Date: April 15th, 2010
It's been a long, strange, terrible journey for a mother, father, and daughter. But they're home at last… Just as an old acquaintance stops in for a visit.
"There And Back Again"
Belmont Household - Queens
It's evening. The earthquake on Ward's Island, and the erasure of a castle and its inhabitants on Governor's Island has yet to hit the news. Not that it would matter, as Sarissa is not watching the television. She is standing by the living room window, watching the street outside and waiting. She received the message from Novak, and is torn between various emotions at the knowledge that her daughter is alive and on her way home. Anger, joy, worry, apprehension… So many emotions she normally doesn't feel on her own. She hasn't been indulging in her normal emotional skimming, and she has the shakes, like an addict who has gone too long without a fix. It hurts too, in a way, to be cut off from others.
But maybe it's better this way. She is dressed in a bathrobe, as she just got out of the shower when she received the phone message on her answering machine. The lavish decorations, high-tech home appliances, brand new high-class furniture, and so forth all speak of wealth. But does wealth buy happiness? Sarissa doesn't think so. She has been wealthy just about her entire life. More so after she got married. But the loss of a daughter she thought she didn't care about has driven her down into emotional mud like nothing has since Novak left her with only a note and vanished for a decade and a half.
The street in Queens has been repaired, the lawns replanted, and all signs of Elisabetha's capture and the death that was caused as a result have been swept away. The street lights shine bright and clear. This is not a neighborhood where bad things happen. Except when they do. Sarissa swirls a glass of wine around in a mindless, circular motion with her wrist. "<What the hell is taking so long?>" she asks of no one, in Italian.
Breaking and entering was not how the average person in the world made their living. In fact, it wasn't how Camille Roux made her living, either! When one had the ability she did, 'breaking' into places was seen as crude, an ineffectual way of obtaining what one wanted. She was a professional, a master of her craft, renowned for getting the ridiculously impossible with little to no fuss.
Just a high price tag.
And today's current target was in the upper bedroom of the Belmont estate in New York: a necklace that was worth three or four small fortunes, that had belonged to an Earl, which he had given to his wife on the eve he had ridden forth on a hunt… and never returned. Lined with rare blue diamonds, it was the perfect target for a collector 'friend' of Camille's in Europe, one who wasn't too fond of the Belmonts anyway.
While she was quiet as she made her way through the upper floor of the house, having come through the second-story window (literally through the glass), not leaving a trace, making no noise, careful not to be seen, there was one thing she couldn't quite contain, nor was she even trying to.
And to those who could pick up on such things, it would read like an overwhelming beacon of emotion pouring out of the blonde-haired woman. She wasn't in her usual thieving gear, no black outfits tinged with leather. One couldn't simply walk down a brightly-lit street wearing such, after all. Picking about through the bedroom with a small metal detector, just in case there was a hidden safe she needed to find, Camille begins to search through the valuables, not bothering to take the 'common' treasures, of which there seemed to be plenty.
Novak had originally thought to call an Emergency Med-Evac helicopter. The protocols might be monitoring a lot of things, but the sheer number of 9-1-1 calls might allow Novak to get a message through. However, after careful observation of his daughter, Novak determined she was well enough to be moved. She was, infact, almost perfectly healthy. Just… Exhausted. So he called someone else. Actually, a number of 'someone else's. They all owed Novak favors or he would owe them a favor after they helped him. It didn't matter. He needed to get out of here before the vultures came swooping in to see what happened and snatch up anyone who remained.
Some hours later, a flight over the ocean via a man with a flying ability, a trip with a man who can bi-locate himself and anyone he is touching, and a taxi cab ride to Queens later, and Novak is confident he has evaded any attempts at pursuit by his former employers. Further, he is in Sarissa's neighborhood, and he has their daughter with him.
Getting out of the car, with the otherwise-bare Elisabetha wrapped in a heavy leather long-coat borrowed from one of those who helped the two of them, Novak nods to the driver, the driver nods back, and then they part ways. No payment necessary. They have an understanding. Carrying Elisabetha in his arms, Novak breathes heavily as he tries to get up the driveway and to the front door. Hopefully Sarissa is watching and will get the door. Novak doesn't really have any hands available to knock with at the moment.
