Logs:The Curious Case of Doctor Rachel Strupweiss
The Curious Case of Doctor Rachel Strupweiss
|Characters:||Odile and Rhys|
|Summary:||Paired up by Louis to look into the owner of the mysterious flashdrive that Jason Lorraine nearly got murdered over, Rhys and Odile share their findings, talk next steps, and set up a wager between them.|
He would find Odile in a small table by the window, made for two people, in the quietest corner of the room where their conversation is largely guaranteed to be drowned out by the rest of the patrons that have congregated in the main dining hall. Per her usual manner, she keeps her hat on her head and the shadows that have collected there only keep them persistent around her, as if her very own mantle, however intangible. Long legs are crossed by the knee. Today's outfit is Prada, or Versace - something Italian at least, with a slim, form-hugging silhouette paired with heels thin enough to punch through a person's jugular, if she was so inclined. A glass of robust red wine sits by an empty plate; if she had been eating before, she isn't anymore.
Hidden eyes are focused at the window, her ghostly image reflected by the play of light in the interior clashing with the evening outside, faded save for the vibrant color of her mouth, the only pop of color presently visible from her monochromatic scheme.
There's no message to confirm the appointment. Radio silence on the part of the texting Kindred once information has been relayed. No assurances beyond the first that he'll be present. Drifting shadows cast over familiar architecture from across the Atlantic. Remnants from a cultural renaissance, and now merely a survivor of calamity - more familiar, still.
He walks in wearing steel-toed oxfords, black slacks, and a button-up white dress shirt (with the top couple buttons left popped open). The lack of jacket implies that he lives nearby - though he very likely doesn't. His scarred hands - old cuts on his fingers and knuckles imply a rougher sort of living than formal trappings can imply. But, hey, maybe he's just a sculptor - another artist committing to the nomadic post-colonialisms of gentrification. His scruff, an aesthetic of the absent minded artist of trend seeking hipster. Only, Odile knows for certain that's not the case.
His pale, piercing gaze sweeps the room as he enters - set in contrast once more against the tan hue of life that he's summoned into his corpse-flesh. Another effort to blend in with the public in these social settings, followed by another as he goes to the bar and orders something amber poured into a rocks glass. Whiskey or bourbon. He carries it with him after leaving a small tip, further ensuring that they are not bothered by those who might want to refresh his drink order with frequency. His attention goes from the night scene they overlook to her. He notes the dress, the heels, and sweeps his attention back up to her shadow countenance as he takes a seat across from her and sets the glass down.
She doesn't turn her head just yet to Rhys when he sits down across from her, though the way he moves is indicative enough that her companion has arrived. It could have been anyone, perhaps one of the monsters that she secretly fears, but that unflappable playful confidence remains; perhaps the things that slither in the shadows had whispered to her prior to his arrival. "Back in the day, New Orleans tried its level best to be an echo of Paris," Odile remarks, apropos of nothing, to the vampire once he's within earshot, her faint accent forever touched by the land of her birth. "It failed, of course, but I credit it for trying to aspire to something grander than itself. Not that it doesn't have its charms." A white wrist flashes out from underneath the cuff of her fitted sleeve, so pale that her veins appear blue underneath her alabaster complexion - like marble, plucking her glass off the white tablecloth.
Her head finally turns towards him tilted slightly back; her eyes are a blue like his own, albeit forever lit with mischief, and they're visible here and there, whenever the brim of her hat allows. "Our lady professor was a Doctor Rachel Struppweiss," she tells him. "An anthropologist, as indicated by our early information. She specialized in analyzing urban decay - at-risk communities and how methods to deal with them have been built within the system. And if you're wondering why I'm referring to her in the past tense, it is because she is very dead."
She takes a quiet sip of her wine. "A car accident, very recently. Her office in Tulane University is now presently acting as a temporary memorial."
Rhys takes another look out over the city, while Odile remarks. His own expressions betray little. Boredness usually the mask - too aware to be tired, at least in a physical sense. "The French city Napoleon sold," he says; almost like a quip. Implications of familiarity with the place outside of the last couple of months. His nomadic nature, and likely some effort, has worn down his accent to something neutrally American with a touch of gravel in this throat. He doesn't comment any further, and does not provide a review of his own for the community spread out around and beneath them, housed in a mix of water damaged antiquity and plain modernity.
