|Characters:||Odile and Rhys|
|Summary:||Rhys and Odile discover that breaking into Dr. Rachel Struppweiss' abode may be a little more complicated than initially thought.|
The trail takes him to a neighborhood not too far from Tulane University itself - a commutable distance but not too close to campus, ostensibly to afford a busy academic some privacy away from whatever students that might try to hound her in the off hours outside of lecture halls and advisor meetings. The address she had sent him must be of Dr. Rachel Struppweiss, but the black Lincoln towncar, itself, is parked just a few blocks away, its tinted windows affording the person within some much needed privacy...and keep her away from prying eyes. It is angled in such a way to keep a clear view of the house without being too obvious, and with the neighborhood as it is, it might just be some other guest of the residence it is parked close to, a visitor to the neighborhood. Given the sleek black vehicle and the brand name attached to it, however, Rhys can probably guess who is sitting inside of it.
It's late in the evening, but not so late as to automatically rouse the suspicions of any neighborhood watch members that may be patrolling the streets. The waning Autumn moon casts a splinter of silver-blue light through the treelined street, vibrant leaves rustling with shadow - colors would be lost at this hour, but the air is cool without it being too chilly. The frost in the air will come later, but for now the year continues to cling to whatever yearning of warmth it has left before succumbing to the darkest months.
'omw' The vampire answers with an acronym.
A white, late 80's Honda Accord Ex isn't all that out of place this near to the campus. It's the kind of vehicle a college student picks up for a pittance to deliver pizza for a chain, or food in general for an app. There's a bit of rust at the rear wheel wells of the car, also indicating that this isn't someone's cheap and retro pet project. It passes the address in the night and keeps on moving, even after he passes by the lone Lincoln towncar, a shadow in the driver's seat lit only by the flash of headlights and streetlamps. Rhys, wielding his compact car like an invisibility cloak in the mixed economic circumstances of young adults living away from or still at home. And he keeps going. He pulls over around the corner, two blocks further, shuts off his headlights, and leaves it in park. And he walks back from there, bundled in fingerless gloves and layered hoodie with army surplus jacket - canvas mechanics pants and work boots. No longer attempting to blend in with more formal surroundings, and afforded many more pockets for it.
He knocks twice on the tinted window with a single knuckle - a rap that may call to mind myths of vampires, and the needed permission to enter. But that's proved swiftly false, in his case, as he reaches for and pulls on the passenger side door handle; slipping inside if it opens, and letting it go to wait for the telltale mechanical sound of it being unlocked otherwise.
A couple of taps in the glass is all it takes before the telltale click of automatic mechanisms unlocking the door with which he had chosen to announce himself emanates - faint in the hubbub of the evening, but sharp and clear in the senses of one belonging to the Kindred. The door needs to be slid, instead of pulled, but once he slips inside, he would find it especially spacious - the later model of Lincoln's MKT line would be like that, practically limousines without the stretched-out size, affording the discerning modern woman all the luxury she wants without the vehicle itself taking too much real estate. He'd find a semi-circular seating space that curls towards the barrier between driver and passenger, though that window has been rolled up, and with seating in the far back close to the large windows. There, he would find the ex-prima ballerina, naturally taking up the furthest point she can manage from the hired help.
Odile must have a driver, but if there is one, he is silent - but he wouldn't detect a heartbeat. It could be another Kindred, or she could have sent him on his way on another errand. On foot.
Today's ensemble is Gucci, perfectly tailored to fit her slender frame, lithe musculature accentuated by a cigarette skirt that modestly goes past the knee even while sitting, and a silk blouse in white, with large black cuffs, tucked into its narrow waist. There isn't a hat, this time, but the shadows conspire to half-shield her face from a quick view, anyway, to anyone with the average mortal senses - it's dark enough in the car, with only the moon to highlight the lurid color of her mouth and the delicate point of her chin, carving into the darkness jealously hugging the curve of her right cheek. Manicured fingers are curled on a folded newspaper held in front of her.
Her eyes are pale blue to the point of iridescence - without a hat to obstruct his view, he can see them clearly, like twin points of bottled lightning. Hair blacker than night is swept up in a coiffure reminiscent of the days of Clara Bow and Rita Hayworth, before color had made it to the film reel, curled just right and falling past her shoulders, glamorous even in monochrome.
