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House Calls

 
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 8:25 pm    Post subject: House Calls Reply with quote

[ Scene written with Una Mia. ]

There were many floors beneath the unassuming offices of Dr. Adam Nesset. There was the basement complex, which functioned chiefly as storage. It was a drab and dark and arrayed in a confusing, labyrinthine fashion, leading people to getting lost before delivering them to any number of stairs back to the offices above. Great care and planning had gone into the construction of the basement, for the rooms below were not supposed to be there, and the deeper someone made it, the more secrets they unearthed. Adam Nesset liked his secrets. He was not interested in giving them up. .

The morgue was two floors beyond the basement. Dim lights cast uneasy shadows in long hallways, the blue-white bulbs strung together by exposed wiring. Noise went nowhere, dying in the corners with everything else. There were no carpets or signs of comfort. The doors were thick and made of steel, and their locks would have kept all but the most talented of thieves out. Adam Nesset saw the worst of his midnight clients down here. The occasional blood stain marked exposed concrete flooring.

The morgue was at the center of the floor for easy access. Bright light leaked out through the cracks around the edges of the swinging double doors. A powerful ventilation system moved air from the room all the way to the ground floor and back down again, such that the room seemed to ‘breath’ as though alive, like the slumping, slow beat of a heart at the center of a vast and unreal monster. The tables were numerous and made of stainless steel. Hoses hung from the ceiling in predictable intervals over the tables. Drains lurked underneath, ominous in their necessity. One whole wall was given over to doors of various sizes, starting near the floor and extending across and to the ceiling in columns and rows; cold storage, for the end of liners.

Only one corpse was out, laid on a table in the center of the room The knife sticking from the chest made it impossible to intern. This would have to do.

Una arrived shortly before eleven, when the night was well-established and draped thick and frigid over the city. She traveled via the city’s vilified alleyways, which she considered the scenic route, making pit stops along the way when something proved engaging or warranted more than a glance. Her breath came out white as she walked. Her coat was black and hit just above the knees. The kitten heels on her feet speared through snow and loose asphalt like icepicks.

Arriving across the street from Dr. Nesset’s building, Una settled beneath the awning of a dark storefront, thumb and forefinger shaping the points of her bob back into two black scythes that lay across her cheeks. She watched and listened and inhaled the scent of the cold, decaying wood, old blood, and bodies. Owen had been in the area recently, which wasn’t surprising. Once she’d established the area in her mind, made a sensory map of landmarks she could rely on, she stepped from beneath the awning and crossed the street.

Una circled the building once, then doubled back in the other direction before finally walking inside through the front entrance. At the door to Dr. Nesset’s office, she knocked three times, then took a step back, sliding her hands inside her pockets. Her usual pallor was heightened by the bluish cast to the lighting, and her eyes appeared all the more abyssal for it, as well—that flat, greedy black that stole all the light and never, ever gave it back.

There was always a quiet moment between a knock and the sound of movement behind the door, an unsettling few minutes at most, that often frightened off the least determined of visitors. Just long enough for the second guesses to attack, to drag people back onto the streets and away, away, away from the shady office in the bad part of town, where the medicine man may or may not even hold court. Maybe he’s not in, maybe he’s out. Maybe this is the wrong place. Maybe he’s not even a doctor. Maybe this is a bad idea, a really bad idea.

They needn’t worry. Adam Nesset was in. It was the right place. He was a doctor, and he could attend to their needs.

It was, however, almost certainly a bad idea. On that note they were absolutely right.

Then, a noise from behind the door, light steps followed by the telltale slide of bolts being unlocked. An inch, and no more, of opening, as chains kept the door from swinging wider. Darkness swallowed light and shadows hid the man inside. A thousand distinct smells of antiseptics and bleach rolled out onto Una, and beneath those, things harder to place, distinct but washed out, discordant currents in a chemical sea: blood, rot, death.

A disembodied voice, “Hands out, please. Slowly.”

Una didn’t appear as if she was having any second thoughts, or even first thoughts, all things considered. She stood in the hallway playing patient statue as she waited, her expression dull and lifeless as she inhaled and exhaled stories she’d never know the beginnings of and most likely would never know the endings of, either. There were some endings here, though, yes: the death rattle of dying breaths and the diminishing plod of final heartbeats. She could smell the desperation and then the antiseptic silence that followed.

As a faint undercurrent to all of that, there was Anton. Just enough for her to know that she was in the right place. And even that was a heartbeat fade; in days, perhaps hours, she’d not be able to trace him at all.

Her vacant study of the ceiling sharpened into focus on the inch of darkness behind the doorway the second the air changed. Without comment or change in expression, she complied with the request, sliding her hands from her coat pockets in tandem and extending them out, a slow flip back and forth between flat palm and smooth knuckles. Her slender fingers lacked their usual decorative silver spangle of rings. In fact, the whole of her seemed stripped of anything one might consider a show of character. There was nothing she could do about her face, of course, the fathomless black of her eyes or the distinctive cut of her hair slicing in twin raven wings along her jaw.

