15444/A meeting in the dark - Are things really as they seem

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A meeting in the dark - Are things really as they seem
Date of Scene: 09 August 2023
Location: Bertinelli Mansion
Synopsis: Identities are learned. Contracts nullified. Mobsters reaching beyond their station identified!
Cast of Characters: Huntress, Darkness

Huntress has posed:
For at least a couple of decades, the Bertinelli mansion has stood quiet and unused. That's changed in the last few weeks. Nestled in the East End in Gotham -- right in the heart of the Costa-Nostra controlled area of the city, the mansion is lush and large -- and crawling with muscle.

Those familiar with the Cosa Nostra know the preparations made for war. The extra guards, the watches, consolidating soldiers into close quarters for protection. The Mafioso in Gotham has been stirred up of late -- some of it due to Helena Bertinelli's ruthless takeover of the Panessa family operations -- but a great deal of it to do with the recent one-man war of the vigilante known as Red Hood.

In theory, the Bertinelli mansion right now should be one of the safest places in the world.

It's why Helena, despite what's going on, is wholly relaxed. The Italian woman's sitting in a darkened office, lit only by the lamp on the desk, looking at a map. It's late, for someone to be up -- or still be up. She's dressed for bed already, in a loose camisole top and sleep shorts, her hair loose. She looks tired, but there's a focused determination in the way her eyes tick over the complicated map of Gotham, putting puts in locations as she studies it.
Darkness has posed:
It is not often that Jackie is in Gotham, not for anything more than an apparent drunken night at a casino or twelve anyway, and even then it's a rare occurrence. That changed when the offer was made for a sum that'd add more than two percent to his current 'nest egg' - and thus rather hard to refuse, especially given the seven figure 'retainer' that was required to even talk about the details of what was being asked.

So it's with no small amount of care that Jackie does his due diligence, surveillance done, research done - and even a few carefully handled interrogations of indirectly related flunkies - that the Darkness makes his way into the mansion.

It's an unfair thing, to the guards and security alike, Jackie can fly, he needs no light, his armor and the very darkness that he carries with him can ensure he gives off no heat... and he's no need to actually travel the distance between two shadows in _this_ world if he doesn't wish to.

It's from out of the darkness of one corner of her room - a corner that has no unlit way between it and any door or window - that a pair of dark gold, as if it were gold seen through heavy dark sunglasses, eyes open and peer into the room from behind where Helena stands.

"They say that sleep is the best medicine, Helena, and you do seem to get far less than your allotted share of it."

His voice is deep, a touch of gravel to it, and while there's a certain ominous vibrato to it's edges there's no imminently dangerous feel to it.

Even if his entrance seems like one a certain dark knight might make.
Huntress has posed:
Helena Bertinelli is no stranger to abrupt intrusions on her in the middle of the night, even in a place like this one shouldn't be. She's too focused to notice the presence of those gold eyes, but when she hears a voice she's moving -- reaching under the desk and snapping around towards the source of the voice with a wicked looking crossbow bolt in hand.

She looks very annoyed, and like she knows how to use it, too.

But the figure is not who she expects. A Red Hood, maybe. Bat ears, likely. But it's not a Gotham vigilante who has entered her office, and it gives her visible pause.

Helena's hand stays steady, eyes unwavering. There might not be threat overt in his voice, but his mere presence here lends itself to that, anyway.

"Some of us much prefer to work in the nighttime, and things have been particularly busy of late," the Italian woman says, her voice cultured and smooth as she tries to discern the figure in the shadows. "Here to take me out?" she wonders, casually, "Or criticize me on my sleeping habits?"
Darkness has posed:
There's a low chuckle from the shadows, "You're as fast as I'd thought... and I must say I'm almost jealous of how you can relax at all given all that's going on around you."

