Date: April 14, 2010
Creepy Kid plays hide, Parkman plays seek, and Cody plays…. Mommy? It's just not right :(
Secret Safehouse of DOOM
It's late afternoon, the sun is still fairly high and shining brightly through the numerous windows of the warehouse apartment. To safeguard the innocent from the one dubbed Little Skittle, Cody goes ahead of Mark and the child to clear the apartment of anyone unable to help. Erin, Janice, Mattie, and Molly are safely squirrelled away in the upper levels while Matt is asked to stay behind. With how badly she's covered in cuts and scratches, no one really questions why. Erin already knows.
«There's something important I need you to do.»
She leaves again, to head to the ground floor and when she returns, she has a child balanced on her hip. "Hey Kiddo, I want you to meet a friend of mine, his name's Matt. Want to say hello?" She's not exactly expecting an answer from him, the only sounds he's made since the vault have been numerous screams that are accompanied by lots of pain on Cody and Mark's part.
That's what the child keeps on bringing to the table. Silence, and every so often a slashing. Now, though, there are no viscious cut-marks appearing on Cody — no new ones, anyway — as 'Little Skittle' stays silent, clinging to her, little hands digging into her side not unlike a clingy lemur — considering his eyes, piercing blue, are huge. Frightened. Almost terrified, as he's brought to somewhere new and unfamiliar and potentially scary, taking in every corner of the apartment with that vaccuum stare.
It's his own fault, really. He could have stayed a beat cop, grown fat (shut up, Cody) on Dunkin Donuts and back-alley bribes, gotten gunned down three days shy of retirement… but no, he had to get ambitious. Had to go for detective. And then, when that seemed doomed to go nowhere fast, his ability showed up and made things even more complicated.
Not that Matt is complaining, at least not right now. Right now, he's got something important to do. "Hey there," he calls out, after it becomes clear that the kid isn't going to speak up first. "I'm not gonna hurt you, I just want to listen, okay?"
"Matt is a policeman, he's going to help us find your mommy and daddy." Cody says in an all too cheerful voice. If she'd spoken like that to an adult they might have called her patronizing, but this is a little kid. One that she's spent nearly every waking and sleeping hour nearby.
She carries the kid over to the kitchen and with him in one arm, she pulls a jar of Nutella from the cupboard with the other and begins to prepare him some of the chocolate bread. "You can eat some of this while Matt listens, okay? I promise, it's not going to hurt." If it does, she pretty much figures that he can hurt them back.
«Be careful Matt, don't scare him. If he starts to scream, lay flat on the floor.» Not that it would save the first few cuts, but until she got the kid calmed down again, it'll protect him. She doesn't even make a move to grab the last little bit of solution that she has from under her bed. He's just a kid and they need it more for the 'guest' in the basement.
"Mark thinks he might have been held in the vault for about a year, maybe a little more…" Cody says lowly, the bile actually rises in her throat to think of it.
And … silence. Wide-eyed silence. It could be worse; it could be a lot worse! He doesn't immediately lash out with his ability, but he does shy away from the stranger. Everyone's a stranger; Cody is less of one, now, and he seems to hang on to that familiarity, looking away from Matt, clinging to Ma Baker, turning his black-haired head against her shoulder as if he could hide. "Mnnnh— " It's hard to say if he understands what either of them say or not.
Instantly, Matt forms half a dozen ugly mental images in turn, biting each one back before it has time to flesh itself out - and possibly leak into the kid's head to set him off. The reality, whatever it was, is unlikely to be anything he could actually guess… he was only in lockup for a couple of months, himself. And he had something useful to do for part of that time. And he wasn't a kid. That, more than anything else, reminds him the sort of icy bastards they're up against.
Okay, so he's going to do a little more than listen, actually. « What's your name? » he asks, silently this time. And hopes that the kid knows English, or else even that won't be of any use.
Little Skittle is looking away from Matt when he reaches out with his mind, and when that voice just shows up in his head, well—
He flings his arms around Cody's neck, a wild swipe cutting through the air like invisible claws toward Matt. He holds on and sways back and forth. She's the tree, he's the monkey. No matter the telepath's good intent, the little guy is set off, an easily frightened livewire.
"Ssshhh sssshhhh, it's okay Little Skittle. Matt's a good guy, like a white hat cowboy. You like cowboys, right?" Cody really has no idea, it's quite possible that it was a man in a big white hat that first picked him up… hopefully not.
When he screams, she lets go of the jar and it crashes to the floor. The hand wraps around his back to support him and hug him close. "Sssshhhh sssshhhh, it's okay… it's okay, he's just talking to you. Ssssshhhhh he's not going to hurt you…" Then she looks at Matt, hoping he took her warning seriously and is on his way to flattening to the ground. "Sssshhhh… it's okay… Ssshhhhh.." She just tries to calm the kid the same way she's been doing the past few days.
