Wolf Hunt


amato_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Wolf Hunt
Synopsis Raith and Amato meet for a second time to discuss the future of New York.
Date May 26, 2009

Staten Island Boat Graveyard

Exactly where land gives way to water at this point of the island's edge is uncertain — first because of the saltgrass growing everywhere, both on dry earth and in the shallows, giving the illusion of solidarity; second for the structures visible in the distance, drawing the eye away from the deceptive ground, suggesting its reach extends beyond its grasp. Even if the structures are still recognizable as ships, and nothing that ever belonged on land.

There are a multitude of them, abandoned hulls of salt-stained wood and rust-pitted steel, dying slow and ungraceful deaths as wind and water claim their dues. Some still appear to rest upright, braced upon the debris of older, lost relics below; others list to one side, canted at an odd angle like someone who just struggled to the surface in search of a desperate breath. There are no hands to pull these hulks from the water, no ropes to save them from drowning; each has been surrendered to the sea, left to the ravages of unmerciful time.

At low tide, some of the closer ships can be reached — not without getting soaked, but such is the price of daring. Never mind that the rotting metal and splintered wood are the stuff of nightmares for any germophobe, definite hazards to the unwary. The more distant ships are distant indeed, beyond the reach of all but the most bold — and are all but submerged besides.

Two rings and a click, and an hour later, Amato is sitting in the dark on the rusted and ripped hull of what was once a boat, his booted feet resting on a similar one in front of him. Behind him, the wool coat he wore to Lucrezia Bennati's the night Ethan Holden took his right hand - the coat he wore when he effectively washed up on the Ferrymen's doorstep - flutters in the brief yet gusty wind the blows off the nearby water.

Fingers interlaced, Amato's hands bridge the gap between his knees, where his forearms rest. Held between his palms and draped lovingly over his fingers are the wooden beads of a worn and well-used rosary, the brass-colored crucifix at the end tarnished. The few places along the contours of the metal that remain lustrous catch the dim light from the far-off docks or the even further away moon or starlight. Still, the inconstant flicker from the swaying icon is a beacon of sorts.

A lighthouse where the only boats are impossible to save.

If there's one thing that Jensen Raith apparently is not, it's punctual. Amato may be on time, but his contact is not, and when he finally does come strolling into the belly of the gutted steel hulk, it's nearly ten minutes late. In a stark difference to when they first met, Raith is visibly armed, a suppressed MP5 hanging from his shoulder on a sling. Nothing terribly out of the ordinary, really; after all, he's taking risks just like Amato is, meeting after dark on Staten Island. If anything, the weapon only helps him blend in with the crowd "Nice to see you again, Fingers," he says after he's reach a distance where shouting is not necessary, "You're looking, better, I guess would be the right word. How can I help you, this evening?" If he's noticed that Amato's state of 'better' is possibly due to having all his extremities again, he doesn't call attention to this fact, and in fact, either hasn't noticed, or is simply ignoring it.

Amato does not stand when Raith approaches. In fact, the only movement he makes is to slip the rosary in to his coat pocket before returning his hands to their previous position. "Jensen," is his greeting, as deadpan and familiar as it was when he first met the man. When you can see into someone's past so intimately, formalities seem pointless. "I feel much better, thank you.

"I wish to continue our previous conversation."

This fact is enough to give Raith a momentary pause, evidenced by a brief hesitation in his step. "Oh?" But only brief, and he continues walking until he's a few feet away from Amato. Only then does he stop. "Do you?" he asks again, "Well, then by all means, I think that we should. Had time to think about it and reached at least a partial decision? I'm curious, so let's hear it. What's up?"

"I would very much like to know why you decided to turn down this path." Amato doesn't look at Raith, but his eyes narrow in contemplation, as if he were sitting on the other side of some obscuring mesh, ready for the other man to bare his soul. And to carrot the question, Amato adds with a slight pursing of his lips, "it would certainly help me in making a similar choice."

Now that's, an interesting question. One, in fact, that no one has ever really bothered to ask him before. As such, it takes Raith a moment to think of how best to answer it. Deciding that mystery is still helpful, he elects to omit certain details. "Where have you been, Amato?" he asks, "In the world, I mean. What have you seen? Done? Tried to do? Seen some monasteries, maybe some suffering here and there? How close am I, so far?"

A cold, distant sort of smile finds its way to Amato's pale face. He tuts once. "You act as though our eyes have seen two different worlds, Jensen." At least the scolding is gentle. "I have seen monasteries, yes. I have seen poverty, pain, confusion, and the chains of addiction. I have seen what all these things, separate and together, can drive people to do out of animalistic, unnatural need. But I have also seen those who thought they knew better try to shepherd such flocks, only to end up burning their paddocks while the lambs trapped within scream endlessly."

