2007-03-10: The Heist


Sydney_icon.gif DL_icon.gif Niki_icon.gif Jessica_icon.gif

Date It Happened: March 10, 2007

Summary: Convinced by the Company to do a job for them, the job goes down at Sydney's loft. Mission: Steal The Freaking Paintings Already goes off with… a hitch or two.

Chapter Two: Betrayal

The Heist

Sydney's Loft, Eastern Centennial Apartments, New York

Just as it does every day at this time, the setting sun floods Sydney's loft with a soft orange glow and illuminates the sitting area where she perches on the edge of the coffee table with a lit cigarette dangling haphazardly between her fingers. Her dirty blonde hair is pushed back by the pair of industrial goggles that sits askew on her brow, while a pair of welding gloves and a blowtorch lay discarded nearby. Because she has the night off from work, she's taken the opportunity to make some much-needed progress on one of the sculptures she's been neglecting in favour of the steady stream of visitors her apartment has received ever since she helped rescue the Mendez paintings from the burning van at Common Grounds.

"This is an easy job." D.L. sounds like he's been doing this for years. "All we have to do is get in and get the painting and get out. Which is what I'll be handling." D.L. looks over at his wife. "You? You're going to be the distraction." He stops the elevator on the floor underneath Sydney's floor. "Keep her at the door as long as you can and I can make this really smooth." Thank Helix Symbol they came and scoped out this place earlier. It'd be much harder not knowing where things were and all of that stuff. "Be careful." is the next thing he says, before planting a quick kiss on Niki's cheek and turns to step out of the elevator.

His accomplice? The blonde at his side, playing the part of Bonnie to his Clyde today. Niki is not exactly the perfect representation of an art thief. There's nothing particularly special - or at least tailored to being sneaky - to her outfit, which consists of a thin, slim-fitting long-sleeved black sweater and light, zippered winter vest of the same colour, with a hood trimmed in soft brown faux fur. She's wearing the same pair of darkwash jeans, and black, heeled boots overtop, that she wore while dropping off her kid at school the other day. Master thief? No, but her husband is. Sort of. She has her job, he has his, and neither are happy about it. But here they are. "/Paintings/," she clarifies as the elevator comes to a halt, stressing the plurality. "I'll do my best, but you'll have to make it really fast if we're gonna get a dozen of 'em out without her realizing," she says skeptically. She gives a tense smile to D.L., and the elevator doors close.

In the hallway outside of Sydney's loft, Niki takes a quick, but deep breath and runs through a scenario in her head. Half-satisfied, she strolls up to the door, hesitates for a few moments, shifting to and fro on her feet, then plasters on what she hopes is a /super/ friendly smile and knocks.

Roused from her morbid reverie by the sound of knuckles rapping against her front door, Sydney snuffs out her cigarette and discards the crumpled remains in the ashtray on the arm of her couch. She bends down to retrieve her blowtorch before she rises to her feet and glances over her shoulder, ensuring that the paintings are still covered by the heavy blue tarp in the far corner. In the past, she hasn't normally been so wary, but with Hiro and the others preparing to make an imminent attack against the Company… she has to be ready. For anything — or anyone. "Eli?" she calls out as she moves from her spot, slowly weaving around furniture on her way to the door. "That you?"

On the floor below, D.L. is doing that thing where he counts apartments. Lofts. Whatever you wanna' call these things. He's never been able to afford one so they're all over his head. He finally gets to the one that's undeneath Sydney's and smiles. The Gossiper of the Building said it was empty. Whether having no tenants or just people being gone on vacation? Didn't matter. As long as nobody was around for right now. He stops at the door and looks left. Empty. He looks right. Nobody. With a quick glance at his watch, he closes his eyes and takes a step into the door… and right through to the other side. Phase One: Enter The

Meanwhile, back upstairs…

"Heeeey, hello?" A woman's voice, not Eliana's, calls out ever-so-hopefully. Outside, in the hall, Niki twirls a strand of hair around one finger experimentally and rocks back and forth on her heels. The bright smile she put in place shines less as she watches the door anxiously. "Hey?" Knock knock knock. "I've been trying /everyone/ and no one's answering— I just moved in down the hall," The Gossiper was a handy contact, talking about new neighbours like that. So Niki isn't one of them. Semantics. "And I could really use some help with— are you there?"