The shadows shift, seeming to move and almost boil out of the corner as a tall man of nearly six four steps free of them. He's dressed in an abyssal black plate armor with ridged gold connecting it, all of the plates are uneven though, almost organic in shape, shifting patterns across his body all on it's own for all appearances. There's a mask of the same metal across his face, from chin up to and around his eyes, which are covered in those dark gold lenses that have no transparency to them at all. There's other .. things moving in the dark behind him, things with wings? Pointed chins? A .. tentacle or two? Those fade a bit as he takes a few more steps towards her without any outward concern for the crossbow.

"The answer to that is ... it depends. I'm trying to decide if I was fed a line of bullshit or not, and so far I'm leaning in your favor." A pause, "The crossbow's a nice touch. Wickedly powerful thing from what I've seen, too."
Huntress has posed:
The kind of threats Helena Bertinelli deals with -- and even Huntress deals with -- are rarely supernatural or superhuman in origin. So she can probably be forgiven for the sharp breath, the parting of her lips as she shadows seem to /move/ as the man steps out.

She has never been great at concealing her emotions: she wears them openly in her face and expresses them freely, so he'll get full view of the rapid changes of fear, uncertainty, and then finally resignation.

Calculations are made, and Helena sets the crossbow down on the top of the desk. It has a practicality about it: while the bolts and crossbow are crafted with the finest her money can buy, she's not certain it would penetrate that black plate armor... nor whether would it really matter to a figure who can literally step out of shadow.

The resignation is merely for the fact that her control of this moment is tenous at best. If this is her end, she's going to damn sure enjoy these last moments.

Helena steps out from behind the desk, and walks towards the side board, turning over two tumblers. "Drink?" she invites. She splashes dark liquid from a decanter into the glasses, offering one out to him even as she sips from the first. "I would argue in my own favor, but I really have no context to do so. This," an amusement crosses her features and turns her voice warm, "Is one of the pitfalls of my line of work." Does she mean as the head of a mafia family, or as a vigilante? Both? "Seems wise for me to offer to help sway you in my favor, but you're uniquely impossible to read." It's an observation more than anything: she won't beg, there's too much pride in her manner for that.
Darkness has posed:
The man moves with an easy grace and power, not so .. purposeful and utterly the 'hunting animal' that a pointy eared helmeted friend in a bat cape might move as - but there's something more primal, dangerous.. a shade sort of inherently menacing without that menace crossing into the overt.

"Sure." He says simply, his approach bringing him to within arm's reach at first and then, even as he takes the proffered glass, closer - to stop right in front of her and only inches away unless she were to back at he gets closer.

The glass is sipped from, the mask across his face _flowing_ apart around his mouth enough to glimpse white teeth and a touch of a smile. A pause to savor the drink and he smiles, "That's rather good. " He takes one more sip and then sets the glass down, only then taking a long and rather obvious moment to give her a slow once over look that he doesn't even attempt to conceal - it's a look that lingers a while, but _just_ short of too long before he's meeting her gaze once more.

"What do you know of Nero Galante? "
Huntress has posed:
If he has a taste for the luxuries in life, the liquid is definitely an aged whiskey of the expensive variety. Helena doesn't skimp when it comes to alcohol. Nor does she seek to make more room between them when he moves close to claim the glass; she merely lifts her chin, eyes narrowing.

A picture of defiance and confidence, at least until that mask filters away in a way that shouldn't be possible. Just a little unsteadiness of her hand as she takes another sip from her glass. The look he gives her though? /That/ she's far more familiar with. It's a thing that can be used. Aware he's looking, she turns, a little more sway in her hips as she walks over towards her desk, leaning against it, bracing the glass on the desk as she settles her gaze back on him.

"An idiot who rises above his station and should've been put down a long time ago." That of Nero Galante, apparently. "He hired someone of your... talents," a pause to linger over that word, "Just for a woman? That fairly reeks of desperation."

Given how much in turmoil the Cosa Nostra are in Gotham, none of this is surprising though. "Would you consider a counteroffer?"
Darkness has posed:
"You do that well, and you know it. Read people, use that very enticing body of yours to your best advantage." Jackie notes, having turned to follow her movements with his eyes as she'd fully intended - even if he'd shifted just enough as he did so so that she'd have to brush against him to get by - or take an extra step out of her way to get to her desk.

