1965-08-01 - Shanghai Smoked, 1921
Summary: Like a bad case of lice, the Pale Jackal just keeps coming back to bother Lamont. He wants his guns. Ambrose will get his guns…and a bonus present as well: a bullet-hole in his shirt and a nice dip in the river.
Related: Shanghai Shipment - 1921
Theme Song: None
lamont ambrose 

Ever got the feeling that someone's watching you? The gut is a thing to be trusted in this case. Perhaps Lamont thought this particular bolthole would go undiscovered by his fellow underworld rivals. To him, there's the possibility of anonymity still. Surely the second floor of the place is unassailable…?

But no, that's not the play of the evening shadows on the windowsill — that's a certain Ambrose Llewellyn Atherton, Esquire, leaning with an apparently uncaring ease of balance where he sits. One leg half-stretches along the sill while the other hangs out into the air beyond. The flash of ruddy sunlight off a small trench knife blade comes as he works its point delicately at a granule of brick stuck beneath one of his nails.

"You know what I'm beginning to wonder?" He says once he's certain he's been noticed. His eyes slide away from his task and he pauses to give Lamont a vaguely amused glance. He wears his khaki fatigue-pants over his combat boots and, this time, a loose white undershirt. The lucky silver coin is tucked away beneath its neckline. "If you can't bring yourself to get rid of me because of your predilections in collecting. Call it pride talking, but I like to think that I'm as a singular item and you can't bring yourself to toss me in the rubbish heap because there is none other like me."

Lamont is at a writing desk, the kind with a roll down top. He'slooked over from it with no particular sign of alarm, dressed in a shirt and tie and dress pants. To all appearances a young man about town working on the day's correspondence before dinner. The comment earns itself some quiet consideration before he answers.

"That's part of it," he allows, after that little silence. "I thought I'd given you sufficient cause not to return." A glance at a calendar on the wall - this particular place is rather bare, spartan. But then it's not his primary residence - he's got places scattered around the city. "Pity and curiosity, also. I'm a student of the occult," As if Ambrose hadn't gathered. "And you are a unique oddity. Now, why *are* you here again? I thought that ticket to San Francisco would've been hint enough."

His cerulean gaze goes frigid; the accompanying smile wouldn't melt butter.

"I said that I would haunt you to your grave…Mister Black." He says the name with as much respect as it deserves: little, in his opinion, given that he knows its falsehood. Ask enough questions, smile charmingly, and some people will share — buying multiple rounds of sake always helps. "How do you know I am not some phantasmagorical nightmare come back to remind you that your sins ever dog your steps?" He huffs a sharp laugh once. His face then goes stony. "Some ticket to San Francisco. It turns out the crew didn't want me traveling farther than Yokohama. You didn't pay them enough." A finger waggles in mock reprimand, tsk-tsk.

"…and I want my guns back," he adds with something of a growl underneath.

By the way he purses his lips, he's restraining a grin. "I have some experience with nightmares. They don't tend to smell like a brand of soap I'm familiar with," Lamont notes, a little drily. "You're not haunting anything, Ambrose. Please." There's an odd glint in his gaze. "When karma decides to right the balance for me, it won't be through you."

A click of his tongue at that. "Unfortunate," he says, on a sigh. "Well, so often if someone wants something done right…." He gives a vague little wave of his hand. "Luckily for you, I neither sold them nor dumped them in the river. But I don't have them here. If I give them back to you, will you go away? Or, bluntly, is there some way I can buy you off?" He doesn't seem the worse for wear, no sign of that old wound.

Pulling his lips to one side and wrinkling his nose, Ambrose then looks away from the man at his desk, professional and composed as he is. He goes back to working the small reddish bit of brick loose with the knife point.

