15257/A Dinner Invitation

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A Dinner Invitation
Date of Scene: 25 June 2023
Location: Apartment 1A, Meldoff Building
Synopsis: Jason heads to Helena's apartment only to find she's been kidnapped. Red Hood sets out to track her down, only to discover she's with her years-long-dead brother Pino. They both have doubts though.
Cast of Characters: Huntress, Red Hood

Huntress has posed:
'I'm making pasta from scratch,' Helena texts Jason. 'If you come be my taste tester I might even open a good bottle of wine to go with it.'

A clear invitation if ever there was one.

While it's already dark, it's not dark enough yet for the usual rounds of vigilantes, far too early for any criminals to be out and about -- right? Except, weirdly, whenever Jason steps out of the elevator and walks towards the penthouse door of Helena's building, he'll see her door is open.

She's never that lax about security.

Inside, the lights are low everywhere but the kitchen. The pleasant scent of some kind of tomato sauce is in the air -- everywhere, since a pot of it is overturned and spilled across the floor. No sign of the woman herself.
Red Hood has posed:
Jason Todd could be easily categorized when it comes to socializing as BSD. Big. Slow. Dumb. Mostly it would be correct just not for the right reasons.

-How could I say no to a beautiful woman offering food?-

Not entirely dumb.

Arriving a short time later, Jason steps out of the elevator and pauses, a small box in hand. He frowns at the open door. Box in hand or not, he never goes anywhere unarmed.

Pulling a pistol from its sling inside his jeacket, he moves silently up to the door and looks inside without entering at first.

Frowning, he steps in, scanning the apartment for anyone that may still be here. The pot of sauce is given a critical eye.
Huntress has posed:
The quiet inside the penthouse is familiar -- because it's the kind of emptiness that speaks of the lack of anyone else present. Clearing all the rooms will confirm that.

Half covered in the sauce, almost missed at first glance, he'll see a familiar shape. Some sort of dart with liquid inside of it -- it looks familiar, precisely like the ones used in that alleyway weeks back.

Jason knows about Helena's security system -- it will be a trivial matter for him to gain access to it given she uses Wayne Tech. It's kept on a tight loop for her own privacy, but she does record the doorway, the skylight and the balcony window -- monitoring no doubt for intrusions. Three men fronted up to her door, one smaller than the others bending to work the lock and push it open as the others stepped inside. There's nothing for five minutes, and then they're leaving, one of the men with a coiled rug Jason will recognize from her bedroom floor, the weight of it suggesting a body inside.

The whole thing happened maybe ten minutes before he arrived.
Red Hood has posed:
Jason Todd's frown grows deeper the more he searches Helena's place.

By the time he's looking over the security recording, the frown is a full blown scowl. The hard look in his eyes reflecting his anger.

Still he doesn't lose his cool. It's the deadly sort of anger that burns long lasting and deadly. Seeing that they surely carried her out in the rub, he leaves her place, locking it on the way out.

Riding the elevator down the first floor, he immediately goes to the security office. Looking around the guard seems to be walking the property or something. There wasn't time to be polite or wait.

Picking the lock to the door he breaks in and accesses the building's camera system. He needs to search the lobby and outside cameras for any indications of where the three men and their stolen magic carpet went once they left Helena's penthouse. Looking for anything. A vehicle or other sort of clue otherwise it's going to be a long night of beat downs till some mob lackey tells him what he wants to know.
Huntress has posed:
The security system is relatively simple to access, and it won't take long before Jason rewinds the footage and is able to find what he's looking for. It's the cameras in the parking garage that capture the three figures coming out of the elevator. They head directly for a white van marked with advertisement for a flower delivery shop in East End -- right in the heart of Mafioso territory.

Not too much of a surprise, really.

Access to traffic cameras is likely trivial for him if he wants to track them and confirm -- they're not precisely subtle and not seeking to evade notice, parking outside of a flower shop. However they carry the rolled rug not into the shop but next door, to some kind of import and export business. A known Cassamento hangout -- with the expected attendant security systems manpower an actively used mob location might have.
Red Hood has posed:
Jason Todd works through the security footage and finds what he needs. Always be prepared. That's not the motto of the Bat Family but it would suit them. In reality something like 'Always over prepare' is more fitting. Pulling a micro USB fob from his watch, he plugs it into the system and downloads the footage. Taking the fob, he is in, out and gone in under five minutes, not bothering to close the office door.

Once in his car, he activates the hidden computer behind the vintage dash of his GTO. Plugging the fob in, he shuffles the footage to get a clear image of the van. This is then sent to Barbara's Oracle system she's developed. While he waits for it to scour traffic cameras for the van, he blacks out the car's windows and activates the car's armor locker under the rear seats.

As Jason Todd finishes becoming Red Hood, he has the details on where the van can be found and that it appears to be the business next door that will be his destination.

