Walking Conspiracy

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Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby Blackfridayrule on Mon Dec 05, 2011 7:10 pm

Footsteps. The sudden onset of footsteps commanded my attention for a moment as Portia approached me. I knew her gait, her cadence, now. Usually it took me about a week to fully identify someone by their footsteps, but I'd spent so much time with Portia lately and I was so edgy that it seemed to just come to me, this time around. Before she could reach me, a flood of other images rushed to my mind with the speed and force of a Mack truck. The desert. London. Ritchie's house in London. A bar somewhere in Maryland. Norman's shooting range. Everything I saw seemed to be a part of my life but somehow fragmented and disconnected, like pieces of a half remembered dream. Yet I couldn't get them out of my head. They kept coming at me, circling around my head, mixing in with that one, horrifying moment that seemed to define my entire life at the moment. Mixing in with the scent of the leather upholstery in my car, the feel of my black sweatshirt as it protected me from the bitter cold--cold, yes, it was...january? february? February. Yes. February twentieth--and the weight of my silenced pistol inside the pouch-style pocket. The key card. The gun. Her face. The trigger. The blood. Oh, h---, the blood! I'd never seen that much blood in one place, never in my life.
"D---, there was so much blood!" I breathed, rubbing my forehead.
"Ace," Ritchie began. "I know you want to try remembering things, but that's probably not something you want to remember...take a deep breath and focus on what's around you. Do you remember how I taught you to do that?" He spoke so softly that if someone was standing in the living room they likely wouldn't hear him.
"I can't get that image out of my head, Ritchie, I can't! Every time I close my eyes, she's there, looking back at me!"
"Then don't shut your eyes. Look at me." When he received no response he said, just a little bit more sharply, "Look here, Ace. Right here. Hey." Finally he locked my green eyes with his by physically twisting my face up to look at him. "That wasn't you, Ace Matheson. That bast--- Norman made you do it, and i mean that in the most literal way that I can. You had no say in the matter, not even the wherewithal to conceive of the idea that you didn't want to do it. You knew of no other option because that's the way Norman set it up. He designed you as a weapon, not a soldier. Now. Understand that what happened there was not your doing. Is that clear?" Ritchie spoke with a firm edge to his voice, but it was well meaning.
"Mm-mm. For all intents and purposes, you did not kill Laura Noland. Take it from the one person here in their right state of mind--sorry Portia," he said, turning to her and then back to me. "it wasn't you."
It didn't change the fact that I could still see her face, the blood, her pale body, those images in my head. It didnt' take away the guilt. But what Ritchie said made me realize that I was far deeper in this mess than I could have ever imagined. It made me realize that things, strange and bizarre things, were happening and I was standing in the middle without much control. Somehow, in the smallest way, that was comforting.

Until my attention snapped back to Portia. My bloodshot green eyes turned to her; they widened as if I discovered some new horror. Those PI's were right. She was involved. Not directly, of course, but her name floated around amidst all the facts and evidence and suddenly it occurred to me why they thought we were connected. They knew she wasn't there that night, but they must have thought she'd given me her card. Oh, how I wished i could tell them otherwise. She'd be cleared, she'd be free....or would she? Something told me there was no way out of this one.
"Oh Portia...I'm so sorry...those men that came after you, it's my fault. They're after you because of something I--"
Ritchie stopped me. "Norman, not you."
I paused. "Something....done in my name."
"That's the spirit."
"I wonder..." I mused, sniffling and wiping my salty, teared face with my Carhartt sleeve. "If I confessed, If I told them what I did, it'd clear your name...."
"And get you killed!" Ritchie warned. "I don't know how Norman would treat you--you're kind of a multi-million dollar investment, but take it from me--when people in his organization even thought about opening their mouths, he used to call me in. Now he calls Dom, or one of his lower level....employees. And trust me, you don't want that. If you came forward and tried to pass it off as your own independent crime, people would look into it. They'd look into it and find out that your'e legally dead. They'd start digging, and if they were any good, they'd get back to Norman somehow. That's a bad plan, Ace."

I sighed, my breath coming out in a quivering huff. "I'm sorry you have to be involved in this, Portia," i apologized again. "I want to make it right somehow. I don't know how, but d---it, i'm gonna try." I bit back another wave of nausea and wiped away the last of the tears from my face--gracious, i needed a good shave--and, under Ritchie's wordless suggestion, i forced down a mouthful of orange juice. I wanted nothing to do with food or drink--except maybe a shot of scotch, but that was hardly productive. That would come later.

"Portia..." Ritchie said, his hand still resting on my shoulder as he turned to look up at her. "I don't know if you've considered it before, but i think it'd be beneficial for you to...start carrying some form of defense. I'm not saying it has to be a weapon--not everything has to be damaging to be a defense. But considering the kind of people you're tangling with, you can't always rely on your wits and flight or even Ace to protect you. Don't get me wrong, he's well trained, but every soldier can fall. I can give you a gun if you'd like one, or, alternatively, a tranquilizer gun. I don't suggest pepper spray. Anyhow, it's something to think about before you leave," he offered.
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Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby El Gordo on Wed Dec 14, 2011 5:41 am

Each step was a challenge. Each lethargic foot seemed to move reluctantly across the floor.

Step... Breath... Step... Breath...

But one foot in front of the other, her body inched its way forward, propelled more by numb will-power than muscle. The revelations of the last ten minutes and the excitement of the previous days buzzed and tingled at the edge of consciousness, but all she could see was the next step.

Breath... Step... Breath... Step... Until with one last step she reached the end of the tunnel.

Ritchie was talking to him, holding his attention with his hands, holding him from collapsing, like a potter with familiar clay. Portia stopped just far enough away to not interrupt, close enough to lend her hands to the task if she could.

When Ace suddenly looked up at her with horror, she could almost see his thoughts, even before he started to apologize for the men, for the card, for everything, and as she listened, all she wanted was to erase the desperate shock from his face, to tell him that it was alright, tell him to believe Ritchie, that he wasn’t any more responsible for that use of his hands than she was for that use of her card. If nothing else, that she didn’t hold it against him, that he had nothing to apologize for.

Ritchie was on top of it, though, keeping Ace focused, keeping him on track each time his thoughts derailed. When they came back around to Portia, apologizing again, promising to try to make everything right, she stepped in.

“Ace, don’t worry. I know you will.” She put her hand on his shoulder, “You’ve already saved my life more than once. That’s you, my friend who saves lives, not whoever killed Laura. It’s fine.” She paused, “Ok, it’s not fine right now. But it’s fine. We’re going to get through.” She knew he wasn’t convinced, but at least he’d heard it. So had she, and maybe she needed to believe it just as much as he did.


Ritchie’s suggestion that she start carrying a weapon was a good one. If we’re going to get through this, together, not just Ace pulling me through, I need to get used to defending myself. Fights in high school and Tae Kwon Do lessons in fifth grade are not going to help now. “Maybe a Taser? I don’t even know how they work, but something that I can carry easily and not be too scared about using wrong. And I won’t have time to pick up something with a steep learning curve.” She was aware that talking so casually about violence in front of Ace was probably not a good idea right now, so she added “I’ve never used a weapon on somebody before, I hope I won’t have to, and if I do I almost hope it’ll be hard for me.” She looked back at Ace and slowly continued, “But we know what we’re up against, and we have to be prepared.”

Sigh… Breath… Her next thought moved slowly into focus, and reluctantly from her lips.

