Ralph Kramden and Xenia Onatopp


chamberlain_icon.gif daphne_icon.gif

Scene Title Ralph Kramden and Xenia Onatopp
Synopsis Chamberlain (aka Ralph) is trying to kill a Sunday when Daphne (aka Xenia) shoots the breeze with him.
Date December 27, 2009

Some Bar in Manhattan

The football game is long over and there's really very little reason to linger at the bar, and yet. The room is uncrowded, although not empty; there are a few low-murmured conversations going on, contributing to the general hum of human noise that keeps the place alive. Intermittent light skitters along frost-hued windows to skim along the long, dark surface of the bar's polished wooden counter. Michael Chamberlain sits on his barstool, shiny-shod with the slight heel of his glossy dress shoes hooked against the bottom rung. He is wearing a dark suit, pinstriped in a finer, lighter grey, with crisp blue cotton beneath. The reason being, he hasn't been home since mass, although to dwell on that might raise the question of what's to go home for, since Michael lacks even a dog.

Michael orders another bitters and soda and, while he waits for his empty glass to be replaced, stretches out of his slouch, rangily-built body shifting stiffly on the backless stool with the roll of his shrug, and then leans forward onto the prop of his elbow, glancing down the bar to survey the general bar population with a quirk to his mouth and a sigh buried in the snort of his exhalation.

Does the Deputy Prosecutor know that he is in a den of iniquity? This particular little pub is one often patronized by criminals — thiefs, fences, dealers. It isn't a fancy place, nor is it a hole in the wall one would imagine such dealings to take place. And yet they do. Or often, they take place outside in the alley, out of respect to the management, and then are followed up with a drink or two of friendly banter.

Outside, if one is watching the window, there is a blur of white and red and gray that seems to round the corner. A few moments later, the door opens, and in with a chilly gust of icy wind comes Daphne, reaching off her blonde head to remove her gray cap. She heads to the bar, shaking some snow from her head and then brushing off her red coat.

"Coffee with Kahlua, Bob, thanks," she says, without waiting for him to respond.

The pub was selected largely by virtue of its television and its proximity to Michael Chamberlain at the time of the football game starting — so it is unlikely that he is aware of the criminal element. But justice wears a blindfold, and 'stuff the prosecutor hears while watching the game' wouldn't be admissible in court. If anything he has heard in the past few hours has sounded less than above board, he has not impinged on the bar's culture enough to do more than lift his eyebrows.

"Bob," Michael repeats, glancing after the bartender as he bustles cheerfully off to fetch the hot drink, at thorough odds with his own glass and its fizz of club soda and ice. He picks up his lime and eyes it, held between forefinger and thumb with a musing purse to the bow of his mouth. "I guess he even looks like a Bob," he says, possibly addressing the lime. Lawyers wear suits like a second skin, so it is possible that he looks like one even now — although the crisp blue of his dress shirt, beneath the unbuttoned jacket, is a little rumpled, and his tie is conspicuously absent, leaving behind an open-throated and mildly crooked collar in its wake.

Bob chuckles over at the coffee machine. "My name's Justin," he says to Michael. "And she's never asked to know it, but insists on calling me Bob."

The girl in question has spun around on her barstool to watch the television for a few moments, but makes a face when she realizes it's just football, and worst, post game football, so she spins back to give Michael a strange look as he addresses the lime. "You named your lime slice Bob?" she asks, brows arching as she reaches down to grab a couple of cherries from the bar's supply, popping one into her mouth. "That's just weird," she adds, with a full mouth.

Michael's mouth quirks, the turn of his smile curling it upward at only one corner. With a swift crush of pressure, he squeezes the lime slice over his soda, and then drops its decrepit corpse onto the white square of his napkin. "Hello, Justin," he says to the bartender. "I'm Michael." This far from the courthouse, networking is unnecessary; there is no reason to append the Chamberlain, and thus, he fails to do so.

Instead, he licks juice and lime residue from his thumb, and slants a sidelong, considering look over the younger woman on her stool. "So you name people you meet," he says in a musing tone. His accent is all brash New York roots, his voice crisp and dry as old paper, although not without some warmth of humor in it. "But apparently naming individual fruits, that's particularly odd."

