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A Lunch Date
He wasn't sure if it had counted as a second date, but it had been as disastrous as the first. A fire had run them out of a high end restaurant, but the night had gone well after that, at least as far as he could gather. The second had been far worse; she'd called him for lunch because she was uncomfortable about her fellow cafe patrons, and he had left at the drop of a hat when he'd received word of the attack at the market. Only to leave her to be witness to an attack by something that had very likely been in the cafe before he had even left, from what he could gather.

Luckily, one of his men had been there to keep things from getting out of hand, and the police response time in Moscow was among the best in the world. It was a matter of some self-conflict that he had been so unaware to the threat at hand, but he had to admit to himself that he had been distracted by the company he had been with.

She had missed the Christmas dinner at the British pub he had mentioned on their first date, but the place was never entirely quiet. Churchill's Pub was located in the basement of a strip of old storefronts, sunken even further below street level as it occupied a space that had been first built some two centuries prior, and while it's location hadn't changed much, the road outside had steadily been added to and repaired, until the few windows in the pub were found in deep wells along the sidewalk's edge.

The interior was rich woods and rough red brick, the tables of an open arrangement rather then the more secluded booths found in most restaurants; it was a communal hall more then a mere pub and restaurant, a place where people came to meet friends old or new, although there were a few secluded booths. The place smelled of rich pipe smoke and lager, the shelves behind the long oak bar were lined with a dizzying array of scotches and whiskeys and ports. And a selection of vodkas, of course. Twenty tap beers lined the bar itself; no bottles or cans were stored in the back or in gaudy coolers behind the bar.

Drayson was dressed much as he usually was, minus one feature. His tie hung from a hat rack next to the door; the barkeep at Churchill's frowned on the work-atmosphere suit-and-tied patrons brought. He stood at a table where two old men were apparently arguing over some past imagined slight between them, apparently involving a fishing trip and a woman on shore. The details were not often touched on in the argument, as both men had been having the same one for going on sixty years. Details didn't much matter to them anymore.

Besides the pair of old men, there was a scattering of other patrons, but so early in the day the brunt of the pub's regulars were still pretending it was too early in the day to drink. Drayson of course only held a cup of coffee, as he was among that group who felt that the crack of noon was too early to be tipping back your first pint.
Torri was incredibly surprised to not find a contingent of the Custody's finest waiting outside her building when she arrived home after dismissing the request to give an official statement. By the time she received Drayson's message, the shock wore away, and she stopped looking for officers outside her door every day. He knew she was there, and if a Chief Inspector didn't need her statement, she doubted anyone was coming to get it.

One would think a commissioned officer's rank gave her some freedom to take a lunch when she needed. If not, then perhaps having been hand-chosen to oversee medical care in a top-secret government research facility would do the trick. Hardly.

As such, she didn't have time to go home and change clothes upon leaving like she normally would. Besides, she was returning immediately following lunch, and a return trip home to change would be impractical anyway. More to the point, she tried to avoid wearing her service uniform around civilians. The accompanying attention usually made her uncomfortable.

The pub was easy enough to find. Pausing on the street outside, she smiled at the sign, the windows, and the stairs leading below street. For a moment she forgot the anxiety of being late and led herself inside.

The sudden warmth was stifling, and she blinked at the scene around her. A right pub was woefully missing from her life, but so were a lot of things. She shrugged out of the long service coat, a warm wool with a gray fur collar buttoned tight around the throat, and carefully arranged it on a peg before finding Drayson. Her hair was held in a tight bun. The army gray jacket and skirt were formally pressed and neat, and the imperialist design of the Russian armed forces were apparent in the various insignia and symbols that identified her exact place in the world.

"Hello again."
She smiled down at where he sat. "I apologize for being a few minutes late. I hope you didn't wait long. Your schedule sounds tighter than mine."
She sat across from him and ordered a darkly brewed tea.

"You were right about the pub. It's fantastic."
She took another look around, eyes drinking in the atmosphere. While warm and inviting, she wasn't sure if she belonged here. She barely lived in London and called where ever her parents lived as her actual home.

She drew a glance from the small group gathered in the pub, not quite enough of a distraction to the old men to cut conversations short, but still enough to cause a shift in topics at least briefly. They were mostly old men, after all, past the point of chasing skirts. Drayson of course was far more responsive, and moved towards a table a bit removed from the other patrons.

"Not at all. Please, sit. Sharing this little gem with you is the least I can do after what happened the last time we met."
There was a pang of guilt over leaving her in such a situation, even though consciously he both knew that she could take care of herself, and that he could not be everywhere at once.

"I suppose I have been a bit busier then usual of late. How about yourself? From the reports, your coffee break was perhaps a bit more exciting then you may have hoped?"
Threats of spreading extremism out of DV and Africa, coupled with the various high profile incidents in Moscow itself had kept Drayson from straying far from his desk. There was a myriad of moving parts behind the scenes most people didn't see, from reports by various department heads, requests for search warrants, reporters and news agencies requesting information. Most of that sort of thing didn't make it to his level, but the sheer volume that he had to deal with spoke volumes.
As she sat, Torri barked a laugh. She wasn't accustomed to sudden outbursts, but Drayson's comment took her so off guard. A glint in her eye promised mischief. "I should be angry at you, I suppose. Skipping out on the action as you did."
It was a morbid joke, given the terrible death an innocent man suffered for no apparent reason. Death had to be laughed away, or else their minds would go crazy.

Talk of work wiped away some of the former mirth. It pulled the skin on her face tight, her jaw slack with weariness. A deep breath smothered the flicker of emotion, and she smiled politely. "My assignment in Moscow has been time-consuming, to say the least. I managed to get outside for the first time in two weeks and found myself ankle-deep in carnage. I shouldn't complain,"
she quickly corrected.

"Ever come up with an explanation or is official word still suicide?"
The depth to her look said she didn't believe the latter but wouldn't press the issue. She owed Drayson that much, as he hadn't pressured her for insights into her own work.
Drayson had already gone over the scenario countless times, but in the end, he had been able to move on. He could not be everywhere at once, and was in the end only human, and was not infallible. Mistakes could and were made. He had been called away to another incident that had required his attention, and had left a scene in which people had been at risk.

Luckily, one of his hand-picked chosen for Domovoi had been present, and had carried himself well in the unusual situation. "No rest for the wicked, as they say. Moscow draws the best and worst humanity has to offer, it seems."
Many a magazine had likened Moscow to the modern-day Rome or Babylon. Cities that had raised the bar of science and culture, only to later collapse under hubris and decadence.

"Suicide, likely inspired by long-term drug addiction which triggered a psychotic break down. Injuries were psychosomatic in nature or preexisting before even arriving at the cafe."
He hadn't written the report; these sorts of incidents had been going on for years and many people quickly learned to write something that 'made sense' rather then attributing such things to 'magic' and 'monsters.'

Of course it was often flimsy at best, but that was just the way of things. People did not want to know that there were things in the shadows hunting them, after all. Edges of modern maps were not marked 'Here there be Dragons' any longer. The world was mapped, cataloged, and recorded, leaving no room for monsters and demons and wizards.

The dead man's body had been autopsied by CDPS specialists as was protocol, and their reports indicated nothing that they hadn't been able to explain away through rational thought.

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