1963-10-03 - That's The Story
Summary: Llew, Lynette, Scarlett, and Sinjin intersect in the Kitchen, to ill effect.
Related: Once Upon A Hellmouth Plot
Theme Song: None
llew lynette rogue sinjin 


It had been ages since Lynette had ventured into Hell's Kitchen; New York, it seems, is just a mess of Hells as of late. Reguardless of the goings on in one burrow, to another, she had a friend here, and that meant checking in on them. The odd weather doesn't seem to bother her, not much anyway, but she's knowledgeable enough to try and keep to herself, and the shadows as best she can. Once a thief, always and what not. She's quick to check around the Jewish section of the Kitchen, but her rotund ally, Solomon, is nowhere to be found.

The air here is crisp and damp, more so than it should be this early in autumn, regardless of how north they are. Giving a shiver, and shudder, the dark skinned girl rubs at her arms, trying to warm them as the wind kicks about her mass of unruley curls. Her nose twists up, and after allowing just the tip of her tongue to poke out, she all but turns and dry retches into an alley. Here there was death, and blood, and decay. "De hell is happenin' in dis town…" She pants, her hand flat on her stomach as she peers down the street.

*

Sinjin is here to find out. He's out of place, dressed as he is in black and purple, looks like he got lost on the way to a nice restaurant near Times Square. But he's making friends. On the steps of an aging brownstone, an older woman in a housecoat and slippers — cat under one arm, cigarette in the other hand — has deigned to talk his ear off.

This is ideal. Sinjin lounges against the railing, taking notes in a small book and giving her an encouraging smile or a sympathetic look every time her tirade trails off. She blames this all on those muties around here. Sinjin keeps his disagreement to himself.

*

Another storm, another insufferable day in Hell's Kitchen. New York has its seasons, and 'hellacious time of strangeness' slots in nicely between the end of summer and Indian summer. The terrifying demons or supernatural weirdness make an outstanding bookend to the soul-sucking grey of November. Doubtful the residents even notice any interruptions to their rhythms of life.

Few pay attention to the young woman squeezing out from a forgettable bookstore, only nominally selling books rather than weird bric-a-brac obtained with few questions. Anyone in the know could name Crain's for what it is — a fence — but the legitimate business also includes buying and selling of cast-offs from estate sales. She hovers in the doorway, peering this way and that down the street as though anticipating a carriage to try to run her down. Scarlett's braids are concealed under a slanted black hat, her trenchcoat belted around her bleeding edge mini-dress. At least she has rainboots on.

Fewer still have reasons to question what's in her bag. She slings it over her shoulder and darts out, joining the flood of traffic, such as it is. Avoiding splashing in puddles, Scarlett tips a look up the cat of all things, and then blows out a breath. "Whatever happened to nice October days?"

*

"…that's the last time I treat you with licorice, Hunter," remarks a light-timbered tenor voice. The accent is clearly British. "After what it did your digestion — Good Lord." The voice belongs to a thin fellow in a tweed suit, dark glasses and bow-tie — walking beside a large, black Labrador in a harness.

Clearly a seeing-eye dog.

The fellow signals his dog to halt, and tilts his head to the side after hearing a woman (Rogue) speaking. Smiling ruefully, the man lifts his chin and comments: "I do believe the 'good' October days are on loan to June. June is several months late in returning them, wot."

Despite being blind, the chaos that has befallen the Kitchen is not lost on the man. The smell of it fills his nostrils, and he can practically taste the nervous tension in the air.

*

Lynette looks out from the alley, glancing up, and down the street once more. She's careful to breath through her nostrils, keeping her mouth shut so that her hightened sense of smell doesn't force her breakfast out of her stomach and onto the ground. A cross look of determination situates itself onto her face, and she begins to walk, fingers brushing across buildings to give her just that ounce more of support. She's nervous now, twitching, paranoid. When passing the reporter and cat lady on her stoop, she doesn't make more eye contact than passively necessary.

