1965-10-10 - Pocketwatches and Photographs
Summary: Ambrose is here just to pick up a pocketwatch. Elmo passes on an envelope with a still-frame of the Jackal's past.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
elmo ambrose 

A surprisingly balmy afternoon for October; NYC is having an Indian summer. Lots of people are out because it's going to be one of the last few days like this before the cold rain and eventually snow settle in. Elmo is…not one of those lucky people. He's at the housewares shop, with half a dozen thick textbooks open to various places on the repair counter, muttering to himself and taking notes on a pad of graph paper. Lots of notes.

The requested time has passed since Ambrose dropped off the silver Swiss pocketwatch into the capable hands of the electrician — and of course, that bar fight — and here he is, walking up to the door of the housegoods store. He's in lighter clothing to reflect the change in temperature, a black windbreaker and an actual set of jeans rather than military-grade fatigue pants. Must not be breaking and entering any time today. He searches out Elmo as soon as he properly enters the place and gives him a wry smile.

"Rosencrantz," he says by way of greeting, brisk by tone. "How is she then?" He asks as he approaches the counter, referencing the watch. Politely, he stops on the other side, keeping his hands to himself as usual.

Elmo looks up from the pile of books and shoots a wry grin right back. "Hey, pal." He shoves a couple aside to clear a spot on the workbench. Dipping into his pocket, he produces the watch and sets it down. "She's lookin' good. Took a little longer than I thought to get all that fancy stuff cleaned up." The watch, just like Ambrose's own, is sparkling clean, ticking away industriously. "Way more surface area than you'd think."

"I trust your word on it," says Ambrose as he takes up the watch. Holding it up to the interior lighting, he looks it over. It looks veritably pristine now, with the rough and scuff of passing years professionally mediated. Flipping it open proves it to be precisely on time to boot, of course. A nod of satisfaction and he clicks it shut, looking up to Elmo with a…rather friendly, if not small smile now.

"Your work is impeccable as always, watchmaker. For your efforts," and he swaps out the silver Swiss pocketwatch for an envelope. It's slid across the counter to Elmo and when opened, contains the fee written upon last week's receipt in crisp bills and a little more yet. "A tip. I admire your skill and it deserves to be lauded as such," he explains of that little more.

Elmo, like he always does, lets Ambrose get away before he claims the envelope. His grin goes lopsided when he checks it, and he tucks it away in a pocket. "Thanks, buddy. You got fun stuff to work on. Uh, sorry about the uh, startin' a fight," he adds, with some embarrassed amusement, like he's sorry but maybe not that sorry. "Was a good time, though. We should do it again sometime."

"Another barfight?" Ambrose glances around the store as if to make sure he's hearing correctly and then gives the electrician a dubious ghost of a grin. "…I'll admit that I don't mind a good scrum or two, but believe me very seriously that I prefer something more akin to a proper scrum rather than two or three gentlemen intent on proving themselves dreadfully wrong before the inebriated public. Still…you can rest knowing that I would be present if we happened to get…involved in one again," he allows, remembering what warnings came of a conversation last held in a certain professor's office.

"Another somethin'," Elmo allows. "I got into a pretty good scrap in the M.T. over the weekend. That's Mutant Town. Got a buddy there got a gift with plants, he grows 'em packed with nutrition so kids can eat. Some pricks went over and set it on fire. Hadda throw down. Ran 'em off but now his poor garden's an ash heap." He shakes his head, mouth taut. "They coulda killed him. Anyway. No lack of scrappin' to get into around here."

"Hmm. I must be perpetually in the wrong neighborhood then," Ambrose replies thoughtfully. He frowns in consideration of this news. "That's very unfortunate to hear, however. It boggles me that his magnanimity would be treated as such, and over something as absurd as a designation. I trust those…'pricks' were taken care of, in light of their actions? Or is this something to be dealt with above and beyond the law?"

