Solo Lift and Lodge

Who doesn't love a bit of paperwork? [Job Thread]

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

Lift and Lodge

Postby Caspian on May 23rd, 2021, 12:21 pm

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37 Spring 521

Caspian doesn’t tell his employer Mindy that his cover is blown.

Because it isn’t, at least not technically, and not in so many words. Her ex-husband Harv had gone out of his way to confront Caspian just two days prior, but he hadn’t really done anything about it, and Caspian had confirmed nothing about his presence. So Mindy’s got no idea, and honestly, that’s probably for the best – she’s nervy and the number of empty liqueur bottles in the basket beneath the kitchen sink is only growing. The information wouldn’t benefit her or her health, so in a way, Caspian’s really just looking out for her best interests.

The upsetting thing about his interaction with Harv is that Harv, apparently, had noticed that he was being tailed on another occasion. That would have been the thirty-fourth night of Spring. Caspian thinks back to what he was wearing – and he doesn’t think a suit in navy blue is exactly ostentatious. Though there had been an abundance of silver ruffles bursting from his neck and both cuffs, so he supposes that might have caught Harv’s eye.

He’ll just have to be more careful, is all.

And he can still do his job while keeping his distance.

Today he’s making good on that, swiftly ascending a flight of stone steps two at a time, his caramel-colored brogues clicking with pleasant purpose. The municipal building he enters is awfully symmetrical and nondescript, but the task ahead isn’t going to be much of a party either, so he doesn’t fault it. He himself is dressed down – but everything’s relative, and he’d ignored, as usual, the tired sigh and eyeroll from Taalviel that morning as she watched his magical suit transform into a jacket and pair of pants in stone gray. How she can find it in herself to criticize the color of cobble, of unswept gutter, he’s got no clue.

But if he’s being honest, he supposes the fact that depending on the light, the gray suddenly shifting into a rainbow of magenta and chartreuse might have something to do with it.

The woman sitting behind the desk in the lobby flicks her eyes up at him as he approaches.

“Can I help you?” she asks, in perfectly bell-like, measured tones.

“You know what?” He leans in as if he knows her, as if he’s about to let her in on a secret. “I really think you can.”

She blinks. Stares back at him impassively. She’s not really his type, her hair tightly pulled back into a bun, severe glasses and her complexion a touch wan. He thought he was wearing gray – her neatly tailored dress seems to suck all the light from the lobby, the antithesis to the wash of color glimmering across him whenever he moves.

“I’m looking for your newspaper archives. As far back as two or three decades, if you please.” Though his request isn’t the most captivating of ideas, he tries to throw as much honey and warmth into every syllable as he can, as if he’s asking her what she likes to do when she needs to unwind.

The attempt, evidently, isn’t working, for she only blinks at him again, her mouth turning primmer, the hint of a frown.

But he gets what he wants regardless, for she’s jabbing her pen towards the staircases at the far end of the room. “Take the one on the right. It’ll be on the third floor.”

Completely disinterested in him, she turns back to the ledger on the desk, and makes it very clear their conversation is at a close.

That’s all well and good. Though a tinge embarrassed – merciless, that one – he finds the sound of his own shoes clicking across the marble lobby more fulfilling than her potential reciprocation.

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Last edited by Caspian on May 23rd, 2021, 8:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Caspian
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Posts: 402
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Joined roleplay: August 12th, 2018, 11:26 pm
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Lift and Lodge [Job Thread]

Postby Caspian on May 23rd, 2021, 3:33 pm

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Caspian isn’t entirely sure what he’s looking for.

It’s more like he doesn’t know what he’ll find, though. Unlike following someone in the flesh, where he can take easy stock of what they’re wearing, what they buy, who they’re with, and if he ventures close enough, what they’re saying, taking his investigation instead to a file room in an office building is casting the widest and potentially least interesting net.

But Harv had seen him, would doubtless recognize him in a flash if he were ever in the vicinity. Would probably be on guard for Caspian’s presence for the foreseeable future.

