1965-08-01 - Shanghai Shipment, 1921
Summary: Ambrose proves himself a crack-shot with his revolver, much to the dismay of Lamont's finest panama hat. Tit-for-tat and all that leads to a rude awakening on an outbound boat, but not after a rather restrained discussion.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
ambrose lamont 

Time has passed since the brief gunfight outside of the restaurant in the side-streets of Shanghai. The Red Light District has calmed since then and customers and goods ebb and flow from the section of the city as they always do. It took Ambrose at least two days to emerge from his secretive little nook in the attic of an abandoned building and another yet to risk the reach of feelers.

Anyone heard of Ying Ko? Tell me more about him, if you can. He gleans only a little more and some from folks who are all too happy to report that the veteran pilot suffered a mysterious wound to his shoulder. These people get an uneasy little smile from the young man and a polite if not swift retreat on his part. His forays out onto the street have resulted in a lack of interaction with the rising crime-lord and by the end of the second week, he's back to his usual meandering through the district — or rather, above it.

The Pale Jackal waits until it's close to dusk again in order to avoid a shadow cast as he leaps from rooftop to rooftop. Right now, he's got his eye upon a wealthy couple with confirmed connections to the underworld of antique sales. He slides down a drainpipe and onto a fire escape cast heavily in shadow, all the better to see…them…

He swallows. Hard. That is Ying Ko!!! He's got a boot sliding backwards in retreat before courage (foolhardy courage) gets the better of him. That…rat bastard. How dare he just — just swan about the streets as if he owns them? You know what? That panama hat needs a new hole in it. Pulling out one of his service revolvers, Ambrose takes aim from his lofty perch after crouching down. Through the bars, down the barrel, and…

CRACK. The panama hat is jilted aside if not knocked from Lamont's head entirely, sporting a fancy new set of holes. Not a hair on the man's hair is touched.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 5

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 15

It's knocked off, drifting gently to the ground, being made of light palm, well-woven….and by the time it's come to rest, the Shadow has gone. Vanished somehow, into the alleyways. At least, he's not visible, and there's no body lying on the cobblestones of the street.

Ambrose watches the forlorn hat drift to the streets. People around it clutch one another and gasp, their gazes turning about as if to spot the person in question responsible for this sudden defamation of high fashion! He snickers to himself…and then the toothy smirk begins to melt to confusion. His brows are quick to meet.

What was Ying Ko wearing again? Hold on. Where is the snake?! The young man, dressed tonight in a loose-fitted shirt of black silk and a darker set of fatigue-pants, slowly moves to push his back against the wall. The fire escape hasn't hemmed him in, but he remains very, very still now, barely breathing. The single revolver is held with fingertip on the trigger and tucked nearly to his shoulder, muzzle aimed up and away. He closes his eyes and prays silently to himself that he hasn't been seen. Patience — he can out-wait the search as long as he stays still in his darkened crouch.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 11

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 15

But can he? Lamont's snake-like in his patience….and having sought shelter somewhere he can't easily be sniped, he's now reaching out to touch the minds around him. Blurring impression of his passage, and seeking the one hunting him. The first attempt is only glancing, not latching on. The hunter is out there, but not in the Shadow's sights.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 3

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 5

With eyes closed, Ambrose can hear the iron timpani of his heart pounding. Heightened senses from a touch of borrowed life-force detect no footsteps walking into the alley proper — no scent on the wind that might precede an approach — but that's this? He frowns harder yet as something sweet-tasting and dark seems to collect at the back of his throat, a flirtation in momentary skewing of his senses. Slowly opening his eyes, he risks a little lean of his face outwards, all the better to see at the opening of the alley and then down towards its dead end. No one there but large rats fat on the offerings of food scraps.

Patience, he counsels himself before leaning his skull back against the hard surface of the wall again. He works at slowing his breathing and fine-tuning the adrenaline rush rather than letting it work to cause twitches in his limbs.

Ah ha. There. There he is. He can feel, for a moment, the impression of his foe's senses. And now Kent's uncoiling, trusting on force of will to keep him concealed. The hunter is the hunted now….and Ambrose isn't the only master of the rooftops. Nevermind that he's in a dark suit, bare-headed….up he climbs. Apparently he intends to drop on Ambrose from above.

The young man's face abruptly turns towards the sharp clang of a disturbance. Oh — simply the rats knocking off a metal garbage can lid. He blows a long and silent sigh before letting his guard down a notch. The barrel of the revolver isn't held aright now, more at an angle, and he allows one leg to slide out in order to sit. One knee is bent, tucked, mostly ready for action.

