Wasted Effort


luther_icon.gif vincent_icon.gif

Scene Title Wasted Effort
Synopsis A postmortem.
Date May 22, 2018

Cat's Cradle

The later afternoon hours finds a message sent to Vincent’s telephone number from Luther’s personal number. The details are left out for sake of expediency, giving only a time (asap), a place (Cat’s cradle), and why (“She’s gone”).

What Vincent finds when he gets there is a pacing Luther that hasn’t gone inside the establishment, but uses the outside street side as the invisible cage with which to wear an impatient path. Hands flex in and out of fists at his sides, the knuckles on the right hand sporting a red soreness he’s stopping to shake out every few laps in front of the bar.

He’s unhappy. That much is obvious. And at some point, he looks at the building wall with an eye aiming for violence, but he abstains because it’s not his place to destroy because of feelings.

Quite a ways down the street, an armored SUV is angling snug into a parallel parking space, black carapace dazzling in the afternoon sun. The windows are tinted too dark to see through, the frame husky with reinforcement.

One of the rear windows is cracked open.

Vincent’s only reply had been an ETA; he coalesces out of the aether in a gout of black smog at the back of Luther’s latest circuit. Right on time.

He takes a good long look at what he’s walking into before he announces himself.

“Do you smoke?”

Vincent does. Is. He has a fresh lit cigarette set between his fingers, tipped away from the choke of his tie. His jacket’s in the car, gingham pressed flat save for the roll of his right sleeve. But something in is inflection suggests he might not be referring to tobacco, on this day.

By the time the armored vehicle’s parked, Luther has forgotten the ETA. Or he’d not had the sense to check the time to begin with. Either way, the man sharply turns on heel at the voice. Straightening, he eases off the tension by a slow radiating heat nearly visible in the shimmer of the air around him and longer exhale. The question is met with the arch of one of his downturned brows, a tightened jaw released so he can actually answer.

“Sure.” The monosyllabic answer accompanies a chin tilt towards the cigarette. Only belatedly does he catch the meaning in the other man’s inflection. Luther clears his throat, then cants his head to the Cat’s Cradle.

He does look past the man to the shined black SUV that stands out amidst the rest of the background, to those with an eye for spotting such things. “You want to go inside or…” The question’s left open ended. Respecting. Implying the acknowledgment of the sensitive nature of the topic to be discussed.

Lazzaro’s eyeline dips down to the ripple of heat around Luther’s person, cigarette rolled up for a long drag. Measuring.

“Inside’s fine.” More air, more space, less leather interior to scorch. “Unless you think you’ve been followed.” Forgive him if he doesn’t seem overly concerned about the possibility. Tailing Luther in this state seems like it might be a little like tailing an ambulatory volcano.

He’s turning to lead the way when he takes note of where Luther’s looking, smoke set to the corner of his mouth so that he can get the door.

“The tank is mine.”

Ah. Then the tank doesn’t need to be addressed further, and expensive leather interiors are saved.

Retreating a step back so Vincent leads the way, Luther takes the moment to focus on regaining a cooler head. Literally. The volcano heat retracts, assuming the innocent appearances of dormant behaviors. The man follows after, head bowed at an angle like he were following the hangman to the gallows.

Once they’re seated, it’s he who opens up the dialogue once more with a turn of his grey eyes to the Secretary. “There… was an attempt to apprehend Miss Knutson earlier today.” The emphasis of the attempt, and the obvious results thereafter, that focuses on the results of failure. Luther rubs a couple of fingers along his temple, wherein Vincent can now see the redness along his knuckles that indicate the obviousness of physical impact.

“So I’ve heard.”

There was a call placed to Homeland. Via satellite phone, presumably.

No detail on the who or how or when is immediately forthcoming; the call came too late. Knutson had already ‘escaped.’ Vincent smokes at a neutral remove, cigarette stink harsh against she skunkier blend of cannabis in the air, beer little touched at his elbow.

“You put that fist through a wall or through somebody’s face?”

No nodding necessary. Luther also knows, having been informed later of the going ons at the company campus. But his debrief with the Secretary himself carries with it an air of inner roiling questions even more active than the evening before. The bottle of whiskey that sits next to a glass a third filled but untouched thus far remains as such.

At the note to his hand’s condition, he glances down to the sore knuckles and tests out his fingers. The fist closes. It opens. Luther blinks slowly, finding a meditative breath scented with regret. “Richard Ray,” he ‘explains’. But finding the name insufficient in and of itself, the security chief finally picks up the whiskey to take a drink. At least he doesn’t polish it all off in one go.

