Readily Accessible


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Scene Title Readily Accessible
Synopsis Hana confronts Eileen about her relationship with Jensen Raith and whatever it is the surviving members of Vanguard's New York branch are planning.
Date June 29, 2009

The Garden

Situated in a copse several miles away from the nearest stretch of asphalt, the Garden is accessible via an old dirt road that winds snakelike through the woods and dead-ends at the property's perimeter, which is surrounded by stone wall plastered with wicked coils of rusty barbed wire to keep would-be intruders from attempting to scale it. Those with a key can gain entry via the front gate.

The safehouse itself is a three-story brickwork cottage over a century old and covered in moss and ivy. It slants to one side, suggesting that the foundation has been steadily sinking into the wet earth; incidentally, this may be one of the reasons why its prior occupants never returned to the island to reclaim their property when government officials lifted evacuation orders and re-opened the Verrazano-Narrows shortly before its eventual destruction.

Inside, the cottage is decorated in mismatched antique furniture including a couch in the living room and an armchair nestled in the corner closest to the fireplace that go well with the safehouse's hardwood floors and the wood-burning stoves in some of the spare bedrooms. A heavy wooden table designed to seat eight separates the dining area from the rest of the kitchen, which is defined by its aged oak cabinetry and the dried wildflowers hanging above them.

It's very early in the morning, by most standards — not a great deal past sunrise, birdsong and sunlight being the defining characteristics of the hour. It's clear for once, last night's clouds having been chased away; one of those days where being outside the city, in the Garden, is a pleasant prospect indeed.

Early enough, in fact, that Eileen has the building practically to herself; even the primary operator is yet scarce, and breakfast, it seems, is purely the young woman's province.

There may or may not have been an unobtrusive message which contributed to this state of affairs.

Eileen, as it turns out, isn't actually alone. Her dark hair braided and pinned into a coil at the base of her skull; dressed in clothing that is not true black, but a few subtle shades from it; armed with her traditional handguns but the weapons still snapped in their holsters, Hana is not here on a social visit. She's been in the house for a while, but she doesn't wait for Eileen to come find her; why exercise such patience when it's unnecessary?

Callused, bare feet quiet on the floorboards, Hana waits until Eileen, in her breakfast preparations, has her back to the kitchen door. Then she rushes the younger woman.

When Eileen set out to cut a few tomatoes to go with the kedgeree she has warming on the kitchen stove, an ambush was the last thing she'd been expecting. A nicked finger, maybe. Squashy slices. Hands dripping with juice. It happens so fast and with such swiftness and ferocity that the younger of the two women is caught entirely off-guard and ends up pinned between Hana's body and the sink, her butcher's knife buried three quarters of an inch into a wooden chopping block. Her good hand — the one not encased in the cheap plastic brace — continues clutching at the handle even though she lacks the leverage, never mind the strength, to wrench it free.

Not that it matters, anyway. Her wide-eyed face holds high, huge gray irises like a cat's that widen a fraction upon recognizing her attacker. If she had ears to lay back, she would. There's a knife at her throat, tomato pulp on the front of her shirt and a colourful mixture of smoked haddock, boiled rice, eggs and butter scattered across the floor.

An overturned pot rolls until it comes to rest against one of the dining table's elephant-like legs and is still.

So is Eileen.

If Hana were a cat, she would be snarling down at Eileen. As it is, her left hand grips like a vise on the woman's right arm; her right holds the edge of something not one of her usual throwing knives against Eileen's throat. She had far more than enough time to prepare for this moment. To plan.

It doesn't mean she's any less irate now than she was last night. Hana scowls down at the younger woman, dark eyes furiously intent. "Tell me, Ruskin." The words are quiet, but not soft; coldly menacing, like the kiss of steel against Eileen's throat. Last names from her are never a good sign. "What are you trying, planning to do?"

There are very few things to which Hana could be referring, and Eileen doubts that she's a sliver away from bleeding out into the sink because of the air of suspicion surrounding her and the other Vanguard members taking shelter with the Ferrymen. The former Company agent has a reputation to maintain — she doesn't do anything without a very good reason.

"Pinehearst has Gray," she hisses out, "Phoenix has its sights set on Pinehearst. I want him out before Dean and the others reduce it to a pile of smoking rubble, and there aren't a lot of people I can trust." Breath leaves her nostrils in a thick grunt. "If we wanted to turn on you, Gitelman, don't you think we'd have done it by now?"

Expression impassive, Hana looks down at Eileen. "Time has nothing to do with it, Ruskin," she replies. She's talking, although she hasn't moved the knifeblade away from where it dimples Eileen's skin; hasn't pressed any harder, either. "That's a fucking lousy argument."

She stands there for a long, drawn-out moment longer, staring down into the younger woman's face. Then Hana steps back, allowing her enough room to straighten, to stand, to breathe; not so much that Eileen has any chance of doing something so stupid as to bolt. Whether the ex-Mossad believes she might even attempt it, Hana doesn't indicate. "To be clear — if I thought for a heartbeat you were a time bomb waiting to go off on me and mine, you would not have been alive to have that conversation."

