Wardrobe Malfunction


aviators_icon.gif liza_icon.gif raith_icon.gif rue_icon.gif

Scene Title Wardrobe Malfunction
Synopsis A heinous act against the Ferrymen is much, much worse than anyone ever expected.
Date February 4, 2011

Bannerman's Castle

The name Bannerman's Castle is as deceiving as its appearance; built stone by stone more than a century ago, the now crumbling fortress, seemingly derelict, was in its glory days used as a military surplus warehouse and still carries the faded words Bannerman's Island Arsenal on one of its walls. Time and neglect have since taken a hefty toll on the property, which belongs to the Maxwell Development Corporation in name, but is in reality much more than a prized relic.

On the outside, ivy creeps up its walls, some stripped down to skeletal supports and others as strong and stalwart as the day they were erected. In the decades that Pollepel Island has been abandoned, nature has reclaimed a large portion of the castle where its roof has caved in, creating courtyards of stone and saplings, thorny bushes and wire fences put up to section the most tangled hollows off. A few have been cleaned up, exposing worn stone floors that serve as gathering places for the people who live inside the ruins, and where the walls are tallest, shielding one open cavern from the mainland's view, there is a metal drum to burn fires in and large chunks of stone arranged around them in a circle.

Inside, Bannerman's Castle has been repurposed by the Ferrymen network as northern stronghold with its own electrical grid powered by basement generators, though most of the castle is lit by gas lanterns and candles to conserve fuel. Tall ceilings reinforced with wooden rafters are a feature in almost every room, including the castle's dining hall and the basement kitchen where food is prepared on outdated stoves and ovens taken from restaurants on Staten Island that were abandoned in the wake of the bomb and later repaired and refinished for installation in the kitchen.

Also in the basement are the fortress' supply rooms, which are kept under lock and key and contain everything from cured meats to additional linens, firearms, ammunition and fuel for the generators that power Bannerman. The living quarters and infirmary are located on the ground floor in the corner of the castle that's most intact, and while the narrow corridors are drafty, a lot of time and effort has gone into insulating the rooms themselves as best they can be insulated with what supplies were available and fit the budged allocated to the network's reconstruction efforts.

If out of the tragedy that has faced the Ferrymen in the past day any good was borne, it is the two nebulous blessings of the heavy winter clothes their fallen comrades once wore having been unspoiled by violence and in perfect condition to be reused, and their fallen horse having been preserved by the cold. It is the second of those 'good tidings' that sees Jensen Raith and others behind the walls of Bannerman's Castle, away from most prying eyes for work. Grim, dirty but voluntary (or, in the unlucky cases, voluntoldme) work involving knives, saws, pliers and vise grips. All told, the average weight of one of the island's horses is between 900 and 1,000 pounds, a lot of it meat. Meat that can be smoked. Meat that can keep the Ferrymen fed and alive for perhaps two weeks or more, if rationed properly. Meat that, until it is smoked, is contributing to a somewhat wretched stench that no one will want inside the walls. No wonder they're outside.

It is anything but glamorous. It is nothing if not guts-churning. And it is, in the words of Raith himself, what it means to be a Ferryman, for the time being. Having help, however forced it might be, only means that he, that all of them will spend as little time as possible being forced to smell the fruits of their labor. At least it isn't fish?

Despite her initial recoiling when she discovered Huruma had brought deer back from a hunt, Rue Lancaster doesn't shy away from the work with the horse now. When she knows she's going to see a bloody sight, it cuts down on a lot of the shock value. "Jusssst like back home. Except I wasn't cutting up My Little Pony," she mutters under her breath as she engages in the somewhat distastful work of salvaging the dead horse for rations.

The redhead has a scarf tied tightly around her face to try and filter out some of the scent. While the sight of the work itself doesn't churn Rue's stomach, the smell never has been easy to put up with. "Has anybody considered ice fishing yet?" She flickers a gaze up to Raith, looking perhaps more severe without the quirk of her lips being visible. "Because I'll drown them if they do."

