august_icon.gif kaiya_icon.gif

Scene Title Repursecussions
Synopsis A chance meeting between dealer and client goes very, very sideways.
Date June 17, 2021

Red Hook

Coffee is one of the forces of the world that unites all types – the rich, the poor, the lawful, the criminally minded. These days, in the Safe Zone, there aren’t as many different kinds of coffee shops to divide the coffee connoisseurs as there were in the days before the Civil War. Thus the Red Hook coffee shop is much like a Starbucks with the posher folks mingling with the unwashed masses, but the true coffee snobs who would never be seen in something as pedestrian as a Starbucks also have to make do – unless they want to make their own coffee in their own French press at home.

The mornings are busy, which means there’s no seats open and a long line that reaches the door. Just inside the door, August represents the unwashed masses faction, though to be fair, he has taken a shower in the last 48 hours, which can’t be said for the person just in front of him. Still, he’s an non-judgemental sort, and doesn’t seem to mind the garlic-tinged body odor of the elderly man in front of him. The younger man simply peruses his cell phone, taking advantage of the free wifi that works far far better than it does in Staten Island, where he can catch some bars if he gets close enough to the newer construction on the island – sadly, that’s not where he lives.

But when Kaiya Jeffery walks in, she turns up her nose by instinct. Some people should not be unified by the great unifier. Some people should get theirs on the street and leave the air conditioning or those who won’t offend when the stink molecules of which she is now acutely aware. It is the right of the clean to drink their low-quality French press among the other clean; it is social responsibility.

“August.” She says, cooly. “Nice to see you’re doing well.”

The sometimes drug dealer is surprised to see one of his sometimes client. He does have a courier bag with some deliveries he needs to make, but he wasn’t planning on doing that in the Red Hook coffee shop of all places. There are people here who abide by the law, after all.

He and Kaiya are not those people, of course.

“‘Well’ is probably an exaggeration when it comes to anything I do, but I appreciate the compliment that I don’t look like I’ve hit rock bottom,” the tall man says with a toothy smile. “How are you?”

At that moment, garlic-infused customer steps away from the ordering menu, so August gestures for Kaiya to order, rather than make her wait. “On me,” he offers – he must be feeling particularly rich at the moment, which means he’s been paid by someone in cash and not barter.

“Oh, no, no, no,” Kaiya replies with an airy, empty half-laugh, waving one hand absently. “I absolutely caught you off-guard, it’s on me to pay for it.” The old WASPy song and dance. Who will end up paying in the end? But then –

“A half-caf latte, skimmed, as hot as you can make it, with an affogato shot.”

She turns and smiles, sparkling. “My dear, you almost never look like you’ve hit rock bottom. Bounced off the wall, maybe, but not the bottom, absolutely.”

As quick as anything, Kaiya is waiting at the drink counter where the baristas shout so many names per second they blend into each other as more concepts than people.

“Oh, no, no, Miss Kaiya, I insist,” August says, as she steps so neatly aside – his accent puts him firmly in the local camp, but there’s something of the southern gentleman about his demeanor, nonetheless.

He doesn’t mind, though, chuckling a little as he makes eye contact with the barista at the counter. “Large hot blond roast, please,” he says, aiming for the cheap but highly-caffeinated beverage instead of one of the fancier drinks. He pays in cash, adding a tip to the tip jar that reads Tips – because one of us will need bail money sooner or later!

August’s beverage doesn’t take more than a pour so he doesn’t have to wait, and he heads to one of the tables, giving a nod to Kaiya to join him if she likes. That also means he probably has just what she usually orders on hand, or else he’d walk out the door. He takes a seat that’s conveniently not easy to see from the counter or the customer queue.

Kaiya smirks and follows. When her drink is called, she grabs it and seems immediately at the tiny bistro table next to him, never the type to leave her back exposed in a crowded restaurant.

“Listen,” she says. “I’ll be blunt. I need the usual, but double of it. I’ve got a rather large stressor going on right now and I need to not explode at people if I want to keep my cool.”

He chuckles, because she’s rarely anything but blunt, but then dealer-user conversations tend to be pretty direct, if veiled in entendre or vaguery. He nods as he lifts the cup of hot brewed coffee for a sip, closing his weary looking eyes for a moment as he relishes the flavor.

The little shop is truly better than a Starbucks, but the Starbucks nation would never admit it. The coffee roasted in the back of the store fills the air with a pleasant aroma, a little like burnt popcorn but less acrid and more aromatic.

