The Wolves In Wolves' Clothing


cat_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif harlow2_icon.gif peyton_icon.gif

Scene Title The Wolves In Wolves' Clothing
Synopsis A human supremacist terrorist meets the Ferrywomen and associate and discuss a few newcomers to the herd. There's no better time to be redrawing the lines in the sand.
Date October 29, 2009

Central Park

Central Park has been, and remains, a key attraction in New York City, both for tourists and local residents. Though slightly smaller, approximately 100 acres at its southern end scarred by and still recovering from the explosion, the vast northern regions of the park remain intact.

An array of paths and tracks wind their way through stands of trees and swathes of grass, frequented by joggers, bikers, dog-walkers, and horsemen alike. Flowerbeds, tended gardens, and sheltered conservatories provide a wide array of colorful plants; the sheer size of the park, along with a designated wildlife sanctuary add a wide variety of fauna to the park's visitor list. Several ponds and lakes, as well as the massive Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, break up the expanses of green and growing things. There are roads, for those who prefer to drive through; numerous playgrounds for children dot the landscape.

Many are the people who come to the Park - painters, birdwatchers, musicians, and rock climbers. Others come for the shows; the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Delacorte Theater, the annual outdoor concert of the New York Philharmonic on the Great Lawn, the summer performances of the Metropolitan Opera, and many other smaller performing groups besides. They come to ice-skate on the rink, to ride on the Central Park Carousel, to view the many, many statues scattered about the park.

Some of the southern end of the park remains buried beneath rubble. Some of it still looks worn and torn, struggling to come back from the edge of destruction despite everything the crews of landscapers can do. The Wollman Rink has not been rebuilt; the Central Park Wildlife Center remains very much a work in progress, but is not wholly a loss. Someday, this portion of Central Park just might be restored fully to its prior state.

Central Park is in that uncomfortable transitionary period between autumn and winter, accelerated by the man- (mutant-) made voracity of the weather in the past few weeks. Tree's up like crucified arms, a charred shade of brown, denuded of their plumage as expediently as a butcher strips a slain chicken. Only every one out of four wrought iron-bracketed benches is empty. Kids, elderly, adults roving about in plump marshmallow anoraks, briefcases, running shoes, but nothing yet of that sugarplum frosting of snow that would have made this worthy of a postcard. It smells of rainfall, still, with none of the heat that would have given it the overtone of fertility. That's still a long, hard winter away.

Lunch-time brings a lonely thirty-year-old secretary with a brown paper bag, a liverspotted man pushing a hotdog cart, anticipation of profit knuckling his hands white around the railing and stretching his mouth wide around a smile full of teeth, mustard tube rattling against ketchup tube and wheels on their spokes. God love America. Humanis First! seems wont to fuck things up for several people involved when it tries anything besides hate.

Harlow's choice of locale implied several things about her, or at least her situation. The most conspicuous fact is that it's fair, its open space, scattered and chatty pedestrians but low density falling at the proper point along the continuum between public and private that anyone would be a fucking moron to try something. It's peculiarly polite, for a bigot, stands in logical corollary to the implicit fact that she's operating alone, without support, due to her stated interests— corroborated by Wireless' research into the Aniston family tree— laying in diametric conflict with that of her organization. The wind whistles low. She isn't late yet, though she said she would try to be early.

There's nothing about her appearance in this place which might indicate she holds three degrees from Yale, and certainly also nothing to mark her as an attorney. Non-descript t-shirt, a plain light jacket with a hood to shield against skies which give forth water, sturdy boots and jeans along with a New York Yankees cap pulled a bit low. Cat's eyes travel over various persons in the vicinity as she waits for the person she's here to meet with.

"I hope she doesn't peg me for the daughter of a mayoral candidate," she mutters.

Rounding one of the paths is Peyton Whitney, bundled in a houndstooth wool coat and a red scarf, jeans and boots. Sunglasses hide her eyes as she approaches the particular bench at the particular crossroads specified at the specified time. One hand is shoved deep in her pockets, fingers curled around a cell phone, prepared to pull it out and call for help at the nearest sign of danger. She doesn't head to the bench right away but sips at the coffee, a venti Starbucks soy milk Chai latte, if one can read the hyroglyphics on the side of the cup. She catches sight of Cat and begins to walk that way, lifting the cup slightly in greeting.

