1965-10-02 - Arguments in Semaphore
Summary: If a body meet a body coming through a repair shop…
Related: None
Theme Song: None
ambrose elmo halgrim 

Fall is now well underway, bringing with it dark gray clouds and a chill wind to whisk them around. The rain's threatening, been doing so all day in fact, but the weather hasn't quite delivered on this promise. It's early evening, so with the clouds it's already quite dim in the city. People hurry home from work, hoping to beat the rain and stay warm.

Halgrim arrives bundled up against the chill in an old navy pea coat that could easily be Elmo's age and a dark red, hand-knit scarf, carrying a black, hard-sided case in one hand. It's stenciled with COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY on the side, though this one's not big enough to contain a theodolite. He's brought something else, it seems.

He knocks on the door, checks to see if it's open.

It's only technically open. Elmo is sweeping up, tidying in preperation to close shop. Not too many customers out in the weather anyway. When Halgrim knocks, Elmo glances up, about to yell sorry they're closed, but realizes who it is and comes over to shoulder the door open. "Hey, pal!" he says, chipper. "C'mon in, I'm just cleaning up. Whatcha got there, somethin' else fun?"

If there's one thing that can bring a true scowl to Ambrose's face, it's the risk of imminent rain. Raised in the dry heat and rolling dunes of Basra, this city's autumnal and winter weather have always struck him as grossly unnecessary. Give him the summer's mugginess any day over this bone-weighting cold.

He sweeps up out of the relative darkness of the spaces between cones of street-lamp light, bundled in what could easily be a genuine shearling-lined jacket from World War II along with his dark fatigue pants. On his head, a black baseball cap sans any symbol. As he looks up, the surrounding light flashes red through his pupils and he slows in his brisk walk, surprised to see anyone else at the shop at this hour.

"Ah…are you still open?" he ventures to ask of Elmo across the distance of yet another dozen feet or so, not yet recognizing Halgrim by the odd reach of shop-light.

Halgrim offers the case as he steps inside. "Nothing fancy this time—I'm afraid you fixed the theodolites too well. It'll be at least March before they need repairs." Not that the department minds that one bit; if anything, they'll probably send all of them to Elmo now. They would love to only repair them once a season. "Cameras and lenses, from the art history department. A couple just need cleaning, but most of them need repairs of some form or another."

He glances behind himself as he hears another voice, steps further into the shop so Elmo can deal with this new arrival. He grimaces, chagrinned now that he's allowed yet another person to sneak in before closing. He'll just have to buy Elmo a beer.

"Cameras!" Elmo says, genuinely excited by the prospect. Then he's distracted by yet another latecomer, but this one, he recognizes by voice. "For you, yep," he says, waving Ambrose over. That doubloon bought a certain amount of loyalty. "C'mon in before it starts raining." As he often is, he's dressed in electric blue trousers and waistcoat, with a matching tie and a sunny yellow shirt. He almost glows in the dim evening storm-light. "Whatcha got for me?"

Ambrose attempts a smile towards the lanky shopkeeper, he who revived his pocketwatch from dormancy to brilliant accuracy in return for that doubloon. He then briefly reaches his brisk pace in order to slip by Elmo and into the store proper, his attention still all on the man.

"Gladly." He rolls shoulders once inside the store proper, as if to shrug off the cold clinging to him. "Perhaps you might have time to look over — " Movement in his peripheral makes him glance over at the other person in the store. He noticeably draws up and back a half-step, recognizing the man carrying his case. There's no missing his hesitation to speak, though he does after another second or two. "…good evening," he says to the professor by way of cool, polite greeting. He eyes Halgrim as a stray cat might another interloper on his turf, measuring him now that they're not on the campus proper.

Halgrim opens his coat and unravels his scarf, as it's warm enough in the shop that he doesn't need to be entirely buttoned up; it either wasn't a lecture day, or he's already been home and changed, since he's in a simple black henley shirt underneath the coat and a pair of light, faded jeans. He's turning to face Elmo, ready to describe the case's contents, when he sees just who's followed him into the shop, and comes to a halt. He tilts his head at Ambrose, and smiles, fierce and satisfied. If he had sharp teeth, they'd all be on display.