This is not a good job. It's smelly, and messy, and fish would be better. But for some crazy, insane reason (probably a brilliant one somewhere in the blonde's mind), Liza Messer volunteered. While there was initial gut reaction of freaking out because it was horrifyingly gross, the petite girl stubbornly and cheerfully set to her task. It's almost comical, having the short girl salvaging meat from a creature who knows how many times larger than her. "What sort of weird family traditions did you have back home?" She peers at the horse. "Just think of this as… endurance training!"

"I admit, it's not quite the same as whitetail," Raith replies, "And I swear it smells worse, but it's good meat. You'll all be thanking Twilight Sparkle at dinner for the next week, at least." Most people would also swear that Raith's referring to the animal they're butchering as 'Twilight Sparkle' does not do anything to make what they are doing more palatable.

The ex-spy has been careful to avoid the stomach, so as to avoid accidentally spilling the contents of the intestines all over everything. But even he has limits to how much horse shit he's willing to put up with. "Rue, bring the wheelbarrow around to the other side." The wheelbarrow being likewise lined with a plastic sheet and filled with pounds of meat already. "Liz, press down on the thigh here. Use your weight." Raith, meanwhile, gives up on the knife for the moment and picks up a saw instead. Apparently, leaving the bone in the legs won't cause as much of an issue as initially stated. It's not an unreasonable change of strategy, either. It may only be late in the afternoon, but it's still cold and turning dark before much longer. And when it turns dark, they'll have to leave behind whatever they weren't able to cut apart or risk drawing attention to themselves.

Rue's nose wrinkles and she makes a little sound in the back of her throat. "Okay, this poor animal having an actual name was bad enough, but then you gave it a Pony name and that just makes me want to punch you, Mister Raith." All the same, Rue is extracting herself from her work and retrieving the wheelbarrow to move it to the other side as directed. "Deer are different. They aren't named." Except for the way that they're all called Bambi, or Bambi's Mother, or something. "This is fucked up."

"I'm sure he's joking about the name," Liza assures Rue. She's hoping he didn't actually name the horse. The blonde moves to push on the thigh, putting as much effort as her frame can muster, following the instructions. "Really, I'm glad for the meat and all, I just never thought I'd have to be doing this. I suppose I should be grateful we haven't become the Donner Party yet."

Cloudy skies do little to offer up visible light by which this grisly task need be completed. The courtyard is sparsely populated, unless the banks of white snow contrasting against blue canvas tarps and trash bags count as decoration. Out here, out in view, signs of habitation are kept to a minimum, even if the walls of Bannerman provide some cover. Safe is always better than sorry.

Unfortunately, that idiom wasn't followed last night, in an emotional haste. That is what is bringing Avi Epstein's heavily dressed frame into view. His winter jacket is little more than a patched up tan windbreaker worn over layered sweaters, one hooded, one not. Sunglasses mute the already dim light of afternoon. Scuffed up mirrored lenses reflect the snow collected on the courtyard floor and the people huddled around the animal carcass atop the plastic tarp.

"Hey, deer hunter," Avi gruffly calls out, his posture rigid and shoulders hunched forward, hands tucked into the pocket of his urban camouflage ACUs tucked down into a pair of boots he's been wearing since the attack on the Staten Island Hospital, borrowed off of the feet of a National Guardsman who won't need them any more.

For all his usually jovial nature and perpetual alcohol aroma, Epstein's attitude seems somber in light of what happened. Jensen notices something only a friend of as many years could, that Avi seems nervous about something. Death doesn't make Epstein nervous, nor does violence, or the threat thereof. He may be old, but the anxiety of going into or expecting combat has long since been shaken out of him. That leaves a short, ugly list to be causing that reaction.

That Avi is breaking pace to clear the distance between himself and Raith faster, now, on finding him gives his nervousness a sense of urgency. That he jerks his head to the side to indicate that he'd like to talk in private gives it a different, less welcomed context entirely.

