(2018-04-03) Family Ties - Chapter One
Family Ties - Chapter One
Summary: The death of a former client is more than it appears.
Date: 2018-04-03
Related: None
Player Characters: Denver, Eddie, Ida

----—-| Ocean View Cemetery - Airport

The fifty-four acre expanse of the cemetery is just that: expansive. Bordered by the everpresent pines of the Pacific Northwest, the graveyard is a gentle hill of tombstones and other assorted plaques purporting the deceased in question to be either "devoted" or "beloved" in most occurances. Here and there lurk small groves of deciduous madronas and willows, both creepy enough in their own right to be planted in such a place to overlook the bodies.

The ocean view commences upon the rise, a flattening out of terrain towards the nearby shoreline, the northern vista of British Columbia there for the dead to appreciate if they find it worth the bother. While the actual mortuary lies about a mile east down West 18th Street, a chapel sits on the east side of the premises for tear-jerking services before the new stiffs are lowered into the ground or sealed into a box on the back wall of the structure.

Buried in the western treeline is an antiquated caretaker's cottage.

It's a beautiful day for a funeral. Just past dinner time, traffic is a murder waiting to happen, and Eddie got a case! A few years ago a beautiful young wife (Mona Greenwoode-Smythe) hired him to find out where her elderly husband was spending so much time outside of home and work. The sleuth found out, but instead of divorce the wealthy December-May couple opted for settling things the modern way: couples therapy. Life has a sick sense of humor however, and on March 30th the beautiful, healthy young wife had a fateful fall down the stairs while polishing the bannisters. Her lemon wax scented braindead body was declared an official lost cause and her death certificate signed on April 1st. Detective Brundle has been invited to the cas— er, funeral.

It's quite the turn out, despite it being just a bit over 48 hours since she died. It seems the couple had been quite prepared for the elderly husband to reach the end of his rope soon, so even though its his better half going into the ground, the wheels churned quickly into motion. Mr. Greenwoode-Smythe is of Boston elite origins *and* has Hollywood connections, and it feels like the whole uppercrust east coast came to pay their respects, mingling with a fair smattering of California movie nobility. There's paparazzi too, so even Eddie's powder blue coat doesn't stand out too badly.

Eddie felt a little weird about coming here, which might account for his bringing company. He doesn't actually remember anything about the couple or their case, owing to all the amnesia going around, and it took some pretty frantic digging through his office to unearth their file. He nearly begged off and sent a card, until he did some thinking on who was likely to show up, and how many of them could probably use a skilled private investigator for similar purposes. He did just get his replacement cards, after all. Still, though he's outwardly solemn and composed, he's a little self-conscious, especially with all the cameras around. He's waiting in line to shake hands and pass his condolences along to the grieving widower, when one of those New England voices pipes up from somewhere behind him. "Say, what happened to your arm?"

"I fell down-" he catches himself before he can say 'the stairs', but just barely, and he looks from side to side in a panic for some kind of rescue.

"Ice skating. Trying to impress his lady-friend over there." Don't ask Denver to help, she will only bury you deeper! Her chin gestures towards Ida, as if looking at the woman would offer enough explanation that she could get any man into a pair of ice skates. Because, well, look at her! Here's hoping a funeral doesn't turn into a need for muscle, but she's here just in case it does. Rich people and their bodyguards means Eddie should have a bodygaurd too. Atleast while his arm is healing. She's at least dressed for the moment in a pair of black slacks, flats, and a black silk button down with a long coat over it.

"Ice skating while investigating a case," Ida steps in smoothly with a smile to the curious young lady looking at Eddie. "He is a private eye and, well. It is a dangerous job." She too is dressed for a funeral, her usual grey outfit changed for one in midnight blues and blacks. She widens her eyes dramatically, shaking her head in a little 'you don't want to know' gesture. Unseen by the human, her new trio of simple eyes disturbingly widen as well before going back to normal. "Mr. Brundle helped Mr. Greenwoode-Smythe research a script for a private eye show back in the day." She lies almost as smooth as the velvet rug beneath the waiting casket. It is open, the corpse inside looks like she's sleeping, more velvet around and below her. The coffin is a fantastic handwrought creation of blackened rustproof bronze and gilded details, with that velvet carpet and lining as white as snow. Apparently Mona favored yellow and dark red roses, and she is holding a pair of them against her cold chest, with massive bouquets, wreaths and garlands of those same flowers decorating the chest and most of the rest of the cemetery. The air is faintly perfumed from all the blossoms.

Eddie fixes his face into an appropriately embarrassed smile, nodding first toward Denver and then toward Ida. The embarrassment part is genuine enough, anyway, and he even manages to keep it up through that wet New England chortle these people always have until he turns back around. "I'll have you know," he whispers in an affronted tone to Denver once they're moving forward again, "I never fall down on ice skates." A point of pride that even Ida never heard about. As they move through the procession his eyes keep drifting across the crowd, particularly the Hollywood contingent, like he's looking for somebody he doesn't want to see. "He would have called," he reminds himself in a mutter.

Hands shoved into her pockets, Denver moves along behind the pair, careful to keep a smile from her face when Eddie leans in. Not the best place to laugh, probably. "I believe that, one thousand percent." There's no hint of mockery in her tone, apparently it's just so weird that she does believe it. "I, on the other hand, would likely slice a limb off just for trying." Dexterity is not her jam, after all. Her eyes linger on the casket for a long moment before she leans back towards Ida and Eddie, careful to keep her voice so low that only they can hear it. "They're sure it was an accident?"

