1965-07-30 - Shanghai Shootout, 1921
Summary: Paths cross in the early Twenties in a land far beyond New York City. A potential partnership falls to pieces and bullets fly as the Pale Jackal and the Shadow start a battle of wills and wiles.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
ambrose lamont 

From one of second-floor balconies along a side-street, a guzheng plays a light and melancholy tune. The song floats down to the cobblestone below and graces the ears of the listening passersby. The hawkers beneath their awnings and in their stalls speak quietly here, as to not disturb the fragile pocket of peace found in the bustling city of Shanghai.

Balanced on the outer ledge of an awning, a young man sits with one leg drawn up and bent before him. It's hard to spot him from the street, but he has a rather nice view in both directions of the rue. He nibbles on a potsticker brought minutes back and his expression is one of mild contemplation. He's got information to muse over. "…Ying Ko," he whispers to himself, his accent one of the British Isles rounded over in some diction and stressed in others, proving he spent some time growing in the Fertile Crescent. "Wonder if he's amenable to talking about his gains…" The rest of the potsticker disappears and after wiping his hands on his pants, he runs fingers through his walnut-brown hair to keep it from his face. It's in need of a trim, the military crop gone back to the straight volume now and down to his nape. He's got an old khaki vest on to match his tactical and multi-pocketed pants. Bare arms show lean muscle. About his neck, a length of fringed black headscarf in case he needs anonymity during an…acquisition of goods.

He watches the crowd below idly for what the locals told him is a 'young white man, cold of eye'. Not much to go off of there, but hey, the best source of stolen antiques come from this section of town…

He's fond of a particular street cafe here, in the red lantern district, not one he owns….yet. The Shadow has yet to claw his way to the top of the melting pot that is Shanghai's criminal underworld.

He appears rather suddenly out of the crowd, there one moment where he wasn't the next. He's in a linen suit, suitable for summer, and the appropriate Panama hat, apparently quite cool and collected despite the heat of the night streets. The staff at this particular establishment must know him, for he's ushered to a seat that's clearly his habitual one. Of course one where he can see all the entrances and exits, the broad sweep of the street at large. He settles, setting his hat on the chair by him…..and doesn't seem to be expecting company. A youngish anglo, with features of a weird, epicene beauty, and wavy hair brushed back from his brow.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 15

The young man sits up when he sees the crowd part and the Western suit of fashion appear from the more bland dress of the lower caste. He watches, ambient light catching in his cerulean-blue eyes, as the other man seats himself. Slowly, he rises to his feet, keeping his balance point on the wooden skeleton beneath the awning's fabric.

"Hmm." His gaze flicks to one of the many flag-posts extending from the sides of the restaurant's front and he measures the distance. Eh…he can make it. Crouching down, he adjusts the headscarf about his hair and face — just in case he misjudges the leap and ends up on the gentleman's table instead. Anonymity will be required in this case. He uncoils with a supernatural grace and catches the flag-less pole. Once around to counter the forwards motion of the leap and…

…he executes a fairly solid landing not far from the table occupied. With both hands up and palms facing outwards, he rises to his feet with no show of effort and smiles — at least in his eyes, visible while the headscarf hides the rest.

"…Ying Ko?" he asks quietly. His is the air of one collected despite the danger present. He heard of the reputation this particular man has and is furthering.

There's a moment's pause, the body of the man in the pale suit tensing fractionally. He's definitely armed. But then he establishes that this acrobat is no immediate threat…..and he's greeted by his nom de guerre. The gray eyes take in the figure before him, and with an air of irony, he lifts ungloved hands and claps politely, as if at a golf tournament. As if the whole spectacle were arranged for his amusement. Then he fishes in a pocket and produces a coin of decent value, flicking it in a glinting arc for the newcomer to catch.

The coin is caught dextrously between thumb and forefinger and the young man in his black headscarf gives the suited gentleman a flat look. The currency is tested in his teeth after he tugs down the length to reveal a strong chin covered with the stubble of ignored grooming.

"Won't say no," he murmurs before stashing the single coin into one of his pants pockets. "Given the fact that you've not drawn on me, you're either an idiot or confident in your status. This must make you Ying Ko and that…" He has the gall to walk over and pull up a chair across from the other man. A flick of his head tosses off the rest of the headscarf and then he grins broadly at his tablemate. His is a malleable mouth and expressive brows, cherubic of face were it not for the apparent wear and tear of a time elsewhere in the sun. "…means I need to speak with you."