So here Caspian is now, alone with stacks of filing cabinets and a clerk dozing off in the corner, and not hanging around the scheduled rehearsal for Nessa Reena’s latest play.

From all the playbills freely handed out at each and every show his target stars in, he knows she was born and bred in Zeltiva; that she’s presently 24 years old, which would make her birth year 497; that she took vocal and acting lessons from the age of 4 and intends to launch a fashion label by next spring. The birth year is his best lead at the moment, and he scans each filing cabinet, searching for the range in question. Very fortunately, everything is neatly and legibly labeled, and he finds the right cabinet within moments.

Well –

Set of cabinets.

Sighing heavily, he realizes there’s apparently enough material here to warrant not just one but four massive units for the year 497. Maybe he shouldn’t have been surprised; one might assume there’s one cabinet for each season. Unsure of the season in which she’d been born, he starts with Spring. The topmost drawer is just above his eyeline, and he wonders, vaguely, if his magical suit would ever one day start generating shoes for him with lifts. There are stools and short ladders lodged between some of the cabinets, and he grabs one and drags it over. With his raised vantage point, he can make out the clerk at the far end of the room by the door, their head lolled against the wall. The clerk is a man well into middle age, and rather comfortable here, enough that he can evidently sleep on the job. Caspian envies that, for a moment, before turning back to the dozens of folders before him.

Pulling out the first sheaf, he spans out the first few like an enormous deck of cards, so he can see them all at once, and begins to parse.

It takes him a good few ticks to catch on to the formatting of each birth certificate. The section for everyone’s last name isn’t where he feels it ought to be, and there’s so much text crammed onto each page – most of it impersonal archaic Zeltivan decree – that he finds his eyes straining by the end of just the first folder. Peeking over the rows of cabinets, he considers asking the lone clerk for help, but –

The man’s easy wheezing is clearly heard from all the way across the room, and it seems a shame to disturb him.


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Caspian
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Posts: 402
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Joined roleplay: August 12th, 2018, 11:26 pm
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Lift and Lodge [Job Thread]

Postby Caspian on May 23rd, 2021, 3:59 pm

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A bell into the experience, and Caspian becomes significantly less sympathetic towards the sleeping clerk.

When was the last time he had gotten such a sound sleep? He thinks back. That had to have been Ravok, and it most certainly would have been long before Taalviel ever decided to show up.

Which put the distance between now and that last instance in the manner of years

Hissing at a sudden sharp pain in his fingertip, he looks down, and realizes he’s just given himself a paper cut. A certain Anthony Barsten now has a charming splatter of red across his mother’s maiden name.

The injury, though minor, has no benefit on his mood either, for he then begins to reason that if he can’t manage a decent night’s sleep, neither can the clerk.

The sheaf of records he’s holding now proven to be useless, he moves haphazardly, carelessly shoving them back into the drawer, making many loud bits of the furniture creak and rattle. Across the room, the clerk hasn’t moved, mouth slack and his wheezing not having lost a beat.

Hopping down from the stool, also with an intentional lack of finesse, creates a sharp rap and clack as his heels strike the tiles.

Still nothing from the supposed purveyor of the immediate domain.

This should have been easy. He knows Nessa Reena’s name, had found the section of cabinets also dedicated to the year 497, but arranged in alphabetical order; on finding nothing, then went and consulted the other section arranged purely chronologically. Unless his math is terribly off – and here he pulls the calculations again, her age that he’d learned from the backs of the playbills, against the current year – he really should have found something.

But maybe it’s not necessarily that he’s bad at math, just that he needs to reasonably widen his scope. So he checks the Year 496, both the alphabetical cabinets and the chronological ones. And then Year 498, again both alphabetical and chronological, and because his head’s spinning and his eyes are crossing, back to alphabetical again.

Still nothing but a second paper cut and a lungful of dust.

And, all the while, making as much noise as possible, just out of spite towards the clerk still tucked up cozily in the corner.

Would they have lied about her age on the back of the playbill?

