1963-08-18 - Friend of the Family
Summary: When his own resources prove useless for tracking the kidnappers' origins, David reaches out to someone outside the system.
Related: Tom's Diner; Missing Pieces plotline
Theme Song: Theme from The Godfather
mr.smith maverick 

A comic book publishing house was not precisely a location that David North ever expected to visit. He had nothing against the medium — on the contrary, they were quite enjoyable — but his work never really included such things. Technically, it still doesn't. This is entirely his own damned foolish idea.

Clad in a navy blue suit and tie, David ducks into the lobby and casts a curious, searching look around. He honestly hasn't the foggiest idea what to expect. But the first person who approaches him gets a very warm smile and he extends a hand for a shake. "I am terribly sorry to come in unannounced — I was hoping I might speak to the proprieter. My name is David North."


The office is a rather massive one with ornate decore reminiscent of the early Renaissance, with warm and inviting colors about the whole place. It's not exactly what anyone would likely expect from a publishing house, but along the walls of this main room are a number of framed best selling books, and comics from the companies history. Each one has a small metal plaque beneath displaying the milestone which it's hit, who wrote it, and when the milestone was hit.

This main entrance lobby is also lined along the ceiling with fine works of art and immaculately trimmed plants a strong influence of its roots shining through. A number of men make their way through the back doors in incredibly fine business suits traveling on their way to and from without ever being stopped by the rather heavy security all things considered.

The man who greets him is a rather muscular fellow with slicked back pitch black hair and a broad smile. His suit is a fine work of art much like the rest of the building and he speaks in a distinct Italian accent. "Well David, I'm sure that won't a problem, Mr.Lombardo should be just up in his office finishing a meeting." There's a light pause from him. "What should I tell him you're here to discuss?" He mentions with a smile, purposefully not giving a name himself, as he gives a rather hearty handshake.


The decor is definitely not what David expected, but that's of little concern to him. He's much more interested in why he has come than where. He can ruminate over the oddities later.

He returns the handshake with a firm grip and a broadening smile of his own. "Believe it or not - I'm writing a story," he replies in a cheerful voice. "And I've hit a dead end. But I'm a great admirer of his work and was hoping I might be able to bounce some thoughts of off him." After a pause, he adds, "I am of course happy to pay a consulting fee."


"Then you've come to the right place." The man from behind the desk offers, before folding his hands behind his back, and offering something of a smile. "Always been willing to help out other authors." Especially lighting up a bit at the mention of the consulting fee. He walks back to the desk, before pressing a finger down to the intercom button.

"Mr.Lombardo there's a man here to speak with you on a consultation for a story, should I send him up?" There's a light pause for a few moments before a friendly voice chimes in from the very high quality (for the time) speaker. "Send him up? Of course you can, I've been bored out of my skull up here all morning. Heck tell him this time I won't even charge him on the consultation, long as he can impress me. And would it kill you to call me grandpa once in a while Leo, honestly I thought your mother raised you better."

Mr.Lombardo has a lot of bravado and confidence in his chipper voice as he speaks the last bits of sound cracking out before the man from behind the desk motions over with a hand towards the nearby elevator. "Of course, sorry Mr.Lomb- err grandpa." Leos face turned more red then some might think possible as he tries to gain composure again.

He takes a pause to adjust his tie and cough into his hand before leading over to the now opened elevator. The bellhop within a young man dressed proper for the occasion with a smile.


The good news is, David does not laugh at poor, beleaguered Leo as he overhears the exchange he has with his grandfather. David gives him a very sympathetic smile and a respectful bow of his head when he comes back out from behind the desk, quickly moving to fall into step behind him. "Thank you, sir. You've been most helpful."

That same bright smile is offered to the bellhop and second gentleman as David strides into the elevator with them. He turns to face the doors for the ride and, after they have closed, glances over his shoulder to the well-dressed man with an air of friendly expectancy.


The last thing either of the two hear from that first floor is the light cracking of Mr.Lombardo on the other end mentioning something about changing diapers, and the youth. It's not exactly easy to make out the proscice details of what's said but there are a few words that get through.

The elevator is very nice much like the rest of the building hand crafted to impress with a lot of that old Italian flair, the man who owns the building obviously holding a great deal of respect for the nation. "Top floor." Leo states firmly tossing a small wad of bills into the change jar beside the bellhops foot. Without a moments hesitation the lift begins to smoothly, or rather almost smoothly ride its way up towards the the top floor. Leo clears his throat again.

