For anyone who's been to Cat-22 before, it looks exactly like...Cat-22 in here.
There are a few differences, a few things to indicate that something else is going on here tonight. For once thing, the seats that aren't heavy (mostly tables and chairs) have been pushed together closer to the front of the stage, allowing for easy viewing. There is a lectern with a microphone set up on the stage, a light pointed at it. Jazz (Coltrane, more specifically) plays lightly in the background.
Tables are set off to one side, near the infoshop, with a spread of finger foods food and pre-poured glasses of wine. The cafe in general is closed for food orders, but the bar is open (not an open bar, but open for business!) for folks who want more than just wine.
Apart from the various members of the community who've showed up for the event, there is no small number of Fort Brunsett's Finest gathering outside...
And C.B. Alexander? He's currently standing near the stage with a glass of something brown that decidedly isn't wine, chatting with an older woman in glasses. He's got his silver, oval-shaped wire-rimmed glasses on and is wearing a gray tweedy blazer with suede elbow patches over a white button-down workshirt, tucked into relatively clean belted Levi's, with his usual work boots on his feet. At least he seems to have bothered to clean the mud off the damn things.
Haruki's here to be supportive. He's sitting quietly, folding pieces of paper, trying to look interested, as various origami animals are assembled upon the table in front of him. All very normal.
At the buffet: single and double portobello mushroom sliders with tempeh bacon, cheddar, and grilled onions. Also hoisin and soy sauce marinated tempeh sliders with kimchi and cilantro. Also, fried green tomatoes, preserved peaches, and crackers with cashew cheese. And a dish of almonds.
On the other side of the room, there's a stack of copies of C.B. Alexander's latest book, literary sci-fi novel 'The Instigate,' on a plain wooden table with a dark green cloth thrown over it. One of the CAT-22 worker-owners, a man with glasses, slightly receding sandy brown hair, and a nervous look, stands near the books shuffling through a couple of notecards like he's preparing for something.
Punctual Ardis is one of the first to arrive. She wears an oversized black blazer, studded choker, fawn-colored suede skirt, and tall black boots. She has a T-shirt with the book jacket art from 'Young Man's Disease' printed on it and evidently much worn, from the way that the colors have faded, leaving it almost entirely sepia-toned. She smiles when she enters-- white teeth, mahogany-dark lipstick-- shakes out her umbrella, stands it by the door, and zips straight to the glasses of wine set out at the buffet.
The book itself, for anyone brave enough to take a look, is effin' ENORMOUS, by the way. Jesus, this sucker's gotta be like 800 pages, easy. The giant hardcovers have dust jackets in a white rough sort of paper with the title and author's name in black block letters written semi-small on two separate lines across the middle. There is some kind of embossed stylized gate -- really, it looks like several rectangles -- centered around the black titles. A very sparse and minimalist cover, to be sure.
When Mina arrives, it's from the door that leads into the cafe from the back room. Sneaky, quiet ballerinas. Her ginger hair is worn loosely pulled back, out of her face. She wears a courdory A-line mini skirt in dusky rose, a black shirt that sits off the shoulder, and a pair of tall boots with heels, reaching a few inches above her knees. A little, quick smile on her lips. Seems she'll be lingering behind the bar, for now at least.
Who's that girl? It's Frank! She's already here - standing not too far from where that piano is, dressed in some oxblood velvet wrap dress and black winkle-pickers, hair in a messy, braided bun. Gives her that a vaguely neo-Edwardian boho vibe -- entirely counteracted by the fact that she's not-so-subtly looking at her phone. Wait. Is that a fox fur collar around her neck? As if her phone wasn't offensive enough...
The Garreau girl stops texting - suuuubtly putting her phone back into her ever-present oversized baggage, so Franklyn's hands are free to reach for her wine glass and look... Pained? Like she has a headache, is hearing a high pitched whining noise, or might possibly hate the wine. Eyes scan, and scan, and scan and-- there we go. "Haruki!" Franky's on the move, gliding the Magicians's way. "...You brought your menagerie."
Outside, a line of cop cars are standing all along the curb. None of them have their alarms on... Yet. Cops in uniform mill up and down the street outside the cafe. One, a well-built man with short, scrubby blond hair, comes inside and stands at the (closed) counter. Arms folded. Glaring hard at C.B. and the stage.
"Franklyn!" Haruki smiles brightly at her. "I love your dress." He laughs at her question. "Um, sort of? Well they sort of appeared?" And then a little quieter, almost conspiritoral, as if she might know. "What's the book about?"
Sparse and minimalist covers are In. One person arriving doesn't go straight for the food, or straight for the wine, or the bar, or the author, or in fact any of the actually really interesting people gathered here-- Edmond beelines for the display with the stack and immediately grasps the top copy reverently with his smooth wooden hands. He looks to the nervous-looking co-owner and leans in a little, way too brightly dressed for the winter, and asks under his breath, "Am I too late to buy a copy soon enough to say 'in before release'? Technically?"There's maybe some mischief in his dark eyes, but the bright red jeans and the gold-and-red-patterned shirt say he doesn't care if he's called on it.
Isolde comes in towards the middle, no, the famous Doctor didn’t come in with any VIP’s or any bells and whistles. She gladly stood outside and talked with people. The woman is dressed not in her usual scrubs or gardening clothes, but in a rather sparkly green evening dress that hits at the knee. Springs wearing emerald, say it ain’t so?! On her way in she accidentally bumps into the well built cop with the short hair, “Apologies, officer.” she states. Then she catches sight of Franklyn and she heads that way.
"Huh?" the glasses-wearer looks up when Edmond addresses him and blinks a couple of times. There's a tag on his windbreaker that says 'BRYNACH,' but the text is all squished toward the front like he was afraid to run out of room but overdid the squeezing and just left a big blank at the end. "Er... Yes, sorry, yes. Take that one. That'll be... Twenty-five dollars, please."
There seem to be a few press-types here today, too, though they're mostly local (Tam Valley, Montpelier, Burlington) press. No Enid -- thank god for small favors, right? Maybe the woman with the glasses who's talking to C.B. is press, because she seems to be taking a few notes. He gives her a vaguely apologetic excuse for a smile as he glances over at Brynach. Taps to his wrist -- where he isn't wearing a watch -- and gives him a big, exaggerated, slightly impatient shrug.
"Oh thank you lovely, how kind of you to say..." Franklyn chimes at Haruki, then mmms low, thoughtful as she sips her wine and pushes hair behind her ear. "Do you do origami in a fugue state?" So chipper, so inquisitive - so not leaving any time to answer, because Franklyn is taking in a deeeep breath and swilling wine around in the glass as she chatters on, "...What is the book... The book... About a... Have you ever been on a train?"
Oh here we go. Franky stares down at Haruki - broad smile, steady eye contact. "And you're passing through all these stations, but you don't know their names - but you /know/ you're supposed to get off, but you can't remember where exactly but you -know- the station has yellow door? But all these /people/ are there, at every station, and they just keep moving and moving in a swarm, so when you're -stopped- trying to see if you should disembark, you're anxious to search for something you can't find? But when you're in motion, the relief in being able to stay put is immediately erased by the anticipation of the next stop, which you never know when it will be? And whenever you ask, nobody knows what you're talking about?"
...That might not be Franky's first glass of wine. Her broad smile takes on a tinge of sadness, still looking pained. Headache or something. "It's kind of about that."
Meanwhile, in the background... Well nobody's looking that way, anyhow. Carry on, all.
Nothing to see here.
Haruki nods at Franky. He might not be completely following, in fact he's looking a bit confused as she goes on. "Yes. Like the Matrix?" he asks when she explains. "There's a train there and they're stuck. Or...Source Code. That has a train too."
It's been a while, since Mina's been behind the bar, here. But like any dance she's done, the succuflower remembers the steps to near perfection. There's a brief smile to Isolde as she bumps into the cop, a flash of a wink, before she's mixing a whiskey sour for someone. That someone is herself. But there are other drinks made as well, when called for. And more than a few looks around, to take it all in.
"No offense taken, ma'am," rumbles the cop after Isolde brushes by him. It doesn't take his focus off the author onstage for a second.
Franklyn's sad smile takes on an impish quality as she stares down at Haruki, eyes widening with possible glee - although it's a little... Rough around the edges. "Please, please tell C.B. that his book is like the Matrix." She says, hushed jubilant tone. "Please. I'll take the bullet, and listen to him complain until he forgets what happened, just to see his face when you tell him."
Turning, Franklyn looks a bit stunned - like she's never seen her fellow Garreau, pft! - and as she spots Isolde and Mina, there's a moments pause before a hand is raised, and chipped beetle-green manicure is wriggled in their direction as a hello. Is she smiling? Maybe, but Franky's also drinking wine.
