Seeds Of Doubt


cardinal_icon.gif doc_icon.gif

Scene Title Seeds of Doubt
Synopsis Richard Cardinal practices his green thumb on some of Norman White's followers.
Date August 29, 2009

Fresh Kills Harbor

Situated at one end of the Arthur Kill, this small harbor has clearly seen days of better and more frequent use. Though it's little more than a network formed by a few creaky docks and causeways, it's still more than suitable to tie up for those who have business on the Island. Invariably, at least one of the ports is taken up by a houseboat covered in seagull shit. A thick, greenish layer of bilge scum floats on top of the water and clings to the hull of every passing vessel. Welcome to Staten Island. If you have baggage or cargo to unload, there are usually a few layabouts at the Angry Pelican, which is just a short walk away. Just be sure to ask for a clean glass and keep one hand on your wallet at all times.

Fresh Kills Harbor is a terrible place to be at low tide.

The stench of sewage and brine makes for a repulsive stench that clings to clothing, hair and skin like a shroud. On the rickety and old wharves that stretch out into the harbor, a handful of young men and women are loading cardboard boxes of canned food, electronics, and small pieces of furniture like lamps, shelves and cabinets onto a motorized raft. In a terrible place like this, it is unfortunately one of the most unwatched and easiest of places to transfer illegal good into Staten Island from the mainland, and that seems to be exactly what is going on.

Overseeing the transport of goods is a familiar man to the shadows. His middling height and weathered face stand out in a crowd of twenty-somethings at the wharves. The distinctive brown fedora and worn tan trenchcoat also mark him with that unusualness of the attire, but there's something vaguely familiar about it in a Humphrey Bogart sort've way.

But the man, the shadows know him well. Norman White called him "Doc" and he seemed to have a vested interest in both Helena Dean, and an uncertain discomfort towards Norman's agenda. Here on the wharves though, looking out towards the desolate and abandoned skyline of Jersey City, his focus is on far more mundane things; two of the basic necessities for survival — food and water.

A shadow has been following the man, until there came an opportunity to speak to him; and as there comes a pause in the directing of the transportation, that shadow slithers free of the darker corners of the harbor and spills up the back of the man's trenchcoat, pooling in the more natural shadows of the coat's collar. That means that when he speaks, the hollow, echoing voice of the incorporeal man is a low whisper to 'Doc's ears.

"What's up, Doc?"

There's a reflexive roll of Doc's shoulders as he hears that voice right behind his neck and up in his ear. He turns, looking at the horizon with darting, beady eyes before his brows furrow beneath the brim of his hat. Head canting to the side, those eyes finally turn back to the boys working the wharf. "You again, you're a persistant little bug in my hear."

Swallowing awkwardly, Doc starts to walk away from the wharves, hands tucked into the pockets of his coat. "So, what're you, Jimney Cricket come to make sure I stay a good boy?" His eyes flit around in all the wrong places, looking for the source of the voice. "I'd much prefer a face-to-face meeting, this cloak and dagger nonsense is ridiculous."

"I'd much prefer that I knew the home addresses of the leaders of Humanis, but we don't always get what we want, do we…?" It's almost a joke, but a dry one, and there's something of a dangerous hiss beneath the first words spoken. The shadow remains silent for several heartbeats as the other man walks, before he speaks once more.

"It's not you that I'm worried about being a good boy, Doc. It's Norman."

"Norman's got his own… I don't know, he has a plan." The words Doc says now are undercut by a tone of uncertainty. "When you lose everything you have— family, friends, your home, because the government decides that you've got a dangerous ability and wants to lock you up, you start to lose that little vestige of humanity inside of you that tells you rebellion isn't a good idea." He squints, frowning before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a cigarette pack. It's empty, and thrown to the ground. "Could you at least hide under that so I can have something to talk to?" It's a ridiculous request.

"Oh, it's not a bad idea… far be it for me to argue that, in fact, by and large I agree with most of what you said the other night…"

The shadow spills down the coat; stretching out from his feet to form a second shadow to match the first that the man casts, as if not one but two lamps shone upon him on the wharfs. "…but Norman doesn't have a plan, he has a psychosis. Do you know the man's history at all, before that hell-hole called Moab?"

There's a shake of Doc's head. "I know enough, just from seeing what he does, how he works. He's not completely out of his mind though, real crazy people, they don't have the ability to make cognizent thoughts and organize things. Norman?" Doc waves around at the wharves, "he set all of this up. He's got some supply chain of fenced goods coming in from Jersey City, that girl of his— Risa?" A name, names are good, names are powerful. "She sees things, makes you see them. Norman's got her scouring the island, learning the history of people and places, and he uses that to fake confidence and associations, build a network of people here based on lies."