« Son of a bitch! » Fortunately, this is directed not at the kid, but at Cody, who Matt figures can handle it. For his own part, he's crouched down in a squatting position, wincing as he claps one hand over a nasty gash near the opposite elbow. "Yeah, it's okay… I can hear some words— they don't make any sense yet, but they will. Just keep trying…"
The scream piques into a high-pitched, crying squeal, and just when the kid is squirming so much it looks (and, to Cody, no doubt feels) like he's going to start kicking, the chaos winds down. He continues to hang on to the woman tightly through her comforting, and chances a big, wide stare at Matt over his shoulder.
With the question still fresh in the little guy's mind, one whispery word starts to stand out in the panicked, troubled mess of gibberish in there.
Matt snaps his fingers. There, that's a start. Now if they can just get him to hold on for an entire sentence or two… "Joshua," he repeats out loud, glancing over toward Cody as he does. "Is that your name, or someone else's?" Hope their memories are up to the task; she's in no position to write any of this down, and he never is.
The mental yell in Cody's head catches her by surprise and she jumps backward. She wasn't expecting that kind of an attack, she was prepared more for the claw pain. It's only once and Parkman actually starts to talk though, so Cody starts to add a little bit of a bounce to her comforting. At least Skittle's not lashing out at her and that's a great thing! It means he knows how to direct it. So far the pair of adults he's been exposed to have been together in trying to comfort the little guy, which might explain why they're both fairly covered in old battle scars.
"Is it in English? What's he saying?" she questions, then Parkman answers her question before she can actually get it out. "Joshua? Is that your name?" she says to the little boy, "Joshua?"
The little boy seems jarred: that is the best descriptor for his shaken, pale look, those piercing eyes of his becoming less soul-penetrating and more confused. The name "Joshua" simply being spoken so many times seems to draw the poor thing into a more solid reality. He manages to nod. Once, twice.
Even his thoughts seem less jumbled, but they're still fast; scared and uncertain. «Joshua. How? Joshua. My name is Joshua McClellum.»
"McClellum," Matt echoes, once again, nodding and sitting down slowly on the floor. "Hello, Joshua… my name's Matt. I have an ability - kind of like yours - that's how I can hear you."
His hand presses against the wound again, more tightly this time. "Now— I'm sorry, Joshua, but that's probably the only easy question for now. The rest… are probably gonna be upsetting. Do you think you can handle that?" He'll offer to stop if it gets to be too much, but he doesn't quite yet: need to get a better feel for the boy's limits, first.
Since the kid is calmed down, somewhat, Cody stops hugging him long enough to grab a clean dish towel from the drawer and pass it over to the bleeding cop. "Here, we can get Janet over to stitch you up if you need it." Matt might notice that Cody's arms are covered in bandages too, they can be twins.
After the towel is passed over, she returns her hand to the boys back and rubs it lightly. «Joshua McClellum, gotta ask Pyle to run it, or Micah… Try to find the kid's parents. Hopefully they weren't taken too.» None of that is said out loud, it's half a mental note to herself, half directed at Matt.
The kid — Joshua — focuses on Matt. But his gaze seems distracted, lucid and then gone every few seconds, and his thoughts are just as transient. Again, though, he nods, and reaches down toward the floor. But can he even know if he can handle the questions?
Matt nods to Cody, tying the towel around his arm as best he can. It's not particularly well-done, but neither is he bleeding out all over the floor; good enough for now. All right, then, moving on: "The people who were keeping you locked up… don't worry about the people, we can sort that out later. What's important is, they were keeping you locked up for a reason. Do you know what they wanted you to do?"
Figuring the little kid wants down, Cody walks around the counter toward Matt and only when she is clear of the glass allows the boy to slip off her hip. Very gently, she lowers him to the floor next to Parkman and leans up against the counter. «We already got what he was protecting.» She thinks toward the cop. She really should have talked to him first, just so that they were on the same page. But, hindsight is always 20/20. «We want to try to locate his parents, see if he remembers being taken. Or if he knows what his parents names are? Even where he used to live…»
On the floor, the boy sits down, legs out in front of him, and scoots back closer to Cody than to Matt, pressing hands into the ground. Joshua has no answer. Outloud, that should be no surprise. Inside his head, the memories are a blur. Maybe he doesn't know the answer, maybe he can't remember… but he seems to understand a little, because he looks for a long time at the towel Matt is holding, then up to Cody's scratched face.
Yeah, this could've been planned better. Especially oh hey the kid will probably cut your face. But he can have that discussion with Cody later. "Oh, okay— never mind that, then. Joshua… think back earlier, before they locked you up. Do you remember where you were, who you were with?" Which is liable to be answered 'at home with my parents', if anything; small steps are the order of the day.
Crouching down beside Joshua, Cody takes the boy's little hand and nods toward him. "What's the last thing you remember before we found you in the vault? Do you remember playing or what color your house is? Do you remember school?" Poor little thing, it's easy to inundate a child that age but the more he can think about, the more help he can be.