Neither dog nor Winter expected this relative crowd. Beren the Malamute Hedgedog, clad in his service dog vest in bright blue, proceeds forward with the confidence of a born schmoozer. Who's fluffy and cute and sure of his welcome?
His companion, Kiril, hesitates in the doorway, until tugged along by the leash attached to Beren's collar. The Malamute glances back and gives him an impatient look. C'mon, Changeling, get with the program.
Isolde flashes a smile to the cop, “Thank you.” she tells him. Then there’s a smile to Mina, “Good to see you around again, we were worried.” she tells her fellow Courtier. “I’ll be back in a tick. Going to go bother my niece.” she states. Then she’s heading for Franklyn again and she gives her a finger wiggle wave as she crosses the floor, “Good evening darling.” she gives her a smile. To those that can see all things Fae, there’s little flowers that spring up everywhere the woman steps. Then there's a look towards the door when she sees a flash of fluff. OH MY GOD IT'S SO FLUFFY!
"The Matrix was so good and popular. But he won't like that." Haruki says. "I don't want to ruin his night. Or make him mad at me." He admits. OH! There's a dog? He spots Beren and he gazes at him with admiration. Awwww! Duh! His expression says everything.
Edmond transfers the book to one hand and digs out his wallet with the other, hurriedly, then quickly sets the book down to take out a ten, two fives, and five singles, counted carefully. He solemnly hands the cash over to squishedBRYNACH and flashes a bright white charming grin at him. "Thanks, man," he stage-whispers, then wanders over to the bar to sit by the cop and ostentatiously read (start skimming) the book('s beginning) not quite *at* the officer of the law. He pauses and glances up from it and notices Mina, almost says something, and then literally loses track of what he was going to say because god why did he think sitting next to a cop was a good idea? He gets up and trails after Isolde, who he doesn't know either, and he brings his hazy heat of a mantle with him, and he reaches to tap her on the shoulder and leans in to say very quietly, "I don't know what I was thinking, can you just smile like you know me and say something random, and I'll laugh, and then stop bothering you as we go our separate ways? It would be a tremendous favor."
"I had some business down in Boston," Mina offers to Isolde. "I'll be in and out, until the new year. But it's good to be back." She talks softly, but ...that voice. It's honeyed and drawing, the sort of voice that makes people stop dead in their tracks to hear it. And perhaps that's why she goes back to silence, giving a quick bob of a nod to Isolde as she says she'll be back. Franky's wave makes her look just a tad skeptical for a brief heartbeat, but she returns it with a lift of her glass. Right before she downs half of it. Her eyes track Edmond, when he sits there nearby, and then leaves. Ah well.
When C.B. gives him the stare of death from onstage, panic floods Brynach's face. He seems to be trying to get across that he's waiting for something. Who knows how successfully? But then Edmond pays, and he says, "Thank you, er. Thank you very much!" He drops the money into a jar on the table. "So sorry." Then he hurries for the steps up to the stage. He glares at one of the other worker-owners on his way, presumably to indicate to them that they should take over the book sales. One of his note cards falls down but he doesn't seem to notice it. If anyone picks it up, mysteriously, it simply reads... N. E.
C.B. is holding one of his books, and also a yellow legal pad and a fountain pen. He stares up at Brynach and sighs, raking his hands through his hair. "C'mon, man, let's get started here already!" Sip from the glass and he takes a brief, possibly nervous look around the room at the assembled...his eyes landing on almost every person in turn as he scans the cafe. He takes a worn handkerchief from his pocket and mops his forehead with it before stuffing it back into the pocket of his blazer.
Franklyn gives Haruki a look which is nothing short of a pout - gesturing to him with her wineglass, threatening to splash him. Be careful, Frank! "You spoil-sport; C.B. Alexander likes things which are good and popular - but only when he's allowed to remain entirely without comparison... You know, you really should read the book though - Makepeace is a compelling arena, although I don't know why he felt the need to go on for so many pages about Ante; really it's something you have to read and-read, because it's it's existing both like, up here?" Hand gestures, they happen - as well as threats of wine-splatter as her glass swings about, "And down /here/, know what I mean? Think Against The Day set in a idealised showroom-city instead of the World's Fair..."
Yeah sure, that makes sense... Franklyn fades out as she spots Isolde coming her way, and she raises her glass in greeting. "Hello lovely, so glad you could make it -- charming, right?" Beam! Smile! Although Franky's distracted - giving a quick side-glance to the stage as C.B. starts to look, well, nervous. Hmm. While the others are distracted with Kiril's adorable fluffy companion? Franky steps off in C.B's direction, intent on... What? Saying something briefly? Looks to be the case.
Isolde gives a look to Edmond when he taps her on the shoulder, she doesn’t really know who he is, but she doesn’t punch him either. There’s a smile to that, “You’re fine.” she tells him. “And we all make bad decisions sometimes. Like this one time in the ER. I heard someone talking to their mother and they said, ‘I'm not saying I hate you, but I often catch myself fantasizing about you being attacked by honey badgers, barefoot in a desert of LEGO bricks, near a Justin Bieber concert. Just saying.” she tells Edmond. “Kids these days.” she tells him as she takes a drink of her wine.
Isolde then gives a look to her niece and grins, “You’re looking gorgeous this evening, I will be over here since I know you are busy. Hoping someone shows up.” she tells her.
"I'll wait for the movie," Haruki says, quietly to Franklyn. "CB hates popular things. He hates... he'd hate the Matrix. He hates everything. Particularly if I like it." He does shift back a bit away from the wine, and he's still stealing looks over at the dog. He really isn't following what she says.
"Yes, yes, of course," says Brynach. "Er... So sorry." He pats C.B. on the shoulder and moves to the lectern, where he taps the mic and addresses the room at large. "Er... So... We'll be getting started here in just a moment. I hope that you've all found the refreshments." Here, some nervous laughter. Then he continues. "C.B. is here with us tonight... Well, really, he's here almost every night, but," oh no, he seems to have talked himself into a tangle! The panic shows through his glasses again for a moment before he talks himself back out again.
"But tonight," Brynach plows on. "Is different. A special night. C.B. is here to read to us from his new book, _The Instigate._ After which, we'll have a short, informal question-and-answer session. Now... I've had the pleasure of reading this book myself and can only describe it as an incredible and worthy successor to C.B.'s earlier works. Now, most of you," here he seems to be looking at that cop, before he swallows and returns his attention to the audience, "er, most of you, probably know who he is, surely this is a man who needs no introduction. But for those of you who are strangers to this town or to his work, C.B. is already well known, er, very rightly so, for his coming of age novel _Young Man's Disease_, as well as for his collection of essays, _Out-Lung and Out-Last, and his poetry." He might be sweating, just a little bit. "Of course, C.B. is also, er, a native New Englander, and those of us who have spent some time in this lovely town, ah, have the privilege of knowing that the man truly lives up to his work. So... Please... Welcome, C.B. Alexander, here to read from _The Instigate_!" After this, he moves toward the background of the stage, to make room for C.B. at the front.
That it's a signing finally seems to sink in with Kiril, who still has that faintly shellshocked expression. The dog apparently knows better than his companion, for he tows the Lost along to the line for the counter. Snacks first, buddy, get your priorities straight.
Edmond's eyes widen, and he claps a wooden hand over his mouth to stifle the disbelieving snort-laugh that insists on bubbling up at what Isolde tells him. It doesn't stifle well. EVERYONE CAN HEAR IT. "b-HAH!"
...only slightly awkward...
Then he's grinning with a hand over his eyes. "Oh my god perfect thank you very much," he whispers, then slinks away into the... there aren't any shadows. A corner. Slinks into a corner. But flashes Isolde a thumbs-up on the way. And an A-OK handsign.
When C.B.'s eyes land on her? Mina's land back, and there's a quick smile given. One sky-blue eye eclipsed in a wink. But with so many here, and so much going on, it's unlikely that it lingers long. But she's here, and trying to send out her best supportive vibes. Going still, as Brynach goes on, and introduces the man of the hour. And, without hesitation, the foxglove applauds.
After C.B. is introduced, Ardis moves away from the wine (taking a glass with her, of course) and, after glancing around at the cop and the various CAT-22 folks, like Mina at the bar, heads to sit down at a table near where Haruki, Franklyn, Edmond, and Isolde are talking. "Hello," she says. To Haruki, then: "Oh, but... Shhh, ok?" With a wink. She opens her copy of the book and looks up toward the stage.
Meanwhile... Towards the entrance: in walks a woman. She is about thirty, thirty five, and dressed in a grey turtleneck, grey pleated skirt, and grey overcoat, grey cats-eye glasses over her big, big, /big/ grey eyes. Grey, grey, grey. Alien and monochromatic, the Mysterious Darkling - for that is what she is - also carries with her the heavy, oppressive mantle of Autumn and a rather large grey book. She moves silently save for the rustle of paper, smiling ever-so-gently as she steps on up to...
