Preemptive Maintenance


cardinal_icon.gif peyton_icon.gif smedley_icon.gif

Scene Title Preemptive Maintenance
Synopsis Peyton brings Smedley into Redbird to talk to Cardinal about joining Endgame. The result is Smedley exposing his dark secret to the light.
Date August 30, 2010

Redbird Security Solutions Office

There's a sharp, professional feel to the main lobby of the building. The carpet is a deep maroon underfoot, the walls an off-white cream that doesn't glare too brightly beneath the recessed lighting in the ceiling. Half a dozen chairs upholstered in a sandy light brown sit against one wall beneath a painting, a print of a Thomas Brill that shows the ruins of Midtown covered in vines and greenery as seen from the rooftop of the Deveaux building. The receptionist's station takes up almost an entire wall on the right side of the lobby, guarding the hallway that leads back into the building's offices. Behind and above the desk, the logo for Redbird Security Solutions hangs on the wall in glossy black.

The central hall continues the same carpet and wall colors to a number of doors. There are four offices, a restroom done in shades of blue and pale sand tones, and a comfortable employee lounge with attached kitchenette. An open doorway in the main lobby reveals a flight of upward stairs, and there's a locked door at he end of the central hall that guards the basement steps.

Eight o'clock is Peyton's usual time for strolling into the office, and today is no different. Like always, she comes carrying goodies — today is bagel day, it seems, the scent of baked bread wafting in as she enters the lobby. What is different is that she's not alone. Wes Smedley is with her.

She unlocks the door — they open at nine, according to their hours — and steps aside to let Wes in. "Card," she calls, heading for his office and nodding Wes to follow her. "I have a surprise for you!" Her tone is pleasant, as if she's bringing him a present — something other than the bagels.

Look, I brought you another knight for the chessboard!

She peeks into his office, lifting the bag of bagels and setting it on the desk. "I mean, aside from the bagels. I got your favorite of those, though. Just save a jalapeno cheese for me."

Smedley is clutching a venti Starbucks cup as if his life depended on it. Nights with Peyton never end early, and he simply isn't used to getting up at the crack of dawn. Not anymore, at least. The life of a smuggler carries with it a more than flexible sleep schedule. He doesn't really understand why they're going to Redbird, other than the fact that Peyton has to punch a clock, or give an excuse why she can't. Why didn't she call? …Had she said why she couldn't call? He grumbles something under his breath as he follows Peyton not unlike some sort of senseless mutt, taking a drink from his coffee cup.

He's dressed in the exact same clothes he was wearing last night, so his t-shirt is a little wrinkly, and the knife and pistol are once again on his ankles, hidden beneath the cuff of his jeans. Rather than enter Cardinal's office, he leans against the doorframe and takes another sip of coffee. Com'n, caffeine. Do your magic. "Mm," he mumbles after he swallows. "Mornin', Card."

"You have bagels. Your offering is acceptable to the Great and Terrible Oz," Cardinal replies, finally - finally - looking up from whatever he was typing on the laptop sitting in front of him, the expensive model computer sitting on a broad desk of dark wood. Above and behind him hangs a framed Mendez original, 'Invisible People', a New York City street-corner at dusk and a man and a woman back to back beneath a street lamp. He's dressed in an off-the-rack suit, no tie, his collar a little out of order and turned up a little at one corner by accident. Shades, of course. The sun's up - of course there's shades.

A weary smile forces itself to his lips in thanks to Peyton, a certain tension cut into the lines around his eyes. "Hey, Smedley. What's the word? You get down to Anarchy to see Devi yet…?" One hand reaches out for the bag, tugging it open to search for its contents.

Peyton smiles reassuringly at Wesley, and reaches for his arm to tug him more properly into the room, then takes one of the seats that face Cardinal's desk. She's dressed for "work," which means a tailored sheath dress of sunshiny yellow, her feet in red heels. Long legs cross and she sets her hands on her lap primly, looking all business as she raises her brows at Cardinal.

"I was talking to Wes about our other business," she says quietly, looking a little worried — she's never been asked to recruit, and it might be stepping over a line that was never explicitly drawn. "He has some things he needs help with, in exchange for helping us."

Smedley nods at Cardinal's question. "She's now the proud owner of one bus-" but then Peyton is pulling him into the room. He squints at her, his eyebrows knitting together. But he comes into the room, sitting down just as Peyton brings up their conversation from last night.

He stands right back up at that, looking from the socialite to the slightly reformed criminal. "Wai- … Cardinal?" It's like a bucket of cold water on a sleeping man's face. He sets his jaw and eyes Peyton suspiciously. "Card's the boss man'uh that?"

The paper of the bag rustles as Cardinal digs out the garlic bagel and cream cheese, wrapper spread out next to the computer as he uses a little plastic fork to smear the latter over the former. One eyebrow lifts up over he edge of his shades as he looks up, considering Peyton for a moment, then Smedley.

"I've come up in the world," he says wryly, "As Tuck put it. What can I do for you, Cowboy?"

