2007-02-14: Collapse


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When Ramon continues to avoid her, Elena hunts him down.

Date It Happened: February 14th, 2007


The Castro Apartment

He said it might be too dangerous to say where his whereabouts are, even over the phone, and even in Spanish, so after trying to study in Eric's apartment in Greenwich Village, Elena decides to do some leg work. Grabbing her backpack, her book, and the printout, she heads out the door and makes her way back to Queens. Queens was almost a world away from Greenwich Village - it was dirtier, somewhat slummy, in contrast to the Bohemian centre of New York that was the Village. Still, Elena grew up here, she knew her way around this part of New York.

It didn't take too long for her to narrow down her father's whereabouts to three possible locations. The latino community in this area of town was close knit. She used to do this when she was typically hunting Manny or Luis down when he got lost in a sea of extended relations. After two flubs, she finally knocks on the door of Senora Carmelita Castro's house.

She wears a ponytail today, her sunglasses perched on her head, and a pair of hip-hugging jeans.

Carmalita answers the door. "Elena! Bebito! Come in! Ramon, Elena is here!"

Ramon was finally getting some sleep too. He sits bolt upright on the couch and comes staggering into the kitchen. His beard is getting scruffy. Dark circles are living under his eyes. The lines are deeper. In short, he looks haggard, worried, and frustrated. "Elena, I'm trying to stay away from you for your own good," he growls. "It doesn't work well if you hunt me down."

"Papa, no one knows I'm here," Elena says, walking over hurriedly to give her father a hug. "And I was worried about you, I had to come find you!" She pulls away to look at him. "And I know you're trying very hard, but I'm not afraid." Even if she should be, but she's not. She sits down near him, and zips open her bag. Yanking out the print out that Eric made of the book, she shows it to him. "That's the book the ISBN number leads to. It's the same symbol. Here is the original note that was planted on me. Drake swears that the big black man was with me in the break room before he left the coffeeshop the day I….stopped remembering things he could remember. If it's true, he might have been the one who gave this to me. I don't know what EB means."

She rakes a hand through her hair. "Mr. Marx dropped by after one of my classes in NYU yesterday as well. He said our case is hopeless, unless we can somehow prove that the perpetrator managed to kill Mama using the phone. I thought it was farfetched….but….after everything I've seen, it must be possible. There's someone out there who kills using his own voice."

"It stands for Enlightenment Books, chiquita," Ramon says, resignation creeping into his tone. He pulls out his copy, which is always in his jacket pocket. And he was sleeping with that on. "Someone slipped it onto Cass' shelves three days after we talked to her. Perhaps this Haitian. She doesn't know who. Its why I told you to stay away from there until I knew more."

Carmalita stares at Elena and Ramon and just…leeaaaaves the room. People who kill using their voice? She gets on her cellphone with Renee. "Renee, I think the Gomez's have lost it," she whispers excitedly in Spanish. "The poor dears are so desperate for answers that they're coming up with all sorts of wild conspiracy theories!"

"Haitian? The man is from Haiti?" How'd her father figure that? Elena looks at him. "So what does it mean?" she asks. She takes the book, and flips over the pages, skimming the passages quickly. "Philosopher's Stone? Alchemy is the art of turning things that exist into something else, like iron into gold…..and some say people can achieve immortality with it. Have you read this? What does it mean?" She pauses. She hears Carmelita walk out, and she lowers her voice towards her father. "Papa…..the necklace. If it was on her body and she never had it before…do you think maybe the killer actually WAS with Mama at the time? If it's possible he called first to command mother to kill herself, maybe it wasn't that right away. Maybe he called first and told her to unlock her door. Papa, there could still be -something- in our house that could tell us who it is."

"I don't know. That's what Marx called him," Ramon grumble-rumbles. "It would be in the old house though," he points out. "Not the new apartment. But you're right." He scrubs a hand over his face. "Chiquita. Its a serial. Mr. Marx found two other cases." He sits down heavily at the kitchen table and looks at her.

