2007-07-21: Civic Crackpot


Lee_icon.gif Mara_icon.gif

Summary: Mara quite literally runs into Lee and the two chat as she buys him a new coffee.

Date It Happened: July 21, 2007

Civic Crackpot

Café D-Lux

Lee is hanging outside around the Café D-Lux, a battered 50-s era diner that has been badly converted into a independent coffee joint. Naturally there are four Starbucks within a block, all established within months of the D-Lux opening, but it's still scraping by on the largesse of its loyal, hipper-than-thou customers, most of whom have Bluetooths. Lee, a notable exception, is hanging around outside with a cardboard cup in his hand, and a copy of the newspaper in his other, at which he is shaking his head in disbelief. At his feet is his crummy briefcase from which is protruding a giant stack of brand new stapled memos, all ready to make the new school year as terrible as possible. "Doesn't make any fucking sense." he mutters. "Must be some kind of idiot."

Nothing spoils a woman's morning like suspecting she's being followed. Fortunately, Mara's dressed like a jogger, so it doesn't look too out of place when she comes rounding the corner of a building at a full on sprint.

Nothing spoils a man's morning like being barrled into by a woman whose morning has been spoiled by suspecting she's being followed. The collision is jarring enough to send the red-haired runner bouncing off of Lee and tumbling to the pavement, landing flat on her back. Dazed and confused, she stares up at the sky with wide eyes, trying to catch her breath.

Lee should, by all accounts, be on his ass, in the slimy gutter, in the middle of the street, but instead he is just knocked way over, splashing his coffee down into the street, the cup and the newspaper going flying as his arms pinwheel wildly, but before he knows what is happening, he's standing back up straight on the sidewalk without a drop on him. "Whoa…are you okay?" he says, reaching down to help her sit or stand up. "You really nailed me."

The downed woman stares at the offered hand, and then the man offering it, for a long moment before she finally accepts. "Yeh… Sorry," she murmurs appologetically in a… mostly British accent. "You all righ'? I only glanced over my shoulder for a second. I guess I was moving faster than I thought. I didn't even see you there." Back on her feet, Mara repeats the action she just describe. Well, she doesn't see anyone…

Lee is looking around somewhat confusedly, like he is just a bit befuddled - he can't figure out how come he didn't fall over. "Yeah, I uh…I'm good. That'll teach me to stand in the middle of the sidewalk and block traffic. Are you with someone?" He looks back where she is glancing back to, as if expecting to see a jogging buddy round the corner, instead of an Insidious Stalker (tm).

"Huh? Oh, ah… No." Mara shakes her head quickly. "It's just me." She flashes him a quick smile, instantly regretting letting him have a glimpse of the gap in her front teeth. No Insidious Stalkers or jogging partners here.

Lee does not even seem to notice. Bad dentistry is rampant at the school, after all, even if you don't count the cheap spangly grillz on the 15 year old thugz, I mean thugs. He leans vertiginously over to collect the pages of the paper that are scattered close enough to pick up, and the cup. Keep Our City Clean. "I, ah, I'm Lee. Nice to bump into you. Do you live around here?"

"I'm… I'm Mara," the redhead introduces herself quietly. "I used to. I'm just visiting today. You?" He must, or he wouldn't have asked, right? She reaches up to rub the back of her neck in a seemingly absent gesture. But really, it just keeps her from reaching to help him.

Lee tosses the armful of debris in a nearby can. "Yeah, down the block a bit." he says vaguely, not mentioning the comic book store. "Best coffee place in four blocks. You're not hurt or anything, you're sure?"

"M'fine. Honest." Mara tilts her head toward the coffee shop, "C'mon. Let me buy you another cup. It's the least I can do for slamming into you like that." How in the world did he manage to stay on his feet?

Lee says, "Yeah. Yeah, sure. I'll take you up on that…It's weird, maybe someone grabbed me or something…" He looks around the Bluetoothed yuppies as if one of them might have done it, but it's clear none of them are paying the least bit of attention. "Anyway, no harm done. Let's definitely get another cup." Inside it's badly lit, the furniture is decrepit and the place smells wonderful. "So what do you do, Mara?"

Now that's a good question. "I'm a… consultant." That sounds like as good a lie as any. It's maybe even partially true. Mara strolls up to the counter, flashing Lee another smile - though this one is close-lipped. She eyes the menu. A yuppie shop like this has got to have tea.

Lee is too much of a bigmouth to let that sit. "Consultant? Who consults with you and what do they consult?" He gets coffee, fresh roasted, fresh ground, exactly what he had before. Almost a waste, but upgrading to a six dollar mochafrappolattamilkasugacaffacoffee on someone else's dime violates the Code of the Joneses.

Mara pays for Lee's coffee and her cup of Earl Grey, waiting patiently for her order to steep. "I consult on the mindset of dangerous criminals. Kind of like a profiler." That is probably closer to the truth. "It's not as exciting as it sounds. How about you, Lee? What do you do?"

Lee says, "How /could/ it be as exciting as it sounds? That's pretty cool. I just teach civics at John Phillip Sousa Junior High, up in the Bronx. In fact I'm just coming back from there with my pile of faculty memos. New bureaucracy to start out the year. I'm sure /that'll/ improve things." he adds sardonically. "So, if the police or the FBI or whoever has a series of crimes they can't crack, they give them to you and you try to figure out the characteristics of the person who did it?"