In motion, he cuts through one of Gotham's many alleyways to save time.

The silver '67 GTO that enters the alley undergoes a faster quick change than its driver. With the touch of an icon on the dash computer, the car that erupts from the other end of the alley is the blood red GTO of Red Hood.

It'll take him some fifteen minutes to cross town to the address given.

Choosing to approach from the back of the building, he finds a dark part of the street to stop and study the security of the building. Either they'll be expecting trouble and have guards, obvious or not. Or they're over confident and think they've pulled off the perfect kidnapping and believe no one will find them.
Huntress has posed:
It doesn't take long for Jason Todd to discover which side they're landing on. At the back of the building, he can see a pair of guards -- burly, well armed -- but relaxed, smoking cigarettes and arguing about the afternoon's Mets v Phillies game as they stand under the light next to the open roller door, completely destroying their night vision. There's brown van parked inside, boxes and crates visible beyond, looking exactly like what the business should be.

Of course he can see other security -- overlapping cameras mounted on the building covering the alleyway and beyond, as well as the inner rooms of the building -- so any attack on the guards would be seen on the cameras unless they were taken out first.
Red Hood has posed:
Red Hood isn't Oracle. He could use her right about now but beyond using her AI system to track the van, it seems she is out for the night. That means this will get done old school.

Loading up his gun harness with additional clips and adding several flashbangs. He didn't expect this to be easy even if they were confident in their current safety.

Emerging from the car, he fires a grapple line and ascends to the rooftops. Crossing silently to the roof of the business he scans for security cameras before making the leap. It's unlikely they'll have any up here actually aimed at the roof other than at the roof accesss. The fact there's a large skylight? Well that's just icing on the cake.

Looking down, he scans the location of the guards and draws his pistols and prepares to ruin the rest of the evening for these guys.
Huntress has posed:
Either these guys are not as used to having visitors through the skylight as Helena is, or they just don't consider it a useful point of entry. There's no cameras on the roof and Red Hood makes it safely to the top.

The skylight has a view down into the main warehouse. Given the space is sparse there's sufficient ability to slip inside unnoticed by the guards, who continue arguing about the game. He'll be able to take them out with his non-lethal rounds without even a noise of surprise raised by the pair, assuming he's willing to hit them in the back.

A bunch of offices line one side of the inside of the building. Most have open pane, glass walls, but the largest at the end is walled off with a heavier door to discourage noise, though it's not by any means soundproof.

Very, very faintly he can hear Helena's confused voice: "...What?"

"Just drink, it'll help wake you up." That voice, too, is familiar. The one he heard over the cell phone all those weeks back.
Red Hood has posed:
The anger is still there. In fact the longer it smoulders in his chest, the more dangerous it is becoming. It threatens to ruin this whole attempt at rescue.

Why? Because the very thing Red Hood is about to do is to crash through the skylight. Nobody expects a vigilante air-drop. He will land, ignoring the risk of injury that dropping in from several stories above brings with it. He will triple tap each one of these goons. Two in the chest, one in the head. And he will find Helena Bertinelli and get her out of here.

That's what the plan is that runs through his head. That's what he -wants- to do. Turn this into an action movie and go in guns blazing. Except that will alert those watching Helena that he's here. Maybe even get her out of the building before he can reach her.

Despite the firestorm of anger inside, the years of training. The influence of Batman..

As loathe as Jason is to admit it, the truth is that he has to do this quietly until he can locate Helena and get her out safely.

And that is why Red Hood eases the skylight open and slips inside to the upper catwalk. From there he secures a grapple and drops to the warehouse floor in silence.

The two guards arguing useless baseball stats find themselves tased silently. Turning, the large vigilante with a purpose begins to move methodically through the building, working his way toward that closed door.

Pausing to listen outside, he hears Helena's voice. And the one from the call. Scowling, he pauses and waits to listen.

It's exactly not what his instincts are screaming at him to do. But there is more to be learned in the next few seconds. Something he believes Helena will support even while being currently held captive.
Huntress has posed:
For a time there's just silence, both within the warehouse and beyond the door where Red Hood is listening.

"I don't understand," Helena finally can be heard saying, and there's a strained kind of note in her voice. It's not fear, or alarm as one might expect in such a situation. She sounds both confused and a little bit slow of speech, probably not too surprising given the effects of the dart.

The man can be heard clearing his throat. "Do you remember that time when ma and pa took us to Coney Island when were kids, and let us go on the Haunted House ride, and some kid with us started to cry so you went up to punch the clown?"

"Pino?" Helena is incredulous.

And well she should be. Pino being the name of her brother -- who was murdered alongside both of her parents when she was eight years old. If the boy lived, it's the kind of secret that would've -- should've -- come out long before now. Oracle's computer system has photos from the murder scene. Pictures of the bodies. It's bloody and awful, a family dinner turned to violence. Jason might even have seen them before.

