2011-02-13: Be Mine

Starring:

Laurie3_V5icon.png

Guest Starring:

Chloe, Owen, Hugo, Kieran

Date: February 13th, 2011

Summary:

Laurie meets with the enthusiastic student from his lecture, Chloe, who wants to share the details of her project with him.


"Be Mine"

Greenwich Village, NYC

February has graced the city with slightly less snow and a temperature that, while on the cold side, isn't freezing. Spring is … not quite in the air yet, but love is: numerous window treatments and storefronts are rife with sparkling red, pink, and white decorations and flowers tonight in preparation for Valentine's Day sales, though most of it will appear out of nowhere as if by magic in the morning, catering to last minute lovers.

Cafe Taniere, on Bleecker Street, neutrally caters to no one but people who want hot drinks and overpriced desserts. Its wide, curtain-free windows glows brightly onto the sidewalk, dully illuminating the wrought iron tables and chairs out of use in the winter. It's almost completely empty inside the clean, bright little cafe — not especially unusual, considering there's a half a dozen cafes just like it within a half a dozen radius.

An aging barista bustles around cheerfully behind the counter in a maroon apron, beaming despite her mundane tasks. At a two-seater table by the window, Chloe is occupied by her messenger bag on her lap. It's open and she fiddles with something inside to assuage her anticipation. She's clad in a neat red jumper dress, grey tights, and flat shoes, looking for all the world like a school girl or tiny professor in the making.

The hard revving of a motorcycle renders the quiet air a'rumble, fluctuating with its turns, and eventually dulling to a neutral purr, and then a stop. Click and stir of machinery knocking the pavement. It's only a couple of seconds more until its rider appears in the doorway; Laurie could be a movie-star rolling into that quiet town of a cafe. From off the motorcycle, he swaggers across the threshold — overpriced desserts will do just fine — done up in neutrals from out of a catalog. The more striking pinks and reds merely wait on call for the turn of the day into the next. Till then, a warm blue-grey in the polo, darker charcoal in the leather jacket, with a wide open collar appropriate to nestle such a bunched, cravat-sendback scarf into. The scarf's fancy patterning gives a softer edge to the arrangement.

Briefly, Laurie's head is down; he addresses the phone held low near his hip, sending illuminated text up at him from a squinting distance. Text from Powers: Laurie?

A soft, understated shake of the head. This can wait — can, or, is going to. Thumb slides, then nudges his pocket to slip the phone inside: Message Sent: Nice day. Head raising, it doesn't take long to find the meticulously waiting patron, or for his smile to appear to greet her. "Hello, hello," strolling over, his hand is still digging in that pocket: anxious for the detective's next errant message? It draws out the next second, not for the distraction, but with a small bag that he deftly unwraps in the single hand, singling out a single piece of candy to set in front of Chloe's bag. The tiny white heart reads in red: BE MINE. "It's early," sighs Laurie breezily, easing his head side to side to think; eh; done, "But you have better things to do tomorrow."

All eyes are on Laurie — including the cheerful barista's, until she goes back to wiping down the counter with a smile to the tune of the oldies radio station. Chloe is practically beaming, hurrying to close her bag so that it's obvious her full attention is on him. "Hi! Thanks for— " She looks at the candy as if she doesn't know what to do with it. She smiles awkwardly. In a flash, her hand appears and disappears, having snatched the heart from the table like a snake catching prey. She shifts in her seat and hesitates as if forgetting what she was going to say; she's soon beaming again. "For c-coming. I do have plans tomorrow but they're for my project. Please, s-sit down!"

"Psh," scolds Laurie, a noise impressing upon the nearly first meeting that they've known each other for much longer— long enough to psh. "Valentine's Day isn't for projects," his scoffing has him glancing out the tall window next to his elbow, planted once he's flung himself carelessly into the chair. An ankle ends up resting on another knee. That gaze to the outside world is more thoughtful. "Well," his palm is exposed openly, "Unless your relationship is a project. In which case— you probably really do need the day." Smile flickers back to her, winking more with the smirking twitch of his mouth than his eyes. "And… flowers— … and one of those teddy bears holding a pun." Distractedly, that smile passes her right by again, too; he's found his way to the front of the cafe; hello, desserts.

The day's end selection of desserts is a tantalizing array of cookies, squares, scones and slices of cake. The barista sends an encouraging smile Laurie's way. Chloe stares at him steadily with a faintly anxious edge, waiting to become more important than dessert again. "Well— " She gives a little noise like a nervous, girlish chuckle, but quashes it. "My— " she shakes her head and says adamantly, "All of my friends are working on it with me. It has to start tomorrow on V-Valentine's Day. Statistically a higher percentage of people are just bound to feel alone on Valentine's Day and that isolation will play a roll in engaging them in my experiment and that will give me more participants to prove my theories." And breathe… "Oh!" Chloe smiles and wraps her arms around her bag, poised to open it. "I'm sorry! I haven't even explained what I'm trying to prove… hold on! I have— something— for you— " She flips the bag open and begins to rummage deeply into its contents.

