2010-08-31: Curtain Call

Starring:

Laurie3_V5icon.pngLizzie2_V5icon.pngSydney_V5icon.png

Guest Starring:

Roberto_V5icon.png

Date: August 31, 2010

Summary:

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

Orson Welles


"Curtain Call"

Lizzie and Sydney's Apartment

The radio produces more static than actual noise, a constant point of contention for the blonde therapist as she tries to tweak the signal, her usual pale face becoming paler by the second. Discontent is the rule of the day, concern wearing across her features at the message filled with static and half garbled words. It's useless, really. She missed the first part of the sentence, the important part of the DJ's warning, but what she did hear — that puts her on edge.

The butterflies in her stomach fight fiercely against her insides, begging to be released, but the anxiety is nothing compared to that which spikes as her gaze turns to the kitchen window. In her other hand the grasp on her water glass slips, causing the glass itself to shatter against the hardwood floor.

The sound echoes through the house, but Sydney doesn't hear it. She can't hear it. Her fight or flight mechanism has already taken over. Her bare feet tread over the glass, shards getting stuck within them producing beads of blood on her otherwise white canvased skin, a stark contrast to her otherwise angelic form thanks to the white sundress in which she's dressed, as she literally bolts to the porch, tearing through the door, and in the process ripping the screen.

Her hand desperately searches for Lizzie's, yanking her towards the door with a heave, her instructions heated in clipped words, "Never take candy from strangers!" The instructions are harried; there's no time to think. When your former kidnapper and a known killer pays you a visit, you can only react.

Perhaps it's moments like this when emotion manipulation isn't a curse. In fact, Sydney's anxiety echoes throughout the front of the yard, even at her appearance, Roberto doesn't react immediately, there's a delay as he holds out that bag of Skittles. His own anxiety peaks, but it won't last.

The hand that grabs at her arm and the sudden feeling of dread that fills Lizzie has her slamming the door behind them. Leaning against it with all of her dead weight, she turns, trembling, toward Sydney. "Wh-what.. Who is that?!" Sydney's afraid, something that Lizzie hasn't felt in a very long time.

The little spots of blood all over the floor only gives cause to peak the dainty blonde's terror even further. A blacklash of Sydney's own emotion whipped back at her tenfold. Lifting her hand, she turns to flip the deadbolt on the door, hearing it click. "Sydney! What's going on?!" Her voice is high enough to shatter glass, squeaking at the end as a tone of punctuation all of its own.

* * *

"So, I know you're used to just doing whatever you want with Detective Powers, but my partner and I would appreciate it if you stayed in the car." Detective Kotowski speaks like a native New Yorker, an accent winding through his words as he strings on arm around the head-rest of his seat to address the rider in back while using the other arm to gesture magnanimously to the second detective in the passenger's seat. The partners exchange a look, high in shared amusement, low in subtlety. With a last flickering glance at their ride-along, Kotowski generously adds, "Until we need you," then, "C'mon," to Jordan and both doors simultaneously unlock and swing open; the men's steps timed too naturally together to be a planned effort.

Pop. In the new closure of the stopped vehicle, Laurie's therapeutically chewed gum smacks loudly in the silence. The stifling, standing air. A burst of movement shovels him across the seats, over the divider between passenger and driver, tumbling him into the front with a deftness betraying his size. From here it's easier to squint through the windshield to the rest of the world — one currently playing the tune of a bloodied white sheet adorning the ground, the lump underneath — Kotowski and Jordan as they approach.

After the window's wheeled downwards, the consultant leans across the dash, liberally reassigning preferences on the radio. But there are only so many buttons — and so many numbers playing a combination of Mexican folk and irritable static — and he's posed to excuse himself from the car when a different kind of radio pipes up from between the seats, the small hand-held speaker buzzing importantly.

//All units be advised… APB on Roberto Harlin… recently found missing from his secure holdings… subject should be considered armed and extremely dangerous… approach with caution— //

It's between APB and Roberto that the neutral woman's voice is interrupted by the rumbling stir of a car engine starting up, startling the two detectives outside to looking as they crouch near the half-uncovered body at the scene. Kotowski is on his feet only in time to watch as the tan Ford peels from the parking lot, blowing dust back at the staring ensemble of officers and witnesses. Hand against the edge of his blue officer's hat, one of the cops present squints needlessly at the vehicle blatantly turning against a red arrow.

"… isn't that your car?"

* * *

Even with the door closed in the light of day, there's little safety to be had. The back door rattles as the woman from the car plays with the handle that gets stuck all too easily; it's already unlocked thanks to the spare key that had been left under a large rock on the back stoop — a key Sydney had forgotten about since her return to this space. Between the mind zombie at the back door and Roberto at the front, there's little time to respond to Lizzie's questions, fear dominating as rule of thumb. "We need to hide!" a free finger waves emphatically with every syllable of every word, "Do not let him find you!" There's no time to explain, not when the mind zombies are coming from all sides.

The therapist's grasp tightens around Lizzie's wrist before the smaller blonde is dragged towards the stairs. "Come on! There's no time!" No time to argue or discuss what's to be done, only time to be hauled up the stairs. Thirteen steps to get upstairs; lucky thirteen. Not that there's any freedom or solace up there, only a delay of the inevitable.

Lizzie is forcibly pulled into the therapist's bedroom and the door is slammed shut and locked. No, it won't keep him out, but it should delay him if she's so lucky.

Downstairs, the woman from the car finally jiggles the doorknob just 'so,' managing to actually open the door. Once inside? The door is shut and locked. Asinine steps shuffle her into the room, stepping over shards of glass that line the kitchen floor. There's nothing warm or present about her with an odd void consuming her features — a vacancy indicating no one is actually home like she's in some kind of otherworldly trance. Her lips press together as she moves to the front door and unbolts it, granting entrance to the blonde Skittle eating man outside.

