When We Go Missing

Cast: date: '31 August 2012'
place: Paddington
participants: 'Cedric, Gideon, Jack, Paddy'
synopsis: 'Members of the Watch (and an associate) are able to make sense of a homeless man''s madness.'
log: "The constant motion and charge of frenetic energy that is the daily routine at any metropolitan train station seem to course through the air here at Paddington Station. Everywhere the eye falls, people are on the move. If someone pauses for a moment, it's to check a map or look at the ever-changing letters and numbers in LED lights on the arrivals and departures boards. People carry luggage in all forms — duffel bags, rolling carry-ons, briefcases. The trains themselves make a dull roar in comparison to the constant voices of travelers, railway employees, and the kiosk merchants. Everyone has a purpose, a place to get to, a train to catch. \n\nEveryone, that is, except those who've slipped through the cracks of society and use this hub of activity simply as a place to be. Most of the banks of seats in the main area of the station are spotted with people, one or two seats at most between travelers waiting for their train or for a friend or family member to arrive. One row of seats, however, is left empty but for one single soul that everyone else gives a wide berth. Perhaps it is because of the smell of body odor and stale whiskey, perhaps even a tinge of urine. Or perhaps it's because of the mumbled gibberish that never seems to end. \n\nThis is \"Paddy.\" If he has another name, he hasn't given it in years. \n\n\"…silent man in mocha brown,\" he says, turning to the chair next to him as if he were conversing with someone invisible there. \"…declines the gambit. Golden grin… I can't remember. I can't remember. They hurt you if you don't remember.\" He rocks himself, hands clutching upper arms in a tight grip.\n\nThe combination of extortionate parking fees, the congestion charge and the fact that Paddington is an easily accessable transport hub mean that Jack actually took the tube here. Born and raised in London, he still seems to find it a not overly pleasant experience, given the expression on his face as he emerges from the escalator and heads over to the toilets to exchange twenty pence for the right to relieve himself.\n\nReemerging into the incomprehensible garble of the well spoken announcer talking into the worst acoustics on the planet, he ambles towards the clock spot, designated as the meeting point for this little soire. It's conveniently located with an intermittent view of Paddy's bench, allowing him to scope out the scene before engaging with the man.\n\nToday's attire is quite the opposite of formal, layered hoodies against the cold and rain with the topmost one having an oversized hood that keeps his face mostly shadowed. Work jeans have seen some harsh use and are liberally spotted with grease stains from the shop. He's got a cigarette in hand, even though the station no longer allows smoking, meaning it remains unlit.\n\nNot all connections are illustrious. Hell, not all of them are even clean, and men like Paddy can serve their uses, too, if one wants to keep abreast of the news everywhere in London. Gideon Parish is such a fellow, and so now and again he comes to the station, not for the trains but for the muttering man in the back corner seat that nobody else wants to be near. \n\nUnaware (one must assume) of the other little meeting taking place near the clock, Gideon makes his inconspicuous way over to where Paddy sits and rocks. He has a pack of cigarettes and a cup of coffee (spiked with a dash of whiskey) in his hands. He sits down near the homeless man, carefully settling his offerings down between them. \"How now, Paddy. What do you hear?\"\n\nCedric is already waiting not too far from the clock when the man arrives, looking more than a little antsy about something, foot tapping continuously. Similarly dressed against the chill in a zip-up hunter-green hoodie that has seen better days and a pair of worn jeans that might once have been blue but are perilously close to getting religion, he's opted for trainers that, while not the best, are still sturdy and strong. Incongruously, he wears a pair of spectacles this time, not especially thick but that definitely glint in the light, and his hands are shoved in his pockets. \n\nIn one back pocket is shoved a small, fat notebook and a plain pencil, but he seems to have opted to leave any technical toys at home - much different from the polished-looking man in the coffee shop this morning.