You Can Have My Absence of Faith


danko_icon.gif joseph_icon.gif



Scene Title You Can Have My Absence of Faith
Synopsis In which Danko desecrates the Sabbath and Joseph informs him of inevitability.
Date September 6, 2009

Greenwich Village

"Hey, puppy! Heeeeyyyy, puppy! Who'sa pretty doggy? Who'sa pretty doggy?"

The scene is thus: Butch hunched over in a t-shirt and jeans, one hand on his knee, the other weilding a sizeable milkbone just inside the closed brace of Joseph's apartment door. Early morning sunlight filters buttery through the blinds and the massive black bulk of Alicia stands looking at him skeptically through the sleep blurring her dark eyes.

"You're not gonna bite me, are ya? Are ya doggie? If you do I'll put a bullet in your daddy's head! Yes I will! We can bring you in and let you lick his widdle brains all up off the floor! Would you like that, doggy?"

Alicia yawns, decidedly non-commital, white fangs and dark maw peeled back past a lazy flop of pink tongue and damp nose snuffling lethargically after the offer of the treat in Butch's hand. Eventually she pads drowsily over to investigate and Butch pushes the cookie into her mouth in exchange for snapping a leash (click) neatly onto her collar.

"Good girl. Good girl."

Seven hours earlier…

There's been mystery, concerning Paul's thorn in the flesh. One of those semantic tangles that could have you preaching the entire wrong thing to the flock and find yourself in a fiery corner of Hell if you doubt what it is you're trying to say, just by missing the wrong cue, misreading the wrong word. He'd read from the King James that morning, just in case, and it wasn't Joseph's favourite sermon. He had said it with more conviction, back in Tennessee.

Joseph walks the path he took that same morning, when headed for the church. It's dark out, this time, and his walk is brisk. Stayed too late once more, pushing the hour of curfew enough that no cars are rolling down the dark streets and the last person he saw, perhaps a block ago, had the same quick step he's achieved and headed in the opposite direction. His black leather shoes, the ones beneath the category of Sunday best, ring against the pavement.

The thing about the thorn is the dispute of its source. Many assume it comes from God, others assume it comes from Satan, which, by and large, allows for a very thin margin of error. What the thorn is is less important, but where it comes from, why it's there, and why God would not remove it when asked thrice.

His steps descend back into a meander every time his mind wanders in this direction again, shoving a hand into the pocket of the deep navy jacket he wears, his other preoccupied with holding a brown leather briefcase. The low light of a street lamp skitters over his shoulder as he passes it, crosses the street, around an old car with a spider web smashed window that barely gets a glance, as he continues on home.

It's a cool summer night this September 06, 2009 and another uneventful Sabbath is drawing to a close, the concrete and asphalt underfoot not-quite damp against humidity that lingers from an earlier shower. Clouds drift ugly and pale across the scarred surface of half a moon, distorting its light like panes of old glass: streaked and fogged with an ancient accumulation of urban grime.

For the first half of his journey across Greenwich, Joseph's been left to suffer the unattractive New York night on his own, but that's just now starting to change.

Quiet at first, unobtrusive, there's a scuffing pattern being sketched out along the same block. Heel, toe, heel, toe: combat boots track over the gum-studded sidewalk with military precision to their measured pace. Whoever it is doesn't sound to be in a hurry. They're just there, death march bootfalls and a hint of dry cigarette smoke creeping in warm on the wind at Joseph's back.

Further up ahead, headlights wink white around the corner, wideset around the grill of a hulking black van. It isn't moving very fast. There's no squealing of tires or burning rubber, but it is trundling on at a pace that reads as oddly ominous all the same. Like it's looking for something, invisible whiskers turning tendrils loose over cool pavement.

Joseph doesn't stop, even when these unusual factors begin to creep into the corners of his mind like an encroaching fog, eclipsing the reflective theological pondering at a gradual pace. There's a van cruising around the corner, and that's fine enough, the headlights sweeping across the pavement like search torches and rumbling it's meander down the road. It gets Joseph's vague attention, which only sharps when he realises that his foot steps aren't his own, that he's not hearing an echo, or imagining it.