"Oh," he says. "Hello." His tone isn't unfriendly, but it's not welcoming either.

A cold shiver runs all the way up Elmo's spine when Halgrim does that. He tries not to twitch away from him, and utterly fails. Trying to cover for it, he gestures between them, waving them off from each other. "Hey, hey. Not in my shop. …You guys know each other?" Elmo's tone elevates in worry. So do his eyebrows. He looks from one man to the other.

The fine hairs on the back of the Jackal's neck rise at that particular look. Oh yes, he can sense very well that miasm of predator that tends to pluck the gut-strings. He lifts his chin towards Halgrim and allows the interior light to flash through his pupils again; they blink night-creature-red once more before returning to black. Elmo remains a presence in his peripheral as he replies in a calm, even tone,

"I suppose you could say that. Not in his shop, Professor." The reminder is lightly mocking, the same tone he used when claiming that he wouldn't dare give 'Lindesfarne' a sideways glance in Special Collections — insinuation that he's aware that Halgrim isn't entirely mortal.

The gesture brings Halgrim back to himself; he turns his attention to Elmo, sincerely apologetic. "Sorry," he says, agrees, "Not in your shop."

He huffs a laugh at Ambrose, almost genuine now that Elmo's jogged him out of being territorial. (Another wonderful side effect.) "'Suppose'?" he repeats, and with no hint of sarcasm, asides to Elmo, "He and I go way back." Raising his eyebrows, he asks Ambrose, "Don't we?"

Elmo's eyebrows are so high now he's surely going to strain something. "Huh," he says, a sound of dubious neutrality that could mean a lot of things. Probably does mean a lot of things. He shoots Halgrim a curious glance indeed, cautiously sidling back so no parts of himself are between the other two men. "I, uh, I repaired Traceur here's watch for him couple weeks ago. Piece a history, that old girl."

Ambrose gives the two men a small, somewhat forced smile as he remains where he is, a good number of feet from both and with hands jammed away in his pockets. "Yes, a goodly number of years," he agrees with Halgrim quietly. "I was…stunned to realize it." Two decades this year, in fact.

"And your expertise is the reason I intended to speak with you tonight," he continues, eyes flicking to Elmo. "I've another pocketwatch for you to look over…for a friend of mine. Your skill and professionalism impressed me. A hard thing to do." He then gives the professor another lingering look, adds, "Though I do not mind returning at another time if you are otherwise occupied, watchmaker."

Halgrim's brow furrows at the odd name Elmo uses for Ambrose, then he's thinking back to the other night in the library, in particular the watch he caught a brief glimpse of. "Ah yes, I think I've seen it. A fine timepiece."

The acknowledgment from Ambrose seems to mollify Halgrim in some way (because, of course, there is a very specific point of that shared history that's sensitive), and he relaxes, sighs. "No, it's fine. I was just dropping these off and," he cuts a glance at Elmo, "checking in to see how things are." For example, if Doug had tried anymore of his nonsense.

He sets the case on a workbench. "A couple of rangefinders, the rest are all single-lense reflex. Medium format and 35mm. A few telephoto lenses as well."

There is so much subtext going on here, and Elmo is just bad at reading any of it. He certainly has his suspicions, though. Clearing his throat, he says, "Well, you're here, let's talk business." He meets Halgrim's eyes briefly, in (he hopes) a reassuring manner. "I ain't had no trouble. Don't anticipate none, neither."

Eyeing the case and then the revelation of its contents, Ambrose lets out a short quiet sigh. Lovely cameras, all of them, so useful for documenting those rare finds. He looks back to the professor, then to Elmo, and back to Halgrim again, doing some wondering of his own, though he does volunteer,

"I am in no hurry this evening, if the items and your…issues need to be immediately addressed. I have all the time in the world." A glint of dark amusement twinkles through his expression like a whisper of wind across water because, indeed, he does. "I could look about the shop in the meanwhile." And not take anything. Maybe.

