Logs:There's a Dead Man Playing Pinball

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There's a Dead Man Playing Pinball


Characters: Eerie & Rafael & Mingzhu & James
Date: 2020-04-13
Summary: There's a dead man playing pinball at The Night Shift, but we basically ignore it. A bargain is struck. Advice is offered. There's a new mortician in town.
Disclaimers: A few f-bombs, mention of pandemic stuff, nothing graphic!

The Night Shift - 200 Block of Iberville - Mid-City

This bar isn’t the fanciest, but it isn’t quite a dive, either. The tables are made of dark wood, as are the booths, whose seats are covered in faded brown leather. The bar is made of the same wood as the chairs, and has several stools for the patrons in front of it. There’s a pinball machine in the corner, as well as a TV on one of the walls, but that’s about the extent of the frills of this place. It’s a place for drinking, as evidenced by the pretty wide variety of liquors behind the bar, as well as a few interesting things on tap.

A placard behind the bar declares: These premises are Accorded Neutral Grounds.




The Black Constable in the hoodie has been at the bar of the Night Shift for a while now. Eerie sits a few seats from the end, hunched over a glass of nondescript amber beverage with the defeated slump of someone too far from a last sleep and doubly far from sleep in the future. How Eerie is drinking while wearing a black cloth mask over the lower half of their hooded face is unclear. This may be why they look so defeated. At a bar and unable to drink.

Behind them, a man in a lumpy suit that the trained eye will recognize as being awkwardly and obviously bulging from under-clothing body armor and under-the-shoulder-holster is playing pinball, badly, with an unlit cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth.


There's no mask or gloves in evidence for Rafael Castillo; either he's unconcerned about getting any sort of virus or he hasn't in fact noticed that there's any sort of epidemic going on. As ever he looks generally tired, the dark beneath his eyes the baggy shadow of someone who hasn't gotten a good night's sleep in a long while but has come to terms with that particular state of being. It's getting a bit chilly - at least by New Orleans standards, with 'chilly' being 'sixty degrees out' - so he's got a light windbreaker on in maroon over a black polo shirt, a pair of blue jeans and running shoes finishing off the oh-so-professional ensemble.

He makes his way along over towards the bar, pausing as he glances down the bar. Hooded figure. Noted. Not too unusual. "...think someone'd give a shit if I smoked in here?" Probably. But he can ask.


Into the bar comes one who definitely doesn't fit in. For one, she's dressed in bright yellow; for two, she clearly has a lot more money than the usual patron of a place like this. Mingzhu however does not seem to care about either of these things. Her stride is confident as she enters, making her way directly towards the bar, resting a hand on the counter not far from Rafael, and waiting to be served.


James Labat brushes long strands of pale hair out of her pale blue eyes as she makes her way to the bar, heeled boots rapping lightly as she goes. She slides her knee across a stool, leaning against the bar with her arms crossed. She wears a black leather jacket thrown over her white tee, buckles a little battered. The tall blonde looks a bit tired, idly tapping unpainted, almond shaped nails against the ledge of the bar while she waits for the barkeep to meander by. A moment later, she reaches into her pocket, pulls out a piece of cherry scented licorice, and tucks it into her mouth, chewing, chewing, chewing with a length of candy bouncing lightly. She happens to sweep a glance over the hoodied figure not far off, and murmurs, "You look like I feel." She does too, but with better posture.

James leans back to stretch, groaning softly, like somebody who's been crammed into a car for at least 8 hours straight. She turns her head to try to ease a tense neck, arms stretched up, and happens to catch sight of Rafael, then the woman in yellow coming in behind him. The vibrant attire isn't something you can just ignore. She stares for a couple of beats, then flicks another look at Raf.


Oh right, gloves! Eerie is wearing gloves, too, in addition to a mask. Black nitrile ones rather than their usual leather affair. They look up at Rafael as they approach and ask their question, and note: "I think it's illegal. I mean, I'd mind. I don't let Simon smoke in here and he hates it." There is a quiet, irritated grunt from the extaordinarily pale, unblinking, unbreathing fellow with the gun and the body armor under his cheap suit playing pinball. The unlit cigarette dangles in a fit of barely-obeying defiance. There's so many more people all of the sudden, Eerie takes a slow look around. Dark brown eyes appraise each in turn with about the same amount of interest. Pretty Boy Smoker In Jeans Who Gives No Fucks, Tall Girl Who Takes Goth Seriously, Short Girl Who Pays Lots Of Attention To Fashion. This is a group that would not be assembled were it not for Non-Mundane-Things-Going-On. Eerie straightens up a bit, going from Trying To Relax And Not Fall Asleep to Wake Up, Wright, You're Around People Who Might Eat You. Back straightens, and the Constable makes an effort to keep eyes on all three as often as possible. "It's been a long few weeks," Eerie explains to James. "Lots of work, not enough people doing it."


It's an objection acknowledged with a grunt from Rafael, and the failure of any carcinogens being introduced suggests that he took it in stride and decided to abide by those 'laws'. In this town, those are often seen more as guidelines, but every place differs. Just as the bartender comes over, he turns his head to notice the woman that's stepped up to the bar - "Augh," he brings a hand up as if to defend his face, "My eyes. I'm blind. Jesus. Did you skin one of the Teletubbies or something, lady?"


