Stray Cats And Whiskey


smedley_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Whiskey and Stray Cats
Synopsis Two apparent strangers have a light conversation in a bar while avoiding the harsh winter weather outside.
Date December 26, 2010

River Bank

Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York

There is one quality about small towns that plays well when attempting to stay 'off the grid.' Unless you live in one, it's most likely that nobody there will know you, or know to tell anyone you've passed through. So long as you don't make a habit of showing your face there regularly, you might even pass through while leaving no one any the wiser.

Cornwall-on-Hudson is a small town, and it is this specific quality about it that has caused Jensen Raith to be drawn to to the River Bank, an unassuming French restaurant just off the highway running through the town proper. It is not, however, the cuisine that has drawn him inside. It is, rather, an invitation to meet an ally at the bar, something that the winter snows (and ice) have made somewhat difficult. With the weather the way it is, and in a town of just over 3,000 residents, it's no wonder to Raith that the bar is almost empty. He doesn't care. As long as the other party is here like they're supposed to be, he'll stick around. Even if they aren't here, he might still stick around, because even with his arctic jacket and winter clothing and scarf, it's cold.

Fuck this weather.

Rather than sail in this weather and in his current, painfully sober condition, Wes Smedley drove. Certain parties are unaware of his non-seafaring means of transportation, and he prefer it if it stayed that way. But even though he's spent the first part of his day in the warm cab of an old pickup, that doesn't mean he's not dressed for the weather. He's traded his iconic oilskin for a more conforming winter coat, and the charcoal gray of a turtleneck sweat peaks up from the neoprene and Gortex-insulated collar.

Though warm, Smedley looks worn. His eyes are pinkish, the skin around them dark, giving him a hollow-appearance. But his jaw is held firmly square, and his brows are furrowed to the point where it looks like the lines have been carved into his face like hieroglyphics into stone.

He waves off the waitress and heads straight for the bar, pulling off mechanics gloves on the way and stuffing them, along with his keys, into the pockets of his coat. He deposits himself on a stool next to Raith and stares down the bartender.

"Whiskey," he says curtly. "Jack - no ice."

When Smedley rolls up next to Raith, the ex-spy regards the other man with a look that is intended to establish only one thing for the bartender: These men have never seen each other before. It's a lie, sure, but a largely harmless one. Largely. "You sure you should be drinking that?" he asks matter-of-factly, "You look pretty terrible already. Trust me, you won't be doing yourself any favors here." Two strangers meeting and having a conversation is perhaps, of all possibilities, the least suspicious, the least likely to draw attention. Old friends? That has a story behind it. Businessmen? That pulls over eyes and ears. Two strangers that happened to be passing through and are held up by the snow? COuld happen to anyone.

Raith's comment earns a somewhat bleary-eyed stare from Smedley, but he's soon dismissed with a shake of his head and a snorting laugh. "You ain't that pretty either," he says blandly even as he curls a hand around the glass provided by the barkeep. Smedley takes a healthy swallow, letting out a sigh of relief once the liquid goes down his throat. "Favors's the last thing I need. Gal I know wants me to do a favor for'r and deliver a present. Like I got the time or the want t'add her errands a'top'uh my own. Last I checked, I didn't look like no Santa Claus."

Tis the season, apparently.

"Well, you could have the beard for it with a little work." Not a very funny joke. "Listen, what's wrong with running a couple errands for a gal?" Raith asks, "Usually, that gets you something down the road, even if it's just a jump start in the rain. What's the matter, she some kind of vampire or something?" Momentarily, Raith's focus is broken and shifted across the counter. "I'll take a brandy, thanks." Settling in for the long haul? Maybe there's a story a-coming.

"That's just it," Smedley says after another pull from his glass. "She's like a stray cat, only instead'uh stickin' around to kill the mice in the barn when you leave food out for'r, she just howls around yer back window all night long waitin' for the toms t'come 'round." He shakes his head, letting himself focus somewhere in the middle distance between the bar and the line of bottles on the mirrored back. "Next thing'yuh know, y've got a boat load'uh kittens y'couldn't pay people t'take off yer'hands. No sir," and he pauses to take another drink, nearly polishing off the lowball glass, "I'd prefer it if I'd've never met the tramp. Then she wouldn't think'uh me as her little errand boy. 'Sides, she ain't that bright. Hard to take'r seriously when she's battin' her eyelashes one minute and hopin' you don't sniff 'er out the next even when she's wavin' it like a dead fish in front'uh your face."

"Sounds like an abusive relationship to me," Raith remarks. His brandy arrives on the countertop, and he busies himself with taking a sip before he says anything further. "Doesn't sound like something you can get out of easy, either. Hey, maybe she's like one of those cats that can learn tricks. You know, sort of like if you give her a little coaching, she'll start giving back? Any chance of that?"