"And nine-hundred and four dating sites rejoiced…" There is very little more important than dessert, but Laurie pries his eyes somewhere between friends and /me// to grin absently, lop-sided at her. The hand drops to his leg, curling around that propped ankle, the leg bouncing slightly under his own touch. His pants, while not jeans, show some of their texture; under his fingers, the fabric molds more easily. "Anonymity— internet— is it a paper? A clue? Is it Clue? No one wants to play that with me anymore…" his rambling seems to blurt out of his mouth like breathing; he's become involved in attempting to spy in an non-gamely fashion on her goings-on inside the bag. "I guess you can play anything with a computer now— if you feel like effectively ruining the point…" Chin lifting, he peers above the barrier that luggage makes, his other hand propped along his temple as he imperceptibly stops himself from leaning forward to ruin it.

A buzz near his hip is enough to pull his attention away. Seeing that Chloe's engaged enough in her process, he dips the hand from his head to find his phone. Flips it over. Reads: from Powers: Nice is overrated. A crinkle in his eyebrow, pitching the tiniest bit down to create that disquiet. There's a disturbance in the Force…

The barista, meanwhile, wanders into the back, hesitantly glancing back over leaving everything unattended. Oh well; she shrugs merrily and disappears.

"No, that's— " Chloe is distracted from her rummaging to look up at Laurie, a disquiet of her own digging into her forehead. She pauses to keenly observe her cafe guest with his phone, her bright doe eyes blinking, before she goes back to digging. "There is a point— to playing games on the internet, at least when you look at it from a behavioral s-standpoint— anyway— you'll understand my experiment soon and then you'll s-see." More cheerfully, she smacks an eye-catching red folder triumphantly down on the table in front of Laurie and heaves her bag onto the floor, leaning with it, still arranging things inside between books.

She pushes right up out of her chair. All at once, the lights in Cafe Taniere go off except for the lights illuminating the desserts behind glass; she's at his side— figures are running out of the back toward them— there's something in Chloe's hand—

"My job was to distract you!" she chirps proudly. Remember? He said! "That and— if you want something done right— " She shoves her hand, wrapped up in a sweet-smelling white cloth, toward Laurie's face, smashing it as hard as she can up under his nose and over his mouth. She's rough for such a little thing, but it's the two figures, both much bigger and stronger than the young woman, who scramble behind him, grabbing at his arms and around him in ambush.

Any enjoyable quipping, friendly jabs at the discussion, are swept out of the room with the lights. Artificial glare throws a tiny square of light onto Laurie's alert expression ping-ponging from her sudden closeness— the figures— to Chloe. He's aware of her hand without looking at it. But for all the glancing, scrambling, he doesn't spring to defend himself and — in it — is caught by strong arms, the bundle of highly identifiable chemicals beneath his nose — his own wide-eyed curiosity.

But grabbed rough, he revolts. The familiarity of even a hint of that smell and his breathing catches in his chest, denying the potent array. Rather than wrestle an arm forward, an endeavor he attempts as bluff first, all his strength goes into holding an odd balance when he flips his raised foot down and kicks with the other, propelling his chair fiercely backwards into the legs of his bigger problems.

With a crash and stumble of limbs, a pair of handholds on Laurie vanishes. Kicking at the tangle of chair legs, the other pair of handholds moves in closer, stronger— it's strongest. The attacker fights Laurie's arms, locking into them, trying to haul them back securely— and out of the way of the figure who slides into sight in the dimness, opposite Chloe. Softened features over a chiseled jaw. The James Dean hair. He swings a punch at Laurie's gut, holding nothing back — the first time or the second time.

Chloe keeps up with every violent shift in movement, making absolutely sure that chemical soaked cloth doesn't miss its chance. Her eyes have lit up even more. She's smiling. She watches Laurie struggle with fascination, slightly distant from it, as though she's observing from afar, not though it's not her hand that forcefully tries to make him inhale chloroform.

One-two. Laurie isn't done kicking; his second, having analyzed the hold — its width, strength, is on a fair mark for the strongest's far knee-cap, when — one, two — James Dean's fist folds him. Clenched in his own breath-holding, his gut is hard to the punch, but not immune. The bizarre nausea of being completely winded sucks the air he'd had left holding out of him. Then — two — he instinctively, unconsciously, inescapably sucks it back in. That rag. Chloroform. Its distinctive taste swells in his throat beside that sickening aroma.