Lifting her free hand to remove her sunglasses, tucking them into her purse, Mingzhu slowly turns her head to look at Rafael. "Dramatic, much?" she comments, motioning to the barman since Rafael is clearly too busy being blinded to place his order. "Jack and coke, please." A few bills are already in her hand for when her drink is delivered. Her attention then widens from the bar to more of those in it, before returning to the bartender and passing payment over.


James drops her arms slowly, finishing off a long stretch, giving her shoulders a roll. She glances over at the nonverbal pinball player, and her gaze stays there for a long moment. Maybe it's the bulge in the jacket. Probably. Then again, she could be thinking about taking a few steps over there to steal that unlit cigarette. Whatever she's thinking, she turns back to the bar without rising. "Hm," she says, which could be an answer to James' commentary about all the work about. She reaches up and ruffles a hand through her hair, flicking waist length strands out of her eyes, slips her black-framed glasses off. The purr of a mobile ringing in her pocket sounds, but she doesn't move to answer it. The bartender's slipped past her to serve the lady in yellow, but she seems in no hurry. "Are you winning?" She doesn't turn toward the pinball player when she asks.


The Constable turns to let their back rest against the bar. Not much of their face is visible, so it might not be -super- apparent that they're basically an overgrown child and shouldn't under any circumstances be allowed in anywhere that serves alcohol. The glass of amber liquid remains unsipped, but is held in the left hand as Eerie watches the interaction between Simon and James closely for a few moments.

The figure in the suit (and let's just get all the pretext out of the way and be clear that this person is a grumbly pinball-playing corpse that gives off all the signals of 'I am not an alive person' to anyone who knows that corpses sometimes walk around and play pinball) fixes its gaze on James when she draws near. The ball zooms down and passes between flippers, which are flicked absently a full four and a half seconds afterward. The well-preserved corpse continues to stare with awkward intensity at James, until finally he says: "To win, you have to play. You can't play, not really, if you're already out of the game."


At the lack of amusement from the woman, Rafael lets his hand drop - and a shoulder raise in its place, a shrugging confession to her accusation. He doesn't seem to mind her going in front of him in the 'queue', instead reaching into his jacket to pull out his own wallet. It's old, leather starting to fall apart as he orders his own - "An Old Fashioned, if you could, man. Thanks."

His attention sweeps to the others in the room, then, giving James an appraising look. It's not the predatory sort of once-over, but more a 'who is this person in a familiar place' sort of look. Which is a great trick since there's a woman in a yellow dress that isn't getting that look. And a hooded man. Maybe she's just too normal seeming.


Normal. Yep. That's Mingzhu. Colourful fashion aside, she's as normal as anyone else in here. Right? Leaving a tip on the bar she turns to survey the room, noting a few things and a few people, her dark eyes not giving away much of what she's thinking. Though, she does now move from the bar to sit at the table closest to it, drawing out her chair and settling with the air of someone who is supervising, taking mental notes, and definitely not causing any trouble.


The tall blonde studies Simon for a beat, which might be a calculating stare if not for the licorice rope slowly disappearing into her mouth. "That's..." James pauses, "One way to donate quarters to the bar. Practice makes better." Though the words seem flippant, the tone isn't. Her attention turns to Eerie again and it stays there for a few beats. Her gaze drops from the mask to the gloved hands. She shrugs her jacket off, steps aside and tosses it over her stool's seat. Standing, she adjusts her v-neck tee, the white fabric thin. A large stain across the left side indicates she spilled something much earlier that has since dried - pink. Yep, just a normal gal with trouble hitting her mouth with a cherry slushie. She digs a crumpled bill out of her pocket and stuffs it into a rocks glass across the bar. "Old Fashioned sounds good," she says to the passing bartender. Of the assembled, she asks, "Cafe du Monde beignets. Worthy or overrated?"


"I mean, are we talking, like, du Monde in Lakeline or City Park, or are we talking sticky tables in the French Market? French Market, legit the best dougnuts in the world. Franchises? I mean, better than some glazed from Dunkin but don't visit the city and think you've had a beignet. But yeah, I mean, like. Doughnuts and a chicory au lait in the French Market? It makes taking a streetcar to the Market the most touristy thing I do on the reg. If you're new in town, though, just like. Don't wear black if you haven't learned how to hold your breath while you eat." 'Cherry Slushie' might fit James' aesthetic, but one might imagine powdered sugar everywhere probably wouldn't. Eerie nods toward Simon once James has taken a seat. "Don't stress about Simon, he's...not a great conversationalist. I've tried ordering him to be better at it but it turns out that doesn't work."


"I've rarely noticed that giving someone an order to be better at something works very well," notes Rafael with a dubious eyebrow raised, bringing the glass up to his lips - pausing, as James orders the same thing, and lifting that glass first to her in a mute toast to her good taste. It's a good test of a good bartender, too. Finally taking a sip, he closes his eyes with a sigh, "Damn. So how is everyone this evening?"

Her attention shifting to James for a moment, Mingzhu considers the question. "In City Park, overrated. I have yet to try the others," she acknowledges, much in line with Eerie's comment. "Far better than some of the other /interesting/ things proposed as foodstuff in this city." Yeah, her accent is pure New York, where they definitely don't sell pickled pigs' lips or minced /nutria/.


"The one with the longest line," James replies, which must mean the one smack in the middle of the French Quarter. She sighs softly at the answer. "I knew you were gonna say that." Her accent is very faint, but it marks her as a daughter of the South muddied up by the more northerly Eastern seaboard. There's a hint of a smirk when she says, "I don't mind makin' a bit of a mess." She fears no powdered sugar, check. "Oh, I don't mind tall, barely verbal types. If he needs a little color back in his cheeks, bring him to see me." Is that a weird thing to say in a bar? She hasn't even started drinking yet.