"Yeah, Lenny, it's me." A beat. "I'm sorry I couldn't tell you. But you know what this means. Why I've had to keep a low profile?"
Red Hood has posed:
Well that wasn't the sort of conversational twist Red Hood was expecting. Thing is - the voice on the phone, which matches this voice he is certain, made threats. Claiming it was for her safety and well being is about as predictable as a kid caught with their hand in the cookie jar saying an invisible friend made them do it.

Not buying into the flow of conversation, Red Hood steps back and kicks the door in. Well. In and off it's top hinge as it pivots around and slams into the wall on the inside.

Pistols in hand, he enters the room, sweeping his gaze to confirm those present. Anyone who is Not-Helena or is Not-'Pino' will get hit with taser rounds. Or that's the intention.
Huntress has posed:
It's a quaint little office space. Desk and old chair, an uncomfortable looking leather couch (where Helena is presently seated), with a couple of chairs, one of which Not-Pino is sitting in. There's only one other person in the room, the smaller man Jason saw on the video who helped to break into Helena's apartment -- standing near a sideboard and frowning down at his phone -- that is until his head snaps up when the door is kicked open.

The man has a second to open his mouth before the Red Hood slams one of those rounds into him and the man jolts, slumping unconscious immediately.

"Hood-!" Helena begins, starting to push up from the couch, swaying and sitting back abruptly. That, and her slightly unfocused gaze suggests not all of that sedative is out of her system yet. "It's okay!" she says hastily, though who she's saying it to might not be clear, given Pino's also rising and reaching behind himself for what is probably a weapon.

"Stop!" Helena says, and that's definitely aimed towards Pino, who freezes with his hand behind his back, narrowed eyes fixed on Red Hood. Whether he does so before Red Hood reacts to the reach is the question.
Red Hood has posed:
Anger is a truly two edged sword. Blind rage is dangerous to everyone. The other side of that danger is that anger can heighten awareness.

It would seem that for Red Hood, it is the awareness he is harnessing in the moment. After tasing the little man, his other weapon is aimed at Pino without firing.

He looks at the man, "You. Don't move." His voice is dangerous and commanding.

Weapon still aimed at him, Red Hood looks at Helena. "Are you okay?" The tone shifts toward concern from anger as he asks that. "Are you safe?" His gaze looking back toward Pino.
Huntress has posed:
Whatever, or whoever Pino is, he clearly recognizes the very present threat in Red Hood and his expression. "Easy," he breathes, stilling, keeping his gaze on the Hood.

Like Pino, Helena remains otherwise still. It's not that she doesn't trust Jason -- but she understands the mood he's in right now, especially when he tells Pino not to move. The urge to react is strong. If it were her? She would've fired first and asked questions later.

So she gives him honesty, because it's clear he very much needs that right now. "A bit woozy," she answers the first, and hesitates over the second. It's in her eyes, in the way she looks at Jason, the moment of pause. She's not entirely sure how to answer the second question. If it /is/ truly her brother, the Bertinelli name is not merely an old, fading memory of a once-dominant rulership over the Gotham Cosa Nostra, but a current threat. Not to mention what it means for the Bertinelli fortune.

"I'm not entirely sure. But I'm going to leave now." She says it, and looks towards Pino, whose mouth thins in visible displeasure.


"If what you say is true, there's no hurry, Pino. Let's meet in neutral ground another day." This time, Helena rises, and does so slowly, with a little more steadiness. A step takes her towards Pino, then she rethinks and turns away, trusting Jason to watch her back as she moves to his side. It means Jason is the only one to see the flash of fleeting anger in Pino's gaze.
Red Hood has posed:
Red Hood watches. He doesn't lower his weapon, keeping it aimed at Pino's chest.

The smart weapons he uses mean that he can look at Helena through his mask while still have a boresighted image of where he's aiming at Pino and any actions Pino makes.

When Helena stands and says what he already suspected; that she isn't certain how safe she is, he watches as she walks over to him. Even behind the mask, Pino can surely 'see' the satisfied smirk on his face even as Pino scowls. It isn't exactly a pissing contest while it entirely is.

It's proof that she trusts him enough to know why he is here. It probably didn't hurt that he didn't just put three in Pino out of respect so Helena could get information.

While she announces she's leaving, he keeps his weapon aimed at Pino. It probably won't win him any good will with the man. Right now he doesn't give a damn.

Silently, Red Hood backs out to the doorway of the room before speaking. "Your friend looks like he soiled himself. Should probably check on him instead of attempting to follow us in case it wasn't clear."

As Helena moves down the hall, he'll follow her. Surprisingly, perhaps, his pistols are holstered as he calls out to Pino, "Five minutes." For what? To come out of the office probably. Considering the taser trap set just outside the doorframe to the room, it's his way to make sure they aren't followed til they're in his car and have some distance from this location.