Inevitability doesn't slow his struggles until pure physicality does. No fight quite leaves his eye even as his muscles begin to drag, all of the switches turning off in his brain one by one. Last in his gaze, surrounded by cafe darkness, haloed by the promise of sweet desserts — Chloe. His curiosity; in the last second of self-awareness, he knows its studying her face: there; that gleam of disappointment could be for either of them.

It takes longer than it does in the movies. Truth is always harder; or maybe it's Laurie as a subject, and he slams his foot down hard in a last ditch effort on whatever is in range before a sudden, nearly unexpected as his energy draws out to the last drop, slump forward.

Back and forth, back and forth, Chloe's eyes range quickly over Laurie, waiting with electric anticipation for that moment when his consciousness fades out and it means it worked.

"Yes!" she gives a little cheer, swiping the cloth away and clutching her fists up by her collar. She bounces in spot, ignoring the hissed "Jesus Christ— " of pain from the puncher whose foot, and dress shoe, has been smashed by Laurie. The stronger attacker — the big guy from the seminar assault — grabs the back of Laurie's head and heaves it toward the table, doing his part to make sure he stays unconscious.

Moment of celebration over, Chloe steps back and folds her arms. She eyes the two young men with a distinctly much darker, sharper demeanor despite her cute, harmless appearance. She's all confidence. "Okay. There," she says, rolling her eyes and nodding her head at the slumped form of Laurie as the big guy struggles to hold the dead weight vaguely upright. "Was that so hard? That's how it's done. God. You're both idiots. Now hurry up!" She waves her hand manically toward the front door, where a dark van has obscured the view of the street. "Go, go!"

"I think he broke my foot— "

"Write a poem about it in the van, Owen, jeez! Go!"

Their exit is rushed, but precise, planned: a drag outside, a shove into the back of a van which is not a dark, shady vehicle, as it turns out, but a spacious family-sized black SUV. A wide-eyed young man is at the wheel, his shaggy hair threatening to make him miss traffic signs as much as his own stress does, but every light is obeyed, every pedestrian let to pass, the van free to disappear anonymously into the night.

No one knows that Laurence Miles has been kidnapped.

* * *

"Seriously, C, I don't understand why we can't do it downstairs," says Owen as he and his bigger pal lug the unconscious man from a dark, gleaming hardwood floor onto the first step of a staircase that leads to another staircase. Rough rope, cheap but tough, has been lashed around Laurie's wrists at his back, about as gently as the way they try to haul him up.

"I like the light better upstairs." Chloe stands supervising in a dark, spacious living room, desolate, cold, and without furniture — though if there was furniture, only the most expensive would match. There's a large bay window view of nighttime greenery. "Owen, I've tested everything! It's all up there! Take him upstairs."

The men obey, grunting and grumbling between each other as they argue over how best to heft Laurie. The bigger of the two ultimately gets stuck with most of the work, grabbing under Laurie's arms and backpedaling while Owen, grimacing, eases some of his conspirator's back pain by hauling at the feet. Step by step, they approach that corner, another trek upwards, and the floor above, a gaping portal of a dark, unknown room.

A big, dark blur as seen through a slit. The slightly lighter blur of somebody's shirt shifting with the exercise. Up, down; the swaying throws Laurie's tiny, shaded consciousness into dizziness when he's roughed up the stairs with another unsteady movement. His breathing kept level, and his weight as dead as ever, it's an untraceable change from unconscious to conscious — threatened as lingering chemicals slosh with his self-control, and as he drifts dozily off as fast as he came.

One set of high-stepping stairs conquered, Laurie is haltingly jarred as they stop at the small landing preceding the next. Mumbling, the big guy at his head relinquishes the right side to twist and shove at a pair of cardboard boxes barring the necessary wide path. Laurie is careened along with him, jostled roughly at every thrash about. A box rattles. His remaining grip on Laurie loosens carelessly until Owen's vague, bored hold of his ankles is the strongest. A step and turn around the corner is taken back by the bigger guy — there's a slip between Laurie's leather and the kidnapper's hefty winter gloves — and crash, their cargo is dropped.

There's a crunch of tied hands crushed beneath the rest of his weight, shoulders whining with equal displeasure at the jolt at such an angle as they'd been forced. Laurie's body twists after a sideways impact, tumbling head and hands into the displaced boxes. Under cover, fingers twist. Outside, a flopping leg haphazardly — with rather unique aim — nudges at James Dean, below the knee of the leg opposite that with the weaker, hesitant from injury, foot, where the former ankle-bearer stands at landing's edge.

He staggers over and falls to his knees sharply — one, of the injured foot's side, on the landing, and the other struck out to the step beneath — with a forced clumsiness unsuited to his tailored look. "Watch it!" Owen's admonishing is directed at his friend, not their fallen cargo. He roughly grabs up around Laurie's ankles, eyes upward, and cues the resumed grapple of shoulders above for their backwards charge to continue.