He clamps onto Cody's hand. It is as Matt expected — at first. Thoughts of a home, family, those vague but important ideas to a child. «Mom, Dad, Mary.» His gaze doesn't seem to comprehend Cody's questions, exactly, but as little Joshua looks back to stare wide-eyed at the detective, a mantra starts to repeat itself in his mind, something taught again and again for situations just like this. "F— f-forty four," he actually speaks up, his voice small and so harmless compared to his wild screams. He swallows and starts to recite almost mechanically. "Robinson C— court, De… De-denver, Colorado. Forty-four. Robinson Court. Denver, Colorado."
Okay, now we're getting somewhere! "Okay, that's good," says Matt, gently but firmly trying to get him to move on. Whether the address is (or was) their house, or some other place important to him, they can look it up after they're done. "Who's Mary— is that your sister?" Or cousin, maybe. Aunts and grandmothers tend to be called by title more often than name.
«Do you want me to go look them up? Or do you need me here?» Cody directs to Matt. Her mind is whirling with all the ways she can locate the boy's parents, if at all. Though the question remains, did they only take him? Or did they take his entire family. She gives the boy's hand a little squeeze and makes a move to pry away from him. The agent might be getting a little used to surrogate motherhood, but old habits die hard. Fueled with a new piece of information, she wants to pursue it as soon as she can.
As Cody pries away, the boy draws his knees up and sits in a ball on the floor, watching after her. He looks scared — of everything, even moreso without Cody near, even of Matt. But he's not clawing anyone's faces off, and he manages to nod. Slow, then rapid. Adamant. "Ran— " he sputters. "Ran away." «Mary got away! The place with the trains underground…»
Matt starts to say something… then stops. « Stay here for now, » he thinks at Cody - followed by a fresh wince, the pain from the cut also makes it more of a strain to focus his ability - « he might lose it again if you leave. » Outwardly, he scratches his head. "We know about some people on trains… but they were above ground, and they were captured. Are you talking about rescue trains?" Maybe someone just called their rescue operation the Underground Railroad, it wouldn't be too surprising a code name.
Stopping, Cody turns to look at the boy and then frowns. This is really not going to do anything for her street cred, or whatever scary notion the refugees have of her. Slowly, she kneels next to the boy and then reaches over. Grabbing him up, she hugs him close to try to get him to open up again. «I can't hear him, Parkman. You're going to have to repeat everything you hear.» With Joshua in her arms, she can't help but start rocking him back and forth slowly.
Too complicated! Joshua stares obliviously at Matt — actually, kind of like the man has grown a second alien head and started speaking Mandarin. Climbing onto Cody with no concern for her street cred, the child unsurely shakes his head. His thoughts — those that are actually somewhat linear — are much simpler, literal. The subway.
Well, they all sound so similar! There are differences - the lack of lip movement, the faint echoing quality - but walking on eggshells for Joshua's benefit is complicating things as well. "Subway, right. Do they have subways in Denver? Was Mary still in Denver, last time you saw her?"
"Is Mary his sister?" Cody says aloud, still rocking the chil back and forth in her arms. Yes, this really isn't doing much for her. Heaven help her if Erin should come down the stairs and see it. With nothing better to do, she just sits and watches the detective doing what he does best. She's going to owe him a huge ratatouille or whatever it is he likes to eat for this.
Joshua shakes his black-mopped head no, shaking it in time with Cody's rocking back and forth. No, they weren't in Denver, and the little guy probably has no idea if there are subways there! "Do…" He looks around, confused. Even as they get some straight answers out of him, he's not all there. He goes on, small voice mystified: "Do you know where she is? She ran away…"
« I think so. Looked like he nodded. » Matt pauses, doing his best to fill in the connections that Joshua isn't describing. « Sounds like they were taken from Denver to here, then she escaped into the subway. »
"I don't know where she is yet," he explains to Joshua, "but I know someone who should be able to figure it out. That's okay, right, if my friend looks for Mary?" He keeps it vague on purpose— it might require Molly to meet him face to face, to get a handle on who she'd be looking for. Which would be fine if Joshua doesn't start throwing things again…
"Find her!" the boy exclaims, the most animated he's ever been, short of screaming. He nearly breaks out of Cody's rocking grasp, but at the same time, keeps holding onto her. "Find her!" One little hand rips free and reaches out toward Matt adamantly. Behind the man, three claw marks tear across a lampshade, rocking it in place. Alarmed, Joshua spins around in Cody's arms and starts to whine.
"Ssshhh it's okay Joshua, no one got hurt. It was just a lamp," Cody murmurs as she begins to rock the child back and forth again. "I'm going to put him to bed for now, he's probably pretty wiped. This is… the most talkative he's been since we found him." Aside from the screaming. Then she rolls to her knees and then stands in a smooth motion. "Joshua, we're going to find Mary, I promise." Her murmuring to the boy continues as she moves upstairs.