“And we can’t stay here.” Her eyes were on Ritchie again, “If Ace can remember enough to trust you and come here even with amnesia, Norman can’t be far behind. I don’t know where we’re going next, but… as soon as Ace is ready, we need to go.” She squeezed into Ace’s shoulder with her hand, as if it might channel her calmness into him. As if holding tighter could give them even one more second to breathe.
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Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby Blackfridayrule on Wed Dec 21, 2011 1:56 am

I wanted to believe Portia's words, with every part of my soul I wanted to. Yet, i couldn't chase away the lingering demon that kept jabbing at me, kept reminding me of who i was, what i did, what i was still doing.
This is who you are. This is what you do.
My mind flashed back to all those people I injured back at the office and i couldn't help but think about their futures. They'd never walk normally again, and that woman....ah! That woman! I hurt her probably the least out of any of the unfortunates in that building, but her face would never leave my mind's eye, not while i still drew breath. She thought I was going to kill her....that's a thing to expect from someone like me, i guessed. A killer. Murderer.
This is who you are. This is what you do.
No. No, i couldn't go there again. For my sake. For Portia's sake. I couldn't. My one small speck of hope I had to hold on to was the fact that, when faced with the opportunity to kill those people and that poor woman back at the office, I didn't. I chose not to. The fact that it was my first instinct to not kill them was comforting; Perhaps Ritchie was right. Still, I couldn't yet understand how Norman could literally make me do these things...or anything, really. I'd heard of manipulation and of hypnotism, but direct control? ...What exactly did he put in my head, and why?

"Get through..." i said numbly. "Thats all I can do at this point...just get through..." I tried to put it all behind me, because frankly, we had matters to attend to. It was still so difficult...

Ritchie, recognizing that I needed a moment alone, gently patted my shoulder before rising and motioning for Portia to follow him upstairs into a cozy lounge-style room. "I'll give you a taser," he said, his tone cautious. "But you've got to be careful about who you use it on. You'll need to familiarize yourself with Dominic, because you can't, under any circumstances, tase him. That much voltage would surely kill him...the equipment those two have up there is sensitive. And you may think killing him would solve a lot of problems, but...it's not like that," he said, pushing open the door to the room and moving to a bulky, locked safe. "Not like that at all. Those two are like brothers, and they both have a great deal of...i guess respect for Norman. He saved Ace's life and changed Dominic's and he's taken great care of the both of them over the years...sorta. Even I can't deny that he's got a little fatherly goodness in him. I don't imagine he'd extend that same courtesy to you but..." he shrugged, opening the safe, the heavy door making a tired squeak as it came ajar. "Anyhow, I'll give you a taser, because it'll come in handy for...whoever else is after you--Sounds like there's more than just norman you're dealing with--and if Norman sends any of his lower-level goons after you. Just don't use it on Dominic. Ever." Ritchie took one off a shelf and removed it from its leather holster. "This one, you press this button here and it'll shoot out little prongs if you want to keep your distance. But you can only do that once, so after that you need to press this button here and just jab it into their shoulder or something." he offered a reassuring smile as he handed the defensive weapon to the girl. "Now, for Dom....you'll want this." Ritchie pulled out a small silver gun that was no larger than a small squirt gun and was equipped with a small air cartridge and a magazine full of little darts instead of bullets. "All you do for this," he said, showing her. "Is flick the safety off, here, and then aim and fire. Try to shoot somewhere with exposed skin, but anywhere will really do the trick in a pinch. Do you feel comfortable carrying these?" Ritchie's question was asked in earnest and his tone was warm and gentle as he lay his hand on Portia's shoulder.
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Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby El Gordo on Thu Dec 22, 2011 11:01 pm

His breathing calmed down and the tension in his shoulder under Portia's hand eased just a little. She was sure he still didn't believe what she and Richie were saying, not entirely, not yet. But it would have to do for now. She pressed her hand into his shoulder one more time, half to support him, half to support herself, and followed Ritchie up the stairs.

Ritchie had already given the impression of someone who already owned any dangerous item you could name, so she expected the stockpile of weapons in the house. Somehow she still did not expect the room to be so warm and inviting. Then again, the combination of friendliness and unabashed capacity for violence was Ritchie all over, at least what she'd seen of him. He could show amazingly deep compassion, for Ace and for Dom, and calmly admit to being a professional assassin all in the same breath. Portia would have had mixed feeling about him if it wasn't for the fact that he was one of the few people in recent memory who was not trying to kill her, and was actively trying to help her and Ace. Beggars can't be choosers.

The contrast was evident in the current conversation. On the one hand she could see his consternation at the thought of harm coming to Dom, while with the other hand, he was giving her the weapons that could cause that harm. She took the taser and the tranquilizer gingerly, not that she was afraid of them, just that she had never held anything like them before. When Ritchie asked if he felt comfortable carrying them, she had to think about it.

She thought about her father, what she could remember of him, big, angry eyes and huge red hands coming at her, and remembered rolling into a ball and screaming with no voice. She remembered her mother's quiet sobs and the sound of fist against flesh from the next room, and the desperation of knowing that fighting back will only bring more pain. She remembered the day they left, and soon after mother's counselor having her take women's' self-defence classes, and getting Portia into Tae Kwon Do. Not that it did her much good, she learned how to fall without hurting herself, and get back up to get hit again, and she got one good hit in at a tournament once, before getting disqualified when it broke the kid's wrist. She was shocked, and apologetic, and just a little proud of herself. In high school she'd forgotten everything she learned in Tae Kwon Do, but she could still kick and scratch enough to hold her own when one of the girls wouldn't stop bugging her about her eye, or when her boyfriend tried to get a little too friendly. For Portia, the school of hard knocks had been a literal reality. She remembered bruises, and cuts, and maybe a few scars, left by her, mostly on people who deserved it for backing her into a corner, and she didn't remember feeling much sorry for them.

Well, they had her backed into a corner again, and she wasn't about to start feeling sorry now. Her jaw tightened in determination.

"Yeah, I'm comfortable. Enough." She kept starting down at the weapons, thinking now of where the best place was to keep them. She brushed her hair away briefly from her scarred left eye, "I guess I should be at close enough range that depth perception won't matter, yeah?" After a moment of thought she continued, still staring at the guns in her hands, "I've hurt people before, mostly on purpose, and I never had much of a problem with it. At least, not like Ace does. It needed to be done, it was worth it." She looked up at Ritchie, and asked, "Is it worth it? What Norman's doing, what Ace did. What you did. Is it worth everything that happening. To Ace?" and, although she didn't say it: to me? "You don't have to answer that. It doesn't really matter anyway. We're in the game already, no point in complaining about the rules." She put the tranquilizer in the pocket of her hoodie, and slipped the taser on its holster onto her belt, barely noticeable under the baggy folds of her sweatshirt. Her mind was back downstairs with Ace, and her body was starting to follow, but she turned back to Ritchie. "Thank you. For everything. Whatever else I think of you and the people you work with, I know you care about Ace. And he sure needed you." And he'll need you even more whatever comes next. "Oh, and thanks for being the one person who cares about Ace who hasn't tried to do anything bad to me. I appreciate it." The humor of her understatement almost made her crack a smile. Maybe there was still some breath left in her after all.
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El Gordo
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Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby Blackfridayrule on Fri Dec 23, 2011 3:01 am

Ritchie could see the apprehension in the way Portia held the new weapons. They were both compact and the taser at least didn't look like something out of a sci-fi movie, which he imagined was encouraging, but he also knew that they likely felt foreign in her small hands. He remembered the terrifying wave of power he felt when he held his first gun, the way it felt icy in his hands, the evil, almost snakelike image that his mind carried with it. Guns killed people and were nothing but malicious, he thought. When his father became a police officer he showed young Ritchie his pistol, let him hold the heavy yet compact machine. The boy nearly dropped it and swore he never wanted to see it again. For a moment, as the blonde watched Portia study her new tools, he remembered when his notion of guns changed.

