1965-09-28 - Shanghai Shift, 1922
Summary: There's a special irony to nom de guerres sometimes. Ambrose learns this the hard way. Thank god Kent's around to risk life and limb for the foolhardy thief.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
ambrose lamont 

It's been a number of days since Ambrose last graced the balcony of the house in the Red Light lilong in Shanghai. He does joke now and then about 'skipping class', in the sense of forgetting to do his meditation-based homework and showing up to prove it to the future-Shadow, but…

It's been a a potentially alarming number of days, nearing a week. There's been no sign of him in the neighborhood or in surrounding areas or even at Kent's other abodes. The stove at his abandoned house appears to have been cold for at least seventy-two hours. No one has come forth with information regarding his whereabouts and more chilling yet…there's been silence in the practiced mental space. Not even a ping on the kything radar, as it were. It might be some time for gum-shoeing, all the better to see whether or not there's anything to avenge — or if the Jackal is simply on extended vacation without forewarning.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 8

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 17

He's got someone waiting for him. With increasing impatience - bisexual villains have needs, after all. Especially when he's oh so generously foregoing worsening his addiction in favor of enjoying Ambrose's favors. But as days tick by, it's less greed and imperiousness and more genuine worry. The world keeps taking his lovers from him violently….let Ambrose not be the third.

So he's been both using his networks to send out feelers, and paying some personal visits to those he knows deal with Ambrose, to see if he can track down his errant relic thief. The first round is polite enough - no overt threats. No showing his hand. But he's gone so far as to visit the house Ambrose squats in, just to see what traces he can find.

And for his efforts, bread-crumbs at first. The abandoned home is undisturbed within. There appears to be no signs of a struggle on the property; in fact, by the location of pots and pans, the Jackal was intending to return and eat a meal. That never happened, clearly. No parcels were left on the preparation table either, which meant that he was between 'tasks', as it were.

His personal visits have turned up a little gem. One of the favored weapon-smiths of those who deal in the shadowy underworld, a Lucas Costin, reported personally to Kent (with a sallow cast to his skin) that he had indeed serviced a pair of Webley & Scott revolvers not days back as well as sold a portion of .38 special calibre ammunition. Whatever Ambrose was going after, it meant preparing for the worst, apparently — and no, Lucas wasn't told why, what, or where.

A phone call or two is returned by his third cousin, Afanasyev, who reports of a subtle power shift in the local Asian factions of the crime-world and he'll be certain to report 'why' at the soonest available instance after he finds it out.

Likely the most surprising encounter of all…one little bird all wrapped away in a heavy winter coat against the cold, her dark eyes lustrous, and her name a thing Ambrose has whispered time and time again. She dares a tug on the sleeve of Kent's jacket from out of nowhere on a side street, trying to hold her hood up around her face. "Sir! Ying Ko!" Janaya hisses. "Please, speak with me."

He's rounding on her, face not angry, or threatening, though the swiftness of his reflexes should speak volumes as to how he actually feels. She gets that stony mask he presents in times of greatest stress. "Very well," he says, as gently as he can manage - caught him walking on foot from one of the clubs he owns. "Here? Or elsewhere?" Already skimming her thoughts to see if this might be a trap.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 11

|ROLL| Steve Rogers +rolls 1d20 for: 10

No sense of a trap. Genuine worry from her end…though there's a hesitant suspicion that Janaya does not give up on the initial skim, something that she seems to wish to keep buried so deeply that it does not even come up into personal consideration.

"Here, sir, I dare not speak with you long," she says, voice quick and soft. "You search for the Jackal, do you not? The young man who dares to run the rooftops in black?" She really is like a thin railbird beneath the long ankle-length coat in her way, movements quick and timid, eyes big and woeful in their way.

"Yes," Kent replies, softly. "I do. Do you know where he is?" Still keeping that finger on her mental pulse, as it were…..and himself under tight restraint.