Stairs, narrow hallway … the darkened room that is their destination upstairs sits, gaping, at the end. It certainly bears none of the light Chloe spoke of yet. It's as roomy as downstairs and just as void of furniture, though dark shapes in the center of the room create spidery silhouettes of something.

It is not Laurie's time for that room yet, however. His captors drop him unceremoniously on his face in the hallway, this time on purpose. Beside him, a railing overlooks the dim ground floor, jail bars from his point of reference — if he opened his eyes to have one.

The big guy's knee jams against Laurie's back as Owen unties the ropes, tugging and brusquely uncoiling them as fast as possible, only to reaffix them with a new aim. Small footsteps, meanwhile: Chloe is but a suddenly appearing shadow, a blur of red and grey and purpose critically eyeing the task on her way past. Owen grabs Laurie's right wrist and starts coiling the rope around it anew. It's shoved toward the rail. He's shoved toward the rail, heaved up to slump against it, wrists getting firmly bound to one of the dark wooden posts of the railing.

Crouching, Owen grabs Laurie's face and gets a good look at it. He scoffs. His friend bears perhaps worse remnants from the other night— his nose is discolored, an angry flare that only accentuates his constant scowl. "Hey, wake up, professor!" Owen knock-knock-knocks Laurie's head against the railing. Rough, but light — unlike the following kick to his side from the brute with the broken nose.

Flash of blue. Laurie's eyes have opened, spectacularly aware, on the last knock, leaving the abuse to his side as overcompensation on behalf of awaking their capture. Impact precedes an echoing jab further inside, a companionable prickle, that winces the friendliness off his face before he is, impossibly, smiling up at those known bullies. It's a bit of a dozy, unfocused affair, though he scans their features with the precision of an unaffected memory. Addled some, but no blinking, no slow, startled rise to wakefulness.

"Well, howdy, boys!" Greeting that ends in the smacking of his lips, an awkward swallow; chloroform's aftertaste burns hard where it clings. "Ehh… chloroformefficient, but I will never get used to the taste. Hi— wow," the grin, tipped a little to one side, just like his lazy head, slants towards the larger brute, "Look at your face."

Said brute looks considerably off-put by the convivial greeting when sudden wakefulness is made known, off-put, in fact, by their captive in general, but his more studious cohort regards captive critically, his eyes cooler. The taller unconsciously rubs knuckles to his abused nose while scowling with a more poignant resentment at the refreshed memory, all of a few seconds of fidgeting before his broad form is smashing down toward Laurie's illogically smiling face from above, fist first, broad knuckles capable of covering a great deal of ground, driven by base anger, simple, uncomplicated revenge, seeking to even scores. Owen calmly leans out of the way to let his friend freely have his vengeance.

Knuckles crack against a nose that's been dealt this before. The back of Laurie's head cracks against the railing right behind him. His wrists crack when they're shoved between wood and a hard body— maybe a bit more than the blow gave. Even his jaw cracks when he works it round to loosen a tight pain he can't tend to. A little head shake, meant to clear the ringing, disturbs the newly sensitive spot, but he goes on. Right into blinking through the aftermath at his attacker. "Ahh… ow. Okay. You're right. That was rude of me," rattled off with congenial, unsettling speed, not to mention a still disrespectful casualness to the situation, "Let's be friends— I don't know your name. I know Chloe's! Not yours. Chloe, Chloe, Chloe… I'm going to call you Hugo." His head lolls to the side, along the railing post, to find the sidelined Owen. "And you're Brett. And you find Hugo's pain sort of gratifying because it wasn't yours. And, let's be honest, yours is much prettier."

Did Laurie just call him pretty? Owen regards him not visibly smug for the definition, but defensively, narrowing his eyes, but a smirk appears. "I'm not your friend, he — sure, call him Hugo — isn't your friend," he informs Laurie, adding, "And you sure as hell don't want Chloe to be your friend. By all means though, keep talking— " There's a rasp to his smooth voice, crouching close, " — we have some time to kill before the big show." As he grabs the top of the rail and pushes to his feet, he grabs the far side of Laurie's head and slams it into the same wooden post again — because he can. The proclaimed Hugo gets his sturdy hands on Laurie, grabbing into all manner of fabric to pull on as his fist readies for another go—

The sheer noise of fists on bone and bone on wood pokes Chloe's head out of the room at the end of the hall. A lamp has been turned on; its white light spills out. Wide-eyed in distress, she scolds stringently: "Guuuys."