“What else?” She asked, a sigh of sound that echoed restlessly in emptiness of the hallway.

The sheer professionalism was both impressive and concerning. This was a door for the wounded and the hooked, and as Una appeared to neither hurt or addicted, Adam did not open the door further. Instead, he moved into the crack, light barely catching on an emotionless face. In one hand, a cane, while the other hand was behind the door. Something to the angle suggested he was armed.

For some time he simply looked at her, trying to pick her apart, to unravel the mystery of her being at his office, but got nowhere. She’d left him no clues. If this a game, she was out playing him. It made him terribly curious. “What do you want?” His head ticked, but the eyes did not waver.

Una held no preconceived notions of Dr. Nesset. Owen had given her only a name and an address. No testament of character, no mention of their relationship, no tangential anecdotes by which she might create a foundation for the man standing in the doorway. So she gathered what she could from that one inch wide sliver of a man: the blank set of his features, the cane, the veins in his hand, the way the weight of his weapon pulled down the other; the blue cast of light that the two of them shared—he in his doorway and her in his hallway. Until one of them stepped either forward or back, there’d be no way to determine who was the spider and who was the fly. But that wasn’t a game she intended to play tonight.

Una matched the tick of his head, and gave him a terrible smile. “You’re holding a body of mine. A man with a knife protruding from his chest. I’d like to pay him a visit, please.”

Adam barely registered a reaction and nothing close to a smile. The twitch in the corner of his mouth suggested a tightly controlled sneer, flesh betraying brain. He found the mime of his tick to be insulting. He doubted she was much impressed by his manners. Her smile annoyed him. His refusal to open the door was flat out rude. Spider and the fly, indeed. Forgiveness would have to be one of the foundations of their working relationship, as he didn’t feel like being caught in her web, and he doubted she wanted to see his.

He closed the door, undid the chains, and opened it again, stepping out of the way to let her through. The gun, if had ever existed, was gone. The cane was not. He put less weight on it then expected, as if it wasn’t completely necessary, or he disliked its use.

“Does Owen know you’re here?” The front office was so boring that it defused much of the situation with its sheer banality. The floor was a series of off-white linoleum tiles. The patterns on the mass produced chairs looked like an awful attempt a Jack Pollock painting on dark blue flannel. A poster of a cat hanging on a tree was so old the laminate was peeling away from the paper at the edges. A jar on the front counter was full of lollipops, and the irony of serving sweets in a doctor’s office was not lost him.

"He doesn't know," Una said, stepping through the wedge of light he made for her and trading the dull repetition of the hallway for something similarly colored but decidedly more engaging. The tips of her fingers skimmed the face of the door as she passed, dropping back to her side just shy of encountering the doctor standing by. "I'd prefer it remain that way. But that's up to you, of course."

Perfectly centered within the ecru sea of linoleum, Una twisted in one direction and then the other, resisting the impulse to slide her hands back into her pockets. The cat poster in particular received a great deal of consideration, as if sussing out the story behind it was of importance. A half minute elapsed in silence before she lifted one hand, forefinger circling the air before the lollipops. "Do they do anything interesting or are they the traditional fare?" It seemed such an odd thing to see on a countertop at close to midnight.

Adam waited out the silence by busying himself with the locking of the door behind her and then, when it continued past that, by watching her examine the room. One could learn a lot in a short span of time, if one knew how to look. A thought set his chin askew, a subtle drop of jaw that so often went conjoined with a hunch or a flash of insight.

Like all things with Adam, it was immediately contained. Flatly, "I am not in his employ. What I do with my time is not his business.” He was quite firm on it, already moving for the hallway. “They're just sweets for the kids. My nurses are nice beasts. As far as I know they haven't put anything in them this time. But please, feel free to try. Come, let's get you to your corpse." Adam led the wait out of the room and down the hallway. Doors mirrored doors in matching sets at even intervals, waiting rooms he honestly never went into. A window at the end of the hallway revealed a tidy office behind a door with his name on it. The door opposite lead down into the basement.

Una turned to face Adam as he spoke, the cool, coal rake of her eyes over him slow and thoughtful: the cane, his hands, the flat affect of his face. Where his throat vanished behind his collar, the line of buttons that led to his waist. "Literal beasts, or is that a euphemism?" she asked before turning away to approach the jar of lollipops. She might have been asking questions for the sake of filling the room with sound, or perhaps to rile him; it was hard to say. Fingers dove to fish among the jewel tones and emerged with a purple, which she turned back and forth before her eyes before slipping it into her pocket.

She followed along as he led, slowing slightly when they passed his office to peer through the glass.

Adam's response was quick, short, efficient: snort. Sometimes, the only way to win was to not play the game. Efficient motions unlocked the door before him, and while he was forced to wait for her to indulge her curiosity, he studied her openly and without passion. Noticing things other missed. Making notes.