\n\n\"The golden grin,\" Paddy repeats to the Gideon insistently, bleary eyes turning to focus on the younger man's face. Looking down, he focuses slowly on the gifts and then one hand snatches the cigarettes with a surprising spryness, tucking them inside his coat pocket. The coffee, thankfully, is picked up more carefully, held in shaking hands. \n\n\"The host with someone indistinct converses at the door apart… do you remember what comes next?\" he asks Gideon, then shakes his head. \"Johnny got picked up las' week. They think he done them kids in, back in April. Don't think he'll be back. You know Johnny, right?\" The coffee is slurped, much of it dribbling down the man's beard and onto his grimy front. \n\n\"Them Gavvers, they pick up the innocents, don't help the innocents. No one helps us when we go missing, no one cares. But they take us away, they do.\" \n\nA tear rolls down his face, cutting the dirt and leaving a cleaner streak of skin in its wake. \"The nightingales are singing…\"\n\nJack, by contrast, has no notepad. No tiny voice recorder. Nothing to look official; he's just a scrubby mechanic looking for a chat. There's a little inverse bro-nod to Cedric as he clocks him, pun intended. His attention is mostly affixed upon Gideon however, seeming to recognize the fellow and giving him that special sort of scrutiny.\n\nNot wanting to immediately interrupt and scare the pair, he sidles closer to his companion, \"'ead over, see if you can listen in a bit or join in the convo. I'ma grab us some sticky, an' then will join you on the other side.\" A nod toward a nearby coffee vendor and he's already heading that way, relieving his pocket of some change. The mechanic seems focused upon gauging the interaction between Gideo and Paddy, feeling out their relationship, such that it may be. A mumbled \"Cheers darlin'.\" while mostly ignoring the vendor-girl giving him the eye. Black, no frills coffee comes quick, allowing him to continue around behind the bench and ultimately come to a stop. He adopts a posture of looking up at a screen above the bench, as though waiting for an arrival.\n\n\"Easy now, Paddy,\" Gideon murmurs gently, even going so far as to reach out and place a hand lightly on the other man's arm. \"You know me, mate, dense as a rock. I can't follow a thing when you talk me in circles. Take it slow now, Paddy, easy little words. What's this about Johnny? They've been holding him months, now, something change about that? What's this about, whatsit,'Gavvers'?\"\n\nAs for Jack's special look, oh yeah. Gideon's Touched. He doesn't look especially different through that lens, save his cheeks are more gaunt and his eyes are fuckall creepy with solid black scleras and bright, silver irises.\n\n\"Right.\" Cedric's response is low, rough, laconic. He waits until Jack has wandered off, shooting an odd, brief look at his back, then returns his attention to the pair. A tilt of his head, narrowed eyes, and he fishes that small, fat notebook and pencil from his pocket. The pencil itself is plenty sharp, and he takes a seat a distance away from the pair, pencil moving madly, but more in the way of one sketching than writing. The move has the look of an artist suddenly taken by a subject more than anything else. \n\n\"Gavvers, the Jacks, the Filth. They took Johnny, but they ain't done nothin' 'bout Chris or Li'l Man, have they? I told 'em meself about 'em but you know they don't care if we go missing. Those kids they think Johnny cut up, they weren't much older than Li'l Man, but no one cares about Li'l Man, do they? No one cries for us. No one cries when we go missing. No one will cry for me.\" The man's voice begins to rise with each word, earning a few glances from the travelers waiting nearby. One mousy woman gets up to move another row away. \n\nIf Paddy notices the other two men watching him, he doesn't seem bothered by it. His bloodshot eyes focus on Gideon's face and he jerks a finger toward the man. \"If them kids were like Li'l Man, no one'd bother looking, would they? Would they?