne_icon.gif luc_icon.gif

Scene Title Not Bartering
Synopsis Daphne visits Luc for some documents; he sets the terms of the agreement, much to her dislike.
Date December 12, 2009

Ruins of Midtown

New York City used to be a place everyone wanted to be. After the Bomb, well… most of that changed. What used to be glamorous downtown Manhattan is now the place nobody wants to be: even the dirty, grimy broken-down neighborhood of Hunts Point looks good by comparison. The junkyard is one of these places that's so broken-down it doesn't even have a name, just a crudely painted sign that reads, JUNKYARDE. With an 'E', of course.

Past the rusting chain-link fences there's packed earth and a few patches of hardscrabble grass that haven't quite realized they're doomed, interspersed with old clunkers that will never run again and which are probably worthless even for parts. After the Bomb, everybody who could leave, did — even if it meant leaving behind places like JUNKYARDE.

Daphne was told to speak with the papers man here, deep in the heart of JUNKYARDE, where there's a small tower of rusted-out Plymouths. Not only are the cars no longer made — the manufacturer is out of business. It's like being in a graveyard of automobiles.

There's a road about a quarter of a mile away that overlooks the place. A taxi approaches, stops, and drops off a man. He stands there by the side of the taxi for a moment, looking out over the scene — then pays the cab driver and begins to walk down towards the Tower of Plymouths. It's the Papers Man… picking a place where he can make sure there are no surprise guests.

A moment after the cab drops off Luc, there is a blur of off-white, gray and red that eventually slows until the petite frame of Daphne Millbrook seems to emerge, still a few yards away from the "tower." Dressed for winter in a red pea-coat on top of a black sweater dress, black and gray striped stockings, and black Doc Martens, she surveys the junkyard, ensuring it's safe. She trusts their mutual associate — a guy by the name of Charlie, who has used both Daphne and Luc for jobs.

Now walking, she approaches the man with her hands down by her sides so that he can see her hands — empty but for a small bag in one of them. "You the paper guy?" she asks, dark eyes narrowed a bit as she appraises his form, as if trying to decide if he can be trusted.

"Owen," he calls out as he approaches, his accent pure Middle America. He could have a job as the anchor on the five o'clock news with that kind of featureless voice. "From Indiana. Or maybe I'm Brice from Schenectady. Maybe I'll be really creative and use the same name I gave to Charlie. Maybe I'll be sly and use the name Charlie thinks is mine. Who knows? But am I the papers man? Yes. I am, in fact, the papers man. You wanted to talk. We're talking."

"Owen," the speedster says with a smirk. "I like that. Too bad you look much more interesting than anyone with the name Owen could ever possibly be. I don't buy it. But whatever works, Papermate." She tosses him first the bag she holds. It's a pound of unground Jamaica Blue Coffee beans. "Little birdie told me you might like that, so it's to show a bit of good faith."

Her dark eyes glance around, double checking that they are alone. The only way they're not alone is if someone's followed either of them or it's a trap, because God knows no one else would be in a junkyard beneath a tower of old cars on a chilly fall day. "I've got a friend who's relocating here to the states. Needs documentation. Driver's license, passport, Visa, the works. He can't pass for American, so he can't be Brice from Schenectady, mind you, but a documented immigrant from Normandy or whatnot might work."

"Do you have photographs of this friend? Or am I supposed to glue a publicity still of OJ Simpson onto the passport and hope it fools Customs and Immigration?" the stranger says, his hands in the pockets of his long coat. "Everyone needs documentation. But without photographs, there's little I can do. With photographs, he can be John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt if he really wants — although I hear there's already someone with that precise name."

"Well, can't his name be my friend's name, too?" Daphne quips, then sings quietly, "Na-na-na-na-na-na," to herself, the chorus of the children's song. Her blond head bounces to one side then the other in tempo as she opens her coat and pulls out a manila envelope.

"I've got photos, Papermate. I'm not an amateur, you know." There's a lofty tone to her voice, as if hurt he'd think she were. "Here. Those work for you?" There are quite a few different photographs in the envelope, various solid backgrounds and sizes, along with a flash drive. "The drive has the files as well, in case you need to print it on specialty papers or change colors and sizing," she offers.

"The photographs only," the paperhanger answers. He pulls a handkerchief from his pocket, wipes the flash drive clean, and then underhands the device back to Daphne. "I don't trust electronics. Especially not ones that are given to me by people I don't know. No offense, mind you. Professional paranoia."