The office was clearly unused. A thin layer of dust had collected on everything. There were unopened letters in a bin, the top of which was at least a month old. A red light blinked on the phone in the corner of the desk, voice messages unchecked and undeleted. The room was for show, not function. "I don't spend a lot of time in there. Most of my work is done below." His way of saying, Can we be moving now?

"Ah," she said simply, and then arched a brow at him. Lead on.

[ continued ]
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2017 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The travel downward was the same for her as it was for everyone, and it was clear from the practiced way he navigated the basement, the floor beyond, and the floor further to where he'd built the morgue, that he was quite used to leading people in the most confusing, twisting, and round about ways through the many hallways, doors, stairs, and other quirks of the building, until they were eventually unsure of how to get in or out without him, or at least realized that the place was overly large and had been built by a mad man. That it didn't fit to his personality suggested either he hadn't made it, or there was more to him. Either way, the message tended to be clear; don't bother breaking in. This was Adam Nesset's. Only he knew it. That he spared Una the more dangerous aspects of the tour was not explained to her, but this was exactly the sort of maze to have a few traps. It was positively labyrinthine.

They reached the morgue just as Adam's leg started to hurt, necessitating a deeper use of the cane. He shouldered the doors open and held one with his weight, nodding over to the body lying where he'd left it. "Yours, I believe."

Una was a keen-eyed passenger to his tour of gray cement, more neutrals, and unsettling lighting. His posture and demeanor in general didn't invite further questions, and so she didn't ask them. She had no reason to; their exchange was meant to be simple. He was the guide and she the tourist. Her thoughts were kept neatly knotted and tucked away in her mind, and her steps came briskly behind his without following too closely on his heels. The distance between them was, if not comfortable, acceptable.

"Mine, yes," she agreed, prowling in a circle around the body. "Has anything been done to him since Owen brought him?" Her palm skimmed over the knife's handle and then dropped lightly to Anton's shoulder, significantly colder now that the last time she'd felt it.

"No." Lie or truth, they both fit in his mouth the same. Adam seemed the sort to be able to lie anyone about anything, if he were so motivated. The coldness to him ran deeper than the surface; one could easily imagine him being cold to his core, right down to the spine. As cold as Anton. Perhaps colder.

She had not killed him, as he had been wondering. Adam saw no pride in her. Pain, perhaps regret. No pride. An admission then, brought on by the way she regarded the dead. "No, that's not true. I did examine the body when it was brought in, without Owen's knowledge." He was close now, and had moved far too quiet for a man with a cane. His voice was lower, even softer, but only by the smallest degree. Cane set against the table, corpse held in regard. He waited for her to ask him what he found, if she was curious enough to ask.

"Hmm," the hum of sound was soft, sweeter than the angry buzz of the overhead lighting. It belonged somewhere else, in a different conversation and locale. As she had the night they'd retrieved Anton's body, she ran a nail along the stitching sealing his eyelids shut. She kept coming back to that point and thought now it was because he'd had lovely eyes: expressive and vulnerable, rich in color. Her hand slid from Anton's shoulder and closed in a fist, and she turned her head to find that Adam, the man who'd given only a sliver of himself in the beginning, was now nearly a tower over her. She wasn't bothered by the silence with which he moved. Intrigued, but not bothered.

"And what did you find?" she asked, predictably, "Were there more organs removed than just his heart and eyes? Owen mentioned the potential that he was used or was going to be used as a sacrifice?"

Adam registered her expressions from a distance, one larger and more profound than the mere space between them. "Many questions. No, all organs were removed, by a hand that knew what it was doing. The work is surgical, though there were oddities to it. I couldn't tell you if he was going to be sacrificed ..that's out of my field of expertise.. but I can tell you he was tortured. Someone hurt him a great deal before they let him die." Watching her.

Una liked Anton a great deal. She enjoyed his company, his variations in mood, how effortlessly he could switch between personas; she enjoyed sleeping with him. But she didn't love him. The fondness she held for him was enough to pull concern to the surface of her features, a distant sense of righteous indignation, but there was not fire of fury threatening destruction. Una was too calculating for that.

"I see," she said at last, a faint frown marking the place of her thoughts when she took a step backwards and rounded to the other side of the body.

"See here. Much of these marks are unnecessary and would not have resulted in death." He pointed to cuts along the sides, along the ribs. "They are older, too, suggesting they'd existed for some time before he died. You can see how the area around the cuts was healing. The eyes, too. Those were done while he was alive. I suspect he was cut apart for days." When Adam touched the body, it was without sympathy. The man was dead and did not care. Adam showed it no reverence.

Suddenly, and despite though he seemed as if there were more to tell her, he asked, "Why would someone want to hurt him? What's going on here?"

