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A Blind Date
"It hasn't been all that long since I went on a date, Francis."
Drayson sipped a cup of coffee and looked over an anomalous expenditure report out of one of the local police stations that had caught his interest. It wasn't his job, technically; there was an entire Internal Affairs department to deal with such things, but he liked to poke his nose into things from time to time. It was the best way to keep track of the corruption that was so damnably prevalent in Dominance I.

Francis had called him twenty minutes ago, and had been badgering him ever since. Hadn't even tried to beat around the bush on the motive, just went straight to the point. And all the while, Drayson had payed him half a mind while widdling away at the stack of paperwork on his desk. Well, figurative paperwork; he didn't actually do everything the old fashioned way. There were only so many trees in the world, after all.

"Think about it Drayson. I'm betting the last one was the one I set up for you. And that was two years ago."
Francis was leaning on his own desk, peering into the screen, and more importantly, at the side of Drayson's head to observe for any sort of reaction to the statement.

"What? No. It was with..."
He paused, brows furrowed deeply as he mulled it over. Francis was right. Had it really been two years already? "...yes. Two years. Your point?"

"My point is that you're not getting any younger. And this woman, she's just like you! All work, no play. Hell, maybe it won't be you missing the second date this time!"

He sighed quietly; the numbers didn't add up. Someone at that station was dipping into the pot, and they were being sloppy about it. Corruption was the norm, but so long as it didn't get out of hand, didn't cause trouble, he could turn a blind eye to it. If not, then he would have had to try to arrest every rich-and-powerful in the damn city. But to find such sloppy work in his organization; and in his mind, it was his. His responsibility, at least, if not in actual ownership. Well, it was an insult to himself, and to the people of the CCD. They expected the police to protect them, not to steal their tax dollars. It was going to be rectified. Quickly.

He leaned back in his chair, flagging the expense report for further investigation, and rubbed his eyes tiredly. "She isn't fresh out of university this time, is she? I am a bit old for that."

Francis laughed; the last date he had set Drayson up on, the girl in question had been 22 years old. The age gap hadn't proven to be a problem for her, but the fact that they had had to reschedule their second date four times in a month had been a deal breaker. "No. She's much closer to your age."
Nearly ten years his junior, but Francis wasn't about to admit it. Drayson was fishing for an excuse to call it off. "And she's eager to meet you, really! Already broke the idea with her, and she's all for it. Excited."
Also not entirely true, but that was besides the point.

Drayson sighed quietly and faced the image of Francis, "Alright, alright I'll do it. Might be nice to get out for a change."

"Exactly! So, where are you going to take her? Somewhere nice I hope! Ah! Do Cafe Pushkin again! It's a very inspiring place."


The actual date was arranged for five days later; a Thursday, 1900hrs. It was the earliest Francis could arrange for the two to actually meet, and even then Drayson had had to rearrange his schedule. It hadn't been difficult for Drayson to get a reservation; he had been to the Cafe Pushkin before, and the owners enjoyed the presence of the city's more powerful individuals. While Drayson was rarely known to use his title for personal gain, he was known to them and an a table was found for him without any fuss. Honestly, he expected that they had his number on file, and knew who he was before even answering the phone.

Drayson arrived early of course, and was seen to their table with all the usual hollow fan-fare one expected of a high class restaurant. The maitre'd recognized him; likely a scanner hidden above the door imaged who ever was approaching, and pulled up their particulars for the man to peruse before they reached him.

He was decked out in his finest suit; a brown tweed number, well tailored and perfectly fitted, but not of the quality one might expect of a person seen in so prestigious a restaurant. Of course, Drayson never cared so much about such things. A light blue dress shirt contrasted nicely between his dark skin and a tie of a somewhat lighter shade of brown from his suit. Also tweed, of course. He liked the pattern of the fabric rather then the more plain solid appearance of more common, expensive suits. It had more personality to it. And, of course, they were durable, serviceable, and inexpensive.