Elisabetha is drifting in and out of consciousness. Odd thoughts pass through her head. Odd glimpses of memories… But as the cold evening air hits her face again, once the taxi door has opened and she's been carried out of it, she starts to come back to her senses. Her eyes, crimson for most of her life, are a bright blue instead. She looks around sleepily, and recognizes the house… The neighborhood… But she doesn't remember how she got outside or know what's going on.
"..Nnn?" Who is this carrying her? Just as they reach the front door, Elisabetha turns her head to look, and sees Novak. "T-Teacher? What…?" But then her attempts to get free may cause some difficulty for Novak, as the shifting of his living burden makes it hard to carry her. Elisabetha also feels odd sensations from the right side of her body. The last she remembers her prosthetic arm wasn't in place. She was going to head to the bathroom to put it in. So why is there this weight on her body? Why is there sensations as though she had real skin there? Why…?
Sarissa has been blocking herself off from the emotions of those around her. The empathic block has been in place since the 14th. Nearly 24 hours have passed. But when she sees a taxi cab pull up, her heart nearly leaps up into her throat, and she brings down the mental walls, to see if she can determine who it is that has just arrived. The emotions wash into her. Exhaustion, confusion, contained curiousity, and… Excitement? Three of those come from the car outside, and though Sarissa wants to watch and see who is getting out, she tries to resolve where that last indicator is coming from.
…Upstairs. An ambusher? Someone waiting to steal her Elisabetha away again? An assassin prepared to kill them all? She does not know. There does not seem to be murderous intent mixed with the excitement… It's more of the thrill gained with an adrenaline rush. The enjoyment of doing something one likes to do. No time to analyze. Sarissa takes one more look behind her, at the car outside, and sees that Novak is carrying a blonde woman in a long coat. Elisabetha. Why are her feet and legs bare? Was she… Assaulted!? For a moment, Sarissa is torn. Find out who is upstairs, or rush to make sure her daughter is alright?
Finally, she just moves to the front door, unlocks the four different locks she had installed, and opens the barrier while still peering upwards, listening for noises. She turns her attention only once to the outside, and says quietly, "<Quickly, bring her here. There is someone upstairs.>" Some greeting! She doesn't take the time to see if her daughter is okay, and instead just moves aside to allow entry. She's not going upstairs on her own! She may be confident and arrogant and so forth, but she is not stupid. Startling some intruder is generally unwise.
Noises from outside prick the burglar's ear, causing her to stop fiddling through a tiny jewelry box and lean over a dresser towards the window. A gloved hand reaches out, the thumb and forefinger tugging lightly at the curtains covering the window outside, glancing down at the taxi and it's occupants being delivered to the doorway. An eyebrow is raised as the corners of her mouth turn down.
Two people entering the house was not exactly conducive to her idea of easy pickings. As far as she knew, she was alone in the house until now, but with one of the pair looking as if they were injured, drugged, or otherwise unconscious, it was a fifty-fifty toss up on whether or not they'd bother coming up the stairs. Either way, the clock was now officially ticking on her little heist.
After a quiet, tense moment of deliberation, frustration and alarm mixing with her adreneline to start her heart racing, Camille begins to paw through the room quicker, no longer bothering to worry about leaving traces behind. Jewelry boxes and dresser drawers are left wide open after she searches them, paintings left askewed as she searches for a safe or container behind them.
She even gets onto her hands and knees to stick her head under the bed with the aid of a flashlight to search! Internal cock ticking, she figured she had about another forty-five seconds at most before she had to abort and await another opportunity, which could take MONTHS if they left the house and moved the damned necklace!
Novak pauses when the door opens in front of him. Elisabetha woke up just a moment before. When she starts to move about, Novak says, "Whoah, hold on! Calm down! I don't want to drop you—" but he cuts himself off when he sees the way that Sarissa is behaving and easily hears her whisper. Someone upstairs. Wonderful. Novak is about ready to pass out. He has not slept in days. Maybe a week. He has been keeping himself awake through stimulants and force of will. But it's not working anymore. Still, there is work to be done. He sets Elisabetha down inside the doorway, rather than on the cold, smooth cement of the front steps.
