Westchester (Almost)


bella_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif

Scene Title Westchester (Almost)
Synopsis Bella, having a bad time, comes upon Deckard at a bad time.
Date July 14, 2010

A Bar and Highway 87

It's unclear if plans have to change.

Well, no, it's quite clear that they must. And must do so significantly. But certain elements, certain points in the previous constellation of Bella's intentions, may remain unprecessed, still capable of guiding her. Or so she hopes. She gave no details over the phone. The phone cannot be trusted. Many things cannot be trusted. In fact, the sad truth is that Bella's effective trust is placed in a mind-wiped former serial killer. Which fact disturbs her, as many of her feelings disturb her, only in the second degree. Disturbing in that they do not disturb her, she imagines, enough.

Neither does the place of appointed meaning disturb her - it simply makes her feel tired. Another sinkhole, another cul-de-sac, collecting the runoff of human mistery. Another bar. Bella parks her car, confident that whatever twisted devices Alex has planted in it will keep her tires from being stolen, or worse. She just hopes she doesn't have to clean mangled people-bits off of her windshield. Note, she doesn't yet have to add 'again'. She's hoping to keep it that way.

Despite the summer heat, she's in a long coat, but it's thin, bearable only because of the sleeveless blouse underneath, and the loose slacks she wears. Her toes are painted in chipped rosepetal pink, peeking out from her low-heeled sandals as she hikes her purse onto her shoulder, and braves the bar's interior.

The ambiguous, hollow din of overloud voices filtered to the street through the bar's own walls is quick to resolve itself into the worst kind of sense when the door is opened.

Flint is fighting. Only one guy tonight — a windmill of open hands and plaid flailing off balance back into a padded stool. There isn't enough force involved for either to hit the floor, but the bartender stops dialing the cops long enough to lend a simian hoot of displeasure to the general chaos. If he enunciated a little better, maybe someone here might actually listen.

But he doesn't. So they don't.

Shirt neck twisted looser than it should be around his collar, neck lined lean with hot wire, Deckard still (miraculously) has his sunglasses intact when he reaches to rack a (smallish) metal bowl of mixed hard nuts clong off the balder skull of his opponent. Nuts go everywhere. The bald guy bellows. Flint comes to his senses long enough to look uneasy about the fact that he's probably outweighed by a good one hundred pounds for the fleeting second he spends listing on his boots while the rest of the establishment shouts and cheers and curses.

It's not a big bar. There's only one pool table. People might notice a dead body before last call.

Despite her insistence on not allowing herself to be further surprised, and despite the fact that this situation should not strike her as surprising, Bella's eyes still widen in, if not, shock, then alarm as she enters the bar in media res. She quickly identifies the combatant (momentarily she makes the dry, barely witty comment to herself about at least not having to look around for him in that awkward, neck-craning fashion), and then swiftly moves from wide-eyed startlement to narrow-eyed irritation.

This isn't something she'd normally do, but she's really not in the mood, nor does she feel like she has the time. This is a bar full of men, and the hollering and hooting all persists in a pitch range generally reserved for male voices. So, when Bella closes her eyes and pitches into a very loud, very high, and distinctly female scream, she expects it will carry loud and clear to all present ears. She expects, also, that this will earn a moment's pause from hostilities.

If this doesn't work, she's got a taser in her purse.

Halfway through the process of snatching at still another bowl of salted nuts in the wake of that potentially deadly hesitation, Flint finds himself caught up again — not by the shirt collar this time, but at the stiffer leather stuff of his jacket. And from behind, nearer the scruff of his neck, where Genesis 4:14 remains tattood across its bitter cross. Big Bald Dave's BFF might be impressed by the craftmanship if he wasn't busy spittling, "FUCK HIM UP DAVE," into the salt and pepper bristle at the back of his captive's skull.

Efforts for the bowl understandably fettered by a stiff blow to his remaining kidney, barely on his feet, Flint bares his teeth, twists like a dying cat and plants a mule kick square into the gut of Bald's advance. A stool clatters over sideways. Bottles of beer spill but don't shatter.

