The Birds Are Singing Sweetly


danko_icon.gif tamara_icon.gif

Scene Title The Birds Are Singing Sweetly
Synopsis You'll miss the birds completely.
Date August 28, 2009

The Greenbelt

The Greenbelt is 2800 acres of mixed urban parkland and natural preserves that have since gone wild, equal parts dying and thriving in the neglect that the borough of Staten Island has suffered. The more natural areas are primarily a succession of ridges and boulder-littered moraines beneath the canopy of a hardwood forest - beech, hickory, maples, and oaks in the main, with a variety of less common trees mixed in. At the lower points of the parkland, this forest gives way to wetland, overgrown with ferns, skunk cabbage, lady slipper, and trout lilies.

An overgrown golf course is home to unkempt grassland and a site for the island's residents to discard junk. The cemetery is similarly writhed with impossible weeds, and contains the smell of an open grave or several. Stray dogs have taken to existing out in its thicker parts, gone wild and dangerous, and there are other dangers too - desperate cut throat muggers have been known to roam the pathways, and an urban legend of a monster lurks in its shadows.

It's not impossible to get through the Greenbelt without harm, and many make such journeys every day - but its no surprise that very few desire to linger longer than necessary in the midst of dead trees, tangled weeds, and the occasional unpleasant surprise in the dark.

It's been a long week. Even within the context of the life Danko's made for himself. And here he is in the Greenbelt: running.

Not running from anything or anyone. Just running, combat boots digging out a hustled tattoo against soft earth and tender grass. He takes obstacles at pace, powering up over felled trees and rust and decaying junk dragged out and left behind in his path by Staten Island locals, having been at it long enough to have worked up a sweat in the grimy blue filter of pre-dawn light. As far as places to exercise go, it could be worse out here. It's quiet. No dogs to shit on the path or cops to care if a gun and a radio are holstered at the hip of his fatigues.

No marines asking what time they're heading back to the mainland, either.

There are birds. Small songbirds, mostly; robins, thrushes, wrens, finches. Each one with their own melody, some more deserving of that description than others; all difficult to see amongst trees in full summer leaf, especially at a run.

Being not a bird, Tamara stands out rather more.

It isn't because of her clothes. The teen is dressed in drab hues; brown pants, a light green shirt. Not camouflage, but they'd still blend in at a fair distance. Her hair is bound back, braided into atypical order; it's still blond, and blond doesn't belong in the Greenbelt.

She's close enough to the path that Danko might see her — assuming he looks up into the old, sturdy oak tree whose bough the sibyl rests upon, legs stretched out, back against the trunk, hands resting easily in her lap. Not so close that Tamara doesn't have a route of escape open should such become necessary.

She's well aware it probably will. Still doesn't look towards Danko, ceding him the courtesy of time in which to evaluate, consider, choose.

At closer range, evidence of last night's conflict etches out dark against the pallor of fuzzy skull and wiry arms. Scratches and scrapes nick in around the hollow of one eye where a rough patch caught him coming in through the wall; bruising clouds fresh up the back of his right hand, black and blue laid in over greens and yellows left over from Saturday. He doesn't quite look like he's been rolling down a hill all week, but he hasn't been sitting on his hands or doing much about his general air of unhealth and mental disquiet, either.

Most significantly of all, he almost misses her. Mind having long since given in to wandering after no grave robbers or organ peddlers lept out've the brush through the first mile or so, it's the automatic focus his brain latches onto the ghost of a face in the foliage up and ahead that sends him jagging over sideways behind the trunk of a somewhat more dead and somewhat less robust oak some twenty or thirty feet short've having jogged right on by without a second thought.

She doesn't move. Doesn't turn towards the person who has intruded upon her quiet and solitude, and in fact may not have noticed him at all. Visible in profile, Tamara's gaze seems turned towards the birds flitting through the treetops — well away from her — the patchily visible shapes of clouds overhead gradually becoming more distinct in sharpening light. Relaxed, tension a distant worry, concern somewhere farther yet.

Nonetheless, she speaks, the words cool but not unkind: "You don't need to hide." The sybil could be addressing a bird somewhere nearer, but that more palatable self-delusion is not likely to hold long, if it's even considered by Danko at all.

He's not — Danko's brows hood down into a knit, black t-shirt snagging against bark digging in rough between his shoulders while he catches his breath. Ok, so. Technically he's hiding. A little. More out of instinct than fear, maybe, as there's a sliver of movement parallel with the trunk where he leans enough to squint around it. First at Tamara up in her oak, then at the forest and undergrowth crowding in on either side of the narrow trail.

It takes him a moment to consider his options once he's levered out of sight again, and no time at all after that to slip his gun silent from the slant of its holster at his side.

"What are you after?"

There's a good question. Danko can see half of her smile, perhaps a little less; the slow curve that stretches her lips, approval and reflection simultaneous. He makes it sound like she has some nefarious intent. By his definition — she might, at that.

"Not you, nor your people; I am less threat than you think," the sybil states, still speaking softly, cadence slow and measured as if each word were a single pebble dropped precisely into a pond. They're not easy to say, for some reason.