Ida shakes her head, her new antennae flickering slightly. "Official cause of death was her heart. Apparently she had recently had some…" She pauses to smile and exchange some placid pleasantries with an elderly lady who is just a smidge too enthused about funerals, then Ida continues in an equally low voice, "She recently had some fainting spells, and seemed generally nervous, low appetite. She became obsessive about cleaning." Her eyes flicker as the trio are getting closer to the official handshake moment.

But then the widower breaks down in tears. He seems shrunken in his big suit, and broken words about how it should have been him and why did this happen can be heard before some family members leads him to the side. The crowd murmurs. Some paparazzi are taking pictures. And to the Lost, the perfume of roses blends with the fresh, raw Sorrow rolling through the air. The priest steps forwards, keeping the line moving. No handshakes. Instead flowers are given out, to throw at the casket. Yellow roses, red roses.

Whatever reaction Eddie has to that rush of glamour, he keeps it carefully bottled up. At least, he keeps it off his face and out of his body language, there's nothing he can do about the short and sudden breeze that blows in, too chill for the weather they've been having. He takes a red rose and shakes his head at Denver. "They are," he says, in that same low voice they're all using, "for the sake of the papers, anyway. I'm not sure of anything, but so far nobody's paying me to be." He studies that fancy casket, and the body within it, and he sighs with genuine regret. "Wish I could remember more. Wasn't much to go on, in the file."

He steps forward when it's his turn, and places the rose inside the coffin, and steps away at the most rapid respectable pace so that he doesn't start checking the body for any suspicious punctures.

"I don't know how you do it, Eddie. With a brain that works like yours I'd want to investigate everything, paid or not. I'd never get anything done because I'd be so busy looking into everything." It's why she'd make a terrible PI. Some people just aren't cut out for that sort of thing. Her eyes move to Ida for a moment, frowning as she considers the woman's mention of how suspicious things were leading up to the woman's death. She picks up one of the roses and lowers it onto the body with a headbob of respect. Then she's keeps moving on to keep peace with the others. She can't her gaze from flickering around, keeping an eye on the crowd, now suspicious of all of them.

Is the dead lady a bit thinner than she ought to be? Hard to tell, with dead bodies. But with Eddie's study, certainly he can see that even the fanciest of funeral homes can only do so much: the corpse's hands are arranged in a somewhat unnatural way, that and the flowers used to try and hide the fact that most of her nails are bitten off. Not a sudden act of violence, but well past the old saying about biting them down to the quick: these have been reduced to only mere vestiges, a gradual removal that must have taken years. It makes her hands look unfinished, her fingers stumpy and too round seeming. It clashes badly with the rich socialite looks. Ida adds a yellow rose to the growing mound of petals and leaves (the thorns, of course, were removed long before they made it to the cemetery). She then follows with the two others, keeping up with the rapid-yet-polite pace. There are murmured mentions of a gathering that will be held after the funeral at the Greenwoode-Smythe Port Angeles home. Apparently there will be food served. Eddie and company get an invite by a passing family member, on his way to help offer support to the widower. People are otherwise starting to leave the premises. There's plenty of suspicious looking individuals in the crowd. Too many smiling faces, but then there are so many who are clearly here as just a PR thing.

Sometimes, it's not what is there that is suspicious. Sometimes, it is what is missing. Or someone, in this case. You (Eddie) have this gnawing sensation that someone should definitely be here, but you did not see them. Someone. A man. Family member. Brother? No. A son. Didn't these two have a son? In fact, didn't they have two sons? You have a vague memory of a smiling freckled face and a coldly handsome one. The older was off in college when you were investigating the family. The younger was in an east coast fancy private boarding school. They both had those stupid east coast socialite names, the male version of Bunny/Binky/Bitsy… What were their names? Bancroft? Alston? Chip? Something stupid and rich sounding, both of them.

"You've never watched me work. Maybe I'm not a very good detective," Eddie offers distractedly. His mind is still back there in the coffin. Of course he noticed the fingernails. Of course the story bothers him. He does a pretty good job of looking like the right kind of troubled for a funeral, but to the two people here who actually know him there's a clear sense of frustration in his carriage. He leads his little group away from the rest of the crowd, pausing a couple of times when cornered to exchange banalities about the lovely service, to somewhere they can talk a little louder and he can get a better look at people as they leave. He studies the faces one by one, looking for somebody, and trying to remember something. "Bertie, maybe," he mutters, then shakes his head. "Hell. You guys up for finger sandwiches?"

"If anyone smiles at my funeral the way these people are smiling, I want you to stab them in the junk," Denver tells Ida with a nod. "So disrespectful." A couple of them get long, intimidating glares, hoping to wipe the smiles off of their faces. "From what little I've seen of what you've gathered for our current situation, I would say you're one of the better detectives out there. Not a lot of people out there could piece together so much information after having lost everything they way you have." Memory wise, but she won't say that part out loud. She follows the pair, eyes lighting up a little bit at the mention of food. "Yeah."

"That sounds lovely, darling," Ida inclines her head, watching Eddie watching the crowd before nudging Denver a little. "Pretend you are relaxed. I rather doubt the dearly departed nor her family actually knew most of these people. In a way they are being quite honest: I would rather see smiling strangers than ones that pretend to be grieving over someone they did not know." She thins her lips in a show of distaste as a woman dressed in a mostly sheer technically black outfit that would be more appropriate in a boudoir than at an actual funeral sobs (her face strangely dry) over 'poor dead Maw-nah' and how she had known something was wrong when 'Maw-nah' didn't come to her last dinner party. It is very loud. It is attracting more and more attention, much to the fake sobber's poorly hidden joy. The six foot tall Fairest uses her height and her own distracting looks to get herself and the other two out and away from the crowd further. "The wrong kind of scavengers are here, time to go."