The door opens and Sydney's lanky figure appears silhouetted in the fading light. Dressed in a pair of paint-stained sweatpants and a form-fitting black tanktop that exposes her tattooed midriff, she doesn't make for a very intimidating sight. The only thing that looks even remotely dangerous about her is the blowtorch she's holding — and it isn't on. She squints at Niki, saying nothing.

Sydney is greeted by the other blonde, standing out in the hallway, still rocking slightly back and forth on her heels. Her broad smile is a beacon of innocuous friendliness, and although it's a little nervous around the edges, that's okay. It works for what Niki is about to attempt. "Hi!" She presses her lips together into a thin line, looking with anticipation at the loftspace's occupant, who… certainly doesn't look welcoming. "I'm really sorry to bother you, you look like you were busy--" She gives an eye to is that a /blow-torch/? Why is that not comforting? "But—okay, this is really embarrassing," she lets her megawatt smile fade. "I just moved in, and there's like, this crazy problem with the water, and I called the apartment and the water company and they just said someone who lived here needed to show us how the faucets work because they're like," She pauses her ramble to shrug one shoulder and laugh incredulously, "Really old, and screwed up, right? The pipes are all messed up. They do that rattling thing and then nothing happens, and I just want a bath."

Sydney reaches up with her free hand to scratch an itch on the bridge of her nose. Niki's isn't a face that she recognizes, but if her story checks out then that would make sense, wouldn't it? "Yeah," she agrees, "the plumbing's shit on this floor. You'll get used to it." Her eyes drift all the way down to the stranger's toes and then back up again, finally settling on her face, searching. She seems harmless enough. Unfortunately, there's no way to know for sure just by looking at her. And so, she sticks out that same hand, offering it to Niki in what appears to be a friendly gesture — but will be so much more if she decides to take it. "I'm Sydney," she says, "who the hell are you?"

"I hope you're in position, Niki." D.L.'s already phasing himself out of being solid and sliding himself up the wall. He hasn't learned how to float for real yet, but he can wall-slide. A black ghost more or less. His hands come up through the floor first. He's hoping the layout is somewhat the same in Sydney's apartment, as he's pretty sure he doesn't want to be coming up underneath her feet. But his head is next, peeking up a little bit and looking around to make sure he's not somewhere where he'll be attacked. At the same time, he's looking to see where Niki and the door are in relation to him and where the paintings might be. Hm.

Please? Niki's eyes are asking the question, twinkling hopefully - and not because she wants a bath. There are far more pressing concerns hinging on this little scam, trickery which she in no part feels comfortable with. But she waits, and she hopes, and she tries very hard not to look beyond Sydney into her loft. "It's nice to meet you, Sydney. I'm…" She takes Sydney's hand without hesitation, flashing another dazzling smile despite the other woman's brusqueness. "…Gina," she lies. For the most part, if not exactly the whole.

If Sydney's loft could be described in one word, that word would be: cluttered. D.L. has a lot of furniture, half-finished sculptures and various pieces of esoteric dcor to look around if he wants to see Niki and the loft's tenant standing over by the front door. On the bright side, her back is to him, and she doesn't seem to notice anything amiss.

That might be about to change. As 'Gina' takes Sydney's hand, she gives it a firm squeeze. Immediately, her ability sets to work, subconsciously skimming the very top of Niki's memories for something substantial to grab hold of and pull out.