The night is silent, like any other, save for the far off wail of police sirens downtown. Ritchie and his family is in bed, though his father is away for the night visiting his aging mother. Well into the night, the soft tattering of footsteps wakes Ritchie; he listens closely for its source. A burglar! The teen jumps out of bed; he knows where his father keeps his pistol. He pads quietly to the closet, fishes around for the holster and finally grasps it just as a scream tears through the night from down the hall. Ritchie runs, though he's so afraid of the gun in his hands that he almost lets go until he enters his mother's bedroom and sees the hooded intruder with a knife at her throat. He sees the gun and laughs at Ritchie as the boy instinctively pointed it at him.
"You won't do that, lad," he mocks. "Put it down."
Ritchie demands that he unhand his mother, throwing in a notable amount of obscenities.
"Easy kid. You won't pull that trigger. You just put that down, me and my partner will be outta here real soon."
Despite the man's assumptions, Ritchie pulls the trigger and watches, stunned, as the bullet tears into his leg. He turns to find the other one in the living room and scares him off with just the sight of the weapon. The police takes care of the other when they arrive shortly after.

Ritchie remembered feeling both scared and empowered, but moreover he realized that though guns harm people, they can, when used correctly, prevent anyone else from getting hurt. Prevent further violence. Wasn't that the reason he signed on with Norman in the first place? To do something good? To make sure the 'bad guys' didn't harm the innocent? And there he was, doing the very thing he set out to prevent. No wonder he left his company.

Portia determined that she was in fact ready, though she wondered if her eye would give her trouble. He offered a small, sad twitch of his lips, the kind that told her he wished things were different as he said, "If a situation arises in which you need to use either of these, particularly that tranquilizer...you won't have the time to aim properly. These folks work fast."

Portia explained her feelings toward necessary violence, to which he nodded. "You'll find that Ace will abandon his sensitivity to any kind of violence that will guarantee survival--yours or his. His training runs deep and as you've probably noticed, it doesn't take much to bring it to the surface. Eventually he will realize that sometimes taking that step is essential and alltogether worth it." When Portia questioned if the whole nightmare itself was worth the trouble and then quickly dismissed her own thoughts, he stopped her quickly, both with his words and with a quick but gentle hand to her arm. "No," he said, his tone dead serious now. "The rules do matter. The rules are everything. The rules are what made me decide to leave Norman's company and it's the rules that are driving Ace to fight back and find his own path. I don't believe every evil deed can be justified by good intentions, but some can. Things in Norman's company started out that way; he saved Ace's life and did a great deal for Dominic, too, and his plans for them were just and they were good. Norman lost sight of that. Something changed, and I don't know what it was. No one does." he trailed off for a moment before regaining focus. "my point is, you should always be thinking about your reasons for doing something....of a less than savory nature. Ask yourself if you're doing the right thing." he smiled and added, "I'm sure that sounds like a bunch of bullocks coming from an assassin, but take it with a grain of salt." His smile was warm and fatherly and it was quickly apparent that he did genuinely care about Portia--nevermind that they'd just met.

"Of course," he said, closing the safe and locking it. "Ace and Dom are practically family to me. Seeing as how you're a friend of Ace, I'd call you family too. Someday I hope we can chat over some tea under better circumstances and get to know eachother like civilized people."
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Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby El Gordo on Wed Jan 04, 2012 6:09 am

'Thinking.' Huh. 'Always be thinking.'

Portia nodded and cracked a smile. "I don't remember the last time I could afford to think about anything besides running. Not where I was running to, hardly even what I was running from, just... running. It's been everything I could do to keep my head above water, today is the first time since all this started that I've actually felt in control of something. It's funny, right when you tell us how out of control everything really is, I feel as calm as I can remember, just having a second to breathe and not worry about running." Words flowed through her brain to her lips slowly and steadily, without filter. Ace's implicit trust in Ritchie had rubbed off on her quickly. "Thanks for that. If we live to see better circumstances, I'd love to take you up on the offer."


"So, now that we get to decide the next move, we have too many options. There's so much that you can tell us, but I don't even know where to start, and I don't think we'll have time for much... But while we do have time, let's see if Ace is feeling better, and," she almost laughed at the novelty of it, "come up with a plan. Maybe we'll even have time for tea after all."
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Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby Blackfridayrule on Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:26 pm

"Too many options...." Ritchie mused with a smile. "I imagine this isn't what you want to hear, but you thank your lucky stars you've got all those options, Portia. There is no worse a place to be than when you have naught but one option and it's a horrible one. Options are good." Ritchie sort of trailed off before scowling in a very thoughtful, serious manner as if something had just come to him. "Speaking of limited options..." his eyes moved to hers, staring straight through the deformed one as though it were just as healthy as the other. "Portia, I need you to promise me something. It's a promise you won't like to make, much less keep, i'm sure, but there will come a moment when you won't have the choice..." He stepped closer to her and dropped his voice so low that it was barely audible--he didn't want Ace to hear what he had to say. "Keep an eye on Ace. Not that you haven't been but...look for specific things. Symptoms of an injury to the head. They may not be what you'd expect, like headaches and the likes, but pay close attention to the level at which he can sense the world around him. His senses are beyond sharp, i'm sure you know, so...be watching for any lapses in that. If he has trouble seeing things clearly, if he doesn't notice certain smells...if he ever once asks you to repeat something you've said, you have cause for worry. Sometimes he'll hyperfocus on a particular sense, but that's different than what I'm talking about. Just...be on the look out for anything unusual, because I think he may have hit his head pretty hard in Kuwait despite what he says about how he didn't, and I'm worried the primary chip is damaged. If that's the case, and it stops working..." Ritchie paused. "That's all that's kept him alive since the crash, Portia. If it stops functioning....so will he. If you see him start to go downhill, your best and only option is to call Norman." His face was as stoic and serious as the grave; he meant every word. But with a light smile he tried to lighten the mood a little and remind her that, for now, all was well. "Now, let's find the lad and see how he's faring, mm?"


Two sets of footsteps came down the stairs, both strangely recognizable without much thought. Ritchie and Portia. I turned to them from where I stood in the kitchen next to an empty glass of orange juice with Dom's old iphone pressed to my ear. Seeing this, Ritchie near froze at the bottom of the steps as his light eyes searched my body language to try and decipher what was going on.
"You don't sound okay," came Dominic's voice from the other end of the line.
"Shut up," i growled.
"Hey! I'm just asking, okay? It wasn't so long ago that you actually answered my questions instead of being a cryptic bas----. But you wouldn't remember that, would you?"
"Screw you, you're dead to me Dominic. Don't pretend that you care."
"I do care, a--hole, and it's because I care that i'm telling you you need to come in. If you don't, theres a chance you might--"
"I need to come in? Oh, i'm sure that one came straight from the heart, Dominic. Who told you to slip that in, mm? Norman? Listen, I'm through with him. I'm through with you. I'm through with being used as a pawn to do whatever sick jobs that masochist doctor wants done! Tell him that he next time he wants to shed innocent blood, he should pull the trigger himself, that coward!"
Dominic paused a moment. "You remembered?"
Ignoring his previous comment, i said, "I'm hanging up. Don't you dare call me again. Any of you."
With some burst of resolve, Dominic piled all his frustration in anger into his last statement and snarled, "fine then. You run. You drag that girl right behind you as you run from a force you can't begin to contend with. You go ahead and drag her to her death. Have fun, Ace. Just know that you can't hide behind Ritchie forever."