Suspicion walks up his back in a steady prickle of tension. He has a hard time learning the hard way as a rule, but there is something familiar here, shadowing in the corners of the street and echoing in the militant foot falls behind him. It wasn't in this exact location that he was mugged that one time, but it, too, started with foot steps falling into line with his own.

He walks faster. And can't help but glance back enough to confirm there is a figure of someone behind him, fleetingly blurred in his periphery when he only risks a look briefly backwards. He makes calculations he wasn't before - it will be a little under ten minutes before he's home again unless he opts to cut through the park and then it's really no time at all - and holds onto his briefcase tighter.

Confirmation comes at a cost. Like a iridescent pupils drawing wide after a wary flick of fluffy tail, wan headlamps flare bright, threatening to scald Joseph's periphery glimpse of pursuit right out of his retinas. Brakes hiss; a door clamps open, the figure that spills out of it in a bulky heap indecipherable beyond the halo of light bleeding bright from the van's blunted snout.

It gets worse. There are more boots moving — two pairs at the van's rear, robust guns loaded and double checked in the midst of various other clicks and clacks. They move in like inversed ghosts through flooding light, black against white that burns and wavers ragged at their outlines, obscuring all but the distinct hoist of firearms blunt against stiff shoulders, all three pointed at Joseph.

Still moving in from behind, a compact figure buzz-skulled and bound in the same black fatigues as his men is slower to draw his sidearm. Danko's not wearing a mask tonight, deep-set eyes and sunken cheeks cut stark out of his humorless face by headlight's invasive scorch. "Evening, Pastor."

The hiss of brakes and the clamour of foot steps all combine together to create a single certainty. Mouth dry, Joseph's hurried walking is momentum left forgotten as he turns enough to eye the three firearms pointing his way. It's more than effective to make him freeze save for one hand raised aloft and out of his pocket, palm open and placating. Please don't shoot. His heart is going in his chest as if it were trapped and trying to get out.

There's authority in the way they move that makes him immediately think of the police, of all things, or worse still, the mysterious covert workings of the government you read about in fiction, and he's really not a terrorist but all the same— and the notion is brief and keels over promptly when the familiar form of Emile Danko steps forward.

"Oh." Uncomfortable beneath the spotlight white wash of the headlights, Joseph instinctively backs up a step or two, hand still out, briefcase still gripped tight to him. Fluttery fear and anxiety twists into paralyzed tension. There's really no great misunderstanding about what Joseph is and isn't, here. "Whatever it is you want— " He didn't imagine up an end to that sentence, and so it defaults to a question.

The trio of gunmen fans out, all greased gears and mechanical timing with no gestures or spoken word to direct their efforts. Long guns raised black, vests studded with unspent cartridges, each their own human eclipse, they stand rigid, silent and faceless once they're settled in place. Only Danko moves to close the gap at the far side of their semi-circle, hemming God's lamb and his briefcase in with the nearest building and the gap of an alley way split down its side serving as backdrop enough to suit his purposes.

Emile's colder now than Joseph's seen him. Even in the span of a couple of months of terrorist routine there's room for change. He's thinner in the face. The sleeplessness shadowed in around his eyes has taken on a sickly, yellowish cast around prevailing purple, immutable confidence shaken down into something oddly wary. Even paranoid, magnetic energy bleached pale into his eyes by the slice of white light across irises the color of old bone and ash.

"I want you to get in the van."

His voice is hoarse in its drawl, lazy arrogance still firmly intact where it may count the most. It isn't just an answer. It's an order.

Needless to say, Joseph does not get in the van. He's weaponless, unless a briefcase to the face could count, and has zero experience in the face of however many years make up the competence in the gun pointers, and the alleyway behind him probably leads no where, though he isn't sure and doesn't dare look. Either way, he can't quite make himself say 'yessir' and make his legs move towards the boxy vehicle patiently parked up to the curb. This may or may not be a good time to be stubborn.