"Good," Halgrim says, nodding at Elmo. "That's good." His background level of concern drops another notch, he lets out a breath he hadn't entirely realized he was holding. He clears his throat and steps clear of the case. "No, this isn't something I need right away." He waves a hand, says to Elmo, "I can come back for them, in a week or two?" It's voiced as a suggestion; he knows that Elmo's time is always in short supply.

"Go ahead," Elmo says to Ambrose with the kind of nonchalance that only comes from having absolutely nothing valuable to steal. Indeed, the place is full of humble household appliances, a good amount of which he clearly repaired. Elmo doesn't expect Ambrose to even be interested in anything he's got here. He pops open Halgrim's case, and sighs over the camera equipment as if it's a collection of hungry puppies. "Awww. Ain't they cute?" he coos at them.

Giving the shopkeeper an almost terse little nod, Ambrose then side-eyes Halgrim only briefly as he turns to walk away from them both. He makes a show of good faith in keeping his hands inside his pockets as he meanders through, his attention wandering from each object to the next. He does, however, linger by the toasters. He's even frowning at them, as if weighing the off-chance that he really does need one for his underground lair — er, home. Toast to go along with his breakfast tea does sound nice…but they're too small to fit into his jacket. A little sigh of remorse at technological advancements, both useful and a stumbling block.

More movement in his side-sight makes him glance over to see Halgrim gesturing at him, making certain that it's known how he watches him. The master-thief slivers a smile at him, toothy back now that Elmo's not paying attention. It's all insouciant challenge, for the pique of it, and he mouths, "I wouldn't dare," even as he goes about sketching a slow and deliberate X on his jacket, overtop his heart.

Halgrim watches Ambrose begin his circuit with a narrow-eyed warning that lingers. He can't entirely hide his amusement when Ambrose crosses his heart, and gives him a sharp, approving smile of 'you'd better'. Then Elmo is addressing the cameras, and his expression clears and returns to the matter at hand. "Yes, the two rangefinders are older models, but the department head likes to teach the students how to use them since there's still plenty of them wandering around, especially in the art department." He taps a 35mm. "These have been out in the field, so you can imagine how they look inside. A few are only dirty but these two," he touches a pair that have scratches on them, "are having trouble with their mirrors and shutters, probably proper damage and not just sand."

Elmo gets his hands all over the camera parts, not aware in the least of Halgrim and Ambrose semaphoring at each other. "Yeah maybe some heat warping. S'ok, what heat can warp, heat can unwarp." Columbia U might not be paying him if they took a look at his methods. Just hand your equipment over to the mad engineer and don't look too closely at how the sausage is made. "How about a week? Two if there's no rush." He tucks the lenses back into their foam and latches the case, spiriting it away behind the repair counter. "Lemme have a look at that watch," he calls to Ambrose-Traceur.

Ambrose is definitely about to depress the tab on the toaster's handle in order to see precisely how this one works and pauses when he hears the raised voice address him. Returning his hand to his pocket, he then turns and meanders his way back across the store, very certain to keep distance and objects between himself and Halgrim. He approaches the repair counter and then pulls the pocket-watch into view. A near-silent click as he places it down, sliding it across, and then retracting his hand quickly.

This one is silver, Swiss, and definitely dates to around 1910. Applied gold decoration (in 14K beneath the watch's glass face) and 0.935 silver make it a fine-looking creation. However, there are dents in its case and as Ambrose's watch last arrived, it does not currently run. "As I mentioned before, this one belongs to a friend," the Jackal explains. "I have nothing on me for which to pay for advancement along your busy schedule, so a rough estimate as to when I should return to retrieve it will do." He gives Halgrim a side-glance, as if daring him to nose into his business.

"Two," Halgrim confirms. "No rush, and, I know you have plenty of other things going on." He steps clear of Elmo when Ambrose approaches, giving him a mild look of reproach, and moves to lean against another bench. He crosses his arms and ducks his head, looking thoughtful. He can, of course, easily hear what they're saying, but he doesn't pry by trying to peer across the distance he's placed, and otherwise seems to be thinking on something significant.