When Avi's words reach his ears, Raith has already sawed down to the leg bone. Of course, that's where the going gets tough. And there probably could not be a worse time for him to get pulled away. Normally, he might say not to bother him until later. But there's something not quite 'normal' about Avi Epstein today, and Raith regards him for a moment before looking back down to his work on the leg, briefly, and then rising up from his crouch. "Rue, take over sawing for a bit," he says, "Press down going forwards, but take it easy on the backstroke, just like snoring-" What?- "I'll be right back."

With a nod to both the girls, the ex-spy steps away from the carcass and then further off the the side, out of earshot. He doesn't say anything as part of prompting when Avi is close enough to warrant a quiet conversation. He simply waits for his brother-in-law to explain what's what.

The horse waits, too, but unlike Raith, is not going anywhere fast. Or at all. Perhaps Rue might wonder if in between jumping out of planes, her Auntie ever has to chop up a llama into cole slaw. There's something to think about.

Rue eyes the saw for a moment, but a curious glance over to Aviators leaves her unquestioning of the request. Order? Whatever. She grasps the saw in her hand and flashes a smile to Liza as she puts her back into it, as they say. "Keep the chatter down," she whispers low to the other girl like she's sharing some juicy gossip. "I think we wanna try to overhear this."

Liza's eyes flicker towards the two 'gentlemen' as they leave the ladies to the gruesome work of sawing a horse's leg. She stays where she's at, focusing on the task, but Rue's given a sly smile. The blonde will keep quiet. She knows when to keep her mouth shut and snoop: The Company taught her that.

"Something's wrong," are not the words that Jensen wants to hear out of a shaken Epstein's mouth. Tense as he is, there's no reactionary Game over, man! Game over! that is typical Epstein nervous chatter in tense situations where he's lost his cool. This commentary is, presumably deserved. "I just got done stripping the bodies we pulled out of the trees last night, getting… getting them ready for what's probably going to hapen to the rest of us." Frozen. Hung. "Anyway— once I got them peeled, I had all the clothes bundled together in a basket to bring down to wash, and…"

Avi breathes in deeply, his tone a sharp, tense whisper. "Owen. He— I loaned him my fucking snow suit when he went out on patrol, and my good goddamned gloves. I'm not proud'v it, but I wanted them back. He wasn't wearing the clothing I gave him." Avi's brows lower behind the frames of his mirrored sunglasses, mouth works from side to side, as if he were chewing something.

"Owen was wearing clothes I didn't even fucking recognize. They all were. None of the shit they were hung up in was anything I'd seen any of them wear before. I haven't cleaned the clothes up enough to get a better look at them, they're— expectedly a mess."

Avi's head shakes from side to side in quick, shallow dismissal of any sort of logic to this. "Why the fuck would they re-dress them before hanging them?"

Raith listens, and for the briefest of moments, the expression on his face is one that reads, 'Hey, you have raised a very interesting question.' But only for the briefest of moments. In the next instant, his face flushes with concern, and even worry. "We already put their coats and hats back into circulation." He doesn't even bother to whisper. It's a simple statement of fact that he wishes he did not have to make. In the next moment, he's forgotten Avi entirely, whirling back on Rue and Liza and marching towards them. "We passed out some snow clothes this morning," the ex-spy states, another plain fact, "If we don't find out who has them in a hurry, we may have a serious problem."

There's not even an attempt to pretend like she wasn't listening in when Rue's head lifts from her work. Seeing Raith worried only makes her more worried herself. Her eyes are wide, and her face very, very pale, making her freckles stand out all the more against her skin. "Oh no."

Her mind is racing at a million miles a minute, coming up with all the reasons why clothing would be bad. And the scenario Rue's settled on has her mouth hanging open in horror. "I could run inside and try to track them down. R- Right now." She's nodding her head several times over, just waiting for the word to be dismissed to do her part.

The horse is forgotten. Liza's sharp mind is already thinking of the possibilities. Of course refugees in need of clothes would redistribute what they had, as morbid as it was to take the clothing from dead bodies. And there were a lot of things that could be slipped in on clothing. The blonde freezes in her efforts, eyes flickering up. "We should go, but we should try not to make people panic. More people knowing would just cause chaos. We can say we lost something in one of the jackets?"

