1965-08-22 - Shanghai Shenanigan, 1922
Summary: On a whim, Kent hunts down the lair of the Jackal. Spilled rice isn't worth crying over and in the end, the best potstickers in town make up for the startlement.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
lamont ambrose 

Following the trail of the Jackal is a difficult task, made deliberately so by the man's actions. Never does he approach his bolt-hole in the same manner, at predictable times, or even wearing the same shoes. Sometimes, a farmer's cart drops him off on the outskirts of a neighborhood once nearing completion but fallen to hard times and a defaulted loan. Not post-apocalyptic just yet, but one can see where nature is growing in to replace the once-maintained attempts at a road and low stone-walled gardens.

It's a two story building, probably intended to be used for offices upstairs, at the very least. All the glass is still intact, if still covered in thin construction-grade plywood in places. Easy enough to enter the place, considering the front door is unlocked. Walking in shows the open floorspace with skeletal vertical studs and centralized set of stairs. Heading on up…

…leads to where the Jackal clearly calls home. He's managed to stash a wood-burning stove in one corner and angle the pipe outside through a cracked window. No coals in it now, he must not have been home within the last day. A small pile of unwashed bowls beside it proves he does eat after all. Next to these, a small collection of food easy to rehydrate and put in a pot over heat.

In one corner, a hammock is strung from two rebar poles jammed firmly into the wall; a small side-table hosts an empty glass and a dog-eared book. On a hat stand hangs a pith helmet and one genuine scarlet serge uniform.

One other wall is devoted to parceling up what he's stolen, given the collection of tools and boxes scattered along a long carpenter's table, but otherwise, the space is plain. Nothing on the walls to decorate…save for something hanging in what functions as a balcony window. A handmade sun-catcher twinkles and shifts in the breeze where the glass door is slid open to allow airflow in the humid evening. Each piece of material is different, from opaque and smooth to hard and lustrous: beach glass, collected during his travels. An old, salvaged smoking chair sits by this window and it's here one could enjoy the view of the river and the passing boats.

And it is here that his impromptu home invasion has met its logical end in the form of the Shadow-to-be sitting calmly. He's reaching out with psychic feelers, waiting for Ambrose to return, sitting there like a spider in a web - just waiting for the right mental voice to echo in the confines of his skull.

Can he do it subtly enough that he can find Ambrose first, and persuade the Jackal that he's the only one here?

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 11

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 5

Kent doesn't have to wait long until there comes the faint glimmer to his psychic senses, like a firefly lighting up in the dusky shadows of the bramblebushes. On approach is the Jackal, his own mind meandering from thought to thought with comfortable normality. Rather than the front door, he uses one of the side windows and is very careful not to bump the small knapsack he wears across his body. Footsteps, soft as they are, can be heard ascending the stairs.

Ambrose walks into the upstairs living space with a small sigh of relief. His steps slow and he runs his fingers through his hair as he looks about. Nothing out of place this time. Today, the black silk vest and khaki fatigue pants, odd with the Oriental black slippers coated in mud on their bottoms. Around his neck, as always, the silver lucky coin. Firstly, he drops off the knapsack over on the packaging table and then wanders over to the glass balcony door. Reaching up, he blips one of the golden shards of strung-up beach glass to make it spin and twinkle in the dying light of the sun. His smile is calm, content, pure in its rarity, and takes the hard lines from his face.

"Right…" he says softly to himself. "Dinner. «Thank God for non-perishable goods, if only they'd had these in the desert those years ago.» Would have been a boon." He slips in and out of Persian as he walks over to begin fussing with the wood stove.

"I'm sorry," comes the drawl from his favorite chair. "I should've thought to bring you something. IT is dinner time, after all." He sounds genuinely apologetic. There's Kent in his chair, sitting posed like a Roman magistrate, down to one foot being slightly forward. Only, no toga, just a gray vest, pants, and white shirt. No suitjacket, apparently. The dark hair isn't combed back as severely as usual, trailing loose aroundhis face.

