No Cutting in Line - Francis and Moira

Started by Francis Church, January 15, 2020, 07:56:36 am

Francis Church

Francis Church let his mind drift - just for a second. It drifted to another time. Not a happier time. He didn't have any of those. Not that he'd lived a life of abject misery. But there just weren't many happy memories. One time in particular came to mind as Francis's thoughts meandered. It was during his time with the Marines, while he was still in training. His Drill Sargent had commended him on his shooting during that day's drills. Francis almost smiled at the thought of it.

"Frank, c'mon, man."

"Francis." Francis tried not to sound too annoyed, but it was one of his biggest pet peeves. His parents hadn't given him much. But they had given him his name and he'd be damned if anyone took it away. "It's Francis. Not Frank. Not Frankie. Not Sissy." He said too much.

"Sissy? People call you Sissy?"

"No. They don't call me that. No."

"Then why did you say it?"

"I didn't say it. I mean, I said it, so you wouldn't say it. No one likes to be called a Sissy."

"Just seemed kind of specific."

"It wasn't, okay? My name is Francis. Just call me Francis."

"Alright. Jeez. Francis. Please don't kill me." The man, tied to a chair with duct tape with several wounds on his face and body that implied he'd gone through a round or two of torture, seemed matter-of-fact about begging for his life. It clearly was not his first time.

"It's not up to me, Kim." Francis, sitting in a chair across from Kim, wearing all black (gloves, pants, boots, tactical long sleeve shirt), and looking annoyed. His leg jiggled nervously, the gun resting on his knee bouncing with it. The exasperation in his voice was finally let loose and Kim saw his opportunity.

"Listen, I know you're just following orders. Take me to LS. I'll explain everything."

Francis looked at Kim. He didn't want to kill the man. They'd known each other a long time. They weren't friends, per se, more like colleagues. Kim ran a racing book for Lil Sebastian (as well as a modestly successful noodle shop). "Sebastian won't like it."

"You let me deal with Sebastian."

It was funny. Normally, such tactics wouldn't have worked on Francis. In fact, he was known and beloved by Lil Sebastian for precisely that. No nonsense. Just following orders. But, today Francis, for some reason he couldn't put his finger on, didn't want to kill Kim. It nagged at him. He sighed and stood, "Fine." He said, tucking his pistol into the back of his pants. A folding knife appeared from his pocket, which was then unfolded and carried across the distance between them, and cut the bonds that tied Kim to the chair. Before Francis could say something like "Don't make me regret this." Kim made him immediately regret this.

The man no sooner stood up from the chair than he grabbed the thing and swung mightily for Francis' face. He connected, the chair splintered, and Francis fell to the ground. "Sorry, Frank. Nothing personal." It was this moment's hesitation that was his ultimate failing. Not the withholding of money from LS's collections. Not the bad bets he'd made on Leon Lefevre. No, it was waiting long enough for Francis to grab his gun and shoot him twice in the head from his place on the ground.

Kim fell without another word, and Francis let himself relax for a moment while his head swam. "Francis." He muttered.



Thirty minutes later...

Holding a bloodied rag up to his face, Francis walked through the corridors of the Iscariot station with a purpose. That purpose was stopping his face from bleeding and, according to Lil Sebastian, he was supposed to go to Prime Cuts, the Barber Shop, which was under new ownership. LS did not explain to Francis why this was the new place to go, as opposed to the med wing, but after the debacle with Kim, Francis was feeling a bit more like just following orders for a bit.

Blood trickled down his cheek from the wound above his eye. Francis hurried.



Five minutes later...

The door dinged as Francis entered the shop and he was somewhat dismayed to see that the barber was currently with a customer, and another waited their turn, casually browsing a cortex reader. After a moment of standing awkwardly, Francis found a seat and waited his turn. Luckily nothing vital was bleeding. He could wait.
Dialogue Color - MediumVioletRed

Moira Chambers

January 15, 2020, 12:52:47 pm #1 Last Edit: January 15, 2020, 12:54:51 pm by Moira Chambers
"I don't like it."

Moira bit her tongue. She'd seen this coming. The woman had been one of those customers, the kind that were an awful talkative when they first got in the chair, then grew silent and glum as you worked on their hair, but assured you everything was fine every time you asked them if something was wrong, and then when it was too late to course-correct, they started complaining as if mind-reading was supposed to be a part of your skillset as a hairdresser.