Oh. Where the hell did that Wizened boy come from? He's sitting on a side-table close to the stage: some hunched over young dude in a yellow t-shirt with a screen print of... Is that Nietzsche? Damn straight. The Grey Darkling leans to murmur something to the Hunched Wizened, who merely taps the notebook in front of him, then scowls, hushes her, and nods towards C.B. on stage - after making a... Vague gesture to the rest of the crowd.
The cop noticed that Edmond seems to be scared of him. For a while, his eyes follow the young man around the room, over to where he starts talking to Isolde. They narrow even further than before, if possible. Then he seems to remember that he's here to watch C.B., and his attention moves back to the stage... For now.
Haruki smiles at Ardis, but he's distracted, looking over at the dog again. He rises to his feet, leaving his belongings behind to walk over to Kiril and the buffet. "Hello. The food's really good. You want to come sit with us once you have a plate?" He goes to get himself a few things, not really paying attention to CB, the man of the moment.
C.B. watches Brynach as he introduces him, a vague smile on his face, even though his brow is furrowed. But Franky is also close, whispering something to him, so he leans in to listen as she looks him right in the eye. He nods to something she says, turning a little red before he smiles at her, takes a deep breath, and walks up onto the stage. This might just be a little reading at the cafe he works at and owns in a pretty small little city in Vermont, but that doesn't matter to someone who doesn't entirely relish being on stage...
C.B. steps up to the microphone at the lecturn, arrange the book and his notes and glass on the surface. "Thanks, Brynach, for that stirring introduction. That was...flattering." Flattering could be a good or bad thing, though C.B. is grinning a bit, showing vaguely nicotine-stained, crooked teeth. He clears his throat and opens the book. "Anyway, I'm here to read from you from what is rightly my second novel, The Instigate. I'd like to think there's enough here for at least two or three regular novels." He shakes the enormous tome; there's a smattering of laughter. "I'm gonna start with something from the first chapter. This book is...well. I won't call it sci-fi, perhaps to my publisher's chagrin." That little grin of his grows. "But it's probably about the closest I'll get to it. It's set in an alleged utopia, but of course, one man's utopia is another man's hell." He pauses to gague audience reaction, though it's clear he's preparing to read.
Isolde gives a beaming smile to Edmond and gives him a raise of her glass as he moves away. She quiets though as C.B. is starting to prepare to read and the Bright One takes a place close to the wall up to listen to things and to watch, because we don't want to be taken unawares at a poetry signing right?
The dog is clearly delighted to encounter Haruki, waving his curly tail with abandon. The Wizened looks momentarily taken aback, until Beren nudges him, and he says, with the air of a machine that's just been kicked into motion after a glitch, "Oh, uh, sure, thanks. I'll be along in a sec." He puts a few things on a plate for himself, and more for the doggo, before ambling over to where Haruki's sitting, balancing plates and drink together.
"Hello," Haruki greets the dog, delighted. But the dog's working so he doesn't reach out to pet it. "You want some water or anything?" he asks the dog. Or maybe Kiril? Yeah he was looking at the dog when he asked. "You're beautiful." He takes his own plate back to his seat and looks over to the stage to see what's going on and if he's missed anything yet.
Franklyn gives C.B. a little tap on the arm, before she glides away from C.B. -- he has to go up on stage, and Franklyn needs to find herself another glass of wine. En route she notices Ardis, who gets a vague smile - although Franky's destination seems to be Isolde. "Utopia is a place that doesn't exist." She chimes to her fellow Garreau, adding; "But hell? Is other people." How sociable she's being! Glass is raised in a silent cheers.
That comment makes Ardis raise an eyebrow. "There are /two/..." she starts to say. But Franklyn's making for Isolde, so. Her attention moves around the room. For some reason, she looks at the kid with the Nietzsche shirt for quite a while, then takes a sip of wine and looks back at the stage, where C.B. has just introduced himself. Her smile widens again.
C.B. begins to read in that voice of his. So Loud and Clear -- the mic helps with that -- although he does seem to be a touch nervous, despite the sardonic drone that characterizes everything he says:
"I first saw D on the platform at Brighthome Station, although he didn't see me. He stepped off the second enamel-white train with the anxious gait of a newborn foal, all wobbly and wide to the world. Later on, he'd be black-clad, inside and out, in a long, black car ready and willing to sever the legs of cyclists in Makepeace traffic, if we had any cyclists. Nobody walks and nobody bikes, except in designated parks. The Ante likes it that way."
The piece goes on: painting this utopia, the city of Makepeace, as a world where everyone is famous, everyone is rich, and one must at least be the former to enjoy the pleasures of the place. Carl, the cynical narrator, is particularly interested in the rise and fall of his young, foolish friend D, as he encapsulates his move from wide-eyed naivete to hardened decadence within the span of this one chapter...
Isolde gives a bit of a look to Franklyn and there’s a chuckle before she plants a kiss on the top of the young woman's head, “Utopia might exist, somewhere.” she tells her. “And Hell is certainly some people sometimes. But is also a place.” she nods to this. “Or I think it is.” she tells her. “Though many have their own take on that.” she adds. “Speaking of different hells. What are we doing for Thanksgiving?” she asks her quietly. "Gigi I think is dodging my calls." she muses softly as she listens to C.B. read.
Kiril's voice is quiet, as he explains to Haruki, "I've got a dish and bottle for him. His name's Beren, I'm Kiril." The name is Russian, but the accent's Brooklyn. And he suits action to word by unfolding a little plastic dish and pouring water from a bottle to let Beren lap as needed. "Pleased to meet you," he adds, awkwardly, but he ventures a little smile that seems genuine enough.
Haruki smiles and nods at Kiril. "Pleasure. I'm Haruki." The name's Japanese, as is he, but he doesn't have much of an accent. He quietens so he can listen to CB reading, or at least he tries to. He doesn't touch the food he's picked up.
Mina leans against the bar, as she sips her whiskey sour. Listening to the reading, her gaze flitting from here to there, time to time. The redhead, for her part, seems content to just listen, tonight.
Instead of looking at CB, Edmond is actually reading along as CB speaks, setting that sardonic drone firmly in his mind as the voice of Carl, the narrator. He doesn't take any more notice of the cop, or indeed of anyone else in the place, getting immersed in the story. He's frowning more and more, features emotive, reacting to the protagonist's downfall with sharp clarity.
At a pause in the reading, Ardis looks around for someone who might have read the book. There are plenty of people here tonight, and most of them have copies of _The Instigate_, but... Aha! She gets up and goes to sit down next to Edmond. "Do you have a favorite character yet?" she asks, brightly. "The Ante is fascinating."
There are two -- Franklyn looks puzzled at Ardis' comment, but all she gets is a vague, bemused smile before the Garreau girl has saddled on up next to Isolde to get all Aesthetically Gloomy. Look at her! She's sipping her wine, and sighing - wistful and delicately morose, even as Isolde smooches her on the head. "Utopia is nowhere; it's a destination with no end, a place which is not." She sounds so sure! But when Isolde says 'thanksgiving'? Franky pulls a face: mime school for Horrified. "Gigi hasn't spoken to my parents, right?"
But Franky isn't following up, not immediately -- she's turning to listen to C.B., arms crossed, sipping wine now and then. A side-glance to Isolde, then she adds quietly, "Black and white. It always seems so black and white -- do you know November?" Hush, Franky!
The cop looks more and more suspicious as C.B. reads aloud. At one point, he lifts his radio and mutters something into it. Another cop-- a middle-aged African-American woman with tight-cropped hair-- comes in to stand next to him. Tells him something, then goes out again.
C.B. is sitting on stage with a notepad and copy of "The Instigate." There's a nervous-looking guy with glasses and a nametag that reads 'BRYNACH__________________' on his navy windbreaker standing off to one side. The bar is open, which Mina is tending. There's also a buffet set with vegetarian sliders, fried green tomatoes, crackers with cashew cheese, almonds, and preserved peaches and a table with copies of the book for purchase. The tables and booths of the cafe are pushed toward the front of the stage, mostly occupied.
Edmond looks up at Ardis, startled; for a half-second, he looks almost like a deer in headlights, but it might just be because he was actually immersed in the narrative and has to wrench his understanding of reality back. He blinks owlishly for a second, night sky eyes in his night sky face focusing on her, and he glances toward CB and the stage quickly before he leans in to answer very very quietly, "I only just bought my copy when I came in, so I am reading along as CB does, so that his voice is Carl's voice in my head." It's the most earnest of explanations. His accent is most definitely British Indian of some stripe-- Malayali, if Ardis would know. "I may develop a favorite character later, but right now, I do not like any of them. I do not think they are meant to be likeable people, though favorites are not necessarily the same?" His voice lowers further. "Are the police going to start trouble? He is not doing anything wrong."
