The Blackest of Sheep


amato_icon.gif melissa_icon.gif nick_icon.gif

Scene Title The Blackest of Sheep
Synopsis Amato offers to help Nick find self forgiveness while Melissa is frustrated with the lack of answers coming from the two men when the three converge in an unlikely and forgotten place.
Date September 9, 2010

Overgrown Cemetery, Staten Island

His supervisor has a sick sense of humor, Nick decides, as he trudges through the thick tangle of overgrown brushes and stumbles over broken headstones, looking for the correct grave marker that serves as the drop point between the two Interpol officers. Anyone who has searched for a particular grave in a large cemetery knows just how tedious the task can be — doing it in the unkempt wilderness that the Staten Island's cemetery has become is like finding a needle in a haystack.

Finally, an American flag, its spangles and stars just a little too bright, catches Nick's eye. The young man, clad in jeans, T-shirt and leather jacket, stoops to look at the name: Alvin Pomeroy, 1910-1968. His fingers curl under the edges of the too-loose stone, and he pulls up — finding beneath a laminated envelope which he grabs and shoves into the back of his waistband.

Of course, the cemetery is large, and with so many broken, defaced headstones and empty graves, it's not difficult for one man to remain unseen by another. Amato Salucci, dressed in a button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows, worn open over a plain white t-shirt so that the suspenders that hold up his twill pants are visible when the soft wind blows, is stooped behind a gravestone hard at work planting flowers on some poor soul's grave. He works a few rows behind the one where Nick stops, the scraping of the stone prompting him to lift his head and then stand.

Amato wipes his hands against one another, the gloves he wears making a slick-slack noise as the dirt is brushed away. He narrows his eyes at the back of Nick's head and watches for a moment in silence. But when he sees something pulled from the grave and tucked into a pocket, Amato clears his throat as loudly and with as much righteous judgment as he can muster.

There's not usually much reason for a woman like Melissa to be in a cemetery like this. And unlike Amato and Nick, she's neither bringing anything or picking anything up. She's just here, for her own personal reasons. A way to mourn, maybe. But the sight of not one, but two figures off to her right has her pausing and looking in their direction.

Recognizing Nick, she starts to smile, but then she recognizes Amato and her gaze narrows slightly. Now why couldn't she have the power of invisibility at a moment like this? Alas, she doesn't though, so, rather than make herself known, she simply eases a bit closer and behind the nearest large object to keep herself hidden.

Bad Melissa, no eavesdropping!

At the sound of the cough, Nick's shoulders tense — the drop was chosen for its remote location and the unlikelihood of anyone witnessing him picking up or dropping off anything. Obviously, he's not going to be able to use this locale a second time. He turns, not recognizing the cough by its timbre and righteousness, and when his eyes fall on Amato, they widen slightly before narrowing.

The fucking puzzle priest.

"Padre," Nick says coolly, giving a nod, as he unfolds his legs. His blue eyes take in Amato's hands, looking for weapons, before bringing his gaze up to Amato's face. He begins to move away, as if that's all the conversation he's planning on tonight. Melissa, not in the line of his sight, goes unnoticed.

Finger by finger, Amato plucks one of the gloves from his hand, only to tuck it into a pocket. "I've told you before," he says, his own strange accent twining around his words, "I am not a priest, Mister Ruskin. I would think that you would remember such a fact. I have to say, I am sorry to see the contrary - and to see you disturbing the rest of the dead."

Putting his head on one side as he pulls off his second glove in the same manner as the first, Amato regards Nick with a thoughtful expression. "Is this something you make a habit of, Mister Ruskin? Disrupting the peace of perfecting innocent vessels? Lord help us all if you actually enjoy it."

Ruskin? There's that name again. Melissa just grimaces as she hears it though. It's just a name to her right now. She doesn't risk glancing out at the two men, but just leans her head lightly against the side of the tombstone beside her, making herself as comfortable as possible. No point in having her leg fall asleep or something. That could be bad. It could get her caught!

"You seem to like to spout scripture like one," Nick rebuts as he pauses in his path, with a crooked shrug of just his left shoulder, his right still injured though on the mend. He can at least use both arms these days.

"Even if you have a bit of a weird way of disseminating your gospel, there, Padre. You got a name I can call you by, since you seem to take offense to that one?" Nick asks, eyes narrowed as he surveys the Italian, then glances back to the way he was headed. It's too wide and too open an area — he can't turn his back on Amato and know he'll be safe.

The question about whether he likes disturbing the dead is ignored, though the tension in his jaw shows he's spooked. One hand moves to his waist, where his gun undoubtedly lies under the leather jacket.

"Just because one is a man of God does not make him a shepherd to a flock of believers," Amato muses with a slight shrug. He narrows his eyes as he folds his own arms across his chest, watching the slow movement of Nick's hand. "Even so. If you want to be literal, then I never married. I have never fathered a child. Padre is a completely irrelevant term.

"If you must call me anything, you can call me Benjamin. Also," and he dips his chin to shake his head much like a disappointed parent might at a small child who has committed some small and slightly humorous crime. "I wouldn't do anything too hasty. You never know when she's watching."