That’s something he hadn’t considered. Some people, he knows, can be sensitive about their age, especially those in her area of the public eye.

What would be the reasonable range of dates he should check, in that case? 5 years on either side of 497, so anywhere from 492 through 502?

Feeling a cramp in his neck, he sits in defeat upon the stool, his back against the latest disappointment of a cabinet. There are windows in this room, but just two, and both rather narrow, and being surrounded by so much towering furniture has a way of making the space seem even smaller.

How long has he been here?

He sighs and gets to his feet, searches for the clock, which hangs just above the clerk’s head.

Two and a half bells.

Two and a half whole petching bells, and he’s nowhere closer to learning anything of value about Nessa Reena.

Feeling that this has been little better than an enormous wash, he stalks down the length of the room towards the unconscious clerk.



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Caspian
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Joined roleplay: August 12th, 2018, 11:26 pm
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Lift and Lodge [Job Thread]

Postby Caspian on May 23rd, 2021, 4:50 pm

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Arms crossed, Caspian stands there for an entire tick watching the man sleep, before clearing his throat.

The man shifts, but soon falls to snoring again.

Fed up with all the proceedings of his day so far, Caspian clears his throat again, louder, then nudges him sharply with his toe.

The clerk bolts up, bleary eyed, and looks Caspian up and down distractedly. “M’hm, yes...?”

“Can you help me?” Caspian asks as sweetly as can be.

“M’hm. Well. I can try.”

Comforting response; let’s put this man in charge of a battalion.

“I’m looking,” Caspian grits as patiently as he can, “for a certain someone’s birth record. And I’ve searched by year, alphabetically and otherwise, and the years surrounding it. And I’ve come up with nothing.”

“You sure they were born in Zeltiva?”

The fact is he isn’t completely sure, can only go off what he’s learned from the backs of the playbills. But people didn’t tend to move too often – he and Shiress and Ambro being somewhat unusual for it – and he doesn’t see whether or not being from Zeltiva would help or hurt her career. Unlike her age, which he can unfortunately see as something to be fibbed about.

“Yes, rather sure,” he says, with all this in mind. “And I am admittedly less certain she was born in the year 497, though I think for all intents and purposes, we ought to assume she was.”

Otherwise he’ll be here all night.

“There must be something I’m missing,” Caspian goes on. “Is there some other method of filing you have here? Because it seems impossible, that I should know both her name and her birthday, and still come up short.”

The man wipes the last of his sleep from his eyes and wearily gets to his feet. Caspian can practically hear his back creaking, like a rusted pipe. He shuffles away, to a smaller desk and cabinet behind him, and from its depths hauls up an enormous ledger, which he drops with resounding magnanimity onto the desk.

“This here’s the entire city record,” the man says, flipping the leather-bound volume open. “All births in order, so you’ll only be able to look by year. And if it isn’t in the book, then safe to say she wasn’t born in Zeltiva. Unless – well, I suppose there might be some births that go unaccounted for, down East Street and the other Quarters, and whatnot. In that case you could check the general citizen registry down the hall. If she’s lived here all her life, she would have been part of the school system, and one way or another would have been recorded. So again – unless her parents are from the parts of town one ought to, ah, avoid at night, I think this should be the end-all, be-all for you here.” He pats the book fondly. “This whole floor, really.”

And as helpful as it is to learn that the general citizens’ ledger is close by, Caspian really doesn’t relish the idea of sticking around the building for much longer.

The man shuffles back, gives Caspian his space to peruse the giant ledger at his leisure.

In moments he’s asleep again.

The pages are tissue-thin, each line and column of text tightly crammed together. Names, birth dates, the clinics and hospitals at which each person had been born, and the number of the file cabinet where he can find the certificate itself. The book, notably, is also half empty – which is a comforting thought, he supposes, that the city sees itself existing so far into the future. He flips carefully to the year, the years around it.

And still nothing.

Sighing, he slams the book shut, gets to his feet.

“Thanks,” he says to the man, who only snores in response.