D.L. can't see his wife. Too many… things in the way. Not good. Casing the joint, though, has managed to help him out a little bit and with the layouts being the same, well, he's pretty sure he can pull this off. Hopefully. Another glance around and he's spotting the a blue tarp. Has to be it. If not, it's gonna' be the first place he looks. He slides across the floor, floating halfway up and through anything in his way until he gets over to the corner. He lifts higher, passing himself through whatever's underneath it and staying phased to look at he's inside. This is, also, something of an ironic 'hiding spot' thanks to the tarp. The Loot?

Waiting outside. Watching the Eastern Centennial apartment building along with a tall black man until sunset. Exploring the building, talking to that gossiper who lives on the second floor. Talking to her son, eleven years old, on a cell phone, telling him she and his dad are busy, but promising ice cream later. These are the things the so-called new neighbour has been doing for the last few hours.

"Is there some kinda trick you can come and show me for the pipes? I tired just hitting them, but…" Niki laughs, glancing over her shoulder down the hall where her supposed new apartment is. She returns that gaze of hers on Sydney, soft brows raising up into her forehead hopefully.

There's no mistaking the paintings beneath the tarp for another artist's work; they're definitely by the late Isaac Mendez. Some are weighed down by concrete blocks to keep their edges from curling, while others, mounted on plain wooden frames, might be a little difficult to carry out. Either way, D.L. and Niki will need to make several trips just to get them back to their vehicle. Hopefully they have a big trunk.

Sydney tenses at the series of memories that she picks up from Niki, and for a few long moments, she is absolutely silent as her brain struggles to process and categorize them. She's been doing this for years, but she still has to be careful not to get caught up in what she takes. Every last ounce of her concentration is poured into reminding herself that these visions don't really belong to her. They're Gina's — or at least they were. Should Niki try to think back on the events that preceded this visit, she might find them a great deal fuzzier than she remembers. "Sorry," Sydney mumbles finally. "You lost me for a minute there. Where did you say you were from?"
Listening in is something that D.L.'s doing at this particular moment too. Mostly because, well, he's underneath a tarp, looking through and at the paintings that he's supposed to be stealing. Just had to make sure the goods are the right ones. Anyway, he phases himself back down to through the paintings and just underneath the ceiling of the loft below. What's he standing on? Nobody knows. But soon enough he's phasing the floor to make it so those paintings just start to come to Papa, more or less. Just keep her talking Niki, while he pulls painting after painting through the floor. The slow process should make it nice and not so noisy, so there's no reason to be suspicious Sydney! Nope! As they come down, he takes careful consideration to set them down easily on top of the whatever it is he's got down there to haul 'em off with. He'd whistle, but that'd be too loud.

Niki squints a touch at Sydney when the other blonde seems to zone out on her. "I just moved here from Vegas," she tells the woman. Honesty's a lot easier. "So I'm really sort of clueless about New York. I mean, crappy plumbing is universal, but…" She blinks a few times, her gaze shifting off to the wall beside the loft's doorframe as she spaces out herself for a moment; blinking a few times, she seems to come 'to, although she seems a bit … confused at the core after thinking back on the past couple of hours. "I, um…" She shakes her a head, just a quick movement that sways her hair a touch. "Yeah. I'd really appreciate your help! Neighbour to neighbour? Whaddaya say?"

"Sure," Sydney agrees, at long last, as she releases Niki's hand, "this way." Blowtorch wielding arm swinging slightly at her side, she begins leading her through the loft, though she makes a point to avert her eyes from the corner where D.L. is working. It's a shame; if she weren't trying to keep Niki's attention away from it, she might notice that the tarp is sitting considerably lower to the ground than it was a few moments ago.

When they arrive in the bathroom, she pulls the shower curtain aside, exposing the old brass faucets. "It's pretty easy," she explains, "once you get the hang of it. Is it just you over there, or do you have kids?"

Cake. Piece of cake. D.L.'s down to the last couple of paintings by this point. They're all set down and such before he lifts his head back through the ceiling to make sure that he's got them all. His head underneath the tarp that, well, is pretty much just lying on the floor by now. He drops back down to the floor of the empty loft and looks around at all the paintings around him. "Cake." He looks at his watch and figures that he better get to moving these things so he can pick up Niki at the rendezvous place. That was, well, almost too easy.