"I mean, look at the costume you chose. There's .. usefully close fitting and then there's .. that. "

He knocks the drink back, sets the glass back atop the side table, and two dark .. tendrils seem to solidify out of the darkness itself to reach for the whiskey she'd selected before and they work together to pour him another two fingers or so of the dark liquid, all without him looking.

"No. " He answers then, shaking his head, "I take a contract, I stick to it. " A purposefully dramatic pause, "_If_ it was made in good faith and I wasn't mislead."

The dark .. tentacle lifts the glass and sets it in his hand, and he takes one more sip from it as he watches Helena over the rim. "It wasn't just him, or so I've been told, but that of the rest of the family's dons."

Another sip, a careful watching of her responses now as he clearly tries to seek out .. something.
Huntress has posed:
Helena doesn't respond to that compliment -- not verbally anyway. There's a small smile that acknowledges what he says, an amusement in her gaze. She doesn't yield that space to him, brushing past him without concern. It's not until he references her costume that her facade falters.

He knows. Somehow, he knows her secret identity.

It changes everything, in a way. There's no warmth in her voice anymore, just a sharpness borne by anger. She refuses to beg, even while he draws out his assertion that his contract stands unchanged. There might even be approval for the fact that he holds to his word. There's only a slight exhale of her breath as he amends that last to speak to her relief.

"Santo Cassamento is the Don of Dons. And he does not want me dead... not yet." The last two words hold a bitterness she doesn't try to hide. She clearly despises the man. "Besides, a call like that would likely need approval from Sicily... and that won't be given." Whatever the rumors might be about how new Helena Bertinelli is to the mafia life, she has the cold, calculating nature of a Silician, little doubt.
Darkness has posed:
Her anger, the sudden shift in her demeanor, the cool tones to her voice - none of those appear to change the way the man holds himself so casually. Jackie starts across the floor towards her once more, pacing across the few feet to walk right up into her personal space and all but pin her against her own desk with his presence - if not _quite_ allowing their bodies to touch.

The man is _always_ in shadow, it's like the darkness follows him around like a puppy seeking treats.

He lifts a dark metal gauntleted hand, reaching towards her chin, which he'll cup in that hand if she doesn't move to either get away or just avoid the touch entirely.

"Can you prove that to me? If I called him, would he back you up?"

Now there's something in his tone, danger more present, an ... irritation that doesn't seem to be directly aimed at her - does he think he's been lied to?
Huntress has posed:
As he angles closer, Helena's hand strays from her glass and rests on the desk behind her. That it puts her closer to the crossbow is no coincidence. She might've doubted its ability to penetrate across the room, but here, at point blank? She'd take that shot if need be.

She would probably die, but clearly she means to go down fighting.

When he grasps at her chin, her eyes narrow in visible, obvious warning. The bite of her anger is obvious in her tone, "He would back me as far as not wishing to take my life yet." She's so specific. But there's no doubting her honesty or certainty on this point. "I'll finish this drink while you call him, if you like."

It's bravado. She's not unafraid. But she holds her own well enough; she's clearly faced death before.
Darkness has posed:
The pressure of his thumb and fingers along the line of her jaw is firm, almost too much so to be comfortable, and the way the gauntlet flows back and away from those fingers to make the contact a skin to skin one also takes steps in the direction of the gesture being .. well at least not _un_ comfortable. He uses that grip to bring her eyes to his, to hold it there while she replies, and then ..

Then he lifts his other hand, bringing an iPhone up to where they can both see it from the corners of their eyes, it's already dialing a: Santo Sassamento - does he really have the Don of Dons on speed dial?

At the same time, she can hear what definitely sound like a pair of small feet on the top of her desk behind her - and the familiar sound of her crossbow being drug across the wood grain of the desktop.

