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A Branch
Ivan stayed with ma and pop and things seemed to settle down a bit. Not that the lead ball in his stomach would go away any time soon. Not by a long shot. That bitch had him by the short hairs. And had his pops, too. And so many others.

And yet strangely, for all of that, for the magnitude of what was before him....well, just being home had settled him. Made him scared, sure. The stakes were real- serious.

But they were worth fighting for. He remembered that bitch, the casual way she spoke of shooting his dad. Just to teach him a lesson. That....the normal way she spoke of it- almost orphaning his kids, widowing his wife- and the complete lack of care....more than anything else, Ivan understood now the reality of evil. The complete and utter lack of concern and empathy.

She was a dog. And somehow he would put her down.

But he needed help. He was at the bottom. Chained. But he would not give up. He couldn't afford to.

It was the lifeline he held on to. The branch that kept him afloat as he was drowning. But he wouldn't let go. The feel of his father's arms around him, the strength of his mother's hugs, the little ones.

It was on his shoulders.

But he wouldn't do it alone.

He trusted two people.

He dialed as he drove. "Hey, Alex. This is Ivan. Listen, I was wondering if we could get together tonight. Been a rough day. Looking to spend some time with a friend."
Not quite the words for a booty call. They had never agreed on anything. Never even talked about it, the friends with benefits thing that they had. But if he was being listened to, he wanted them to think he was doing just that.

"I'm finishing up with last bit of notes at the clinic. You can pick me up here, we can grab coffee or a drink if it's been that kinda day."

He frowned. "Drinks sound good. Any place you recommend?"

"Pick me up. I know a discrete place with decent food too."

He smiled. He let his voice get a little husky, as if it were clear what he wanted. In truth, he could have used that intimacy right now too. That kind of thing sometimes really helped a person clear their head. But that wasn't his priority. "Awesome. Be there soon."

He drove the streets, not really paying attention. Occasionally he'd pass a squad car. Always before he felt a feeling of camaraderie when he saw that. His brothers out, keeping things safe. Sure there were the thugs- the ones with power trip issues he knew of- but those were the exceptions, he thought, not the rule.

Now, it was all different. As he passed, if he saw one of them turn their head, he imagined they were making a report of him. They couldn't see him through the dark windows, he knew it. And not like his ride was all that special.

Not like paranoia was logical. Or maybe it was. For this thing to be that big, they had to be a lot- either oblivious and idealistic (like him.) Dirty or power hungry. Or forced (him again.) And how many of what type? He found himself rethinking all the people he worked with. The way they handled interrogations. Questions. Perps. Witnesses. The way they joked about a busted head. Or seemed callous. Number of tickets they wrote. Jay walkers busted. Was that a glance out of the corner of their eye when they saw him? Had what they had been about to say changed?

All of it, all of it was suspect now. Maybe the majority were bad. Or enough.

And Brandon. Sitting at the top. No. Don't go there. Not now. He would get too angry.

He pulled up and waited for her, texting here he was outside. When she came out, he honked and got out, not minding the cold. Her clothes were nothing fancy. Professional. Didn't really emphasize her assets, which made sense. Don't want some guy who's detoxing to have his eyes fall down her blouse.

He smiled, though he was sure she sensed (and heard in his voice) his sense of...whatever it was. He was trying though, if for nothing else than they might be watching. He gave her a brief hug and a peck on the cheek."Hey, thanks for coming. Hop in,"
and went around to help her in.

Back in the car, "Just tell me where to go."

She gave directions. But he knew she knew. "You feel off, Ivan. What's wrong?"

He sighed. Now that the moment of truth was here, he wasn't sure where to start.

"Just stressed. Let's get to the bar. Have a couple shots."
He smiled, tried to be the usual Ivan.

When they got there- Chesterfields- he opened his door. He looked at his wallet. "Ahh damnit. Battery is dying."
and then left his wallet under the front seat. He had cash. He touched his lips and nodded to her to do the same. Maybe they could monitor. Maybe. Prolly not but he didn't want to take the chance.

[[with Alex]]
Edited by Ivan Sarkozy, Feb 13 2018, 02:21 PM.
There was something off about Ivan. She's heard it in his voice when he'd called. Sure there was the allure of potential in his voice, but it hide something else. This was what Alex had been trained to do. Not only could see tell what you are feeling with her own gift, but she had learned to read any signs from spoken word to body language. And something was off with Ivan.

He didn't want to speak in the car. And it was all but confirmed when he asked her to leave her wallet in the car. She dropped it haphazardly on the floor as she got out of her seat. Then dropped her jacket on top of it. It may be a nicer neighborhood where Chesterfields was, but temptation was still anywhere.

They were seated almost immediately by Sasha who had worked her a long time. She looked less frazzled today than usual, hopefully none of her wicked clientelle came in. Girl had it bad for the bad boys.

