by Meriko Robert and Teri Stearns
It is a dark and stormy night, and there's nothing you nor I nor anyone in the entire city of Midgar can do to alter that much-maligned fact. Again I say, it is dark, stormy, and even more, it is a humid and sweltering storm, rather than the chilling type that one would expect so close to an ocean shore. Pollution, the overhanging beginnings of the new Midgar Upper Plate, and the general overcrowded and decomposing state of the Slums all served to turn even the most arctic storm screaming over the Plate into a thick and fetid miasma of unhealthy fog and drizzle down where the bulk of Midgar's miserable lived and died.
In one particularly squalid sector, there is one particularly tumbled down building, and on its most particularly dank, damp, and damaged floor, a large shadow shifts slightly in a most un-shadow like manner. One formless blob detaches itself from the larger mass, and approaches the center of three windows ranging their broken selves across one wall. In the flickering, feeble light from a street lamp across the way, a rather...nay, MASSIVELY disturbing figure is illuminated.
Tall, with the vague form of a man wearing a suit, and certainly the requisite number of fingers - albeit sheltered in black leather gloves - and the appropriate number of legs...however, the head and shoulders are completely obscured and misshapen, as if the Sculptor had merely affixed a softened cone of clay, and forgotten to finish the man.
This apparition hovers for some time by the window, and we shall leave him there whilst we investigate the larger mass from which he - it? - separated. Follow me, dear reader.
Merrick resists the urge to lean up against the wall nearest him, as he is absolutely convinced that there is more cobweb and rat piss in the walls than actual construction materials, and he is of a slightly fastidious nature. There is a slight movement next to him, and then unmistakable sensation of someone somewhere between one and two inches away from his own skin...warmth, a stirring of the air, and the instinctive prickle at his neck, although he knows it is just Te-Lyn leaning over to whisper something.
"Do you find it sexy or disturbing to see Vincent wearing a veil?" she asks, voice trembling with suppressed mirth.
"Definitely sexy," replies Merrick in a low voice, barely repressing a snort of laughter.
"I can't believe it actually has lace on it," Te hisses quickly, in a whisper that's clearly aching to turn into a screech of laughter. Unable to calmly take in the sight of her boss wearing three feet of black organza with lace trim, she turns her back on him and her partner, and thinks of sobering things in an attempt to control herself.
Her thoughts of President Shinra in a bikini are conjured up in vain, for Merrick turns after her and notes quietly, "I betcha it's his tablecloth."
Te-Lyn's sometimes enviable and oft-times lamentable visually-oriented mind immediately conjures up a vision of Vincent Valentine calmly drinking a beer over a black lace-topped table and threatens to undo her entirely, and she is forced to hold her sides to try and still the shaking.
Suddenly, two hands shoot out from the darkness enveloping them, grabbing each Turk behind the neck, and before either of them can do more than widen their eyes, their heads are cracked together.
"This veil," Vincent states flatly, "is for camouflage purposes, works better than grease, is more easily disposed of and replaced, and was the only thing I could find on short notice. Now if you two children don't mind, I'd like to return to my surveillance without having to worry about my cover being blown by two giggling idiots in the corner over here."
His "daughter" and "son" rub their respective temples in an aggrieved manner, but do not complain. In fact, they're pretty blessed to have gotten off with just a crack on the head, and they know it. Only their fourth mission together as a team of three, and the biggest one yet...Te-Lyn is still on probation as rknow it.
Vincent is allowed by his superior, as a by-product of years of mutual acquaintance and respect, to overlook one minor - very minor - aberration in behavior or judgment in Te-Lyn per mission, and then after that, everything goes on the report. Her performance will be formally evaluated after five missions, after which she will either be an official Turk, or be "reassigned."
Te-Lyn is very motivated.
Vincent gives them both his patented warning eyebrow as a conclusion to his short rant, and they both drop their hands, straighten up, and put on their "game faces" immediately. As he turns to go back to his window Merrick catches his head-butting partner's eye, lowers his head to look down at the floor, and then glances back up at her without raising his head.
Translation: Hey, sorry. Didn't mean to get you in trouble. You're not pissed at me, are you?
The petite blonde quirks one side of her mouth up, closes her eyes, and jerks her head slightly to one side in a sort of half shake, half come-hither gesture.
Translation: Idiot. No, I'm not mad.
Vincent watches them surreptitiously from behind his textile surveillance equipment. As he catches their quick exchange, a smile flickers across his face and then is gone in an instant, replaced by a look of mingled pain and doubt.
Translation: It's amazing how quickly Merrick attached himself to Te, and just as interesting how well she can read him. Better than I can, maybe. Unnatural, almost, how they let their guard down when it's just us, just the team. And VERY unnatural how familiar and close I feel to both of them already. I don't think anyone else has ever seen them smile or heard them laugh, or even know that there's anything inside of them other than hate and cruelty and killing instinct. Two babies with guns, that's what they are...Te can't be more than twenty four, if that...
...and most likely, neither of them will live to twenty-five.
Shaking himself from his reverie, Vincent turns back to the window and continues his vigil over the city. Or at least the 4 overflowing trashcans, the vulgar graffiti and a lone neon lamp flickering ever so seizure-inducingly from a local 24 hour adult book store nearby that comprised the half-square block he happened to be surveying. It was to the entrance to this bawdy establishment Vincent had trained his expert eyes. A real rat-hole of a dive and also this sectorís largest source of commerce.
Don Corneoís 24-Hour Adult Fun House.
Cum on in.
Vincent was sure that there were laws against tasteless puns like that. It made him nearly gag to read the words. Except that his only saving grace were that so many letters to the main neon sign were burnt out it actually spelled ĎDonors Had Tuns.í As it Ďtunsí of cash. It had a certain sense of poetic karma to it since it was no real big secret that the place was a front for a prostitution ring. All night Vincent had watched people filter in and out the main entrance, counting as many painted faces and high heels walking through the doors as men in three-piece business suits. Jesus, this place was disgusting.
But it was the Don himself they were looking for, not the pathetic, horny, lonely masses who had convinced themselves the only way to find a thrill was to buy it. Though Corneo himself wasnít exactly an saint, by any means. No, he belonged here alright. It was only fitting that the filthy bastard was the king of all this scum.
But Shinra didnít care about the prostitution ring going on in the back, or the hundreds of Shinra employees that kept the place in business, nor even the fact that the buildingís lease was sitting on Shinra-owned land and that he hadnít paid his rent in four months. To send in the Turks for a job, itíd better be for a damned good reason. The Don had something Shinra wanted.