The turn of her head, the subtleties of shadow and maybe a flash of her own eyes, draw his regard back to her. A brow lift occurs when the lady professor becomes a 'was'. He's aware of the meaning, but listens for the how of it. "That solves finding a way to approach her," he says. There's a sigh in there somewhere. But he doesn't dwell. "Any details released about the car accident?" he asks.
"Yes, well. You know what they say about small men." Odile's visible mouth curves upwards, baring a hint of teeth; there is something cutting by the look of it, no matter how much of her face is obscured from view. "They act very much like the small dogs so many rich debutantes like stuffing in their designer purses." Said with a faint sort of derision towards this clear disrespect for the classics. As if she would ever treat a Louis Vitton in such a way!
Her wine glass set back down, she leans forward but only slightly, slender limbs folding on the table. "Not just yet, it happened so recently that there may very well be an active investigation, still - not just for the hows and whys of it, but for insurance purposes. If we want details, I think that is the route to go through, unless you happen to have some very close ties with the city's police department. Alternatively, I was going to suggest using Mr. Scott, intrepid amateur investigator, to handle it to provide us with a buffer and some plausible deniability. Or we could go the absolute direct approach and attempt to gain access to her belongings, which may require a felony or two." Another smile, adopting a more teasing bent. "You may be right after all, monsieur, about what retirement actually entails. I'm certainly not opposed to breaking a few rules. What do you think?"
"Their reach exceeds their grasp," is the alternative take that Rhys provides on the subject of small men. He lifts the rocks glass to his lips and takes a sip of the amber shaded liquid within. A scent of burnt caramel and oak clinging to the liquid form. He lowers the cup and swallows. "Working on it," he says, for the forging of close ties within the police department. None, as of yet. Quiet, otherwise, until the options have been laid out. A grunt of amusement or respect at her thoughts on retirement that follow the alternative plan. "Has our mutual acquaintance already had his meeting with Mr. Scott?" he inquires. And moves forward, before an answer can be heard. "I say start with the felonies. Before anyone notices the attention and tries to clean things up - if they haven't already."
He leans back and reaches into his pants pocket - on the left side - producing an Android phone. Not the cheapest variant, it has a decent camera, but it's not new either. Likely a model from a few years ago bought off of craigslist or a similar service. He alights the screen and thumbs the code before setting it on the table before Odile. A small gallery loaded. Two men in suits, business haircuts, looking around inside a McDonalds. A brown sedan. A mud covered license plate that's too difficult to make out, for lack of light and mud. "Came looking for me when I poked around the site. There's more than one crew on retainer."
"I believe you are an astute enough operator to know the answer to that before my confirmation," Odile opines - and she gives her opinion very decisively; unsurprising, given past occupations and reputation. But his amusement is reflected in kind, eyes glittering like blue crystals underneath the brim of her hat, ensconced in the throes of it. "If Louis had, he would have mentioned it to the both of us. I've known him for a decade, he has never missed performing a task set before him." Dexterous fingers recapture her glass, though not to bring it to her lips just yet.
"But I agree, about the felonies. Her address is easily procured, but if she ever suspected that her work would run the risk of getting her murdered, I doubt she would keep the data in her office. Somewhere in her abode, most likely. We should try there, first, before said mysterious others toss it. Though if they do toss it, I'm certain one or all of us would be clued in on the break-in relatively quickly. Still, even that might give us something."
The offered device is one she plucks off the table with those light, airy movements - but her grip is deceptively secure. She may no longer be a professional performer, but ballet is a rigorous discipline and the classical school especially so; she would have to change out her bones and marrow so she could rid herself of it entirely. "Well, that's annoying," she sniffs. "But perhaps something that we could turn to our advantage. What is that famous saying? Benjamin Franklin, I think? Three may keep a secret if the two of them are dead? The more bodies there are, the more weak links exist. We just need to find them. Have you tried to hunt your hunters yet, Mister Rhys?"
Rhys' keeps his right hand wrapped around his glass, fingers slightly space - showcasing the roughness of a past life, all from before the does of immortality that ensured he would always restore to this point of time; these mundane scars, this weather worn state. "He seems professional," he agrees, regarding Louis. A holding pattern of cautious opinion that leans toward the positive. A bright review for a paranoid Shadow. "We should be wary of planning use of Mr. Scott until we know he's manageable." Another kind of holding pattern.
