Your Interview


corbin2_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Not Quite There:


Scene Title Your Interview
Synopsis Teo gets interrogated. By a figment of futures made past, and a dimming star.
Date March 17, 2010

Ichihara Bookstore

Nestled in the heart of the main street marketplace, the Ichihara Bookstore is an old and crooked structure pressed between two newer high-rise tenement buildings. The old glass windows and creaking wooden door on the shop's front give it a rustic and old-world feel. Catering to both antique books and newer prints, the narrow aisles and tall shelves are packed full of literature. A single shelf for periodicals lies near the front counter, while signage both out front by the register and in the back of the store indicates that tarot card reading is done on-site at request for ten dollars per reading.

Behind the old and weathered wooden counter that contains the register and a small stack of reserved books, a narrow wooden staircase leads upwards to a black wooden door with peeling paint, revealing red paint in narrow strips beneath, a rope crossing in front of that door hangs with a small sign that reads, "Private".

Barring the slither and give of uncertain winter's footing, Teo's stride falls even by now. He borrowed a car. Legitimately. Used his legitimate new driver's insurance to do it, and exchanged weird and slightly stiff smiles with the uniformed officer gathering away the yellow tape into a deep black garbage bag. By this hour of the afternoon, however, forensics have already been through and fled in deference of the cold crush of weather. Humble bookkeepers are permitted through.

Ex-ninja baby-terrorist sometimes-terrorist frequent Underground Railway mutant activist but humble bookkeepers count also. Teo is mumbling something under his breath as he eases in through the door hip-first. Stupid weather. Stupid murderers.

Stupid unemployment. He brushes frost off the sleeve of his dense woolly jacket, and pauses to shudder inside the onion layering of his clothes. Studies the ballistic holes punched into the walls and the forest litter of loose paper, plaster. One window out of the series of neat blinds blanked out with boards like a cataract and, perhaps more pathetically still, the multitude of unharmed and unpurchased tomes that stand in silent and futile dignity through the store.

"Ayers? You in here?"

Hokuto didn't get a chalk outline. Didn't need one, thanks to the miracles of digital photography and eyewitness report. He frowns as he peels the gloves off his hands, thumbs the aching slit in his cheek. Breathes in the misery of the late afternoon, an imaginary smell of blood, and then begins to lope into the back room in search of broom, boxes. And the fucking thermostat.

The broom is in the basement, as the one who'd happened to have survived the encounter could profess. Instead, for the first few moments, only silence, dust, and the crinch of snow settling outside. The heater can't keep up, and the cat that might usually mrw and beg for food is no where to be seen, either.

But as the ghost walks by one of the bookshelves, a figure seems to be in his periphery. Barely recognizable with just that look, but with more of a glance, she can be more easily seen and recognized.

Dressed in a slick black suit-jacket and skirt, minus any kind of shirt by appearances. The jacket coming together might be the only thing keeping the outfit from being scandaleous. Even then, it almost is. "Hey there, Teo. Long time, no see." A book seems to slide back into place on the shelves. The title stands out for a moment, perhaps because it's Italian.

'Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta', The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta.

From the look of her, it has been a long time since that helicopter in Antarctica, when she'd been laying there bleeding from a bullet wound to the gut. Gillian looks older, more sophisticated, but something about her also seems sad, at the same time. Much as she'd look in the faded years that they'll never live again.

A lot of people look sad lately, to Teo's observation. Most people don't look nearly as good as Gillian does while she's doing it. "Si, it has been," he answers, smiling, despite or over or through the abrupt self-consciousness that prickles the biade side of his face. He's happy to see her. Somehow, he does manage to be happy to see people, despite not missing them when they're gone from his life. "I like your blouse."

He's always had a little room for that kind of cheeky. Either version of him. A box inflates out of its flattened repose with a deft pull of his hands, and he's flipping it over in his arms, setting it down on the counter beside the register. Rips tape loose from the fat roll from the first drawer, and starts to secure a solid bottom. He makes a gesture at her selected tome with his eyes.

"I don't know what we're going to do with our inventory, exactly," Teodoro says. His tone falls on an apologetic tone, lighter than the most infinitessimal of winter's ice crystals. "But we can make up a list, and I'll find out from Ayers what his plans are." A beat.

"Nice choice. That novel was a fucking groundbreaker."

