The Messenger


corbin2_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Not Really There?


Scene Title The Messenger
Synopsis … is never at fault. Teo delivers some information to Corbin about the death of Hokuto, and happens to have a mental messenger who mocks him at the same time.
Date March 20, 2010

Ichihara Bookstore

Nestled in the heart of the main street marketplace, the Ichihara Bookstore is an old and crooked structure pressed between two newer high-rise tenement buildings. The old glass windows and creaking wooden door on the shop's front give it a rustic and old-world feel. Catering to both antique books and newer prints, the narrow aisles and tall shelves are packed full of literature. A single shelf for periodicals lies near the front counter, while signage both out front by the register and in the back of the store indicates that tarot card reading is done on-site at request for ten dollars per reading.

Behind the old and weathered wooden counter that contains the register and a small stack of reserved books, a narrow wooden staircase leads upwards to a black wooden door with peeling paint, revealing red paint in narrow strips beneath, a rope crossing in front of that door hangs with a small sign that reads, "Private".

Fifteen minutes after he reached Roosevelt's shore, there's still the permeating stink of brine and disembowelled fish glazed to the back of Teo's nose. Next time he is going to sequence travel by land across bridges. He loves the sea as much as the next guy, but something about these temperatures makes every experience miserable; even that one.

By the time he reaches the bookstore, he's stopped four or five times to scrape imaginary scales off his shoes on the curb corners, and his fingers feel like they must have started verging down the spectrum from bloodlessly white to algal blue, black and brittle. They move when he wraps them around the front door's handle, though, and pushes his way in. Anyway, they don't break off inside his gloves or anything.

He's too old to let it get to him, the weather in a city he's lived in for ten or fifteen years, but it's preferable to wondering what that fat beat cop's look meant, or how many of the pedestrians he excused himself and stepped around were real.

It's less than two weeks until Lent ends. Maybe after he gets a few drinks in, real drinks, and cycles some nicotine back into his system, he'll go back to wondering about his usual fare of quandaries. What can I do to prevent the world ending, how to kill this mark, or check Abigail's been visiting the clinics regularly in as polite and discreet a manner as possible, et cetera.

"Ayers?" he calls out. Door's open, means the man's in at appointment time. Teo is just this side too graceful not to put his big white nose in the air and try to follow the scent of self-medication.

There's still a patch over the window near the door, where a bullet hole ripped through the glass. Some fracture lines are visible around the patch, but it keeps the cold out well enough. Even if the heaters have a hard time keeping up. Among the bookshelves there's sounds of work, most of it already finished by Teo himself, but— there's always more. A box sits on the floor, and the sound of a thump echos through the room just before Corbin steps around and into sight.

It looks as if he slept, at least a little, since the last time they saw each other. Not a lot, though. There's a drawn look on his face, the same long saddness in his eyes…

And he's not wearing much color. Just white shirt and jeans. His shirt is thin, too thin for the weather, and a bump of a pendant or necklace can be seen hanging around his neck, over his heart.

"Laudani," he responds with a nod, hands empty of books, or firearm as well. But there's one hanging from a sling that hooks around him and on top of that too thing shirt. Not concealed at all. He must not be wanting customers— but the CLOSED sign should have taken care of that.

Teo is no customer. He isn't even here to work today, which is some sad coincidence. Perhaps thinking this will be proof against astonishingly swift-footed Gillians, he tucks a hand behind himself to turn the door's preliminary lock. There. "Buongiorno." It is easier to pretend that they're safe, now, or as safe as an erstwhile terrorist and sometimes-insurgent might be locking himself in with an openly armed and distraught Company agent. One finds that the Company agents make good foul-weather friends.

Teo has a few of those! "I've never laid on your file," he says, stepping away from the door. He shunts his hands into his pockets and drifts toward the half-filled box. He pulls his shoulders in briefly, as if the fractional compaction of muscle and cloth is going to squeeze out the lingering sensation of cold.

Naturally, it doesn't. He wipes spit out of his broken cheek with one hand. "Didn't know you were a Company agent until the hold-up the other week, but it seemed like you knew how to use it," insert significant glance at the holster showing dark through the swing of Corbin's open shirt panel, "and you had enough clearance to hear about Dahl's sidearm. So I take it you're a field agent. Know how to handle yourself, when there's need or reason for violence, the processes of investigation, shit like that."