A sigh rolls out of him. A thumb rubs at the red knuckle opposite. “He…” Luther doesn’t run down the thought that nearly rolls off his tongue, but shifts his gaze to the man across. “You knew too, didn’t you? Her powers.” The gaze turns accusing.

Vincent has to struggle not to grin at news of Richard’s unfortunate face accident, a crooked pull at the corner of his mouth ill-masked as a grimace of sympathy that breaks into a chuckle. He’s too late lifting his beer to try to hide it with a sip.

Ah, shit. That’s very good.

“Yes,” he says, to the question that follows. “I did.”

There’s no reactionary friction for accusation to find purchase in; rising heat slides off him like mercury off of black glass. He does look to Luther’s eyes, as if to gauge exactly how imminently necessary it might be for him to spoil away into vapor, but he doesn’t seem worried. He’s a lot harder to punch in the head than Richard Ray these days.

“What I didn’t know was whether or not Richard would follow through with trying to bullshit me.”

Contrasted to Vincent’s smile, Luther frowns and pounds the rest of the whiskey back. It doesn’t stop there as he pops the top off the bottle to refill. It’s all practically one smooth motion. Too practiced. At the other man’s admission of prior knowledge, Luther levels a hardened gaze of storm-grey eyes, meeting the tar black. The paranoid might duck to the side, the cowardly might scramble. When the Secretary does neither, Luther retreats first upon the statement following.

“I thought you were working with him,” admits the security chief with a furrowed brow, thoughts turning over and revealing more bugs in his underlying logic. If it can be called as much. “So. You put that article in the paper to flush her out. And you catch my boss in the pot.” A glance spared to his knuckles, he rumbles a comment, “Maybe former boss.” If he isn’t fired by the end of the night.

Luther exhales roughly, reaching for the refreshed glass of liquid forgetfulness.

“Deal’s off, then?” he asks without looking up. “Since, she got away. Fuck if I know where she went. And Richard doesn’t kn— if he does know where she is, he won’t tell. Not me, anyway.” There is a certain resignation to the man’s demeanor, one that reflects in his eyes when he does look back up.

“If you want - if you need - to bring something in. Somebody. I’ll go in.” He tips back some more whiskey, letting it slide down his throat thickly. “The only thing I ask is enough time to take care of some things.”

“What would I arrest you for? Telling the truth? Not to denigrate your sacrifice.”

A hand tipped up in stay of the idea that he would disparage the sentiment, Vincent sits back and pulls his beer along with him, brows at a skeptical knit over his glasses. Please.

“I met with Richard to let him know I knew what he had, and he lied to me.” That’s just a fact, delivered as such: plainly and without lenience for intent or well-meaning or whatever other bullshit. He’s not angry, but there’s an obsidian opacity to how emphatic he is in diction and directness. “He lied, and he was cheeky about it and called after the fact.

“But that’s between me and him.” And Hana Gitelman.

And maybe the IRS.

“The story that ran is going to make hiding difficult for her. We’ll give her time to feel secure somewhere new and put out a bounty.” Like he’s planning a garden opposite the defeat in Luther’s shoulders, the craggy bunch of frown lines over his brow. Vincent’s all straight lines and hard arches; the seam of the scar at his wrist ridges up on its way to curving under his rolled sleeve.

“I didn’t realize it would happen as quickly as it did. I’m sorry.”

Luther’s snort captures the briefest flare of a long and deep running conflict with the word sacrifice. “Shit, you could pin anything to it. Conspiracy, harboring a suspect, obstruction…” He need not give the Secretary himself a rundown of his department’s darker capabilities, though, so he sits back too and rolls the whiskey in his glass around.

He also doesn’t continue that line of thought upon noting, from the tipped hand, that it won’t likely wind up with him in cuffs. At least not yet.

His next words draw a grimace from Luther, an averted gaze sent down to the drink. The drink lifts and Luther tips it back. Still, that small an amount isn’t enough to let him forget the look on Richard’s face when his boss had described his reasoning for withholding information. The moment he’d struck him.

Luther shakes his head at the fresh memory, and with a new, long breath in he steels his expression to a steadier slant. “You did what you had to do. Just like he did.” Just as she did, as well. Ultimately he nods once, the gesture a conclusion reached. The fifth stage. Acceptance. Luther had gotten played, and the learning experience comes as a harsh blow.

The remnants of the bottle fill in the tumbler and Luther lifts it to toast, a wry smirk underneath gleaming grey eyes setting in.