Head tilted, Laurie followed along Owen's tirade with a sweet little attentive expression, his lips pressed together in steady, eager regard. Slipping into that space before the unrestrained man stands, the older stage-whispers a polite correction, "Well, that's why I said let's— as in let us. Don't be a stranger— " Bam. His eyes flutter closed on a grimace; cracking, his world, seated, whirls; the chloroform hasn't run its course on dizziness, and the headache is now up in the air between the anesthesia, or the affection for this railing his temple has formed. Swaddled up into Hugo's large grasp, his tied hands a strain around railing, he bursts out as quickly as can precede a punch: "I'm thinking of changing his name to Ken— " Pre-emptive wince— …

An eye pops open out of the two closures, spotting not Chloe there, but the fist caught in pause hovered above him. "Guuuuuuuys," he mimics, overly done, of the young woman's tone. Then, jeering wryly, "The woman calls." The splitting smile below that reddening nose begs for Hugo to wipe it off; he is, after all, halfway there.

Hugo is more than ready to wipe the smile off Laurie's face. His fist clenches, his arm tense, knuckles itching for violence. He's paused waiting for orders from the woman that he knows will come. Fist frozen mid-air, guilt tinges at his scowl, resembling a scolded dog. Owen stands on one foot more than the other, holding the rail above Laurie, coolly regarding Chloe with an amused smirk, but they're both waiting on orders, at the command of the petite young woman in the grey tights, the red jumper.

Chloe rolls her eyes; can't leave them alone for a few minutes… "You— you have to go easy on him," she explains adamantly, looking to Laurie there on the floor with express worry— "I mean— on his face," she clarifies. "We need him to be recognizable." They should have already known better. With that, the men are left unsupervised; C disappears into the dark room with the single light.

The looming form of the brute is no less looming — poised to strike. He wastes no time in redirecting his intent; off a glare in the direction of the room, his heavy fist swoops down with the rest of him, not to wipe the smile off Laurie's face, but to pre-empty commentary with a punch to the gut. There, where he was hit before by Owen, the same hit that forced air out of his lungs to inspire inhalation of chemicals — only now there is only cold, faintly dusty air, and this fist is yet more crushing.

Air rushes out, relieving a tickling pressure on his lungs— with an intense coiled pain in his gut. It's hard to double over tied to a certain posture, but Laurie bends inward, a leg cutting up to plant the foot on the floor, knee upright but soon swaying with him. All out tooth and nail fight keeps the amusement on his face, even when the smile falters — can't form completely around a stiff cough — and has to flee, only to return. Another hard cough; near the floor it's like he's only inhaling the musty particles. He doesn't straighten when he's breathing again, poised half falling over, peering very upwards at Hugo. Almost as though he were tired, cowering physically— except smiling. "I— nnnnhaha," a gaspy laugh— but cheerful, "Hugo! I am… beginning to get an impression of… your contribution here…"

Hugo leans back up to his full height, flexing beefy fingers. His arms cross over a winter jacket, plaid underneath. "Yeah?" It speaks! Irritably, at that. He can't stop eyeing Laurie's seemingly impermeable smile. "To kick your ass around? Sure, everyone has their purpose."

Owen takes up a purpose beyond simply standing around smirking; amusement has crawled over his face at the sight of his comrade striking Laurie, but he's quickly becoming bored. Or is that restless? An impatient energy claims him, thinning out his cupid's bow lips into a stiff line. He leans down and brusquely takes up the task of digging around to overturn jacket pockets, jarring Laurie as he searches nooks and crannies of fabric underneath, trying to (reluctantly and thus roughly) get at pants pockets; it's not the trained pat-down of a person of law, but he nevertheless works at spilling contents.

"Oh, so it's yours?" As suddenly, Laurie has breath, composure; he's straightened some in the unconscious lean towards Hugo that's inspired by his energetic prying. "Or, perhaps, a close neighbor. That purpose can have other purposes— expanding exponentially…"

Jacket yields the most spoils when, rummaged by Owen's less caring hands, a small unsecured baggie rolls out, overturning in the wrong direction. Red, white, and pink hard-candied hearts cascade onto the scuffled dusty floor, creating a small mess of romantic declarations. Less messily, sunglasses come from the same source. "Like Ken here," analyzes the raided man, no difference between this jailhouse and the classroom. "What purpose does Ken have in searching my pockets?— To find anything of interest, to make sure I am… weaponless," all the time, merrily — rather intently — eyeing Hugo, Owen and ruffled pockets amounting to no bother or mind; pants pockets, his motorcycle keys. "For the purpose of making sure I can't escape. For the purpose of keeping me here. Which brings us to the interesting part, doesn't it. Why we're here. So, is that his…" interesting, versus inspiring of a soft pity; Laurie's keen, unshifting stare on Hugo seems to contradict the subject of his words, "or is he just contributing."