Eddie can't help puffing up a little at Denver's appreciation for his skills as a detective. It's one of his few genuine points of pride, aside for iceskating, apparently. "Earnest, isn't she?" he asks Ida with a little crooked smile, more to deflate himself than the ogre. He fishes out his car keys and hands them without comment to the Fairest as they exit the cemetary gates. Apparently she's driving. He spends the ride staring absently out the window, occasionally trying out a new name for whoever it is he's been trying to remember. "Shed?" he asks asks himself, then makes a disgusted noise. That's not a name. "Shack? Shack." He snaps his fingers. "Shackleford. Christ, these people and their names. No wonder they turn out that way."

"Park around the corner when we get there, so they don't see the car. We wouldn't want to scandalize anybody."

"I would much rather have a small funeral with only three people who actually care that I'm gone than a funeral with tons of people who don't even know me." Denver informs Ida with a slight huff as she's ushered out of the area. It's probably for the best. Short-tempered ogres and manipulative brats like the sheer-dressed woman are not a good combination. Denver didn't even know the woman in the casket, but she's still getting all upset for her.

She stays in the back seat of the car as they drive up, arm propped against the window as she stares out. "I don't say shit I don't mean," she tells Eddie when he calls her earnest. "There are two things I'm really really bad at; lying and sneaking."

"Oh, I don't know," Eddie grins into the rearview mirror, "I'm sure you could think of a couple of others, if you really tried." All that remembering has given him kind of a headache, but he seems to have relaxed a little now that he's worked loose that fragment. He fumbles a couple of pills out of a bottle in the glovebox, and chews them down dry. "They had a couple of kids," he explains, to occupy himself on the drive, "Bertie and Shack. I don't think I ever met them, but I can just about remember the pictures. More of the latter than the former. I think poor Bertie was kind of a disappointment. Didn't see either one of them, back there."

There are mansions and there are mansions. There are the rarefied little pockets of old money tucked away in Victorian gentility here in Uptown's little velvet lined jewelry box… And then there is the real deal. Real money and real connections brings the ability to create your own little pocket universe. The car continues to go west, *through* Uptown and onwards in a path that should ostensibly end with a plunge down a cliff into the sea. Yet does not. A northern cul-de-sac is followed by a thousand feet of two-way, cobbled drive heralded by fifteen-foot gateposts winding its way toward a guardhouse equipped with a yardarm. Beyond the barrier, a generous roundabout leads to baroque iron gates offering a glimpse of the rarefied world beyond. Monumental oaks flank the estates, casting shades across cobblestone shining as if every inch is hand polished, and a lawn so flawless as to give flashbacks to the Others perfection. The mansion itself and its out buildings stand like chess pieces on the board of precision-mowed bluegrass. Perfectly positioned pines, chestnuts and redwoods are sculpted to symmetry. The only thing that is breaking the soap bubble of perfection are the guests. There are too many cars here, following and preceeding, and there are too many people entering the building dressed in too much black. Like a flood of tiny ants, though as the trio proceeds through the gates they start to look more human.

The sun is starting to set, making the scenery look even more surreal, like a painting of a dream turning nightmare. Why would someone bother to keep grass at such an absurd perfection? Even the gravel is sparkling. And of course there is also staff. Someone in a uniform steps up when Ida stops the car, offering to take the keys and park it for her, as he and others assist her and Denver and Eddie out if they so allow. There is a butler to greet them and show them inside along with all the other guests. The household is geared up for the occasion, black cloth and mourning decor showing through the front door. There's the smell of food and some kind of really nice smelling burning firewood and food and the faint strains of music. Classic, sad. Live paino, live strings.

"Think one of the Spring would be able to properly sew your arm back on after it's removed and shoved up inside you?" Denver wonders of Eddie with a flutter of lashes in return of his smart-assery. Her smile fades as they get close enough to be seen by others. Glowing eyes blink some as someone offers to help her get out of the car. "I'm— okay, thanks?" She manages out easily enough, but lets the door be opened and shut for her. Even if she does look like it all makes her a little uncomfortable. She doesnt' fit in a place like this and it's very obvious.

"I can get out of my own car," Eddie snaps at some poor servant, who probably makes more in a year than he does in ten, serving these kinds of people. "I'm a big boy. I go to the bathroom by myself and everything." He stops just short of actually slapping any hands away, slamming his car door behind him. It's a wonder it doesn't fall off. He watches it drive away, scowling, then hypocritically stops to let Ida fix his collar before he goes inside. "Just don't talk about your day job," he suggests to Denver, picking up on her anxiety. "Somebody's liable to try and collect you for their menagerie." He doesn't seem to worried about Ida fitting in, for some reason.

"You look splendid, darling." Ida makes Eddie's collar just so, and reaches out to touch Denver's shoulder reassuringly as well. "You too. Remember, this is a very varied crowd, we will all fit right in." She seems perfectly at home in this modern equivalent of a castle. Possibly she is even enjoying herself, despite or because of the circumstances. Mystery is afoot. There's a sparkle to her eyes and a bit of a blush to her cheeks as she seemingly 'lets' Eddie walk her up the stairs, as appropriate old etiquette would have him do. In reality he might feel a bit pulled along, if gently. She greets the staff with all the air of nobility returning to an allied palace.