*

Doggie. Sinjin knows better than to bother the dog when he's working but, still. He catches sight of Lynette, who looks a little the worse for wear, and his eyes narrow as he takes in the scene — who looks like they belong here? Who doesn't?

"Thank you for your time, Miss…" Sinjin says to the woman on the stoop.

"Allan," the woman says sharply. "Mrs. Allan. And you can quote me about what I said. I stand by it."

"Very kind, thank you." There's no pleasing people. Sinjin makes a note and flips the book shut after he's done. He hops down from the stoop, nods at Scarlett, and heads for Lynette at a casual but determined pace. This isn't a neighborhood where it's safe for a young woman to be alone and unwell.

*

Scarlett is not blind to what miseries gather under high, gloomy overhangs, listening attentively for the alteration in the rhythm, the break in the pattern signalling something unusual. Her bag bumps between her shoulder blades, the contents utterly a metallic jingle around some kind of cradling wrappings. Behind Lynette, the sound adds its curious melody to splashing water in the filthy gutters, the dog's padding, her own slowing and inevitable pause.

"June took a loan, and we would like the extra hours of sunshine with interest. Of course, June probably traded it to San Diego." Her thoughts disperse easily on the back of her cordial soprano, a note of southern charm — or muddled English, Kent perhaps — rounding out a New Yorker's tone. She tips her head towards Llew, and the scent of neroli around her mixes with dust and leather. Scarlett murmurs, "Pardon," when the reporter slips by. "Careful, the pavement is treacherous back there. Loose brick or something, you're likely to turn an ankle if you're not careful."

*

Hunter, the Labrador, reacts to the tension emanating from Lynette a short distance away, and twitches. His master, Llew, turns his head a bit to listen more closely, and nods. "Treacherous indeed," he murmurs aloud — partly to Rogue, and partly to himself. "Ah, poor girl…"

Llew smiles a little, upon hearing Sinjin's footsteps moving in the same direction — to the girl, that is. "There's a good fellow," says he. Turning his visage toward the last place he heard Rogue's voice, the man adds: "This is hardly a safe neighbourhood at present for a young lady to be alone on the streets. Perhaps there is something we can do?"

He frowns, looking concerned. For those with good hearing, there is a skittering and shuffling noise coming from the nearest building, on the ground floor. A moment later, something rattles a window. Then another. The Labrador… suddenly growls warningly.

"Oh my," the blind man murmurs.

*

Lynette keeps walking. The sound behind her of someone coming up from the rear has her glancing over her shoulder. She blinks, and then blinks again. Now there's John, and Scarlett, each making their own melodic noises of feet, boots, metal, water…She picks up her pace. Turning her head away, she sinks more into her self and is careful to not bump into anyone along the way. Arms hugging to herself, her second-hand sneakers 'squish' and 'slap' into a few pools of dank, murky water. Then comes the sound of an upset dog.

For some reason, it causes her to tense up all the more. She freezes in place and shows the pup, and its master, her hands. Palms out, she offers a voice for herself. "M'sorry. I don' want no trouble." She explains before following the animal's gaze. Her head cants, and she looks from herself, to the building in question, and then back again. Her fingers droop, and her arms rest back against her sides. Turning, she then faces the building and peers at its windows, trying to find the reason behind the animal's change in demeanor.

*

"No trouble." The hairs on the nape of Sinjin's neck stand up — he's been in enough bad places to know when something's off. When he speaks, he's got a pleasant accent — not American, something English, maybe. "Just making sure you're all right." He offers Lynette a hand. "Are you feeling ill?"

His other hand is in his pocket, finding his lighter. He pulls it out, flicking it absently. Habit. He knows there are other people on the street but they're not the ones he's worried about. Shuffling, rattling — he's never seen the undead before but that sounds like there might be a problem.

*

The retreat and plaintive assertion of no trouble cause Scarlett to pause, her mouth crushed into a slight circle and her eyebrows drawn downwards in a furrowed copper line. The softening brilliance of her cut emerald eyes speak to the hesitation, a familiar chord rolling from Lynette to the other young woman. Her gaze fixates upon outstretched hands for a moment, and then she shakes her head sharply. "You are no trouble, miss. I promise, nothing wrong. I simply wanted to know if you were well, given it seemed you might be under the weather."