A chuckle escapes him and he closes his eyes again, replaying the sight of the panama hat dancing to the ground like a leaf knocked by a brisk autumn breeze. "Bet that gave your heart a run, you viperous bastard," he says quietly to himself before indulging in one last soft laugh.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 5

He takes his time. He has that sniper's patience, does Lamont, heedless of what the tiled rooftops are doing to fine linen tailoring. Creeping across the canted expanse like a stalking spider, his face set in an inhuman expression of cold anticipation.

"Time for a drink, I think," he says to himself, even as he's working his way up to a standing stance. It's a long-ingrained habit at this point, what with needing to keep himself company over the years when his morals gain weight over the Bane's need to steal life. "Old Mister Ling said he'd have one waiting for me after popping a slug in that milksop." He holsters the revolver and turns towards the stairwell of the fire escape in order to begin his descent.

That little punk dared a shot at him. This warrants something a little closer in than another gunfight. He gauges the drop carefully, draws an ugly little trench knife, and then leaps down like a cat going after an unobservant mouse. No cry of warning or shout of triumph.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 9

He never hears it coming. The attack is sudden and from above, a noted weakness by humankind in general. Ambrose flinches and throws up a forearm in an attempt to block the weapon he sees gleaming in the flicker-flash of adrenaline-fueled reaction time. He makes no sound right off the bat, tongue gone numb and throat blocked up with the strangle-hold of startlement. The revolver is of no use in this first critical few seconds of the scuffle with its muzzle pointed off and away from Lamont's body.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 7

Not one of his best attacks….he misses, just barely. Ambrose can feel the wind of the blade's passing, definitely calculated to raise the fine hairs on the back of his neck…since he very nearly got his throat cut. Lamont's still mute save for the huff of breath.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 19

Must have been sheer stupid luck, how Ambrose leaned away from the blade. It catches on the neckline of his silk shirt and slits through it as a scalpel through gauze. Now the first yelp escapes him as he brings the gun up in an attempt at pistol-whipping his attacker; the forearm initially extended drops to preserve his balance, thrown heavily to one side and towards the stairs where he intends to dart if allowed.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 8

Right in the *jaw*. Yeeouch. Corrective dentistry, here we come. But Lamont's after him without a sound, not even a pause to try and shake that off. It's perturbing, honestly. And then he's reaching out with his power, trying to blind his opponent.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 2

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d5 for: 3

Ambrose feels the impact of the gun against the man's jaw resonate up into his arm. Success! Fright makes fleet his booted feet. As the gentleman reels, he ducks around him and begins to pound down the fire escape. Another floor to go and then he can throw himself in an attempt to land on a dumpster's lid instead of breaking both his shins upon the packed dirt below. His vision wavers and he stumbles, one lunge gone wonky for the misstep — he nearly loses the revolver for needing to grip at the handrails. Lamont can hear the off-cadence now of a badly-turned ankle.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 14

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 11

Bring earplugs when you fight this guy. For there's that sound in his voice, the one that cuts the knees out from under will. "Stop" it says, in ears and mind at once.

At the second-story landing-turn of the stairwell, Ambrose lets out a rusty cry of realization. He stumbles again and catches himself against the rungs even as his legs seem to lock up against his will. Turning in place until the small of his back is pressed flat to the slatted metal wall, he looks up at Lamont with a face gone two shades paler.

Run!!! says his brain. Nope, says the insidious little echo of the willful command. Slowly, he begins to raise the revolver again, his cerulean-blue eyes gone bright and almost feral.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 10

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 5

"Sleep," comes the next command, an ophidian whisper, too close for any sort of comfort. Lamont's stalking towards him deliberately, eyes alight, all too clearly a predator.


On the exhale of a sigh, the denial is almost pained. His expression goes slack and his eyes roll up into his head. The revolver clunks to the metal of the fire escape with a moderate clang and nearly slides off its platform; it rattles to the edge and spins until its muzzle points towards the wall opposite of the alley. To his knees he falls, as if someone cuts the strings of his consciousness, and he wobbles in place, fighting at the compulsion given the fluttering of his eyelashes. It's as if the very ground itself beckons for the kiss of his limp-jointed limbs to his body. He falls back upon his heels and then to one side, his shoulder jamming up against the metal bars of the fire escape's railing. His head lolls soon after, dark hair still lengthy and falling to curtain his face. Out like a light.