There was a click and the line went dead; my eyes widened in something akin to horror. "Portia, he knows we're here...you called, didn't you, Ritchie? You sold us out!"
"Take it easy, Ace." Ritchie's voice was steady and even. "I wouldn't do that to you. I think you're doing the right thing here," he said, his eyes drifting down towards the pocket where my gun was kept. "I'm on your side. I want to help you, both of you."
"Dominic told me the same d--- thing. How do I know you aren't lying?"
Ritchie gave a small smile and said in a soft voice, "you don't. Not by any means of logic. You have to trust your instincts, and if your instincts call me a liar, then you'd best listen to them."
I stared at him for some time before leaning my elbows onto the counter and sort of sinking into them, a grim profanity softly passing my lips. "Sorry. I'm just--"
"On edge, i know. I get it. I'm also assuming you'll be leaving now that Dominc's discovered where you are. Perhaps you and Portia should take a moment to discuss your next move. Take your time; they'll come here but they'll come to question me, not to find you. They know you won't stay. I'll put on a spot of tea while you're at it, mm? How's that?"
All I could do was nod as the other man set about making a pot of tea. My eyes found Portia's and they seemed to be screaming as though i was crying out, 'wake me up!' while still caught in the midst of a nightmare. Composing my self, i asked, "Did Ritchie set you up with some means of defense?"
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Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby El Gordo on Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:41 am

Ritchie was right, of course, they'd had some unearned good luck, even if it didn't quite balance out the avalanche of bad luck before it. Lucky to find Ritchie, lucky Norman hadn't gotten to him first, lucky to get some straight answers from someone who wasn't trying to hurt or manipulate them. Options were a blessing, even if none of the directions she could think of lead to permanent freedom from this mess they had fallen into the middle of. Still, being able to run but not hide is better than not being able to do either.

Ritchie quickly brought her attention back to an issue that was already starting to tug at the edges of her consciousness. For all their legitimate concerns about getting anywhere near Norman or his people, it did seem like they were the only ones who could deal with Ace's injury. Everything that had happened in the past few days had been so jarring, she had almost stopped thinking of his amnesia as anything unusual, but it really was something she should have been worrying about, even without Ritchie having to tell her. Yes. As a last resort, if Ace needed it, of course she would call Norman. If Ritchie was right and Norman wouldn't hurt Ace either as a valuable investment, or out of some actual human feeling, she would rather have Ace alive and whole, even at such a high cost. She would have to fend for herself then, of course, but she put the thought out of her mind, and hoped it would never come to that. She returned Ritchie's tentative smile with one of her own and followed him down the stairs.

Ace was on the phone. With Dominic, it was pretty clear. If Dominic was calling again, it meant they didn't have much time after all. More than nothing, "We've got the house surrounded" wouldn't need to be phoned in, but they wouldn't have long. Portia felt herself start to tense as Ace put down the phone, ready for the news when it came: Dom knew. Ace hadn't totally recovered from the shock, but at least he was coherent, and Ritchie was keeping him grounded. Portia tried to pay attention to what Ritchie was doing to calm him down. Ace would need him again soon enough, but he'd only have Portia. She would have to make do. They would have to hope that planning meant that he wouldn't need it soon.

She tried to answer him as composedly as she could, although his look told her that he still wasn't processing at full capacity yet. "Yeah, he got me these." She pulled the tranquilizer out of her pocket and showed him the taser on her belt. "Taser for most people, tranq for Dom. I guess a taser would be lethal on the two of you. I'll be careful with it, don't worry." She replaced the tranquilizer carefully in her pocket. "Ritchie's right, we have a little time to plan, for a change." She kept her eyes on his, putting a hand on his arm and her other across his back to gently steer him back to a chair. "Come on, he knows but he's not here yet. It's what we do in the meantime that'll make the difference, we don't have to run blind for a change." She gave him a weak smile, and tried to be businesslike, hoping some of her composure might rub off on him.

"So let's think. We know a lot now about your history and about Norman. We can try and find more, or we can try to figure out who's paying those rent-a-cops, the guys in the suits, to find us. They're connected, so it comes down to the same thing from different angles." And even though it felt like a step backwards, she added, "or, we could try again to find another safe place where we'll have more time to think it over. The problem is, I don't know where we could go. I trust Ritchie, but we're less predictable if we don't take directions from him. You're not quite the man they think they know, we can still surprise them, whatever we do."

Deep breath. Maybe the last one for a while.

"Anyway, it's our move. What do you think, Ace?"
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El Gordo
Member for 5 years

Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby Blackfridayrule on Tue Jan 10, 2012 6:56 pm

"Good...good. I..I know Dom and I aren't close, not like we used to be and we're at eachothers throats right now...but I don't want him dead. I don't want anyone dead. No more death...just..." At a loss for the correct words to aptly finish my sentence, i just cut off there with a sigh, one that gave a glimpse of just how distraught I was about all of it--about Laura, about Norman, about Dom, about Portia--despite my attempts to put on a front and collect myself. And then, "be careful with those, Portia. Don't fire either of those unless you mean it, y'know? Especially the tazer. Especially with Dom....I don't want him to die..."
"Ace!" Ritchie called from the kitchen. It was as if he could see me talking circles and I couldn't, because in the moment I didn't understand why he'd interrupted me the way he had. And then, cautiously, he said, "Why don't you two come take a seat at the dining room table, there? Tea'll be ready in a moment."
It was like I didn't even hear him. "Have you ever used a tazer before, Portia?" And without waiting for her to respond, "Ritchie, shouldn't I show her how to use it properly?"
"I did. Take a seat."
"But did she test it? Actually prac--"
"Ace Matheson!" Ritchie raised his voice, though not by any large margin as his firm tone did most of the speaking for him. "You may not be aware, but you're hyperfocusing. It's something you two were trained to do, but as I recall, you were trained to have volition over what it was you focused on. Currently you're fixated on the wrong thing. I know you're stressed. I know you're running halfway on autopilot. But keep the mission in mind, got it?" I just nodded numbly. "Good. Take a seat."
"That's an order, Ace." Above all else, that seemed to resonate with me; an order. Something to be done without thought, without doubt. Just get it done. And so, somewhat distantly, i finally sat down at the table as Ritchie motioned gently for Portia to take a seat as well when he brought over two mugs and a pot of tea.

I had to sit in silence for some time trying to process all of Portia's suggestions. In the back of my mind I already knew which was the best route, but the buildup of logic that justified that decision took a while, not to mention how much time it took me to redirect my focus on the next move, not whatever weaponry Ritchie had given Portia. Finally, my head cleared a little and i was able to voice my thoughts. "We'll have to do a bit of both...I think...I think a key to all this...this mess is to find the source. Backtrack. And if we can find the source...you know, there's that whole saying of cutting off the head of the snake and the body..." I was about to say 'dies' but I didn't want to think about that. Not right now. "Y..you know. Right now we have two parties separately coming after us, one of them....one of them is more terrifying than the other. I say we deal with the easier one first, the one that doesn't know what to expect from either of us and won't see it coming. But we need a base...somewhere to stay a while. I don't...I don't know how or where yet, but..." For a moment I froze a little like my thoughts were suspended just out of reach. That's when I knew I needed to chill a little.
You can't do it all at once.
"We'll get there..."
"Ace..." Ritchie spoke softly as he approached the two of us. "Portia..." With a soft smile he held aloft two backpacks. "These are for you. Ace, i threw some clothes in there..you and I are about the same size. Sorry Portia, I didn't have much for you," he said with a grin. "But I threw in some cash for you to find something. There's also cash for food or whatever else you'll need, too. Ace...There's ammo too."
I just blinked up at the blonde and surprise and gratefullness, but the first thing that came out of my mouth was, "how do you know if it's the right ammo?"
"You always carried a Sig, Ace. Anyhow, no offense Ace, but you're not in top condition right now, so Portia, i suggest you take the reins a bit." This he said with another smile before coming to sit at the table as well, mostly to observe the conversation and was there to offer his input where it was needed.
"Where...where do you think we should go?" I asked Portia. "I...I can't think of any more safehouses or specific places to go but...I don't know. I don't know."
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Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby El Gordo on Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:59 am

"Yes. We'll get there. We will."

