The Fire Inside, Part IV



Scene Title The Fire Inside, Part IV
Synopsis Shedda Dinu has need of someone. Spencer is there to "recruit" them.
Date May 8, 2019


It can sometimes be hard to reconcile the fact that Rochester exists within the same state as the New York Safe Zone - a mere few hours away, even. But for every bit dissimilar the two seem to be, there is an intrinsic link between lurking just below the seemingly untouched surface of the city of Rochester. For every way it seems to have become to newest iteration of New York's Big Apple in the wake of the Civil War, it falls to the same pitfalls.

A haze of smoke seems to hang in the air the evening of the 8th. While seeming like the most superficial of links, there's another, deeper one that Spencer Greaves has journeyed north to handle this evening: Just like New York City, Rochester finds itself home to those looking to move on from their past actions and lives, from the decisions they have made that got them there.

Streetlights buzz in the quiet Rochester air. The area is one Spencer has spent much of the last few days familiarising himself, on the lookout for once such individual.

Escape is not always so easy to come by, however. Rochester has been awash in a poor economy and a sea of rock-bottom property values since the end of the Second Civil War, and it shows in the state of many of the roads winding like decaying arteries away from the slowly beating heart of downtown and whatever remains of normalcy.

Once, this generously-sized house on the outskirts of the city may have gone for quite a pretty price, with its handsome facade in the colonial style and its distant but sweeping view of the surging falls of the Genesee River. Now, the fact of its less-than-stellar upkeep can be seen in the aged yellowing of its paint. The entangling web of rust that is browning the gutters.

Still, these are only relatively subtle signs, and ones that could still be ignored by an undiscerning eye. The most telling one yet lies deeper than can be told from a casual glance over the exterior, but Spencer nevertheless knows it very well from his meticulously-kept observations: the fact only a single man lives, or remains living, in this three-bedroom dwelling.

He waits, now, from behind the deeply-tinted windows of a sleek silver Audi that contrasts a little in profile with the divots and ruts of the roughly maintained cul-de-sac it is parked on, even in the peaceful darkness of evening.

He watches.

Spencer has been here enough the last few days to have picked up on the patterns of the area. At four o'clock, a train sounds off in the near distance. Within ten minutes, a school bus rolls through. Just before five, the roads become dramatically busier even in these outlying parts of the city, and within a few minutes after that, it all falls quiet again save for the low rumble of the city's ambiance.

And then, just before six, a maroon coloured sedan, some sort of Japanese make, will make it a slow drive down the street. It will come to a stop as the occupant checks the mailbox, before pulling into the increasingly dilapidated house driveway. Out will step a middle aged gentleman, one who walks with an unearned sense of confidence as he strides from the car to the door and disappears within.

All of these events repeat with little variation over the course of the several days Spencer is keeping his vigil. With the sun fall today, it proves to be much the same. A little after six, with the sun setting in the sky, the sky, the sedan pulls up. The man - Roland Fitzgerald, an aerospace engineer who once did some curious work for the US Government, steps out and heads inside of his home.

The sun takes the light beyond the horizon light slowly, but as night falls, the time to act approaches. Only two lights are on inside the home - a regular night, by all accounts.

As these signs of life drag by in a methodical fashion over the hours, a lesser man might grow bored. Inclined to distraction, or even sleep. Not so Spencer, even though this has what his routine has consisted of for days now, unchanging. No— lurking in the dark of his vehicle like a creeper and keeping an eye on one single house happens to be a job he takes very seriously, thank you very much. At the precise point when Mr. Fitzgerald disappears into the frame of his house, his long, spindly fingers rise up and steeple together from where his hands are resting atop his steering wheel, the glint inside his blue eyes so sharp as to be nearly murderous.

The gesture is almost cartoonishly villainous.

The houses on this block are all aging, careworn things, every one of them. This makes it an easier task for Spencer in at least one respect, who knows from investigation that their fuse boxes are all located approximately in the same positions outside around the back walls of the homes as opposed to inside a basement or garage.