Roberto glances around the house a high pitched whistle emits from his pursed lips. "Swanky~" he virtually sings as he permits the mailman (i.e. mind zombie number two) entrance into the home. Again the door is bolted shut. "Oh Doctor Falkland~" his lips curl into an all too satisfied smile, content with his current state of affairs. Transport is on their way, and he's in her home. Stupid FBI thinking it was safe to release the witnesses. His blue eyes gaze downward, catching the droplets of blood lining the floor. His gaze follows them towards the stairs. He turns to the woman, "When Finnegan gets here — let him and Seamus in… " Not that he'll have a problem taking what's his once he finds her.

Outside the townhouse a rather non-descript white caravan pulls up to the sidewalk, awaiting the retrieval of those yet to be taken.

Horror movie rule #1, don't run up the stairs. Not that Lizzie watches horror movies at all, she gets too scared. But it was in all the commercials. Her bare feet smudge a few of the droplets, grinding them into the carpet as she takes the stairs two and three at a time. Being stronger than the little wafer cracker, Sydney has no problems dragging her up the stairs and pretty much tossing her anywhere she'd like. This time, it's her bedroom.

The whites of the young woman's eyes are all too visible as she jerks her head around the room and then faces Sydney. "Your room?! Your room?! What are we going to do in here?! Hide under the bed?!" Her panicky shrieks are probably yet another clue to their whereabouts, not that Roberto needs much… he's got a lovely trail to follow.

The terrified former celeb leans back against the door, not even thinking when her hands touch and the wooden thing changes composition. Now Roberto doesn't need a blood trail, he's got a lovely yellow beacon reflecting the light from LIzzie's bedroom window. It's almost as if both women were wearing flashing signs saying 'HERE I AM'.

Sydney raises her hands, signaling Lizzie to stop. "Shhhh! Lizzie! I'm improvising! Don't — " a glance is given to her legs which are randomly stinging, except it's not so random. Her eyes narrow at the little lines of blood she's been trailing through the house before her gaze turns to the door with a gasp. Promptly, Lizzie is shoved into the closet with Sydney following only a step behind. The older blonde clamps a hand over Lizzie's mouth. Her voice turns to a whisper. "We didn't have a choice — there was no where else to go!" There's some force to the words even in their whispered state. "Stay quiet." She climbs atop a dresser kept within the closet so she can reach the attic just above. But she can't reach it, she's not tall enough. "Lizzie I'll give you a boost — "

The door is banged on several time before…

BANG BANG

That noise is enough to change Syd's plan of action. She reaches for the plastic rod used to hang clothing on. She whispers, "Lizzie quick! Make it gold!"

Two bullets at the doorknob falls off, permitting Roberto and his thugs entrance. "Where oh where as the little doc gone~ where oh where can she be?" it's a game to him, nothing more than a game. His steps turn about the room slyly, shuffling around its large space and permitting himself some time before going for the obvious hiding spot. His hand slides the white door open.

Stretching out both of her hands, Lizzie grips the rob and quivers as it instantly turns to gold. "It's not going to last, Sydney!" The terrified little blonde squeals as she watches Sydney struggle with the weighty gold pipe. "I— I don't know how long it's going to las— eep!" The singing causes her voice to halt with a pip of a squeek. Trembling, she picks up the other end to help her jam it against the door.

"The dresser!" She whispers hurriedly and runs to the other side of the tall armoir against the wall just on the other side of the door. With all of the strength she can muster, she runs at it, trying to tip it over. Another bodyslam has it tipping a little before wobbling back on all four feet. "Sydney" she whispers, "Help me!" With a combined effort, the two women send the dresser crashing down, on its side, only to bar a mere three inches of the door.

"C'mon, grab something light…" For Lizzie, it's a soap on a rope that was resting in a dish. Placing her hand on the soap, it instantly turns into a heavy metal brick on a rope.

There's a loud bang as Roberto tries to force the dresser out of the way, but the giant block of solid gold is too much for the sociopath to force. It's stuck, wedged between them and the door. Where the particle board of the Ikea dresser might have failed, Lizzie's alchemy has held up.

While it's not a perfect plan and the pair are stuck in the closet, they're safe, out of Roberto's reach. An odd sense of relief fills the room as Sydney catches her breath, as a blanket of silence descends upon the space. She stands just aside from the dresser, hand raised to her chest, hoping that he'll lose interest and just move on with his get-of-jail-free-card of an ability and disappear with his lackeys. More than anything going with him would be the worst.

The relief extends to the other side of the closet where Roberto sings quietly his cheek pressed up against the door, "//You'll be missed Miss California ~ You'll be kissed by only me~ When they can't find you you'll turn into a mystery~ " on the other side, Sydney holds a hand to it, silently thankful for Lizzie's newfound ability despite how tacky it's made her property, even as Roberto keeps singing she finds some semblance of peace, as long as he's on one side and she's on the other, "but you're no mystery to me, Miss Californ — " the word California is clipped as the dresser changes colour — the metallic state doesn't last, transforming from brilliant gold to a bland tan in between cream and champagne. From the edges to the centre it returns to particle board.

BAM

The dresser is destroyed with one foul kick, vengeance on Roberto's mind.

"AHHHHHHHHHH!" the shriek can be heard through the walls as the villain reappears on the other side of the closet. All peace gone. The gun is aimed at Lizzie, as he crunches around a mouthful of Skittles coloring his lips, his tongue, "Put it down or I shoot." His nose wrinkles with satisfaction as he grasps for a handful of the therapist's blonde hair amid continued shrieks and screams.

Even in his grasp she struggles while tears form along her eyes. After weeks of not leaving the house, and slow rebuilding, she has, at least, recovered some of the fight within her, even if its hopeless.

