2009-10-03: When The Other Shoe Drops



Date: October 3rd, 2009


Elena's twist into a different career path brings her to Tracy in light of the Malden charity scandal; Congressman Dawson tries to get more information on the Senator's anti-terrorism plans in the middle of breaking news.

"When the Other Shoe Drops"

Capitol Hill

Washington, D.C.

This meeting is taking place in her office.

Tracy Strauss's office, to be exact, the aide of Senator Wynn being the target of her current inquiries. Dressed in a sleek, black pantsuit, changes in the last few years are apparent in this young woman sitting on the couch at the waiting room, long legs crossed at the knee and black boots bumping up her height to somewhere closer to 5'9." A tag denoting her as a member of the political correspondence department of the Washington Post is clipped on the lapel of her tailored jacket. Despite the professional veneer, however, the very young journalist has kept her dark hair loose today, straightened and clipped at the shoulders in a layered style that appears a little more natural than the uber-put-togetherness of most of the District of Columbia's reporters, her lips pursed as she quietly reads the New Yorker from where she sits.

New York…

Thoughts of returning have been prevalent as of late, what with her one-eyed telepathic father telling her in no uncertain terms that she should go back if not just to help keep an eye on Desiree and Portia, her family halved in the middle thanks to the current economic crisis that has forced the Gomez patriarch to move to Washington and help lobbyist efforts as chairman of the board of Evolution Software. And while DC is beautiful in its frenzied hecticness, part of her missed New York's rougher edges. She taps her pen absently on the side of the page, lashes lowering contemplatively as she silently digests the latest article regarding the President's health care reformation.

Senator Wynn's newest advisor is back to work after her tumultuous few days off, at least for a little sliver of the weekend. No rest for the wicked. She only has time for a few of her professional duties, today, and this is one of them. Skimming through her schedule on her sleek, black phone, Tracy stands in her office. It's very new, this office — it's sparse, as if its owner hasn't entirely settled into it yet, which is exactly the case. What dcor is present, however, is clean, modern, and lovely.

After leaving the journalist waiting for a few minutes, the office door opens. "You can come in, Ms. Gomez," Tracy's voice calls out — perfunctory, but not unpleasant. As the door swings open to invite Elena in, the woman inside saunters back toward the desk, leaving only a glimpse of herself visible at first: a vivid blue jacket and skirt ensemble, long legs, black pumps and lengthy blonde hair free and neat past the squared lines of her shoulders.

During those same few days, New York City's new-ish Congressman has been kept plenty busy - there are union negotiations, and anti-drug protestors, and pro-drug protestors, and of course the inevitable series of questions about that one recent shooting spree. No, still nothing new to report, the NYPD is doing their best.

Senator Wynn's latest anti-terrorism initiative hasn't quite bubbled up to the top of his list yet, but when it does, it'll come with bigger questions, bigger risks. Lacking dedicated staff on the topic, he's taken it upon himself to at least get a brief meeting scheduled. Phone calls haven't gone anywhere concrete yet, so today he's dropped by in person to (politely) grab the metaphorical collar of the first receptionist he can find. This is in the middle of playing out when he glances over toward the opening door, sort of recognizing the journalist, and definitely recognizing the one she's going to meet with. An opportunity to skip ahead a step.

When she's asked to come in, Elena stands up, tucking her pad under one arm and moving into the room, a glance at George and recognizing him - though she doesn't know the man personally despite remembered occurrences of seeing the man by Nathan Petrelli's side. The thought of the missing man causes a dull, aching sensation to return, briefly, though bistre eyes fall away from the man and towards…

Niki Sanders?

There is a pause, frozen at the doorframe. While this shouldn't be new, having seen her in past television coverage with the newly-minted Senator Wynn, seeing the woman who isn't the woman she knows… knew… is still, clearly, a shock. The same face, the same body, the same long blonde hair and exuding a similar allure. This is brief, the young woman recovering quickly as brisk, businesslike steps are taken up again, a hand extended across the desk for a handshake. "Thank you for seeing me, Miss Strauss. Mr. Redford would've been here, but he had a scheduling conflict with one of the press conferences at the White House. He sent me in his stead. I'll endeavor to be brief, I know how busy you are…these days, especially."

Upon reaching the glass edge of the office's desk, Ms. Strauss doesn't move around it to sit down just yet — no, she turns about to meet the young journalist properly. The woman's smiling face and perfectly poised features — familiar features — meet Elena. "Not a problem, Ms. Gomez. I always have a minute for the Post." A manicured hand takes Elena's hand for a firm shake, professional shake. Around the journalist, she catches sight of some manner of movement by reception, but ignores it for the time being. "Have a seat. I'm guessing you want me to shed light on something. What is it today?" To the point, but not entirely brusque — there's a knowing smile on those rose-painted lips.