If he doesn't move for a long enough time, someone nearby will surely notice.

Or, he'll get shot. "Wh-whatever— " His voice comes out at a trembling stammer, jackhammer fear joined hands with the kind of anger he feels very rarely. Joseph's focus is square on Danko. Tries again. "Whatever it is you want to say to me, you can— you can do it right here. I got nothin' for you, but I'm not goin' anywhere."


There's a deliberate, languid lethargy to the way Danko's brows knit themselves into skeptical inquiry. He takes a step forward — just the one — right boot dragging slow to resettle itself at shoulderwidth from the left with that much more of the alley mouth now inaccessible.

"You have friends. Ferrymen. A flock. You have a message. You have the faith of your followers. You stand for something, Joseph." Odd the way a rasp sands down into something soft when it's subdued. He's nearly delicate in his reassurance, save for the glassy, ophidian hatred glossed clear and natural into his eyes when he raises the blocky black composite of a tranquilizer gun Sumter's seen before.

"Don't sell yourself short."

The heel of one sensible, polished shoe scrapes impulsively against the sidewalk as Danko raises the familiar weapon, a twitch backwards that Joseph manages not to turn into a mad dash for freedom, as much as every part of him thinks it'd be a good idea. Quiet reassurance backed up by that steely, slate-pale look being leveled his way as pointed as any weapon makes his heart thunder a little harder in denial, catches his breath.

"Please— don't." The plea is hissed out between teeth, unstoppable, anger in the face of helplessness putting an edge on his voice. Joseph's focus is broken up as he glances around at the other more faceless men, and beyond them, and back to Emile.

A light can come on, a car can drive by, a policeman can walk through, a tiny blonde speedster could make her rounds— any time now. They don't. It's late. No one really cares about this corner of Greenwich. At this point, Joseph could hope for divine intervention, but he's not that kind of Christian. So, his placating hand drops down, jaw set. "I have all that. You can't say the same." His words are bitter, shaken, scared, and cold and heavy as concrete.

Even fully dressed out in fatigues, jet and ink scuffed with frequent use and inevitable wear and tear borne of the inevitable job hazards working with mutants entails, Danko is a slight man. No amount of extra guns or ammunition or gas masks or radios or bullet-resistant material is going to lend him any significant amount of size, but he doesn't need it. A tolerant tilt of his sunken skull is all it takes for gripping gloves to resecure themselves around stocks and triggers. Joseph is not cooperating. …Not that he really expected him to, if the ludicrous amount of backup he brought with him is any indication.

"Well," he lifts a brow, "since you asked so nicely," and pulls the trigger.

Condensed air puffs white behind the dart's kick, no tuft of colored feather to keep it on track. It goes where it's supposed to go, zagging too quiet across the narrow span between terrorist and pastor.

"I have everything I need. Rest assured, Pastor, if there's anything else I want, I'll just take it from you."

Too quick and too accurate to dodge, if there was ever a hope of that, Joseph hisses in a breath at the bug bite of the tranq, about as sharp as any thorn. Probably not what Paul meant, though. The briefcase hits the ground, flap of leather buckled shut against anything inside spilling out, although that's the least of his concerns as the world tips a little. Legs attempt to accommodate for this shift of gravity, reel him back until a shoulder hits the brick wall just behind him, and his fingers fumble for the dart that's penetrated through both wool and cotton.

The needle is flung aside, in an aimless direction near Danko's feet. Then he promises something he believes to be true of many but tends to go to keep to himself, words petty and filled to the brim with all the Baptist contempt he can summon; "You're gonna burn in Hell."

But before that, there's a van with Joseph's name on it, which doesn't seem like it would be real. Joseph shakes his head once, doggish, attempting to clear it, but it's like willing yourself sober. After a certain point, it doesn't work that way. He grips the wall in an effort not to collapse.

