1965-11-16 - Lairs, A How To
Summary: Log Summary
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Theme Song: None
ambrose elmo 

Whyever someone would be wandering around the riverside streets of Brooklyn is anyone's guess. For Ambrose, it's old and familiar territory, something he's beginning to have figured out like the rolling desert dunes of Basra and the rooftops of past Shanghai. Why shouldn't it be foggy tonight? It's cold enough that the water's breath hugs almost to the second story windows of most of the buildings and slinks beneath clothing with cold fingers. The streetlights shine down their cones of sulfurous gold and spotlight coins upon the sidewalks. A stray dog passes by on a silent quest to find the nearest open dumpster or maybe to catch a large city-rat, plumped on the detritus of New York City.

Ambrose really is simply out for a stroll tonight. He's between takes and between discussions and, with a lot on his mind, what better to way to pass the time in untangling what the hell he wants to do about what he's recently learned: that Cranston is in this city — right here, right now, and it'll take another chitchat yet with a certain Gutter Mage to suss out the final details of where to find the erstwhile man — the final X on his multi-year map-quest. He's dressed darkly and warmly, as to better be innocuous on his travels, with the odd maroon knitted stocking cap on his head. His dark hair doesn't hide away entirely beneath it. He skirts around one of the circles of light on the sidewalk and glances up from his boots. His gaze comes forwards from the near- and distant-past as he hears what could be a familiar voice. Hmm…why not see who's managed to stumble into his neighborhood at this time of night…?

The familiar voice has that New York accent, halfway up the speaker's generously-sized nose, and the unique Yiddish rise-and-fall cadence like a road laid over hills. It's an accent found nowhere else in the world, yet it manages to assail Ambrose all day every day. Who knew there were so very many Yiddish-speaking Jews in New York? It's really not the most melodious to listen to.

The voice belongs to Elmo, who is trying to keep it down. It's late, but he's leaving one of the run-down brownstones, attempting to refuse the paper grocery bag an elderly Hispanic woman is pressing on him. He's protesting in Spanish, "«No, it's okay, I don't need anything,»" and she is just not having it.

"«Take it, mijo, you are too skinny! It is all I can give to thank you. Indulge an old woman, yes?»" She smiles at him, and he bashfully smiles back.

"Well, okay," he says, in English, and takes the bag.

"«You are a good boy. Be careful out there, it is dangerous.»" She vanishes back into the battered old brownstone.

Elmo sighs, very aware that he lost that one, and runs a hand over his frizzing hair.

Ambrose pokes his head around the corner of the nearby end of the street, where the architecture of the building denotes the right-angle turn of sidewalk. Literally pokes his head around the corner, visible only accompanied by the round of one shoulder. His eyes widen a touch in recognition and then narrow into something thoughtful…and sly. Once he's certain that the door to the old brownstone house is firmly shut, he walks into view. The fog is thinner here, at this part of town, so he's a silhouette until about twenty feet or so when he steps under one of the streetlights. The master-thief pauses at this distance and remains there in plain view. His refined voice carries well enough, warm against the cold of the night and rounded through specific vowels as it always is.

"Master watchmaker. I never expected to find you in my neighborhood. What are you doing out here?" And so alone, he seems to add in unspoken implication given the subtle tilt of his head and thin smile.

Elmo jogs down the steps, doing up the buttons of his long, brilliant-blue coat with one hand. He's fully absorbed in that, and balancing the grocery bag, and not letting his waxed canvas satchel swing around too wildly—and he jumps when Ambrose speaks. A crackle of static grounds on some bit of metal nearby.

"Jesus!" Eyes wide, Elmo stares at Ambrose, running rapid calculations about whether he needs to fight or not. He sags in relief when they all come out to 'no'. "For fuck's sake, scare a guy," he grumbles. "Your neighborhood, whaddaya mean your neighborhood. Buddy, your neighborhood's three thousand miles east." He goes back to buttoning up his coat against the chilly fog.

The Jackal chuckles indulgently as he then ambles up along the sidewalk, hands in the pockets of his coats. Little puffs of silver are left in his wake and proof of his state of warm life against the dank night surrounding them. He can smell the ozone in the air and a touch of burnt surface — some small bit of trash is charred, but not set alight.

"I claim it loosely, watchmaker, have no fear… I am not its protector in any way except in the case of my own interests." Other thieves, beware, his interests only radiate out from here and comprise the entirety of New York. "That distant city you speak of is what Americans call my 'home town'. That…is indeed my neighborhood." He continues approaching until a polite arm's length away and stops once more, his regard traveling up and down Elmo. "Running errands then? Benevolent work for the betterment of mankind?"

A flush creeps up Elmo's neck as Ambrose gives him a looking-over. He flips the collar of his jacket up and tugs it close, to hide it. "These old houses, they were built in the thirties," he mutters. "Pre-code. Ain't never been updated. They used aluminum-copper in some of 'em, but mostly aluminum. Stuff's no good, causes shortages, it gets brittle, breaks. People living here got no way to pay for replacements. I do it when I can. So yeah, I guess you could say that, if you wanted to be a dick about it." He hefts the bag with a flat look at Ambrose. "You wanna tamale?"

The old brownstone is given a mildly surprise glance by the Jackal. "Hmm. I'd no idea they did such a shoddy job initially in building these houses, but I suppose I'm not terribly surprised. One must use what resources one has when few are available." There's a subtle inflection to the sentence even as his eyes slide back to Elmo again. He considers the bag and gives a small shrug. "If you're offering truly and not out of trite amusement, then yes. I don't find tamales to be terrible things. Have you someplace further to be this evening then? I would speak to you, if I could."

Ambrose asks politely enough, but there's an undercurrent of steely implication that he'd rather have Elmo agree than conveniently find somewhere else to be.

"Shorts cause fires all the damn time in these old guys," Elmo says, waving at the row of brownstones, his tone ratcheting up a notch. "One fire in the wall starts, everything's going up, some of those walls are stuffed with newspaper for warmth. Kills people. All for want of some insulated copper and someone willing to install it to code. Eh," he interrupts himself, "you don't care. Yeah, I'm offerin', may as well before my team eats 'em all, buncha jackals." Just a little fond shit-talking, in the Yiddish way. He hikes his eyebrows at Ambrose, curious, wary. "Okay," he says, cautiously. "What, did JP hit on you?"