Staring into the nose of the gun barrel would make most people scream, wet themselves, or hit a brown note. What Roberto witnesses from the smaller of the two blondes is none of that. The moment her eyes focus on the black muzzle pointed at her forehead, she is no longer staring at it. He is no longer staring at her. In Lizzie's place is a large golden statue, frozen into the exact same sitting pose as the Little Mermaid on the rock in Denmark. Only this one doesn't have a serene look on her face.

A moment of staring is what Lizzie receives. A long moment of staring, even as Roberto tugs on Sydney's hair, literally pulling her from the closet by its loose curls, he stares at the gold statue before him. He virtually spits when he speaks, "Shut up cunt bitch!" the words roll of his tongue like they were her proper name rather than derogatory in nature.

Fiercely she fights within his grasp. Her elbow flails, attempting to catch him in the side. Even as she does, it's but a piece of him, drawing laughter rather than bringing him to the ground following which his hand folds around her chin and cheeks, pressing her against the wall. It slides to her throat — not yet strangling, but the silent threat remains as he pushes his cheek against hers, yielding goosebumps along her skin, he whispers in her ear, "You didn't think they could keep me away from you, did you? How many times do I have to make it clear…?"

A moment of silence remains with his hand there on her throat before he literally yells, "YOU ARE MINE!" But within that silence the fight remains, a fire within Sydney's eyes as she regroups. Her own hands rising to his, press against his hand and, by sheer luck, manage to push it away. In that moment, in that instant, she steps towards him unexpectedly, cutting a few feet before he catches her arm again and forces her head to the wall hard — face first.

Forcibly he turns her over, making that eye contact he needs. And with it the fight drains from her completely, leaving nothing but a Roberto mind zombie all too willing to take instruction and coaxing from him. Offering her his hand, she takes it even as the blood spurts from her nose, under his control, she has no feeling, no reaction to the pain of her throbbing face or the blood pooling on that once-white sundress.

No more than a dozen feet away, through a single layer of screen, one pane of medium-thickness glass, the street beyond sits pleasantly. Artistically planted trees, the worn sidewalk, the facades of brownstones twin to this one — all of it, ignorant to the violence happening within just one of those walls. Passive until spinning tires over concrete introduce a tan detective's civilian vehicle into the neighborhood at a speed far past that delegated by the upstanding black and white sign that's nearly taken out when the car clips the corner too sharply. In a bout of overly aggressive parallel parking, the tan Ford squeals straight in next to the van parked outside Sydney's place, squeezing one's paint job onto the other as it ekes against the spot as though attempting to bury itself inside the van's spacious back-seat.

Before the parking brake has properly engaged — not that the car's going anywhere, now grafted to the side of the other — the driver's side door flies open with a firmly planted kick. Rolling from the seat, hands finding the secret places in his jacket, Laurie skirts around the backside of both vehicles, skipping every other step in his quick jog of a pace. It slows only, and in that just barely, as he comes alongside the van. Fingers now curled, they remove from the jacket the rounded butt of a familiar pocket-knife. Flick of the wrist and it's released the blade to be buried into the top of the closest van tire: out again in a flash, the blade does not vanish. Instead, it's turned about in his grip so that the knife is wielded reverse-grip — a slashing grip. It also makes for keen defense as his other hand swoops around behind him and tugs a Smith & Wesson officer's firearm from the constrains of his waistline. Not until he's jogged up the stairs to the door and broken screen, that's opened with the turning prod of a toe, does he raise both weapons into plain sight. The knife hand rests like a balance underneath the base of the gun hand, steadying his grip and multiplying his options.

Rules of the profession haven't been Laurie's strong-point these recent months, but as he edges his way with a practiced side-step into the brownstone it's like a cop. Gun always level, he swings slightly bent elbows where he goes, leading with the gun but also his eyes as every corner is scanned before he'll go by. This procedure doesn't slow him much, however; the residence's layout and precise efficiency in clearing each area keeps the consultant fast on task — and on a sure way towards the stairs. This is where his attention's been tending since obvious sounds of commotion came and went seconds before, but no spot is left for surprises to pop out of later first. And, carefully and steadily weaning the knife hand away from his stance, he pauses near the back door to ease it shut, checking the lock as the motion ends. Slowly, to keep the quiet, his eyes never straying from the bottom of the stairwell, he eases one of the dining room chairs in front of the same door.

That's it gotten only quieter upstairs brings tension to the pull of the approaching consultant's move that doesn't reach so far as the rest of him. His body slides fluidly across the space, feet rolling in near silence on the hardwood and then again as the floor transitions to carpet. At the bottom of the stairs, scouting is sought. Eyes tracking ahead of his movements, he slows, attempting to come at an angle that will make viewable the turn into one room and then the other — aha; it's the second that reveals figures just before the bedroom's threshold. And at the first hint of them, Laurie slips away from the stairway entry, back pressing to the wall just to the left where a glance down won't betray him from where the first spotted thug is standing.

Then, perfecting his stance that evenly distributes his weight, he leans into his own right shoulder to put his face right near to the corner of the wall before the turn into stairs. Forcing lips together and out, he gives a loud, summoning whistle.

The whistle cuts through the otherwise silent house, begging the attention of thug number one also know as Finnegan Corbett — not-yet seventeen years old and already sucked into the uselessness of a life of crime despite his older brother's urges to leave Roberto's sinking ship behind him. But then Aedan could never understand his brother's level of blind devotion to the blonde, even after Roberto's arrest. Finn's own gun is positioned in a two hand hold as his less-silent-although-quiet steps shuffle down the hall. Even with the weapon poised, this thug appears more boy than man. Patches of dark-coloured peach fuzz line his face, accenting his youthfulness — he can't even grow a full beard yet.

