2007-03-31: Chasing Ghosts


Tamara_icon.gif Judah_icon.gif

Summary: Tamara and Judah take a walk down to Central Park and visit the pond to feed the ducks.

Date It Happened: March 31st, 2007

Chasing Ghosts

Judah's Apartment and Central Park

Dawn at Judah Demsky's apartment is bright and welcoming, warmed by the sunlight that streams in through his windows and lends his living room a peaceful glow. It's one of the reasons he chose this place; even morning people need a little light to cheer them up every once and awhile, and in Judah's line of work, that 'once and awhile' comes more often that he would ideally like. Having insisted that Tamara take his bed, the detective spent the night on his couch watching repeats of the evening news on mute, trying to take his mind off the teen in the adjacent room. When that didn't work, he slipped into his study and spent the remainder of the dark hours on the internet, browsing for more information about Tamara's condition. In the end, all he has to show for his work are the words 'The Johannsen Foundation' scribbled on a spare legal pad, which he puzzles over as he bumbles around the kitchen in the process of fixing breakfast.

For her part, in spite of all Judah's intended plans, Tamara seemed inclined only to crash and sleep upon reaching the apartment. Unlike her last stay, she didn't rattle around during the night, even if her sleep was not much more sound. Dawn, however, seems to provide the cue that was lacking all that time; rather than lay there and stare at the wall, thoughts either slow or elsewhere, Tamara slips out of the bedroom, leaning against a post of the doorway into the kitchen and watching Judah. She still looks weary - but maybe she's just not entirely awake yet. Despite that, the girl smiles faintly as she looks on. "Hello." So he has some warning of her presence.

"Hey there." Judah glances over his shoulder at Tamara and offers her a tight smile, but only briefly; he has a small pot of boiling water in front of him, and four eggs to crack into it. The majority of his attention needs to be on the stove. "You sleep okay?" he asks as he pauses to rummages through his spice rack for something to flavor the water with. Two bottles, one filled with cumin and the other turmeric, are set aside before he goes fishing in a nearby drawer for, presumably, measuring spoons.

The shrug with which Tamara replies is likely lost on the distracted detective. She pads across the kitchen in her bare feet to peer into the drawer with mild interest - but apparently is content to let Judah find his own measuring spoons. Thus, the girl drifts away again. Although her progression through the apartment is not the same as last time, the air with which she wanders /is/ similar - restless; curious, but in a distracted rather than focused way. The scratchpad, when she comes across it, is surveyed with the same lack of intensity as the drawer - if for slightly longer.

A tablespoon of turmeric and a tablespoon of cumin get dumped into the pot, followed by two of the eggs, which bubble frothily to the surface and almost immediately begin to turn white. Judah sets the kitchen timer for five minutes, places a lid on the pot and moves toward the chopping block. "I don't have to go into work today," he explains as he selects the two ripest blood oranges from the bowl of fruit he keeps there. "So we can go down to the Park — if you want." If he notices Tamara checking out his notes, he doesn't comment on it.

The notes have no significance to her - as might be evidenced by the fact that she simply turns away from them. Blue eyes flick to the detective, and Tamara tips her head to one side. "Why?" No objection, just simple curiosity; the favored question of all children. Moving over to a chair, she picks another orange out of the bowl along the way. Stifling a yawn, the girl sits down, rolling the orange sphere back and forth between her hands.

Judah expertly cleaves through one orange, splitting it in two, then moves onto the second. "Why don't I have to go into work? Or why would we want to visit the Park?" He can think of more than one answer to each question, but what he says will likely depend on what Tamara was asking. His smile, at least, comes a little easier than it did a few moments ago.

Tamara spins the orange on the table as if it bore more relation to a top than it actually does, then plants both hands across it and peers across the table at Judah. She thinks about his counter-questions - and grins at the detective, blue eyes glinting. "Yes." Tamara is as ambiguous in her answer as in her original question. Whether the first was deliberate or not, this one clearly is.

Judah shudders with silent laugher, his shoulders quaking, knife hand unsteady. Only when he's regained his composure does he bring the blade down on the second orange and split it wide open. "I don't have to go into work because I called in sick," he explains, "and I thought it might be nice to visit the turtle pond. Sun's shining. The weather's cooperating. It's a good day to feed the ducks."

Tamara sits back in her chair, grinning at Judah's soundless laughter. She takes the extra orange with her, turning it over idly in her hands. "Okay," she agrees, nodding a bit after his explanation's concluded. "It's pretty. Noisy, but pretty." Her gaze flicks to one of the apartment's windows. "A good day." Although her tone doesn't quite match with the statement; it's just a little off. Abruptly hopping off her chair, Tamara walks back over to the fruit bowl and replaces the orange very precisely.