Throughout, Owen's eyes are more sharp toward the captive — trying to discern Laurie's purpose — than Hugo's are. The standing man peers down with wary restraint while his friend searches. It's a search which provokes skepticism in Owen; the romantic candy is left to carelessly scatter the floor, the sunglasses swiped without interest, the keys are given a considering look before being tucked away in his coat with a jangle; but aren't there any weapons…?

"Owe— 'Ken' … has a bigger role than that," Hugo says rather boredly, his deep voice edged with annoyance — aimed not at their talkative prisoner, but his friend. "Right, Ken. He's just following orders."

"Common sense," mumbles Owen, side-eyeing the other as he tries to make sure he's shoved his way into all pockets, "because Laurence here is just the kind of guy to trick his way out, and we wouldn't want that so soon, now would we." A check of Laurie's ropes punctuates his words with a tightening pull. Grabbing the rail, he stands up and pairs with Hugo to usher him off, a suspicious glance shifting to Laurie before he turns. "Now shut up," he tells Hugo — who does shut up — and the two men begin to shuffle off.

"Not with that hair, he isn't," opines Laurie cheerfully, found to be weaponless, ropes tight around the thick bulk his hands make; he's harmless. "No, we would not," he heartily agrees with Owen, rolling his shoulder into the rail after the inspection, his legs sliding from flat to bent a few times to stretch. "Although, I'm deeply flattered you'd overestimate me." The last has to be called as best he can wrestle a glance over a shoulder, the stairs twisting to the side where he can't turn, and the his captors disappearing out of range and then — by footsteps — out of the room.

Bound to a rail, his pockets turned out, and nose swelling, Laurie is left to his own devices. The options appear to be few. But only a minute or so ticks by, slow, and abidingly handled — throughout which he less sobers as cools, grasping the time to unwind… done. An efficient and practical purpose on his face fuels his sudden twist to the side. His hands relax off a subtle forced state, the bulk of them abruptly less — same as when the ropes were tied, causing them to slacken, having been purposed for a bigger target. Not enough for them to slide out, but he's able to flex fingers a bit more, twisting against the remaining scratchy bindings to get a hold of the railing they're bound around. All of that head-jarring, fist-pounding and body-slamming hasn't been for naught; the post jiggles irresponsibly in its seat; not so harmless.

Forcing his wrists along this new loosened route he has peels tiny bits of skin away from the rough restraints, but also gives him leverage to pull. An ungainly, questionable procedure, that strains his shoulder. One— two… maybe it won't happ— three, the rail splinters at the end, squeaking away from ground-level. It's just enough to scoot a loop of rope out from underneath. By then, the twisted cords have become pliable in his increasingly more mobile grip; when Laurie regains his feet, he relieves himself of the rope— not entirely, it goes into freshly turned out pockets.

Two steps towards his former place of keep, a hand braced on that same railing where Owen pushed off, he glances over into the foyer— checking, listening; not long; his path is not the narrow strip of freedom down stairs, the door — though he marks all those with a quick glancing, he wanders towards the room. Ready for him or not.

Chloe is there immediately, as if she was waiting for him — but her eyes are wide and round, surprised. A few paces from the doorway, she was on her way out; he on his way in. The room is still dark save for that one light, visible now as a high wattage white lamp on a table next to a slew of computers and equipment, its spotlight spilling down on the dark floor. A wooden kitchen chair sits at the table like a desk while its mate sits out in front, an empty display.

The light plays oddly behind Chloe's short form. She stays just out of his would-be range, but doesn't appear at afraid of him. The obvious alarm in her eyes isn't fear. It's just as obvious that she's smiling again, that bright, expectant beaming that makes her look like a happy child full of hope. She's so excited that she has to restrain it as it bursts from her pores; she almost tiptoes backwards to keep from all-out running at Laurie. Her pointer fingers are linked together sweetly in front of her skirt before she makes a grab for her bag over her shoulder. Her hand sneaks inside.

"I thought you might get out, but that was fast. They should've tried harder," she admonishes the men who are nowhere in sight, becoming brightly optimistic a breath later: "But you're here now! I have to get you ready. It'll be a lot easier if you cooperate."

Through, the cool remains; the smile that Chloe inspires is not the uncannily bright display that irked Hugo, but a facade of friendliness, tinged around the edges with a sharp calculating that doesn't seem to yet lessen his powerful casualness. Unbound, his own hands in his pockets, certain fingers wrapping idly around rope that cut into them seconds before, his tall imposing shape in the doorway is lithe. The lion prowling, sizing up its prey— inappropriate, to be both lion and prey; he strays towards the compliant side, nodding agreeably to her excitement.

Genuine curiosity, held-back, becomes more for her than what she's setup behind, though his eyes wander. Then his feet; he takes a step as if forward, that instead curves sideways, edging him into the room, circling near its outer rim, but not relieving the doorway of being in his grasp. More— it makes him not visible inside from the top of the stairs.

