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Window Shopping
#1
Continued from: Window Shopping - Moscow City



Add in the cars parked along both sides of the street and everyone else had to muscle their way down the center of Nikolskaya street: actually, the nightmare clogged the entire city. His apartment was barely more than two miles away, but throw on a busy weekend, summertime tourists, and a brief blockade for a Privilege’s motorcade and Jaxen finally made it. Well, close enough. The corner was a couple blocks down yet. If the distant honking from blocked cars in both directions were anything to go by, it might take another half an hour to roll the rest of the way there.

“I’ll walk the rest of the way,” he announced to the driver, and waved off the need for him to open the door.

Though past sundown, there were plenty of pedestrians milling about, and a guy in a white-tie tux getting out of a slick town car drew no extra attention than anyone else. To his eyes, the milling tourists stuck out like a sore thumb, but so also did the local elite-- if only for the contrast. Women strode forcefully through the crowd, stilettos expertly maneuvering along cobble stones and dodging slow-moving wayfarers. Straight-faced men were about the same: a silk pocket square here, a sheepskin briefcase there; timepieces, designer glasses. There was a time when the collection would have earned his entire attention, however, now, in the brief moment of emerging from the car and taking in the sights, it was the buildings which Jaxen studied. Signs illuminated the imposing facades, despite being of relatively few floors, they dwarfed a man by sheer monumental comparison. Angular rooflines streaked high overhead, mostly lost to shadow but mashed together from one building to the next. A whiff of steam puffed up between cars marked the location of manholes. While bulges and niches in various corners pointed out the most likely locations for security cameras. Or birds nests. Or both.

With his Wallet secured deep within his jacket, Jaxen strolled along the sidewalks up toward Baccarat, hands idly in his pockets and glancing here and there, mind blank as he absorbed the place. He wasn’t a big guy, which actually worked in his favor when it came to his hobbies, but the cool expression and sharply styled hair projected an image of a guy who was unlikely to swerve first. The darting glances alone shoved one or two out of his path, the rest took a wider berth.

A block later, Jaxen witnessed a guy follow a couple into a second-hand bookshop. It wasn’t obvious, but Jax knew what was going down. He hesitated. The question was, did he follow after and try to salvage what was sure to be a mess, and probably ruin his tie in the process, or go on? Champagne was sure to be waiting, even if Aisha wasn't.

He checked the clasps on his cuff-links and aimed for the door. It was better to be fashionably late anyway.
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
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#2
Continued from: Renovations

It had taken him the better part of the day to prepare for his next job. Plotting the route from the airport to the hotel, the hotel to the Baccarat House. Alternative routes, police stations, even a hair-pullingly frustrating hour spent figuring out locations of road construction.

Then it was a matter of getting a suit. The sorts of suits the other guests were wearing were far outside his price range, but a trip through the Izmailovsky Market and a few hundred dollars later, he had something that would at least pass at first glance. Never mind the fact there would be people at the shindig wearing ties that cost more then his entire ensemble.

The trip from the airport to the hotel went without a hitch. The company Hood worked with provided a car and driver, with Hood as the close-protection service. Mr Arrabat was an Italian well-to-do. His family had been a financially powerful one in Italy for centuries, with controlling interest in banks and insurance companies, plus owning their own shipping company and a small fleet of cargo ships. It was rare that he traveled without an entourage of his own guards and assistants, but the Arrabat family wanted to keep a bit of a low profile for this trip.

The second half of the itinerary met no shortage of trouble though. From the hotel to the party, a stalled truck and a car accident made the already terrible traffic delays worse, until finally Mr Arrabat declared he would walk the rest of the way. Of course Hood was opposed to the idea, but in the end he had to admit it would be a hell of a lot faster then trying to drive there. And it was only a few blocks away.

Even the sidewalks were crowded, but it was the usual riffraff. Business people heading home or tourists bustling about to enjoy the views of the city at night. Mr Arrabat was an older man, in his 60's, but with Hood walking beside him, the little Italian man had little trouble making his way through the crowd. Folks generally gave way instead of bumping into Hood.

"Ah, here it is."
Mr Arrabat stopped suddenly, looking at a storefront. A bookstore, windows filled with a warm glow and the view of rows of books easily seen within. "Come along Mr White. There is something I wish to see before the party."


Hood frowned. Another delay, but this one was probably something the Atharim supporter had had in mind the entire time. Why else were they heading for the party so early? It was an hour till the door opening yet. But, he was being paid to guard Mr Arrabat, and while it was harder to do when the man had his own plans that he refused to share, it wasn't Hood's job to force him to go anywhere.

