The Shadow Of Smoke, Part I


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Scene Title The Shadow of Smoke, Part I
Synopsis Richard Cardinal's life was always complicated… why should his death make any sense?
Date August 11, 2010

Anarchy Customs

In the warm evening sun, the graffiti'd exterior of Anarchy Customs fits in to the backdrop of Staten Island. Much of the graffiti on the building is intentional, from the enormous red and white anarchy symbol spraypainted over an American flag, to the garage's name across both bay doors and portions of the crumbling brickwork.

That one bay door is open isn't surprising given the heat and that a motorcycle is missing from the spot where it usually occupies is a sign that the garage's owner isn't home. It isn't that Devi trusts the residents of the Rookery not to screw with her things, so much as that most people in the Rookery know not to. The woman who fixes the motorcycles for half of the gangs on Staten Island isn't someone anyone wants to make enemies with.

Unless of course your name is Samson Gray.

Hunched over one of Devi's red metal toolboxes, drawer open and yellowed fingers pawing through with clanks of metal, the haggard old man crouched in the middle of the garage is noticably out of place for anyone not a casual bystander. His short cropped salt and pepper colored hair has grown in from what was once a head sticken bald from chemotherapy.

The clatter from the tray ends when Samson withdraws a socket wrench, turning it around in the goldenrod sunlight coming in through the doors, then tucks it into a battered old red nylon backpack seated next to him on the concrete floor. Whistling while he quietly robs the garage, Samson seems to be cherry-picking what he wants, not so much inspecting each individual took but most certainly looking for specific ones.

What he needs them for is probably better off not known.

"Damn." The lack of the usual motorcycles out front is noticed as Richard approaches the building, his booted feet kicking up a bit of gravel and road-detritus. The Ravens, it seems, are out a'flocking somewhere without a Cardinal to join them in a splash of red on black. Still, they're likely to return eventually, so he heads for the open bay door. Devi won't mind if he lets himself in.

Unfortunately, he's not the first one here. And the other is a decidedly uninvited guest to the premises.

"Hey!" A bark from the man whose silhouette stands in the doorway, "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"

The cigarette bobbing up and down in the corner of Samson's mouth as he whistles comes to a halt — as does the whistling — the moment Cardinal's voice calls out. Flicking his eyes up towards the source of the noise, Samson swings his cigarette from one corner of his mouth to the other with a brush of his tongue. "I've got a leaky sink," he notes in sandpaper tone with a wryness to his half smile.

"I thought she lived alone too," Samson admits after the fact, slowly sliding one of the drawers shut before rising to stand up straight and suck on the filter of that cigarette, letting the ember glow hotly before he exhales the smoke in twin jets out both nostrils.

"Would it make much of a difference… if I said I'd give it back when I was done?" Samson asks with his thick brows furrowed. Nevermind the fact that no one needs a socket wrench to fix a sink.

"Not really, since you'd just be piling more bullshit on top of bullshit," Cardinal replies with a roll of his eyes behind the shades, pausing just inside the garage and gesturing with one hand towards the nylon backpack that the man's been loading up with stolen tools, "Just dump the fucking tools back out on the floor and I'll let you walk, old man."

He doesn't get too close, lingering there ot far from the open bay doors. People can be surprisingly strong at times, and a nice hefty wrench adds a bit to a swing. He'd rather not be picking teeth out of his shit in the morning.

Slowly, Samson's brows lift as his head tilts to the side and one gray brow lifts. Grease-stained fingers streak brown across the front of Samson's faded blue t-shirt, and his lips sag into a frown before those wiped fingers come up to pinch the cigarette out from his mouth. Samson's hazel eyes narrow for just a moment as his head cants to the side in bird-like manner.

