1965-01-14 - Court of Nevers: Story I - Rosemarie
Summary: Rosemarie just wanted something to eat after a long day at work. It doesn't come out the way she expected.
Related: Court of Nevers
Theme Song: None
rosemarie lucian harper 

The wind rustles the woman's loose curls, teasing them around her shoulders. Her green scarf plays on the wind, emulating the rotating ferris wheel beyond the boardwalk. "Let's welcome our first champion, Rosemarie Falcroft. Do be welcome. Tell your story."

1947 hours. Columbus Branch, New York Public Library. Hell's Kitchen.

No one exactly wants to be assigned to the Columbus Library. That branch treats an underserved population and no amount of public money can change the character of the neighbourhood. By day, rundown streets host pedestrians interested in children's books and finding shelter from the cold. After dark the Italian and Irish mobs stake their claims and terrible things transpire in the back alleys. 10th Avenue isn't really an alley — too big for that. Even West 51st, where Rosemarie emerges after a shift that seemed to go impossibly long, isn't terrible. But no one parks their cars there.

If it could have happened to delay her departure, it did. First there was the special collections, all unsorted. The person who called off. The assistant coming in late and insisting Rosemarie must delay her lunch accordingly. Two kids making out in the bathrooms who security couldn't shoo and the old lady with fifty-nine questions about blue alien folks — the government conspiracy, you know. She's missed her bus. No taxis can be found. The nearest subway station is two long, long blocks away back to the famous Ellen's Stardust Diner and Gershwin Theatre, but it might as well be light years away. Ahead, a cold, lonely trudge in the frosty night.

The only place open that might even attract attention is an Italian cafe on the corner directly across from the library, one of those dark places with few windows and chequered tablecloths and old school Sicilians.

Someone comfortable with speaking before a crowd (because even one can be a crowd, believe you-me) probably doesn't wring up a handful of cloth even as she rises to her feet. Her crests of azurine fall flat even as Rosemarie clears her throat quietly. Finding her voice is another matter entirely, one that takes precious seconds and multiple loud heartbeats in her own ears.

"M-M-My story…?" A nod to herself and another fall of eyes to her own feet. "W-W-W-Well, I g-g-guess I c-can start w-w-with th-this."

Sometimes, a job isn't a job. It's something you can take pride in, go home feeling that you've won against the day's trials, like you've earned your paycheck with little effort. Other days, the world seems against you. It was one of those days.

Her breath steams in the night as she walks out to the sidewalk. Folded arms both admit frustration with the shift as a whole and a shield against the chill. God, she hates the cold. Where is her other glove? Riffling through the pockets of her sweater, the librarian finally finds them and puts them on, her jaw already chittering teeth together lightly.

"C-C-Can't believe that I m-m-missed the b-b-bus," she grumbles, looking left and right. Maybe a taxi? Oh, but taxis are expensive and she's hungry. As if on cue, her stomach adds its complaint. A la cafe it is, a place that she's always considered but never entered. Her entry is a good part mincing by nature, but boy, even as the front door swings shut behind her, it smells awfully good. Garlic is a favorite addition to any plate, in her high opinion.

Funny how sometimes things just happen. For example, Harper's been deep undercover lately, doing her best to shake the pursuers, but as Rosemarie steps into the cafe, there's a sound of jogging steps behind her as the young woman hurries to catch the door before it closes.

"Hey," she greets, flashing a brief smile, nostrils flaring as she takes a deep breath. "Wow. Smells good. Sorry, the big guy was getting a little worried you weren't back, so I volunteered to go on a fact-finding mission. If I'd know you were stopping for dinner, I would've told him to do it himself."

No taxi driver worth his salt turns down those streets. The west facing side of Manhattan and the tenements within contain too many threats. Empty sidewalks have little more than shivering trash and cigarette butts as decoration, the few pedestrians moving in packs. Every so often doors open to disgorge locals who skitter off like recluse spiders for their cracks.