She found herself fondly reminiscing about her days back at the hospital. At least there was something objectively wrong with sick and injured people, even if you sometimes had to sort through your patient's fèihuà to get to the bottom of it. This, however? This was just all fèihuà, all the time.

"Anything in particular you're unhappy with?"

The woman turned her head from side to side, sternly inspecting her perfectly fine bob cut in the mirror. "It's not what I asked for."

Qù chī dà biàn, you stupid cow, I asked you six times if everything was fine, you could have said something at some point, how do you expect me to know something is wrong if you don't tell me? How???

"I'm sorry you feel that way. But with all due respect-"

"It's fine. It's fine!" the woman exclaimed in a voice that made it very clear that it was not, in fact, fine. She threw her arms in the air and got up in such a huff that the breeze sent the piles of hair Orville had been diligently sweeping up flying all across the floor.

"It's my own fault, really," the customer continued her rant when Moira was ringing her up. "I knew this place was under new management. I should've prepared for disappointment. I mean, I'd heard lots of good things about the previous owner, it was foolish of me to trust that the quality would be the same even with her gone..."

Moira was no longer listening; something more interesting had caught her attention. A new customer had entered the salon while she'd been distracted, which in and of itself was nothing exciting. This walk-in, however, was bleeding profusely from his forehead.

"Have a nice day, please don't come again if it's that bad." Moira shoved the change and receipt in the dissatisfied customer's hand without turning her gaze from the man on the bench. The woman muttered something angry and inconsequential as she stormed out of the establishment. Moira walked up to the injured man and eyed the bloody rag in his hand with concern. "Can I help you, Sir?"

Had he come to the right place? She couldn't tell at a glance whether he was in a disoriented state or not. Although now that she got a good look at him up close, he appeared to be dressed like he just got back from robbing a bank.

Then it clicked.

"Did..." She stopped herself and glanced over her shoulder. The other customer waiting for their turn had raised their gaze from their cortex reader and was now eying the bleeding man with alarm. She gave them a wave of her hand to indicate the issue was being taken care of, then slid on the bench next to her potential patient.

"Did Lil' Sebastian send you?" she asked, keeping her voice low.
Dialogue color: mediumpurple
Owner of Prime Cuts

Francis Church

"No no no no no." Francis looked at the other waiting patron, as if saying LS's name would somehow make this situation worse. "I'm just here for a haircut." He said still trying, and failing, to stem the bleeding from the wound on his head. He looked apologetically at the other patron. "It's fine. I'm fine. Really. I wouldn't want to, you know, cut."

"Are you sure?" The other patron said.

"Of course. Please." Francis motioned to the chair. "I insist." He said, casually crossing his leg, trying to appear as relaxed as possible. The other patron looked at Moira, shrugged, and got up for their turn in the chair. Meanwhile, Francis, still acting nonchalant about the whole thing, tried to make himself comfortable while still holding the ever dampening cloth to the gash. He offered the other patron a tight smile that said everything was a-okay.

The other patron stopped and reconsidered. "I don't know. I feel bad. Maybe you should go first." They seemed confused how a barber might help a man with a head trauma but politeness was taking over for everyone involved.

Francis scoffed. "No way. I can totally wait. See? It's barely bleeding anymore." To prove his point, Francis removed the makeshift bandage which immediately started spraying blood. He quickly capped it back off like nothing had happened. "If you really don't mind..."
Dialogue Color - MediumVioletRed

Moira Chambers

January 17, 2020, 10:48:02 am #3 Last Edit: January 17, 2020, 12:05:12 pm by Moira Chambers
"No no no no no. I'm just here for a haircut. It's fine. I'm fine..."

Moira sat in stunned silence as the two patrons descended into an awkward dance of oh-no-I-insists. Her gaze drifted towards Orville, who had stopped sweeping and was now staring at her, eyes wide. He pointed frantically at the man sitting next to her and mouthed something. She frowned. It wasn't until he placed his hand palm down next to his waist like he was patting a very short man on the head that Moira understood what he was getting at.

"If you really don't mind..."

"Right. That's enough of that." Orville's charades had been all the confirmation she needed. With a surprising amount of force for a woman her size, Moira pulled the man up from his seat and wrapped an arm around his waist, ready to support him in case he felt light-headed and threatened to topple over.