She looks up with that same, ready, mischievous smile: "Mister Rhys, we can either consider this a problem or an opportunity." She pats on the plush leather seat next to her. "Sit, and look out the window. Tell me what you see."
The artificial light of lamps outside the car clings to Rhys' skin in a pale and sickly way. He doesn't arrive with the blush of life. He's a cold corpse in the dead of night sharing a level of body heat similar to the cars parked along the street in a cloudless night air. His mortal warmth and functions are the exception, not the rule - a mask he puts on to blend in, or a chased desire calling for his organs to awaken like whatever parts of the brain houses nostalgia. He slides the door open and slips down into the car without a breath of effort, closing the door beside him in the same motion that he enters with before settling where she has patted. His own gaze, pale and piercing notes several things within the car, first of all - the hair at her shoulders, the fit of the dress and skirt, the newspaper (noting publication and date if he can), and her own gaze, last, shameless in his expression toward his own curious snooping.
He listens between words. Sniffs. Heartbeats and blood each announcing themselves with potence beyond that of his already supernaturally heightened senses. Nothing past what he can see. He takes a breath. The artifice needed for the air he'll need to send across vocal chords and produce audible words for her to hear. "As long as it's not the kind of problem that's an opportunity for someone else-" he starts, and lets the implication carry the rest of what he might mean to say. He turns his gaze to look on, out the window.
Through the window, he'd be able to spot the problem almost immediately. The residence is well lit, and through his various supernatural senses, he could detect multiple heartbeats in that direction, the drifting drone of faint conversations too far away, even for him, to truly discern the words, though he would be able to pick them out here and there. There are cars parked in front of the residence and through the one-sided panes that shield them from view from the outside, he'd see shadows; silhouettes of other bodies occupying the porch, or entering the house, or exiting the house. It is in a state of bustling activity, almost alive compared to the silent and still properties flanking it.
"It's been like this for the last two or three days," Odile supplies by way of explanation, expelling her own breath, her tone straddling the delicate line between exhilaration and annoyance - the former due to the challenge it presents, the latter because...well, she did tell him that she was fond of his favorite sin, also. "The accident was recent enough that they've not buried the woman yet, so her residence has been teeming with loved ones making arrangements."
She leans further into her seat, finally turning her eyes away from the window and looking over at him and his wan pallor, examining the marked difference between his true state of being and what she remembers of him when pretending to live; in a way, he is a chameleon, also. "Which means two things for us." A slender finger tipped with a ruby nail flicks upwards. "People around almost all hours of the day, making any surreptitious designs for a felony next to impossible. That's the bad news. The good news is that it also probably means that those who may have had any plans to toss the place and make off with its secrets may not have done so because of this very reason."
She hands him the newspaper - the print and date would indicate that it's the Tulane University press, and the page she is looking at is the woman's obituary, along with a date, time, and location for her funeral. "The other good news is that we do have a window to strike. We know where everyone in her house is going to be. The bad news is that others might know this also, and we might come across our rivals in the endeavor. That could be a good thing, or a bad thing. Equal odds. Hence, problem or opportunity."
Rhys squints. A crinkle of the meager wrinkles that will never be more defined than they presently are, at the corners of his eyes, and in his corpse like pallor. If his scruff were in a lesser state of mere stubble he might be mistaken for a gunslinger out of time - sizing up said challenge. He counts off silhouettes and in their variance eliminates police and amateur criminals before her funerary notions cross his mind. He grunts. Not one of the amused sounding ones - and rather hollow within his current physiology. Brows furrow. The good news that Odile shares motivates him to sit back within his chair, unfurrow and think. "It's rare that I benefit from going up in professionals. But it happens," he admits. Like the trade of living spies during the cold war - something not afforded to zealots and the criminally reckless.
His attention drops to the paper and he takes it as offered - hand gripping the edge from the opposite side. Precautionary habits of cold skin and blending in. And he's quiet as he reads and as he listens, like he has the cusp of an idea that requires more input, taking in everything until it has a form - memory or otherwise. "A van and and some window decals on short notice," he lists. "White shirt, black pants, a tie and some tableware," he adds. His lack of heat adds nothing in the way of condensation. His recycled air shares a temperature ambient to the interior of the vehicle. "We show up as caterers - picking up equipment from the wake or setting out post-service food while they're gone, and it may deter the team looking to flip the place for a time. And help us to be accepted by the neighbours that may notice us." It may be good that it's so late in the year, sunset being when it is - timing may be everything in this case, at least where his involvement is concerned. Though, it sounds like he's committed a similar subterfuge in the past.
