Trouble Makers


cesar_icon.gif gillian_icon.gif

Scene Title Trouble Makers
Synopsis Cesar goes to find Gillian and ask her some more questions about the food thefts, in hopes of gaining some more insight into the case and Hailey Gerken.
Date April 3, 2018

Red Hook Market

When Agent Diaz sent his correspondence to Gillian, the message conveyed a seriousness in chosen words that requested her presence for a meet up at the Red Hook market storage depot. For weeks now, nearing a month’s time, SESA had been investigating the theft and the rumor was they were nowhere near the closure of the case. They barely even had a suspect. Forensics had been to both Red Cross and the market, studied and combed over both sites, and the reports still left heads scratching.

Deputy Director Choi’s memo to the field agents spurred on Cesar to press on, and, now as lead agent on the investigation, he’s taken the horse by the reins. Where he’s riding to, though, remains an unknown.

“Thanks for meeting me here, Ms. Childs,” he says, a light handshake given to get formalities out of the way. He sets his hat down on a rolling cart that’s been borrowed for a shelf space and makeshift table. They stand within the boundaries of the caution tape used to border the storage unit, a bit out of the way of the general market populace though their sounds can be heard echoing through and off the brick and metal of the former factory space. “I’m hoping this won’t take too much of your time, but also I hope you have a bit reserved to go over some things about the theft, and what you discussed previously with Agent Lin.” He takes out a recorder, one of those old skool affairs, and holds it up so she knows that they will be recorded. The agent then flips it on, pushes the record button, and speaks for the mic.

“Please tell me where you were the night of the theft, March 2nd, 2018.”

The lack of a third theft might be the only thing keeping people from panicking that SESA hadn’t figured it out yet. No deaths from starvation— one small food riot, but that seemed to have been prompted by fear rather than actual hunger and desperation. There were some accounts of people charging more than necessary, but otherwise… Until it happened again, Gillian doubted people would panic too much. They were still able to get food— even if not as much as they might have wished to have access to.

“I went to a few places, but I know you’re specifically asking about my trip to the Market. It had been toward the evening hours. I was trying to find a large cage for my roof, an enclosure for an animal. A monkey, specifically. I ended up finding a few items, including a jungle gym, which I spent the next day setting up in my yard.” A jungle gym for Jim to swing on. “I felt… my ability allows me to increase the energy of other SLC-Expressives, like myself. It gives me a sense of those who have abilities, kind of, as well. And I felt a lot of them while I was there. Nothing seemed to be going on at the time, so I dismissed it.”

That had been before the thefts were discovered, before anyone else had mentioned anything about it. But once she had heard about it she remembered, because it had been unusual. “It’s kind of like fireflies. Seeing them. Except I don’t really see them.” It’s different than sight— though she’s not sure she could explain it. “Usually there’s one or two nearby, or none at all, like now…” Cause he’s not SLC-Expressive and no one else was close enough, “But that night it was almost like there was a lot of them, as I told the other Agent.”

“So you were present here at the market,” Cesar repeats for the sake of making sure it’s in the recorder. Although his brow lifts at the mention of a monkey, followed by another hike at the mention of her ability’s sense. “Lin mentioned you felt many presences that night, and that’s somewhat unusual. You say there’s one or two usually. Would you say that on that night, what you felt, there were countable numbers?” he asks curiously. “Are you able to sense the type of ability when you feel it?”

“It is unusual, to feel that many so close together. I think I dismissed it at first— the sense isn’t new to me, and it doesn’t exactly mess up, but there have been some oddities with it in the past and I’m sure there will be more…” Gillian hesitates for a moment, but then shakes her head. “I don’t think I could count it, no.” And she’s not sure she could recall it well enough to count the number of sensations.

“But there is the possibility it could be just one person. I had— during the war— I worked with a replicator.” She doesn’t want to say it’s her brother, since he hadn’t been— officially. “If there were five of him in a room, I would feel five presences. The same thing has happened before with animal telepathy— that little knot of energy is in the animal they’re inside. And I’ve never tried, but I imagine if there had been someone who could change into water or some other element that could break apart, each little piece of them might have the sensation, too.”

Her explanation of how her ability works fascinates Cesar. The man leans in, interest glinting in his dark eyes. Interest piques as she describes animal telepathy as it pertains to her, and he’s quick to jump on his next inquiry. “Are you aware of an incident at Elmhurst hospital regarding a young woman named Hailey Gerken? The report of another woman visiting her provoked a disturbance. Gerken’s ability resulted… in a swarm of sewer rats to come up from the pipes and invaded the hospital floor she was on. And while it was a mostly harmless incident and no arrests were made, it was a bit of a mess.” He pauses, then gets to the real questions at large, “Do you know Hailey Gerken, and where we might find her?”