Reaching for the bag, Peyton finds her jalapeno cheese and then cuts it apart as Cardinal glances at her, a little chagrined. She's just a Bishop after all. She sneaks a peek at Smedley, and back down at her bagel, before murmuring, "I didn't give a lot of details, so, you know, your secrets are safe. But I had to explain some of the things I've used my power for, and obviously it wasn't just for reading over people's metaphorical shoulders, right? He had questions. And he can get us stuff that we might need, right?" Clearly she wants to be told it's all right, but her cheeks flush a little and she busies herself with smearing the cream cheese over her bagel, making a sandwich of it, and taking a quick bite so her mouth is full, to make herself stop asking stupid questions.

Smedley rakes his hand through his hair, then scratches furiously at the back of his head. He sighs, the muscles in his face tight with exasperation or lack of sleep - it's hard to tell. "So it's you," he says, lifting his coffeecup and extending his index finger to point at Cardinal. "You head up this little organization. N'Redbird Security's your front operation?" Questions is right. Damn right.

But questions about the day-to-day of Endgame or Redbird aren't what Smedley has. He steps around the chair he almost occupied and starts to pace in front of the door, his hand moving from the back of his head to his chest, the flat of his palm catching the fabric of his t-shirt as he rubs it across. "What would it look like?" is all he says after two trips across the width of the office. "Me throwin' in with you. Paint me a picture."

"That depends, Cowboy…" The sentence is interrupted by a bite of bagel, and Cardinal chews and swallows before leaning back in his chair with a subtle creak of its base, gesturing with the little plastic knife towards the other man, "…what impression, exactly, do you have about what we do here? And why would you want to be throwing in with us?"

Peyton keeps her eyes down, cheeks a little pink still. She knows, though he might get something useful out of it for himself, that Wesley wouldn't be here if it weren't for her. She makes herself busy by tracing a finger around the "seam" of her bagel-cream-cheese sandwich, gathering up any errant bits of the spread, then wiping her finger on a napkin. She peeks at Wes out of the corner her eyes, veiled by her long lashes, and then back at Cardinal, and then back down at her bagel. It's a fascinating bagel.

The continued use of the word in place of his name makes Smedley stiffen a little, and if it weren't for the fact he's known Cardinal for so long, he might take more verbal offense to it. Instead he comes to a stop behind the chair and looks over at Peyton's attempts to disappear. If he was SLC-positive, he might just shoot lasers at her out of his eyes.

"You're in the maintenance business. You take this rusted out piece of shit world we're ridin' along in and keep it from breaking down any worse'n it already has. Preventative like. You're the Mr. Goodwrench of domestic terrorism, only not so well known." He takes a deep breath then, his fingers tightening around the cardboard cup. It's one thing to talk to Peyton about these things. Cardinal, on the other hand, is quite another.

"I ain't got a good reason," Wes says after a moment, lifting his chin a bit, as if the statement were a challenge. "'Cept… 'cept that maybe I could lend a hand. Ain't too many boxes'uh bullets stored on second-stories these days, if you catch me." He pauses again and swallows, the tension in his jaw and neck visible, even if he manages to keep it out of his voice. "Don't want more trouble with the law'n I already got. Don't need it. But… hell, in less'n twenty-four hours I might as well be a dead man." Or worse.

A faint sound of humor is exhaled past Cardinal's nostrils. "You always did have a way of words, Wes," he murmurs, taking a bite of the bagel; chewing, swallowing, he sets it back down with a crunch of waxed paper. He licks a bit of cream cheese off his fingers, listening to the words of the other man before his hand drops down to rest on the desk.

"I can't say that if you're looking to stay out of trouble with the law that this is exactly your best choice," he admits, his tone wry, "I'm not going to lie to you there, but I'm pretty sure you've already figured that part out. You're a resourceful guy, though, Wes. I'm sure I could find work for you. God knows I need to move things and people now and then." Then he brings his hand up, pointing at him, "So who's going to kill you?"

"I think he means metaphorically," Peyton says, glancing at Wesley, her low voice lilting the statement into a question as she studies his profile and then looks back at Cardinal. "The registration and all that." Which still doesn't make a lot of sense to her, given the fact he's allegedly non-Evolved. The little researcher has failed to do a basic background check on the cowboy, which would give her the answers. For as paranoid as she is, she's still too trusting and naive in some ways. She picks up her coffee cup and takes a sip, letting Wesley elaborate.

The steel goes out of Smedley's spine at the question. He lowers his chin and swallows, his eyes flitting over to Peyton. He can't push the question away - not when he needs Cardinal's help to avoid the inevitable. Wes can only hope that the other man will take it in stride. Petyon, though…that's a wildcard he'd rather not deal with.

He clears his throat against the back of a quickly raised hand, then looks to Peyton once more. "You don't mind…steppin' out? Checkin' the mail or some such? Givin' us a few minutes?" He could rival Von with the look he gives her, his brows furrowed upward and his mouth held in a tight line.

At the request for Peyton to step out, Cardinal lifts an eyebrow slightly. Yeah, that's not a metaphorical gonna-be-killed that's just been brought up. The bagel's picked up, and he nods a little over to Peyton before taking a bite of it, chewing slowly as he turns his attention seriously towards Smedley.