And they were there to get it back.
After nearly an hour of silent watching, Vincent sighs, stalks back into the shadows, and rips off his concealing veil. To the two inquisitive expressions awaiting him there, he says, "Well, so much for direct action. He's no idiot...now that he's a hot commodity, he's beefed up security so much that there isn't even a mail slot that doesn't have five guards peeping out of it."
Te-Lyn glances at the window and then suggests, "Five or fifty...I doubt they're anything more than common hoods. Like Don Porneo could afford real talent, right?"
"Right," Vincent concedes, "but not the right way to go about it. No need to waste time and get ourselves into more danger than we need."
"So we'll sneak in instead of just walking in?" Merrick asks.
Vincent smiles...a type of self-satisfied, highly amused smile that usually serves to curl the toes of whoever he directs it at, present company NOT excluded. "Actually, Te, you'll still be walking in the front door as planned. Merrick and I will sneak in later."
"You want her to just waltz in there alone?" Merrick queries, frowning at the thought.
"Alone," Vincent confirms, and forestalls any protests or doubts as to the wisdom of sending in their newest member - who hasn't been a Turk long enough to be recognized, and thus be protected by reputation - by herself, by walking away a short distance toward the door where they had entered a couple of hours ago. He comes back with a duffle bag - black, of course - and smiles that smile again.
"I picked up a few other things when I got that veil," Vincent explains to his two companions. "It's always best to be prepared, just in case plan A goes to hell." Unzipping the bag, he pulls out a handful of clothing and holds them up for the youngest of his team to take, which she does not immediately do.
In a bland voice, Vincent orders, "Strip. You're going under cover."
As Te-Lyn gapes in surprise and then outrage, her redheaded partner eyes the proposed costume change and comments wryly, "Not MUCH cover..."
"You. Are not. Serious," Te says, her pale face paling a shade or two even more as she experimentally pokes the fabric Vincent holds out to her as if it's covered in toxic waste.
"I'm always serious," Vincent insists, now shoving the garment--indeed, not very politely--to her. "You weren't chosen to be part of this team just for your fighting skills, Te. As much as Human Resources would be swallowing their own paperwork whole to hear me say this, there is also your gender to consider. You have certainÖ assets that Merrick and I simply do not possess." He says this without stuttering or blushing in the least, but at her widening, exasperated eyes, he adds with a faint smirk, "That being your natural, feminine sense of charm, of course."
Te rolls her eyes mockingly and then considers the garment in her arms with obvious distaste. Then a roguish grin of her own pulls at the corners of her mouth and her eyes slide to where Merrick is standing next to her. "You sure Merrick wouldn't look better in this? Red's his color, you know."
Merrick takes a step back and raises his hands up defensively. "Sorry," he says. "I don't do taffeta."
"Te, this is a last resort and I wouldn't ask you to do this if I could think of any other way," Vincent explains, dispelling any humor in the situation at once with his phlegmatic tone. "But right now I don't have time to come up with anything else."
Exhaling a defeated sigh, Te recognizes that this is probably the closest her superior ever comes to saying the word 'please.' "Well, do I get some privacy at least? And no cracks about my modesty, Merrick."
"You can change in the bathroom there," Vincent says, nodding to the adjoining room, "along with all the rats and bugs and everything else that nests in there. Or you get five minutes while we turn our backs. Your choice."
"Some friggin' choice," she mutters darkly. Changing in a room full of filthy vermin was simply not an option. "I'll be in the bathroom," she hisses and heads for the door.
"Don't forget these," Vincent says, and hands her a pair of matching satin pumps.
With a wordless scowl, Te snatches the shoes from Vincent's hand and slams the bathroom door shut behind her.
Alone in the darkened room, Merrick quietly shuffles over to Vincent's side who stands in the middle of the floor, arms folded as he stares with shadowed eyes out the window. "You know," Merrick muses, shoving his hands deep in his pockets, "if I didn't know you better, I'd say you're enjoying this power trip over our FNG in there a little too much."
"And if I didn't know you any better, I'd say you were enjoying her a little too much."
Merrick blinks to make sure he's heard that right. "Excuse me?"
"Her company, Merrick," Vincent smiles slightly, turning to face him. "I'd say you're getting along with her quite easily."
Relieved, the red-headed Turk smiles back and considers for a moment. "She's...interesting." And then with a shrug, he candidly adds, "I like her."
For a moment, Vincent regards his fellow Turk with something like quiet affection. "Don't let it affect your performance," he quickly amends. "She's not official yet."
The last of Vincent's words are cut off by the sound of a rusty door barging open and hitting the adjacent wall, enough to knock off several flakes of plaster and kick up a cloud of fine dust. Both men's heads turn in the direction of the sound to see Te, standing in the doorway in a very red, very revealing outfit that accents her assets quite nicely...if not for the sneer she wears along with it.
Curling the side of his mouth up in an involuntary smirk, Merrick quietly states, "Whaddya think, Vincent? Can we keep her?"
Ignoring his comment, Te-Lyn proceeds into the room, stomping her heel-clad feet on the bare wood floors. She recovers nicely from one of her heels twisting under her as if she's adjusting to new legs, then comes to a full stop in front of her two partners. Two MALE partners who have no idea what it's like to be wearing two inch spikes on the bottom of their feet and to have a pair of too-tight pantyhose uncomfortably shoved up their ass. "I look," Te seethes, "like I'm going to a fucking prom."
Vincent watches her with suppressed amusement for some time. "Let's go now," he says somberly. Then, as if thinking of an appropriate remark--or inappropriate as the case may be--he appends with a barely contained smirk, "We promised to have you back before midnight."
Merrick blinks at the crimson cloth and pale flesh apparition - with more of the latter than the former available to his eyes - and then blurts out, "Dunno about the prom part, but you sure do look like you're going fucking."
It's amazing, really, how quickly anger can be transferred from one target to the next, even in mid-journey. One second, Vincent is being given the Look of Death by one of his juniors, and the next, Merrick is actually on the receiving end of the Fist of Death, courtesy of that same junior Turk-to-be. Two inches below the terminating point of the solar plexus, slightly above the normal starting point for any cushioning beer belly - of which Merrick is not a possessor of, in any case, and in juuust the right spot and with juuust the right amount of pissed-off force to make painless breathing a privilege instead of a God-given right.