Thug number two, older and evidently more senior than Finnegan, covers his partner in crime at the other end of the hall, his own gun in hand, and his weapon leveled to shoot should the need arise. He doesn't move, he has a corner to hide around. Even with the creak of Sydney's door opening and Roberto ushering the blonde therapist out, Seamus doesn't move from his spot. Yet in that moment, he does look away from his intended target, a glance given to the boss, indicating that now might not be the time to take their assumed hostage away from this space.

Roberto, in all of his arrogance, can't fathom a world where he ultimately loses. Every time they've put him away, every time they've tried to stop him, it's all come to nothing; his ability operates like a Get Out of Jail Free card. A cocky toothy grin plays on his lips as the boss peeks around the frame of the door and rolls his eyes. His finger's lace with the blonde's as he ducks back into the room. "It'll be a moment," he states to the rather vacant-looking Sydney that stands there. Her nose hasn't stopped bleeding, and were she more herself tears would be streaming down her cheeks. Instead? She's frozen, bent to the will of a madman, even as his lips press solidly against hers through the layer of blood that's pooled thanks to her nose, she can't react.

In therapy she'd called it transference when he'd declared his undying love for her, shortly after which she'd chosen to abandon the case and the Centre itself. But even in the kiss he's not satisfied. Where most minds bend easily to his will and urgings, Sydney's isn't so wholly effected. He could make others kiss him back, but she won't, not even in his control. Her emotions are, essentially, in lock down, leaving the vessel that is her body utterly vacant, but then, that's why he never liked her under his thumb. Except he did. No matter how hard he tries to break her spirit, he fails. That strength, that solidity drives him deliciously mad, especially as he can't actually control her, no matter how hard he tries. A smug smile spreads over his lips as he presses them even harder against hers, to the point of bruising. "You may be a complete bitch, but I love your independence, Sydney."

Finnegan finally reaches the end of the hall, but with Laurie against a wall, there's nothing to see.

Until it's too late for thug number one. An arm reaches suddenly out from the wall as Finnegan's double-handed wielding comes into view past it. Fingers curl around that opposing weapon, the thumb jamming into the boy's hand to dislodge his trigger finger. At the same time, he's pulled, forward and around, bringing his opposite shoulder into range for Laurie to wrap the right arm swiftly about the smaller male's shoulder, knocking his second arm away from the gun hold in a bind against his body, while Laurie's hand slaps over his mouth. In this grip, Finnegan is muscled around the corner within a matter of seconds, with nothing of Laurie to show down the hallway except the flash of a hand easily missed by any stray glances to the boss.

His back once again at the wall, the consultant rams their combined hands hard against it, urging the weapon to fall to the floor: a soft patter on a carpet, so innocent after the thick thud of things impacting the plaster. Finnegan's hand is released, but he is given little time to make good with it. Laurie's left arm now slides under his right, fitting the crook of his elbow around the young criminal's neck. It takes only a matter of several more seconds — a carefully calculated amount of force on that not-yet seventeen year old throat — before unconsciousness takes him.

Power. In that instant, complete control over the helpless body trapped against his arm. One more second. More could make damage permanent — more could — … but, teeth clenching in a silent grimace, Laurie jerks his arm roughly against the throat, bruising, but then easing off. Finnegan is guided vaguely by one hand to slide to the floor, then Laurie gets a toe under him and gives a few unenthusiastic kicks to move the kid to the corner where he won't be a nuisance.

To free his hands, gun and knife are both holstered imperfectly in the front of his belt, and they remain there a little longer as Laurie obtains again his place pressed to the wall, almost exactly as he was before — now with added baggage off to the side. And, again, he presses his lips and whistles.

"FUCK!" Seamus curses loudly as Finnegan essentially disappears from view without sound. "Boss… we got trouble!" his accent easily drifts through his speech. "Use teh 'gahl teh get us out." The grip around his gun tightens while he expects Roberto to enter the hall.

Enter he does, his fingers laced with Syd's until he slides her in front of him, wrapping his arm around her neck in a choke hold that she doesn't struggle within. Her eyes are blank umber orbs, reflecting and catching the light in flecks of gold along her otherwise bruised and bloodied face. It's in this state he sees fit to plant a gentle kiss on the curve of her neck. Her hands remain non-defensively at her sides even when Roberto holds the barrel of his gun to her temple. It's an unspoken threat to shoot her should the need arise. Her white dress, sullied in appearance, matched with the red of blood make her appear like a fallen angel, damaged from some odd encounter with the world and wholly unable to cope.

Roberto gives Seamus a nod, a silent order to move along.

Seamus shuffles to the front. "We have a hostage!! Any more," making the clarification that Finn's random disappearance qualifies as such, "funny business happens we will shoot." Or Roberto will. But there's no telling if he'll shoot his lackey once he's safely out in the car with his prize.

Yelling is information, and Laurie absorbs it with a look off the ceiling, thoughts rapid-fire but face impassive. Measured, inching, steps allow him to nudge his way up to the corner, setting up a glance past the wrap-around for a glimpse of that white and blonde. Just the shortest amount of time necessary for recognition before he's scuttled back to his post. Now, matching what footsteps can be picked out to the distance being closed between them, Laurie slides a hand to his belt and reclaims the grip of the pistol. It's firm and familiar in his hand and works like a natural extension of the arm he brings now against the wall also, leading his side towards the archway.

"Well, I say," is called around the corner, "any more funny business and I'll shoot." But the who of that is left so completely up to the imagination by the consultant's playful vibe: cheerfulness that sticks out bafflingly in the tense, disturbed household. As Laurie, his voice is less rough — more subtle — full of nuances that would never bother the single-mindedness of Roscoe; but the more words offered, the more chance for the connection to be made. And Laurie does not stop talking: "Only one hostage," he proposes thoughtfully — conversationally, really — the accompanying hum lending a negative air to his findings, "That hardly seems fair. Very big of you, though — taking the short end of the stick and getting shot for the boss like this."