“Ah, yes, I— know about that incident,” Gillian responds with a sigh as she recalls her good friend Eve sending her a ton of texts that arrived all at the same time about how they took her Tuba and she should press charges and how she was getting sent to rehab and— yeah. She kinda wished she would have tracked the woman down and gotten the full story. “Hailey is currently staying with me. I vouched for her presence in the Safe Zone and I’m going to try to get her to stay in a more official capacity.”

Which would, in the end, require her to register. But visiting did not, and for the moment that’s what she really was— a visitor, not a resident. She needed time to heal, with the injury that she’d gotten. A safe, warm environment where she could stay clean, which Gillian can provide her.

“That’s where you can find her.” At her house. Which she’s sure he has the address too. She’s not only registered, but a public figure. Most people could find out where she lived if they had the know how and desire to. “How is that incident related?”

Ah if only Gillian knew just who took Eve to the Benchmark. That tidbit is, for now, left aside. The agent looks visibly surprised with the note that Hailey is staying with Gillian. “Oh,” he utters, blinking and scratching at the stubbling on his chin. “Well, we’d like to ask her a couple questions about… how her ability works. The way it manifested in the hospital is believed to be similar to our findings at both depots.” He doesn’t come off as accusing, but curious as he speaks, still puzzling out his thoughts. “Particularly in the way we found evidence of a large presence - larger than usual, I guess you could say - of rats congregated in the sewers beneath.”

Cesar goes on, “But the biggest mystery yet, Chairman… is that question. How?” He gestures to the units around them. “How did all the food that was up here get down under, without a single broken lock?” And it’s here that the agent shakes his head still with the feeling of disbelief of it all. “And how to stop it from happening again.” Because that would be bad for everybody. Cesar’s feeling of dread shows in his dark features.

“I’ve known her since she manifested, Agent Diaz,” Gillian offers after a moment. “Or at least since we knew she manifested. We all thought her talent was just an affinity with animals, at first, like any child who loved creatures.” But she had realized it had been something more than that, had felt it. Has felt the pull of her ability on that little twelve year old girl. “She can feel the emotions of animals. Mammals, birds— possibly even fish, I haven’t really asked her about them. Not bugs, but definitely mammals and reptiles and birds. And animals can sense her back, too, it seems. In a way. She says that the rats are often curious, that they sense her and come. They’re actually one of the reasons she hates it in the Safe Zone. Too many rats.”

She does understand what he could be implying, so she adds, “I don’t sense that around her or her animals, the ones she’s affecting. They don’t have the little spark.” It isn’t much, but she can attest to that, at least. “She can’t see through their eyes or make them do anything— she can just affect how they feel. Which can sometimes cause them to act erratically.”

How is a good question, though. “I have considered recommending cameras, or something of the sort for the big food storage buildings at the next meeting, but it would be best if something like this did not happen again.” Rather than make it easy to find out how it happens after it happens again.

‘It’s looking more and more like Hailey’s another coincidence,” Cesar says after a long drawn moment, a defeated sigh following his hand wiping down his face. The agent nods slowly in regards to cameras. “I’ll make a note to get eyes in,” he agrees as he taps a pen that he’s taking notes with against the pad, eyeing it and the notes so far. His hands leave the pen alone next and plant on either side of the notepad. He stares at the writing, a growing look of consternation screwing up into narrowed eyes and flattened lip line.

“You know what the craziest thing about all this is?” he speaks again, franker, an edge of frustration to his tone. “It’s all practically… kids. Every lead, anything. The boy who was seen going through walls, DeLuca? His body found in the sewer, chewed up by rats. He was what, barely a teen if that. Preteen. The two boys messing around in the sewers when agents went to investigate underneath here? Barely legal. Hailey’s the same, right, like 20 years old. Hell, my lead partner in this damn case shouldn’t even be able to drink.” A hand balls into a fist. “It doesn’t make any sense. Is there some adult using them as a cover up?” Because if that’s the case, he’ll get really mad about that.

When he looks back over at Gillian, though, the frustration is willed away, expunged by a heavy huff and a shake of his head to clear it, to regain the composure from before. “I think that’s pretty much it Miss Childs. ‘Til the agency gets something more to go on and sniff out anyway.” He reaches over to the recorder to stop it.

The idea of a poor child being eaten by rats makes her pale. She shakes her head in surprise, in horror, before she settles her thoughts and just settles for taking in a slow breath. To calm herself. No, she doesn’t like that image at all. A child. Someone who should have been taken care of, not left to die.

“I hate to say it, but it wouldn’t be the first time kids with abilities were used by someone,” Gillian responds with a sad sound to her voice, thinking, specifically of Julie and how the Institute had used her and her sister. And she highly doubts they were the only case of it having happened. Children were impressionable, easy to mold into whatever the adults who happened to be around them wanted. It happened far, far too often.