"….no, Jean-Pierre did not presume to flirt with me," he replies after a moment of consideration. He lets the jackal comment slide without address, though it does earn a continued mildly-sardonic lift of an eyebrow. "Come. There is a place where we can speak uninterrupted. If you linger here long enough, I guarantee you someone will find a reason to interject into a conversation between two gentlemen this late at night. Who knows? We could be up to no good." He dances through the last sentence with a dry musicality in his voice. He literally crooks a finger at the watchmaker as he turns, giving the young man a thin half-smile as he does so. Bait's set. Now all it'll take is standard human curiosity to encourage Elmo to follow. Ambrose is aware he's mysterious enough.

Elmo snorts in reluctant amusement. "Hey, pal, speak for yourself. I'm just out here bettering mankind." Those expressive eyebrows go up further when Ambrose outright lures him, and yep, he follows. It's too easy, really. Ambrose is a mystery who has fired his imagination more than once, and Elmo is a man eager to stick that big nose of his into all kinds of places it doesn't belong.

Like one great big alleycat — this close to purring at his success — Ambrose then leads the way back to the corner and across the street. "Follow me then, watchmaker. Stay close as well. I don't mean to lose track of you this close to the river. Not everything that haunts this neighborhood is as magnanimous as myself…" A glance back over his shoulder flashes ruby-red through his pupils, but otherwise, he's simply a guy walking home through an interesting part of town.

It's not long before it's obvious that he is, in fact, leading them down towards the river. The glint of the serpentine surface can be seen between the rise of buildings even through the mist. "We'll speak in my office," the Jackal says after those few minutes of esoterically companionable silence. "And enjoy a tamale or too, providing they're still hot."

Elmo has something of an alley cat about him, as well. He's nervy and scrappy. His pace is brisk and businesslike, his attention pulled here or there as he goes. The gloom and fog makes otherwise everyday things take unfamiliar shapes.

"You're sweet," he says, dry, "but you don't gotta worry about me. I got more tricks in my bag." He pats the satchel affectionately. "You ain't seen nothin' of what I can do."

It's wet and cold as they get closer to the river. Elmo says so, with an air of well-worn complaint. "Christ, it's like breathing cold soup." He glances at Ambrose with sudden sparked interest. "Yeah? Lead the way."

"The fog does cling in the winter." Ambrose rolls shoulders beneath his heavy coat. "I'd complain of thin blood if it weren't so. A preference for the heat of the desert is entrenched in me regardless." They round the corner along one of the streets closest to the waterfront. Here, old docks line the street on the opposite side of the worn-out faces of the buildings. It used to be a booming portion of the neighborhood, but now with easier access farther down and the usual change that comes of a large city, it's all but abandoned — entirely to the Jackal's liking. "I'd rather that I have a legitimate reason to see your antics on full display than young ruffians attempting to part us of our wallets. They would regret it one way or another." He pauses briefly to scan his surroundings. Nope. No one lingering, just as he'd have it.

"Here — and stay close," the lead in travels says quietly as he turns to approach a battered door. It used to be a merchant's office, so he wasn't pulling anyone's leg when he used the phrase earlier. Inside, the wear and tear of time and weather is apparent. Rusted filing cabinets, soggy old newspapers, and in places, the roof is beginning to leak in earnest. Puddles on the floor of the wider space beyond the initial front room speak to the architecture weakening. "Pay no mind to the mess." Over to the corner and to the bookshelf that slides to one side, a la every spy novel EVER — enjoy that one, oh curious Elmo. Down the hallway and through the small room of barrels and then…into the lair of the Jackal. He reaches over and flicks a switch. Electrical light floods the place from overhead bulbs, not as bright as they once were, but more than enough to see clearly.

The entire ground floor is available to view. Apparently, he's turned an old basement for making bootleg liquor into a semblance of home. It's warm down here, with that fire inset to the wall going and somehow not smoking out the place. Ambrose shucks his coat even as he steps into the broad and open space, headed for a small table near to the makeshift hearth. "Please, take a seat." There's only one chair at the table, so apparently, the brunet is going to stand. He slings his coat on a nearby old plush chair before looking to Elmo again. "Would you like something to drink? I'm afraid I don't have any refrigerator, but I do have a barrel of whiskey on tap. There is also wine, if you'd rather a red to go with the tamales. I'd hazard it would be a match in taste."

Enjoy it Elmo does! He obeys Ambrose without question, maybe sensing the Jackal isn't having him on, or maybe Elmo is just that dying to know more. Either way, he sticks to Ambrose's heels like someone who knows how to do it, his steel-toe workboots quick and quiet on the concrete.

In the office, he winces at the dead light socket hanging from the ceiling, with water everywhere. "Damn fire hazard," he mutters. Then Ambrose pushes aside the bookcase. Elmo's black, bright eyes widen in delight. "Look at that," he breathes as they slip through into the downbelow. "Wow. Oh man, this is one of those hideouts from Prohibition, ain't it?" Instinctively he keeps his voice low until they're in the lair (it is totally a lair) proper.

He's grinning with absolute glee by the time they arrive 'home'. "This is gevaldik as anything. You live in a speakeasy? This is the funnest thing I've done for weeks, aside from helpin' JP ride a dinosaur and passing out candy to a million little mutant kids." Elmo sets the grocery bag on the table and pulls out several tamales, wrapped in their corn husks. They're damp with condensed steam, still warm. "Wine sounds great."

Ambrose has been on the earth long enough to only give his guest a brief bemused look in regards to the dinosaur. His steps then resume at pace and over to one of the corners. A collection of wine bottles sits in a rack against the wall and he lingers there, brushing a fingertip over each one in turn — almost eenie-meenie-minie-moe, but with some forethought. "Ah, yes, a table red from '48. French," he murmurs to himself as he pulls the bottle in question. He blows a little dust from it before meandering back over. The firelight, just bright enough to override the overhead lighting, plays off the pale-grey of his thermal long-sleeve and then at the butterfly knife he pulls with practiced ease from a sheath at his belt. "I'm sure that I've got a glass somewhere here…" he mutters just loud enough for Elmo to hear as he works at the cork. THUNK — out it comes with a deft twist of the blade. "We'll let it breathe a bit, I think… You're welcome to nose it and let me know what you think. I don't profess myself a sommelier; rather I hedge on life experience." And a lot of it.