There's a beat where James considers letting Rafael's comment slide on by without remark, but... "Orders don't work, you ain't giving 'em right." There's a little more accent slipping out. "My back is sore, my ass is numb, but in a minute I'll have a hand-stirred cocktail and I don't have to keep driving, so hallelujah to that. You doin' alright there, brown eyes?" She smiles when Mingzhu chimes in on the subject of pastry. "If you can't identify it, don't put it in your mouth, I always say." She hmms. "I always say when I'm sober."


Rafael's question provokes a simple, straightforward answer from Eerie: "Tired. Sore. Hungry. Pissed. I could fix tired and sore and that'd help pissed if the 'hungry' part would go away." Jame's complaint about Cafe du Monde provkes a half-shrug, and a shift behind the mask that could be a grin, could be a grimace. Impossible to tell. "Lines aren't usual. They've taken out most of their tables because, you know, the Rona an' shit. Things'll be back to normal. Just be glad you know one of the only bars that don't close at midnight with the new curfew and isn't crowded as fuck. Sometimes not being a mundy has advantages. Come June we'll bounce back. Just be glad this shit didn't hit before Mardi Gras. We marched the parade past exposed corpses at the Hard Rock, you better bet we'd have done it even if you told us half of us would die of the plague."


"Long drive?" A brow twitches up slightly, Rafael's head canting to one side. Maybe James didn't match his mental view of a trucker, which is what he thinks of first when someone's complaining about driving. The liquor in his glass is swirled around a bit, and then he takes a sip of it again before setting it down. Mingzhou gets a glance when she mentions Central Park, the sort of look a local gives a visitor when they've figured out where they come from.

"What's stopping you from getting a bite to eat? I mean, not here, probably," he admits, glancing around the Night Shift.


"Hmn? Oh, nothing except a strong preference for actual food, rather than pickled pigs' lips and minced canal rat. Both of which I've seen on sale today," Mingzhu responds to Rafael, her tone dry. There's a nod to James' comment about knowing what something is before eating it. "But on the flipside, hotel food is getting boring. On the assumption all of you know the city far better than I do, where should I look for good food?"


The blonde sinks a little lower in her seat at something Eerie says. She reaches for her glass as it arrives and takes a slug of the orange-infused cocktail. Sure, it's meant to be sipped, and yet. Her nails click against the plastic frames of her glasses as she drags them off and folds them closed, tucking an earpiece into the v-neck of her tee. James sweeps a hand across her eyes, smudging dark shadow and staining her fingers with it.

"Mhm. Longest drive. Roads were pretty clear all the way down from Salem, though, which let me do all the speeding I wanted." A tired grin follows that comment, and James wipes her hand down the thigh of her black jeans when she notices the shadow left behind. "Family calls, you come, even if it means you're probably gonna throw your back out lifting dead weight by yourself all day every day for the next few months. Business is good." James pauses to swirl her glass, then offers, "I have some licorice in my pocket if you want some." Pocket licorice from a stranger. Tempting, no?


"If someone's selling minced nutria, be sure to buy it -cheap-. They're already makin' their money, there's a $5 bounty on tails and they're easy as hell to shoot. They're not best minced, though, you wanna roast 'em whole stuffed with rice and apples. But seriously, like, you wanna be in the $1 a pound range for minced nutria, and you wanna know who you're buying from 'cause these folks are not following FDA regs when they're butchering it. It's like, sure, you can buy half a five gallon bucket of shrimp at seven at night, but you gotta be able to read the dude selling it to you and you better be ready to peel and boil that shit -tonight-, because they ran out of ice two hours ago and they know they gotta toss that shit in the ditch before they go home. Pigs lips you gotta get -spicy-, you can't eat 'em just like, in pickle brine. You want them pickled spicy, then you wanna sprinkle some tobasco. Then you roll 'em in crunched up potato chips to add some texture. You wanna chase with cold beer after. They're not a meal, they're more of, like--an experience, you know? Like, if you're not the kind of person who jumps in cold water or runs their finger through candle flames or likes to smell weird shit, you're probably not going to like pickled pig lips, it's all about expanding your view of what sensations are 'good' and which are 'bad'." Philosophical. Eerie raises their glass as if they're going to take a sip, then stops at the last second, sighs, and lowers it again. "But when I said 'hungry', I didn't exactly mean food, if you know what I mean. Though I always appreciate being offered candy by a stranger." Eerie's eyes fasten more firmly on James with the added backstory. Out of towner confirmed, but family in town means at least not a tourist. "You got folks here? Contractors?" they guess, given a job carrying heavy things and how demo and construction hasn't stopped being a boom industry since August 2005.


"Ah," Rafael's head bobs in a motion of rueful understanding, "Family."

He brings his glass back up, elbow resting on the bar and body turned so he can more easily regard Eerie and James as they converse; deep brown eyes regarding the two of them with slightly heavy lids, although he blinks slightly less often than most people. It's an intense sort of gaze, although his expression is far more relaxed. After another swallow of liquor goes down, those eyes close.

"Red or black licorice?" It's a very important question.


There is a slightly glazed look in Mingzhu's eyes when Eerie finishes that spiel about the pig lips and nutria. Clearly, the woman in yellow hadn't expected to get quite that much information, that much /detail/, about something she has no intention of ever trying. She is definitely /not/ the type of person to go with experimental food on the off chance she might expand her world view. "I... see," she manages, lifting her whiskey and coke for a long swallow.