"A rival group in the house is decidedly the worst case scenario, doubly so if they're supernaturals," Odile opines. "I could simply be paranoid, but I think one such as you appreciates the wisdom in hoping for the best while preparing for the worst." Her hand releases her end of the paper once he's got a solid grip on it, crossing long legs towards him under her snug skirt - by the knee, a pale, alabaster hand curling her fingers on top of the mounted curve, smoothing down the dark, expensive fabric. Now that her attention is squarely upon him, those bottled-lightning eyes do not leave his face, sweeping up the side of it and taking in the way he breathes or doesn't, what he wears where he's not trying to blend in the spheres she inhabits. Like two different men.
His idea has her rolling her head back, doing her own mental accounting and whether his resources or her own would be able to put together the ruse in a hurry. She can improvise at the drop of a hat, she has had to learn to survive by doing the very thing, but her endeavors are meticulous and normally take at least a week to plan. Here, they only have days. "It's a quick camouflage," she says in the end, contemplative but approving. "But it'll have to do, we don't have much time. At best, we get away scott-free. At worst, any rivals would be clued in, but by then, we'll have, hopefully, enough of a headstart to mitigate any risks." White teeth clip into the curve of her lower lip, lipstick smudging only faintly - the wonders of twenty-first century cosmetology. "I know enough caterers in the city, I can easily procure the decals we need and the tableware. Would you be able to provide the vehicle?" No mention of the clothes; she knows he owns such things, and her closet is full of stylish neutrals. Clothes are the easy part.
"There is a certain advantage to letting your rivals do the work, and collecting your reward from their corpses," Rhys notes, in the notion of a worst case scenario - like there's a plan B slowly improvising there. And that the mortality of those that get in their way are purely happenstance. "But we know little enough about this organization as it stands." Agreement. They may not be the only supernaturals devising in this, or on hire. "And-" he begins. "I've seen the way one of these crews tosses a place. They may not be successful enough for us to reap, and make more issues for us getting in, in the future."
He does not fret under her direct attention. Does not shy away from letting her see his default state of existence while they conduct business. Rather, his own attentive gaze rises from the paper and to her in the inspection - as if trying to suss out response from behind his own poker face. His clothes, as well worn as they are, do not carry a musk of body odor as expected with the living. Rather, there's a blend of scents - his jacket, like cedar sawdust from firewood in a root cellar. The absence of such additions on houses in the area may indicate that it's been carried from elsewhere. His gloves, more subtly, have a quality of cordite. The scent that follows a firecracker blast or gunshot. His shoes have dirt along the grips, but clean otherwise, as if by trained habit. When he does not speak, he does not breathe - but at least he blinks, if only a little less often than naturally breathing sorts. "Sometimes opportunity calls for quick camouflage," he says. "And I haven't pulled this particular trick in Louisiana." So they have a blank slate. At least with concern to non-Federal investigative forces. "And a van is big enough that if they interrupt, we can always take one of them out with us." Plan C, maybe? He nods, subtly, at the question of sourcing a vehicle. "It won't be legit," he warns. Rough hands that may be as adept with an ignition as with a lockpick. They are steady - but the dead are rarely expected to tremor and tremble, despite how well he is at affecting mortality when he needs to. "But it won't be traced back to us either."
"Last resort." Regarding the potential Plan B, but Odile's exacting gaze doesn't waver either when she says it - it's cool, but firm, though Rhys would easily get the impression that it isn't out of the desire not to harm anyone, or a reluctance to get her hands dirty, or even some genuine pity for humans, or remorse for taking lives. "Reaping in that way tends to produce more questions than not." Proven ultimately by a Keeper of the Accords and an amateur crime scene photographer showing up in their crime scene. That impish smile returns on the line of her scarlet mouth. "I just got here, Mister Rhys. I'd like to spend some time here at least over two weeks before the local townsfolk chase me away with torches and pitchforks like the old days, especially when I'm in the middle of acquiring something substantial."