Once Roland shambles down to his living room much later at night to watch television before he goes to bed, which he does every night as consistently as clockwork: this is when the time becomes right for Spencer to strike. At the appointed hour, the tall, lanky man slides out of his vehicle very casually. His gaze sweeps cautiously over the poor-looking snaggles of grass dotting the lengths of the backyard for any signs of trouble before he is crossing over it, jaunting straight towards the fuse box behind the house with the intent to flip the switch.

If everything goes well, Roland's house will be plunged into complete darkness as the power to it is cut. Sorry about that TV programme, mate.

As the lights abruptly cut out, Spencer can hear the sound of a glass shattering and a startled yelp - the sounds of a commotion, continuing for a moment later. As it fades, a silence that nearly matches the darkness that has enveloped the house and the yard falls, lingering until Spencer himself makes a sound.

A metal clink echoes out from somewhere nearby, the sound of a train echoes. But there is little sign of Mr. Fitzgerald in the wake of the power being cut. Only a stillness that betrays the sense of tension that now hangs in the air.

After surreptitiously replacing the cover on the fuse box, Spencer slinks back across the yard towards the side of the house, towards the living room window like a gaunt shadow so he can keep tabs on what is going on as best as possible— hovering to the periphery of it just out of sight while keeping his ears peeled.

The burst of breaking glass is probably nothing to be disturbed by, Spencer rationalizes while remaining as vigilant as a bird of prey. A dropped wine glass, perhaps?

There being no imminent signs of further human activity is what has him more on edge. The gap between the partially opened curtains is currently totally dark, of course, but the sense of stillness emanating from within is uncanny. He presses himself closer to the wooden slats, waiting for the rattle of the train to cease while he takes stock of the changes.

A critical ear lent to Spencer's surroundings reveals more happening inside once the sound of the train passes and the ambiance of the city enters a lull. A series of muffled footsteps upwards, a resonating thud, the sound of a door latching shut, barely audible before they are once more drowned out by the world around him.

Inside, Mr. Fitzgerald is gone - though that much was seemingly obvious from all the noise. Despite the cutting of the fuse box, a single blinking red light can be seen within, from something mounted on a wall.

A beam of light - likely a flashlight - sweeps into view within, but remains stationary for a moment before disappearing.

The room on the inside is a bit of a wreck, even before considering a possibly broken wine glass. A TV tray is knocked over onto the floor, clutter almost everywhere is visible - despite how methodical and clean everything that Spencer has seen of Roland seems to be, it would seem his home life is very much in a different vein.

This is unexpected.

'Unexpected' is rarely good in this sort of situation.

From where he is watchfully cozied up against the back of the dwelling, Spencer narrows his eyes at the indications of Roland apparently retreating further up and into the shell of his home, instead of the opposite, desired result. The new tenseness in his bony jawline betrays the emotion of concern— a response less to do with the unanticipated clutter of the interior as briefly revealed to him than with that mysterious point of flickering red light, though both are taken into account. But this is still only a fractional twitch in his otherwise business-like bearing, which is still grim almost to the point of absurdity.

This mission is important. If his target will not lend him the courtesy of coming out to him, then he will have to go in to his target, despite the compounded risk in attempting to do so. He waits for another long minute or two, minutes that each feel like an eternity to him as they tick by.

Once it appears quite certain that Roland will definitely not be exiting the building of his own accord, Spencer steals around the nearest corner of the house towards where he remembers a side door to be located. Here, he will first quietly test to see if luck favors him and it is already unlocked. If it is not, then he will do a swift once-over of the most usual places for stashing a spare key. Adjacent flower pots, if relevant; bushes, ledges.

The door is locked, but to Spencer's benefit a key is finally found hidden, of all places, under a clearly fake rock - but one hidden just well enough to blend in with its surroundings and avoid suspicion. Unless, like Spencer, it's something you're explicitly looking for.