Elmo leans his elbows on the counter, looking up at Ambrose with quite a serious tilt to those expressive eyebrows. "Cops don't go into M.T. so much unless it's to rough up some muties. We take care of stuff like that ourselves. And, yannow, I got priors. I'd get picked up even though them schmucks came to us lookin' for trouble." You're kidding, someone who took up an invitation to fight with such gusto has prior arrests? "Me 'n some other guys, we hold down what we can. Hey, that reminds me." Elmo digs into yet another pocket. "So Grim gave me this to give to you." He sets down a much thinner envelope, unsealed, with just a picture in it. "Guess he figured, since you guys aren't gettin' along, and all."

Inside is a photograph of two people, probably a little under 10 years old. One is a young man of Middle Eastern extraction, handsome with a long face and hawkish nose, and a head of black curls. The other is a woman maybe five to six years the young man's senior; she has heavy, blonde hair, a round, cheerful face, and gray eyes. They've clearly been asked to look up from a book for the camera, because their expressions are mildly surprised and amused. On the back in clean, draftsman script a description reads, 'I & A Zurich 1956'

Ambrose nods in understanding. After all, he saw the same concept of sectional protection by those who lived in Shanghai those many decades back. His eyes fall, however, to the envelope now proffered to him.

"From the professor…?" It's more of a rhetorical question, given that he understands who this 'Grim' is. Giving Elmo a dubious glance, he then pulls the envelope towards himself and flicks up the flap. The gathering of brows deepens as he fishes out the contents with fingertips.

The flinch is visible. The envelope falls to the shop floor from heedless grasp even as he now holds the photograph in two hands, looking down at it with a face almost twisted in conflicting emotion. "…did he say why?" The whispered question is almost hollow as he looks up at Elmo again, his throat rising and falling in a hard swallow.

Elmo, surprised by this reaction that's more intense than anything he's seen from Ambrose, straightens up. "Nah. He didn't. Said you'd know." His gaze flits to the windows, the door; he's checking for incoming trouble, while Ambrose is incapacitated. "Who are they?" Elmo is clearly kind of dying of curiosity, but that reaction…he doesn't insist.

Ambrose is heedless of the electrician's act of ensuring their relative privacy is undisturbed. He's gone back to staring at the picture. Oh god, it is Anna-Lise, he'd know that smile anywhere — and Ishmael, with his budding joy in everything he planned to teach. His expression collapses a touch, gaining a pall of bone-deep misery barely kept in check.

"People I once knew," he replies again in that same empty whisper. "People we knew. He's paying me off," and the laugh is pained. A wipe of a hand across his mouth, but he keeps it there, as if stifling anything else. Only briefly, he's silent, and then he shakes his head sharply as if to dispel the chains of memory. "A word with him, I think." There's more strength now to his speech, as if he's properly rousing himself.

Elmo looks away. Oh, books! He can pretend to be interested in those while Ambrose gets a hold of himself. His mouth is twisted in some form of annoyance. "Yeah. Think I need to have one of those myself. Sorry. I didn't know."

"A proper act of subterfuge…" the Jackal murmurs, his mouth twisting into a sneer. He glances to the envelope on the floor and polishes a canine with tongue briefly before stooping to snatch it up, the move quick and violent and precise. Despite this, the photograph is handled with the same care he'd treat any of the antiques passing through his possession — possibly with more care than this — and he slips it into the paper casing once more. "I do not hold you in any blame. What's the old saying…don't shoot the messenger. He will take umbrage better from you than from myself as well, I think. The better that you should speak to him first. I…" Ambrose briefly closes his eyes. "…do not trust myself just yet to do so without letting my emotions get the better of me."

"Fair," Elmo says, finding his mechanical pencil to mess with while he avoids looking at Ambrose having emotions. "I'll do that. Look. Whatever history you two have…" He debates what he wants to say, tapping the pencil on the graph paper. "It ain't none of my business, but. He's a good guy. So are you."

The envelope is folded carefully as to not bend its contents and then comes the sound of the coat's zipper unfastening as Ambrose makes to put it away within an interior pocket. "'Good'." He echoes the word with a frosting of heavy disdain. "Moral relativity. Puh. I haven't been anything but selfish for many a decade. Thank you, however, for your kind words. Professor Lindqvist…yes, he is a good man at his core." Right now, the Jackal isn't inclined to argue, still reeling from the sharp slap of memory and the slow building of conclusions from the gift. A sharp sigh and he finally looks up at Elmo again, apparently having mastered the worst of his state of confliction. "If it isn't presumptive of me, I would return in another week's time to speak with you further." About what, he does not divulge.