"Been there, done that," Raith says assuredly, "But more than that, I've caused some of that poverty, some of that confusion, even as I tried to stop it. Tried to clear the path for others to stop it, same result. It never ends, Amato. It never ends because for every flock, there are a dozen wolf packs, waiting for their chance to swoop in for a bite. And if the paddock should catch fire, all the better. They'll catch as much as they can in the mayhem, and then slip away before anyone can catch them. I've it happen time and time again, Amato.

"Iraq. Somalia. Afghanistan. And then Vanguard. Every time, 'We have to protect and guide the flock,' and every time, it's always led to bigger and worse things. And that was when I realized that I'd never really been one of the shepherds. I'd always been in the pack, and then it occurred to me that I'd always had the wrong perspective. See-" Either because he's tired of standing, or in an attempt to appear just slightly more humble, Raith decides that Amato has the right idea and takes a seat just far enough away to seem unthreatening.

"The flock, has a 'herd intelligence.' It knows the direction it should move in. Guides itself. See, if we want to help the flock prosper, we don't need to protect the sheep. We just have to kill the wolves."

Amato listens carefully, nodding when appropriate, his lips remaining pursed. It's an interesting philosophy. "How will you find them in the dark woods?" he asks, the thinnest thread of whimsy in his extension of the metaphor. "And who will by the rounds for your rifles?"

"Well, that's the good news," Raith replies somewhat darkly, "Wolves are stupid, by and large. We've shown that to be true. They show themselves, if we care enough to look for them. And if we don't overextend ourselves, don't look too far beyond what we can reach, we'll find the ones we can reach. As for the bullets, well. Volken left plenty of them lying around. Plenty of rifles, too. I have plenty of both. What I need, are hunters to fire my rifles, to track the wolves back to their dens and burn them alive."

There's the rub. Amato closes his eyes and shakes his head. "I do not know why you sought me, Jensen," he admits with a sigh. "I was Volken's lie detector, recruited to screen his followers just as I did his victims. Is this what you intend for me to do? To keep the wolves from biting at your heels and making sure there are none wearing sheep's clothing in your hunting party?"

"Volken was, near-sighted. He saw you for what you were, and nothing deeper. Someone who could see the sins of others, scare them into obedience, if they wouldn't comply willingly. But, you see, of everyone I will select for this hunting, I'm not interested in what they are. I'm much more interested in what they can become." Volken often claimed to look to the future, it's true. But when it came to his soldiers, how many of them did he really see as more than exploitable, expendable assets? Raith, by contrasting, is speaking largely in future, unrealized terms.

"You're good at finding traitors, I'll give you that. But why should I keep you limited to that, when you have the potential to be much more? You see, Amato, I need more than just a lie detector. I need eyes independent of mine. Eyes that can move more freely than I can, that can seek out and mark wolves without my immediate direction. Hunters are all good and well, but their effectiveness is limited without a scout that can move more quietly than a group can. And if I've learned nothing else about you, it's that you can move quietly, invisibly, until you wish to be caught. Not everyone can do that."

It's an ability that came secondhand as a close operative in the Vanguard. Kazimir Volken's forces, especially those he kept close to his vest, were forced to slink in the shadows. Until Raith identifies the skill, Amato had all but forgotten it. It had become second nature then, and he hadn't employed it consciously for months now.

Could a skill learned under the hand of a man like Volken be used…for good?

Amato narrows his eyes as he thinks, then nods. After a moment, he rises, then reaches into his coat to withdraw a rosary. It isn't his own, but one made of small black stone beads with a silver crucifix affixed to the end. He slowly lifts his icy eyes to Raith, then extends his right arm, the offered rosary dangling from his open palm.

Raith watches Amato for a moment, and then the rosary, but after scarcely more than two seconds, extends his own hand outward, palm facing upward, hovering underneath Amato's, ready to accept the gift. It's as good as a verbal reply from Raith; from this point onward, they're in the fight together. What Raith needs, Amato can provide. And if he cannot provide it, he can be taught how to provide it. For Amato, it may be a hunting expedition.

But for Jensen Raith, it is what it always has been to him: war.

The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name.

The rosary falls that short distance after a tip of Amato's pale hand, only to be caught in Raith's waiting one. Fingers curl around the string of beads, and the metal swings from the end, catching what little light there is.

Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.

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