Judah can't argue with that. Central Park, even on the loneliest days, is a busy place; if there aren't people around to chatter with each other, there are always the birds and the squirrels. "You have a very special talent, Tamara," he says, even though he's still not entirely clear on what that talent is. "And I'm in a very special line of work. I was wondering if you might want to be an honorary police officer for a few days in the near future."

Tamara gives Judah a sidelong /look/. "You could just ask," she replies. Not approach obliquely. Unlike many youths, the 'honorary police officer' bit holds no interest for the girl. But she doesn't give a definite answer quickly; she moves away, drifts about the kitchen, although never so as to be in Judah's way. "I… Some days, maybe," the girl finally concludes, coming to a halt and looking over at him, her eyes gone dark. She fidgets with her hair, twisting the ends of a few strands in her fingers. She doesn't look entirely at-ease with the suggestion - but the girl doesn't give it a flat rejection either. "Time." His five minutes are just about up.

Oh, right. The eggs. Judah places the orange halves onto two plates and returns to the stove just before the timer goes off, filling the kitchen with the sound of a long, flat beep. Sensing Tamara's discomfort, he decides not to pursue the subject any further. Not today. "No pressure," he promises, "take all the time you need — I won't hold it against you if you say no." A slotted spoon allows him to remove the eggs from the pot without too much mess. Any extra water is absorbed into the paper towel that uses to pat them dry. "Maybe we can get your hair cut, too."

Tamara offers Judah a lopsided, apologetic smile. "I could answer /you/." Or a couple of others. But the rest… "They were… touchy." She waves a hand vaguely in the air as if that helps communicate whatever she's trying to get across - which it doesn't. Tamara frowns, idly rolling her lower lip between her teeth. The prospect of a haircut seems to slide right past; the girl doesn't really care either way.

"Which others?" Plop go the poached eggs, right onto the plates. Judah slides the bigger one toward Tamara and turns the stove down to low; if she's still hungry later, there are two more eggs waiting to be cracked into the pot and served up as seconds. For now, though, the detective occupies himself with locating two sets of clean silverware.

Tamara slides back into her chair with a quiet sigh. "I don't know," she says. "Others. Just shadows. Not even /familiar/ shadows." The girl taps her fingertips on the table, then spins the plate around - slowly, as if to study the egg from all angles. "One was with your shadows a lot. He was… okay. There's just… /something/…" Something she doesn't understand. "And the ripples… They're harder to stay between if they're close." Tamara shakes her head. "She's… Is that what you wanted? To explain? I can't tell why. What changed the listening. What's /missing/ is what mattered." The plate thunks against the table, not very hard, but in definite expression of her frustration.

"Well," Judah says gently, "we can't always know everything, right? I think we'd all be really unhappy if we unraveled the secrets behind every mystery." He pushes a fork and a knife, recently wiped down with a clean sponge and a few droplets of antibacterial dish soap, across to Tamara. When she gets frustrated, so does he, though he does a much better job at hiding it. Her comment about shadows being familiar has him thinking, as evidenced by the furrows in his brow and the thoughtful frown tugging at the corners of his stubble-lined mouth. He still needs to shave. "Eat up, beanpole. We can talk about it more down at the pond." After he figures out where he's going to get some clean clothes Tamara's size without arousing suspicion.

Tamara rarely /tries/ to hide anything. She takes the utensils, then eyes Judah sidelong as he resumes speaking. "I am not a beanpole," the girl states, although her tone doesn't give a definite indication whether that's a statement of fact or some fashion of injured pride. Either way, it's a rare remark. Tamara /does/ start eating, but her eyes never leave Judah, studying his expression as if trying to reach a conclusion from it. In spite of that, she has no difficulty with maneuvering the food.

"It could be worse," Judah murmurs, not without a little humour, "I could have called you a stick insect, or told you to go hide behind a lamppost." The good natured teasing over, he uses his fork to cut off a bite-sized piece of egg and sticks it into his mouth. He chews, swallows, and washes it down with a sip of coffee from the cup he brewed for himself before Tamara woke. It's cold now, but that hardly matters. "No, you're not that skinny," he admits finally, "but it doesn't taste as good when it's gotten a chance to cool down." This is a moot point, really. She /is/ eating.

Tamara smiles over at Judah. Then she regards the egg on her plate curiously, as if attempting to judge how it tastes now vs. how it tastes when it's cold. In the end, the girl's verdict is a simple shrug, as if it doesn't really matter to her either way. She finishes what's on her plate in fairly short order after that, but shows no interest in the possibility of seconds; instead, Tamara just disposes of her dishes without question or comment.