So he sighed and pulled the door open for Mr Arrabat, then followed him inside. The old man greeted the shop clerk, an old woman of similar age, in a familiar manner. The store owner set a young woman to the task of manning the cash register, and Mr Arrabat and the owner disappeared into a small office, with a promise to Hood that they wouldn't be long.

That had been an hour ago. Hood had found himself an over-stuffed armchair where he could see both the door to the office and the front door of the shop. The young woman working the counter had poured him a cup of coffee, and the two had made small talk for a while, but had eventually fallen into a comfortable silence.

Hood glanced at the door as a couple walked in, another man on their heels. He frowned again, or perhaps an already existent frown deepened, and he adjusted himself in his seat, right hand now raised as if to turn the page of the small, random book he had plucked from a shelf and had been staring at for the past hour. A subtle way to have his hand that much closer to the revolver he had holstered under his coat.
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#3
The storefront didn't give much away regarding the level of security it was likely to be working. The windows were original to the year the building was last renovated; which was probably a century ago. The door itself was just as unrevealing. Of heavy wood, a single glass pane ran down the center of it and gave shoppers a chance to peek in what they were about to enter. A normal jam fit around the edges. Solid brass hinges were bolted into the frame.

There was a reason Jaxen smoothed the smirk from sight as he entered. The decal of an abstract logo was stuck on the corner of the door. Small, but the brand it represented gave him all the information he needed.

The door swung closed behind him as he checked his 'watch'. The slick-designed armband was until now well hidden beneath his sleeve. It was an inch-wide touchscreen rather than a gear and glass timepiece: basically a flexible communication device synced to his Wallet: making for an easily accessible interface for the tools he needed. At this very moment, there were two. A timer, set for two minutes, and a WiFi grid.

Jaxen lingered about the front a good fifteen seconds. Letting the logo on the door do its job while unseen sensors cataloged his face, heart-rate, and movement patterns. Just another guy wasting time.

Of course the elephant in the room won only a passing glance. The guy wasn't a cop, that was for sure. Besides, most cops didn't have the salary to pay for a department store suit like that. It was a good effort on the man's part, but the shoes were bad. Very bad. Apparently style wasn't in the man's day job. Neither did he care too much about keeping the fact he carried a firearm concealed, Jax could pick that out as easily as he could place where men carried the goods on them. The overcoat did most of the work though, and Jax wasn't a weapon's expert. There was no way to tell what sort of weapon the man carried. Not yet anyway.

"How's it going?"
Jaxen asked, straight-faced, since it was obvious he was appraising the squatter. And he'd obviously spent too much time in the USA, where everyone waved and smiled and treated one another like childhood friends. But he moved on without caring to hear the answer. A cop would have jumped up already, rendering the countdown on Jaxen's armband worthless. Merc then? But for who? The store or someone in here?

One minute.

He passed the couple on the way toward the back. French by their accents, talking about where they were going to find dinner. The man had a book tucked under his arm and they were aiming for the front register, and Jaxen cursed to himself. Now where the hell was Denis?

He checked the WiFi grid app on his band. The range wasn't great, not with these floor to ceiling shelves disrupting the signal, but the lone anomaly of a slowly moving form finally came into view. Two aisles away, Jaxen found the kid milling about in a dusty aisle like he had all the time in the world and not forty-five seconds until all hell broke loose.

"You work here?"
Jaxen asked, voice so far normal.

He wasn't really a kid, but the last Jaxen saw of him he still had that doe-eyed look of a glamorized criminal in his eye. Denis glanced up, "Uh, yeah?" He answered just as his eyes widened in recognition. Jaxen quickly approached.

"I'm looking for--"
Then he dropped the sound of his voice, but that he was pissed was still loud and clear. "What the hell are you doing Denis! You've been out, what, six weeks?"


Denis looked agasp. "Nine and a half, actually. And i'm doing a job!"

Jaxen showed him the countdown on his band. "Well you better hurry it up, because Custody devils will be pouring in here in about twenty seconds."


"What!" Denis grabbed Jaxen's wrist, twisting the band around to see the timer for himself.

"Facial recognition, genius! You hit this place in '41."
Jax snatched his arm back and Denis suddenly looked horrified. "Give me the billfold you pulled. Now, Denis!"


"Fine." he slapped the stolen billfold into Jaxen's palm.

They parted. Denis rushing to look for a way out the back, though he was cutting it close. He'd be lucky to make it out of the alley without getting snatched. And the CCD pretty much ass-raped parole violators. Shit, Denis.