The explanation is no sooner from her lips than the rattling grates against the usual urban hubbub, and she looks up at the nearest edifice. Its secrets enveloped in brick, wood, and stone cannot be undone in a moment, but she can interpose herself between the others, backing up slightly with her arms to her sides. Scouring for signs of falling debris or, worse, some collapsing bit of shoddy masonry, she presents absolutely the least dangerous barrier known to man, woman or dog. But it's the thought that counts, putting herself at slightly more risk.

"Anyone get the impression someone is up there, and planning an immediate exit?" An inquiry not made idly, even as she narrows her eyes.

*

The blind chap idly fiddles with the silver handle of his cane, a frown upon his face. He stands there with his head slightly bowed forward… listening. As for the dog, Hunter grows more agitated with each passing moment. "Easy, old friend…" Llew murmurs softly, and the words turn into a low hum. The tune sounds like it has come from a lullaby of some description.

'CRASH!'

A figure — more of a dark blur at this point — bursts through one of the windows, shattering it and spraying the alley with shards of glass. Its trajectory takes it toward Lynette, over the heads of Sinjin and Rogue.

Further up the alley — and cutting off any escape that way — another figure smashes through a window, from higher up. Both beings appear humanoid, with pale skin, blood-red eyes and fanged mouths. These are more beasts than men.

"Deliciousss…" the one farthest away hisses.

*

"I ain't sick." She tells them both, confusion apparent on her face until she thinks back just moments before. "Oh…Oh! Dat! Non', jus'…don' you smell it?" Looking between Sinjin and Scarlett, the Creole girl with massive hair waits for one of them, either of them, to answer. "Dey somet'ing wrong here, too. Jus' like in de park. S'diff'rent, dough. Somet'ing sour. Dead. Rottin'." She eyes the reporter's hand, offering her own out and at least giving him a touch, a grip, a shake of greetings. When her flesh meets his and her fingers curl, the girl drinks in a quick breath. Her eyes snap open, wide, and in the time it takes for one's heart to pump, she pulls away, quickly.

She stares at Sinjin now, her eyes heavy with tears. "M'so…so sorry, chere. 'M so sorry f'what dey did t'you…" She can't say more, at least not now, her story is silenced by the sudden rain of glass over their heads. Covering her eyes, she keeps herself bent over, looking down, until the shards and chips cease their fall.

Noticing the figures, her brows set, and she looks to Scarlett, Sinjin, and then to the man with his dog. "Y'gotta move. Dis ain't good."

*

Sinjin isn't a gentleman but he does shelter Lynette from the falling glass as best he can. "Well, shit," he mutters, as they straighten up again. "There's my story." He exhales sharply and steps forward, between Lynette and the creatures coming their way.

The lighter sparks but the flame doesn't stay where it should, clinging to the wick. A faint, flickering blue flame spreads over Sinjin's hand to lick at his sleeve, crawls along it. "I think people should get out of the street," he says, slightly louder. He'd rather no one saw this, anyway.

*

Scarlett flings her arm up to block any shards of the splintered pane from reaching her face. Tailored black cotton may be more at risk from cuts and tears than her flesh, though none need to know that. Standing on her toes gives her a slightly elevated profile beyond her natural height, and that might count to capture more debris rather than allowing it to rain on the others. That lovely wide hat also does its part, eclipsing Sinjin and Lynette in turn. She traces the arc as she turns, shedding glass and wood chips, paint flecks, and a few raindrops.

"Is he—" The question dies on her lips as she pivots sharply on her toes, barely in contact with the ground. The trajectory shows no body landing limply at their feet, changing everything. Her eyes narrow and their surreal hue almost drinks up the fire wreath in the man's hand. "That's a comfort, you must be sure. We need an opening for an exit, for the gentleman with the dog and mademoiselle here. Suppose you can manage that, sugar?" Mark it, this may be the first and only time they're ever going to hear her say that. Blame the stress.

