Time to Upgrade


laura_icon.gif rupe_icon.gif

Scene Title Time to Upgrade
Synopsis Laura leaves a pointed message for the owner of Carmichael Manor.
Date January 5, 2009

Carmichael Manor

Rupe is a night owl, but he is also a man of schedules. All lights click off in Carmichael Manor at shortly before 2 AM as they do most nights. By 4, everyone in the house is quite soundly asleep. The security system is alarmed and tape rolls on security cameras, both hidden and visible.

The alley behind the tightly packed row of high class houses remains lit by only a single light. This is Shedda Dinu's back entrance. The light is dull, providing only enough illumination to see an industrial keypad with a heavy locked door. A camera with infrared rolls here, fed to a private study rather than the Manor's main security suite.

The windows are all alarmed, and the lowest windows have decorative bars. The house is no fortress, but there is a reason that the Manor and the treasures within survived the riots and looting following the bomb.

Dressed in a bodysuit perhaps two or three shades shy of true black, and with her distinctive hair tucked beneath a similarly-hued balaclava, Laura isn't quite invisible in the winter darkness, but she is just one more shadow. Albeit one with a small backpack. She spent several days canvassing this particular residence before finally deciding it would be decently entertaining to break into; the keypad on the back door is both intriguing and a cause for scorn on the burglar's part. The camera, on the other hand, Laura approves of. Even though it's a setup she can hack into, program a timed loop for, and leave completely unaware of her presence — it's still a good security measure. Just not better than her.

Judicious tapping of a wire not in the camera's field of view (oops), a few seconds' work to turn a preprogrammed bit of code loose on the system, and then the thief can turn her attention to the keypad. There's another device for that.

The keypad is good, but it is not of the quality that a bank or other secret facility might have. It is simply for the convenience of Shedda Dinu members. Most burglars would be turned off by the sight of the keypad, rather than intrigued. It wouldn't take much for someone in the know to hack it. 7, 7, 8, 2, 4, 6. A string of numbers that's long enough to be secure, but not too random to not be easily remembered.

Once the keypad is surprassed, it opens on… a disappointing sight, no doubt. The manor house's basement is all old, exposed brick. The floor is poured cement with practical, yet high quality area rugs. There's a cluster of comfortable sofas, a large LCD TV and a Nintendo Wii. There are a set of mats in one corner and several pieces of state-of-the-art exercise equipment. The space is large, cavernous almost — though with low ceilings and a faintly musky scent. There's also a row of lockers and an expensive-looking antique billiard table with carved wooden legs. One corner of the room holds what looks like a storage room, but with very secure, metal reinforced walls and a heavy locking mechanism on the door. The lock to that is currently open.

The basement is indeed a disappointment — although, with her tendency to see things through silver-lined lenses, Laura soon shifts to studying its contents and wondering why. Why does what amounts to someone's living room merit a keypad entry? (She wasn't watching when the members of Shedda Dinu assembled.) Walking through the room, the woman idly runs gloved fingers along the edge of the billiard table, admiring the piece of furniture with an eye that can decently estimate its value. Then Laura catches sight of the unlocked lock, and freezes, studying it with narrowed eyes. There's two reasons to leave something like that open: either someone's in there, or they're very stupid. She strains her ears to try and listen for any noise on the other side, and fervently hopes it's the latter.

No sounds from the 'storage area'. There's no clanking, no breathing — and the light switch, which is just outside the door, appears to be off. The lock on the door, if studied more closely, seems clearly designed to keep someone in rather than out.

Curiosity may've killed the cat, but Laura's no feline. Or so she tells herself whenever she bothers to remember that old adage. Steps soft on the rug-padded floor, she makes her cautious way over to the unlocked door. Stops to listen. Reaches out one hand and slowly, carefully, pushes the door in. Patience is one of Laura's virtues when she's on the job.

The door opens, perhaps with more noise than she was expecting. The door is heavy, clearly reinforced, and scrapes fairly low to the ground. It makes a faint grinding noise against the cement floor. Inside, there is nothing but a table with a folding chair on either side. There are recessed lights in the ceiling, but no windows.

Curiouser and curiouser. Laura's gaze sweeps over the terribly empty cell on the other side; her forehead creases in a bewildered frown, but the woman does nothing more than pull the door back to its prior position, or a close approximation thereof. Then she walks back through the basement. Time to investigate the upstairs.

The noise, at first at least, doesn't seem to have alerted anyone. It's a big house and the nearest people are sleeping two floors away.

The staircase leading to the upstairs is surprisingly finished in old world elegance. It's the wooden staircase that provides a transition to the very different, far less modern upstairs. It seems either care or resistance to change has preserved the Manor house in Victorian grandeur. Everywhere one looks there are artifacts, either authentic or faithful replicas that are in themselves quite old and valuable. The door to the basement is quite notably inconspiculous. Upon passing the door, one would easily mistake it for a pantry, especially given the fact the staircase leads up right next to the kitchen.

