The Hypothetical and the Certain


ghost2_icon.gif leland_icon.gif

Scene Title The Hypothetical and the Certain
Synopsis Ghost pays Detective Daubrey a visit. He has information about a Humanis First attack on SCOUT.
Date July 19, 2009


It's not often that Leland is home alone late afternoon. Normally he and Felix get off-shift at about the same time. But the Fed's out chasing down a lead, or maybe he's at a meeting with visiting Bureau superiors. Felix told him. The detective can't remember which is which.

There's steaks marinating in the fridge that will go on the barbecue later, and he's currently working at slicing vegetables for a salad. To him, there's as much, if not more joy in the preparation of food as there is in eating it. He slides a chef's knife through cylinders of heart of palm. Almonds have been roasted in butter and are cooling. Jazz plays from the stereo.

The phone begins to ring. Cellphone, not the landline whose handset rests placidly on top of the counter adjacent. There's that drilling repeat of that minimalistic, deliberately unmusical ringtone that identifies exactly no one in particular— at least, not off the Detective's established and recorded phonebook of callers, cutting through the sonorous cadence of jazz.

The first frequency audible off the phone is the clangor and bustle of background traffic. The second is a voice of salutation: "Hello?"

Leland reaches over to flick off the heat under the almonds so they don't burn while he's preoccupied with the phone. "This is Daubrey," says the detective in a tone of casual professionalism. He pins the cell phone between shoulder and ear and takes a moment to rinse off his hands. "Who is this?"

Male. No younger than Daubrey himself, from the sound of him. Not a smoker, and the shape of his voice implies the shape of a smile when he answers, straightforwardly, "Call-sign Ovoth, though the Mossad probably would have gone with Dybbuk if they knew then what I can do today. I'm your killer. The one you were hunting until HomeSec got the hot potato the other week. Hope I'm not interrupting."

Leland squints, shifts half a step forward towards nowhere in particular, grunts and flares his nostrils. All of this translates to a series of odd sounds, though they're mostly muffled by a flick of his wrist that turns the reciever away from his mouth. "So you're Laudani, uh? Or some kinda body jumper?" Lahh-dani. Leave it to a Bostonian to take all the Italian out of his name. "So what, you call to taunt me, or to give me another bullshit list of confessions?"

"Doing neither. Jumper. Come see—" There's a guttering flick of quiet as he changes something about the way he's standing, downstairs and outside, his jaw nudging against the flat of the device clutched against the crook of his neck. "I'm outside, little ways down the street. I'll wave. Don't shoot or anything, eh? I think the hotdog man would freak the fuck out."

"What do you want?" Leland may not be any kind of super cop, or even among the best in the department, but he's not stupid. He immediately goes for his shoulder holster and suit jacket. He shrugs both on easily, then heads for the balcony to try and see if he can spot the man from the security photo. "And if you really are outside, you better give me a fuckin' good reason for not calling backup and cordoning off this whole block."

As it turns out, the ghost is outside— or at least, a man on a phone, a few hundred feet down the way, the figure of him shrunken by distance. One lean shoulder is propped up against a phone booth. It isn't Teo's face, but the one that's there is turned toward the not-so-super cop on his balcony, underneath a baseball cap. He puts up an arm. Waves.

"I want you to fight Humanis First! for me.

"I'm from the future and I've come to change the past" deadpan. He's being perfectly serious, from the sound of him, however facetious he may be swinging his hand against the ashy overcast of the sky. "not that I've been doing a fucking awesome job of it, or anything. There's going to be an attack in about three hours. You'd have to get off the phone to call backup, and there isn't a lot of time."

"Considering headquarters is ten minutes down the street, I'd say that three hours is plenty of time to call for backup," says Lee. He watches the figure from the balcony, to see if he can determine if the man down there is talking when the voice comes through his phone.

"So. Let me get this straight. You're running around doing fucking vigilante shit and killing people with goddamn swords. And hopping into peoples' bodies. From the goddamn future?" A snort. "Yeah. Stranger things I know." He paws at his face and exhales.

"You give me the info and I'll send some cars over to deal with the terrorists. How's that sound, uh?"

There's a sluice of slow breath across the mouthpiece which may or may not be delicate restraint carefully applied to the urge to laugh. "Not if you don't want to see a whole lot of dead cops. More of them, I mean.

"I'm not sure that'll work. As tips go, this one is pretty shakey, if you take my meaning. There's a chain of command— lot of paperwork, variable objectives. Humanis has people everywhere. Disclaimers aside—" The figure on the street turns away, gives the balcony the rectangled target of his back, albeit diminished by distance.

A long shot, even from Leland's sidearm.

"The target is SCOUT. The threats those kids every day, I'd imagine it's going to take a little more than 'anonymous tip said so' to clear the house out."