This is not a place that has an entry hall. Rather, the grand foyer greets the guests, all soaring ceilings and sparkling chandeliers, tall Ming vases, dark quietly magnificent woodwork, with subtle garlands and medallions and trophies and foliage. There are octagonal pillars and curlicues of ironwork. Beyond is the Great Hall, where the majority of guests are, tables set up with food and drinks, and the small orchestra playing dutifully in a corner. Though only a few high windows allow in the setting sun, no expense has been spared in filling the place with living light. Candles and lamps, sconces and mirrors brighten even the darkest corner, setting to glow the exotic silk tapestries and gilt framed massive paintings that line the walls, glinting in the silver candelabras and urns overflowing with roses. Thick Oriental carpets mute the sound of footsteps. Of course there is a grand staircase leading up, and hefty doors to the sides leading to more distant parts of the mansion, staff members occasionally seen departing with empty plates and returning with freshly laden ones. There is champagne and wine and stronger stuff, all from bottles that cost more than Eddie's wheels. To call it finger food is an insult. They are amazing little delicacies of all kinds, gleaming like edible jewels, lined up in splendid creative shapes to lure in the eye and tempt the palate. Caviar to tropical fruit to pastries straight from a baker's most livid daydreams.

"I'm fairly certain that most of the people here wouldn't believe that I beat people up in an underground fighting arena for a living," Denver assures. "But if it helps, I don't really plan on getting into conversations with any of these people anyway. Those I do I'll just tell them I'm a personal trainer or something." Her eyes focus on Ida for a moment, a little wide, a little nervous. She manages a smile at the woman's words. "If you see me getting hot headed just steer me towards the food," she suggests before taking a deep breath and trudging along towards the mansion.

"'People' is being a little generous," Eddie says, and then he's being hauled up the stairs by Ida. Once he figures out what that's about he plays along, mostly just to see the look on peoples faces when the two of them stroll in together. He's all smiles and nods as they make their entrance, operating at maximum smugness, or at least as close as he can get with one arm banged up so he can't do finger guns. He looks up (and up, and up) at the ceiling, and around the room at all the expensive things and cheap people (some of them even from Hollywood), and he rolls his eyes extravagantly. It's the only way he can do it. "I really want to leave a thumbprint," he confides in his companions, pointing at a vase twice as old as the United States, "right there."

He's not going to, though. Not right now with everybody watching, anyway. He heads for one of the tables instead, where he can keep an eye out for some faces to match those names he spent the drive over trying to remember, and eat two thousand dollar caviar like two dollar couscous from Walmart.

"They will probably assume you are the physical trainer for the family," Ida assures Denver while elegantly getting in the way between Eddie and that vase. Just in case he's tempted. "And really, your outfit is perfectly fine. You are dressed appropriately, which is more than can be said for some of the people at the actual funeral, yes?" She grabs two glasses of a sweet dessert wine from a passing tray (the bottle in the center looks positively ancient and says something about 'Chateau d'Yquem') and offers one to Denver. It smells like creme brulee, dried fruit, exotic spices and is of a dark, deep gold color. "Relax. Enjoy. Keep your eyes open." Of course the glasses look extremely expensive as well. Heavy both from being real crystal and from the age of them.

Over by Eddie's table, an assembly of photographs and paintings in the nearby corner might catch his attention. Its of the family. The beautiful Mona, the older Mr. Greenwoode-Smythe (what is his first name, Tab? Tad? Topher?) and the two children. Two boys, one each from their previous marriages. The older is handsome in a cold, bland sort of rich East Coast prep way, where you know he plays lacrosse really well and is going to go into business or marketing. He looks like Mr. Greenwoode-Smythe, but with more sculpted features. The younger doesn't resemble anybody in the photo, freckled and gangly and awkward, with a big gap toothed smile.

"Of those three things I think keeping my eyes open is the only one I'll be able to manage," Denver offers as she takes the wine glass that Ida hands in her direction. "But I can give it a try. Eddie, you said there was gonna be food, right?" Hard to keep your eyes open when you're starving. It's been atleast an hour since she last ate and now she's wasting away into nothingness. There's no way she'll make it to the table! So instead, she eyes one of the waiters passing by with a tray, reaching up to snag the whole thing from his grip. "Thanks," she mutters, giving him a little that would wilt a tree when he opens his mouth to protest. She starts to scoop the food off of it and shovel it into her mouth as she walks towards the food table. Poor Ida, surely bringing Denver here is a lesson in patience.

Eddie is on his best behavior, in terms of table manners, which still isn't very good. He uses the toast points instead of his fingers, at least, neglecting the little bone spoon on the caviar tray (metal would alter the flavor!), and he just about manages to chew with his mouth closed while he leans over the table to inspect those pictures. "Bertie," he says, swallowing his daily rate and pointing at the gap-toothed kid, "and Shat. Shag. Shack," he finally gets it right, pointing at the picture of the walking Lacrosse uniform.

"She is an emotional eater," and Ida sounds so sad as she explains this to the people who start to gawk at Denver. "Please, do be kind - she is grieving this terrible loss." It's a wonderful performance, to the point that when Denver is done with her current tray it is immediately, voluntarily replaced by one of the passing servants. This one is a duo: roasted pork belly with apple compote wafer and roasted duck breast with chargrilled pineapple and watercress. They are finally arriving at that table too. The heaped plates of foods beckon. She grabs another glass of that dessert wine, offering it to Eddie to help wash down his caviar. "Bertie and Shack?" she echoes, sounding a little uncertain.

An older lady dressed in all black stops, putting a gnarled arthritis puffy hand on the shoulder of the sleuth. "Those poor dear children, they must feel so awful! Are you friends of theirs?" She is shrunken with age, to the point where she makes both the Beast and the Ogre look tall in comparison. And the Fairest quite literally towers over her.

Denver glances towards Ida as the second tray is handed to her instead of needing to be snatched up. It's certainly a look of appreciation. "You're my superstar," she murmurs about a mouthful of food, and chances are pretty good that these are her best table manners. They're just that bad. She startles a little as the old lady pops up nearby, reaching out to touch Eddie. "Friends back at school. Been a while. I was hoping to pay them my respects. Have you seen them?" Awww, she's trying to be helpful.

