Peeling at Fingers


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Scene Title Peeling at Fingers
Synopsis Daniel Linderman gives a lesson to Nicole Nichols on leaving well enough alone.
Date September 9, 2010

The Corinthian - Chambéry Restaurant

Chambéry is every bit as elegant as a French restaurant housed in the swanky Corinthian Hotel promises to be. The expansive venue is entered through a pair of mirrored French doors opposite each other, decorated in fresh white paint, and rich tones that give an impression of warmth. Gold is a backdrop for clusters of roses damask, red, and white, making up the plush carpet beneath the feet of chairs and diners both. White table clothes are draped over circular tables spaced about the room, each set for two with elegant glassware, more silverware than the average person knows what to do with, and a small silver-based lantern with a frosted half-globe encasing the flame.

Crystal chandeliers hang down, their flames providing further illumination to the room and dancing off of a canopy so perfect a white that it gives the illusion that the ceiling could be made of porcelain. Small, flat lights are dotted strategically amongst ornate moulding in the ceiling, giving a brighter splash to the room, affording the ambiance of a candle-lit room without the disadvantage of dimness.

Beige and warm tan create an elaborate patterned wallpaper, the negative space leaving one unsure of which is the dominant colour, beneath a banded frieze of white and gold. Candelabras further illume the space, settled into contrasting wood panelling that separates alternating panels of wallpaper and large, gilded mirrors. Above one such mirror is a beautiful painting of a woman with dark ringlets and eyes the colour of cobalt. The same woman can be found in another painting hung on one of the papered walls, dressed in an electric blue gown that would have been fashionable in the 1800's. Members of the Linderman Group who study the women depicted in the paintings may find her oddly familiar.

Every morning, the heavyset man with the silver beard and thick fingers is working in the kitchen of the Corinthian's Chambéry Restaurant to assist his chefs with their daily preparations by reviewing the inventory and personally inspecting the ingredients that go into the food that's served here. The lobsters must be happy in their tanks, the salmon, duck and lamb fresh from the market, and the fruit for the sorbet perfectly ripe before it goes into the machine.

It's a little after eight o'clock, and although the restaurant won't be open for many, many more hours, Daniel Linderman is rolling out the dough for his buffalo bourguignon ravioli, a twist on a traditional French recipe. Light glances off the kitchen's silver surfaces, creating strange reflections on the counters, cabinets and the stovetop at Linderman's back. His employees are in another part of the establishment dealing with a crisis that involves a sizable amount of calf liver that the restaurant's supplier promised would be delivered and hasn't, but Linderman does not appear particularly concerned about whether or not they'll be cutting an item from the menu tonight.

There are much more important things for him to be worrying about than dinner.

How many times have they done something similar? It never gets old. A fond smile plays on Nicole Nichol's slips as she deftly unbuttons the cuffs of her white button-down shirt and rolls the sleeves up to her elbows. A fresh apron is secured behind her neck and around her waist to protect her smart black skirt and vest from any kitchen mishaps.

Nicole's ever-present BlackBerry is conspicuously missing. She's forever reaching into her pockets to check it on any other day, as is appropriate for her. It's odd to see her without it. Or not to have it sitting on a counter nearby, its screen lighting up every so often to indicate a notification that she should give her attentions to.

"What can I help with?" she asks. It's almost like code for we need to talk. Part of it is that she's at a loss for how to even begin to broach the subject on her mind, which is exceptionally rare for Nicole. Another part of her is afraid to actually find the answers she seeks.

Linderman slides a small bowl of flour across the counter to Nicole, and gestures to the sheet of dough with his hand, fingers curled, and makes a sprinkling motion. Not yet paper thin, it will take several more attacks with the rolling pin before he's ready to divide the sheet into pieces and sliver it apart with the appropriate knife so the pasta can be filled later, closer to opening.

Like Nicole, he wears an apron fastened at the neck and waist, dress shirt sleeves rolled all the way up to the elbow to expose large arms with the same reddish cast as his cheeks. He returns Nicole's smile, and although two of the sous chefs were making unhappy noises at a review of D'Sarthe's in the local paper when she came in, the fact that New York City's top food critics cannot say enough good things about what was formerly Tavern on the Green — and one of his favourite dining spots — fails to snag Linderman's attention when the sous chef's voices drift in through the open doors.