James holds her glass to her lips for a moment, holding still through the first bit of Eerie's commentary on nutria prep, then takes another slug, nearly draining her glass with a hiss of breath and that slow bourbon burn. Just keep drinking, everything is fine. Once the glass is empty, she sets it down and pokes it across the bartop with a click of her fingertips. "That was a lot of stoner food porn right there. If I was high, I'd be in your lap right now." She hasn't budged from her barstool, though. "Fuck, now I'm hungry." Mutter.

"Oh, uh, yeah. Family here. Water damage to the residential side of the business." It takes her a minute with the question. "It smells like soggy charcoal in the room that's supposed to be mine, and I'm allergic to mold. Shitty motels for me until I get it fixed." She was just thinking about hiring contractors, but a quick rewind of what she said earlier kicks in the clue-by-four. "Oh, no I'm not a contractor." That prompts a laugh right out of her. "No." She glances over at Simon, but it's brief, eyes only without turning her head. Her smile twitches briefly, and she adds, "You could say I'm in restoration." Red or black? "Red licorice. Cherry flavored." The tone is subtle but clear. Black licorice is inferior. She glances over at Raf as she answers him, and takes a moment to study the man right back, quite openly. Maybe she's counting his blinks and doing some mental math.


"Yeah? I'm in an old shotgun in the 9th, took a lot of work to get it liveable but it was like, eight k outright after I got some work done. I mean, it's haunted as fuck, but she's a good roommate, mostly just makes the place smell like coffee in the morning and pot at night. No random screaming or blood on the walls, doesn't bug the snake, doesn't talk too much. Property taxes are a bitch but it's still cheaper than renting. You run into any problems with insurance, let me know, I know people who know people, you know?" Eerie's about to offer James a handshake, spots their nitrile gloves, and seems to think better of it. "Eerie Wright, Ouroboros Investigations, down on Decatur. If you google 'wright ouroboros decatur street' we pop right up, so I won't hand you a card. I assume since you're in here you won't lose all respect when you see shit like 'medium, necromancer' next to 'private investigator' on services available."


As the color of the licorice is revealed, Rafael's eyes crack open again to consider James for a long moment. "You have chosen correctly," he intones, and then a smile tugs up at the corner of his lips, "I'll take a rope, if you're still offering. Black licorice tastes like window cleaner." He too, it seems, has strong opinions regarding candy ropes. Which is why he asked, no doubt.

As introductions seem to be going about, although he's a side adjunct to the main conversation, he offers with a tip of his chin, "Rafael Costillo. Nostalgia dealer, by which I mean I mostly sell old GI Joes and lunchboxes on eBay for a living. So probably nobody here needs my services, but if you ever need a mint-condition Magic the Gathering card or something, I can hook you up."


Falling silent, Mingzhu listens to the conversation happening around her. Watches, too, making no secret of her interest and casual eavesdropping. She takes another sip from her glass and checks her phone, brow raising slightly at something she sees on the screen. Then she tucks it away to resume her observations.


The blonde leans over to dig a packet of bright red licorice out of her pocket, and offers the crinkly packet over to Rafael, then thinks better of it, extracts a rope, and hands that over. Stranger offering a stranger a rope of licorice barehanded during times like this. Classic. "I think you're being charitable regarding the flavor of anise." There's a pause. "Nostalgia Dealer. Does your card say that?" A beat. "What about Victorian era jewelry?" Another beat. "Rafael."

James turns her gaze back to Eerie for a moment, still offering candy to Rafael, and there's a look there, very brief, that suggests she's not used to people saying shit like ghosts and haunted like it's everyday normal mode. She blinks twice, and then replies, "James Labat." Introducing yourself in response is a reflex when two or more folx you're talking to have already done it. Wouldn't take long for Labat to ring a bell, particularly for those in the death industry, at least locally. The Labat Funeral Home has served New Orleans since the mid-1800s. "I can't say that I've ever googled ouroboros before, Eerie." She smiles just a little bit again and says, "If I ever need a PI, I'll look you up. Though you're likely to hear from me first regarding the insurance issue." She makes absolutely no mention of necromancy. Since the woman in yellow doesn't introduce herself too, James keeps most of her attention Castillo & Wright. "... Is there big demand for GI Joe lunchboxes?"


"Any relation to -Jimmy- Labat? Like, Labat's--ooh, -restoration-, I got you, hah. Jimmy's good people, how's he doing? Business probably -is- good lately, huh. Probably gonna get better." The connection of James Labat -> Jimmy Labat -> Labat's Funeral Home started Eerie off with bright, surprised pleasure at connecting James to something with obvious positive connotations, but as the sentence goes on Eerie's enthusiasm drains, until the end leaves them leaning back against the bar and quiet, again. "And nice to make your acquaintance, Mr. Costillo, but I'm afraid my interest in 'vintage pieces' skews fairly older than GI Joes and lunchboxes. You ever come across chicken scratches etched in clay, you let me know and we'll talk."


There's no hesitation in accepting that packet of licorice, regardless of the times. The drink's set down and Rafael's well-callused fingers move to part the crinkly plastic with a simple tug, drawing out the rope of twined red candy. "You'd be surprised," he answers James first, glancing up from his work with a twitch of both eyebrows upwards, "An old one can go for fifty or up, more if the thermos is included. And this town's full of thrift stores and antique stores to rummage through, the profit margin's pretty high if you're willing to put in the time."

