1965-09-19 - Shanghai Skedaddling, 1922
Summary: Those who fight and run away live to fight another day! Or, at least, those who commandeer a rickshaw can technically outrun a Mafia hit-man, but not bullets. Have no fear, everyone survives and the return volley is planned.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
lamont ambrose 

Perhaps business is concluded for the day. Whatever social meetings were required to further cement his reaching hold on Shanghai have been completed — or perhaps the would-be Shadow has just finished one now. Outside of the cafe, there are taxis waiting as well as public yellow-painted rickshaws. All the runners are muscled for long hours pounding feet on the streets and getting customers into the neighborhoods where the taxis simply can't reach by merit of width or foot traffic.

The early bird gets the worm and whoops — that's the last taxi door slamming shut and taking off. Looks like it's rickshaws only at this point. The runners look between one another, exchanging contempt and challenge. Well, all for one. This particular young man's leaning rather lazily against the seat, picking at one fingernail to remove a sharp point. It does hurt to accidentally catch skin when scratching…say, at your jaw, despite what stubble grows along the lean line of bone. He wears loose beige cotton pants tucked into sturdy boots and a hand-me-down suit vest in navy-blue overtop a slightly-oversized white long-sleeved shirt, sleeves rolled to his elbows as to stay out of his way during his work. On his head, one of those woven-bamboo hats, flattened conical peak and all. It casts heavy shade over his face and, from the small rise of the sidewalk, doesn't allow for easy identification — at least, by someone who isnt paying attention.

"«Ride for the gentleman?»" This one calls out, his Shanghainese…not his first language, given its nuances.

He's distracted….truth be told, he's jonesing bad. Ambrose may comfort himself that his attentions are worth holding off on the pipe and the bottle, for Kent's sober in anticipation of a possible visit. But it's been long enough that it's getting to him, the symptoms of withdrawal threatening - already the sweats have started, and the aches. So he's not paying attention, as he gets in to the rickshaw, directs him to the lane of Joint Pleasure. Home sweet home, among the whorehouses.

Once his passenger is settled, the young man lifts the handles of the rickshaw and balances it carefully. The muscles of his shoulders flex and relax as he gently rocks the conveyance, testing to see where stability is present.

"I'd hold on if I were you," he says over his shoulder. The lift of his hat's brim is required in order to keep it from bumping into his own body. Cerulean-blue eyes flash as does the grin. "We'll need to scarper. Barkov's got eyes on the place."

And hold on indeed! Out into traffic they go, wheels moving smoothly — and then comes the up-kick in pace. A lazy lope becomes a brisk run becomes something outright close to a horse taking off from the gates on the track. Dust flies up alongside curses as Ambrose begins to cut in and out of Shanghai road traffic daringly. The rickshaw jounces and attempts to jam one's spine up into their skull; must not have borrowed one with padded seats, whoops. At least there are shocks built into this model?

It's Ambrose. And Kent's clutching his hat - still that Panama, though it's almost cold enough for felt again - like an actor in some slapstick farce, as Ambrose takes off like a harness racer. "I'd no idea you were so fast," he confesses. "Where are we going?"

"Oh, we can head back to the lane, if you'd like," he shouts over his shoulder, daring to look away from traffic for a second. He has to maneuver adroitly about a ox-pulled cart not seconds later, whiffing the animal's nose and sending it to bawling irritably and prancing in its harness. "But if there's someplace less…known, it'd be better!"

Then comes the distant crack and the zing of an angry hornet passing over Kent's right shoulder. Ambrose ducks reflexively and then takes it up to the next gear yet, something that should be impossible for the standard human being. It's a speed that the rickshaw can barely handle for how the wheels begin to buzz. "HOLD ON!" He takes another corner at a dangerous speed, almost upturning the conveyance. Hopefully Kent knows to counter-lean to keep it from outright throwing him into oncoming traffic!

He apparently does - snatching his hat off and cramming it into his jacket. Better it be crumpled than lost entirely. Ducking at the zip of the bullet, ignominiously hunkering down. "Dear God," he says, under his breath. "I leave it up to you, rather than end up with a gunfight in the alleyways." Again, he does not add.

Another pop-pop-pop means someone's losing patience with their lack of target, even along the straight-away. Another bullet punches a hole in the backrest, blowing forwards splinters of wood. The next shot goes wide and then there's the zing of a nearer shot that disappears somewhere. On a wet spot, the brunet seems to stumble, but finds his feet quickly enough.

Puffing like a racehorse indeed, Ambrose steers between other rickshaws close enough to clip wheels once or twice; the impact jolts through the conveyance, but it holds together somehow. Impossibly, he seems to be aiming to disappear into the section of Shanghai dedicated to the population of Viennese Jews. Like as not, there's a connection somewhere…and for him to be shot at on this turf bodes badly for any Russian mafioso.