Adam's clinical litany received more of her attention than the areas he pointed out on Anton--she was already decently familiar with those. And, after all, Anton was truly dead; Adam was a living specimen who managed to give off the impression of utter lifelessness. Her eyes made a well trod path back and forth between Adam's hands and face, watching to see if the movement of the former somehow affected the latter in expression. It didn't, but that also wasn't unexpected given that he had no attachment or relation to the body at hand. She wondered how far below the surface that detachment extended and was surprised by his follow up questions, considering his detached affect.

"That is the question, I suppose," came her noncommittal answer, and it was clear by the reticence in her tone that she found his sudden interest somewhat suspicious.

Keen to not draw her ire, Adam let the question drop. The question was a longshot at best, and Adam doubted that she would open up so soon, if ever. “If Owen believes someone intended to sacrifice this man, I would suggest he’s right. I have experience with his family. Not that I trust wizards.” Small details, tiny reveals. “But Owen would not lie and this is more his field than mine.” The lamps overhead flickered once, prompting Adam to frown and look up at them. A strange expression crossed his face, unrecognizable not because of its unusualness, but because it was incompatible with what was known of him; it was concern, sudden and profound, wholly unmasked as all other emotions, if there were any, had been. A few second later a phone rang, prompting Adam to jump and turn to stare, dumbfounded, at the far wall where it hung. The noise reverberated on tiles and hard walls, a high pitched keel that made Adam’s head twitch in rhythm. Ring, ring, ring. Twitch, twitch, twitch.

“Excuse me,” he said, and walked away from her without another word, not even a glance, limping the whole way across the long room, cane still resting where he’d left it.

Una returned Adam’s look levelly, but her mind was a tightly guarded thing, shuttered off and locked away behind the unfathomable darkness of her eyes. How flat they could be: a funeral in their own right. The lighting above them was no help in this regard. It cast shadows under her eyes and in the hollows of her cheeks as she moved from Anton’s shoulder to his side, fingers alighting on the hilt protruding from the dead man’s chest, a certain ownership in the caress over the handle that followed. She wished she had been the one to put it there in the first place. She was not, after all, without the concept of mercy.

From the wound in his chest, her palm skimmed the length of his abdominals, following the stitchwork left behind, and then a stone skip of fingertips over the top of his thigh, the muscles there still taut and bunched with rigor mortis that would soon fade. All the while, Adam spoke, and she listened though she wasn’t looking his way. It was only the flicker of lights that caused her to look up, one hand curled over the top of Anton’s foot. She looked at Adam, not the lights, and though he was no more than a stranger to her, his concern was readily evident. It wasn’t an emotion she shared at the moment, because she didn’t have a context for it. But she watched it travel his features and straighten his spine, and then she watched as he turned and shuffled away toward the harsh interruption of the phone.

Una’s hand dropped limply away from the body, tapped a thoughtful rhythm over the steel lip of the table and then ventured steadily towards the cane.

Adam made his way across the room in a cycle limps and twitches, like a broke down bicycle, listing through the lopsided orbit of one bad wheel. That it must hurt was unmistakable, as no one had a handicap that severe without pain. He seemed unaware or unconcerned with anything but answering the call. Along the way he bumped into a table and scattered papers on the floor. A few steps later he kicked over a trash can. Once, and only once, he looked back at Una, lips moving silently, as though talking but lacking sound, lacking air, but then he was at the phone and the moment was gone. He picked it up, turned away, and listened, doing nothing but listening for some time, listening to nothing but the dead sound of a dial tone.

Una wasn’t watching the progression of Adam’s limp. Or perhaps she was, but distantly, through the distraction of the cane. Later it would sift to the forefront of her mind as something to wander over--that limp and the slack expression that Adam wore. The cane held her captive for now, kept her steps, her fingers inching closer in a prowl as if it was a mouse to be trapped. Her fingers stretched, flexed, and she felt a ripple of energy move over the back of her hand and along the length of her extended arm. Her fingers closed around the handle of the cane and dark lashes fluttered to a close as her mind lit up in neon and chrome. Her spine stiffened and curled and went straight again. Adam’s cane fell to the floor and skittered across the tiles as if chasing its owner while Una sank against the steel table to catch her breath. When she looked down at Anton, she swore she saw him smile.

Suddenly, “Are you okay?” Adam was at the table, not across the room. There were no papers on the floor, nor an up ended trash can. There wasn’t even a phone; the wall where it had hung just moments ago was blank and unused. Adam’s attention was focused entirely on her, though he did not show even an iota of concern, he wore curiosity boldly. “You spaced there for a moment. Your heart is racing. Perhaps you should sit. Sometimes seeing the dead can affect the living enormously.” He leaned down to collect the errant cane. This time he kept it in hand.

Una blinked and Adam was there as if he’d not departed in the first place, the red telephone gone though its harsh ring still sounded in her ears. The steel table was damp under her palm, and as she jerked away, she realized it was her own sweat that she swiped across the thigh of her skirt. Suspicion narrowed her eyes over the countenance across from her and the absolute void of concern--though his question sounded genuine.