“Two what?” Isolde looks to Franklyn. There’s no real answer so Isolde doesn’t know what to look for. The Bright One can’t do gloomy, it’s not in her nature. Then there’s a bit of a smile to the young woman she’s standing with as she talks on Utopia and she gives a nod of her head to that. Then one elegant eyebrow wings up, “Why would Gigi need to call your parents?” she asks her quietly. She then gives her time to talk before she shakes her head, “Nothing has been said about your parents being called. So I’m guessing not. And I do know she of her rainbowness, yes.” she tells her with a smile.
A gesture from Kiril, and Beren's looking at Haruki....even coming over to lay his gray and white head in the magician's lap, if he can. "He's off-duty," Kiril says, under his breath. "He can socialize if you wanna pet him." YOu so want to pet me, says the dog's expression.
Meanwhile, over at that table... The Hunched Wizened has started watching C.B. Alexander with rapt attention - practically sprawling out over the table, clutching his notebook so hard that the pages are crumbling under his fingers. Does he notice any attention given his way? No. Hunched Wizened doesn't really seem to be the sort that gathers much attention. Maybe it's the Wintery Mantle, or... Something.
His companion, the Grey Darkling has opened that big notebook of hers: she is writing without even looking at the page - but she isn't looking at C.B., no. Those huge, wide eyes -- magnified by her grey cats-eye glasses -- are turned to watch the crowd. Never does her writing stop; if anything it gets a little faster. Mina is peered at, then Kiril, and Haruki... Ziv, Edmond, Ardis... Isolde, Franklyn... The rest of the crowd - all of them - are stared at like the Grey Darkling was either super invested, or committing them all to memory. She must love the cafe literary scene.
Haruki almost melts when the dog lays his head down. With absolute wonder Haruki pets him, oh so gently. If there's love at first sight, this is it. Haruki's smiling so absolutely overjoyed by the dog's attention. There's nothing Haruki wants more than to pet the dog. "Such a good boy." He murmurs. And he mouths a 'thank you' at Kiril. Mind you all this serves to distract him from the reading. Dogs are better than books any day.
"...stared into the light. Blinded him, really, until he forced himself to slip on sunglasses. I had left mine at home. I was pleased." C.B. pauses for applause, for his bloodshot blue-silver eyes to take a quick scan around the room as he sips from his glass of brown liquid. His eyes flit on Mina at the bar, and Frank, and Ardis -- those three first, but he casts a rather curious glance at the eager Edmond. The unknown Darkling and her Wizened companion, too, get a long sort of stare, as does the watching cop. There's some applause, and C.B. nods.
"Thanks. Thanks." He rakes a thumb through the pages. "Only...eight-hundred and twenty-three pages to go." There's some appreciative laughter. "Now, there are a few significant twists in this book, and I don't intend to give them away tonight. Not because I want you to /buy/ the book, but because I want you to /read/ it, okay?" He takes another sip, flipping through to a page he's marked with a little red post-it flag.
"So D, our young and eager whelp so eager to become something in this world, falls into an inevitable spiral of darkness and decadence that his friend Carl is powerless to stop, of course, because who has any power in a world where everything is /supposed/ to be hunky-dory, right?" C.B. elaborates further on how the Ante, the benevolent dictator of Makepeace, has been away on some mysterious private space mission, yet continuest to rule despite his absence.
Then he reads: a rather scathing passage on D's incessant drug use, BDSM brothel frequenting, crying spells in bathrooms, and a particularly violent incident involving the destruction of a valuable typewriter in Carl's library-like apartment that leads to D and Carl being summoned before an augmented reality-like hologram of the Ante for a "discussion..."
"I don't know!" Franklyn blurts to Isolde, in reply about Gigi and Franky's parents -- little too eager there, eh? Wine is sipped, and the Mortal girl shrugs her shoulders and hugs her crossed arms a little closer. "...They won't talk to me." Who, her parents? Franky adds nothing more to Isolde for the time being - turning to listen to C.B., looking Oh So Serious But Casual About It; an expression picked up from witnessing many a reading and performance, no doubt.
There's smiles, winces, serious consideration - Franky is expressive, okay?! - but at the bit about the typewriter, Franklyn starts to look genuinely sad. Wine is sipped steadily, then she turns back to Isolde, "She of the Rainbowness. What's at the end, gold, right? I think I'm gonna follow her." Uh. what? Franky drinks more wine.
Mina's applause comes again when the time for it comes, putting down her drink long enough to do so. She gives C.B. another one of those smiles when he looks her way for that brief moment. And when he looks away, she's back into serving mode. Getting a few drinks for those that need them, while listening to the author's words. Her view from the back, it lets her gaze move around quite a bit, without all of that creepiness of being seen staring.
Ardis listens to Edmond’s thoughtful answer about “The Instigate,” nodding now and then as he speaks. “You don’t have to like characters to enjoy them,” she says. She has a deep voice; rather throaty, like she’s probably a smoker. But when he asks about the police, the entomologist just laughs. “Do you think whether or not someone does anything wrong really has anything to do with whether the police give them trouble? What’s your name, then?” she smiles brightly after asking, peering at Edmond, before looking back at the stage where C.B.’s story is continuing.
Isolde gives a bit of a wide eyed look to her fellow Garreau when she blurts out the answer, but her expression softens just as fast when she hears Franklyn say they won’t talk to her and she hugs her crossed arms. She reaches out to give her a little squeeze, not too much. Just reassurance. “Want me to call them sometime?” she asks her. “If not, I can leave them be as well.” she adds. “And there might be gold. Sharp and pointy things maybe.” she muses. “I take it you are friends?” she asks. Then there’s a look to the side of the stage, “Wonder who those two up there are.” she murmurs.
Love at first sight indeed. Beren's eyes half-close with pleasure and he sighs, delightedly. SSomeone who recognizes him for what he is, a very good dog indeed.
Kiril's attending to the reading....and doing a very good job of pretending the police presence isn't making him nervous.
That angry-looking cop seems to have a sixth sense for who's nervous about him. He stares hard at the back of Kiril's head, like he can drill through it just by looking, until the next passage that C.B. reads.
A few attendees are standing in line at the table with copies of the book. There's a dude with a pink beard standing behind it, nodding and taking people's money, counting out their change.
At the front of the room, there's also a woman in a sweater over a pale pink shirt with a Peter Pan collar, slacks, and neat brown Oxfords, who seems to be recording the events of the evening and taking notes at the same time.
"Okay. For my last passage tonight before I take questions, I'm going to flip ahead here just a little bit...like I said, I don't want to give /too/ much away, so we won't be going near the end of the book at all here. Just a little taste, to whet your appetite." C.B. adjusts his glasses and drinks more brown liquid. "If you're curious about my influences...well, too bad." He smirks. "Honestly, I don't much like to talk about them. I'm a reader. My influences come from the written word itself, and the cracked reality of the world we live in. Also, I need an outlet for whenever the Red Sox lose a game." Appreciative laughter from a predictably Red Sox-loving crowd.
"So, who is this mysterious ruler, this fellow called the Ante? How does he manage to be in two places at once? Why'd he go into space? And how'd he get /so darn handsome?/" That's a joke, so he smirks again. "At this point in the novel, a jaded and disillusioned D has become increasingly invested in discovering where the Ante has gone. He goes even deeper into the darkness, 'going low to go high,' while Carl is there to help him hold onto his sanity, or what's left of it."
C.B. goes onto read this final passage, which seems to be from only about halfway through the book: D walks down a long runway to the spaceport the Ante has left from while he muses on everything he's heard about the mysterious ruler. That ability to be in two places at once, how he can cause sexual attraction with a thought, how it's rumored that his eyes shoot lasers when he wants them to, and how he built this city not on rock 'n' roll, but because he thought that anyone who had proven themselves to be really and truly extraodinary in the eyes of other people deserved a place to feel /even prouder/ of what they are. And how D, wasted and confused and drowning in his own success, feels more and more cynical about exactly how good any of these things are.
Over at that table: Hunched Wizened starts to nod along, perhaps showing too much enthusiasm as C.B. reads. Fingers flex and the notepad crunches under the stress, but the Wizened may as well be snapping his fingers and shouting 'yes!' for the amount of enthusiasm that emanates from his otherwise unimpressive and Wintery presence. Looks like he's a fan or something.
Grey Darkling has not had the memo that staring is rude, though: she's looking at Mina, watching the woman go about her work. The police presence has been Noted, and the Grey Darkling spends some time watching Kiril too. Never does the Darkling's perpetual smile fade, or does the writing slow: it is a continuous stream of pen-scribbling, as the Darkling watches the room and... Documents? Transcribes? Commits things to paper, at least. Possibly memory.