Shooting a man in the back without trying to take him in isn't Leland Daubrey's style. He's a by-the-books cop. Which is why running off half-cocked on a tip from a time travelling serial killer is giving him pause. "The fuck did you call me for?" No one's ever accused him of having tact.

He continues to watch from the balcony. SCOUT. "What, so those Evolved kids need my help?" A snort. "I think you're playing me. You've murdered cops. And now you want me to believe you're trying to save 'em?"

Unmolested, then, the killer begins to diminish down the course of the street. "It's kind of ugly, all this moral outrage set up over dead cops— like that makes death a little more tragic than Angharad's was, or the wife beaten to death with her kitchen faucet. Cops are just people. Some good ones, some bad ones. Slapping a badge and a hip-holster on a man gives him some friends for free, isn't going to mean he makes any fewer enemies if he pulls the shit the Bayonne boys did.

"I called you because I figured I'd have to do less explaining due to your prior acquaintance with the case. Isn't really working out so fucking well." Passing the red squat of a fire hydrant, the ghost glances up, back over his shoulder, a pale eye brief on the disgruntled detective's perch.

"Because when you get away with shooting cops, then we can't do our jobs. But I'm not in the mood to chat about death and moral outrage with a fuckin' self-righteous vigilante."

Leland's no longer on the balcony. He's made his way down to street level, weapon still holstered for now, but ready to be drawn on a moment's notice. "You are the case. Who are you to take the law into your own damn hands?"

Despite that he bears little other resemblance to the boy whose reputation he glibly shat on, the ghost retains his height and physical quiddity enough that his progress down the street is rapid. Even without running. And he isn't— running. "I'm pretty sure the law would give jack shit for support to anybody's decision to assassinate somebody over corruption. If I'm taking anything into my damn hands, it isn't the law. But I'm not lying.

"Not about this. Hey—" Something like mirth ticks a sharp pause into the easy rhythm of the ghost's voice. "If you want to check out some of my really creepy prescient magic? You should retake the Evolved blood test. You got a false negative the first time around. Or don't. God knows, the mutant pop is going to need somebody with an inside ear when this timeline goes to shit."

Leland may not be a great negotiator or interviewer. He may not be great at figuring out the psychology of criminals, of motivations and MOs. But what he is good at is on-the-ground police work.

Like tailing.

He may be a big man, but he can blend into a crowd, can move in such a way that it doesn't appear obvious that he's following. Of course, Ghost knows he is, or he wouldn't be moving away. "Yeah, keep talkin', Batman. You wanna rattle my cage? Why the fuck would you know anything about me in the future even if the time travel stuff isn't all bullshit? What, are we buddies in your time? Do I cook you pork chops on Sundays?" A snort. "Give it a rest."

To be fair, Leland proceeds without a few studied advantages that the ghost has cultivated over the past few years— the sorts of advantages that are precisely the premise upon which his loathing for SCOUT is founded.

The ghost watches him without having to turn his head, even as he brushes past a woman with a woven plastic groceries carrier. "Daubrey," he says, his voice bright with something that is comprised more of irony than of mirth, "I seriously recommend not asking questions you don't want the answer to.

"I know you. You're very much Evolved, a little bit gay, Hell of a cook, ugly taste in slippers. Don't bother pretending you're just roommates, but then again, the place I come from is more honest in as many ways as it's less." Hitting the mains treet thickens the crowd— giving Leland more cover, but his quarry as well. The baseball cap swivels to the right, a moment before the man underneath it hangs the turn, loping off on wolfish, ground-eating strides.

That gets to him, but over the phone, at a distance, it's a lot easier for him to hide it. His tone of voice, his way of speaking, rarely changes. It takes knowing him for many years to catch the subtle variations in tone that indicate when something may be bothering him.

"So what, this is suddenly a social call? Come to check in on your old pal, Leland? See how he's doin' ten years in the past?" They're playing the same game. Keeping each other talking. Hoping to distract the other. They're not so unalike in their tactics, but yes, he doesn't have any Evolved abilities to fall back on.

A fact which causes him no end of irritation. But he's not going to ponder on whether or not Ghost's taunt about him being Evolved is true. There'll be time to indulge in that later. For now, he's got quarry to track.

There's a sliver of sweater-sleeved shoulder around the stem of a street lamp, the stoop of Ghost's head below a low-hanging rack of I <3 NEW YORK T-shirts at the front of a store run by a woman who's shouting something in Taiwanese. Audible over the phone: Leland's best if not first cue that this man is precisely who he said he is. "This is a warning.

"In three fucking hours, Humanis First! makes a run at SCOUT. You can save lives, maybe even the precinct house. Stop the operatives, maybe even catch them.

"I've left a dossier underneath the big yellow book in the phonebooth across your street. Photographs, logistics correct to some… ninetieth percent confidence interval. Best I could do. Sorry.