"I wish I did, sir, but that is why I speak to you and not to the authorities." That speaks for itself, in a way, of Janaya's own knowledge of the Shanghai underworld. She's not just a pretty face, perhaps. "He told me not days back that he was going to do something daring — something never done before in the annals of years since his arrival. That he was going to steal from under the noses of the most dangerous here, but had to make peace first as not to shake the chessboard. Whatever that means." She grimaces against the cold, tucking her chin as to further disappear away into the fur lining of the hood. "He wished to show me once he returned. He has not returned." She meets those grey eyes and trembles.

In other words, Ambrose is being his usual foolhardy self. Kent's lips go thin and pinched, as if biting back the temptation to lecture the absent thief. "That…..is very interesting. Thank you. Did he say more about what he intended to take, or from whom?"

"Something most valuable," she whispers back. Now her eyes drop and there's the first blossoming of true agitation in her mind. "It is said that the household of the Green Jade Brotherhood has the most security in the city — that once items or people enter the property, they do not come out again. I fear that is where he has gone."

Still listening, on both fronts. "I know of them," he says, softly. "You think so, eh? How long ago did he say all this to you? And….what is he to you, if I may ask?" It's prying, somewhat. But what are they - lovers, of a kind, perhaps?

Janaya bites at her lip gently and her hands wring at her waist. She isn't going to look Kent in the face still. "Four days ago, sir. He is…I believe he intends to court me, though he is flighty and…charming as often as he is distant and…perhaps distracted is the best word. I suspect that his mind is often elsewhere, even when he comes to speak to me. I…" Her voice falls out as she dismisses the thought. "Never mind, sir. Just please — you have your ways. Find him, please. He is reckless, but…"

Oh, you poor thing. His expression softens further….even his own selfishness is sometimes pierced by the plight of others. "You are….you …you are not left in need, by his absence?" Trying for courtesy - she matters to Ambrose in some way or another, and it's hard for a woman on her own here.

Her sudden laughter is soft and brittle, possibly shocking in how it sounds near to tears. "To the contrary, sir, I am hardly in need." A distant sound makes her then freeze and then give him a wide-eyed look. "I'm sorry, sir, I must go, just — " A palm upon his upper arm in heartfelt entreaty. "Find him!" And with that, Janaya turns and walks briskly away, disappearing into a nearby crowd and vanishing as easily as one can in a large city, leaving Kent to his business.

He watches her vanish into the eternal stream of people in motion, before turning to go about his own business. Now he has a target. It remains only to prepare.

With preparations made, it falls upon a dark night for Kent to act. The moon is new, hiding its face away from the distant solar light, and clouds scuttle over the stars. Still, despite the cover of the atmosphere, it's not warm — rather clammy. Anyone out this late is bundled or wishing they were as such. In this section of the city, the streets are very quiet. It seems that a heavy miasm of silence blankets like mist the closer one travels to the Green Jade Brotherhood's household. Here lives the general of the Shanghainese faction, along with his family and retinue.

It's relatively easy to get onto the property. Someone at the gate is there to greet guests at all times of night and escort them to the front doors, where the manor's major-domo will then escort them further in to a parlor to await the company of whom they seek. In regards to other routes of access? Markedly more difficult. In shadowy corners, guards with the most modern guns are posted and always alert along the perimeter of the back- and side-yard. Of course someone's got a dog, some ferocious and furry Tibetan Mastiff mix, all fangs and fury when unleashed. How to approach and enter? The easy way…or the hard way?

The hard way, of course. He may not be a practiced roof runner like Ambrose, but he was an agent in his day, before the war and during. He's dressed for it, in dark, soft, comfortable clothes, though not so outre that they're inexcusable if he's spotted. Trying for actual physical stealth, on top of his familiar powers…..trying to come in like the Shadow he'll one day be named.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 2

|ROLL| Steve Rogers +rolls 1d20 for: 19

A sound from above has the Tibetan Mastiff immediately on the alert. A basso 'woof' of warning then brings forth another two men from the darkness besides the dog's handler and they confer amongst themselves even as the leash-holder watches the dog for the next cue of direction. The triangular ears perk and the moist dark nose wiggles as it begins testing the air currents flowing around the manor. Another 'woof' signals that it's not just a random alert and the sound of safety-catches coming free is a short, small symphony of clicks. Then the dog looks up. And then the faces all look up. And then the dog begins a frenzied baying of sound that shatters the stillness around the manor.