"Prides himself on keeping this a family business." As if that explains everything, as he takes a look down towards his watch. The Bellhop looks like he's no older then maybe 15 working there with a rather well supplied change jar setting beside him. Even if his costume is a bit humiliating it seems he's being very well paid.


In a way, it does. "It's most admirable," David replies with a smile, turning his attention back to the doors. He clasps his hands loosely behind himself in what is just a little too informal to be an actual parade rest and settles in for the ride. For all of the Italian influence, it did feel an awful lot like a snapshot of the American dream.

Well. More or less. David is certain is is not nearly as idyllic as all of that.


Mr.Smith has reconnected.


There's a light lurch as the elevator makes surprisingly quick time to the top floor falling right back down to a stop as it reaches that top floor. It's very slight as it locks into place and the bellboy hops over to open the door for the two gentlemen. Leo adjusts his tie once again before leading the way out from the elevator. "He likes to think so." Said a bit under his breath as he remains on the outside respectable.

The halls up here are just as nice as the lobby with no expenses spared in making the workers here comfortable as possible. There's a certain air to the place that makes it feel less an office and more a home. People move around from the offices in very nice suits taking documents back and fourth. At the end of the main hallway stand a pair of bright mahogany doors behind a secretaries desk.

The doors look to be hand crafted with a fine attention to detail walls on either side showing a series of hand crafted paintings each one is signed the same A.H.L. the subjects varying wildly from idyllic landscapes, to strange and fanciful interpretations of the city to far off apocalyptic deserts and everything in between.

As if on cue upon seeing the men the highly attractive young woman behind the desk comes back to a stand in order to grab the double doors and pull them open for Leo and maverick. She's dressed herself in a very nice if not a bit conservatively designed grey pinstriped uniform, and makes sure to give a bright smile of perfectly whitened teeth.


Mr.Smith has partially disconnected.


The quiet comment from Leo gets a sidelong look from David, but no other response. He just maintains his smile and falls into step behind him, taking a moment to offer a polite "Thank you very much," to the young bellboy as he moves past.

David lets his attention wander as he follows Leo, his brow slightly furrowed. This is a very nice publishing house. Still, he says nothing — his smile just develops a small, slightly lopsided quirk. It remains even when they reach the double-doors and the young woman who moves to open them. "Ah, thank you, miss."


The belboy gives David a smile and a nod before closing back shut the elevator doors behind the two. The first words out of his mouth in a thick New Jersey accent "Wasn't nothing sir, have a good day." Spoken with a slightly cracking voice as he switches the lever to descend right back down the building proper.

David gets himself a bit of a smile and wink from the secretary as she stands off to one side. There's something almost venomous behind that smile and somewhat dopey looking exterior. It's hard to place but it is there behind the general bubbly mannerisms of her movements, like a King cobra hidden in a rabbits fur. "No, thank you sweetie." She says with a very slight Bronx accent before going right back to her typewriter.

Leo gives her a forced smile to hide his own distaste for the woman getting that same bubbly and friendly smile in return after just a moments pause where the two lock eyes. An air of hostility takes over, quickly passing.

On the other side of the double doors stands a rather simple office when compared to the rest of the building. Dull brown carpeting covering the floor with a number of paintings and other artworks along the walls. Where there isn't a painting or sculpture the walls are instead lined with rows and rows and rows of books, novels, comic books, hundreds of them.

A series of very nice brown leather chairs rest in the room pointed towards a very nice looking wooden desk made from a dark red stained wood. The light of the room shines in from a series of blinds giving it a pleasantly warm vibe to the place.

Standing with a golf club in his hands is a man who looks to be in his late eighties if not a good deal older, wearing a pair of bright yellow tinted aviator sunglasses and a broad smile. "Four!" He shouts out before slamming the club into the ball, bouncing it off a small pad on the wall behind his desk and into a small cup that had been set up. He gives a broader smile, before turning on the balls of his heels and holding out his golf club. "Now that is what I call a hole in one!"

Everything about him is vibrant and full of life as he walks over towards the two. Arms out-stretched. "Leo! David! An absolute pleasure." The elderly man grabs a hold of his grandson and gives him a firm hug, before letting him go, and turning towards David. "David, it is an absolute pleasure, I'm Allard Lombardo, but please feel free to just call me Mr.Smith" A light pause as he leans in. "Got a bit tired of people mispronouncing my name." Before letting out a bright laugh.