Jaxen strolled up to the front just as the Frenchman was searching for his billfold at the register. At which point, Jax set the thing on the counter alongside his chosen book purchase, "Found this on the floor back there,"
and the man gasped, then started rattling off babble in French that Jax assumed were praises.

The two French tourists, Jaxen and the clerk simultaneously looked up as a line of uniformed Custody devils barged in the front door. Four of them, all dressed in charcoal gray with the orange and black D-I patch clear as day on their arms. The Custody officers were so affectionately coined as devils because the Custody colors designed on their uniforms gave them a sinister appearance that was nearly cartoonish. Not that they were anything to laugh at. They ordered everyone in sight to their knees while two fanned out to run down the back in search of the man that triggered their response.

The tourists immediately dropped, ashen, and mouths gaping like the Ascendancy was personally about to haul them to the famous Moscow torture chambers. The clerk held himself in better form, coming out to where the Devils could see him and calmly going to his knees.

Jaxen glanced at the merc in the corner, or whatever he was, and wondered how he'd handle this--mostly out of curiosity than feeling like he posed an immediate threat. Though by the looks of the guy, Jax didn't want to meet the bad side of his temper in a dark alley anytime soon.

"Come on guys. This is a good tux."


He gestured, palms up. One of the devils immediately fixed him in his sights with a nice red laser beam aimed on his chest. Jaxen was no threat, just a guy who didn't want to get his knees dirty. Surely they could see that. Or, at least, surely they could see the chance for a nice trade here. Jaxen keeps his tux clean and a normal joe gets to take his wife out for the kind dinner that should get him an extraordinary gesture of appreciation in the bedroom--or the cab ride home--afterward. Jaxen slowly reached under his coat, going for one of the bills he carried for this exact reason. But the devil wasn't an ordinary Custody cop. He was from the Red Square. And Jaxen had overlooked the small MP Patch on his opposite arm.

Red Square MP's were nearly impossible to bribe, and in this situation, the man had to assume Jaxen was going for a weapon, not a buy off. But it was too late, and all Jax could do was not fight being hurled down. His cheek was smashed to the floor and arms were immediately wrenched behind his back: effectively rendered neutral while he was searched for weapons. They found none, of course. But by then, his tie was already ruined. Goddamn it Denis.


Edited by Jaxen Marveet, Jul 14 2013, 07:44 AM.
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
Reply
#4
Continued here: The Baccarat Gala

Hood stayed seated through the arrival of the tourists, the waste of space teenager, and the overly dressed tuxedo fellow. Hood just watched the white-clad man's back after the brief attempt at small talk, then shook his head and absently flipped the page on the book as he watched the new-comers mingle about the store. The whole thing played out like some kind of low-brow humor sitcom. The kid lifted the tourist's cash. The tux cornered the kid. He couldn't catch their conversation, but once the two parted the boy was on the verge of pissing himself as he made his way out the back.

There was a brief moment where Hood's hand drifted dangerously close to the bulge under his jacket, when the punk's path led him towards the door of the office Mr Arrabat and his friend were tucked away in. The tux fellow kept glancing at his watch, and there was a alarmed conversation outside.

Hood sighed, and his hand did vanish inside his pocket only to pull out his ID and papers. When the thug-squad came pounding through the door, the displeasure on Hood's face was obvious. The tourists dropped hard, the clerk with more familiarity with the situation, as any local was. And the tux made a very bad judgement call. Most of the time, a bribe would work just fine, but not with these guys.

One stepped towards Hood, SMG aimed square at his face, "Down on the floor, now!"


His gaze focused on the barrel of the weapon for a moment, the displeased frown on his face deepening before his gaze settled on the Custodian's own gaze. There was a long pause between the two, while the tux-wearing fool was complaining about his expensive suit, then Hood stood, slowly.

He had a good half a foot on the Custodian that was trying to face him down, and clearly wasn't intimidated by the man's gun. The Custodian even took a step back, probably in hopes of staying out of Hood's reach. There was another long pause, as a second of the Custodian's spun on Hood and his partner, the man visibly starting at the sight of the towering, angry man that suddenly appeared in the corner. "On the floor!"


Between Jaxen's failed bribe attempt and Hood's delay, Denis' lead was widening. Hood twitched his wrist to draw their attention to his papers, and threw his shoulder a bit to open his jacket to help draw attention to the revolver holstered there, then slowly sunk to a knee with both his hands raised. "Pervaya liniya Security. My client is in the office."