Her brows knit and she glances from one man to the other and back. Oh, sure, she's just the copy girl. Leave her out of the grownup talk. "Yeah. Sure, the mail," Peyton says with a fake smile, picking up her bagel and her coffee and heading out of the office. She pulls the door shut behind her. She heads to her own desk, setting down her food and reaching to boot up the computer. Might as well get some work done.

It's only when Peyton is out of the office and the door has firmly shut behind her that Smedley even thinks about what he's going to say. He drops into the chair, spinning the coffee cup in his hands as he looks at various things in the office - things that aren't Cardinal. "I ain't never told a soul about this," he says by way of preface. "So…you gotta let me collect my wits." It shouldn't be too much to ask.

Smedley takes a deep breath and shuts his eyes tight for a moment before he continues. "Whose lookin' t'end me would be the great state of Nebraska. All on account'uh somethin' I got roped in on back in '07. Wasn't long after the Prez made his speech and turned us all topsy turvy.

"There…was a girl. Don't know if she could do nuthin' or if it was all just talk, but a bunch'uh us hands got it in our head she was and…well…" Smedley scowls, the lines etched in his face like those on well-weathered stone. There were plenty of reported anti-evolved violence in the South, but a few cases of it were sprinkled across the Heartland. "It ain't a night I'm proud of. But if any of th'other ever got their asses caught, Lord only knows what they've said t'the law."

He quiets then, swallowing hard and looking down at the drink in his hands, wishing it had something other than coffee in it. "You got to swear on your damn life you won't tell another living soul 'bout this, Card," he grumbles, his throat and jaw tight.

"Take your time, Wes." If nothing else, the trust the other man's put in Cardinal just by coming here, and by coming to him about the box and about Danko, has earned him that much. He's given those moments to collect his wits as the bagel's eaten, though he continues to watch the smuggler with a bemused sort of expression from time to time.

Then he starts to talk, and the bagel's set down.

"You killed her," he says, quietly, bluntly, his gaze unreadable through those shades.

"Nah," Smedley says, the denial breathy and joined with a shake of his head. "Dragged 'er out of her house 'n 'cross a field. Held her down while the others tied uglied 'er up." But he chokes before he can talk about the rest. He sniffs, then takes a long drink from the coffee cup, draining what's left and tossing it rather brutally into the trash next to Cardinal's desk.

He leans back, running the heels of his hands along his thighs as if trying to scrape something off of them. "But that don't matter. I helped do what… what did 'er in her all the same." And has been running from it ever since.

A quiet sound passes Cardinal's lips. It could just be an 'oh' or an 'ah' but it's not entirely clear. He leans back slightly, one hand coming up to push back over his face - fingertips sliding along the sides of his nose, under his shades, rubbing there slowly. "So why're you telling me this, Wes? Guilt? You hoping that by signing on with us you can find… redemption, or something?"

Smedley turns his scowl on Cardinal then, his eyes widening slightly. "I'm tellin' you because you asked, and you didn't leave me much in the way of believable bullshit." His tone is sharper than before, and he even sits a little straighter. He relaxes a touch after the words hang in the air, but he still fixes Cardinal with a frown.

"I'm not lookin' for redemption. Can't be had. Not from you, and not from her." Wes leans forward, his head jerking toward the door to indicate the now absent Peyton. "If I throw in with you, I'll be lookin' to you for a way to skirt what's comin'. Can't do much without papers come tomorrow, and I ain't got a way of gettin' good ones." Staten Island forgeries won't hold up in the long run, and Smedley knows it well enough not to want to bank his life on a set.

"So you need me to find out if you've got any outstanding warrants, or anything," Cardinal says - all business, bypassing the sharp statement that was first said, ignoring the words about redemption, even that most interesting involvement of his assistant. The bagel's forgotten now, hands folding on the desk's edge, fingers steepling together, "And if you do, get you the proper papers anyway, so you can operate without getting hauled off to jail or something like that."

"Is that it?"

Wes nods, then sniffs to draw in another deep, grounding breath. "S'all about gettin' to the next day. And hell, if I've got to look more'n a week or so ahead to make sure it'll be worth gettin' there in the first place…why not?"

There's more than that behind his shaky decision to align himself with Cardinal's crew, even if it's only as a supplier or an occasional hired gun. But Smedley isn't going to be the one to allude to it, especially to Cardinal.

"That's the thing, Wes…" Cardinal shakes his head slowly, his sunglasses drawn off and the legs clicked closed, set aside, "…it's not all about getting to the next day. I used to think that too. I know better now."

Dark eyes meet Wes's own, and he says quietly, "It's about making sure there is a next day to get to."

His gaze drops away with a sigh, then, and he reaches for his breakfast, "Elisabeth's handling most of that right now. I'll get you two in touch and you can work that out. We'll discuss the rest later."

Working stuff out with someone, especially a someone named Elisabeth, doesn't make Smedley feel much better about the state of things. He nods, though, and grumbles a thank you under his breath as he stands and heads for the door.

The object of the game is to get out quick, and to avoid Peyton at all costs. So even if he does pass her, he's got to stay focused and make a bee-line for the door, like a horse escaping to the pasture.

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