Bram Stoker fan girl number one, you're up. The second admirer of Victorian literature, if not bathing habits, gives two tugs to the straps circling her shoulders. Not about to lose her purchase, then. She gives the alleyway monster a polite, regal wave of her fingers and a sly, mischievous smile that the voudoun might recognise. "Are you? Only one way to tell, darling. Let's see if I can catch a quick dinner."

*

Vampires in Hell's Kitchen.

The first of the nightstalker drops into a crouch, its baleful gaze fixed upon the Bohemian belle, Rogue. Licking its lips, blood drenches the creature's chin and down its neck. This one has fed, and recently. Both vampires stink of rotting flesh, and the air is heavy with the metallic smell of blood. Slowly it steps to the side…

And leaps at Rogue.

The second of the undead bloodfiends uses that moment to lunge at Lynette — only to hesitate slightly at the sight of the fire burning in and around Sinjin's hand.

"A gentleman, am I?" Llew remarks, despite the tightness in his voice. "Awfully kind." Further away from the trio, other residents make their hasty escape… well, most of them. Some stay back, to catch glimpses of the nightstalkers.

And Llew resumes humming. He makes no attempt to leave, keeping a firm grip on Hunter's harness, and he hums. One by one, the lingering onlookers each take on a vague expression… and disappear indoors.

Llew… smiles.

*

Lynette glances from Rogue to Sinjin, and at the sudden rush of flames on the reporter's hand, the more something makes sense to her. "Dat explains it." Listening, she nods to Rogue and huffs a breath. "Right! On it!" Her figure starts to move, going in the direction of the people that seem to slink away into the protection of their homes. Her mouth parts and that easy melody in the air has her turning her head in Llew's direction. "Dey out de streets!" She informs Rogue before moving, swiftly to Llew's side. Her hand up, she whispers gently. "M'here, buddy. M'here t'help y'master, ok?" Thent to Llew. "'m here t'help you, sir. Don'…know what y'doin', but maybe I c'n help protect you."

*

Sinjin is a hero in the same way that he's a gentleman. Reluctantly and, yet, with a great flare for the dramatic. He pulls back his hand and then punches the stalker in front of him with a ball of flame. It hits like a solid thing, like it's made of iron, and it doesn't burn — not right away. The flame seems almost reluctant to eat flesh, though it begins to gnaw on fabric. Where droplets of it fall, the leaves smoulder underfoot.

"Okay, whoever cleared the streets, good job." Sinjin could have used that skill more than once. "Let's just clean this up and all pretend it didn't happen. Fair enough?"

*

Go ahead and jump at her. It's only at the last moment that Scarlett moves. A flair for the dramatic does not accompany her: she cheats by leaping straight up, catching her heel on the wall of the building and springing over at an angle onto the weary rail of a fire escape, and then higher again towards the top. That's patently unfair as she distorts and ignores the consequences of gravity, using a speed that the leech itself might match or lack. If it happens to clutch onto her, all the better. The clothing she wears is fairly thin, and the only thing protecting it from a worse sort of fate than the life draining it does its own. The Norns have a funny sense of humour, truly.

Her movements convey a sense of finality and purpose doing a slow duet with her. She dodges around the other horror that wants to bestow hugs on John and company, though the way she goes about it is a seamless bit of poetry in motion. The time for potentially demonstrating herself as 'just a girl' is over.

Slim fingers reach up to grasp the metal fire escape installed during the days of Jackson, weathered and old. A good pull on one of the bars warps it almost immediately, bracket twisted, bolts shearing away in a wailing protest. She keeps peeling it off as she goes, tearing yards of worn iron and battered steel, forging what amounts to a rather nice spear or lance, when one gets right down to it. It happens to be several yards long by the time she is done, freeing it from the brick side of the building. And she's not even fully winded.