Standing beside Cat is a younger, smaller woman dressed in dark colours that contrast with her washed out complexion and the sickly gray sky overhead. Eileen wears her pea coat with its collar turned up, buttons snug, a cashmere headscarf covering her hair and knotted under her chin to keep her curls from blowing errant in the breeze. "I don't think you have anything to worry about," she tells Cat as she slips gloved hands into the pockets of her coat and tips her head in Peyton's direction, welcoming their latest addition with her eyes instead of a gently curving mouth or a spoken salutation. This afternoon is not an afternoon for smiles. "What does it matter if she recognizes you?"

Clicking, behind Peyton. A bounce of sheer silk— not pure, but boldly patterned and soft enough to block a man's of her hair and perception of it, the way that the broad olive lenses and gold-runged ivory rims of her sunglasses do as much to shift attention away from the identifiable particulars of her face and coloring as to physically conceal them. Her coat is white. She is every inch the social circus mother bear that Peyton had met at St. Luke's Hospital, and not easily identifiable as the khakied and coarsely ponytailed tomboy Joseph had groaned Bible verses in.

No push of a revolver to the small of Miss Whitney's back, nothing even particularly sudden about the swoop of her stride in joining her on her course. Harlow falls into sloping step, offers a salutation in a clinically clipped, clean accent: "Good afternoon. Please introduce me."

"Hopefully not so much," Cat replies quietly enough as one hand rests on the Russian dictionary in a pocket and eyes continue to take in the surroundings, "I'm just not very enthused about the prospects of being linked to the campaign." Peyton is spotted and acknowledged in the same fashion as Eileen used, just before the woman joined stride with her. "Heads up," she advises, "Seems it's showtime."

With Jean Harlow falling into stride with her, Peyton feels dwarfed. She swallows, audibly. There may not be a gun pushed into her ribs, there may not be the metallic click of a safety being released, but Harlow wears danger like a perfume. It envelops her. "Okay," she manages, her voice not very confident, as she glances up at the blond beside her and then toward the two brunettes they approach. Once within easy speaking distance, she nods to the others.

"Cat," she says with a meaningful glance to the taller of the two, "Eileen," she adds, nodding toward the more diminutive. "This is Jean." She glances over at Harlow, expecting her to run the show from there. She's already told Cat she had used her power and was able to tell from the hallway decor as a drugged Belinda glanced through the doorway of her confinement — the girl is in the Suresh Center.

Eileen's hands remain exactly where they are: in her pockets. She watches Harlow from behind a porcelain mask that appears considerably more relaxed than she has any right to be, but as everyone here knows, appearances are often as deceiving as what's underneath them. Nearby, a large black bird with a band of metal glinting around its leg comes to roost in the branches of sturdy old oak and sinks talons into the bark to secure its perch. One oily marble of an eye rolls in its socket and slides a membrane across its glistening surface.

She does not speak again, at least not yet.

Cat. Eileen. Harlow. And this would be Peyton, registered in the Humanis First! operative's memory with a tall Arab boy and a small smile. The taller woman parks her stride when Peyton does, taking up her post at one corner of a square-shaped slab of smoothworn asphalt.

A trickle of wheeling mittens and bouncing coated bodies unravels in the distance behind her, the tinny screams of children stretched thinner still by the distance of the terrain. "Not that I want to start off on the wrong foot," she says, her contralto too smooth to hold a sneer. Her eyelashes rake dark behind the translucency of her shades, "but I was expecting someone older. Not for the cattle-rustling part of the program, but to make sure what I have to offer is taken care of. Efficiently and permanently.

"I plan to come out of this with fewer enemies and threats to my daughter's wellbeing, not more. The boys aren't going to like what I've done and am about to do. You understand."

Harlow is quietly taken measure of as she approaches; Cat's mind making an estimation of height, weight, and age along with recording her features in memory and scanning those already present for any recollection of this woman. She waits until Harlow finishes speaking to reply, her words coming in calm tones from an impassive face. "I do understand," she supplies, "and you've no reason to feel concern what you have to offer won't be properly handled." There will be no addressing the topic of her twenty-six years as either old or young.

The newcomer to the Evolved movement has little to offer in terms of resources or experience, so Peyton simply remains quiet. She's not there by choice but because Harlow pulled her into this by gunpoint, and because somehow by chance she's been made the liaison between the others there. It's a strange place for her to be, someone who has avoided responsibility for anything her entire life. She takes a sip of her Chai; in her pocket her fingers are still curled around her cell phone, as if it were some talisman.

"It's unfortunate how reality so often falls short of our expectations," Eileen agrees with Harlow, her tone — like Cat's — carefully neutral. The bird in the tree remains gargoyle-still, staring down its beak at the gathering of women on the pavement below. "I, for one, was anticipating a challenge when my people moved on your operation in Flushing. You can imagine our disappointment upon discovery that several thousand dollars worth of unregistered firearms were being safeguarded by an Arab and an Irishman with one soldier's worth of competency between them." A pause. "Not to get off on the wrong foot."

