Witness Cooperation


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Scene Title Witness Cooperation
Synopsis Judah checks in on Pastor Joseph Sumter to ask him a few questions about his extended stay with Humanis First.
Date September 28, 2009

Greenwich Village — Joseph's Apartment

The radio and TV are both untouched, the only sound within the room coming in the form of sparse traffic through the windows. The ever-present purr of motors punctuated by the occasional squeal of tires against the asphalt, birds in the trees, and sometimes, human voice that manages to drift up from the outside street, into Joseph's modest apartment. The windows are flung open wide, permitting sunlight - it's a rare sunny patch of New York afternoon, and the flockless pastor is making the most of it. Cool air circulates through, and drifts through the front door he has opted to leave wide open.

Audible ambience aside, there is also the continual rhythm of tearing tape, scissor snips, and the crinkle of paper. A squat box of muddy brown sits with its flaps open like a flow, perched in the centre of the squareish kitchen table within the open area. Currently filling with carefully stacked pieces of cutlery, wrapped up and bundled in butcher paper.

There is precious little, at least, to take care of. Joseph stands at the edge of the table, carefully stacking a few plates and binding it in paper and tape. His arms are bared to the elbows, where his shirt sleeves have been rolled, a light greenish cotton tucked into more casual jeans over brown leather shoes. It's not a particularly warm day, despite the directness of sunlight coming in through the kitchen window, but he looks a little harassed as people do when too warm. There's still the lingering effects of mild burns on his arms, the branding of bruises, but for a man who disappeared for a month—

He could certainly be a lot worse.

There is something to be said for Pastor Sumter's resilience. Detective Judah Demsky is surprised to find the front door of the apartment wide open when he arrives at Joseph's address, and there's a moment where the callused tips of his fingers curl in on themselves and his hand moves from a denim-clad thigh to the zipper of his jacket, skimming its teeth as he considers the pistol in the shoulder holster he wears beneath it.

Too warm in the sunlight for leather, he's dressed in crisp whites and a light windbreaker the colour of the sky on a cloudier day, not quite blue and not quite gray. When he appears in the doorway, he pauses to assess the state of the apartment itself and then the man who occupies it before he invites himself inside with knuckles rapped against the wooden frame.

"Joseph Sumter?"

He manages not to drop the porcelain coffee mug he'd been wrapping in the pale paper, fingers only clutching it a little tighter when there's that knock at the door followed by his name. Kind of like establishing a ~pro-Evolved~ church in the first place, it could well be hubristic to leave his door wide open, or tempting fate and a universal sense of irony. And so there is fear, simply, when Joseph looks up and takes in the appearance of the other man at his door.

It's blinked away, and he takes a breath before he's saying; "Yep. Can I help you?"

Gaze directed nonchalantly back down, he finishes sealing in the mug, dragging the box closer so as to squirrel it away somewhere safe, and just as casually, moving around towards the other side of the table. There's a clamour of metal as he gathers up a bundle of silvery utensils.

Although Judah does not extend a hand for Joseph to take, he lets it drop from its position at his chest and hooks a thumb in the belt loop of his jeans to keep it occupied. Polished loafers carry him across the apartment's threshold, over carpet and into the kitchen at an easy gait. "My name's Detective Demsky," he says by way of introduction. "SCOUT. Or what's left of it, these days." He offers the pastor a small, tight smile that doesn't come anywhere close to reaching his eyes. Then, "I've been assigned to your case."

He angles his head, dark eyes coming to settle on the silver shimmering fishtail-like between Joseph's fingers. "I was going to suggest that you move residences," he adds, "but I can see that you've already got that much well in hand. I was wondering if you might have time to answer a few questions."

The paper goes over, tucks beneath the weight of knives and forks and spoons for the time it takes for Joseph to push his sleeves back down, button them at the wrists as he spares a look up at the other man more for the fact his foot steps carry him in further than for what he has to say. Understanding etches across his expression in the next moment — this makes logical sense, and his smile to the other man is bordering on apologetic.

"Right, of course. Nice to meet you. Yeah— "

Joseph looks down at what he's doing, tapes up the utensils before moving to pack these too. "Shoulda done it about a month sooner, to be honest. I'm stayin' with a friend of mine 'til I find somewhere new, or I guess go home properly. I haven't put away everythin' if you wanted a drink— " A glance over his shoulder towards the only half-cleared kitchen counter before asserting, "Coffee, tea."

There's coffee on Judah's breath already, though Joseph almost certainly can't detect is from where he's standing. Garlic, too, but that's unimportant — he had a hearty lunch at the Italian deli just down the street before making the trek to the pastor's apartment building, and now that he's here and no longer being tormented by an empty stomach and the salty smell of fresh capicola, he helps himself to a seat at the kitchen table.