He meanders away over to a small sink beside a set of cupboards and frowns as he looks through them. "Ah." Out comes a wine glass. A single one. He makes a point of wiping it out with a clean cloth hanging over the open-bottomed sink, with all its piping exposed, and then walks back over to place it on the table. "Please, pour what you wish. I'll drink from the bottle itself. I don't stand particularly on manners," and he shrugs. "No need to in a place like this. Yes, it was at one point in time a collection point for the barrels you saw back in the hallway. It was profitable during its heyday, I'm sure, but I was not present for it. I was in Asia at the time," he explains with a lazy resting of hip on the table.

"Our dinosaur. It's animatronic." Elmo blithely uses a word invented in the last year or so, imported from California where some guy named Walt Disney came up with it. "I stole her from the World's Fair exhibit with a bunch of 'em. We're souping her up, I'm hopin' to get her to clock 80 on the straight." He waves his nonsense away, dismissing the entire idea. "Ferget it, I know nobody really wants to listen to me talk about robots."

He matches Ambrose's posture, hip cocked on the table, not sitting. "Forty eight?" he says, that curiosity beaming through as he watches him open the wine. With a lot of interest, actually, the way Ambrose handles the bottle and the knife and the way he manages it. Black eyes follow Ambrose around as he putters. "Wine's almost older'n me. Fft, please, I don't know anything about wine. Tastes good, I like it, that's what I know." Elmo takes the glass with a mutter of thanks and pours it mostly full, before setting the bottle down. "…It smells amazing," he adds, a little surprised by how amazing it smells. "Sure is a pretty color. I got a suit that color."

He lets it breathe, as instructed, picking up a tamale and unfolding the husk wrapper enough to bite into it like a cat attempting to bite a favorite toy to death. His eyebrows go up again, and he swallows. "In the 20s? You were in Asia?" Elmo's now the one giving Ambrose a look up and then down.

Slowly, like the rise of a sun, a knowing smile splits Ambrose's lips to a degree. It's just shy of teasing as he continues lean-sitting on the table as he is. He knows full well how youthful he looks despite the potential math of passed years, still athletic and blessed of countenance (as the Monster likes to joke). A hand appears from folded arms and lifts as a shrug. "I was indeed in Asia during that time period, and for a good number of years. I might as well be candid with you, given the way word travels in this city and between comrades." Cough, professor, cough. "I am eighty-six this year, courtesy of a placing foot where no British boot should have been. The ancient peoples of the desert have a twisted sense of humor." His smile grows briefly venomous, twisting it nearly to a sneer, before he seems to settle ruffled feathers and it becomes a blase thin curve once more. "We shall return to my exploits in Asia later in our discussion, I'm certain — and I would hear more of this 'animatronic' dinosaur of yours — but for now, no doubt you're curious. Please. Ask me what you will. I will grant you a period of questioning in which I shall endeavor to continue my candid half of our tete-a-tete."

He then takes up the bottle of red and sniffs at it. "Mmm, yes, I believe this to be a fine choice to pair up with this repast." And then he takes a slug out of it. A thoughtful frown and he then licks his lips slowly, looking somewhere beyond Elmo briefly. "Yes, delightful indeed," he murmurs, "Just enough oak to give it a bite."

Elmo draws back a little, those eyebrows tilted down over eyes gone narrowed. "…This, why should you tell me?" He's tense suddenly, wary as a mongoose approaching a cobra. Elmo doesn't drop the tamale and run, but he sure looks like he's thinking about it. A static tension grows in the air. "I am an ancient peoples of the desert, and buddy lemme tell you, you're right. So don't mess with me, yeah?"

The Jackal glances around his person as if attempting to see what his other senses register. He lifts a hand after licking the pad of his free thumb and rubbing it to wet fingers, as one might test the wind. It feels like an incoming storm.

"That is a trick," he comments with a wry little smile that then fades. "Young cockerel, settle your feathers," replies Ambrose evenly as he sets the bottle aside on the table. "I've no interest in bringing harm upon your person in any manner. It would not be conducive to conversation, much less my continued ease of existence within this city." He holds Elmo's eyes fearlessly. "I'll also inform you that while I am not interested in harm coming to my person, I am also not one to challenge without forethought. I ruled Shanghai's underworld in those few years I spent running its rooftops. Tonight, I wish to speak. It is as simple as that. I have offered you shelter from the elements, drink to slake your thirst, and the opportunity to indulge your curiosity in exchange for a single question of my own. I do not do this often. Please, do not make me regret my decision to be the honorable host rather than heavy-handed in my approach."

A subtle tilt of his head and again, the gleam of nightshine-red slips through his pupils. "I do not mean insult towards your people. I speak of a civilization that existed far before if not in coinciding times. Babylonia. Mesopotamia. Assyria. Those most archaic of societies that linger only in their hard-goods — the main scope of my work. Why I tell you of my true age is twofold: I said I would be candid with you. And secondly, because you should be aware of whom you're dealing with. As I'm sure you can imagine, my immortal life-span does have an affect on my reality around me."

Elmo's eyebrows, those barometers of his emotional pressure, lift from the scowl as Ambrose talks. He drops his eyes, though, uncomfortable with the prolonged contact. Instead his gaze focuses somewhere around Ambrose's knee. He nods, listening. The sense of electrical tension, like everything is gaining a negative polarity just aching to pull in positive, sinks away.

"Okaaayyyy," he says, drawing it out skeptically. "Okay. If we're bein' candid, lemme ask this first. Are you planning on sleeping with me?" Now he looks back up for that eye contact, so he can gauge the reaction he gets.

Ambrose lets out a slow and silent sigh once he feels the atmosphere shift once more into neutrality, both electrically and figuratively. He has successfully defused the situation, huzzah (electrician puns for the win, writer note) as well as spared himself from potential treeing by one feathered wolf. Whew. Still, his own eyebrows begin to rise at the dubiety on display. And what a question to ask.