Il Moriro beckons. An older gentleman with a heavy paunch behind his black apron looks up when the door opens. The place has ten tables, tops. Most of them are occupied, only one standing apart in the middle with four seats. Not ideal for a view but who comes for that? "You together?" He waves a hand to them. His accent lays on a thick layer of cheesy import, his beetled black brows creeping together. The choice is almost made for them as he gestures, his big hand clamping around two menus. "Come. Sit. Special is pappardelle alla salsiccia." That translates on the menu to a 'sweet and hot sausage ragout and fennel seeds over pappardelle.'

The others in the place are almost entirely male, brooding gentlemen about their pasta and their affairs absent the wifey or mistresses. Their chatter is so low as to be nothing more than an ominous tenor tide.

Startled into making a soft 'eeep' of surprise at the sudden approach from behind, Rosemarie wheels to see, thankfully, a familiar face. Ah, it's the young woman from Lux, the one with ties to Lucian.

"Oh, hi —" A pause for her brain to catch up. "Harper." Don't mind the faintest upwards inflection of an embarrassed, invisible question mark. "The b-b-big g-guy?" She asks and then belatedly realizes that Harper might be speaking of the barkeep. Tucking a loose lock of hair behind her ear, escaped from her bun, might be ample coverage for the faint blush — but not really.

A question from the gentleman minding the arrivals prompts a short nod from the librarian, wordless assent in the end. Glancing over at her dark-haired compatriot, she follows directions with unabashed ease and settles at the table in question.

"That d-d-does sound g-good?" she offers by faint reply, stumped by the language. Harper is given a plaintive look. As soon as the gentleman leaves the table, she's nibbling on her own lip, worrying at the little scar there. "D-Do y-y-you think the special m-might b-be w-worth t-t-trying? I d-don't speak Italian."

"Me neither, actually," Harper shrugs, sliding into a seat and taking a look around the place. "Although I do speak French, and they're related. But I'm going to go out on a limb and guess it's some sort of pasta in some sort of sauce, so unless there's something you're allergic to, it's probably okay."

She leans back in her seat a bit, still looking the place over. Granted, she's probably checking entrances and exits, or trying to figure out just what sort of business all these men are in, but there's no telling for sure. "So what kept you late at the library?" she asks, turning back to the other woman.

Italian menus have their English descriptions below. Not all the English makes sense, but the intent can be clear in points. Salate, contorni, paste, and secondi piatti list out a select number of dishes rather than an endless dictionary journey through the Italian pasta-making tradition. Throw a dart, food will come.

The server will appear to top off water and ghost away without asking what they want. No alcohol for the ladies here, the paternal prerogative here. Bread manifests in the same fashion in a wicker basket. Side-eye looks from the Italian clientele measure up the pair of women, appraising how one looks at a cut of pork in the butcher. What can you do with it matters more than the marbling or the pinkness of the meat, the freshness of youth less interesting than possibilities.

In the odd manner of dreams, a cluster of folks in the foyer simply are there. No doors opening. Conversation distracts. The maitre d' has a conversation, polecats and mongeese in the frisson of unease present. They reach a conclusion and there's a nod, allowing four men to head into the dining room after a minute's pause. The server and maitre d' head for the kitchen to presumably pick up an order.

Never mind that air of wrongness…

Rosemarie rests her chin on one hand even as she slaps the menu quietly down on the table. She gives Harper a long-suffering look even before she makes a soft groan behind closed lips.

"W-W-What d-didn't happen? One of m-my c-coworkers 'forgot' " Insert quotation marks here. " to organize c-collections. My l-lunch was l-late b-b-because someone else w-was l-late. P-People were b-being…people," she nearly spat, her ire rising in moderate increment. "It was n-not my d-d-day."