"On the roof?!" comes the shout from the handler above the din and guns rise to point in that direction.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 11

On the roof. Like an idiot. He should've known better….but he did, anyhow. Kent's reduced to scuttling back over the relative shelter of the tiled peak of he roof, but that can't last. They'll either surround him, or start firing. Time to find another way in.

The first bullet clips the edging of the roof and shatters up small bits to land near and around Kent. Someone yells to 'cease fire, you idiot, don't damage the building' overtop the Mastiff barking away. "Send someone up!" Someone's still going to get their ass handed to them for damaging the building, but it had better be a literal threat and not some false alarm — otherwise, that person will also be dismissed. Permanently.

Radios click to life and communications are relayed. There happens to be an attic window nearby, the most immediate access to inside, but it comes with the risk of running directly into whomever is sent up to investigate.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 19

|ROLL| Steve Rogers +rolls 1d20 for: 4

Into the attic window it is. And now, now, his powers are working. HE may not be able to fool dogs, but human minds….that's another matter entirely. The attic window is closed gently behind him, lest its being open give him away untimely.

And just in time, because that security agent carrying a terrifying semi-automatic rifle barges into the attic with a bang of opening door. He strides right past Kent, oblivious to him in his hidden state, and throws open the window. A glance to the left, right, up and then down. A frustrated sound. The man then pulls his radio from his belt and confirms a false alarm. Below, the sound of someone shushing the Mastiff and a terse reply back. Whomever took that shot is most definitely going to get chewed out. The window is closed, latched again, and the man departs, shutting the attic door behind him.

Now Kent is on the third floor of the manor-house. It's clear that there is some form of human security, at the very least, present and brutally alert. The clattering of boots down steps, however, is proof that no one's actively patrolling this third floor and maybe not even the second floor.

Softly, he goes on. Hoping things will settle after that apparent false alarm, but reluctant to let it sit and be still forever. God only knows where Ambrose is in here, if he's being imprisoned. He's got soft-soled boots on, the better to keep him from making noise.

|ROLL| Steve Rogers +rolls 1d20 for: 8

It's a short hallway leading to the single set of stairs downwards onto the second floor. No one's actively patrolling here at this point in time, what with the agent having given the all-clear. The house is beautiful within, decorated both classically and in modern bold hues. The wood gleams, the wallpaper is crisp and clean, and the air smells faintly of incense and something else more astringent. Here and there, touches of ancient glory stand in vases or pottery, paintings or statues in marble or clay — all perfect lures for someone with light fingers. Rest assured that more line the walls of the second floor and the first below it.

There are two other doors on the third floor, both bland and bearing keyholes — old-fashioned, as if they might require a key heavy and ornate to open. From the farthest one, past the opening in the floor for the stairwell, a faint sound.

It's to the farthest that he slinks, wary as a cat. He's got a scarf pulled up around his face now, on the offchance that he's seen, matching the cap he's pulled down. A preview of what he'll eventually be, that nightmare in scarlet and black. Then he's crouching and peering through, to see if it's that kind of keyhole. What can he spy through it?

Through the keyhole, a view of a dim room. It's spartan, with the wane outer city light falling from a window beyond his immediate field of vision. Vertical glints of reflection in ordered rows suggest something akin to a…cage? Then a sudden blocking of his view by something alive and a heavy snuffling sound, sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff. Then follows a high-pitched whine and a dig-dig-dig-dig-dig, hard enough to rattle the door lightly in its frame.

Oh, no, not another dog. Carefully, he slips back from the door. Goddamn these animals….and he likes dogs. The kennel of greyhounds he keeps at the track are pampered better than the vast majority of the population of Shanghai itself. Provided Cerberus there doesn't start barking, it's on to peering into the next keyhole.

Oh no, it's not a bark that comes from the spartan room. It's a wailing sound, accompanied by more frantic digging yet. A veritable scream from a trapped wild animal desperately wanting to get out. The door is definitely rattling in its frame now.