There's a quick, viscious, near uniform gracelessness to it all, beats of non-violence metered in by necessary staggering and bracing for some semblance of balance. Then Bella screams.

Suspended at chest-level by the meaty fists twisted thick into the back of his jacket, Flint snaps his long face around to the door on an osprey swivel, shoulders skewed and knees bent. The din in the bar dies out into heavy breathing and an isolated clank of dark glass on old wood. Everyone stares. The jukebox clicks like a giant spider on its way to sorting through to the next disk.

He tries a little wrest, mute enough not to attract the attention of any fists that might've been on their way to his face, but it's the bartender that seizes best upon the opportunity in his (sort of) sobriety:

"…Everyone sit down or get the hell out!"

Miracle of miracles, Flint is released to roll and thunk gracelessly off the corner of a stool and onto to the floor. A kick planted thick in his side by 'Dave' in passing puntuates the fight's retarded culmination and conversation stirs gradually back to life in the farthest corners.

Oh thank God. Bella can't shoot for shit. She'd have been just as likely to hit Deckard with her single shot as his dome-headed opponent.

She doesn't wait for Deckard to do anything stupid, like make a comment about 'Dave's' sister or mother or… but no, Bella shouldn't be blaming Flint for things he hasn't done yet. She cranks down her frustration and swoops over to Deckard's side, kneeling next to the fallen man, hair hanging at an angle to her face as she peers down at him. Her brows arch very slightly. "A lady is asking you to leave a bar with her," she states, as smoothly as she can, "I think we know what your answer is."

Bella gets to her feet and reaches into her purse, extracting her wallet (not her taser) and pulling free a trio of twenties, which she tosses onto the bar. Two lands on the bartop, but the other unflolds and flutters impotently in the air between Bella and the stools, forcing her to snatch at it and then set it on the bar, sort of ruining the gesture but, hey… "Sorry about the mess," she says, smiling at the bartender with steady gaze of conveyance. He's not going to make an issue of this with the police when they arrive, is he?

Which brings Bella back to Flint. She grabs a chair and sets it next to him, its leg-rungs offered as an ad hoc ladder.

There were a lot of things for Flint to crack his skull against on the way down, which is probably why it takes him a few seconds of arching his back dully away from the throbbing in his side to pull Bella into dubious focus over him. Laid out amidst papery peanut shells and pistachios, he tips his head her way and squints behind the opaque screen of his sunglasses.

Rather than plumb into the spaces between lines of dialogue while he's aching on the floor, he huffs out a hissed breath and reaches for the displaced chair so that he can start dragging himself back up into a vertical orientation. He's aware enough to sweep clinging shells fumblingly from the hang of his jacket as he does it — not so drunk he can't keep his feet once he's on them or frown resignedly for the sore state of his already severely battered dignity.

A few people are still watching, eye sockets scooped hollow while he maneuvers his own wallet out and seeks to add another flimsy ten (or twenty) to Bella's donation. Hopefully not a hundred. Hopefully he's paying more attention than that.

Bella checks Deckard's bill as well, being certain that it's not too little, either. A one or a five might be insulting. She's greeted by the charmingly genocidal face of Andrew Jackson, the first folksy lunatic President. She passes this one as well, giving the bartender another smile. See? See how good he's being.

Okay, let's go…

That's the unambiguous message as Bella takes Deckard's arm and begins to pull him towards the exit. To the exit. Out of the exit. Once clear of the bar's interior out in the summer evening air, she speaks, words not clipped so much as just hurried. As if her words had to keep pace with the briskness of her walk.

"Not that I don't have confidence in your abilities, Flint," Bella says, slipping a hand into her purse and removing her remote keys, and causing her car to give a submissive little 'beep' and unclick its locks. Bella even goes so far as to open the passenger-side door for Deckard. "But please, please be safer, for my sake?" Not quite a reprimand, but an appeal. "There have been some sort of shitty, scary developments, and I really need you with me on this. Okay?"

Flint's first step is really more of a stagger, but between Bella's balance and a jostling touch at an unoccupied chair back in passing, he avoids putting either of them back on the floor. He's fine once he's found his stride, hitched as it is by the uneven contribution of his bruised right knee, and only glances broodily back once at the door to see if anyone's laughing at him, wallet still in hand.