Elmo fidgets, desperately aware that Halgrim and Ambrose are passing him back and forth. It's a little intense for a humble mutant nerd. He picks up the watch when Ambrose clears out, relaxing again as he's got something to focus on. "Aww, fancy," he says, impressed. Ambrose brings him the best toys. "Little beat up, huh? No problem. Nice bit of equipment. Not so finicky as your lady. Have it done in a week." He glances up, between the other two. Reconsiders. "How about a week and a half." So there's no danger of them running into each other in his shop again.

"A week and a half," Ambrose repeats almost solemnly. "I'll hold you to your word then, watchmaker. She's not as delicate as my own, no, but my friend will be glad to have her returned from such quality care. Are you able to quote me a figure for the restoration as of now or will you know more when I return?" Markedly not at the same time as Halgrim, if his assumptions are correct for the timelines given to both himself and the professor. He shoots Halgrim another glance out of old habit; must mark where the potential predators are at all times.

Halgrim can't help but hear Elmo adjust the timeframe for the watch repair, and glances up to give Ambrose a rueful smile. It's more an acknowledgement of Elmo's reaction than anything else, though maybe there's a hint of 'expect me to check on him the next day' too. Maybe. He goes back to contemplating the floor, a distant spot on the wall, his arms. Anything to telegraph that he's waiting, but he's Not Intruding.

Elmo winces a little, then, what the hell. As long as everyone's behaving. He has the watch open on the repair counter and under the magnified light in faster than it takes to tell. "Ah, yeah, this won't be nearly so delicate," he says, eyeing the indeed very delicate gears and springs. He writes Ambrose a quote on the carbon-backed receipt paper and hands over his copy. Then gives the both of them a narrow look. "Youse guys behave yourselves. Families live around here."

Once the slip of receipt paper is left untouched, Ambrose ventures to pull it towards himself and up from the countertop to observe the total. He doesn't even flinch. "A fair charge, I would think," he murmurs to himself as he folds the piece of paper away into one of his coat pockets. "Misbehave?" His eyes rise to linger on Elmo. "I have no idea what's being referenced in your thoughts, watchmaker. I've been nothing but the epitome of polite society while present in your store." And there's not an ounce of a lie there, even if he delivers his blase response with a velvety amusement beneath.

"A week and a half then. I shall return at that time to pick her up. Good evening to you, Professor," he adds towards Halgrim, making to turn and leave the store.

Halgrim accepts Elmo's censure with a grimace and a small sigh. "I know," he says, genuinely contrite. And yet, as Ambrose moves to leave, Halgrim stands up from the bench and makes to, not precisely intercept him, but force him to come close — very close — if he wants to get to the door.

He speaks quietly, almost in a murmur, in that country German accent he picked up from Rolf, once the distance between them isn't so great. "Our understanding aside, let me be perfectly clear: if you lay one finger on him," he glances briefly at Elmo, back to Ambrose, "with *any* intent to do harm, there won't be enough of you left to fill a bucket." There's no hint of yellow in his eyes, and none of that sense of looming dread that gathers around him when he's *really* having a problem. He's just calm, and deadly serious.

Elmo mutters "Oy vey iz mir" as Halgrim goes trucking off. He makes himself really, super, very busy at the repair counter, not looking at the other men. Nope, he's not listening, not at all, and he definitely does not natively speak a German-based dialect. None of that is happening. The flush he gets when Halgrim makes his threat proves all of the above to be a lie, but he just pretends even harder.

Ack, almost — almost to the door without issue. Ambrose slides booted feet gracefully to keep what little space exists between himself and the other man, but he'll indeed have to nearly brush coats with Halgrim now. He listens with a mask of severe politeness to the terms set down and then he lifts eyebrows beneath the bill of his cap until they disappear entirely out of view.

"And what is the watchmaker to you, professor, that he would require such a threat? Or, rather, a promise?" he asks delicately in the same dialect, flowing from his tongue with the same relative ease as a decade back. "I admit, I'm honored that you consider me that much of a threat in turn. It means you are wise for your few years." He drags his eyes down Halgrim once and back up to take his measure and then hold gazes again.