Elmo snorts, reluctantly amused, which is an odd emotion that really works on him. He finally looks back at Ambrose, eyebrows up. "Sure. If I'm not here, I'm at the garage—that's Gearhead's, in the M.T. I'll tell the guys you might come by. Don't let 'em give you a hard time," he adds, amusement more genuine now. He flips the pencil over and over in his fingers. He really wants to ask. But he doesn't.

"Gearhead's garage," repeats the Jackal in his precise diction. "If you're not present, I shall show there. Whom shall I expect to be present? If this is a collection point for goods or for organized meetings, I would like to know before I arrive. I am not on good terms with everyone in this city." He's less than amused by this state of being, given the glower, but there's also a sense of acceptance. One doesn't make friends when stealing out from under the unsuspecting populace's noses — and no one below the middle class has anything worth stealing in the first place.

"Ah, it is," Elmo has to admit, with half a laugh, "but we actually fix cars, too. There's Vitale, loudmouth Italian guy dresses better'n me. Severin, Cajun guy, might be a cat. Nate, likes swannin' around in black leather without no shirt on. JP, Sev's brother, and my partner. You'll know him cuz he'll hit on ya." Elmo grins affectionately on JP's behalf and shrugs. "Don't slug him if you can help it, he's just like that. That's my team. We're the X-Ternals." He rubs the back of his neck, self consciously, and shrugs, like being on a mutant vigiliante team isn't important enough to make a fuss over.

Fingertips briefly rub at his eyes before Ambrose then nods, blowing a sigh. "I knew I would cross an organization like this at some point in my life… Very good. I presume, as well, that you will warn them of the possibility of my arrival? No doubt they detest surprises as much as I do." The Jackal takes all of this revelation in stride, very ready to treat it like one big business meeting between factions. It's like Shanghai all over again!

Elmo snickers at Ambrose's sigh. "It's New York City, pal. We gotta protect our people, and this is how we do it. Yeah, I'll tell 'em. Wouldn't want any misunderstandings." He pauses, eyeing Ambrose like maybe if he's careful enough, he can figure him out. "You don't go around beatin' up muties or women or kids, you got nothin' to fear from us. And we got nothing you want. Pretty sure about that." Ambrose can produce a 16th century doubloon; he is way above the X-Ternal pay grade.

"I do not deal in beatings. I've no need to kill at this time." By how he says it, he means it, especially in terms of the function of 'when'. "Still…so sure, are you? That you've nothing of interest to me?" Ambrose can muffle away the repercussions of the photo well enough to showcase a faint smirk. "Do you have me figured out so quickly then? Brash of you," he comments, stuffing his hands away into the pockets of his coat.

Elmo smirks back. "Unless you want a rebuilt transmission. That, we can do for ya." It's not an answer, and he knows it isn't. "I dunno what you got goin' on. 'Traceur.' Figure whatever it is, a buncha mutants in a garage are below your dignity." He hoists his eyebrows at him interrogatively. "So. A week?"

That lift of brows is returned almost expertly. "A week," Ambrose confirms. "That should be more than enough time for you to speak with the professor as well as for my own readying. I don't intend to make enemies of you all — not without prior reason. If there's anything I've retained over the decades, it's a sense of honor…twisted though it might seem from time to time. Below my dignity, however? No." He simply shakes his head, still wearing that very faint smile.

Elmo hmfs, folding his arms. "Good ta know," he says, not neutrally, really at all. Teasing, actually, with the same glint in his eye he had when deciding to cause trouble with the guy at the bar. "Okay. I'll look for ya then. Now get outta here, willya? I got work to do."

The smile fades away. "Indeed, you do," Ambrose says quietly. A final nod of his head, again with that odd timeless formality, and then he turns to leave. "Be well, watchmaker." That can be heard from the door before the bells jingle and he disappears out onto the street, blending once more into the crowds of the city proper.

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