What Lurks In The Bushes


amato_icon.gif christmas_icon.gif nadia_icon.gif

Scene Title What Lurks in the Bushes
Synopsis Nadia and Amato have a chance encounter in the Greenbelt. Little do they know, there's a third person in their midst…
Date September 7, 2010

The Greenbelt

The Greenbelt is 2800 acres of mixed urban parkland and natural preserves that have since gone wild, equal parts dying and thriving in the neglect that the borough of Staten Island has suffered. The more natural areas are primarily a succession of ridges and boulder-littered moraines beneath the canopy of a hardwood forest - beech, hickory, maples, and oaks in the main, with a variety of less common trees mixed in. At the lower points of the parkland, this forest gives way to wetland, overgrown with ferns, skunk cabbage, lady slipper, and trout lilies.

An overgrown golf course is home to unkempt grassland and a site for the island's residents to discard junk. The cemetery is similarly writhed with impossible weeds, and contains the smell of an open grave or several. Stray dogs have taken to existing out in its thicker parts, gone wild and dangerous, and there are other dangers too - desperate cut throat muggers have been known to roam the pathways, and an urban legend of a monster lurks in its shadows.

It's not impossible to get through the Greenbelt without harm, and many make such journeys every day - but its no surprise that very few desire to linger longer than necessary in the midst of dead trees, tangled weeds, and the occasional unpleasant surprise in the dark.

The relatively hot afternoon in September is made cooler by the shade of the Greenbelt's many trees, and colors the wilderness's floor with dappled sunlight. It's not difficult to get lost in the large expanse of nature, but for some, that is the Greenbelt's prime appeal. There is some wildlife here, as there always is when there is an abundance of flora to support it. Birds chitter in the trees, and various ground-dwelling creatures rustle about in the undergrowth.

But the bay mare in western style tack that is currently drinking from a stream at the bottom of a wide ravine isn't one of these wild things. The reins have been secured to a large tree that has fallen across the creek bed, stifling it's flow somewhat, but even if she weren't secured, there is a chance she wouldn't wander far from the man she came here with.

He rests on the very tree the horse has been tied off to, his back leaning against the moss-covered break in the trunk, his feet braced against the wall of the hollow. He's dressed in a pair of khaki duck pants and boots, held up by a utilitarian pair of suspenders. If he were wearing an overshirt, he's shed it, leaving him in a ribbed tank that leaves his thinly muscled arms, tan from fingertip to mid-bicep, exposed. His skin is obviously not naturally this color, for the rest of him is either pale or slightly burned. Freckles stand out on his shoulders and across his cheeks and nose, but they appear to be fading.

He holds a black, leather bound book in his hands, a pencil tucked between the index and middle fingers of his right. Lowly, in a voice that is in the upper part of the baritone register, he hums a modal tune.

In contrast to the rather serene nature of the man comfortably reading his book, mare only feet away sipping contently from the stream, the scrawny and short frame of Christmas Macendale is crunching through the brush of the Greenbelt. Wearing a pair of thick denim jeans and a black hoodie zipped up all the way despite the heat, he ducks under branches, steps over logs on his way further downstream. When he spots that there is a horse tied up and a man near it, he stops and freezes in place. His eyes pierce through the brush, calculating. Thinking.

The petite figure that makes her way through the Greenbelt certainly looks out of place. It's a beautiful day for a trip out here, the sun filtering through the trees as the young woman weaves her way among them. Nadia wears a simple outfit, with somewhat short shorts and a white shirt with half-sleeves, cut low. Her eyes are covered by a pair of sunglasses, and her feet…are bare. The shoes she wore today are currently in the oversized purse she carries.

She looks horribly out of place.

The presence of Amato, his horse, and Christmas are all relatively ignored as Nadia stumbles out into the clearing around the stream. It's not until she's crouched down, running her fingers through the water, that she notices Amato and his horse, her brows raising slightly. Well, the Greenbelt certainly is popular today.

The horse lifts her head first at Christmas, who she hears tromping through the brush toward them, and then Nadia. Her velvety ears flick back and forth between the two interlopers before she shakes her head and lets out a subdued nicker.

Amato looks up, and his eyes go to Nadia first. He squints at her, leaning forward and closing his book, keeping a finger tucked between the pages to hold his place. Christmas can easily make out the title, gold-embossed as it is in the black leather. The Holy Bible.

With rigid expedience that makes the mare nicker again, Amato stands - one foot on the tree and the other on the ravine's bank. A barefooted women this far into the Greenbelt is one thing, but one carrying that sort of bag is another entirely. And even Amato's sub-rock living isn't so deep that he doesn't recognize Nadia Ba'albaki.

Christmas slowly moves to the side to a better location, obscuring himself deeper in the brush while providing himself an angle to watch. At first merely being careful, Christmas turns curious as Nadia comes into view. He does not recognize the woman. Whether he just doesn't know who she is, or all people look the same to him.. that is anybody's guess. His breathing slows, his vibrantly blue eyes intently focused on the individuals before them.

An embarassed, almost nervous smile forms on Nadia's face, and she raises a wet hand to wave to Amato. Lifting her purse once more, she hops across the stream, splashing through the water, to the side that Amato stands on. "Um…hello!" She calls this out to the man heasitantly as she approaches, a warm smile gracing her face. "I didn't expect anyone to be out here."

The girl seems quite oblivious to the presence of a third person to the small gathering, apparently focused on Amato with a practiced, charming smile, even as she pushes her sunglasses back to keep her hair from her face.

In contrast, Amato's face is one of shock. He glances up the sides of the ravine, straining to hear anything out of the ordinary over the sounds the mare and the woman make. But with a shake of his head, he does his best to sweep away the paranoia that's crowding in.