The next few seconds to follow Kent's sudden appearance are likely something to remember for the decades to follow.

The sound that escapes Ambrose sounds like someone strangling a peacock, to start off. Elbow-deep in the confines of the wood stove, he then pulls out his arm as fast as can be managed even while drawing the knife from his belt across his body. Turning on the spot, he throws and even as black ash clouds over his person, the glittering blade lodges itself at least six inches from the other man's head in the upholstery of the chair. One foot lands in the pile of dirtied food bowls to upset his balance and thump: that's the Jackal landing on his ass to knock over one of the sacks of rice in a tide of white about him. He scuttles back to hit the wall and pants a few times, staring in wordless shock at Kent — in his favorite chair!!! — before a blistering string of insults flies from his mouth. He can't even pick a language for how he slips from English to Persian to German for EXTRA EMPHASIS that Kent is indeed the bastard son of a desert cur and - and -


He's utterly calm in the face of that flood of invective, blinking slow as a cat. "I thought," he says, oh so mildly, "You'd come to call at my house, it'd only be courteous to return the favor. I didn't disturb anything." With a negligent gesture, he plucks the knife from the chair, flips it in hand, and proffers it, hilt first. Rising from the chair, and advancing a pace or two, rather than making Ambrose come to him. The pale eyes are alight with amusement, though it doesn't show in the porcelain reserve of his face.

"Ah-hah, Black," the Jackal mutters even as he gets to his feet and stomps over to his impromptu guest. He snatches back the knife, still careful not to cut the fingers holding about the blade, and sheaths it. "Tra-lah-dee-dah, such fun. You could have been hurt." He lifts up his ash-coated hand and scowls at it. Turning to admire the mess made with the rice is enough to make him groan softly and put his face in his hand briefly. The ashy one. Realizing this, he stiffens in place and then just…chooses to eat crow. A dark-grey handprint is clear upon his skin even as he turns and stalks off towards a collection of scrap-fabric in the corner. Some of it has darker stains, possibly blood, but most appears fairly clean. He works at getting the wood ash from his skin with a longer piece that appeared to once have belonged to someone's curtains.

"Regardless…yes," and he looks from Kent and about the room to the man again, not having yet cleaned his face. "Welcome to my abode. I was going to make up some rice and…not rice, never mind that. Rehydrated meal rations. They're a steal if you know where to find them." And fine dining, absolutely not.

"Oh, my dear, no," Kent says, with gentle sympathy. "Do let me take you out, if you can make yourself presentable. We're known allies now, as it is, so there's no point in playing at secrecy on that front. Shall we?"

Ambrose thins his lips even as he scrubs at the crook of his elbow. His eyes slide away and to the work at hand. He frowns, thoughtfully, and gives a little shrug.

"I don't own anything to wear to eat out at the places you prefer, cafe or restaurant notwithstanding. I gave back the suit you saw me in last, at the dance palace. It was not mine." His little smile, seen despite the oblique angle of his face, is only mildly self-remonstrative. "I even had it laundered first before returning it," he informs Kent with a quick glance, as this would excuse the process of Suggesting that he borrow it and leaving the poor original owner to awake in a side alley nearly naked as a baby bird.

"You must permit me to get you a suit, or two," Kent urges. Still delicate. Not in the mood to be imperious or provoke. "Or we can eat from a vendor on the street. My tastes are not so refined I can't bear it," he offers.

Ambrose gives his guest a knowing little side-smirk even as he walks over to wet a section of the ripped fabric in a steel bucket full of rainwater, stashed in a windowsill. He wipes at his face once, twice, and grimaces, before replying,

"What makes you think that I don't have the funds, Black? Perhaps I merely hide away what I receive in exchange for returning the lost antiques and simply ask politely to borrow what I need. Still…" He scrubs at his cheek and scowls at the grimed faux-velvet. "I won't say no to food from a vendor. I'd argue that there are better pot-stickers to be found on the street than in any named restaurant in Shanghai proper." He then turns and squints at himself in a small mirror, its surface lacking tarnish but for around its edges. Scrubbing at a spot near his eyebrow, he then tosses the rag aside. "Right then. On your dime, Mister Black." Turning about, he lifts hands in another shrug, wearing a small but friendly smile. "I won't say no."