"— a fucking thug, that's what I think. No class."

"It's not a coincidence."


Nicole reaches into the bowl of flour, taking a small handful and carefully sprinkling it over the dough her boss is flattening out. Her head turns at the sound of voices, used to listening for pertinent information - especially the kind not actually directed toward her.

Her voice dropped to a conspiratorial level, Nicole keeps her apprehensive gaze on her work. "I'm not worried about it," she assures the man at her side. "D'Sarthe's is just the newest thing. It won't hold the interest for very long." She hopes. But the location… She isn't so certain. "He's here for a reason, and it has nothing to do with expanding his entrepreneurial influences," she surmises. "I believe Robert and I are more than capable of handling that. If you give us a direction." Cobalt eyes drift upward, a questioning look for the man in charge.

"I'd like to apologize," Linderman starts, "for what occurred at the soft opening. Involving you in that sort of business is the sort of mistake I expect from Kain, not Robert, but if Kain had done his job, neither of you would have found yourselves in such a position in the first place." The rolling pin glides across the dough, and a moment later Linderman is turning it again, grabbing another handful of flour and scattering it in a thin layer to help the process along.

"You shouldn't worry about Gideon," he agrees. "He's ambitious, but New York is a big city. Provided that he and I see eye-to-eye on a few key issues, and I suspect that we still do, there's plenty of room here for him to stretch out his legs."

Nicole's gaze softens further, and she's quick to shake her head. "No. Robert did the right thing," she insists. "It's… I had every opportunity to say no, and I know he would have understood." That's not to say she's entirely certain that he wouldn't have tried to insist that she get over it and step up to the plate, but that's neither here nor there. "I'm not having nightmares about it or anything. I did it for y- For the Group."

Flour is scattered with perhaps a bit of a harder flick of the wrist than Nicole might normally intend, betraying her tension. "I knew what I was getting into when I set my sights on climbing the ladder to this position, Daniel. I'm not the delicate thing I play for the cameras." A deep breath fills the woman's lungs, let out slowly through the small 'o' she makes with her lips. She's perhaps more transparent around Linderman than she might be with her co-workers.

"I'm sorry I didn't finish the job."

"I'm not concerned either," Linderman reiterates, in case he hasn't made that clear enough already, "and I don't want to discuss Lola Mayeux. Robert tells me that he's educated you about my little immortal problem — that's enough for now." Two hands grip the rolling pin. He waits until Nicole's hands are out of the way before he begins applying the pressure. This time, when the bulk of it comes away, she can see the wax paper through the dough.

It's about the right consistency. "If you could get me a knife, dear," he says, an aside as he sets the rolling pin down and dusts off his hands with still more flour. While he might have thoroughly washed them before handling the dough, it gets warm quickly, and so does he. "What I'd like for you, John, Kain and Kelly to do is keep an eye on D'Sarthe's operation. Preferably without drawing attention to yourselves. I need to know what his intentions are for the immediate future."

Nicole nods her head, brushing flour off her hands and onto her apron before she moves to retrieve the requested knife. "There are rumblings within Civella's camp," she offers conversationally. She frowns at the blade she's plucked up and returns it before reaching for another one, deciding it to be more appropriate. She turns it in her grasp and offers it handle-first to Linderman when she returns to her station at his side. "It seems she's worried about her holdings. Rightfully so, of course. Her organisation has been falling apart since she took over. She has too much of her father's pride, if you ask me."

Nicole presses her lips together a moment before she sucks the lower in slightly to worry with her teeth. "Daniel…" She winces when she finds herself immediately at a loss for words.

If Gideon D'Sarthe doesn't have Linderman worried, it's unlikely that Gigi Civella does. This piece of news earns Nicole a low noise of amusement that originates somewhere in the back of his throat as he reaches out, takes the knife, and runs its edge along the back of his knuckles as if testing for sharpness. It doesn't break the skin, but his skin is also much thicker than the dough is.

"What is it, Nicole?"