A chuckle, then, and he shakes the licorice in Eerie's direction, "You'd have to talk to the people at Hobby Lobby for cuniform, I'm afraid."


"Antiques - even recent ones like the vintage things you've mentioned - are a strange but profitable business," Mingzhu speaks up after a moment, her attention mostly on Rafael, but keeping an eye and ear on the others as well. She finishes her whiskey and coke, approaching the bar again - just for coke this time, and while she waits for her glass to be filled, she finally offers, "Baat Mingzhu." Her name? Probably. But, it comes with a small smile, the first since her arrival in the bar.


Since the dead cat is out of the bag, James replies with a real grin this time, "Jimmy's the only uncle I like enough to move to a swamp." That was probably a little uncharitable regarding the city, but she has been on the road all day. "He's hangin' in there." She says it lightly, tapping the lip of her empty glass as the bartender walks by, the click of her fingernail requesting a refill. "He's been ill, and had some complications. He didn't stop working when he should have." She clearly has some thoughts on that, but doesn't share them.

Something occurs to her and shoots Eerie a look. One can almost see her wondering why her uncle, a mortician, made use of a necromancer. Or maybe it's something else. The PI thing. Before too much shows on her face, she turns back to Rafael, drawing back the licorice packet once he's got some. "I have a little sister obsessed with Rainbow Brite. She's a monster, but I love her anyway. If you can find one of those tin ones..." She glances up at Mingzhu returns to the bar. "I live for your earrings."


"Only reason to go into Hobby Lobby is to shoplift." A simple, straightforward, compact response to any suggestion of shopping at -that- particular establishment. James' talk about Jimmy being sick crinkles Eerie's brow right up. "I don't know how much what I do can help...you know, what's going around. But you want me to come look at him, no charge. Diseases can be tricky, but damage is damage, and you do what I do right and it goes both ways. It's all just...shuffling the power around in the right configurations, you know?" Is Eerie offering to use reiki on James' uncle? That is what it -sounds- like, at least. At least they're not saying they can do it over the phone. At James' comment about earings, Eerie swivels around to look more closely, and gives Mingzhu a longer once-over. "I mean, sure, but if we were to beat her up and take her shit, I'd definitely grab the boots first."


"Absolutely. The vintage items are easier to move, though-- I don't have to contact an auction house, and all that," Rafael replies to Mingzhu, glancing back over his shoulder to her with a slight, rueful smile. Then he takes a bite of the licorice, chewing contentedly before swallowing. The rope is waggled back at Eerie, "Yeah, well, they're also the big cuneiform smugglers around, which still weirds me out. Weird fuckers trying to re-write history, I swear..." Chomp! Chew chew.

"Rainbow Bright? Yeah, I can probably find something," he admits with a twitch of his eyebrows up, "You got a card or something?"


The compliment on her earrings, and implied compliment for her boots, draws a more genuine smile to Mingzhu's expression as she sits down at the bar near the trio. "Thank you. They were a gift from a client, so I don't know where they can be bought, unfortunately," she notes on the subject of the feathery hoops, reaching up to take them both out, setting them on the counter and taking a sip from her coke. "Though, I'd be willing to trade them. And the alcohol wipe to clean them with," she offers towards James, before turning a slightly more rueful expression towards Eerie. "The boots, though. I'd have to fight you for these. They're damned comfy." She sits back slightly, getting comfortable on her barstool. She nods to Rafael's comment, though doesn't have anything to add on the subject of antiquing.


Like James thinks Reiki is cleaning to the chakras, she replies, "He might appreciate that, but he'd like a big bottle of whiskey a whole lot more." She smirks. "Do you always beat people up before you take their shit? So hands on. Could just ask real nice." Reaaal, she says, dragging out the word. Appears the bourbon has warmed her voice. When she second drink arrives, she begins on it immediately, drinking that one faster than it's meant to be savored, but at least she doesn't slug it. "Boots are good too," she finally agrees.

"I had some cards... guess I gotta get some new ones." James pats down her back pockets, mutters something, and pulls a half-folded card from one of them. She smoothes it out, bends it back to form, and hands it over to Raf. "Number's on the back." Turns out it's not a business card for a crematory in Salem, Mass. On the back is a handwritten number in a loopy script. What. Trade the earrings. And lo, her entire attention turns to Mingzhu. "What are you interested in trading?" Two cocktails on board: time to bargain.


"Oh, I don't do the beating. I make Simon do it." There's an actual audible crack of bone popping in Simon's neck as he looks over at his name, stares for a few moments without blinking, then goes back to feeding quarters into the pinball machine fruitlessly whenever he realizes he's tapping the buttons without the machine being...you know...active and having a ball in play. Eerie, on the other hand, doesn't pursue further conversation as this bargain between Mingzhu and James might have the potential to get interesting.


"There's nothing in this world quite as important as some comfortable footwear," is Rafael's opinion on the boots discussion, the half-strand of licorice left dropped into his drink like a garnish or straw before he picks the glass up to take a slow swallow that finishes the last of the liquor. Once it's set back down on the bar-top, he reaches over to accept the card. A brow twitches a bit as he looks it over, then shrugs and slips it into his jacket, "I'll give you a call when I find something." Not if, but when.

Then he's looking between the two as bargaining begins, his expression turning a bit amused.


