Completed Borrowed and Blue Pt. II

Caspian investigates the red herring.

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Center of scholarly knowledge and shipwrighting, Zeltiva is a port city unlike any other in Mizahar. [Lore]

Borrowed and Blue Pt. II

Postby Caspian on August 30th, 2020, 11:21 pm

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84 Summer 520

Caspian sits across from Mindy at the same bar at which they’d met. To her credit, at least she isn’t –

As Mindy lets out the sob she evidently had been holding back since the bartender had first passed them their drinks, Caspian inwardly sighs. Outwardly, he reaches across the table to pat her on the arm, and generously allows her to clutch onto him like a lifeline.

“Tell me,” she heaves out. “Just tell me. It’s the worst, isn’t it?”

“I… don’t suppose you’re familiar with any of the brothels on East Street?”

The sob that erupts from Mindy has several other patrons glancing over in concern. Finding the potential to be misconstrued as the true offender here, Caspian proffers his other hand – but when she shows no sign of stopping, he edges around the table and sits beside her on the bench. Her cries muffled against his shirt are a considerable improvement.

“It’s alright, Mindy,” he says, an arm around her shoulders, drawing her close. “Really. It’ll be alright – “

“When?” she chokes out. “When, a-and – how many times – “

“I only caught him at it the once,” he says, rubbing circles on her back and – yes, it’s just as he feared. Her mascara’s good and run down the front of his shirt. It’ll be a bother to get out and he had wanted to spend the rest of the day doing, if possible, even less than nothing.

“But when –“

“A couple days ago, love. Don’t suppose you realized he left a bit early for work? Skipped out early too, and straight to Tammy’s Tarts.”

At this, Mindy stills, and draws back.

He tries very hard not to frown at the mascara now tracked down his sleeve.

“Tammy’s Tarts?” she repeats.

“Yes, does that – “ It had seemed unlikely; for starters, like so many of the fronts down East Street, there hadn’t been a clear sign on the façade – “Does that mean something to you?”

She settles back in her seat with a frown. “Yes, it rather… does.” Oddly, she seems far less distraught than before.

Fishing, and not relishing the misstep that might set her off again, he ventures, “I don’t suppose this is where you caught him at before?”

“No, not at all, it’s just – “ She fixes him with a look that seems almost…

Embarrassed?

“Mindy,” he presses, because if she stalls any longer he’ll be forced to make up for the awkward silence by reintroducing his palate to the monstrosity that is kelp beer.

“His sister,” she blurts out. “…works. There.”

This takes Caspian back for a moment. It takes another good moment for him to straighten himself out to evenly reply, “Then you mean to say, the – ah, eponymous Tammy – “

“Yes! Well, no. They’re all Tammy.”

Really.”

“I mean – I don’t think their real names are actually Tammy, but from what I’ve heard, they call all the girls that while they’re on the clock.”

“Strong branding,” Caspian replies sagely, and forgetting where he is for a moment, takes a sip of his beer that doesn’t go down any better than could be expected.


WC: 521
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Last edited by Caspian on November 30th, 2020, 1:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Borrowed and Blue Pt. II

Postby Caspian on November 14th, 2020, 4:10 pm

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“Is there something about Harv and his sister that’s, ah, a little more comfortable than it should be?” Caspian asks.

Mindy looks positively incredulous and lets out a shrill bark of a laugh that regrettably draws the bar’s other patrons’ eyes again in their direction. Caspian glares back. By now, the bartender’s seen the pair of them in this configuration, and doesn’t spare them more of a cursory glance.

“Gods, no,” she replies, as if that’s entirely out of the realm of possibility. Were Caspian facing a peer rather than an employer he might have dug his heels in and suggested something snide and perhaps, were he in the mood, rather crass to the contrary. “No, he’s just there to – well, check on her. It’s really…” An expression crosses her face that he hasn’t seen before.

Affection and admiration.

“It’s good of him,” she finishes. “I’ll be honest with you, Caspian. I don’t really care what she gets up to, or how she puts bread on the table. It’s how she got there that worries me and Harv.”

Now that she isn’t outright crying anymore, Caspian wouldn’t mind sliding back over to his side of the table. But before he can ease himself out, she grasps her hand with all the fondness of a bosom friend.

“She was engaged, and he broke it off, and she just – she used to be a nurse, actually? And then she spiraled.”

“I suppose when one goes through a difficult time, one might want to turn things on their head.”

“Yes – yes, that’s what I rather thought, and… anyway. If that’s all you saw Harv doing, then – “ She shakes her head. “I’ve seen his laundry. It’s faint, but – some other woman’s perfume is on his collars. And the way he’s been acting, lately – like I’m not even there. And if we talk, he snaps, and we’re constantly fighting and it wasn’t – it wasn’t always this way! But the worst, maybe – the worst thing is when I catch him smiling. To himself. As if I w-wouldn’t – wouldn’t n-notice - !”

