Over at the Frankenstein Place


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Scene Title Over at the Frankenstein Place
Synopsis Veronica shares information regarding a stolen brain and Senator Portman's murder with Parkman, who tells his double agent to find out just what sort of "Frankenstein shit" the mad scientists are up to within the lab.
Date October 4, 2010

Manhattan Phuket Thai Kitchen

No time to eat? Too busy spying on Uncle Sam? Just Phuket!

Phuket Thai is exactly the sort of place Veronica would have picked out for her clandestine discussions, were she meeting with Richard Cardinal or Liz Harrison. It fits all of her criteria: a hole in the wall? Check. Off the beaten path? Check. The most common language spoken and understood not English? Check. Authentic ethnic food? Check. So she has to smirk just a little that it is this little restauarant that Matthew Parkman suggested when they agreed to meet.

The dinner rush in this sort of place means almost every table is full, but it's a small corner of a small building, so that means only about twenty tables in all. Veronica has chosen a table close to the kitchen, so the clatter and crash of dishes and pots and pans will help to cover up any conversation made by low voices. The chatter of Thai from the rest of the patrons is a testament to just how authentic the food is.

Veronica watches the door while sipping sweet coffee and perusing the menu, the items listed first in Thai and then in English in tiny handwritten print, grammatical errors dancing across the page as is often the case in places such as this — the 'cocunut lime chickens soap' is currently piquing the Institute agent's interest.

If one were to ask any of those people using credit or debit cards to pay for their food tonight who they saw walk in the doors at approximately six o'clock, a few may remember the somewhat sophisticpated older gentlemen who swept across the small yet popular eatery to one of the back tables to join the young woman waiting there. He could be someone's grandfather, with the stark whiteness of his hair and the lines on his face, but he's aged well. How nice, they'll think, for a woman like her to make time for her grandfather. Or perhaps they'll assume she's his mistress, and Phuket Thai is the one place they can rendezvous without discovery.

But Veronica will see Matt Parkman dressed in that dark suit with the barely visible pinstripes coming toward her, iron-haired rather than silver, broad rather than slim. But he still smiles politely at her as he shrugs off his wool coat and drapes it over the back of the empty chair and takes a seat beside it. Two people snagging a table for four is hardly proper restaurant manners, but he isn't one to care much about that. "Have you ordered already?" he asks with a slight lift of his eyebrows as he picks up the menu. He has no plans to order anything himself - he's a date with a very special young lady this evening that involves pizza and cookies.

"Coffee," Veronica remarks quietly, lifting her cup and giving him a nod and a smile, though the smile doesn't make it far enough to light her dark eyes. Anyone watching for signs of romance would be certainly disappointed. "I can order some spring rolls or something, make it look more like dinner, if you like."

Her eyes sweep the room — she's done this often enough and long enough that it doesn't look like she's searching out anyone who doesn't belong, anyone who might be listening who shouldn't be, but he'll know that's what she's doing, of course. He can probably just listen in here and there, but she doesn't have his talents.

"So I did think of something you might want to know about," she continues, once she's satisfied that they are the only two people in the restaurant concerned with her conversation. "What do you know about the Portman murder?"

"The last report I got was from your last meeting with Harper. Didn't go well, did it?" Parkman says as he folds the menu and orders a cup of coffee from the waiter when he finally bustles by. "Makes me glad I don't work homicide anymore." He tilts his head, narrowing his eyes but not quite in the way he would if he were attempting to read Veronica's mind.

"Why? Did you uncover something? Or did you manage to save some files from the mass-destruction your former employers saw fight to do to their databases?" There's an undeniable eagerness in Parkman's tone - solving the Portman case is just the sort of good publicity he could use right about now.

Veronica's eyes are guarded as she watches him, his eagerness almost boyish despite his graying hair. She gives a shake of her head. "I don't have any files, no, just what I remember, and… it's sensitive. Really sensitive, and the evidence… any DNA evidence we have is likely lost. I admit I was afraid to file what I had, of rocking the boat, especially because I haven't known the people in command long enough to trust them." Her husky voice is quiet, and she glances down, brows furrowing with her conflicted emotions.