Leo puts on something of a friendly smile, before backing away towards the door. "Well grandpa, I have to go back to the front desk, remember to call me if you need anything." Already backing out from the room wanting to get away from this place soon as possible.

Mr.Smith turns to his grandson again just to offer in a friendly manner. "Ah, that's alright, run along and we'll have a talk when you're in a better mood." Giving a full supportive smile, even as Leo closes the door once again. "Kids these days, am I right?"


David is all smiles and politeness, dutifully waiting his turn to be addressed. He's even kind enough to lean down a bit when Allard leans in to speak to him, very aware of his own height. "I completely understand," he replies with a laugh, nodding once. "Mister Smith it is."

Once Leo departs, David spreads his hands and lifts both shoulders in a helpless shrug. "I imagine he means well. But thank you for agreeing to speak to me," he adds, picking up a twinkle in his eye. "I really am a great admirer of your work."


"Don't think anything about it." Smith offers with a smile and a dismissive gesture, before moving over to a small golf rack in order to hang up his club. "Besides you never know what kind of talent is going to walk through that door." Pointed out with a flourish of hand motions and another reassuring grin, before he makes his way back over to his desk. "Which branch?" Offered as he moves to set himself down onto the plush brown leather chair behind his desk.

For as lively and active as he seems there's still that slight slow to his stride. His years have severely weighed down on him and it shows, not easily as it seems to be quite well hidden, but it is there. A lighthearted laugh echoes out from his chest, as he motions for one of the chairs. "Pick a seat, any seat, as long as it's the one right across from my desk."

He pauses for a moment longer still just as friendly and complimentary as ever even as he slides into place. "He tries, but if I sat over his shoulder every step of the way neither of us would ever get anything done." Slight stop as he pours himself a glass of water from a slightly frosted pitcher. "Hard to move with a 180lb man on your shoulder anyway."


David does as he's bidden and moves towards the chair opposite Smith's desk — though he does not sit. Not just yet. "Thank you. Before I sit, though, I fear I owe you an apology," he begins, holding up both of his hands. "I regret to say that I misled your grandson on why I wanted to speak to you. No disrespect intended," he adds quickly. "I am seeking a consultation. Just not with a writer. With the Hooded Shadow." He offers a very wry, apologetic smile and bows his head. "I understand completely if I should see myself out."


Smith pours a second glass of water, setting it down across from himself on a small cork based coaster with the company logo across the front. "It's rarer then you'd think we actually get people in for honest book publishing." He laughs quietly to himself. "I've been locked up here in the office all morning." Smith sets the slightly frosted jug back into the small ice bucket at the side of his desk. There's a light jingling of ice moving around. "Way they keep me locked up here you'd think I was made of paper."

There's a long pause as he takes a nice sip of his cool distilled water. "What I'm trying to say is: I'm bored senseless up here so it's good to get the mind off things." His smile cracking right back across his face as he nods over to a small chalk-board with the words 'Hole in one' written on it and about forty slash marks on it as he's been keeping track. If David looks over towards it when he looks back Smith would be holding in his hands a small black length of cloth. "So, true believer, what sort of questions might a man such as yourself have of…"

He quickly throws on the mask and comes to a heroic stand. "The ho-" There's a slight pause as he flips the hood back around so he actually has the white eye holes properly visible. "The Hooded Shadow!" Standing tall and confident with his arms poised on his waist. Outside of the room one can almost feel the disappointed groan of the secretary in the hall.


David will try not to take too much pride in the poor secretary's suffering. She was unsettling, to say the least. As it is, he can't help a broad smile at the show going on inside Mr. Smith's office; it wasn't often he dealt with people who didn't seem to be allergic to a little bit of fun.

Granted, given why he's come

"I'm looking into a case and I'm afraid I've hit something of a dead end," David explains, drawing his jacket open so that he can fish out a small notebook and start flipping a few pages back. "So I thought perhaps a more experienced, less conventional mind -" He gestures towards Smith, with a smile. "- might see something that I'm missing. As to the case…" He trails off and purses his lips. Where to begin.

"Kidnappings of powered individuals," David begins, flipping his notebook around so that he can offer it right-side up to Smith. "Both here in New York and down in Louisiana. I'm having the damnedest time trying to track the people responsible even with a gun used in one of the kidnappings in my posession."