"Information. Nothing super secret," Mingzhu tells James, up-front and clear. "Sounds like you know the city, so. I'm looking for a head's up on who _not_ to fuck with." Brief pause, as she looks over to the placard declaring this place as neutral ground. "Aside from the obvious." The Warders, she knows about. The rest, well that's what she's looking for. In the meantime, she draws out a pack of wipes from her purse, setting them beside the earrings, in case James decides to take her up on the offer.


James turns her head slightly when Simon looks over, like she's aware he's moving back there, but she doesn't //look at him//. She's busy right here. Rafael is treated to that pale gaze, though, and a smile comes with it. "When is good. I like a confident type who gets things done." She flicks a glance down his body, then turns her eyes back to the fashionable figure from New York. She grins a bit at the request for information. "Ah. That, I think, our masked friend at the end of the bar will have to help you with. Or our brown-eyed lunchbox-collecting friend here." She lifts her hands in a 'can't help you there' gesture. "For what it's worth, I think either of you would look choice in feathered hoops."


"Don't fuck with -anybody- is the best advice. I don't know if you're..." Only a moment of hesitation, really, before Eerie just plunges in with the assumption nobody in the room is so mundane they'll lose their shit at this conversation. "Like, if you're human, and you're new in town, you wanna get your name in the books. Lots of folks will tell you it protects you, but the books don't do -shit- to protect you. What they do is give your friends a means to seek revenge or payment without the whole fucking supernatural world coming down on them. So you want friends -earliest-. Preferably a big group with a name. The Constables, like I am. Or the Coils, or the Heirs, the CPC or the Librarians. Or find a few like-minded individuals, give yourselves a fancy name that sounds like something occult and ancient, and make sure everyone knows that if one of you goes down dirty, the rest will hold whoever did it super fucking accountable. City's lousy with vamps and wolves, they're the biggest players. Wolves keep to their own shit so far as I can see, hardly ever eat anybody, and when one goes rogue - or a whole pack, sometimes - they take care of it themselves, fast. Rogue vamps are more common, and we've got one in the Quarter right now that's been keeping me up nights for weeks. Body count's up to eighteen in the past six weeks. I keep catching him on video but I never get his face, and nobody who sees him ever fucking remembers what he looks like. Lots of graveyard gates and ghost whistlers in the city, so you see a lot more ghosts that crawl back out of the Deeps with a lot more oomph than most places, and we tend to get more low-level spooks than other places, too. Thin places and doors to other, weirder places are common too. Any Constable tends to be well equipped for that sort of thing, so call us up, or ring me directly if you have invisible problems. I hear rumors we're getting -faeries-, now. I've met a few, mostly nice, polite folks so far."


"Assuming anything other than success is a recipe for failure," Rafael quips, with a quick wink for James, that half-smile of his growing wider for a moment. The rope of licorice is picked up again from his glass, and he pops the liquor-soaked end in his mouth before snapping it off to chew on. The lecture on the dangers and peoples of the city captures his attention, dark eyes watching the hooded man with sharp attention. While chewing. Then Eerie ends, and he swallows.

"The faeries aren't bad folks," he notes, "A bit high-strung, maybe. So you're a Constable, then?"


"I'm not, and you are," Mingzhu answers Eerie's explanation succinctly. "Only please, don't call us fairies." Yes, she's giving that information away freely, the nature of her not-human-ness. "It's like calling Kim Mills by the name 'Saint Clair'." Yes, she's referencing Taken. She looks down briefly, taking a long drink from her cola and briefly regretting the lack of whiskey in it. "But that was a good summary, thank you," she adds.


That was far more information that James expected to take in tonight, and all of it, //all// of it is useful. She doesn't take her eyes off Eerie as they speak. "I could have used another cocktail before I heard that." Which part? Hard to say, but... she breaks the stare to take a look around the bar, briefly but carefully. Checking the corners. She slips her glasses out of her shirt, flicks the earpieces open, and tucks them onto her face, flicking her fingers through her hair to tip of evenly across her shoulders, hiding the shaved side, and exposing a glimpse of the edge of a scar at her temple, which is hidden again when rises and tips her head forward. Like she's caught a chill, she fishes her leather jacket up off her seat, standing, and shrugs into it. She sweeps an arm under her hair and sends the shiny, lemon scented mass of it spilling down her back. The whiff of scent fades shortly, only detectable by those closest to her, or those with enhanced senses, of course. She mutters something that sounds a lot like 'guess I'm googling ouroboros later.' Just as she's sitting down again, her phone purrs again, and she dips it out of her pocket to glance at the screen before she shoves it away again. She is companionably silent on the issue of //fairies//. She eyes a bottle of vodka behind the bar yonder, but doesn't ask for another drink.


"I don't...I don't know who Kim Mills is," Eerie says, sounding somewhat embarrassed, "So if that's a reference, like, uh. Sorry. You're the first one of your kind I've met who objected to the term, so. If there's something more polite, do please inform me." Eerie waits a few moments then asks, very carefully, "Earrings?" You never know what's going to offend someone you are being careful not to call a faerie again.


"Sorry. If there's a better word, I don't know it either, so please-- " Rafael tips his head towards Mingzhu, "-- enlighten us. I don't want to give affront to anyone, after all."

As the matter of the earrings come up, he's considering James for a long moment as she re-adjusts herself, glasses and hair and all. Then he's reaching into his jacket pocket, seeming to briefly lose interest in the conversation as he brings the screen up and taps at it casually. Maybe he's checking his Facebook messages.