The next keyhole proves to showcase another spartan room, but this one is empty, devoid of cage and any manner of furniture, filled only with the floating motes of dust that glint through the fall of city light from yet another window.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 14

Into that room he goes….and for its window. Assuming it can be opened. Silent as a ghost. That familiar scent has to be filling Ambrose's nostrils, the unseen signature of his companion and lover.

It doesn't take long at all to finagle the lock open on the door. Perhaps there was an especial delight taken in finding such a weak defense put forth, but then again, no human being was being kept behind the antique frame.

There's a patter backwards of faint steps rapidly as the door swings inwardly and then a rush towards Kent in a blur of cream. A black-backed jackal, hypo-melanistic as to dilute all color until variants of cream and ivory, its saddle brown rather than the charcoal-grey known to the species. Instead of golden eyes, a muddied mixture more nearing blue. On its forehead, drawn by finger and in a sticky, almost resinous substance, a Chinese sigil: silence. About its neck, an absolutely ostentatious slip-collar of thin leather, sewn with diamonds at regular intervals; no doubt the animal's inability to remove it came from the thing's propensity to tighten when pulled upon. The jackal lets out a crooning growl and seems to almost go rubber-jointed upon full sight of Kent. It's all submissive greeting as it bellies into view and over to him, tail tucked tightly and licking its lips repeatedly. High-pitched whimpers escape its nose in little whufts as it makes to basically sit itself on his feet and lean heavily against his legs, even lifting up a front paw to wrap it about his shin. It's of no help in him working at the window, but that won't be difficult to open. The latch is simple for someone with thumbs, after all.

From below, the sound of approaching bootsteps, a regular pattern down the second story hallway directly below. Uh oh.

No time to be wasted. Though in a moment, he pauses to take his hankie and wipe that odd sigil off the jackal's head…or try to. Maybe that'll help. Only a swipe or two, and he's opening the window. "That's ….I won't even ask how this happened." Just imagine, your life spent as a cobra in a basket. Assuming some enemy would be foolish enough to keep a venomous serpent with him.

The creature holds still for the wiping of the hankie, but the brief effort only does smear the sigil rather than remove it. Some soap will be necessary, it appears. At Kent's comment, it lets out a soft whine, folding both large ears back, and manages to look both embarrassed and remorseful now that its hold on the other man's leg is released.

It looks to the door and back to him, eyes gone wide. That is most definitely someone coming up the steps now! The jackal darts to the window and makes to leap from it and onto the rooftop. Immediately, it skitters on the odd tiling and has to hunch down flat to avoid sliding down it, digging in flat nails as best it can. Another pitiful whine. Someone misses their thumbs.

Indeed. Without missing a beat, Kent's up on the roof after him. He's trying to scoop up the poor beast, so he can tote it under the ribs like some socialite with her teacup poodle. "I'll figure this out. You'll owe me." Probably to be paid back by the most obscene currency possible, knowing Mr. Demanding here.

The jackal allows itself to be handled as such, though it doesn't look any happier for it. It makes an odd growling sound and slightly pulls back lips, as if to imply, This is still an indignity! The stilt-like legs hang stiffly against Kent's side now, somewhat spread-toed for not having terra firma beneath paw-pads.

There's a six-second count. Someone's now entering the third floor proper from the stairwell. The attic room will be checked first. If these two aren't scarpering away and at least one door down from the manor before those six seconds are up? There may be hell to pay.

Still trying for stealth, but now speed is the priority. Kent and his new pet off like a spill of ink, slipping away. Soon enough the alarm will go up, but by then, gods willing, he'll be across the roofs and into the alleyways.

|ROLL| Steve Rogers +rolls 1d20 for: 8

Skill, daring-do, and a pinch of luck — that's what allows the future-Shadow and his armful of animal to make their way to the neighboring roof and yet another handful more before descending to the alleyways proper of Shanghai. By now, the hue and cry can be heard; the Mastiff is at it again, having scented the Englishman on the night wind, but to no avail. The open door is brutal proof that someone in the city has the ability to outwit even the security of the Green Jade Brotherhood.

Believe that someone is punished for the mistake and that within the Brotherhood, the example is made. For now, however, it appears that crisis is averted and someone's acquired a new pet indeed. How awkward.

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