A quick glance ensures that the pair still has relative privacy before Nicole leans one hand against the counter and tips her head to the side. "The news…" She frowns and takes a moment to gather her thoughts again. "I… know things." Her brows furrow. She's no stranger to speaking in vague notions and seemingly half-finished thoughts for the sake of avoiding saying anything especially incriminating or damning. She can only hope that he he's as adept at following her meaning.

"Yes?" Linderman prompts. His knife shears easily through the dough, creating circle-shaped patterns that can be easily peeled from the wax paper, transferred to a sheet and then brought to the filling.

Nicole's shoulders sag as if under the force of her sigh. Yes he says. As if it were as simple as if she were about to ask him if he's feeling like adding milk to his tea today. "We could be in Canada before they get warrants together." Her gaze is on his face, a bit wide, but full of resolve. "I can have you on a plane to England before anyone at Homeland Security can utter extradition."

The executive assistant shrugs. She's obviously given this a lot of thought. "The UK may not extradite one of their own. Polanski's gotten away with it for years," Nicole reasons, as though this were a perfectly normal discussion to be having. "We have enough liquid resources for you to disappear and still live comfortably."

"One of their own," Linderman repeats, some humour in his tone. "No, Nicole, I don't think I'm going anywhere." He slips blunt fingernails under the edge of one of the circles and gingerly lifts it off the wax paper, testing its weight and consistency before placing it on the tray provided. "But let's assume, just for a minute, that I did decide to leave the country and take you with me, settle in Banff, or Surrey. What about Colette? Her work?

"She wouldn't come with you, you know."

A small huff of laughter born of nervous tension slips past Nicole's lips, which curve upward and part to reveal a toothy smile. "I said I would take you as far as Canada. I never said I'd go overseas with you." Nicole shakes her head and looks down toward her black and grey oxford-styled heels. "Someone would have to stay here and keep the boys in line, right?" Her gaze tracks back up, smile still in place. "If you love someone, let them go…" She trails off, meeting his lighter blue gaze with her own darker.

"I wouldn't leave her again." Not when she suspects she'll be arranging some sort of evacuation for her little sister also before too long. "My sources say the government is coming for you, and you aren't the least bit worried?" The smile fades now. Real concern settling in its place. As if she needed to say it, Nicole adds, "I am. This is a political nightmare." And she's endured quite a few of those lately. "I don't think that even together Robert and I can cover this up, or play it off. I don't know if I can protect you."

Filled with so much doubt, Nicole's chest heaves once as her breath hitches. A voice in the back of her head is cursing herself. She's all but certain what comes next will be one of those looks where it will appear she's about to receive a pat on the head and a murmured reassurance. Like she's so cute or quaint in the way she feels that she has to be the protector. In all of her worries. "I can't lose you, Daniel," she states emphatically.

"And what sources are these?" Linderman wants to know. "Don't think for a minute that if the government is coming for me, it won't come for you too. Or Robert, for that matter. You're not the first person to come to me, expressing concerns about the future, either my own or someone else's, and you can rest assured that you won't be the last.

"I'm not leaving New York." Another circle is placed on the tray, overlapping the first for the sake of space. His voice takes on a steelier quality. "And I'm not your responsibility any more than you're Colette's. I've already taken appropriate measures to relieve you of any liability in the event it becomes necessary. If they bring you in, if they bring John in, it will be for questioning only."

No pat on the head, and as far as reassurances go, this one is purposefully lacking, but only in terms of what it is that Nicole is after. "They have nothing."

Nicole has always suspected that she was left out of the more criminal elements of the Group because she was almost too close to everything. She knows if they take her in, she can't reveal much of anything that would be of any use in convicting the man she works for, even if she did cooperate. Though in a world like this, who needs cooperation?

"I'm not worried about myself," Nicole insists. "If they come for me, if they lock me up, it's fair." She is a murderer, after all. Her brows knit, concern giving way to something more resembling of confusion. How deep does this rabbit hole go?

Rather than dismiss the subject, or simply lie, Nicole gives up her source. "Catherine Chesterfield seems to think you and I both are in very real danger. You've seen the people they've been deposing. They're even going after Yamagoto. I don't think anybody's untouchable if Homeland Security thinks they smell blood on the wind."