"I certainly don't advertise myself," Corbin says after looking away in a readable manner that gives away something to those who are good at spotting things of the like. Maybe there's things both right and wrong in Teo's assessment. "Things are a little different now, though." A lot different. He could forgive what happened with Minea, even if he liked the woman, and enjoyed what little time they spent together, but Hokuto…

"I actually worked in the archives," he says with a laugh, shaking his head as he moves around to the counter to pick up one piece of evidence that he found on scene after he'd had time to settle down. A box with the imprint of a gun in felt. An empty box. He wonders if it'd always been empty…

"I almost never carried. I was that night, because of the riots and what happened to Wendy, but… A week ago I doubt I would have used it, even if I had known about Minea before… before they said you were someone that needed to be questioned in connection to… What happened."

A week ago, he probably wouldn't have been the man to count of, even in foul weather. But it isn't a week ago anymore.

"I'll find out what happened. And I'll be a better shot next time. Won't just hit him in the back."

Far to the right, in the dusky gloom of a dust-drenched corner of the shop where warm light is just enough of a meager courtesy to allow for black text to legible at a squint, movement smudges subtle and indistinct. The shelves are long and the aisles are narrow, and at the stuffy end of this one in particular, twin rings of spectral blue constrict into focus out of the dark.

Looking down at the accumulation of Scott Westerfield paperbacks, Teo turns over what the agent says in his head a few times, examines it from different angles. Archives. That could come in handy, if hate and competence with shooting weren't enough. So he wipes the flat of his glove dry on his pant leg, and says, "Then you should know I have a lead on the perp.

"And you should know they got her address because of me. I gave an address to a man I thought was her friend, and he gave it to a pack of ex-terrorists who wanted to hurt Abigail Beauchamp. Owner of Old Lucy's, I don't know if you know her. They gunned Ichihara down to get under her skin." Teo looks up. Now is supposed to be the moment: queue the steadfast stare, wintry blue eyes made remorseful by the expressive droop of his brows above them, segue and launch into steering Ayers' inevitable floodgates of realization and rage towar—

Teo's attention falters. He looks over at the far corner of the store, and doesn't stem the reflex before his fingers twitch for want of a gun. Deckard?

"Stabbed her," Corbin corrects quietly, not noticing the strange falter of attention or the sudden twitch for a gun. There's one resting against the Company Agent's torso, but it's not one that he'll likely be able to get his hands on easily. Without jumping the counter.

The blame placed on Teo's mouth, with the address having come from him, there's a possibility the gun could have been pulled, but instead, it's just sad blue eyes that settle. Sad blue eyes that must not have seen anything back in the aisles of books. But the blame isn't placed on the wouldbe messanger, who obviously didn't know about it. Instead…

"I've never met Beauchamp, but I've heard of her." After all, Evolved Healers making newspapers get brought to mind quickly enough. "Why did you think this man was a friend? Who is he? Do you know anything about those who are trying to get to Beauchamp?" Cause they got under more skin than just the once healer's…

"I thought we were past all that."

Wiry grey hair trimmed into a semblance of decent order and long face clean save for the lines carved into it by age, Flint steps away from the shelf he'd been perusing with a leatherbound volume light in his hand. He's healthy and alert, tall and upright in a suit coat of dingy tweed and blue jeans, patches of suede soft at his elbows and lungs clear of their usual wheeze.

His strides are long and his air is informal for all that there's an osprey, astute intensity about him, voice deadly familiar as the shadows thin and his eyes read less sharply through the gloom.

"And when I say 'we,'" the book tips a little slackly in his wrist when he exits the aisle on Teo's end, "I mean, 'I.' You never really grew out of pulling the trigger first and asking questions later. Unless…" unless — the book tips Corbinwards, "the potential problem in question had genetic fortune enough to mature into the rough equivalent of a sad pomeranian puppy."

Teodoro is slightly surprised that he isn't suddenly facing screamed threats, punch flurries overflowed from runoff emotion. Hitting things can help you feel better, and Ayers looks like he could use to feel better. Teo is slightly more surprised that he isn't otherwise assaulted by Deckard, until he realizes that Deckard isn't Deckard. Probably isn't any Deckard at all, judging from the likelihood of another time-traveler having made it back just when Sicily started to experience a bunch of hallucinations.

Unlikelihood, but that isn't a real word. The nape of Teo's neck prickles uncomfortably. He finds some of that unjustified, all things considered. "John Logan," he says, jerking his head around to fix Corbin with his stare. "He's the only connection I know we've got to the people behind the whole thing.

"There's a man called Carlisle Dreyfus— former Vanguard. The Company should have records on him and his people. They've been attacking seven of us who were working with the Company— and the United States government— on some anti-terror in Russia back in January." A beat. Teo deliberately refrains from raising his voice: "We can't afford to just kill Logan outright or anything. But you should know he probably knew an inkling of what he was getting Hokuto into when he passed that information along, and I could use your help talking to him."