There is no answering smile from the man across from him. No blustering or kneejerk taking of offense, however, either. Merely a long, cool consideration for some silent moments. Then he finally concedes, "That is a name I am known by here.What is it you want?" The waiter comes by, and he orders himself a tea, before looking promptingly to Ambrose. Apparently courtesy extends at least thus far.

"Tea for me too please," the younger man asks of the waiter, keeping that bright smile on his face. When he looks back to the suited gentleman again, the expression melts away until he's rather solemn. A glance over his shoulder scans the crowd passing by for anyone out of place or prone to lingering where they shouldn't be and, for now, he sees no one in particular.

"I hear you're the man to speak to in regards to antiquities in this city. I'm a collector myself, in a manner." He rolls a shoulder in a lazy shrug before leaning back more heavily in his chair, hands interlaced in his lap.

"Indeed," Lamont's tone is almost nonexistent, as is his expression. Utterly unrevealing, the gray eyes cold as flint. "And you wish to buy or to sell?" Since it has to come down to one or the other. He's still in a rather sphinxish way, not fidgeting or moving, hands presumably in his lap, since they aren't visible above the line of the table.

"Mmm…sell, no. My collection is my own and I won't part with anything for any price." He tilts his head to one side and squints. His gaze runs up and down the suit in particular, attempting to mark where weaponry may be concealed. "Buying…in a manner. If you quote me a fair price, I'm open to haggling. I'll haggle all day and night if that's what it takes to attain a genuine item. If we can't come to an agreement, then…" Another loose shrug and he looks up at the other man again with a faint wry smile. "I'll find another way."

IT has to be tailored to hide it, for it's hard to spot….but he's carrying at least one pistol under a shoulder. A prompting lift of a brow. "I see," he says, calmly. "You wish to buy. Are you in the market for a particular item, or type of item, Mr…..?" A verbal nudge for some kind of name, clearly. The waiter brings the tea, pours first for the Shadow, and then for his companion. The former doesn't bother to doctor his with any sweetener - so many green teas are best drunk without. There's the gleam of the opal ring on the long hand.

"Jackal, please, since we're using pseudonyms." He takes up his small china cup of tea and sniffs at it before lifting it in a salute. "To your good health, Ying Ko." He doesn't add anything to his either, but does lick at his lips as a cat might after a sip. Blech. Too much greenery for him, tastes like stewed lawn clippings. Give him a strong cup of coffee any day.

"I'm looking for…items from distant nations. Those of the dunes of the desert and the green of the Nile. Those that are out of place." He sets aside the tea and returns his hands to his lap again. "I have…buyers, in turn, who are…very interested in returning them to their homes." The faint smile still lingers, as if he's enjoying the oh-so-serious projection of his tablemate.

Lamont inclineshis head politely to that toast. He listens silently to that explanation. "The rarities I deal in are mostly of the Orient, not Africa or the Near East," he says, slowly. "I can keep an eye out for any such thing, but for Egyptiana or Mesopotamian antiquities, you're far afield…." The comment about homes makes him cock his head, just faintly. "Homes? Are you in search of stolen goods?"

"Oh, absolutely. You see," and he shifts in his seat from the lazy slouch to something more alert, while not overtly threatening. "…I specialize in returning lost antiques to their home countries and sites. The Fertile Crescent is no stranger to losing that which she holds most dear in terms of missing artifacts. I mourn for her, in my way." His expression remains mild and pleasant. "Any artifact not in the hands of those who brought into being is stolen. I rectify this, one way or another, and do not limit my task to that of the Middle East."

That's a quixotic point of view, and one brow lifts in quizzical response. "And when the creators have been dust for millennia, who then owns it?" he inquires, with only a faint hint of archness in his voice. "I was once given as a gift a stone seal that belonged an official of the Imperial court….five hundred years ago. Who should own it now, then, by your lights? The owner and his family are long dead."

The Jackal lifts a hand and inclines his head, his grin pulling sharply to one side. "Ah, I know, an odd way to look at things. Allow me to refine my thoughts. The artifacts belong to their country of origin and to the culture found within. They are heavy with history that is important to their culture. Very rarely do those who own them understand their significance. A Frenchman sees a canopic jar gilted and worth several thousand pounds. An Egyptian sees a piece of their history, one to be honored and revered, and it's gathering dust on a shelf in some boudoir."

Now he leans in and his smile grows to reveal a sliver of teeth. "And you, sir, are not of the Orient. A damn shame." Target labeled.