"I'm glad you understand it's not an idle threat," Halgrim says, unblinking. "And what he is to me, is someone you don't get to hurt in the process of your various pursuits." He swallows, glances away. "Think of him like Ishmael, if you need a direct comparison," he says, and meets Ambrose's eyes again. Still no emotional tremors, but really, it can't be long now.

Which is probably why he steps back, allowing Ambrose unimpeded access to the door.

Elmo has a hand over his eyes, like he's getting a headache. He is, and it is named 'why is this happening'.

A good thing for Halgrim to give ground, for referencing the young and brilliant post-doc is enough to make the Jackal inhale noticeably. His eyes go briefly pinpoint and then he glowers, knife-like, at the professor, fully acknowledging that that was a well-aimed dagger to the ribs of his composure. Ever so briefly, there's the kiss of tingling on bare skin before he reels in the Bane with practiced control.

"I shall mark him as such," he says as calmly as he can manage, accent gone somewhat harsh through his German. "Consider your stance made, Professor." He then brushes past the other man to make his way to the shop door. He pauses, back to them all, and appears as if he's looking for something in his own coat's interior pockets. In English and with diction sharp enough to leave paper cuts, he says over his shoulder, "Since the watchmaker may be up late, perhaps you should buy him a cup of coffee. That's what good friends do, yes?" On a surface nearby, Ambrose then sets down five dollars in singles. A ring of the door's bell and then he's off into the night, disappearing like a wraith.

With Halgrim's wallet and its contents, minus the bills now lying in a forlorn crumpling.

Halgrim frowns at the money, confused for several seconds, then his eyes widen and he checks his coat pockets, his pants pockets…ah yes. Of course.

And since Ambrose is gone and the necessity of using every ounce of his willpower to not have the slightest reaction is removed, Halgrim lets out a shuddering breath. Anger passes over him like a wave, and as it recedes he runs both hands through his hair, uttrerly exhausted. Rain or not, someone's going to be having a night out.

"I'm sorry about that, Elmo," he says, rubs at his eyes. "I wouldn't ever presume to…dictate who you can and can't associate with. He's just dangerous." He laughs, sadly and helplessly, as he thinks over what he's just said and all it implies given *he's* the one saying it. "And I wanted him to understand that I won't tolerate him hurting you."

"I speak Yiddish, yannow," Elmo says, still flushed, hand still over his eyes. "You should probably pick somethin' not German to yell at each other in. Not Spanish, neither. Smart boys like you, ya probably know ten languages I conveniently don't." He looks at Halgrim, lowering his hand, bemused as all heck. "I didn't …I don't know anything about him. I just fixed his watch. We're not going out or nothin'." He shrugs a little, adding, embarrassed, "Thanks for lookin' out for me. I know you do."

Halgrim grunts, rubs the back of his neck. "Well, maybe he speaks Norwegian or Swedish," he mutters. Blinks, as he realizes that Elmo's just reassured him he's not dating Ambrose. "That's…good. That you're not. Because, it would probably be a dicey proposition." He sighs heavily and folds his arms, risks a look at Elmo. "You're welcome. But, I don't want to come across as," he winces, "I don't know. Some sort of overbearing motherhen. And I know you probably have, *other*, reasons," he raises his eyebrows briefly in a meaningful way, "to associate with someone like him."

He clears his throat. "I'm not going to be ridiculous and tell him to never come around here, or tell you that you should avoid him. He's probably good for business. I just wanted him entirely aware of who I care about, and the consequences he'll face if he does anything to you." He looks away. "That's all."

Elmo looks up at Halgrim from under those thick, expressive eyebrows. He tucks the watch into a pocket. "Yeah," he mumbles, uncomfortably. "Okay. Um." Elmo just stands there for a minute, at a total loss. Then, he offers, "You wanna actually get some coffee?" with a lopsided smile.

Truth be told, Halgrim could really use some, with the night he's going to have. He scoops up the money. "Yes, let's do that." He sighs, thinking of how he's going to need to put in for a new ID. And figure out how to get the pictures in his wallet back. (Or what he's going to do to Ambrose if they're gone for good.)

Well…he can worry about it later.

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