"Orville, you take over for a while. I'm... going to see if we've got some band-aids." She ushered the man towards the backroom, offering an overly chipper smile to the other patron who was still standing next to the chair, arms spread out helplessly.

"I mean, I'd hate to impose, I can come again later if this is a bad ti-" Moira slammed the door closed behind them and double-checked that it was shut tight before she got down to business.

"Sit down." She gestured towards the operating chair in the middle of the makeshift infirmary, its back rest currently in an upright position. "You should use the back entrance next time. Didn't Sebastian give you a code? Ugh, I'm going to have a word with him later..."
Dialogue color: mediumpurple
Owner of Prime Cuts

Francis Church

The back door! That would have made sense. "Didn't even think of that." He said, a sheepish grin belying the gaping head wound on his forehead. "To be honest I didn't think you would be so busy." That sounded rude. "I mean, not that you wouldn't be busy. Your haircuts are great. I'm sure. When I get one." Francis wasn't nervous. He was just acutely aware of how socially awkward he could be and how that awkwardness sort of made people want to hit him.

"Thanks for squeezing me in." He settled on that for small talk. That was a thing people said during haircuts. But this wasn't a haircut, was it? "This isn't the first time I've gotten stitches. I was in the Marines. Discharged in '01, got hit by a mortar blast." He resisted the urge to show off that particular scar. It was primarily located in his... "In the ass. I won't go into details, but there were a lot of stitches." Was that better?
Dialogue Color - MediumVioletRed

Moira Chambers

While Moira washed her hands and pulled on her gloves, the man prattled on about her hairdressing business, a topic she found deeply uninteresting. At least he was forming coherent sentences, which was a good sign; if he did have a concussion, it was a minor one. She wet a clean cloth and turned to face her patient just as his small talk took a turn.

"This isn't the first time I've gotten stitches. I was in the Marines. Discharged in '01, got hit by a mortar blast. In the pi gu. I won't go into details, but there were a lot of stitches."

"That's... good to know." The slightest quirk of an eyebrow was the only thing that suggested Moira had even registered his words as something unseemly. "I suppose I was going to ask for your medical history anyway at some point."

Truth be told, she couldn't bring herself to be too scandalized -- maybe if he had been a salon customer, but there was really no such thing as over-sharing when it came to doctor-patient relationships. She herself had had to patch up a buttock of two (and much worse) during her stint at the ER; gang warfare was hardly a glamorous affair, contrary to what the kids who got involved in it might have thought.

She gently wiped the blood off the man's forehead with the cool, wet towel and inspected the wound.

"Well, good news is that it's not a very deep cut, so you're going to get away with considerably fewer stitches than last time." Getting a closer look at the injury confirmed her initial suspicion of blunt force trauma. She frowned and grabbed the man by the chin, gently turning his head to get a better look at the swelling.

"But you are going to get a hell of a bump. How did this happen, someone smash a chair over your head or something?"
Dialogue color: mediumpurple
Owner of Prime Cuts

Francis Church

February 27, 2020, 03:09:50 pm #6 Last Edit: February 27, 2020, 03:18:31 pm by noseatbelts
In an attempt to play off Moira's hypothesis as ridiculous, Francis scoffed, rolled his eyes, shook his head, and laughed all at once. He doth protest too much. The doctor was clearly not going to buy it so, with a sigh, Francis fessed up. "Yeah. That's exactly what happened. Good guess." He reconsidered. "Great guess, actually. You see many chair related head injuries in your time as a cosmetologist?" Little did Moira know that Francis was very much aware of her situation and was, in fact, just making excellent conversation. Or at least he assumed that he knew, as most people who were at Iscariot Station had something to hide. "First time for me." He added when it looked like silence might have descended. "More of a table guy."

His thoughts drifted back to his "happy memory" from his Marine days. His Sergeant, Silverschmidt (they all called him Shmitty) was not someone who handed out compliments freely. A large, imposing man with a big walrus of a mustache, nobody in the unit particularly liked their sergeant. And so when Shmitty had called Francis' target grouping "more than adequate" on that day well, Francis had been chasing that feeling for a while, needless to say.