No trigger, no hammer, no safety. Laurie hasn't even moved from his spot nor needed to adjust his fingers on the gun, but the words themselves sit so confidently — it's an eventuality. In this voice, there's no room for any other truth but this.

The seed of doubt so easily planted takes root within Seamus' consciousness. His gun still poised, his posture still, but something nearly indiscernible changes across his face. His lips curl, his brows furrow, and his loyalty waffles, "HEY! Teh boss wouldn't — " Except he would. Everyone knew he would. Roberto isn't about loyalty, he's about pure unadulterated control over his operations, his people, and his charges.

The cool metallic barrel of the gun presses harder against Syd's temple, producing a neat round bruise. Her eyes blink blankly, yet something changes across them at Seamus' defensiveness. It's momentary, but the emotions emitted from the thug are enough to nudge on her reality.

"FUCK! I just want out of this fuckin' house!! Get us out of the FUCK-ing HOUSE!" Roberto yells as he inches towards the end of the hall, the blonde woman still well within his grasp, but he stops glancing at his lackey and then back to his hostage. "MOVE it!" But there's no compliance. Seamus is unsure and highly disinterested in moving forward without a security blanket of his own. Negotiating with a madman is ill-advised at the best of times. In one fluid motion, the gun is turned from Syd's temple to the other man.

BAM!

One shot and he's down, the blood splattering against the wall, Roberto, and Sydney, leaving Roberto without his thugs while clinging to his insurance policy.

Laurie's near as responsible for that gun fire as the man who pulled the trigger, but there's nary a flinch as it goes off. Just a flicker behind eyes of mental activity: a check-mark. One more down. Breathe in. Planting his right foot, body grows taut, but not so much as to disturb the smoothness as he pivots around that heel. The move cleanly makes a barricade of his body against Roberto and that insurance going anywhere but back into the bedrooom.

Turned out into the hallway, his arm has raised against the man called boss not once, not twice, but for months. Smith & Wesson stretched out in a steady grip, he goes gun to gun with Roberto — but without the face to match. The eyes have it, but Sydney has his. Contrary to the new confrontational shape of his stance, Laurie involves a moment in watching the therapist's blank face, patiently waiting for even the faintest dying light to pass her eyes — his own seeming to encourage it solely in their brightness. A spark: sent down the stretch of hallway to her.

But the child's tune, jokingly made sinister, is only for one man. "Red Rover, Red Rover — send Sydney right over."

The spark brings a flicker of its own. Sydney's lips twitch, and for a moment there's life in her eyes while her eyebrows arch in momentary confusion. Beyond that, something else pulls the blonde therapist out of her brain trance. Like a swimmer coming up for air, she gasps, her brain her own once more, even if it's semi-incomprehensible as to why. Her dark eyes blink hard and she twists within the sociopath's grasp before her elbow catches Roberto's stomach.

Immediately the blonde man hunches over, the entire assault and sudden wakefulness of his victim a random surprise. As she treads with staccato'd weary steps towards Laurie thanks to the sound of his voice, Roberto ducks back into the bedroom, fully aware of his own vulnerability minus one brain zombie.

The therapist virtually collapses at the end of the hall, her body victim to tears and trembles wholly unaware of exactly what's transpired. Her face throbs with new bruises, souvenirs paid with her own blood.

Twisting and maneuvering make for terrible sight, and Laurie's aim throughout is steady as a rock but just as passive. Quickened steps towards the sudden hostage struggle lets him meet Sydney as she collapses, one hand detaching from his yet solid gun one and finding her there — blind, he does it, while his stare remains hard on exactly where Roberto disappeared. The arm wraps around the shuddering therapist, pulling her gently but with firmness to her feet. When some of her weight transfers to him, his hand eases from support to search. Fast, diligent — as professional as groping about an injured woman can be in a high-risk situation. His fingers pass through her hair, over the cheek, patting her shoulder; he finds the bruises, reassured by this and a fleeting glance towards the projection of blood from her nose that she isn't hurt further.

Speedy assessment — she'll live. That's enough for him to try and weave his arm away, gun hand never twitching, while he uses the other to fetch into a pocket and try to impress upon Sydney his phone. Another spared look in her direction is done before he's finished saying, "Call Po— the police."

His next steps are meant to detach him from the therapist, but her motives don't exactly comply. Through the clinging, his arm naturally tries to once again wrap around, support, but it greatly slows his progress towards the open doorway. His lips thin out against each other, marking as it becomes more difficult to keep that dedicated line down the muzzle of his gun against a weeping woman at his side.

Hesitation.

Then, as suddenly it's gone. The elbow keeping the gun solid folds, Laurie's whole body turning in a moment to acknowledge Sydney there. His cheek notches against the top of her hair, letting his mutter be low and personal and audible only to her; "Sydney. I said I'd kill him. That was a promise." It holds the same undiluted sincerity as when he told the thug splattered all over the hallway that he'd be taking one for the team. Delivered, he attempts to extract himself from Sydney, to move to the doorway — Roberto's retreat.

Laurie hasn't made it to the doorway before Roberto emerges, using a very petite blonde 'princess' as a human shield. The steel barrel of his gun feels cool and heavy against her temple while his arm tightens around her neck. She is his hostage; he won't hesitate to shoot her. He clings to her for dear life, and all-too-aware of his dependence on her while simultaneously recognizing his lack of actual reliance on her.

Imagine his delight when, after ducking into the closet, he'd found the gold statue had come back to life. He'd grasped her hair — unyielding in the yank he'd given it.

As he stares into the hall, aware of the prize he's just acquired, he randomly, haphazardly and without true aim, fires his gun.

