Ups And Downs


doyle2_icon.gif juniper_icon.gif lance_icon.gif mala_icon.gif

Scene Title Ups and Downs
Synopsis A panicked phone call informs Doyle, the temporary operator of Gun Hill, that someone close to the Lighthouse Kids has gone missing while out shopping.
Date June 8, 2010

Gun Hill

Gun Hill is named after Gun Hill Road, the street that the five story tenement resides on. A bright red brick exterior separates it from the surrounding buildings, making it difficult to miss even though the complexes on either side of it are similarly coloured with fresh coats of paint in yellow and blue donated to their proprietors by an urban renewal project devoted to eliminating graffiti from the Bronx's residential zones in an attempt to raise property value and reestablish the borough as a desirable place to live.

Inside, the building shows more obvious signs of wear than the rusty fire escape affixed to its front, including old hardwood floors so scuffed that no amount of wax or polish can return them to their original luster, and faded wallpaper in neutral shades of cream with a strange mottled texture. Instead of an elevator, the tenement's upper floors can be reached by taking a stairwell with numbered flights and roof access via a heavy metal door that sticks more often than not.

If they were back in the Lighthouse, it would be dinnertime. And Lance seems to know it. The coats of paint he applies with a brush are light and sloppy, tired coats that show he's lost interest in this chore. It had only been fun when he got to sneak up on Colette and scare her, and now it's less and less fun, under the close watch of Hall Monitor Santa. If he made up a Naughty and Nice list, he would be fluctuating between them, but most often on the one with the longer title.

The only reason the fresh paint smell doesn't fill the room and threaten to suffocate or make them high, would be because it smells like candles instead, thanks to Juniper. "Lance, pay attention," the older red head says as she refills her brush with paint and goes back. "You're the one who said you never got to go on trips."

"I didn't mean trips to paint walls. I'm not Tom Sawyer," he huffs, but the fact he knows the reference to make it shows that Gillian's reading lessons have gone well. Or he saw the movie version.

Before she can comment again, the phone in her pocket rings, and she reaches to pick it up. "Hello? … What?" Immediately her expression changes, and the scent around spikes, like someone just sprayed perfume, and then settles. "Calm down, what— when did— " From the way she talks, she's not getting much words in, as she drops the brush down into the bucket and looks across over at the man in charge, worry filling her eyes. "I'll let you talk to him, just— it's going to be okay." The phone gets pulled down, even Lance is looking over in surprise. "Mister Doyle, it's… Mala. I think something may have happened," she says, covering the microphone with her hand, before she holds it over.

"Just keep painting. Maybe if you do a good job," Eric offers as he does some touch-up around the window of the apartment with a smaller brush, leaning in close to peer at it and then looking over with a grin to Lance, "I'll teach you how to paint a puppet sometime. It takes a lot of work to get one of those…"

The phone ringing isn't a surprise. She's a sixteen year old girl, she's going to get phone calls. The sudden spike of scent does draw his attention, though, and he straightens, brow furrowing as he steps over to reach for the phone with a sudden ashen pallor, a thousand ideas of what could've happened going through his mind, each worse than the last. The phone's taken, "Mala? What's wrong?"

The voice on the other side of the line is muffled and hiccuped, caught in a state when breathing doesn't come right, and tears are flowing. The revirberations also sound like Mala might be huddled into a bathroom, maybe even a bathrub, rather than sitting out in the open. "Gill— Gillian. She went to— she went to the store— she said she'd be back and she's not back. Her— her phone didn't — didn't pick up. She's not— Brian's pretending that— that nothing's wrong, but he's worried— he's worried, and there— there's like five of him— and he went down into the basement." The basement.

The one place the kids are banned from going under normal circumstances.

Eric Doyle has never actually been in the basement, but he's got a pretty good idea of what's down there.

The puppeteer's silent for a moment, his eyes wide and worried, one hand coming up to rub over his mouth and chin before he finally replies to Mala quietly, "It's alright, it's gonna be all right.. how long's she been gone, Mala?"

A huge snotty inhale through the nose can be heard, hiccuped exhales follow, and Mala has a difficult time answering at first. It takes a few moments before the words can even be understood over the sobs. "She— she left during lunch and she— she's not back yet. She said she'd be back— back before dinner— she was picking up things for dinner!" And— according to the time, it's dinner, if not after. It's Staten Island, a lot of things go wrong on Staten Island… "My mommy— my mommy said she'd be back and she— she wasn't."

Did you hear that? That was the sound of Eric's heart just about shattering at her words, cleaving open old wounds that he'd thought had long since scarred over.

Mala's mother wasn't the only one who was supposed to be right back. Once upon a time, little Eric Doyle's parents were just going out for a ride.

One hand actually presses against his chest as he takes a moment to recover his breath, as if it were an actual, physical blow, silent for a long moment as he pulls himself together. Mala might not be able to see his expression, but Juniper and Lance can. "It's… it'll be alright, Mala. Look, I'll head back there now, and I'll talk to Brian, okay? Maybe she just had a flat tire."

"But," Mala starts, hiccuping again. There's all those things it could be. Simple things. Normal things— but there's all those things it might also be that aren't simple and normal. "Okay…" The protests don't fall out, because it means one thing— he's coming back. Even if just to talk to Brian. Santa and Brian together can fix anything.

In the hallway, the smell has settled to the constant scent of candles once again, softly scented lilac ones, an attempt to soothe and calm, before Lance pipes up, suprisingly still there, despite ample time to slip away and cause trouble, "Can we help?"

"Okay. Okay, I'll be there soon, just be strong and keep the other kids safe, all right? Make sure Lucy's okay, you know she gets upset easy… I'll be there in a few hours," Eric says quietly into the phone. At the question from Lance, he blinks up - a bit surprised - and then he offers a faint, wan smile to Lance, moving the phone away from his mouth to say quietly, "I— I don't know, can you, can you two stay here while I'm gone, and stay out've trouble? Colette and them all're downstairs probably, they can get you anything you need. It just sounds like I should get out there as soon as I can."

Does that mean they don't have to paint anymore? Lance may not ask it outloud, but it's there in the non-verbalized tilt of his head. The answer comes a moment later, when Juniper pipes up, "We'll finish up here while you're gone. I'll make sure of it." In response, there's a scuff of a foot against the floor, another non-verbal protest. "I hope Gillian's okay," she adds on, more seriously, wringing her hands together.

The phone's offered back over to Juniper, and Eric says in quiet, serious tones, "So do I. I'm sure she just got… held up, or had to do something, but… well. I'll give you a call when I find out, okay?"

"The last time Gillian got held up, she didn't come back for months," Juniper comments, remembering the aftermath of her Refrain addiction well enough to know that she was the reason Gillian was there when she got arrested, and the reason why Gillian didn't come back until the New Year. "And she's usually pretty good about calling, but maybe she left her phone unplugged and it ran out of battery— " It happens.

A lot of things happen. "My phone's got plenty of charge left, so— call when you know anything." With that, she puts her phone away, and picks up the paintbrush and dips it into paint again, and slides it up and down on the flat surface.

Ups and downs make up so much of these kid's lives.

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