"Hey," Vincent cautions, "be good. You're already down one as far as my report to Nick goes."
Without any sympathy spared for the wheezing portion of his team, nor yet any for the insulted other third, Vincent tosses Te-Lyn a radio-transmitter-turned-earring and directs her to the exit with one wagging finger, but winces as his under cover operative nearly takes a dive through the doorway as one of her heels gets caught up in a rotten part of the floor.
Vincent grabs her by one elbow to steady her, and then remarks, "I think we'll walk you down the stairs." Looking over his shoulder to find Merrick sufficiently recovered, he says, "You go in front, so she'll have something softer than steps to land on when she eats it."
"Hey, why do YOU get to watch her walk down the steps?" Merrick asks complainingly, and receives a nasty kick in the shins on his way by the object of his...ah...affections.
Having grown up with absolutely no chivalrous role models whatsoever, Vincent merely replies, "I have seniority."
Instead of another physical attack, Te-Lyn throws a disgusted look at her superior instead and mutters, "Pigs."
Vincent simply laughs and then follows the other two down the stairs, listening to Merrick oink softly all the way down. All three are safely gotten to the ground floor, Te-Lyn is seen out the door, and Vincent silently congratulates himself on resisting the impulse to give Te a good luck spank on the way out.
He doesn't want to die THAT soon.
On the way back up the stairs, the journey being accomplished much faster than the one going down, the dark-haired man decides to bring up the subject of possible working relationship conflicts once more.
"So," he begins, as they re-enter their surveillance room and take stations on either side of one window, "no comment on my observation about Te?"
"Which one?" asks Merrick with a smile. "The one about her feminine charms, or..."
"The one about you not getting too attached to her," Vincent interrupts.
A frown creases Merrick's brow, and he replies defensively, "I said I LIKE her, Vincent, not I want to run off to Kalm with her. I like you too, when you're not being a jerk. Lay off."
"Well, thank you very much, Mr. Defensive, I'm flattered. But the room isn't THAT dark, Merrick, and I'm not THAT old and blind," remarks Vincent sarcastically. "You two get along like a couple of puppies sometimes, I swear. When you're not fighting, you're almost disgustingly friendly, and as I recall, it took me a good month and a half to even get you to smile at me, and the first time you did THAT, it was because I'd tripped over a dead body."
Vincent watches Merrick speculatively as he continues. "And a few minutes ago you completely floored me. I think Te was too busy being offended by your crass remarks to notice, but you weren't exactly undressing her mentally like I expected you would."
"Vincent," Merrick said patiently, "with the dress you bought her, there wasn't anything left to undress."
The older man smiles appreciatively, and then rejoins, "Slight overstatement, and nice try at avoiding the topic. My God, Merrick...if I didn't know any better, I'd accuse you of being a gentleman."
"No need to be insulting," Merrick huffs, and then sighs. "I like her. So what?" And with a glare, he adds, "Shouldn't you be checking your radio? She'll probably call in soon to ask what she's supposed to do."
"The radio's already on," the other man patiently replies. "And I like her too. And I like YOU too, when YOU'RE not being a jerk." The patient, amiable expression falls away, and his next words are delivered in a short, sharp manner. "But if you get in my way, I'll shoot you, and if she screws up, I'll report her, and in a month she'll be pushing up weeds in the Sector 3 garbage dump. That's the kind of work we do. Understand? You can feel whatever you want, Merrick. Just don't lose your perspective. Because if I think she's a weak point for you, I'll shoot her myself and save Nick the paperwork."
A pair of incredulous brown eyes bore into Vincent's own intent gaze, and after a good minute, Merrick states in a flat, angry voice, "You'd kill her. Just on a hunch that I might get distracted."
Vincent looks at the young man coolly for a moment, and then says, "No, probably not." And then, with a smile that's rather inappropriate for the tense, charged moment, adds, "I'd shoot you and keep her instead."
Before the redhead can adequately settle it with himself whether Vincent was serious or not - and for how long he was or was not serious - a small crackling noise comes from the radio at Vincent's hip, followed by a familiar voice.
"Go to booth eight, climb up through the vent, left left right left. I'm in a small closet with the body of a very fat, very sweaty, very dead man, and about eighty million gil worth of summon materia, and if you two unbelievable pricks don't get here within eight minutes I am going to-"
Vincent switched off the volume to the radio and grinned. "Self-motivated, energetic, and a good twenty minutes ahead of my estimation. Yep. Definitely a keeper."
"Are you ready for this?" Standing close enough to hear each otherís breathing, both Turks cautiously glance around the side of the establishment while Vincent secretly reassures himself for the fifth time since leaving the look-out that his Glock is indeed firmly secured in the holster inside his blazer. Nervous habit...if this man ever had such a thing.
"No," answers Merrick plainly. Conversely he is NOT nervous in the least, just...sincere.
"Well, you donít have a choice," rejoins Vincent without a thread of sympathy for his cohort, though he can definitely appreciate Merrickís honesty. Extracting a thin, metallic pick from the end of his pocket knife, Vincent carefully inserts the tool into a rusted lock, and with a quick, practiced flick of his wrist, the tumblers click. "Time to be a man and enter the world of hard core porn," he says dryly, Then, in an even more monotonous tone that illustrates his own disgust, adds, "Cum on in." With that less that tasteful introduction, he slowly opens the door and ushers Merrick inside.
Without the presence of streetlamps, itís surprisingly darker than out on the street. Red lights illume the back hallway in which they stand. The smell...isnít as bad as theyíd expected. But itís not as pleasant as it could be and can only be described as the smell of cheap incense and scented lotions.
"Smells like...sex in here," Merrick says in a low, revolted tone, visibly shuddering.
"I think itís supposed to," Vincent answers bluntly, trying his best to ignore it himself.
Scanning the inside corridor, itís plain there isnít much to see from their position. Motioning for Merrick to follow, Vincent creeps along one wall as the sound of incidental music faintly in the distance grows incrementally louder. Vincent peeks around one corner and, still spotting nothing, turns when Merrickís hand catches his shoulder and he points down an adjacent hallway toward the front of the establishment. Nodding, Vincent follows.
Right away they encounter the booths Te had referred to in her brusque message, which appear no larger than water closet stalls, and the numbers on the outside of the thin, wooden doors clearly designate which one theyíre looking for.
Gently rapping on the door to avoid drawing the attention of two, grown men who seem all but desperate to get each other into a single movie booth inside a porn house, they quickly and quietly open the door when no reply is forthcoming and do just that.