Haruki pets the doggie. Such a good dog. All dogs may be good dogs but Beren in particular. He murmurs words of praise, being sure to rub hehind ears and in all the places that feel good. Haruki loves dogs. He is half paying attention to the reading. "I didn't know CB wrote young adult books." He says more to Beren than anyone. "I wonder if there's a love triangle too."
Edmond glances toward the stage again, brow furrowing at the latest passage, but he looks back to Ardis since CB skipped way ahead and he wants to read the book in order. There's a brief, bright smile, and he offers a smooth wooden hand to shake, as warm as a real hand ought to be, but as strong as it looks. "Edmond Basumatary," he says softly. "And no. People don't have to be doing anything wrong. It's just that they always seem to be watching him, always. Whenever I come here. As if they expect him to become violent, or as if they are looking for an excuse, or playing power games to make a point to him in specific." The smile returns, though, and in brighter force, amused. "It is true, though, about the-- enjoying characters without liking them. Even characters one loves to hate." But CB is starting the Q&A, and that's not written in the book, and Edmond is getting jumpier by the second anyway. There are a lot of people taking notes. There aren't usually this many people taking notes at this kind of thing, are there? This disproportionate amount?
"NO!" Franklyn blurts, then blinks -- looking embarrassed, trying to play it off with a laugh as she smooths at the sleeve of her dress and speaks quieter to Isolde, "No, thank you - they're... Yes. They're, still in, Hong Kong - I don't want them-- I mean, I'm sure they don't need an excuse to come to Vermont." Vermont. Not 'home'. Franklyn sips at her wine, watching and listening to C.B. as he reads -- but there's this sense that maybe she wants to say more to Isolde.
Eventually Franklyn does: "We've spoken, now and then, her and I. Beyond being colourful, she is... I was just wondering if you have, you know, insight." As for the two mysterious strangers in the table over there? Franklyn vaguely acknowledges them with a shrug, "Look like book reviewers or something."
Brynach starts clapping, as loudly as he can, and comes back toward the front of the stage from the corner where he'd been standing. "Well," he says! "That, er, really was, something special. Thank you, C.B., for sharing your spectacular work." He pushes to the lectern and pulls in the mic. "All right... Well, er, let's begin the question and answer phase of the night, shall we? I'll come down and help you get your questions heard. C.B. will stay here and answer them." He glances at C.B. and smiles here. "He's the man with the answers, this evening." Then he heads down into the crowd.
Beren is eating up the affection, all but dancing in place. "You've made a friend for life," he informs Haruki, in a mutter. "He's a sucker for that kinna thing." As all good dogs are.
“Oh my goodness I get it.” Isolde laughs as she tries to keep Franklyn quiet. “I don’t want to call them if they’re in Hong Kong. We can handle things here.” she nods to that. And they could. Hopefully. Then there’s a look to her when she asks if she has insight about November and there’s a smile, “I can tell you at another time. Too many ears here.” she admits. Then Isolde straightens and there’s a bit of a look to the Grey Darkling once she’s done clapping for C.B. “I’ll be right back. Just going to check something.” she tells her. Then she leans in to whisper something to the younger woman before she heads off.
Ardis takes Edmond’s hand and gives it one firm, hard shake. Just the one. She returns that bright smile with a wide, white one of her own. “Ardis Ardeid,” she introduces herself. “Pleased and enchanted indeed!” She’s really grinning now. “How do you know CB?” And with a nod to the cop, still standing with his arms folded at the back of the room and glowering, she says, “Don’t worry about ‘’them.’’ It’s just noise.” After that, without waiting for a response, she waves down Brynach to ask a question. When he brings over the guest mic, she stands up and looks across the room at C.B. Black eyes fixed and intense, glowing as if lit from within, the scientist asks, “CB, can you tell us anything about where the inspiration for your characters comes from?”
"He's the best dog," Haruki smiles at Beren. "He's so good. You're fortunate to have such a good friend. I'm sure he's lucky to have you too though. It's not just any dog that gets to go to book readings." Oh, there's clapping. He misses the applauding. And then he tenses, his flicking over to the darkling, if ever so briefly. Haruki's just a normal mortal though. Nothing to see here. Or there. He murmurs something, oh so quietly to Kiril. Oh and there's Mina. He raises a hand and beckons her over, oh so casually, and let's hope no one thinks he's volunteering to ask a question.
"Eh-hem." Who's that? It's the Grey Darkling -- not that any plain ol' Mortals would see her as that, of course. The Darkling, she merely looks like a woman in grey; but to those with Wyrd insight, the pale and sallow woman rustles with a paper sound as she stands up - notebook held in her arm, still writing away without looking at the page as she reacts to Brynach's call for questions. She waits for Ardis to speak -- and then she promptly speaks over her, "Eh-ehm; what an excellent question, I'd like to expand on that if I, eh-ehm, may... Good Evening; Leitha Kane, first-time listener, long time witness, eh-hem; Mister Alexander," There is a teetering, girlish quality to the Darkling's voice - musical, light, oddly sharp. "Thank you for your, eh-ehm, generous reading from what I am, eh-ehm, sure is a most insightful and illuminating manuscript. I will be, eh-ehm, lining up for a signed copy presently. I was wondering..."
Leitha adjusts her glasses - never does that smile go away. "...Mister Alexander: could you discuss the relationship between the protagonist D's experiences with, eh-hem, his particular focus on on alternative-lifestyle brothel visiting and the tension in dialogue between D and Ante's discussion via hologram, eh-ehm, and your own experience of being held at gunpoint for an extended period of time by your paternal parental figure at age eight? I believe it would prove insightful for all."
Meanwhile, the Hunched Wizened sitting by Leitha turns away from C.B. for the first time, and scowls at his table mate. Grumpy Hunched Wizened.
Kiril murmurs something in reply, face gone bland, expressionless. The dog's pricked up his ears, gone from dissolving into a puddle of canine contentment to alert. "I try to take good care of him, he certainly takes good care of me," he agrees with Haruki.
For the first time, the cop seems to catch sight of Leitha, who draws his focus when she speaks. He says something into his radio again. Outside, one of the cars makes a sound like someone started an engine.
C.B. stares at Ardis through half-lidded eyes, eyebrows raised. After he finally drains his glass, he clears his throat again. "People I hate." There's some chuckles. "I kid, but -- no, I don't entirely kid." He pauses as Miz Leitha Kane, first-time listener, long time witness, interjects. Curious eyes move over the newcomer as he squints at her through his glasses.
...Until she drops the bomb about him being held at gunpoint, that is. He grabs ahold of the mic with one hand. A slightly shaking hand, to the observant, though likely most people here aren't observant enough to notice. "Lady, if the town's local gossip columnist fed you that particular line, then you've truly been had." But the literary Wizened looks as pale as a sheet for a long moment, red patches flaring up in his cheeks. At least his lightning is at bay. He forces his gaze away from her. Not drunk enough for this. "Next question."
Disbelieving laughter from Brynach___________. "Oh... My... Well, er," and he pulls the mic away from Leitha. "Thank you, for that... Er... Very interesting question." He seems to be backing away at a calculatedly not so fast pace. Looking for other raised hands, like any hand at all, that he can stand next to while he waits for C.B. to answer.
Isolde moves across the room in those heels effortlessly and her powerful Mantle is all riled up by the time she’s arrived at the table of the unknowns. But she’s wearing a positively dazzling smile, but then questions are being asked and the Doctor isn’t going to be an asshole and completely break up the Q&A part of the reading. She does move around to where the old Grouchy Hunchback is though, “Good evening. I senses some fuckery over here.” she states to him in a whisper. Her bright eyes shining.
Kiril's gaze cuts sideways to Haruki, and he nods. Still expressionless. He reaches down to scruffle the dog's ruff, and as if right on cue, Beren turns towards the door and tugs that way a little, as if he needed to go out. Another murmur to Haruki, and then Kiril's rising.
Franklyn nods as Isolde whispers something to her, "Of course, of course..." She replies -- and then promptly goes into quiet mode. Seriously. Franklyn? Is.. Well she isn't exactly dissociating, because there's something in her eye that suggests she's paying attention to her surroundings - but the Mortal girl is not engaging, nope. She's standing there, stock still save for the occasion tilt of her hand, so she can drink and... Be fine. Everything is okay.
Haruki whispers quietly to Kiril. He frowns deeply as Leitha asks her question. His gaze darting to CB. He waves his hand in the air. He's got a question too. "CB, is there a love triangle? Do Dee and Carl and Andy all get together? Who would be your ideal cast to play them?"
Waved to, and gestured over? Mina slides out from around the bar. Quiet footsteps bring her to the table, and there's a quiet, "Haruki, it's good to see you, again." Soft words, genuine words. Even if they still drip with spring honey, and wrap about with greedy, attention-grabbing tendrils. She can't help it, really. "Puppy," she greets to the dog as well. All dogs are good dogs. But her attention lifts when Leitha asks her question. Brows going up, in surprise. Looking up to C.B., to check on him briefly.