He may not breathe normally, but she does, and for such a delicate creature, he may even harbor the suspicion that she would have a sensitive nose. She does, and everything else. For someone decidedly less animalistic than some of her other brethren, usually framing herself within the heights of sophistication, her senses are terribly acute. She catches the whiff of gunpowder and cordite from him, wood, leather and the distinct lack of anything else. He smells like his environment, and thankfully not of his permanent affliction, though she still makes no move to touch him while his color suggests a lack of warmth - a clear limitation of the things she is willing to tolerate now that she has reclaimed the freedom to choose. It isn't as if she's not seen horrific things in the Otherwhere; she has. But at least in some fashion, they have all been alive.
The lack of disgust, however, is indicative enough that it is more than just the visceral recalcitrance to touch a corpse - no matter what she says out of jest. If not there, he'd find it in her eyes, the brief flash of uncertainty. They meet, blue to blue, and hold.
"Well." The word is breezy, at least, teased by the kiss of the City of Lights. "Nothing about this endeavor is legitimate, so that doesn't much matter. Like you said, opportunity calls for quick camouflage, and it'll have to be enough on short notice."
"I wouldn't say last," Rhys says. "But it's only something I resort to when it's the most effective path - and hopefully before it becomes the necessary route," he adds. Which isn't much of a assurance when it comes to humanity, but may come across as professional courtesy or courtesy at the very least, for him to admit as much about his process. "Though, I may tend toward caution here, a tad more than elsewhere, now that I'm aware that there are those that may catch what the police miss." An improvised narrative formed by allowing a pro to run from a double murder thwarted by one with supernatural aid. It's hard to say if he is annoyed by this turn of events through his more subtle body language and rare deviance from tone - but he was rather thorough about being kept in the loop during that last meeting with Louis. One step further into courtesy, "I'd prefer not to leave any immediately visible evidence at the house."
"Alternatively. On the off chance they get in before us. I do have another idea - and it wont cost us a thing," he says. Though he doesn't detail what it is just off hand. Instead, as she meets his gaze, he pauses. Uncertainty - not his own, but an observation of hers. There's no turning off that piercing quality to that pale shade of blue and his quality of alertness. He listens for her heartbeat like the most portable kind of Voight-Kampff test born out of Dick and filtered through Scott. The way his gaze drops to her neck might be a test, whether or not he presumes that the difference between two nights ago and the current evening is the business being discussed, the chill of him, or his very nature.
"I hear this was the birthplace of jazz," he says, a bit more lightly than anything truly bored. "It's only right that we have to improvise to get this done right." Though his familiarity in rolling with the punches may be less to theme and more born from experience.
"I doubt you or I would have lasted this long without a strong stomach with respect to doing what's necessary," Odile observes, that ever-present smile playing on the glossy, vibrant lacquer of her lipstick - always a bold red, standing out against her alabaster skin like freshly spilled blood on snow. "In such endeavors, I prefer to be a ghost, but the realities of your profession or mine sometimes do not lead us to disappearing as thoroughly as we like. And believe me when I say forging new identities after a devastating shattering of an old one is not as easy as Hollywood suggests, even for one with my unique skillset, in the modern age. Not without the right resources. As I told you the last time we met." Visible mischief plays over her features, plucking those delicate lines like a lyre and clearly remembering what had transpired then. "Currency is easy, but occasionally useful."
His other idea has her tilting her head at him, inquisitive eyes burning like white-blue stars in the darkness. "Hm?" It's a murmur, low and unfairly suited for her usual pitch and the slight accent that colors it. But the question is one that doesn't manifest in full, watching his eyes drift lower to the hollow of her throat, visible from where the first two buttons of her silk blouse remain undone. He'd find red there, too, a high-quality ruby threaded by black ribbon, glittering against her collar. She is afraid, yes, but the Lost always are, forever cognizant when they're trapped in a small space with a dangerous predator.
But one wouldn't know it by the look of her, the way she meets his eyes and angles her chin in that ever-present, imperious angle, effortlessly giving off the air of being the most prideful, untouchable thing in the room. She is a lady from the court of Fallen Leaves; she has since learned how to embrace that fear and weaponize it. It is only because he is Kindred that she is unable to hide it...at least, not from him.Especially when she smiles that way and laughs; underneath the shadows, features come alive with the sound. "It was," she tells him, a hand coming up absently to hook a pinky finger into the ribbon holding the ruby against her throat, worn slightly off-center. "With Jazz came Swing, and it was all the rage in the ballrooms of my Paris. Ballet will always be my first love, but my trysts with Swing were decidedly passionate ones. So yes, agreed. Fitting that we should." She cants her head at him, long lashes hooding over her eyes. "And we will."