“To wasted effort.”

Vincent will raise his bottle to that, but he won’t toast to it, lazy patience for Bellamy’s disheartened state in the slant of his shoulders. He looks like a betrayed golden retriever. It’s very sad.

“To the long game.”

A spoken pat on the shoulder, before he drinks. Cheer up, little buddy. He gives this latest dose a moment to settle in Luther’s gut before he moves right along.

“…So what brought you to back to New York?”

The whiskey’s drunken about halfway down before Luther sets it back down on the table. The man exhales roughly, fighting off the burn both physical and psychological. He levels a look, a snorted chuckle, for Vincent’s counter toast. Indeed, the games that have been played and the ones yet to begin.

The query posited from the Homeland Security secretary earns a lifted brow, just as questioning. “The money was good,” he obviously lies with the thick layer of sarcasm. But the sass doesn’t last. Luther sighs and then admits more openly, “Richard. He said he wanted to build a better future. Was tired of trying to wreck them… or stop an even worse one. I believed him.” Fingers toy at the rim of his glass. “I still believe him.” And in a way, his sigh is one of disbelief towards his own position.

“So do I.”

Only Lazzaro believes it in the way he believes inpatients who are convinced they’re the second coming. He believes that they believe it.

He doesn’t try to hide it either, resignation heavy in a dreary glance into the middle distance.

“But I don’t think this had anything to do with that.”

Does he, though? Luther’s skepticism passes by on its way down to the drink in his hand. “How do you mean?” asks the security chief after the pause for another sip. Then, he comes upon the thought and it makes the man frown some fairly heavy lines.

“He’s still protecting her, isn’t he.”

It’s a realization that comes with weariness but a lack of acceptance. “God fucking damnit, Richard,” mutters the security chief into his glass as he drains it back. And when he finds the bottle and glass empty, is forced to take the moment to regard the man sitting across. Luther circles back to the original question, eyes narrowing. “Is he being forced into this somehow?”

Vincent brings his cigarette back up out of the tray it’d been idling in, and drags deep, considering. Considering also how much of the cigarette is left — he tabs a clod of ash off the end and watches it fall into the tray, smoke kicked out at a sigh.

“You know both of them better than I do.”

Matter-of-fact, he arches a brow across the table, and trades his smoke for his beer.

“Her other ‘friend’ is convinced she deserves to be sheltered from consequence because she wants to be a better person. Nobody was holding a gun to her head.” He plants the bottle aside, brows knit after a swig. Empty. “I think Knutson knows how to pull at people’s heartstrings. Hell,” he pauses, on his way to standing. “She probably believes it herself.

“Yeah, I shacked up with a madman and we fought with Humanis First, but I didn’t mean to.” This is his Odessa impression, apparently, flat affect accentuated with a hand flattened over his breast. “I need another beer.”

“No, I really fuckin’ don’t know,” growls Luther in his disagreement about knowing the people they speak of presently. Grey eyes turn towards the bar and he looks like he’s considering the whole of it, top to bottom shelves. He turns back to Vincent when the man goes on describing others’ opinions, and his own brows draw together. Jaw working, he sounds equally conflicted at first when he remarks, “The Rays are all about chances. Second or otherwise.” He gestures a vague wave of his hand to himself, apparently including his own flaws and faulted character in the mix.

There’s a snorted laugh brought on more by the whiskey coursing through him than being actually amused by the secretary’s Odessa impression, especially the statement he uses to improvise. Luther pushes up to his feet next. “Don’t puff outta here,” he says to the other man with a tipped near-command of his gaze, “I’ll get you for this round.” Then he stalks back to the bar, bidding the Sassy bartender to crack open another beer bottle along with… ah yes, there, that bottle there. Black label.

The security chief makes his way back, fully loaded. Beer set down in front of Vincent, the whiskey thunked between them after a pour of a double into his glass, Luther slides back onto his seat. “Do you really want catch her and put her on the stand?” His question comes out measured like his drink. “She’ll get the chance to reason with us all, right?” There’s that pesky word again, chance. But at least the man doesn’t sound as sarcastic or bitter as his earlier tone. Now that he’s back to thinking it over, there is still the faint lingering need to see that due process out. If only she hadn’t ran. Not that he realizes he might have chased her out on pain of burning at some illogical philosophical stake.

“Well, you see, there’s crime and then there’s treason,” Vincent is saying, or trying to say, to the Rays’ fascination with second chances. He’d already been over this in brief with Cardinal — Ray — when…

“…Excuse me?”