"Do I know you?" There's a steeliness behind his expression, jaw set and index finger rolling the filter of his cigarette around against his thumb. There's a subtle sniff to the air as Samson tilts his head back, like a dog trying to pick up a scent. Stepping around the bag, Samson doesn't dump it out, but instead starts scuffing his sneakers against the concrete floor in slow, swaggering steps towards Cardinal.

"Because I can tell you're special, even this far away." The cigarette is flicked towards the floor, bouncing filter-first off of the concrete with tiny little flecks of ash and embers before it lands harmlessly on its side. "Now I'm just trying to jog this old man memory of mine… to remember if you're one of the ones who got away."

If there's something that Richard's learned over the years, it's that you can learn a lot from someone's eyes. The window to the soul, some say. Whether or not that's true, you can tell a lot from the look in their eyes, and the look in Samson Grey's puts him on his guard immediately.

This is not some helpless old man.

A hand drops beneath the unseasonable jacket he's wearing, fingers closing around the grip of the pistol there - thumb flicking the strap holding it open, and he draws on him, the short and ugly-looking pistol lifting up to level at the man's torso.

"You stop right the fuck there, old man," he states sharply, "Who the fuck are you?"

"The one who gets to ask the questions," presaged what usually works best for Samson, dramatic telekinesis with the raise of one brow. The gun first, wrenched out of Cardinal's hand and flung to the floor with a clatter and a scrape as it slides across the floor. Then with the more sweping gesture of swiping a hand to the side, the shadowmorph is lifted off of his feet and flipped around to slam against the narrow span of wall between the two garage bay doors.

"Now," Samson murmurs with one brow still lifted and fingers pointed towards Cardinal in an effort to keep him still against the wall. "Why don't we find out what it is up there that's making the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end…" The only problem with Samson's approach is that the element of surprise has already been wasted.

The initial attack was abrupt enough to catch Cardinal unaware, but without realizing just how ineffectual a kinetic pinning motion is against someone like Richard, Samson has an inflated sense of superiority.

"Wh—-" The gun twists away from his grip like an ungrateful child, Cardinal's gaze following it for a split second before he looks up again, "Oh, fuck, a telekine…" Then it's his turn, and he flips through the air, his sunglasses torn from his face with the motion to go skittering across the concrete floor.

A grunt's torn from him as he slams into the wall between the two doors, his eyes narrowing at the approach of the other man. "I don't think so, old man," he grits from between clenched teeth…

…and the light cast him dims, darkening as his form becomes a shadow against the wall, a fleshless silhouette that spills down the wall like a river and hits the floor, slithering tendrils of black heading towards where Samson's standing.

"What," doesn't have the normal punctuation of question that one would expect, it instead is stated flatly in simple disbelief of what just happened. In unusual expression of something resembling fear, Samson takes a stumbling step backwards, brows raised and shoes scuffing over the floor until that backpack rattles onto its side at a distance, and the torque wrench inside comes swinging out and spinning through the air.

But that isn't going to hurt a shadow, not at least until the wrench begins to glow orange with flecks of carbon imperfections dark against the heated quality of the metal. When the wrench explodes with the concussive force of a hand-grenade. It isn't the concussion that Samson wants though, but the flash of fiery light that comes with it.

The blast of brief fiery radiance from the ability harvested from Angelina Jackman acts something like a flashbang against Cardinal, a dazzling blast of dazing light and heat that arrests forward momentum of the shadow. Swallowing sharply, Samson lifts one warning hand towards the shadow, eyes wide.

"Impossible," is hissed between Samson's clenched teeth like a dirty secret.

The flash of released potential energy rather efficiently curbs the forward surge of the shadow — whatever a mere shadow could do to a man — and Cardinal recoils with an audible hiss that stirs through the air of the garage. At the speed of dark, the shadow moves into the deeper corners of the room, fading into ambient darkness so that he can't be so easily picked out.

So long as Samson stays in the light, he should be safe from the vashta nerada.

