Something Sacred


deckard_icon.gif etienne_icon.gif

Scene Title Something Sacred
Synopsis A pirate goes digging for treasure around the old Lighthouse.
Date March 16, 2018

Ruins of Staten Island

The Lighthouse.

The day is closing on Staten Island. From here, there's a slice of a view into Great Kills Harbour, and south across the water, the coast of New Jersey, growing dark. There's no sound, save for birds rustling in the trees, and the open hiss of the wind coming off the ocean.

And the soft crunch of metal slicing into earth.

Surrounding where earth is being disrupted and overturned, deeper and deeper, long, hardy grass pushes out of the ground in skinny blades, shivering together under the perpetual salt-tasting wind. The overgrown yard that stretches out from the looming, chalk-white figure of the old lighthouse is unremarkable save for what is happening in the midst of it, which is that a man of decent height and even decenter build is digging a hole. He grips the shovel two handed, striking the earth to loosen it in places, sweat building on his brow, but he doesn't pause to wipe it away, engrossed in the activity.

On the next shove of rusted metal into earth, there's a thump of metal to wood.

From behind, Etienne Saint James cuts a distinctive figure. He wears a well-worn leather jacket, jeans that are muddied and stained up to the knees by now, but even bent backed and alone and standing awkward in a deep hole in the ground, he seems like the sort of dude you might avoid in a social setting. His mane of brown hair is mostly caught and tucked into the collar of his jacket, but pieces fly free, pulled by the wind. Setting aside the shovel, he ducks into a crouch, now bare handed feeling around the bottom of the trench he's dug out. Blunt fingernails scrape against old wood.

The grass is tall — taller still within the perspective of the pit, desert browns and greys and greens whispering soft in the salt breeze. A lone cricket stirs to life in a shrub at the Lighthouse's crumbling base, brittle call rising out of the undergrowth.

As the night sets in, and the shadows of dusk coalesce into darkness, the sharp sliding rack of a shotgun interrupts the cricket mid-chirrrrrrr.

Now there's true silence, manifested in the form of a pair of pale blue eyes glowing behind a barrel just over the grassy threshold.

The rest of Flint behind them is a shivering, scrubby rail of a man in a long black coat, teeth grit against the rattle of adrenaline-fueled fury through his bones. He's tall and lean and long in the face, rough shaven, shabby wardrobe enough to link him to the shanty around the corner at a glance.

"You better be Jesus here to work a miracle."

Where Etienne had begun to work his fingertips around the edge of the box he's found still half-buried in the dirt, he stops at that sound of sliding metal, and all at once he is very aware he is not alone. He turns his head just enough to acknowledge the tall figure standing on solid ground, and keeps a tenuous peripheral awareness of the shovel he laid out on the ground within easy reach. He does not do any reaching.

Another item: a tall bottle of clear liquor, half empty, brown paper crumpled around it, and lying in the grass on the other side. He still tastes alcohol along the insides of his teeth, and licks it away now as he gives his current situation some thought.

"What'd you have in mind?"

His voice is gravel under bootheel, his accent mixed where vowels and cadence is concerned. Not from around here.

"Let's start with you getting out of my hole in one piece."

Acid over gravel, Flint tucks the butt in hard against his shoulder, knuckles bleached bare around the forestock. He takes a slow step back, toe to heel, with the sight trained steady on. Finger on the trigger. Tucked into himself like a coyote cowering under a car.

There's room for Etienne to take it any which way: forward or out the back, side to side. Bottle or shovel.

Deckard's trained on him with absolute, burning focus, eyes burning cold in the semi-dark, short hair scruffed as the scrubgrass in the wind.

"Take it slow."

A long few seconds goes by, but Etienne moves before the man with the shotgun feels the need to remind him. He turns, and opts to emerge from the shallow pit on the same bank of land that Flint possesses. Boot wedged against earth, his foot slips, loose dirt crumbling, knee striking the ground, a thump following of boot sole to wood before he can catch himself, big paws clutching long grass. There's a baritone grumble out of his chest that sounds like apology as he gets his footing back.