"I'll be in good company," allowed with enough of a squint to suggest he kind of doubts he really needs to worry about it overmuch, Danko doesn't wait until Joseph's down to hook a foot in around the felled briefcase. A stiff push of his boot toe sends it spinning off towards the closest of his men, who takes a hand off his gun to stoop down after it.

"Keep him up; get him in the back." A pair of buffered handcuffs are retrieved and tossed to balaclava mask #2. They're all moving now, routine turning over into phase two while their leader crouches after the spent dart and tucks it away into one over nine thousand pockets. Their shadows line massive across the opposite wall, blown up four stories tall and spectral thin over brick and glass that betrays no compassion for Joseph's capture. A gloved hand grasps rough at the pastor's shoulder, spins him 'round flat to face the wall without apology for the cuffs clamped clack-tick-tick-tick too tight around his wrists.

The lights die back down dim, finally granting strained grey eyes relief from the glare just as Danko paces past for the passenger side door. "Ten minutes 'til curfew."

There's a token struggle made when he's first grabbed, a sound at the back of his throat that could probably never be a growl, coming from Joseph. A panicked variety of fear quite suddenly ribbons through him like a physical ailment, from gut up to his heart, when the first cuff goes around his wrist, his arms going taut beneath the sleeves of his jacket as the other is dragged back to join it. It wasn't really supposed to go like this.

As he's hauled in the direction of the van, numb feet try to gain purchase on the ground, to halt progress, his legs like lead above them, and he can't quite feeling the cuffs tight on his wrists or the hands on his arms by the time he's staggered some feet from the wall to the curb, and words, slurred at the edges, tumble out.

"Let go, get off me— "

They echo off the nearest walls. He hardly raises his voice, as a general rule, but now seems like a really good time as he makes unfeeling twists and tugs against the men directing him towards the van. Strength is sapping out by the second as his eyes begin to hood heavy over dark eyes, words dying in his throat, and the line of tension between his eyebrows smoothing out.

The back doors are already open by the time the two men at Joseph's shoulders haul him back around to the beginning of the end. Sallow lights taint everything inside with a piss-hued cast, darkening eyes and yellowing the teeth of the half-masked #4 that reaches down to help drag Joseph in by the scruff of his collar.

He's maneuvered around like the captive he is — jammed down into a blunt sit and strapped onto a bench with padding rigid enough it might as well be wood. Grunts 1 and 2 thud and thump down on either side of him. Butch waits 'til the blindfold is on to strip his own mask off on the opposite side, gloved fingers scrubbed up automatically to spring life back into the flattened bristle of his crew cut. "Whooieee. Welcome aboard, Pastor Joe!" A spare marine drags the back doors shut and he leans over to knock twice on the wall that separates cabin from rear.

At least he's friendly.

Up front, Danko's already lighting up, lighter retrieved and window rolled down to let the breeze in as the van sets into its slow roll away from the curb. "We can pick up the dog in the morning."

Dim yellow van interior, then darkness wrapped over his eyes, arms squashed behind him and straps holding his weight as the bump and jostle of the moving truck starts up, as well as his own lazy slackness. There is no response to the voice greeting him so heartily; even the sedation dragging him into a deeper darkness than the blindfold won't convince Joseph he's imagining it, but the most he could summon is possibly tipping forward to puke on the man's shoes, and probably miss anyway.

Instead, the back of his head finds the wall behind him, and he's quiet. Unconscious, sedated, it's hard to say if the silence is out of anger, a lack of choice, despair. Head swimming, eyes shut behind the blindfold, Joseph imagines it would have been a really good time to work out the meaning of Paul's thorn in the flesh, and as soon as the thought sparks up once more, it's resentfully brushed aside in favour of giving in to the tranquilizer altogether.

This will be easier endured while asleep. A lot of people feel the same way about church too.

NOTE: Early in the morning after this scene takes place (the same morning Butch is collecting Alicia) Joseph puts in a call to Pastor Ashby explaining that there's a relative of his back in Tennessee who's real sick and he's gotta go away for a while to take care of that and he'll call back as soon as he knows when he might be back.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License