The photographs receive a cursory, professional look from him: each one held up to the fading sunlight, scrutinized, examined. "They'll do. They've got that kind of Ritz Camera Store verite to them, you know, that's good. One of the best ways to spot fake paper is when people look too good. The photographs need to be … like any other driver's license photograph. Awful."

"Yep. Oversaturated or washed out, or like ID I ever had taken, where one half was blue for no apparent reason, made me look like a cross between a Smurf and Two-Face," Daphne says, agreeably, taking the device back and slipping it into her pocket.

"No offense taken. I don't trust people either. But I do trust Charlie. But he's a robot, not a person, so he doesn't count." Poor maligned Charlie — however, it's fairly accurate. The man is stoic and impassive on the outside, though loyal to those in his inner circle, even if he never shows any affection for them. "How much you want for that? And when can you get them to me?" she asks, with a jut of her chin toward the envelope in his hands.

"I'm feeling a name come on," the man says as he finishes studying the photographs. "Christien. Christien Pike from Normandy. A Pike of Normandy, one might say." There's a kind of dark humor in what he says, as if there was some awful pun that is mercifully opaque. "Fine. It'll take two weeks. You rush a miracle worker, you get lousy miracles. We're a long, long way from X-Acto knives and Scotch tape. Forging holographic seals is a bitch and a half. Two weeks. Payment … payment." He gives his head a shake. "There is no 'payment.' There are only debts. Someday the debts come due. You understand?"

Daphne squints at the man, not getting the joke and wondering if perhaps it is at her own expense. She apparently decides it is not, since she offers a pixyish grin. "All right, Max. Two weeks it is. And no payment, huh? You got a day job, then?" she asks, canting her head curiously. "I don't like the word debt… I don't like to be indebted to anyone. Favor is a word I can handle; otherwise, I'd rather pay up front and be in the black, you know what I mean?"

"As soon as you're the one asking me for favors, then you can call it whatever you like," 'Max' answers back, tucking the envelope with the photographs into his jacket. "No, my day job involves printing hundred-dollar bills. I really don't need more of them: I'm pushing them out the door as fast as I can. You see why I really don't care about money. I don't care about money and I don't care about politics and I don't care about who's fucking who or why and I don't even care about the innocent little children Sally Struthers tries to guilt-trip me over. I'm an apathetic bastard. It's one of my more charming qualities. No one will ever accuse me of being either a mercenary or of being a zealot."

"Valid point," Daphne says, a finger pointing at him as if to award him the goal in a hockey game. "But that doesn't change the fact I'd rather be up front with my payments, debts, favors, whatever you want to call 'em. There's nothing you want that is just a little out of your reach? Got your eye on a Kandinksky, maybe, or possibly a nice Ming vase for your mantel, something to make it more homey?" She tilts her head, eyes dropping down his body and then back up to his face. "A vintage jewelry set for the little woman? I hate having things hanging over my head."

"Here I thought we were in Hunt's Point. Turns out we're in some Turkish bazaar and a buyer is haggling with me over the price of my cheap but achingly sincere handmade pottery," the man responds calmly, evenly, directly. "No. We're not haggling. We're not bartering. You need me. I don't need you. You've got two choices: you can swallow it and say 'yes,' or you can walk away from the deal. The only thing you get to control is whether you stay or walk. You don't get to have a say in the price you're getting charged."

Dark eyes narrow again, and her jaw sets, giving her the look of a petulant teenager rather than a woman nearing the age of thirty. "Fine," she says with an exasperated sigh. "I'll take your pottery. But don't expect me to come after you trying to make good on my payment. You'll have to find me when you think of something that will make us square. Capiche?" She lifts her chin. "Same bat place, same bat time, say two weeks from today for delivery?"

"Copacetic," he answers her. A nod gives some indicator as to what the word means: it's some kind of … assent, apparently, in whatever language it is that they speak wherever he's from. Indiana, he said? He turns around then and begins walking away. Presumably he already has a vehicle waiting for him somewhere: after all… where better to hide a getaway vehicle than in a junkyard?

Daphne watches Luc leave for a moment, then shrugs. She has things to steal, people to see. There is a rush of air, and a few dead leaves flutter back his way. If he happens to look behind, there will be a blur of white, gray, and red, as she speeds away to wherever she has to go next, and then there will be no sign of the speedster at all.

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