She backed a step away, and turned, removing herself to the end of the table, some distance from the doctor. When she commented, it was only for the last of Adam’s remarks. “So I have heard,” her tone was flat and as unaffected as his expression. Pushing the recent events to the back of her mind, Una walked slowly around Anton’s body again--an inspection, no doubt, but for what she wasn’t saying. Once she’d completed another loop, she straightened and nodded to Adam. “I’m finished. Escort me out, please.”

Thoughtful in movements, Adam lingered near the corpse while he watched Una move around the body, making to leave. She was -- unusual, but of course she was. She was dangerous, too, but that was also a given. These were known quantities, even familiar quantities. There was something more there, though. Something quite undefinable. Adam looked down at Anton while he made Una stand there, and considered what he’d just seen happen. When he finally moved to lead her from the room, it was not without statement. “He meant something to you. I understand now.” Understood, yes. If he related was harder to tell.

Una waited patiently--as she could afford to do--and once Adam finally passed to lead her from the room, she turned quickly on her heel and followed along behind him without a backward glance. “He did.” She didn’t bother to deny that, though he meant less to her than Adam would probably assume. “You will keep him exactly as he is, yes?”

“Exactly as he is.” Flatly. What went on his head was kept behind the lock of an unemotive voice. Adam led her out without further comment, through the maze of turns and twists, up through the floors, and back out onto the street where she’d come from. There were things to think about, for the both of them, and they were thoughts to be had far away from each other. Thoughts for the dark. Thoughts for seclusion.

[ End of scene. More to follow! ]
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PostPosted: Sun May 07, 2017 10:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[ Scene written with Una Mia and Owen Ramsey. ]

Owen was standing outside the Adam's office building in West End, leaning against a car that wasn't his upon which two styrofoam boxes had been stacked in order from largest to smallest. The largest was no bigger than a shoebox, the smaller of the two maybe half that. He was staring at a cell phone, flicking through messages sent to Una and Adam while he waited for the former to arrive. It was midafternoon, impossibly sunny and abysmally cheery in spite of the grisly items he was carting about the city. Even the cold seemed to have let up some.

He thumbed a message to Adam: I'm outside. Waiting on Una.

And then he sent one to Una: I'm here. How far are you?

Text to Owen: Why wait outside? Are you that eager to see her?

Text to Adam: Why not?

"Closer than you think." Her words drifted preceding her on a breeze, yet there was little more than a subtle shift in the air currents before she stood alongside Owen as if peeled from the shadows skirting the parked car.

"That's creepy."

She smiled.

Text to Adam: Coming in.

He pocketed the phone and picked up the packages, returning Una's smile. "Experimenting with portal magic, are we?" he left the stranger's car behind and approached the doors. "Can you get the door, Una?"

Adam opened the door before Una could get to it.. "Are you calling someone else creepy?"

"Alas, that title does not belong to you alone, Adam."

"I don't need portals," she sniffed. "I have speed at my disposal." She'd nearly reached the door when it swung wide and revealed Adam.

"You and I already have something in common then," Una said to Adam, stepping aside to let Owen pass through first.

"I imagine we have more than that." The man stepped aside, holding the door open.

"Portals are more fun than speed, though. I'd wager," he stepped past Adam with a smile and a nod and into the building. "Una Cristea, this is Doctor Adam Nesset. He'll be performing our surgery today."

"Cristea. So that's your last name." He hadn't known it before now.

"Oh?" Adam's comment elicited a lingering look from Una, though she didn't inquire further about it. Owen distracted her with portals again, and she quirked a vague smile at him before turning back to Adam. Her hands were still in her pockets, so she didn't offer a handshake, but did nod as she greeted him, "Dr. Nesset."

"Ms. Cristea," he responded. Once inside, he locked the door behind them. The flatness of the waiting room was quickly moved past with a, "This way."

Owen watched the two exchange greetings and then followed after Adam. "Has the body done anything strange?"

"Yes. It doesn't rot." The body was not far. "Care to explain that one? It would be a useful secret to know."

"It was partially mummified, I know. Aside from that, I can only assume by the same kind of magic that keeps these organs from decomposing as well."

Una was quiet behind them, leaving the discussion to them as she trailed, sweeping a look from side to side to see if anything of the hallway was different than the last time she'd been. And possibly looking for small identifying structures or patterns.

Nothing was new, nothing was different. It was so similar to the last time either had visited that it should be obvious that effort went into maintaining the condition of the halls, the rooms, and all other aspects of the ground floor. "If we meet the people who cast the spells that preserve the body, I think I'd like to have a long conversation with them. It could further my understandings." Adam opened a door, almost at random, and ushered the two in. Anton lay on an examination table just as he had in the morgue only days ago. Tools were assembled on a cart by the feet. "Here, please." He glanced at both of them as the walked in, catching each in the eye.