The moment Roberto grabbed her hair, Lizzie let loose a blood curdling shriek. Her normally blue eyes are wide and clouded over and even though she's being held tightly against Roberto, her head is jerking from side to side as though she's trying to see. "S-Sydney? I— " she squeaks and silences as the gun sounds off, trembling violently against the man holding her. After the gun is fired, the only sound from the pair are the set of teeth that are chattering like a little wind up toy.

Too much time wasted. The scream comes as at least enough warning for Laurie to backpedal as it happens — not his natural reaction; he jerks forward first before Sydney's continued attachment changes his mind instantaneously afterward. Reorientation of his gun down the hallway reveals the opposite one from Roberto as the criminal reappears. It's another choice at breakneck speed, but this one is not difficult at all. With the random aim of the weapon against them, Laurie's never steadies. His arm at Sydney's side secures her, hefting her against his own body when he twists to cover her from the haphazard shot and then twirls them around the corner to escape the vulnerability of the open hallway.

He does so with both hands — fumbled, the Smith & Wesson is knocked off and away to land somewhere unseen in the blur of getting Sydney behind the wall. His breathing comes fast now, but steadily so: used to the familiar adrenaline as it encourages this. Even so, as he raises a hand to give Sydney a pat on the cheek, it's gentle. "Sydney," soft and personable, as if they were the only two people there, "Pay attention now. You're so strong, I just need you to do one thing for me." Looking her right in the eyes, "Find cover. Call the police."

Okay, two things, but who's counting. He straightens, edging for the corner and a glance at Roberto's new set-up — or old, deja vu? — while his hand drifts purposefully to his belt, palming the switchblade waiting there.

The contact, regardless of its intention or capacity is enough to bring tears to Sydney's already sullied cheeks. Her face reddens, bright with flush and hot with anxiety. The tears in their warm saltiness meet the dried blood along her face, producing mauve streaks that line her face.

"Li-li-Lizzie — " her voice croaks as she pulled around the corner. Her fingers grasp the phone, but it's not until Laurie makes that eye contact and after the bullet is fired that she finds any grounding her where she is or what she's doing. "I… Laurie… Lizz-Lizzie!" her voice cracks around the syllables she gets out as her tear stained face glistens further. She's not blind, but the thorough beating she's taken is wearing on her now as her confusion and lost of tiime eat around her. Her lips hurt around the bruising forming along them.

She sinks further around the corner, the best cover she can get given her current situation. Her hands tremble around the cell phone as she tries to dial, but even then her brain can't process what she needs to dial, not quickly.

Roberto's grip tightens as he continues to hold the gun against Lizzie's temple. He's a madman. Angry. Snarling, yet still smiling. It's an odd picture, a wickedly angry grin spread over his lips exposing pointed vampiric teeth. "You are at a FUCKIN' loss, Roscoe! I'm gettin' out of here with both of these fuckin' bitches!"

The trembling blonde hauled up against Roberto is wild eyed. Even with the muzzle of the gun pressed tightly to her temple, she barely has an idea of what's going on. By anyone's estimations, she's got three weapons at her disposal, should she be savvy enough to use them.

The tightened hold has a little tchk sounding out from her throat as the madman threatens to choke her, one thing Lizzie knows for certain is that she's not strong enough to do the same thing she did to try to get away moments ago. "Bi— Bitches?"

Lizzie gets angry.

The three lessons in rape prevention take hold then, along with a submarine sandwich commercial. "Back off!! Get your own sandwich!!" And her pointy little elbows jut into Roberto's stomach at the same time that her heel finds his toes. She may be barefoot, but she's bony.

The gun goes off, just as she's ducking out of the way… unfortunately, she wasn't fast enough to miss the bullet. Roberto doubles over and takes aim for the crumpled blonde on the floor. click click

It wasn't the gun jamming, or it seconds earlier going off — not the blonde shouting — but valuable moments before — as she was getting angry that was the trigger. The result: Laurie's made it halfway down the hallway as Roberto's taking one in the gut. Twisted again around the corner, pushing off with every muscle, he's at full-tilt in just as much time, so that, as the gun makes to click ineffectually, the consultant rams into Roberto shoulder-first. His shoulder and elbow of the right arm making the brunt of the motion to down the crime boss, his left hand reaches secondarily for the weapon — though he'd be satisfied almost as much in controlling the wrist which wields it. And curled in the fingers of that right hand, the knife — reverse-grip — so that the mere act of them falling drives it towards the other man's body.

A low grunt emits from Roberto's mouth as Laurie rams into him, his attention completely eaten by the blonde consultant assaulting him. His shoulder recoils forward as his body twists under the force, almost groping for some stability. The gun is clicked again — it's jam persisting even as Laurie's hand fights against him. Roberto topples underneath the pressure, Laurie clearly getting the upper hand quite literally with the knife poised for its work.

Natural momentum navigates the knife towards the opposite side of Roberto's chest — influence doubled when they both rocket forward upon hitting the ground. Laurie's recovery is helped along by having started the fall, but he still jolts with the impact. The last rebound of the movement dislodges his grab from the weapon, forcing him to wrap his fingers around Roberto's more readily available arm, near that wrist. Constant awareness of surroundings even now, his grip is just as much to keep the so far disabled but still viable firearm from being pointed back towards Lizzie's position down the hallway. A few tugs on the arm try to slam it against the floor to discourage his hold on the weapon, while Laurie begins to maneuver a knee to Roberto's middle, to pin him.

The weapon is wielded more as Roberto's wrist twists within Laurie's grasp, pulling along the base of the thumb, the weakest point in the grip until his arm is forced against the hardwood; he clings to the gun for dear life but after the third bang, his grip loosens along it, but it's not dislodged yet, instead he tugs on the trigger.

BANG! BANG!

A bullet is lodged into the hall wall, that fresh coat of lilac paint effectively ruined by bullet holes (along with Seamus' blood from earlier).