"Really too bad I can't read Italian," Gillian admits in her whispery voice that never changed over the years. It got deeper and thicker, especially when emotional or in cold weather, but the raspy tone never disappeared entirely. It always sounded as if she had a cold, even when she almost never did. "I'm sure you'll figure it all out later. You always seem to have a plan, and a way of doing things."

In the cold of the store, she's suddenly moving closer to him, feeling warmer than he might suspect considering she's not as heavily dressed as most people in this weather. A touch of skin against his arm, where she presses in closer. Or that's what it feels like. "I've been wondering… did you ever want me to be with him? I've always thought that deep down, you wanted him to be with her. Never really with me, no matter how much I cared for him."

Oddly enough, with just the use of a pronoun, it's difficult to tell which 'him' she's even referring to.

Maybe. 'Always' seems to be a slight overexaggeration, perhaps more flattering than the real mode of Teo's decision-making tends to take. With books, also— he almost begins to explain aloud. They aren't his books. The books aren't for him. In this case, he'd get them for her if they were what she wanted. He does well with tangible objectives, that's all.

Slightly less good at quandaries of female palms pressed close, the leading questions, and generalized disparagement of men derived thereof. Even if he did like the Elegy of Lady Fiammetta, which is more or less about those things. Reading that, he'd been an explorer in a foreign land.

Granted, Gillian's body is somewhere he's— technically— been before. Abruptly, it's slightly less cold in here, despite that the heater's pathetic rambling in the corner does not improve tangibly. He doesn't know if he's embarrassed, annoyed, confused or contrite, never mind why. Because he's been caught, or if it's antithetical to his personality to discuss spilled milk no matter his feeling toward the spill itself, why Gillian's here or because—

—or maybe because she's right. About something. That he's capable of that dishonesty, if nothing else. "I feel sorry for whichever poor schmuck you're job-interviewing with today," he remarks, ripping the tassel of tape short. "I've always wanted you to be happy. Even when I didn't know you so well."

"Maybe I wanted to work here. Books always were my thing," Gillian says, keeping pressed up against his arm, breath even hitting his neck like the air from the heater vent suddenly shifted and moved. If only her breath didn't smell faintly of blood. That must surely be because he knows what'd just happened in this place. Who'd just been killed and left to bleed to death in the snow…

"I'm not getting interveiwed. I think that's you," she jokes heavily, a brush of nose against his neck, before she settles back. She's still too close, too warm. But that doesn't change the fact that… "Is anyone ever really happy? If we don't ruin it ourselves, something will sneak up behind us and ruin it for us…"

Suddenly her voice gets even more rough, and even closer, like she's speaking directly into his ear, even if she's not moving back in close enough for that. "Del senno di poi ne son piene le fosse." Graves are filled with after-the-fact wisdom.

The unruined corner of Teo's mouth twitches slightly, perhaps amused or merely bemused. He slants a look at her, thoughtful, not quite as clear as it would have been a few days ago. His pupils pulse wider a moment, before constricting to hard-gloss needlepoints of suspicion, and he glances away, back down at the tape roll in his one hand, the box fully-constructed and evenly sided in the other. Ready for inventory.

He clears his throat, and then stoops (by which the reader may take to mean: ducks away) to yank the cabinet open. Find the proper binder, a lime-green circle sticker flattened onto its spine to indicate this the most recent stack of information they have on the store's paper-paged contents. It's slimmer than the others. "Don't worry about it, Gillian. You'll love again," he tells her, but the conviction in his voice is not as solid as it should be. There's pause; perhaps an instant's self-recognition, if not doubt. "Even if it won't be how it was.

"Hey, they say sometimes it's better." Teo shifts a long-legged step around the corner of the counter, and matted paper crinkles under his boot. He drops to a squat to snag the dishevelled remains of a catapaulted and trodden-on display sequence up in his hands. "Neither of us read as much we used to. People change."

Duck away! Flee. Gillian floats back away from him, silently smiling with dimples on her cheeks, as he ducks down and away, allowing him to have some of that physical distance he desires by keeping himself busy. In fact, from the look on her face, it seems to amuse her quite a bit. "It's just a shame that little cherub you helped me see won't ever exist in this world."