Smedley shakes his head with what be construed as a regretful sigh. "You'd have to untangle her mess before you could get her straightened out again, I s'pect." He polishes off the drink and waves for the bartender to fill it again before he turns slightly to face Raith.

"She comes to me with this kid, right? Like I'm supposed to drop everything and help take care'uh her. But the kid's nearly grown, so what the hell am I supposed to do? Then she mentions this present errand like it's no big deal on top of it all. Then t'other day? She tells me not to worry about the kid, but that she still has the present." When the second round is delivered, Smedley doesn't hesitate in sampling it. With another shake of his head, he frowns. "Talk about fuckin' priorities," he mutters for the sake of younger or more delicate ears that may be nearby. It might be a family restaurant. Who knows?

There are a few momemts of silence from Raith as he parses out what Smedley has told him, and then works to extract the real meaning of what Smedley told him. It's not a pleasant possibility to consider. "A kid, even?" he asks before breathes a heavy sigh of exasperation. "Ain't that something else? You got anyone you can ask to take care of her for you? You know, so you don't have to worry about whatever mess she's trying to drag you into?"

The answer Smedley had given himself when the same thought arose was a firm no on the grounds of not wanting to put people at risk. Now, that no has an entirely different basis. His expression takes on a drawn quality for a moment, but then he shakes his head, crowding it out with another frown coupled with tightening jaw muscles.

"Not that wouldn't think I was nuts for draggin them through it," he finally says before taking another drink and leaning back, as if some physical distance between himself and the amber liquid could possibly slow his intake of it. The motion affords him the chance to slip a hand into his pocket, presumably to tuck his gloves in further. But as he pulls it out again, he does his best to palm an ID card. If it weren't for his position at the bar, his attempt would be an utter failure. "Told 'er to put 'er in a hotel. The next thing I know it's all settled, but she didn't give me any idea how, 'spite her carryin' on how I oughta take her. But she did remind me about the damned present."

"Phew." It's more of a sound than a word, really. Things take on a slightly different color when Raith addresses his next statement not to Smedley, but rather, to the bartender: "That's pretty hard luck." "It's pretty hard luck, alright," the third man says in concurrence, "How about I pour you another one? You sound like you need it?" It's the sort of distraction Raith is hoping for. While the 'tender is focused on Smedley, he drops one hand down off the counter, presumably to his knee, but really it's so he can extend his hand out just enough to allow Smedley to pass the card over, if that was his initial intention. It gets hard to tell certain things when alcohol enters the equation.

The card is there, held between two fingers and easy for Raith to take. Smedley drops his head and lifts a hand in acceptance of his hard luck and the free drink it's earned him. "The way I see it, the sooner she stops tryin' to pull this princess act and learns to stand on 'er own two feet, the better off she'll be." Kid or no kid. Smedley lifts his glass in a salute to the bartender before he puts it to his lips.

"Amen to that." Raith glances downwards as he speaks, hanging his head in tired agreement. It also affords him the opportunity to pinch the card between his fingers and spin it around so he can take a quick look at it. "Hope she can learn in a hurry, because this crap she's pulling is going to kill you if she doesn't watch it."

"Can't say I'd want it to happen to any other poor bastard either," Smedley says with the closest thing to a smile he's worn since he walked through the door. He takes another hearty drink of whiskey letting silence fill the span of what may lead to a subject change or more ruminative thought.

James, Anna. Registered with no further notes, and fifteen years old. Put up in a hotel or not, something about this card doesn't sit right with Raith. Maybe it's the fact that some young, registered girl is out there in the world, apparently hiding from the authorities that already know her name, and all she has to protect herself is a hotel. Maybe this card finding its way into his hand is just the tiniest bit too convenient. Maybe it's just too damn cold. Whatever it is, Raith is considerably better at discretely moving the card into his jacket than Smedley was removing it from his. Largely, this is because he throws back his remaining brandy in one gulp before he brings out his wallet, shuffling the card inside and he counts over the bills contained within. "Only the best luck I wish you, friend," he says, "But as for me, I'm feeling a little braver now, so I think I'm going to try staring down the outdoors again. Maybe I can make it to the city before that gets impossible. I'm not counting on it."

"Careful," is all Smedley says in farewell, but he does turn to give Raith a parting nod before he goes back to work on his whiskey, motioning for the bartender to hand him a menu. As much good as the numbing alcohol does him at the moment, it won't do anyone any good if he wanders back out into the thick of it (whenever that may be) only to have a D.U.I. charge fall into his lap.

No, it wouldn't be good for anyone.

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