|AIR DATE 08.27.2011|
|Location:||1605 Carroll Lane, Beverly Hills|
|Synopsis: Ethan answers a voicemail and gains a like-minded ally.|
|ON CARROLL LANE|
"Hello Ethan, LA's commercial telepath. My name's Alice and I may have a job for you. If— if you like. Come to 1605 Carroll Lane. I promise I'm not creepy. I can pay! Uhh…. thank you!"
1605 Carroll Lane is not just an address.
It's an address, in Beverly Hills. 1605 Carroll Lane is an expansive white construct, spanning too many stories to merely be 'a house'. The impeccable green lawn, surely never touched by the owners, but a cavalcade of hired hands, is crisply cut, with a few choice bushes rising here and there that combine privacy and decoration. To finish the job, a white fence stretches across the property in front just after the sidewalk, cutting off the usual local folk from those who live in these kinds of buildings. Where the fence extends over the driveway it becomes a two-doored gate, closed, and overseen by both an intercom off to the side and the soft gleam overhead of what is likely a security camera. No cars sit in that driveway, and the drawn window shutters make it impossible to sense any movement within.
Ethan pulls up outside the gate, glancing from his GPS and up to the house. "Oh, wow." He steps out of the car, though, taking a moment to look up at the house before he steps to the intercom, hitting the button and taking another amazed glance around while he waits.
There's a clear hesitation. Not because the intercom gives anything to Ethan but a metallic, lifeless, stare— but because there's a shimmer of movement in one of the house windows a long minute before Ethan gets any response. It's the buzz of technology… above him; the camera rotating; smile, Ethan! Then, seconds later, the intercom pops to life: "Who's there?" asks a voice that thinks it already knows, that's trying to sound official, brave. Is too young to be much.
Ethan does give a smile and wave to the camera, in a slightly hesitant way that probably shows he's not used to dealing with door systems like this, before answering, "This is Ethan, I'm here to see Alice."
"Can you read my mind from there?" The girl's intercom voice inquires, studiously interested, "Would you be able to tell where I was?— I'm sorry. We haven't even met. Come in. I'm upstairs, second door." And, with a buzz, the gate announces its openness. Defense enough, then, that the front door sits closed, but unlocked, with the grand staircase sweeping quite visibly up to the second floor in the light of no less than a hanging chandelier above.
Ethan shakes his head, "I have to see someone, for the most part." Then he nods again and says, "Thanks." He heads up to the front door and inside. He walks probably slower than he should, simply taking a little around at first the grounds and then the beautiful house. Soon, though, he finds the door he was instructed to and knocks.
"It's open," suggests the voice — the same girl's voice, now clear of the tech static — though the door also caves obligingly inwards even at Ethan's knock, opening into a bedroom. A girl's bedroom, quite obviously, by the pink stain of the walls. Huge, slopping angles is the large bed— canopy, but… something seems odd about it; perhaps, the clinical turn of the folded covers, or the faint sensation of technology present even in such a particularly princess-y room. Most of the trappings of a normal girl's room seem to be there, yet the air isn't exactly the comforting one of a home.
Across the room, an office of some sort has been set up. Homed there is a desktop Macintosh, with a mouse, and a fantastic amount of technological accessories. Anything anyone could ever ask for in a home office litters the space around its user. Seated in a tall, overly sturdy looking chair, the girl whose voice lured Ethan here is young, round-faced, with her blonde hair cut in a pixie-crop that keeps it off of that wide face; this is Alice. Keen eyes peer at Ethan across the way as she soothes a hand over the warm blanket settled across her lap. Above it, she wears a modest t-shirt and shawl. If it seems a bit much in the California weather, she doesn't appear to notice. The house is certainly kept at a moderate temperature that suggests the outside world doesn't even exist.
"Hello, Ethan," she greets, happy with her quick examination of him, "I wasn't sure you'd come! I mean— I thought— but, then. You weren't very sure, were you."
Ethan's eyes quickly glance around the room as he steps in, but soon enough his attention turns to Alice. He gives a smile, less hesitant this time, "Hello. Yeah, well, you have to admit, visiting an Alice on Carroll Lane does kind of sound like a joke. I've had a lot of crank calls since I posted the ad. But you seemed serious."
"I am," Alice decorates this with several adamant nods, "Serious." Her hand draws up to the edge of the desk, operating a small push that turns her chair slightly more to face Ethan. Her enthusiasm is both bubbling and subdued, adding both to her sincerity, and a sense that this young girl has a certain poise beyond her visible years. "Though I have to say, I wondered about your ad a while, too. Plenty of people… might take advantage. Of abilities being out. I wanted to see how yours worked. If you don't mind, Ethan, I— " she hesitates just slightly, swallowing with minor self-consiousness that strengthens into even better resolve, "I'd like you to help me."
