2007-05-28: Let Me Help You

Starring:

Mara_icon.gif Niki_icon.gif

Summary: There are very good reasons as to why nothing good can come of this. Would you like the short list? Or the long?

Date It Happened: May 28, 2007

Let Me Help You


Las Vegas, Residence of Paulette Hawkins

Las Vegas, Nevada. It's dry and hot, as to be expected; but although the air is being warmed, the blazing sun is on strike today as far as appearances go. The sky is grey, dismal.

In a residential area that fails to rouse up the typical images Vegas tends to bring to mind is a simple house on a rather quaint street. It's not quiet, however; there's a construction crew nearby filling the air with a constant buzzing noise from some manner of equipment broken up by the occasional pounding, and kids play in the yards. One of the street's houses, with colourful flowerbeds out front and an old, wooden, screen door - is a more quiet sort, with no kids playing in the yard and two vehicles in the driveway. One is a dark car with New York license plates.

A rental car pulls up on the opposite side of the street from the house and Mara Damaris steps out of the vehicle, steadied by her cane. The duster was probably a bad choice for the weather, but she won't be complaining of any sunburns from her visit. Perching a pair of mirrored sunglasses on top of her head, the detective approaches the house and knocks, rather than ring the bell. The things she'll do for friends, and crying children. Let's just hope it's Niki she finds at this address, rather than her alter ego.

The inside of the house can easily be glimpsed through the screen door; the heavier door is left open, presumably to let stray breezes in, should they grace the air with their existence. The foyer consists of lots of old, dark wood; houseplants, fake fruit. It's cozy.

At first, it's neither Niki nor her alter ego - any of them - who Mara finds. Motion from somewhere in the house ensues on the knock - a scraping of a chair against the floor, perhaps - followed by the arrival of an older African American woman with her hair in neat dreadlocks. She's wearing a green blouse, sleeves shoved up to her elbows, with gold-and-beaded necklaces dangling around her neck. She's not unattractive for an older lady, but the drawn expression on her face makes her seem immediately sour. "Can I help you?" she asks with the slightly indignant demeanor of someone who has been asked too many questions this past week and is tired of giving answers, especially to strangers.

"Paulette Hawkins?" Mara tilts her head to one side, but she doesn't wait for a response. "I'm a friend of Niki. I was told I might find her here?" She's met Niki only once, so that doesn't exactly make them friends, but she's willing to bet that saying 'NYPD, I'm looking for Miss Sanders,' isn't going to get her anywhere with this woman.

"That's me, I'm Paulette Hawkins." The woman eyes the visitor somewhat warily, but wastes little time in twisting about to shout into the house, straight up the stairs behind her. "Niki? Your friend is here to see you!"

It takes a few moments, but footsteps do sound on the stairs, preceding the appearance of Niki Sanders. In a drab lilac hoodie and washed out jeans, she's seen better days. She looks pale, and understandably exhausted. After hesitating on the last step, looking toward the screen door and the woman who - so far - is unfamiliar, she heads toward the detective, after which Paulette evacuates into the kitchen. The blonde's steps are slow and measured, ever-so-slightly shuffling instead of limping outright. The door isn't opened; instead, she stares through the screen, trying to place the face. Her 'what do you want' is replaced by a confused, "Do I know you…?"

"We met once. Briefly. You were waiting for your niece and you showed me some photographs of some Mendez paintings." Mara hopes the significance of the mention of Isaac Mendez will at least hold Niki's attention. "Could I convince you to talk outside?" She holds up her hands to show they're empty. "I'd rather not intrude on Missus Hawkins."

The woman she showed the photos of the paintings to. What—? Niki touches the inside of the door, above the handle, but it stays closed until she gives herself time to think - during which she just stares at Mara suspiciously, faintly gaping. She's guarded, but she doesn't guard the fact that she's wary of this visit. It seems completely out of left field. "What are you doing here?" The door creaks once as she steps outside. "If this is about the paintings," she begins with a touch of defiance, "I don't have any."

"Honey, you wouldn't be stupid enough to bring the paintings out here." At least, not to the Hawkins residence. Mara steps back from the door to give Niki a buffer of space. Not just because she doesn't want to appear threatening, but because Niki Sanders can be unpredictable. Especially when the true subject of the visit is brought up.