"If they have a killer they can't figure out, they call me. I've got a bit of a reputation as a crackpot, I guess." The more she tries to concoct new lies, the more truth there is to it. Mara's sure her therapist will love to hear about this conversation. "Civics, huh? That's got to be a tough class to teach to kids that age."

Lee says, "If they pay, who cares what they think, right? Yeah. They aren't exactly big on the American dream up in that neighborhood, except maybe the 'make a buck' part. I lose more to jail and juvenile detention than I do to anything else." He sounds oddly cavalier about it, it sort of comes off a bit jerk-ish, though he has enough self-awareness to realize it and look a bit embarrassed at his own remarks, so he changes the subject. "I know a little something about crackpots. My sister runs a comic book store up the street. The nerds in there, wow. They believe in /everything/. But they don't get a check to catch bad guys."

"I don't do anything really remarkable," Mara insists. If Lee can have a big mouth, so can she. "Don't… Backpedal like that. You have to be able to stop caring to a certain extent in order to cope. You couldn't stay in a job like that if you let it affect you like that." Maybe not so much a big mouth as an excuse to share some compassion.

Lee is surprised that a stranger would say that to him but he engages with it. "Yeah? Is that why you're a consultant and not a salaried cop? You let it affect you?"

"Hell naw," Mara drawls with a grin. "Salaried cops don't get to delve into the heads of the real crazy ones without getting placed on probation and psychiatric leave." A true touch of the sardonic there. "What I'm doing now is much more interesting. Just far less glamourous."

Lee shrugs, he's still not sure about the glamorous bit, but he admits: "It gets so old being the compassionate college educated teacher who is supposed to teach these little thugs how to be decent citizens and inspire them and clean up their acts and set them on the straight and narrow and blah blah blah. But it's what people expect, it's what they want you to be."

"So long as it's what you want you to be, then you'll make out all right." Mara sips at her tea, now that she's decided it's cooled enough to drink. "Junior high is a tough age. But if you can touch just one kid, it's worth it, yeh?"

Lee says, "I never wanted to end up a secondary teacher, but I had to drop out of grad school in a hurry and come back to New York. Family crisis. And the bills don't pay themselves. But it beats most other things you can get with half a Ph.D. in French Literature. One kid, pff. I'll be happy if I can get through it without being knifed. But enough cynicism about me. Why do they think you're a crackpot, do you have weird theories about who kills people? I'm guessing if a wife bludgeons her husband to death with a golf trophy they can usually figure those out."

"I have weird theories about why people kill." There's no harm in admitting that much, right? "Some people are just so narrow-minded." Mara shrugs, "Maybe it's straight forward. Maybe it isn't. Motive is a very funny thing."

Lee says, "Give me an example. I really want to know." He does seem a bit abnormally interested.

"A man kills a woman he doesn't even know. He doesn't rape her. He doesn't take her wallet. He just murders her. Brutally. No rhyme. No reason. He does the same thing two weeks later. This time? It's a man. The two crimes seem completely unrelated, except that there's DNA evidence that proves that the same person killed both victims. Now, it could be a case of wrong place, wrong time. But the killings look more deliberate than haphazard." Mara turns her gaze to the ceiling as she weaves her example together into something she hopes makes some semblance of sense. "I find patterns where people generally don't see them. I mean, I can't give any… specific examples, but… If I look at a baffling situation long enough, I can start to find reason in the madness."

Lee says, "A connection….yeah, that makes sense. Because that's the only way you can get the guy is if you can find the connection and find the motive." He explains his interest: "I met this guy a little while ago. Scary in a sort of 'TV guest star in a black turtleneck' way. At first I didn't take him at all seriously - revenge this and conspiracy that - but then eventually I started to just get this feeling, this impression that maybe he /would/ hurt someone. It was pretty unnerving. I've been avoiding him ever since."

Mara doesn's skip a beat. She reaches into the pocket of the hoodie tied around her waist and procures a pad of paper and a purple pen. A phone number is scrawled on the sheet, torn away from the pad, and then passed to Lee. "You see this man again, and you call me." It doesn't… sound like anyone she's already aware of as a threat, but one should always be on the lookout. "Okay?"

Lee says, "Uh…sure." He tucks away the paper, but it's clear that now /he/ thinks she's a bit of a crackpot. "Why, are you…looking for someone like that? On a case?" Cautious now.

"I don't like taking chances when people suspect they know someone who might hurt people. Especially if it's enough that you're avoiding this guy." So what if he thinks she's crazy? A healthy dose of paranoia keeps this girl alive. Mara downs the last of her tea and nods slightly. "I should keep moving. Maybe I'll see you around, Lee." Or maybe she won't. She's hoping he never needs to use her number. If he wants to, however, that's a whole different matter.

Lee says, "Was good to meet you, Mara. Thanks for the coffee. Watch those corners." He offers her his hand, snapping out of his cautiousness easily enough. The very, very, very, very, very, very last thing he /ever/ wants to do is to call a criminal profiler with his dad's fingerprints at two crime scenes, physical evidence linking him to a third, and Lee knowing where he is.

Mara shakes Lee's hand and then heads for the exit. If only he knew. She has far more pressing matters to worry about. Once out the door, she's not intent on lingering too long. She's off and jogging again moments later.

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