Ethan shakes his head a little, "No, no, I'm not trying to take advantage of anybody. I'm just trying to pay my tuition, using a skill I have." He looks to Alice curiously at that moment of hesitation, but holds back scanning besides the emotions he can sense so naturally. He then nods again to her request, "What do you need help with?"
That wash of self-consciousness again happens, and Ethan needs no superpowers to sense it. But again Alice overcomes with a deep breath of preparedness. Those little fingers soothing the blanket play at its edges then, carefully, she throws the blanketing aside. Below, is a girl's body, but it's difficult, at first, to see that past their shape. Her legs, seeming almost deflated, are also trapped in walls of plastic meant to simulate the full shape her legs should be. The contraption, though hidden inside her shirt, seems to go right up her back, helping to keep it so straight as she sits. "I'm sick," she declares, devoid of self-pity, "They call me 'invalid'. I can't… get around on my own. I've never even left this house. So… that's why you're here, Ethan. You see— you can be my legs. My eyes. I thought— if your ability works like mine— we could… help people."
Whatever reaction Alice was worried about getting, be it pity or disgust or laughter, it doesn't come. There's a momentary flash of surprise, but that's it, and he nods, "Alright. Helping people is definitely good. Well, I'm good at reading others, but I'm terrible at projecting to anybody but my sister."
"But you… read people…" ventures Alice carefully, curiously. "So, you can. You can see their minds, and what they're thinking about, right? So can I." Her hand reaches up to press against her chest. It's thin; her whole body, exposed, seems even smaller than it first did. "But it's this… bias that throws me off," while explaining, she brings the hand out to beckon Ethan come into the room— assume a more conspiring position near her. "How can you tell what's true and what they're feeling?"
Ethan steps further into the room, taking a chair if there is one or crouching if not, so he's not standing over her. "Um… that's kind of tricky, sometimes. You never really can tell the whole, honest truth, but you can see what they believe is true. Emotions can't really be seperated except by listening. How do you separate someone's tone of voice from what they're saying? Only pay attention to one, not the other, but if you do you'll probably miss the truth behind it."
"So, you can't…" Alice's lips press together in momentary defeat, but it only takes a harder ponder for it to overcome that, too. "I was hoping you could tell me more…" Some estimation of Ethan fights to match with reality; the girl in the pink prison letting her fairytale unravel into what's in front of her. "But you said listening just now," she puzzles out, her hands coming together, then one bouncing to the countertop with the computer. Eyebrows narrowed with thought, she pushes back and her chair rolls systematically with her with a hum of technology. Reaching around she picks up a heavy old style Yellowbook. It looks incredibly out of sorts surrounded by all of her gadgets. But she holds this like a Bible in her lap towards Ethan — crouching; in fact, no other chairs in the whole room makes it rather lonely; a prison for one.
Sticking a finger into the pages, she tosses it open seemingly at random. Certainly, the way she stares into Ethan's face while dragging her finger across the page makes her stopping point completely chance. Glancing down at where her fingertip rests, she reads, "There. Tammy Young." She juts the book towards him, with the name. "Can you tell me what she's thinking about?"
Ethan smiles, "Hey, I didn't say it was impossible, sorting out the truths. It just takes practice. And sometimes multiple viewpoints. I've been a telepath my whole life, though for most of that with only one person, but I've had a lot of practice." He looks to the page and shakes his head, "Not just by looking at the name. I need to see her in person. Only person I've ever been able to read without seeing is my sister, and even then she had to be close by. Someday I hope I'll be able to do something like that, though. Always loved how Professor X could link minds at a distance."
A devilish turn takes up the corner of Alice's mouth, but she doesn't allow it to become ego. Instead, clearing her throat with the business of importance, she presses her fingertip down harder on the name. Tammy Young. Her eyes flutter yet never quite close. Only her gaze seems to dance far away, past Ethan's shoulder where it landed randomly. In a second or two, she blinks it all away, coming into focus; Ethan comes into focus. "About to be sued… but her negativity makes her not want to hire a better attorney. So she'll lose. Then she'll lose her son. Everything. She's going to be alone."
Ethan blinks, looking to Alice. "So that's how you knew I was hesitating to come? Nice! So, yeah, if you can read me from anywhere, then acting as your eyes should be no problem at all." Then what she said about Tammy catches his attention and he says, "Who's suing her, and what about?"
Alice's smile peeks behind that professional facade at the compliment, but she gives a steady shake of her head. "That's what I don't know," she admits, "Where you come in. See, it's backwards, actually— " Pulling in the Yellowbook, she folds it over, closed. Tammy vanishes. "I didn't know if you'd come, because you were hesitating. If you'd been completely confident about it, I would've just seen you showing up. This conversation going well. Maybe even further."