She's grateful for her glass of water, but before she can gimp out an order, the server disappears. That's…not necessarily odd, but to be noted. Frowning to herself, she glances back at the menu. Why is there a prickling between her shoulder blades? Must be that her blood pressure is up. She takes a count of her heart rate and begins a cycling of slow breathing that could be noticed by someone paying attention. Itching behind her ear doesn't help, even if it feels good to scratch at skin begging for relief from what ails it — mainly the Shi'ar genetics twinkling through her blood and stirring up the mild maelstrom that is her stressed and empty stomach. Gargle-grumble, it goes, teased by the redolence of spice.

"At l-least they b-brought bread…?" she murmurs, her eyes flicking to Harper again even as she takes a slice of the bread from its nest in the wicker basket. Carbs. CARBS. Oh yes, her stomach will be happy shortly.

Harper is enough of a daredevil that she's not as quiet and discrete as she should be in a strange restaurant full of strange men in a dangerous part of town. The girl likes a thrill. Or just poking people with sticks. Something she no doubt gets from one particular side of the family. So despite the long looks, she meets the gazes of the men around them, returning them with a sly smile of her own.

"Have to watch out for people being people," she agrees, idly glancing over the menu. "I'm still not convinced that people being people are actually any better than people being monsters when it comes right down to it."

The bread is crusty and thick, the outer layer chewy enough to break a horse's jaws and the interior soft enough for a pillow by the most discerning princess. Split slices make for generous mouthfuls.

Now whether they have time to eat it is another matter. Especially with the four gentlemen spreading out in a staggered lightning bolt, twinned on either side of the central table the ladies sit at. Another person, adding the crowd to the fifth, takes up position near the doorway. He loiters and eyes the menu of drinks left conspicuously on the podium. The place is small, suffocatingly small. Got a sense of claustrophobia? It should be terrible.

Their bearing is too professional, too focused. One is plenty to ask, "Excuse me, you Ms. Falcroft?" His accent rings Irish, thickened as boxty at the bottom of a pan. "You forgot somethin'."

Indeed, after testing the crust and then pinching at the soft innards, the librarian is in the process of carefully picking out the white and warm, carb-laden deliciousness, all the better to —

Ignoring the sudden appearance of multiple gentlemen all in the guise of such won't work. Rosemarie glances up at the man, looking not too unlike she's been caught with her hands in the cookie jar; grandmother always did say not to disembowel one's slice of bread in public, tsk-tsk. There's a hope that this man means well, but something in his attention tells her otherwise and the Shi'ar battleblood screams into her psyche even as she flushes to her ears. It's a long, sustained, shivering note in her mind, all but prepping her to action at the drop of a pin. Whether or not it's something useful is another thing entirely. Screeching is entirely possible.

"I d-d-don't know y-you," she whispers back, her hands disappearing into the napkin set across her lap. The slow lengthening of talons doesn't bode well and neither does the bloom of raptor-gold about her irises. At least she can hide the appearance of the sharp nails in the white square, doomed as it is to puncture marks.

Harper quirks a brow as the man refers to Rosemarie by name, idly twirling the butter knife between her fingers. "Do you know these guys, Rose?" she asks, leaning back in her chair in a way that leaves her free to move if she needs to. Of course, half a breath later she realizes that there was an accent there.

And not an Italian one.

There's only one thing she knows the Irish and the Italian mobs have in common right now: nephilim. "Shit," she curses under her breath, tensing in her chair.

Black suit, white shirt, Irish accent. Make of that how you will, in the Kitchen. The gent holds out a bag. Small, lumpy with the contours of a book. "Found this on the sidewalk, and near as I can tell it's yours. Fellow at the library reckoned you headed this way."

Indeed it might be, what with the work schedule for the coming week poking out of a front pocket. The weird raptor glow spreading over Rosemarie's eyes gives him pause, and he holds out the cloth carrier like a talisman. One moment and it thumps onto the table, spilling out the middle.

He shrugs and steps back. The Italians are munching on their meals where need be, no sign of the staff in sight. Maybe the cook, but who wants to mess with a Sicilian cook? He knows where the bodies are buried.

A fine token indeed. One of them pulls a gun.

She recognizes the slim piece of paper as dictating a series of shifts, but her own? What? It takes her a moment to consider this circumstance further before Rosemarie reaches out towards the bag.