There's that distinctly wicked gleam in his eyes at that. "Very well, then," he says. "When you feel ready - after you. And my dime, indeed." Kent without his hat, without the entirety of one of his beautifully tailored suits - he must be desperate for Ambrose's company.

"Your dime indeed," Ambrose echoes even as he steps past the other man and towards a small chest near to the hammock. He opens it, stoops, rifles through it, and comes out with a bundle of clothing. "I'll humor you," he adds as he walks past and enters through a door towards the back corner of the room. It must be the bathroom, given the sounds that follow after he shuts it firmly.

Not but a few minutes pass and then the Jackal emerges again. It's nothing fancy, certainly not of the fine weave worn by Kent, but he's in a pair of charcoal-black slacks, matching vest with ebony buttons, and cream-hued dress-shirt, unbuttoned lazily at the wrists. He's at least tamed the worst of the day's effects on his hair and about him, the faintest hint of black cardamom and mint, with a wisp of vetiver.

"Vendor food then." Ambrose thinks aloud as he then descends the stairs, military boots clumping in the only dissonance in his outfit. "I think the Xang family's stand, over by the Cockerel, on Zhao-Zhang Way. The potstickers are to die for," he throws over his shoulder as he exits out the front door and onto the deserted street.

Not the usual place for a pair of Europeans in casual dress. But Kent's entirely at ease….for once without his ever-present panama, either.He doesn't present his arm to Ambrose, that'd be a bit much. But he does keep in comfortable step with the other Englishman. "As you please," he says, affably.

Outside, under the lowering sun, he looks healthier, less pale than he does in the cave-like confines of the carven bed. There's color to his face, and the pale eyes aren't so sunken.

"I shall endeavor to expand even your worldly mind, Black," says Ambrose before grinning at the mild tease. It doesn't take them long to reach the edges of the sprawling city of Shanghai and from there, it's as simple as waving down a rickchaw. The ride is as comfortable as can be managed, given this model has shocks as well as padded seats, and from his pants pockets upon departure, Ambrose is certain to pay for the ride plus another coin or three yet. The rickshaw runner grins and the Jackal nods back, smiling almost to himself.

He then asides to Kent, "I hesitate to make the claim, but I will regardless: that is my personal rickshaw. His daughter was very sick and he couldn't afford the medicine until I paid him as I did. Once I realized, I kept at it and before I knew it, he was telling me that she was healthy as a horse again." Ambrose seems proud to tell the story, even if he's also somewhat abashed afterwards by the way his gaze slides elsewhere on the street, away from Kent. Silly him, bragging to the near-kingpin of the Shanghai underworld. "That'll be it right there, with the red pennant," and Ambrose points to the one-person stall tucked under the eaves of a small grocery store. It's at least a block further down the street yet and they'll need to weave through other foot traffic as is.

Lamont smiles at that. And there is no mockery in it, at all. A little wistfulness, perhaps. He's looking at Ambrose, rather than the city around them. "You've won an ally for life," he says, mildly.

The Jackal tucks his chin briefly and then nods to himself, almost as if he's uncertain about accepting it briefly.

"I think I just might've managed such a thing," he agrees quietly, glancing back up to Kent with a small smile of his own. "Come on. I can smell them from here." He takes a step, making sure that the other man is going to fall into the comfortable pace again, and then looks at the stalls along either side. "So. Sussed out where I rest my head for a bit of simple fun? Curiosity? Boredom?" he asks, looking to Kent again with a wry little smirk. "I might claim too that you owe me another bag of rice." Another gentle jab there.

He disembarks easily, long since used to such a means of transportation. "All of the above. And I will gladly buy you all the rice you wish," Kent assures him, before adding, "For your personal use. I won't have you draining my coffers to feed all the hungry in Shanghai," he says, teasingly. Utterly oblivious to the looks they're earning, most of them along the lines of 'clearly white men are crazy.'