"What happened to your husband, Miss Sanders?" The look Mara gives Niki is cautious, but not judgmental. "I know who you are. I know what you can do. Tell me what happened. I want to help."

There's a sudden darkening of Niki's expression and an even faster step back. Her hand is on the door again. Suspicion was just starting to grow before, but now it's raging. She eyes Mara — /hard/. "Who are you?" There's a hell of a lot of accusation in that tone for such a simple question.

"Your son is worried about you, Niki." Mara keeps her tone neutral. "If Jessica hurt your husband, I need to know. I'm not here to take you in, but I'm here to help you avoid that. The LVPD knows I'm here, and they think it's on NYPD business. The Company knows something's happened and they're going to want to know what. I'm your best shot at dodging both of those bullets. I want to help you, Niki. Let me help you."

Niki stares at Mara with something akin to the puzzlement one might experience if the other party were suddenly speaking German - just with a bit more /horror/ added to the mix. In truth, though, she hears the other woman loud and clear, and by the time Mara has explained herself, anger flares. "I don't want your help!" she tells Mara, nearly shouting. Next time, her voice lowers, harsh and hoarse, intense. "I don't need their help. I am dealing with this /by myself./" She shakes her head, brow furrowing resentfully. "You have no right to talk about my son as if you know /anything/." She spins, opening the door roughly.

"I know he called his friend and said he was afraid you were going to hurt him!" Mara takes after Niki quickly, but she doesn't try to lay a hand on her. "My name is Mara Damaris. I am a detective with the NYPD. I also have an ability. I know what the Company does to people like us. Especially if they think we're too dangerous. I am buying you time, Niki. I know you're a big girl and you can take care of yourself, and you want to take care of your son, but they're not going to even pretend that they're going to help you." The detective's lips press together in a thin line. "You tell me what happened, and I can figure out how to keep the wolves away from your door. I can help you keep your son out of this entirely."

The screen door rattles as it opens and closes just as fast. Niki is on the verge of shutting this stranger out by hiding inside the house. But it doesn't happen just yet. The look she turns on Mara is incredulous to the point that she actually smiles as if she's about to laugh. Of course, there's no real humour. She folds her arms. "/The Company/ is part of the reason I'm in this mess in the first place!" She looks away, her jaw tightening. Thinking, reasoning. Blue eyes pin Mara again. "I already talked to the police." Yeah, she gets that this is not typical (or official) police business, but she's not about to trust an officer of the law after what just happened here.

"C'mon, Sanders. You aren't dense. What part of this 'I'm helping you to avoid /both/ groups' don't you understand?" Mara leans heavily on her cane, looking exhausted. "Don't you think you owe it to Micah not to have to look over your shoulder constantly? Not to have to keep running? I'm not asking you to help the Company, or the police. I'm asking you to help yourself and to help your son."

"Nothing is ever that simple," Niki replies without hesitation, harsh because she's lived the fact. The way it's spoken, it almost sounds like she's insulted that this woman would imply that it is simple. "So, explain it to me. How can you help me? For all I know, Bob just sent you check up on me."

"Please. If Bishop sent me to check up on you, I'd have shot both your kneecaps out and dragged you to the car by now. You're under this impression that I'm answering to the Company. I'm really not." Mara shrugs her shoulders slightly. "But I do have the ears of some people there. If I return with favourable things to say… You can't run from these people. They'll just keep using concerned little Molly Walker to find you. No matter where you go. I don't want to see that happen to you and your son, and I don't want to see them using a little girl's fears like that, either." There's a pause. Maybe to let it sink in. "So tell me what happened. Why would Micah be afraid for his own safety? Everything I know about you indicates that neither you nor Jessica would ever harm Micah. You're a mother. Mothers protect their children. Why's he so afraid?"

Furrowed brows that haven't quite softened throughout all of this etch more deeply as Niki makes sense of everything she's hearing. She shifts a shoulder uncomfortably, tightening her folded arms. She's stubbornly silent for a few moments, looking sidelong away from Mara. Finally: "I would never hurt my son," she says with a hint of offense, but softens. Marginally. She's incredibly reluctant to talk, and it's obvious. It means confiding. To a stranger. She shifts from foot to foot before heading down toward the yard, indicating for Mara to follow. An afterthought, but Micah's grandmother just going to think she's extra crazy if she overhears anymore. "Jessica— I don't think she'd ever hurt him on purpose. Just— without thinking… she's rough, you know? Micah just lost his /father/. He blames her. So me, basically. You'd be scared too if everything you know kept getting ripped apart."