"Coffee would be fantastic," which isn't a word he started using until he was partnered with Kaydence Lee. It still feels awkward in his mouth, and maybe to Joseph's ears as well. "No sugar, cream. Straight's just fine." As he speaks, his dominant hand — the one that had been fingering his belt loop — reaches into his windbreaker's interior pocket and produces a glossy photograph that ripples and bends with movement. He doesn't show it to Joseph yet, watching him around the picture's edges instead.

"This friend of yours have a name?" he asks. "Address?"

He shifts the box aside so it can sit polite at the edge of the table first, before moving to see about coffee. For a man with no particular cooking finesse to his name, Joseph moves about the kitchen with tidy efficiency - mostly glad to be able to do something. There's already the lingering scent of coffee in the air, and so he only turns the machine on to warm as he sets out a couple of cups.

"Oh, uh. She owns a bar, and there's an apartment above it with a few rooms. Old Lucy's, it's just a couple of blocks from here. Abigail Beauchamp," is added, with a quick glance. "She used to attend my church."

The glance lingers towards the photograph in the other man's hands, though he doesn't ask of it yet. Instead, Joseph steps towards the fridge, mostly emptied of food and drink gone bad, replaced with a couple of recently bought supplies to see him through the day. A small carton of milk is among them, which is extracted for himself— and he fidgets briefly with the lip of it before focusing back on the detective. "You said your name was Demsky?"

"Judah Demsky," the detective confirms, curiosity etched in the creases and folds of wrinkled skin at the corners of his eyes rather than seeping through into his voice, which adopts a sort of detachedness at the question. "That's right."

He doesn't allow Joseph much room to follow up with another, at least not immediately, though this might have more to do with the dynamic of power that he imagines exists between them than it does any innate disinterest in his reasons for asking. "This man," he says, pushing the photograph across the table's surface with two long fingers pressed together, the knuckles of which do not line up. "Do you recognize him?"

A few years younger but no less sunken-looking, the face of Emile Danko stares up at Joseph with washed out eyes that lack even the faintest tint of colour — and not just because the photograph is in black and white.

Joseph is polite enough not to interrupt, or even immediately follow with his train of thought, moving to tip a splash of milk into one of the cups, leaving the other empty as requested. He takes a little time to get everything sorted before approaching the table with both drinks, exchanging photograph for bitter coffee as he slides the drink across the surface.

There's no surprise on Joseph's face as he glances at the image, sitting down opposite Judah and curling his hands around his milkier coffee. "Yeah, I do," he confirms, a fleeting glance up with dark eyes before attention returns to the glossy picture. One, two seconds, then the pastor is back to looking at the detective, the photograph of Emile Danko mostly dismissed. "He's the one that— kidnapped me."

It sounds like a fictional word, to him, falling with distaste from his mouth for a lack of a better, less dramatic description. "Not the first time I'd seen 'im. Detective Harrison knows some stuff about that." All cops know each other, this Joseph assumes.

If the way Judah's eyebrows lift and form a rumpled arch is any indication, that assumption might be incorrect. Now it's his turn to clarify. "Detective Elisabeth Harrison?" he asks, perhaps to be absolutely sure as he raises the cup to his mouth. Rather than drink or form a seal, however, his lips purse and move against its ceramic rim, soundlessly, in thought. As far as last names go, Harrison isn't as common as Smith or Rodriquez, but there are enough of them floating around that he needs to be absolutely sure.

When he does drink, it's just enough to sample the coffee's flavour — a short sip at first, and that's all. His focus shifts between Joseph's face and the one depicted in the photograph. "And when you were kidnapped," he continues, "how many men did he have with him?"

Joseph hesitates, but ultimately nods in confirmation, bringing up his coffee to sip from as he darts a look towards the door. He isn't relaxed into his chair, back pole straight and shoulders stiff beneath the shape of his shirt, hands curled set around the lightly steaming mug. "Three other men," he responds, only after a minor hesitation of thought. "They were all masked, I don't think I could pick 'em out if given the opportunity. He," he tilts his chin towards the photograph, "was the only one that spoke at the time. He led it, kind of, they answered to him."

"Can you tell me anything about where they held you?" Judah asks. "And whether or not you had contact with other prisoners while you were there? I haven't had the opportunity to speak with Felix Ivanov yet." Mona isn't even worth mentioning. "Even the smallest detail, no matter how insignificant, might be able to help us track down the people for what happened to your church"

He casts a lazy glance back in the direction of the door several seconds after Joseph does. Either he's confident that he'll hear footsteps in the hall if anyone tries to sneak up on them during the interview, or he has someone posted by the complex doors outside. The two police cruisers parked on the curb in the shade of a tree suggest the latter. "Don't leave anything out."