As she follows Sydney - at a brisk pace, but maybe she's just that excited about plumbing? - Niki frowns tensely. She was hoping to lure the woman to /her/ apartment, or rather, her fake apartment, not walk into the belly of the beast. She glances sidelong at the tarp; that has to be it. She chances a quick glance at the watch she pointedly put on this morning before she slips into the bathroom. She leans down to peek at the brass pipes. "I have a boy, and a husband," she tells Sydney with a smile. "So… what'm I supposed to do?" Hopefully Sydney explains this /fast/, so she can get out of here.

The boy and husband match up with what little Sydney was able to glean from their handshake, but there's still a nagging doubt in the back of her mind. Why would Gina stand outside, watching the apartment complex with the man who is presumably her husband until the sun started going down? There are plenty of reasons, though not all of them are as innocent or innocuous as the woman herself appears. "You lean over, and put your hand on the pipe, like this." As Sydney speaks, she demonstrates, clutching the fixture right above the mouth where the water comes out. "Here, you try."

Niki isn't really paying attention to Sydney's explanation, although she makes like she is with the wide blue eyes - that said, there's a momentary hesitation, cluing in before she follows the example. "Like this?" She clutches the faucet, only thinking about what time it is. Is D.L. out yet? What time did they say they'd meet? God, why are things from the last few hours fuzzy? It's a feeling she knows, and one she doesn't like.

"Yeah," Sydney says, "Like that. And next, you tell me why they sent you." The instruction is accompanied by the feel of cool metal against the back of Niki's neck. It's the blowtorch, and although it isn't turned on yet, the threat is very clear. If Gina turns out to be innocent, well, she won't be the first neighbor that Sydney has managed to alienate with her erratic behavior — no big loss. "Be honest, Gina. I can tell if you're lying, you know. It's what I do."

Paintings are all taken. Good to go. They've been stashed in the lower loft for safekeeping and D.L. is phasing himself out of the place. He gets back into the hall and decides to head down to the elevator. He's looking at his watch, wondering just why he doesn't hear Niki leaving or footsteps overhead. Maybe the floors are thick. He's worried. Which means when the elevator opens up, he's heading up. Just to check on her, that's all. Right?

Busted. Niki promptly lets go of the faucet, but every single movement that follows is much more slow and careful: the lifting of her arms, the gradual spreading of her palms. Unthreatening. The back of her neck bristles against the metal, sending a shiver down her spine. "I don't know what you're talking about." Because while lying to Sydney seems like a bad idea, saying 'I'm helping to steal from you' sounds like an even easier route to blowtorching. "Please, just— just let me go back home, I think I've got it now."

"In a minute." Although Niki can't see it, the determined expression on Sydney's face falters, but only briefly. Without moving her blowtorch away, she places her other hand on the back of the other blonde's head; this time, she's much more aggressive when it comes to sifting through her memories in search of something that will confirm her innocence. If she was skimming the surface before, she's roughly raking her nails across it now. She has no way of knowing that D.L. is on his way up, no way of knowing that — even if Niki does turn out to be guilty of more than just wanting to know how the faucets work — she has more on her hands than just 'Gina'.

Man, this elevator sure is taking a little longer time. He leans against the wall, not really sure of why it's taking too long to get to the floor. The next floor. Finally, it dings and he's climbing off. Peering off in the direction of Sydney's door, he doesn't see anything bad. Not yet, really. And so he takes his sweet time heading down the hallway to get himself down to where the action (that he doesn't know is going on!) is.

There is absolutely nothing in those memories to confirm Niki's innocence. Quite the contrary. What there /is/ is a key falling out of an envelope in her mind's eye, What there /is/ is details to an account. And photographs of images that will be very familiar to Sydney, because the originals used to be sitting in her loft only minutes ago.

And there's something else, too.

Blood. Gore. Jessica.

