2007-11-18: Lost But Now Am Found


Jack_icon.gif Desiree_icon.gif

Summary: An unexpected but vaguely familiar face is led to Jack as he goes through rough times.

Date It Happened: November 18th, 2007

Lost But Now Am Found

Den of Iniquity


Though the neon signs are unlit, most of the interior lights are off, and a 'CLOSED' sign has been prominently posted, the front door of the Den was left unlocked by Elena as she fled late last night. Inside, the furniture has been covered by dropcloths and dust, save for a large pile of objects hastily stacked in one corner. (The contents of Jack's office.)

The office door itself has been torn out and replaced with a heavy, barred cell door that's held shut by a chain and padlock. Everything has been removed from the other side. Furniture, carpet, the contents of Jack's private bar. Everything. All that remains is a bit of food and water, a blanket, and a single cardboard box.

The man himself is curled into a ball on top of the blanket. Not quite asleep and not quite awake, he twitches and mumbles fitfully. "Amaaaaaazing grace…. How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch…" here he pauses for a wracking cough, then resumes his quavery, off-key singing. "Liiiiike me. I once was lost, but now am…"

Abruptly, the song trails off.

Several moments pass in silence. …But now am found, am lost … but now … I see." The voice is clear, melodical, hushed under a woman's breath in quiet song.

She doesn't appear out of nowhere, not literally, but she's certainly quiet as a mouse. Say hello to Desiree Russo, a cardboard box hugged to her chest, in a simple black dress and an old, green coat with natty faux fur for trim and an orange scarf looped around her neck, dark, wild curls haphazardly spilling over it. She's never stepped foot in this establishment before now to know firsthand that it's ghost of its former self. Nevertheless, as the woman steps through the bar, plucking her way gingerly through on heeled boots that carry her with surprising gentleness, her study of the boxed-up belongings and dusty surfaces is strangely respectful and full of reverie — like walking through a graveyard.

"T'was Grace that taught… my heart to fear." She crouches in front of the bars, gentle hazel eyes peering through at the near-stranger of a man inside. "And grace, my fears relieved. How precious did that Grace appear… the hour I first … believed." A small, knowing smile. "Hiya."

Jack's mouth gapes open and he stares at the woman for several seconds. There's something familiar about her, but the realization can't quite pierce through the foggy haze that's settled over his brain. He gulps around a dry throat and rasps, "Did I finally die? If you're an angel, you came to the wrong address. I'm going…" As if he's displaying some great secret, he points to the floor and through it, indicating somewhere far beneath. "There."

Desiree hitches the box under one arm, balancing on one of her knees in her crouch, and wraps a long-fingered hand around one of the bars of Jack's self-imposed jail cell. One burgundy-painted fingernail points in the man's direction. "We're all angels, Jack." The woman's rich Southern accent is a different flavour than the one he'd be used to hearing from Trina; hers is straight out of Mississippi. "Mind if I come in?" Without waiting for an answer, she pushes herself up and strolls to the small table nearby without even searching; her fingertrips trail over the objects there — the car keys, the bourbon, the pistol — before gathering the right key for the lock.

"I… What?" Despite Jack's stalwart, stubborn nature, he's old-fashioned. When a nice lady tells you what's what, you listen. Something about her presence is soothing to him in his present condition. Without protest, complaint, or warning, he shuffles away from the door and backpedals several unsteady steps. He keeps his hands clasped together behind his back and his eyes fixed on the floor. The self-imposed confinement coupled with his detoxing is getting to him. In his lucid moments, he remembers nothing so well as the time he spent as a docile prisoner.

A calm smile on her lips — painted with a slightly too dark shade of lipstick — all the while, Desiree returns and slides the key into the lock, releasing it with a gentle but immediate click. The key is tucked deep into the pocket of her long jacket before she guides the door open and steps inside, closing it behind her — all one-handed, as she carries that mystery box. "I brought you somethin' make you feel better." She pries open the flaps of the box and the warm smell of cinnamon and applies fills the room. She maneuvers out an apple pie; fresh-baked, picture perfect.

Up close, the Irishman isn't pleasant to view or smell. He's wearing the same loose sweats and t-shirt he put on when he locked himself in here about a week ago. (A month ago? A year ago? With no clock, there's no way to keep time except for the scratches he carves into the wall when the sun rises and sets.) He's sweaty, dirty, and smells faintly of vomit. None of this seems to concern him, though. It's a condition he's survived before. All he's concerned with is the pie. It's the first thing that's looked appetizing to him since he got here.