'My people.' Despite that Harlow's eyes are covered up (tactical, the way the bird in the bough is tactical), it's palpable when her attention shifts and locks on Eileen out of the three, despite that she's a few seconds before realigning her head to face the young Englishwoman. The wind snatches at her scarf, doesn't quite unseat it from the neatly clayed roof of her head. Eventually, she cracks a smile.

It's probably a little surprising there isn't an audible crack to go with it. "Well, I haven't heard of either Khalid or William's pet Mick reinitiating contact with anybody who cares, public or otherwise, so that stands you in good stead. Other than the fact that you probably figured out, with their help, that that wasn't my operation. Our cells are generally discrete entities, though we do check in with one another. Have you found my daughter yet? Are the tabloids right— she's at the hospital?" It's an abrupt question, without segue, not exactly tactless.

She stopped at precisely the point where she'd otherwise begin to elaborate, on how recently she'd heard from one Emile Danko.

"We know where she is," Cat provides as eyes move from Harlow to Eileen and back again, "and have formulations on how to extract her. She isn't at the hospital." Unflappable in her appearance and demeanor, there's no doubt shown regarding their capacity to carry off the goal. Mental notes are made regarding what Eileen and Harlow speak of. So that's why Peyton had said the Irishman she saw was in darkness, she muses internally while reconfirming her decision not to speak of what happened with Bill Dean and his group.

There's a visible shiver when the Irishman is mentioned, and a twitch near Peyton's mouth as she glances at Eileen. She stands tense, not offering her own answer as to where Belinda is — the last thing she needs is HF to know what she really can do. She's not about to speak up and offer her services to Harlow. She'll do what she can to help Eileen and Cat do what they need to do, but unless she's threatened, she isn't offering her power up on a platter. She chews her lower lip nervously, before tossing the half full cup into a nearby trash can.

Peyton's shivering does not go unnoticed. With the way Eileen's attention remains on Harlow, however, it's likely the Briton chalks it up to the chill and does not read too much into the movement — or if she does, she decides not to acknowledge it. A faint tic seizes the muscles in her neck when the cup, weighed down by liquid, hits the bottom of the trash can with an audible thump and sprays it interior with a wet spatter while the bird up in the tree rumples its feathers in irritation and parts its beak around a thin hiss. The sound is more like air leaking out of a punctured balloon than it is a noise one might expect an animal to make.

"I think we're going to need some assurance that you won't turn on us again when this is over," Eileen says. "What exactly are you willing to offer us in exchange for your daughter's safety?"

"I command a cell of eighteen men," Harlow answers the prompt, easy as filling in a bubble on a scan-a-tron answer sheet with a cloud of solid graphite. "Most of them are ex-military. Reasonably loyal to me and the others. I also run logistics for other operations. Yahoos with shotguns, assisting Danko—" you know Danko, right? inquires a quizzical cant of glacial brows, "sometimes.

"I'm willing to sabotage most of that, get you— or law enforcement— seven names of other notably Humanis First! members to do what you want with. I also have one outsource contact that may interest you, although I realize such investigations may be better suited to law enforcement. Your assurance is that once Belinda is removed from DHS custody, people are going to be looking for me. Asking for me in very loud voices— louder than they are now. And Humanis First! will expect me to choose, and suspect I've already made my choice.

"And I have." A beat's pause. She speaks with certainty, finality, the rhetoric of firm belief. Which probably makes sense on some levels: her bigotry didn't apparently hold enough water, ideologically, to warrant her keeping her loyalties with the terrorist group in question, but she certainly passed herself off long enough. To commit a few murders, probably. A few. "What do Belinda's prospects and prognosis look like?"

"DHS isn't known for being reasonable," Cat replies, "and their habit is to make people disappear forever without trial at the slightest of excuses with no mention of such things to the public at all. It's not a sound strategy, it preserves the impression they're not doing anything. The likelihood is also they're keeping her on a chemical substance which seems to decrease lucidity. We will, therefore, undertake to extract her from their custody before they have a chance to move her to a much more difficult location."

She's still showing the poker face, but something in her eyes suggests having done such things before with success. Cat is, at the least, not daunted by the prospect of such operations. "What do you intend to do, where do you plan to go, once she's been extracted?"