The woman is suddenly spinning about on her heel, a hand flying toward the wrist that Sydney holds that blowtorch in. There's a look in her eye that wasn't there in the bright, cheerful person who knocked on the door earlier: a dangerous glint. She's not messing around anymore. It's a complete 180. "Minute's up."

At first Sydney is so stunned by the about-face that she doesn't react. Her face has the look of a deer trapped in a set of headlights, but as soon as the other woman — whoever she is, opens her mouth — she narrows her eyes and lets the blowtorch clatter noisily to the floor. "That's too bad." And then she does the only thing she can do when caught in the grasp of someone who's stronger than she is; she lets loose a flood of memories, hoping that the torrent will either overwhelm Not-Gina, or at least force her to let her go.

A young child looking out through a mesh fence while the acrid stench of smoke and burning flesh invads his nostrils. The yellow star on his little sister's woolen overcoat. Her stiff body being carried away by a pair of haggard men so malnourished that they look like walking sacks of bones. The shrill, screaming wail of his mother in the background. Not one of these is selected at random; all the images, sounds and smells are some of the worst that Sydney has collected over the years, and now they all belong to Niki.

D.L. doesn't think anything good is happening. They were still in there when he stashed the paintings. Which means, well, that there's something wrong. She wasn't supposed to enter the loft. Not good. "Niki…" Maybe it's something like a Spider-Sense. But he knows when his wife isn't, well, herself. Not to mention not where she's supposed to be for the whole, y'know, rendezvous thing. And so, there's some phasing and heading into the loft that he was just in. Looking around. Listening around.

Needless to say, Niki (although her identity is questionable at the moment) lets go of Sydney in a flash. It looks like she was /physically/ hit when her mind is invaded with strong mental images, sounds, and smells— and just like if she were struck, she whips her face away from Sydney, eyes clenching shut. It's enough to overwhelm her, so much so that she goes reeling backward, reaching out - she grabs Sydney's shower curtain, resulting in it - and the entire rod - to tear down. Crash, CLANG into the bathtub. "What did you do to me!"

Sydney backpedals out of the bathroom, but not before ducking down to pick up the blowtorch. She's breathing heavily, her chest heaving with excitement and, strangely enough, elation. Once outside, she slams the door and collapses against it, eyes darting around the apartment, looking for something heavy that she can push in front. It's then that she notices the tarp lying flat, and D.L. A sharp curse hisses past her teeth. She should have known better. "You guys work in pairs, huh?"

Good timing, Sydney. Niki would have been down for longer simpering over those oh-so-horrible memories that don't belong to her, but Niki? She's not in control anymore. And Jessica isn't easily disturbed. Finding herself alone in the stranger's bathroom, she opens the door - by which we mean, ladies and gentlemen, tears it roughly off of its hinges, pulling it hard toward the inside and causing the wood to buckle and snap; she shoves it to the out of the way, sending splinters into the bathroom. She sees D.L., but says nothing. Her face is a hard mask.

"… Jessica." D.L. knows that hard mask. Definitely knows it well. He's fought that hard mask. But for now, the important thing is making sure that Sydney doesn't, well, flip out. "Whoa, hey, listen. It's not what you think." D.L. even holds his hands up to show that he's unarmed and harmless. He's not even taking steps towards her. He's too busy trying to make sure nothing happens. Nothing too bad.

Crouched by the door, or rather what /used/ to be a door, Sydney doesn't know whether her attention should be on D.L. or Jessica. For now, she locks her gaze on the latter of the two, seemingly oblivious to the splinters that now litter her bathroom floor. There are a few in her hair, too, but those are even less important. Like a cornered animal, her eyes are now wide and filled with apprehension; if they could get any bigger, they'd pop right out of her head.