Long since used to those looks, Ambrose simply grins like a fox at anyone caught giving him such a look. Might as well make them squirm.

He clicks his tongue at Kent and looks over as he walks on, his head tilted in a mildly dramatic manner, brows quirked. "Tsk. I'll just take your coffers then, Black. Much more useful. In that manner, the ones receiving the coin can decide what they will do with their ill-gotten gains. What say you to that, old man?" Shots fired. The Jackal absolutely knows he's technically got years on Kent as is, even if he looks younger yet.

"Oh, please," Kent says, briskly. "You and I were both born when Victoria was on the throne." Not really nettled, then. "And I'll have you know I donate a good deal to charity as it is." ….is he serious? He slants a look at Ambrose, sidelong, from under his lashes.

"Do you really? Not my place to pry, but good to know," Ambrose adds, his expression approving along with his tone. "We might as well, yes? I mean…" and he laughs a little, mostly at himself. "As I mentioned before, I need not buy a thing. I simply…ask nicely and it's placed in my outstretched hand. I needn't depend on currency save for that which is only obtainable with such. Others do. Why not share in what I have? Otherwise, it…sits. Gains dust." His uplifted hand drops again after he rolls one shoulder in a small shrug. "However, for tonight, I'll admit that I'm grateful for your charity after that…debacle. I will be finding rice for days," he says with a sigh.

"Indeed," Kent agrees, mildly. "I'm sure you shall." He doesn't ask why Ambrose lives so far from anyone else. The reason is obvious. "And I do. My needs are actually rather few," He does tend to live….less lavishly than one might expect, at least in the house on the ally. Though god knows, that bed….

"It keeps life relatively simple though, does it not? Having few needs?" Ambrose steps aside in order to avoid a small child darting through the crowd and bumps off of Kent. "Oops, sorry about that," and he brushes at the man's sleeve. Just in case. No nibbling of the Bane appears to be present; after all, it's nibbling instead off of everyone in the surrounding area, its effects far too dispersed to be noted and of any lethality. "Urchin. Reminds me a little of my childhood." He purses his lips and goes silent at that, a little withdrawn.

"…put my foot in that one," he mutters, and then continues rather than leaving Kent hanging. "I…hated being kept inside, Black. As a young boy. Lessons on rote were dull. My nanny was overbearing and…I did not want to become an Esquire. No." His smile, seen on his face gone profile, is small and a little sad. "Whenever I could, I was out in the marketplace, running with the local children and learning what I could. That story I told, about tempting the cobra by touching its nose? True as the sun rises." He glances over, one eyebrow raised. "It was worth the yelling and tanning to follow. I was the only white boy they'd ever seen accomplish it without getting bitten. Certainly honed my reflexes." On the approach, it seems the small stand isn't terribly busy and the next batch of potstickers have just gone in.

"My boyhood was…." He trails off, shrugs elegantly. "Just as you might expect. Terribly proper, terribly boring….until the first time I saw an aeroplane. Then I was basically Toad of Toad Hall untl I learnt to fly." And he leaves it at that. What an image - Kent as a manic teenager, demanding flying lessons.

Indeed, the image dances through the Jackal's head and he chuckles.

"I'll have you know, it makes sense now. Your bearing. You had to have spent time somewhere in the military. Flying Corps then, eh? My money's on that. I bet you found your way into a cockpit before your parents' heads stopped spinning on their shoulders," and Ambrose laughs again.

Lamont grins at that - not the usual cynical near-smirk, but broad enough. "Of course. I was a pilot before the war, so the moment the war began…." The smile fades into something more grave, after a little. His memories may be far better than those of the men in the trenches, but…

"Ah, come now, Black. Now's not the time for delving too deeply. We must have some secrets between us, yes?" He makes gentle mockery of the familiarity on display between them, softening it yet with a grin enough to flash teeth. "So you flew. Well done. I've never been in a plane in my life. I prefer my boots on solid ground. Terra firma."