George inclines his head briefly to Elena as she passes by, before returning to his earlier conversation with the receptionist. Not that it's led to more than the standard platitudes, as yet - the Senator's a very busy man, of course this is important, it'll be addressed as soon as possible - but that's okay, he has other options for approaching the problem.

Excusing himself, he ducks back to the other side of the entrance area, leafing through a magazine as he clears through the latest few voicemails. "Man's really let himself go," he murmurs to himself, flipping past an ad for The Informant.

"Thank you." She takes a seat. "Do you mind?" Elena lifts up a digital tape recorder, and despite the professional look, it's clear that the young woman has not abandoned her more playful side utterly… hanging from the digital recorder is a little pink and purple Hello Kitty keychain, which dangles on the side as she depresses the button and sets it on the table in front of her. "I know you've been recently cleared of the allegations that you were somehow involved in the St. Jude controversy," she begins. "I just wanted to get your perspective from the other side of the line. As Malden's former adviser, you worked with him closely on a few matters before you left to join Senator Wynn, yes? What were your impressions? Did this latest surprise you at all in the very least?"

"Go ahead," Tracy replies to the digital recorder, though the keychain does garner a briefly skeptical brow raise. "Yes, I worked with the Governor for quite some time. I've been there through most of his career."

Meanwhile— Was that Congressman George Dawson? Tracy, not missing a beat, glances past Elena into reception again. Smiling to the journalist, as if to reassure the woman that she is, indeed, listening closely, she moves to the office door. She gives George a brief smile of recognition — I see you, give me a minute — and shuts the door.

As she turns back to Elena, she's checking her phone— not that a BlackBerry addiction should be surprising around Capitol Hill. "Honestly," Tracy says, finally glancing away from the phone as she comes to stand, ankles crossed, in front of her desk and Elena, "I was more surprised than anyone. I don't have a bad word to say about Governor Malden; as a matter of fact, my first impression when I heard the news was that he couldn't have possibly been as involved in the scandal as the media is saying he is."

"It seems a little surprising," Elena agrees, leaning back against the chair and linking her fingers over her knee. "I've always been told that Governor Malden was reputable. Things change quickly in politics, however, though I'm certain that I'm only stating the obvious when saying such things to a woman of your experience in the political sphere." There's a faint smile at the last. "However, I'm certain the American public would like a clearer picture as to why allegations were brought to your door in the first place. Do you think it was merely because of your past connections with the Governor that you were implicated?"

Her gaze wanders over her office once Tracy checks her phone, all of her attention focused on her current space, the leggy blonde in front of her, whatever accolades she has on the walls, and the neatness of her desk - all drunk up by dark, attentive eyes that hold the same, scalpel-like scrutiny as in the past… she may have abandoned Science, only one of a myriad of regrets in the last year, but the analytical processes that turned her talents in that direction have not been shed like the rest, utilized now… differences so stark from Niki Sanders marked and catalogued inside her head.

And the door. There's a brief glance to that as well, eyes falling on George before the wooden appendage shuts.

Tracy's smile tightens, becoming ever-so-slightly more forced when Elena once again brings up the allegations brought against her. With an expert air, however, she takes the questions one step at a time. "As far as the Governor is concerned, I'm not convinced that all of this … contention surrounding St. Jude's isn't a big mistake. Truth being what it is, it'll come out in the wash." It's at that point that Ms. Strauss looks down for an instant, tongue poised against her teeth. "As for the rumours about the allegations that I had something to do with the embezzlement, Ms. Gomez?" A modicum of iciness appears in Tracy's eyes as she looks back up at the young lady. "I wish I knew how my name got involved. I suppose it's known how closely I worked with the Governor. I'd appreciate it if you left my supposed involvement out of your story. If anyone had access to those accounts, it would be his accountant, William Cairns." You know, the one who's missing and increasingly presumed dead. She sure spun that about fast.

"Of course, as it stands this piece was only going to serve as a follow-up regarding the controversy, with the trial coming up, the Post decided it might be a good idea to include a refresher of sorts, remind people of the details before the paper covers the story. Since you've been cleared from those allegations, I don't see any reason why your name has to stay in," Elena replies diplomatically. "Though it's certainly curious, how your name managed to become connected. Nobody wants to wake up in the morning on the Hill to see that sort of thing in the Post, after all." Her dark eyes meet the cool blues in front of her levelly, her expression serious and gauging…. it is one that fades, however, when she moves on. "I wanted to ask you about William Cairns, as well. Have you ever encountered him while you were working with the Governor? What was he like, professionally?"

Tracy leans lightly against the corner of her desk; it doesn't seem to alter her poise at all. Eyes that are indeed a cooler blue, but just as gauging, take in the young journalist's diplomatic answer and seem to accept it, though it's clear, even through the advisor's confident demeanour, that it's a tense subject. The personal angle on Cairns is even tenser. She glances down at her phone; rather than stalling, she seems to be fixated on checking messages. "I knew him," she answers casually. "I encountered him on and off during my time with the Governor. He was … a typical accountant, the Governor hired him on about three years ago. That's all I can say."