The foreign settlement's a League of Nations in miniature, neighborhoods and alleyways where various nationalities clump together. He has allies here, at least, via Meyer and his colleagues. Kent's produced a pistol from some inner pocket, an ugly little automatic. But firing at a moving target from a moving vehicle at anything less than point blank range is an invitation to murdering innocents, so he holds his fire.

Ambrose blows past the unofficial line drawn like as not by the heads of the community (and those with power beyond that yet, shadowy and bloody as their reign might be). He doesn't stop, clattering into the quiet section of the city in complete disruption. The rickshaw isn't going to hold together much longer. Anyone daring a look over shoulder or through the narrow aperture between seatback and slanted roof will see a shiny black car come to a slow halt. There's no telling the face, but a hand holding a fairly large-caliber handgun slowly returns into the car from where it hung from the open driver's side window.

The next sharp corner obscures sight of the vehicle and now Ambrose begins to slow, returning to merely a brisk jog than the helter-skelter pace of earlier. Into a side alley he goes, barely wide enough to admit the rickshaw. He lets out a groan as he lets the handle drop to the cement and slowly turns around, putting a hand to his side, just about at the lowest rib. It comes away bright red from his pressure and he gives Kent a sickly smile.

"Bastard winged me," he mutters, then leaning heavily against the brick wall.

Kent vaults out of the battered rickshaw with the neatness of someone who's spent a good while in the saddle. Then he's hurrying to Ambrose's side, handkerchief in hand. "Meyer's house isn't far from here. I think I can call upon him in an emergency. Can you walk, or shall I pull you?" He can, apparently. What a spectacle that'd be, him tugging Ambrose along.

With handkerchief pressed against the wound, it's clear that pressure alone is enough to stop most of the bleeding. Ambrose snakes an arm up and around Kent's shoulders even as he winces, uttering a blistering expletive that isn't anatomically possible.

"I can walk…fuck," he whispers as he takes a step. "No, no — I will walk," he insists. "Soldiers of the Crown don't bloody bleed out in alleyways. I won't let some Ruskie cur end me like this. It's…I can't feel the bullet, so it's…just a hole." In his body, clean through — joy. He's ambulatory enough to walk with a moderate lean on Kent and goes wherever the man takes him, keeping the handkerchief in place with his spare hand.

Lamont gives him a sidelong look, almost amused. "I should make you get in the rickshaw," he says. But he doesn't insist. Instead, he helps Ambrose along, taking him further into back alleys. Clearly not the public faces of its respective houses - but eventually, he comes to one and raps on the door. A startled Chinese servant opens it and very clearly intends to slam the door in Kent's face, but a barked word of command prevents him. None of that, thanks. Then he's shouldering through into a rear courtyard - the servant's vanished into the house proper - and Meyer appears in a moment at the back door. HE's in shirtsleeves and pants and vest,clearly finishing up a good dinner, and stares like an owl at the spectacle of Kent supporting the wounded Ambrose. Then he collects himself and ushers them both in.

Up the stairs they go to a plain bedroom where a radio is playing softly - and there Kent deposits him, as Meyer goes for some sort of first aid kit.

Meyers gets a faint greeting from Ambrose when the brunet looks up in his aided walk. Somewhere along the line, they've ditched the hat that afforded him moderate anonymity. He's able to make it up the stairs and collapses gratefully upon the bed. He's unable to keep the rusted groan from escaping and then lifts the handkerchief to look at the wound as best he can. It means crunching up his torso and that won't do. A shade is lost to his skin and he flumps his head back, clammy at the temples and along forehead.

"He was ready to drop you when you walked out," he says softly to Kent, sotto-voce. "I saw him set up in the early morning. He waited…so long for you." He clams up when Meyers returns.

He takes what Meyer's brought - gauze, clean cloths, bandage bindings - and then manages to hustle him out to make some phone calls. Then he's cleaning the wound and binding it, as gently as he can. "I'm going to have to keep escalating this," he says, on a sigh, sounding more irritated than intimidated. "Now - take from me, and heal." An order. Of course.

The Jackal is a good patient for most of the binding. It's towards the end that he emits a sharp, stifled sound and grips hard at the covers of the bed. There's the silent rip of fabric beneath his grip, proof of strength lingering in him that simply should not be.

"It's going to hurt, Kent," he spits back, rolling his face towards the man. "This is not just…the need is more than knitting the damn thing shut. I can…" He pants for a second, eyes scrunched shut. Finding his voice again, he continues quickly, "The curse does keep me alive in many ways. Not just healing. What you saw, with the running and pulling the rickshaw like that…that took from my stores. It's going to bite you hard," he emphasizes as he gives Kent another wary, weary look. "…I'd rather grey out another few hairs." Even as he says it, attention might be drawn to a small section of the dark hair at the nape of his neck, spread across the pillow. Within, a thin section of strands gone silvered — proof of past choices on his part. Lost years.

