|AIR DATE 2011.08.12|
|Location:||Downtown Los Angeles|
|Synopsis: Carter springs a lucky twist on Clara after they meet under dark circumstances.|
Music thrums from downtown; distant. The warm drumbeat of nightlife cools by the time it reaches here: the dark expanse of parking lot around a building, run-down around the edges, that has been closed since normal business hours ended. The hour, now, is ungodly; there's no shortage of variety on these streets in the day, but the dark brings out the types that hang around in shady groups that split like small schools of fish as soon as possible. When someone spots them; when the transaction ends. Drug-dealing.
A pair of men, both scrawny, both wearing hooded sweatshirts though the night is mild, both looking barely over twenty-two but with the worn-out, paranoid eyes of men much older, linger near a metal parking lot rail. "I dunno if that's enough," the shorter scoffs to the taller, who holds tightly onto something in his pocket without yet revealing the desired item. It's both a third figure they're eyeing: the blonde woman in front of them, who stands swaying slightly and hugging a tattered knapsack protectively against her grey t-shirt, several sizes too big. The money clutched in her hand is all she has, and like a child hoping their scant change is enough to buy them candy, Clara holds it out again.
Carter has been watching the two men for nearly thirty minutes from the shadows of a delivery van parked in the corner of the lot. The girl was the third to have dealt with them. Slow night for Slim and Shorty. But it was getting late and he wanted a cigarette badly. He slid the heavy revolver from inside his belt and tucked the handle up the sleeve of his suit jacket. Then he strode from the shadows and towards the group, lighting a cigarette as he approached the group. A cautionary glance from side to side to be sure no one else was around and he lifted his chin in greeting, slowing his pace as he reached a conversational distance. "Evening."
While the dealers leer and contemplate demanding more from Clara — more cash, or whatever else they deem fair — she ducks her head. It's less than safe, the way she averts her eyes, looks at the ground, lets her long hair fall in front of her face; not while she's with these men, not while she's in this dark lot, not while she's holding money, not while a third man approaches. She only flicks her attention Carter for a second, and even as her gaze lands on the stranger's face, her eyes have a faraway quality to them; she stiffens, though, as she looks back down. Her mouth moves against itself as if anxious, her fingers curl and dig into the thick fabric of her bag and around her bills tighter. By the plain, worn nature of her clothes— everything she owns might be in it.
The two dealers are much more alert and suspicious of the newcomer; the shorter practically spins while the taller keeps his a more casual cool. Still, there's a paranoid, twitchy edge about him. "'Sup, man…" he says, and his partner follows up with, "What you lookin' for."
Carter stops at a comfortable distance just beyond arm's reach of the three. He eyes the girl first as the two men greet him, deciding that she is spun out of her mind and will likely run when the trouble starts. He wouldn't kill her unless he had to. He dismisses her and finally turns his attention to the two men, lifting his cigarette to his lips for a sharp pull. "What you got?"
Clara, though her nervous little gestures continue until she sways ahead and back on the soles of her sneakers, waits for her turn, even though it was — is — her turn by all rights. Her head hangs a little lower, pale blonde almost obscuring her face, a passive party, easy to ignore; used to being ignored; ignoring everything else.
The shorter, and more talkative, man juts his chin out at Carter and gives him a discerning eye. "Asked first," he underlines. His partner, meanwhile, takes the woman by the shoulder and turns her away, leading her a few feet away, eyes on her money; nothing good can come of having that out in the open, but she doesn't seem to get the hint.
"Maybe if you tell me, you can show me you're serious, I can tell you," the short guy goes on. "You know how it is, man." Trust no one. Carter looks streetwise to the little dealer, but does he look like a druggie? Does he look like a cop?
Off to the side, his partner skirts looks over his shoulder while mumbling to Clara, taking her money, quietly and precisely shuffling a little something from him to her.