"I didn't expect to see you," he says somewhat gruffly, his voice solidly American in accent. He lifts the hand holding the Bible and pencil to hold his wrist in front of his mouth while coughs nervously, then steps onto the fallen tree, walking to the far side of the mare. "You…come here often?" While the words said in any other context, by any other man, might be a solicitation, Amato, using the voice of Benjamin Sall, is clearly quite uneasy.

Continuing to remain eerily quiet behind his brush, Christmas crouches down ever so slowly, resting on the back of his feet as one hand moves to keep himself steady on the side of a tree. Unblinking, he continues to watch and listen, his breathing not even audible to himself. He doesn't recognize the man either, but caution is king. If people know about this place, it won't serve his purposes. No, not at all.

The Moroccan woman's brows raise for a moment as a brief look of confusion passes over her face. It is quickly replaced by a look of understanding as she recalls that she is a bit of a 'celebrity', if you could call her that, and that Amato is probably one of the many people who will recognize her. A small smile reforms on her features.

"I do, actually. It's the best little piece of nature you can get without driving all the way out to the Catskills, two hours away." She smiles. "Just because I have a Gucci Purse with Jimmy Choos in it," which she spent a large portion of her check on, "doesn't mean I can't get out and enjoy a nice long walk out in the beauty that A— God, gave us." The last part of her sentence is stated with her eyes on his bible.

Amato blinks at the substitution, then shakes his head as he drops down into the creek on the other side of the mare. He transfers the pencil from his finger to his teeth as he fusses about with a satchel looped about the horn of the saddle, slipping first the Bible and then the pencil into it.

"No, of course not," he says with a smile that is strained at best. "Still, I would suspect that if you plan to do any serious hiking, you may want to invest in the proper equipment. There are plenty of snake and rabbit holes one might twist an ankle in out here, so far from civilization."

Not to mention the looming danger of an insane sociopath creeping about in the bushes. Christmas' eyes move back and forth between Amato and Nadia, watching their every movement. Their being here will not do at all. They are not part of the plan. This place was supposed to be secluded, the perfect spot to..

He'll just have to find another. For now, he will watch.

Nadia ends up leaning against the tree that Amato once leaned against, smiling to the man as she lifts a hand, brushing a strand of hair out of her eyes. "Oh, I never have a problem with anything like that. To avoid a long and drawn out story, I'm friends with the earth, you could say. It doesn't steer me wrong." She says this with a confident smile on her face.

She pushes off of the tree, then, and approaches the horse from the side, where she can be seen. She reaches out cautiously, after she's sure the horse won't freak out, to run her hand along the equine's neck. "Beautiful horse."

The mare twitches an ear toward Nadia, but she doesn't move more than that. Amato's brows knit together, and he coughs again. "Yes, I suppose that's so," he says by way of dismissal, not wanting to dwell on who Nadia is. His remark also doubles as a suitable if awkward response to the question.

He disappears from Nadia's sight to unwind the reins from the tree, lifting them over the mare's head and looping the leather around the saddle horn so that they don't fall into the water. "Regardless - I can't imagine that bag being kind to your shoulder." Especially considering how far she's had to walk to get here, let alone back or wherever her final destination is.

Listening to Nadia's words, Christmas almost falls backward into the brush, which would surely indicate his presence to both Amato and Nadia. The horse already knows he is there, but.. a horse is a horse. His eyes flick to Nadia, sizing the woman up, then back to Amato as he unwinds the reins. Will the man leave? If this woman is Evolved, Christmas will have a use for her. And they are already all the way out here.

Apparently, Nadia is quite fascinated by the horse, running her hands along the mare's neck and shoulders with a soft smile on her face. Finally, however, her eyes turn back toward Amato as she fusses at her hair slightly. "It's not that bad. It mostly just has a wallet, and my shoes in it." She chuckles softly, reaching up to gently scratch behind one of the mare's ears.

"So, might I inquire your name?" A charming smile forms on her face. "I'm Nadia Ba'albaki." She doesn't bother mentioning the commercials. He probably already knows who she is, judging by his facial expressions.

"You might." And she does. Amato cannot stop her doing that. It's wrong to mount from the right, and Amato knows this. Still, he puts his foot in the stirrup and pushes himself up off the ground, swinging his leg over so that he comes to rest astride the mare. The horse leans to the right, unaccustomed to the nontraditional mounting, and swishes her tail once.

"You might also be, unfortunately, disappointed." Amato smiles down at Nadia, his icy eyes narrowing slightly. "There is a saying, Miz Ba'albaki," and for a man riding a horse through the Greenbelt, Amato has no trouble with the woman's surname, "that when you are in Rome, you do as the Romans do."

Excellent. The man with the horse is looking like he's going to leave.. if only he had any idea that leaving would make this young woman vulnerable. She may not be part of his puzzle, part of his plan.. but Christmas can't pass up the opportunity to kill her. No, not when they are both already out here. It's so perfect. Nobody will ever know what happened to the lovely young Nadia Ba'albaki. Nobody but him.

Slowly, quietly, his tongue escapes his mouth to lick over his lower lip.

The small woman blinks quietly as Amato narrows his eyes down at her, her brows raising. "I— I'm sorry? I didn't mean to offend you by offering my name as a show of good will and an attempt to make friendly conversation." Suddenly, she's a bit on the sarcastic side. "If we meet again, I'll be sure to just leave you alone and avoid talking to you, since it's apparently a horrible ordeal to meet someone." She frowns up at him, moving to make her way toward a tree a bit away from where Amato is, and where Christmas hides.

If only she knew what lurks in the bushes…

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