2007-05-05: Enlighten Me

Starring:

Jessica_icon.gif Cass_icon.gif

Guest Starring:

Micah_icon.gif

Summary: Jessica. Cass. Back room of the bookstore. Enough said?

Date It Happened: May 5th, 2007

Enlighten Me


Enlightenment Books, East Village, NYC

As dusk falls over the city, there is someone slinking around behind a certain bookstore in the East Village. After a quick look in the repaired windows in passing, the blonde — Niki, for all appearances, but that would be a severely off guess — slips behind the building, hunting for the back door. It's not a long search. Bingo. The metal door rattles, as if someone's testing the lock.

On the opposite side of the store - the side that most people enter from - is one Cassandra Aldric. In a hurry when she locked up the last time, she forgot a couple things that she meant to take home with her. Nothing all that important, but some catalogues and things that she seems to only have time to do at night before she works on other things. Taking out her keys, she unlocks the front door and shuts it behind her. Checking her watch she makes a quick decision and locks the door behind her. Might as well make a few business calls while she's here.

Padlocked. No problem. This place has been broken into or messed up so much already, what's a little extra break and entering? Eyeing the door up and down once, then glancing this way and that to make sure nobody is spying, Jessica grips the handle and /PULLS/. The padlock snaps. The metal door itself gives her some angst, but she hauls on it until it opens, unaware that Cass is anywhere inside.

Picking up the catalogues that she still keeps on the counter, Cass tucks them under her arm and drops the keys back into her bag. She's already making her way to the back room when she hears some loud noises coming from back there. It sounds like it's coming from outside, though, so, while she pauses, she doesn't stop on her current destination. Flipping on the light, she /does/ stop, though, when she sees that the back door is opening. /What/.

Damn metal doors. Jessica could have been stealthy, but oh no, someone had to go and install a metal door. Easing the door open a crack after its violent … "unlocking," she's mildly surprised when the light switches on inside. Cass? Doesn't matter. "Cass…?" Niki's voice calls out cautiously as Jessica steps in, one hand still on the door. The woman's blue eyes are filled with an imitation of worry and apprehension. "Oh my God, did you know the lock is broken back here? I thought I saw someone—" Jessica looks back outside over her shoulder.

When Cass sees that it's 'Niki' coming through the back door, the store owner lets out a breath that she was not-so-unconsciously holding back. "Geez, Niki. You scared the crap out of me. What are you /doing/ here?" Any acting on Jessica's part is not noticed. As Niki is an employee and a friend, she's going to take her word at face value. Why would she be breaking into the store, anyway? "And someone broke that already? God, who put a sign on my store that says, please destroy me?" Though she's being sarcastic, there's a bit of a grin. "Did you need something?"

"Niki" slowly closes the door behind her until it clicks slightly less functionally than it ought to. Never mind that. "Oh— I think I left something here. I'll just be a second," she assures Cass with a friendly little smile, moving past the other woman toward… this random shelf works. "Hey, Cass?" Her back turned to Niki's boss, Jessica tips her head up, her dark and decidedly scheming expression not matching the casual tone of her voice. "You ever heard of some artist named Mendez?" How's that for random?

Unaware that Niki actually has not forgotten something, Cass nods and makes her desk again. "Same reason I came back," she smiles. Dropping her catalogues down on the desk, she pushes some of her hair out of her eyes, turning to face her not-employee when she calls her. "Hm?" The question she's given makes her pause. "Isaac Mendez?" There may be other artists with that last name, who knows! It's certainly random and her brow creases. "Why?"

Jessica looks the shelf up and down as if looking for something - whatever Niki, presumably, left behind. Which is nothing. "Yeah, him. I guess he was the artist for my son's favourite comic book. I've seen some of his other work," she explains, turning about and opening a random drawer. She fakes a charming, very nearly embarrassed smile for Cass's benefit. Pausing her so-called search, she brushes a strand of blonde hair behind her ear. "Micah said he was from New York, I thought maybe you'd heard of him. If someone wrote a book about the guy it kinda sounds like it'd sell here, you know?"

"I've heard of him." Cass nods. It's not exactly like a huge revealing secret to know about a dead artist. "Yeah. My friend Nima sells some of his comics down at her shop, the Secret Lair." Stepping back from the desk just in case whatever it is that Niki left behind is there, she leans up against the wall. "Well, there's no book I know of about him, other than those comics. We used to have a Mendez in the store, actually. An early one. Thomas - the owner before me - was really into his stuff. Bought it real cheap from his studio. Never actually understood his fascination with it. They all seemed so dark." Very dark.

If it were really Niki talking to Cass, an inane conversation about how she took Micah to the Secret Lair, blah blah blah, might ensue. Of course, she's not, and it doesn't. "Yeah, tell me about it," Jessica answers, in fact sounding just a touch unnerved by Cass's statement about the art. She opens another drawer for posterity, glances inside. "What ever happened to that one? The painting that was here?"

Blinking, Cass tilts her head slightly when 'Niki' answers. "You've seen his paintings? Not just the comics?" Because the comics are certainly not as dark as his paintings. They're comics, after all. "Oh, I took it down after awhile." Especially once she was alerted to what dangers it might attract. "Didn't think it really jived with the rest of the store decor, no matter how much Thomas loved it." Watching Jessica open drawer after drawer and not finding what she's looking for, she straightens and steps up to help search. "What are you looking for? Maybe I saw it before I headed out today."

"Mm," Jessica voices in an ever-so-faintly flippant affirmative. "Kinda seems like they showed the future. Crazy, right?" She grins good-naturedly, knowing that's a silly notion. "You know, I think I just spaced out. I don't think it's here," comes the casual reply. Jessica smiles and shrugs it off as nothing, stepping away from her search, incidentally closer to Cass.