For one almost-comical moment, Vincent and Merrick do a damn good job of seriously invading each other personal space as they attempt make room for themselves in a stall built for one, until Vincent hefts up the wooden chair that is thankfully unattached to any other permanent fixture in the booth and props it against the door, successfully blocking the entrance. That done, they both stare up at the air vent. Communicating silently, Vincent conveys that he will help the shorter man up first, which he does by allowing him to stand on the inside of his interlaced hands.
For Merrick this is nothing short of second nature. Once lifted in the air, he grabs the top of the air vent and pries off the grating, and gradually, scarlet head followed by sinewy shoulders and eventually legs and black leather-clad loafers disappear into the duct as if slowly being consumed. After a moment, the scarlet head pokes out again.
"Looks clear," says Merrick in a hushed tone. "Hope Shinraís covering our dry-cleaning bill though."
Jumping up to grab the sides of the vent, Vincent slowly pulls himself up. "We...get...that...materia...back," Vincent strains out as he heaves his broader girth through the narrowish opening he juuust manages to clear, "I donít think theyíre gonna notice a little dry cleaning charge on this monthís departmental expense account."
Methodically, they begin their excursion through the dusty air vent, stopping once or twice to dispel a sneeze or mute a cough into a clothed sleeve. "You know what woulda been nice?" asks Merrick, sniffling.
"Face masks? Vacuum cleaner? Antihistamine?"
"No. A fuckiní flashlight! Did you even think to bring one?" he says, pausing a moment to feel for the wall of the duct in front of him.
"This was plan B, Merrick," says Vincent. "I had to improvise. If Iíd have known weíd be crawling through air vents tonight, Iíd have brought Teflon hair spray as well." He rakes his fingers through messy dust covered bangs and pushes them back out of his eyes.
"No way you wouldíve been able to get that stuff away from Nick."
"His hair does look a little...non-stick, doesnít it?" agrees Vincent after a momentís thought.
"I always wondered if it was real or not," muses Merrick.
"Well, I ainít gonna ask him. Heíd probably dock my salary. Are you stuck, or what?"
"No, I found it..."
Resuming the crawl, Merrick proceeds for another 30 feet or so, then stops again.
"I hear voices," he says in a whisper so quiet Vincent isnít sure heís heard Merrickís actual words until he stops and listens.
Given the distance they are away from the sound, nothing of the conversation can really be determined from the muddled voices, but itís clear from the intonation and the pitch of the tenor that it is male. A fat male. With a very thick city accent.
"Corneo," they sigh in unison.
Inching closer to the source of the voice, but only close enough so they can hear what is being said, they listen in:
"Where the hell is Pacino? ...What do you mean you donít know, has anybody seen him in the last half hour? ...Taking a dump...well, did anyone actually think to check in the bathroom? ...Well, goddamnit, tear this place apart until you find him! I donít care if he is in the bathroom or fucking someone or what, I want to see him in my office, with that brief case, RIGHT NOW!!! And send in that new Felicity broad I hired last week while you're at it. 'Bout time I gave her her first evaluation." Slam.
Cringing at the harsh words and the sound of a telephone handset being wrongfully abused, Vincent shakes it off and grabs Merrickís jacket collar to bring him close enough to give him new orders. "I have a feeling our Pacino friend the Don is looking for is with Te right now," he estimates, and Merrick agrees with a curt nod. "I want you to go on ahead of me and find Te. Watch your back and donít do anything to get yourselves noticed."
"What are you going to do?" Merrick asks, suddenly concerned.
"Iím gonna have a little fun with the Don," Vincent says, and though itís not visible to see his grin in the dark, the sound of his voice is mischievous enough for Merrick to realize that Vincent is probably grinning so wide itís a wonder the two ends donít wrap around and touch in the back of his head.
"Jesus Christ, Vincent you're not seriously gonna--"
"Merrick? Te. Find her. Now," Vincent says in a stern tone that brooks absolutely no argument. With a frustrated sigh, Merrick nods but is clearly displeased by this new plan of action. "When you do, use her transmitter to listen in on me. Iím going to wait exactly 5 minutes before I go in there. Iíll switch my transmitter back on. Meet me in there any way you have to as soon as you can. Otherwise, if something happens, you and Te get out of here with that briefcase. Understood?"
Translation: Run like hell and donít look back. If you come after me, youíll be as dead as I will already be.
With another somber nod, Merrick hesitates to throw Vincent one objecting glance after another. Considering it's dark, and the fact that once Vincent has decided on a plan of action, the only way to change his mind would be to kill him, Merrick is left with no alternative but to hastily wish him good luck and crawl off. Vincent listens until the sound of his subordinateís slithers are out of earshot, then he turns his attention back to the sounds inside the office. The soft click of the door opening can be heard, then it shuts again. A new voice, one distinctly feminine, is the source of the visitor, and Vincent is all too aware she is there to get on-the-job-training. Or give it, as the case may be.
"Oh Corneo," he growls predatorily to himself. "You are in for such a surprise..."
With no available lighting, and no nifty glow-in-the-dark hands on his now-grimy watch, Merrick is forced to rely upon a more rudimentary manner of keeping track of the remaining time allotted to him.
"Sector 23, sector 24, sector 25...left left...okay, right...sector 27, sector 28..."
With a triumphant murmur of, "Sector 63!" Merrick finds an air vent with the grate already missing with nearly four minutes left, and pops his head through the ceiling only to find himself staring down the barrel of a gun. His eyes flicker to the owner of the gun, and then he reaches one rather grimy arm out, pokes a finger into the barrel, and delicately tilts the weapon away from his face.
"Sorry we're late," he apologizes to Te-Lyn with a grin, and then curls himself through the air vent, dangling from the edge for a moment before dropping down as silently as any cat - or cat burglar. Carefully stepping over the moderately obese corpse on the floor - presumably the late Mr. Pacino - the redhead approaches the supposed damsel in distress.
Te-Lyn has apparently been fuming over her situation while waiting, because there is no reply, no sally to his not-quite-sincerely-given apology...however, there IS a very dangerous glint in her eyes, which are narrowed, glaring, and set in a body whose language is most definitely being spoken in Royally Pissedian. Still mentally murmuring over sectors in his mind, Merrick reaches for her face with one hand, for all the world as if to stroke her cheek. The expression on Te-Lyn's face goes from an angry frown to a what-the-hell frown, and then settles into resignation - for the moment - as Merrick simply tugs her earring off, and she realizes that his flippant "sorry" is the best she's going to get for the moment. Also, Vincent is apparently not going to pop out of the air vent any time soon, so the quick exit with the briefcase she's got one heeled foot doesn't seem like it's going to happen.