He says nothing else, just shushes at Elisabetha if she tries to say anything else, and moves to come inside as well. Once indoors, he listens carefully. One person. Excited, but not necessarily scared. The pitch of the breaths, and the sound of weight shifting is in line with an adult female. A machine of some kind is turned on upstairs. Radio? Geiger counter? He can't tell in his current mental state. He can, however, tell that there is rummaging going on. Things being shifted, drawers being opened — the works. A burglar. He'd really rather that this woman just take what she wants and leave, and not worry about confronting her, but he imagines that Sarissa won't allow that. She doesn't like it when people take what belongs to her.
He sighs, and withdraws a handgun from inside his coat pocket. He makes preparations to use it, but in truth he won't be using it tonight unless this cat-burglar proves to be violent. Novak considers for a moment simply calling out to the burglar, and warning her, but thinks that would just scare her off. Which would make Sarissa angry. He wants to avoid that. So he makes sure Elisabetha is safely in the arms of her mother, and then moves with carefully measured steps towards the stairs. His hearing is rather spectacular, so he knows exactly how loud he is being, can guess at where any creaking boards may be without setting them off, and gradually makes his way up the stairs, gun in one hand, but not aimed at anything. He's listening quite intently to make sure he knows where this stranger is at any given time. Only when he has reached the upstairs hallway, and taking approximately 28.3 seconds to get there due to his attempts at stealth, does he finally say anything. "Miss, I wish you no harm, but I do have a gun, and am not in the mood for an armed confrontation. If you have a weapon, please put it down, and come out. We can talk about this without getting any outside parties involved, I am sure."
Even as he speaks, he is looking at a painting in the bedroom, hung on the wall above the bed. The glass frame provides a reflection of the room. He does not know if the burglar is clever enough to use this same painting to see him or not. He has to assume she is, though, and so holds his hands up, showing that while he has a gun, it is between two fingers and is not in a position for firing at anything other than the ceiling.
Elisabetha is very confused, and is set down inside the house. Why can't she remember what happened? How did she get outside? How did she get — naked!? Well, except for this coat. And — she realizes suddenly. She has an arm. A real right arm. Not a prosthetic. She can feel with it, feel the temperature, feel the fabric interior of the long coat… She is so stunned that, for a moment, she does not remember her current situation. She just moves towards her mother, and presses against her, shivering all over. She watches as Novak pulls a gun out of his jacket, blue eyes widening, and watches as he creeps across the living room. She tries to half-whisper and half-mouth the words, "What's going on?" to Sarissa, as she turns her attention from Novak for the moment. Seriously, what is going on? The last thing she remembered, she was in the house with her mother and Peter, and she was dressed in something other than a leather coat. Now she's being brought in from outdoors, and there's someone upstairs, and… And… What the hell! Maybe this is a dream?
Sarissa accepts Elisabetha into her arms, and tries to quietly close the door. She doesn't bother locking it. That might make noise she'd rather not be heard. She doesn't remember Novak ever carrying a gun in the past, but she supposes people and situations change. She focuses on the emotions from upstairs, wanting to tell Novak that the person up there is now agitated. Whoever it is, the intruder knows it is not alone. That's bad.
Some noises even reach Sarissa's ears, though faintly. The house-invader seems to be putting less attention on remaining quiet and more on whatever it is he or she is doing. She doesn't think it's a kidnapper or assassin anymore. What then? A thief? Most thieves would have run by now. So either this one is desperate — which is not good — or he feels that there is something worth staying for — which is also not good, because it means a fight might break out.
Sarissa tries to guide Elisabetha away from the door, and into the living room, to sit her down on one of the plush couches. She whispers, "Someone upstairs. Maybe a thief. Novak is going to take care of him." 'Take care of him.' She hopes it involves this intruder being shot in the kneecaps.
