2009-10-03: Low Grade Conspiracy



Date: October 3, 2009


Lee comes to Charlotte…and she tells him how to do something amazing.

"Low-Grade Conspiracy"

Brooklyn, New York

Charlotte's had to stem off her hunt for Niki Sanders for a few hours while she goes to work. Wearing her normal black slacks, black heeled loafers, black apron and pink button down, she swerves easily among the tables, small plastic serving platter held high as she dodges taller people on her way back to the kitchen. "Hi Bobby, yes I'm almost done, I just have a few more, can you help me with these?" She walks out carrying another platter, this time full of beers in pint glasses, delivering them to a table of weary off-duty cops who all nod in appreciation, ask her about her day, and go back to talking about sports. "Yeah, I should be out of here in a few minutes, just have to take the garbage out back."

Lee enters, wearing his loose vest-and-collar combo that was his hipster trademark when he was teaching Charlotte's adult education class. He approaches Charlotte as she finishes with her table. "Hey, Charlotte." he says with a charming grin. "How are you doing, it's great to see you…Can I talk to you when you're off shift? I didn't want to just dramatically come walking up in the alley after you clock out, how often does that work out well, right?" he says. Clearly he has something in mind that has caused him to seek out his former student.

Charlotte seems more than warmly happy to see Lee, offering him not a handshake, but a hug. She's a hugger! "Hi! Oh it's so good to see you! Of course, yes, I'm off in a minute. Just let me grab my jacket?" She wrinkles her nose a bit. "I'm afraid it's already gotten a bit cool for me already. I'm just not meant for anything below 80 degrees, I swear. Robbie, can you take the trash out for me?"

Lee says, "I don't want to inconvenience you…" He hugs her back though, warmly and with a bit of relief. "But you wouldn't mind us going out the back way? I know, that sounds crazy paranoid, but given what happened last year…it has to do with that, a bit." Oh, that.

"Oh," Well, certainly not positive news, but none the less she's still happy to see a friendly face. Her dimples prove that. "Of course. Just this way." She leads him behind the bar, pausing to pull her jacket and scarf off the hooks and picking up the trash. "Bye Robbie, call me if it gets busy," she assures him. She leads Lee through the kitchen - everything stainless steel with grey tile floors, white painted chipping walls and that funny cardboard-tiled ceiling. The back door leads them to an alley, where Charlotte, juggles the bags and the trash can to get the top off and get everything where the street cats won't get to them. "Is everything alright?" She asks, once she's free of the trash burdons.

Lee follows along. "Oh, yeah, everything's fine." He traipses out back with her, his black two-tones in the alleyway like New York's native son. "See, the reason I'm coming around is that it turns out I have a student this year who knows you." He glances behind him almost casually. "His name's Essein. Originally from Nigeria. I had some one on one time with him tutoring, trying to figure out where he'd gone to school at various times and…well, I don't know if you remember him, but he called you 'Mam'selle Corday'…"

It may be a surprise that Charlotte doesn't try to flinch or hide away. Instead, she dusts off her hands, turning to face Lee with a thoughtful smile as she gazes away a moment, recalling the memory. "Yes, that's right, I remember. Very polite little boy. Most of the children in Nigera and Kenya call me 'Sharlotta' but not him." Her smile, genuine, dimpled and pleased, turns to Lee happily. "And he's doing well? How is his english progressing?"

Lee grins. "The kid's a charmer. He's got a silver tongue. He's way ahead in English already. And his parents, they're proud as hell." he says. "But…knowing who you worked for, and what they did, at least some of it, I was wondering. So now I'm here to ask. What was Essein's situation. How did you become involved. And how did it end up when the rest of it got burned to bits?"

Charlotte bites her lower lip in thought, tilting her head a bit indicating that he should follow as she begins to saunter out of the alley. "I was dedicated to Pinehearst," she explains unapologetically. "They put me in charge of charitable donations for orphans in Kenya. We were doing very well, and toward the end I found out they were reaching out with schooling programs to other areas, other countries. Which I supported," she makes a gesture as if to add the word naturally to her story. "But it turns out that they were using some of these children in….biotechnical experiments. The special ones, the ones that had the genetic makeup that was needed," Not a lie. She glances up at him, almost guilty as she reads his features. "So I left. I shouldn't say left, I ran. Essein and many others - I went to Africa and did my best to relocate most of the children and families that were in danger. With his talents for English and his father's skill in trade crafts, I thought they might assimilate. I'm very happy to hear that I was right."