Eddie reaches up instinctively to swat the hand away, still a little wound up at all the help he had to fight off getting out of his car, until he notices who it's attached to and transitions almost gracefully into a polite clasp. "Can't imagine what they must be going through," he says, "Bertie especially. He was always such a sensitive boy." His eyes dart briefly to Denver, but he keeps his assessment of her deceit bottled up for now, just playing along. You never know how sharp-eyed these old ladies are going to be.

"Oh, that poor young Shackleford, he missed the plane from his university and couldn't make it to the funeral, he is so upset." The old lady goes on for a bit. Apparently she is some form of aunt of the widower (who's first name is, in fact, Van), and she just adores young Shack and everyone within earshot gets the full breakdown of the young man's sports resume and glowing future. She breaks into tears a few times, especially when talking about how Mona had been trying to help set up young Shack on dates with some of the nice girls of friends of the family but he'd say none of them would match up to her and wasn't that the sweetest. Ida offers her hankerchiefs. Then the older woman makes an off hand mention, "I think young Bertie is in his private room, downstairs." She gestures downwards. A mansion with depth, this. "He must be so terribly upset, he couldn't even make it to the.. to the fune-" Waterworks again. Ida passes another handkerchief.

Eddie's face is a mask of polite sympathy. It might even be genuine, when the waterworks start up, once he determines it's not another sham like so many he saw at the actual funeral. "I'm sure he could use a friend, right now," he says, taking that as he cue to leave. He takes his wine with him and swallows it down in one gulp as soon as he's out of the old woman's sight, setting the empty glass down on a passing tray. "What do you think?" he asks the others in a low voice, "Shad and Mona, right?" Kind of a dirty hunch, but he's got kind of a dirty mind.

"It does have that air, unfortunately," Ida placidly agrees, apparently as discomforted by it as she might be to see clashing colors in a neighbors flowerbed. Well. Less upset than that. "Let us see about locating the lower quarters…" It is hidden cleverly behind the grand staircase going up. This is the poorer staircase going down, albeit still elegant, white painted metal ornamented with swirling leaves and vines, black carpet cushioned steps leading down. The walls are simple gray stonework, set with simple (flawlessly polished) silver sconces holding faux albeit realistic candles, and between the lights are deep set niches bearing sculpted busts. Roman emperors? Poets? They look old, genuine antiques of whatever era they came from. The moment the door closes, things get very quiet. Like its soundproofed, or maybe that door was just heavier than it seemed. Another door waits at the bottom. It feels and looks like it's a full two stories to reach the basement floor.

Copper and lemon, dusty with the ages. Copper of blood, and boy someone spilled a lot of it down here. Eddie's nose can almost bring it to his vision, a wave of red splattering up the walls in here— yet in reality they are pristine and gray, no trace of maroon or brown or organic blacks left. The lemon of fear, wild spiking adrenaline, pure terror. The emotional Fear lingers here in the shadows of the steps, faint and ghostly with the years since, but still present. Something Very Bad(tm) happened here, bad enough to have left a mark on the mansion. It is a surprise there's no ghosts. Maybe the person survived… But Eddie's instincts knows better. Too much blood for one person. Too much blood for three. But so long ago.

It's been years. Less than ten, more than five. Enough that the smell's almost gone, if it wasn't for the quantity of it.

"Anybody think to bring along some bread crumbs?" Eddie asks as they descend, "Maybe a roll of string? We could starve to death down here and they might never find us." The extra joints at the end of his fingers twitch a few times as they pass some particularly portable signs of conspicuous wealth, but he restrains himself. For one thing he hasn't got his coat to stow anything in anyway, and for another Mr. Greenwood-Smythe is still technically a client, at least by the detective's standards. He takes a breath and motions for a halt, then takes another, turning to inspect a length of those gray walls. "Then again," he says, running his fingers lightly down the stone, "there's worse ways to go." His mouth set in a tight frown, he starts walking again, making a brisk pace for the door.

"And noone would be the wiser," Ida agrees with eddie's assessment. She watches him inspect the wall, curiousity revealing itself in the way her antennae flickers. The door is a fine oak specimen, carved and edged with filigree to match the white banisters of the steps leading up. A square of plastic is attached to the front, yellowed and dog-eared with age. Childish scrawl says 'The Bertie Abode' on the front, with a stick figure family beneath it all X'd out - dad, mom, smaller dad. A fresh sticky note is attached, the hand writing more mature if not more eligable: 'SHAK plz txt 1st ok'. Another is attached to it, a different color, masculine and bold, all caps, black marker 'NO'. Ah, family communication.

There's a sour smell from underneath the door. Dirty feet, teenage rooms, that particular sinus tingling eau de vie of heated electronics and dust: lots of computers beyond, and no clean laundry. And spicy cheese puffs and cola and energy drinks.

Eddie can't help but take some pleasure in Ida's curiosity, but it's muted by the nature of his discovery. "Something bad happened down here," he reveals, glancing back over his shoulder at that particular stretch of hallway. When he makes it to the door he stops to inspect the drawing and the post-its, snorting a laugh at the latter and frowning a little at the former, then gives a couple of light knots with the back of his hand.

"Anyone else got that really creepy vibe going on down here?" There's no special sense of smell, and Denver isn't tuned into fear, but even she can feel the way the darkness hangs in the air, lingering like the should-be ghost of whatever happened here. "I really hate not having my sword when it comes to feelings like this," she mutters, looking down at her hands, which are currently filled with food. If she has to beat someone with a pate, she will.