"Sector 102," Merrick murmurs, prying the transmitter off of the gaudy earring and tucking it into his hear, and then explains, "We have three minutes and twenty seconds to make our way to Corneo's office before Vincent busts in on him. We have to be there to back him up, but if it goes south, we're supposed to cut and run." He bends down to grab the briefcase, noting appreciatively how heavy it is, and as his eyes travel up his partner's form as he straightens up, he frowns and asks, "Is it just me, or are you wearing even less than when we sent you in here?"
Te-Lyn rolls her eyes and says in a slightly exasperated voice, "You noticed? Fat boy here thought I'd make a good addition to the house menu once he knocked the gun out of my hand."
Shifting his eyes from the new, rather ragged side slit in her skirt and the one dangling shoulder strap to the ear-to-ear gash in the unlamented Pacino's neck and then back again to Te-Lyn's costume, Merrick asks incredulously, "Where in the world were you hiding a dagger?"
A sensual smile spreads across Te-Lyn's lips, and she purrs, "One more crack about my clothes and I'll show you."
With some quick shuffling of the briefcase from one hand to the other, Merrick shrugs off his blazer and tosses it over to the other Turk. Being of an equal height as he, the jacket doesn't do much as far as covering her over-exposed legs and hip go, but does quite nicely for her upper regions. "Oh, and by the way," Merrick adds as he reaches for the door knob, "Fat boy's friends are looking for him, and we now only have two minutes and fifty seconds before Vincent takes on Corneo by himself."
Merrick cautiously peers out the doorway, glancing both ways several times before slipping out with the briefcase firmly in one hand and the other beckoning to her to follow. Te-Lyn comes up behind him and hisses, "So where is he?"
"Still in the vents, right over Corneo's office."
With a disgusted noise, his partner reaches over, grabs Merrick by the necktie and starts back for the closet and impromptu morgue. "Well then why the hell are we running through the hallways?" she asks in exasperation. "We don't even know exactly where the office is, and there's goons running around all over the place."
The tie is jerked from her hand, and now Te-Lyn is being dragged down the hallway - on their original heading - by one elbow. "Because," her companion says, with more irritation than patience in the explanation, "those goons are under orders to get this briefcase I'm holding here, and when they get to that closet and see a body and no case, they'll probably assume we escaped through the open duct." A few more steps take them to a turn in the hallway, leading them into a more spacious area where Merrick rather boldly walks right past scattered couples, all more or less occupied in various unsavory pursuits, and paying no mind to the new arrivals stalking through their midst.
Looking pointedly at her red dress still vividly visible through the front of his blazer, Merrick adds, "And you look enough like a hooker, and I look enough like a suit to blend in. With...two minutes left, we can't afford to waste any time-"
Doing what, Te-Lyn doesn't immediately find out, for Merrick suddenly clips off his words and launches into action instead. Unexpected action, but action nonetheless.
He abruptly stops and then turns so quickly that Te-Lyn actually bounces off of his chest and staggers backwards. Or at least, she would have staggered backwards, if Merrick hadn't grabbed her by the arms and roughly shoved her against a wall. And she probably would have bounced off of the wall as well, except that he followed her to it, pinning her to the crumbly surface with what she calculates is every spare surface of his body, including his lips.
Surprised out of her usual impulses, Te-Lyn does not immediately knee him in the groin...which might be hard to do in any case, since one foot is just barely touching the ground, and the other is crooked up on the outside of Merrick's leg. She doesn't punch him either, as both of her arms are wrapped around his shoulders - damned if she knows how they got there - and helping to keep her from sliding down the wall. She is aided in this endeavor by the fact that, in addition to pinning her to the wall with sheer body mass, Merrick's left hand is placed quite supportively under an area that qualifies more as rear than thigh.
She'll kill him for that later, but for now, she's investigating the mystery of how it is that Merrick learned to kiss like this.
It actually isn't a kiss. A kiss is just lips. She needs to invent a new word later for full-body kissing. There isn't a single part of her that's not in contact with him. Limbs, clothing, lips...all tangled together. And aside from the hand keeping her from skidding down the wall, there's another one roughly grabbing the back of her head, as if her face could be pressed any closer to his. Noting the two empty hands - well, not empty - she briefly wonders where the case of materia has gone.
And just as suddenly as he attacked her, he drops her. After a slightly unsteady landing onto both feet, Te-Lyn blinks her eyes open to see Merrick hovering near, his arms propping him off of the wall now, and frowning at something off to his left.
"Okay, they're gone," he states. "Let's go." And with that, he scoops up the briefcase - which, Te-Lyn sees, was lying by their feet all this time - and begins to stalk off once more. Seeing the retreating figures of several burly armed men turning the corner from which she and Merrick had come, Te-Lyn gives a mental, "Ohh" of comprehension, and starts after her partner, being careful to hold shut the blazer she's wearing as she runs.
As she catches up to him, he murmurs, "Minute forty." After glancing upwards to the ceiling - the dingy, water-stained, molding ceiling - as if trying to see the air ducts through the plaster, he points towards another corridor branching off from the room they're in.
"Minute forty?" Te-Lyn repeats in a little bit of surprise. Strange...
The young man ahead of her grins back over his shoulder and asks, "Why? Did it seem longer than ten seconds?"
Smiling coyly, she bats her eyelashes at him a couple of times and replies, "Of course. Time only flies when you're having FUN, Merrick."
"I don't remember you trying to push me away," comments her partner in a tone dangerously akin to smug.
"Course not. Would've blown our cover." the blonde replies, pretending that she knew all along what he'd been doing, or rather, why. "But was that all you could think of on short notice, you pervert?" she added, now growing a bit perturbed that she HADN'T reacted in her usual violently-protective-of-personal-space-and-pride manner.
"Nope," Merrick replied blithely. "But it was the most appealing option." Still grinning, he winks at her, and to the detriment of her reputation, she can't help but laugh at him.
Looking up and down a new branch of hallways and seeing no one, Merrick breaks into a run, again glancing up at the ceiling now and again. A few more turns later, and he once more skids to a halt, although this time, he does nothing more than peer around a corner a few times before turning to whisper to her.
