The Perfect Image of Peace


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Scene Title The Perfect Image of Peace
Synopsis Dr. Constantine Filatov gets a new patient.
Date January 28, 2009

Filatov Clinic

The largest, most obvious feature of Dr. Filatov's clinic is that one wall, an entire wall has been almost completely with what appear to be tall hardwood china cabinets, or possibly some other form of storage furniture from a bar, or kitchen or apothecary that have been nailed to the wall and cobbled together into some kind of uniformity. The last one may be the most likely, because every row of shelves that no run the length of the wall are covered with jars and bottles containing all manner of drugs, medicines, tonics, ointments and tinctures. The drawers below the shelves doubtlessly contain more supplies necessary for the operation of the clinic, so perhaps it's best not to question exactly what can be found in them.

Besides that, the room is dominated by two large examination tables, which are really just old, well-worn wooden dining tables, with some of the matching chairs resting against the wall opposite the medicines, the closest to a waiting room the clinic has. A simple wooden screen in one corner serves as a dressing area. The unadorned wood paneling and scuffed hardwood floor are not the doctor's doing; he freely admits that whoever occupied this place last had both a thing for wood, and poor taste. The only other seemingly permanent fixture of the clinic is Ranger, Dr. Filatov's absolutely ancient bulldog, who spends most of his days lounging by the dressing screen, or wherever the sunbeams happen to pass through the steel window shutters. Besides a short hallway leading to the rest of the building (most of the space of which is taken up by the enormous examination/emergency/operating room), an unobtrusive door with far too many latches takes up a portion of an inside wall. 'Employees only' couldn't be spelled any more clearly.

There are several ways to spend the last remnants of a weekend, but in each individual case, for each individual person, there is a certain way that is the best. The ideal. For some, it's a movie, or a good book. For Constantine Filatov, it's a good sit-down. Even though the clinic floor might strike some as an odd place to unwind, for Constantine, it is ideal, where he is most comfortable. And with no patients, no operations, no medicines, it couldn't be better.

The chairs aren't the most comfortable, but he doesn't need a comfortable chair. He has everything he needs already; the company of faithful (if lethargic) Ranger, who does little more than lie down at the doctor's feet, and a glass of cold, straight vodka. In the quiet of the late evening, with the lights low, it's the perfect image of peace. For him, at the very least.

The perfect image of peace is abruptly shattered by the sound of a fist pounding on the clinic's front door. Outside, obscured by the sheets of rain pouring across the window, a slim silhouette appears, followed by the outline of a bone-white hand pressing against the glass.

There's no reason for alarm. It isn't unusual for people to come calling after hours — especially not in weather like this, when the winds plunge temperatures well below freezing and the majority of Constantine's patients arrive suffering from frostbite, hypothermia, or some combination of the two. With any luck, the person standing on the other side of the door has enough money in their pockets to afford what Dr. Filatov charges for a visit of such a sudden, violent and unannounced nature. If not—

Well. He can always turn them away.

There's no reason for alarm, no. This sort of thing isn't unusual, and in fact, it's more common than Constantine should care for. However, that does not mean there is no reason for caution. Just as easily as it could be someone in genuine need of help, it could just as easily be someone, or someones who just a need a fix, no matter how they get it.

This is why, when the door open, that it is not a warm, kindly face that greets whoever is hammering on the door, nor an indifferent face or a grim, glowering face or even a face at all. Even though the door is fully opened, showing Constantine still wearing his dark khakis from earlier with a freshly donned winter coat, what first greets the unexpected guest is the muzzle of an AK-47.

"State your business."

The small figure standing on Constantine's doorstep flinches at the sight of the rifle, one arm going up to shield its face on instinct, the other held at an awkward angle at its side. Not much taller than five feet, one half of its face covered in messy curls of raven black hair, impossibly dark in comparison with the pale skin to which the tresses are plastered, his visitor is either a very young man or an unusually tiny woman — he has no way of knowing until it opens its mouth, voice coming out in the form of a low and shaky but distinctly feminine croak.

"Please don't shoot."

Fortunately, Constantine does not shoot, instead taking a moment to appraise the situation. Leaning left and then right to get a better look around the edges of the door frame, he finally points the muzzle of his rifle slightly upwards, no longer bracing it against his shoulder. Still able to quickly return to pointing (and possibly firing) it is nevertheless a much safer direction. "Inside," the doctor says urgently, as if their fate hinged on action or inaction. More likely, he doesn't want to let the heat out. "What happened?"