Lee seems surprised, and very impressed. "You flew all the way out to Africa, on your bosses' dime, to pick their pockets? That's…wow, that's phenomenal." He is clearly thinking this over. "When Pinehearst went under you must have lost track of a lot of them." he says, more thinking out loud than concluding or asking a question.

Charlotte can't conceal a smile as she glances down. Pride, perhaps? But she doesn't want to flaunt or be showy. "Not a single one. I know where each and every child is. I relocated a lot of them internationally, particularly the orphans. A lot of orphanages complain of being overburdoned, and it's true - they couldn't accept a huge influx of children. But one here, two there - it was painful to seperate them, but it was for the best. I still keep tabs on them, I get a lot of letters too. That's…actually where I've been for the last year and oh…six months or so. It's kept me rather busy, but I decided that I wanted to come back. So I have."

Lee is stunned now. "No, separating them is the best thing possible." he mutters. "No, see, now I'm almost not believing you." he teases. "You've been busy since you got that GED."

Charlotte blushes under his smile, glancing downward. "Umm…this way." She says, pointing to the left as they turn down the alley. She lives just a few blocsk away, it seems. "A year and a half is a very long time," Charlotte murmers as a response. "A person can get a lot done. Of course it means I'm behind on all of my episodes of Scrubs - which seems to have ended - but I'm sure I'll catch up."

Lee snickers. "It is a long time." he says thoughtfully. "Some things never change, though. I'm trying to quit smoking again." When they emerge on the street, he takes another look around. They are not followed. "Charlotte, here's the thing. I may be in the same situation you were at some point. With respect to Essein and some other special needs students. The people dealing with his parents now are being very nice. Very positive. But you know how that can turn."

Charlotte nods, looking conerned over her former teacher's appearance. "I do." Probably better than most. She supported Pinehearst in the face of some decent people, only to find out she was the one being used, which she was the one trying to do something - she thought - was good. It won't happen again. "How can I help?"

Lee grins, cockily, "I just need to know how to pull it off. If it has to be done. It's not quite orphans, not that kind of situation, not for most of them. But by the same token, nobody who is overseeing the situation trusts me a bit. The only reason I'm involved is I'm the only qualified teacher they could find that knows the secret."

"The secret," Charlotte murmers, a soft parrot sound, nodding as she folds her arms against a light breeze. "The secret about these children, about their gifts and what they can do?" She looks up at him, just wanting to make sure that the honesty is fully out there. "How many children do you have? Or rather, how many families might be an appropriate question. Parents are just as involved as children, perhaps more so."

Lee says, "At the moment, twelve. But, uh, recruitment - ugh, I hate that word, it makes them sound like NFL draft picks or soldiers…" He shakes his head and returns to the topic, stepping in front of her, turning and walking backwards, his hands in his jacket pockets, spreading wide: "…recruitment is ongoing. The other problem is that the campus is self-contained. It's a boarding school situation, not one of my Brubaker students."

Charlotte continues walking as long as he does, smiling amused as he walks backwards, keeping a careful eye out that he doesn't hit any lamp posts or little old ladies. "Well, if recruitment is ongoing you're going to have a lot of trouble in a self-contained location that isn't exclusively for these types of gifted students. I've seen a few arrangements like that - orphanges just for the gifted, but it takes staff and money. Beyond that, you'd really need your own location. Oh, watch out, hot dog stand."

Lee steps casually back around to her side while they avoid the stand. "That's just it. The self-contained location is specifically for these twelve students, and the others recruited. If I have to do this, there's not going to be any way I can cover it up or shuffle the paperwork or anything."

Charlotte blinks in surprise as she watches the man. "Well of course you can," she says, easily. "It's a school, isn't it? Why can't you simply register it as a private institution?" It seems rather easily to Charlotte. Although she isn't partial to lying, this seems like a white lie - there is truth in it, just not the whole truth.

Lee says, "Sorry, I'm not getting it across. I'm not in control of the place. I'm just a lowly teacher. The people in charge…it's them I'm worried about."

Charlotte stops, shaking her head. "Wait wait wait, you'll have to explain a little bit better. It's a school exclusively for gifted children, but the people running it don't know that? I'm…really not sure how it is you want me to help if that's the case. Here," she pulls out her keys and walks to a ratty-looking apartment building with bars on teh windows, unlocking the main door and letting him inside.