\" \n\nAnother gulp of coffee is taken and he wipes his mouth with a dirty, shaking hand. \"The zebra stripes along his jaw swelling to … what… something… giraffe…? That doesn't make sense…\"\n\nHolding both cups of coffee with the cigarette sticking out perpendicular between knuckles, Jack sidesteps in response to a passing traveller which just 'happens' to bring him closer to the conversation. \"Why'd the rozzer peg Johnny then, guv?\" he throws in there, casually, as though he'd been part of the conversation all along. Not that he's turned toward the pair, still maintaining his stance and peering up toward the pixels.\n\n\"What about Red?\" he tacks on there. It's not as though he can confuse the man any further with a bunch of questions. He's unphased by the tone of the man's voice. Jack and the homeless are not strangers, having been one of them for many a year.\n\n\"No, mate,\" Gideon agrees, keeping his voice quiet in the hopes of lowering Paddy's as well, \"can't rely on other folk to look after us and ours. We do that for ourselves.\" He frowns a touch, though for that last, canting his head a little. \"What are you talking about, zebra stripes?\"\n\nGideon lifts his head as Jack speaks and is properly noticed for a first time. One blond brow hitches upwards as the conversation between two becomes a chat between three, but Gideon stays quiet, leaving Paddy to answer Jack's questions as well.\n\nFor his part, Cedric is choosing to stay back and quiet, allowing Jack and Gideon to ask the questions. His pencil continues to move madly, and presently, he flips a page to the next one, moving again to get a different perspective, one that conveniently includes Gideon as well. The sketching begins again, but he studies Gideon for a little bit longer and more intently before beginning. There's no move to disrupt or make himself known. \n\n\"Apeneck Sweeney. Might be a parody of Browning. Might be a parody. Might be…\" Jack's sudden entrance to the conversation slowly registers and Paddy turns to look at the man, the echolalia interrupted as the mention of Red brings him back. \n\n\"Red went missing before Li'l Man and Chris. No one noticed, did they? But Paddy notices more than they think, Paddy notices when things go missing, when things that should be here go away forever. Red and Li'l Man and Chris, they all went away. I read the newspapers every day and they aren't there. They aren't there, and they'd be there if they didn't just get taken, wouldn't they?\" \n\nSuddenly, the frail looking man sits upright. \"The nightingales are singing near the Convent of the Sacred Heart, and sang within the bloody wood when Agamemnon cried aloud and let their liquid droppings fall to stain the stiff dishonoured shroud.\" The words tumble out in a rush, with no sense of rhyme nor reason, but he looks proud of himself for getting through so many of them at once.\n\n\"That where they got taken from then, mate? Hammersmith?\" Convenient that Jack would know where the Catholic girl's school is. Groups of lads out on the streets need gaggles of girls to harass though. Pausing, he takes a swig from the coffee, then finally turning toward the pair while being careful to pay Cedric no mind for now lest they notice him.\n\n\"You don't reackon it was Johnny then, isit?\" Odd, perhaps, that he's holding two cups of coffee still while acting as though this is completely natural. Caffiene addict, with one ready to chase the other. Ideally followed by a chance to step outside and have a fag.\n\nGideon stares at Paddy for a long moment and his hand drums on his knee as he thinks. \"I know that,\" he murmurs. \"Why do I know that… Convent of the Sacred Heart, and sang within the…\" His eyes widen and he snaps his fingers. \"'Apeneck Sweeney spreads his knees, letting his arms hang down to laugh, the zebra's stripes along his jaw, swelling to maculate giraffe.'\" He glances back over at Jack, explaining, \"That's T.S. Elliot, that is. A poem.\" And then he finally notes those two cups of coffee. Huh.\n\nStill madly working, glancing up only occasionally, Cedric flips a page again, but this time doesn't tuck it under. He begins sketching again, and this time doesn't look up. He seems to be off in his own little world, well within earshot but not appearing to listen. \n\n\"Maculate! Brilliant!\" bellows Paddy, drawing more askance looks from those nearby, the three men all listening carefully excepted. \"Argentina. The River Plate. Silver, that is. Wrong convent, lad.