"You yourself said he looks like a Bob," Daphne points out, then smiles up when Justin-Bob brings her her coffee. "Thanks!" she says brightly, reaching for the creamer and sugar he brings with it, and adding it to the mix. She gives him a once over, taking in the suit, the tie, the shiny shoes. He's not one of them… otherwise she might explain how in this business it's not like people give their real names anyway, half the time, and it's better not to know, should the police come along and ask you if you've seen Henry. You can honestly answer and say no, because you know Henry as Jim-Bob, and all is well, right?

But none of that is said — she simply appraises him for a moment with dark eyes before screwing her lips to one corner of her mouth. "Whatever you say, Ralph. And yeah, it would be. After all, you're going to consume it. Coming from a farm town, I can tell you, we don't name things we're going to eat, because otherwise Easter comes and you're like, 'This ham tastes really good, I wonder if it's Porky or Petunia.'"

"In New York, where I come from, we eat whoever we want," Michael says, solemnity as dry as dust. He picks up his glass and tips it against his mouth, taking a swallow like an old hand with a whiskey something that is seriously lacking in the whiskey department, and flicks a glance briefly toward the talking heads on the television. His breath huffs past the teeth of a sour smile as he sets his glass down again.

"Ralph," he repeats contemplatively. He rubs his thumb along his beleaguered napkin, and then scrapes it along the side of his nose, eyeing her with a narrowed, hooded gaze. "So who does that make you? Shelby? Kiki? Xenia Onatopp?"

Daphne sighs heavily, lifting the clear glass mug to sip the sweet coffee, though now it's more like a White Russian with coffee added to it. "You don't play right. You can't ask what the person's name is. You just dub them whatever fits in your humble but ever so discerning opinion, because of course whatever name you come up with is superior to the one that's on their birth certificate or driver's license, right?" she says. "You don't give the person a choice, see? That defeats the purpose of renaming them." She sounds like she's explaining it to a kindergardener.

"I don't think I was designed by nature to play this game," Michael says, frown tugging his mouth down at the corners as he taps his fingertips in an idle tattoo against the curve of his glass. He draws a long breath through his nose, which he holds with the up-and-down bob of his eyebrows. "Very well, Ms. Onatopp," he says on the release of the exhalation, spine pulling straighter with the backward roll of his shoulders. "So be it. Just don't change my last name to Kramden. I'd make a damned lousy bus driver."

"Kramden…" she repeats, eyes narrowing as she thinks, tapping her own fingers in a counter rhythm to his. "Oh that old TV show, right? Nah, no last name. It's not that complex a game, Ralph." She reaches for another cherry from the bar's supply, popping it into her mouth. She glances around the bar, then back to the lawyer. "Is there such thing as a good bus driver? I've never see one yet."

"Public transport. Unsung heroes. Especially the sober ones," Michael says soberly, ignoring the glaring hypocrisies inherent in a man speaking these words who was once a drunk bum of a criminal defense attorney. He picks up his glass again, and takes a long draught of the fizzy bitter drink inside it. The teeth of his smile click against the rim. "My Jackie Gleason impersonation is terrible anyway."

"I don't do public transportation," Daphne says with a shudder, probably sounding like a high society snob rather than someone who just prefers her own two feet to get around the city. Make that the world. "At least unless I absolutely have to," she amends. She takes another long sip of her coffee, drinking it more for the warmth than for the alcohol content.

"I like it," Michael says, peaceful in his disagreement. He rolls his nearly empty bitters and soda between his hands as he sets it down against the smooth surface of the bar again. "The subway always was a great place to stumble over brilliant ideas." He speaks vaguely proprietarily of the subway, as though New Yorkers invented the very concept of a train that runs underground and takes you where you want to go.

"I don't like stumbling either," Daphne says in a matter-of-fact manner with a backwards shrug; that is, her head moves sideways to her shoulder, rather than her shoulder moving upward toward her head. "But what kind of ideas do you 'stumble' over when you're on a train with a bunch of strangers, many of whom smell like feet?" she asks, curiously. "Mind you, the subway is better than the bus, by a long stretch."