"Oh, I'm deadly serious." Carter says. He had wanted it to go down different. He was going to take them quiet-like. Take his time getting the prize. But he hadn't counted on them splitting. Now Slim was just a bit out of reach and would have too much time to react. So he would do it loud and quick. The revolver slid comfortably into his palm and his arm shot out like a snake, firing the heavy magnum at point blank into Shorty's face. He doesn't wait for the result, shifting his aim quickly to get a bead on Slim and snap off a second shot. If the girl got in the way…well, life's tough all over.
"I don't think I like the— " Sound of a weapon fired into his face? In what is a bloody display, the dealer, too faceless and lightning-fast lifeless to protest, is down. His partner only just begins to turn around before he's met with a similar tough fate: he's rocked back, the bullet's lodging spot not so evident until he's clutching his hand over his collar. Her careens and collapses ahead onto one suddenly rickety knee.
Bullet after bullet, the woman jumps but doesn't cry out in typical terror— she only whirls around, hair flying out of her face to reveal eyes that are suddenly widened and vividly alert, startled. Clara's grip suddenly goes as slippery as butter. The knapsack is on the ground with the dealer before she even registers the fact that it was scared right out of her hands. She has the presence of mind to back up, shuffling backwards until she almost goes over the metal barrier in the parking lot.
Carter sees the second go down and he thrusts his cigarette between his lips. His mouth draws into a thin line of indifference and he closes on the wounded man a few steps. gripping the revolver with both hands he takes a moment to aim and a third shot hits its mark. He lets the pistol fall to his side and draws on his smoke. "sloppy." He glances at the girl for a moment before kneeling over his first kill and going through the man's pockets. "Beat it, kid."
Clara jumps at the loud noise, skittering to stand taller after inadvertently slumping on the barrier. Despite her twenty-seven years, she doesn't defy being called a "kid" — in fact, the woman barely seems to register the fact that Carter spoke at all. She stares at him as if he's a creature from the great beyond at first, as he sits down— then her gaze just drifts over the ruined bodies of the young men with a melancholy, hard-to-read study.
She inches a step ahead, reaching a hand out into thin air slightly, a kind of whimsy in the way she moves. "A— aare you going to take it," she queries, accent pegging her as Australian, not Californian. Drugs, in the pockets Carter searches, naturally; heroin, and cash here and there. But it's her bag she starts to creep toward, slinking down closer to its level. Beside the tallest body.
Carter doesn't waste time. looting the first body and moving quickly to the second. He still has the revolver in his hand, but doesn't pay the girl much mind. He goes through the second man's clothing and stuffs all he finds into the pockets of his jacket and slacks. No sirens yet. A good sign. He straightens and considers the girl creeping towards her knapsack. "Nice accent." He offers, approaching her calmly. "You're a long ways from home, darlin'." The pistol hangs loosely..easily..at his side. He takes a final drag from his cigarette and pitches the butt into the darkness of the parking lot. She looked homeless, he decided. "You got a flop?"
As she crouches, Clara's gaze gets stuck on a pool of blood forming on the pavement. She was reaching for the bag; that's delayed, now, as her attention drifts. The fingertips of one hand intrude on the pool and she doesn't seem to think to move. It's not horror she stares with, nor sickness; her gaze is almost bewildered. Not a look that lends any less weight to the theory that she's strung out. Her attention grows hazy; just when it might appear that she'll never respond to Carter, she promptly looks right at him. "I don't have a home," she states; it sounds like a matter of fact rather than something to be forlorn about. She stares at him with curiosity and confusion, as if not certain what he means.
Carter grunts as she finally answers him. Yeah, definitely spun. He glances about the parking lot again. No sirens still. Best he just put one in her brain and go home. He considers her a moment, rubbing his stubbly jaw. He couldn't leave her here. She could I.D. him. Finally he sighs and shoves the revolver into his belt. "Well, its your lucky night." He leans to grab her by the front of her collar with one hand and her knapsack with the other. "Do exactly what I tell you and you'll get a soft bed and full belly and be on your way by morning."
Clara gasps as she's grabbed. She makes no move to avoid it. And after the first initial shock of the man's hand on her collar, she eases to her feet and practically leans into the murderer's hand, accustomed to being led— even by the kinds of people who shoot men point-blank in dark parking lots. The promise of a soft bed and a full belly doesn't seem to particularly excite her— "Oh," she says, and her head just sort of drifts up and down in a nod. Her eyes go half-hazy, the part of her that's alert only focused on keeping track of where her bag is.