"You noticed," Lamont observes, tone dry as a dune. He's settled back, relaxed. "And that depends on the Egyptian. There is a reason that Carter and Carnarvon were the only ones to see the tomb of a Pharaoh inviolate - for all the rest of the royal tombs were looted. By Egyptians. I will concede that many a precious artifact has found its way to foreign shores via looting….and that no few linger on a private shelf rather than in a museum's collection, or that of its home nation." He takes a sip of his tea. "Well, Mister Jackal. I shall contact you if I should come across such an artifact and think you might be interested in it."

Dark brows dance together briefly in a flash of disbelief and then part. His smile gains the charming spread again and he laughs once, softly.

"Contact me then…you're a courteous one. I don't call any particular place home. Rather, it will be me contacting you once I hear that you've come across such an artifact. I appreciate your time, Ying Ko." A hand worn with the callouses of a gunslinger is offered now across the breach of table for a shake. A quick glint of ambient light flashes red in the young man's eyes, most likely just the reflection of the hanging globes around and above them.

If taken, there's the immediate sensation of chilled pins-and-needles that rushes into Lamont's hand. Heat is returned within the next heartbeat. A push of life-force warm and familiar, majority 'self', slips up the veins of his arm and up through his neck. The Jackal's smile is entirely friendly as he says softly, "I Suggest you tell me where you're holding your items, Ying Ko." He means only well, surely, but the undertone brooks no resistance in answer.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 3

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 19

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 9

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 3

Which is when the narrow hand tightens around his, an iron grip, and a distinct, unpleasant light comes into the gray eyes. "Oh, no, Mister Jackal," he says, very softly. "No, no, no. Two can play at that game." There's the sense of something rather similar turned on him - a fencer who finds his thrust parried and his opponent's blade slithering along his for a sharp riposte. More purely mental, sharp and direct as a knife cut. "Your real name, sir." Polite as it is, it's very much an order.

The young man's eyes go wide as he feels the mental sally fly back his direction. He freezes up in his seat before his eyes take on a subtle glazing. Monty's response slides up and leans a fine edge against his throat.

"Ambrose Llewellyn Atherton, Esquire," he replies before gritting his teeth visibly. He knows that he's been caught out at his act and the first instinct is to flee; surely Lamont can feel the minute tugs captured within his unrelenting grip. He might also begin to feel the sensation of pins-and-needles returning to him, one fingertip at a time. The feeling slowly and insidiously crawls up each joint, engulfing as a snake would its prey.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 19

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 16

It feels so strange….and he knows dark magic when he feels it, even if it's another stripe entirely. The gray gaze doesn't waver from Ambrose's eyes, ophidian, magnetic. "Your intentions towards me, Ambrose?" he asks, voice still soft, fingers digging in ….though Ambrose can feel it shiver through him. "That's death magic. Do you even know what you are, child of Anubis?"

More tugging, faintly, at the handshake. Along the mental link, surely Lamont can feel the muted struggling, something just shy of whimpering for the primal panic that being trapped incites in the young man. He can't seem to drop eye contact with the gentleman across from him. His throat bobbles and he replies in a near-whisper of words almost forced to silence,

"To rob you blind, you son of a bitch. You don't know what you're dealing with," he hisses, " — because it's sure as hell not Anubis. Wrong pantheon." His smile goes rictus even as he finds enough self-control to place his free palm against the edge of the table and weakly begin to shove. The handshake is quickly turning to tug-of-war. By now, the crawl of Ambrose's Bane has likely reached Lamont's elbow.

He breathes out, impatiently, releases the grip…..and shakes the hand he's just withdrawn like a cat who's had his pawpad stung. "I might say the same of you, in turn," he replies, coldly. "Foolish. You might've had me as an ally, Atherton." He shakes his head, a teacher with a slow student.

With a faint yelp, Ambrose is saved from flipping backwards in his chair by reflexes and grappling the arms of it like it would save him from inverted gravity. He pants, staring at Lamont as if he's grown a second head, and then one can see his hackles rise. He has enough gumption to spit across the table at him with nearly the accuracy of a camel.

"You, an ally? No. You are a scoundrel and a skinflint and a bloody bastard," he snarls afterwards as he rises to his feet, hands balled into fists.

That outrage on Ambrose's part isn't a source of anger….it's amusement. Lamont laughs at him, dodging the spittle with a rather snakelike weave of his head. It's not even particularly mocking laughter. "Really? My reputation precedes me, though don't heed every rumor you hear whispered down the darker alleys of Shanghai, Master Atherton. Come now. I can tell by your accent you're a fellow Englishman."

