|AIR DATE 2011.08.18|
|Location:||Downtown Los Angeles - The Night Owl|
|Synopsis: Carter checks in on his arrangement with Clara.|
He had given her five days then rang the cheap gophone he had given her. It was late but he couldn't tell if he had woken her or not. She seemed to be permanently sleep walking as far as he could tell. "Its Mr. Black." He said, waiting a moment for the name to sink in. "Meet me at a place called the Night Owl downtown." Then he hung up. He'd give her an hour. Then he'd go look for her and get his money. Until then he sipped his bourbon in a corner booth of the bar. He had no particular place else to go.
The Night Owl was little more than a hallway with a bar along one wall and a few short booths along the other. At this hour there were few patrons; Two tipsy suits at the bar, likely in town for some convention, and Carter, sitting in the back booth. The bartender polished glasses and watched the news quietly on the small television behind the bar.
The way in which Clara enters puts her immediately out of place. Unlike the patrons of the bar, she moves without a sense of purpose. It was purpose that brought her here; now it's gone. She shuffles to a molasses pace only a few feet inside, looking around as if she's lost in a maze, a hall of mirrors. A sleep-walker. Her eyes are wide and pupils wide to match, perhaps adjusting to the dim-lit atmosphere— perhaps more. Her backpack is slung tightly over one shoulder, and her clothes are the same dull hand-me-downs Carter saw last— but neat, tidy. It's not by perception, but by pure, directional logic that she winds up near him: eventually herded toward his booth by the narrow shaft of the layout.
There's a wobbly cartoon owl and a moon drawn on the back of her hand in marker. A child's drawing with a child's writing: down town. Her hand touches the back of Carter's booth, trails down. "I don't— like owls…" the voice is distant despite Clara's proximity. Sleep-walker. "They have… big eyes."
Carter watches her approach. He considers waving but when she floats towards him he simply takes a drink of his bourbon. His immediate thought was that she was high again. But she had made her way here and that was a start. "Yeah, they're always watching too." He adds, gesturing to the seat across the table. "What's your poison?"
Quite like an owl, Clara's head rotates to the right, and her wide, green eyes stare quizzically at Carter. Her face gives a little, silly quirk: he's crazy, it says. Who drinks poison. It takes her a moment further to think to drift along the booth and sit across from him. She whisks onto the seat lightly, on the very outer corner, barely sinking into it. Her elbows plant on the table with barely anymore solidity. Her eyes focus away from Carter and point hazily at the distant television screen. She's certainly in no hurry to get down to business— or maybe she forgot.
Carter leans back, considering her for a long moment as he fishes his cigarettes out of the inside pocket of his jacket. Thumbing one out, he fits it between his lips and snaps open his zippo. "You here?" He asks, lighting his cigarette. "You remember our arrangement?" The zippo snaps shut and he draws in, exhaling a cloud of smoke upward into the seemingly endless darkness of the ceiling somewhere above. "Or are you on some other page right now?"
Clara's eyes flit back when Carter speaks. They settle on him with attention, but comprehension is more elusive to grasp. She starts to follow the winding of the California law-breaking smoke up to the ceiling, losing what grip she had on Carter's words before a crease jams itself between her eyebrows. She concentrates, and, fretfully, unsurely, starts to slide the backpack down her arm. "I'm … I did what you said," she manages. Her fingers hover over the backpack's zippers; she unzips it halfway and simply winds up sliding the whole thing onto the table. Inside, there's a glimpse of dull green — bills — and the sheen of plastic bags containing the familiar product. She droops her head, looking at her lap. "I lost count."
Carter glances barward, but decides its dark enough and the two suits at the bar are too busy comparing pictures of children to care about the shady deal going down in the back booth. The bartender is either to engrossed in Entertainment Tonight or stacking glasses to notice. Carter draws on his cigarette and scrutinizes her as his hand covers the package and slides it towards him. "What is it you're on, kid?" He ignores the product and lifts the bills to count them. "You use this crap here or something else?"
There's seven-hundred and some odd dollars in the mix, none of them sorted in any logical fashion.