His shoulders hike up a little in a slow and apologetic shrug, but Joseph doesn't immediately voice protest or dismay, gaze going unspecific for a moment. Then— "We were kept separated, for the most part. I was able to talk to Ivanov just a coupla times, really, he spent most of the month in a bad way. We were in two places, I couldn't tell you where they were. The first place was like a prison, literally speaking. Bars on doors, Ivanov and I— and Raquelle Cambria's daughter— we all got a cell each. There was a yard. Some land around it. When we were being transferred, that's when she managed to get away.

"The second place was just— " And it takes him a minor moment to drag himself back to the original topic, the places they were held— "A normal family home that'd been abandoned for a while, not so far from the first place. Just someplace they found, if I had to guess. I dunno if you'll find anything. They'd count on me sayin' all this to the authorities, wouldn't they?"

There are too many abandoned houses in the New York Metropolitan Area for Judah to narrow his search based on what information Joseph has offered him, but there are only so many prisons — all of which are on record somewhere, even if he doesn't have immediate access to them. "You'd be surprised," he tells Joseph as he flips the photograph over, Danko facing down. "They might have left evidence behind that we can use to build a case against them. Blood. Weapons. Ammunition."

He takes another sip of coffee, longer than the last, and then places it back on the table with a gentle click of porcelain on wood. "Did they inject you with anything? Morphine? Ability suppressants?"

With the steadiness of a creakingly falling tree, Joseph pushes his back against the chair in an effort to relax, nodding along with the line of questioning. "No, none of those. They had tranquilisers, which they used when they got me. Other things. They didn't exactly tell me what they were, you know? Mona— when she was still with us— had her ability messed with, so I guess that's— " He lifts a hand, fingers pointed, spade-like, in a gesture to Judah. "That's what you meant, ability suppressants."

That hand rejoins the other around the coffee mug, and Joseph shrugs again. "They dosed me with a couple of things. I couldn't tell you what they were, they didn't give me names, you know? They made me high— that's pretty much all I could say." This is punctuated with a sip of coffee, some sort of social cue— or legitimate craving for caffeine. Both in equal measures.

Judah folds the photograph between his fingers and slips it back into his windbreaker, rising from his seat at the table. "Your Projective Precognition isn't the threat that Ivanov's Superhuman Speed is," he says, "so I'm not surprised they didn't dose you if they had access to drugs designed to stifle your abilities. It also suggests their supply was limited."

Long legs stretch out, tension easing from the muscles in his calves and thighs as he takes a moment or two to reacclimatize to standing. "The woman. Mona, you said? Do you know what her ability was? She doesn't appear in the database."

"Maybe he woulda gotten to her sooner if she was," is spoken more to his coffee than to the policeman, who gains an apologetic glance from the pastor. There's a pause, before Joseph answers simply; "Telepathy. It's how we talked for a while. She said that the drug didn't let her do much with it outside o' that. I'm sorry I'm not a lot of help— if you need, I can probably identify places or somethin' like that when you go looking."

Standing up from his seat as well, sliding the chair in, he adds; "Other names— Bill Dean is one. A woman who called herself Harlow. That's about it. It was a long month." That last part seems out of place, even to Joseph's ears, but something he feels moved to point out all the same.

Bill Dean. Harlow. These names are filed away in the steel trap cabinet that is Judah's memory as he reaches across the table and does what would have been politer when he first announced himself at the door.

He offers Joseph his hand.

"I appreciate the cooperation, Pastor. Beauchamp's name is pretty well-known down at the station. If you haven't already, I'll let records know where you're staying in case someone else with the department needs to get in touch with you."

"Alright." Joseph's hand goes out and grips the other man's in a brisk and fearless shake. He shakes hands a lot, and it shows in the practiced and measured contact that has absolutely nothing to do with his demeanor. "Good luck on trackin' 'em down."

Hesitation ticks over for a moment, before he smiles across at Judah with a spark of something more genuine than simply polite. "Colette," and there's a moment's pause there, as if allowing for time to see if the name means anything, "used to come by the church a few times. She knew a few people who did. You'll let her know I said 'hi', won't you?"

Judah's hand falls out of Joseph's grip. "Colette," he repeats in a flat tone, though her name has a way of swelling his tongue, filling his mouth with pride. One corner of his mouth tics up. "Yeah, I'll let her know. She'll want to come see you at Beauchamp's as soon as things settle down. What you're doing— it's important to her."

And on that note, he turns to go, rough hands slipping easily into the pockets of his jeans. He's either said too much, or too little. Time will tell.

The nod Joseph gives is stiff-necked, but Judah is already headed for the door, showing his back which is all Joseph can blink bafflement towards. Alone in his own apartment, Joseph lifts his hands, spreads his fingers as if to inspect them. There's no tremor, save for the microscopic twitches of stressed tendons, hard lines, and within a few moments, he returns those hands to the simple task of packing.

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