"Don't hold it against Hugo," he advises sincerely, "He tried very hard, but I was very annoying. And I'm not sure he has your— enthusiasm— that would be stealing." A couple of gestures around; Laurie fully appreciates the use of his arms with one of them, though he stills to appreciate her with a longer eyeing, and a certain sobering. "I've never been much interested in easy. Except in my muffin steps."

For every movement Laurie makes, Chloe makes an adjustment for. He moves sideways, she inches counter to his clockwise, visible in the doorway while she talks to him. Not that anyone else has noticed the captive is free. "He'll do better next time. Of course I have enthusiasm," she agrees, still smiling, that enthusiasm gleaming in her eyes, "I'm enthusiastic it comes to causes I believe in." Her hand tenses within her bag, a ripple of readiness flowing up her arm. She side-steps closer to the doorway, as if her tiny form could block it and herd Laurie further in the room. Smiling, beaming, and yet a certain command melds her voice. "The others are committed, too, but they all have different reasons for being here. Mine is mine. This is mine. I— agree— easy is overrated…" Chloe's gaze only moves from Laurie to hop pointedly to the empty chair out in front of the table. His destination. "But take off your coat."

With weight swaying, Laurie idles in his spot, halfway into that next step for the room, that inside for Chloe's ushering, as though he's absentmindedly forgotten to move while absorbing her opinions. Eyebrows needling in, then easing back out. He obligingly follows her gaze to the chair; he does not take it. Mouth furling more disagreeably, then neutrally: contemplation. In a fluid takeback, he regains that step he took, sidling just as casually towards the doorway, denying the inner and closing space between them where he didn't oblige the circling. It's isn't taken as though purposeful, though, just as though he was moving for the sake of moving. "Committed's an interesting word…" he mutters appreciatively. "What— so Ken can steal this, too? Those were moderately priced sunglasses, you know— " a little spin towards the stairs, point to the invisible criminal who absconded with his things. His hand folds in, and they've both found his hips in a bit of stubborn posturing. "Take off your bag."

Chloe mimics Laurie's pose halfway: one hand sets upon her hip stubbornly. Sobering, then neutral, even her features aren't dissimilar, but she bears no conviction to the stubbornness. "I know you don't like to follow instructions," she says appreciatively. She crosses her free arm across her body to slide the strap of her bag off her shoulder. It falls easily to the floor with a heavy plunk. Her hand is freed from its depths, but hasn't been emptied. She points a taser at Laurie. It looks more like a device issues to law enforcement or security personnel than a weapon legal for any citizen. "So this is a precaution," she declares with a spring in her brow, "like the ropes. I know how to use it!" Hardly a threat; only a statement of slightly proud fact, a child who learned something shiny and new. "I have something to show you after. After I get you ready for the experiment. You just have to take your coat off and sit down."

An eyebrow shoots up; "My, what big teeth you have." Interesting. But ultimately passed by, with Laurie feeling no obligation to stare down the potent weapon, instead squinting towards the ceiling to cater to this flash of sullenness. There; gone. "Is it anything like the chloroform you 'had' for me? Because— I can still sort of taste that one. Admittedly, not the worst thing I've ever had in my mouth…" A story for another time, when he deflects with much attention disordering to the chair, lifting a finger from his disobedient stance to point quite accurately at the chair she indicated before. "What, in that chair right there?"

Chloe gives an energetic bob of her head. That's the chair! Her hold of the weapon remains fixed, but other than a confident grip, nothing in her demeanour suggests threat. "The chloroform was a precaution too." Just in case getting into a dark van with people who attacked him wasn't appealing. "I have to take these precautions because I have to control the experiment. You're a part of it. I don't want to control you, only the experiment. Only some of the— variables." She bounces ever-so-slightly on her feet with an impatience that seems fuelled by her own eagerness more than Laurie's dawdling. "You're going t— " It's this same impatience that makes her struggle with her words, but she squares her little shoulders and steels herself to go on keenly, "— to be a part of something. S-something new. I promise you've never seen it before."

"And I've seen a lot of things." Based on public record alone, this statement has all the merit to be melancholy, saturated — if even just barely audible — with all the rage, and disappointment, of where his life's gone… — it isn't. It's a statement; Laurie's almost glad. Mostly, he's conversational, relieving the weight from the more serious that it started. Still: his mouth coils, jutting the lower lip out; eh. Or: "Nah," in regard to being a part— the experiment— or, the chair, that he flicks two finger dismissive at. They slide two feet to nudge the air towards the chair's partner, across the way. "What about that chair?"