Meanwhile, sitting out on a bed-table, there is a box. A black velvet box, with a clasp holding it closed. It just happens to contain the necklace that Camille is looking for. Which is really a rather huge coincidence, since Sarissa just moved into this house a few weeks ago, and hasn't had time to move anything from her mansion in Italy to the United States. Meaning she took the necklace >with< her when she left Italy. Why? Maybe she wears it. The point is that it is there, but may have been overlooked initially, since there are like three other identical boxes that contain miscellaneous bits of other things, ranging from jewelry to cash to photographs.
Also, Sarissa bites her lower lip hard when she hears Novak call out to the thief, instead of shooting him. Idiot!
The intruder's head shoots up immediately, nearly banging against the side frame of the bed, as she turns rapidly towards the doorway with her eyes wide, a tense set to her mouth as her heart skips a beat. Had she been seen from the window? Nigh-impossible considering it was brighter outside than in the unlit bedroom, coupled with the fact that nobody had so much as glanced in her direction. Yet without even coming in the room, he already knew she was a woman. Her mind can only come to one logical conclusion.
Security camera. Or an alarm she'd tripped.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, if you're the rightful owner, Camille doesn't quite have time to search the bed-side table with a man standing right outside the door. Taking a deep breath, the woman steels her nerves, as well as beginning to activate her power, ready to use it with but a thought. Straightening out her cream-colored top, the flashlight dangling from one hand, the hand-held metal detector and a taser hanging from the back of her belt, the blonde-haired French woman appears at the doorway, the hand with the flashlight braced against her hip, the other against the door frame.
"I do nawt zuppoze zhou would beleeve I am zimply de maid, mm?" The smile she wears is one that a person would get when cheating at a friendly game of cards, not quite one that would normally grace the face of a burglar caught in the act. She clucks her tongue. "Dat ees why zo many have de low opeenion of de Americawnz, what with all de gunz. Zhou have a hurt young woman down ztairz, do zhou nawt? Zhe zhould be at de hozpeetal."
Novak waits for Camille to come completely into view. He listens to what she says, trying to unmangle her English in his mind, and finally says, in French, "<A French maid, hm? Funny. She is not injured, simply very tired and confused. As am I. As well, I am Italian. I learned a long time ago that you can get more of what you want with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word.>" He looks Camille over carefully, looking for signs of a concealed weapon.
"<You are looking for something specific, aren't you? Otherwise you would have just grabbed what you could and ran already. This indicates to me that you know there is something here that you want. And from what I understand, the residents of this house have only just moved in here within the past month or so. Meaning that either you have been tracking where this particular something is, or someone else has been, and told you where to find it.>" How did he piece all that together? Well, maybe it is obvious when he says it, but most people in this situation would not have been able to figure that all out from simple observation. Novak lowers his hands slowly, still not pointing the gun at anyone or keeping his fingers anywhere near the trigger.
Elisabetha listens and watches all that unfolds. When Novak calls out to the thief, wanting to talk things over instead of resorting to violence, she just smiles. That is so like him. Logic over emotion. The voice that she hears is female. Weird. A female thief? Like Catwoman or something? She thought that was only in fiction! …Seriously, she did!
She turns to Sarissa, then, and since the woman seems to be willing to talk, she says abit louder than a whisper, "How did I get outside? Where did my clothes go? How did Teach—Novak find me? The last thing I remember… I asked Peter to find him. Then you said to go put my arm on, and…" She is reminded again of her right arm. Real. Not mechanical. She flexes the fingers as she holds the hand up in front of her. "…Is this a dream? Did someone make me forget what happened after… After…" She tries to remember where exactly her memories cut off. It's all blurry.
Sarissa is still a bit angry, but she loses focus of that as she just feels and hears the total exhaustion in Novak's voice, and the caution and… Fear? Well, nervousness at least, that comes from the female thief. But it's the feeling of being lost coming from Elisabetha that distracts Sarissa the most. She looks at her eldest daughter, feeling how confused she is, and that confusion is felt by her as well when it is described what Elisabetha remembers last. "Elisabetha…" she begins, uncertain how to say it. "…That was fifteen days ago. You've been missing from home since the the eleventh of April. Today is the fifteenth." Her lipse purse as she looks towards the stairs, listening for a reply, while considering what Elisabetha has said. 'Did someone make me forget?' If someone has taken memories from her daughter… Or her innocence… Or anything else… They will pay dearly.