Lee says, "No. They do know that, and eventually might start to take advantage of that. No, let me correct myself. They will take advantage of these kids at some point in the future, and I'm trying to get every tool possible to protect them."

Charlotte leads Lee up the narrow steps. A door somewhere up top opens and slams. It's not the nicest place, but it could be worse. She's living on a waitress' salary now. Unlocking the door to numer 142, Charlotte pushes it open with a heavy shoulder, showing him into a small apartment that is cozy and well-decorated, but has seen better days. She nods, finally understanding. "Who exactly is running this school?"

Lee says, "Primatech. Bunch of psychos and morons even more nutso than your old bosses. They've behaved so far, I guess trying to turn over a new leaf or something? Assuage their consciences? But it won't last." He looks around. "Nice place, it must help to walk to work…" New Yorkers, obsessed with apartments.

Charlotte lets out another little chuckle at some private joke. WAlk to work indeed. "Primatech, I've never heard of them," she explains. "Then agian, I confess I wasn't that deeply rooted with other organizations. They kept me off on my own." She removes her scarf, jacket, and shoes by the door. "Can I get you something to drink? Coffee? Apple juice?" She's just the sort of woman to keep apple juice, too. "Something a little stronger?"

Lee says, "Coffee is good. See, that's the thing, that's why the corporate mindset will never work in this situation. They have to keep separate from everyone else, because any development is valuable to the company and the competition can't get a hold of it." He shakes his head. "It's why things are still so screwed up. A couple of years ago, when I found out about this whole mess, I figured it would be out in the public eye in a few months, everyone would be up in arms yelling at each other for a few months and then everything would be back to normal."

Charlotte leads her former teacher into her eat-in kitchen, setting out a few very ornate, hand-crafted ceramic mugs. She still has all her nice stuff, it seems. The coffee is put on to perk while she speaks. "Something like this wouldn't do well in the public eye. I've seen it in some of the developing countries, particularly tribal areas - it becomes a power struggle. I've lived in more states in the US than most people have in their entire lives, and I can't think of a single community where fear wouldn't drive everyone mad. No, as a secret it's best left kept, but I see your concern over the children." She frowns, sighing through her nose - clearly she's extremely concerned, and she shows it. She rarely hides any of her emotions. "I could relocate the children, but they'd just find more. There's always more."

Lee says, almost reluctantly, "They're in a good situation now. As good as they can get given the situation. Some of them have fairly extreme conditions. They couldn't really be accomodated in public schools. See, I disagree with you. I think the sooner it comes out the sooner it'll all blow over. And it's inevitably going to come out. I mean, something this silly that invalidates all previous scientific and human progress in the history of mankind is not going to be kept quiet by a bunch of smarmy bookkeepers."

Charlotte shakes her head sadly. "But they're weapons, Lee. We're weapons." At least she isn't going to keep him in the dark that way. "What you're seeing now could happen on a large, open scale if it were made public. I hate to say it, because I believe that people are inheriently good. But they're inherently afraid. And even if it would all just blow over…I'm not sure either one of us would be in a position to manage such a huge change. You have 12 kids now. 12 kids is a lot, let's help them first."

Lee says, "Exactly, if everyone just handles what they can handle, in their backyard, things will go smoothly. I mean, you were a PR woman without even a GED and you integrated a lot of kids on another continent. Anything's possible. So. Let's say I decide things are going badly. I'm doing what I can to make sure the parents will be on our side if that happens. Then what?"

The coffeepot bubbles, and Charlotte grins a nervous grin, shaking her head. "I'm not an expert, Lee." She turns, pouring coffee, setting out milk and sugar and a creme brule flavored creamer before she sits across from him. "Listen, if these Primatech people have the reach and scope of Pinehearst and they want these kids, they won't be safe where they are. But where they are now sounds like an excellent situation. I can move them if it gets dangerous but…" She shakes her head. It isn't nearly a good-enough plan.

Lee replies, encouragingly, "We don't have to work out all the details today. But I'm not the kind of guy who just does things without thinking about them in advance, working on them in advance. Obviously transportation's going to be an issue. They're from all over the country, some of them even from other countries. And who knows, maybe the entirety of history is wrong and they actually won't try to take advantage of the kids at their school. I'm not going to count on that though." He takes his coffee with plenty of everything, at least for right now. "Heck, maybe what we prepare here can help the kids that you've got stashed around Africa."