Again, were he with any other form of company, he might have pointed out the deep irony in her currently mussing up his own wardrobe. But instead he allows himself to be drawn into another half-hug. Her own perfume’s not the cheap kind and the frock she’s got on today is a really lovely, pearly blue. Things could certainly be worse.

“C-couldn’t you – I don’t mean to b-bother you, but – Lee keeps telling me I’m overreacting! I just – I just know something’s going on and you’re the only one w-who – who – “

“Mindy – “

“Who listens!” she wails into his shoulder.

He sighs. “Alright. Don’t listen to Lee, okay? I believe in – intuition, let’s call it. I’ll give it another look.”

“R-really?”

As if he’s doing it out of the kindness of his heart.

“Of course. Meet me back here the day after tomorrow? I’ll get to the bottom of it, cross my heart.”

She nods.



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Borrowed and Blue Pt. II

Postby Caspian on November 14th, 2020, 4:45 pm

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The past few days, Caspian had let himself get caught by either one or both of Shiress’ parents on his way out the cottage door. They don’t exactly bother him, or at least they don’t go out of their way to – and maybe it’s just as Taalviel said, that he’s uncomfortable for reasons of his own fabrication and perhaps they, in fact, truly do not care what one of the several strangers gets up to in their spare time. But the fact remains that he’s the only strange man in the house, and distantly he’s come to some awareness of the depths of his skulking and brooding. It seems unlikely that they aren’t at least a touch wary of him, as well they should be, and there was also that time he got up in the middle of the night for a glass of water, and not being very familiar with the house had knocked over a fan of cast iron pans in the kitchen and brought Shiress’ mother scrambling. Out of sheer awkwardness and embarrassment, Caspian had whisked himself up the stairs without assistance or explanation.

It’s just easier without prying eyes.

This is what he tells himself when he pauses at the top of the landing in the cottage, listening carefully for any movement down below. Shiress’ father sometimes leaves fairly early for whatever he does in the shipyards; Shiress’ mother tends to putter around the kitchen before heading out to tend the garden.

Someone’s definitely in the kitchen now. He creeps down the first few steps, nearly forgets the one that creaks and winces as he lands lightly upon it. The cluttering in the kitchen continues, though, and so does he down the rest of the stairs. Shiress’ and Rosie’s doors are shut; Shiress understandably stays in bed longer in the mornings if she can manage, to make up for Ian keeping her up at night. And Rosie doesn’t have to leave for barkeeping until closer to noon. Nevertheless, he steals softly across their floor, then pauses at the top of the last set of stairs.

If he cranes his neck and hangs over the railing, he can catch a glimpse of Shiress’ mother standing by the sink. Something bubbles and boils invitingly on the stove beside her – but as a matter of distance, Caspian avoids eating in front of them all too. As if he might owe them something further, on top of room and board and the frustratingly amorphous debt that is shelter and warmth.

He waits until Shiress’ mother disappears from view. The cellar door squeaks fairly loudly, and under the cover of her rustling and shifting crates, sacks of grain, he slips down the rest of the stairs and slinks out the front door.

A clock chimes as he passes through the University Quarter. He must have stalled longer on the stairs than he should have, for he’s going to be a few minutes late to catch Harv entering his office building. As tight-laced as Harv is, he’ll doubtless be at work precisely when he’s meant to be, if not a few minutes earlier – but Caspian’s going to be thorough about this, and thorough means seeing the whole of it with his own two eyes.

He speeds up his walk, decides he might as well jog. There’s more than one university student dashing about, maybe late for class. He catches sight of Harv entering the building as promised just as reaches his favorite bench.

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Borrowed and Blue Pt. II

Postby Caspian on November 14th, 2020, 5:00 pm

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Though it’s all rather nice, as Mindy had also regarded it, that Harv checks on his sister from time to time, Caspian hadn’t expected him to return to her so soon.

Just three days after the last, Caspian finds himself following Harv through the Zeltivan boulevards and down East Street. Like before, Harv is entirely too obvious about how uncomfortable he is, glancing over his shoulder and fidgeting with the ends of his cuffs. Given what Caspian now knows about Harv and his sister, he supposes any awkwardness here adds up. Were he less in a perpetual mood these days, he might have pressed Mindy for more details, for the sake of knowing the probably sordid story in full. That aside - there’s something about the degree of twitchiness that doesn’t entirely sit right with him, and he follows Harv a little more avidly than is likely recommended.

“Back again?”

Caspian jumps. Sidling up beside him, as teeming with green and green-adjacent as when they’d met, is the vagrant who’d declared himself the mayor of East Street.