To Helena he speaks quietly. "Car is out back."

Then he radios to the vehicle. "Car. To me."

Down the block the dark red car rumbles to life and motion, rolling up like a great cat stalking its way through a concrete jungle.
Huntress has posed:
It's very very clear Red Hood has made an enemy tonight. Then again, if maybe-Pino was behind that other attempt, Red Hood was already on his shitlist, so it's not like much has changed. Pino's look at Jason is flat, angry and warning, but it seems like he's going to take the threat to heart, given his hands ease to his sides as the two retreat.

Helena nods in response to the Hood's instructions, turning to head towards the back of the warehouse, a hand occasionally reaching out to steady herself on shelving as they pass.

The rumble of the GTO is like a familiar, welcoming noise, and it makes Helena let out a long, uneven breath, turning her gaze up towards him as it approaches. She can't see anything of his expression while he's wearing the mask, and her own is so openly painted by comparison -- angry, uncertain, and just that dangerous, tiny bit of hope that maybe the man they left might be her last living closest relative. "Thank you," she utters, moving towards the passenger side once the car stops.
Red Hood has posed:
Red Hood would offer her an arm to lean on if she wished. Otherwise he follows her out to the car. The door opens automatically for her and he stands there to make sure she gets in okay. Before closing it, he nods to her. His voice is quiet, with less of an edge to it. "Of course." There's nothing else he'd do. For any of the Family. But some would argue she isn't, yet, "Family". He doesn't give a damn.

He walks around the back of the car to reach the driver's side and drops into the seat. As usual he doesn't belt himself in, just slaps the shifter into gear and lets out the clutch and accelerates away from the building.

"I'm sorry." For interrupting? For not being there when the lackeys invaded her place and kidnapped her? That a perfectly good red sauce was wasted and is now stone cold and very nasty still on her kitchen floor?
Huntress has posed:
The way Helena shifts once she's settled in Jason's car is unthinking habit -- stretching her legs out to help brace herself through any faster turns, anticipating that he'll try and accelerate and put as much distance between them and this location as possible. Her head is turned, once she's settled, to stare out the window.

"Yeah," she answers his apology with that, nothing recriminating in it. If she blames him for the lost sauce it certainly doesn't hold any heat to it.

Helena feels a tug in her gut. A wistful want. It reminds her, now in this moment, of the jealousy she felt, and sometimes expressed in less than healthy ways -- of the Batfamily's closeness with each other, even with Jason, even when he was out the outs with them all. It's only human to want the same thing for herself. Human and utterly selfish. But she's been alone for a long time, and it's a thing she's long been accepting of. And yet...

It's several blocks before she turns to look at him, at his profile. "Do you believe him?" It's telling indeed that she puts weight on his response, that the way she looks at him is some mixture of nervousness and wanting at what his answer might be. She is not a weak woman by any means, but if anything is a chink in the armor of Helena Bertinelli, it is family. "That he might be my brother?"
Red Hood has posed:
He drives the car away - from the warehouse, her place, and from his. Right now there seems like every chance they could be followed or under other surveillance. That means he doesn't want to make the degree of ties too obvious to Pino and his guys. It seems like a bad thing for that man to gain any other secrets about the two of them.

Pulling onto one of the harbor bridges to cross over and get well away from known locations, he sets the car to self drive and relaxes. Reaching up he removes his mask and looks to her immediately, making eye contact.

"I didn't know him before, obviously. Maybe? But anyone can claim anything. Hard proof needs to be provided in my opinion."

Shifting into the back seat, he shrugs out of Red Hood's armor and back into street clothes while the car, along the way, changed colors and license plates back to street legal versions.

Climbing back into the driver's seat he looks to her.

"If it really is him, he's got a lot to explain about trying to kidnap you and drug you twice. And threatening me in that phone call. A lot of things don't add up right now."
Huntress has posed:
Helena has no questions about where he's taken them. /Away/ is the important thing for now. The moment Jason removes his mask, her gaze flickers towards his eyes. The maybe, the talk of hard proof is not an answer, and it makes her turn her gaze back towards the window, even as he puts the car into auto mode.

"No, they don't." Add up. Helena sighs, her eyes closing. "But things aren't always clear in my world," she means in the Cosa Nostra. "Those goons with him were Cassamento soldiers. That was Cassamento property. There's more at play here." She presses a hand to her temples. Unfortunately, she's used to things not being clear in her world. Far too used to it.

"Let's stay in New York tonight. Find a place to eat neither of us have been before." It's not quite the night she had planned, but she's too aware her own place isn't safe right now -- and she's not willing to risk his identity or any of his places either. "Your choice, and my treat." It's her way of saying thanks.