His lips thin out at that. "No," he says, softly. "If it ages you…..then no. Take from me. If I pass out, I can rest here. Meyer owes me a very great deal, a night of sanctuary is only a fraction of that debt, I promise you. "

The brunet whispers angrily back, "Goddamit, Allard, NO. How the bloody hell are you going to explain how you ended up on the floor while I'm hale and whole on the bed? Oh, how bloody fantastic, it was all for show and now Meyers thinking he has a demon on his hands?!" Ambrose wrinkles his nose, curling lips enough to show a sliver of teeth. "I will take my goddamn silver hairs. I'm not so arrogant to think anyone cares about their appearance. Just — just let me rest for a bit. There's enough ambient life-energy in this place to knit it up overnight instead of one fell bloody swoop."

There's that grin, feral, edged, unpleasant. "Meyer already suspects I'm something. He's nearly sure of it. He'll blame me. And he won't see your wound - I've covered it, haven't I?"

Ambrose scowls. "He'll blame you for passing out, will he? Doing what, to cause you to pass out, Kent? And I'm a good actor, I'll grant you that, but I'm not good enough to keep looking like a milksop on this bed. Look," he tries to reassure the other man, pointing a finger at him from where his hand lies nearly overtop the white lengths of clean fabric. "It's already working at healing it closed. I can feel it knitting. They're just grey hairs. That's all," he insists.

Kent just sighs at him…..but he relents. "I…..very well," he says, eventually clearly grudging it. He doesn't look any too good himself - he's pale, sweating. Reaching back, he drags over a chair, and seats himself.

"Good. …bloody idealistic fool," Ambrose adds in a mutter, though lacking in sincerity in terms of intensity. Happily enough, the other man has believed the lie about the wound knitting up. It's not. At least, not at this very moment. He notes Kent's state and the knitted brows don't fade an iota. "And now what's this then?" A pause and he seems to lose a modicum of his prickliness. "…you're in need of it, aren't you?"

He has that pinched, arrogant look - the one he tries to use to cover weakness. "I can wait," he says, briefly. "Do you want something to eat or drink? Hospitality extends that far, I am sure." If he's rude and bitchy, surely that'll distract Ambrose.

"I'm certain hospitality would extend to your need as well," the brunet fires back with a fairly acceptable attempt at a reasonable and even tone. "Though, since you're offering, water would be of great use to me." He winces again as the bullet wound pangs, reminding him of its presence beneath the wrappings and despite the thorough and careful cleaning. "…thank you," he adds, tapping once at the white covering. "Better than staining yet another set of fine linens…and…just…go, Kent." He opens his eyes again and looks over at the other man. "Go and assuage your need."

Kent levels a look at him. "I can wait," he reiterates, patiently. "I'll send Meyer out for it, if need be. A little tincture will keep the worst of it off me." He gets up, goes in to the bathroom, comes back with a clean tooth glass of water. "You might want some, as well, for that matter."

"Puh." He takes the glass of water and nearly spills it for how the reach of his hand tests the muscles of his side. The few sloshes are over the edge of the bed rather than upon himself or the covers. After downing half of it in one sitting, he swallows and then groans quietly.

"…I'll hunt the bastard down myself if you don't," he promises Kent in a cold whisper. The volume of his voice then rises to conversational-low. "But no. No opium for me. It's not the worst gunshot wound I've ever taken. Y'know what bloody cranks my screws, however?" He is in utmost earnest as he explains, "There's no bullet to keep for my collection."

He can't help but snort laughter at that set of priorities. "Ambrose Atherton, you are a very strange man, indeed," he says, drily. "Just so that's very clear. And I will deal with him. I will keep dispatching those they send against me, until they think the better of it."

Ambrose shifts on the bed out of discomfort. Oh well. He said he'd weather it and he will, because he's a stubborn git. "Don't bloody laugh…," comes the grumble. "If you've been alive as long as I have, in the circumstances, you'd take up odd hobbies as well." He then closes his eyes and sinks into the pillows with a slow sigh. "And what makes you think you can keep thinning their army? They have innumerable incensed countrymen all to ready to brainwash and send after you, for the love of Bolshevik insanity. Run up the rungs, man. Gun down Barkov himself."

For a beat, it looks as if he'd argue….but then he visibly thinks the better of it, and deflates. "Yes," he says, softly. "You're right." Odd of him to soften in the face of the inevitable. Ambrose has apparently taken off some of the sharp edge of that quest for vengeance.

"Amazing, isn't it? I enjoy the state of existence greatly, like a glass of fine wine," he replies drily, even going so far as to smirk to himself. He keeps his eyes shut as he continues more seriously, "But truly. Barkov must go. Every command stems from him and his zealotry. Remove him and the Bolsheviks will hesitate to act against you, especially when you survive the attempt. Because I'm going to be present for it." And by his tone, he brooks no argument on the matter.

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