"You need clean air for an epiphany, you're in the wrong town, lady," Michael says, his voice dropping to richer tones with a burr of amusement as he rubs the pad of his thumb along the curve of one thick eyebrow. His mouth curves, his smile slow and not untouched by rue, a distant gleam reflected in his pale eyes. "I've solved some nasty puzzles early in the morning surrounded by scowling commuters."

"Oh, I don't need clean air for anything. The two cities I'd call home right now would be Paris and New York — neither of which are all that full of fresh, sweet smelling air or shit like that. I just don't like to be closed in a rattling subway car with people I don't know and no way out until the next stop. Rather be in control of my own destiny, you know?" She takes another swallow of the sweet coffee, perhaps to break the sudden honesty of the conversation. "Bob. Gimme another, and one for Ralph here," she calls to Justin.

With a bemused gravity to his nod, Michael murmurs, "Thank you," in wry earnest for the addition of another drink — for all that his cocktail, virgin as it is, isn't much in price. His mouth twitches up at one corner, the faint crimp of smile lines coupling with the familiar skew of the expression to make it quite at home on his face. "I don't mind the strangers. They're just like you and me — they'd rather be somewhere else, somewhere not on the subway." This pearl of wisdom offered in his dry, low voice, Michael breathes out in a quiet snort. "Can't stand France," he adds almost apologetically, "although I can't say I really remember it all that well."

"That's true. It's not like most people love the subway, except five year olds, right? The Metro in Paris is nice, as far as subways go, though. I still don't like it." She shrugs, and finishes the last swallow of her old drink, in preparation for the newly prepared one soon coming her way. "Paris was the first place I really went after leaving home, so I guess it's why I like it. And there's lots to see but people still smell like feet. And cigarettes. Lots of smokers."

"I went there with my ex-wife," Michael says, the edge of dryness drawing sharper through his tone as he shares this particular tidbit. His eyebrows climb again, a glint reflecting fresh, inward-aimed humor in his gaze as he slants his look down towards the bitters and soda in his glass. "Which explains everything, really. — I was also pretty drunk most of the time I was there," he adds, as a contemplative admission. His gaze flickers toward the rows of bottles beyond the bar, and he lifts his glass for a significant swig of his beverage, which he rolls on his tongue, tasting the bitter, fizzy sharpness of its flavor before he swallows.

"Ah. All my exes live in Texas. Or I don't have any. I forget which," Daphne says brightly enough, starting to stir creamer and sugar into her new coffee. She sips it. "Don't be so miserly with the Kahlua there, Robert," she tells the bartender, though she lifts the glass mug to clink against Chamberlain's drink. "To stinky foot epiphanies on the subway then, I guess. What was your best epiphany?"

The click of glass to glass a familiar tinkling song, Michael looks up at the ceiling as he lifts his drink to his mouth, the purse of his mouth thoughtful. "Hard to explain," he decides on eventually. "Work-related. Who wants to talk about that? It's Sunday night. Everyone with sense is halfway to drunk to fight off tomorrow's case of the Mondays." He looks at his glass, brow knitting in another rueful furrow. No, Michael is not halfway to drunk. And proportionately, he will have a hell of a case of the Mondays.

"I don't work on Mondays, just to get rid of the ugly connotation associated with them," Daphne says, taking a long swallow of the drink. "But you're right. No work talk allowed in a pub on a Sunday night. It's bad form, as Captain Hook would say." She pulls out some money from the courier bag slung across her chest, resting on the barstool beside her. "Got you covered." She's had a good night, and soda water and bitters is hardly going to break the bank. "You have a nice night, Kramden." She slips off the stool.

"Good night to you, Ms. Onatopp, and thanks again," Michael answers, gravely polite as he sits straight once more upon his stool. He glances up at the television screen again, musing inwardly on the weightier question of just how much more of the Sunday he can sensibly waste. He rubs the spread of his fingertips across his forehead and sighs. Probably not much more.

Daphne laughs at the name, then waves to a couple of other patrons who look up from their billiards games to give her a parting wave. Once she's out and the door has swung closed behind her, she takes off in a blur. Monday will come soon enough, but she has a couple more stops to make tonight before she can have a day of rest.

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