"Agreed," he says about starting with the late professor's home. "Jason Lorraine's place was tossed. Cushions cut. The works. If they're looking for the same item and don't already have it, I'd expect the same process is in the works." He looks older than what his mortal age likely is - at least compared to those that live average lives, in the modern age. Wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, sure, but also skin that wasn't exposed to the things that an easy abundance of junk food can do to a complexion. "It's what I was hoping for," he admits, for there being many more secret keepers to chase. It fits with the earlier plan to draw some out with an email. A subtle nod replies to the last question as he reaches to retrieve the phone. "Looked into who might be hiring pros, locally, in numbers," he answers. "Got a description. Caucasian, thirty-something, sand-blonde, blue or blue-ish eyes. Another suit. Somewhere in the financial district."
"We'll leave the finagling of Mr. Scott with Louis," Odile remarks, hidden eyes falling on the man's hands and the wear upon them; much like his face, they look familiar, too - shades of a memory struggling to find clarity in the more modern times, to push past its sepia-toned state to digital color. But Rhys' agreement draws a rare sliver of genuine warmth from the woman's mercurial half-visage. "He can be terribly social when he wants. He is, after all, in the business of making friends. How else would he be able to get them what they need? It is the most significant difference between our natures." Punctuated with an assessing sip of her red wine.
She listens to the rest, but she examines him, also; she is just as capable of it as she is with a conversation - but as it stands, she is more interested in the reasons why he seems to trigger the back end of a mind addled and fragmented by experiences too traumatic to recount, reaching through the cracks left behind by various torments and violations. It is a face she knows, but how?
Her interest is certainly not due to his age - she has long ceased attempting to gauge supernaturals like herself on that end.
"Mm." The grousing is a contemplative one, leaning back on her seat and sighing softly. "That doesn't surprise me in the least. Not that I'm hanging my hat on gangster stereotypes, but considering the dead woman's specialty, urban development is always a point of contention in these parts. Something about her research was probably especially damning to someone's ambitions in the financial sector, or city hall."
Despite unaging, there are differences between Rhys and any distant memory of him. Namely, in expression. The bored yet aware expression of modern nights a contrast to the cocksure smile and swagger of confident freedom. And maybe there was a woman. A rebellious spirit to whom the grizzled Kindred was attached - probably Kindred herself. But if they met in leave, mutually exiting a state preceding occupation, he would have been alone.
"The difference being the making of friends, or concern with the needs of others?" It's asked dryly. With his phone back in hand he locks it with a thumb and returns it to his pocket before leaning back into his chair for casual comfort. His lack of follow up on Mr. Scott being either agreement, or yet another holding pattern. "Her specialty may be how she stumbled into this," he concedes. "But it's a longer and more graceful step than a stumble that lands you exchanging flash drives with contacts nameless to you. There's a handler somewhere, in this - a last step for the delivery, or a source."
If it is a memory and not her peculiar brand of madness, it is a difficult one to bring to light and surrenders to the fog, for now. She ceases with her struggling, fingers finding her purse and producing her silver cigarette case, though this time she toys with it rather than open it. It's not a restless movement, but more of a thoughtful one, and each flick of her wrist is by itself a lamentation of the modern day stigma regarding smoking.
The difference is not one she clarifies, and replies to it only with another flash of that Cheshire smile underneath her hat. "Do they have to be mutually exclusive?" Odile wonders, and leaves it at that. "Well, if this is a case of corporate espionage gone wrong, I can't say I blame Professor Struppweiss in the slightest. I can't imagine how exciting it is to grade papers and lecture on homeless statistics, or crime rates in the projects. But the truth will find the light soon enough when we're all so interested in what that mysterious drive contains. It may very well be worth killing for."
Pale blue eyes land on the cigarette case. No tension in his jaw, this time. He just takes another drink as he watches the case turn under the restless designs of its holder until he's assured that it's not about to be put to use. He directs his attention outside, once more, the shadows dulled by the predatory senses of the Kindred. And still he cannot look distant or detached, eyes always implying alertness or purpose despite apparent bored neutrality. Rhys exists within the brief silence as comfortably as the conversation preceding and proceeding. Odile's wondering draws him back.