It is really quiet. There is no sound that the knock has been noticed by whomever might be behind the door, until the handle turns, and the until now mythical Bertie is shown in his full glory. Remember that freckle faced awkward smiling photo? Add a few years. He's in that awkward high school/college in between stage. A growth spurt's taken him to a good six feet even-ish, but it is all gangly too thin limbs. He is computer pale with the shadowy luggage beneath the eyes of someone who really doesn't sleep enough. He still does not look like either parent. Van Greenwoode-Smythe is silver maned and grey eyed 6'4, Mona was auburn hair and blue eyes of medium height, the photo of Shack showed a younger blonde more sculptedly handsome version of Van. Bertie's… Mousy brown hair, brown eyes, freckles still speckled with a few zits now, some very high end braces trying to fix what might otherwise be British level teeth into the family Colgate level pearly whites. He's dressed in a baggy hoodie, t-shirt beneath with a zombie something, sweats, slippers, a bag of cheesy snack products in one hand, a headset in the other. Looks expensive. Behind him the room is dark, three monitors glowing various colors. "Hey Shack you're ba— oh. Uh. Hey?" He looks between them. "Help you?"

Eddie is a little surprised by the height of the kid, but everything else seems to square his his expectations. "Bertie, right? Or do you prefer Albert, these days? Eddie Brundle. I did some work for your father, a while back," he sticks out a hand, for shaking. "Thought I'd come down and give my condolences. They're asking about you, up there, you know." In the moment it takes Bertie to survey the rest of the group, he angles his head to the side, trying to get a quick peek at what's on those computer monitors just out of sheer nosiness.

That's a big dude. Denver scoots in a little closer towards Eddie, just in case. Granted, the kid looks harmless enough, but then, so does she. She plasters on as sympathetic a look as she can while she lingers by Eddie.

"Oh, uhm. Bertie's fine," the kid (young man?) mumbles. He accepts the offered hand, his shake perfunctory. "Thanks. I, like. I was up there, earlier. It's kind of rough, you know?" He startles as his headphones beep at him, something about download at thirty percent. On the monitors in the back is what might be a family photo in all high def zoomed in, the one in the middle features an anime style MMO with tons of sparkles going on as an abandoned player character is being mauled by tiny winged fox-dragon-bat things, and a third that's rows of numbers, too small to read. Might be letters in a non-English language, too. There's a smaller window in the corner there that looks pornographic, but hard to see. There's junk on the floor though it's more like someone is absentminded, not anything filthy. Outline of a bed, some other basic furniture. It is, even in the dark, other than the monitors and presumably the computers and other equipment to go with them, a very spartan affair. Nothing gilded, nothing ornate. All the focus is on the tech. The kid keeps looking back over his shoulder at it, too. Longing to go back already. "Shack should be back soon, like. He's really upset he couldn't be here." It sounds a bit formulaic, that last part, like he's reciting. Then back to the regular mumble, "I mean, he's better at… This." He might be talking about this specific situation, or socializing in general, or life as a whole.

Ida is all benign smiles and her own attempt to look mostly harmless. She even somehow manages to slouch in an elegant way, so as to seem at height or shorter than yon youngster.

"My assistants," Eddie introduces the ladies on either side of them. He gets the impression that anybody from this family isn't going to be too bothered that the help don't have names. "I'm sure it is. Rough, I mean. You're doing fine." He pauses, then leans around the kid and points his finger at the monitor with the game running. "Except I think you're about to die, over there. Any idea when he's supposed to get in, exactly?"

Leaning near the doorframe as Eddie and the kid talk, it gives Denver a chance to peek into the room some. Not much, and she's not terribly nosey by nature, so there isn't much subtle about it. Bt her attention mostly seems to be on the computer, head bobbing as she looks it over like she's impressed with the setup. Really she's just studying the screens, silent.

To the eyes of Denver, that photo is indeed of the Greenwoode-Smythe family. High def, blown up, seems centered on Mona's hand on a tiny Bertie's head. The game is very sparkly. The text… No, that's numbers and text. Rows and rows of it, indecipherable. But sometimes they change, add and subtract. "What oh shi-" Bertie's gone on high alert, turning around about to sprint/leap back— then he sees his monitor and laughs. "Oh. It's ok. Thanks though, those guys will take a bit to get through my armo— anyway uh. Thanks. No, I think he's coming around tonight sometime." He fidgets with his headset, avoiding Eddie's eyes. He seems generally a bit bad about eye contact. "So, I mea.." He perks up like a dog. Then, faintly, there's a honking from outside, making its way even down to this silent place. "He's back. Go upstairs, Shack is home, that's the Roller." And he's already closing the door behind him. "Uh. Thanks. Bye."

Eddie tries to keep from rolling his eyes at the honking, even if Bertie's not looking at them. "Take care," he manages before the door closes on him. He turns around and heads back up the hallway a stretch before speaking, though with those headphones the kid was wearing it's probably an unnecessary precaution. "This much money, you'd think they could buy the kid some confidence. He didn't seem too busted up, did he?"

"He seems rather… Not there," Ida ventures. "I think we were speaking with the shell of Bertie, where the real personality was elsewhere. Online, I suppose."

"Not broken up, no. But not right, either. But he's forced to live down here in the creep-dungeon, so are you terrible surprised he isn't super put together? Who would be? And when's the last time that boy saw sunlight. He needs some vitamin D!" Denver clamps down on the overprotective momness a moment later, letting her lips press into a thin line. "I don't know that he was terrible suspicious. But I do feel bad for him."