"I think we still have half a minute before Vincent turns on the radio again and drops in on Corneo," he updates her, putting one hand to his ear in order to listen all the more carefully for the telltale crackle of static that would be their signal.
"So let's go stand outside his office so we're ready," says Te-Lyn in a matter-of-fact tone. Merrick's only reply is to jerk his head toward the corner. As she gives a cautious glance around the edge, she sees why Merrick stopped. At the far end of a long corridor is a set of double doors, apparently made of steel, and decorated in deplorable taste. Te-Lyn squints a bit, and raises an eyebrow as she finds that the door handles are made of gold...and molded to resemble certain male body parts.
And around this dubiously adorned door stand ten more of the burly guards she and Merrick had just avoided running in to.
Ducking her head back, she turns to Merrick and hisses, "Now what?"
Shaking his head, he replies with a pained expression, "I'm not sure, but we'd better think of something fast. I just heard Vincent open the air vent."
Sighing to himself as he counts the seconds in his head--"23 caliber... 24 caliber... 25 caliber"--Vincent patiently waits as he tries to listen to the muted sounds inside the office with a general sense of indifference, a task that is becoming increasingly more difficult.
The rasp of a zipper.
The faint rustle of clothing.
Feeling rather like an accidental voyeur, he counts to himself with renewed vigor ignoring the tickling queasiness in the pit of his stomach. "75 caliber...76 caliber...77 caliber..."
Mostly he just passes the time with knowing the following moments will be the highlight of his day. Call it a power trip, call it intimidation, call it an insatiable desire to kick oneís ass...whatever it is, this is the moment Vincent lives for.
And it couldnít happen to a more deserving person than Don Corneo.
Resisting the urge to tap his fingers on the wall of the ventilation chamber impatiently, Vincent slowly folds his legs under him, shifting his position to steel himself for his entrance. He proceeds to wait in the position for the longest two minutes of the year.
But he canít help grinning in anticipation...
He moves once from his position to thumb the switch to his transmitter back on to voice only. He doesnít need any distractions and he realizes that he may put too much faith in his associates to perform as they are told. But he also knows he couldnít have managed to get this far without them...faith may be the only thing he has left.
Finally, in one fluid motion, Vincent delivers a powerful kick to the grill, knocking it out from under his feet and breaking a ceiling tile with it. With unusual catlike agility, he pounces into Corneoís office, effectively ambushing the Don and his...uh...evening entertainment. Bolting upright in his office chair, Corneo pushes the girlís head out of his lap with enough force to send her sprawling against the wall right next to his desk with a startled yelp. Vincentís calculating, dark eyes fall right to bewildered, hazel ones while one meaty hand shoots out impulsively to grab the telephone receiver before a the single choked gasp building up in his throat can work its way out. The other hand busily gathers his trousers in a bundle and attempts to conceal himself.
Funny how people will inevitably worry more about their modesty than their very life.
Vincent smoothly and quickly withdraws his gun, takes one long step toward Corneo and points the barrel right between his eyes. "You do know what this is, donít you?" Vincent asks in a low and dangerous tone.
Corneoís mouth moves before any sound even comes out. His wide, unblinking eyes never leave the gun. He tries to answer, but only manages a hoarse little whimper. Finally he gets it right. "A--a...a gun?"
"Actually, thatís not quite right, Corneo," Vincent corrects him in the same even, collected tone. "Itís a fully-loaded, 10 millimeter Glock, semiautomatic handgun capable of firing 14 rounds right where I have this aimed in less than 30 seconds." Vincent pauses, more for effect than any other purpose. "Unless youíd like a personal demonstration," the intruder states over another strangled cry, "Iíd leave the phone where it is."
Carefully, the Don draws back a shaking hand and raises it up palm facing out in supplication. Eyes never leaving him, Vincent steps around the front of the dark mahogany wood desk, grabs the phone and yanks the cord from the wall. The efficiency of the action produces another terrified squeak from Corneo, but this time the sound had been accompanied by the girl on the floor who is laying, more or less, by the telephone jack in the wall.
"You," Vincent says indicating her with his chin. "Get your clothes on." He takes a moment to glance over and assess the cowering figure on the floor. A girl...definitely only a girl, maybe seventeen at the very oldest, with bright violet eyes and a cherubic face. Pretty--if not for the gaudy shell of makeup painted dramatically on her eyes and smeared like red grease across her lips. The idea of what sheíd been doing when Vincent had made his entrance is nothing short of revolting. "What are you doing with this bastard anyway?" he snarls in disgust after she pulls her dress on.
Streaks of black mascara run down her cheeks shamefully, and in a timid, quivering voice answers, "He pays me."
Vincent snorts and drops his stance to shrug carelessly. "What? Three...four hundred gil a night?"
"Two-fifty," she answers brokenly.
Once again his gun arm snaps out angrily and aims it at his original target. "Corny, you cheap son of a bitch, I oughta shoot you on principal!"
The two seconds that Corneo had attempted to relax as the attention had been drawn away from him shatter and he once again stiffens and stares back at Vincent pleadingly.
"This is no place for a lady. Is it...Corny?"
Corneo doesnít answer except for a small shake of his head in agreement.
"Stay there," Vincent orders the girl, "where I can see you. Donít move. And donít say anything. I need to have a talk with your employer here."
Resting his hip casually on the edge of the desk, Vincent drops his hand holding the gun in his lap as he absently strokes the trigger with his index finger as if placating a pet. But nothing he does is without reason, and this action--which he can tell by the way the stout, pallid manís eyes dart back and forth from gun to tormentor--appears to be very effective and very seemingly psychotic.
Vincent takes a breath as if he were about to lecture on the merits of looking both ways before crossing the street. "Corny...do you mind if I call you Corny?" he proceeds leisurely before interrupting his train of thought. At the reply of a nervous head shake, Vincent smiles knowingly and stares at the man across from him as if heís just caught him telling a little white lie. "Be honest," he urges in a pseudo-friendly manner.
Swallowing audibly, Corneo answers. "Actually yes," he mutters as a red stain settles itself across his chubby cheeks. "I donít like being called that."
Vincent grins roguishly. "Good." Then he sobers. Moderately. "Corny? You disappoint me. Well...thatís not exactly true, you see... To be disappointed in someone you first have to have expectations in them, which I have none for you. So, really...you just make me sick." He finishes with a small pleasant smile that looks like heís just given a friend a compliment. The smile drops as quick as it appeared and he asks lowly, "You do know who I am...right?"