Tugging an alcohol wipe from the pack she put on the table, Mingzhu deftly cleans around the posts and fastenings, then motions for Eerie to come and collect the feathery jewellery. "Of course. Your information was very thorough, thank you. And I was trying to soften it, but without reference; calling someone who has been kidnapped, by the name of their kidnapper." She lays it out plainly. "You can understand why some of us might object to it. We tend to refer to ourselves as 'Lost'." That's all she's saying on the topic. Her gaze then shift to Rafael. "Not making notes, I hope? Or at least if you are, it's encrypted.



<text> Rafael to James: You didn't know about -anything- that our eerie friend just mentioned, did you?



James blows out a short breath, her thoughts her own, but clearly something mentioned earlier is sticking in the proverbial wheels. You'd have to be looking at her to notice, and it's subtle. When her phone burps a short sound, she slips it out of her pocket and takes a moment to unlock it, flicking her thumb over the screen. Her thumb hovers, and then she taps out a message with both thumbnails clicking against the glass as she does so. Her gaze slides to Eerie when they ask after the earrings, but she says nothing. Her thumbs pause, she resumes, glances over to Mingzhu and takes in the word //Lost//. She thinking about that, quietly processing the implications. "I'm glad I met the three of you tonight." In that, at least, she sounds very sincere. Her feelings might changed later, but the bourbon is chasing away the chill she felt earlier. "I need to buy a ghost tour map." She mutters that, like maybe she didn't mean to say it out loud.



<text> James to Rafael: New Orleans is a fucked up little burrito.


"Lost it is. Thank you, Ms. Baat." Eerie pulls out a little bottle of hand sanitizer as they head over to Mingzhu's table. Only after squidging some out into their gloved hands and giving them a good rub together does Eerie pick up the earrings and head over to James, where they hold them out on a nitrile-covered palm. "I'm glad we all met, too. But especially good to meet one of Jimmy's kin, Ms. Labat. Give me a call. I'll do what I can for your uncle. Repair whatever damage has already been done, at least, give him a fresh start to fighting it from a stronger place. And if you want a tour, I can take you around. Or introduce you to folks who charge a bit more than your local tourist walkaround, but know what they're talking about. The tours aren't as -exciting-, usually, but more informative. My number's on the site. Or swing by my shop on Decatur. It's the one with the snake in a circle on the window, and the nazar hanging over the doorway." Eerie seems preparing to head out. They've left their drink behind, still untouched.


Rafael's brows twitch upwards along with his gaze towards Minghzu at her query, and he breathes out a chuckle. "Hardly," he replies to her in dry tones, "I do know better. Even though these days most people would chalk it up to some video game or roleplaying game or-- something. No, I'm not taking notes."

The phone's turned off but left on the bar counter in easy reach, and he raises a hand a bit to Eerie as he starts to depart, "I may give you a call myself. There was something I wanted to inquire about."


"Likewise," Mingzhu agrees with James' comment about this strange meeting of minds. Once Eerie has taken the earrings, she tucks the pack of wipes back into her purse, and tugs out a few business cards of her own. "I'd like to stay in touch, if you're all amenable. Have a card, or take a photo of it on your phone if you'd rather," she suggests, setting the cards on the bartop. They read 'Baat Mingzhu, Investments and Portfolio Management', along with a number and email address.


A transfer of feathered hoops courtesy of font-of-information-Eerie prompts a genuine, toothy smile from James. She hesitates only briefly, then reaches out to accept the bartered items, though it wasn't her information that bought them. Her inked fingers close on the delicate jewelry and she studies the feathers for a beat before her pale gaze flicks up to Eerie. "I'll be sure to ask him about you, and... it's good to know someone who knows and cares for him enough to make the effort." In truth, most people who know Uncle Jimmy take a fondness to him, often against their better judgment. He's that kind of convivial, and he gives to the community at every opportunity, particularly the poor and especially the outcasts. "I will." Call, stop by. Her voice is sure, words softly spoken. She doesn't offer more on the subject, perhaps reluctant to put all her cards on the table so soon. "Thank you." For the earrings, for the information, for the offer. She seems about to say something further, but though her lips part, she closes her mouth again, then nods slightly. Her gaze drops while she fights with some emotion. Luckily, Mingzhu puts her card down, and there's that to look at.


The blonde stands, and snaps a quick cell phone pic, a text message visible briefly before she keys to her camera. "That's handy if you're taking on new clients. I might - I have no idea what state Jimmy's finances are in." She sucks in a slow breath, and glances at the door, like she's loathe to walk through it again. "I hope my car's still there when I remember where I parked it." New city, new night rules, new problems, new friends.


A quick cell phone picture is snapped by Eerie, too. "Like I said, I'm in the book and I'm on google. Ouroboros Investigations, Decatur street. I'm the first result." Eerie gives a nod to each in turn, finishing with Rafael, "Any time, Mr. Costillo. If it's an emergency, I'll get to it first thing in the morning, and if I can't help, I'll find you someone who can." With that, Eerie heads for the door. They're gone for about ten seconds when they pop a head back in and call out, "Simon, we're -leaving-. Jeez." Then disappear again, followed by a reluctant walking corpse. The two leave behind four plays on the pinball machine and a glass of untouched apple juice in their wake.


"A pleasure meeting you all. I'm sure we'll meet again," Rafael says, raising his empty glass in salute, knuckle tapping his forehead on the way back before he sets it down and gives it a light push towards the barkeep, "Make it a second, my good man."