"I see," Elena replies, taking Tracy's word for it… on the interim, after all this was just a follow-up story after all, her expression unchanging even as the woman obsessively checks her phone. She scrawls a few notes on the notepad on her lap. "And you are confident that these charges won't stick? With what you know of Governor Malden?" Both women's gazes hold, for the time being, though on the reporter's part, there is no hostility, but a mere meeting of instincts, little nuances of human behavior, expressions however hidden between both pairs of eyes. She doesn't say anything after that, the other face she knows transposed over Tracy's, marveling at the likeness - the identical features of a ghost staring back at her. It was somewhat unnerving, but it is one that doesn't make a visible mark on her expression.

"I can't say for certain. Optimistically? Yes. Uh— " Tracy's gaze is drawn yet again to the phone, even though it does absolutely nothing — no ring, no vibrate, no red alert. She shakes her head dismissively after a moment, as if snapping out of a short-lived daydream, and sets the phone down on her desk. "Unfortunately," she picks up where she left off as if she didn't miss a beat, "If the charges continue against him and keep wearing down at his credibility — which is a mistake — that might not be the case, whether they're true or not. Regardless, until I read something I believe, the Governor has my support. He helped get me where I am today."

"Of course, that's perfectly understandable, Miss Strauss." And Elena means it, whose demeanor was the same regarding those who supported her in the past. She reaches out, to shut off the digital recorder, a good sign that her interview, however brief, is over. "Thank you very much, again, for giving me an opportunity to come and speak to you regarding the St. Jude issue. Though…I have another question. Off the record." She inclines her head at Tracy, furrowing her brows as she pockets the device. "Were you….adopted, Miss Strauss? When I was living in New York, I knew a woman… a friend of…" Peter's. "…a friend, who looked remarkably like you. Almost identical, in fact. Truth be told I thought I was seeing double for a moment there."

As it turns out, Tracy's demeanour off the record doesn't vary much from on the record. The surprise at Elena's question is … short-lived, at best. There's a small, barely there roll of pale eyes before she smiles, a small chuckle under her breath. "…You're referring to… Niki, right?" This isn't the first time this has happened. …This isn't the first time this has happened today, for that matter. God. "It … seems like a lot of people know my sister."

"Niki Sanders. I didn't know her well, but….someone close to me did," Elena replies, shifting her bag on one shoulder as she turns to look at Tracy. "New York is a small city, after all, it seems big but as far as mutual acquaintances go, it's very small." There is a pause, her lips pursing just a little bit, wondering if she should tell her…of her encounters with her sister, what she could do, wondering if the woman in front of her could do the same. She had to, her lengthy foray in the science of the Evolved before it had been cut off by her father's wishes had lent her enough of that knowledge to be able to determine that genetics doesn't lie. And if she wanted, truly wanted, she could extend her control and check…

But she doesn't.

Like Gene says, in the immortal words of Ben Parker; With great power comes great responsibility.

Her hand slips into her pocket to bring out a card, handing it to the woman. "Best of luck to your newest set of endeavors, Miss Strauss. If you could think of anything else… you can give me a call, any time. Don't mind the hour, my own cellphone keeps me awake most days."

"It must be." There might be a sarcastic undertone to the woman's tone, but it's subtle at best. "And absolutely," Tracy replies smoothly, taking the card and giving the young little up-and-comer another handshake. A buzz from the cell phone on her desk draws her attention afterward and she swipes it as she flashes a bright smile to Elena (last impressions can be as important as first impressions). As she checks her phone, she moves to the door to see her interviewer out. The door opens, but she doesn't go anywhere. The message on her phone has Ms. Strauss visibly blanching, mouth hanging open in disbelief (and a measure of horror). "…a-ah— "

She follows Tracy to the door, Elena's pace a little slower, much more languid, taking in the decor, the space, the woman… whose expression shifts from smiling to somewhat gray. There is a pause, her hand resting on the doorframe, eyes flicking upwards to the taller woman's profile when she looks at her phone and looks somewhat disbelieving at her phone. "…..Miss Strauss…?" she inquires, gingerly. The rest of the question does not spill, her name will suffice in terms of inquiry. Dark brows draw, furrow, her lips pursing in thought, but otherwise she waits, lingering, wondering.

Outside the office, George is still hanging out - he just finished up a phone call about a blogger shadowing the NYPD and giving away their movements, and is just reaching for a Sports Illustrated from 1988 (where'd they dig that up from?) when the door opens. Setting the magazine down again, he rises to his feet, only to pause as Elena doesn't walk away as expected. "—everything all right?" he adds, after a beat.