There's a small line before them at the stand, proof of the quality of food being produced when so many other stalls exist in a long line down the rue, and Ambrose steps into place at the end of it. "See? The Xang family knows their potstickers." He nods to the line. "Worth the wait, I assure you." He then falls silent, eyes wandering around the street again out of paranoid habit, even if his air is still fairly relaxed.

Ambrose gets that sphinx's smile in profile. "Must we?" he retorts, archly, even as he pays for their meals, handing over coin taken from god knows where on his person. Having handed off Ambrose's share, he drops his gaze demurely, looks for a place for them to sit.

And an excellent question that is. It's enough to bring Ambrose to silence and a delayed reply. His eyebrows meet and then lift as he takes his share of the food.

"Ah, thank you," he says, certain of manners. He's quick to spot a couple leaving a bench tucked away between booths and to dart for it, assuming that Kent will be quick to notice and catch up. He takes a seat and then blows on one of the potstickers a few times. "Burnt my tongue too many times to risk taking a bite right away," he explains almost unnecessarily with a smirk. The expression melts a little as he seems to grow pensive again. He then asks, much more quietly,

"I…presumed that we should at least have some secrets between us. For safety's sake. In case…well. If such a thing as the whole…debacle with the Mariah…occurs again." That's enough to make him clear his throat and look away from Kent. Shoddy shooting all throughout that — and surely Kent's figured out that it was Ambrose's initial shot that sent the driver to careening about.

"I was teasing you," Kent assures him, but there's that note in his voice. Almost silky, though he looks down at his share of the potstickers, waiting for them to cool before he takes an experimental bite.

Ambrose arches an eyebrow at the man sitting next to him, lips pulled to one side.

"You rotten bastard," he mutters half-heartedly. Blowing on his potsticker one final time, his first bite makes half the thing vanish. He inhales and exhales a few times behind his hand before laughing through his mouthful. What manners? At least his hand is shield. "Howt - howt," he pants, " - ow - ow." His tongue slips over his lip once his mouth is clear and he hums in nearly musical contentment. "Manna from heaven, this. A secret of the city. Don't go telling everyone now. I'll know who let slip the cat from the bag."

"I've no desire to share such secrets. I'm very good at keeping them," Kent assures him. There's still that feline air, as he eats his in neat bites. Content with that - he's eating. Amazing. IT must've been a day or so without the drug. His pupils are no more pinned than one might expect….and his appetite seems decent.

Amusing as it might be to watch the man eat so very daintily out of the corner of his eye, there are potstickers to fit into his stomach. Kent hadn't been sparing with the number and Ambrose is very certain that he's going to be very full tonight. It fills him with an odd, almost stranger-like feeling: gratitude, aimed at…this man there. He makes them vanish one after another, as mess-free as he can manage, and companionable silence holds court while they finish their repast. Finally, with the last bite gone, Ambrose wipes his fingers on his napkin and leans back in the bench with a slow sigh.

"Absolutely delightful," he murmurs, sounding as content as he's ever around Kent.

"Agreed," Kent says, nodding. Busily watching the passers-by with those half-lidded eyes, as he unashamedly licks his fingers clean. Barbarian.

"Now for a drink," he adds. Perhaps he means booze. Perhaps not.

"Oh — and drinks too? Allow me to pay for those, at least," Ambrose replies even as he sits up, resting one elbow on his leg as he looks to Kent. "What'll be your poison, Mister Black? Granted…I don't haunt the same restaurants, but…bah," and he levers himself to his feet. "Never mind. Lead on now, yourself, though mind that I will be paying for drinks," he stresses, giving Kent another significant look.

"Nonsense," Lamont says, dismissively. "We're not going anywhere classy, unless you'd rather we headed back to my place and changed into the right clothes." He cocks an eye. "We could just go back to my place, period, come to think of. There's booze in the icebox. The cook'll be gone for the night, but…."