It’s late afternoon by the time he descends the municipal steps, and his stomach is growling. He feels incredibly foolish, having dug around for hours and found nothing usable – having, in some respects, taken himself several steps back. Nursing a headache, he tries to remember why he had even bothered to begin with, and the reasons are foggy at best – he supposes the entire point of finding her birth record was to discover her parents’ names, and those parents’ parents, and perhaps create a family tree. And through that family tree, he had hoped to dig up some sort of scandal, enough to stain Nessa Reena’s name in a way that his employer Mindy would find satisfying.

This is Mindy’s fault – all her vagueness, her insecurity, her blind and dogged hope that Caspian find any scrap of information negative enough that she can feel that Nessa, her estranged husband’s new girlfriend, is –

What?

Any less of a person?

Someone she can turn her nose up at?

Worse, in even the most minute of ways, than her?

He finds a park, mostly empty, and lies in the grass. Though he can’t see it with his head thrown back this way, he senses the rose-and-green shifts in his suit responding to the light.

Wonders, if he were the one holding a grudge and purse strings, whether he would spend his money and time and energy the way Mindy does.

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Caspian
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Posts: 402
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Joined roleplay: August 12th, 2018, 11:26 pm
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Lift and Lodge [Job Thread]

Postby Caspian on May 23rd, 2021, 5:09 pm

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It’s on his way home, resentful towards the new pain in his lower spine, that Caspian discovers an incredibly important clue.

There are several newsstands across the city, especially in the University Quarter, and for the most part he ignores them. He’s not particularly interested in the political aspects of the city, which accounts for a fair bit – he’s also not one to feel guilty about his apathy. If he were from here, he supposes he might care more; if he had any real intention of staying – and that’s a sticky idea to sift through – he assumes, again, he might pay closer mind.

But today, a certain publication catches his eye, for spanning the entire cover – the page of generous sizing – is a rather artful depiction of Nessa Reena.

He approaches and flips through. It looks like a tabloid, local celebrity and socialite gossip. There had been plenty like it in Ravok, which he previously browsed, in the days before Taalviel reentered his life, as a way of deciding which offshoot Lark heiress to try and capitalize on next. The article he finds on Nessa Reena is standard fare, summarizing the plays she’s been in since age 20, the awards she’s won, the dresses she wore to accept them, her advice on first dates and moisturizer.

And then he sees it, towards the end.

The interviewer had asked if there’s anything about her that the public doesn’t yet know, that she doesn’t mind sharing.

Nessa mentions something about a theater makeup trick, using the same rouge not just on her lips, but as a blusher.

The interviewer reminds her she’s already admitted as such, and pries her again.

At the bottom of the article, then, is where the young actress admits she’s been using a stage name, and –

“Hey,” the vendor says gruffly. “This isn’t a petching library. Now buy the rag or move along.”

Caspian glares at him, eyes snapping back to the very end of the article. But Nessa doesn’t admit what her real name is, only that it might begin with an E.

When the vendor swears at him, he rolls it up and snappily hands it back. Shoves his hands into his pockets and mulls the letter E over in his mind.

Someone has to know. Someone must. Nessa Reena’s gaining enough renown, at least on a local level, that while stalking her and Harv’s dates, he’s seen her get stopped and asked for her autograph on at least three separate occasions. There are also plenty of fans who wait outside the stage doors, eagerly awaiting her after every performance, also looking for autographs or a hug or, with some of the extremely zealous ones, just the opportunity to breathe in the same lungful of air. Are there fan clubs in the city? Is there a theater reviewer who’s been following her career closely enough that they also know her real name?

It’s slow going, but at least it’s going at all. So he’ll look for someone who knows the name by day, and by night –

He’ll lie low for another week or so. Then see where Harv takes Nessa to dinner next.


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User avatar
Caspian
Player
 
Posts: 402
Words: 531695
Joined roleplay: August 12th, 2018, 11:26 pm
Location: Zeltiva
Race: Human, Mixed
Character sheet
Storyteller secrets
Medals: 4
Featured Character (1) Featured Thread (2)
Overlored (1)


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