Alright, then. Taking the reigns. Right. Portia tried not to show how concerned she was about Ace's mental state. Her gut response would have been to talk about something else until he calmed down, but there was no time for that. There hadn't been since they met, but now that her mind seemed to be clear, for the moment at least, she realized how close he really was the the edge. So she tried to press on, as gently and as firmly as she could, into the one topic most dangerous to Ace's sanity.

"If we're going after the rent-a-cops, it all comes back to Laura. Someone really wants to find out what happened to her, someone who's putting a lot of heat on them. They're not finding much if I'm really the best lead they have, which makes sense if Norman was thorough about covering his tracks. So they don't know about Norman, or at least not much. The question is, who would be so interested in Laura?"

Porita racked her brain, wishing she could remember more about the woman. Laura was always such a goofball, never serious about anything, Portia wasn't sure she'd ever talked about her personal life, or even the stories she was working on. Portia couldn't blame her for that; her own childhood was off limits, and talking about her job usually made people's eyes glaze over. So, their conversations at work were always about her sympathy for the Toronto Blue Jays, or the new barista at the cafe down the street and how cute he would be if it weren't for the spelling mistake in his tattoo. Funny little things, that's all she could remember. The one time they'd gone out together, they went shopping, at Laura's insistance. Portia couldn't imagine why anyone would want to go shopping with a girl who, for all intents and purposes, owned only hooded sweatshirts and jeans, but Laura just laughed it off and said something like "Good, then you won't have anything bad to say about the stuff I pick out!" It had been a good day, one of the better ones Portia could remember, but it didn't get her any closer to whoever was paying the suits. She was glad Ace couldn't hear her thoughts. He was having a hard enough time coping without knowing what a nice person she was.

"Ugh. What I wouldn't give for a T1 line and my own computer! I could hack the newspaper and look at her personel file if it's still there, I could do some digging. Right now, I can't even remember where she was from!" Unless...

"Wait." At the end of their shopping trip, she called Laura's overly long farewell 'cheesy', and Laura said 'Well, they did used to call me 'Philly Cheesesteak' back in the day.' That was it. Funny little things.

"Ace, it's not much to go on, but I think she was from Philadelphia. As long as we've got to go somewhere, we might as well start there. Worst case scenario, at least it puts us somewhere unexpected. So we start driving that direction, along the way we find a change of clothes for me, that'll make it even harder to find us. Starting now will put that much more space between us and Norman, and when we get there we'll have time to figure out what to do next."

She hoped he was registering what she was saying. It was a lot to take in. The part of her brain that had been non-stop screaming confusion for the past few days, the part that was still numbly buzzing at the edge of her consciousness, was amazed that she had thought through it all, let alone said it aloud coherently. Enjoy it while it it lasts, she thought to herself. Soon enough it may be me that needs this, and ready or not, Ace will need to keep me going. She glanced at Ritchie, and quickly back to Ace, looking for confirmation. Ready or not...
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El Gordo
Member for 5 years

Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby Blackfridayrule on Tue Jan 17, 2012 7:45 pm

Thinking back as far and as hard as I could, I tried to find some sort of connection between Laura and the suits, or between the suits and Norman, or....something. Anything. And as I did, I remembered, even if only vaguely, that Norman was d--- good at covering his tracks. I'd always been decent at it and so had Dominic. In fact, that was part of our training early on...like everything else. Training, everything came back to rigorous, intensive training. I remembered weeks at a time where literally everything I did incorporated training somehow. In my sleep, I trained. In the shower, I trained. In some form or another I honed in my skills with every mundane action throughout my day...not to mention the time set aside for active training. No wonder it was all so...instinctual. But among that training was certainly being invisible and untraceable, a notion that gave some piece of mind concerning Ritchie's well being. It also brought some certainty to the fact that Norman had, in fact, covered his tracks very, very well. For the suits to find information on him....they'd have to dig. Deep. And my heart ached for whatever poor soul dared travel down that rabbit hole.

"I don't know who would care so much about her and what happened. I think....I...vaguely remember Norman telling me something like...something about someone asking around, but they never got far. No one ever did. Come to think of it, a few people tried to look into it but we stonewalled the cops and everyone else who dared try. There was no blood at the scene...I....made sure of that. Everyone thought she went traveling somewhere and never came back or...I don't know. I really don't. Most of my memories of that time in my life are...well...hazy, but the ones I do remember are...less than pleasant."
"Like h---- they were. I hoped you'd forget all that out of self preservation..." Ritchie turned to Portia as he continued. "No one ever told him, but we were all legitimately afraid he was going to snap...snap and do something damaging and crazy. Dominic could hardly bear it...." The blonde shivered at the thought and sipped at his own cup of tea, reminding me that i had my own cup of steaming amber liquid in front of me, the aroma of which had been dancing around my nose all this time but never really registering. D---, Ritchie was right, I was hyperfocusing. I took the moment to reach down and bring the mug to my lips, but i then realized just how badly my hands were still shaking. And then, as the liquid made contact with my tongue, I found I didn't want it. Not that it tasted bad--it was good--but my stomach reared at the very thought of ingesting anything. I set the mug back down and just clasped my hands around it for some warmth, as it seemed like all blood had left them. Ritchie noticed but said nothing.

Portia voiced her longing for a computer so she could hack into the newspaper's database and get some information. That seemed like a great idea--it would get a lot accompished. But immediately I worried about being tracked. If we did that, we'd have to do it somewhere public, somewhere neutral, somewhere that, if we were discovered, it wouldn't matter. Before I could finish formulating a plan for that, however, Portia remembered Laura was from Philly. It wasn't much, but it was a start. It was a direction, the beginning of our next move in this twisted game of chess, and best of all, it bought us some time. Time. I needed time. We both did.

Instinctively, I found myself rising from my seat and reaching for the backpack Ritchie set down beside me. "Well then, we should.....we should get on that. Portia?" I prompted, wondering if she was ready to go. Ritchie stood too and came around to embrace me as though he were sending me off to war. Funny...that sensation felt familiar....

Ritchie looks me in the eye as I shift my duffle over my shoulder. "Take this before you get on the plane...you won't be conscious, but It'll help."
"Thanks Ritchie," I say. I'm about to fly out of London to the middle east. My training is over, things are getting real. "Ritchie....If I don't come back--"
"Don't. Don't think like that. Do what I trained you to do, and you'll be alright. Your job is to protect them, Ace, but don't ever forget yourself."
I just nod. "Keep an eye on Dom for me?"
"As much as I can watch the little bas---- before he heads back home." Ritchie smiles at me and guides me to a door....