"'Forced'?" Eddie raises an eyebrow. "I don't know abou that. I got the impression that basements are his natural environment. I feel bad for him too, though, and I imagine we'll feel even worse once we meet Shag up there. C'mon." He heads for the stairs, taking a moment to pause and look at that wall again. Still nothing there, so it's for the grand hall.

Back upstairs they go, to the bright lights, sparkling drinks, live music and… Surprisingly few people. The majority of the crowd had moved abruptly to the front of the grand foyer. The prodigal son has returned, the prince of the realm, all hail Shackleford Greenwoode-Smythe. Though he can't be glimpsed at first amidst all the people so happy to see him. His father, Van, is just making his own way through, the guests parting to allow the grieving widower access. Glimpsed through the high windows there is a sleek, onyx Rolls Royce convertible. It's like trying to get to a movie star at the night of the Hollywood premier.

"What an asshole," Eddie mutters under his breath, catching sight of that car through the window. One could almost be forgiven for thinking he's already made up his mind about young master Shackleton. He's tempted to go stuff his pockets full of shrimp while nobody's looking, but he remembers he still wants to talk to some of these people, and probably it would be better to do it without smelling like seafood. He settles for licking his thumb and leaving a smeared print on that vase he eyeballing earlier on his way to join the crowd.

There is no room in Denver's pockets for shrimp, since they're already stuffed with all of the other food that the woman could get her hands on. To be fair, she could probably stuff some shrimp in there too, if she really wanted. Her brows arch up when Eddie calls the kid an asshole, peeking out past the crowd to try to see what it is about him that's giving off that vibe. She eventually just shrugs, grabbing a glass from a passing tray.

And there he is. The parting crowd reveals the darkened golden one to the trio of Lost. The poster child of all things lacrosse, skiing, sailing, yacht clubs, Brooks Brothers and Lacoste, Rollers to Beemers - Shack. Six foot four just like his old man, he is dressed in an impeccable all black mourning suit, from the dress coat to the shirt to the silk tie. Monochrome in color, of course bespoke in origin, tailored to screaming perfection. His hair is in one of those seemingly simple cuts that scream money, his eyes are a stark grey-blue set in that oft-photographed sculptedly handsome face. His built reveals a lot of time in the gym, though he's no steroid brute. Instead he looks like the poster child of priveledge, as appropriate. His facial expression seems sad, though it looks unnatural on him. He and Van hug, and there's some faint words before the younger of the pair shakes his head, breaking the embrace. "I'm sorry, Pops. I'll talk with him. Hang in there. I'm here now." He's got a nice, smooth baritone, because of course he does. And with that the crowd moves in to greet him.

Eddie lingers at the back of the crowd and watches the golden boy get glad-handled, considering his approach and making sure he's got his sneer under control. Lucky thing there's so many shiny things in this place, so he can check his reflection. Once he's sure he's got an appropriately sympathetic look on his face he moves in, skirting the mosh-pit of handshakes completely and heading straight for the old man. He sidles up to the guy and sticks out his good hand for shaking. "Van," he says, "I didn't get a chance to give you my condolences, earlier. You've got a lovely family."

That guy is tall. Denver's head tilts to the side a little bit as she studies the guy who probably isn't much older than she is, taking in the difference between him and his brother. Denver's face isn't overly sympathetic, or overly anything really. She hangs back as Eddie approaches, watching from above the rim of the wine glass she's currently downing.

The father-son resemblance is real and true. Van is still handsome in that same cold, bland sort of East Coast socialite way, though where his son reeks more of moneyed sports and fast cars, the old man clearly is the beating, icy golden heart of the family wealth. These are hands used to resting on desks made from heavy, near extinct hardwood, grasping writing implements that cost more than most people's houses, and most certainly not driving his own ridiculously expensive automobiles. His grasp is appropriately cold and hard, even with the little tremble to it. And yet-
Despite his obvious normal lack of emotions, out of everyone in the crowd, even including the old grandmas, he is the one that most truly, really grieves. This is the Sorrow of heartbreak, coiled around his shoulders, drifting down his arms to greet Eddie's hand like some near tangible choking python of ice and tears. It's so there that a Lost might even think the man's got little frozen tears thrumming through his veins. It's left him physically wrecked. He's the same height as his son but he's wilted, almost aging before one's own eyes. He barely recognizes Eddie, pale eyes gliding over him. His voice is raspy - he's trying to sound firm, strong. Proud father. "Thank you. Thank you for coming." This is the kind of Sorrow that makes the survivor in a couple die very quickly after their spouse.

"Of course," Eddie says, releasing the man's hand before the close proximity to such a well of glamour can rob him of his wits. He turns to watch Shack and the mob, standing next to the elder Greenwood-Smythe. "I was sorry to hear about Mona. You don't see many couples stick together, in my line of work. That's Shackleton, right? I remember him from the photos. He looked a lot like you even back then."

"Shack has grown up so well, we are very proud of him." Van says this in a way where it's clear the 'we' is from an ingrained idea of himself being part of a couple, not the royal sense. He seems to shrink down into himself a bit further with this. "Mona and I would always go to his games… He was always such a good boy." The 'good boy' in question seems to have a strong sense as to when he's being talked about, turning to shine his smile down upon his father and Eddie. Down and down. There is a definite sense that he would wear that same smile in bed, in the bathroom, snorting coke, flirting, giving a nerd back in high school the ol' toilet swirly, while going to church. It's a very versatile show of great teeth. "Pop. Who's this? Don't let people tire you out." He puts his arm around his father's shoulders in what would look like natural affection in someone else. Between these two it's clearly meant as photo staging, and there go the cameras. Flash flash flash. Aww. Flash flash.