Those dark brows nearly disappear into his hairline. The Jackal seems honestly taken-aback, translucent in his surprise. He then frowns, as if attempting to remember something, and his eyes skitter away off to one side, towards the fireplace. He then snaps his fingers as if coming to a conclusion and chuckles again lightly. "Bloody hell, I've given that impression, haven't I. I forget about society's nuances in regards to romance when I've slipped into single-minded focus, don't I." He regards Elmo again and there's a slow, contemplative manner to how that very regard makes its way down the other man's body once more, noting things here and there by the microtells in expression. Back up to his face, equally lingering at speed, and then he smiles to himself. "Candid, right." A hint of rue. "You would not appreciate my attempt to do so, if I did intend on such a thing. What you experienced before, when you held my hand, was carefully controlled. Emotions make things haphazard. As you can imagine, you would not survive any attempt. Thus, I do not think you'd find my touch appealing and do not intend to court you." A little tilt of his head. "No small wonder you find yourself comfortable around Lindqvist." He doesn't sound judgmental, merely thoughtful. "Does that answer your question? Do you have others?"

Elmo huffs a nervous little laugh, blushing deeply. Ambrose studying his body with such unhurried interest—oh, man. That's not helping make Ambrose's case. His face is mobile and full of emotions that he doesn't know what to do with. Elmo's body language is painfully obvious. Anxious, worried, attitudinous, ready to fight or flee. His form is mostly hidden under the button-down shirt and waistcoat and long coat he wears, but it's clear enough that he's skinny as a whippet. Lanky in his own miniature way, with oversized hands and feet and schnozz. Odd looking little guy.

"Yeah, uh, a handsome guy gives me the eye, invites me to his place, gives me wine and starts telling me about himself?" Elmo glances briefly up with a quirk of his mouth that's not quite a smile. "Usually means, you know. Something." He shreds the corn husk in neat, meticulous rows. "Okay. I sorta figured, with the touchin'. If you knocked me out like that just touching your hand…" he flips his own hand over. "More contact seems like it'd just be that much worse."

He clears his throat, still beet red. "Okay. Good. Now we got that cleared up. I mean, I got a million questions. You lived through two World Wars, yannow? That's badass. What was that like? Why are you in New York, instead of in England or wherever else you actually want to be? What are you doing, what's your aim here? What's going on between you and Grim? Why you livin' here without hardly a damn thing?" As Elmo gets going, he REALLY gets going, leaning forward, caution forgotten, gesticulating with his wire-scarred big hands. "I can pump up the juice in here, you could run a toaster oven, it's a damn crime to go without hardly nothin'. Or you could go live in a real house or something, why don't you?"

Questions, oh the questions! Elmo halts abruptly mid-flow, catching up with something else Ambrose said, eyebrows popping up. "Comfortable with Grim? Well, my whole team's queer, except for Nate. Lotsa my friends, too. It ain't that he's queer. It's that he gets it."

Ask and he shall receive. With the amount of hand motions present before him, one can see Ambrose trying to visually track both the decreasing distance between himself and his guest as well as attempt to lean away from the enthusiasm on display. His smile is crooked, bemused, again a touch rueful — he's opened a can of worms with that four words alone.

"Yes, I did hazard that you were fae by your question. Thank you kindly for the compliment, I have been told that I'm not a terrible sight." His smile deepens until dimples flash briefly and then away it goes, like a weapon sheathed. He grabs up the wine bottle once more and tilts it back. A finger upheld — glug-glug-glug-glug…glug-glug-glug — yeah, that's about a glass and a half in one go. Sighing and licking at his lips as he comes up for air, the green glass vessel is set aside out of reach of being knocked over by a sweeping arm. "Alright, so…eh-heh," he pauses with a huff of a laugh to scratch at his jawline, dark with five-o-clock shadow. "I owe you a good number of answers, so…let us…work through them." Man, being candid SUCKS, why did he agree to this?! …answer. He wants that answer. And secretly to spite Halgrim by having a tame conversation, of course.

"The Wars were a bloody disaster. I did not see much of World War I. I was stationed as lieutenant of Her Majesty's Army in Basra and left behind. That I did not see action did not mean I was left without a reason to rue my own existence. Ah…this feeds in a number of your questions now," he asides almost morosely. "You ask why I live here and as I do. At any moment in time, I may need to leave everything but what I consider most precious to me. That I live without the modern comforts is no loss. I have drink, I have food, I can afford both at any time, and I have my privacy. I have lived long enough to become jaded as to the proposed necessities of life. Don't count me out as the hedonists, I assure you, I indulge as I can in what I appreciate." A ghost of dimples and he looks over at the fire now. "I live alone because it is best for all involved. Attachments wither like the grass in winter in my presence. I am cursed, watchmaker, to kill all that I touch. Even now, my curse sips at you. You do not feel it because I am very carefully keeping a finger to its pulse. I need not touch to kill." He delivers this information in monotone. "You are not under immediate threat, however, let me make that painfully clear." His next glance is harder, almost glinting. "Do not go reporting the falsehood that I threatened you in any manner."

That edict being given, he continues in that same low tone, looking back to the flickering flames in their inset fireplace. "After I left Shanghai, I spent nearing on a decade in India. I grew bored with what I could learn of humanity there and heard tell of persecution in my own backyard. I do not remember most of World War II. I remember blood. Blood and screaming. Indulging my curse until it was glutted and more. I believe the commander's name was Rommel. He regretted bringing his Panzer tanks against the Desert Rats. I cannot claim single-handed effort in the demise of the Nazis, but I cut my way through them like a scythe through wheat." A hand clenches tightly shut to whiten knuckles and and is then forced to relaxation. "I am not at peace with what I did, however. I killed old and young alike, men barely out of their mother's arms who begged. I denied them a chance to become prisoners of war and recant. I saw an insignia and I saw red. 'Five-Stripe', the locals called me, after the Deathstalker scorpion. I took to wearing the bars across the back of my hands in grease-paint. I reapplied them nightly." He's a thousand miles away by his gaze now, lost to the embers of the logs.

"I spent some time afterwards recovering those artifacts and antiques of the Fertile Crescent that had been lost to the Nazi attempt to claim what was not theirs to take. I met your Lindqvist then," and he gives Elmo a sly half-smile in passing. "He was young and as hot-headed as ever. I gave him no end of grief in making certain antiques disappear from under his nose and that of the MFAA. We have known each other long than you would expect." Here he pauses if simply to snag the wine bottle. Another few sips.