It's likely also not Deckard, from the sheer fact that the only thing that Corbin seems to notice… is Teo. He may be distracted by the topic, but even then, one would think he'd glance at a guy speaking. Especially saying strange things. But as it is… "I read a bit on Vanguard. I pulled Kazimir Volken's file for a recent investigation, but apparently I need to pull it again. Dreyfus…" He looks off for a moment, then bends down to pull out a small notepad from behind the desk. There's a note still on it, which he runs his fingers over gently.

Hokuto had wanted to remember to get something for the store.

The page is flipped away, and he scribbles down a name in pen, a quick note, followed by 'John Logan'. Two names he'll need to look up.

"I was asked to keep my superior informed on what I find," he adds quietly, eyes darkened at the request not to kill, but— somehow relieved too. If he's been told not to kill, he might not be as tempted to, perhaps? He's tired. Killing was never something he was cut out for. Even with a man who said a name. Perhaps especially.

"I don't have to tell him everything, though. Part of job was omitting the truth. I never reported what Hokuto had done…" He'd in fact tried his best to keep that out of the offical record… Now he'll try to keep it out even more. It makes him relieved, at least a little, that what she did may have had little to do with what happened to her— even if he winces in guilt at feeling relieved at all.

"He was into her," says Deckard. Mildly. He's craning a sideways look down at Corbin's pad, having taken the requisite number of steps to get close enough to do so. You know. Just in case Teo hadn't been able to notice on his own. He's quiet for a beat, blue eyes all too attentive in their sidelong study of Corbin for all that they've lost their hellish glow. It's odd, seeing him like this after so long: sharp edges and fleet thought all funneled so deliberately into productivity. Or something like it.

"Who knows. Maybe he'll meet a time traveler of his very own someday. Go back a few years. Rewrite a little history. A single butterfly crushed in the name of eternal happiness. Noble causes never go wrong, right? Not if there really is a God. Not if he's paying attention."

Be nice to think that what Hokuto had done had something to do with why she was killed. Gutted, but that's neither here nor there. Teo keeps his face blank. He uses his brain powers to tell Deckard to go away and remind him, as loudly as one can with mouth sealed, that he is not real and could maybe do to shut up. Everybody knows Ayers was into Ichihara ok!

And Teo's shot plenty of good-looking people, while we're on that subject. Let ugly ones go, too. While we're on the subject. He shakes his head and drags a stack of three tomes off the counter, as if mild exertion, occupying his hands, and nudging his brain against the walls of his skull is going to clear out any of the walking, talking imaginary people in the room. "I don't think any of my unfortunate companions would mind, overly, what you tell your superior.

"But if you don't want a lot of tarnish streaked over Ichihara's name, you're probably going to want to leave Logan out of it." Teo sets the books down on top of the row of low-gloss spines already there. "Also because he works for Linderman. Could be an awkward jurisdictional clash, enough to cost us some time. Dreyfus seems to have lost his mind since Russian.

"That's D-R-E-Y-F-U-S," Teodoro adds. This time, his fingers are twitching for want of a cigarette. He measures a marching line of footsteps to the aisle, past Deckard, to fill them with books instead. "Englishman. His son was killed working with the Vanguard, nearly put a bullet in me.

"It's fuckin' tragic, but you could say there was no stopping it." Uglies hoisted up over his shoulder, he angles the old man a brief glower, and starts back toward the box. Not to be defensive or anything, but the likelihood of the little Dreyfus tyke having survived the Bright Future, either— not to be defensive or anything.

"You did mention you'd been working with the Company against Vanguard… as well as the US Government. I'm sure once I pull a few files, I'll know to what extent," Corbin says, frowning a bit at the piece of paper as he corrects his spelling of the name, with the assistance. He doesn't know if that part of the file would have high level clearance or not. It very well may…

Especially with how the US Government and the Company are butting heads, not that he can say much more about that than he already has…

"I'll keep John Logan close to my chest, then," he says, touching whatever it is under his shirt that is already close to his chest. "I don't want Hokuto to be remembered for that…" She might think she deserved to be remembered for that, but he never did…

"When did you want to go talk to him?"

Teodoro makes a point of not looking at Deckard. Maybe, because he isn't here, he really will go away if Teo ignores him. Maybe, maybe. In the meantime, books about futuristic dystopias where the medically-assisted processes of maturation turn you into a bubble-headed and pathologically happy idiot show him pictures of pretty girls and pretty boys with huge, blank eyes. The girl on one of the books looks a little like Hokuto, or maybe that's racist of him. He tucks them into the box, then heaves the box up in his arms.