They're identical. Their placement makes them serve different purposes, but the chairs themselves are perfect matches. Chloe glances to the indicated chair and back to Laurie; her expression is unchanged, but fraught with blink after rapid blink. She seems to consider… another quick glance goes to the table, its position… things could easily be moved around. She almost smiles in conceding— "Wh— no!" Now the petite brunette fixes a glower on her face and nearly stomps, not out of anger but determination. Both of her hands grip the gun-like contraption in her hand with more purpose. She holds her own. The taser is given a quick little tip toward the original chair meant for Laurie. "That chair."

A rushed pounding of footsteps on the stairs creates a racket just then; someone has discovered that a certain captive is not at his railing. The steps are heavy in their hurry, but the sound doesn't belong to the weightier feet of the men who were previously in the hall. It's a smaller, thinner figure that practically collides with the wall as he rushes into the doorway. It's the driver and shaggy-haired illegible note-taker distraction who stares at the free man in horror.

"It's okay Kieran," Chloe says — by contrast, very upbeat — without budging, "We're just having a chat! Laurie's going to sit down! In the chair."

A spark of amusement is barely contained behind Laurie's lips, splitting, and then fighting back what would be a pompous display at Chloe's successful shaking. He concedes, with a nod, a pressed straighten of those very lips, to her ending commitment. That said, he doesn't budge. At least, he doesn't quite budge in the direction she would like; he leans, sidling without quite stepping, towards her. This personal space between them. Hands lightly raised in universal surrender, he displays no ill intent, in fact, a proposal in those spread palms. "… Chloe," come on, Chloe it says, in the director's cut of his tone, you know better, needling her with a warmth of charm and intrigue; he's so interested, but a little, eensy bit, scolding. "Let Larry and Mo go home. We could have such a conversation, you and I."

Speaking of three to four's company: the pitter-patter of panicking feet. On Kieran's rebound into the room, Laurie's focus is ever Chloe, peripherally picking up the hint of hair and horror, while his hands and eyes never quite drift. A nod of acknowledging, though: "Curly."

Blue eyes cool; is that what he's going to do. Far from cold, threatening — no anger here, fellas — Laurie's attitude slips only incrementally more assured, in his own devil-may-care determination. Touch of smugness at the corner of his mouth is all, making a strange dance-partner to his apologetic reply. Regret would be too heavy, but the loss is too bad: "I think I'm going to make you do something you don't want."

With no one's gazes moving off the other, it's not a typical stare-down. Kieran's point in the triangle bears the worst. Chloe's eyes are pulled in by Laurie despite her words, hanging on his every one of his, her determined demand warring with a sort of yearning — but her eyes, like the young woman herself, are still sharp. She squints ever-so-slightly at Laurie, touching the taser trigger as her mouth almost turn up in near smugness of her own.

Kieran shuffles inside, moving about with the same caution he might if trapped in a tiger's cage. With two tigers. Yet, protectively, he reaches out toward Chloe without truly being in reach of her, eyes always on Laurie.

The object of his wishful safeguard rolls the shoulder that faces him, dismissive. "Go get the guys," she hisses before her more important voice addresses the figure in front of her. "If you're talking about using the taser, I am curious to see it work." Clamping her pink lips down determinedly, she gives a little shift of the weapon and gives it that test in the same moment, making use of her trigger finger.

"Control." That smirk is the last thing on his face before that's exactly what he loses. With a smattering of buzzes, the two electrodes fly like bullets, and connect to skin as hard. Striking through that polo shirt never meant to be body armor, the prongs plant into the abdomen, flaring out: the receivers for the voltage that tears down those strung wires; the personal space between he and Chloe is now electrified. A connection of high amps. Laurie's body shudders to the impression of being shocked, in a completely involuntary twitch that isn't continued; all function has shut down against the rain of constantly streaming volts, igniting one shock after another, and ensuring that Laurie's kept under the unstoppable strain: frozen.

Except, for one second, like a glitch, his hand yanks, as if to go to his side— one impossible suggestion of support. Frozen and, with every muscle clamped up by the charge, he tumbles over in the inelegant pattern of having exactly no capable reflexes to catch oneself on the way down— except his knee almost bends as if to minimize the straight distance, only to fold under any immediate weight, rolling him to the side— another tiny impossibility. Then just smack on the floor, with only another round of shock to greet him, and the involuntary toss back of his head.

The spectacle is watched with keen observance by Chloe. Her head tips to the side. She looks vaguely disappointed, like it wasn't as fascinating an experience as she thought it was going to be. Standing just out of the way of potentially lashing limbs, she looms over Laurie. "Kieran, get the chloroform out of my bag."

"Are you sure that's— safe, after…"

"We have to move him. How else are we going to make sure we can. Besides," she smiles down— there's that fascination she was looking for, "he's tough."

(TO BE CONTINUED...)

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