2010-05-20: I Am Connected



Date: May 20th, 2010


Everything's connected, everything: you just have to figure out how.

"I Am Connected"

Something deadly is effectively transformed into something powerless when its vital components are forced apart. Piece by piece, quick, smooth metallic scrapes signify the rapid disassembling of a weapon. Deftly taking apart the semi-automatic pistol are long-fingered hands — feminine — run over the surfaces like their owner is running a race, and that's not far from the truth. She's in a race with herself.

Detective Powers sits at the far end corner of a long, sleek wooden table — one of the few furnishings that could truly be called sleek around here — meant for meetings, for addressing groups, for discussions. Lest she start talking to herself or her gun, there's no discussion; the table's empty, save for Maggie and the disassembled law enforcement weapon in front of her. It's barely been taken apart before she's sliding it all back in place as fast as she can manage, doing so with a nearly manic determination: every perfect movement of her hands matched by a hard, even angry intensity on her face.

The weapon is pieced expertly together into a fully functioning unit complete with bullets and she sets it on the table, brushing past a navy blue sleeve to check her watch. This part of the precinct's quiet; the bustle of the station's activity is muffled behind a half-wall, and through the slats of the window blinds when she looks over her shoulder, she can see Sam on the phone in the bullpen.

Hands go back the gun.

A trigger's release.

Dry, empty; there's nothing to fire. The damp brick wall at which the gun had been aimed goes unscathed, though there is no lack of other marring telling of times before this that had been more loaded. This, also, was the desired effect. Lowered to the rickety metal surface on which have been arranged an array of pipes and brushes, the revolver is spun to reveal its empty insides, captured around the rear cylinder by a rag that, even washed, reeks somewhat still of this tradition. First one brush selected, dipped into a nearby jar, and fed with natural twists into the barrel of the gun. Then a patch attached to a rod. Dipped. Two more pass through without solvent. Routine. Precise, numbered, habitual and yet not absent-mindedly done. After each dip, the rod is wiped across a towel spread along his arm, protecting skin where a multi-colored sleeve has been tucked against elbow.

Steady drip-drip-dripping of oft-ignored plumbing punctuates the otherwise quiet of the basement room, illuminating the lack of other presences, no packs of rowdy gang members. The curved pit in the middle of the room sits unused. Hunched with deliberate attention over his work, Roscoe files the edge of a bristled brush over every curve of the weapon with a thoroughness born of affection. No spot uncared for, no inch ignored. Marked only with the wear that eventually can't be avoided, the model has survived, even outlived its day. No longer supplied as a service weapon, its possession is odd. Especially in the basement of a known gang haunt, in the hands of a recognized criminal.

The cylinders are next, and the formation of a black residue is all that's needed to tell the tale of the gun's recent use. The wall may have survived, but something — or someone — hasn't. One end, then the other. One end, then the other. Then the wet cloth. Then the dry cloths. It's almost mind-numbingly repetitive. Roscoe's face reflects only concentration for the task at hand, the sleek oiled form of the M64 shining in narrow blue eyes. But even that sheen is eventually wiped away, leaving surfaces pristine but not greasy.

As he sets back against the fold of the twice-repaired chair, there's an indistinct but definitely audible rumble of ruckus against the floor above, the ceiling here. Eyes cast up, Roscoe reaches to the newly cleaned weapon and deftly brings it around him to fit into the curve of his jeans at his side. With a small tuck of shirt fabric, the weapon becomes invisible.

We are none of us alone.

A desk drawer flies open: top, right-hand side. The contents within are rifled through by the same deft fingers that took apart her weapon, but with less precision though just as much intensity and determination; someone is in a hurry. Organized items are moved aside to see what's behind the next and the next. A lot is jammed in there in an orderly fashion, the owner apparently throwing very little away. Papers, office supplies, a box of cartridges which, upon further inspection, proves to be too empty to be of much good.

"Have— " Maggie stands up taller next to the open drawer of her desk, looking to the one across from hers with a casual question — about the whereabouts of something or other — on the tip of her tongue, but its inhabitant seems to have vanished. The desk is empty. Only the inscription 'DET. SAM WRIGHT' stares back at her, a name half of which she almost had. Though not new, that — or something — seems to warrant some long and thoughtful staring before it's back to her own desk zone.

Her own is as typically empty of everything but functional desk stuff save for one somewhat more recent addition — Thailand's Ancient City, in origami form, seeming whimsically out of place.

In closing the drawer, Maggie halts with a sudden jerk when a folded piece of paper nearly gets caught. It's saved, and unfolded with a smoothing by thumb and forefinger. The paper's crease is more worn than the age of the note really requires.

We are none of us alone
Even as we exhale it is inhaled by others.