Smith takes a pause reaching down into his desk. There's a moments fumbling before he pulls out a small pair of reading glasses. He pulls off his usual glasses from under the hood, and places the reading glasses on over the pitch black cloth sack he calls a mask. "Let me get a look at this" He offers taking a moment to press the glasses up the bridge of his nose, and squint a bit.

"Unconventional is my middle name." He comments in a slightly distracted voice. "It's also sometimes danger, but that's in the details." As he runs his finger alongside the text, his regular pair of glasses held in his hand. The lenses of both pairs of glasses are very thick likely making him blind as a bat without them.

At the very least he's trying to keep the tone light even as they discuss such a rough subject as kidnappings. "I'd suggest the Silver Hangman, but leukemia took him back in august of 57." He goes down a small list of possible suspects which would logically fit the MO, but most of them have been dead for a number of years.


David's notes are extensive, but there appears to be only so much ground to cover. A reported 'ambulance accident' in Central Park a week ago with several eye-witness accounts claiming armed men in black and several victims in the back of a white van hooked up to IVs; a hospital built atop a bunker in New Orleans where medical experiments of some kind were being conducted (it appears he tried to track the owner of the building to no effect); a protest in Central Park where a young woman with shorn hair and claws made off with the organizer.

"It doesn't seem to be an individual sort of operation," David notes with a pensive frown, folding his arms over his chest. "Too many foot soldiers with too much training, too many resources. I spoke with one of the victims who got herself loose and she's afraid it might be some kind of a government thing."


Still wearing the mask Smith picks up the phone beside him after a few moments studying the documentation. "I am going to offer you a favor David." He states calmly looking across the table still wearing his mask. Yet as he sets down the pad he pulls back off the mask turning a bit more serious. "I'm not doing this lightly, realize that by helping you I am going to be putting myself at risk."

He places the phone chord and all in front of himself. "Maybe tomorrow, maybe five years from now, maybe twenty, but someday, and that day may not ever come I will make a phonecall, and I will ask you to do something for me." He pauses turning his expression somewhat serious. "Whatever I ask you to do for me, you will. Without question, and then we will be even." There's a pause. "before this phonecall I need to make that clear"


It might be unusual to see out of someone interacting with a man of Smith's age (with the mask and reading glasses, no less), but David seems to be completely aware of the gravity of this offer. His expression is serious, no hint of humor even lurking on the edges of his eyes.

This is not the first time David has put himself in this sort of position. That much is probably apparent to Smith by virtue of the way David is clearly considering it. After a long moment of thought, he simply nods once.

"One favor," David agrees simply. "No questions asked. Thank you, Mister Smith."


There's a long moments pause before Mr.Smith begins to dial out a number onto the phone. He waits for it to ring before starting with a strange greeting in some semi forgotten foreign language which sounds overly harsh in nature yet the context is a more friendly one as he speaks.

As if the situation were far too serious to begin with the mask, bright red phone, and reading glasses do a lot to take the edge off as he turns away from David. There's still certainly something friendly to his tone of voice as he rattles away, at one point switching languages completely. It's almost ten solid minutes before he finally hangs the phone up behind him, turning back to face David. His hands fold in front of himself as he slides the water glass back over.


For the duration of the call, David remains standing with his hands clasped behind his back, silent and waiting patiently. Only after the call is over and the glass is pushed forward does David finally slide into a chair and reach out to accept the glass of water. "Thank you."


"Prego." Mr.Smith offers a small toast and a smile from behind that mask of his before taking a drink through the mask of his water. There's a moments realization where he actually lifts the mask back up in order to drink saving himself by a few seconds from wearing his ice cold beverage. "Check your mail in two weeks, there should be a package with your name on it."


Even then, David doesn't laugh at the man. He raises his glass of water, murmurs a polite "Salute," and waits for the mask to be lifted out of the way before he joins Smith in a drink. "My work causes me a great deal of travel, but I will not fall out of touch. It would be a poor way to repay your kindness."


A calm nod and the word "Salute" is returned right back to David. "I have faith in you David." Responded after he sets down his glass looking across the desk. He finally takes off his mask in order to place it back within his desk, after placing back on his regular yellow tinted aviator glasses. "Don't disappoint me, and we can be good friends."


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