Charlotte chuckles, waving a hand dismissively. "Believe me when I say that transportation is not a problem." Because really, it isn't. She'll have to explain that to him sooner or later. "But I'm sure we'll come up with a good alternative. The point is that should the time come, we'll have to make sure they're safe." She sips her own coffee, a dark, African blend, before peering across the table at him once more. "You said you're chiefly responsible for these students, right?"

Lee says, "For the most part. They have a so-called 'teacher's aide' - no relation to someone who actually might help me with any aspect of education - who tries to monitor what I do there. I think they kinda know my attitude towards the company. Probably because I told them." A pause, he sips his coffee. "Loudly." He rubs his chin. "Many, many, many times."

Charlotte chuckles at an image in her mind of Lee shouting at the top of his lungs in an empty room. In truth, that's probably what it equated to anyway. "Al right, well the first thing we can do is get a list together of all the student,s the parents, the families - anyone who might be in danger should this Primatech decide to move in on the students. Can you do that for me?"

Lee nods slightly. "Sure. I…oh, because they might go after a sibling to try to force cooperation. I get it." he says. "We can do a geneaology project. I'm having to be sort of one-room schoolhouse style with them, with the older kids teaching the younger kids and everyone approaching a common topic at their own level. So the little kids can do pictures of their families, the older ones can do family trees and the secondary students can do actual research."

Charlotte sips her coffee, nodding. "Perfect. Those names will allow me to get to those students wherever they are and move them if need be. Their families - everyone, I can have them out of harm's way rather quickly if it comes to that." She sets her mug down, looking at her former teacher curiously. "It's an amazing thing you're doing, helping them like this."

Lee shakes his head. "Any teacher worth their salt would do the same in my place. Like you say, you have to do what you can within your reach." he says. "Amazing would be if they were in Africa." he scoffs with a laugh. "I'm really glad you didn't get hurt when that place went up. When I heard about it I was worried for you."

"Honestly I do't know what happened," she explains, cupping the mug between her hands on the table. "I left, and I was so terrified - I couldn't imagine what they'd do if they found me, or the children. I heard about it of course but I couldn't bring myself back, not even after the building was smoldered down to nothing. Do you know much about it?"

Lee replies, "Not a damn thing. I figured someone just blew up the place for the insurance money after realizing what a pointless waste of time the whole exercise was." He finishes off his coffee and sits back in the chair. "Whatever it was, they probably kept PR people in the dark about it, so likely you're not on anyone's list."

Charlotte smiles softly. "Well it's over now, and hopefully will never come again. Besides, I like being a waitress. I'm good at it," she nods, having no sense of false modesty. "Listen, can I ask you something personal? About Kory?" She knows the two are close.

Lee pauses. "S…sure." he says, not quite nervous, not quite sad, but somewhere in the middle.

Charlotte looks a bit more uncorfortable by his discomfort. "I just wanted to know if she was okay. I spent last night with her - old horror movies and crepes and milk - but I worry." But who doesn't she worry about. "I mean she seems like she's doing great, with her new job, but a lot of changes…well I just wanted to make sure she was alright, that's all."

Lee says, "I…don't really know. We haven't spoken, a lot, since she left the Lair. I don't…I don't know that I really approve of her new situation." To put it mildly. "…We kinda fought the last time we talked about it." Lee 'kinda' fighting is probably not a very credible thing.

Charlotte nods, reaching over and patting her former teacher's arm in a reassuring manner. "I understand. I'm sorry for bringing up such a painful subject," she says, sincerely. Her hand moves to reach for his mug. "Here, let me top you off a bit. It looks like you ran out of room for your coffee with all the sugar, milk and cream."

Lee smiles. "Sure. I'm sure we'll make up at some point. We've been close a long time. How is she doing? I mean, did you get the sense that anything was wrong?"

Charlotte is glad to have her back to Lee at this point. "I think…she and Randall are finished," she explains, pouring the coffee and sliding his toward him, and sitting down with her own. "It's a little bit complicated," in which she played a part. She should have checked for ID, fiddlestix. "But she's proud of the new work she's doing. We had a very pleasant evening - laughs, good food, good movies. Once she relaxed she seemed absolutely fine."

