2010-06-24: What Doesn't Add Up



Date: June 24th, 2010


Tracy becomes even more convinced she's being targeted. At least she has a friendly neighbour…

"What Doesn't Add Up"

Tracy's Apartment

Washington, D.C.

Early morning in the D.C. apartment of Tracy Strauss would see her productive, if it weren't for a few key elements: a lingering sense of unease and suspicion and … something else, paired with tiredness she assumes is from restless, and vivid dreams, and the fact that the voicemail light on her phone is blinking for what must be the millionth time this week.

These things are distractions, and they slow her down, true, but coolly, she presses on with her morning routine. Even that feels false, going through the motions, but as she strides this way and that, preparing to deal with legal matters for the Governor, she reminds herself that she has a purpose. In front of the bathroom mirror, she checks to be sure her slender ponytail is neat and professional as ever, and whisks, blue blazer jacket over one arm, toward the living room.

It's there Tracy pauses, caught again by the sight of the blinking voicemail light. Giving in with a self-dismissive roll of her eyes, she moves to the phone stand, dials, listens— you have… ten new messages. First message. "I'm telling you, you've made a serious mistake." Her own recorded voice. Again. Again again again. "No!" she insists — in real time. The phone is pulled away from her ear and Tracy slides down to sit down on the floor against the back of the couch, while the phone, clutched tightly in her hand, freezes all the way through in a burst of haywire emotion. Surprised, she lets go — it hits the floor and shatters with a remarkably sharp crash.

The apartment had been quiet. It has some furniture, but it is sparsely furnished. Victory sits on the lone couch, waiting for some sign of what she needs to be doing next. She's been surveilling Tracy for weeks. Noting where she goes, who she talks to, how often she leaves and the like. But tonight is a night off. A quiet time. Or, at least, it was.

The noise causes someone not far away to stir. Victory twitches in her own apartment—next door to Tracy's, and then moves to the hallways freakishly fast. She raps gently on the door of Tracy's apartment and waits for a response. "Is everything alright in there?" she calls loudly at the door.

Fed up, cross and, to a point, overwhelmed — maybe even scared — Tracy sits there trying to get a grip. Her hand comes to her head and she leans ahead, rocking a little in her attempt. She's biting down, summoning her willpower when the knock and voice sounds at her door. Hesitating, thinking about not answering, she watches the door for a few too-long moments in silence. Warily, a glance goes to the shattered phone, some surprise still lingering from that — her control has been so exact, lately — before she gets to her feet.

She opens the door a crack and gives an impression of a reassuring smile. "Julia. Hi." Smile. "Everything's fiiine~"

Julia offers Tracy a small smile. "Are you sure? I just heard this really loud noise from here? You're okay? Like for real?" Her eyebrows furrow as she peeks at the crack. Her eyelashes actually flutter with a sense of uneasiness. With a small smile she takes a small step back.

"What happened? Did you break something?" she rolls her eyes and her smile groans. "I always break glasses and it makes that noise every time." With a heavy sigh she issues Tracy another smile.

"Yeah. Yeah, it's fine, I just— " Sure, she'll go with Julia's answer. " — broke a glass." The resident doesn't seem entirely willing to entertain the notion of talking much longer. Even her smile, polite as it is, says that clearly. It's the kind of smile one gives solicitors while trying to get them to leave faster, not friendly neighbours. Besides which, she looks tired, uneasy. However, the resident does open the door a few inches more and stand straight rather than peek at her new neighbour. "You certainly … have good hearing."

"I live next door. It was loud," Julia says after waving a hand flippantly. She shrugs a little before looking through the door again, inching forward just a little as the door is opened further. "And really, it's a quiet building we live in." She stifles a chortle. "Sorry. I used to live next door to this woman who ran a daycare from her house— seriously. From her house! It was loud all of the time…." She issues Tracy a dimpled grin.

Polite smile unwavering, Tracy weaves to the left when Julia inches closer in an attempt to block the rather direct view to the icy bits and pieces of her phone left behind. She's about to speak when her phone rings — that is, the one that she didn't just break irreparably. It's the alert of a cell phone nearby, in the purse sitting on a stand next to the door. Her smile widens on Julia as she dismisses, "That'd be e-mail. I should— check this. Thanks for the concern though." One hand goes for her purse; the other closes the door.

Julia's confusion crosses her features as the door is closed. Was that ice? Maybe it was a glass full of ice? That's… peculiar. Very peculiar. Pressing her lips together, Julia takes a step back, and notes that she has yet to fully bug Tracy's apartment and must finish that when the blonde leaves next. She lingers at the door, however, confusion still written across her features. Something isn't adding up.

To make Julia's math about Tracy a little more complex, the door flies open again after several moments of rustling about inside the apartment. Prepared to step out into the hall, Tracy — upset, looking like she's seen a ghost and is about to kill it a second time — gives a quick gasp as she nearly collides with Julia. She takes a quick step back. It seems she wasn't expecting her to still be right there. "Hey— " she says with no more pretense of a polite smile, dire all of a sudden. "You live next door," she says, hurried, pointed. "I— I need to ask you something."

Oddly the door reopening catches Julia offguard and she gasps rather loudly as Tracy nearly bulldozes her over. Her face pales just a little before she shakes her head and pops back into her role, the one that she's pushed herself into, the one that she's adopted for this particular assignment. "I do live next door— what's up? If you're asking for a cup of sugar— I don't have any… don't bake… I store sweaters in my stove…"

Tracy could care less, at this moment (and most others), whether or not the other woman has a cup of sugar. She glances down the hall in a manner that's almost suspicious; definitely guarded. Taking a breath, she gestures at Julia with a few fingers, the rest still holding onto her cell phone. "This is … going to sound strange— " she prefaces. "I don't wanna sound crazy, but last night. Was there anyone… did you see or hear anyone— was there anyone here."

Curiously, Julia's eyes narrow a little. Voices. Had she heard anyone in the hall? "No. I can't say I did. Is… is there someone in particular you think is hanging around here?" Or stalking her. Does Tracy know? Deciding not, Julia tilts her head a little. "Just might be helpful, I don't know who all lives in the building… maybe I saw someone and didn't know that they didn't belong here?"

Unhelpful. Tracy immediately seems impatient with that answer, glancing again down the hall and pursing her lips. "I don't know." Her brows lift. "Maybe." The woman crosses her arms, only to uncross as she steps back a couple of inches and holds onto the edge of the door. Notably, the ice on the floor inside the apartment is gone; she does nothing to hide it. "It woulda been … late." Giving a shake of her head, she tries for a smile; it doesn't work, and she starts to shut the door, murmuring, "You know, just never mind."

"Straaaange. Alright. You know if I hear anything weird though, I'll make sure that I pay attention…" Julia offers Tracy the most comforting smile she can muster, still confused as to what exactly has transpired. "Miss Strauss, are you quite alright? You know… maybe you just need to take an ambien?"

Tracy pauses her shutting of the door only to peek through the crack again, quite like the first time. This time, however, she smiles more sincerely, even if it is tired and a touch cynical. At least it's real. "Mm. Doubtful. Don't worry about me," she dismisses and reassures in turns. "I can take care've myself." On that faintly ominous follow-up, she shuts the door for good, locks it, turns around to lean against it, and stares darkly down at her cell phone.

That's odd. Slinking back to her own apartment, Victory reaches into her pocket and extracts her SPRINT cellphone. Once inside, she dials the only one on speed dial. "Hey Ivory. It's Julia. Something's happening with Strauss. It's… it's weird. She thinks someone's watching her. I might need to be reassigned, although I don't think she suspects me. Yet." That said, she snaps the phone shut.

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