"I am ashamed to be lumped in with you, you cad," Ambrose fires back, his Basra-touched accent all the stronger for it. "I do not kill if it can be managed. More than one poor shopkeeper out there has told me things that would make Jesus weep." He points in the general direction of the main street itself. Some people have looked away from their shopping and while few stare, it's clear that their discussion has drawn some attention.

"You call yourself a gentleman? Pistols at dawn," he challenges, taking a step towards Lamont and the table, all the better to loom if he can.

It only heightens his amusement - Lamont roars with laughter, wiping at his eyes. "I call myself no such thing," he retorts, grinning back at Ambrose. "Tut, tut, such Victorian outrage. Pistols at dawn, my eye. To what end? To defend my nonexistent virtue, my ragged honor. Please."

The young brunet is visibly a-tremble with restrainted need to act on his affronted rage, half-misplaced as it may be. "To prove yourself something better than a coward. Pistols at dawn," Ambrose repeats with diction, as if speaking to someone slow. "Because if you do not show, you mark yourself in history as such and I will make such use of this knowledge. Ying Ko, too concerned of his shirt cuffs to put down an uppity lad from the streets. Ying Ko, milksop-fop of Shanghai, underestimating to his demise. How you will burn in effigy when I'm through with you, sirrah…if you do not show."

"Please," Lamont's still amused. "Not a chance. As a former countryman, I'm giving you a gift, Mister Atherton. Two, in fact. Your life and your mind. Go home now. Take ship for England, and stay there until you've shaken loose of some of these schoolboy ideals. You can't hurt me."

Ambrose straightens and flexes his hands at his sides. His sidearms aren't hidden at all: at each hip, a Webley & Scott service revolver, shined and fully-chambered. He narrows his eyes at the suited man.

"You may keep your largesse, you snake." Across the distance, the air above Lamont's skin suddenly chills noticeably. In the wake of goosebumps, a very deliberate sloth begins to seep into his muscles. It's the same lethe felt post-massage into deep tissue. It intensifies until it feels as if tiny teeth are brittling all over his body and then rips away, like brambles would from an errant pant-cuff. "That gift…I will take," the young man says in a chilling tone before beginning to turn to walk away.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 14

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 5

"Kneel" It has the force of his will behind it, an iron weight. Sinking in, even as the life-force stolen buzzes along Ambrose's nerves. Lamont's risen from his seat, come strolling over to the other Englishman's side…..then standing before him. Looking down at him, coldly. "What are you?"

Ambrose has a moment to consider why in the hell he would even consider doing such a thing before it feels as if someone's mimicking carpentry with his legs. Whump, his right knee nails to the low wooden dias of the eating area, and he looks up at Lamont with all the fury he can muster overtop the clamor of his heart in his ears.

The answer comes almost piece-meal as he tries to shake the compulsion. "I am…the son of Robert Phillip Atherton, lieutenant in Her Majesty's…Army, and a human being." There's an eerie near-clarity to Ambrose's skin now with how the life-force dances through him. It makes his eyes all the brighter in their emotions.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 18

"You are more than that," his voice is soft. "I can feel what you're doing. How did you come by that ability, Ambrose?" Almost caressing, that tone. He holds the hand with the ring before the furious soldier's blue eyes, and within it, the little seed of fire seems to turn and curl, like a snake weaving in on himself.

One can see the underside of Ambrose's jaw work as he tries to keep the answer from slipping free. Why — why does it feel as if he should be spilling his soul to this — this —

"Curse." The answer comes with a clenching of jaw. His eyes fall to the ring when it's offered up and to the smoky cabochon set within. "I was…" Wow, that — it looks like the natural color in the dark opal is doing…some very funny things. "…was…looking through a tomb. Outside Basra, about…five leagues." He blinks markedly a few times before a slackness begins to creep through his expression. "Got trapped…got free…ended up cursed."

Gotcha. Lamont's expression is back to its habitual cool reserve, but the gleam in his eyes is still unnerving. An avidity, a hunger…."What is the nature of the curse?"

Ambrose only has eyes for the dark opal and its mesmeric fiery dance. The two of them make an odd panorama at this point, to be sure, but the crowd probably thinks it's nothing more than some weird foreign social interaction.