Elmo pulls a little arrangement of metal out of one pocket and listens eagerly, flipping it over and over in his fingers. He only occasionally glances at Ambrose's face. Mostly he's staring at the fire with such intensity it could easily be mistaken for ignoring Ambrose, while he's fiddling with the metal object at high speed. The Jackal, though, can read him. No ignoring going on here. Elmo just has a…rather different way of listening. Most people will look into the speaker's eyes and hold still; not him.

He does look at Ambrose sharply at one point, though. "Hey, listen, I'm no snitch, okay? First of all, you ain't done nothin' to me, nothin' irreversible. Second, Grim's not my goddamn parole officer. I didn't tell him that I let you test out your powers on me, and I'm not gonna. It ain't his business. Third, I ain't no snitch! Capische?" There's a word straight out of Vitale's mouth.

Ambrose gives the young man a wry side-glance with the bottle still pressed to his lips. A swallow after he pulls it away and he curls his tongue briefly at the corner of his mouth. "I did not call you a 'snitch', watchmaker, bloody christ. Thank you for your caution. I'd rather not suffer his ire simply because I indulged someone's curiosity." Away goes the wine and he pushes it a touch farther away from his person on the table by a stretch of fingers. "By all means, remind him that I do not live to make his life difficult. If I did, he'd be ruing the day we crossed paths all those years back." His snicker isn't kind, but he relents with a little shake of his head.

"You asked too what is going on between us. I would diplomatically call it…a settling of differences. An attempt to find an easy coexistence in this city. My interests run counter to his in morality and counter to those of his collective in the more basic concept of territory. That feathered wolf creature who is…not him, but him," and the Jackal waves a hand dismissively at that total mind-fuck he's still filing away. "Yes, we have met. Yes, she is not something I would dare cross without great preparation. No doubt you're wondering if there is attraction." The brunet rubs briefly at his neck, grimacing, trying to find the way to define his thoughts. "The best way to explain it is indulgence. He indulges my idiosyncrasies. We understand one another on a preternaturally human plane. He is not afraid to have me in his presence, even knowing that I am a risk. It is a kindness I find so rarely that I cannot resist it." A shrug; that's apparently the best he can do. "I expect him to tire of me one day and I shall endeavor to continue on without that kindness."

Then comes the deep inhale and he visibly seems to center himself. His eyes slide back to Elmo and his small metal part. "If you've no other questions, then my answer to 'why' I am currently entrenched in New York City will lead into my own question."

Elmo drops his gaze to his little metal toy, turning it over and over in his long calloused fingers. "I thought the picture thing was kinda mean," he says quietly. "I told him so. Just because you're a prick don't mean you deserve to get your heart broken." Another soft chuckle. "Yeah. Grim's like that. He's an amazing guy. Wouldn't count on him getting sick of you though. He ain't got sick of me, or Vitale, or Jeb, and we're all incredibly annoying."

He does look up, though, when Ambrose concludes. "I just got ten more questions for every one I asked." Now the tug of his mouth is a smile, lopsided and wry. "About you running Shanghai. About you killin' Nazis, which I probably don't need to tell you I'm happy about. Thanks for that, by the way. On behalf of every Jew in New York, thanks for that. So…maybe sometime you could tell me more?" The eyebrows go up, half pleading.

Ambrose's eyes slide off to one side. "…I suppose," he relents after a half-minute of consideration. "It does keep my memory keen to recall such things." It sounds like he'll need to convince himself of the benign state of new interest in his person, but that's no judgment upon Elmo. After all, the Jackal did crook a finger and figure heavily on the curious streak in the young man. "If I cannot remember, then you'll need to use your imagination, perhaps. Either that, or speaking in passing with Lindqvist will jog it and then you'll be entertained, I'm sure."

Yet another sign of deep-seated concern, in how he clears his throat and momentarily fists up a wad of his fatigue pants before releasing the fabric. He can't quite look at Elmo directly as he asks, but towards the end, he locks gazes with the watchmaker. "My question of you, in return, is do you know Lamont Cranston?"

"He's not my Lindqvist, by the way," Elmo says, somewhat amused, somewhat annoyed. He's almost about to say more but—the question Ambrose has for him surprises him. "Lamont? Yeah, I know him." He says it easily, without noticing how fidgety Ambrose is, suddenly. "What about him?"


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As if metal struck by a bat, the brunet seems to literally resonate in place. Ambrose does pale well, given his heritage, and then his cheekbones flush. His eyes go pinpoint and bright, pupils nearly continuous red. So much for Halgrim's advice on remaining cool as a cucumber. Maybe it's the ease of which Elmo delivers his reply?

Regardless, that is a stifled sound of frustration chuffing forth from bared teeth at the corner of one side of his mouth — and then the Jackal takes up two large handfuls of the watchmaker's coat in order to shake him like he was a maraca. "And you are telling me this just now?! You BLOODY FUCKING PRICK, I can't trust ANY OF YOU — all of you know him and NONE OF YOU FUCKING BASTARDS PIPED UP ONE GODDAMN NOTE!!!" He lifts Elmo literally off the floor, nearly nose to nose with him, breathing like a winded bull. "Who else?! WHO ELSE KNOWS OF HIM, ROSENCRANTZ?!"


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Elmo yelps and thrashes like a wounded snake, skinny body flailing. "Got farshiltn es! Shteln mir arop, putz, the fuck are you doing!!"

Whiiiiiiine… POP! Electricity flares and bites Ambrose's hand as savage as weasels. That's painful! The lights glow hot, hot, hotter, sizzling the dust right off themselves before first one cracks, then another, then POW POW POW POW POW! right down the line.


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"OW!" Having wrapped a firm grip around an electrical fence because at times, the Jackal is a general masochist, he's not unfamiliar with the pain of sudden volts surging into his person. Elmo is immediately dropped and he shakes out his numbed and tingling hands even as he stumbles back a dozen feet or so, towards the sink and cupboard. He winces as yet another bulb in the overhead run of lights explodes and shatters down old glass down upon them. "Bloody fucking hell, STOP! Stop!!!! Stop, no, FINE. Fine. Fiiiiinnnnne…." he elongates in something very close to a snarling purr. "Fine." Rarely has so much been implied in a single word, down to restraint tested to a humming tension.