"You're _really_ damned good with that thing, Helena, and I don't want to chance any .. disagreements before we have a chance to sort things out. I promise, though, that you'll get it back - no matter what happens - before I take any action on your life."
Huntress has posed:
The only thing he sees in her dark eyes is an angry, annoyed Italian woman. Given he likely knows just what a Sicilian's anger can bear under, that might in itself be warning. There's a shift of expression when it becomes skin contact, just a little narrowing of eyes.

Even so -- Helena Bertinelli is content to wait in this moment. There's no change in her -- no alarm as he dials Santo Cassamento. It's only when she hears movement -- footsteps? -- and the sound of her crossbow moving that /she/ moves -- even while he's making his promises, before he finishes.

It starts with an outward shove, knees and hands to get space and push him backwards, so that she can flip backwards over the desk and grab for the crossbow. She doesn't intend to fire, but she wants the weapon anyway: she doesn't know him, and promises in the world of Cosa Nostra are only as good as one's reputation.

She doesn't even know his name.

At the same time, the huffed voice of Santo Cassamento answers with a biting: "This better be important."
Darkness has posed:
There's a lot that happens in those few seconds - and Jackie's distracting little 'game' with the phone is likely a the primary reason .. ok, it's the secondary reason she caught him off guard. The first being, perhaps obvious, in that she's close - extremely attractive - and there's no small amount of distraction there.

So, her shove sets him back a step, lets her get the room she needs to to get that backward flip over her desk. A motion that lets her see just who, what, is on the desk with her crossbow.

It looks like little black skinned devil thing. Lots of really sharp pointy teeth in an angular mouth, bat like wings, huge eyes with tiny red irises and it's got both of it's long fingered hands on the grip of her crossbow.

"Boss! Boss..you said not t' hurt her! "

Another voice from a corner of the room, "Damn! She moves! And the _way_ she moves Boss! "

"Ya want us to get her now?!!? "

"There's TV on tonight I wanna watch..when do we go!?"

Jackie's voice cuts in a moment after he swipes across the mute button, "Shuddup. No, leave her be. Gino - give her the bow."

A pause as he seems to resettle himself, straightening up after the shove, and he unmutes the phone. "Mr Cassamento.. this is Jackie Estacado and I'm here with Helena Bertinelli. I'm looking to settle a question: Did you agree on the hit that Nero Gallante took out on her life for immediate execution?"
Huntress has posed:
Helena's mouth parts in shock as she sees the darkling. There's fear there, too: fear is healthy -- but she doesn't let it stop her. She closes on it, step by step, and it's clear she'd make a lunge for it, even with the thing pointed her way -- when Jackie gives the go ahead to give her the weapon. She practically snatches it from the creature, and she backs up into the wall, letting out a low breath. Her gaze ticks from the creature on the desk, to the shadows where she heard those other voices, and finally to Jackie.

There's a new respect -- and wariness born of fear -- in the Sicilian woman's eyes. But still, she watches him steadily, waiting.

"What?" Santo's voice goes from slightly distracted and annoyed at the interruption to furious. "No. She is not to be harmed." There's a pause, that might imply /yet/, but he's too canny to say anything like that aloud. "Nero Galante reaches above his station. I'll make sure he learns his lesson."

Helena can't hear the actual words from where she is -- with the desk between them, up against the wall -- but the pause in response makes her snarl, "He's /mine/. Nero Galante's life belongs to /me/ now."

Santo can be heard chuckling. Not a thing he often does. "It isn't wise to piss off a Sicilian woman, unless you have a ring on her." A beat. "Or a leash. But I'm feeling generous, because I imagine she'll be very creative. Tell her she can have him."
Darkness has posed:
"She heard you. Thank you, Mr Cassamento, and my apologies for interrupting your evening." Jackie says a moment before hanging up on the man. The phone's tucked away into a slit that opens in his armor, and then he reaches up to run fingers through his long black hair, shaking it out a bit as he takes the moment to think.

"Boss! My shows!"