The sudden appearance of a gun, however, throws on the brakes to any logical processing. Fear is a blitz of lightning and ice in her veins, making her fingertips tingle further. No missing the talons now, those fine peachy sickles of avian-humanoid combination. They pause, tips barely touching the exposed cover of the book, half-hidden by the opened flap of the bag.

"Thank y-y-you." Her voice is a little stronger, a little more brassy, and implies she doesn't want anything more to do with them. Warbird's seen that weapon before and it hurts. It doesn't like it, not one little bit. The wings will remain hidden away, but not the crests behind each ear. She shouldn't have pulled her mouse-brown hair up and away today — they slowly uncurl, gentle arcs in oceanic blue plumes.

Harper glances toward the carrier at Rosemarie's reaction, then back toward the group of men. A twitch of her finger sends a shimmer of light toward the rising feather crests to disguise them. She means to help, of course. No sense in showing these men anything unusual…

|ROLL| Rogue +rolls 1d20 for: 17

Nothing out of the ordinary except a gun in plain sight. Snub-nosed, black, serial numbers probably filed off present a threat imminent to the life of any breathing, intact being. Nothing like a few rounds at close range to ventilate a problem and make it go away. The weapon is trained on Rosemarie by the man nearest the kitchen, and he does not waver in his conviction. Safety off, thumb poised, fingers curling.

"Of course," says the first gentleman, dark-haired, far from memorable. "Wouldna want something like that to be permanently lost t' you." He steps back and the line is open to them, even as the intent looks sharpen. Dark eyes, dark faces.

Is it too late? Was that flash of talon or rise of feathers enough?

The first bullet released with a smack strikes the middle of the table like that.

All it takes is the impact of the first shot breaking into the wooden surface to snap the vibrating tension in her body. Bless Harper for hiding away the briefest vision of the crests now completely unfurled and risen high in bluff — biggest is baddest, after all — but that's not going to stop the librarian from reacting.

Back goes her chair in a grinding crank of sound and the table probably wobbles dramatically if not tips over entirely for the need of space! Another sacrificial sweater to the appearance of the wings and even as she menaces with clawed hands, she inflates her lungs.

The sound that erupts from her lungs is atavistic fury, the sound not heard in hundreds of thousands of years. The Warbird's first target is the gun-wielding man and the lunge is patently suicidal by nature, the Otherness very certain that it can reach him before more damage can occur.

Well that's all just unfortunate. Especially for the gangsters. The table wobbles when Rosemarie goes feral, and Harper gives it a kick to send it onto its side, offering some cover from the gunfire, at least from one direction. She has another trick up her sleeve too, throwing out a hand and casting a veil of shadow over the eyes of their attackers.

Space, there isn't any space. The tables fit together close and the one in the middle lacks for sufficient room on any side to avoid colliding with another table or chair. Oh, the ladies can get up and sit down, but there will be no acrobatics without smashing into a bottle of red wine or a suitably large individual fed on Mamma's pasta since he was knee-high to a cicada.

In short, they need to have some kind of room to avoid Ginzu-bird wielding little cleavers on her finger-claws. "Playing rough," snaps someone else, and then a few odd elements come into play.

One of the Italians produces a vial of holy water and rather shamelessly spritzes it at the table. Worse than a bullet, the cool touch might be very uncomfortable on the bared skin at the neck. It's cold!

Rosemarie in vicious bird mode still has to go through two actual tables, five chairs, several other weapons, possibly a serving cart, and a planter. There are also two swags of velvet pinned to a wall decoratively. Not for nothing did the shooter linger in the corner to make his shots. The roomful of folks in shadow could just take a chance and shoot everyone, but not quite. Darkness drowns and candlelight melts into shimmers of a copper inferno.

The crackling retort of bullets are one thing. But what is the warbird of feral rage going to do when a curtain is torn down and thrown over her? It's useful for shutting budgies and parrots up, right?

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