"….two other cases? What do you mean it's a serial?" Elena says after a pause, staring at her father. A….serial…WHAT? "Wait a minute!" She can't help the rising tone, and she lowers her voice to hiss quietly. "You mean….like Jack the Ripper?" Oh god. That was even worse.

"Apparently," Ramon rumbles softly. "That's what Mr. Marx thinks. I'm inclined to believe him." He scrubs a hand over his face. "And since these people who took Benjamin seem to have tied themselves right into this saga by dropping clues, you can see why I've been reluctant to go home. I'm on Family and Medical Leave at work." Notoriously unpaid, but he does have /some/ savings.

"Do you think this….Haitian might know something about who did this?" Elena asks. If that's the case they shouldn't be running AWAY from him. They should be talking to him! Her mind scrolls down numerous possibilities as to how to contact him - but none are logical as the man was there one moment, and gone the next.

"Or he knows what the symbol meant and decided to share," Ramon says. "What concerns me is how did he know to drop the book off at the book store at the first place? Unless he gave you the ISBN and then went over and then did it, which makes some sense to me. But…him having the ISBN in the first place implies that he knew all about it and came prepared. Nobody just memorizes a gazillion digit number like that, chiquita."

"That, and how does he know we've been inquiring about it? Someone like him stands out. Tall, dark, with that necklace around his neck?" Elena says. "When we talk about Mama, it's inside our own home. The only possibility I could think of is if he was in the bookstore that day when we enlisted Cass to do some looking for us."

"But nobody was there. I remember. I implied to Cass that she might be bugged." Then, an odd hint of regret. "I spooked her, I think. But I'm going to call her. Check on her. I don't want to have brought any sort of trouble down on her head." He scratches at his beard and looks at his daughter. He's wearing the same look he gets when there's $4000 worth of bills that need to out-go and only $3000 of income to cover them.

"…..maybe I can do it?" Elena offers softly. "I'm not afraid, Papa. And if the Haitian decides to linger around there, well, all the better for me to ask about everything. If he truly was the one who gave me the note like what Drake says, he -meant- for me to keep looking, not scare me away from it." She shakes her head, and looks over at her father more closely. "….you look so tired, Papa."

Standard response. Incoming. "Its fine, chiquita. I'm fine. Papa will take care of everything." He gives her the Standard Our-Lights-Are-About-To-Be-Cut-Off and No-We-Aren't-Using-Your-Money smile, too. Only now they're all tilted towards different problems.

"Papa…" Elena's voice takes on a pleading cast. But again the reins of culture pervade. And seeing him now, she didn't have the heart to disobey him, much less put him in further strain of worry. "Okay. But promise me you'll get some rest and try to eat something," she says. "Eric has been kind enough to let me stay in his place, but I'm starting to feel bad. It's his apartment - he just moved in. I think I'll offer to take the couch tonight."

Papa is obviously feeling bad too. He can't keep using that man's charity. His mouth twists. "Maybe its time we both went home. I'd have to break into Benjamin's apartment to go any further. Nobody's answering the door. I don't know if he'd mind to save him but I'm not sure I want to explain it to the policia if I am caught."

"Benjamin….?" Elena asks softly, looking at her father in confusion. "Who's Benjamin?" This would be easier if she hadn't been mindwiped by the Haitian, but sacrificing the memory was almost worth it, now that the little keys to the three-year old unsolved mystery that haunts their family have been showing up in exchange. But memories about the kidnapping, the details, they are all gone. All Drake has mentioned to her is that she had told him a woman named 'Angie' was involved, and that she had mentioned to him that her father was a mindreader - which was corroborated by Eric and she didn't see a need to disbelieve them, especially after they took turns showing her their abilities.