Sarissa barely notices the arm. At least right now. She hasn't gotten a clear look at it. She just assumes it's still the prosthetic.
"<Oh, thank the Lord you speak a human language! Hm? Me?>"
As the man with the gun continues to talk, showing her he knew exactly what was going on here, either that or trying to piece it together outloud himself, her smile grows a bit wider, more genuine-seeming, and only slightly less mischevious. He might notice as she turns partly to the side, banding her arms around her trunk as she leans against the door, trying to stretch her neck to peer downstairs for any sign of the other occupants, her not-so-concealed taser hanging off of her belt by a clip.
"<Mmm, aren't you a clever one!>" Camille's tone is almost condescending, half-praising. "<But don't you worry, it's like your appendix: you'll never even miss it. Surely you have insurance for your most precious belongings, do you not?>"
Still, the gun in the man's hands was a threat, if not a significant one at the moment. But if the person, or persons, downstairs had a gun, too, that could certainly provide problems for the thief. After a moment, she smiles benignly, spreading her hands.
"<Why don't we just forget it, hmm? We'll call it squarsies and I'll just mosey on out the door, with no need to involve the authorities.>"
Novak hmmms. "<I would be more than happy to let you go, but then you might come back. And even if you did not, you would be at a loss financially, I am assuming. You may have been paid to retrieve something, or perhaps you paid for information on this something you seek. Perhaps you do not have to leave empty-handed. If you were sent by someone… Tell me who hired you. I'll make sure you are paid exactly what you were offered to do this job, and won't come looking for you.>"
He gestures towards the stairs. "<But there is no reason to discuss this under such conditions. You can come downstairs and be seated if you wish. If, however, you want to leave… Well, I won't stop you.>"
Elisabetha stares at her mother as she hears that her memories of the past fifteen days… Are gone. She can't remember any of it. And she went missing? This is… She tries to cope with it, but some other memories come to her. Memories of… Peter leaving. But… She wasn't in the room with him when he left. But how else can she remember? She tries to find something else, anything else, but it's all coming up blank. She just cuddles up next to Sarissa on the couch, and rests her aching head on her mother's shoulder. Not since she was six or so has she been this close to her mother. She is seeking comfort, but she is nowhere near comforted. Fifteen days. Gone. What happened to her?
She only dimly hears Novak trying to negotiate with the woman in French.
Sarissa puts an arm around Elisabetha uncertainly, feeling far more emotion from her daughter than she used to before Novak took her away. Maybe those lessons were worth something after all. She can feel how scared Elisabetha is, and how confused. She can't tell what she's thinking, but she can feel the powerful sensations from her. And she can also detect the tense atmosphere upstairs, as Novak tries to defuse the situation. Pay this thief? Ridiculous! Still, Sarissa is willing to take a hit to her pride for now… Maybe tracking down whoever assisted in this heist or ordered it or whatever will be worth more than the price of the burglar herself.
As the Man With the Gun speaks, the blonde remains mostly silent throughout, tilting her head slightly as the conversation turns towards money, her large, congenial smile shrinking some, down to a confident smirk. After a moment of considering, she casually lifts a shoulder in acceptance, making her way down the stairs, willfully turning her back on the Italian. Of course, she does only after her power is activated, attuned to Novak. Should he for some reason try to touch her, he'd find himself grabbing at nothing.
Taking a bullet in the back certainly wasn't part of her plan!
"<Naturally, selling client information isn't exactly good for business, Mister…? But then, I wasn't exactly paid for my silence.>"
The pumps that the French national is wearing don't clomp on the stairs, instead making light swishing sounds as she descends, her eyes immediately going to mother and daughter as they come into sight. They linger a bit on Sarissa, as if trying to place her, and then land on the half-naked younger woman.