Peyton watches the conversation like a tennis match, her eyes unseen behind their shades, but her head moving slightly as each of the women speak. She backs up and sits on the bench, since she has very little to contribute. Her face is pale, juxtaposed against her dark hair and dark glasses. The wind whips her hair like a lash around her cheeks, as she wears no cap or scarf to cover it.

Silent again, Eileen listens to Cat speak with the detachedness Harlow might expect from someone with a minimal amount of emotional investment in her daughter's well-being. Enough to fill a thimble. Maybe a few ounces more. Belinda Aniston is a stranger, but Margaret Simpson, Obie Sanchez and Salvatore Bianco were Ferrymen — the difference between Eileen and the two women on either side of her has everything to do with that distinction and the implications attached to it.

While Cat may be focusing on the best way to extract little Belinda from the custody of Homeland Security, Eileen is already doing math in her head, working the numbers for what comes after. It isn't revenge that she seeks as much at it is closure, an end to the conflict between this organization and the one to which Harlow belongs.

Reuniting the Aniston girl with her mother is only the first step of many.

There's something for everybody in Harlow's picnic basket. Metaphorical, despite that she did indeed bring them to Central Park, of all places.

Nice for the matriarch of the Aniston family to know that all the bases she'd covered were, strictly speaking, necessary: the differences between the three wome she's faced with are not lost on her. Eileen who's grave with unsympathetic pragmatism, Cat proactively abiding by righteous principle, Peyton who would appear to be working through both and terrified besides. She could have guessed. The Ferrymen's decentralized nature has been apparent to her for months. "New identities. We'll move. I don't know where yet, but I can afford to have her homeschooled for a few months."

How absurdly like a mother, that that's the second thing out of the gate. Tuition.

Her lips flatten, after a moment. Whiten. Grim, thoughtful, maybe both. "Is she still sick? I always felt it was her ability making her so. Unmanifested. The physical stress of it." The question's both honest and a test, to know if they've seen her. Where.

"Her medical records, so far as I've seen, don't shed light on reasons for her condition," Cat supplies, "they simply say it exists. Stress is very possible. There could also be depression over the situation she finds herself in and for things which happened." There are a number of things the panmnesiac could add; her thoughts being similar to Eileen's as to ending conflict and her dealings with Harlow being similar to other decisions made during her time in New York. That revenge, while sweet, doesn't bring back the dead. In most cases, other things matter more than personal vendettas anyway. And in the end, she'd hope someday the persons closest to people she's had a hand in killing will likewise let that go.

Peyton glances down. She met Belinda, along with Harlow, so she knows how sick the girl was. She felt the girl's cold and clammy skin, saw how pale she was, knows that she was truly sick. All she could tell from her peeks into Belinda's surroundings was that the girl is still in medical care, and likely sedated as well as suppressed. She stares at the toes of her boots, as if willing herself to be anywhere but here.

Here's an awkward place to be, it's understandable. Even to Harlow, whose life has gotten somewhat more complicated, as of late, than a mercenary terrorist's should be. She can't really say she hadn't seen it coming, though. Resignation would be unprofessional, but there's a dedicated absence of surprise to her as she presides over the smaller women, the look of one who's been bracing, preparing, perhaps, for a very long time.

Otherwise, one might mistake her for a film agent speculating over this season's crop of skinny white potentials. "You get her out. However you need to, with or wihtout my help and supplies. I see her, verify it's her, and not some metamorph with a talent in improvisational theater," no offense intended, but she isn't going to slight Eileen by tacking that on aloud, this time. "I can give you my operatives before or after, depending on where and when you want to take them or delegate that to. But the rest waits until after."

There's a gingerness to her saying so, like she very, very much suspects that that's giving a little much. Of course, it's no cleverer a deception than anybody who knows how to bargain in a flea market, but at the very least— under the circumstances— it feels as fair as Harlow can bring herself to make it.

"We'll be in contact," Cat assures tersely as she takes a few steps toward Peyton. Her features remain inscrutable, the mind moving from one thing to another. Getting Belinda out, getting the drop on HF through her mother, tracking down nuclear weapons which can't be disarmed, wondering if Redbird's gang will stop Mr. White from altering North America's coastline forever, pondering the plans of technopaths without bodies, wondering which Nathan is really in the White House…

She's a woman who relies on keeping busy to hold her demons and guilts at bay, not one to often let on what she really feels. Perfect memories of harrowing things kept down by almost constantly making new ones. Her hand moves on the Russian dictionary in a pocket slightly.

Fortunately for Cat the world is far from boring. Staying busy to keep from dwelling on that which troubles?

It's easy.

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