The warmth outside is greeted with a long breath and a stiff sigh, humidity soaked in with the heady stink of exhaust and stale summer air. For all that he was elbow-deep in a tooth-and-claw brawl five minutes ago, there's already a laconic lack of interest in the world in the slack of his arm under her grip. He doesn't argue in favor of his ~abilities~. Seeing as he was probably about to get his ass kicked.

There is a muttered, "Thanks," when she opens the door for him, car rocking subtly on its shocks when he sinks himself into the passenger seat, thinks, and reaches dully across himself for the seatbelt. "Okay."

Bella rounds the front of the car, a habit of someone who is used to four-doors - the way around the front is longer than the way around back on a sports car. She opens her door and slips inside, sliding her purse into the space by Deckard's feet. "Don't step on that," she instructs Flint, "It's good fake Coach; that's hard to find."

She struggles with the stick shift, still getting used to it (and to driving in general - she was out of practice for a while. Eventually Bella gets the car going, and peels out into the road. She doesn't waste time - haste has infected every aspect of her mien. "I was kidnapped and threatened with torture a couple days ago. Their… leader or whatever - head jackass - was this man who was made of shadows. Richard Cardinal, someone said his name was. Unless there are two shadowy assholes on the loose."

Wallet twisted awkwardly back into his rear pocket as an afterthought, Flint endures Bella's placement of the purse and associated warning with brows twisted into a skeptical (and maybe slightly unappreciative) knit. Like. Seriously?

His breath smells like whiskey when he twists and reaches to draw the fake Coach and all associated loot up into his lap, both hands steadying the contents when he's jostled along with sudden rapid acceleration into the street. Then he starts fishing. There is a taser in there somewhere. He saw it.

It's a mark of what kind of life Deckard's lead lately that talk of kidnapping and threatened torture is only enough to make him look mildly disconcerted while he turns a lipstick over between his fingers. His sunglasses mask the full effect, even, so he just kind of looks at her sideways and resumes shuffling until Cardinal's name enters the mix. Tension winches into his profile and holds its ground there with tell-tale irritation to temper out more traditional anger. He drops the lipstick. "The hell does he want?"

There is a taser. There is also a gizmo that looks like a flashlight, but maybe one that's going to be converted in a DIY lightsaber later on. Complete with well ground lens as, like, 'phaser crystal' or whatever, Bella wouldn't know. Which makes this an odd thing for her to have on hand.

Such that she feels the need to explain herself. She nods at that, "Mortimer Jack gave that to me. Apparently it can fuck Cardinal up, even as a shadow. You can have it if you like. I have a feeling you'd be a better shot." Bella pulls up onto the highway, just wanting to have distance to go, not really going anywhere yet.

As to what Cardinal wants: "He wants me to defect from the Institute, the people I work for besides our mutual employers. Which I was already doing, just privately, without involvement with psychotic Germans of any kind, no matter who they work for." Okay, that's specific. "I still want to keep to our plan. Or whatever. They'll assist me in disappearing from all of the people who'd be after me, new identity and everything. As long as I funnel them information. So… that's what I've been doing."

Buzzily warm and comfortable in his semi-sideways slouch into his seat, Flint is still in the late states of settling down as the worst of the pain in his side ebbs into an endorphin-dosed lack of awareness that he should probably still be hurting. He draws out the lightsaber flashlight, thumb poised automatically over the first thing that looks like a switch until it starts sounding like some kind of alien weapon.

Meanwhile: The Institute, Mortimer Jack, psychotic Germans. Next to Bella, orange bands of light roll placid across the hardened jut of Flint's brow and cheekbone and scruffy jaw, blacking out the hollows beneath them and glancing harsh off the sheen of his glasses. After a moment's cautious thought, he's back to trying to figure out how to turn the flashlight thing on.

"Who's 'they?'" inquired as a distant afterthought, Flint tips his glasses down the bridge of his nose and turns Mortimer's device over in his hands once more. "You should probably keep this."