"You… YOU!…" A whisper tinged with rage, as the manifestation of dual abilities and the recognition of one click together in the head of the shadowman, "…I know you. You're like Gabriel…"

Hazel eyes narrow further at the name Gabriel. Of course everyone knows his son, and Samson's fingers curl tightly into fists as he stares down at the shadow. "I killed you," he grouses through his teeth, jaw still set tightly. "I'd like very much to figure out just how you pulled some immortality trick out of your hat."

Wait, what?

"Because I recognize that style. The sunglasses, the voice, the whispering in the dark…" One of Samson's hands lifts up, chin angling with it as if to regard the shadow down the bridge of his nose as he sidesteps into the bright and warm afternoon sunlight spilling in rectangular fashion thorugh the bay doors.

"You know me and I know you," Samson says in lyrical whimsy, but his scratchy voice does little to make the most of that tone. "Now I want to know how you're still here."

It cannot be argued that Cardinal hasn't cheated death.

He's pretty sure that this old man wasn't the one that left him one foot (and one hand, and all of his corporeality…) in the grave, however.

"I'm not that easy to kill… but— okay, I'll bite. Just who do you think I am, old man? …old man…" The derision in that whispering voice all but drips, a smoldering anger behind it. There's blood to be paid, in his opinion, and Samson's the one who needs to pay it.

"I never got your name. We played cat and mouse here on Staten Island for the better part of six hours back in nineteen…" Hazel eyes narrow slowly, and Samson's lips hang open in silent consideration, trying to remember when it really was. "Nineteen seventy-seven." Reaching to the back pocket of his jeans, Samson slowly withdraws a soft pack of Camel lights, smacking one cigarette out onto his palm and bringing it up to his lips, pinched between calloused fingers.

"Your ability is tricky, it was a challenge," and that has light glimmering in Samson's eyes that wasn't there before. Another glint is the way the tip of the cigarette glows very softly before popping once with a tiny spark of flame before burning normally. "You almost had me, set up a clever trap, but I had a different arsenal then than what I have now."

Sliding the cigarette to one side of his mouth with his tongue, Samson's weight rests back on his heels while he tucks the crumpled cigarette pack back into his pocket. "But in the end, you wound up like all the others here in the seventies." To wit, Samson draws a line across his own forehead with his thumb. "You died."

Which is to ask without actually asking: What's your secret?

A ripple of shadow washes over the gun where it'd fallen, and as it passes the weapon is gone, subsumed into the greater darkness that contrasts the spill of afternoon sunlight through the bay's open door.

"You're not very perceptive, then, old man… I wasn't even born in seventy-seven…" Of course, in a world of time travellers, who knows? It's a sobering, and unnerving idea that he might die some years before his birth. Stranger things have happened. "…and you might have a new bag of tricks but I'll wager you aren't half as fast as you were back then… back then…"

"I'm told there's a story about rabbits and turtles that means I don't need to worry about being fast," Samson opines before taking a long draw on that cigarette, then exhaling the smoke out his nostrils. "Maybe you don't age when you're in shadows, maybe you age slower, maybe you found the Fountain of Youth. I don't know," tendrils of smoke waft out of Samson's mouth as he breathes those words towards Cardinal with a subtly wheezing tone of voice.

"Unless you borrowed someone's face," Samson offers with another wheeze, "I don't think you're telling me the truth, and I don't much like that." Thin wisps of smoke that don't match the emission of the cigarette drift off of Samson's shoulders, rise off of his arms as if he were some sort of movie Vampire smoldering in the sunlight. But the smoke seems to do him no harm, in truth making him look somewhat ethereal on the edges at times.

Drawing on the cigarette again, Samson's head rolls to the side again and he reconsiders the shadow, "A hunter doesn't ever forget the face of prey."

"Then I won't forget yours… yours…"

The truth be told, the idea has Richard more than a little disturbed. The fact that he very well could end up some thirty years in the past, just in time to be murdered by this chain-smoking killer, is one that he'd really not rather think about right now. He knows he can change the future. Can he change the past?

