Your Contract, Your Way


eileen_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Your Contract, Your Way
Synopsis Raith drops in unannounced on Eileen and finds himself with work after only a day of being back in New York City.
Date January 20, 2009

Fort Greene — Eileen's Apartment

Original hardwood floors and a pair of French doors painted black are the most prominent features of the living space, which has been sparsely furnished with loveseat, cozy chaise, built-in bookshelves and various pieces of smaller furniture to make it feel like more of a home, including a dining table for two and claw-foot chairs. The walls, like the radiator, have been painted white to contrast with the rich colour of the floors and the cabinetry in the modest kitchen, just large enough to fit one person comfortably.

The French doors separate the bedroom from the rest of the apartment. Like the living room and kitchen, it has been decorated with simplicity in mind. The bed itself is a queen-sized platform that takes up most of the space and is covered in a white goose feather comforter for warmth in the winter. A steamer trunk filled with clothes sits at the foot of the bed in lieu of a dresser — there just isn't enough room for anything else except for an antique vanity, its mirror badly water-stained and in dire need of repair or replacement.

It's late at night when Eileen arrives back at her Brooklyn apartment. She hasn't yet gotten used to the idea of having her own living space that she isn't required to share with others, and as she steps inside, booted feet clicking against the hardwood beneath them, there's an absence of relief in her body's guarded posture or the fatigued expression on its face.

Although the furniture used to decorate the apartment belongs to her in name, the only thing that feels like it's truly hers is the steamer trunk at the foot of the bed, and that's because she's had it since leaving London. Everything else, from the bed itself to the chaise by the built-in bookshelves — all bare — were selected, purchased and moved in by government employees. The smell of wet paint still lingers in the air, made all the more potent and acrid by the moisture outside, which clings to the windows in the form of frosty white fog.

Her keys clatter, echo in the apartment's high ceiling when she drops them in the porcelain bowl by the front door. The sound of the door being nudged gently shut follows on the racket's heels.

The acrid smell of wet paint is not all that has been lingering in Eileen's apartment; there is still one more, unusual thing present that most certainly does not feel like it belongs to her. Sitting down on the chaise is not the man she no longer has- rest poor Gabriel's soul- but one she would never want. The dark pants, shirt, shoes and coat don't give much away by themselves; they could belong to anybody. What definitely, absolutely stands out are those dark, round-lensed sunglasses resting upon the face of Jensen Raith, calmly, emotionlessly staring straight forward at Eileen when she chances to finally look in his direction. Those sunglasses are about the only thing that definitively identifies the man as Jensen Raith. A full half of his face is obscured by a face mask with two large, protruding filters, the whole thing a mix of slate grey and industrial red. He must have known about the paint, somehow; he wouldn't have bothered to bring a mask if he didn't.

"Would it have killed you to crack a window?"

Eileen goes through the motions of removing her coat, heavy, woolen and fashioned for New York's frigid winter climate. The clothes she's wearing beneath it are a little less suitable without the accompanying garment, though not by very much. Dark stockings slim her legs, contrasting with the pale skin of her throat, arms and diminutive hands but compliment the black cardigan she wears over a light gray dress and carmine red scarf draped loosely around her neck.

It's drizzling outside and has been for the last few hours; rainwater excuses the ugly smears of charcoal-coloured make-up under her eyes. "In this weather?" she asks Raith in a mild tone, her voice strangely hoarse. For whatever reason, she does not seem surprised to find him sitting on her chaise as though he belongs there. "Two days. I can't say that I'm terribly impressed. I thought you'd have enough self-control to at least wait until the weekend before breaking into my home."

"I couldn't help it," Raith offers as an explanation, pausing briefly to remove the mask from his face. The area that it once covered glistens just so in the light, covered in a thin layer of sweat. He's been waiting a while. "I needed to see a familiar face. Everyone's taking their time getting back home. Almost everyone." There's at least one of them who isn't. "It's not the same, anymore. Not as noisy."

"My arrangement with the U.S. government strictly forbids any contact with former members of Kazimir Volken's Vanguard," which means that, of the Remnant, Teodoro and Peter are excluded from the fine print, "so I would be deeply appreciative if you'd stay away from where my parole officer has told me I'm supposed to sleep." Eileen doesn't sound appreciative. She doesn't sound much of anything except tired. Her coat finds a new home on the hook next to the table by the door, and soon the young woman's booted feet are carrying her across the living room. "I won't work for you, either," she adds in afterthought, "but you— you're going to work for me."

Raith simply shrugs in reply to Eileen's statement. "I don't do dishes, or windows," he says, not taking this matter at all seriously. Why should he? "It's just what I've always wanted to do. Go to work for a skinny English girl who I can bench press. Twenty dollars for domestic, except dishes and windows, fifty for yard work, a hundred to paint. Assassinations are five thousand a head, or twenty thousand per five. Two thousand for getaway driving, twenty percent for a bank job, equal share for liquor stores plus two bottles of top shelf. Prices are non-negotiable, cash only. Don't tell Ethan." Raith has put maybe too much thought into his enterprise. "This is a fair deal, don't you think? Maybe a little on the cheap side, but fair."