Ambrose laughs again. "You need a cook to serve you drinks, Black? The affectations you put on. We need no cook to pour any form of libation. Lead on. I know you've other abodes throughout the city than the place with the balcony. Who knows? I might learn yet more about Ying Ko with an unplanned visit to one of his residences." He grins, waiting to fall into step beside Kent.

"No, I thought the usual," he says, as he waves down a rickshaw driver. "The house in the International Settlement - I've not really used it in a while. I've got a flat in the French concession. But I like the place on Joint Alley best. And no, we needn't a cook to mix drinks. There's more food there if we get hungry…"

"I don't see myself getting hungry anytime soon, but a good thing to know nonetheless," Ambrose replies as the rickshaw pulls up.

It's a quick jaunt over into the Red Light district and to the house in question. The Jackal departs from the transportation after carefully looking about the street and what he can see of doorways and alleys — he's also certain to beat Kent to paying for the ride, along with the usual tip. "Lead on, sirrah," the Jackal murmurs to him, tailing behind the other man with a hard set to his jaw and eyes even as he continues to look around.

They aren't the only Europeans entering that particular alleyway. Unsurprising - the evening's just beginning, and the red lanterns have been lit. Most of the ladies on display waste no time on Kent, however. He's a known quantity…..a known nullity, in fact. Someone who never indulges in any of the silken flesh on offer.

The first time Ambrose has simply walked to that front stone gate, perhaps. Locked, but it opens to Kent's peremptory call, and they saunter past the porter to the house proper to be greeted by someone who seems to be something between butler and major domo. Ice and booze ordered, and then the parlor, cool and dim, with the last glow of sunlight entering through slatted shutters. The furniture is dark, lacquered wood, intricately carved.

Quietly, to himself, Ambrose is impressed. He remains silent as they travel, his eyes taking in the sights of a far more mundane entrance to the property — how weird the world looks from below, on foot rather than upon the rooftops. In the parlor proper, he gets to wandering about the room. Fingertips settle upon and glide upon the smooth wood of the arms of the chairs as well as couch. It's supple to the touch, of a fine quality indeed, and he nods to himself even as he pauses to look at Kent.

"If I'd the ability to sleep, I might begrudge you this furniture, Black. Wondrous." Even the upholstery itself is of quality, far better than the hand-me-down chair found on the second floor of Ambrose's own abode.

"I'd forgotten that you can't," There's real sympathy in his voice, soft. On the sideboard, there are decanters of liquor. "What'll you have?" A soft-footed servant brings glasses, a pitcher of ice, on a brass tray, and sets it down on a low table.

"Gin, please, if there's any. Scotch, if no gin. I'm not partial to quality." He implies nothing in the comment, merely informing his host of his opinions on things. "And it's nothing to mind, Black. I've long gotten used to it. The number of things I've accomplished would stun even the hardiest of night-birds. Still…" He wanders over to the window and lifts one of the slats to look out into the fading light of day. "It has its merits and its…difficulties. It can be lonely." This much, he'll admit quietly. "The world sleeps and I…watch the stars roll across the heavens if I'm not at a task. It makes one feel small." The slat makes a small sound as he drops it and turns away, meandering over to fetch his drink.

"Sleep, that knits up the ravel'd sleeve of care," he quotes, after a moment. "And I can't imagine life without it. As you've seen," he says, wryly, as he pours gin out for Ambrose, "I use unconsciousness as a refuge quite often." A memory for both of them, Ambrose killing-angry, and Kent limp as a rag in his grip.

"A fair place to hide away," Ambrose agrees, his voice still that quiet pitch that's almost turned inwards. He takes the glass once it's offered, sniffs at it, and smiles. "As if you'd have anything like the swill I would down given the first opportunity. To…" He pauses to think, holding Kent's eyes.

"To good business. To that and outfoxing the competition in the name of that which we held dear, hold dear, and may we ever rise to see the sun," says the Jackal in calm formality. His lips still hold the ghost of a grin as he lifts his glass afterwards towards Ying Ko, would-be kingpin of Shanghai.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License