"I cannot imagine the mages responsible are particularly chatty, but if I come across one who is, I'll let you know," Owen followed Adam, ushered easily into the room possessing Anton's corpse. He glanced over his shoulder at Una and his eyes narrowed only a little. Then he was all business, his attention turning to Anton as he approached the table he'd been laid out on. "First and foremost, Adam. The heart was delivered to Una's apartment a couple of days ago. We looked at it, it's been branded on the inside by some arcane marks. The eyes have stitching which suggests they've been cut into as well, but I did not want to go poking around in something so small and delicate. Would you mind examining them for me?"

Una met Adam's look mildly, pleasantly even, as she moved past him and into the room. Anton was given little more than a cursory glance at first, her attention turning primarily to Owen as the conversation bounced back and forth between mage and doctor. In the midst of that, she missed Owen's extended scrutiny.

"If you know they are branded, what else can I tell you?" The office door, too, was closed behind them, as if each physical barrier between them and the world at large would hide their upcoming act by further degrees. Adam moved as if Una did not exist at all, leaving her to slip into watchfulness. A motion of a hand indicated the organs should be set down upon the table with the body.

"I do not know what the specific marks are on the eyes," he said. "I did not want to open them, because I don't want to damage anything. I figure you'd have a steadier hand for that sort of work. I need to see the marks, perhaps I may recognize them," he set the boxes down on the table as Adam directed, moving the smaller one to rest beside the larger.

Una didn't mind being the overlooked wallflower. In fact, rather appropriately she settled back against a nearby wall, intending to observe as Owen went through his explanation, and sidling closer only when the prospect of revealing more symbols within the eyes loomed.

"I thought you were good with your hands," quietly. Adam donned surgical gloves and plucked a scalpel from the cart to opened the boxes, reaching in and extracting the organs with tender care. He announced, "I was a surgeon, I'll show you your marks. It's up to you to read them to us." An exhale, a tilt of the head; preparing for the work ahead. "Una, I dub thee nurse. Hand me a clean towel. Drawer, beside you." He didn't look when he talked to her.

"What gave you that impression?" he stepped so that he was not in Adam's way, but remained close enough to watch closely as he prepared to cut into the strangely preserved eyeballs. They had fine stitching along an incision made along the backside of them, and otherwise seemed perfectly fresh.

"It was a joke." Dry as the Sahara.

There was a slight flinch about her shoulders, perhaps having not expected to be called out directly, but Una shortly turned a look to either side of her and opened the nearest drawer to hand him a napkin as asked. Afterwards, she kept her attention on the movements of Adam's hands rather than the objects that would soon be within them.

"One of these days I'm going to have to sit down with you and discussion vocal inflections. Tone of voice and the like."

Una smiled in spite of herself and shot a look aside to Owen. She had no real understanding of the relationship between he and Adam, and thus far the duo hadn't been particularly illuminating.

"Thank you." Still his attention was on the eyes, only the eyes, nothing but the eyes. Once, before he began, he paused to move slightly to the right, as his own body was in the way of the light. The conversation was dropped, Owen and Una were pushed to the very edge of his attention, even the room faded away, until his focus was solely on the eyes, the scalpel, and the stitches keeping them closed. He rolled the eyes gently onto the napkin and slowly, oh so slowly, cut through the fibers keeping them sealed. The two would have some time to wait; Adam was determined to not touch even a sliver of flesh.

Owen's hands went behind his back. He was content, for the time being, to stand in silence as Adam worked so as not to disturb him.

After some minutes, he was done. "The flesh of an eyes is not conducive to opening, but you can see the marks they made." Adam stepped back from the organs, spread as open as he could make them, and let the others look.

Once Adam lost himself in the depths of stitchwork, Una's gaze slid aside to where his cane rested. She studied it in contemplative silence, a frown drawing her features tight until Adam spoke again. Her frown remained as she took a step closer to the table and leaned in to see what had been left behind for them.

Owen leaned forward, hands remaining behind back, and bent over they able to peer at the small, dark markings branded into the eye through some unknown method.

"It's the same as the heart. Same markings. We've seen them before but do not know their origin. Shame, I had hoped that these might have been different. Something I might recognize. Tell me, Adam," he turned, looking up at the doctor from where he was still bent over. "You haven't gone poking around inside of Anton's chest or skull by any chance, have you?"

"No." Adam picked up his cane, keeping it in hand. No glances for either Owen or Una. "I've done nothing to the body since you left it to me."

"Are you thinking there might be more symbols there?"

"In the body? At this point, yes. They'll likely match these."

"Would you mind taking a look, Adam? I can, of course. But you're much better at it than I am,” Owen said.

There was a hesitation. Adam did not look to Owen for direction, but Una. Without reason, without explaining, it was obvious that this was not Owen's request to make.

Una’s nod amounted to little more than a slight incline of her chin, but it was an assent all the same.