After Haruki's question, it takes probably all C.B. has in him to not do a literal facepalm. That sardonic expression steals back onto his face instead, although he's still looking mighty pale. There's an exaggerated sound as he sighs through his nostrils and into the mic. "No, Haruki." Exaggerated patience in his tone. "There is not a love triangle. And most of the actors I like are dead. Next!" He catches a glimpse of Mina looking his way and attempts a little smile, though he maybe hasn't quite recovered from...whatever that was.
That reaction has attracted attention from the other journalists in the room, too, who all seem to be writing busily. Over by the money jar, Mason looks nonplussed. "That's too big," he tells someone trying to pay with a hundred. But the jar is full of smaller bills? Mason...
The cop is just noise maybe, but the cop has more cops outside, and this shitty Autumn Darkling chick is verbally throwing hands, and the cop's gonna be on anything that happens like white on rice. So instead Edmond just smiles quickly and tightly at Ardis, then glides silently over the few tables to put fingertips lightly on Haruki's shoulder and whisper something to him.
Haruki murmurs something oh so quietly to Mina and Kiril. He's a bit on edge, a bit distracted though, and still on his feet. And there's CB answering his question. "No? Yeah probably best not to have dead people playing the parts. That'd be weird and unsexy. Do you think they'll add one for the movies? Maybe they'll get Jennifer Lawrence to play Dee."
Leitha's persistent smile remains: the disbelieving laughter of Brynach cannot stop her, neither will C.B's ref-faced disinterest. Looks like the Darkling has an iron will or something. There is a titter of laughter, pen still moving across the page of her notebook as she continues speaking; "You wound me, Mister Alexander - eh-ehm, it is not gossip, that is /fact/. I only deal in absolutes, and I am, eh-hem, absolutely sure both you and your mother were held for quite a substantial time at eh-ehm, gunpoint. Most unfortunate. Again, could you expand on how your own lived experience has impacted the tension between D and Ante, please?" So smiley. So girlish. So not backing down or looking away from C.B.
Meanwhile... The Hunched Wizened is looking like he wants to melt into the woodwork and-- well... Who cares about him, right? He's just some greasy haired kid in a yellow shirt with some dead guy on the front. Only since Leitha is Entirely Ignoring poor Isolde, it's up to him to communicate. The crumpled notebook is released, and he hastily scrawls something on it, and holds it up for Isolde to read. Hunched Wizened Boy rolls his eyes, and sighs without making a /single/ sound. The note book reads: "Welcome to hell."
Mina's brows are furrowed, hard. So hard. There's whispering, as she slides into a chair next to Haruki.
The Winter and his dog are slipping out - ostensibly because Beren needs to find a fire hydrant and read the dog news, but.....well, their sixth sense for trouble is pinging, and Kiril doesn't intend to be there when it happens.
Isolde frowns at what’s written there, “That’s comforting. Why is she taking notes on Mister Alexander and the people in the crowd? And why is she asking such personal questions?” she asks. "This isn't something that needs to be done here." she states.
"Excuse me," Haruki says to Leitha. "You had your question. It's my turn now. I want to know if Carl and Dee get together. If Andy breaks them up. If it's a happy ending. If the power of their love shows the truth of the lies in Utopia and they burn it all to the ground. And it's important to know how hot they are. It's obvious that Carl likes and admires Dee from the whole description stuff. I just want to know if it amounts to more. Or is it like queerbaiting and they end up with some pretty girls instead? Or dead." He nods at the two at his table but doesn't say anything.
C.B. sighs again. "Haruki. D is a /guy/. Were you paying any attention at all? I -- " But Leitha is talking again, and C.B. tries to cut her off, pulling on the mic so hard that there's some feedback. "Listen, lady, this so-called 'fact' isn't something /I've/ ever given an interview about. You must have me confused with some other misanthropic author. But, you know what? I'll answer your question, this little fantasy of yours aside." He makes a frantic, angry gesture with both hands. "I understand -all too well- the tension one has with a person in a position of authority, whether that's looking up to an authority figure, as in D's case, or in thumbing one's nose at them, as is frequently my own lot." Yes, he looks right at the cop when he says that. But he swallows hard for some reason. He almost looks /relieved/ when Haruki keeps asking questions although...less so when he hears what they are. "You're going to need to read the book to find out, Haruki. There are no love triangles. I'm not saying there aren't relationships, but love triangles are a bit Why-Ay for me." He didn't hear Haruki's comment to that effect earlier, which is a good thing. He's beginning to look agitated, which is /never/ a good thing.
When C.B. looks at the cop, he just nods. Then he turns his head to glare down the CAT-22 worker/owner standing nearest to him: a girl with an undercut and most of her visible skin covered in tattoos. She rolls her eyes and walks back to the kitchen.
"Are there plans to release an audio version?" Haruki asks. "For people who can't read for whatever reason. That would make it more accessible. Although with the length of the book that might be challenging." He smiles. "I think love triangles are silly anyway. They never resolve the right way. It's always pick one and life's always more nuanced than that. Sometimes it should be pick none, or both, or just not. Anyway thank you for reading some of it. And okay, no spoilers. I get that." He takes a seat and murmurs something to his table.
Mina takes her turn, to rise up from her chair. She doesn't wait for there to be a mic, or a nod, or anything to say it's her turn to speak. No. She's Fairest. She's a Succubus. And even those that can't see her Mien, they can hear that /voice/. "Mister Alexander," the ginger purrs out. "Mina Grey. Long time reader, if only because it took me so long to get through your body of work in the short time that I've been aware of it." She smiles, she dips her head. And then she looks back up to the author. "I was wondering, as I've just been told that I'm the last question of the night - " By who? Does it matter? - "What you hope, at the very core, your readers come away with in this latest novel?"
That voice makes Brynach look a little pink, before he takes the mic back and starts to head toward the stage, clearly doing his best not to stare too obviously at Mina. "Thank you," he says, "er, Miss... Grey... Very... Topical question. Yes."
The Hunched Wizened merely nods his head in possible agreement with Isolde, and sighs without making a single sound. His eyes, like Leitha's, are almost entirely grey-black. Ears? Pointed; although that may just be a Wizened thing... But what's up with the oppressive vibe the two of them give off? Like they're /watching/. It's easy to assume at first it's an aspect of Leitha's Autumn Mantle, but... Maybe it's something else. The Hunched Wizened holds a finger up, as if to keep Isolde on pause post-question, and starts to scribble in his notebook - sighing silently again. So hard done by, this Wizened.
Meanwhile, Leitha's smiling still and looking at Haruki as if he were a particularly adorable insect. No response, no reply - she merely waits for the Magician to say his part, watching him with those huge eyes of hers, before turning her attention back to C.B., smile... Fixed. Unwavering. So pleasant. Ignore the feeling of being Watched and the rustling of paper in Autumnal winds, as the Darkling persists, once the Author has said his bit, "Oh Mister Alexander; I assure you, my eh-ehm, intention is not to imprison you with questions - but do not lie to me. It is not fantasy, but fact - you may choose to delude yourself, but you cannot delude the truth. Don't you want to... To, eh-ehm, preserve..." The Darkling fades off... What was she doing? She's smiling, that's what. Never mind the fact Mina is speaking.
The Hunched Wizened finishes scribbing, and holds the note up to Isolde any whoever else may catch a glimpse: "Do you hear the echo in here?"
What's up with the atmosphere in here? Franklyn has slunk off to the side -- countenance clouded, half-hidden behind the wine glass which has been sipped to near emptiness. Odd, that her expression would seem the same. Where's the gregarious Mortal gone to? Seems like she may have partially checked out - shoulders hunched as she witnesses the Wyrd happenings going on around her.
Isolde looks to the notebook and then looks to Leitha as she speaks again and for a moment the Spring looks like she might punch her right in the throat. Then she looks back to the Wizened. There’s a frown, “What Echo?” she asks him.
"Yes, Haruki. I'm told there will be an audio version." C.B. half-smiles. "It's also to be published in multiple languages, and I can /assure/ you those translations will be top-notch." Mina starts in with her question next, and did his cheeks just flush a little bit more? He brushes some hair out of his eyes, staring at her. He sighs and nods slowly. "Uh, interesting question, Mina. As always, I hope readers come away thinking, asking questions. /Why/ does one think certain things are good, while judging other things as bad? How deep are you willing to peel back layers to find the truth, and what if the truth actually means nothing? In lieu of all that...at least it's better than diddling on your smartphone, or whatever other electronic distraction most people are lost in." The half-smile kicks up a notch.