Emerges (slowly), standing, his hands black with dirt and a streak of it across his face. Solidly in his mid-thirties, and the cold bluster of a winter overstaying its welcome on the east coast hasn't drained the darkness the sun from somewhere warmer has set in his skin.

No gun on him. There's a knife in his jacket. Keys.

"Weren't your hole," he does feel moved to point out. His eyes are only a normal kind of laser blue, holding a steady gaze over the top of an aimed shotgun. Studying this man carefully, something sharp hidden in all the dirt and drawl. "But I'll take it that to mean it's your buried treasure."

Deckard watches, all iron and steel coiled up behind the jut of the shotgun, position veered slow and steady into a sidestep as his eyes flicker dim in their sockets. Wow it really is Jesus. They spark up again, brighter than before, radiation searing against the island in ruins around them.

"You'll have to take my word for it when I tell you that's a ghost whose bones you really don't want to fuck with."

Another side step, and he's facing Etienne down from behind what he's lugged in to pass for a headstone — a thirty or forty pound slab of slate upended in the harsh grass and harsher earth. Unmarked.

"Pick up the shovel."

A beat, and then Etienne turns just at the waist enough to cast a look back down the hole, at the discreet reveal of wood to open air, now partially covered again from the last spill of earth. As if maybe he half-expects to see something else. Tension plucks as a tic at his jaw at that next instruction.

He picks up the shovel, and he holds it, hands tight around rough wood. Where the spade is attached to the handle looks like a breakable weak point if he were to, say, brain someone with great force over the head with it. But it's not really his own possible weaknesses he's considering so much as the skinny old guy with the big gun, a rake of a look back towards him with the kind of mounting tension you might find in something wild and cornered. And doing math.

"Bury her."

Lean as he is, hatchet-hewn bone and gristle strapped together with sinew, Flint is as stock still and steady as the fallen lighthouse behind him, past the odd adrenaline aftershock at his core. There's a dare beneath direction, reflex rigged at ready.

"You have until you're finished to convince me not to turn your face into an inny."

At first, it might seem like Flint's words don't lodge themselves inside of Etienne's thick skull, a mad dog stare off leveled over the top of guns and shovels. He steps aside, crunching through the grass in slow, deliberate steps, and it's a journey that takes him towards where the loose earth is mostly piled up.

The crunch of metal in earth, once again, resumes, now with a noisy spill of black dirt tossed into the trench.

After this first toss: "Usually do my persuading on the other end of a weapon," he admits. By the by. "But you can 'ave the rest of my drink."

"I'm allergic to grog."

Watching him sink the shovel in and spill dirt back into the hole he made is like watching a tiger work its claws just opposite a chain-link fence. Slowly, possibly without realizing he's even doing it, Deckard slinks another step back. Something about a man who carries a knife on Staten but not a gun, maybe, who talks like a pirate and robs graves and is built like a greek god.

"There's a graveyard on the other side of the island," he offers, all on his own. "Plenty of unmarked corpses to desecrate."

Crunch. Patter.

Apparently not shy about repetitive labour, Etienne does not work fast but he does work with resigned steadiness, unbothered by the increase in chill from the wind cutting through and the work itself, and aware of the aim of the gun in a way that does not suggest only wariness. "Thought that was this city all over," he says. In his defense. Crunch. Patter. "My apologies for comin' across something sacred." His tone is as dry as the bones that Deckard is so concerned about.

But sincerity itself, hard to gauge. He is, after all, doing as asked.

”They’re just bones.”

Dry bones in a dry box, wooden slats covered over in more earth with every turn of Etienne’s shovel. The box is small and the hole is deep, beaten down through a layer of rocky gravel and sand that skitters in loose with every crunch — too deep for dogs, or even most graverobbers to bother with.

Deckard would know.

A dose of that same gravel and sand fills out the bottom of a wordless exhalation for the apology, molars sawed down against a stab of anger that sees his eyes screwed shut and his grip shifted on the shotgun. Damn it.

“Drop the shovel,” he decides, after a long moment. Devoid of feeling. “Turn around.”