At that hour of a week night, the restaurant wasn't teeming; the place never was. It was intentional that not all tables would ever be occupied, allowing for a buffer between guests. He was seated on the upper level of the Library Hall, in view of but far enough back to enjoy the musician duet, playing a harp and flute.
The cab stopped in front of what was truly a spectacularly dressed building. Any time of year, the antique architecture and elaborate front would have been breathtaking, but at Christmas, the building was draped in an incredible waterfall of twinkle-lights. Torri had intended to google-search the cafe, but the morning ran away from her. It had been all she could do to race home, change out of her scrubs, and make herself look presentable. In the cab itself, email distracted her further, and the result of her ignorance was to be rather blown away by the grandeur of the restaurant. She really, really hoped Drayson wasn't the kind of man that expected glamour. She didn't mind falling short of men's expectations, in fact, she could care less, but sharing an entire meal with someone that found her bookish and bland was not her idea of a great time.

She paid the driver and stepped from the car, carefully avoiding the winter slosh in the curb. The sidewalks were clean, however, and she had no trouble navigating the brickwork in classic black pumps. Her legs were cold, though, despite the short walk from street to the door. She held her wool peacoat close, but the cold breeze nipped at her legs anyway. She did not often wear a dress, less so for any personal reason, and even more rarely when such dress involved neutral-colored stockings. She was glad for the warmth of the interior, but she dallied in the foyer for a moment, taken aback by the richness adorning the walls and the scents permeating the air. Even if Drayson was a snob, perhaps she could enjoy a meal here any way.

She relinquished her coat and smoothed the simple black cocktail dress she wore beneath. Her hair was loosely held half-up and half-down. She'd always thought she had plain colored hair, but she was otherwise satisfied with the amount of attention she'd given it for the occasion. It was nice, honestly, to not have to deal with regulation-tight bun. Her makeup and earrings were likewise plain, but classic, and only served to soften her appearance where her usually stern expression could not.

"Do you have a reservation, ma'am?"
The host asked of her.

Torri blinked for a moment, "I'm meeting someone."

The host murmured for her to wait while he pulled up the current inventory of patrons. "Name?"
He asked.

"Mine or their's?"
Torri replied with a dry smirk that the host did not appreciate.

"Their's, ma'am."
If the cafe had facial recognition software, they clearly did not ping her as a person of interest.

"Drayson McCullough,"
she said, but her flat expression shifted curious when the host blinked his own surprise and suddenly made a fuss over her.

"Oh! Please, yes, ma'am he is here. If you will follow me, I will show you to your table."

Torri shrugged and followed him upstairs to what looked like a grandfatherly library from the previous century. The books were incredibly beautiful.

The host showed her to Drayson's table and pulled out a chair opposite him for her, but Torri did not sit immediately. She studied him for a moment and thanked the host for his assistance, hoping he'd get the message and leave.

He was handsome, surprisingly. His attire and manner seemed to fit the old library, like he was one of the books someone had recently dusted off the shelf to browse at their leisure. She was immediately comfortable with him. Something that took Torri by surprise. Perhaps because she'd spent so much time around people that made her hold her breath and rankle every hair on her body. The Facility's patients, the Kremlin, Mecca, Michael, the Ascendancy. She suddenly felt very tired, but she forced herself to smile and hoped the weariness didn't show through. Just as she hoped the remainder of the bruise on the side of her face was faded fully.

"Are you Drayson?"
She asked and offered to shake his hand. "I'm Victoria,"
she added. Perhaps it was the setting, but she felt her full name was more fitting.
Drayson had succeeded at distracting himself both with the music, a book he had plucked off an adjacent shelf, and an email that had popped up on his Wallet as Victoria was led over by the staff. The atmosphere of the place was decidedly calming for him; the classic old-world feel, the smell of the place. It was well worth the money, but even then, it wasn't a place he would frequent alone or regularly.

He glanced up only as the waiter drew near, his gaze moving from the young man to the woman he was leading along and stared for a moment before understanding what was happening. He would have to remind Francis of his age; Drayson was far closer to his 40's the his 20's; this woman was far too young to be wasting her time with someone his age.

Drayson stood as Victoria introduced herself, and shook her hand in greeting. His hand was far warmer and rough then one may have expected of someone of his lofty position, where years of pencil pushing and desk sitting should surely have softened him up, but his grip was pointedly gentle. She was certainly lovely; tired perhaps, but that was entirely justified, considering what he knew of her. Which was not much, asides that she worked with Francis in some fashion. The man was exhausting, after all.

