2007-02-12: Squaring The Circle


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Summary: Ramon stops by to pick up the information Cass has found out about his mysterious symbol. The two share information and then end on an eerie note.

Date It Happened: February 12th, 2007

Log Title Squaring the Circle

Enlightenment Books

It's just about closing time at Enlightenment Books and Cass is going through all the regular closing procedures a little early since her last customer just left a couple of minutes ago. Straightening up, dusting, last minute paperwork, the usual things that she tries to get done so that she doesn't have much to do in the morning whens he opens up. She's humming to herself as she goes. It sounds like the Ramones.

Ramon comes in looking a little wrinkled about the edges, like he slept in his clothes. He comes in looking over his shoulder, too. Dark circles are under his eyes and he is radiating intensity to a degree that's even greater than when he was playing overprotective Dad to his inquisitive daughter. He closes the door softly, as if trying to defeat the bell, and looks all around the shop before he'll enter fully. But enter he does. "Miss Aldric?" he rasps.

The humming abruptly stops when the door opens. Cass forgot to turn the sign to 'CLOSED' so someone wouldn't just wander in while she was trying to shut up. However, when she sees who the entrant is, the polite 'we're not open' dies on her lips. "Mr. Gomez. Please, call me Cass." Her chipper manner is subdued a little when she takes in the state the poor man is in. Noticing that he's looking over his shoulder, she crosses the few steps to the door and locks it, flipping the sign so that they hopefully won't get any curious onlookers. "Are you alright? You look…upset." Really, he looks like hell, but she's trying to be polite.

After a long pause, Ramon says, "Cass then." Beat. As if he's trying to remember social conventions. "Ramon. If you're Cass then I'm Ramon." He scrubs a hand over his face. "Its been — " he shakes his head, a bit helplessly, and doesn't manage to complete the sentance. "I really appreciate you looking into the necklace for me. What did you find?"

With the door locked, Cass subtly and slowly starts to relax from 'store owner at work' to her more natural self. However, most of her attention is focused on trying to make sure that the man she's helping doesn't need more help than just some information. "Tea? Coffee?" Her face is creased with concern for Ramon. Tossing open the employee door, she gestures for him to follow him into the small office that's hidden back there. There's a comfortable, if beaten up, armchair and she gestures at it. "Please, sit down." Without waiting for his answer, she starts up the plug in water boiler. "Not a problem. It's what I do." Heading for her office desk, she goes right for the drawer and pulls out the thin volume that she found the other day. The symbol in question is obviously visible on the front cover and she holds it out for Ramon to take. "This is what I found."

He sits down. "Coffee, please." She said the magic word. He never seems to relax fully, but that…is not new. He stares at the symbol on the book and blinks at it. "Right on the cover." As if he's having trouble believing the answer is right there. He takes the book after a moment of staring at it like an idiot, and then looks at the title, spine, back cover. His hands are shaking now, just a little.

Deciding on tea, rather than coffee, Cass keeps the water boiler on, but moves over to the coffee pot. It was brewed that morning, but it shouldn't be too stale tasting. Grabbing a large mug, she pours a liberal amount into it and puts it on the desk within easy reach of her guest. "Yeah. I know. Strange, right?" She watches Ramon for a moment, noting his expression while studying the cover of the book. Deciding that the man looks like he's had enough weirdness for the day, she decides to not tell him the strange circumstances under which she found the book. He doesn't need to know now that he has it.

"Squaring the Circle," Ramon reads, sounding baffled. He takes that coffee. If its stale, he doesn't appear to notice. He just drinks it. He opens the book and flips through it. "The name of the book, the name of the symbol. These…alchemy people used it for something they call the philosopher stone. What the Hell is a philosopher stone?"

Cass pours the now boiling water over a tea bag in her mug and then takes it with her to her desk. Sinking into her office chair, she grins. "Haven't you read Harry Potter?" Her tone is teasing and the question, obviously, rhetorical. She takes a small pause before explaining. "It's a stone that's supposed to turn metal into gold. Or to make the owner all but immortal." Folding her legs up underneath her body, she leans back against the back of her chair. While Ramon doesn't seem able to relax, she looks a master of it.