The sociopath writhes underneath the knee used to pin him, now literally powerless against the consultant over him; not that it does much good to stop his struggle. But he still has the gun, twisting beneath the pressure of the knee on his chest and the man over him.

Successfully pinning most of Roberto down allows Laurie to gain increasing control over his own position: he straightens, strengthens balance. It's only the gun that remains a wild card — one for Seamus, one at Laurie, one at Lizzie, one at the wall — two really, but by the time of the first, Laurie's opted to weigh the gun's already noted inconsistency over that it has half a round left. For the second shot, his fingers have transferred to wrapping the gun again, not tugging for control but securing about the slide. After the second shot, the gun jams once more — and Roberto hasn't got the empty hand to rack the weapon and clear it.

Now the knife, only allowed to taunt the idea of finding home until now, is flipped deftly about to its other side with barely a flick of the wrist, twirl of fingers. Now its serious edge faces down on Roberto's throat as Laurie nestles it there against the man's collar. All the struggling only encourages a sharpened blade.

Power. Control. The flash in Laurie's blue eyes dwells on, feeds off, this clear domination over a writhing and helpless madman. Twitching in his lip almost becomes a smile: right before it smoothes out, neutrally regarding Roberto now dispassionately. Dismissive. "I thought you should know," he expresses, inappropriately conversational, but with a hardness right below the surface that tightens it out all the same, "That you're never going to get anything you want ever again." The knife hovers. Twitches. Wants.

Waits. "That hurts you, doesn't it? Not getting what you want? You felt slighted as a child, so now you're grasping for the world— but you're still that child, Roberto. And now— " The knife could taste flesh so easily, "It's over." — instead, it's inched away just enough to stave off that easiness. A deep, controlling breath is pulled in as Laurie jams his knee with an extra jerk against Roberto's ribs. Retaliation for the work it takes to grit out the next words. "You're— under arrest."

There's an arrogance about him, even when Laurie has a knife pressed towards Roberto's throat. His lips twitch into something between a snarl and a sneer, a kind of smile corrupted by a spirit of vengeance and determination. His pride extends so far that he even feigns to laugh while Laurie is atop him.

"I will never lose. Those motherfuckers put me back, I will get out again! Plain and simple. I will always come back for that bitch. Some things just belong to a me — her mind, her lips, that hair… are all mine."

He cackles again, too satisfied with himself and his own conclusions. "FUCKIN' bitches can't keep me fuckin' locked up! They should know better all of those cunts. A look. An expression is all it takes — " his blue eyes widen, wild, daring, and sure.

No visible baiting to the attitude, the ego. Laurie, knee and knife digging at their respective targets, only stares at the foaming Roberto in a very calculated manner — appraising an animal at the fair. Roberto is weighed, even as he is stuck at the bottom. Each sentiment, each cackling declaration only acknowledged as another twitch in the lines around the consultant's mouth; they're all smoothed when he runs his tongue over his teeth, thoughtful, always deliberating. A few wriggles from the captured criminal makes minor adjustments in their position, but the verdict here remains otherwise inescapable. No looks or expressions are saving him now; blue eyes meet other blue eyes without flinching.

But then Laurie's gaze drifts away. Not out of any avoidance or inability to hold the gaze, he's only running along the lines of his thoughts. Fingers around the knife handle loosen, relax, pulling the blade further from its desired location. From here in the hallway, there's only the wall to stare at, but Laurie makes a fine point of doing so in that second after Roberto's made his point. There's no denial to it.

When Laurie's head turns, finding him locking eyes with the madman again, their expressions could not be less similar. Here, blue eyes are narrow but not forcefully — calm, determined — and outright cold. And sure. That similarity after all.

"Yeah," he sniffs at the wall right before this confrontation, this casual stare. "You're probably right." Gleam of light off blade; the hand with the knife shoots in the air, fingers tightening with all intention as the point of the blade comes down right for Roberto's unfairly beating heart.

When the consultant turns away, the crime boss finds some leverage underneath him. Roberto's empty hand squares towards the knife. It's unexpected, really, as his arm slides against it. But that's the decoy — it's the first adjustment in a series of calculated actions.

His second hand, wielding the mildly useless gun, cuts across Laurie's face to clock the consultant in the head — it's as hard a hit as he can manage at this angle, but all he needs is a clear enough shot to push the consultant off him.

His legs squirm underneath Laurie's pin, even at the pressure of the knee in his chest. His breath catches raggedly in his throat as it comes out in a low grunt, intended to bring increased life to the hit.

A laugh escapes his lips, his own insanity rising further to the surface.

It's a chorus of impacts by different instruments — a gory ensemble: shlick of the knife as it sinks into Roberto's decoy arm, a second after where Laurie's grip attempts to readjust to remove the strike, but then a thddd thick as the crack it makes against bone as the semi-automatic collides with his temple. Spots flare into the consultant's vision, his once secure position wobbling, fingers instinctively loosening.

Under the efforts of Roberto to be freed, Laurie is tossed to the side, knee twisting, throwing his shoulder and then, secondarily, his head against the nearby right-side hall wall. Echoing thuds. Through his best efforts, the knife remains in his control long enough to pull out of Roberto's arm as the two men roll away from each other, but in the aftermath of being forced against the wall, he's lost it. The now stained blade clatters to the carpet.

Fumbling to become more upright, Laurie bracing his knee to push up is second only to the instant reach he makes for the free weapon.

When Laurie fumbles to get up, Roberto lunges at him with all of his weight, his bloodied arm fisted for a fight while the blood seeps through the fresh wound courtesy of Laurie. The goal, really, is to keep Laurie from the knife.

His lips twitch into an evil smile while his blue eyes widen again and his fist makes for Laurie's jaw in a jab, nothing like a deterrent from further assault or attack.