“I have the regular amount on hand here,” August says once he’s had his first sip, “but I’ll have to get you the other. A day or two?” he asks, brows lifting. “I can rush it, but if you’re out of the regular by tomorrow, I’ll have some worries. Mostly about your liver. Possibly that you’re marking it up and reselling.” His gray eyes sparkle a little at the thought of the former Wall Street bigwig dealing as a retirement hustle.

Kaiya gasps and raises her hand to her chest in mock embarrassment and insult. “Why, my dear doctor, I would never think to purchase someone else’s products and then sell them at an incredible markup!” She laughs and lays an affectionate hand on his shoulder in the flirty way of an old wasp, and then withdraws it to bring her latte to lips that seem almost permanently stained with artificial color. (Artificial, but no less classy: the learned mannerisms of the ultra-rich.) “You are so silly. No, I only do that with real estate these days. This is for me. It’s been…” A trail off, eyes staring fixedly farther in the distance than the walls of the coffee shop allow for. “…It’s been a weird time. You understand, I’m sure. Sometimes, you just need a breather and your brain won’t give it to you.”

She fishes a pair of oversized sunglasses out of her bag and debates putting them on, before remembering they’re inside and thinking better of it, instead fiddling lazily with the arm.

August laughs, glancing downward a little embarrassed maybe by the dramatic reaction. At least he doesn’t blush this time. He’s a strange creature, hardly cut out for the cutthroat business of dealing drugs, but much of what he provides is actually medication for people who can’t or won’t go to real doctors. The recreational options just help to subsidize those.

“The regular then, and I’ll get you the rest in a couple of days,” he says, reaching into his bag to subtly pull out a repurposed prescription bottle, curling his long fingers around it so it’s unseen by anyone not looking too hard. This he then sets down on the other side of her cup once it’s back on the table, so she can easily pick it up and put it in her bag. The cash is easy enough, or she can Venmo him with “gardening” as the memo, like some do. He does have a green thumb, it’s said – mostly for growing cannabis, salvia, opium poppies…

It’s then that two tough-looking men enter the cafe. Instead of going to the line, though, they immediately head toward the back, and August’s head whips up, narrowing. He hasn’t taken his laptop bag off his shoulder, but one hand reaches around it, to hold it faster.

“Whatcha doing off the island, Doc? You making house calls today?” asks one of the men, while the other reaches for August’s coffee and takes a swallow.

“He’s turning bougie on us, man,” the coffee thief says to the first man. “This your moms, Yeats?”

August glances at Kaiya, and tips his head to the door. “Go ahead. I’ll talk to you later,” he says quietly.

At the front of the cafe, the line is long and the baristas busy; no one is paying the attention in the back any matter at all.

Kaiya grins and lays a hand on August’s, completely ignoring his directive, and taps his thumb once with hers. “Oh, darling, you don’t need to protect your dear old ma.” She turns to the tough men and fixes them with a practiced, steely stare, moving her shoulders back nearly imperceptibly into a pose that suggests power and authority with no real effort: a learned behavior from decades in the male-dominated world of finance. “Gentlemen, can we help you? You certainly seem to be a little … turned around.”

August’s brows draw together into a worried scowl when Kaiya doesn’t get up and leave like he expects her to – showing, really, he doesn’t know her very well, despite a longstanding dealer-customer relationship.

“Nah, Moms, we’re good. We know exactly what we’re doing,” one of the two men says. “You’re really his mother? He must look like his father.”

Meanwhile the coffee thief’s brows shoot up as he tastes the coffee, like he’s genuinely impressed. “Oh, damn, this is good coffee,” he says, in an exaggeratedly excited tone. “You gotta try this, B,” he tells the other man, holding out the cup.

He turns to August instead and tosses the still half-full cup at the dealer, while his partner in crime lunges for the bag he knows is full of cash and/or drugs. August keeps his hand wrapped around the bag carrying his livelihood and probably a month’s worth of grocery money, but that leaves only one hand, two legs, and an awkward position to try to fend off the would-be thieves. He doesn’t lift his voice for help – having one of the other customers call the cops is going to land him in jail for possession with intent to carry. And the thieves know this.

The air directly in the vicinity of these oddfellows crackles with what on a radiator-hot January day could very easily be the dry electricity of built-up static, a sort of charge that makes even the airborne nectar of the goddess caffeina seem as though it could go up in flame. Kaiya pushes her sunglasses back on her head, headband-like, displacing the wispy ashe-blonde bangs upwards, along with some previously-maintained flyaways. With the tempered reflexes of a half a lifetime of martial arts training, she shoots a hand out and grasps for Goon Number Two’s filching fingers.

“Sirs, that was very rude of you. I suggest you apologize to our good doctor here. I don’t know what sort of mess you are trying to stir up, but I think that second- or third-degree burns were not necessary. We don’t want to have to get the police involved, now do we?”