That made Francis idly wonder about this doctor lady's best day. Surely she had to have some good ones. Bad ones, too, to wind up working in a backroom on hired muscle with a head wound. Better not ask about that, Francis warned himself. Too late. "So, you must have screwed up big time to be here, huh?"
Dialogue Color - MediumVioletRed

Moira Chambers

April 10, 2020, 11:42:37 am #7 Last Edit: April 10, 2020, 12:59:15 pm by Moira Chambers
As Moira put away the rag and proceeded to disinfect the man's wound, his eyes suddenly rolled back in his head and he appeared to convulse. For a second she was scared her patient was having a stroke, but then he seemed normal again, speaking perfectly coherently.

"Yeah. That's exactly what happened. Good guess. Great guess, actually. You see many chair related head injuries in your time as a cosmetologist? First time for me. More of a table guy."

Don't get cute, Moira wanted to warn him. Friendly banter was easier to deal with at the salon because there she was playing the role of Moira Chambers the moderately successful beauty school graduate. Under these halogen lamps, however, she felt seen for the Dimitra Lee she really was, and she didn't much care for the woman. She supposed she'd brought this onto herself by making that cheeky comment; it hadn't been a serious guess, but given the line of work she assumed this guy to be in, the answer didn't exactly surprise her.

Moira chose to hold her peace and turned to rummage through her cabinets in silence. She turned back around, syringe in hand, just in time to meet her patient's gaze before he slapped her in the face (not literally, though she might actually have preferred that).

"So, you must have screwed up big time to be here, huh?"

Moira's entire body tensed up, her jaw clenching and her knuckles turning a shade whiter as she tightened her grip on the syringe. Then, just as quickly as it had seized her, the tension left her body with a soft sigh.

"Clever boy," she muttered. "Guess I can rule out any serious brain injury."

She approached him without further ado, eager to nip that painful conversation in the bud and get back to work. "I'm going to inject a local anesthetic now, Mr... I don't believe I caught your name."
Dialogue color: mediumpurple
Owner of Prime Cuts

Francis Church

"Francis Church." He said in simple answer. Francis didn't like to get cute with his name. You start off with a joke or a jab and someone will run with it and next thing you know, bam, you go through most of primary school being called Sissy. His forehead began to tingle, after a small pinch from the needle, but it soon ceased feeling anything at all. "Hey, that's good stuff." He moved his eyebrows up and down. Or at least, he tried to. Their responsiveness slowed as the feeling in the top of his head did. "Really good." He blinked oddly. "Am I blinking?"

Blink blink.

Blink blink.

"I can't tell." He turned his mouth into an impressed frown. "Not bad, not bad. I'll have to remember this the next time someone might hit me with a chair. Have you shoot me up beforehand, save myself the headache."
Dialogue Color - MediumVioletRed

Moira Chambers

July 01, 2020, 01:09:33 pm #9 Last Edit: July 01, 2020, 01:12:26 pm by Moira Chambers
"Francis Church."

Moira froze for a second, then proceeded to carry on as usual and hoped the man hadn't noticed her reaction. She'd heard Sebastian and his minions bring up Francis Church's name a couple of times; the little big man himself spoke quite fondly of him -- the way you'd speak fondly of a well-trained dog. He wasn't quite what she'd expected him to be. She'd pictured him as more intimidating, mean-looking, maybe with a shaved head. Although now that she thought about it, of course looking somewhat innocuous would be a plus in his line of work.

"Hold still or you'll make it worse," she warned him when he began experimenting with wiggling his eyebrows.

"Not bad, not bad. I'll have to remember this the next time someone might hit me with a chair. Have you shoot me up beforehand, save myself the headache."

That actually managed to coax an unexpected smile out of Moira. It was small and weary, but it was more genuine than the fake customer service grimace's she'd been forcing on her face all day. "Well, as much I'd love to start a drug dealing business on the side, I don't think Sebastian would approve. All of this stuff technically belongs to him. Besides, I trust the other guy looks much worse."

Why'd she say that? The other guy could very well be dead. She didn't want to know the grizzly details.

Or did she?

With a start, she realized she kind of did.
Dialogue color: mediumpurple
Owner of Prime Cuts

Francis Church

Francis paused. How much did Moira know about what went on here on Iscariot? She wasn't dumb. And she was fixing his injury. She worked for Sebastian. "Um. Yeah. The other guy." He pictured the last time he had seen Kim, the trash compactor slowly closing down on his lifeless form. The memory of the sound of his bones crushing mixed simultaneously with his softer bits squishing and popping... He snapped back to the present. "Crushed him." Francis softly clapped a fist into his other open hand, a gesture that might have looked tough. But it was probably just kind of sad. He knew better than to say too much.