Mingzhu, too, is on her way out. Finishing her coke, she stands and tucks her purse under one arm. "Great meeting you all," she confirms, nodding to the barman and those who remain, then heading out, digging out her cell to book an uber as she goes.


<text> Rafael to James: Just a bit. Safer than most, thanks to the Accords.



Does James watch Eerie go? Yes. And does she watch Simon go? Yeah, yeah she does. "It's gonna take me a while to get used to that." She leans briefly against the bar, tucks her phone away after saving some things, tapping her nails over the glass. She pauses when another text comes in, then glances over at Rafael. Hands in her pockets, back to the bar, she sighs, but nods a goodbye to Mingzhu as well. Her profile is given to Rafael for a moment before she looks at him, standing just next to his space at the bar. "The what?"


"The Shadow Accords." Rafael's smile tugs up a bit more, and he lifts the newly-refilled glass in front of him, swirling it a bit as he inhales the scent - eyes hooding half-closed for a moment. "They're the... 'books' that our friend mentioned. It's basically a series of agreements that you sign onto when you come into town, it makes sure all the damn werewolves and vampires and fa-- 'Lost' and psychics and every-fucking-other-thing out there don't just go around killing people and gives them a framework to work within if there's disagreements." A sidelong look to James, a twitch of his lips, "You found this place by complete accident, didn't you?"


James chews on the inside of her cheek briefly. If she hadn't had those drinks, there's a good chance that question wouldn't have popped out of her mouth and it's pretty easy to read it from the look on her face. "Mm," is her reply to The Shadow Accords. Her gaze goes unfocused briefly, a lock of her hair slipping into her eyes, skimming the lenses of her large-framed glasses. She nods. "Books, right." That's a little distracted too. Finally, she glances at him again, this time focusing. Pale gaze meets brown-eyed one from well within the suggested social distancing guidelines. "Uh, no, I got a flat around the way and needed a drink. I took a walk and something told me to come on in here."


"Well." Rafael's callused fingers curl around his glass, and he raises it in a salute to her, deep brown eyes meeting her pale ones, "Welcome to New Orleans. Just act like you know what's going on and most people will assume you do... although I do recommend getting on the books sooner or later." He brings his shoulder up in a shrug, that windbreaker rustling slightly, "The Constable can probably help you with that. It's usually not an issue, but some of the non-humans can get a bit-- tetchy sometimes."

A bit of a snort, "Racists."


"I don't like signing things," James murmurs, though she's clearly marking that away for things to investigate after significantly less, or significantly more, barrel-aged alcohol. "Tetchy." Of all that he's said, of all that she's heard said tonight, that's the word she repeats. "Well," she shoves off the bar. "There are scarier things in the dark than werewolves and vampires." She could be saying this because she's not yet met either of those things, or she could be saying it because she's met worse. It's really quite hard to suss out from what she chooses to say.

Her boot heel drags across the floor in a scrape of metal. She straightens a little more and runs her hand through her hair, flicking her fingers out of it before she combs through to the mid-length. "You know a lot about this for a guy who trades in vintage cartoon swag."


"What, you don't think any vampires have a collection of vintage Barbies?"

It's said with good humor, a chuckle shaking Rafael's shoulders as he speaks. His elbow rests on the bar, the glass held up in his hand for the occasional sip thereof. "And there are scarier things out there... there always are. And they all come to New Orleans eventually."


A vampire... with a collection... of vintage Barbies. That thought skates behind those pale, pale eyes and she side-eyes Rafael. "Mm." That's all she says for a time, just that. Her gaze lowers, long lashes shading her eyes while she considers the rest of what he's said. She slides her hands into the pockets of her jacket, stops fiddling with her hair. She straightens her back with a roll of her shoulders. "I have a car to see to, and a date with a scratchy motel bedspread, after some intense ass yoga to unfuck my back after two days in a car with basically zero shock absorption." That's the most she's said all evening. Maybe Eerie rubbed off on her a little bit. "Be careful on your walk home, Rafael. I hear it's not safe to go alone." She raises her eyebrows at that and shoves off the bar with her elbow.


"I'll give you a call when I find that Rainbow Brite lunch pail for you," Rafael offers casually, turning to regard her full-on again as she rises, "Let me know if you need anything else, or if you..." A vague motion of his free hand, "...run into any trouble in town." A smile tugs up again, "Sleep well, Labat. Hope the motel bed treats your back right."


"That's a sweeping and very vague offer," James replies, as if Rafael doesn't already know that. Those lashes life and she gives him another of those long looks before she nods again, and a sweep of pale hair falls across her eyes. "Single girl in a haunted city. What kind of trouble could I //possibly// run afoul of?" Seems it's a rhetorical question, because though she's met, at the very least, a necro, a zombie on a constitutional, a Lost girl, and a ... whatever Raf is, she barely looks over her shoulder when she shoves open the door with it, set to step out onto the city walk beyond. "Motels are never easy on the back." Her boots rap sharply as the flooring is given over for pavements. Anyone or anything lurking out there is going to hear her coming before they smell her/see her. "Happy dreams, Castillo."


A slow turn allows him to watch her departure, Rafael's weight sinking back to let him rest an elbow on the bar and let his hand dangle down as the other brings the glass up for another swallow of liquor. He watches her over the edge of it, a crooked smile barely-hidden by the glass brim. "Same to you," he calls out, dark eyes lingering on her until the door closes.

Then he's turning back to the bar, exhaling a chuckle, "Single, huh?"