"I am, yes."
He collected and closed the book before carefully returning it to it's place on the shelf. A replica of an original copy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'. His Wallet was thumbed off and returned to his pocket, where he hoped to ignore it for the immediate future.

"You are the image of loveliness, Victoria. Francis did not do you justice."
He had no interest in women obsessed on their appearance; those that spent a small fortune on jewelry or makeup or clothes. In truth, he had little interest in anyone who spent a small fortune on such trivial things. As such, hers was a classic beauty; something he could appreciate far more then anything achieved through surgery and makeup.

He encouraged her to sit, and only resumed his seat when she had. "Thank you for coming out tonight. I must admit, if it were not for Francis' constant badgering, I probably would not have realized how long it had been since I last tried something like this."
It was the hair, perhaps. The light touch of makeup; just enough to cover what seemed to be a fading bruise. What was the story behind that, he wondered? And then it dawned on him. He looked at her anew; the hair down, a dress uniform. She had been on the news recently, one of those rescued in DV in the opening day of violence there. Her tired appearance made far more sense.

He would not broach the topic though; if the woman was willing to be out on a blind date, it was because she was trying to move on from those memories. And so the subject was quickly noted as off-topic.

"He is a manipulative one, is he not? Now you are at this beautiful place, with a tired old man like myself."
He grinned; the man likely hadn't let her know all the details of whom she would be going out with that night, and had likely over-exaggerated how much she was looking forward to the date. Not that he actually considered himself old, but certainly older then she might have been hoping.
He put aside the book that captured his attention, and since he didn't make any sort of movement indicative of desiring to help her to her seat - thankfully - she sat.

Their handshake was prim and proper enough to satisfy her grandmother. Her namesake, Torri's grandma was always prim and proper. Torri had callouses of her own, but overall her grip was sure and fingers strong. She had doctor's hands.

She'd have to be made of steel to not smile something for the compliment. She wasn't often called 'lovely', and she accepted it with a mature nod of the head. If he'd seen her right before the very conversation with Francis that resulted in their blind date, he might be all the more impressed. Cocktail dresses and relaxed hair was a far cry from rubber aprons and blood splatter, but it was probably best to not bring that up at the moment.

"I have to say, thank-you as well. Francis can be persuasive, and in fact, I'm rather glad for it."
She folded her hands on her lap, legs crossed at the ankle, and kept her posture upright. For as relaxed as Torri was in comparison to her general day-to-day, some things were too tightly ingrained after eight years in the army: posture being one.

Drayson mentioned their surroundings, and Torri had to comment. "This is an amazing place,"
she said, eyes lifted toward the books overhead. "This must be the most beautiful library I've ever seen."
She started to chuckle, "I went to medical school, and the libraries were like this. Kind of, but with old fluorescent lighting and bad tile. So not really the same at all."
Her humor wrung dry. A hint of a smile touched the corners of her mouth.

All the while Drayson spoke, a question burned the back of her mind as she studied his face. She could take it no longer. "I have to ask. Are you from the British Isles? Your accent seems so familiar."
Her own British accent, inherited from her parents, was muddled by exposure to a dozen cultures in her childhood, and the fact that she'd never technically lived there. Still, Torri seemed to think herself British, more so than anything else, she supposed.

Edited by Torri, Jul 8 2014, 05:18 PM.
Drayson smiled warmly and settled into his own seat. He could lounge with the best of them, when it was fitting to the situation. It unnerved people to no end to find a man like himself seated quite casually in their locked office. But most times, he sat squarely in his seat, feet firmly planted to the floor and straight-backed, his hands laying in loose fists on his lap.

He nodded in agreement with her about their surroundings, and chuckled quietly as she described the libraries of her school. Far more functional, likely, but not near as pleasant an atmosphere, he suspected. He leaned forwards and nodded towards the bookshelf, "The selection is brilliant, but it's all a bit much for me I think. And the Academy's library couldn't hold a candle to this place. Utilitarian to a fault."
He of course meant the police academy he had attended in his earlier years. The decade of strife and economic decline had seen many of the traditional structures closed, deemed too expensive to maintain and operate for the sole sake of tradition.

He settled back in his seat, and grinned again as she sought to place his accent. Londoners usually had a bit of trouble with placing the Manx accent. And his had been dulled by years working in London and these past few years in Moscow. "Born in Castletown. I spent the first twelve years of my career working in London though. Eight of those with Scotland Yard."
Technically Scotland Yard was just where the CDPS was based in London, not an organization, but the old term had stuck even with the coming of the CCD to the British Isles.