"Apple… s'my favorite," he mumbles. He licks his lips, but he doesn't step closer to accept the gift. There's something in his eyes; a fear and hesitation. An uncertainty that is unfamiliar and unbecoming.

Desiree isn't repelled in the least by the unpleasantness of Jack and his cell, or at least doesn't show any outward signs — nor does she parallel any of that hesitation or fear. On the contrary, her presence is a peaceful and reassuring one. She takes the initiative. "S'all yours." She sets the box down by the cardboard box that's already in the cell, using it as a table as she lays out the pie, produces a plate, utensils, a plastic cup with sunflowers around the base, and a glass bottle of milk. "You're detoxin'," she says, looking over at Jack as if just realizing this now for sure. "I recognize the signs."

Now Jack smiles for the first time, though the expression looks rusty with disuse, almost as if he's borrowing it from someone else who hasn't used it in a while. "Thanks. Really, really thanks," he whispers. Reverently, with his lower lip clamped between his teeth in anticipation, he settles down cross-legged in front of the pie. With shaking hands, he uncaps the milk and pours himself a glass. "Yeah," he confirms without meeting Desiree's gaze. "From like four things at once. I… man, this looks good." More relaxed than he's been in days, he takes up a fork and starts to dig himself out a bite.

Desiree seats herself across from Jack, similarly cross-legged (dress be damned) and pours him a glass of milk. The more he relaxes, the more she smiles. She's quiet, watching him eat for a moment, before speaking up, and by then, her smile has faded — but not her tranquil demeanour. "What was it, heroin? Meth? Some kinda pills? I had a brother once — Dwayne. He tried to detox but he couldn't handle the crash so he ODed. He was younger'n you. But you ain't gonna go down that road no more, are you, Jack?"

"No," Jack answers vehemently, cutting the air with one hand to punctuate the statement. "I didn't even know I was going here in the first place. Thought it was a sort of medicine, if you can believe that." Though it looks slightly less delicious after the admission, he stuffs the bite of pie into his mouth and speaks around it. "Morphine. Adrenaline. Ativan. Atropine. Fun stuff. Mmmph. Pie so good. So, so good."

"Well hell. People can believe anythin' given the right set a' lies," Dezi says, non-judgmental. "Glad you like the pie." She glances around at the scant supplies Jack has — the bits of food and water. "How long you been in here?"

Jack is already on his third mouthful. It's as if once he took the first, his day of hollow, aching hunger have finally caught up with him. Though he usually at least makes a stab at manners when ladies are about, he continues to speak around apples and flaky crust. Just this once. "M'bout a week, I think. It feels like a lot longer. Hey… How'd you know to find me here?"

Desiree, seeming as content in a homemade prison with a recovering addict as she would be in her own living room, casually examines her nails and the engagement ring around her finger as Jack talks. It gets a bit lost, among her numerous other rings, but it is the most sparkly, and she is engaged by shiny objects. "I jus' know I was s'posed to pay you a visit," she says simply, not intending to be cryptic. "I go where I'm needed." She picks up the glass of milk and moves it closer to Jack; at the rate he's shovelling in that pie, he needs it. She leans over the cardboard box, letting her hands dangle close to the floor, wide hazel eyes regarding the fellow across from her. "I was sent to you, Jack."

It seems that Dezi and Jack are thinking he same thing. He sloshes milk into a mouth still half full of pie, then gulps it all down. "Sent? Sent by who?" He doesn't look up, but the tightening of his muscles and unconscious squaring of his shoulders bespeaks suspicion and defensiveness. Like an animal, he hunches his body slightly over his food to protect it.

More than likely, the woman's answer isn't one Jack will be expecting — at least, she certainly wasn't sent by any old enemies. Desiree just smiles, at first, a flash of white teeth and warmth around her eyes. "Oh, I dunno," she says, slowly unwrapping the wide scarf from around her neck and coiling it in her lap, where she folds her hands. She shrugs her narrow shoulders. "God?"

"I knew you were an angel," he answers decisively. "And not in the "we're all special" sense. That's a magical pile of Christian bullshit, if you don't mind my saying so." Sustenance seems to be reviving him. His mind is focusing and he's growing more coherent, though his body is still reacting on instinct. He relaxes again and sighs out a heavy breath. Another small smile, this one a bit more practiced, and then he goes back to food-shoveling.