The young woman doesn't wait for Constantine to repeat his invitation. She moves into the clinic proper, her entire body heaving with shuddering motions as she crosses the threshold and steps inside, bringing with her the several pounds of clothing she wears on her back — every thread saturated and weighed down with moisture. Soaked from head to toe, she looks as though she just emerged from the ocean, and if the pungent smell of saltwater and diesel oil clinging to her skin and hair is any indication, that may not be too far from the truth.

"Verrazano-Narrows," she spits out, as if that explains everything. And to her it does.

"Ah," Constantine replies, "Jumper." It's not exactly the right explanation, and it can only mean that as far as the collapsing bridge is concerned, the good doctor hasn't heard about it yet. Or, more likely, he heard it, but has attributed it to something related to the earlier explosion, which is something he's trying hard not to be involved with.

"Clothes off," he continues, "Or you'll keep getting colder." Without further explanation, he moves off down the hallway connected to the clinic, which can in no way be mistaken for anything other than a clinic, or at least some sort of meeting room. Hopefully, he's going to get a towel, and maybe a blanket.

Do jumpers wear kevlar vests? This one does. As the young woman peels off her coat, which makes up about half her current weight, the body armor beneath it becomes visible, numb fingers fumbling furiously with her buttons and wrestling with the buckles that attach the waterlogged clothes to her trembling shape.

Alone in the front room, she has no qualms about disrobing — not when she's so cold that she's completely lost feeling in her fingers and toes in addition to her ears and the very tip of her nose. Her veins, alternating between ugly shades of violet and sickly blue, stand out against the semi-translucent sheen of her now-naked skin, so blanched and cadaverous that she appears more fey than human… and not in a particularly attractive way.

Her sopping coat hits the clinic floor with an audible thump, followed immediately by her kevlar vest and a woolen sweater with thin black leggings. No shoes — if she ever had any to begin with, she lost them somewhere in the water.

Constantine does not immediately return with a towel or a blanket, but takes a moment for some reason or another. This much is certain, because water running from the bathtub is plainly heard, but only for a few seconds before it shuts off. Only then does Constantine show himself again, towel, blanket and bucket in hand. "Have a seat in one of the chairs," he orders. The stranger clearly came to the right place, as the doctor obviously knows what he's doing. He either knows what he's doing, or he stayed at a Holiday Inn Express the previous night. Either one is better than nothing.

It's just as well — she doesn't look like she can stay on her feet much longer. Sinking into the nearest chair, the young woman squeezes her eyes shut, their colour temporarily masked by dark lashes. Bandages cover the side of her face obscured by hair, and if their condition is anything like her discarded clothes, they too will need to be changed before the night is over.

"I don't," she starts, straining against a tight jaw to find her voice. "I don't have any mm— any hnn."

"Put your feet in." Depositing the bucket just in front of the chair, Constantine throws the towel around the girl, and then tops it off with the blanket. His rifle hasn't gone far, slung over his shoulder now instead of occupying his hands. Ranger hasn't gone far either, having picked his head up long enough to assess the situation himself, before resting it on the floor once more. If she was starting to say she didn't have any money, they can work that detail out later. For the time being, she can be sure that the man she finds herself in the care of must not be all bad. He surrenders what remains of his vodka to her. "It will dull any pain that you have." Of this, the doctor is confident. "Show me your hands."

Her fingers curl around the glass without complaint and she raises it to her lips, drinking greedily. It doesn't go down smooth, but the liquor's bite is tame in comparison to the other sensations she must undoubtedly be experiencing — at this point, she'll do almost anything to dull the pain, even if it means swallowing mouthfuls of alcohol like a man dying of thirst might try filling himself with water.

The empty glass finds a new home on the floor beside the bucket, and the young woman obediently displays her hands to Constantine, bare palms facing skyward.

The overhead lights flick on, and they are far brighter than a reasonable room light ought to be. However, it's steady, clean light, and when Constantine gingerly takes the woman's hands into his, inspecting them for frostbite, that light helps him see all the more clearly. So far, so good.

The bucket, meanwhile, is filled with water that's on the cold side of tepid. Warm enough to help improve blood flow, but not so warm as to make the situation worse by bursting blood vessels. "And your face?" he asks, "Where are you injured?"

At the mention of her face, the woman yanks her hands out of Constantine's grip and buries her fingers in the folds of the blanket draped across her shoulders. She turns her head away from the doctor, shielding the soggy bandages and whatever is hidden beneath them from his eyes, one shoulder brought up to form a barrier between his body and hers. Her face is, apparently, off-limits.

