2007-02-08: Off the Beaten Path

Starring:

Sydney_icon.gif Eliana_icon.gif Cass_icon.gif Job_icon.gif

Summary: Sydney drops by Enlightenment Books to pick up a copy of Activating Evolution by Chandler Zurich Chandra Suresh. Eliana and Job eavesdrop while Cass explains what she thinks of the book and the theories contained inside.

Date It Happened: February 8th, 2007

Log Title: Off the Beaten Path


Enlightenment Books

Wrapped up in a leather jacket and a ratty rabbit fur muffler to fend off the February chill, Sydney shoulders her way inside Enlightenment Books and furiously rubs her gloved hands together. She's much too far away to make out any of the titles without squinting, but this doesn't stop her dark eyes from scanning the shop's selection in a slow and lazy way - almost as though she expects whatever she's looking for the pop right out at her rather than wait for her to find it. When this doesn't work, she frowns and glances over at the desk. "Hello?"

Not far behind Sydney is Eliana, but the pink-haired girl hasn't followed the other here. And given her current, introspective state, recognition doesn't dawn on her immediately. Like Sydney, Eliana is concerned with getting inside out of the cold. She moves past Sydney with a soft "Excuse me," on her way to the fiction section, where she browses the titles as if she knew exactly what she was looking for.

Sydney will be a little disappointed as there's no one behind the desk or anywhere visible in the store. It's quite tiny and there are only a few places to hide behind the book cases. It's one of those rare instances where there's no one watching the front of the store. Luckily, the situation is easily remedied when Cass pushes through the employee door with a large steaming mug of tea and a surprised expression on her face. When she left about a couple of minutes ago there was no one here and now there are two people. "Oh! Ah, hi! Let me know if you need any help." The statement isn't directed at one lady in particular. It's pitched just loud enough for both to hear it.

"I'm looking for this book called Activating Evolution," one of the women calls back at Cass, "it's by this guy named…" Sydney trails off and clicks her tongue piercing against her teeth. She can almost taste the author's name in her mouth, but tasting isn't good enough. One hand dips into her jacket pocket and comes back out with a crumpled scrap of paper, which she smoothes out using a combination of her thumb and index finger. There's something scribbled on it - obviously not in Sydney's handwriting, because she seems to be wrestling with it. "Chandler Zurich?" No, that can't be right. Maybe she needs glasses.

Eliana can't help but look up from the volume of Bradbury's short stories she's pulled from the shelf when she hears the familiar voice. Still, because it is familiar, there is all the more reason for Eliana to duck down as nonchalantly as possible behind one of the shelves that separates her from the other young woman. Like any good writer, Eliana knows how to observe without getting involved…most of the time.

Cass's eyebrows raise significantly from the moment Sydney says the title of the book. "Chandra Suresh," she corrects the woman instantly. The shocked expression turns into that of a smile easily enough. "Yes. It's funny. I just pulled down that book and started rereading it last night. It's like kismet or something." Carefully putting her mug of tea onto the information counter she leads Sydney over to a bookcase and pulls down a copy and hands it out to her. "I'm glad I just put in an order for more of it since this is my last copy."

Sydney trails behind Cass, oblivious to Eliana's presence in the store. If she knew she was hiding, she wouldn't be talking quite so loudly or boldly. As far as she's concerned, she's alone with Enlightenment's owner and a disinterested stranger. "Is it really popular or something?" she asks as she turns the book over and scrutinizes the portrait of Dr. Chandra Suresh that adorns the back cover. "I've been looking all over, but this is the first place I've found that even carries the damn thing."

Slowly, Eliana straightens up in order to peer over the shelf at the pair, one eyebrow slightly raised. There's more to Sydney than Eliana had ever imagined, it seemed.