She doesn't know if she can trust Matt Parkman, either, but what he does with this might tell her which way his alliances and allegiances lie.

"It appears," she begins with a deep breath, hands curling around her coffee cup, "that the man who died this summer was not Senator Portman, but Charles Renton. Senator Portman was murdered in July of 2009, according to an eye witness. Renton, it appears, was killed when he had a bad mix of Refrain and a man with the ability to induce fear, though there was still a third party involved that I wasn't able to sort out — it was then that the shit hit the fan and we've pretty much lost everything that we had. Renton was already listed as deceased."

The basic facts laid out, she lifts her eyes, studying his face and waiting for the questions — whether she gives him the unfunny punchline to this joke or not depends on his reaction.

And it's a mixed one.

Parkman takes a moment to go over the facts again in his mind, which is hard to do when he's still actively pushing an illusion into a restaurant full of people, or at least the ones that are still even passively watching them. It takes another moment for the illusion to take hold in it's own right, and it's then that Parkman breathes a small sigh and applies his full attention to the matter at hand.

"Renton? So why was he ID'd as Portman?" Parkman's coffee arrives, but he doesn't drink it. He doesn't even look at the steaming liquid. "You don't have a personal backup or anything like that?" Wasn't the Company supposed to be all about the archiving and duplication of information for security purposes?

"He was ID'd as Portman because he didn't have a face, and because that's what his ID said," Veronica says quietly, sipping from her coffee. She pauses for a moment when a waiter darts in to take their order. She orders the spring rolls and then a container of the misspelled soup specialty to go — she may as well pick up dinner.

"I went undercover because there was an undercover agent, a Riveria, working on Staten who knew something about it. He was investigating a guy named Espenosa, Refrain dealer. Riveria pointed me to a guy named Fritz who runs dog fights. Apparently the night that the guy was murdered, he'd gotten in an argument, welshed on a bet or something, Riveria thought that Fritz might know about it. We went to find out what Fritz knew — he freaked out at us, threw some fear based illusions up or something. They bounced off me, hit my colleagues pretty bad. At any rate, Fritz dropped a backpack with something in it — I turned it in, I don't know what happened to it, but it was a thermodyne cooler with a brain in it."

Once more the brunette agent pauses, sipping her coffee as her gold-brown eyes watch Parkman for his reactions.

Parkman raises a fist, but he catches himself before he pounds it against the table. Taking a deep breath, he rolls his bottom lip under his teeth and visibly processes the information once again. "A brain," he repeats, his voice much lower than before. "And this Fritz guy…what did he look like?"

While Veronica's new 'special assignment' supervisor may not have all the details regarding what really happened to Senator Portland, he seems to perhaps know a great deal about brains in coolers.

"Gregory Fritz," Veronica repeats. "Average height and weight, maybe 5'9" or 5'10", frizzyish hair with a beard. He said he got the brain when a group of ex-military types got in a fight with some of the drug dealer's guys, and they dropped that bag. He said it came from a place in Jersey, and he was going to try to sell it."

She swallows, looking up into his face and shaking her head. "I know they're doing some sort of crazy science, but I haven't seen it yet. You do know they managed to bring people back to life? From the dead, right? Roger Goodman. Elle Bishop — Elle, she was only dead briefly, and it's Stevens' power that does it, but why the hell did they try that on someone as long dead as Roger Goodman? And what else could they possibly do with that power, in conjunction with the other powers they have? I'm just a goon, I know that, but whatever's going on in the labs — it's Frankenstein kind of stuff."

She runs a hand through her long dark hair nervously. "Fritz confirmed the leader in the group that allegedly killed Portman was also at the fights the night Renton died." Her heart is pounding. If she is wrong about Parkman and his motives, everything she has worked for is about to be lost.

"This places one person at both the deaths, the senator's actual death — or what seems to be his actual death — in 2009 and the death of the man wearing his face in 2010," she says softly, not yet answering the obvious question of who.

"It's your job not to be a goon," Parkman says firmly, his hand curling into a fist against the table, his index finger pointing rigidly at Veronica across the span. "It's your job to get in good and be there for all that crazy Frankenstein shit. Dammit." If there's stuff going on in a lab, and brains involved…

"If you find that brain, or you think you might know where it is, I want you to come straight to me. Don't pass Go, don't collect $200. You got that?" With a deep breath, he sits up a little straighter and studies Veronica. "You gonna keep me in supsense, Sawyer? If you've got a name, spill it." Since he can't very well go in and dig it out himself.