No… there has to be some other explanation.

"…I don't care what you believe. This is the only time I've ever seen you in the flesh, old man. You killed Angel. You killed Wendy. God knows how many others, but those - those're the one I care about." The shadows move and whisper, fading through the room - getting a good vantage point on the smoky figure.

One puff of smoke from the corner of Samson's mouth is his immediate response before sucking on the cigarette again, the ember burning down and a long finger of ash hanging crooked off of the end of the cigarette. "You," Samson says breathily with an exhalation of wafting and hot smoke from his mouth, "should be more worried about people you can save, not damage that's already been done." While Samson may have played a game of cat and mouse with Cardinal at some point in the 1970s, something seem to be keeping Samson's hand at bay from pursuing that game a second time. Maybe Cardinal is right, maybe he is slower, maybe the victory was so narrow tat the thought of trying those odds again is unappetizing. Too many maybes.

"Don't need you right now," Samson notes with a huff of smoke again, false bravado in the face of his own uncertainty. "Had your ability once, an' you can do a few things I can't… but…" The but sounds so tentative as if to be warily stated or carefully worded. "Not worth that risk again."

Who, though, the cat - and who the mouse?

As the sins of the past are dismissed as easily as the wave of a hand, as the statement is made that he doesn't need Cardinal's power, a living shadow moves amongst the dead, up along the ceiling of the garage, past the bay doors and that pool of light to find an angle opposite and above the inuitive that stands seemingly untouchably in the light.

Obviously, Samson never watched the Incredibles. He does far too much monologuing.

A hand emerges with that recovered weapon from the shadows as if rising from a still pool of black water that ripples not. He has little time to aim, concerned that he'll be spotted if he lingers overlong, but a finger pulls down on the trigger as the barrel drops towards the man's smoking form - and the sharp crack of a gunshot echoes through the garage.

Were it not for Archie Rassmussen's danger sense, Samson probably would've been dead. But Archie's death means that Samson survives the encounter, and when the bullet punches through smoke instead of flesh the noise of the ricochet isn't entirely unsurprising. Samson literally explodes into a whirling cloud of black smoke and sooty ash that falls from the cloud like snow. It's a violent and elemental expression of something similar to Cardinal's own capabilities. Blossoming outward as if windblown,t he shadows swell in voluminous fashion, crackling arcs of electricity bursting between layers of smoke and ash with embers of fire falling down from where the electricity sparks.

With only a telekinetic rumble in his wake, Samson disrupts the interior of the shop, unaware of where the atack came from, only that it was coming. The blind attempt to cover his escape comes with a knocking over of shelves, loose tools flying wildly in the air and all amidst a cloud of obscuring stovepipe eruption.

The smoke funnels out of both doors of the garage and then cyclones across the street, sending a pedestrian on the street running for cover from the violent Samson-storm with a scream.

When the smoke clears and the last airborne tool clatters to the ground, there is only a half smoked cigarette smoldering on the floor where Samson was standing.

"Sonuvabitch." The word's spoken into the echoing silence that follows the departure of the living storm, as Richard Cardinal steps free of the shadows to gaze at the fallen cigarette for a long moment, the gun holstered under his arm once more, safety flicked on with a near-silent click.

His apparent murderer long gone, he walks over to crouch beside the discarded knapsack, rooting around in it with gloved hands. Devi's tools are hauled out, clanking solidly to the concrete floor. A surgical kit, plastic box cracked open, closed, dropped to one side. That could've come in handy when he was fixing the mechanic's side. A pack of smokes is tossed carelessly back over his shoulder. When he unzips a pocket, though, he comes up with a key, brow furrowing as he turns it over. 316 are the numbers on the key - a safety deposit style key, at least from the looks of it. Of course, figuring out what it goes to? That's the real question.

Maybe it's time he had that beer with Gabriel.

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