The key slips in unabated, turning the latch on the door. It starts to creak the slightest bit as it opens of it's own accord, though as Spencer pushes it open it doesn't seem to inclined to make and further noise.

The side door opens into a laundry room; one that seems to more accurate fit the ideal of how Roland has presented himself in Spencer observations: detergents and bleaches are lined up in order, at quick glance, by size. Towels are properly hung from rungs, clothes folded and in a basket, waiting to be taken and put away while others sit in a neat pile waiting to be washed.

The room, the air is still as he steps in. There's no immediate sound of reaction at first.

And then, the sound of wood creaking deeper in house. Upwards - stairs, perhaps?

Aha. Jackpot. There is a dash of smugness that crosses Spencer's face as he correctly identifies the false rock, flashing the thin, golden beam of a penlight over the too-gaudy crevices of its surface to confirm his initial suspicions, and he wastes no time in claiming the treasure beneath. He even replaces the rock once he is done (sans the key, which he tucks into a pocket) even though there is clearly no need to do so.

Everything in its proper place.

Once he is inside, the feeble bloom of a streetlight as filtered through the small window is not quite enough to see a clear path by in the darkness, and Spencer is not willing to risk tripping up on whatever obstacles may be littering the floorspace. Thus he keeps his penlight lit to illuminate a course for him, thumb hovering over the end and ready to click the thing off at a moment's notice.

He creeps further into the heart of the house when he hears that stray creak, then, cognizant of pressing his shined shoes against the floor in such a way that the natural clack of his footsteps is minimized. The only sound other in his ears is his breathing, similarly carefully curtailed.

As Spencer creeps forward, there are momentary dregs of silence followed by another, sudden creak - sometimes not even in the same direction as the last time, with little to no other sound to go with it.

A fan buzzes in a side office not past where he steps out of the laundry room and into a hallway, blades spinning at a moderate pace through the air - understandable, given that the building foes not feel well cooled upon first impression. The sound of it, though, helps to mask Spencer's movements, but also anything that may be quieter - or more deliberate - than the creaking he has heard thus far.

A moment to listen, a faint metallic clink rings out, barely making it over the sound of the fan. It seems to come from… relatively up. Or was it towards the TV room?

In the office, the fan's blades continue to spin.

As he moves past the office doorway, Spencer momentarily reduces his pace almost to a slow halt, though not quite, listening hard in order to source all the noises that are apparently stemming from different places.

The intermittent, disjointed creakings around him. The cooling whirl of the office fan.

Not for the first time in his life does he wish for the possession of an Evolved ability of some kind, of any kind, to aid him here.

But he can do nothing more than continue to advance in more or less the same resolute manner that he had been doing. First, an alert peek into what he knows to be the TV room; then, if there is still nothing to be found there, it will be time to head up the staircase. Time is an unpredictable, precious commodity, and he is not sure how much of it is on his side here. Awareness of this at the back of his mind colors the deliberateness of each of his steps.

His ginger steps help keep the wood floors under foot from adding to the collection of dissperate sounds filling the home. The creak of of something metal adds to the menagerie of sounds, though it is brief - it rings out once, and then no more.

The TV room is still and quiet. A TV tray rests on it's side on the ground, a small, broken glass catching the light from outside and scattering it across the floor. Besides the comfortable looking chair the man had been sitting in, the TV, and the remains of his dinner, the room is rather spartan.

A jingle jangle of metal catches Spencer's attention as he reaches the top of the stairs - keys? A low mutter, audible but mumbled, filters through the air from down a long hallway. And then a voice.

"Phone still works… Lights on at neighbors… Hmm."

It comes from beyond a closed door ahead, past an open bathroom.

Step. Step. Step. Past the narrow door hanging ajar into the yawning darkness of the bathroom, all the way down that hallway that now seems agonizingly, tauntingly long.

…Step. Towards the unopened door that finally, at long last, hides what Spencer has been waiting for.