Don’t ‘puff outta here?’

Luther is already gone, leaving Vincent standing beside the table with his beer and his cigarette, what few free digits he has on that hand splayed in indignant disbelief.

He’s sat back down by the time Luther has returned, and lit up a second cigarette, smoke spooling between his fingers while he watches whiskey being poured from a fresh bottle. Christ. How much does this guy even weigh? There’s nothing subtle about the look on Vincent’s face while he tries to math it out.

“This is America,” is all he can think to say, while that’s happening. “She has a right to plead her case.” Despite her best efforts to see that right burn. “You really liked her, didn’t you.”

The good thing at least is that Luther appears to be slowing down on the drink. Maybe he’s keeping it all in his Slavic-formed cheeks. In any case, he’s first taking a sip of the whiskey so he can let the sensation mingle with the words from the secretary. The security chief nods agreement to that right to plead. He is, in fact, banking on said right. But the next comment from the other man gets a raised brow out of Luther, a long, contemplative stare, and a second sip of his whiskey.

Eventually, after inward deliberation, he nods once.

“She needed help.” The man exhales roughly around the drink, setting it down and looking into the brown liquor. He’s not exactly the white knight in shining armor example. Perhaps more the drunken innkeeper who was supposed to keep his mouth shut, but ratted out to the castle guard captain the moment things got pointed. Vincent can see the regret twanging off his brow. “And she wanted to change.” But, such a faithful statement doesn’t stop the man from frowning as he looks back up to Vincent with a harder look in his eye. “If she crosses this way again, though, you can be assured I’ll get a message out to you.” It’s just shy of an actual swear.

“She ‘needed help’ because she’s exhausted every avenue for honest living by continually falling in with the worst of the worst. She didn’t fall upon hard times. She wasn’t victimized by some kind of scam.” Why does he have to keep explaining this to people? He notches the cigarette back into its tray, and reaches for the fresh round Luther’s delivered. Derision shows in his teeth when he reclines with it, left arm hooked over the back of his chair. “She joined Humanis First and fought for them.”

Skepticism feathers rough at his voice; he washes it down with beer.

“That’s not up for debate.” It’s recorded history. “She hasn’t even denied it, as far as I know. She just hoped you wouldn’t notice, and gave you the finger when you did.” Figuratively speaking. Vincent has no mercy for regret at this stage. It’s clear in the furrow of his brow that he can’t even get his mind around it.

“Those are the actions of someone who’s sorry because she’s fucked, not for what she’s done.”

But he’s preaching to the choir, right? He looks Luther hard in the eye at that last reassurance, however shy of a swear.

“I can only assume she’ll stay in touch with Richard.”

“I get what you’re gettin’ at, Lazzaro. And that’s what I’ve been saying. She still has to explain, what the hell happened. Why did she join the enemy… Why she turned on her own. Everybody’s been fucked around with before. Doesn’t mean they gotta turn around and fuck everyone else over.” A finger uncurls from around Luther’s glass, tipping in the other man’s direction. “If she comes back, I’ll help her… right into a pair of cuffs.” The statement slides out of him, riding the drunk roll of his tongue.

What faith is put into the pair of chained metal bracelets. It’s more the symbolism of it than practicality.

As his hand comes up to rub at a spot on his forehead, Luther sighs out heavily, encapsulating the mess into a single, “Fuck.” A finger rubs at his eye, then the hand drops with a thud to the table top as he peers at the man seated across. “You got enough in you yet, or I can grab you a glass?” His head tips to the bottle on his left, a last call.

“That’s all I wanted to hear.” And all the help Odessa needs, as far as Homeland is concerned. Vincent splays raises a hand, promising a stay of added pressure to that end.

As for the glass on offer:

“I can’t,” he says. “I mean, I literally can’t. I take — Medication.” Capital, nonspecific ‘m.’ It’s not a problem, reassurance exaggerated in the hood of his brow, but it could be. If tries to help Luther kill a bottle of whiskey. “You knock yourself out. I can drop you off wherever.”

He tips his bottle back for a longer swallow, and exchanges it a little too deftly for his smoke. Whatever he’s on, the beer is helping him along just fine.

“Probably not Raytech.”

Hard to say whether the frown from Luther is for the Medication, or the mention of Raytech. Either way, he shakes his head and heaves a sigh. A refresh of the whiskey later, he lifts the glass once more. He’ll have enough for the pair of them, surely. And after a quick drink, he moves on to other topics that will fill in where the liquor doesn’t.

“Don’t suppose you know a Ms. Pak out there.”

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