Judah, too, finishes his plate and leaves it in the sink after running it under some hot water to wash the excess yolk and juice away. He turns off the stove, reassigns the pot to one of the cooler backburners, and retrieves his cell phone from the charger sitting on the chopping block; sick day or not, there's always the chance that he'll get a call from Matt or Viola that would require him to show up at the station. It's a balmy morning, one that doesn't require the use of a jacket, so he opts for a light sweatshirt instead. "You need anything before we go?"

While he does his last-minute 'do I have everything?' check, Tamara waits patiently. She knows he won't take too long, after all. To the question, the girl blinks. She considers it for about half a second (or maybe less), then shakes her head. "No," Tamara answers, before leading the way out the door. And right on down the hall. But she won't go /too/ far without waiting for Judah to catch up. Just to make sure he /does/ go the right way.

Judah has the advantage of having much longer legs than Tamara. His earlier 'beanpole' comment might even have been a throwback to his own teenage years. Before he heads out after her, he makes a point to close and lock the door behind him. These days, you never know who might come poking around when you're gone. Satisfied that his apartment is as secure as it's going to get, he hurries after her, his pace brisker and livelier than it has been in some time.

Tamara smiles at Judah as she waits for him to catch up. She settles in to walk alongside, her gaze flickering erratically over their surroundings. Every once in a while, she slows or drifts to one side as if drawn by something, but the girl always catches the impulses before they take her very far away. None must be important. She also seems content to leave the talking for the duck pond, as planned.

The walk to Central Park isn't a long one. It never is. One of the advantages of living downtown is that everything is only a matter of minutes away, either by foot or by taxi, and Judah almost never carries enough cash on him to pay for cab fare. When they arrive, the morning joggers are already out in full force; the detective might be worried about someone in the crowd recognizing Tamara, if it weren't for the simple fact that most of the people they pass by on their way to the pond are too busy huffing and puffing while scrolling through their iPod playlists to notice either of them. The pond itself is much quieter, populated by the turtles, the ducks, and a single red-winged blackbird bathing itself in the shallows. Judah makes a beeline for the bench closest to the water's edge — the best spot for bird watching, presumably.

Tamara doesn't seem to share the detective's concern about being recognized - although there are a couple of times where she changes sides with Judah. That could be just because something on the /other/ side caught her attention, and probably was. Perching on one end of the bench… the girl stays there for less than five seconds. She hops back up, gestures for Judah to wait, and darts down the path.

For a moment, Judah isn't sure whether or not to pursue her, but he eventually settles against the back of the bench. She wouldn't have made the motion for him to stay put if she didn't intend on returning, he reasons. The blackbird fluffs its plumage and flutters up into a nearby tree where it can warm itself in the sun without having to worry about being vulnerable.

Tamara practically screeches to a halt not too far away - still in sight - after dodging around the cluster of people at some sort of vendor's stand. Ignoring the people in line, she leans on the end of the cart and apparently says something to the vendor - who greets her with evident welcome and ruffles the girl's hair. Tamara doesn't even dodge it, although Judah can probably imagine the mostly mock-aggrieved face he gets for his presumption. After a moment, he goes back to serving his alternately disgruntled and amused customers, while the girl jogs back over to join Judah at the bench. "Here you go," she says, handing him two of the four hot dog buns as she sits back down. They can't feed the ducks without some sort of edible item, after all.

"Good thinking, kid." Judah is glad to see that he isn't the only friend that Tamara has in New York City; as long as she's in the good graces of a hotdog vendor, he doesn't have to worry about her going hungry. "This way I don't have to cut off your toes so the birds have something to eat." Carefully, he begins tearing up one of the buns into smaller, bite-sized pieces. He's never seen a duck choke on anything before, but there's a first time for everything.

Tamara pretty clearly hasn't been going hungry, or she /would/ be able to hide behind a lamppost. She pulls off a piece of bread - and proceeds to worry it into crumbs rather than toss it immediately to the birds. "They always had something," the girl remarks. She looks down at the pile of bread-dust in her palm, then blows it off in the direction of the pond. Close as they are, some of it actually even hits the water. That which doesn't is promptly set upon by those pigeons who dare brave the rightful territory of ducks and geese (and are just as quickly chased off by some of said geese).

Judah flicks a single piece of bun onto the water, further out, where a cluster of ducks are bobbing for food at the bottom of the pond. The geese seem to be able to fend for themselves just fine. "I've been meaning to ask," he starts, rolling another piece between his two fingers until it vaguely resembles a ball, "what do you plan on doing over the long term, if you don't want to go back home and finish school?"