"There's a woman you can ask for help— I've threatened her family before, she might be sympathetic with your situation on a number of levels. Minea Dahl. Formerly in service of Homeland Security. Or," a note of bemusement enters his voice. The specter passes a wheelbarrow full of roasting chestnuts, and it throws smoke across his hangdog. Lights change. A traffic cop herds children. "You can keep following me."

"Two questions. One, how do I know you're not fucking setting me up, playing me, making it so I take the fall or get wiped out? You haven't exactly shown yourself to give a damn about human life. Two," Leland snarls at the people in his way, shifts side to side, trying to regain sight of Ghost. "If this is all true, why do you want to save SCOUT?"

Damn it. Where did he go?

The cop's frame of view is interrupted with the constant bob and swerve of civilians, fact that Ghost exploits by selecting a good moment to nip the cap off the top of his head. Casts it into the round mouth of the trash can nearest his right hand.

Roughing long fingers through the black of his hair with only a little vanity, he crooks a nod of salutation up at the National Security guardsmen manning the curbside checkpoint; continues across the street without making an effort to exploit the labyrinthine circuitry of the street's layout. Arrogance, perhaps.

Either that, or he's leaving it on the fulcrum of Leland's conscience, which case he prefers to pursue and at what cost, refusing to make that decision on his behalf. Even if it would be tactically prudent. "I like SCOUT. Don't mind most people, honestly. FRONTLINE, now— those cunts, you're going to have to watch for."

"And I have time to contact this Dahl, but not to go a few blocks over to the precinct and round up thirty men?" A snort on the other end of the line.

Strange that Ghost would leave the choice to Leland's conscience for something this important, with lives on the line. If he's telling the truth.

"The way I see it," says Leland as he catches sight of what he thinks is the top of his quarry's head. "I got a choice between a hypothetical and a certainty. The hypothetical is everything you say is gonna happen. What's certain is that you're a cop killer and you murdered a teenaged girl. And you stole some poor kid's body. So forgive me if I'm not willing to go running off somewhere on you say-so. You coulda just left the dossier and told me where to find it. Why come yourself unless you have another agenda?"

The criticism as to the ghost's tactics does not surprise him overmuch: comes damn near close to delighting him. It's all he can do not to turn his head, give Lee a shit-eating grin from over the incline of his shoulder.

He doesn't. "You have time to contact this Dahl because she's quick, efficient, discreet, and accustomed to dealing with unusual exigent circumstances. Thirty men are going to scare Humanis First! right back into the woodwork, which might work just as well today, but as long as I am who I say I am, I'm just as concerned about tomorrow.

"If I wanted you dead or ruined, I'd give you a lot more to hang yourself with than my best guesses and a girl's phone number. The tar on Laudani's reputation should be fucking proof enough of that. I came in person to show my sincerity.

"I know it'd look better up close, but you'll have to forgive me. I scare easy." Joke.

Or the joke is that it isn't; Leland's known enough criminals to be able to recognize the difference between a paranoid believer and the whiny, self-indulgent pushers and wheelers that wind up easier, more readily boxed in, undone. A man with a boom box over his shoulder stumbles against the brunt of Leland's passage, throws a curse back at him, something heavy and tropical in his accent.

"You aren't a very bright body-hopping futuristic apparition are ya, kiddo?" Leland has no idea the other entity's age, so the 'kiddo' could be heard as a taunt. "If you actually know me like you claim to, then you know I'm a blunt fuckin' instrument. You want quiet and surgical, you don't call m—" and then the boom box.

Speaking of time travelers. That guy must have taken a trip back to 1983. He shoots the man holding it a glare. He's tempted to flash his badge, dick-wave a bit. But there's more important things to deal with.

"I'll look at your information. But if you're fucking jerking me around, then I'm gonna be on your ass whether your case is on my desk or not. Got me?"

There's a bark of laughter, reminiscent of a hyena out across the quiet of a savannah at night. Ghost shunts his free hand in his pocket, aims spit over his shoulder and into the iridescent oil puddle in the nearest gutter. "Maybe I'm trying to teach you something. Maybe I have a Plan B, and it's uglier.

"Or maybe I'm stupid," he allows, brightly. "Any case scenario isn't one you really want to explore, 'm pretty sure.

"I think you should stop stalking me like a fucking pervert, and take this as a chance to learn and grow. Save some lives. Do your fucking job. I know you have a soul in there. I've checked." Words to hang up on, but the ghost doesn't, yet. Unspools his forward strides, steady, steady, seeming as immune to the indignity being in flight as Leland is troubled by hapless pedestrians and his size.

"Who the fuck are you to be teaching anyone anything?" Leland's tone is rarely kind sounding, but it's rarely flat either. But it's dull now. The words drop off his tongue in an oddly neutral way. "This doesn't change anything. There's people smarter'n me looking for you."

And then he snaps his phone closed, squares his jaw, looks after where he last saw Ghost, then swivels back on his heel. He has a phone book to check.

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