She? What she? Surely 'Benjamin' didn't spot her. Melissa frowns more and just hunkers down a little further, trying to make sure she really can't be seen, and doing her best not to even breathe too loudly.

"A man who's writing scripture on puzzle pieces is worried about being literal?" Nick says with a snort, but his eyes narrow again at the mention of she. "I don't need to call you anything. You're the one talking to me, mate, so if our chat's pissing you off, you're free to piss off." His accent is still American, though the Britishisms bleed into his speech, since Amato already knows his name.

He takes another step to take himself further away from the Italian, but at that moment, a bird flutters from one branch to another on a nearby tree, catching his eye. He turns back to scowl at Amato.

"What d'you know about it? I mean — what happened to her, how she's … how she's still here."

"Nick," Amato says with a patient smile as he unfolds his arms and holds out his palms in a gesture of proffered comfort and understanding. "Trust me. I know more than I would normally care to." He turns, and while he keeps his eyes on Nick, he starts to walk on the near-side of the stones that rest a row away from the Englishman, his path set so that he won't run afowl of any of the empty graves.

"I know about the stolen cigarettes. I know about the bullying. The beating. The boys. But more importantly, I remember plucking that poor waifish creature from the base of the Tower. I remember giving her something to believe in. I remember giving her a family."

The mention of puzzle pieces has Melissa forgetting, just for a moment, about her goal of staying hidden. Just for a moment, but it's long enough. She stands up straight, hands on her hips, turned towards the two men, and her voice is accusing when she addresses Amato. "You are the one sending all those stupid puzzle pieces? What the hell, man? Rule? Why did I get a puzzle piece, just one, with 'rule' written on it? Huh?"

There's a pause, and her expression slowly slides from irritated to sheepish. "Well shit," she mutters, before lifting her chin slightly and avoiding Nick's gaze. No dear, I wasn't spying on you. Cross my heart and hope to lie.

Those words alluding to his dark past have Nick's head jerking up to look at Amato rather than his path, and he almost loses his balance on a broken headstone before he rights himself. His brow furrows, lines showing his fear and worry, making him look much older than his mere 23 years. He swallows hard, the muscles in his jaw twitching.

"You know Lee?" he mutters, his voice low, before suddenly Melissa is popping up like a meerkat a few rows over. "Ah, fuck," he mutters, shaking his head angrily. "You're sending them to other people, now? Man, I wish I had the time you must have on your hands," he tells Amato, before turning more fully to survey the other man.

"How'd she die? How can she talk to me, or am I losing my fucking mind?" The American accent is completely faded now. There are no pretenses for the moment — there is nothing but pain and remorse in his face as Nick watches Amato.

Amato's patient smile is gone when Melissa pops up, and he narrows his eyes at her. It takes a moment to recognize her as the bystander from his last encounter with Nick, but it doesn't change the fact that her presence is…annoying at best. "I assure you," he says with a glower. "I have no idea where you live, and no reason to send you a cryptic puzzle piece." Clearly it is a torture reserved for only the blackest of sheep.

Looking back to one such sheep, Amato takes a deep breath to clear his head. But that patient smile does not return. Instead, Amato studies Nick's reaction. Weighing it. Deciding what it means. "She was at the bridge last year," is all he offers in answer to the main question, "but no one ever truly leaves us. Not even in death." The regret - the wracking guilt is as clear as day on the other man's face, and Amato's brows furrow together in a vague mirror of it.

An apologetic smile is shot at Nick before the word die sinks in. Melissa can definitely sympathize there. "Oh honey. Who'd you lose? What was her name?" She knows a lot of the people who have been killed in this area lately. Then she narrows her eyes as she looks back to Amato. "What, so there just happen to be two people sending puzzle pieces to people with stuff written on the back of them? Yeah, right. And I guess that there really is a tooth fairy?"

"I don't believe in that," Nick says angrily at Amato's words, not sure if they were meant to comfort or torture him. "But somehow she's around, and she knows what I'm…" he glances over at Melissa, something apologetic in his blue-eyed gaze when he shakes his head at her, before those eyes snap back to Amato's face. "I'm a bit too old t'be believin' in ghosts."

Suddenly suspicious, Nick takes a step toward Amato. "Is it sommat that you did? You seem to know all about me. Are you giving me these hallucinations? How the hell do you know Lee? I'm s'posed to believe in coincidences, that I'm here across the pond and of all the people over here, I find the one person who knows my sister?" His hand balls into a fist, and while is stance is angry, his face is pained.

"I wouldn't be a very good psuedo-priest if I didn't have some followers, now would I, moscerina?"

Whatever he calls Melissa, the word has a saccharine sweetness as it rolls of of his tongue in his native language. He smiles at her, but it is a pinched expression. The one he gives Nick is much more genuine - the edges soft, even if the light of it barely reaches his icy eyes. "I said nothing about ghosts, ragazzo. And I knew her because it was I who found her. I helped her find purpose. I aided her in her passage here, and regretfully, I had a hand in her being where she was that day." He pauses, a measure of Nick's pain reflected in his own face for a moment. "Though I never wished her to meet such an end. There are many things that I wish had happened differently."