"Whatever keeps the shit in their asses where it belongs," is Avi's clarification for Liza, offering the blonde a sidelong look as best as he can, as if he'd only just noticed her, or perhaps only just recognized her. Whatever recognition there is, however, is trumped by the unsettling nature of the situation. "Beauchamp, Bennet, and Simms are gone fuck-all who knows where. I dunno where Eileen is," and that finally brings Avi's attention back to Raith, his head shaking slower this time.

"You got a direction I can look in for someone that needs t'know and I'll make sure it gets to them. I don't like this, Jensen. I don't fucking like this. We need to get Kirby awake and fucking talking if we have to hook her up to a goddamned car battery to do it. We can't fly blind, she's gotta know something." Tension rises in Avi's tone, desperation too. Helplessness in a situation like this fosters a certain amount of resentment and frustration in him.

"Right now, no one needs to know anything except that we need those coats and hats back. Whatever reasons you can think of." Reasons that escape Raith for the moment, his mind calculating a hasty strategy. "Scratch that-" And the plan changes- "You two-" Rue and Liza- "Move and figure out what's where. Take everything to the morgue." Exactly where the 'morgue' is, Raith doesn't say. "Avi, hit the infirmary. Find out when we can risk waking Kirby up, and then figure out how to make it happen sooner. Acceptable safety limits." Presumably, the King of Pentacles will know what that means. "Hope they still don't know where we are. Just go." Raith doesn't wait to explain exactly what he's going to do before he hurries off to go do it. Maybe he can't be blamed for it. The situation is an close to an emergency as it can be without actually being declared one.

Last night, he and Rue raised their glasses in a toast to choices. Today, those choices may have been taken away, fate looming like dark clouds in the sky. Maybe they're already dead. Maybe there's nothing to be worried about.

Maybe it's only beginning.

"We… We need to separate them from everyone else," Rue murmurs numbly. "And… And their roommates, too." She pauses as she goes to head toward the castle, but she only manages two steps before she's glancing from the blonde girl, then between Avi and Raith. "Liza should do it. I could be…" Infected doesn't leave her lips just yet. If she says it, it takes one step closer to reality.

Halting again, this time only mentally, Rue repeats her glancing circuit, looking conflicted. Uncertain. "Or… maybe Liza shouldn't do it. She wasn't… exposed. And I already have been. We can't just take the clothes out of circulation." As much as she wants it to be nothing, the knot in the pit of her stomach tells her it isn't.

"Regardless of who is exposed, we need to know who is safe. Who can help. Safely." Liza looks to Rue. "It can't hurt me, and you've already been exposed, so we might as well both do it. Clothes first. We can get them down to the morgue. Quietly find the people who have them, get them out of the way and find out what they've done today, where they've been. If we can get the clothes tested we can determine if it's as bad as it might be." Her eyes flicker to Raith. "We'll find them."

When Rue voices the unvoiced concerns of Raith and Avi, there's an obvious tension in Epstein's throat. He stares at her, through those mirrored lenses for a few moments more, then offers an askance look at Raith followed by a slow shake of his head: No good will come of this, it all but screams.

Turning away to follow worthwhile instructions, Avi's boots clap against the ground and his hands rake back his hair with a frustratedly huffed sigh. A cold wind whips through the courtyard, rattling plastic and upturning one corner of the tarp that the dead horse lays motionless and stiff on. Glassy eyes continue to stare vacantly outward at the walls of Bannerman castle. They won't be the last lifeless eyes to gaze on these old, stone walls.

Under Raith's orders, Epstein has something of a fire under him again. Not only is it a semblance of a mission, which evokes memories of younger days and more youthful mannerisms. But it also puts him on the offensive, trying to hazard out a plan to wake up someone from critical condition in a safe yet expediant manner. The best idea, in this case, is also the most risky.

Epstein is going to find Kaylee Thatcher.

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