Quietly is the way that Job enters Enlightenment Books, although it's not so much to avoid disturbing the occupants. He is a man of science and reason, and venturing into a place like this isn't exactly the sort of thing a man of science and reason would do. Granted, after the last few days, science and reason aren't seeming quite as appealing as they did once upon a time. Far from having some sort of exceptionally keen timing, it's only the tail-end of a conversation he hears, but the one voice he hears, even for just the few moments, sounds oddly familiar, and he immediately sets about finding its source as he unzips his (new) winter coat. He finds Eliana without much issue, but doesn't draw attention to himself, opting to wait and see if he hears that voice again.

Cass automatically heads for her information desk. It's comfortable ground, and as an added bonus there's a seat. But, she doesn't sit for now. This conversation is interesting and it would put a crick in her neck to keep looking up at the blonde the whole time. The smile turns into a half one. "Well, it's not really a normal subject. It's a little 'off the beaten path'. Normal scientists and doctors think it's kind of a joke." She reaches far to her left and scrunches her face as she attempts to pull her mug within reach. Finally, she's got a hold of the handle and slides over so it's within easy reach. "I wouldn't say popular, it's just that that's the second copy I've sold in two days and I was just thinking about it earlier. Do you know anything about it?" The door opening is something that Cass is just attuned to. Without a beat, she gives a polite smile and calls out to the new occupant of the store, "Welcome! If you need any help, just give a yell!" She waits a beat for an answer before turning back to Sydney to continue their conversation.

Being watched is a strange feeling; without any real inkling as to why, Sydney glances over her shoulder. Luckily for Eliana, she isn't searching for her face amongst the books, and so she doesn't see her head poking over the top of the shelf. Luckily for Job, the distraction prevents her from getting a good look at him. Her gaze darts back to Cass, and her frown deepens. "Not much," she admits. "Google came back with a blurb, but that's about it. What about you? Do you think it's a joke?"

Eliana, on the other hand, does see Job, even if it means breaking her concentration on Sydney. Her curious and interested expression transfers to him, but when he doesn't do anything to hold that interest, the pink-haired woman turns her gaze back to the blonde.

Yes, that voice was familiar to Job. On the one hand, this simplifies his plans for the day. On the other, it means he has to deal with 'Amber' sooner than he was expecting. He moves through the stacks again, once again finding Eliana, since he's now standing right next to her. For the moment, he just listens to what the other woman is getting herself into, on the off-chance he'll have to get himself into it as well. But if nothing else, he does nod a silent greeting to the woman with pink hair; places like these attract all sorts, it seems.

"A joke?" Cass wrinkles her nose and shakes her head. "No, not at all. A lot of people would call the books here insane, stupid, fake, whatever. And they can think what they like, but the authors who publish them really believe in what they're writing. I mean, if I told you to believe that some guy can resurrect himself from the dead and heal you of all your wounds without any other explanation, you would probably tell me I was crazy. But, millions of people think it's possible and that he'll be back to end the world." She actually sounds serious for once and in charge of what she's saying. Picking up her tea, she takes a drink and finds it still too hot. Gulping it down, she opens her mouth and sticks out her burnt tongue to wave on it. "Holy Mother, that was hot." Okay, so much for serious. "Anyway, what? Oh! Yeah, anyway, Dr. Suresh believes that there are some people whose genes have actually evolved to do amazing things. Fly, regenerate cells, things out of comic books. But, real. It's really an astonishing and bold theory."

Eliana knows why she's watching Sydney and listening into this conversation, but she isn't too sure about the intentions of the man beside her. So when there is a break in the conversation she's so intently listening to, Eliana looks to Job with a more causal but no less intrigued expression. "You believe that sort of stuff?" she asks in a whisper.

Job looks to Eliana for a moment before he answers, likewise in a whisper, "I haven't decided yet. Maybe." And then he looks back to Sydney. "No, definitely," he whispers again, "Because if that's crazy, then she's crazy, and so am I. I'd really rather not be crazy."