Voices fill the space, proud posturing from either side of each arc of men facing off with each other. Eyes narrow, heads raise proudly, and fingers trace along weapons as though, at any moment, they could — will — be used. But both teams only put on a show; they're waiting for what's happening off to the side to end.

Thick as a volume, the wad of bills is scrubbed through with a thumb, flickering hundreds upon hundreds of dollars by in the blink of an eye. Roscoe's stare never falters as thousands of numbers flash by, caught in the shutter speed of his memory. Serial numbers. Of every single unit in his hand. With his back presented to the men on the other half of the room, he can shuffle and drop stacks of money leaving the others in suspense. Each passing moment makes the buyers sweat a little more; the money's good, right. They counted.

It was good, at least. Until Roscoe dips into his pocket unnoticed, dashing a line invisible to the naked eye on various bills. Without missing a beat, each is systematically set aside to the left after being counted, marked, prepared to be picked up somewhere else to circulate around the whole system of underhanded dealings. That's a lot of dirty fingerprints.

Finally, he turns with the money stacked in one large sum on one edge of the table, like tipping a scale. His hands spread to imitate this balance, withholding judgment with an unreadable look on his face to drive any nervous criminal crazy. Then, slowly, he grins. The hands come up into a victorious gesture.

"It's all there."

The light that shines upon me shines upon my neighbor as well.

Otherwise brilliantly clear eyes are made far murkier the yellow shield of protective glasses. It is a nevertheless sharp gaze, focused one-hundred and ten percent on something directly in front of her with killer determination — and no wonder.

An earsplitting BANG fills the space.

Detective Powers fights a flinch and grits her teeth against the recoil, looking past the length of her strongly poised arms and her aimed pistol to bullet hole torn into an ambiguous black paper silhouette. It hangs above a scuffed floor painted with a yellow 25, and the bullet hole is one of four kill shots clustered in a rough circle on the target's chest. Seconds later, there are four more loud cracks of the gun, four more holes tearing the sheet, and it's times four that Maggie's cross expression intensifies, as if every shot was aimed to hit something real and hateful. Just when her gunfire seems relentless, she ceases. Three shots, almost dead center. The fourth went wide.

The gun is leveled as if to rectify her mistake, she hastily slides the ear protection off her head with a disheveling of light hair rolls one shoulder back. Getting shot with a bulletproof vest on feels approximately like getting hit with a baseball bat — sometimes like a sledgehammer. Last week lingers uncomfortably. Now-safe gun tucked into her shoulder holster, she stalks away. The safety glasses are next to go as she pulls the door open. As Maggie elbows the door away, she nearly strides straight into a stranger. Head down, her heated features twitch as if annoyed, but, after stepping around him, she start to smile, friendly with a side of apology, realizing only after she looks up that it's not a stranger, it's Detective O'Meara. Turns out that the dark-eyed rail of a man has a lot of tattoos without his jacket on, Irish crests running up and down arm and shoulder. The detectives don't even speak; they just pass by.

In this way everything is connected to everything else.

The bottle's shapely thin, tall, expensive — and as empty as the gun that earlier sat on this metal surface. Just like the one next to it, and the one next to that. A fourth of their kind is tucked in a three fingered grip by the neck, swayed idly back and forth in a motion that sloshes the liquid inside against clear sides. Dark, red. Name less important than function. The stuff is swilled a few more times before brought to lips and tasted. Then, it's set aside so one hand can steady the scrap of paper the other's writing on. Row after row after row of markings made, Roscoe wields the pen right-handed near the edge of the rickety table, his knuckles once in a while bumping into the handle of something else resting nearby.

They're audible even before they reach the door, a chorus of catcalls to go with the slumping drag of someone being moved along against their will. Then SLAM someone's kicked the door in and yellowed light floods in from the hallway to carpet the floor ahead of the feet of half a dozen Irishmen and the once-pristine but now scuffed shoes of their Japanese captive. Blind-folded, the man is ignorant to his surroundings but not to his fate. It takes a couple of guys, and a slug to the stomach, to force him down.

Two thuds of hard instrument against harder floor have every Irish eye turning, and get a reaction from the blinded Japanese as best he can follow the action. In the wake of the sound, the previously jovial captors scurry backwards and away from the captive, prodding each other as vultures reminded to wait their turn. There's a following creak from the worn lounge chair in back as Roscoe lazily pulls himself from the leathery seat, assisted by the walking stick he's made out of the 20 lb sledgehammer in his right hand, pulled away from the table edge. His left raises to shoulder-height, wafting backwards to bid the Irishmen give him some room.

They do so with many snickering jests, though in a manner slightly subdued than how they entered. As the last two reach the doorway, one glancing over his shoulder at man and weapon, he nudges his friend beside him. "Five says ther' ain't a piece left to find 'im by afterwards."