The kitchen itself does have modern appliances, but in a grand, elegant and very expensive way that lets them blend in with the rest of the house, by virtue of their price tag. This is a home with no small amount of money sunk into it. Everything is silent and spotless and cozily warm. There is the scent of a wood fire only extinguished a short time ago.

It's the kind of place Laura is eminently familiar with, in her fashion and in a very general sense. San Francisco, Denver, New York City… they're all home to plenty of people with more money than sense. Including Laura herself, but she does have the sense to keep a wary eye (and ear) out for any sleepwalkers as she eases the basement door to a position of not-quite-shut. Which also means she doesn't spend very long in the kitchen, that being the most likely place for any such to wander into. Though she does take the time to admire the artifacts. Unfortunately distinctive, most of them, but expensive, especially to the right fence. And Laura has the connections to find such a person. So she lets herself admire.

Many of the artifacts are notably from Mesopotamia, or very good copies of them. There is a particularly impressive statue of a stone lion, weather-worn, but in surprisingly good shape for its age. Some of the artifacts are Greek, still others are from the Arab world, China and even ancient Russia. The pieces vary wildly, but the one thing most have in common is a certain…oddness to them. The lion, for instance, seems to have a snake tongue. Very few of these pieces are movable. Rupe isn't about to leave things sitting around that could be pocketed by visitors.

Moving further into the foyer, the artifacts become more typical, more leaning towards the tastes of the Victorian era. Perhaps one of the most striking features of the den is a zebra skin rug that looks fairly old and authentic.

There's movable, and then there's movable. If Laura were really interested in things to sell on the street, she would indeed be very disappointed. On the other hand, in that case she would've brought a vehicle of some sort, and some of the pieces would find their way back out the basement door. The lion statue receives a bright grin.

That will do for a start.

The backpack comes off, and from beneath the technological gadgets are extracted a magpie's collection of miscellaneous things. Grease pens; lengths of ribbon and folded sections of cellophane; a couple small containers of the sort that might be expected to hold beads, little and easily-lost hardware pieces, or fishing tackle; and a length of star garland that is quickly twisted into an impromptu crown for the leonine sculpture.

The sort of stuff that can be employed to convey the message someone was here. More importantly, the ancillary sentiment your security has failed.

Rupe is a man whose mind constantly spins. Sometimes that means sleep doesn't last for long, as on this early morning. His study is down the hall from his bedroom, which requires a trip along the landing that looks down into the foyer where the lion sits. He moves quietly by necessity — Charity and Christa are asleep, and even the eccentric man isn't insensitive enough to wake them. He might not have seen Laura at all, were it not for the flash of the porch light glinting off the star garland. He drops back, thin and lanky frame hidden by the shadow at the top of the landing. His breath is even, his gaze studious as he searches for signs of movement.

Secure in the certain knowledge that everyone is asleep — no lights or noises have indicated otherwise, after all! — Laura is completely unaware she's acquired an audience. The zebra-hide rug is dragged just far enough to one side that it's obviously been disturbed — as blatant a movement as any observer could ask for — and a couple of the other artifacts also acquire ribbon ornamentation before the young woman takes her things and retreats back towards the kitchen. Female, of slight build; such can be easily determined about the intruder. The pause in which Laura surveys the foyer one last time allows Rupe a glimpse of her face, though distance and darkness prevent much more than a general impression from being gleaned.

It doesn't take long for Rupe to recognize Laura's actions as mischief rather than something more malicious. He could hit a panic button and have her arrested, but the gall of her actions is fascinating. So he just watches, and for a moment she might get a sense she's being watched. He memorizes as much of her features as he can in that brief glance, but otherwise, stays completely still.

She might notice, but that was earlier. The kitchen countertops are dosed with swirls of glitter dispensed from one of those small containers — red and green glitter, as befits the recently-concluded holiday season. Then Laura slips out the way she came (also unplugging the Wii and moving it to the other side of the television set, although without doing anything so kind or time-consuming as hooking it back up in its new place), leaving the camera system to remain looped for another two minutes before it goes back to normal recording operation… of nothing but empty space.

After he's given the mischievous little imp a chance to escape, Rupe descends the staircase to survey the 'damage'. He cocks his head at the crowned lion, then reaches out to straighten the garland. He walks around, examining glitter and moved rug. For a moment, his face is dark, then slowly, it breaks into a smile, and then a silent, shoulder-shaking laugh. Well. Perhaps he should upgrade his security.

January 4th: Anything but Grace
January 5th: Make My Mark
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