"Now, didn't you ever hear you wait for a lady to sample the dish first? Manners amount for nothing anymore." Holding the ladder takes only a few moments of her time, considering she measures distance and speed, then flings it — or drops it from above — on the vampire chasing after her. The ends, preferably caging the thing in a heavy burden of metal, justify a bit of architectural revamping.

*

Down comes the metal ladder upon the pursuing vampire (well, one of them). The beastly thing almost dodges the first rung that would have hit it squarely in the head — but fails to avoid it completely. Instead of getting brained by the ladder, the bloodfiend ends up wearing it around its neck. It pitches forward, weighed down by the iron frame, and becomes somewhat pinned to the ground.

Down, but not out.

Llew stops humming — and from the tense expression upon his face, one might assume he was humming out of nervousness — and turns his visage toward Lynette. Hunter regards the girl suspiciously, but does nothing to stop her.

The dog's attention is rather upon the vampires.

Llew nods mutedly to the girl, and allows himself to be led away, but as the second vampire scrambles to its feet for a second attack, the blind fellow whistles shrilly.

Very shrilly.

Hunter breaks away, and leaps at the nightstalker, his jaws going for the creature's throat on his way past. However successful the dog is in its 'fly by mauling', Llew remarks to Lyn: "Awful decent of you. Yes, I think we'd best go, wot?"

Both vampires are now left open to another counter-attack.

*

Sinjin takes a breath and steels himself, looking a little queasy. In the next moment, fire engulfs his enemy and the thing is consumed, turned to white ash. The smell of rotting, roasted meat fills the air. Sinjin looks over at Scarlett.

"Let's just get this over with, yes?" He pulls the fire away from the ash, winding it back around his arm like a snake, then he paces toward the creature keening under the weight of the ladder.

*

The ladder makes an exceptionally useful frame to burn down, a way to send flames roaring down on the captured bloodsucker. Scarlett does not give the creature the benefit of the doubt, and she clutches the ends of the ladder, pushing down on her end to apply deadly leverage so the vampire stays upon his knees. Their imbalance of strength applies to the young woman adopting something of a yoga asana; she bends her knee and locks in, her back leg supporting as an anchor against any push back. Both arms flex to support that ghastly business of keeping the creature pinned to the ground.

"Why are you attacking people?" The inquisition is something made in soft, quiet tones. "You see it ended badly for the other one. Why are you preying upon us?"

*

The vampire struggles beneath that ladder, and the added pressure of the superhumanly strong Rogue… but to no avail. It hisses and thrashes in an animalistic fashion, seemingly adamant not to answer…

From further away, Llew Griffin lifts his head and turns it so that one ear is directed toward the vampire, Sinjin and Rogue. His pace slows — supposedly to let Hunter catch up with him and Lynette again — and he starts humming once more. The vampire spasms violently, thrashing all over again, although this time it chokes out words:

"Already… eaten! Ssso much… more! The… Master wants… no. No more! No more! Master wants — he wants… mmm…" Blood leaks from the tear ducts in the vampire's eyes, and its head lolls sideways.

Brain-dead.

Llew scowls, looking sickened, and disappears with Hunter and Lynette — humming no longer.

*

Sinjin stops a few feet away from Rogue and her prey. "Can I wipe this thing out, miss, unless you have a stake up your sleeve?" He still doesn't look happy about it all. To be honest, he's a little green around the gills, as they say. He does crouch down to take a look at the vampire, though, so it's not the actual undead that seem to be making him feel ill. Must be something else.

*

"Take it," murmurs the redhead, her words harsh even as her eyes are full of the terrible knowledge they share. Her chin lifts and she dares not look at the vampire, giving the man instead the full weight of her gaze. "Flame is clean, better than making it suffer. I don't know what its master is, but too many people live here, too many people whom could be at risk if we delay."

She takes a deep breath, still straining to hold the fire escape in place. "I know what I am asking you. Let's do this and I will get you a drink of your choice once we get out of here."