But then something dawns on her. Two boys. Investigating the sewers. Barely legal… surely not. “Which boys? Did you get their names? And yes, Hailey’s only twenty, though to me she’ll always be twelve.”

Always be that little girl who could feel what her cat felt, the one who snuck Chandra treats. The one who ran off on her own in an attempt to stop a dog pack that had eaten one of her friends…

Once he’s stopped the recorder, Cesar slips it into a pocket and starts to clean up. Pointedly, he avoids Gillian’s eyes as he works on stamping down the frustration riddling his posture. Frustration and concern. The agent, after all, is also a citizen of the zone and of the city, with just cause to care about what happens to it and those in it.

At her question about the two boys, he pauses and turns back to her. There’s a blink from the agent, a pause to debate inwardly if he’s misspoke. “Joe Winters and Lance Gerken,” he says slowly, testing the waters with the names and ready to jump back upon a metaphorical snapping rush of a hidden crocodile. “A couple of agents found ‘em exploring the sewers underneath the market looking for clues to the mystery too. That’s when they all found DeLuca’s body.” He slips a pen back into his hand, the notepad flipping open. “I figured Lance is Hailey’s brother. He didn’t say anything to you, did he?”

“Those little trouble makers,” Gillian mutters under her breath, obviously recognizing the names. “Yeah, Lance is her younger brother. They have some explaining to do on why they’d gone down there without an adult in the first place— but she shouldn’t be surprised. They were pretty much adults, in some sense. She would just always picture them as the young boys they’d been. And troublemakers back then, too. “All three of them were orphans back before the war. I did volunteer work with an orphanage for Evolved children back then, both for the Ferry and… for personal reasons. The three of them could practically be considered my kids.”

Even if she never adopted any of them. She half wishes she had. It might have gotten them out of the trouble they found themselves in during and after the war.

She still considered them her kids. Even if legally and biologically they were not— they still were.

“But no, he didn’t say anything to me about that.” Probably because she would have given him the look. The patented mom look. “They’re good kids. But they were also raised by a bunch of kids who did a lot of stupid things in the name of trying to help.” Cause really, most of the Ferry had been kids. Twenty-something, but still kids. “I’m sure they just wanted to find some big clue and save the day in some way— just like we’d tried to do before and during the war.”

And by we, she means the Ferry.

The mom look is something Cesar knows quite well, having been a rowdy boy himself at one point. Debatedly, still one. “Agent Lin gave me the impression that they weren’t meaning to do anything harmful to the investigation,” he replies, nodding and sliding the notepad away after making a short note to himself in it. “And I get that. My brother who was NYPD was like that.” Was, being the operative term. But he moves on, a crease of his brow accompanying a concerned look to Gillian. “If you see them around, you’ll let ‘em know SESA appreciates their cooperation and efforts, but they should really avoid trespassing down in those tunnels, yeah? Plus, Yamagato has workers down there and they don’t need to be stopping work to deal with a couple rogues.”

His smile indicates he’s understanding, though, and for now there aren’t any serious consequences to be had.

“And if you think of anything else, any details or incidentals at all that might have been missed… especially if you’ve discussed with the rest of the council and citizen’s watch, let us know. At this point, the investigation’s still ongoing, but.” He doesn’t want to say the trail is cold just yet. “We’ll take any info from the public we can get.”

Taking stock around them one more time, he scratches at a spot on his jaw, expression puzzled yet thoughtful. “Yeah… I don’t know. Thanks again for meeting with me, Ms. Childs. Hopefully, with increased security on this location and Red Cross, we can at least prevent another loss.” The worst case scenario is not something he wants to entertain, at present. Cesar glances back to Gillian for a moment more and then angles his head towards the exit. “You want to grab a coffee on the way out?” he offers. “I’ll chalk it up to expenses.” That last part comes with an amused, crooked smile. He won’t really.

“They want this finished, same as we do. Their good kids, but I’ll give them a small warning to keep their noses out of certain things. There are laws, and the last thing we want is for them to end up on Liberty for stupid reasons.” Gillian responds quietly, not wanting to think of what she would have done if her kids had ended up there— she doubts Vee would have allowed it to get that far, but she also thinks a night or two of consequences would get them to think about things better.

She knows the first time she ended up in a police precinct she changed her tune fast. Though not as fast as she probably should have, or as much as she probably should have.

The offer of coffee makes her pause, looking the young man up and down for a moment. Five years ago, he would have been totally her type, just the way he was. Even as a Fed. After a moment, she nods. “Can’t say no to coffee in this economy.” And by economy, she means the shortage. Everyone has a vice, and coffee had never exactly been one of hers. But she’d liked it. Enough that if it was offered by someone else, she wouldn’t say no.

Plus it didn’t hurt anything.

Not like it would be anything more than coffee, after all.

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