Carter says, "Great." as the girl drifts into a haze. At least she wasn't screaming and flailing about. He moves quickly, his stride long and with purpose as he puts distance between him and the men he has murdered. He half hustles, half drags the girl along for nearly three blocks before he manages to hail a cab. He shoves the girl in first. Not so much roughly as insistently. She doesn't have a choice. Climbing in he slams the door and leans over the back of the seat to slip the cabby a fifty. "Inglewood. And step on it. My friend here has had enough for one night."
Carter is silent for most of the cab ride, his fingers tapping impatiently on the armrest of the door. As the cab approaches Inglewood he sits up and begins to scan the streets. He gives the cabby vague directions rather than an address and suddenly orders him to pull over when he spies a cheap, bungalow style hotel. He slips the cabby another twenty and pulls the girl out of the car. The check-in is fairly painless, an off comment informing the desk clerk that the girl has had too much to drink. He pays cash and registers as Mr. Black before again pulling the girl along through the darkened courtyard to their bungalow. Once inside he quickly locks the door and cheeks the blinds suspiciously to be sure no one was lurking about. "This will do."
As murder witnesses go, the homeless stray is quite cooperative— with the murderer. She's supposed to follow, so she does. She just drifts along quietly with her head down without resistance as she's pulled here and there — albeit with the idle, uncoordinated steps of someone who has, in fact, had too much to drink, though if there's anything in her system, it's not alcohol.
Inside, Clara takes in the room with dull study — nothing she hasn't seen before — and starts to mumble under her breath: "Inglewood", numbers. The address, the room number, over and over again in whispers. Desperate memorization. "Okay," she interrupts herself with a touch more clarity, "What do you want," she asks without accusation, just the disenchanted voice of a woman who is accustomed to being dragged to dingy hotel rooms for certain reasons. Regardless of murder being in the equation. Looking up at Carter, her eyes appear more innocent than jaded. Feebly: "Can I have some of— that money."
Carter considers her a moment as she finally speaks. He doesn't answer at first though, opting to fish a pack of cigarettes from his jacket and thumb one out first. He fits it between his lips and lights before emptying his pockets on the little dinette table under the window. "I tell you what…" He offers, counting the wads of money and giving the heroin a brief look. "I'll give you the brown and a hundred bucks." There is easily over a thousand on the table. But the heroin looks like a good five grand worth. "You sell half of it for me. You do whatever you want with the other half. If it works. I'll get you more to sell for me. You'll make enough to get something cheap like this for a while. "He gestures to the hotel room around. "And food. Not to mention all the drugs you want."
Complete confusion furrows Clara's brow, and her face comes to life for it. How her normal expectations were shattered and turned into this is a puzzle she can't figure out, but as she slowly starts to comprehend — and it is slowly — her eyes light up. Childlike, and innocent, and excited and nervous, she agrees with a series of uneven little bobs of her head. "Oh— oh-kay." She flashes a bright smile. "I can— I can do it," she says, as if she'd been given doubts. She nears the table, reaching out to hover her hands over the illegal loot like it's the Holy Grail. "Because I'm," she begins to say — making sure she understands — and peeks up at Carter, "lucky?"
Carter chuckles briefly. "Yeah." He scoops all but the heroin and a hundred dollar bill off the table and puts it all back in his pockets. "You got no idea how lucky." He fishes a cheap go-phone out of his jacket pocket and drops it on the table. An exchange of names and he reveals nothing more than Mr. Black. If the girl lies about her name, he can't tell. But everyone has the right to use an alias. He'll go with whatever she offers. "I'll call you on this phone in a couple of days and check in. The room is paid up until eleven tomorrow morning. Enjoy it. And…" He hesitates as he reaches for the doorknob. "Try to pull yourself together a little and we'll talk about other ways for you to make money." He doesn't wait for her to respond, jerking open the door and vanishing off into the night.