"Don't you think somebody'd notice?" Sydney rubs her thumb up and down the book's spine, considering. "Flying, raising the dead, shooting lightning out of your ass - it's not exactly low-profile, you know? You can't hide stuff like that unless there's, I dunno, some sort of government conspiracy in the works." Once again, she finds her gaze drawn to the portrait on the back cover. "He doesn’t look crazy to me, though. Do you know if he has an address here in New York?"

Cass smiles again, absently waving a hand over her tea mug to make it cooler. She doesn't fancy burning her tongue again. The smile falters for a moment and she looks a little above Sydney's head as she remembers the day before…the men falling into the floor. It's only for a second an then she's focused back on Sydney again. "I honestly don't know. A lot of people try and forget what they don't understand or don't want to understand. It's a common defense mechanism to help keep our sanity. Plus, it's New York. People pee on the street in front of us and we forget it the moment we turn the corner." Shrugging, she regains her smile again. "Sorry, I don't mean to be unloading lots of boring information at you. It's just been kind of on my mind the past couple of days. If you want to find him, I'd contact the publisher. They'd probably have a way you could contact him."

"Crazy is a relative term," Eliana whispers in reply, setting her gaze back on Sydney and the shop-owner. "Why should you care if someone else thinks your crazy when you know you aren't? Or are you in denial?"

"Thanks." Sydney isn't sure how she feels about contacting Dr. Suresh, but the knowledge that the option is at least open to her comes as a small comfort. "Anyway, I'll take it. How much are you asking?" Already, she's reaching into her jacket pocket and curling her fingers around her wallet. The decision to purchase Activating Evolution was made before she set foot in the store; it only hinged on Cass having it in stock.

"We all have our vices," Job whispers back to Eliana, "Mine is pride." For the moment, he leaves Eliana to her own devices and calmly approaches Sydney from behind. Rather than getting her attention verbally, he simply taps her on the shoulder, confident that because of her jacket, he faces no danger of any 'mishaps'.

The warmth stays in Cass' smile. "You're welcome." Putting down her mug, she pulls out one of her carbon copy receipts. She writes down the total, calculates in the tax and writes out the total. "It'll be $26.70." While she waits for Sydney, she puts the book into one of their plastic bags and slides it onto the counter for the woman to take. Job heading over to the counter signals him as someone who may have a question, so keeps him in her peripheral vision.

Job is still a stranger, and while Eliana doesn't know Sydney all that well, seeing him approach her in such a way sends a shock of terror through the pink-haired girl. Her heart begins to race almost immediately, and she drops the Bradbury book as she rushes after the man. The mind-altering gas flows from her easily, but due to her movement, doesn't do much but trail behind her until she stops. "Amber!" She can only hope she talks faster than Job taps.

Sydney is pushing two twenty dollar bills across the counter toward Cass when she feels Job's hand on her shoulder, prompting her to turn her head and look directly at him. Almost immediately, the blood drains from her face and her palms go clammy. "Dr. Bluth," she starts, her voice strained, tight, "what are you—" But before the second half of the question can tumble out of her mouth, her attention shifts once again - this time to Eliana. Her jaw drops. "Eli?"

When Sydney turns his focus past him, Job decides to glance over his own shoulder. Seeing that Eliana is right next to him and seems to know the other woman, he takes a step to the side so they don't have to speak around him. Really, there's no reason not to. Everyone present is friends, and in fact, Job is happy that one of Amber's friends is here. Very happy. Suspiciously so, in fact.

Cass blinks when both people seemingly rush the counter. Only Sydney is really buying anything, so she takes the twenties, punches some buttons on the old fashioned register, hits sale and the tray slides out. Putting in her money and taking out the change, she holds it for Sydney. Seeing her different reactions to the two strangers, the woman keeps a cautious eye on what's happening in front of them. Once Sydney has her change, Cass slips her receipt into the bag and lets her take it from there.