Clara presses her lips together and keeps looking down at her lap. Her hands stay on the table, and her fingers are unsteady as they try to twine amongst one another. "I was," comes the answer, guilt-free but just unsure of herself. She's clear-eyed when her eyes hop up to Carter for a split-second and then focus on the drawing on her hand. She rubs at it repeatedly with a thumb, smearing the owl's watchful eyes with increasing aggravation. "I have to go back there," she declares with quiet, disconnected conviction before her efforts suddenly pause and she watches Carter and the money.
Carter turns the bills this way and that, arranging them and counting them at the same time, his cigarette jutting out from between his lips. He pauses for a moment, eyes narrowing at her as she speaks, then he continues. When he finishes he exhales another cloud of smoke, this one with the escaping steam sound of irritation. "You was what?" He asks flatly. he peels two hundred off the bills and puts it over the package before sliding the whole thing back across the table to her. He folds his take in half and tucks it into the front of his jacket. "You have to go back where?"
As Clara tries to form words, concentrating on the man across from her, she sways unsettled in her seat and becomes more and more distraught when simple explanations fall silent on her tongue. She plants her hands over the top of the bag and hauls it to her chest. "It— " she hangs on to the bag tighter, zipping its illicit contents out of sight. " — takes me away." Sullen out of frustration, her blonde hair swings as she waves her head dismissively to and fro. "Was it enough? It was— hard, it was a hard job but I remembered. I kept remembering to do it with the right rules."
Carter ahs, seeming to understand. He considers her again, taking a final pull on his cigarette and stabbing it out in the cheap plastic ashtray on the table. "Its enough." He tells her. He drains the last of his bourbon in one gulp and sits the glass down on the table with a heavy clink. "Too hard? You don't want to do it any more?" He rubs his jaw, eyes narrowing. "You got some better gig going on?"
A pang of fear parallel a flash of hope meets Carter. Clara's head shakes, barely. She wraps her lengthy arms all away around her backpack like the precious thing it is to her. She studies him, keen perception coming out of her occasional haze— her study is an uncertain one, trying to determine just what she's looking at in his face. What he's saying. "You'll keep the same rules?" she ventures. "It was— enough?"
Carter nods. "I'll make it easy to remember…" He leans forward, trying to lock her wide green gaze down with his dark eyes. "I get a hundred a day of what you sell. You sell five hundred a day, all the more for you. You run out, I'll get you more." He waits for recognition, understanding, anything. He wasn't sure yet why he hadn't just put one in her head and left her with the dealers in the parking lot. This seemed like a lot of trouble. But she could make him some small change without much effort. It wasn't so much the money though. There was something… "Anyone gives you grief, you call me. I'll take care of it. You get arrested, call me. I'll take care of it."
Her eyes light up only here and there. Certain words. Certain cues. Sell. Get. More. More. They lock on for the last words: she's not only paying attention but smiling at Carter, this man who murdered two people in front of her and made her a drug dealer, a happy, ingenuous smile. She nods so fast as to be nearly frantic, and rests her chin on the top of her backpack. "Can…" she's distracted for a moment; she fishes in the pocket of her sweater and slides the phone onto the table, guilty. "… can you tell me … how to make the cab come. It was just there before and then it left me here. I don't know how to make it come back."
Carter raises a brow, trying to decide if she is crafty in her ineptitude or is genuinely some doe lost in the world. He picks up the phone and starts programming simple numbers; A cab company, a pizza delivery, Mr. Black… "You got a place to sleep or you just flop wherever?" He asks, not looking up from the phone as his thick fingers move over the keys. "I can arrange you a room, but I'm not wasting my money if you don't remember you have it."
"It depends," Clara answers — a straight answer, even, though it goes without clarification. She's looking down again as she says it. "I liked the hotel." The smearing of the ink on her hand resumes determinedly even though a smile manages to once more come and go. "… I just. I need the numbers. Sometimes I— I forget sometimes, and I get— I get lost. But the numbers help me not be lost."
Carter nods and adds the hotel number and address into the phone. He holds it up to display it to her. Then pushes the button for the cab company. "Yeah, I need a cab at the Night Owl downtown…Yeah…okay." He pushes a button to end the call and slides the phone across the table to her. "Okay, kid. We keep playing it this way. Cab's on its way." He thumbs another cigarette out and lights it with a snap of his zippo. "You got enough there for a couple of days. I'll get you more by then."