"You be careful out there. Never forget who you're dealing with, and never give up. What you're doing here is just....and while I don't know how it'll end...it's worth a shot. Trust your instincts, trust Portia, and not another soul. Do you understand?"
"I do."
"Good. I don't suggest you drive for a while, either." Ritchie smiled and so did I.
"Portia, I'm gonna see if this pack will fit in that cargo space under the seat of the bike....and...you might wanna drive for now." With that, I headed out the front door and found the blue Ducati parked somewhat in a cloaked location amidst the shadows of the garage's overhanging roof. The sun was barely touching the underside of the horizon, but the dark was no match for my eyes. I popped open the storage space under the backseat and tried shoving the pack inside. Nope. My efforts were in vain, as the space was meant to fit nothing more than a small bag of groceries. But as I lifted the pack out and shouldered it again, i found a thin manila folder inside, along with a scattered stack of about five business cards with the PI's logo and the name Avery Callaghan printed in neat black letters, along with two phone numbers and an email. Upon reading the name, an image burst into my mind of the desk where I found the bike keys and had the encounter with the young woman. There was a name on the desk, etched into a mirrored piece of brass that sprouted from a mahogany base. Avery Callaghan. Avery! Her name was Avery, and this was her bike. Next, I turned my attention to the file, cracking it open as though it was a naughty magazine and I was afraid to be caught with it. My eyes widened. I only had the time to scan the file briefly, but I could see that it was about the company. Quickly, I stashed it away for later use.

Ritchie moved to Portia the moment they were alone and dropped his voice low. "Remember what I said, Portia. You watch him for anything unusual, and call Norman. And call me," he added in a voice that less resembled an order and instead took on a tone that was almost pleading, soft. "Call me and I'll help you in whatever way I can. Good luck, Portia." He put a hand on her shoulder and smiled. "You need anything, you call. My cell can't be tracked, not even by Norman."
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Member for 6 years

Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby El Gordo on Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:41 am

Five years ago. Portia hovered on the doorstep of her Aunt's wretched house. Everything she could call her own was on her back, only things that she had paid for or brought with her, just in case Elizabeth decided to try reporting her for stealing. Horrible woman. The darkness of the house contrasted with the street, just now being illuminated in the bright light of the recent sunrise was an apt metaphor, not lost on Portia's teenage sense of drama. With a deep breath, and never a look back, she took the first steps into the washed-out blankness of the world.

Five years later. Another sunrise, another doorstep in New Jersey, and everything was different. This house, where it seemed like she'd only spent a few minutes, felt more like home than almost any place she could remember. It seemed to pull at her, asking if she couldn't stay just a little longer. But she couldn't. This time it wasn't the unknown she was walking into, the road ahead was clear in the light of the new day. They knew where they were going, and frightening as it would be, that's where they would go. This time she wasn't alone.

Deep breath.


With one last nod of thanks to Ritchie, she slowly walked, then jogged to where Ace seemed to have given up on fitting the pack into the compartment on the bike. Wordlessly she put on the helmet, mounted the bike in front of him, and they were off.

She figured the gas in the tank would get them far enough from Ritchie that they'd be hard to follow, even if Norman already had people on the way. She had a general idea of where they where and which way Philly was, and she'd just have to hope there would be signs along the way. And hey, wrong turns just made them less predictable, right? She almost laughed aloud. The freedom of the road was intoxicating, and she was drinking it up. It was like riding for the first time again, fear quickly giving way to wondering how much faster she could go. The presence of Ace on the bike and in the back of her mind kept that curiosity in check. She wished they could talk so she could try to keep him focused on the right things like Richie did, but the wind and the sound of the motor meant that all she could do was drive and hope that time was helping him pull himself together rather than letting him fall to pieces.
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El Gordo
Member for 5 years

Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby Blackfridayrule on Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:42 pm

”We’re going out tonight, to kick out every light, we’re gonna burn it to the ground tonight. We got no fear, no doubt--all in, balls out. We got lined up, shot down, firin’ back straight crown…”
The soft singing is a nice change of pace from the crunching of six pairs of feet crunching against dust and stone. Granted, it’s Nickelback they’re singing, but I don’t care. It’s something different. Something new. I’m guiding five other soldiers back from a high-risk mission. I’ve saved their lives once already by alerting them to the presence of a sniper, but this time I can’t. The roar of an RPG catches my attention; I open my mouth to shout, “DOWN!” but it comes out too late. There’s a burst of fire, screams, stones and debris flying everywhere. Then, black.

Forehead buried in Portia’s back, I blinked away the most recent memory and hoped to forget it. It wasn’t the worst memory I could remember, but at least it wasn’t Laura. Dominic was right. Jesse was right. I didn’t want to know. Then again, a part of me was glad that I did know, because I felt like it was something I could then work to redeem. I didn’t believe in karma, but I did believe in something of self redemption, of second chances. This whole endeavor would be mine.

Time marched on. I don’t know how much of it exactly passed, but the sun was already lighting the sky and life returned to the highways of Jersey as we left behind what was once a sanctuary to ride into the unknown. Philly. That’s all we knew. That and whatever information could be gleaned from the papers inside the bike’s seat. But it was something, it was more of a direction than we’d had in a long time (if three days could be considered ‘long’—it sure felt like it) and I felt a little bit better about our lot in life considering we were putting distance between us and our last known location.
And then my stomach growled.
“You wanna stop for lunch and gas and whatever soon? Maybe we could find another helmet while we’re at it, too,” I called over the wind.


Dominic set down the phone with a sigh. You’re dead to me. Those words circled around his head like a satellite in orbit and felt like a sack of bricks. What happened to him? His friend? Three weeks ago, Ace would make sure and call home, check in, ask about the Giants and the Steelers or what movies were playing. When Dom was in Kuwait, they would play hearts in their downtime. They were so close…what happened? Dom felt like his brother had been stolen from him by some unseen force. A part of him wanted to allow a few tears to escape his blue eyes, but with Meredith present, he wouldn’t dare.
“Well. That should do it. Whenever you’re ready, I suppose you can make your move….I’d give it a little time though…so he doesn’t suspect anything, you know?” he told her. “Anyway…” he trailed off awkwardly and it was apparent that his thoughts were not in the same place as his body.


Ritchie glanced up that afternoon as a car pulled into the driveway. He didn’t need to wait to know who it was…Norman Caldwell was the only man he knew that drove a blue Audi—black, he always said, was too Hollywood. He made no move to open the door, either. Instead he just turned to the next page of the newspaper he was reading and sipped at his tea as the door burst open. The blonde looked up then, watching Norman’s smaller figure march across the room to the kitchen with an angry look underneath his green glasses.
“D--- you, Richard Forrester! You bloody idiot! You had them both right here and you made no attempt to call? Did you even mention that it might behoove him to come in?”
“Who?” Ritchie asked nonchalantly, glancing down at his newspaper again.
“D---it! You know who!”
“Don’t yell at me, Norman Caldwell. I’m not one of your drones to be bullied around and bent to your will.”
“This isn’t about politics or paychecks, Richard! Ace could die, you ignorant bas----! Don’t you get that?”
At that, Ritchie stood, moving swiftly to Norman and closing his hands around his neck. “Don’t ever piss off an assassin, Norman. Do not forget for a moment that I don’t understand the gravity of the situation. Also keep in mind that you don’t know the extent of his injuries and he’s not about to just keel over. He’ll have time, he’ll be warned.” Ritchie loosened his grip but didn’t move from where he stood.
“You and I both know he won’t come in. He doesn’t remember anything—he won’t know the signs.”
“Then you’d best be thankful he’s not alone and you’d best be praising my forethought to inform her.”
“What did you tell her you bas----??”
“Cool it, Norman, she knows everything. And that’s to your benefit, believe it or not.”
“You don’t understand, this can’t get out—“
“You’ve already scared the piss out of her, she’s not talking. Besides, Ace wouldn’t let her, I think. He knows better than that. If I were you, I’d back off and trust that when it counts, he’ll come in. You breathing down his neck isn’t going to help him relax any.”
“You should have called me, Ritchie…” Norman growled.
“You don’t own me anymore, Norman. All Ace is doing is following in my footsteps, and frankly you should let him. You’ve done enough damage already.”
“Be quiet, Richard! Where did they go?” Ritchie didn’t respond; instead he sat back down and returned to his tea and newspaper. “D---it, I said where did they go?” When Ritchie said nothing, Norman pulled a gun from the small of his back and pressed it into the other man’s forehead. Ritchie laughed.
“I’d like to see you try, Norman. I know you don’t get your hands dirty. That’s what you hired Dominic for. Besides. You wouldn’t kill me anyway. He wouldn’t. There isn’t a single man or woman in your company that would have the stones to pull that trigger. Not one. Put that away,” he said, batting it away like it was a stick. Norman just stuffed it back in it’s holster.
“This doesn’t concern you, Richard Forrester. Interfere in my business again and you’ll pay the consequences.”
“Right. I’m so terrified.”
Norman turned on his heels and stormed away, leaving Ritchie alone in the now silent house.
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Member for 6 years

Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby El Gordo on Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:28 am

The gas tank and Ace’s stomach seemed to be on the same page; both were running nearly on empty, and both were growling. Her own stomach wasn’t doing much better, the food she’d gotten from Ritchie hadn’t quite made up for what she’d left behind in his sink. Ugh. Portia figured they were far enough out now that there was no reason to hurry. They would be in Philadelphia soon enough, and nobody even knew that’s where they were going yet. It still felt a little funny to be running to something rather than from something, but Portia intended to enjoy it while it lasted. So it was that the blue Ducati pulled leisurely into the next gas station.

As they got off the bike, Portia was glad to see that Ace seemed to be feeling better. Even if he was still hyper-focusing, she didn’t mind if it was on something as important and easily solvable as hunger.

“Two empty stomachs and one empty gas tank,” she said, looking down at the bike, “at least one of us will be going away happy.” She glanced at the dirty little convenience store, then back at Ace, “And the two of us will at least be full.” She could already hear the worst of Top 40 blaring from the store, but even that couldn’t dampen her spirits. “Tell you what, I’ll brave going inside, pay for the gas and see if they have anything edible; you fill it up. $20 should be enough for the gas, right?” It was then she found out just how much money Ritchie had given them. When she opened the backpack, what Ritchie had called “some” cash was enough to make words stick in her throat. She started to pull it out to show to Ace, but quickly thought better of waving money around in an unfamiliar place. As calmly as she could, Portia removed a few $20 bills and closed the zipper over the rest, wondering if Ace’s bag held a similar surprise for him.

“Alright,” she said, trying to shake off the pleasant shock as she headed inside. “Orange juice for you, and we’ll see what else they have.” The little convenience store was about what she expected: dirty, small, and expensive. Even the clerk was dirty and small, and tried to hit on her while she grabbed a few things and paid for the gas. He must have been pretty desperate, she was sure she looked horrible right now. How long had it been since she showered, and how much had she been through since then? She hardly wanted to think about it. That reminded her to ask about places where she could find clothes. The guy thought there was a thrift store down the road towards Philly a little ways, and of course there would be places to shop the closer they got to the city. She said thank you and he reacted like it was the nicest thing anyone had said to him that day. It probably was, she thought as she walked back out to the car, and hoped it wouldn’t make her so memorable that it would make them easier to track. She shrugged off the thought. If Norman were good enough to trace them as far as this boondocks gas station, there was no point in running anyway. It wasn’t anything to worry about, but it did sober her up a little as she rejoined Ace with her catch, an assortment of things trying to resemble food, and a Snickers.

“The guy in there says there’s a thrift store up the road a little, although he may have just been trying to impress me. We can make that our next stop, and then on to Philly, although to be honest I don’t even know where to start when we get there. Actually, a shower would be a great place,” thinking about it now, she realized how long it had been since either of them slept. “And maybe a catnap if we have time. How does that sound?”
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El Gordo
Member for 5 years

Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby Blackfridayrule on Sun Jan 22, 2012 4:10 am

((Hi all! I was lying in bed and listening to this song, reminded me of the thread so I thought I'd share. Also, Gordo, I'll see what I can do about hammering out a post during what downtime I have at cue-to-cue....seeing as how we're starting at noon I'd say it's gonna go on for a while.))

Are you coming up to see me
With a loaded gun to my head?
Are you coming up to leave me alone
Alone with my head?

I could think of nicer ways
To let me down
I could blink and you'd be gone
Without a sound

It's going, going places and traces
Of laughter remain the same
Ooh, this critical devotion
Slow it down traces remain of pain

You try to answer me with silence
Violence lies in your eyes
You try to tell me what I'm feeling
You're stealing the prime of my life.
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Member for 6 years

Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby El Gordo on Sun Jan 22, 2012 6:44 am

((Sounds good. I'll try to send you something about the file if I don't talk to you before then. Early to bed and early to rise, that's me. And yes, cue-to-cue is going to take a while, if the last one is any indication. You might want to bring something (quiet) to snack on, and maybe a sleeping bag.

I considered quoting the lyrics of Weird Al's "Party in the CIA", the only relevant song that comes to mind, but I think that it might not fit the mood here.))
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El Gordo
Member for 5 years

Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby Blackfridayrule on Sun Jan 22, 2012 1:56 pm

((heh, good advice. I'll make an omm run first. And yeah, the moods a bit different lol, but I'm amused by the thought anyway.))
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Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby Blackfridayrule on Sun Jan 22, 2012 8:11 pm

Orange juice. In the midst of everything I managed a smile—a shallow one, but it was honest, at least. “You know me too well,” I told her, but instantly I realized that was a very strange thing to say. I’d known her for all of three days, and though she knew literally everything that I did, she did not know me better than anyone else. There were unknown numbers of people under Norman’s regime that apparently knew all there was to know about me, both in a medical sense and an emotional sense, but somehow that didn’t seem….well, it didn’t seem to count, almost. It seemed instead like Ritchie and Portia were the only people I cared about anymore, but then again, as I reminded myself that I still harbored some residual feelings of brotherhood towards Dominic, I found that I wasn’t yet totally cold and calloused to those who once were my friends.

Portia opened up her backpack and reached for the cash; I didn’t see how much Ritchie had left her, but her face said it all. And then I remembered—Ritchie was filthy rich. He didn’t live like a billionaire or anything, but I remembered his London house and recalled it being really, really nice. Large enough only for one man and frequent guests, though it had an indoor pool and a sizeable lawn in the back. I was certain he, when he did work both freelance and for Norman, made much more money than he was ever spending now. He was sitting on a massive stash and he had nothing better to do with it than give it away.

As Portia made her way inside, I worked on filling up the gas tank. Amidst the soft hiss of the liquid pumping into the tank, I found a deafening silence in comparison to the rushing wind and growling engine and a newfound clarity of mind. I thought back to the file I found under the seat; hopefully it held some important information.
The door opened behind me and I recognized Portia’s small footsteps approaching me. She explained that the man at the counter apparently liked her and was more than willing to share what information he could with her. As she said this, the tactical, strategic part of my brain seemed to light up. I remembered when Dom and I worked together on different operations he was often what was referred to as the ‘face’. In all honesty, he looked better in a suit and cleaned up really well, whereas I carried residual scars (small but noticeable ones) on my face from the crash and frankly I wasn’t so…James-Bondish looking? Dominic was less intimidating and could blend in with more elite crowds and thus did a lot of the upfront business.
Now, it seemed, Portia was the face.
“Well, that’s good. It’s a start, if nothing else,” I said, taking the orange juice from her and reaching into the bag to find a corndog. It was greasy as a McDonalds, but somehow it tasted really, really good. Hunger does that, I suppose. “Oh man, a shower….I think that needs to be top priority…I betcha we could find one of those KOA sites, you know, those campsites? They’ve gotta have showers,” I said through the corndog. “I don’t know where to find a place to nap, but that’s a must-have, too. Neither of us should be driving sleep deprived or you’ll end up with Norman just like I did…..s-sorry, that was kind of a bad joke…” To clear the air of my tasteless joke, I continued, “So I found something possibly useful in the compartment under the seat. The bike belonged to Avery Callaghan…she was the woman I faced off with, the one who gave me this bruise on my face….a-anyway, there’s a file in there. I don’t really know what’s in there yet, but it’s something to do with the company. Chances are, there’ll be something worth finding in there. A number, location, names….i don’t know. Anything. There are cameras here,” I said, glancing around over my shoulder. “I don’t want to look it over quite yet because….y-you don’t know who could be watching, you know? Let’s look it over when we stop for a nap and all that…somewhere we can’t be tracked.”
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Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby El Gordo on Mon Jan 23, 2012 2:26 am