He had risen through the ranks quickly; it surprised even himself at times when he thought to think of it. Most Chief Inspectors were in their late forties, and did little away from their desks thanks to their age. He was unusually hands-on for one of his position.

"And you. A trace of London left there, yes?"
It was more in her mannerisms then her speech that he had even thought to make the connection.
She'd never seen Castletown, nor the Isle of Man. Truthfully, Torri had seen very little of Great Britain at all despite the lingering accent.

"My parents are from London, but I was born on base in Argentina. My father's a Colonel, now. Enlisted after the absorption."
She looked away, into the distance. Having typically kept to herself, it was strange to be so freely talkative. "I'm only really ever there for holiday, Christmas and the like."
She was suddenly aware of the holiday decorations in the cafe. "Except for this Christmas, obviously."
That last was said a bit more forlorn than she'd intended. She was ready for a holiday, but with everything happening, she was more likely to see Mars than London anytime soon. Cafe Pushkin and Drayson were about the highlight of her week.

"So you went from Scotland Yard to Moscow? That's a big step."
She'd only been in Moscow.. a few weeks? Is that right? It seemed like yesterday that she was in Berlin. Truth be told, Torri wasn't too sure how she felt about her job in Moscow. If she felt anything.
"That would explain it then."
He nodded, glad to see that he could still place a friendly accent. In truth, it had been little more then a hopeful guess. Her comment about Christmas reminded him that he too wouldn't be making it home to visit with his own family. His brothers were all flying back to Castletown, or were already there, for the holidays, and it would be one of the first time in years they were all gathered at the same time.

"Except for this Christmas. It is the same for myself. I have been in Moscow for a few years now, but try to get home this time of year."
He offered a commiserating smile. The decision had been his own, so he could blame nor fault anyone for his inability to make it that year.

He shrugged slightly in response to her comment about his transfer. It had been, he supposed, but it had been the result of years of hard work and iron-clad reputation. "One, I think, I was ready for. But yes, it was quite the change for me. Dominance I is a very different place then London. What about yourself? What has brought you to the heart of the Custody?"

They were joined then by a typically handsome waiter dressed in the iconic style of a waiter; white dress shirt and puffed sky blue tie, black vest and slacks, the pristine white apron. The young man delivered a pair of menus, and a wine list, pouring fresh glasses of water for Victoria and Drayson, then took his leave to allow them a moment to peruse.

Drayson was no wine connoisseur; he knew enough to keep himself from looking the fool, but that was about it. He would need a moment to peruse the list before making a selection. "A red, perhaps? I will be having the Chateaubriand steak."
He had no need to look at the menu; it was perhaps the most expensive item on the menu, but it was well worth it.
She tried to imagine Drayson with his family at Christmas. It made her nostalgic. Torri made the decision to call her mom when she got home that night. She hadn't told her parents she was going to Mecca, and after not hearing from her for those days, they'd been worried out of their minds.

Drayson had a nice smile. Surprisingly, the expression seemed genuine. Surprising only in that for most of her history, sincerity between people was a rare commodity. More than that, it made her want to forget about the mess that was her daily life and just enjoy sharing a meal with someone. A fine meal, too. She found herself looking forward to wine.

"I'm in Moscow because I'm an army physician, and I was stationed here."
She shrugged without much thought for the whims of her life. Maybe she spoke a little too bluntly, but when not at bedside, she had a tendency to be forthright. Drayson was a tough looking fellow, he could probably take it.

The waiter delivered menus, and Torri browsed the wine list before the food. She had zero clue what most of the selections were, but knew enough to pick out varities she knew she liked. A red sounded nice, but she couldn't tell if Drayson meant it as a suggestion for the table or merely his own preference. "Red sounds good."
She replied in case he meant to order a bottle, but as backup, she had a glass of pinot picked out should she be on her own.

She glanced studiously over the foods, and her brows lifted, impressed, when she realized the immensity of Drayson's steak selection. That was a beautiful cut of meat, but Torri was leaning elsewhere. Duck, maybe. Or sterlet: neither of those were things she made for herself at home. Nice restaurant, pleasant company, delicious wine. Duck paired well.