"I…have overstepped my bounds. That was not my intent. My temper…escaped me. Please, do not go," Ambrose stresses now with the first inklings of hopeless entreaty in his voice. The cold reserve begins to melt even as his throat bobbles. Hands are held outwards towards Elmo in the age-old gesture of chary peace as he mostly straightens from his reflexive crouch. "Please. I need to know where he is."

Elmo lands and stumbles and immediately catches himself with one hand on the concrete. His hair is wild, crackling with electricity, and so are his eyes. Sparks drip from his fingertips, hissing black scorch marks into the floor. The short little mutant is seething with lightning that's begging to be unleashed.

So that's why he's so fearless.

"God…fucking…DAMMIT," he snarls at Ambrose, lips curled away from his teeth. "YOU fuckin' brought me here!" He stands up, hands splayed wide rather than clenched, but it's a clear enough threat, given his power. "What the fuck! What'd Lamont ever do to you? I'm not gonna help you hurt him!"


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The master-thief jerks back as if one of those licking lightning threads had reached him. "Yes. Yes, I did offer a place to speak, you bloody clueless little cockerel! What, did you suspect it would be the coziest of bakeries, with a matronly woman of large weight and gentle mien pouring us both coffee and tut-tutting over the fact that we haven't yet finished our tartlets?! I did not make you follow me," he snarls back with a pointed finger — though not far from his person, as not to tempt the electricity he sees on full display. He keeps the Bane in careful check regardless. What pain he's enduring in his hands is something he brought on himself. Healing will come of its own accord, slowly or likely later on of his own devising. A rat's worth of life-energy will be required with how the Bane does its work.

Ambrose shudders again and then turns on the spot to kick at the single chair tucked beneath the table. It clatters across the room even as he throws up his hands and continues to pace away from Elmo. Space. Space is safety. "I am not going to hurt him." His voice is so tight as to nearly be unheard. Turning on the spot, he tries for dignity; it's a thing of shambles. "I just want to speak with him," he enunciates with careful effort. "He has done nothing wrong. I have been…." He fights to keep talking against long-ingrained habits. "I have been searching for him for nearly fifty years. Fuck it, Lindqvist will tell you if I don't. Fucking candid chitchat," he spits at himself, running a hand backwards through his hair and then wincing. Owwww. "He was my lover. In Shanghai."

"Go shit on the ocean! I hope all your teeth fall out, except for one, and in that one, may you have a toothache!" Elmo screams Yiddish curses at Ambrose in English, to make sure he can really appreciate what he's got to tell him.

But when Ambrose drops that bomb, he stops. The seething sparks shut off as if from a faucet. "He…you…." Elmo blinks owlishly at him. "…Oh." He sags against the table, his chest heaving as he breathes hard and fast. "You, uh, you coulda just said so," he mutters, shamefaced.

"Let me make something clear, watchmaker. No. I could not have, not before I took your measure. If you had an inkling of an idea of what I dealt with during our years together, you would realize that I am more leery than Judas near a gibbet about bringing him up in conjunction with my person." Ambrose dares a few steps back towards the young mutant, seeing that the visible electricity has disappeared from immediate sensing. "You said that you know him. Where is he? In this city? I have tracked him here, but he's a ruddy wily bastard." The brunet stops and runs a hand down his face, momentarily giving Elmo a weary look before he lets his palm drop. "He always has been, even moreso than myself."

Elmo's long hair is floating freely, giving him a look of the classic pulp fiction mad scientist. He runs a hand over it, gathering up charge to flick off into a pop of harmless discharge. Hitching one thin shoulder, he mutters, "I guess that's fair."

He reaches for the wineglass, which has lost some of its level, but hey, beggars, choosers. He takes a gulp, too fast, and grimaces. "Yeah. He's here in New York City. Rich neighborhood. Got a huge mansion." Elmo hesitates. "Uh. I dunno how much I oughta tell you about him. You…probably know he's a private kind of guy. I don't know that much anyway."

His hands clutch tightly closed at his sides briefly as he gives Elmo a cold look devoid of humanity. Just as quickly as the wane glow of one remaining overhead light winks through his gaze, the expression is gone again, replaced by the stubborn tenacity of a man accepting that he won't get another step further in his quest at this time — that he must take what gifts he has been offered and be grateful for them even if the back of his tongue tastes like metal and acid.

"You know enough," Ambrose says quietly. "You are the second person to confirm that he exists here and to hear this confirmation is…breathtaking in its way. One testimony is chance, but a second is near-certainty. There aren't that many neighborhoods bearing the definition of rich. I know where he got his gains anyhow, so…" A small shrug, his eyes flicking to the fire again. He walks over and takes up the fire-poker to prod at the logs. Light and heat increases right off the bat and he sets aside the implement, not once moving it in any manner other than its use. "I'll keep searching as I have been." He turns around, backlit by the flames. "I am sorry, Rosencrantz. I have been a poor host at best…and I didn't even attempt to enjoy a bloody tamale." His gaze falls to the food lying forlornly on the table and he sighs in true remorse.

Elmo can't hide that he tenses up when Ambrose picks up the poker. But he doesn't summon lightning again, holding it down with a will. He clears his throat, nervously. "I'll…tell ya where. He's got wards, because of—of his library."

He laughs in a single breath at Ambrose's forlorn look. Yes, we mourn the loss of our tamales.

"It's, uhm, it's okay," he says, awkward and halting as a newborn colt. "You're, uh, pretty obviously crazy about him. I'd be the same way, if it was JP I had to find, hadn't seen him in decades, some guy tells me sure he knows 'im, what's the big deal. I'm…sorry I lost it. You scared me real good."

A pale version of the early charming curl of lips appears on Ambrose again. "I'm not about to go about pretending that I didn't intend to rattle your teeth from your skull for your…what I mistook to be an intentional lack of care," he amends. "And I am now aware of the extent to which you can return the crack of my glove, as it were." He squints briefly as if to imply, I know there's potentially more, don't you worry. A hand upheld and a slow approach bodes no unkindness from the man as he then reaches out to touch one of the tamales. Lukewarm at best, but he will apparently take one up regardless.