The gun is still held tightly in Roberto's hand. Fortunately, it is, effectively empty, leaving it nothing more than a bludgeoning object heavily metallic and poised for assault.

Just as the tips of fingers trace the edge of that knife, turning it barely towards him, there's the weight of Roberto thrusting Laurie again against the wall, forcing the arm back, multiplying the flare of white around his vision when he rebounds another time against the delightfully colored but very thick plaster and paint. His arm shoots up to block the assault of the gun as blunt instrument; the other unable to abandon its crusade towards that knife.

"Nngh," the concentrated grimacing as his leg comes up towards his chest, getting a foot at the attacking madman as his body twists, reaching to the side. Going for that blade — crack — he's nearly there, but shorter than last time, when the blow to the jaw sends him jerking away from the prize. Now his hand fists against the ground, getting a second point of leverage for the well-placed shove off from that planted foot, trying to buy ground. Space.

And in that space, he doesn't just reach but lunges away from the wall and straight at the blade.

Laurie's block of the gun actually shocks the crime boss — the force of the block relaxing his grip on the gun. While Laurie goes down, the gun does too while Roberto's butter fingers attempt to grasp it, but

CLANG

it hits the wall on its way to the carpet, leaving an unsightly scratch against the plaster.

Laurie's weapon, however, is more important considering it actually has power compared to the jammed gun that has none, so the gun is abandoned, left to carpet while, like Laurie, Roberto dives for the knife.

His fingers grasp it, but it's loose, haphazard, and hardly has merit or grounding. There's no extension of him, and even though this is a knife that was in his possession as he'd taken it from the blonde therapist only to lose it to the blonde consultant it feels foreign in his grasp, even as his blood drips down its handle — he's chosen to hold it with his right hand… the one already damaged by its sharp edge. He brandishes it once, a flash of steel cutting towards Laurie threateningly as he lunges forward. There's little skill in its use, but there's force and rawhide determination.

They're both on the knife at the same time, split instants between two grabs so that, as Roberto comes away with the prize, Laurie's hand is right there, taking a slice across the skin as the runner-up's trophy. Wincing, "Erg," as blood splatters in droplets over the carpet, marking the route as the consultant buoys off as soon as the sting happens — knowing to separate himself from what will be Roberto's first attack now armed.

But he doesn't stay away; as the flash happens by, Laurie cuts in underneath the finish of Roberto's lunge, darting up to give a quick but pointed jab with the side of his hand to the injury on Roberto's arm. On the same side, his leg comes up, knee slamming at Roberto's oft-targeted ribs. Quick again; he has to dip to the side and backwards to try and be out of range for Roberto's arm folding back in.

The foot he lands on swerves shakily, and he gives a similar swift jerk with his head — willing disorientation off.

The splatter on the carpet continues as Roberto groans against the feeling of Laurie's hit against his wound. He recoils, the knife falling to the carpet once again and the pain producing a visible wince in the man's entire demeanor. "Ehnnnnn," it's loud, throaty and aggressive even in his own relent of the weapon. He twists to protect his ribs, but Laurie catches them anyways, doubling him over in another loud grown.

Dizzily, he collapses to the ground, nearly incoherent amid his loss of blood and the searing pain cutting through his ribs. He groans as his hand blindly searches for the knife from the fetal position in which he finds himself.

It isn't a position he's much allowed to keep. Dropped heavily to one knee and then the other off that untrustworthy foot's movement, Laurie sets in on that groping hand. Before he finds the blade, he wraps up Roberto's fingers with his own, cements the grip then— snap backwards — as many fingers as will break, curve unnaturally towards their own knuckles in the completely wrong direction. "That'll do…" Breathed, heaved out beneath the other man's spitting and hissing, a snake against the carpet. "Not again," as the twisted hand is dropped almost sadistically near the weapon it grasped for and now can no longer dream of wrapping around. "Not anymore." Still heaving — bleeding — adrenaline's bursting through Laurie but he slows his movements methodically, affected.

Not coldness in his eyes as he lets his gaze stray to the stained and ruined carpet spread out like a battlefield between them — "I made a promise." — but murder in Roberto's as the madman screams through pain, ignores it, refuses to accept a place where he could be in it on the ground and not his enemy, uses it when he gives a last defiant lunge made of fire fueled only by his disconnect from reality.

A flash of motion, really. The knife is on the floor and then it isn't. Laurie's looking down, but he's not. Lunge meets lunge in the center of that field and the final clash is a wash of blood on skin, on white and black. Twitching, nerves firing deceptively, Roberto's hand hovers in denial near Laurie's throat. While the consultant's hand fists a hilt buried up to it in the madman's forehead.

Complaint. Loud. Eerie. Pained. It's emitted from Roberto's lips as he writhes underneath the blade of the knife at first cut. His face becomes resculpted underneath Laurie's influence like a warped sculptor to clay, but as the knife etches his skin, a trail of blood follows, spilling across the consultant's hands in red oozes and spurts, staining the carpet with more than just splatter. Arteries, veins, and capillaries are all subject to the wicked transformation. First his outer extremities stop working, the struggle against the consultant lessens. Where he'd had to be pinned before like a wrestler pins his opponent, there's no need for the pressure; his muscles weaken at the blood loss.

Next his arms and legs stop working. His chest heaves for breath, last gulps of air to fill otherwise shallow fluid-filling lungs.

Behind the pair of men a similar gasp for air can be heard against the sniffled upset of tears no longer shed. The blonde therapist, stained with her own blood trembles in fear even as the life begins to drain from Roberto's eyes in slow painful succession, his life literally poured onto the floor of her apartment. She takes another deep gasp before she collapses against the consultant, her eyes clamping shut while she rests between fear and relief.

And that's the last he sees: the image of a woman he'd become so singularly obsessed clinging to another man for dear life.

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