The shovel is dropped without much ceremony, somewhere in the middle of these directives. It's the second one that invites pause, and a long look in return, calculating but inscrutable regarding what calculations are going on behind that look. The time it takes for a man to wrench the trigger on that gun is not a lot of time at all. The distance between them has grown.

Maybe something nice will happen.

Etienne turns, hands wandered out, empty, on either side of him. "Just filled in your grave, vriend." Helpful reminder. Concern that he is about to die is present, perhaps, in the line of his broad shoulders, the way he keeps Deckard a little in his periphery, but he's not raised his voice since being caught, and doesn't now.

“We’re not friends.”

It feels important to say so, fogged breath in the dark of March, with that same cricket from before stirring back into cautious song. Flint pulls in a step closer, reclaiming ground lost to prey instinct just a few moments before.

“Get on your knees.”

That earns a laugh — probably, that's what that sound is, smokey and subtle and a little like an engine failing to start somewhere deep in Etienne's chest. He has probably imagined how he might die, and the possibility has usually felt live and present. Different scenarios, different moments, seconds ahead or years from now, but one consistency could very well be that he has no intentions of doing so on his knees.

So Etienne listens to the sound of Flint coming close, and his foot slides backwards in a way that could suggest he's about to take a knee in the salt grass and the crumbled earth, and then he pivots, low and fast. Arm up to shove away the aim of the shotgun, his other reaching to clasp it, all growl and momentum shoving in close.

The gun goes off.

A glass bell of light and sound and searing heat shatters away from the shove of the muzzle, Flint’s trigger finger trapped stiff through the guard. Buckshot splits the night, whistling off towards the sea, and the next thing Flint feels is the crunch of gristle and cartilage that is his skeleton trying to keep itself thatched together upon impact.

He lands hard on his back, skull whip-snapped against a pillow of loose earth, Etienne’s big nasty weight all over him. Right hand jolted to try for a pump of the shotgun against the pirate’s grip, he thumbs the safety on blind and lets it go. Jesus take the wheel.

Instead he buries his hand up after the ghost of a knife outlined above him, twisting to wrest it out of its sheath and into anything soft enough to take the business end. Breath held, teeth grit.

His eyes stand out like brands against the dirt.

Etienne's claws don't reach for the trigger. Any grip will do, and as soon as the shotgun comes loose out of the older man's grip, he's bringing the stock around to slam across Deckard's face in a manner almost casual, but still feels like a jolt of electricity where bone bruises and skin splits. He does this almost at the same time as Deckard finds the handle of his knife and skewers a hole through leather. Catches.

Comes away red, and Etienne hisses between his teeth.

One ear ringing from gunfire, Etienne tosses the gun aside, both hands moving then to reclaim his knife, fingers clamping across knuckles. His knee jams against Deckard's midsection, refusing to give up his position.

"You shoulda said," and his voice is almost entirely growl at this point, between his teeth and through his nose, "'walk away'."

Composite cracks against hard-carved bone, the flank of Flint’s long face snaps to the side, and the light in his eyes flickers and fades. Wrought iron tension bent up after the knife locks in stiff under Etienne’s grubby paws, but nobody’s home.

The old man’s out cold, fitful breaths coiled tight under his ribs against a crushing knee.

Persistence will pay off — after a few seconds, the reflex bleeds away, and the knife trips out loose between his fingers. His shoulder rolls slack. Blood pools in his eye socket, brow split black under the starlight.


Mister cricket gives it one last shot.

Knife retrieved, Etienne breathes out dense steam as he regards the man unconscious under him, and then his blade. This, he wipes clean before sheathing it again, and finally, the dull pressure of his weight crushing Flint Deckard down into the earth is removed.

When he wakes up again, it's raining. The patter of water against the outside of the lean-to fills his ears, almost as much as a brain-splitting headache from emerging out of the fog of concussion likewise does. He's been dragged and left within his shelter, and the shotgun tossed in after him. Evidence of Etienne's continued activity, tracks or the presence of that bottle of gin, the shovel lying in the grass, is gone.

The area where he'd half-filled in the grave is now at level with the ground, black, churned earth pocked with heavier dashings of rain.

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