"I do not require that you tell me where, but…" A heavy sigh from the depths of his chest and he plucks at a thin layer of corn husk. "Bloody christ, it would save me time. I know I have all of this in the world, but…goddamnit. I may have gone veritably crazy for him at this point. Fifty-odd years…who knows if it's not a psychopathy at this point."

A smirk twists Elmo's lips. It's an expression that promises boatloads of trouble like electric potential. "Pal, I wouldn'ta followed you into your creepy-ass subterranean lair if I didn't think I could handle ya. So we all learned somethin' today." He eyes Ambrose, not without compassion. No pity, but feeling. Maybe he's thinking about how he'd feel if it was JP he was separated from for fifty years.

It's that empathy that spurs him to say, "I'll tell ya even though it's not smart of me. For all I know, you're out to steal—his library, too." He shakes his head. "I don't really think that." Elmo risks a moment of eye contact, and what he really thinks comes across almost as clear as telepathy: he's convinced Ambrose is in love. "Besides. He can handle you, too. And if he can't, the Sorcerer Supreme can." That's a warning.

Only for that brief second, though, before he's looking away and fussing with his tie. It's been pulled out of its lightning-bolt tie bar by Ambrose roughing him up. (Guess why he has THAT.) Now he goes so far as to unbutton his collar, flip it up, undo his tie, line up the ends, redo it, fuss with the knot, and finally button his collar back down and slide the tie bar on. He smooths the tie end down into his waistcoat. All this happens with the air of a cat grooming, meticulous and clearly the most important thing in the world.

"I'll bring ya some light bulbs, replace the ones I burned out," he mutters.

“I did learn my lesson.” He says this with the barest hint of ire. “Again, being candid, I would appreciate the gesture,” and he motions to the shattered bulbs above and the spread of fine, old, dust-free glass on the floor of the airy space. The Jackal takes a bite of tamale and chews, not looking at Elmo in the least — more tracking to see how far the glass has spread and whether or not it fringed upon his workspace. Whew: none to be found on the long wooden workbench where he preps his stolen goods for shipment back to the Middle East. “I won’t hesitate to pay you if you require it. You will not stress my funds,” he says around a mouthful of food. Like as not Elmo knows this; after all, the man produced a doubloon almost on command, as it were.

He gives the young man another once over, this one far less intensive than before, and smiles to himself as his eyes slide away yet again. He recognizes that habit well enough. “I wouldn’t steal from Cranston, not if…” Unspoken: Not if he is the one. “He’d be certain enough to put me in my place. I also never intend to bring myself under the gaze of interest of the Sorcerer Supreme. I have heard enough rumors over the years of living here. While I could beat his warding spells, his ire would not be worth it.” Maybe. Sort of. Eh…. Clearly, there’s some half-hatched plan in the back of his head about daring the defenses of the old brownstone in Greenwich Village. “Where is he then?” Ambrose turns completely to face his guest now, quietly and earnestly awaiting the address.

Neatened up, Elmo runs his fingers through his hair. It's in vain, his hair is both frizzy from the fog and staticky. He can pretend, though.

He's looking around, spies what he wants, and goes to grab the broom from where it leans against a wall. As he goes, he shoves glass out of the way with the side of his boot in a long-practiced motion. Broom in hand, he starts sweeping—that too is long practiced. One might suspect him of exploding light bulbs on the regular. Glass tinkles as it piles up.

"Oh, it's him, all right. He's older'n you. He's got creepy powers like you." Elmo sounds like he's complaining, aggravated in a general way. Better to get aggravated than sink into the boiling pyroclastic flow of all his other emotions. "He's real worldly, too, been everywhere, done stuff I can only dream about. He's…really cool, actually." Which Elmo grumbles like an insult. How dare Lamont be cool.

He pauses in his sweeping to reach into an inner pocket of his coat. Out comes a notebook and a pencil. Elmo writes down the address, rips out the page, and leans over to set it on the table. Then goes back to sweeping vengefully.

"I'll get outta your face," he mutters, not looking at Ambrose. "Leave ya the stuff upstairs tomorrow."

Elmo’s actions of clean-up earn him a half-smile both full of gratitude and now a true touch of uncertainty. There’s still that near-curmudgeon attitude about the young man, so he hazards to leave him at his efforts rather than attempt to derail him it. Ambrose then continues to eat the tamale, luke-warm-ish as it is, very used to eating whatever’s within reach given how he forgets to eat every now and then. The memory loss of old age is real, people.

Indeed, how dare he be cool. That earns a wry little laugh out of the Jackal even as he sucks his fingertips clean. No napkins. What a terrible host. “I’ll have you know that I am older than he,” he informs the watchmaker lightly. “Several years older, in fact, if he is who I suspect.” Have another mind-fuck, young man. The paper with written address is taken up quickly from the table and shoved into the master-thief’s pocket as if he intends to ignore it staunchly until left alone. A hesitation on his part, noticeable in his expression, and then, almost as if it hurts him to say it (maybe stretching out of old habits), he adds, “You…are…welcome to stay if you wish, when you deliver the bulbs. If you will not take payment in form of bills or coin, I can offer…another tale or two.”

Elmo pauses in sweeping, eyebrows going up. "Really? …Right. I keep forgetting." Sweep sweep sweep, scritchy broom bristles and tinkly glass. Elmo just kind of does it out of habit. Get shook, explode light bulbs, sweep up. It's his life.

He laughs, though, and shakes his head. "You say welcome, I hear, go pound sand, Rosencrantz. Don't worry about it."

He sets the broom against the wall, finished. "I…could use a favor," he admits, folding his arms. "Friend of mine drew a picture of Fjorskar, then got his stupid country ass arrested. NYPD has it now, and they're kinda looking for her. Could bribe 'em, but it's risky for them to know who's interested in hiding her. It'd be way more fun to sneak in, take it, and destroy any copies. I can't ask JP, he's got more priors than Central Park's got bums. If you want, I'll boost your electrical system in here and donate some appliances. No need to worry about taking them anywhere, they'd just be junked anyway." Elmo turns his hands palms up, like, hey, what a deal, huh? "Whaddaya say?"

Even as he watches the young man place the broom back into place, Ambrose is wearing a vaguely crestfallen expression. Ah — perhaps another time for social overtures, when he's not sullied the whole affair with a snap in temper. One can almost see him internally withdraw a step. He does his best to school his face to calm again, dark brows slowly rising as he listens.