The door opens with a harsh ring of a bell, a blow of cold air and the smell of snow, before it closes again. The new lock, tossed while they investigated the crime scene, clicks into place, and heavy footsteps carry someone into the store proper. "Laudani, did you make it in?" A male voice says, familiar mostly from the phone calls, the short hiring sessions, but the man who may now handle the affairs of the store barely spent much time around him. Or most of his employees. One sick. One dead. One scarred in the face. The best group of bookstore clerks, ever…

Just like Hokuto Ichihara and Corbin Ayers had been the best Company Agents ever. They simply hadn't been. He looks disheveled, tired, and The winter coat is open a bit, revealing a eerie fact— he's still wearing what he'd been wearing when she died beside him. There's blood stains on his clothes. Blood stains aside, he dressed as if he'd been planning to attend a funeral. It wasn't the funeral he'll have to attend now he'd been dressed for…

In that flash of a moment that attention is drawn elsewhere, the woman who'd been in the room seems to have vanished completely.

Were Teo a little quicker on the uptake, he'dve played at being secretary. 'Ayers, your 4:40 is here.' As it is, he merely straightens with an armload of books to find Corbin's 4:40 is gone, and the a stab of disconcerting visceral shock that throws Gillian's parting shot into harsh relief.

4:40 was probably an extremely conservative guess at the time. Time, time, time.

Not for the seventieth time, Teodoro Laudani wonders what is wrong with himself.

However, whatever it is, he looks a lot better on the outside than Corbin appears to, with the scabs dyed into his clothes, sleep-deprivation clouding raccoon circles around his eyes and making a skeletal pallor out of the cut of his cheekbones. Teo straightens to his full height, stares over his small castle of books.

"Yeah," he answers, a little belatedly. And unnecessarily, of course. Now that, you know, Teodoro has stretched out into view of the single remaining best Company agent ever. The one corner of Teo's mouth not gnarled up by disfiguring tissue shifts downward. "You should head up and take a shower or something. Change clothes. I can get shit started down here."

Scraggly half grown beard, that does nothing to hide the distinct cleft dimple in his chin. Corbin looks tense, and pained when they finally make eye contact, something very dangerous there. The eyes of someone who lost something very important to him. Something he hasn't sat still long enough to even mourn yet. There's a slow inhale at the mention of a shower, and getting things started. Remove the books damaged in the firefight last night, take stock and put the books somewhere else until he can decide what to do…

He hasn't even thought beyond tomorrow yet.

"Before I go anywhere…" Hands move to his coat, as if planning to take it off, but rather quickly, it changes. Gripping a pistol in his hand, he's suddenly pointing it right at Teo. It's big, and heavy, a unique make— that isn't quite as unique to some. It's the gun of a Company Man… aimed directly at Teo.

"I want you to tell me about Minea Dahl. Specifically… tell me what happened to her sidearm." The usual smiles and carefree attitude that he sported in their few meetings has vanished. Bad things happen to stars that lose the very thing they'd been shining for.

This would not appear to be the man who Teo had hired himself as a part-time book salesman to. On the other hand, one might suppose that up until a few hours ago, Teo was not the man that Corbin had hired on to work part-time behind the bookstore's cash register, either. The Sicilian would have to be a great deal further out of his tree than he is, to not recognize the make and origin of the firearm in Corbin's hand.

It's almost exactly like Minea's. "I don't—" Teo cuts himself off before he says something stupid. Or before he says something true, or maybe those are the same thing.

His face is unreadable and his gaze is as sanguine as fragments of plastique-blasted flint. The armload of books and the bedraggled college hoodie hanging out the back of his jacket collar do little to reconcile his new demeanor with how the two men had been, in their functional working relationship for a month prior. He doesn't know why Gillian's voice is playing around in his mind's ear, now: I'm not getting interviewed. I think that's you. "I don't have it anymore. I took it off her before I dumped her corpse."

The corpse. Corbin had read as much of the file as his level 4 clearance would allow in the hours before, rereading and rereading. It had more in it, considering the case that was given. The man's connections, the man's past— the man's suspected misdeeds. It still hadn't been complete, but complete enough. Enough that he shifts a thumb and clicks back the safety, but doesn't move any closer.

If he could kill Minea, he could kill Corbin. He'd prepared for that. A message left on Hokuto's voicemail, which he knew the Company could gain access to, said he was going to question Laudani. If he didn't come back, if he got killed in the bookstore, they knew who the masked man was… Or at least who he was working with.

"What happened to it? After you— did you sell it or give it to anyone? That weapon was used by the man who— who murdered Hokuto." His voice breaks for a moment, suddenly that reddness around his eyes isn't just due to lack of sleep. "What did you do with her gun?"