The mention of the Mendez paintings telling the future causes Cass to pause for a moment. It's involuntary and she can't help herself. This is Niki and she trusts her. "I…what makes you think that?" Obviously curious, she doesn't step backwards right away from Jessica when she moves a bit closer. Things are starting not seem right, though, and a tiny little warning bell is ringing in the back of her mind. Why does this feel weird? And what was Niki doing in the back entrance? She wasn't /here/ today, was she? If she wasn't…how did she forget something? These are all questions that are coming to the bookstore owner belatedly. "Oh. Okay." A frown marks her face and she turns away from Jessica, moving for the door to give herself some space.

An innocuous expression is still plastered on Jessica's face, sweet and unassuming - perhaps a smidgen too far to the extreme. "'Cause I was in them," she answers - honesty, how about that little novelty. She offers up a clueless shrug. "And I never met any Mendez." She veers away from Cass and strolls along one side of the back room, trailing a hand over the desk as she listens. Whatever she came for, this is delaying it, but she wants to hear what this woman has to say.

Whatever Cass was expecting Niki to say, that certainly wasn't it. "You…you were in one?" Turning around again to face her employee, she studies her. "What was it /of/?" Still she's not exactly answering the whole 'if they really tell the future' thing, but this certainly shows that she's interested. "I never met him, either. It was only Thomas who did. Or…actually, I'm not even sure if he did. He might have bought his through a dealer or something. Isn't that how artists do it?" She's never bought a work of art herself.

Jessica looks over her shoulder at Cass, and for an instant, flashes a slightly… dark… smirk before turning away. "Doesn't matter." She toys with the edge of a paper on the desk for a moment; then her hands slide down her sides to her hips, where her lacy black tanktop meets her jeans. "By the way…?"

The dark smirk that Jessica tosses Cass makes her frown. This woman is starting to act less and less like the Niki she knows and more like the Niki she met in the tunnel. But, she's certainly not sure what that means. "But…it could. I mean, this man painted you without ever having met you….that means something." Not just that, but she's able to talk to someone who can actually tell her for sure without trying to just comfort her what may happen. "Did it come true?" If Niki was in a painting and it was changed, maybe that means her /own/ painting can be changed. This is something particularly important to her and it shows. However, she's derailed by her last question. "Hm? What?"

Cass gets no answers - not about the paintings. Jessica turns on a dime. There's no more act. It was melting away gradually, but every shred of it is dropped the second she faces Cass - and the second she faces Cass, she's racing straight toward her. The woman's eyes are cold and hard, determined, and altogether dangerous. "Niki quits." Hand. Throat. Now.

While she's felt something was off, Cass has a blind spot for people she considers friends and co-workers. Not to mention the fact that there is no way she could predict mild-mannered and friendly Niki would try to attack her. Taken completely by surprise, she tries to scramble out of the way, but she just can't get ahead of Jessica. She'd answer, maybe make a snappy comeback, but the hand on her throat restrains that. The cold and determined eyes meet frightened and desperate ones as Cass feebly struggles against the grip.

She has a remarkably strong grip, this woman who is - was? - Cass's employee, the one who, once upon a time, helped her /not/ die during that bank robbery. Now, her locked-on gaze is verging on homicidal. When she starts to lift Cass up off the ground with the hand around her throat, it should become pretty damn obvious that she's more than /just/ strong. Cass's attempts to struggle aren't even acknowledged. Jessica holds her up at arm's length, staring her down. Seconds pass. She whirls and tosses Cass carelessly to the ground. "Nothing personal."

Eyes locked onto Jessica's, Cass' fearful look turns into one that is downright terrified. As much as she tries to fight Jessica's strength, she simply can't. The woman is just too strong. Much stronger than anyone has the right to be. When she's lifted off the ground, she attempts to kick - the only thing left that she can think to do - but she can't breathe and it's getting hard to keep her eyes open. Then, she's tossed roughly to the ground and that's where she stays, breathing shallowly.

That should do the trick. When Cass hits the floor, Jessica automatically strides over to her and shoves her shoulder with the toe of her boot. When the woman just slumps, she's satisfied enough for the time being. She steps over Cass purposefully - and is mid-stride when her cell phone starts to ring. Taking the slim red device out of the pocket of her jeans, she eyes the screen.

PHONE: You answer your phone, "Hello?"

PHONE: Micah says, "Hey Mom!"

PHONE: Niki … or a close fabrication, at any rate, says, "Hi Micah! What's up?"

PHONE: Micah says, "Hey, they're having a DDR contest at the arcade. I wanna go. Can I go, pleeease?"

PHONE: Jessica says, "I'll be home soon, sweetie. What time is the contest? I can take you when I get back, but I don't want you going by yourself."

PHONE: Micah says, "Aww.. it's gonna start in about thirty minutes." There's a bit of a sigh in his voice. "Where you at? Still at work?"

Meanwhile, Jessica steps over Cass's body, weaves her way around the back room into the main area, and takes the work phone off the hook.

PHONE: Jessica says, "Yeah, I'm just finishing up. I should be back by then, unless I get … something else thrown at me. But I promise I'll try my best, okay?"

PHONE: Micah says, "Alright.." Micah's voice sounds a bit defeated. No DDR for him, most likely. "Love you mom.""

PHONE: Jessica says, "Hey, Cass might let me off early today," she smirks with a glance toward the back room, unbeknownst to Micah. "So don't get your hopes down yet, mister. Love you, baby."

PHONE: Micah says, "Kay!"

PHONE: Niki / Jessica says cheerfully, "I'll see you later!"

PHONE: You end your current call.

With that, Jessica flips the phone shut and tucks it away. Now, where was she?

TO BE CONTINUED...

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