"More than reasonable," Eileen agrees as she passes the chaise on her way toward the set of French doors that lead into the bedroom. Unlike the front, she leaves them open, allowing the apartment's acoustics to carry her voice the short distance between the vanity and where Raith has settled. Sitting down in front of the water-stained mirror, stockinged legs crossed, she leans forward, rests her elbows on the edge of the vanity's wooden surface and begins removing the imitation pearls from her ears. "I'm afraid I won't be able to pay you the full five thousand up front with my financial situation the way it is," she says, "but if you're willing to accept a down payment upon acceptance of the contract, I should be able to have the rest by the time the job is completed. It could take several months."

For a few moments, Raith looks at the floor, idly scratching his stubble in thought. "I might consider it, sure," he says, bringing his gaze up to meet Eileen's, "Depending on a few things. The biggest of which is 'who,' and the second biggest of which is, 'how much information do you have?' and the third of which is, 'how big a down payment?'"

"I want to know what Emile Danko was doing at Amundsen-Scott," Eileen says, "He was operating on our SatCom frequency and fired on Wagner at the drill site, so I'm inclined to think it wasn't Vanguard that bailed him out of Madagascar." One at a time, she places the earrings in a small jewelry box of Russian design with a lacquer finish. "If one of the people behind Operation Apollo is also responsible for what happened to Gray," because it's easier for her to say his last name than it is his first, "then I want to know who."

She snaps the jewelry box shut again. "What do you feel is an appropriate amount?"

For several seconds, Raith says nothing, finally rising up to his feet and calmly, solemnly approaches Eileen. "I live by a simple set of rules," he says, stopping just outside the French doors that separate the bedroom from the rest of the apartment, "One of those rules, is Operational Integrity." He allows that statement to hang for a moment before continuing.

"You see, Eileen, an operation is only as good as the information it's built upon. With the right information, even the worst team can pull off miracles. Operational Integrity is very important to me, Eileen, and I don't like it when people fuck with my operations."

"Now, nowhere in any briefing were we told that Emile Danko would be showing up. We definitely weren't told that he'd perforate Gray. That means that somebody fucked, with my operation. Now, it's pretty simple the way this works, Eileen. You want someone off the street in a shallow grave? Someone important I don't know? Five thousand a head. Someone comes along, muscles into my theater, fucks up my operation from the inside, endangers my team needlessly, and you want them dead?" The longer Raith speaks, the harder the edge in his voices becomes, the angrier he sounds.

"I'll do that for free, and I will do it in the most painful, barbarous, unnecessarily brutal way I happen to think of. Nobody fucks with my operations."

Eileen lifts her eyes to study what she can see of Raith's reflection in the mottled mirror. The scarf that had been coiled around her neck is draped over the back of her chair, leaving her throat entirely bare. Apart from the stitches above her eye that she received after the military pulled Team Bravo out of Antananarivo, her body bears no visible marks that indicate what she and the other members of the Apollo mission were put through.

"You won't," she says. "If anyone is going to die for this, it isn't going to be any more painful, barbarous or brutal than the situation demands. You're a professional, Jensen. I'm sure that you understand how it might look if the man responsible for signing Gray's death warrant were to be found soaking in a bath filled with his own blood. Who do you think they're going to suspect?"

"Bath, Eileen?" Raith replies, "No no no, if anyone dies for this, there won't be a bath filled with blood, or even so much as a bullet wound. They'll just step into a cab one day and never be heard from again. No corpse, no evidence, no witnesses. No crime. Just had enough and skipped out, didn't leave a forwarding address. Assuming they aren't more valuable alive than dead, of course. Time will tell us that."

Eileen places both her hands on the vanity, fingers interlocked, their nails impeccably clean. The earthy scent of rainwater and sodden fabric is strongest in comparison to the paint, but her perfume, vodka and what might be vomit under the stench of cheap tobacco are beginning to waft off her skin and clothes now that she's in a warmer environment and the radiator affixed to the wall has begun to sap some of the moisture from her dress and cardigan. "We are going to do this swiftly and humanely," she reiterates, expressionless. "I don't care whether or not you feel that we were wronged, or that we're entitled to it. Do you understand?"

Does Raith understand? Although he is visibly displeased by this, he does not voice any objections. He looks to one side, away from Eileen, and exhales a heavy sigh. But that's it. "Your contract," he says, "Your way."

"Three hundred a job for the spook job, expenses included. Hundred dollars down." For the second time since Eileen returned home, Raith moves his gaze from somewhere else back onto her. "No strings, no negotiations. I dare you to find a better deal in this city."

One of the vanity drawers is pulled out and a clip of cash fastened with a silver clasp retrieved from the far back. It doesn't contain much more than a hundred dollars, and by the time Eileen has finished counting out two twenty-dollar bills and six tens, it's dwindled to an amount so flimsy that she tucks the remainder under the corner of her jewelry box, closes the drawer and uses the clasp to pin back a particularly stubborn curl of hair behind her left ear.

Without rising from her seat at the vanity, she lifts her hand and offers Jensen his folded down payment between the knuckles of two milky fingers. "I knew I could count on you."

The cash is snatched from Eileen's grasp with a good deal of force, although Raith doesn't bother counting it. After all, he knows he can count of her. "I'm thinking of branching business out," he says as he stuffs the money in the inside pocket of his coat, "Give people a chance to hire someone to find things without the transaction going on any kind of record. And a few other, 'services,' so your contract has one caveat." That caveat is added only after Raith leaves the bedroom's doorway and moved back out of sight and he returns to the cold streets from which he came.

"Tell your friends."

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