Gretta with her green hair took their orders, drinks then food all before Alex looked at Ivan and asked. "Now I know something is wrong. Don't play coy with me. Out with it."
The place was comfortable and Alex seemed known here. A good thing, to have your own bar.

And of course he was stalling. He trusted her. He looked around and lowered his voice. "Have you ever heard of the Syndicate?"

Alex shook her head. "No. Sounds ominous."

He wanted to smile. Any other time, he would have. But this wasn't a joking thing. Not with the image of his family with guns to their head still fresh in his mind. The knowledge pops had been shot for no other reason than a warning, with no consideration of the consequences. He sighed. "I would've said the same thing. But they are not a joke. It's a collection of cops, people in law enforcement, the judicial system...prison guards. Everywhere."

He took a shot, felt the burn go down his throat. Now that he was talking it just wanted to come out. "They took my family, Alex. Made me watch from another location. Had guns to their head. My mom and dad. My baby brother and sister. I could have killed all of them right then and there. But my family would have been killed. I felt so.....fucking impotent! Told me that if I didn't work for them, they'd kill them."

Alex listened. She almost thought it a joke, but the look and feel of Ivan said it wasn't. She didn't know what to say. She remembered all too clearly the day her sister had died at the hands of Atharim scum. She nodded. "What are you going to do?"
She'd have done something if she hadn't been away. But what could you do against a secret organization with all sorts of power. The Syndicate, the Atharim it didn't matter, they were large and it was just a few. It would take a lot of work. "I'll help however I can."

Ivan shrugged, helplessly. "Well, I had to tell someone. Someone who....I don't know. You have your ability. You might be able to tell me who we can trust. I think the cap- Captain Drayson- is probably one. I've worked with him. It's hard to see him as part of this. If he gets a whiff....I don't know."

He looked at her, concerned. "Look. I know this is dangerous. And if you want to stay out of it, I understand."
He touched her hand, held it. "But if you're willing...maybe we can do something about this. You know what I can do. They do too. I can't work for them. You know what they will have me doing for them. I can't let that happen."

God damn Brandon! He knew the man probably didn't know. He oversaw the whole Dominion. But that didn't make it any less his responsibility. These were his men, doing things in his name. In his city. If he didn't know, then he should. And if he found out, maybe he'd get off his ass and do something about it.

Maybe there was someone else he could talk to. Maybe a way to get word to him.
Alex wasn't sure what she could say to all that. They already had to keep their secret about what they were. The Atharim were everywhere, but that didn't seem to bother Ivan, he tried to befriend two of them. Alex wondered where he stood on that now? But she didn't ask.

She only confirmed what she'd already said. "I will do what I can to help you. I should probably get used to feelling everyone around me. It seems I need to adjust my tactics around the office even."

This wasn't going to end well.
He took a second shot. On the one hand, he felt a sense of relief. One down! Alex might not be able to read minds. But it was better than shooting in the dark. A stop gap, of course.

The real relief would come from getting his family to safety. Of course, that meant a higher up. The Cap wouldn't like what he heard, he was sure.

And the more he thought about it, he was owed a favor. If not by Brandon, who he didn't exactly trust right now, then by others. The new Consul. He was new. And was a foreigner. Obviously had pull. And as a channeler with some experience (and a CCDPD officer) he probably could be of use....

But Alex. He wasn't sure if he was seeing things, but he looked tired. She felt everything. That had to get old. He wasn't sure if it made her physically He remembered the other night. He seized the power and touched her hand. "Sorry. A lot I know, to put on you. Thank you."
He wasn't sure how long he could hold it without doing anything. It was a gesture, though.

"I'm going to talk to Drayson. Do you want to come? I understand if not."
Alex thought about going with Ivan. But this wasn't something that people needed to know more were involved. She was fairly certain the Chief Inspector was legit. But you never knew for certain. "I think you should do this part alone. Too many eyes make people nervous. But tomorrow. I think you need to relax a little, you are making the waitress' nervous."
Alex smiled at Ivan. "You'll just attract attention. Tomorrow morning we can go in, I'll be in my office and I can put out feelers. We'll see how it goes. But you need to talk with Drayson alone - with me in tow it looks suspicious. But tomorrow."
Ivan looked around and realized that he was blowing his....well, he wasn't under cover. But he felt paranoid anyway. Likely, they'd be watching him for the next few days. His suddenly meeting with the Cap would likely call their attention to him. Maybe not tomorrow. But in a few days. After he took care of pop's issue.

She was right. He needed to calm. Make it look like what he pretended it was. He forced himself to smile and touched her hand lightly. The touching wasn't forced. He still held the power, so as to not overwhelm her with his need. "Ok. You're right. Let's eat something. And just talk about whatever."

He wasn't gonna hold the power for long. Just enough to gain composure of his feelings. He'd have to go easy on the drinks, though. That usually led to a see-sawing of emotion.

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