"Don't touch it," she hisses under her breath, upper lip curling back to expose a momentary sliver of tooth. "My wrist, I think— it doesn't move right. Sprained, broken, can't tell the difference. Hurts."

For a moment, Constantine looks at the girl through narrowed eyes, as if to suggest that soon enough, he'll get to her face. For the time being, he leave it alone, opting instead to inspect the mysterious injury of her wrist. Sprained or broken, it's probably not a compound break; she would almost certainly know it was broken. He would know too, whether or not he could feel the bone split or out of place under his hands. "How long ago?" he asks.

For the first time since he pointed his weapon at her, a look of confusion crosses the young woman's features, and she appears at a loss. Pain, though not of the physical of variety, is written across her face — her eyes, a cool but nebulous shade floating somewhere between gray and green, embody unspoken thoughts, all of them dark, and shine with what might be tears, their whites tinged faint pink around the edges. She isn't crying now, but it's obvious she was earlier, and for a long time, for she's still a little puffy.

"I don't know," she murmurs thickly, "maybe— maybe a few hours? I looked, but I didn't… couldn't…"

"Shh." That's all that Dr. Filatov needs to know. Holding the woman's wrist in between both his hands, he ignores the rest of her for just a few moments. To the outside world, nothing is happening.

But to Constantine, everything is happening. He gives up some awareness of his surroundings in exchange for full concentration. Every piece of the woman's body has a clock face looking down upon it, the seconds passing by into minutes, and into hours. In the doctor's mind, he sees the hands of that clock slow, each second passing as if it were a minute, and then halting altogether, and finally, the clock ticks backwards, gradually faster and faster. It's the numbness that begins to go away first, feeling and even pain returning at a remarkable speed. But then the sprain swells, just a bit more than it had, and almost as faster as it had begun to swell, it begins to shrink. The pain begins to shrink along with it, taking with it the stiffness that had come with it as well. Not much more than a minute later, the condition of the woman's wrist is completely changed- "Like it never happened."

It's a waste of talent, really, on such a minor injury. But the kevlar vest is a tip off that this isn't just some jumper, even if she ended up that way, and Constantine would rather get the minor injury out of the way, leaving himself free to focus on everything else. As for what just happened, he'll leave his patient to guess for herself. What he's more concerned with, in the meantime, is stepping away from her and inspecting her pile of clothing; if she had body armor, then it's almost certain that a firearm isn't far away.

Constantine's instincts do not fail him. The interior of her coat yields not only a small pistol, but a slender knife and an unremarkable silver pocket watch as well. No identification — either she lost it along with her shoes, or more likely, she doesn't own any.

She rubs her wrist, perplexed, fingertips tracing the paths of her tendons and bone as though she might discover some insight into what just happened by touching the injury. Or the not-injury, as the case may be.

"… thank you."

"Just, don't tell me what you were doing," Constantine replies, leaving the pistol with the clothing but confiscating all the ammunition for it, along with the knife. "The world is dangerous enough, without knowing too much about what happens in it." He'll probably have a few guesses as to what she was doing once the news stations start covering the story. "You can stay here tonight, if you don't mind being locked in a room alone." Nice enough of an invitation.

Anything is nicer than having an AK-47 pointed at her face. The young woman gives a small nod in response, reaching up with one hand to tuck several stringy strands of black hair behind one of her ears. She's still shivering, but the severity of her condition isn't what it was a few minutes ago — getting out of her wet clothes and into a dry blanket and towel has made all the difference, potentially between life and death, though she does her best not to dwell on it. Instead, she falls silent, gaze drifting away from her wrist and out the window to where the elements licks the glass, filling the clinic with the heavy sound of the rain against the pane.

It may be just as well that the woman doesn't dwell on it, as it's only another moment before the pitter-patter of raindrops is broken by the ringing of a telephone from another room, which Constantine of course rises to answer. The bullets and knife go with him; he's not taking any chances. He's not gone much more than a minute before returning. "If you're hungry, you can have some oatmeal, and then you need to get some rest," he says, "I, it turns out, have a sudden appointment to attend to, so make your decision quickly." Almost as if deciding for her, Constantine leaves the front room a second time, bound this time for the kitchen at the back of the property. She may as well be happy or his offer of food, bland as it's likely to be. It's not something she'll be able to get out of. Nor is spending the night in a locked room something she can get out of.

Doctor's orders.

January 28th: The Warmth Of The Company
January 28th: The Best Laid Plans
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