That same jerky head motion nods in agreement, shaking the excess blubber under his chin. "Y--youíre from Sh--Shinra."
Vincent goes back to petting his gun. "Great, no formal introductions are needed, then. But more importantly, Corny, do you know what I do?" (Pet...pet...pause...)
"Y--youíre a T--Turk."
(Pet...pet...) "Riiiiiiiight. So little Corny has been paying attention in class, good for you. See, normally when Shinra sends me in to...take care of a situation, theyíre usually not very happy at this point. And you do know why Iím here. (Pause...) Doncha. Corny."
Corneo shakes his head vigorously and begins to babble out in one breath. "NonoIswearIdidníttakeitIdidnítknowwhatitwasI--"
"Oh, but you did! You did, Corny!" Vincent interrupts him, straightening his posture bolt upright again and aiming his weapon. "You knew precisely that there was 80 million gil of materia in that case and you knew exactly what you were doing," he hisses dangerously. "Donít lie to me, Corny, because I know right where it is." Vincent stares at him hard for a full minute...a minute that seems to stretch into infinity for his target. Then he relaxes his shoulders again and drops his elbow by his side, but keeps the gun lofted and aimed. "I know, because two of my associates happen to be here with me right now. Iím expecting them any moment."
As if some sort of cue had been handed to him divinely, shouts and banging and gunfire are heard from the other side of the door. Itís riotously loud and the mayhem strings on as Corneoís wide eyes glance at the door in terror. Then it stops as suddenly as it started. A faint knock is heard on the door.
"In fact there they are right now," Vincent says simply. "Letís make them feel welcome, shall we?" Vincent stands and walks backward to the door, never taking his eye--or his gun--off the pathetic man shrinking behind his desk. Pressing his back to one of the double doors, he reaches across him with his free hand and turns the knob.
Slowly, the heavy door cracks open and Vincent is met with the barrel of another gun, which he counters with his own. Focusing beyond the barrel, he stares at two brown eyes--familiar eyes--and returns his gun to his previous target. "Took you long enough, Merrick," he drawls sarcastically.
Pushing the door open further, the site beyond the threshold is ghastly...for anyone but a Turk. To Vincent itís something akin to a parent receiving a painted masterpiece worthy for framing from his progeny. Ten men, or so, lie in a lifeless pile at the door, none of them moving, all of them bleeding profusely from various wounds. Te-Lyn, slightly haggard and still crouched over one, grips her high heeled shoe in her hand, heel pointed out. The man at her feet has a nice sizable dent in his forehead coincidentally the exact same size as the spike of her heel. Breaking his character enough for her to see alone, Vincent offers her an amused--if not grateful--smile.
Swinging the door open all the way, Vincent stands aside while Merrick and Te enter the room and stand patiently in front of Corneoís desk looking like two starving panthers ready to strike. Merrick sets the case down by his feet.
Vincent turns back around to face Corneo, but his attention is caught by something gold and ornamental on the door. "Ah, Jesus, Corny," he reprimands, rolling his eyes as he regards the vulgar door knob, "donít you have any taste at all?"
Snorting once more in disgust, Vincent moves around Merrick and Te and stands in front of them as they flank him on either side. "Welcome," he invites them warmly, easing back into character. "Join the party. Corny and I here were just about to discuss what he should do with this place."
Corneo is now bordering on panic as sweat begins to trickle down his temple. "We were?" he squeaks helplessly.
"Yes," Vincent states calmly. "We were. You see...I was going to kill you, Corny," he explains, beginning to pace a small path in front of the desk, "But after giving it a little consideration, I donít think thatís a good idea." He stops and stares at him again.
"You..you donít?" Corneo is visibly shivering all over, but a tremor of relief seems to wash over him.
Vincent resumes the pacing. "No. I donít. See, if I did that then it wouldnít be a very good morale booster for the hundreds of Shinra associates that keep you in business. But--" and he turns and gestures with his gun carelessly as if heís had a significant idea, "I think you could stand to go for a little remodeling. What do you think, Te? This place could use a womanís touch. Any suggestions?"
Te is inwardly surprised, both at Vincentís demeanor and his question to her. Sheís never seen Vincent like this...so arrogant and flippant, careless...and dangerous. Itís as if something in him may snap like a taught rubber band at any moment and the only thing keeping him in check is the comfort of the gun in his hand that he so indifferently--an efficiently--throws around. Quite simply, she never expected to see someone so normally collected and... professional, for lack of a better word, act like a mental patient on a 10-day medication binge. But itís the character she recognizes as important, and decides to keep herself in check. "New paint, for one. And new carpet," she answers candidly.
Vincent considers these suggestions thoughtfully. "Yes, not bad. You hear that Corny? You might make note of it later... Also...get rid of the sex shop bullshit. Everyone in Midgar knows well and good enough that thatís not where you make your money. You need to make this place...I dunno...respectable, somehow." Then he appends darkly, "If thatís possible... Make it a place you could bring your boss to for a night out. Yes, a simple escort service, Corny. Thatís what I see in your future. Clean up your act, for goddamn sake."
Vincent skirts around his teammates again and looks at the door once more in disgust, then back at Corneo for a quick sneer. Spotting a weak point on the door, he aims his weapon beside the knob and pulls the trigger twice in rapid succession, splintering the wood behind the stainless steel plating. The noise of the gun discharging causes all non-Turks in the room to jump. When the only sound remaining is the ringing in their ears accompanied by the lingering smell of gun smoke, Vincent places a well planned kick to the door knob and it drops heavily to the floor. He then punts it to where it rolls over by Teís feet. "There," he said with sinister approval, "that should cover the four-monthís rent he's been behind on."
Te widens her eyes and glares at Vincent angrily when she realizes sheís expected to take the ornament, but she doesnít protest. At least...not now.
Weaving through the double doors and opening the other one wide, Vincent repeats the action to the other doorknob. Stooping, he picks up the solid gold phallus and walks across the room, hefting it in the air and catching it again. "Hope this isnít supposed to represent you," he adds snidely to Corneo. "From what I can see, youíre way off."
Then he stands in front of the girl, staring up at him with a mingled expression of expectation and fear. He drops it next to her feet. "Take it. And get out of here," he says to her. "You should be able to get enough for it to get yourself a place to live and a respectable job," he hisses toward Corneo. She gathers the item quickly in the folds of her dress and flees the room without looking back.