"No, no Harry Potter." He…starts laughing, and there's a really weird edge to it. "I don't have time to read and I didn't let my kids. Felt like kids running around with magic powers was a demonic temptation." Oh yes. Too little sleep. His laugh is one of those expulsion of air, Jack Baeur sort of laughs with very little real mirth in it. "My wife. Would never. Ever. Buy a pagan symbol like this. She would not let it touch her flesh on her own free will. She was a Christian. A better Christian than me. I suggested birth control to give her a rest, you know? Four children…she said the pope said no and that was enough for her."

"You must be one of the few in the country, then." Cass smiles. "It's story is actually quite….Christian, strangely enough. Anyway, you didn't come here to talk about Harry Potter themes." While she notes the strange edge to Ramon's laugh, her smile turns into something more neutral. Once again, she looks concerned for his well-being. Keeping her hands wrapped around her steaming mug of tea, she looks down into it before looking back up at him. "I don't know what to tell you. Maybe you should ask her where she got it."

"She's dead. This was a necklace that she was wearing when she was murdered," Ramon says. He wipes his hand over his face again. This time his fingers come away wet. "I'm sorry. I'm acting — I'm sorry. I don't mean to scare you." His words take on a thicker accented edge as his throat closes up. "I haven't had much sleep."

Cass doesn't look scared or frightened by what she's been told. She looks sympathetic. "I'm sorry." She's not sure what else to say to that that wouldn't sound patronizing, so she stays silent for a moment, allowing Ramon to collect himself. "I'm not scared." Putting her mug down, she slides a box of tissues discreetly over toward Ramon's side of the desk. "I'm not sure what to tell you about the symbol other than what I found in that book. It's possible that it has other meanings." Frowning, she keeps her eyes focused on Ramon.

"Are there lots of shops in the city that sell pagan jewelry like that?" Ramon asks. He looks at the tissues and just…doesn't take one. He seems to be trying to pretend like that moment of tearing up didn't happen. But he does finish the coffee, much like one might down a shop.

"I'm not sure." Cass shakes her head. "It's possible to buy a pendant like you showed me from anywhere. I mean, it's quite unique, but many different people and stores sell strange symbols to be trendy. It could have been from a street vendor, a store….it could have been handmade." Sighing, she picks her mug back up and takes a long drink. It's a little hot on her tongue, but she doesn't mind. And if she's insulted that Ramon doesn't take any of the tissues she underhandedly offered, she doesn't show. It's possible she's too busy trying think of shops that she didn't even notice. "Without more information, it's impossible to tell."

"Still, you've done a lot for me. You've given me hope," Ramon says quietly. "I have to find the man who murdered her. The authorities say she suicided. The church wouldn't even bury her." He lets out another strained chuff of laughter. "I got a Baptist to do it. That would have made her laugh. A Baptist." He growls. "I'm not here to dump on you. Thank you." He stands up. "I'm going to buy this book. Read it. How much?"

Cass gives Ramon a small, sad smile. "If you need any more research help, please don't hesitate to call me. I'm almost always at the store." Rummaging through the desk, she finds a card to hand over. It's a little bent, but all the information is there, which is really what matters. "Honestly, it's alright. I like to help to people…even if it's only listening." When he stands, she does as well. "It's yours. Don't worry about paying or anything."

He looks at her for a long moment, like maybe he wouldn't mind talking, a sounding board. He holds her book, the card. His eyes are deep and steady. Then they tighten, and a grim cast enters his face as he shakes his head, as if denying himself something for reasons of his own. "You're a good woman," he rasps. "If you ever need anything, you call my cell. I'll get here." He pauses. Debating. "If a large black man wearing an odd necklace, a dark haired woman named Angie, or anyone comes in here looking for me for any reason, give them whatever they ask. My number, anything. Cooperate with them, don't antagonise them, give them no reason to take any further interest in you. I don't think they will. But if they do."