The remainder of the courses were selected in her mind but she was able to carry on the conversation while Drayson perused his options.

"Will you be doing anything for Christmas, then? Friends? Co-workers? I'm not particularly religious, but I might go to a service somewhere. Or just work."
She smirked like that might be the case. "At least it'll be quiet and I can get some stuff done."

Then a thought dawned on her. "I wonder if I'll be required to attend service at the Kremlin. I didn't even think of that..."
They had all kinds of ceremonies coming up. It would be fitting that she was expected to be in attendance. Christmas was days away, one would think the army would inform her of things like that, but then again, it was the army.
Drayson picked out a red and set the wine list aside, chuckling in quiet amusement at her statement. Work. That was likely to be his excuse as well. "Conflict of interest, should I be caught in the company of those I might call friends outside of work hours. So it will be Churchill's Pub, Christmas Eve. They do a marvelous Christmas dinner. Roast goose. Pigs in a blanket. Bread sauce. Christmas crackers. Even a Yorkshire pie with all the fowl. British only. But we could make an exception for a Londoner, if you are interested."

It was not an ideal way for him to celebrate Christmas; that would have been back in Castletown with his mother and brothers. But, an old basement pub with some fellow Islanders was a pleasant enough alternative.

"Luckily for me, Victoria, I am not the type often invited to those sorts of celebrations. Not terribly popular in the political circles."
He smiled warmly; that fact was a point of pride for him. Unlike some who held his rank, he never fit in well with the higher ups. Probably because he did not come with a price tag. He was at best suspicious of police and CDPS personnel that were.

He go to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour the morning of Christmas Eve, to attend a ceremony for those police, fire department, and other emergency services that had fallen in the line of duty over the past year. Then, hopefully, the pub would happen that evening, should he not become waylaid by work, of course.
She didn't quite understand the COI in seeing friends outside of work, but the alternative sounded lovely! Savory flavors filled her mouth. Prawns, parsnips, roasted nuts. Figs and pudding and brandy butter. It was the kind of thing to make a girl miss family more than anything. "Churchill's Pub? I had no idea there were places like that in Moscow."
She smiled like he'd given her the first - and likely only - present of the season. "I would like that, Drayson. Christmas Eve? I'll see if I can get off."

Being off-duty didn't necessarily mean she was free for the night. Just then her own Wallet buzzed in the small purse she carried. It was Custody military grade which was clear enough by its durability and specifications, but it was also Medical Issue, meaning there were additional ports for test strips and blood samples for instant read outs. It replaced the one she lost in Jeddah.

"I'm so sorry. I have to check this."
She said and checked the message. Subject 506 had an incident. Her mouth formed a grim line when she looked back up to Drayson. "Its a patient. I need to check in. I am so sorry. If you'd please excuse me a moment?"
She stood and dialed the Facility contact as she walked away. She didn't go far, however, merely out of earshot on the other end of the hall.

The Facility SOP required she was informed whenever a subject exhibited one of their dangerous incidents. This time it seemed a subject had nearly melted a hole through a steel door. The news was taken with little outward reaction, until the contact told her the subject, a twenty-two year old physics student died minutes later. The news was crushing, and Torri took it with a grim shake of the head. They had been working with implementing meditation techniques with the subjects. If keeping a calm, cool mind could preclude an Incident, similar meditation might save their lives. EEG Biofeedback with 506 was promising. Although she acted under orders, that he died anyway made Torri feel like she was experimenting with lives she swore an oath to save. Her stern expression aged a decade then and there. Although she spoke quietly, her orders were just as firm as the tightness to her eyes.

"Send the memo with the results up to EOA, immediately. The Ascendancy needs to know about this."

There was a pause and Torri glanced back at Drayson for a moment. "I'm out at the moment. Keep me informed of their response."
She said her goodbyes and returned to the table wearing an expert's mask to hide her weariness.

She sat smoothly. "I'm so sorry again, about that. The life of a physician, I fear."
She smiled, but remained realistic. "I'm sure a Chief Inspector can relate."
Her smile grew with the distance between them and the depressing state of affairs with work. "Speaking of, I meant to ask if you did a background check on me before agreeing to Francis' proposition."
She teased.

"Hope you didn't find out about that master-thieving ring I was in."

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