Once he went to his knees, the short Custodian grabbed the papers from his hand and handed them to the officer behind him, who looked them over. Another closed on the office door, then stopped when the store's owner opened it. She and Mr Arrabat walked out at the speed of crippled old people, and with all the confidence and indifference that came with their age.

The ensuing barrage of questions quickly told the Custodians that their boy was long gone, but the idiots insisted on searching the shop, as if the lad might have been hiding under a desk. Five minutes after they barged into the shop, the Custodian's took their exit, on the boy's now cold trail.

Hood collected his papers and tucked them away, standing up and moving to help Mr Arrabat and the shop clerk to their feet, "This is why I don't like deviating from the itinerary, Sir."


Mr Arrabat just chuckled and brushed off his knees, "You're right, of course. But, I am all done here. Now I must hope I have patience to spare for this party, yes?"


Another annoyed frown from Hood; he wasn't a fan of high-class shindigs, to say the least. But it was a paying job...a doubly paying job, actually, and if this was the worst that happened, it would be well worth the coin. Mr Arrabat and the clerk bid their adieu's and Hood adjusted his jacket, then brushed off his knees as an afterthought. Expensive clothes weren't worth the hassle.


Edited by Hood, Jul 27 2013, 06:41 PM.
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#5
Jaxen pulled himself up after the commotion ended to take stock of the damage. He pat off his thighs, but the pants' sheen, formerly crisp and black, was flat and dusty now. The tux jacket and white tie were smudged on the front and no amount of swiping would do anything about it. Except get a new jacket. Which was an interesting idea. If Alla took the metro, she could be here in twenty minutes, he quickly planned out. Which left plenty of time to make it to Baccarat. Yeah. That'd work.

Jaxen was otherwise on better behavior while devils went about their business. They questioned everybody, even the guy from Pervaya. Security. Yeah that made sense. Including the stiff which strolled out of the back office. The old man was all business, but he didn't seem like the type to cut deals under the table about dusty trinkets. What could possibly interest a man like that in a place like this? Then again, old men had a tendency to drift toward odd fetishes. There was a guy in Amsterdam who collected rare earth-metal forged dildos. Bizarre, but hella valuable. Old timers stripped copper off sewer pipes just to galvanize the pieces. How much could a guy make off one platinum, double-chubby? Actually, Twenty two million. Jaxen frowned at the memory. That sum was about thirty-million short what he expected: the member hadn't been solid platinum. A shame. A guy just can't track down good quality dildos these days.

He kept an ear out for activity that seemed to indicate anyone snagging Denis. But nothing of the sort surfaced. Of course it was about this time Jaxen realized he was missing a cufflink. From the same arm he also wore the watch band, he realized, and his mind went blank with shock. That little punk!

He violently tugged the sleeve of the dirtied coat to his wrist, covering the lost cufflink and watched the guard help his client to his feet. With the old man's words, it all clicked. They were going to Baccarat. Perfect. He started to curse Denis again. More specifically, curse himself for swearing to look out for the kid in the first place, even if he had to swallow a frustrating taste of pride to do it. Then an idea hit him which significantly elevated his mood.

The devils left. The old man was gone. Jaxen was alone with the shop owner and the clerk. Contractor also gone, Jax took his chair and dug out the Wallet, shooting his beck and call girl a message and coordinates and to be bloody quick about getting here.

True to her job, Alla showed up twenty minutes later with a new coat and tie from his closet. This one was a white jacket with a satin black lapel and a red tie. It wasn't white-tie formal, but she did a good job with the choices. The shop workers watched as Jaxen traded coats with her and she did up the tie. It was not like he had a mirror handy.


"Hold this for a second."

He gave her the remaining cufflink while he put on the spares she brought.

"Do you want me to take it with me?" She asked.

He shook his head, "No, I'll hang onto it,"
he answered thoughtfully, took it back, and slipped it in a pocket.

After he was sure Alla was gone, Jax approached the counter. He shot the old lady owner a glance, but it was to the clerk he spoke. In fact, it was to the clerk he gave the cufflink. The pair had been extremely elegant. White gold set with a twenty-one carat diamond surrounded by another ten carats in black diamonds. Of course, as Denis made off with one, what was Jaxen going to do with the other?

Understandably, the clerk didn't quite know what was going on. He gestured that he take it once more, finally setting it on the counter instead. "For the trouble."
Jax nodded and left. Besides, he stole them off a D-IV patron eight years ago. Speaking of, he should really hit up Tokyo again sometime.

"Oh,"
he turned at the door, "Careful who you sell it to."
He nodded and left.

Edited by Jaxen Marveet, Jul 14 2013, 03:25 PM.
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
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