"This will take me a moment. If either of you want to step outside, no one will judge you." What happened next was much like what had come before, except on a grander scale. Adam lost track of them, so focused on opening the body that other matters simply ceased. It was a messy and base activity; opening a man was not at all unlike butchery. The skills were quite similar, in fact.

Owen only stepped back to assume his previous position as Adam began the process of cutting into the dry husk that had once been a man named Anton.

Una slipped around to the end of the table, ostensibly to give Adam more room to work, though incidentally it put her closer to his cane once he set it aside to begin opening up Anton's corpse.

[ continued ]
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Young Wyrm
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PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2017 12:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The stitchwork was first, and then where the body needed encouragement to open. It had been more supple when sealed. Adam's attention flickered to the end of the table only once and not again. "Owen. Put on some gloves, please, and help me. Come hold this open." The chest cavity was stretched with effort and Adam could not reach his medical equipment while using both hands to keep it agape.

Turning, Owen went to snatch up some gloves. He tugged them over his long fingers and pulled the band back so it could slap back onto his wrist with a snap before joining Adam and reaching over Anton's body to do as instructed. "Just tell me where to hold."

"Here," Adam indicated that Owen needed to slip his hands over his own and take the weight of the ribs while Adam inserted a spreader. The insides were observable after.

Owen placed his hands in the appropriate spot while Adam inserted the tool. Once done, he let go of the man's ribs and peered into the chest cavity. "Oh my," the entirety of the man's innards, as far as Owen could see, had been marked similarly by the same arrangement of dark sigils they'd seen on the cultist's body. "That cannot have been a pleasant experience."

While Adam was engaged with Anton's chest cavity, and Owen was snapping latex over his wrists, Una's fingers brushed over the handle of the cane and upon finding it to be as unrevealing as its wielder, she left it behind to move closer to Adam and Owen. She had seen corpses, of course, and chest cavities. But rarely were they as pristine as what lay before them now. Her eyes narrowed at the sheer amount of markings, however.

"What do you mean? That cannot have been done to him while he was alive," she said.

"No, I don't imagine so. I meant for whoever performed this grisly task. It requires a delicate hand, I'm sure," Owen thrust a finger at one mark that seemed larger than the rest, occupying a spot of flesh behind where the heart should have been. "It's like we've been given a puzzle and all the pieces. A very simple puzzle, mind. Reunite the parts and something will happen."

"Of course I can't say what."

"It's not so much to do this to a body." Adam stepped back and allowed them to crowd.

"There's an art to inscribing these kinds of marks that goes beyond a steady hand and a strong stomach."

"I'm not sure why someone would go to all the trouble of creating a puzzle in the first place aside from amusing themselves. Or unless there was some ritualistic aspect behind it.”

"Are we certain that we should be so cavalier as reuniting the parts and seeing what happens? I imagine this is how your portal adventure began, Owen. And look how that turned out," Una said with a pointed look.

Theories kept to himself, Adam simply waited for them to be done. He had organs to install.

"We know his death was ritualistic. The altar placement was a clear enough indicator. As is the fact that his soul is trapped somewhere on this plane of existence," he tapped a rib thoughtfully. "Do you think there is meaning behind the organs which were given to us?"

"If we are talking simple things, then yes. I'd say the meaning is obvious in that case, though your inclusion still makes little sense to me unless either a. you are involved, b. you were included after the New Year's Eve party."

"Am I still a suspect, Una?" a brow arched as he straightened. "They match the markings on the cultist who attacked me. Otherwise, I can't tell where I've seen them before," Owen began to remove his gloves. "Do you think we should reattach them? There's no telling what could happen if we did."

"You are forever a suspect, Owen," and though she said it lightly in jest, there was an undercurrent that suggested she still hadn’t resolved the matter to her satisfaction. Her fingers curled over the edge of the table as she peered at Anton's body. "I--" she shook her head, "I'm not certain. It's entirely possible, too, that nothing will happen, that we could be off track."

"Then I say go for it," he snapped his fingers, a little tremor of excitement in his voice. "Adam, would it be too much to ask?"

She inhaled, the splay of her fingers widening and tensing. "Let's put them back in and see what happens," she agreed. That tremor of excitement she detected got a bit of side-eye.

Adam nodded. "It should be simple, so long as you two can resist the urge to go at each other until I'm finished." Dry again. Adam took much less time inserting the organs into the body as he had opening it, though there were a few minutes wasted on sewing the eyes together. "When this is done, we must all reconsider what I'm being paid." Sealing the chest cavity was done with his own stitches, and they were far less ornate than the ones that held things together originally.

"Of course, Adam," Owen smirked and tossed the gloves into the biohazard disposal bin nearby and rubbed his hands together.

Una hummed vaguely, though whether for Adam's comment or for the actions that followed was indeterminate. She said nothing more, her attention was fixing again upon the deft movements of Adam's hands. As he sealed Anton's chest again, she took a reflexive step back, as if expecting a flash or some sort of instantaneous combustion.