He looks to the brim of her hat, expecting eyes, and lowers still, to the Cheshire smile instead - watching as lips part to help form her retort. He shrugs - his dress shirt hugging tight to his shoulders and making the gesture a little less subtle than when he'd been in the peacoat. "Suppose not," he concedes. "Even the drifter seeks interesting or useful friends and the rewards of pleasing others. Context." A huff. Another edge of a chuckle at that last comment. "I'd hope so." Said investment having already been made by multiple factions, including their own.
Her mouth is expressive enough to hint at the look of her even with the hat in view, laden with the sense that Odile Devereux, if that even is her real name, is rarely ever neutral and a marked contrast to her present companion's preference towards attentive stoicism. Fingers drop her case back in her purse in surrender, too, the sense of a groan more felt than actually heard, but amusement returns at the rising, hard-hewn line of his shrug.
A laugh does leave her, the brim of her hat bobbing up and down at the gruff concession. "Louis is in the business of pleasing others for a price," she supplies, her pinky tracing the lip of her glass in a slow, contemplative movement, but her eyes are briefly visible again, bands of shadow parting enough to render them so, fixed on his features and the facsimile of life present upon them, however temporary. "I'm in the business of pleasing myself for free. But you know what they say about opposites, especially when it so accurately explains the two of us, also."
She draws another pull of her red wine, continuing in an unhesitating fashion: "Not that we're all completely different from one another when all of us just can't help ourselves when it comes to something we decide we have to know. Are you a betting man, Mister Rhys? Care to make a wager on the contents?"
Pleasing others for a price. Another humored exhale through his nostrils. This time, as his glass is lifted, close to his lips. His peripheral vision catches the way his breath fogs the glass, and for just a moment, Rhys is entirely still. A skip in a vinyl record. Then, he sips, and requiem keeps playing. He lowers the glass to the table, hand still loosely grasping it in the interim; fingers in divots that collect easy condensation and thwart their own provision of grip. Gaze alertly tracking pinky around the opposite glass.
"Seeing the familiar in the other comforts - the other in the newly familiar, exciting." More philosophical than he looks. But he's been around awhile. "Less like magnets. More like-" he pauses, thumb clearing condensation like rain off a windshield. "Batteries. Negative and positive makes the spark." Or, a soul that's been around awhile that hasn't ceased in learning new things. Like, electricity, to be relative on terms of time.
His chin dips. Another concession, on the point in which they're similar. "It's an old vice of mine," he says of gambling. "But old vices are just the ones that've stuck around. What's the stakes?"
For one who effortlessly gives off the impression as an indolent socialite, Odile is sharper than she looks; senses key into the sudden lack of movement after that single, realistic breath. But the circling of her pinky doesn't pause in reaction, tracing lazy loops around her glass before she picks it up to swirl the ruby vintage around the surface. His brief turn as a philosopher is both surprising and not - vampires tend to be old souls forever trapped in amber, after all.
"We each describe what we think is in the drive in specific terms," she proposes, her crimson smile blossoming into a full grin, radiant under the eclipse cast by her hat. "If I win, you'll have to indulge my curiosity." She gestures towards him with her glass. "I rarely ever interact with Kindred. I know that there are plenty of differences even among your brethren, but I can't help but wonder about your present state...how you get there. Does it require a feeding? How long does it last?" She cants her head sideways to look at him. "Or is it purely fueled by the desire to become human again, if not just for a moment? And whenever you do it, do old appetites come rushing back, or do they remain in stasis? Or do you ever lose them at all? Inquiring minds want to know."
Her finger stops its absent description over the shape of her glass. "Old sins are what they are," she observes. "The Vatican tells us that there are only seven that actually matter, so I suppose I'm further damned by being so intimately acquainted with all of them, though..." Her eyes practically sparkle with that wicked mischief. "I do have my favorites among them."
The stakes don't seem to trouble him - no alarm bells of paranoia causing him to grind his teeth, or bring out the fight or flight of the beast. If anything, Odile continues to earn the curiosity of the temporarily lively corpse sitting across from her. "Playing for answers," Rhys begins to comment. "A favorite. Much more interesting than currency." He gives a nod. Acceptance of what she might win out of it as he thinks up what he might like to win, in turn. "A story," he decides. "From your past. Something worth telling," he decides - shooting for a narrative rather than direct Q and A on his end.