"Buying me off. No…at this point, I don't think so. As you said…we could have been associates, but…" His voice, gone distant with his attention on not cutting his nailbed, fades into almost a rueful sigh. "A shame. There was potential." The small fleck of grit is finally dislodged and he blows quickly across the blade. A quick wipe-wipe on his pants and into the sheath at his belt it goes. The young man's eyes slide back to Lamont. "Though I may be inclined to stay out from under your feet for some…indeterminate amount of time if I get my guns back. You must understand, having spent time in the military. A well-cared-for set of guns can be more reliable than your own damn fellow soldiers."

"Nothing?" Lamont asks, voice with an almost wistful lilt. "If not money, then….help? Information? Other goods?" Very nearlypleading, as if he's looking for a way to defuse hostilities.

The Jackal's profile showcases a small smile in the falling light of the eventide.

"Good man, realizing that money is of no issue to me." A compliment, in its way. "Help…mmm, no. That leads to favors and I don't deal in favors. Information can be bought or swindled. Blackmail — never underestimate it," he informs Lamont as if the man had no idea what it was. "Other goods…you said that you didn't specialize in the antiques that I seek. What else can you have to offer? Oh, right," and he rotates on the windowsill, bringing his other leg in. Now he sits facing into the room, resting his elbows on his knees in a hunched readiness, eyes gone thin. "My guns. Give them back and…hell, you said yourself, you're a student of the occult. A year and a day." He names the mystical amount of time to pass. "I'll stay out of your hair. Your hair. If things happen to fall out of favor for you because I was…investigating other sources of stolen artifacts, that's not my problem." Oh, wonderful: second-hand annoyance.

Lamont remains at his desk, but he's turned in his chair, looking gravely at Ambrose. The gray eyes are almost sad, for a moment, before that iron reserve reasserts itself. "Very well," he says, on a sigh, hands on his knees. Surely he has at least one gun to hand, but he hasn't gone for it. The opal ring gleams in the lantern-light. "I shall retrieve them tonight. Where shall I meet you to return them? There's a cafe not far from here, on a public square, the White Countess, it's called."

He can see the young man's eyes fall to the glint of lamp-light from the ring, but he quickly looks away as if caught playing peeping-tom. Someone's still nervous about that jewelry, even if Ambrose hides it well.

"Yes, I know the place well enough. Let us say…ten o'clock. That's another two hours yet." He offers the time and then sits up slowly. A stretch in place allows vertebrae to pop and he sighs in semi-contentment. "You'll see me as I am….and no tricks," he dares to demand even as he's rotating on the sill again, intending to leave. "I'm holding you to what little honor you have."

"Ask for one of the tables that looks over the river," Lamont suggests, in that quiet voice. "On the balcony. I will be present. No magic. No tricks. And I will come without pistol or blade, you have my word."

"That overlooks the river," Ambrose echoes with a firm nod. A hint of animation has entered his movements; he's thrilled to a measurable extent to get the well-loved grips back in his hands again. Familiarity is a hard thing to appreciate when one can't stay in a spot for more than a week and risk a witch-hunt. "One Englishman to another, I'll take your word. I will look as I am and carry no weaponry on myself. This will be safely secured elsewhere," and he pats at the trench knife at his hip. "I'd hate to be double-crossed…" With that low statement and a final scowl, the young man then seems to drop off the sill into thin air.

Not to land upon the pavement below, of course. He alights upon one of the myriad flagpoles and begins a loose, balanced lope along their measured extensions from the outer walls of the buildings. Off he goes, presumably to stash the knife and then scrounge up food, perhaps a drink, and wait on the arrival of the tenth hour before midnight.

The White Countess is a lovely little cafe with a roofed balcony over the slow-moving river. The one waiting, however, is not Lamont. The lady at the appointed table is a woman in her early thirties, golden blonde and dressed in a gorgeous blue dress. Manicured, groomed, and perfumed. She's got a cocktail of some kind on the table…as well as a richly fitted wooden case, with brass hinges and hasp. Just the right size to hold two pistols.

The young man arrives at the restaurant precisely to his word: dressed in the khaki fatigue-pants, boots, and that oddly-unstained white undershirt. The belt about his wait is missing the sheath that would hold the trench knife. Escorted by a waiter to the table in question, he pulls up short visibly.