Trying, valiantly, not to reel from the news displayed on her BlackBerry, Tracy looks over at Elena and into reception at George, shell-shocked. "The Governor … was just arrested." Already, she's regaining her composure with an increasing sense of cold anger. "For murder." She stalks out of the office, clutching the phone tightly at her side. "This is ludicrous."

"….the murder of who?" Elena says, her gaze narrowing from where she stands. She looks at George, and then at Tracy, and in thinking back to what had just been discussed behind closed doors…. her grip on the digital recorder in her pocket tighten, a thumb flicking it back to activate while hidden in the dark folds of her clothes. "…. wait. Don't tell me they found Cairns." A lead, in exchange for one that was, in essence, much more valuable, her stomach sinking at the possibility. This was both a good AND a bad day for news, if she was correct, her expression tightening subtly around the edges.

George arches a brow. Only a couple of sentences there to go on, but there's been enough context in the public media. "Oh, hell. The court of public opinion will roast him…" It's easy enough for armchair prosecutors to speculate that Malden might have wanted to bump off Cairns to cover his own trail, even before any positive evidence turns up.

The glacial glare Tracy shoots the journalist's way says it all. So does her distinct lack of answering and the tight expression on her face as she saunters, on a mission, through reception. "No kidding." Maybe she'd have more to say if it weren't for her seemingly … strategically timed departure from the Governor's office. "There's somewhere I need to be, Congressman. Walk with me if you have something important to say."

This will be about the time she departs, Elena glancing over at George and flashing him, despite what she had just heard and what Tracy confirmed for her with a look, a small smile. She remembers him, clearly, though he might wonder what the hell she's doing in Washington. "Thank you for your time again, Miss Strauss," is all she says to the blonde, even as she turns to start heading out of the door and down the hall. With that, she is gone, snaking out her own, cherry red flip-top phone, souped up and courtesy of Evosoft…. it still appears to be the same old thing she's always used, but better, thanks to Gene. She depresses a button on speed dial, the moment she heads out of the building. "Roger, it's me. Cairns is dead."

She pauses, standing on the sidewalk. "I don't know but I think you better call your contact in the PD, but Malden's just been charged with murder. If we don't get on this now, we might lose access. Where am I? I'm— " She glances over her shoulder. "I was just leaving Strauss's office. …wait, right now? Okay….half an hour."

Meanwhile, inside the office, or rather just leaving it by another route - George doesn't bat an eye at Tracy's request, he's received it many times before and even given it on a few occasions. Lots of grunt work can be handled over the phone, but there are limits.

"Obviously this is a bad time," he starts, "but it's always a bad time— why I'm here, really. This latest anti-terrorism initiative of Senator Wynn's… people are asking 'what are you doing about it for the district?', and I've held them off as best I can, but I really do need some sort of concrete information. Are we talking foreign nationals within the country, disgruntled citizens looking for another Oklahoma City? Are we looking at a scale of dozens, hundreds?"

Ms. Strauss's K-street ice queen reputation is in full effect as she starts to march down the corridor of the building away from the wing of offices, heels sharp on the marble. She talks, but her answers are chilly and impassive, very nearly dismissive, and she doesn't so much glance at George any longer. "Any and all of the above, Congressman. The project Senator Wynn spoke of promises to be thorough. That's all I can say right now." Without missing a step, Tracy checks another message on her phone when it vibrates its alert.

To: vog.nedlamg|ssuartst#vog.nedlamg|ssuartst
From: vog.etanes|nnywi#vog.etanes|nnywi
Subject: <no subject>

You're welcome.

- Ivory

Once skimmed, it's promptly whisked out sight.

George doesn't say anything right away, taking a second to process this apparent non-answer. The initial press release was one thing - he may have wanted to fix the high points in people's minds first, go into details later. And Tracy being distracted by the allegations against the governor is certainly understandable. But failing to offer basic details, even now… it smells like a blanket excuse to go after anyone that Wynn gets a hair up his ass about. Whatever the real story, it can't be anything good.

None of this reaches his face, either. "Well, that's something, at least," he offers, along with a faint smile that dissipates as quickly as it appeared. "Thanks for your time, Ms. Strauss. I'll let you get back to—" Well. That much, at least, is obvious.

For just a moment, he glances over toward Tracy's phone as it's flipped open, then closed again in quick succession. Probably too quick to be read over the shoulder— in any case, before he has a chance to betray a reaction either way, he nods and turns down another hallway, taking out his own phone and punching up his general-staff extension.

Tracy's determined strides actually hitch for a moment and, phone in hand, she looks over her shoulder at George. "I'm sorry I can't give you more. I know it can be a circus out there when you don't have every detail." Trust her, she knows. That's about as sincere as Tracy is getting with George at the moment, however; she turns quick on her heel and is sauntering away in no time. "'Night, Congressman." She has a Senator to track down.

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