"Dammit, Wheels, leave off. All of you, go one for a bit - I don't think that I need the backup just at the moment." Jackie says, making an almost shooing gesture, and there's the sound of a few pairs of scampering feet and then.. silence.

"Well then. I suppose I've a contract that I'll consider null and void, the retainer forfeit, and Nero's life.." He pauses and looks at Helena, frowning in such a way that it's visible through his mask, "Somehow I think that I won't personally need to deal with the man. I may tag along, however, just to ensure he gets the message - as well as those around him - that you don't call me in on false @#$@#R pretenses."

He chuckles, "A leash, is it? Or a ring.. _interesting_."
Huntress has posed:
For /some/ reason, when Helena hears Santo chuckling, her expression darkens even further -- despite the fact that she gets what she wants. She doesn't need to hear the precise wording to know what's being implied.

The crossbow is fairly lightweight, given everything. Even so, after a while it must weigh down, but Helena holds it steadily, in his general direction, until he looks her way. When he does so, she turns it, outwards and down.

"You assume too much," the Italian woman growls. Is she talking about him inviting himself along to Nero's final hours, or the latter comment? Perhaps both.

Despite the fact that she's barely dressed, despite the fact that he has the advantage of her, there's a hardness still in her eyes, that same lift of chin. A knowing her place in the world, and /his/, too: "At least have the courtesy to introduce yourself, and I'll consider your... request."
Darkness has posed:
"Do I?" Jackie asks, before he gives a slight shrug and a gesture that's aimed to encompass all the shadows.. the Darkness.. around the room, turning a bit to include most of the room in the motion before he looks back at her once again.

"Helena, you couldn't stop me if I wanted to follow along. We both know that. You're angry at _me_ because I've a secret of yours that you want to keep dear. You know very well I'm here to do .. I _was_ here to do a job and that's no longer an issue now. " Jackie says, his tone becoming more even, but not placating or even purposefully soothing - just even, calm.

Then _moves_, flowing forward into a shoulder first roll over the top of her desk in a motion that follows her own, except in mirror opposite motion. As he comes to his feet in front of her once more his mask is entirely gone, exposing the strong, clean shaven lines of his face.

"As I told your boss, my name is Jackie Estacado. I am the Darkness, and while I have your secret Huntress, I have no desire to spill it - for any reason, nor any cost."
Huntress has posed:
He moves... and so does Helena. By the time he comes to his feet from the roll over the desk and that mask has flown away, the crossbow is snapped up, pointed at his neck.

Rock steady.

Dark brown eyes tick over newly revealed features. She isn't so good at concealing her expression -- the hatred that surges in her gaze when he refers to her boss -- but what Mafioso doesn't harbor some level of hate for one raised above them? Helena smiles, briefly, but it's more teeth than softness. "We will see how true to your word you are, Jackie Estacado."

The crossbow is lowered.

"I believe you know the way out?"
Darkness has posed:
"Boss! Is it TV Time?" Presumably one of those 'things' calls from the darkness - maybe it didn't leave when he told it too. Did it come back? Who knows.

The lights go out - there was a flick of a light switch.. or all the light switches.. in the room.

By the time Helena gets to a light switch, or even lights a lighter, Jackie Estacado is gone.
Huntress has posed:
This place was her childhood home. She knows every inch of it -- even in pitch darkness. Helena steps forward, grip on the crossbow tight, reaching for where Jackie was... to find the space empty. Two more steps take her to the desk, when she flips on the tiny lamp there.

In the silent aftermath, she rattles out a breath.

A lesser person would probably immediately flick on lights -- all the lights -- to banish the darkness. But Helena has lived, and breathed, and fought and bled in the nights of Gotham so long that the darkness doesn't hold any fear for her.

...or it didn't, anyway.

She pours herself another thin sliver of liquid, and savors it this time, eyes distant. Then she goes to the door, opening it to spot the Bertinelli soldier rousing himself.

"Bring the car around. We're playing a visit to the Galantes."