Cass keeps her hands flat on her desk, watching whatever emotions she can read flash by on Ramon's face. She's not sure what this is all about, but she definitely knows why he looks so sad now. While she's very touched by his statement, she doesn't want him to think she's some do-gooder for the wrong reasons. "Thank you. But, really, I didn't pay anything for the book, so I couldn't in good conscience charge you." Wrapping her arms around herself, she now looks confused and a little unnerved. She gets a lot of strange warnings from her customers about aliens, Atlantians, and government conspiracies, but something in this man's voice is so serious it shakes her slightly. She's not sure what to say to that. In all this good feeling she's been getting by helping Ramon, she didn't realize she may getting herself into something she's not cut out for. Murdered women and husbands out to find out the truth can get into a sticky business. Finally, she manages to say through dry lips, "Alright. I will."

He turns to go, and then stares at her. "Wait," he says. "You didn't pay anything for the book? How did you happen to come by it then?" She has his full attention all over again, and his brows have drawn down to form a hard V above his softer eyes. He looks concerned, a little alarmed, and startled. "Don't you buy it from the publisher?"

Cass frowns. She had decided in the beginning of the conversation not to tell him about how she came by the book, but she can't think up any convincing lie with so many other things weighing on her mind and on the spot. "It just showed up on my alchemy shelf the other day. I didn't order it." Her voice sounds flat and unnerved even to her.

Ramon's eyes widen just a tad. His face doesn't move much more than that. "How soon after I came in did that happen?" he asks. Its not coincidence. That much he's sure of. His neck is growing tighter and tighter, as are his shoulders. He looks over his shoulder again, as if expecting someone behind him. When there's nothing there…he looks back at her.

The door is still locked and the sign is still on the 'closed' designation. Nothing is changed while they were in the office as far as Cass can see. And he knows her store very well. However, the tension and the eeriness of the whole situation is being enhanced by Ramon's behavior. "A couple of days?" She tightens her grip around herself, as if trying to keep warm. "It was probably just someone wanting to circulate their book or something. People do that sometimes." The excuse comes across as hollow and unconvincing even when she tries to put her usual cheer into it.

"No." Ramon says, sounding flat. "No. I don't think so. And neither do you." An idea comes to him and he says, "Cass, do you keep surveillance on this store?" If she does…its easy enough to figure out who dropped the thing. "Any sorts of cameras?"

Cass gives a slow shake of her head. "The only surveillance I have is my eyes. It's such a small store. And who would want to steal books about Karma? Seems like…well, bad Karma." It would be a joke in any other context except for this one. "But, who would know what you were looking for and that I was looking for it? You and your daughter were the only ones in the store when you asked me about it. How would anyone /know/ to put the book there?"

"Lets think it through," Ramon says. It looks like he's staying after all. He walks back to the coffee pot and looks into it almost hopefully. Empty. Damn. He doesn't verbally ask for more. He instead sort of trails around. "Do you think its possible someone put a bug of some sort in your shop? You deal with some controversial materials. Religious crazy groups or…scientologist demonstrators or…something could have…" Though why any of the aforementioned groups would bother to place the book is a bit beyond Ramon.

Cass frowns and looks around the store in a new manner. Now she's wondering what else could be hiding among its shelves or elsewhere. She doesn't mind Ramon wandering around looking for coffee, she does mind the idea that someone could actually bug her store. "I…but…why would anyone do that? I own a /bookshop/. It's just…it's books! Books about time travel and aliens and alchemy. They're…they're harmless. I mean, they're out there and a little controversial, but not in a dangerous way." Raising a hand to her head, she shakes her head. Suddenly, there's a sharp pain behind her eyes, radiating inwards. She's getting a headache from all this. "I…I think I need to lay down. And think this over. Alone."

Ramon grimaces. "Lo siento," he says. "I should — I apologize." He backs towards the door. "Call me if you…bye." He has a feeling she never wants to see him again, given all of this. "Thank you." All of this comes out in quick, gruff, growling bursts. Then he slips out the door and heads into the New York night.

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