"Well fine, don't tell me. It's not like I know what you're going through or anything," Melissa grumbles, folding her arms over her chest and moving a bit closer to the two. "I'm sure he's not the only one who knows your sister though, hon. If she lived here, then there are probably others. It's a big city," she points out more gently to Nick.

Amato gets a darker look. "Be careful with the foreign insults boy-o, or I'll start touching skin. Bare skin." Oh yes, she knows it's bad. She doesn't know why it's bad, just that it is. Thank you Abby!

"You don't," Nick snaps at Melissa, a little more tersely then he intends to, but his eyes are a little wild as he glances her way. "And you need to stay the hell away from me. It's not safe. I screwed up thinkin' I could possibly have a friend here, Goldilocks. It isn't gonna happen. And trust me when I say that when no one in the fuckin' history of the world meant it more than me when I say, 'It ain't you, it's me.'"

The pain in Amato's face confuses Nick and he shakes his head, trying to gauge how much of that pain in remorse in the older man's eyes is survivor's guilt and indirect responsibility, or if the pale Italian was the direct cause of Eileen's (alleged) death.

"If you killed her…" he says in a low voice, his brow furrowing deeper as the words make Eileen's situation seem more final, somehow truer — the reverse of his childhood superstitions, his and Eileen's tacit wishes, unspoken in hopes that would help them come true.

"I didn't," Amato says in a sharp, defensive retort, his own face darkening under the shadow of his brow.

"But that doesn't change the fact that had I left her there at the Tower, she would have never been on that bridge when it collapsed."

He leaves it as simple as that, standing in silence as he looks at Nick for the span of several heartbeats. "My offer to help you still stands." Even if that girl he saved so many years ago has already concocted her own means of keeping this man at arms length, helping him find solace is not without merit. "I cannot change what has been done, but I can help you realize the shape of what's to be."

The sharp tone has Melissa stiffening a little and looking a little hurt, until she notices the look in his eyes. She glances between the two, frowning, questions clearly on the tip of her tongue, nearly tumbling out of her mouth. Instead she shakes her head at Nick. "You can't make my life anymore dangerous than it is right now, Nick. Trust me. Knowing you hasn't gotten me shot or my head sliced open, so you're safer than most of my friends."

She looks back to Amato and again looks irked. "And you…You seem to just upset him everytime you're around. Do you get off on fucking with people or something? Who the hell are you talking about anyway? Who she? What bridge? I hope you're not talking about the Brooklyn Bridge this past March, because I was there."

Nick reaches to run his hand through his hair, eyes steady for a long moment on Amato, before casting a glance in Melissa's direction. "It might. Give it fuckin' time. Or rather, don't. I'm not going to let you give it time and find out, all right? I'm sorry. You don't deserve it, but trust me, you ain't missin' out on much without me, all right?"

His voice drops a little in octave and volume, his words meant for Amato, though Melissa might catch a word or two, close as she is. "And how do you presume to help me? I'm about as damned as they come, if I believed in that shit, and I don't think putting together puzzles is gonna be enough to salvage my soul, Pa—" he frowns, and drops his eyes. "Benjamin."

"I am the only one you have met that knew her?" Amato asks, but he doesn't wait for the clarification, nor does he even spare Melissa a glance. "Consider me a bridge - a crutch in the process of grief. I knew her well, and so can share memories of better days. I can ease that pain. I can tell you of the woman she became, so that you are not plagued by the girl you remember.

"God can forgive you, Nicholas," and the name is spun with an flair that is undoubtedly Italian. "But you must forgive yourself as well."

"I may know her," Melissa points out to Amato, a bit grumpy now. Until what Nick says sinks in. That, for some reason, seems to really hit a button for her. And it's not a good button to push. She pokes him in the arm, hard, her eyes narrowed and angry.

"Look you jerk, it's my choice if I want to risk myself or not. And I'm sick and tired of people pushing me away because they're afraid I might get hurt, when I've been shot, beaten, exploded, and had a sicko evolved try to cut my brain out. And all that happened before I met you. But only you came over, sat with me, gave me a flower, and made sure I was alright after my goddamned seventeen year old brother died saving my fucking life!"

"I can't," Nick begins to say. He can't forgive himself — it'd be wrong to, perhaps worse than the sin itself, in his mind. But the words are lost in Melissa's tirade, and when she pokes him in the arm, the arm connected to his still injured shoulder, his eyes narrow in pain; his jaw clamps closed to keep from swearing at her in pain, when it's clear she's in pain, too.

"Fuck," he finally mutters, though with more restraint than the swears he had to bite back. "I'm sorry about your brother. I am. But I'm not worth the risk, no matter how tough you are. I already ruined one person's life. I ain't going to ruin another's." Just his own. He begins to move, and casts another glance over his shoulder, first at Melissa and then Amato.

"If the offer was real, mate, thanks," he says, his voice low and weary. "It's too late. She's gone — she can't forgive me for herself, and I ain't looking for it from anyone else. You, me, God? Doesn't matter."

Open air or not, he's not staying any longer, and Nick turns his back and heads the way he came.

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