"I'm new. It's going to take time for them to trust me — if they ever do. Agents and lab rats, they don't always mix well. I'll see what I can do, though," Veronica mutters, perhaps just a touch affronted that he's implying she hasn't done the job that he so recently asked her to do.

She swallows and glances away again. "Jason Pierce," she whispers. "But I don't know if the physical evidence even exists anymore, and Espenosa's men were attacking us when we had Fritz in our custody — we had to jump from a burning building and he got away. I really doubt he's hanging around waiting for me to knock on his door again. And God knows where I can find that hooker who saw it happen in Oh-Nine, and her rep isn't going to stand up in court."

"Not if he likes his skin attached to his hide," Parkman muses, shaking his head. If the name rattles him, he doesn't outwardly show it beyond a slight tensing of his jaw and a flex of his fingers. "You let me worry about Pierce," he finally says, shaking his head slightly and lifting his hand to rub at his brow. But if he didn't want this information, he wouldn't have put Veronica in this position.

"Find your hooker and get her locked down someplace safe." She's got the DHS credentials to throw the woman into witness protection if she wanted to. "You don't have to worry about her reputation, just what she saw and if she and the senator can be connected. You don't have to worry about the lawyer's job, and no one's gonna blame you for the Company's foul play. If anything, it earns you sympathy." There are other ways of extracting the truth, but Parkman doesn't mention them. Not that they would necessarily be admissible in court anyway.

There is a pause as the waiter comes to drop off the spring rolls on a plate and the bag containing the soup to go. The agent gives him a nod and murmurs her thanks before returning her gaze to Parkman's face and nodding. "I'll see if I can find her, but anyone with a brain and a stash of cash has gotten out of Staten lately. She might be long gone, but I'll try to find her," Veronica says, knowing very well that the woman's memories of what happened might not match up with what Veronica herself just told Parkman. Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

"Is there anything else you want me to try to do? I'm not sure how to get in with the scientists. I'm supposed to start working on this empath case, and of course there's the former Company agents to track down. Most of that keeps me out of the labs, you know," she says apologetically.

He's quiet for a moment as he considers the possibilities. He's not too up to speed on the innerworkings of the Institute - that's what Sawyer is for, and she's barely begun to crack the ice. Not that it's her fault. Parkman drums his fingers on the table and exhales, his eyes moving from Veronica to the portion of wall just over her right shoulder.

"Luis has that lecture coming up," he considers, thinking out loud to a degree. "You could volunteer to be one of his handlers." Scientists have handlers, don't they? "Get close to him that way. If you think you need it, I'll what recommendations I can throw down the pipe to get you where you need to be, but you know I can't do too much." He finally picks up his coffee then, bringing it to his lips to take a quick drink, wincing at the taste. But then again, who would expect good coffee in a Thai place?

Setting it down again, Parkman shakes his head. "That's why I picked you, you know? You're resourceful, and you're talented. And they can't mess with you the way they can the others, and I know you won't crack if we don't get to enjoy a lovely evening out like this every week. I don't have to hold your hand every step of the way." He smiles briefly, taking his hand off the mug and splaying it on the table again to grip the edge. "Don't make me doubt you, now."

Taking a twenty from her wallet to pay for the coffees, rolls and soup, Veronica nods. "My father was a neuroscientist himself. I can use that, perhaps, to start a conversation, show some interest in the science side of things. After all, most agents aren't interested in the science — it might be flattering, right?" She shrugs. "It's worth a try."

"You'd be surprised how far flattery can get you, Sawyer," Parkman says with a small smile, reaching for his coffee again. Or maybe she wouldn't. "You go on ahead." Because leaving together would be a bad idea. "And I'll catch the check next time." He takes another sip of the coffee, grimaces, then reaches for the sugar caddy. "Be careful out there."

"I'm always careful," Veronica says with a smirk. More lies. She leaves him the spring rolls and takes the cocunut lime soap to go.

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