\" He reaches to pat Jack on the shoulder as if the Cockney might be dejected for getting the wrong answer, after the praise was bestowed on Gideon. \n\n\"Not Hammersmith. No. No. Red was staying a bit south, he was, said he was sleeping 'neath the Serpent, that it was warm and dry in the summer. He was good to them boys, Chris and Li'l Man. I think they went to find him when I told 'em he were missing. They were good boys, they were good boys, they were good…\" \n\nPaddy stops and swallows hard, running a hand through his tangled hair. \"Red, he were seeing things. 'S why he went down into the underground, he said he could see everyone's secrets right on their skins. That everyone he saw were bleeding out their sins and every murderous thought, he could see it, like a story, right across their faces. He couldn't stand it, so he went below. He said the boys understood, that Li'l Man knew what he was on about.\" \n\nHis gaze latches on something far across the terminal and he shakes his head. \"Chris asked me if I were like them, but Li'l Man, he said I wasn't. That I wasn't like them. That I see things in my own way, but not like them. Paddy's always alone, isn't he?\" \n\nAnother tear runs down the man's face.\n\nFiguring out relative directions is hard, even for a Londoner sometimes. The massive metropolitan sprawl mostly navigated by public transit and simplified into the multi-coloured lines of tube-maps. Jack's ponering though, accepting the commiseration while sipping more of the coffee down.\n\n\"So, Red went missing…\" A pause, trying to navigate the uncertainties of the man's explanations, \"Tunnels. Camden? Nah. That's proper north of Hammersmith.\" he mumbles to himself, \"Hyde park, isit?\" A brow raises in query, \"Chris an Li'l Man went down there to find him an' never came back. An' they was both 'special'?\" There's that look of cautious optimism. It's replaced by a little grin however and he gives the crazy geezer a light thump on the shoulder with a large hand, \"Ain't never alone in this town, mate. People come an' go on the streets, you know that. F'it ain't the cold or some coked up twats, then it's the bleedin' rozzer. On the other hand though, there's always going to be more comin' in. Streets're like the station, mate. Everyone's gotta keep movin'.\" Or they die. That part is left off. Because it seems a little too pessimistic for the situation at hand.\n\nGideon's fallen quiet as Jack sorts directions and happenstance, though here is an arch of his brow for that rose-colored outlook of life on the streets. But, the blond man sitting near Paddy doesn't comment. Rather, he fishes a cigarette out of his own pocket and lights it.\n\nThis time, Cedric's sketching switches to a more constrained movement, as if he is writing something down. It's brief, though, and he then turns back to his previous page, studying Gideon intently again for a long moment before resuming the previous sketch. Still he says nothing, every line of his body tense, almost feverish as he works. \n\nPaddy glances at the cigarette when Gideon lights it and he slowly nods. \"Hyde Park,\" he repeats, before murmuring, \"Two streaming peacocks gone in a cloud of golden dust, with star after star on our stream…\" \n\nHe turns to Jack again. \"I'd go look for them but I'm afraid, I'm too afraid. The things they said, the things they said they see in the dark… no, no, no, no. It's why I stay here. In the light. So much light. Light and people.\" \n\nHe looks across at Cedric for the first time, murmuring to him as if no one else could hear his secret: \"I'm afraid of the dark.\"\n\n\"Ain't an unwise thing to be 'fraid of, sometimes.\" Jack finishes up one cup of coffee, his fingers closing in around the polystyrine until it crumples. It's then flung toward a nearby rubbish bin and rattles about the top before dropping in. Score. This frees up his hand to dig into a pocket and come up with a large, red and white bill all folded up small. Feeling generous, or sympathetic perhaps, the fifty is offered to Paddy. \"'Ere. Buy yourself a lantern, mucka.\"\n\nTaking the fag into the free hand, he sets the other coffee down between Paddy and Gideon. He still doesn't light it though. \"We'll find 'em.\" he assures, although upon saying it he's looking toward Gideon querilously as though checking on on whether the man is also going to be part of this search.