"Stolen life," he replies almost in a monotone. "Stolen years. At all times, in all places, the curse takes and gives to me. Even now, where I kneel, I can feel it — the life around me. The weak…they succumb. The strong, they stumble. If I do not take, I suspect that I may die."

"How much can you control it?" It's like some weird parody of a faithful Catholic kneeling to kiss the bishop's ring. "And how old are you, truly?" Surely that's not pity in that low voice. Not completely ruthless.

"At rest, it touches upon all living things," the young man continues to explain against his druthers. "This, I cannot control. It is focusing upon a single living creature that comes naturally to me. I cannot explain how…merely that when I do and think on what I feel in my being, it latches on. To touch the creature's skin makes the taking all the easier." He blinks slowly again, heavy-lidded. "I was born in April of 1880. This makes me, through simple subtraction, going on forty-one. I do not look it for the curse's weight on me."

The impulse is there to take this somewhere darker…..make it less of a public spectacle and more a private entertainment. But he finally releases his hold, stepping back, like someone uncaging a dangerous animal. Ambrose is older than he himself. Interesting. He's poised now, as if expecting an attack.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 5

Ambrose leans in for a second, almost as if drawn along by the fascination caused by the wending serpent of firelight within the opal, and then blinks again. Again and harder. Clarity of mind rushes in like cool air through a smoggy room and his eyes show their whites.

"Bloody fekkin' — " Adrenaline and a finger to the pulse of the life-energy rushing through him make his motions a thing supernatural in speed. The chair he sat in flies at the suited gentleman and his damned ring with a tumbling whistle of sound; whether or not it's an accurate aim is something else entirely. Still — in the small number of seconds that it might cause a flinch, he's completely on his feet, backpedaling madly, and pointing both service revolvers at Lamont.

CRACK-CRACK. Both go off with explosive sound in comparison to the ambient environment. One bullet goes wide of the man's neck and tears a groove at one collar of his suit. The other?

It's evening, and the street is busy enough that there's a chorus of yells, once it's clear what's happening. Not a panicked stampede, thankfully, but pedestrians hurrying away. Lamont manages to dodge the chair, but that second round takes him in the shoulder, jerks him back like a punch, with a spray of blood. He stumbles, but even as he's recovering, he's drawing his own pistol, and firing back, heedless of the onlookers.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 14

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 9

A wicked blip of delight pops in Ambrose's thoughts even as he's ducking to one side, aiming to end up behind a tall and thickly-framed planter. The bullet explodes out splinters from one of the corners of the box before ricocheting off into the street itself.

He takes a centering breath and then throws himself into view from around the other side, firing both revolvers at once with another pairing of sharp retorts. Adrenaline and the Bane make for an edge in reaction time, but he can only rely on physical or mental defense. If the bloodied gentleman nets him again with a command, there may be hell to pay.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 6

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 3

"DROP YOUR WEAPONS," comes the command….even without eye contact, there's that force behind it. As if the hooks, once planted, aren't easily removed.

Both bullets have gone wide, the proof found in the two craters of impact in the brickwork behind Lamont. The young man rolls agilely to his feet in time to hear the barked command and — and —

It's like he's back in training as an underling beneath Dernier again. Both service revolvers hit the packed-dirt street as if his fingers have gone numb and, thankfully, do NOT fire in retort from impact. He brings his right hand back into a guarding fist while the other hand points an imperative finger at Lamont. It's bravery if you live to tell the tale!

"Not again! Do not! Keep your tongue behind your teeth!" He shouts overtop the fleeting cries of panicked pedestrians.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 1

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 6

Luck is with Ambrose. For the following command….does not come. Lamont's running after him, heedless of his wound, gun still in hand. He stumbles once, nearly falls….there's a cough that might be a stifled cry of pain from him.

Upon seeing that his (completely panicked) yell at the bloodied gentleman seems to be successful, Ambrose makes a swift stoop for the dual revolvers. No way he's leaving the twins behind for this madman to take! He draws on the life-force in order to put wings to his booted feet. The outdated combat boots beat a solid, brisk tattoo on the street as he darts off and then around a corner into another much smaller side-street. A dead end!

Or is it? Holstering his guns on the fly, he swings close along one wall before making a madcap leap for the other side. Boots run up vertically about a dozen feet before he makes another more daring leap from the wall itself for the lip of the roof opposite!

No more pursuit, not from the Englishman. Lamont's vanished into the crowd, seeking aid and refuge, contact from his allies. The clock is running, and he has to be somewhere safe before the wound disables him.

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