The 87 is taking them north, and Bella shows no sign of searching for an exit. The speedometer's arrow hovers a good fifteen miles per hour over the speed limit. Which is badass for a girl from the posh suburbs who usually takes the bus. Maybe this helps her concentrate. Maybe it's just her blowing off steam. She drives with a purpose, though she's still not very good, her grip on the wheel not smoothest or most in control.

"This Mr. Cardinal and his gang of merry avengers," Bella says, defining 'they' for Deckard, "And I think I'd rather not. If he finds out I'm carting that around, he may suspect I'm having second thoughts. And I am not. Fuck the Institute, and fuck being tortured by anyone. I am disappearing with you somewhere in Midtown and, if I'm very lucky, I can get a new identity as Dr. Jane Doe, psychiatric medicine, and start up a small, discreet, ethical private practice. This is the plan. I am not interested in deviations."

"…Phoenix?" guessed maybe kind of dumbly for the purposes of this conversation, Flint places the flashlight with due care back into the purse, exchanging it for the taser instead. There's a venomous electric crackle once he's removed the cartridge and squeezed the trigger, blue-white light arcing from prong to prong until his curiosity is satisfied and he releases his grip.

The cartridge is replaced. So is the rest of the gun. "Those are illegal in the city," pointed out once that's done, he strips his glasses off the rest of the way, folding them quietly into his lap once he's tipped his head the other way to peer out the black of the window instead. Moon's full out there somewhere. He relaxes further still once he's found it.

"Does he know what you did before?"

"I have no idea that stupid fucking name they've given themselves," Bella says, "Pheonix? Jesus, what is wrong with these people? I know a psychotic is unaware of their psychosis, but come on." Someone has some pent up frustrations. Raging at the (in her eyes, in this moment) insipid name that doesn't even refer to the organization she's attributing it to, as opposed to getting scared - a coping mechanism. She notes this even as she processes it, produces it.

Her eyes dart over to the taser, a small twinge of fear making its way past the diatribe. "Well, I do work for the government. Sort of. Contracted by, or something. Semi-autonomous. So I am above the law." She slips around a single car, driving north with her. She's going at a fair pace, and doesn't glance at more than the directional sign, so quickly she can't really be seeing them. It looks more like a habit. "He knows about everything," she says "But it's great, because everyone I work for is so much worse than me. I guess they define a black so dark, I somehow end up on the whiter side of grey in comparison. Not surprising, considering the psychos he associates with," she pauses, "I shouldn't have misused psycho. But you know what I mean. I was using it colloquially."

Deckard grunts, accomodating in low-key acceptance of rage and excuses and hope(?) for classification as someone with enough redemptive quality to be worth helping in exchange for her whistleblowing services. "It's just," he says at length, quietly, like volume reduction will make whatever he has to convey easier to swallow, "he has a pretty egocentric idea of morality. And justice."


There's a scuff; a scratch at the hollow of his cheek while he watches the highway railing blur by. "If he thinks burning you will help his cause, he might."

"Do you have some other option?" Bella asks, turning to look at Deckard, making it clear that this is not a rhetorical question. Input would be fantastic. Even if Bella is being dramatic, she welcomes audience participation. "I knew the kind of people I was dealing with almost from the get go," she says, "I work with people like that - these ones are just the rabid dogs without collars."

"We could go to Mexico," may or may not be a serious suggestion. Just as, "You sound like you could use a margarita," may or may not be related.

Flint's given up on her purse at least, left hand poised carefully over faux Coach to keep it in place and not stepped on or otherwise dumped onto the floor.

"I think I could have won that fight."

"Stranger things have happened," Bella remarks, dryly. She suddenly does take notice of the sign. They are some miles out of the city. "Oh, wait. Oh, no way…" she says, with a tone of realization, "Well, that's something of a slip…" she makes to turn off at the next exit, peeling off and making a turn under the highway overpass and onto the ramp for the same highway heading south. "Sorry. Was just going on autopilot. And no. Not Mexico. The government will send spooks after me. I know way too much." She manages not to sound even slightly proud of this fact.