Tossing a few pieces - actual pieces this time, and not crumbs - out onto the pond, Tamara lets silence collect for a few moments before she turns towards Judah. "It is what is," she says softly. "There are ways and ways, but none come clear by the mirror alone. Plans… shift with the shadows." The girl faces the pond again, tossing another bit of bread out for the birds. "They get messy. Too much if. Try /not/ to make the mirror worse."

"Fair enough." Judah doesn't know what he was expecting; a lot of teenagers, even those without precognitive abilities, don't have any definite plans for the future. "Is there anything you'd /like/ to do? If the mirror wasn't a problem, and there weren't any shadows?" Those are some big ifs. He's going out on a limb here, much like the blackbird, which is now peering down at the pair on the bench with bright-eyed curiosity (though it's probably more interested in their hotdog buns than it is in them).

Tamara flicks a piece of bread well away from the pond, where the blackbird can get at it without interference - at least from the waterfowl. It still has to get to it before the pigeons notice. Her attention, however, is directed towards Judah. Who is met with a puzzled look, which endures for a while; then the girl sits back, closing her eyes, a thin line creasing her forehead. "I… I don't… It…" She does try; but the question doesn't compute. Tamara shakes her head, just once, if emphatically, running her hands up through her hair. The hot dog buns are left forgotten on the bench.

Judah had anticipated a reaction, but not one quite as extreme as this. He reaches over, placing one hand on Tamara's shoulder. "Okay, let's not think about that one too hard right now." The blackbird, oblivious to Tamara's distress, pops down to the gravel, plucks up the piece of bun in its beak, and flaps away into some bushes. "How long has it been like this, Tam'?"

She tolerates the hand on her shoulder right up until he picks the next question to ask. Then Tamara abruptly pulls away, standing up and turning sharply around. Oblivious to the frustrated tears on her own cheeks, the teen waves a hand at Judah. "Count ghosts. If you want, chase your own!" The waterbirds, long inured to the vagaries of humans, don't do much of anything except waddle a little further away from the girl. The fact that her tone /isn't/ angry only makes them less bothered. Tamara lets out a heavy sigh, distraught tension disappearing as quickly as it came, and flumps down unceremoniously to sit on the concrete around the pool.

How to take that? Judah isn't sure. Tamara's outburst hits him like a ton of bricks from three stories up, and for almost a full minute, he doesn't do anything except sit there in shameful silence. He's not good with kids — or adults, for that matter. The next time he opens his mouth, he risks making the situation even worse than it already is. "Sorry," he mumbles, "I'm really bad at this." Setting his remaining hotdog bun aside, he rises from the bench and walks over to stand behind Tamara, paying no heed to the squabbling of the geese as they scrap over the food left in his wake. "I know I say a lot of stupid things sometimes, and that I ask some even stupider questions." He sighs. This is hard. "I'm just trying to see things the same way you do."

When he stands behind her, Tamara leans back, tilting her head until she can just glimpse Judah's face. "You look the wrong way," she says softly. There's no accusation in her tone; it's mostly resignation. One can imply the apology was accepted. "You have to. It is what is, what was, what will. Wouldn't want different," the girl adds offhand. "Neither could turn around, not really. You could pretend. Maybe. It's… knowing too much or not enough; the difference isn't. The mirror couldn't," she concludes, shaking her head a bit. "Not…" But her voice trails off; Tamara doesn't finish that thought.

Judah looks listlessly out over the water. The resignation in Tamara's tone is mirrored in his expression. One step forward, two steps backs — he really needs to learn to tread more carefully around her when he talks about these things. "I'll try harder," he resolves, though what he means by this or what it might entail may not be immediately apparent. His thoughts are drawn back to the legal pad back at his apartment, and the words that he scribbled across it in the early hours of the morning. Enough of these guessing games — he has to make an appointment with Rianna Rockford, and soon.

Tamara looks up at Judah for a long while, saying nothing. Studying him with dark eyes. She looks like she's considering something, but her expression is guarded; whatever it is, it's not something she seems eager to say or set in motion or whatever would be involved. "I'm sorry," she says softly after a time, apparently coming to a decision. And that verdict was 'no'. For now.

"It's okay, kiddo." And it is. Judah joins Tamara on the ground at the edge of the pond, his long legs folded up almost comically, and rests his hands on his knees. There's not much more that needs to be said; he's content to sit here for awhile, watching the birds, watching their reflection in the water, wondering if the ripples that spread across the pond are anything like what his companion sees in that mirror of hers.

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