The man scrubs his nose with the back of his sleeve, leaving behind muddy green marks that, given the rest of him, Caspian doesn’t see the use in pointing out.

“Y’know yer ought to keep more of a distance with these things,” the so-called mayor says, as if reprimanding a wayward nephew. “Yer was practically up his arse.”

“Yet he didn’t notice, so all’s well that ends well, hmm?” Caspian replies tersely. Though perhaps he ought to afford more deference to a man who’s now snuck up on him without his noticing more than once.

“That’s a good way o’ lookin’ at things, if yer a tart as ye say.”

“I never said I was a – never mind. Now is there something I can help you with? Or can I get on with my day in peace?”

“Help? Don’t think I’m the one who needs it,” the man harrumphs, and quite purposefully lingers long enough to make Caspian fidget.

The minutes pass. Caspian suspects, like last time, that it’ll be around the same three-quarters of a bell that Harv had spent last time. Around the thirty-minute mark, feeling increasingly watched without the mayor to shield him, he fumbles through his pockets and comes up with his tobacco pipe and striker. As he packs a few pinches of tobacco into the bowl, another man is let into Tammy’s Tarts, and a few minutes later, in goes one more. Caspian idly wonders how the brothel’s regulars communicate which of the girls they’re here to see, which must be tough if all of them are called Tammy.

True to form, around the 50-minute mark Harv emerges, and quickly crosses the rest of the way down East Street, putting as much distance between himself and the establishment as possible. It’s unlike him, but Caspian hadn’t smoked so much of the pipe at all. Something about the last few months had turned so many of the pastimes he’d come to enjoy into something foreign and rotting, almost a chore, and he’d let the tobacco eventually smoke itself out and the pipe go cold in his hand. With a sigh, he dumps the contents out onto the street, shoved it and his hands into his pockets, and follows after Harv with about a dozen yards’ distance between them.


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Borrowed and Blue Pt. II

Postby Caspian on November 15th, 2020, 2:21 pm

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The first time Caspian had caught Harv at the brothel, he hadn’t followed him all the way home. He had gone most of the way, which given how unerringly regular Harv is about his timetables, seemed quite good enough. But launching into acerbic and unsympathetic monologue in his head is what Taalviel would say to that, were he to admit to her that he had not been as painstakingly thorough as he’d been promising. Under duress of his internal reprimand, still perturbed by his morose lack of interest in smoking, and finding the idea of sneaking back up the stairs without anyone in the cottage noticing to be burdensome at best, he continues after Harv even as the pair of them go down the well-beaten path to his home.

And then, two blocks away from where they both ought to be making a left, Harv deviates.

Having fallen into the easy rhythm of tailing him in silence, his thoughts fluttering enough to keep him occupied, he almost doesn’t register the change. But then they’re on a new street Caspian hasn’t seen before, and suddenly Harv’s picking up the pace. For a moment Caspian wonders if Harv realizes he’s being followed, but – with the lack of fidgeting, or looks cast askance over his shoulder, it feels more likely that the man’s…

Excited?

Unnerved by the idea of giving himself away just before the game’s won – and perhaps admitting privately that the mayor’s critique might have some merit – he holds back, lets Harv’s steps exceed his by near double. They’re on a residential street not unlike the one Harv lives on, and the houses here aren’t the flashiest in Zeltiva but they’re certainly rather nice, very typical for someone of his financial standing. Harv makes a beeline for a neatly gabled house with a porch inlaid with decorative shells, and lets himself through a side gate with a suspicious amount of familiarity.

It’s a bit harder to stake this spot out. It’s not really a communal center, so without any of the municipal benches to idle on, Caspian takes note of the address and retreats to the end of the street, the point at which they’d turned, and gives his tobacco another go.

An hour and a half later, Harv emerges from the same side gate. Whatever had gone on had apparently warranted considerably more attention than what he’d shown his sister. This might be ammunition enough – so Caspian takes a sharp turn down another lane before Harv can catch up, ruminating again on how the tobacco had simply felt like ash in his mouth.

--

At the same bar, Caspian meets Mindy and tells her the address. In an attempt to discourage at least some of the prying eyes that will doubtlessly look their way when she, based on all previous experienced, will publicly burst into tears, he’d gotten her to sit at a table in one of the further corners of the room.

The address, thankfully, doesn’t bring the waterworks.

“Say that again,” she insists, an edge of darkness creeping into her tone.

He repeats it.

“I take it that place means something to you?” he ventures warily.

“That’s Lee’s,” Mindy replies coldly, and before Caspian can register the turn, she’s already stalked across the bar and stormed out the door.



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Caspian
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Posts: 402
Words: 531695
Joined roleplay: August 12th, 2018, 11:26 pm
Location: Zeltiva
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