Jessica? Where? The woman puts on one of those sweet, anxious little smiles for D.L. that Niki has so many of. It's a joke, though - D.L. already saw right through her, and in no time, the smile is turning into a smug smirk. "Sure it is," she tells Sydney calmly, matter-of-factly, her voice thick with wicked amusement. She steps forward with the intent to step squarely on the woman's chest with her high-heeled boot. The pressure is firm, not crushing, but the threat is there - just like the threat was there with the blowtorch to Niki's skin earlier. "We're taking what we want, and there's nothing you can do to stop us. So be a good little girl and stay—" She steps /just a bit harder/. "Right. There." She tips her chin up succinctly to D.L. "Back outside."

D.L. sighs and shakes his head. This is not the way this was supposed to go down. Not the way. He's about to back up out of the place, but he realizes that could be sealing the other woman's fate. Not a good idea. "No." D.L. says, figuring this marital dispute is going to lead to nowhere fast, but good. "Let her up. We're not here to hurt anybody." Here's to hoping Sydney doesn't chalk this up as Good Cop, Crazy As All Hell Breakin' Loose Cop.

Apart from the quiet grunt that Jessica pushes out of her chest when the heel of her boot comes down on her, Sydney makes not a sound. She still has the blowtorch, but that's not of much use to her at the moment.

Fine. There's a vague roll of Jessica's eyes at D.L., but she's nice, and doesn't skewer him in the eye with one of those wooden splinters close at hand. See how cooperative she's being? She's grown as a person during her… vacation. Really. She lifts her boot from Sydney's chest and neatly plants it back on the floor, but she has no plans to give the other blonde any freedom. No, first things first, she's swiftly kicking at the potentially fiery weapon to send it careening across the loft. The second order of business: crouching down and wrapping her hand around Sydney's neck to pluck her straight up off the floor. She slants a look to D.L. that is equal parts bored and impatient. "What part of 'getaway car' did you miss?"

"Jessica!" D.L.'s using that voice he uses on Niki when he's trying to keep her from turning into the monster she's turned into at this moment. He's too busy trying to be focused on making sure that nobody's hurt in this little process. "We got what we came for. Just put her down. I'm not gonna' let you make this worse." He's thinking about a future life on the run. With his son. And it's not looking like a good future plan of events, in all actuality.

It doesn't take Sydney long to realize that she's completely, utterly outmatched by Jessica, and so her struggles don't last longer than a few moments (though these moments feel like an eternity, at least to her). She reaches up, grasping the wrist of the hand wrapped around her throat with both of hers, but does not attempt to use her abilities again. That would be suicidal — and not just because she's in such a vulnerable position. "The paintings, right? You came for the Mendez pieces?"

Oh, Jessica puts Sydney down, all right. But whether she gets hurt in the process or not is not her concern - she certainly doesn't look back after tossing the woman like a scrawny doll toward the blue tarp where the precious Isaac Mendez paintings used to be. There's her answer! She saunters past D.L. into the hallway beyond, only glancing at him sidelong on her way. "Stop looking at me like that. Niki was about to get caught red-handed. I /saved/ her ass." Jessica, for one, is not wasting any more time. She hits the elevator button to go down.

D.L. finds himself following out and after the Jessica. Maybe there's something to this whole Company being the ones that can help Niki get rid of her. Now all they have to do is actually get downstairs and out of the building, so that they can drop the paintings off and never have to worry about bad things happening to them ever again.

Sydney didn't think that she'd ever be thankful to find the paintings gone, but that's exactly how she feels when she goes sprawling across the hardwood and into the empty tarp. If there had been anything solid under it, she'd be hurting a lot more than she already is. Only when Jessica and D.L. are gone does she sit up and suck in a deep breath. That could have gone a lot better, but it could have gone a lot worse too.

Her job here apparently done, Jessica seems to have no desire to stand around in an elevator with D.L., amusing as that might be. After the lift rattles into action and starts to descend, the blonde starts to look a lot less wicked and a lot more frightened and vulnerable. …and that's /before/ the awful memories that Sydney bestowed upon her come rushing back, not only Jessica's burden to bear. She leans back against the corner tremulously, like her knees might buckle. Niki barely gets her words out, as if she's fighting back tears and maybe the urge to lose her lunch. "Let's hurry up and finish this."

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