\n\nGideon is thoughtful as he picks up that second coffee, but doesn't drink from it. \"Now, who was this actually for?\" he asks Jack dryly. \"How many of you are down here mucking about?\" Which isn't really a yes or a no to the question of heroics. To Paddy he says, \"Stay out of the dark, Paddy, and keep safe. It's no place for you.\"\n\nStill Cedric doesn't move, or make himself obvious. He does, however, tuck away his now-nub-of-a-pencil and close the pad he was using as an impromptu sketchbook. The pad joins the pencil in his back pocket, and he cranes his neck to look at the clock, then removes his glasses to rub at his eyes blearily.\n\nCigarettes, Irish coffee, and money. Not a bad haul today. Paddy's shaky hand reaches out to grab the note and stuff it in the pocket with the pack of fags from before. \"Thank you. You're good boys. Tell Red I need him. And the boys, they're awful young. Too young to be on the street already. Too young, too young, too young, too…\" \n\nAn abrupt shake of his head. Suddenly, he rises, a bit unsteady on his feet for a moment. \"Time to feed the pigeons,\" he announces, with a nod to the clock. \"They'll be waiting. The purple one gets upset if I'm not there on time.\" \n\nHe begins to walk, and once more, those in his path move out of the way, giving the pile of rags a wide berth as he makes his way to the exit that will lead him to the street. \n\n\"Nothing is left except light on your fur,\" he murmurs to a businessman with a rolling suitcase who gives the homeless man an odd look.\n\nTaking a seat at the other end of the newly vacated bench, Jack looks quite pleased about the simple pleasure of sitting down. \"That'd be telling, mate.\" he replies to Gideon, flashing the man a toothy smile. \"Never can be too sure, can you. S'why we ain't called the watched. Either way, figure if you're sticking your nose in, better to be warned in advance so I don't accidentally shoot you, ain't it?\"\n\n\"So, then,\" Gideon replies slowly, \"You want to know if I'm going to go crawling through tunnels with you and your unknown crew, but you won't actually tell me who I'd be crawling about with? Hardly makes sense. If you want help, don't get cocky.\"\n\nCedric looks up at the exchange between the two, one more time, looking confusedly between them. He gives no sign of recognizing Jack beyond an eye-flicker, but still says nothing. His eyes settle on the coffee cup Jack set down, but he doesn't move yet. Instead, he looks over at the coffee vendor Jack patronized earlier, peering at the queue.\n\n\"Not like I'm inviting you, pal. No one's forcing you to come along. F'you were that interested in helping out, you'd have already signed up, I figure. If you're planning on showing up regardless, then you'd do best t'give me a heads up.\" Jack is unrepentant, giving Gideon an even stare in return for his admonishment. The unlit cigarette gets stuck into the corner of his mouth.\n\n\"Then you figured right,\" Gideon answers, flicking ash off the tip of his cigarette, \"Well done being a clever boy. I don't play the soldier for your people. If and when I step in, it's on my terms. You're so sure you and yours can put a cap on it easy, then I'll leave you to it.\"\n\nSeeing that the queue isn't so bad, considering it's a train station in the morning, Cedric blinks a couple of times, cleans his glasses with the tail of his hoodie, then gets up and takes himself over in the direction of the coffee vendor. He seems to have lost all interest in what the two men are talking about, and pays them no further mind. \n\nStanding, Jack's fishing out a lighter in readiness for being outside. The condescening tone has the cockney narrowing his eyes at Gideon, \"Right you are then. Good luck in the weekend warrior business. When they come for you, I'll be sure to make certain it's convenient an' fits with my terms before giving a shit.\" Pulling his hoods back up, he turns and merges back into the flow of people heading away from the trains toward the exit. He doesn't spare Cedric another look either.\n\n\"If I actually thought your giving a shit would make an ounce of difference,\" Gideon mutters, taking a drag on his cigarette, \"I might see the point of that little club of yours.\" He drops the remainder of the smoke in the coffee, and it goes out with a sizzle. Then he, too, makes his way out of the station.\n\n\n\n"

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