Ace was thinking clearly again! He was even joking. Granted it was pretty dark, making a joke out of the motorcycle accident that started this whole mess, but even if that was his kind of joke --Portia couldn't remember hearing Ace's sense of humor before-- she could live with that. Whatever they could find funny right now, it was better than confusion and worry. And it reminded her that besides riding on next-to-no-sleep, he was still riding without a helmet, not a good idea for someone who's already had one fatal motorcycle accident. Add that to the shopping list.

Her heart jumped in her chest when he mentioned finding the file with the bike. The tunnel vision that had lent her clarity after the slew of revelations about Ace's past had not yet fully worn off, but only now did she realize just how flimsy the plan of "Go to Philadelphia" really was. The question of what exactly they would do once they got there had been pushed to the back of her mind, and now before they even had time to think about it, here was the next step. Putting one foot in front of the other was getting easier and easier. She listened with rapt attention as he told her about it, her mouth still half-full of tolerable ham sandwich and candy bar.

Despite her intense curiosity about the contents of the file, she had to agree with Ace's paranoia of staying too long anywhere with cameras. "You're right, we shouldn't hang around here." Just because their luck seemed to be improving was no reason to stop being careful. There would be necessary risks ahead, and they would need all the luck they could get. "Let's get back on the road and we'll get a nap and a look at the papers, or a change of clothes, whichever opportunity presents itself first."

Quickly finishing their... breakfast? Lunch? Who knew, anymore, they were off again. Keeping to the speed limit most of the way, the thrift store the clerk had told her about was only a few minutes down the road. It was a decent size, cleaner than the gas station had been, and looked at least moderately respectable, so Portia pulled up the bike and they went in. A higher class of shopping was within their price range now with the money Ritchie had given them, but you couldn't beat this place for keeping a low profile. Between what they looked like and what they must have smelled like, they fit right in among the racks of dingy used clothing, so much so that no one in the store gave them a second glance when they came in. She didn't even notice any security cameras. Portia cruised briskly through the Women's section, trying to keep in mind what would make her less recognizable as herself. For years the decision had always been simply "which sweatshirt, which jeans" and that was that. Clothing was not something she put much thought into. "First time for everything, I guess," she said aloud, then quickly looked around, thankful that Ace had wandered off, probably to see if they had a helmet. "Next thing I'll be asking 'does this make me look fat'," she chided herself under her breath. "How is it that Laura Noland's got me shopping again?" That joke was worse than Ace's earlier, and she was glad she hadn't said it out loud.

In the end, she found a non-descript t-shirt, what looked like a thin motorcycle jacket in dark grey (with something of a hood, she couldn't bring herself to abandon hoodies altogether), a pair of blue jeans not quite as beat-up and dirty as her old black ones, and some sturdy boots that looked like they were made for walking. Or running. There was a good chance they would have to do more of that, and her sneakers were not designed for what they had been through the last few days. On a whim, she grabbed a pair of sunglasses of the rack by the cashier, like aviators, but with thick plastic rims. They were big enough that even with her bangs pulled back, you wouldn't notice the scaring on her left eye if you weren't looking for it. That might come in handy, and besides, they gave everything a nice sepia color, like an old photograph. She smiled and shook her head at her face in the mirror. She didn't look like herself at all, except for the hair. She was thinking different, too, a lot like Laura on their shopping trip, trying to justify some impulse purchase, barely containing excitement at each new find. 'Something must have rubbed off,' she thought, as the cash register barely made a dent in Ritchie's money. She used the store's bathroom to change, and walked out almost unrecognizable. She had tried to make her choices with practicality in mind, but she couldn't deny that she looked, well, cool. "If my life is going to act like a spy movie, it might as well be dressed up like one," she said as she joined Ace outside. "So, you feel like driving?"
Last edited by El Gordo on Mon Jan 30, 2012 4:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Walking Conspiracy

Postby Blackfridayrule on Sun Jan 29, 2012 8:33 pm

"Good plan," i said. "I think I can drive a little later today, you know, once I sort of take some more time to collect myself....I'm pretty sure....but if I start weaving in and out of the lane or something, you'd best stop me," I told portia with the tiniest crack of a smile. "But i think i've driven in worse circumstances....maybe...i dont know. I seem to vaguely recall being shot at once while driving some kind of vehicle. Yeah...yeah, actually, I did. In Kuwait. We had to shut all the windows and....I dont know. I felt trapped, you know? Friggin cars....a-anyway, yeah, let's get going." I hopped onto the bike after paying for the gas and, once Portia got in the front seat, we were off again. It was a little strange not wearing a helmet--in the heat of the moment when i stole the bike originally, that was hardly a concern, but now, as things were cooling down a little, all of my experience as a biker was screaming that it was all wrong, but i felt if either of us were going to wear the one helmet we had, it may as well be Portia; there was a chance a rough fall would destroy my equipment regardless, whereas Portia would likely survive a crash. Priorities, i guess. Still it was kinda nice to have the wind in my hair and face rather than have it be encased in a stifling helmet.

We pulled into a thrift store and went inside, splitting different ways to find the things we needed. The moment I walked in the building, I became not only aware of how many people were inside, but how many cameras there were hanging from corners and ceilings. There were seven in the whole of the building, the majority of which were fixed near the doors, cash registers, and the back door leading to the storage area behind the store. Their mechanical eyes burned into my back and I felt their presence looming over me like mountains. Whatever security and comfort I found at Ritchie's, it was long gone now. We needed to make this quick.
I scanned through the men's section and looked for anything without words in the Large section and ended up with a dark red t-shirt, a gray long-sleeved thermal, another pair of jeans, and a package of underwear--important things, of course. Shoes, however, I neglected to search for because the ones I was already wearing, stolen from a shop in London some two weeks ago, were brand new and sturdy. They'd last a while. And, thankfully enough, i managed to find a motorcycle helmet amidst the sporting section. It was old, beat up, and probably not very good, but it would do well enough, at least.

Rejoining Portia outside, I held aloft the helmet after stuffing the new clothes in my backpack. "Found one," I said with a weak smile. "Not much, but it'll do. I think i can drive. But again, I think i may need your eyes, you know? I need at least one of us to have a level head." my teasing was matched with a smile ever so warmer than the last one; gradually, I was unwinding. Some sleep would really do the trick, however. "Well, if you've got everything, shall we then?" I straddled the bike and brought the engine to life, the keychains dangling from the key swinging back and forth. One was just a rubber piece that had the Ducati symbol on it, the other, however, came from Palm Springs. I remembered the girl again, Avery Callaghan, and my stomach twisted. I hoped she was okay...
I left those thoughts behind me just as I left the parking lot of the thrift store, and soon we'd be leaving Jersey with the hopes that Philadelphia would hold some answers for us. Just a hope, that's all we had. A hope, a file, and an endless stretch of road.
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