"It sounds like a veritable walk in the park," replies the master-thief with a nod of his head. "I consider it a fair exchange in return for some electrical upkeep in this place. However, I really do not need any appliances," he stresses with a grimace. "You have to realize that I do not want any unnecessary attention to fall upon my abode. I have spent years quashing rumors and do not want to be forced to kill in order to protect what peace I have. The bulbs are fair recompense, I assure you. You've garnered me more clarity in my searching than any one single person I have crossed in my near-decade here."

Elmo spreads his hands, capitulating. "All right, if that's how ya want it." Personally he doesn't see the harm in a minifridge or a hot plate, but Ambrose makes his wishes clear.

Must be an old person thing.

He grins a little, part wry, part sympathetic. "New York's fifth-dimensional, yannow. You can live here all your life and still never set foot in some parts. It's got folds, like those origami swans, except it pushes into other dimensions and never unfolds the same way twice. Kinda no surprise. Now you heard of him from some mutant electrician. Crazy, huh?"

"I would not have put money down upon the prediction from an old wise woman twenty years back," the Jackal agrees with a wry twist of a smile. A glance towards the tamales. "Please, take your fare. You have earned it this evening and then some. Do you have a time in which you presume to return to this place? Because…and being candid," — siiiiiigh, man, it's tough being candid; he can almost feel the ulcer growing in his stomach — "I would prefer that we met elsewhere for the exchange. Perhaps five street inwards to the neighborhood proper or in another borough entirely. I am not so paranoid as to require another city entirely." The smile grows a touch in warmth, a bit like the sun peeking through a skein of clouds to attempt a thaw at winter frost.

"Ehh, okay." Elmo raises eyebrows and shoulders simultaneously. "What the hell, you're too paranoid for a toaster oven, who am I to tell you you don't gotta go to another city? You didn't survive this long by being trusting." He repacks the paper bag and settles his satchel across his narrow chest. "How about the MT, there's a bar called 8-Ball. You gotta be a mutant to get in, so show 'em that thing you do with your eyes. Do that, nobody gonna narc on you."

Then, quite seriously, he looks Ambrose in the eye, holding contact. He's uncomfortable — he starts fidgeting with his tie bar immediately — but he hangs on. "Listen. You're wrong about Grim. You told him you're in love with Lamont? He will never, ever tell anyone else. That guy, he knows how to keep a secret." His piece said, he lets his gaze skitter away and gives a little sigh of relief. "I'll show myself out, huh?"

'MT'. Ambrose mouths it to himself before it jogs his memory: Mutant Town, yes, wherein he recently attempted to convince the professor that he needed lace for his piratical affair. Er, not so recently. A little frown at his slip in correctly tracking time and he fully comes back to present. What Elmo says next though seems to take the majority of the bluster from him like a fist to the stomach. He watches the young man sigh after his well-meaning spiel and finds himself biting at the inner corner of his lip.

Candid. You promised, his inner voice singsongs.

"Eh-heh…yes, I am…aware that he can keep secrets. I very recently confronted him about his collective. The feathered wolf he calls Fjorskar — oh, no, she calls herself — they — " He makes a soft splutter as to confusing pronouns. Still have to assign those in regards to Hal and his collective. "In the…process of speaking with him about it, over drinks, I…asked after Cranston. He insinuated that you may know of him as well, hence…my interest in speaking with you." The Jackal scratches at his jaw and pulls his burgeoning smile into a quick little line of self-control. Crooked fingers and all. "I was drinking more heavily than he and no doubt made the reasoning for my intention of finding Cranston clear due to this. He listened well and…yes." A sigh, as if laying down the hackles of suspicion. "I believe that he will not go about telling everyone."

A soft slap of his hand on his thigh and he walks around the opposite side of the table, towards the door leading to the barrel room and the long stretch of hallway beyond. "I would be the worst possible host if I let you wander on your way. There are rooms that are deliberately difficult to access as well as measures I have taken to keep the most intrusive of people out. I would hate to have you hurt yourself." A glance over his shoulder is contemplative and yet, in a small way, even a bit fond.

"Yeah. Fjorskar." Elmo pronounces the foreign name very carefully, with a hard R rather than letting it slur into an 'ah' as he usually pronounces it. "She ain't so bad."

He snorts, at Ambrose's tale about getting drunk and spilling more tea than he meant to, and shakes his head, following along. "Guy could drink an elephant under the table." Then his eyes get wide. "Traps?" But it's not fear. No, no. It's enthusiasm. Elmo looks around, that mad grin he had when he was fighting appearing on his face. "Oh, man. That's frikkin' awesome."

"I am…not sure if the traps qualify as 'awesome', but I suppose if you've a mind to sadism, then no doubt you'd find them particularly pleasing." Ambrose delivers this line with a deliberate airiness and edged smile. The Jackal then leads the way precisely back through the small room containing its collection of empty barrels still emitting the scent of aged liquor. The same can be said of the long brick passageway and then out through the sliding bookcase…but not without touching a very specific spot on the wall before he then shoves aside the barrier.

"Curare darts," he explains as he ushers Elmo out into the delapidated office space beyond. "I had to pay a pretty penny for a pristine sample, but the poison itself is surprisingly stable despite exposure to air." Apparently, if you get into the Jackal's lair…there's no guarantee you're getting out. He slides the bookcase shut and then continues on until they reach the front reception room with its broken door and half-boarded windows. The brunet then looks over at Elmo and gives him another faint, somewhat apologetic smile. "I believe I shall see you soon enough in Mutant Town, at…" he pauses to think. "Ah, the Eight Ball club. Would you rather I attended on the 'morrow or after I have retrieved this missing picture of our good friend Fjorskar?" A little touch of dryness to the name. Good friend. Yes.

Elmo's grin dims not a whit. "Bad ass." Poison! Darts! Traps! A horrible suffocating death! SUPER COOL. One might suspect Elmo of having read a too few many adventure magazines and Popular Mechanics and had come away with some intriguingly bad ideas.

"Tomorrow. Get you your lighting back." Elmo smirks back. "I'll buy ya a drink. See you then." He ducks out, back onto the street, and with his fast, no-nonsense pace strides off into the night.

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