Not to be sexist or anything, but watching men cry is not like watching women cry. At least, Teodoro has yet to meet a man who can make that particular exercise look beautiful and choreographed, and he's met— and known, Biblically— a lot of men in his dual lifetimes. He doesn't look away from the man pointing that weapon at him, but he is tempted to.

So terrible, to lose someone like that. Easier to be murdered by somebody with cold eyes. Not by much, mind you; Teodoro always had a surprisingly powerful survival instinct, despite some suicidally reckless characteristics and overriding complexes.

Yes, he's wondering how he's getting out of this. And yes, he has the vague foundations of a plan, and his ways. And yes.

His fingers tighten on the books. "Hid it on a safehouse on Staten Island. It gets broken into, sometimes, but it isn't one the Ferry uses often at all, and I stopped going back. I didn't give much of a fuck. I'm sorry.

"I didn't touch your girl," he says, full-stop, as blunt as a bad concussion. He stares the other man in the eye and can not imagine there will be any peace to be found in a bathroom full of her bottled makeup remover and hairbrush, in a bed she had once claimed half of. "Knew what she did, but the shit I've pulled, second chances— plural— that I've been given: seemed right to let somebody else have her shot at redemption."

Safehouse. Staten Island. It's a start, but not much of one. Corbin could dig deeper, try to find out more information. Who had access to the safehouse. Had it been broken into. A hundred questions that just… don't come. Instead he staggers back a few steps and sags against a bookshelf, the gun dropping to point at the floorboards.

He believes the man. Because he recognized him from the dream. When the dark part of Hokuto tried to turn him on them, and he'd refused. It would have been easy for him not to, and he didn't… But…

He knew what she'd done. How many people did?

Pale blue eyes slide shut. No tears fall, but there's pain across his face. It seems, for a moment, the danger has passed.

But then the gun snaps back up again. "I couldn't save her. She's gone and…" The stop in his voice is almost a cry, without being a cry. "I should take you in for questioning… If not shoot you right here." The owner dead, and employee dead. A third probably would make the store seem cursed… "But you can do something that I can't. You can protect someone that I… that I can't.

"There's someone— an unregistered Evolved. She's got the H5N10 virus everyone's fearful about… Lost her ability, fever, cold, flu-like symptoms… I don't want to take her to the people I work for unless I have no other options. So what you're going to do for me… Is use your connections with the Ferrymen and Phoenix and help her." It's a plea, but considering it's made at gunpoint, it's also a threat.

For a moment, it was almost like Teo could have released his armload of fine literature and give himself a congratulatory couple of shoulder-pats for having managed to defuse the situation by merely flapping his face. Too soon.

Or too late; the gun is up again, and it's all the erstwhile ninja, terrorist, creature of the mutant underworld can do not to hurl both armfuls of books at Corbin and fast-track for the back door, in hopes that the combination of blurry saline and flying tomes would throw his shot off enough for Sicily to escape. He doesn't like the sound of that.

Interrogations. Ghost was tortured by Palestinians, once, and nearly met his Maker. Not an experience that he enjoys to repeat.

It turns out to be— nearly what seems like a good thing, that Teodoro stays put. An Unregistered Evolved, you say? Teo's brows shift upward, a fractioned inch, surprised but not judgmental. All right. That, even more than letting him off the hook; maybe Corbin Ayers is the worst Company agent ever. Or the best: moles a possibility.

"Non problema. I'll do everything I can." Teo straightens slightly. Moves, slowly, to set down the snaggletooth stacks of glossy, lettered spines on the counter, beside the cardboard box's open wings. "Appreciate it if you'd try and get me anything the Company discovers about treatments and cures."

"If they give us anything at all," Corbin says with a sigh, letting the gun drop and finally putting the safety back on. That should mean the coast is clear to put down the boxes and pat self on the back. Not only did he defuse a situation with just words, but he may have found himself the most sympathetic Company Agent in the group. And the one who's emotionally wounded enough to fail at lying, even if he's usually pretty good at it.

"Our Agents get to wait in line for vaccinations like everyone else…" It's a rib that he noticed, and one that he's sure the others feared would happen. It would have meant that Hokuto wouldn't have gotten a vaccination without lining up and registering… But that's not something she'll ever have to worry about now.

"I'm going to go get changed and shower," he says idly, putting the gun away under his coat again. "I'll give you the details about the Evolved I need you to help when I'm done." he says quietly, moving away and out of the room, to go toward the stairs. It's very likely he'll finally let himself actually cry once he's in the shower— since he's been fighting it this whole time.

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