But ah. Shit. Even with Mina's Siren Song, which is /hopefully/ catching the attention of, say, the press...C.B.'s eyes are drawn back to Leitha. Problem with him is he's no good at ignoring a, well. Instigator. "I'm just a writer. There's no truth in my books, only words." He pauses and bows his head a little. "Thank you." And he's done. There's applause as he steps down off the stage, and while he isn't being thronged per se, there are a few people crowding the stage to get a word with him.
Edmond gets up very slowly while Mina's speaking, glancing distractedly down at Haruki, and when Mina stops, he grabs Kiril's abandoned drink and then leans down to Haruki to whisper one more thing-- then, silently and altogether too quickly, wends his way across to the aggravating question woman while Brynach_____________ is talking to Mina. He is stealth, he is grace, he is quick, he is lithe, it should be impossible for him to trip-- and yet.
The abandoned and repurposed drink's contents go FLyINgGgGG at Leitha, ice cubes and all, going for face and clothes and especially notebook, and the Summer boy-- he looks all of nineteen-- crashes into a chair just shy of her. "Ow," he complains from the floor, like it was an actual accident.
Mina gives C.B. an absolutely brilliant smile, and those around her might catch the whiff of foxglove in bloom on the air, the scent of a promised rain. She listens as he gives his answer, nodding along with it. "Indeed it is, Mister Alexander," she muses at the end of it. "An excellent question to ponder for any..." And then there's the commotion of Edmond. "Oh, my," she exhales, a hand going to her chest. Surprised? Genuinely. But then she's flitting right over towards that small crowd at the end of the stage.
When Edmond goes down, Mason steps out from the table with the books for purchase. "Hey, man..." he says. "You okay?" He's coming over to try and help the man up. Mason bends down to take one of Edmond's arms and tug. "Slippery in here, huh? Are you hungry? The peaches are gross, but the sliders are pretty good."
From the stage, Brynach says, flustered and still very pink, looking from C.B. to Mina to the spill in the middle of the room to the cop... who's called in another cop or two... to the journalists, who look more and more like they're glad they came out tonight, "Er, that is, the evening is... At an end, please... Let's move along. There are no more questions. And the, ah, the bar is closing!"
C.B. is chatting with a few people, but he's trying to make his way through them to get to the signing table, which is his final stop for the evening (besides the bar, one assumes). Mina can probably catch him on the way there, if she's trying to. Some of the press are trying to get snippets from him. A few people are filtering out or grabbing one more nosh or drink or heading to the bar for last call, while others are lining up to get books signed. C.B.'s head whips over when he sees Edmond go down and he frowns, still looking faintly disturbed -- as he has ever since Leitha's first question, really. He also glances around like he's looking for someone -- probably Franklyn. Wherever did the mortal girl run off to?
"Eh-ehm, I have difficulty accepting that as gospel, Mister Alexander. Perhaps--" Her book. Leitha's beautiful, perfect, wonderful book -- and her clothes! As Edmond 'trips' and 'spills' his repurposed drink - ice cubs and all! - over the Grey Darkling, the Autumn goes still -- entirely still. Liquid drips down her face, mussing up her hair, splattering her glasses, staining those perfect grey clothes of hers...
...and Leitha starts t become a little less perfect. Or a little more perfect? Where the liquid has hit her, colour starts to bloom -- her hair is turning red, her sallow skin taking on a glow; the Darkling's features are morphing, shifting, turning fine and delicate and painfully, awfully beautiful and-- and at the same moment, her clothes are decaying, darkening, patches of darkness moving across them as filth and blood start to ooze through the seams, dripping and pooling around her.
Leitha turns to Edmond, expression still the same gentle smile as she starts walking slowly in his direction. "It seems, you fouled my memories. It disgraces, everyone? Repent." And it's the damnedest thing? The Autumn Darkling - if that is what she is - is... Fucking terrifying. Even if she seems to be moving jerkily, uncertainly.
...Meanwhile, the Hunched Wizened has given Isolde a serious, sad, somber frown and covered his face with one hand, shaking the notebook in the air. Do you hear the echo in here?
Haruki rises to his feet as Edmond tumbles. And then there's... no don't look at the monstrous image of terror, no. He looks away, and then he makes a dash, smashing the fire alarm, and flipping the lights off at the same time. CHAOS!
The cop drops everything to chase after Haruki. "Hey! Come back here!" He's running into people in the dark, knocking over vegetarian food and books everywhere. "It's a crime to interfere with a fire alarm!"
Franklyn? Yeah Franklyn's kind of checked out -- she doesn't seem bored, she seems to be brooding; staring into an empty wine glass over yonder, away from the fray of temperamental faeries. Mortal girl lost in her own little world - arms hugged around herself, paying attention absolutely nothing. Perhaps she had a touch too much wine.
Edmond starts to take Mason's hand up and answer his question when Leitha... changes. He freezes.
He freezes, heart in his throat, mind already starting to take a vacation; Mason can feel his hand shaking uncontrollably in that grip, and getting cold and clammy, and his face-- his face is a mask of pure animal fear. He swallows convulsively, and then forgets how, and his jaw works, and he just--
He just stays there, on the floor, helpless in front of that thing. And she's getting closer, and he's too afraid to move, and she's going to get it on him, she's going to-- (what fire alarm? what cafe? Edmond isn't here right now, please leave a message.)
Mina does, indeed, seem to be moving to catch up with C.B.. The Fairest gets to him about the time that he's near the signing table, and brings fingers gently around his upper arm. She seems about to say something - but then there's....EVERYTHING. Her breath comes in a sharp gasp as the Autumn shows that fearsome face, and again, more so, when the lights go out and the alarm goes off. "Time to call it a night, I think," she whispers to him. "Go, get Franklyn. I'll try to help with the crowd control.
Isolde gives a look to the now coming apart Autumn Darkling and suddenly the Hunched one is the least of her problems. She gives him a shake of her head, “No. No Echo that I can hear. Excuse me. Your friend has overstayed her welcome.” she tells her. Then she turns to head after Leitha...AND THE LIGHTS GO OUT.
WHOSE GREAT IDEA WHAT THAT?! She's right behind the woman though, so hey, that's a bonus. Isolde wasn't sure grabbing the unraveling monstrosity was a /good/ idea. But hey. What are Doctors for.
When the lights go out and the alarm starts blaring, someone screams. Someone who definitely isn't Mason! No way. He would not do that. Mason does, however, drop his grip on Edmond and run as far from that... Whatever the hell it is... Source of darkness that's making the hairs stand up on the back of his neck... as he can, as fast as he can. He knocks over a couple chairs on his way and runs straight into CB.
What. The actual. Fuck.
Poor C.B. He's just -- standing there, halfway to the signing table, when all hell breaks loose. Not only that, but...
Fire alarm being tripped inevitably means the sprinklers come on. So. Everyone's about to get soaked, on top of everything else.
C.B. just stands there, staring miserably up at the water. Letting it drip down into his face. He startles when Mina touches his arm and sighs, bobbing his head. Squeezes her arm back. "Thanks." Before Frank, though, he heads to the books. The precious books. Not only his own, but the info shop -- he tries to help Mason and some of the others protect them from damage while Xa, the cook in the back, wrangles the alarm and gets it OFF. That means the sprinklers are going to turn off, too. Thank the gods.
It's dark! There's police. There's a fire alarm blaring and someone quivering in terror on the floor, and Haruki is saying, "I saw fire... fire... IT'S ON FIRE! Can't you smell the smoke?" ANd he was going to try and stealth his way away from the police but instead he trips, and crashes and is not stealthy at all. But yeah best to keep away from the police.
Why would anyone be crying? Franklyn's not crying. Newp. She literally has not moved from her spot -- or... Has she? It's dark in here, damnit! And she's wearing /velvet/! And... And who knows. Franky was lurking over that-a-way. Is she still there? Maybe.
Oh there she is! Lights back on! Franky is... Damp, blinking, and looking entirely confused.
Haruki blinks as the lights go on, and he should probably... Franklyn! He darts over to where she is. "Franklyn? Franklyn?" his voice soft though. Don't look at the monsters.
When the... THING... starts to happen in the middle of the room, the chill and hush draw Ardis's attention straightaway. What she sees makes the color drain completely out of her face. Her black eyes grow wider, wider, wider... Her hand opens, and the wine glass that she was holding falls to the floor, where it shatters. The noise sounds louder than it has any right to-- almost like an explosion. Then she's backing away, trembling, away from the stage, behind the bar and toward the door to the kitchen. She's gone before the lights turn out, and when they come back on again, there's no sign of her.
"Any time," Mina offers to C.B., trying to keep her tone light. "And remember. Long ago, I was promised an autographed, personalized copy." She juts her chin towards the books, as she's sprinkled upon. Turning her face up towards the water, before the lights come back on. And then she's speaking, loudly, again. Well. Not loudly-loudly, but, "Thank you everyone for coming. It's been quite the night." Shoo, shoo.