"And unless you're a strong believer in confession being good for the soul - why not repeat the lot, once you've collected all seven?" he says. This one is definitely a quip - a breach of professional stoicism. The pause that he gives on the note of favorites, however, may represent a crossroads. Professional distance and curiosity, respectively. He studies the mischief in briefly visible eyes and lifts his glass. "To the already damned. And favorites."
"Currency is easy," Odile replies lightly, bringing the glass, finally, to her lips, the edges of white teeth clipping delicately against the glass. "It's the truth that's difficult." And when he asks for a story, it earns him another bright laugh - there's surprise there, and it even sounds pleased. She isn't accustomed to it. "But yes. Agreed. We have an accord, then. I'll trade you your secret for temporary life, to one of mine. And you should congratulate yourself for even thinking of it, monsieur." That glitter of sapphirine amusement practically illuminates the area underneath her hat; he could almost see her face. "I usually only part with that upon inanimate objects. An actual thinking being is so much more interesting, when it runs the risk of me being skewered by it."
Not that she actually sounds worried, it's the fact that the risk is real makes it exciting, and the follow-on quip once his stoicism cracks has her pressing a smile against the glass, leaving a smudge of her lipstick on it. "Who says I've not?" she wonders. "Repeated it over and over? I may have dozens of sets of seven, unless that's the story you would like me to tell, in which case I ought to save all the hows if you somehow emerge victorious, or if we both lose."
She extends her arm, to tap her glass lightly with his at his toast. "Bien sur," she murmurs, taking a sip. "Though I take that to mean that your acquaintance with all seven is just as intimate as my own, and that you, too, have your favorites. Is it Wrath? Pride?"
"And fleeting, perpetually losing value," Rhys says of currency. "A fortune yesterday is a pittance today." These views aren't universal for the Kindred, obviously - with others tending toward playing the dragon to their hoard. There's a twitch at the corner of his mouth at the bright, lively laughter that he earns out of Odile. Like the edge of a crooked smile creaking upward out of muscle memory. It doesn't quite get there, but it's a first since their meeting (at least, this time around). "A gamble without risk lacks the rush." A dip of his chin to the congratulations. His glass touching hers on the side opposite the smudge of her lipstick that plays a matte surface against the light of the room being cast toward their table and the windows beyond - a beacon to the wandering masses below and the nightlife they afford. His gaze filters through the layers of glass to notice it. He takes a sip. Definitely bourbon.
"If we both lose, we'll both have to provide our stakes, I think," he concludes. "Otherwise?" Shrug. What's the point. "Damned many times over," he confirms. And considers favorites, tilting his glass to the left and to the right like the scales of justice weighing said sins. "Sloth - maybe. Of the spiritual sense. Turning my back on the virtues for my own sake and enjoyment." It speaks a greater familiarity with cardinal sins and grave matters that might imply some prior affiliation. "You?"
"And yet where would any of us be without it? I wonder..." Odile's pale hand lifts to cradle her chin into its waiting cup, observing him through the shadows of her obfuscating headwear. "...whether you're old enough to remember a time when goods were traded for goods, instead of a printed promise of value." It seems the more his facade cracks, the longer that upturn of her own visible mouth remains. "I would be lying, however, if I said that I didn't appreciate its convenience."
Rhys catches her meaning clearly enough, teeth become visible again, like pearls against blood. "Indeed. The trade happens anyway if we're both wrong, I will easily agree to that, if you would in turn." Her wine dwindles in every sip, but these are slow ventures in between. The implication isn't lost on her. "It speaks of rebellion, that. Were you promised to the faith, perhaps against your will? It isn't an unknown custom, back in the day. Usually for second or third sons."
A single, perfectly manicured index taps on her glass. "But I am very fond of Sloth," she tells him with a grin. "Greed is mine." And that playfully insidious scarlet curve grows all the sharper. "Lust a close second, but I am relatively confident in my ability to convince you or anyone that under certain circumstances, they are downright interchangeable."
Grunt - a humored one. Casual repose on the dining chair, loose grip on his glass. It speaks of relaxation. Though, he was never really the tightly wound brand of stoic either. The cracking of his facade is a subtler thing - a sideways step toward greater verbosity and the edges of rarer expressions upon his face that may become more potent yet. Engagement beyond business and the pretense of small talk while conducting it. "I get paid," Rhys assures her - not living a barter based or post-currency unlife. "But what I buy has more worth than what I spend."