In this way, I am connected to my friend, even as I am connected to my enemy.

The face of the Japanese man caught by the Irish gang turns upward and has become pleading, dark, fast-moving eyes gleaming with a manic determination. He's at the end of his rope — let go, and his fate is not a good one. "They'll kill me. All of 'em. They'll kill me!"

"Frankly … Mr. Kwan … you're a lucky man. It sounds like you're pretty fortunate to be alive at all," comes a woman's voice, commending but faintly warning at the same time.

It's bright white lights and plain above-ground walls that surround them now, and the metal table the gang member sits at is in the center of an interrogation room for the New York Police Department, and the other voice belongs to Detective Maggie Powers.

She stands at one opposite corner of the table, her arms folded, a between-here-and-there sort of disorganization about her — hair very slightly a mess, long-sleeved tee rolled up to the elbows, leather jacket draped over the back of the folding chair on her side — that suggests she was on her way out when drawn into this. But she's not here reluctantly by any means.

"I know you like, want me, because of, you know, whatever you think I'm involved in," the man leans over the table, gesturing, "I'll tell you whatever but if you let me go, the Irish I— got— away from, they'll finish the job, and my … the people I run with, look, they'll break my kneecaps and kill me for bein' a failure. So help me. Witness protection, right? You're obligated or else there'll be another murder, right? Me."

Maggie presses her lips together and considers long and hard before her arms unfold and she pulls the chair out to sit down across from the man, lacing her hands together. "Actually sounds like a good idea— " she starts out curt, but there's an underlying vein of sincerity behind all her words. "That is, if it happens to be a more sound option than jail for what you've very likely been involved in," she adds. "I'll see what I can do for you if you agree to do something for me. Why don't you start from the beginning."

In this way, there is no difference between me and my friend.

Night blankets the city, but not comfortably. The wind is crisp, and those out on the main parts of the street tug their jackets closer to themselves. Winded away down a dark alley here, a forlorn back street there, an old muscle car waits with its trunk expectantly open. Sleeves pulled messily to his elbows despite the weather, Roscoe obliges by heaving a sleek black bag up and into the available space. Being a few feet shorter than him, the luggage packages crudely into the car with a few well-aimed shoves.

When he comes up away from the trunk, the car headlights are there to illuminate the fall of one sleeve as it seeks to escape down his arm to where his hands are enveloped in gloves — and those gloves are patterned with dark spots still threatening to get red on anything they touch. Carefully, he grabs the wrist of one and peels it off inside out, leaving the fingers free to roll his shirt back up. In this reprieve from work, he also dips into a pocket for a flask — shakes it to test its fill — and then drinks the rest of that down. When he's finished, he braces his wrist against the trunk top and motivates it shut with a slam of finality.

A whiff of dark smoke is there to greet him at the end, billowing out into the alleyway, judging. It becomes a man as the smoker detaches from the shadowy wall, leading with the hand holding the cigarette. Crunching footsteps on the gravel, now he doesn't mind being noticed; he invites the scrutiny as Roscoe turns over his shoulder and then adjusts his stance to greet the interruption. His face remains devoid of reaction, not a blink of surprise nor irritated familiarity. Though that in itself seems telling to the person across from him.

An inhale, an exhale. Smoke drifts away into the cold night air.

"… I know who you are, too, consultant."

In this way, there is no difference between me… and my enemy.

A splash of dark red turns out bloodier than intended. A paintbrush swipes through the coloured blot, swishing the thickest of it away from untouched white canvas, down into darker, muddier colours yet. It's meant to be something beautiful. It sure has a long ways to go.

Distinctly unsettled, Maggie draws her brush back and studies the very unfinished work of… something. She's home, perched on a wooden stool in front of an easel she has pulled over by the window. Her residence has a warm glow to it — various lights and lamps turned on, colorful art on the walls, yet the late hour still makes it dim. Too shadowy, really, to be focusing on something so reliant on one's eyes as painting.

One bare foot resting on a low rung of the stool, the other on the seat itself, Maggie folds her arms over her knee — also bare, while she's in a pair of old shorts and grey t-shirt. With an uncomfortable shiver, she reaches off to her right, past the window ledge where a couple of recent Chinese takeout boxes are lined up, to heave the living room window shut, avoiding giving the glass a coat of paint with brush still in hand.

And there her focus stays. She winds up, instead of returning to the canvas, looking out into the city; and closer, up along the fire escape. Her fingers curl around the handle of the red-tipped brush as her knuckles press into her cheek, a comfortable repose that doesn't quite match the darker pull in of her brows, the tense purse of her lips, or the thoughtful look in her eye, skeptical at thin air.

We are none of us alone.

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