Date: December 22nd, 2009
Anais wanders into a nightmare and isn't allowed to wake up.
"Sending a Message"
Nathan's staff has been run ragged in the past twenty-four hours but with his acceptance given and official speech made, the privileged few are finding opportunities to slip away from the office. Anais is one of these. The woman has slipped through the front doors of the building holding the Petrelli offices and begins down the street. It isn't horrifically hold, as compared to other days, but she's still bundled against the chill in a white wool peacoat with matching knit gloves and a cap to hide her bright hair. Because she is a practical soul, she has changed to winter boots that might look odd with her slacks, but they prevent any chance slips on an icy sidewalk.
Rather than immediately hail a cab in order to head home, the woman appears to be walking in the direction of the Starbucks a few blocks away. She goes slowly, making good use of the time by tapping away at a blackberry phone. Her head is down, eye contact with other passersby avoided in favor of concentration on whatever work matter is in need of attention.
Stephanie, for her part, has been keeping a close eye on Nathan Petrelli's office, given his earlier speech. Now, it's time to try and get some more information. When Anais comes out of the office, "Julie" swings in to follow her. She walks onward, following Anais. As the two of them start to work, the crowd starts thinning out, much as happened with Tammy Lansing the other day. It's nothing drastic…but the further Anais walks, the less and less people will be on the street. By the time she reaches Starbucks, and enters the coffee shop, the place is deserted.
It would be an alarming development, were Anais paying attention. As a lifelong New Yorker, she has become accustomed to tuning out the street sounds, unless directly approached by what appears to be a threat. And fewer people is no threat. So it is that the redhead finds nothing wrong with the scenario until she pulls the door open and slips inside…to find the mecca of caffeine utterly empty of patrons. And employees.
Startled, Anais slides her phone into the pocket of her coat and steps further inside, head turning this way and that before she approaches the counter. "Hello…? Excuse me? Is anyone here?" Perhaps the place is closed. In the middle of the evening. With the lights on, and the door unlocked. Frowning, she turns back towards the door.
Julie steps in just behind Anais. Once she's in, she turns, locking the door behind her, and leaving the two alone in the coffee shop. Only then does she turn back to look at Anais. "Evening." she says, affably.
The young woman is the recipient of a smile of relief, at first; plainly she has not walked into a Twilight Zone episode, if someone else is there. But when the door's lock is thrown, Anais' smile quickly fades, replaced with a puzzled frown. Brown eyes sweep over Julie before returning to her face. "Good evening. I was just…ah. Leaving. They appear to have closed early," she says, giving the current theory for the cafe's emptiness. And then a testing step is taken forward, to bring her closer to girl and exit.
Julie waves a hand, in that classic "pshaw" motion. "No, no, no. Not time to leave now. Go ahead, take a seat. Get comfy. You want a cappuchino?" She nods towards the counter.
"I believe I'll pass, but thank you." Even in bizarre situations, Anais will not skimp on the courtesies. But she does slip her hand into her pocket, fingers curling around the reassuring presence of that phone. "Do we know each other?" she says, forcing a small but genuine smile to her lips. "I'm afraid if we've do, I've forgotten your name."
Julie walks over behind the counter, and starts to make herself one. "My name is Julie. What's yours?" she offers, while she starts to get the drink ready. "Pastry?" she gestures with a finger towards the case.
Anais doesn't follow. She chooses instead to pivot slowly on her heel in order to watch the girl go by. "Anais Frazier." The reply is automatic, given while she glances over her shoulder at the locked door. In another moment, she'll be stepping towards the exit again, to leave Julie to her caffeine fix. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Julie. I really should be going, however. As it appears they aren't serving anyone here."
Julie doesn't worry about the door. It won't open. "Nice to meet you too. And no, this is sort of reserved for us to have our private little meeting. You work for Mr. Petrelli, right?" She takes out a brownie, and her cappuchino, and starts out from behind the counter.
"I'm sorry?" Anais does indeed test the door and upon finding it securely locked, unopenable, turns back towards Julie with a deeper frown. "I do work for Senator Petrelli, yes. I'm one of his advisors. Could you please explain what this is about?" she says, adjusting her tone to something far more stern. "I'm afraid I don't appreciate being….trapped in a Starbucks."
Julie answers "We're just having a pleasant talk, that's all. With some information about Senator Petrelli. I figured the Starbucks would be a nice, pleasant little setting. It could have been less pleasant."
Anais appears to disagree on the nature of the talk, for she lifts her phone from her pocket and presses a few keys. While lifting it to her ear (no doubt to hear silence, rather than a dial tone), she remarks, "Holding someone against their will hardly strikes me as the definition of pleasant. I do not intend to breach my employer's confidentiality, nor do I intend to speak with anyone who feels threats are a good way of opening a conversation."
Indeed, the phone simply refuses to work. "Well, that's really up to you, Anais." She walks back, and sits there. "We can have a nice, pleasant choice over coffee, and you can tell me what I want to know, and we both go our separate ways, or I can roast you over a spit. How much pain and discomfort you have in this process is really entirely up to you."