"I imagine I would be." Mara walks through the yard with Niki, putting distance between themselves and the door. "What happened? Did D.L. threaten you? Or Micah?" If there's one fault Detective Damaris has always had, it's her need to understand. It's also her greatest strength, if you ask her. "What set her off?"

Distance is made, but then it stops short in the yard beside the driveway as Niki halts, and halts hard. "Wh… no. No," she says with a confused sort of determination, shaking her head quickly, abruptly. Straight blonde hair, rather lifeless, sways against her face. She looks firmly at Mara, hard-set on clarifying. "D.L. was trying to /save/ me. He jumped /in the way of gunfire/ so that it wouldn't catch me. Even if it was Jessica. That's the kind of person he is." /Was./ Niki realizes her mistake, but can't make herself correct it, her mouth just opening and closing.

That's something Mara hadn't expected, but it makes sense now. 'She let him get killed,' didn't mean that Niki had lost control of Jessica. "Niki." One hand reaches up to rest on the other blonde's arm. When abilities are involved, Mara never trusts a police report. In this case, maybe she should have. "Is it possible somebody may be coming after you or Micah?" Not that Mara doubts for a moment that Jessica didn't clean up.

"Yeah," Niki says through a laugh that is, again, free of humour. "The police." She sighs, inkling her head so that her hair falls forward. She tips it back up and regards Mara tentatively. "You won't … report back to the department or whatever?"

"Definitely not." Mara shakes her head. Didn't she just tell Niki she's here to help, like, a million times? Yeah. "I'll report something to the LVPD, but nothing close to the truth. If they decide they're going to make a move on you, I'll be back here. I promise you, I will not be taking you into NYPD custody, but you're going to have to trust me, if it comes down to that. You understand? The world isn't ready for the truth. For people like us. I'm just making sure that we keep things quiet as long as possible, okay?" That sounded terribly businesslike, didn't it? "And besides, you and your son deserve better."

Forgive Niki if she doesn't trust easily. She hesitates yet again, but keeping her voice low, goes on. "Well, you know what happened at the casino. It was all over the news. And now you know I was there. Jessica-she had some kinda deal with the Company. This plan to take down the casino for God knows how much and keep most of the money, for us, for Micah, only there was more to it, just— I can't remember. She got D.L. to go in on it, only, he didn't know that part or he never woulda came. When everything went wrong, and D.L…" She trails off, picks back up a few seconds later. "I got away. So now…" Now she, the wife of an 'assailant' who heisted the casino, has a ridiculous amount of that stolen money, is what she's trying to say.

"Oh my sweet Jesus." Mara buries her face into her palm. "That was /you/?" The urge to groan is suppressed, but barely. Talk about in over her head. "So, maybe you and Micah should get your things packed and get ready to leave here. With me." She fixes Niki with a serious expression, stopping the hand that was on her face from moving to her pocket. "How much money is the Company expecting you to bring back to them?"

Technically, it was Jessica, but Niki just lets Mara process this information. She stands with one hip slightly jutted out now, her arms wrapped around her again. "I don't know." And as for the detective's other comment, she shakes her head lightly. "We're staying for the memorial. It's—" The woman pauses, moistening her lips. "It's today. So, I really have to go get ready."

Mara nods her head slowly. She feels terrible that Niki's in this situation, and that her son's along for the ride, as it were. She hands a card off to the other woman, with a personal cell phone number scrawled on the back. "If you run into any trouble, give me a call." She pauses for a moment as she takes a limping step back. "Jessica can give me a call if she has anything to share that might help me keep the Company off your back." Since it's clear that she's causing Niki to black out again when she takes control.

Niki takes the card, looking at it for longer than the information that's on there really warrants. "…Thanks," she offers and actually manages a smile for the woman. It's small, it's tired, but there's a touch of sincerity. "You didn't have to come all the way out here. I appreciate it," she adds, apologetic, since she hasn't exactly been the most polite or trusting today.

"I wanted to." Somehow, Mara just didn't think Niki would be willing to talk over the phone. And, truth be told, it feels good to get out of New York state for a while. "Take care of yourself, Miss Sanders. I'm sorry for your loss." The detective puts her sunglasses on and heads back for her rental car. It's going to be a long day.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License