He could end it here and now, in a spatter of arterial spray on the grimy walls. He was always a follower of the the way of the knife, when he wasn't swooping on his prey out of the sun. But he doesn't. Instead, Lamont scoops up the revolver, reverses it, and taps Ambrose neatly on the temple. Let's make that sleep a little more permanent - suggestion only holds so far. Then he's lifting the unconscious man over his shoulder, as if Ambrose were a passed-out drunk, and makes his way out to the street proper. All the better to call a cab and take the poor artifact hunter somewhere he can deal with him at leisure.

No response to the tit-for-tat swat of the revolver. If anything, the young man goes more limp yet. A little blood wells up where Ambrose was struck, but it's nothing obvious and certainly not garish enough to draw attention to him ignominiously hauled out of the alley. Oh yes, too much sake, pay him no mind, just a friend getting him home to safety and a good night's rest. People smile. How wonderful and courteous, this gentleman in his dark suit, taking care of his companion in the black silk shirt. The cabbie doesn't seem to realize who he has as stoic passenger along with the listless drunkard. A little forget-me-nonce works well on the unprepared.

He's been out for some time, however long it's been. He doesn't remember the cab ride. What he does wake up to immediately…is one hell of a headache. Ambrose makes a soft sound of pain while the rest of his senses catch up to him.

Of course he's bound. More disturbingly, perhaps, he's bound to a bedframe, wrists and ankles, the kind of austere metal frame that would show up at a boarding school. They're in some plain little flat in god only knows what part of town. Clean, at least, and spare - by the slant of the ceiling, a garret.

And in a chair as plain and severe as the rest of the decor, the Shadow is sitting at ease, watching him. Entirely unmussed down to the brushed back hair, though he's abandoned suit jacket and tie in favor of shirtsleeves and dress pants. There's no sound from him as Ambrose comes back to consciousness.

The air around him feels open and warm, as if the heat inside has collected in the space. A semi-conscious tug at his spread arms becomes stronger and then a jolt rattles the bedframe as his mind comes to understanding. There's the token struggle brought on by panic and grunts escape through bared teeth as he tests the bindings. Tied well, unfortunately, by a clever hand. His chest rises and falls as his eyes dart around the room and then he stills as he realizes just who is watching him.

His head throbs where it was struck. He can feel where the parting of the black silk lies open to reveal more skin yet, its frayed weakness torn more in the handling of his journey. It gapes enough that the silver ring of his ancient lucky coin lies in plain sight, still looped through and through again by the leather thong about his neck. He remains silent and white around the lips, glaring at Lamont despite the insulted frustration that rises at being captured as such.

He's enjoying this. Not that he shows it other than a little deepening in the lines around his eyes. Savoring the spectacle before him, like a cat watching a mouse panting under his paw. The first act is merely letting realization sink in, and the fear grow.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 1

The silence holds…and grows. Now Ambrose is panting a little more loudly now, his nostrils visibly flaring to take in air. He keeps his mouth firmly shut and a blotchy pink begins to show at his cheeks. A strong jerk at the bindings of his ankles might strain the metal frame of the bed, but it's still not enough to break him free. Besides, how fast could he be against a man who's proven himself capable of felling him harder than a dead tree with a simple one-word command?

"…please," the young man finally says, barely a breath of a word and his gaze drops to Lamont's navel.

"Please what?" comes the dry voice. Lamont's not overtly gloating, and even that question is apparently genuine, rather than merely taunting. He remains quietly where he is, still relaxed, ankle resting on his knee.

"Let me go," Ambrose says tightly as he forces himself to relax - to act the contrite captive against his suspicions that there is little empathy to draw upon. "It was a hat and nothing more." Shoulders wriggle at the growing discomfort of their lengthy stretch. "A hat," he insists. "I didn't touch a hair on your damned head."

There's a few beats of dead silent, and then the voice comes, "…..I liked that hat. And what, precisely, were you hoping to accomplish, if not assassination? You've shown yourself quite willing to try deadly force with me."

"You had that coming," and Ambrose nods towards the jaw damage he inflicted earlier with his…where are his revolvers? No doubt Lamont can see him check both hips for his weaponry — and he sure as hell doesn't have them. A spit of a curse and then he continues, almost talking through his teeth.

"The point of it was to tweak your oversized nose, milksop. Strutting around like you own the place, taking what's not yours. You have no honor." He narrows his eyes further. "And you're overconfident. If I can knock your precious panama from your hollow head, you'll get nowhere but the bottom of Hangzhou Bay."