Narrowing his eyes, one of Doc's brows goes up. "He's sociopathic but he isn't crazy." And therein lies the danger. "But Norman's got motivation, he's getting things together. I don't know what he's got for his endgame, but I know he genuinely cares about the people he's shepherding…" Then, after a moment of pause, Doc's eyes settle down on the extra shadow.

"How do you know about him?"

"At a young age, Norman White watched his father shoot him, his mother, and then take his own life. He spent the next few decades in a psychiatric hospital muttering about how he was 'chosen by God' and would 'show them all'. I wouldn't exactly consider that the story of someone particularly sane…" Cardinal trails off, then, pausing to both let that sink in and consider how to answer the latter.

"You have people who see things. So do I. Precogs, predictors— the board's been set for something very unpleasant here, Doc. If he isn't stopped, if he goes through with this— he'll run into something his bunch can't deal with. Probably FRONTLINE, although that's just a guess on my part? And then?"

"And then he's going to sink the whole fucking island with all hands aboard."

Doc narrows his eyes, looking over at the kids working the wharles, hearing the rumble of the raft's engine starting. "I've never liked people who say they can see the future. The past, sure, that's already happened — it' set in stone. Maybe you see it from the wrong perspective, but there's other corroberating evidence." He turns, looking over to the shadow again. "But seeing the future? It's like buying stocks, you're betting everything on a prediction that things are going to go one way, and you're presuming that the people selling you that prediction aren't wrong." Then, with a colder tone he adds, "or scamming you."

Starting to walk away from where they've been having the clandestine meeting, Doc asks, "Do you wholly trust the sources of your predictions?" He turns, eyes settled down on that echo of a silhouette. "Because I'll give you this for free. In my thirty-six years as a physician, I've had patients come into my office and tell me — time and again — what they say is the truth. But patients lie. Either to protect themselves, or just out of pure stupidity. Even when something as precious as their own oife is on the line."

Swallowing back some of that frustration from a life he no longer has. Doc's voice grows quieter. "I'd consider the source of your predictions. Because right now, how do you know it's not your agitation of White, or that black guy's agitation of White, that sets him off?"

A faint chuckle stirs from the shadow, not a hint of humor from it. "Trust me," Cardinal replies quietly, "I know all too well. It's a dodgy business at best, but the worst shit've it is, once you hear those predictions you can't help but remember them… and act on them, if you're so inclined. They usually change the future just by being made."

"I don't know what will set him off. I haven't done anything yet myself," admits the ex-convict, "For that very reason. But it's going to happen, if we don't nudge things in a different direction somewhere along the line. They're all seeing it, Doc. The painters, the dreamers, the singers. On the beaches of thirty-fourth street…"

A rough snort echoes hollow, then, "But I'll tell you what I do know for certain, and as fact. FRONTLINE is going to be landing on this island within the month, landing hard, and spreading out like a fucking heavily armed cancer across Staten. And Norman and the rest of you will be standing right in their way when they come."

Frontline. He's heard rumors, but nothing concrete, and the look of worry in tat information flashes across Doc's face. Looking back to the shadow, his tone becomes more worried. "You're certain that they're going to come here — come to Staten Island?" The old man's weary eyes narrow, and he turns to square his shoulder against the shape of the shadow's ephemeral form. "Are you absolutely certain?" There's one thing that Cardinal can recognize in a man's eyes — and it's fear.

"I could let you listen to the tape of General Autumn saying it himself," answers Richard without skipping a beat, "If you like. But even then, I could've just faked it, so it'll come down to my word in the end in any case. They are coming here, unless something drastic happens to change it. They're coming after Linderman and the Triads, but organized crime's good at going to ground. They'll look for them, but they'll find you."

Doc starts to move, then abruptly stops, looking back over his shoulder at Cardinal's ghostly black mark on the ground with still narrowed eyes. "I've— got to go." Whatever it was about the information spared to him about FRONTLINE, it spooked Doc more than the shadow with a voice and threats of Norman's insanity all together. He steels himself, turning his back on the shadow and making his way down the wharp towards the raft.

"Sun's going down!" He shouts over the noise of the engine, "Let's get the hell out've here!" And just like that, Cardinal plays the role of farmer to White's shepherd. But it isn't any crops he's planting in the arable soil of Staten Island. No, he's planting seeds of a different kind.

Seeds of doubt.

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