It's the lack of signal that finally drives it into Anais' mind that something very much not natural is happening here. She frowns at the gadget before it disappears into her pocket again. And while there is no anxiety yet to be seen in her eyes, there is a certain wariness to the way she addresses the young woman. "What is it that you would like to know?" The question is curt, controlled, betraying her nerves.
Julie gestures to one of the other of the other chairs at the table. "Take a seat." she says. It's phrased amicably enough, but there's a hint that it's not really a request. "That was a really interesting speech the Senator released yesterday. Does he write his own speeches?"
"For the most part, yes," Anais says stiffly, hesitating a moment before taking the indicated chair. Her hands are folded neatly atop the table and her eyes lock with Julie's. "Although I believe his publicist assists with some of the phrasing, and provides feedback on his delivery. She has a knack for it."
Julie nods. "His publicist. And who would that be?" She's already looked /that/ up. But it's a test of Anais' cooperation more than anything.
Anais' fingers tense, and her lips press primly together. "That is publicly available information, I doubt that kidnapping me is worth finding out who his publicist is," she points out, struggling to remain civil. "Her name, however, is Helen. Is that everything?"
Julie smiles a little. "You're one of those people who prides yourself on your control, aren't you? It drives you nuts to be helpless like this." She takes a bite of her brownie. "Tell me all about the blonde woman who was with the Senator. Make it good."
"Control of ourselves is what allows us to remain civilized in times of stress. It prevents us from behaving irrationaly." Anais falls silent after delivering that scold, her eyes cutting towards the window. No one. How can everyone simply vanish? It's beyond her ken. Then, rather than answering the question, she asks, "Am I dreaming this? Am I in my bed, dreaming that this is happening?"
Julie smiles. "Maybe? Does it matter? Dreams can be as real as reality. And, you didn't answer. That's not good. Now you have to be punished. But this is the first time, so it can be fairly mild." And as she says that, it's like an electrical current just got turned on in Anais's chair. No real damage, but it's going to be less than pleasant.
The effect is as one might expect, after receiving a jolt of electricity to the legs and posterior. Anais gives a small scream and scrambles from the chair, knocking it over in her haste to be away from that sensation. Now the fear is allowed a place in her expression, and as she backs up from the table, she holds a hand up as if that might prevent Julie from doing anything else.
"Linda! Her name is Linda Johnson!" That too is a matter of public record, but she winces still for having given the name so quickly. "I don't know anything about her, other than she's another of Nathan's advisors."
Julie purses her lips, and makes the "tsktsk" sound. "I really hope that's not the case, Anais. Because if you have nothing useful for me, then I've got no reason for keeping you around. What about Senator Petrelli's family now? Where are they? Who are the people he sees on a regular basis? Who are his highest contributors?"
"His family?" Anais, pale by virtue of heritage, blanches at the line of questioning. "What do you want with his family? Who are you?" The questions slip from her without conscious thought. She retreats another handful of steps, once again ending near that stubbornly locked door. "I…I don't know where his family is," the redhead says, flubbing the truth. She may not be fond of children but she's hardly about to mention that the boys were just in New York. Whether they've returned to their mother yet or not…
"I can't help you, I really can't. I advise the senator on matters of community. Green initiatives, neighborhood improvements, charities…"
Julie looks sad. "I'm very sorry that you decided not to be honest with me, Anais. Now, I'm afraid there's going to have to be more serious punishment." Her hand slides into the pocket of her coat, and comes out with a pistol. She aims it at Anais, and pulls the trigger, as she aims to shoot out Anais' knee.
The report of the pistol is deafening in these close confines, loud enough (it seems to Anais) to drown out the sound of her agonized scream. She falls to the floor, clapping hand over the knee that's been struck. The pain, and the way the white yarn immediately reddens, is enough to convince the woman that this is all too real. No dream. She's a strong woman, but there's no preventing the fear, and tears, that show as she looks up at Julie.
"Why are you doing this?"
Julie replies "Why am I doing this?" she asks, repeating the question. "Because that blonde, and Nathan Petrelli, were both involved with me losing my dreams. And now I'm going to take theirs from them. Now. You can answer my questions, or I can blow out the other one." She draws back the hammer on the pistol. "TALK!"
"I don't know anything!" It's a scream, given as Anais pulls her hand from her injured knee and curls her arm over her head. As if she expects Julie will fire, upon hearing those words. "I don't know anything about them! Linda is a new hire, and Nathan came to me so he could build houses! I'm on the board of Habitat for Humanity, I swear to you, all I do is tell him how he can help those who need help. Please…they're good people."
The psychopathic redhead sighs. "Jesus. Why do you people keep turning out to be so fucking useless?" She looks exasperated. "Well, if you can't help me with information, than you'll just have to be a message for me, Anais. You won't be much good to yourself after, but…"
Anais is a smart woman. She understands the implications of that statement, and begins to use her good leg to push herself backwards until she ends pressed against the door. Her hand raises, the bloodied one, and one word falls from lips that feel as if they've gone numb. "Please…"
Julie shakes her head. "Sorry, sweetness. If you're ever any use to yourself again, you can convey my best wishes to Nathan Petrelli." And with that, the area all around Anais bursts into flames. So does she. The agonizing experience of superheated air searing lungs. Fire consuming flesh. They say fire is the most painful way to die. Anais will know.