"There are others who— " The cadence stutters, interrupted by the need to search for another pebble. The right pebble. "— who will be." Might be, could be; if he listens, it's automatically 'will', so why quibble over possibility? "You can try to shoot me. Or — you can find her."

"You'll have to forgive me for not taking your words at…" Danko leans out again, grey skull in the blue gloom, sizing her up as if he expects some kind of etherial blue glow to hint at whatever ability it is she's hiding, "face value. But something about the way you keep showing up tells me you have more of a stake in what I do than most of the diplaced urchins wandering unwanted through the streets of New York."

The gun's good to go. He confirms as much with a careful pass over the safety and a scuff of his shoulder across the sweat clinging cold to his brow, content to keep his tree between himself and his waifish stalker for now.

"Who's 'her'?"

There's that smile again, approving, amused. "You didn't," she agrees, on the subject of face value. She could explain — why she cares, what that 'stake' is, or for that matter how she is not really what he described — but little might be gained and much could be lost. Tamara doesn't.

"Desperate silence," the sibyl answers enigmatically. "Walk softly; remember that pride goeth." Not that he will hear the meaning behind the words; except perhaps the admonition to 'be careful', which is only a portion of it. Now she turns her head, looking directly at Danko. Or at Danko's tree, if he doesn't happen to peek around it again — with or without the gun.

"You're starting to look like a kiwi," the girl quips, some peculiar mental switch abruptly flicking over to 'obnoxiously bright and cheerful' mode. "Maybe you should get that trimmed. You do know someone who can, right?"

The words are apparently Tamara's parting shot, as she slithers off her perch into the shrubbery below. Her retreat is too swift to be soundless — but she doesn't tromp through the brush quite as an 18-year-old girl should, either.

It's hard to listen. Even harder to focus with her right there, so close and so alone in territory where no one thinks twice about shots fired in the early morning murk. Danko makes the effort all the same, dead grey eyes picking over the black of limbs crossing snarled across color bleeding blue into the sky past them. No movement, save for the chatter and flit of birds between branches damp with dew.

Walk softly. There's a twitch at his brow, annoyed at such weighty words coming out've what should be such a little problem, but said twitch is nothing compared to the scowl that dawns slow over his features when he registers what she says next. About kiwis.

His brow furrows, but there's no time to filter out a comeback from the dozens of return snipes that crowd irritably into the back of his head. There's the slither of cloth down across tree limbs, and driven by an adrenaline jolt he steps out into the open again in time to see her hit the ground. That's when he starts shooting. Trigger pull after trigger pull pelts hot lead through what scraggled cover brush is able to offer as she flees and he wrests through the undergrowth after her, twigs and brambles catching at his shirt and clawing at his face. She's already gotten away from him once. Clearly he isn't interested in a repeat performance.

Death waits.

It hovers not far away, a looming dark presence; there, or there, or there. In her race through the forest, never stopping, never looking for the best direction, never so much as slowing down to decide how to approach an obstacle but simply compensating for them on the fly, she can be where Death is not — Danko isn't exactly taking the time to aim carefully.

There is no possibility that avoids all injury; not for a girl who is, in the ways that might matter most, merely human.

Bullets have enough momentum to sneer at the obstacle flesh presents; the two which encounter it fly on far straighter than the girl herself, slowed only a small degree by her interference. Blood is sopped up by green and brown weave; not quickly enough, rivulet running down her arm to drip at irregular but frequent intervals from the point of her elbow. The graze on her thigh is less telltale, red ooze insulated from open air, intercepted by sock and shoe first.

She makes no noteworthy sound, fails to slow down, fails to favor the injured leg; fails to give the injuries any outward notice at all. Behind Tamara's dark eyes, there is notice — calculations of how long, how far she can go before her own neglect of the damage has noteworthy repercussions; how this course will bring her to people and perhaps the relative safety of numbers, and — if she has just a little luck — to secure a route home also, before she must collapse and sleep.

The sibyl is reasonably certain she can wake up again after.

For all that Death might be optimistic about its odds, Tamara has knowledge enough to put bullets confined to straight lines through leaves and between trees at a disadvantage. Danko isn't taking any risks against advanced reflexes or permeating omniscience. The gun's dry before he's made it for than a few steps in her wake, spray clustered such that contact is inevitable regardless of which way she tries to spin. Left or right, up or down. It just isn't enough.

Even once wet spots of tell-tale red start to show dark across leaf litter and broken stone, she springs on, gaining ground with every twist and turn down a pathway that her pursuit's eyes can't pick out.

For a while once her footsteps have faded to nothing, there's the quiet crack of a stick being trodden upon or brush unsettled by more than just the wind while Danko picks his way carefully from splash to drop to blood-flecked bark in the gloom. Quiet bootfalls and quieter breathing are perhaps more ominous pursuit once his pant has died to a hoarse whisper and cold frustration steels him back around into a circle after the last bit of color he found.

He doesn't uncover anything new the second time around, or the third. Trail's dried up and there are no sibyls curled cloudy-eyed in the undergrowth for him to find, but the sun is filtering bright through the branches overhead before he finally breaks off to return to base empty-handed.

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