"I should kill you," it's said under his breath, like he's reminding himself of an errand he's forgotten to do. "How do you know I'm taking what's not mine?" he observes, a little more loudly. "And who appointed you Karma's agent on that front?" Lamont shakes his head in faint disbelief. This kid….for so he thinks of Ambrose, despite their actual ages.

"The gods." It's a grandiose statement to make, but given the pale animation in his face, Ambrose is absolutely serious in his belief. "How do you think I got cursed? Tomb robbing — taking what's not mine. If I can return the lost artifacts, it'll be removed. You — you're not Chinese. You're not Egyptian or Mesopotamian. Nothing is yours that your grubby hands have touched," he growls, the wide-sweeping statement pertaining specifically to the black market trade in antiques.

"Ooh, that's it, isn't it…." His voice has that caressing note. "You want out from under this curse, don't you. And someone told you that if you put enough lost toys back on the right shelves, it'll come off, is that it?" He leans back, tipping the chair just a little.

"Yes, I want out from under the bloody curse!" Ambrose almost shouts it before swallowing hard. He reigns in his frayed pseudo-temper, but not before testing the bonds again. Nothing changes and he lies back on the pillow. Staring at the ceiling doesn't soothe him. He realizes that it has the craftsmanship of the interior of an uppermost room, like an attic or something akin. "…and it should work. Getting the artifacts back," he says almost grudgingly after another few seconds of silence.

"You're going about it the wrong way," he says, softly. "You've been had. Tricked." There is no cruelty in his voice. No poisonous amusement. It might even be sympathy.

"Keep…your tongue behind your teeth." The young man's voice is low and cold, not an ounce of a shudder in it. Temper's overruled the fear of bondage for the time being. "You don't have a damned inkling of an idea about it. Let me go and I'll buy you another bloody hat, since you were so attached to it." His twinkling stare attempts to burrow a hole between Lamont's eyes now.

His face is cool, as it ever is. "What makes you think I don't?" he asks, mildly. "I may not have seen that particular curse before, but I've encountered its kin. In fact….what makes you think I'm not under one myself?"

That brings Ambrose to check. He gives the other man a searching look before his expression hardens again.

"Whatever mysticism you throw around isn't anything I've seen before. You might just be able to do it. I've seen men who can lift objects with their mind. Maybe you can do the same, but…influence people. Bloody bastard. No. Don't you try and empathize with me, not while you sit there, cool as can be, and I'm tied to bed like some Hermetic sacrifice." He rattles the bedframe again to accent his point.

"You've tried to kill me twice," Lamont points out, mildly, scratching at his temple with a thumbnail. "I haven't tortured you. I've got you at my mercy and I haven't done anything to you. I'm honestly at a loss as to what to do with you. I should kill you, really. Decapitation, dismemberment, and burning will usually take care of all but the most persistent creatures." He reaches into a little nightstand table by him, not near enough to do the bed much good, comes out with cigarette, lighter, and ashtray. Goes through the ritual of lighting up, and blows a smoke ring at the dark beams of the ceiling.

"It was a goddamned hat!" Ambrose stresses again, his expression mutinous. "I take great exception to the fact that you just bull into my mind willy-nilly and tell me what to do." Even as he says it, his face lightens a shade again and a shiver isn't to be helped through his body. "Call it self-defense. Not my fault if you can't duck worth a damn. You know what you should do?" He lifts up his palms in a bound shrug as if it's obvious: "Let me go on my merry way."

"And have you come at me a third time, and succeed?" His expression goes patient, a little sad. "I gave you a chance to go, the first time. To leave Shanghai and pursue your fruitless quest elsewhere. Go bother the British Museum, surely the Elgin Marbles count for the game or something…." He sighs smoke through his nostrils, rises, as if gearing himself up for an unpleasant shore, "I'll just have to kill you, dump your body in the Yangtze. Do you have someone I should contact, let them know what happened to you? I have a point to make here, after all. Ying Ko can't be seen to be weak, even when his countrymen are concerned."

"…I have no one." The question seems to take all of the wind out of the young man's sails. He thumps his head back on the pillow and closes his eyes. It's an old ball-and-chain about his ankle, apparently, one dragged behind in constant weary. Tension in his frame seeps in and then spikes.

"But not like this!" And with a suddenly draw on his reserves of life-energy, he yanks madly at the bindings at his wrists. Very quickly, metal bends and screeches in torqued agony. The air in the room goes close and prickles along Lamont's skin in the self-same toothy touch he felt those weeks back.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 12

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 9

"Stop that!" There's that lash of force in his voice again. "Gods, Atherton. If you kill me, who'll know you're here? You'll die of thirst bound to that bed." He sounds waspish, irritable. That power is painful.