Adam likewise stepped back, discarding his gloves and collecting his cane. In the distant depths of the building, a phone echoed, unanswered.

Medical examination rooms were always cold, so the chill that hung in the air might have gone unnoticed by Adam and Una. Owen didn't feel the drop in temperature so much as he felt the distant echoes of a dormant spell slowly working its way to life. The tethers that surrounded Anton's body snapped, the magic he'd cast to link the corpse with the switchblade was severed as something more intricate and powerful took hold. The body's chest rose as though taking in a deep breath and the eyes seemed bright for a dead man's, but that passed and it soon settled back as inanimate as before. Owen rubbed at his chin.

Una was listening to the sound of the phone echoing through the empty hallways and watching Adam to see how he reacted. That there was no change in his expression had her turning toward Owen, a question on her lips when she felt the finest tremor run along her bare arms that snatched her attention back to Anton in time to see his chest rise and fall. She gained back the distance she'd put between herself and the table instantly, staring down at the dead man to see what more might occur. When there was nothing else, she looked back up to Owen. "What was that?" The phone was forgotten for now.

"Respiration." She had not asked him, but Adam answered anyway. He leaned forward on his cane, curious. "But it stopped. That's a let down."

She gave Adam a slow blink for his comment. "I understand that part." Perhaps the connection between the two men was simpler than she'd anticipated.

Owen's hands came together and he held them in front of his face, staring over his fingertips at the body with a far away look in his eyes that suggested he was not seeing reality the way Una and Adam were.

"Think of a spell," he said, his voice muffled by his hands. They lowered. "A ritual. It has ingredients, it requires components and certain symbols. It requires an incantation. The body and organs are the components, the markings on the heart and eyes key sections of an incantation."

"The first couple of words have just been spoken, but it is incomplete. I can see a thread forming but not where it leads, practically speaking."

Una turned her attention next to Owen. "So once again we are left with no immediate solution. Just more questions."

Question and silence, to be exact. After a moment, Adam picked his cane up, prodded the body, and uttered, "Abracadabra." When it didn't work, he looked at the other two and shrugged. "Worth a try."

Owen gave Adam a dry smile. "I'll take you to a comedy club, Adam. You're in dire need of some education."

"You both are," Una said drily.

"I'm hilarious."

"That's not what she means."

"Of course it's what she means, Adam," Owen rolled his eyes and approached Anton. "Una. You should have Besnik keep an eye out for delivery men or women. I wouldn't be surprised if we had more mysterious packages arrive in the future."

"We need to focus more on the marks, I suppose. I can ask Mus'ad if he's uncovered anything else," Una said, trying to rein in their focus as the ringing phone finally abated. She nodded as Owen spoke and then turned to Adam. "Would you continue to hold the body for awhile? You mentioned payment earlier, what are your terms?"

Adam leaned back against the door, cane tucked across him. It was an act of considering, a show, fake and empty. He had already decided what he wanted. However, he was going to make them wait for it. "I'll tell you when it comes to me. Owen is covered; I'm paid for my service." Adam nodded at the corpse. "I'll hold it for as long as I feel safe. I would suggest we find another location, just in case."

"I can take care of that," he said, nodding slowly, thoughtfully. "I will come up with something shortly."

"You are billing us separately?" Una asked Adam.

"Seems so." Nodding, lips pursed, acting as this was as surprising to him as it was her.

"Then I want terms up front, rather than the unknown hanging over my head," Una said.
"Later." Cold and without emotion now.

Adam's shift was degrees different from what Una had experienced with him prior, and therefore was not a surprise. She was unruffled as she left Anton's side and drew closer to the doctor, the dark weight of her gaze landing squarely upon him. There was lead in both it and the words that followed. "Then we are at an impasse. What would you suggest?"

"Una," he said. "Don't worry about it. Adam, I will handle the expense myself."

Una gave Owen a long look over her shoulder, and then relented.

"Hm." Adam came back with only a short response, characteristic of the man being absorbed in thought. As Una dropped the subject, so he did he. "Will that be all for tonight?"

Owen, seemingly relieved, nodded. "Yes. Thank you for your time, Adam."

"Yes, thank you," she echoed, with one last look at the corpse upon the table. Still inanimate.

"I'll let you out. This way." Much as they had come out, they were led out, escorted by the doctor with the cane through boring, drab hallways. The door was unlocked and held open for them. "I'll talk to you later, Owen."

Owen followed as Adam prepared to lead them out. He nodded. "Of course. Thanks again, Adam."

"You should consider an answering machine, Dr. Nesset, " Una said to Adam as she passed over the threshold and shaded her eyes against the light. "Your phone went on and on earlier."

"I'll consider that, thank you." Then he closed the door without further comment.

[ End of scene. More to follow! ]
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