Eileen removes her hand from the butcher knife and flexes her fingers a few times to work the tension from the muscles there, tendons worming beneath the surface of her skin. "I stuck my neck out to help you and yours at Moab," she says as she eases herself away from the sink and takes a solitary step forward, not in an attempt to move around Hana, but to relieve herself of the pressure digging into her back. "Took two bullets and led a group of escapees back across the country."

She picks a sprig of cilantro from her hair and crushes it between her fingers before flicking it away. "I'm not a leopard, I don't have spots. You'll forgive me if I'm a little offended."

"No." Hana, it turns out, doesn't particularly care if Eileen is offended. Or anyone else, for that matter. Another step back gives the younger woman a little more room; brings Hana to an opposing counter, which she leans casually against. The knife remains bare in the Israeli's hand, less because she anticipates needing it; she holds it at her side with the nonchalance given a familiar, half-forgotten weight. Regards Eileen steadily; she's earned herself a reprieve, but Hana hasn't finished with her yet.

"Tell me about Jensen Raith."

Where to begin?

"Former Vanguard operative, Cartagena branch. Worked for the Central Intelligence Agency before that. American. Infuriating." Eileen's eyes focus on Hana's face rather than the weapon in her hand, premature crow's feet crinkling at their corners as her features pinch into a more irritated expression. There is no love lost between the Englishwoman and the man of whom she speaks. "Call sign is King of Swords. He showed up in New York a few weeks ago asking after Holden and says he plans on the systematic elimination of everyone still loyal to Volken's ideals. There's been some talk of weeding out threats after that, but nothing concrete. What else do you want to know?"

The Israeli doesn't answer immediately, but stands in mute stillness, considering the woman's words. Matching them up against the results of her own earlier inquiries. Which it does — match.

If they want to go hunting terrorists, Hana is the last person to try and stop them.

Her focus shifts slightly, returns to Eileen, dark gaze leveling on the Brit. The technopath heard the whole conversation; she'll ask what Jensen didn't then. "What's the rest of the problem, Eileen?" Hana can fill in some blanks — Pinehearst, abilities and their lack. If she's missing something, she wants to know about it.

If there's one thing Eileen values above her neck, it's her privacy. She siphons all her concentration into wrestling with her upper lip to keep it from erupting into a leer. "You and Bennati," she murmurs, voice tight with burgeoning anger, "Christ. Always earwigging into other people's conversations."

She reaches up with her good arm and wipes some of the tomato juice from her face using the her shirt's sleeve. There are a few errant seeds plastered along the line of her jaw as well, but this is something she won't get without an assist or the aid of a mirror — neither of which the woman standing across from her is about to provide. "Raith's not the only operative in the city. There's another, Daiyu Feng. I couldn't tell you much about him. Sorry."

Unlike Bennati, Hana doesn't have a lot of choice. Except in that she refuses — doesn't even think — to explain herself. "I'll give you what I have," the Israeli says abruptly. "It's not much; likely meaningless to Raith in particular." Her tone is not in any way apologetic, merely matter-of-fact; ex-CIA, ex-Vanguard, which Feng apparently also is, he'd better know more than the technopath has been able to turn up. She straightens; seems to remember the knife in hand, which is absently sheathed. "Feng fell out of readily accessible records after Tiananmen Square." Where 'readily accessible' would be Hana's definition of the phrase, not Google's.

It's just as well. If Eileen's crude typing style and inability to capitalize sentences is any indication, then she probably doesn't have a lot of experience behind a keyboard — never mind navigating search engines on the internet. She raises herself up the rest of the way and, showing Hana her shoulder as she turns, closes her hand around the butcher knife's handle once more. It takes a few tries, each punctuated by a sharp exhalation, but she manages to twist it loose from the chopping block in the end. "Thank you." That Hana doesn't have to do this goes without saying.

The technopath merely observes as Eileen hauls the knife back out of the chopping board. Stands and watches. Doesn't help, doesn't apologize; doesn't say 'you're welcome', either, which would be the expected and polite response. At least for anyone else.

"You are also one of 'mine', unless you make it otherwise." Ferrymen. It won't save Eileen from death threats, but it's why she didn't get killed out of hand. This flat statement is the only explanation Hana offers; then the Israeli woman turns away, leaves the kitchen, her business here apparently having been concluded.

Eileen watches Hana's departing back, her bare feet riveted to the wood until the house is still again and she can hear more than that final statement resonating in her ears. Only then does she let out the breath she'd been holding and go for the corn broom propped against the side of the refrigerator, its bristles as stiff and prickly as the young woman intending to wield it.

It will take her only a few minutes to sweep the remains of the kedgeree into a lopsided pile, dump it into the trash and begin breakfast from scratch, but it will be several hours before she's able to completely relax.

A knife pressed to the throat has that effect on people.

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