So nice that they can work together like this. "Early next week. There's somebody I know who's been keeping an eye on him these past couple weeks, and probably knows his schedule pretty well. I need to touch base, see where we can get him without much of a security detail, or at least know what that detail is. Not that I anticipate things getting too ugly," Teo adds. Raises his shoulders as if to say, But you know how it is. "I'll call you." Teo reaches over to snare the pen, slow enough to make a request out of the reach. Jot the numbers down, for the ledger.

He doesn't look up. "The Company let her out of autopsy, yet? Is there going to be a service?"

A service. It reminds Corbin of what he'd been dressed up for that night, how he'd intended to stop by and visit a funeral for one of his shop-workers. In the end, he just sent flowers. Flowers weren't going to do anyone any good. They hadn't made him feel better. And flowers won't bring Hokuto back, either. "I'm not sure. I'd like there to be a service," he says, tearing the sheet that he wrote on across the edge so he doesn't mess up the one that happens to be above it, carrying it around with him as he walks over to look at the bookshelves, and the boxes that the man's helping with.

"It probably won't be til the middle of the week, if not later. We'll probably make sure she's buried next to her parents."

Buried. That makes her as gone as gone can be. There's a slow inhale, before he looks toward the door. "I'll be waiting for your call. I have a few jobs, but— this takes priority for me." And since he has permission from his superior, he's taking that as… well… permission. "Thanks for letting me know."

Now he has someone to hate. By the name of Dreyfus.


Maybe Deckard is quiet because he's leaning back to check out Corbin's ass the way people check fruit in the produce section. That is: first with a suspicious look and then with a calculating touch and careful squeeeeze to check for firmness.

"Not bad. …His eyes are nice too."

His opinion is undoubtebly objective. He has seen a great deal of ass in his day.

"Not as nice as mine. This is a really insensitive way to change the subject, by the way," is added as an afterthought, polite as it is unforgiving. "Just saying."

Maybe Deckard should try to sleep with him then. Teo has a boyfriend. Even if they don't call it that yet, necessarily, maybe, and he is irritated to suppose that it would look rather odd if he reached out and grabbed the empty air beside the Company Agent in a bid to wrest the empty air's sleeve away from the Company Agent's ass. Jesus Christ.

Flint may look like he's grinding toward his sixties, but he still has to act like a twelve-year-old just to get to Teo. Possibly, if Teo were a little more self-reflective, he'd note that it's equally embarrassing that it actually works. As it is, he finds his current level of self-reflection awkward enough. 'Then maybe you should stop.' Of course he'd noticed. Corbin has moved his share of boxes. "Okay.

"Non problema. I'll pass the ballpark date along to Beauchamp, if that's okay. Let me know if there's anything else I can do." He doesn't make it a request or a question because he can't imagine that there is.

Clopping, and then a flink of the lock turning with a twist of his thumb and forefinger. His reflection shudders on the plateglass, and Teo finds himself stooping his head to check if Deckard's shows besides Corbin's, despite knowing that that question fucking answers itself. He is too eager to be out in the cold again, but he pauses for propriety's sake. Looks back. "You good?"

"I'm not actually here," Deckard reminds, right hand wrung out as if from something colder and wetter than one hopes Corbin endeavors to keep things down there. Meanwhile his left hand rises to work fastidiously at his collar, straining it out. "Maybe you should stop."

For an instant, something about the manner of the younger (physically) Italian man may have gotten through. It's just a slight tilt of his head, a narrowing of those really pale blue eyes, but Corbin doesn't say anything— and he's especially not seeming to notice certain non-existant hands in places he probably… would not be inclined to want them to be.

"I should be okay. I'll be staying here for a while. I'm hoping her cat shows up soon." It's an odd thing to mention at a time like this, but— There it is. The white cat with black eyebrow-like patches hasn't been seen since the woman passed away. Hopefully it found shelter from the cold, as well as something to eat. But for the moment.

"I'll let you know if I need anything here, but I should be able to handle it."

As much as anyone whose just lost someone really important can handle things… But it could be worse. He could be the one seeing people who aren't there.

There is some obscure part of Teo that is worried that if he leaves the skinny old man in with Corbin, doesn't watch, or keep hold, somehow, Corbin will notice him, somehow. Somehow, perceive the unattractive irreverence and tawdry vices that framed in his stupid humor, give ear to the criticisms, and discover that the underlying sentience is not in fact this ironically unrecognizable coyote-faced stranger, but his fellow bookkeeper.

The messenger. Whose fault nothing ever is, and whose responsibility covers everything he gallantly chooses. "Cerca di farti forza e coraggio," he says. "Godspeed," and the door wings shut behind him.

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