"I saw a sign for a hotel a few exits back," suggested as subtly as it is possible to suggest such things, Flint does not seem bothered by the distance or the driving or denial of happily forever after in the Chihuahuan Desert. He feels over a black-crusted split at one of his knuckles instead, the bristles of his chin tucked to his collar while he flakes bits of dried blood off onto his pant leg.

"You will be upset when I use the chain lock on my room," Bella answers, not missing a beat. If nothing else, she's alert. They begin speeding south, passing the familiar shapes of mall, hunching darkly as they stare out with glowing windows and bristle with parking lot lights. "I am sorry, Flint, but this would not be a healthy time for me to be intimate," she makes a face, "I'm sorry. That sounded awful. I am just… this is really not a good time. I worry about our long term-" she winces now, "Dammit. There is no way of saying this nicely. Just please… give me some time, okay?" She gives him a slightly imploring, mostly apologetic look.

A thought occurs to her. "It could be worse. I could have finished driving to Westchester."

Flint's nose rankles faintly at the specific classification of thought preventative measures such as chain locks generally fall into. Past a mute look at her long enough to last until she apologizes he declines to take readily apparent offense, though. Even that initial rankle and look is hard to read — trending towards impossibility once he's tipped his attention back to asphalt and painted lines smearing by too fast for him to register.

"I grew up in Westchester."

"It's where my parents live," Bella explains, "Where they went to retire, while still getting to work. I haven't seen them for a while. Been… busy," she glances at Deckard, "I think they'd have to be eased into meeting you. They're sort of… like me. Only moreso." Presumably she means 'upper middle class liberal square' rather than 'borderline sociopathic kidnapper'. In fact, this is just what she means. She still thinks the kidnapping thing was really more a hobby she's not so enthusiastic about anymore. Overdid it. And the fellow hobbyists were not a fun social circle.

Another glance to Deckard, "That's a posh place to grow up in. I was your therapist, but I never asked about your upbringing. Didn't seem relevant to your immediate problems," a pause, "I'd like to know. Just… for it's own sake."

It takes Flint some time to decide whether or not he wants to talk about it. 'It.' Himself and his upbringing. More orangey grey and grey grey and blue grey in the distance where the lighting is less industrial yellow out the window. The moon doesn't really factor in out here, save maybe to blur light fringes into some of the cloud cover.

"My parents were well off. Conservative. I had problems in school. We didn't get along very well." Short sentences and they all have long spaces in between, like sparse piles of elephant shit in a field that's also littered with live mines. "They're dead now. My sister's probably still around but I dunno where."

"I can imagine that," Bella states, offering no condolences, "That makes sense. That's unfortunate," almost a condolence? Maybe? "How long ago was it that they died? And when was the last time you saw your sister?" This last question is accompanied by a full turn of the head, safe since they're almost alone on the highway. "Again, just because I want to know. If you want me to know."

"I dunno. Ten years." For a guess it's a pretty good one given that he can't recall his own age from day to day. Within the middle region of accuracy for all that he's not very precise. "My mother died first. He followed a little while later."

And that was that. Flint traces the flat line of his mouth with his thumb, chilly eyes unfocused behind the eery light they've soaked back into themselves. "She was in the city a year ago. She seemed okay."

"Who do you have left?" Bella asks. Maybe now, now, there is a tinge of something beyond a request for facts. Some offered aim to her words, some hint of sympathy. She's light with it. It's too easy, she knows, sympathy to be read as pity - she, in particular, must watch to avoid seeing condescending.

"I have a cat," says Deckard. Not the first time said pussy has come up in a similar context. Legs stretched long and boots planted agains the floorboard, he shifts uncomfortably in his seat for the first time. His right hand falls back into his lap to hook back into his sunglasses and he shifts Bella's purse aside — against his left leg rather than between them. "And The Company."

"I remember your cat," Bella states, a fact, unless this is a different cat he's talking about, "The Company is useless. You-" she pauses, mouth snapping shut. She is quiet, too quiet, for a fair few seconds. She shoots him a look out of the corner of her eyes. "I don't know how long they'll last," she says, "And they aren't anybody's. Not even their own. Not anymore."