In the background, Ida hands Denver some more of those delicious shrimp-and-bacon things. These shrimp are almost big enough to have their own drinks.

Eddie takes a step to the side and turns his head away, working double hard to keep from scowling when the cameras start going off. He doesn't love having his picture taken, even if he is just collateral damage. When the worst of it is over he quickly composes himself and turns to face father and son once more, sticking out that hand again, this time toward the younger man. "Eddie Brundle," he introduces himself, looking up past that vapid smile and into the eyes of the target of his contempt, "I did some work for your father a few years ago. My condolences."

Denver greedily accepts the shrip that Ida offers to her, shoving it into her mouth. "Did you bring a purse?" she asks in a soft whisper. "If so, how many of these do you think will fit in the purse?" She is speaking to Ida, but her eyes stay locked on the pair of men speaking with Eddie. Nothing is going to go down at a funeral, but she's going to be on alert just in case.

Warped through the lense of the all encompassing massive Ego of yon Shack, there is an actual bit of sadness to be felt, but it's muted and flimsy. It's a detached sorrow over the fact that Things Have Changed, and that his Pops is getting old. It's mixed with some contempt and disgust at what he sees as weakness. There's also a warped thread of sadness connected to the absence of Mona, but it's going away even as Eddie tries to get a better sense of it. Shack is using his own willpower to stifle that train of thought? But there's an Oedipal heartbreak flavor mixing badly with some kind of corrupt childish love for mom. So he's certainly emotionally stunted and twisted, but there is some kind of humanity still in there. If only the faint echoes of it. His hand shake is that of an innate bully: just enough pressure to hurt a bit but just below the point where people might normally complain. "Thanks for coming." Same phrase as his father.

Ida reaches within her coat and offers Denver a cheap but robust big ol' hobo bag. Black pleather, plenty of room, and the inside's got an open ziplock bag in it too for those extra messy morsels. She came prepared. "Twenty. Thirty if you use a bit of force, but that would be rather sad and is assuming you do not want to partake of anything else." There's one bite beef wellingtons, fig & goat cheese tartlets with proscuitto, white truffle & chive potato croquettes, foie gras terrine on mini brioches and on and on.

Eddie can't compete with that handshake, but he keeps his discomfort off his face. He's got a lot of practice; people seem to enjoy crushing his hand, for some reason. "Of course," he repeats, smiling that sympathetic smile he's been working out all evening. Whatever he feels about what the Dragon tells him, he keeps to himself. Once his tenderized hand is free, he reaches into his coat and comes out with one of his cards— one of the discreet ones, with just a name and a number, and nothing about his line of business. He hands it out to the younger man, since the older one already has his information, or has people who do. "If any of you need anything, don't hesitate to call. Van." He gives the old guy a nod, locking eyes a moment and giving the Winter trick one last try before he turns to go.

"Beautiful AND smart," Denver offers Ida with a little smirk as the bag is revealed. "Well, I've already got a lot in my pockets, but I didn't think to leave room for shrimp. Honestly, I just kind of want to take some of the trays out with us. Think they'll notice? They'd probably notice." Denver gives a little huff, shoving another shrimp in her mouth. "But why don't we get a couple in there at least." She gives Ida a little nudge when it looks like Eddie is about to start walking away.

The Dragon Knows what Eddie's regular senses already told him: it's all heartbreak all the way down in the old man's gaze. His normal lack of heart is all that keeps him from literally screaming on the floor with the grief of it, his narcissism actually being helpful in this fashion. It helps keep him standing, and also shields him (for now) from his loss. He genuinely, truly and really loved Mona, as far as someone like him can love someone. Maybe even a bit more, one of those strange little tricks of gods and fate where a cold hearted empty man of money actually had real love. And now it's gone, and he never realized what it was and so now… now… Someone familiar with the ways of sorrow and death and mourning might be able to tell that this is a case where Van will keep going, seemingly showing strength. He might do it for a few days or he might hold up for a few months, but eventually he'll just keel over. Once the realization hits, he won't want to be here anymore. He'll want to be with Mona. Then he blinks, turning away, back to the stoic rich fellow. "Thank you. Enjoy your night." Shack takes the card Eddie offers, eyeing it like he can't believe people still make cards like this, then awkwardly puts it in a pocket clearly not actually intended to hold anything.

Meanwhile over at the ladies, Ida eleganty steps out of the way of a passing old lady, seemingly accidentally sweeping by the table as she does. It's a magic trick! Shrimp? What shrimp? She hands Denver the now closed and bulging purse. "I do decree this looks wonderful with your outfit. It is the same shade." She looks rather pleased with herself, while sipping another glass of that wine from a bottle worth enough to murder several people for.

Eddie returns to the shrimp-stealing duo, looking pointedly at that purse just long enough to make it clear he knows what they're up to. He reaches out and snags one of those little beef wellingtons off a passing tray and deposits it in his mouth before speaking, purely to blow off some steam by being ill-mannered. "You ladies about ready to go? Have all you can carry? I've had about all the high society I can stand for one night."

Denver takes the purse Ida offers and slides it on over her shoulder. "Why, I do believe you're right. This shade looks stunning on me." She's careful not to grin or smile, very aware of the atmosphere for the moment. "I'm ready," she says, giving the bag a little pat as she nods her head towards Eddie.

"It is time," Ida agrees, finishing her glass and putting it aside. She looks at Eddie with some curiousity but without further comment, and just starts making her way to the door and outside. It's a brilliant starspangled night out there. The air is April cool, and it is surprisingly quiet once one gets away from the door. A servant brings their car around while another drives that shiny Rolls Royce Black Badge off to some safer location further within the estates. The engine has a dark purring rumble to it, like some big well fed cat.

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