Vincent resumes his casual perch on the end of Corneoís desk. "I think you should take a little break, Corny," he suggests. "About three months. Remodel the place. That should be enough time, donít you agree?"
Panic gives way to irritation when Corneo, forgetting himself and adapting the roll of a stingy business owner, begins to protest. "You canít possibly expect me to close my doors for three months! Thatís ludicrous! It would take me at least a year to save up for the kind of renovations youíre talking about, not to mention loosing all profits in the--"
Vincent hold his gun steadily on target--a shivering, cowardly, loathsome pimp whoís head was fortunate enough to avoid being on the receiving end of a well placed bullet, now imbedded in the stuffing of his chair, scant millimeters from his left ear.
"Let me make one thing clear to you, Don Corneo," growls Vincent savagely, eyes dark with barely restrained rage. " Donít. Fuck. With Shinra."
Nothing. Nothing at all can be heard in the room, not a single breath or shuffling of position. Nothing exists in the room...except for two men and the gun between them.
Silence broken once again, Corneo nods emphatically and a panicky sob tears its way out of his throat.
"Good then," Vincent says with a sigh, standing up and holstering his gun. He stands in front of his teammates. "Well...if no one else has anything to add, I guess we better get going."
The three Turks turn in unison, working like one part of a machine, and exit the office. Turning back to pull the double doors shut behind them, Vincent stops and looks at Corneo once again. "Later, Corny," he says with a grin. "See ya in three months."
The three walk through Don Corneo's soon-to-be-closed-for-renovations Fun House as cool as cucumbers, followed by many pairs of wary eyes. The two men, Vincent in front, Merrick bringing up the rear, are given many a frightened glance as they stride through the hallways. Vincent still wears the nearly maniacal look of chillingly indifferent amusement that has so recently pushed Don Corneo close to a coronary, Merrick is splattered with blood, and both men are practically swimming in that unique aura of power, danger, and confidence bordering on arrogance that says even more than the suits and guns, "Turk."
It is, of course, Te-Lyn that draws the most gaping stares, however. Scantily dressed women abound in this establishment, with silhouettes ranging from waif to water buffalo, but none of the 'girls' can lay claim to such - to use a very much repeated phrase - raw animal magnetism. With every step and stride, the fluidly moving muscles made very much visible by her revealing costume remind one of a big cat on the prowl, and this impression is reinforced by the dangerously glittering eyes. The absolutely prohibiting glare in these jade eyes, along with the fact that she's traveling with two Turks, ensures that even the most sodden drunk in the room does not dare to even think of making any comments aloud with regards to this dangerous creature, much less approaching her, but they all look. In fact, they all stare until their eyes sting.
After all, it's not every day that you see a beautiful young woman carrying around a solid gold penis in one hand.
Following close on Vincent's heels through the unsavory crowd clustered at the entrance, Te-Lyn mutters near his shoulder, "You know, I should give this to you to carry. The Dick award...I can't think of anyone who deserves it more. Why the hell didn't you bring my suit with you?"
"Easy, Te," Vincent murmurs through his smile, failing to hide his amusement at how his youngest Turk is practically bristling and snarling at the men ogling her. "We're almost out."
Once back out into the muggy night air, the much put-upon blonde sheds her irritation and discontent and puts on a thoughtful air instead, much to the surprise of her boss, who had been getting ready to banter with her - and tease her - some more.
"Merrick?" she asks, looking up at the darkness and crossing her arms as if settling down for some long pondering. The expensive doorknob she is still holding doesn't detract from her poise one bit, and her partner replies in a normal tone of voice.
"Did Vincent seem...different to you up there?" Te-Lyn asks, as if the person in question is miles, rather than just three feet, away.
Merrick thinks back to his own startled impressions of his boss, having received the same shock as Te-Lyn, to see this new side, this new shade in his mentor's personality. Nothing worrisome or wearying, not to him, just a new appreciation and an added layer of respect to lay down upon the opinion he is building about this cool, controlled person he works for. But words don't always come easily to him, and so he just nods and replies, "Yeah. Why?"
With the same, almost dreamy thoughtfulness on her face as she gazes upwards at nothing at all, Te-Lyn asks another question in response. "Do you think that maybe, despite his twisted reputation and sick sense of humor...do you think that he's really a decent person inside?" She lowers her gaze from the threatening sky and looming constructs to grin at Vincent, with an impish tilt to her head.
Merrick smiles as well, and says with mock seriousness, "You might be right. I gotta admit, I almost shot him when he helped out that girl in there...thought maybe it was someone normal masquerading as Vincent."
"I know!" Te-Lyn exclaims. "Wasn't that weird? It was so...decent, so..."
"Human," the redhead supplies, which his companion affirms as well.
"All right you two," Vincent interjects in a dry voice. "What am I, a psychopath? Can't I give a slum rat a kick in the right direction once in a while without ruining my reputation?"
"Nope," replies the blonde blithely, now tossing her golden accessory in her hand, just for something to do. "I'm going to blab it all over Shinra Towers that Vincent Valentine is a chick-flick watching, mushy novel reading, stray kitten adopting pansy."
"If I threaten you with a bad report, will you keep your mouth shut?" Vincent asks, without much conviction that his words will work in his favor.v
"You can bribe me instead," Te-Lyn offers.
"With what?" the senior Turk asks warily.
Her pose goes from airy unconcern to slightly peeved once more. "Well for starters," she says firmly, "you can go get me my clothes."
"Done," Vincent replies, and then turns to Merrick. "Go get her clothes."
"I thought YOU were bribing her," protests the younger man.
"I am," comes the reply, "and now I'm delegating. Go." And with a shooing motion, Merrick is dispatched into the moldering building across the way, trailing a few grumbles behind him.
"So," Vincent remarks lightly, eyeing Te-Lyn's ragged dress and one bloody heel, "did you two have fun in there?"
Instead of the barrage of complaints he expects, the blonde simply gives him a slow, curving, rather mysterious smile, and after a small pause, seems to come to the decision to answer in the affirmative, and does so.
Raising an inquisitive eyebrow, Vincent prods, "You going to tell me about it?"
He looks at her curiously and adds, "I really should know all the details, so that I can make an accurate report to my superior."
For a reply, he receives a snort, a highly disrespectful gesture with the doorknob, and the words, "Oh, put THIS in your report!"
Laughing, he responds, "Believe me...I intend to."
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