There's only one cat.

Undead stare directed back at the driver's side at her proclamation of Company uselessness and the broken start that follows, Flint settles again with a sigh once he's hitched his seat back a few lazy degrees. He doesn't press after what she was going to say. If she does she does.

"I have Joseph. And Abby. And Teo. Most of them will forgive me." Or already seem to've, for whatever reason. "What about you?"

"Yes, of course," Bella says, like she's almost offended that he'd even have to ask. Though the offense comes after a delay, it's a bit put on. Not the agreement itself, but the feeling that it should be obvious. "I think that our cocktail parties will be awkward, though. I…" another pause, before the continues, just where she left off, "am not so clear on what they must think. Do they know you still speak to me? I mean, I know Abby knows, but still as your therapist. I am… not so sure how this new situation will be received. I mean, this is a matter of election. You're… choosing to… associate with me."

"No." They don't.

Voice coarse in his throat, Deckard scratches behind his ear and then down at his neck, past furrows of loose skin and scars and bristle. "Teo used to assfuck a federal agent who tried to take me out of the picture more than once. He doesn't have a leg to stand on." Maybe a small one, given that Deckard did successfully kill Felix back at one point. He skims over the memory with a glance down at his glasses. Nothing on the subject of how he intends to approach it with Joseph, or if he ever does.

"It is my leg that I am most concerned about, with regards to him," Bella says, a touch hotly - this remains a sore point for her, "Unless he was dealing out pre-emptive vengeance, he shot me for no reason." Well, not no reason, considering her Company association. But Bella still considers it an injustice. "He's an unbalanced individual, and not even predictably so." She clamps her jaw tight, halting what could likely draw out into a much longer list of recriminations and symptomal attributions. It takes a while for the tide of her bile to subside. "I would rather not be a dirty secret, given the choice."

"I don't see him much anymore." Flint's more dismissive than he probably intends to be, still pleasantly intoxicated. Also, feeling dimly over the door panel at his side for a switch to roll the window down with. "He was different, before. Better than us."

Attention span too laggard to mess with unlocking the window apparatus once he's found it, he tilts at the air conditioning vent instead, centering it more on his core. "We haven't done anything dirty yet."

Bella notices Deckard struggling with the childlock (a peculiarly fussy feature on a slammin' silver sports car), and uses her grown-up master console to roll the passenger side window down. Being conscientious, she deactivates the AC, so as not to be wasteful. She rolls down her window as well, just a crack, that kicks up strands of her hair in a minor tempest of red.

"We're statistically likely to become intimate if we remain connected socially," Bella states, which is just about the sexiest thing Bella (or anyone) has ever said, or ever will, "Your chances with me are, due to proximity, quite good, regardless of other factors." Oh baby, yeah, keep going…

Gee. Deckard has to ruminate over this a moment to decide whether or not he is turned on at all, even going so far as to gauge a glance down at himself once he's had time to think about it. Outlook not so good.

There's a concerned furrow at his brow while he wonders whether or not this is how she talks in bed, after which he thinks it best to direct his attention outward to the open window and the rush of warm wind scuffling through his wiry hair. Surely not.

Bella offers no raw data on the previous cited statistic. She's not that kind of girl. The city opens its arms to them as they speed back into civilization and all its discontents. The actual question of 'where to go' becomes pressing as the exits proliferate. "Where should I take you?" she asks.

"I'm staying in Chelsea," is pretty vague as far as answers go. Presumably he'll get more specific as they get closer for all that he doesn't look to be in a huge hurry to get there. Right hand set lax through the open window, he filters the wind through his fingers and tilts his head back against the reclined seat. "Still looking."

Bella sets them on the path, her driving becoming more controlled, less charged. The drive seems to have soothed her somewhat. Her edge has turned, for the moment. "I would offer to help, but I don't know what to look for," she says, "But the sooner, the better. I am tired of sleeping in my office."

Deckard agrees with a distracted nod. The sooner the better. Even if he's never had much success remaining in a single location for more than a few months at a time. This will be different.


The drugs will probably help.

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