"<Is she going to be all right? She looks like death itself. Perhaps it's time to get the wee madame into a bed.>"
She talks like they're all old pals, assuming that if one could speak French, maybe the rest could, too. Though after a moment her eyes light up with recognition. "<Sari? So you're the Belmont that lives here.>"
Novak has no plans to touch Camille. He notices the shift in sound production by the burglar's shoes and the rest of her as well. Like that time at Pinehearst, when he wound up getting shot by one of his own allies because an intangible couple were standing between the two of them. Still, this version does not make that incredibly faint staticky noise associated with the strange couple, so he does not know for sure… He just keeps his suspicions to himself and puts the gun away. At this point he is too tired to care if this woman runs for it. Instead he answers, "<Novak Garbaldi. A pleasure to meet you.>" It's hard to tell if he's being sarcastic or not.
He twitches behind Camille when she mentions Elisabetha looking like 'death itself'. "<I certainly hope she will be fine. She has been through quite a lot. Abducted for a few days, and just now returning home after quite a bit of trauma.>" Once they are all downstairs and in the living room, he arches an eyebrow. "<Ah, you two have met, have you? Well, that makes this easier.>" He sways on his feet slightly, his normally extremely keen vision going blurry. Still better than most other people's vision by a vast degree, but to him, it's an indicator of just how tired he is. He shakes his head.
Elisabetha lifts her head a bit to look towards this other woman who is approaching. She doesn't recognize her. She nods and says in French — though she is a bit rough with it, since it has been some time since she last used it — "<Hello. I'm…>" She tries to find words to describe how she feels. In the end, she just shakes her head. "<I'm Elisabetha.>" That will suffice. That's who she is, right? That's all that matters.
Sarissa peers at the woman who appears, having difficulty placing her as well. "…<Ah.>" she says finally. "<Was it those Russians who forced you to do this? Or are you doing it to pay off a debt? It does not matter.>" she waves it off without giving a chance to answer. "<I have friends who can deliver a message to whoever is responsible. A message that will make it clear they can not simply steal from me. Simply let me know who, and you will be recompensed.>" She then narrows her eyes. "<And I expect there will not be a repeat of this incident, yes?>"
"<Kidnapped? How horrible. I almost feel bad for entering your home during this time.>" She pointedly adds in the 'almost' as she fingers the collar of her top, nonchalantly drifting her eyes from Elisabetha towards Novak. "<You're not looking so hot, yourself. Kidnapping and theft. You must have a lot of enemies. Or one who dislikes you very, very badly. Mm, a pleasure to meet you, Elisabetha. Call me 'Cammy'.>"
The French national is shaking her head, smiling gently, almost slyly, before the older woman is even finished speaking. "<No, no. The Russian mob has not been after me for quite some time now. Not since I settled up with them. But for an old friend who once helped me out, perhaps I can assist with a freebie this time…" She glances towards Novak, tipping her chin up at him, as if assigning responsibility for remembrance to him alone. "The man's name is Dominique Westings, and he contacted me from somewhere in London. He was after a blue diamond necklace, one that used to belong to a famours Earl in the seventeen hundreds.>"
Though at the last mention, Camille almost laughs. Almost, instead shrugging her shoulders as she steps cautiously between the somewhat hostile man and woman, towards the door. "<Who can say what incidents the future holds? You do have a lot of very nice things. But I believe we're even for now.>"
Novak just smiles faintly at Camille. "<I am very tired. I will allow you to settle this between yourselves.>" Then, without asking where the guest room is, he simply wanders off. Based on the layout of the house, he can guess at where the bedroom is that he can rest in for a little while at least.
Too much has happened in the past week. Too much has happened in the past MONTH. Too much for one man. And there's still more to do. For now, he will sleep. Maybe it will be easier when he wakes up.
Elisabetha looks concernedly at Novak as he weaves on his feet and comments on how tired he is. He DID look tired. And she's pretty tired herself. And cold. And confused still. She keeps clenching and unclenching her right hand, still not used to the feeling of having one. Then she turns her attention on Camille and nods. "<Alright, Cammy. It is nice to meet you. Perhaps we can speak more some time when things aren't so… Hectic.>"
Then she realizes something. Novak was tired. Extremely so. And Sarissa was worried about her. But… She couldn't feel their suffering. She tries to discretely sense for any pain or suffering in her vicinity. Nothing. Her 'gift'… Her ability… It's gone.