Ethan considers that and says, "So it's more you can see into their futures based on their decisions? Ok, now I see what you mean about bias. That doesn't bother me at all. If they're not sure they're going to do something, I still can't see what they'll do for sure, but I can hear which way they're leaning just by the thoughts."
"Have you ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy? It's like…" Alice winds her fingers together, seeking in their entwinement a wrestle for her words, "Because they're feeling bad about something, bad things will happen. I didn't realize it at first, but then I would notice the changes. Once someone started feeling positively, their future looked positive. Bright, enthusiastic futures." On the words, her own face lights up, beaming happiness through a sickliness that is obvious in closer ranger. Her pale, sunken cheeks fill out with her anticipation, her drive— her impotence, in a chair that locks her in from even leaning forward eagerly. "If only they could know they can make their own happiness."
Ethan grins again at that and says, "Well, I've had bad luck when I've been having a good outlook, so it can't be universal. But yeah, it has to *help* at least." He shrugs then and says, "We'll just have to help them, or at least those that most need it, figure that out."
"And bad things happen to good people," Alice agrees with a pouty nod, "I'm not naive, Ethan." It's less accusatory than it could be, she's only setting the stage; and, perhaps, used to less open minds kneeling across from her useless body. Giving another shove, she motivates the electric chair a little bit further down to where she has an iPad sitting, and she wends a finger around the top to turn it on. "But take Tammy Young, for instance," she says, rolling back towards Ethan, "Because she doesn't think she can win, she's not going to try. She's depressed. But I know it can change, I've seen it! She just needs to hear it. But I…" a glimpse around the room, her hand squeezes in her lap. Useless body. "All I have all these things that let me peek at the outside world…" and she squeezes the edges of the iPad to her.
Ethan nods a little bit almost sheepishly, "Sorry." Then he looks to the iPad and asks, "Why is it you can't leave? You seem to be capable of moving around in that chair. The stairs down would be a problem but that's fixed with a lift. Do you have to worry about infections, or is it something else?" That thought aside he nods then and says, "I'll help. We just have to figure out what message will motivate her. If I can meet her, I'm sure I can help figure it out."
Alice's fingers trace over the iPad's front, not really committing to a function except having something to touch. Ethan's question makes her find the edges of her blanket, carrying it back over her legs until they disappear, making her look one half of a, pale, but usual young woman. "They aren't paralyzed or anything," she explains lightly— maybe too lightly, but with that airy professionalism that makes it seem like she sounds even more dutiful than her doctors. "My legs. It's just that, on certain days, I get very weak. They tell me that if I would get another sickness, I wouldn't make it." Her eyes lift to study this room that envelops her daily. "It's not like it's even sterilized or anything. Sometimes, I even think about leaving, when my legs feel better, but…" She never does. An unspoken, but understood statement.
Alice shakes her head: business; the iPad is tapped, then she nods towards Ethan in a utilitarian fashion. "The message will be in her head. You can root it out, if I can give you the problem."
Ethan nods a little and smiles a bit, "I understand. My sister is sick too, and she always had to watch out for infections. So I know some tricks to avoid getting sick. Next time when you're strong enough, if you want to go out I'll go with you." Then he nods again and says, "I'll take it. Do you know where I can find her?"
A wistful little smile overtakes Alice's face. Soft, but generally noncommittal, gratuity, and she gives a tiny little, equally noncommittal, nod to the prospect. Instead, she wraps up her hands more enthusiastically around the iPad, diverting attention to it. "Of course I do," she scolds him, smiling, "She's in the phonebook. Here— " and the iPad is offered out towards him, "I promised to pay you, and I will. But take this, so we can communicate, okay? And if you ever want to try… I'll always be thinking about you. So maybe one day, you'll read me, too."
Ethan blinks, but smiles at the offer of the iPad. "Thank you. I'll keep trying anyway." He stands up then and says, "I better get to work trying to find Tammy Young. See if I can figure a way to get close enough to hear her thoughts."
With that whirr of her chair, Alice aligns herself with her desktop. "I'll let you know when I have more of her location," she encourages, tapping a couple of keys preparatory, "Meanwhile, you could try the public defender's office." A glance at Ethan, all industry, in the moment. "The ones who get assigned to those who can't afford an attorney."
Ethan nods and grins, "I've watched lawyer shows on TV. Thanks. I'll try there right away. And I'll let you know anything I find, though I imagine you'll see it anyway. See you later."
There's a bob of Alice's head, and when she turns back from the computer screen now creating a technological glare on her face, she's become deeply grateful. "Sometimes," she says, the thank you unspoken, but, like before, understood: "It's nice to hear it from a real person anyway."