"Oh, I dunno," Desiree says one more time, a touch subdued by Jack's response — yet she grins a little, curving one corner of her mouth. It seems like she could say more, perhaps on the subject of magical Christian bullshit, but she doesn't. "That pie fillin' you up? Have another slice, go on." She looks out, into the main area of the Den, and waves a hand. "This's your place, right? The Den of Iniquity? You think maybe you should rename it once you're on your two feet? Looks to me like you could use a lil' less iniquity."

Jack nods easily and helps himself to the recommended additional portion. "You might be right. Could be that I need to mend my wicked ways. Could also be that wicked is what I was meant for. We all have our skillset, after all." He shrugs, then goes back to forking up pastry crust. "Mmm. You used fresh butter, didn't you? Only fresh butter tastes this good."

"You darn right I did." the Southerner answers with a grin. After the fact, she sobers slightly, pensively regarding the Irishman. "Is' my belief no one's meant to be wicked," she says. "But, along the way, some people, they learn it. Somethin' happens to 'em makes 'em think they're bad. Just 'cause you got skills in dark places don't make you wicked, means you've had a interesting life and learned things you can use for good." Desiree, angel of wisdom?

"You're pretty smart for a simple-seeming Southern gal," Jack replies. "Hell, you might even be right. Nobody's too far gone, I guess." He muses on this while he stuffs some more pie in his face. He's almost halfway through it now, and when he clears out his mouth he immediately washes it all down with the rest of his milk. The next time he glances at Dezi, his eyes widen with recognition. "You're… I know you. You're Sa—Ramon's lady. Jesus. Don't tell him about this, okay?"

"Who you callin' simple?" Desiree counters with a good-natured smile and a wink. "Naw, I won't tell 'im if you don' want me to. A person oughta make peace with themselves in peace. Don't need the whole world knowin' their troubles. But this is Ramon we're talkin' 'bout. That man can know anythin' he sets his mind to." Literally.

"Uh," Jack states eloquently. Finally, he seems to have eaten his fill. He shrugs sheepishly and turns away from the pie. "Good point," he admits. "Just… I've worried enough people over this, y'know? It's not something I asked for. I just want to fix it before people start really freaking out. Which has already happened, come to think."

"Means you got people care about you," Desiree says emphatically, reaching out across the cardboard box table in an attempt to clamp a hand over Jack's. "You keep doin' what you're doin', you stay strong, you'll get better. You'll get better and be stronger for it and all those folks who worried about you'll still be there. I'll bring you pie."

Jack's mouth drops open and he turns his hand over so he can cling to Desiree's. He gulps once, twice, three times, but he's unable to blink back a couple of tears from the corners of his eyes. Touched, he nods raggedly and gives her hand a squeeze. "Thanks," he replies hoarsely. "I needed this." A few seconds pass while he sniffles and collects himself. Smiling again, he turns his face up toward Dezi. "Do you make pumpkin pie?"

"I know you did. And I make the best pumpkin pie north of Mississippi." Desiree squeezes her hand over Jack's, smiling. Letting go after a few firm moments of lingering for good measure, she clambers to her feet.

Jack stands up also, though a little more slowly. "Wait," he calls out, his voice low and tremulous. "Um. Can I have a hug? I know you have kids, and moms always give the best hugs." Like a schoolboy asking for a cookie, he fixes his eyes on the floor and scuffs his socks against the carpet.

Desiree can't say no to a hug. It would be like saying no to picking up a poor, bedraggled stray kitten, or saying no to … well, apple pie. Although she looks slightly surprised by Jack's request, she's soon smiling that friendly, warm smile of hers. "Well, sure ya can, sugar." Because there's obviously no harm in hugging a violent, recovering drug addict when he's being so sweet, she strides over the short distance with open arms to hug Jack.

There's no deception here, though. No guile. The Irishman lets himself get gathered up in Dezi's arms. Like a child, he leans his head against her shoulder and clings around her waist. He sniffles several times, but there are no more tears when he extracts himself. "Thanks, Angel," he whispers as he wipes his nose on the back of his hand. "Now go on, get outta here. Lock up when you leave."

Even after Jack pulls back, Desiree holds around his shoulders, as if making sure he's steady. "You're welcome," she says quietly - more like 'ya welcome' with her accent. Her words are incredibly genuine. This is why she came. Brushing a hand over Jack's forehead, wiping away stray hair and even sweat, as if she's known him for ages when the opposite is true, she says, "You'll be okay, Jack. Even wretches like you get found," before slipping out of the office prison, locking him in.

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