"The accountant, chiquita. My friend who was kidnapped," Ramon says, sounding even more tired than before. "I got his address from his office. But I can't just break in, hoping there's something around in there that might point me in his direction so I can help him." He must be tired, because now he's letting things slip, because he says, "I can't help thinking it can be any of us. Any one of us. Any of you kids. Its more than me liking him and wanting a friendship with him." The man needs a friend, he really does. "Its…if nobody stands up, if nobody digs into this, and its you or the other kids next…"

"Well you don't have to worry about me, Papa…" Elena says softly. "I don't think I have any gifts like you, or Drake, or Eric. My book says these sorts of things may be genetic, but also that these ….traits can skip a generation or two, or even five before it manifests again. If anything between the both of us, you are the one in most danger. Not I. I have nothing that would interest them." She inclines her head at her father. "Where does he live?"

"No. Chiquita." Ramon says flatly. "You need to look at the facts. Don't think about what you want it to be, because I don't think you want the abilities. Think of it as it is. You got rid of poison in my system and knew it was poison. You tell me how you did that, Doctor, if you are not in equal danger? I am not sure I like you going into work but perhaps they're done with you for now, because they do not know. They were merely erasing your memories and perhaps hoping to do the same to me, because they do not know about me yet either I imagine." And then, scowling darkly, he rattles off the address, if only because his internal filters are weakened by sheer exhaustion.

"…..I….did…?" Elena says slowly. That, too, had been erased. Otherwise she would've been joining Eric and Drake and her father in the ranks of the weird. She remembers all those times she helped people feel better, but that could have been anything. She had always been one with a sweet and comforting disposition. She looks down at her hands. "But…." She didn't remember. And she didn't know how. She shakes her head. When he rattles off the address, she barely registers it, still rolling the words around her head….when she looks up. "….what? That's….in Greenwich Village. That's Eric's apartment building."

"You did," Ramon says. His brow furrows as the connection zig zags to his mental list. All the different intersecting lives. He grunts. "Nnngh. I could have told Eric to try to get into the apartment as a neighbor or something, had I known that. Only I don't want the kid to get arrested even more than I don't want to get…"

And that's when about 15 of Carmelita's family members come in, all chattering and laughing loudly at each other in Spanish. They start hugging Elena and Ramon. And Ramon's eyes go wide. He grimaces in pain, and claps his hands to his head. Too much, too much, too much. He sort of tries to stagger back from all the hugging and talking.

At first, Elena is overwhelmed. When fifteen members of the family come out to hug her and her father, and talk in rapidly Spanish, she breaks away from talking about business with her father, laughing with a few of them and hugging back those who hug her. She seems, for now, oblivious to her father's pain. She has no idea how acute her father's abilities have become. Only when she hasn't heard her father's voice in a while that she turns around to glance over where he is to gauge his reaction….only to see him in pain.

"Guys, settle down, Papa is sick and tired, I think he needs to lie down and have something to eat," she says in Spanish, moving over so she could do what she's always done - and that's try to take care of her father. In essence, she tries to shoo her family members away and coax Mrs. Castro to move away and get her father some of her famous arroz caldo. Then, she'll try to move Ramon back to the couch.

Oh but that makes it worse, see, because all the thoughts turn louder, even as they quiet down. ~What's wrong with him?~ ~Is it catching?~ ~He looks like Hell. Is he dying? Does he have cancer? Heart attack? What is it?~ Ramon lets out a hiss through gritted teeth, standing up. He knocks over his chair in his haste to get out. Get away. Before Elena can steer him anywhere, though, his eyes roll back in his head. He hits the ground in a dramatic heap, unconscious.

"Papa!" Elena cries, dropping on her knees next to her father and cradling his head, peeling his eyelids apart to inspect them. His eyes are rolled to the back of his head naturally, and he's out cold. She grits her teeth, wracking her brain. She was studying to be a normal -doctor-, not a doctor for the genetically enhanced! She takes a deep breath and thinks. Examine the body. Gather the facts first. Then make your diagnosis and act on it. Facts. Hypothesis. Experimentation. Conclusions. That was how a scientist broke down her thoughts.

Finally, she takes out her cellphone and dials a number. After a few rings, she closes her eyes and speaks up. "Eric…? It's Elena. I'm sorry but I don't know who else to call that has access to a vehicle…"

When she ends the conversation, hopefully her classmate will arrive with one of the RTS vans, and then they can proceed to shuttle off her father into quieter environs.

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