If Eliana knew more about Sydney, she probably wouldn't chose to rush at her and grab at the other young woman's hands. She definitely wouldn't chose to slip a business card from her coat pocket into said hands. But Eliana only knows she wants to get out of the store as soon as she can, but she doesn't want to leave Sydney in danger…and she doesn't want that danger to know where she works. Choices are made, and within a few seconds, a palmed business card is pressed against one of Sydney's hands while Eliana holds tightly to both.

Sydney finds herself with exactly $13.30 in change, a business card, and - Eliana's hands? Her eyes take on a blind look of terror, but when nothing happens she looks down and lets out a shaky sigh of what can only be relief. She's wearing gloves. Unsure of what else to say, she mutters a simple, "Thanks."

Eliana gives Syndey's hands a small squeeze before she lets them go, turns, and bolts for the door. She didn't get a new book, but that hardly matters now. Now there are other books she needs to find and read. Books written by certain Dr. Sureshes.

Job watches Eliana depart the store, and as he does, he feels himself returning to, well, himself. There are any number of explanations for what just happened, and Job is willing to accept a simple 'off-guard and reacted unusually' before he accepts anything more far-fetched. "Well," he says, "That happened."

Seeing that the transaction is over and that Eliana has left, Cass turns her attention to the two people left in her store. "If you need anything else, miss. Or, if you need any help sir, please don't hesitate to ask. My name is Cass and, I'll be, you know. Here." Then, anticipating their answers to be no, she sits back into her chair and starts to sip at her now more lukewarm than anything tea. She's relaxed, but open for questions.

Sydney tries, in vain, to make sense of Job's statement. In the end, she decides to ignore it and turns back to Cass, who she offers a small but grateful smile. "Cass. Right." She glances down at her watch to check the time, then curses under her breath when she realizes that a two minute stop has stretched into ten. "It was nice meeting you!" With that, she sweeps the bag off the table and hurries out the door after Eliana. Whether or not she can catch her before she turns the corner or disappears into the crowd, well….

And before Job can get himself together enough to stop her, Sydney has gone. Looks like he'll have to return her pocketbook at a later date after all. But for the time being, he turns his gaze across the counter and to Cass. "So, what was that book she bought?" he asks.

Cass blinks, mid sip. Swallowing, she puts the mug down. "Activating Evolution by Dr. Chandra Suresh." While at this point she'd stand and get a copy of the book, she stays seated, leaning forward toward the counter. "Actually, she bought my last copy. I do have some more on order, though. They should be here in a couple of days. If you'd like, I could call you when the book comes in, put a copy on hold for you."

"Yes," Job replies, "I would like that, thank you. Hold two for me, if you can. I might need a second copy." He doesn't specify exactly what he might need it for, of course. That's up to Cass to hazard a guess at.

Cass doesn't really think much of the term. After all, people think they need many different things and can be pretty insistent about them. "Sure thing." Pulling out a sheet of paper, she starts writing some things down so she'll remember when the books come in. "Alright, I just need your name and your number and I'll give you a call as soon as they come in. Seriously, next thing I know this book is going to be on Oprah or something. It's just too weird."

"No, weird will be if this book leads to a complete and unexpected cultural revolution," Job replies, "Then we'll talk about weird. Anyway, it's Job Blut, Be-El-You-Tee." The psychologist provides the rest of the requested information, the number for his cell phone, specifically.

Cass writes everything down pretty quickly then slips it into the pocket of her sweater to put it back on her desk back in the employee room. "Well, stranger things have happened. I mean, who would have thought 80s clothes would come back into style?" Back to politeness an warmth, the store owner turns her full attention back to Job. "Alright, anything else you need?"

Job shakes his head. "No, not today," he says, "I actually need to try and catch that Amber women. She left her pocketbook in my office yesterday, and it's been difficult trying to get ahold of her. Thanks for you help, Cass, was it? Thanks." Without another word, Job moves to the exit and departs into the street.

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