"Yeah drugs and Sebastian do not mix. I mean, other people's drugs. Not that he does drugs. Well sometimes but it's not like he has a habit, or anything. This one time he was rolling pretty hard and..." Breathe. "Sebastian doesn't do drugs." Mostly true. Francis squirmed in his chair. "He doesn't sell them either." That was a lie. Why did it feel like Moira was torturing him? Was it the bright light? She was hovering awfully close with sharp instruments. "There are absolutely no drugs on Iscariot station." Well that's just absurd. There was no way he could know that. "Oh boy. Listen." He gently pushed her away. "I think whatever you gave me has got me nervous, or whatever, but it would be a huge favor to me if you didn't mention any of the things I just said to Sebastian. Or anyone."
Dialogue Color - MediumVioletRed

Moira Chambers

Francis spared Moira the gory details, and she didn't know whether to feel relieved or disappointed. Maybe it had been rude of her to bring the subject up in the first place. She'd just kind of assumed Francis was so desensitized to his job that making small-talk about battering (killing?) people was akin to someone asking her about her favored incision techniques, but clearly that wasn't the case. In fact, it seemed to have put the man in quite an anxious state of mind.

"Oh boy. Listen. I think whatever you gave me has got me nervous, or whatever, but it would be a huge favor to me if you didn't mention any of the things I just said to Sebastian. Or anyone."

Moira stepped back without resistance when pushed, happy to give Francis his space. She raised her hands -- one of them holding the threaded needle and the other the end of the thread -- in a gesture that was supposed to be reassuring.

"Look, Mr Church, I know this whole..." She waved at the surrounding room which, for all its fluorescent lights and clinically spotless surfaces, would never be able to completely escape its shameful past life as a storeroom. "...operation's not exactly on the up-and-up, but for all intents and purposes, I am a doctor, and that means I abide by doctor-patient confidentiality."

Was she coming across as stern? Preachy? Bedside manner was never her strong suit. She tried to soften her demeanor.

"I can't go babbling about my patients' business to outsiders. That would be unethical." Do ethics carry any weight for a career criminal? "And unprofessional." That's better. "Whatever you tell me during an appointment will never leave this room. Not even if Sebastian asks."

Would Sebastian ask? She hadn't really considered the possibility before, which was stupid of her because it seemed like a very real one now that she thought about it. Sure, having someone patching up his goons with no questions asked was an asset in and of itself, but did Sebastian expect her to spy on them on the side? And what about the Hippocratic oath? Would there come a day when she'd be told to let her scalpel slip when Sebastian needed to get rid of someone who'd served their purpose?

"Just... take a few deep breaths," she said out loud, directing the words at herself as much as she did to Francis. "I'm going to stitch you up now. Should not take long. May I?"
Dialogue color: mediumpurple
Owner of Prime Cuts

Francis Church

Lost in his own thoughts, Moira's bedside manner pulled him out of it. "Yeah." Francis said, a tentative hint of embarrassment to his answer. "Sorry." It was days like this that he really disliked working for Sebastian. But what else was he going to do? Anything, was the answer, but Francis didn't know how. He'd gone from the orphanage to the Marines to Sebastian and had never been on his own before. He didn't even know what that would look like. He looked up at Moira, her face half a foot in front of him, and, had he been capable of it, might have seen her as being in a similar situation. Might have read her eyes, her face, her situation for being just as trapped as he was.

But instead, he just did what was expected of him. What he'd been told from a young age was what people did when someone else did something for you. Worried about the person in front of him hating him and said, "Thanks." It didn't matter that she was a doctor and he was a patient. This was her job. And he had been doing his when he'd been injured. He still felt the fool. Kim shouldn't have gotten the drop on him. Francis had been distracted, and that wasn't good. Distractions got you killed. It wouldn't happen again.

His eyes met Moira's and he felt distracted.

Nope. No reason to go there. And it wasn't like Moira wasn't attractive. And Francis, while neurotic and probably suffering some sort of borderline personality disorder, not to mention a lukewarm-blooded killer, had had relationships in the past. They never lasted long. But he knew better than to try and mix business with pleasure. Sebastian would probably elbow him too hard in the side and tell him to go for it. That just wasn't Francis' style. Instead he went cold, like he did when he was on the job. "You almost done? I gotta be somewhere." He didn't.
Dialogue Color - MediumVioletRed

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