He turns the glass, thumb and index finger drifting to new divots on matters of faith. "Promised to service of a sort," he answers. And leaves it at that. Rather he watches the way she taps her glass, and the way she grins as she shares her favorites - finding lips to be an easy point of reference on his company while eyes are veiled. A slow, understanding not - attention hardly drifting for the shared preferences. "What sin doesn't have some leanings toward lust? Envy inspiring wrath over a body some other hand touches. Sloth, in neglect of the gifts or virtues? Greed, gluttony, pride?" No comment. Enough said. "But I imagine you are just that. Convincing."
"Well, I like to think of Lust as the act of wanting a specific thing and under that definition, the motive that drives the act of doing anything is in some degree fueled by desire, so I can't say I disagree with you there," Odile replies. The darkness may hide the nuances of her face, but she certainly isn't making the effort of hiding her visible pleasure at engaging her companion in actual conversation. Like a blade against a whetstone, it keeps certain skills sharp - and if she can have fun in the doing, so much the better.
It's as if the last remark has somehow transformed itself into a glowing compliment. She does take pride in her ability to be convincing. Eyes practically dance like blue fireflies under her hat. "I'm flattered that you think so," she tells him gamely. "But you ought to be careful. While flattery may not get you everywhere, it might get you somewhere."
If she's waggling her eyebrows, the hat makes it difficult to see them. "Now that we've set the rules, I wager..." She leans back against her seat, long legs sliding underneath the table in a diagonal lean, pressed up against the side of her chair and the edge of a single stiletto hooking into the base. "I wager that the flash drive contains survey results of a particularly impoverished neighborhood in the city that has plenty of potential, if only it were developed and these records may very well mirror certain attempts in ridding it of its current occupants by inexplicable tax increases. And if I lose, or we both lose, a story from my past is yours."
"I can't assure you that God is in everything. But Lust almost certainly is," Rhys admits, under the definition thereof that they have landed at. He doesn't say the 'G' word with spite. Or dismissal. There's a degree of belief in the casual, toneless reference - like he's commenting on a congressman he's neither for or against. "I'm cautious," he assures, when she warns him. A gentle tilt of his head, swirl of his drink. "But also curious." The crossroads that he keeps returning to - but has already determine which of the two rules tonight, apparently. After all, shadows exist around the light and what it illuminates, covetous.
He inspects what of Odile's face that he can see for her wager, like someone trying to suss out a poker face - as if there was something she might have held back in order to seed her bet. "I could see that. It's ...human, and everything like it," he admits, for the plot that she provides; challenging him to come up with something comparable. "Mine-" he starts, with a pause to weigh it on his tongue before sharing. "-is that something misplaced was lost or uncovered in August of two-thousand-five. And that while some have staked their claim to it, they are eager to hold on or find it first." He sips, drawing much more of that amber liquid to his lips than any previous - where he'd nursed it enough to conceal whether or not he was actually making progress. He confirms that he is. "But, I suppose I should be at least as specific, to be fair. So, some antique, rumored to have power. Maybe something claimed to have been left behind by the French." Would someone kill over that? Maybe Kindred would. It blends the occult into a criminal treasure hunt. Studies of urban decay and all.
The black hat brim tilts just enough to hint at the shape of the fine-boned face underneath it in response to the confession. "This would be the part where I remind you of the old addage about the curious cat," Odile replies, blatant and shameless in her teasing. "But since there's really nothing feline about you, perhaps you don't need to be too cautious. I can't, however, say the same thing for myself." She is plenty feline, when it suits, and while the the words are playful, the truth may nip closer than even she intends - she is, after all, technically a fugitive, forever dodging monsters at her heels.His own offering is just as interesting, and she tastes the danger it promises like the wine she had just imbibed. The tip of her tongue caresses the faint divot on her lower lip, brief in its contemplation of that space of her before another sip is undertaken. "I'm suddenly hoping that you win," she confesses with a laugh. "Whatever it is, it's already proven its alleged worth in lives. But humans tend to appraise things differently than our lot does. Whether Lost, or Kindred."