*

"At least it's already dead. In theory." Sinjin wraps it up in fire, pale fire that doesn't burn, even though the thing squeals miserably. Then he clenches his fist and the flame eats inward with a flash, hot enough to turn the thing to ash and to make the metal glow — somehow, Scarlett's skin and clothing are completely unscathed in spite of her proximity to it.

"I really try not to do this," Sinjin says tightly. The fire fades out, he slips the lighter away, then he dusts his hands off as though they're dirty somehow. "Thanks for the help, you're very good at that." He gives himself a little shake. "St. John Allerdyce, at your service."

*

Scarlett clutches hold of the fire escape until the monster is quite dead, no more than a few flakes scattered on the wind. Then she stoops with effort to lift up the discarded metal, leaning it thoughtfully against the side of the building where someone can hopefully run up and down in the event of a fire. "I haven't any nails or screws to replace it," she murmurs under her breath, almost mournful in the passing. Her hands are dusted, and she gazes with a sense of wonder back to the man. Still, regret shines there. "Come. Let's find ourselves something to drink, or at least get away from that wretched smell. The stench is enough to turn one's stomach."

She withdraws a step or two, and then executes a curtsey with frightening precision. Her foot slides back, she dips from the waist, and her graceful movements are executed with ease. "A pleasure, Mr. Allerdyce. I'm Scarlett."

*

"No reason we can't salvage the day." Sinjin offers Scarlett his arm. "Even if we can't salvage the scenery. It seems we have something in common. Maybe more than one thing. You are the picture of a romantic heroine, Scarlett, even more than Miss O'Hara."

Getting back to normal is a good idea. A little flattery, a little alcohol — Sinjin tries not to drink but he's considering taking it up full time. "You'll forgive me if I leave out the specifics when I report on this particular incident."

*

"No helping with that." Scarlett gives a nudge of the fire escape with her toe to assure it will not topple over. Aside from a protesting groan, no great threat will harm the children of Hell's Kitchen, at least no more than the terrors they regularly encounter as part of breathing and wandering and walking. Her hand rises to her throat and she sighs, "I daresay, Mr. Allerdyce, you could give a girl the hots for you talking like that and being so bold as to shelter her against monsters that leap out of windows and threaten to have them for dinner." A shiver of mirth carries through the soft lilting volume of her voice, cutting through the deepening influence of eloquent Savannah or rarefied Charleston, though whispers of merry England still persist.

Her hands are shaking, slightly, though she presses them together to avoid it. "Naturally. I hope they will not accuse me of property damage for that, but I could not envision another way to help that would not put people at risk. You neatly managed the situation well, and without hesitation. Well done."

*

"Experience, no matter how unpleasant it was at the time, comes in handy." Sinjin laughs but it's humourless, short and bitter. "It's good to have truly worthy things to kill." Not even the VC count as worth killing, no matter what they did to him. He still can't get his head around that.

"I'll be sure to keep in mind that there may be unexpected side effects to being heroic." Ladies, though. "Do you think it has the same effect on gentlemen? I might take it up more, if it does." Sinjin gives her a rogueish wink, then gestures to where he'd seen a pub on the way into this neighborhood.

*

Like the best of coffees, gallows humour ought to be black, bitter, and thick. She rubs her hand up her arm and pulls her sleeve down, measuring the damage to her trench coat. Not terrible, but the minor tears will need to be lovingly attended by a needle. The person to do this is not her, for whom a needle is a pointy object she can wield to poke fun at other people. For now, two souls in a sea of weird can stick together.

"Gentlemen tend to respond well to assistance and heroic efforts to their advantage, yes. They do tend to look shocked when plucked from the jaws of defeat by a helpful hand." Scarlett's glimmering eyes have not lost any of their radiant shade, the green as intense as the soul of Ireland under a summer sky. His wink she warms to, giving a broader smile full of a long absent sunshine. "I am grateful, though, for your aid. The others, I can hope to see again. I lacked even their names. Ah well. Let's go find somewhere to forget what went before and drink to success and the favour of the fates."

*

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