Um. That is. Not Ying Ko — Robert Black — the man with the cold eyes and black-opal ring.

"Ah, excuse me, there must be a mistake," he says to the woman, even going so far as to offer her a bow gone long out of style since Queen Victoria's passing. He has manners yet underneath that outer shell of grit and military training. "I was…" His eyes fall to the lacquered box and his mouth hangs open silently for a second. "I was expecting someone else," he finishes, giving her a polite if not suspicious look.

"I know," she says, her voice gently accented, something Slavic. Maybe one of the White Russians who sought Shanghai as a refuge, after the Revolution. "Mister Black will be here shortly. I am Lyudmila Suvorin, the owner of this cafe. But you need not wait if you don't like - what you were promised is there." She nods her perfectly coiffed head to the case on the table. "If you do wish to wait, order what you wish. It is on the house." She's perfectly at ease, if a little puzzled, by the furrow on her powdered brow.

"Ah. Well…then, I suppose I'll have a gin on the rocks, please," he says, looking over to the waiter to make it known that this is an official request, please and thank you. He walks to the chair across from the cafe owner and rests hands upon its back, but doesn't make a move to sit just yet. "A pleasure to meet you, Miss Suvorin. I appreciate you taking time out of your evening to indulge Mister Black's whims." By the knitting of his brows, Ambrose is concerned. Yes, those are probably the guns, but this is…irregular.

"If you'll excuse my misgiving, I'll just — " He reaches out and pulls the wooden box towards himself. Flipping the hasp, he lifts the top of the box and inside?

There they are, oiled, tended, and of course, unloaded. But there….and in a nice case to match. "Of course," she says, gently. The waiter hustles off - Ambrose isn't the only guest there this evening. A quiet night, but there are patrons at the other tables. The wind off the river brings the scent of water, along the with the melange of scents that is the city itself.

By the rise of his brows, he wasn't expecting that level of care to be lavished upon the service revolvers. "Hmm." He runs a fingertip along the length barrel of one before a faint smile creases his lips. Hello, old friends, present when none else can be. Then, the box closes and he engages the hasp with a faint click before looking up at Lyudmila.

"What did he offer you to be here in his stead?" he asks, now just plain curious. He has his guns. He doesn't have to interact with the creepy would-be lord of the Shanghai underworld. Of course he wants an answer.

The *crack* of the distant rifle report might be excused as firecrackers down the way, though it's hardly festival season. It's late, though - Ambrose feels the impact, first, in his chest, a burning point that expands to a whorl of pain. And when he looks down, scarlet is blooming on the white shirt he wears.

"The cancellation of a debt," she says, as she comes forward, a napkin in hand, concern on her face. As if to tend to his wound….

What she actually ends up doing, however, is neatly flipping him over the railing into the river. Surprisingly strong….inhumanly so. At least he still has the guns, in their case, as he hits the water.

The impact of the bullet slamming into him is enough to make his straight-spined stance crumple in on itself. On reflex, the lacquered box is clutched against his ribs, hard enough to dig and be noted as some distant concern. His breath leaves him in a rusty groan as he grips at his bloodied shirt. Air — there's not enough oxygen and parts of his brain are just shutting down in gut-watering reaction to the brand-like agony.

He looks up at the approaching woman with wide, glazing eyes and engages in a stumbling half-step backwards, trying to figure out why his feet won't move very well. "M'am, what — " he says, tasting metal. And over the railing he goes.

Freefall is a swift one-two count and the impact on the river violent. Limbs flail in a desperate attempt to bring his head above water for air and he manages it once. The ragged inhale is hollow and weak. The wooden box floats to the surface, buoyed along by its pocket of air, and drifts along down the way. His face, inked with wetted hair, disappears beneath the surface again. Red swirls and stains briefly before disappearing along with his limp-wristed hand. Bubble rise and break, few in number.

And then nothing.

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