Nicole shuts her eyes tightly and takes in a deep, audible breath. "I'm sorry. You have this under control. Of course you do. But…" She opens her eyes again, her expression drawing lines of concern across her face so deep. "You were a part of all of that, weren't you?" The thought horrifies her. It's the truth she doesn't want confirmed. Maybe she's hoping he can deny it convincingly.

"Either I have this under control," Linderman says, "or I don't. Catherine Chesterfield enjoys making assumptions — she's like her mother that way, rest her soul, and you remember very well what happened to her campaign." The leftover scraps of dough are gathered together and lumped into a larger ball, which Linderman then begins to work between his hands, using his thumbs to perform most of the kneading.

"I wish you'd stop agonizing over something that neither of us have any control over. You could do, too, to learn how to accuse someone with some subtlety." It's neither confession nor denial, but what was Nicole expecting? He shakes his head, drops the ball back into the metal bowl Nicole found the dough in when he asked her to fetch it from the refrigerator.

"You can let this go, or I'll have someone peel at your fingers until you do. It's your decision."

Nicole is stunned into silence by her employer's words. Her lips purse a little tighter, possibly even a little offended by the way she's brushed off. "I'm not trying to…" Her words fall short and she takes a physical step back the coincide with the metaphorical one.

The dig at what happened to Jenn Chesterfield's campaign is perhaps the worst of it. Nicole opens her mouth to speak, but then perhaps thinks better of it as she presses her lips together once more. She wasn't going for subtlety, and she wasn't trying to make any true accusations, but that doesn't make the admonition any less valid.

Taking the bowl from the counter, Nicole moves to replace it in the fridge. "Of course, Mister Linderman." It's rare that she'll refer to him that way when she's sure it's just the two of them. "You have my continued support, whatever the case." Ever your humble servant, she may as well have spoken.

If Linderman is similarly stung by Nicole's response, and he very well might be, he does not convey his hurt through his body's language or facial expression, though the light in his watery blue eyes is noticeably dimmer than it has been in weeks past. "Thank you.

"See that you check tonight's reservation list on your way out," he adds, without indicating what it is she should be looking for. Presumably, she'll find it when she does.

The assistant stops short after shutting the door to the refrigeration unit, not quite turning around yet. Though the somewhat reflective stainless surface betrays the look of confusion. Taking a moment to gather her thoughts, she moves to the sink to begin washing the flour from her hands. "Certainly." She knows better than to question what it is she's looking for. If he suspects she'll know it when she sees it, then she will.

Drying her hands, Nicole carefully removes the apron she's wearing and crosses the room to hang it back up on a peg on the wall. Turning back, her expression carries more resolve than it had previously. The subtleties of spoken emphasis or perhaps more importantly the things left unsaid. Rather than sift through all the innuendo, she simply asks, "Should I continue my acquaintance with John?" Deepen it, perhaps?

"You should be genuine with John," Linderman recommends. He wipes off his hands on his apron and reaches behind his neck to loosen the knot with his large fingers. "Your other colleagues as well. As I've already told Robert: now is not the time for games, political or otherwise. Treat him as you would treat any other friend you keep at arm's length. He's an ally, not an enemy."

Nicole nods her head and crosses back to Linderman, reaching out to take his apron so she can hang it up with the other. "As you wish." Her gaze settles on his face, and for all the hurt she felt from his earlier words, that fondness still shows in her eyes. Her fingers brush over his hand gently, perhaps lingering a moment longer than propriety or decorum would otherwise dictate. She takes a full step backward before actually turning away to set about hanging up the man's apron.

When she turns back again, the kitchen is empty, devoid of any lingering presence except for the finest granules of flour left on the counter and faint impressions where the wax paper had been, discarded in the rubbish with a gentle, whispering crinkle.

Nicole's shoulders sag in tandem with a heavy sigh. She allows herself a moment to hang her head before she moves out of the kitchen, to head for the office and check that reservation list.

One hand with its electric blue painted nails comes up to rest against her face, two fingers pressed to the bridge of her nose. Sucking in a deep breath, she retrieves her purse from the bottom drawer, and from within it a pack of menthol cigarettes and a lighter. It's going to be a long day.

Nichols, Nicole (Logan, Zarek): Party of 3

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