Kaiya, having spent her best years in high finance, has a decent sense of when and where to bluff.

August looks as worried and/or embarrassed by Kaiya’s intervention as he would have been if she were related to him, his eyes slightly wide when she reaches over to grab the man’s wrist. The look’s almost identical to a bullied child alarmed by an adult stepping in to help.

“Kaiya,” he murmurs, the two syllables, quiet as they are, practically screaming for her to go before this gets ugly.

Maybe with that as his goal, he lets go of the satchel, sending the thief stumbling with the loot when the resistance disappears suddenly.. August is cutting his losses in both cash and product – , but it’s better than raising the alarms for the police or being injured. Surely.

“We need to go,” August insists, somehow rising from of his seat with an agility that belies his rangy build. He doesn’t run, but waits on Kaiya to rise and exit.

It could be as simple as that – depending on Kaiya’s acceptance of this surrender – but the man not holding the satchel gets greedy, grabbing for Kaiya’s bag to add to the loot. “Bitch, we don’t apologize to our own moms,” says the one holding August’s bag.

Without missing a beat, Kaiya swings her own target bag around and aims for the would-be thief’s head. There is more crackling and, as though a shaken soda were to spurt open within the bag, a small explosion in the general vicinity of the ruffian. Unconcerned as to whether the bag or the burst makes contact, Kaiya lopes towards the exit, leaning on her identity as an older, rich white woman to draw as little attention from the crowd as possible.

The man is expecting the bag to the face, which he blocks, but the sudden beam of purple light comes as a surprise; it rips by him, singeing the khaki fabric of his jacket and slamming into the wall just beyond, leaving a smoking charred mark about a foot wide. The distraction keeps him from wrapping his hands around her bag once again, leaving her free and clear to make for the exit.

August is able to use that same distraction to grab his bag from the other assailant and run after Kaiya, but the sound of a small detonation and the smoking scorched wall have drawn the attention of the rest of the cafe customers and its baristas.

“Wait, what happen-” one demands of August but he’s already slipping through the door in Kaiya’s wake.

“Keep moving,” he tells her, glancing over his shoulder to make sure no one’s following them yet. “Take a left at the alley.”

Uncharacteristically of perhaps the bossiest woman alive, Kaiya obeys: forward, left, forward again, jaywalking across the street and, with a look of slight discomfort, into a different alley between two residential towers. The trash had already been collected earlier in the week and yet it still found a way to stink to high hell. “I think I own at least one of these buildings.” A quick look to the once-white spray-painted stencil numbers on the trash cans confirms the thought. “Remind me to make sure the bins are cleaned more thoroughly.” She wrinkles her nose and scans their surroundings. “I could probably get us into the lobby, but you might be conspicuous …”

Eagle eyes find the service door for the building on their right, rusted with such gusto that a mere look makes one itch for a tetanus booster. “I think Wally leaves this one unlocked for … well, anyway. If this is where I think it is, I certainly told him to. Follow me.”

Nobody in Kaiya’s position would appear to be at home in a narrow gap filled with pale, salmon-colored garbage juice and nearly as many black flies as a swamp filled with corpses, but here we were: low heels led them to the door and into a dingy basement hallway, lit with one flickering overhead lamp and appearing to lead to a communal laundry room. A roach skitters into the crack between the unevenly-tiled wall and the rough concrete floor. She looks as though she considers leaning against one of those walls, decides against it, scowls again, and squirts a healthy dose of hand sanitizer into her palm, rubbing vigorously.

“Well, I am glad you didn’t lose your bag, but I think we’ve both got some explaining to do.”

As soon as the sanitizer has dried, she dry swallows a valium with visible relief.

As they run, August catches sight of the other two just before they dip into the alley, but the sudden lilting woop of a siren in the distance sends their followers running past the alley to find their own escape.

The smells and sights of the dirtyish building don’t seem to rankle August in the least. He follows Kaiya through the hallway and into the laundry room. He reaches into his bag to pull out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, tipping the pack toward her to take one if she likes. One brow lifts in a tacit asking of permission – it’s her building, after all.

“I’m sorry about that,” he says, tapping out a cigarette for himself, then flicking the lighter to ignite the end. It must be a nervous habit he doesn’t do too often, given he doesn’t regularly smell of cigarette smoke even to delicate noses.

“The sprinklers down here have been broken for years.” Kaiya dismisses offhand, taking one of the cigarettes and leaning for the proffered light. “I keep meaning to get around to it, but one thing happens, and then another…” An inhale, a delicate puff, and a tenant seems to decide that they can put off the laundry for another few hours and makes themselves scarce.