The journalists and police officers get kind of a dazed look after that. Wow. It sure _has_ been quite the night, hasn't it? Don't they have, like... Families to get to, or dinner to eat, or something? One by one, they start to file toward the exit.
Meanwhile, Brynach_________ has somehow ended up in the light structure over the stage, which he's holding onto for dear life. After Mina says that, though, he seems to come back to himself. He blinks furiously, turns bright red, and then starts to crawl back to earth.
Hey. Where did the Hunched Wizened go? Don't worry about it. He's not the important thing here, right?
Leitha is here, though -- only what's the big deal? Lights back on, she's just some Grey Darkling in a terribly stained dress, clutching onto a wet notebook, trying to shake it dry. "Eh-ehm, what awful manners - I cannot believe it..." See? She's acting like Nothing Happened, as she turns and looks at Edmond with a tisk-tisk. "You sully memories, you sully yourself."
So Judgemental! The Darkling turns and looks to Isolde, her big, wide, huge black-grey eyes so hurt. "Sullied." She clarifies, shaking her head.
It's just supposed to be a quiet book reading, from Fort Brunsett's most iconoclastic Author, here at the worker run/owned Cat-22 Cafe.
Only... It's pretty close to pandemonium in here. Firstly? Everything is soaked in a fresh spay of fire sprinkler water. Books, buffet table, audience, press junket, -everything-.
Over by the side of the stage, there seems to be a fracas: some woman in grey wit huge cats eye glasses is currently standing above an Edmond who is writhing on the floor, a gaggle of people around them, including one very irked seeming Isolde. Seems that the skinny, bookish women in grey -- Leitha Kane, Inquisitive Darkling -- has made some kind of social faux pas, and the results are...
"Ben?" Who? Franklyn seems to have found her voice - from over yonder, far, far out of the sphere of influence of all those agitated faeries. The Mortal girl finally remembers how to move, putting her empty-save-for-sprinkler-water wine glass down, hands free to haul her bag over her shoulder and put her hands to the side of her head. Why does she feel so -weird-?! The Mortal girl looks left and right, then her brow knits. "Haruki?..." She's moving - trying to get past some of the audience, so she can head... Where is she heading? The back room? /Away/ from the faerie showdown over yonder.
Edmond's still on the floor, and quite soaked now, but he's finally moving-- and still not paying attention to literally anything actually going on-- because 'moving' actually basically equates to 'he has begun to tear at his clothing and his skin with his hands like someone threw acid on him and stole his voice'. In a few days he's going to be complaining about disproportionate responses, maybe. Or maybe just never speaking of this again. Perhaps someone would like to move him before he actually tears his clothes off.
Isolde’s had enough of the notes being waved at her and the Darkling being bleeding and dripping across the floor. The word sullied that gets bantered in her face makes her eyes squint for a moment and then she gives the woman a smile, “Oh my sweet summer child.” she coos to her. “It looks like you need some help leaving. Let me help you.” she states. Then Isolde, Fairest that she is, picks Leitha up like a Princess, whether she likes it or not and strolls dutifully for the doors, “She’s had way too much to drink this evening officers. We should really call her an Uber. Could one of you be a darling for me?” she asks. Obviously her hands are full and she can’t get her phone.
"He's okay," Haruki says to Franklyn. He'll accompany her, if she lets him. Away seems good about now. "I'm sure he'll come find you shortly. Once he's done with his work." He helps as best as he can with the escaping through the crowd.
What did Elliot do tonight? Well, she spent some time standing in front of her bathroom mirror, giving herself a pep talk. "You can get a job. You /will/ get a job." She has one already but she needs another one. Maybe two more. She needs the extra cheddar. So she put on her best smile and made sure her threadbare clothes were as crease-free as possible and hit the road. She filled out some applications here and there -- a convenience store, a gas station, a couple of restaurants.
And now she's here.
She just stands in the doorway, kind of blinking at the scene before her. When Isolde comes toward her, she steps out of the way so she can carry her .. girlfriend? .. out of the establishment unimpeded. Well. Um. Huh.
C.B. manages a smirk at Mina, giving her a jaunty little salute before she heads off to use her sirenly gifts on the crowd. It's working: most of them are filtering out. C.B. was busy trying to save books, and thankfully, the water's off now, but...
C.B. turns around, eyes glassy, and takes a step forward. Looks at everyone doing...everything. His face goes pale, than flushes red. The cops are out of here now, right? That's a good thing, because C.B. Alexander starts yelling:
"WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?! I STAYED RELATIVELY SOBER FOR THIS, AND THIS IS WHAT YOU REPAY ME WITH? NOBODY IN THIS TOWN RESPECTS FUCKING LITERATURE. I KNEW IT WAS A GODDAMN MISTAKE TO DO MY FIRST READING HERE. I HOPE YOU ALL SLIP ON THE WATER AND BREAK YOUR GODDAMN NECKS!"
Sparks begin to fly...
...and then putter out. Apparently, C.B.'s done with his relatively brief tantrum -- well, done after he kicks a chair so hard he breaks a leg off of it.
Leitha Kane - Inquisitive Darkling and Eternal Echo of Questionable Clarity - makes nary a peep as Isolde speaks to her: instead, those huge grey-black eyes of hers merely widen, and her mouth drops open as the Fairest just picks her up like she was a sack of very damp potatoes. Boop! Does the Darkling fight?...
...No. No the Darkling does not fight: Leitha Observes -- her head tiling this way and that, eyes unblinking as she watches Isolde, then turns to look at the crowd: the hysterical Edmond, the resolved Mina, the gaggle of confused journalists and dazed cops and poor ol' Brynach_________ over there in the rigging -- then C.B. Alexander himself.
Screaming. Ranting. Sparking. Puttering out. Breaking the collective's property.
As Leitha observes, watches, documents, perceives and commits to memory absolute everything around her... Well, the Darkling just starts to smile. Let Isolde carry her away. Leitha's got all she needed.
...Wait. Where did her Wizened companion go, though? No matter!
Mina, dutiful friend, Cat-22 worker/owner, continues to oh so sweetly try and get the crowd out. Those that know C.B., or are Lost and not on her very elegantly written shit-list? They're not bothered with so much. She winces as C.B. yells, but then? She's lingering towards the door. Wet, tired. And then Isolde is hauling Leitha over shoulder and out the cafe. Well. That's a way to end the night. She glances about, checking on the others, before starting to slip out, herself.
Isolde deposits Leitha on her feet outside the doors. “There. You’re not hurt and your clothing will dry. I don’t know the gentleman who dropped his drink on you.” she states. “If you want a signed copy of Mister Alexander’s book I will go get you one, but you were being very upsetting to him and that’s not very nice on someone's opening night.” she explains to her. Just like a doctor would a patient. Then she hears C.B. EXPLODE inside, "Maybe it's better to not go back in there tonight, Miss Kane." she tells her. Just in case she was thinking of going back in. Then she turns to head back in, to find Franklyn.
"No. No Haruki, I'm not going to leave without making sure he's sorted." Franklyn says quietly; not at all strange or enmeshed or willing to remain in harms way for whatever ridiculous reasons. "I think we should wait, let's just--"
Franklyn stops her chatter, because C.B. is, ah, making it very apparently where is he. Franky blinks, and turns, and looks at Haruki. There is a pause, in which the Mortal girl looks sheepish and uncertain and more than a touch sad for whatever reason, eyes darting to the side before she looks back at the Magician and murmurs; "...I know where the whiskey is, in the writer's nook. Can you go check it out? We'll go there in a second, let me just?..." And she's heading to go fetch C.B., all... Damp and serious.
Haruki disappears off to hunt for the whiskey.
Edmond... finally. Finally calms down. And. No one's looking at him. So he -- tries, kind of awkwardly and not well, to stealth-leave before anyone actually notices he's still here.
Cat-22's designated cleanup crew for the evening will take care of most of the stuff. C.B., meanwhile, kicks the broken chair again and then heads back to the books to try and dry the ones there as best he can. Mostly on his clothes.
If Franky or anyone else is looking for him? That's where they'll find him. Muttering to himself, red-cheeked, crazy-eyed, and wiping his books on his blazer.
And if Elliot wants a job? Well she can probably got one. But does she still want one...
Franklyn finds C.B., sure -- she also finds some tea towels behind the bar (reusable! clean! organic! recycled!) and a clean, empty dish tray, and after some dallying she carries them onwards. There. Silently, she hands a tea towel over to the Author, and starts picking up damp books. Dry the cover, dry the spine, press closed, place in the tray. There. Done.
She'll do that for a while - oblivious to the audience as they petter out, and to the poor mortal Elliot who has stumbled in to this madhouse. Finally she turns to C.B., and comments quietly: "...Now these are all super limited edition." Is that a smile? A very small one!