The outreach of the Bane retreats as an anemone's tentacles, retracted quickly away and into Ambrose again as if nipped. He pants where he lies, having gained himself the satisfaction of warped bedframe bars for his efforts. At least his shouder isn't all crooked at an uncomfortable stretch now!

"Let me go, you bloody bastard!" He bellows at the top of his lungs.

Lamont sighs smokily, drops ash into the ashtray with a negligent flick of a finger. "What oath will hold you - keep you off my back?" he asks, mildly. "And you needn't shout. I'm right here, I can hear you just fine….and no one else can, I promise. You won't get rescued that way."

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 8

"No, you apparently can't," he fires back, " — because I'm still bound to the bloody bed and you're sitting there indulging yourself! Hedonistic swine!"

He tugs at his feet now on pure human strength alone and stops only when the cords begin to cut into his skin through the fabric of his khaki pants. No doubt he'll sport red and angry lines at his joints after this, considering he makes it out alive. "And no oath is going to keep me from you now, not after your witchcraft — again you force your will on me. It won't be tolerated!" He stops wriggling on the bed for long enough to give Lamont a deadly squint. "I will haunt you, Ying Ko, to your grave if you kill me."

"That's a risk I'll have to take," he says, wearily. "I'm using this witchcraft because you won't leave me alone." Lamont rubs his face, sighs again. "You have no idea what restraint I'm using with you," he says, as he gets up, pulling an automatic from a holster at the back of his hip. At least he's holding it reversed. Another love-tap is in the offing, apparently.

Ambrose eyes the handle of the weapon and then juts his chin out at his captor.

"You strike me again and I swear on my mother's name, you will regret it." Another refraction of red light flickers across his eyes even as he inhales, apparently gearing up for an attempt at a potentially drastic strike with the Bane. Lamont said stop testing the bars. He did not specify himself as non-target, after all.

"Too late," Lamont drawls. "I already do." He's coming forward with that gliding tread, though he pauses a moment, and says, again, "Sleep,"

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 5

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 15

"Don't you dare," the young man hisses out on the exhale, even as the gentleman approaches him in spine-tingling silence. The Bane lashes out and strikes Lamont square in the chest in a blood-chilling blow not a second after the command sinks its talons into Ambrose's mind.

Like a snowball gone to slush, the influence of the Bane slops away into nonexistance as its master's mind slips into unconsciousness once again. The feral expression loosens and his head rolls to one side. For the moment, he seems peaceful, as if he intended to nap with his wrists and ankles secured.

Lamont ends up on his knees, gasping. That's an impressive and terrifying power…and only barely manages the necessary blow. This boy has to be gotten out of here.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 13

Out like a light, his consciousness extinguished as easily as jamming a cigarette into the ash tray. He gives Lamont no further trouble, though the discomfiting tingle of the Bane might linger for a few hours afterwards. It's not enough life-energy stolen to count for more than a single grey hair at most and not enough to influence his time beneath the dark surface of Lethe.

Sufficient coin is passed and a mental nudge is useful in the end. The small steamship takes on another uncounted passenger, wrapped in linen as to be able to breathe, and it takes off from Shanghai. The Bane remains confined and as the day dawns and ends, Ambrose awakens from his imposed rest…with another headache. He makes his way to the boat's deck with a shocked and stumbling shamble. Water. Ocean water all around him, for miles and miles and — and — nausea climbs up his throat to haunt at the back of his tongue. Oh god…seasickness. Some of the crew pity him; others find him a useless waste of space. In the end, the Bane does its work. Superstitions out him when there's a lack of understanding of why two crew members have passed. Unceremoniously, the captain orders him tossed off-ship. They have the decency to do it within sight of land, but the water isn't warm. Ambrose hits the surface of the ocean with a yelp and then, after bobbing and watching the steamship continue on its way, he begins an awkward dog-paddle towards shore.

The beaches of Yokohama, Japan are welcoming in their way. They're solid ground where before, Ambrose was feeling nothing but the icy depths of the ocean beneath his boots and reaching hands. A wave helps him further up and he dry-heaves as he crawls onto the sand, coughing up the sting of saltwater from his throat. He probably looks a wreck, or akin to a survivor of one. He lies there, feeling the shush and retreat of water up to his waist and back…and rasps to himself,

"…bloody bastard has my guns." It's enough of a burning twinge of insult to get the young man to his feet. He swipes wet hair from his face and then begins making his way up to the nearest habitation.

Looks like someone's coming to get them back.

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