“Is this a regular occurrence for you? I must say, you always struck me as the pacifist type even for an off-the-books doctor. But if you regularly find yourself rankled by brigands, we should probably do our dealings elsewhere.” The topic of the explosion beads and drips off as easily as water from a leaky fire suppression system. “Not that we had intended to meet there, I suppose.” Another exhale of wispy smoke. “Serendipitous fortune for us.”

Chatting with Kaiya in the dank basement of one of her real estate properties is certainly not where August expected to be at this time. The smoking seems to settle him, the tension he’s wearing like a cloak around his shoulders eases up a bit – he’s at ease enough to snort at the word brigands.

“Not regularly, no. I’ve never seen them in the Safe Zone before, so I guess they just figured they’d try.” He looks away to take a long drag of the cigarette, lashes lowered for that pull of nicotine and burn. He looks back at her, and a small, rueful smile brings his cheeks upward, before they drop again. “Clearly I wear my pacifist heart on my sleeve so they decided to take advantage. I’ll be more careful next time.”

With a jut of his chin to the bag, August adds, “You haven’t paid me for the supply yet, so since I still have my bag, thanks to you, consider that one free. We can continue to do business the usual way. No more impromptu transactions just because we both happened to need caffeine at the same time. Fair?”

His gray eyes turn to the door, to make sure no one’s lingering there, then returns to Kaiya’s form. “That was some damage. If you hit him…” he winces. “Were you trying to hit him?”

“I was not,” Kaiya confirms cooly, flicking the ashy end of the cigarette into a nearby trash can, which crackles threateningly and subsides. “I would appreciate your discretion in this matter, doctor-patient confidentiality perhaps?” She winks. “But the truth is that this is the, ah, new stressor in my life. An evolved, now, of all the times? I can't even go back to my yoga studio. I don't know why I’m disclosing this to you, but I suppose you hear all sorts of stories in your line of work.”

He nods, then lifts his hands up, like he might be afraid she’s about to zap him with her new ‘stressor.’ His smile is still present, but he’s a little tense as he addresses her.

“Of course I’m not telling anyone. People in glass houses shouldn’t be fucking idiots, I think is how that saying goes,” he says with a chuckle, but he raises a brow curiously at the mention of the yoga studio. He doesn’t ask for that story – at least not yet.

“SLC-E,” he says, gently, the way a younger relative corrects an older one using outdated or inaccurate terms. “I used to be, but I lost mine. During the war.” That’s a lie, but told simply enough it probably rings true – there were rebels who had, courtesy of inhumane means and biological agents.

August takes another drag off his own cigarette, the paper whittled down and replaced by embery ash, which he too dashes against the side of the trash bin. “I don’t think anyone but the four of us saw exactly what happened, but it’s possible SESA or someone might show up to ask questions about it. You’re pretty memorable to look at,” he blushes slightly there, “so there’s a chance they’ll connect the dots and come talk to you, given there was some property damage and the like, yeah?”

He drops the cigarette to the ground to put it out with his tennis shoe’s sole, but then crouches down to pick it up and put it in the bin. “You might be able to beat them to the punch and show good faith, go to the SESA office and register, tell them some jerk tried to pursenab you and you didn’t know you had this new ability. They can help you learn to harness it, maybe? It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Just makes you even more of a badass.”

At this, Kaiya again leans into the saccharine faux-flattery. “Why, you doll, you. You’re just saying some things to keep an old lady feeling twenty years younger with that old southern charm.” She is very obviously making an assumption here, but has the grace of social class to neither make a big deal of it nor care particularly much about it. She leads him through the basement to a dingy stairwell that leads up into a slightly nicer lobby - no doorman, of course, not in this neighborhood - and turns, thoughtful, before pushing open the door and out of their exodus.

“You will keep this quiet, though, won’t you? I may yet take your advice and go register, but I need to think about the repercussions.” Not even a considering the possibility of the very obvious pun, for she is too serious for such things. “I appreciate you as always, my dear doctor. I’m sure we’ll be meeting again soon.”

August chuckles and dips his head when she responds so well to the flattery. He really could have made it as a doctor in a big research hospital, using that charm to coax out donations for whatever charitable pet cause he might have. If only times were different – if only he hadn’t had the bad luck to be SLC-E in 2011.

“It’s not my secret to share with the world, Ms. Jeffery. I won’t say a word. No one’s going to come looking for me, at least not the feds. Those idiots might, but not in a way that’ll come back on you. I promise.” He holds up his hand, three fingers raised like a scout might.

That done, August pulls his hoodie up, looking both ways to ensure the coast is clear, and leaves her to deal with the possible fallout from the accidental blast.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License