One more rather leery step, this one intended to draw him up just close enough to catch the words trickling through the other side of the wood. He pauses broodingly, listening for a few seconds, ascertaining his target's exact position relative to him as best as he can tell from where he is.

A few, quick calculations. Probably not a cat in hell’s chance that he can maneuver that door open without Roland noticing, particularly if he also happens to be facing in that direction. Giving his victim any additional time to react is a risk he doesn’t really want to take—

And so, after discreetly clicking off his penlight, Spencer throws caution to the wind.

The idea he proceeds to enact is a very simple one: to (hopefully) catch the other man off guard and without adequate time to form a response. The Brummie throws open the door right in front of him, closing any distance that happens to lie between him and Roland with as few direct, long-legged strides as possible and slinging a smartly clenched fist towards the older man's jaw with enough speed and force to crumple him where he is standing.

That gambit seems to pay off, Roland having just enough time to look up and catch sight of Spencer before the blow comes. The thud of Spencer's fist coming into contact with Roland's jaw echoes through the room - no sound of a resounding crack of breaking or displacement, but it sounds painful nonetheless.

But as metal clatters across it quickly becomes apparent that it's good that Spencer acted when he did, as moonlight from outside catches the glint of a small snub nosed revolver laying on the ground, a flashlight rolling past it on the ground. He may not have known Spencer - or any intruder - was actually there, but it seems he was prepared for the possibility.

As he crumples to the ground, he's down but seemingly not out. His head swims as he tries to crawl up to his knees, sputtering and cursing in surprise.

"Oh god," he finally mumbles somewhat coherently. "Whatever you're here for just take it! Jesus Christ, just take it!" His tone, however, don't sound as submissive as the words seem to imply.

There is a very tiny click as the penlight goes on again. An equally minuscule but still-dazzling spotlight seeks out Roland's face in the blackness, flashing a bright line directly into one of the target’s eyeballs once it is found. At the same time, Spencer catches sight of the revolver and lightly punts it well out of reach: it goes skittering across the floor in a straight shot, hitting a distant corner with a dull clatter.

The game is up, or so it would seem.

From his half-collapsed position on the ground, Roland is able to just make out Spencer's lanky figure silhouetted against the moonlight behind him. Once the flashlight has finished rolling away in the dark, its beam— rocking back and forth as it gradually settles to a standstill— quite clearly illuminate the toes of a pair of Oxfords. "Sorry, mate," are the words that float out from somewhere above Roland's head, and for the moment the Brit does sound genuinely sorry. Chummy, even. "But the thing is, what I want is you."

So saying, he takes the inadvertent invitation right at face value: without any further warning, he delivers a roundly solid cuff to the back of Roland's skull with the intent of finishing off what the first hit had started.

As Spencer moves to follow up, it seems like Roland may be planning a retaliation of his own - but that hard blow to the back of the skull sends him crumpling to the ground in a heap. His target lays there at a standstill, breathing but either unconscious or unwilling to move.

With that, the cat and mouse game has come to an ending, even if it took a bit more time and effort than Spencer would have liked. All that remains is securing his target and getting him to the drop off spot, where a representative of the Ghost Shadows will be waiting to take Roland into their custody.

For a moment, it feels like a job well done.

Once Roland is bound and ready for transportation, a text is fired off indicating he has acquired his target. A reply is quick coming in return.

Meet here
2 hours

Followed by an address for a meeting place in the darker outskirts of Rochester.

Two Hours Later
Outside Rochester

It was a tight deadline to arrive at the appointed meeting place - a seemingly distant and possibly abandoned road far off the interstate and a good distance from any of the area's more secluded homes.

Spencer waits upon arrive. Appropriately, he is the first one to arrive on the scene, lights off as the cover of darkness and seclusion keeps him out of sight. It feels like some time before another vehicle comes rumbling down the road - a van.

One that's pulling over just behind him.

Spencer looks up into the rearview mirror to appraise the new arrival, waiting until he sees his contact step out of their vehicle before unlatching the lock of his.

Tonight, there would be a cheers to a job well done.

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