Lee says, "Yeah, I think that's all part of the same situation. I think she still cares about him," He spreads his long-fingered hands. "I think she feels she put him at risk."

Charlotte sighs, shaking her head. "She caught him with a 16 year old girl in his apartment." She reaches out to grab Lee's arm in case he does one of those crazy man things and jumps up. "Now it's very wrong of Randall. I've already hit him and he promised me they didn't do anything. It's partially my fault - I gave them both Irish Coffee's at the bar the night before. I've just never heard of people getting drunk off of Irish coffee…." she shakes her head, lost for a moment in bafflement. But then she retruns to reality. "And both…seem of the opinion that they've been drifting apart."

Lee was indeed about to jump up, but then he just says "WHAT?! What a moron! Oh my god, what a complete and utter miserable jackass! Well, I should say they're drifting apart - Kory's a decent person and not a twisted stalker, it sounds like they don't have that much in common after all."

Charlotte is very glad that she had the forthought to grab his arm, and she continues to do so. "They seem to be handling it alright themselves. Just please don't do anything masculine. Like I said, I already hit him. Left a red mark and everything, I promise. I also told him I would um…oh darn….there's a phrase. I had a boyfriend in Tennessee that used it all the time. Cut him, that's it. I told him I would 'cut him' if he ever touched a teenager."

Lee says, "Oh, no, I'm very in touch with my feminine side when it comes to revenge. Backbiting, spreading rumors and making smirking remarks, that's my style." almost bitterly. "What an ass."

Slowly, tenatively, Charlotte releases the man's arm, ready to bounce back should it be needed. "Well, I suppose that's a shade better than physical violence. Not a bright shade, but a shade none the less. But like I said, she really seems to be doing okay. I promise."

Lee replies, "Yeah. I'll call her, try to get together. You know she used to have a crush on me back in the day, I was kind of an idiot about it at the time though."

Charlotte smiles, letting out a soft chuckle. Dimples, beaming white teeth, the whole nine yards. "So now you rush to her rescue?" She pats his hand in a friendly manner. "Well, I don't know about that, but I'm sure there's a prince and white horse dream in every girl's mind." She promises, sipping her coffee and sitting back a little, cozily in her iffy little apartment. "Just be…genteel."

Lee laughs, "Oh, hell no. She's been like a sister to me and Nima - my sister - ever since I got back from LA. If I were genteel she would be suspicious. No, I'll be nice, though. It can't be easy being in that situation, whatever the job is." he says gracefully. "Thanks for the info, though."

Charlotte nods. "Well, don't make me regret telling you about it, alright? I'm already in enough trouble over the Irish Coffee, and I haven't been back in town a week yet. I'm still trying to foster friendships and all of that." She finishes her second cup of coffee, shaking her limbs out a bit. "Caffine at this hour may not have been the wisest choice I've ever made,"

Lee laughs. "I still have papers to grade. I appreciate the help, Charlotte. I think this could work out well, and it's nice to have someone I can count on." He gets to his feet.

Charlotte stands as well, she was raised with southern hospitality and one always shows the guest out. "Let me give you my number," she scribbles it down for him. "Call anytime, day night or in between." She sighs, looking over him - something almost wistful in her look. "I wish I could say I'd like to see your school, but it's probably best if I don't, if we're going to have to move them at some point. Please keep me updated on anything you learn about Primatech and what their goals might be. Alright?"

Lee says, "Absolutely. Their overarching goal is secrecy. What they're doing at the school…I don't know what it is but it doesn't fit into that agenda. If I find out more, I'll tell you." He gives Charlotte his number as well, from an index card in a binder clip that he carries in his back pocket, that she remembers well as his 'analog PDA', from class. "Thanks, Charlotte." He offers his hand to shake.

Before he can offer his hand to shake, or rather, before she can notice it, her arms around around his shoulders as she hugs him tight. She's a hugger, remember! "Anything you can find out," she reminds him as she parts the hug after a moment. "Names, locations, any of it could become useful. But don't go out of your way to hear these sorts of things - I did that too and it's not a good place to be." Ah yes, spying on the Senator…bad times.

Lee says, "I have been able to shut down a few meetings by wandering into random conference rooms and saying that we need to talk about the state achievement standards immediately." with mischief that seems to come natural. And, after a hug, which he returns with…gratitude? Warmth? Out he goes.

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