6450/Shadow Boxing

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Shadow Boxing
Date of Scene: 04 June 2021
Location: La Martinique, Lower Manhattan, 1951
Synopsis: Peggy and Lily run an op at La Martinique in 1951 Manhattan, only to bump into Lamont Cranston. Good thing, really, since Lily's date might not be as charming as he seems.
Cast of Characters: Melinda May, Peggy Carter, Natasha Cranston

Melinda May has posed:
It's just after 8pm. La Martinique is busy, tonight. Of course, it's Friday, so that's to be expected. A swing band sits on the stage, belting out an upbeat dance number, accented by the throaty crooning of a busty alto. The bar is lined with patrons, and smartly dressed servers move swiftly between white-clothed tables with drinks -- martinis, sidecars, gin and tonics, pina coladas, and wine are all very popular, it seems. Cigarette girls also move between the tables, their scanty dress still somehow considered classy at this time.

Lily Chen wears a striking red dress, playing up every inch of her exotic appearance simply due to the flashiness of her suroundings. Sure, it draws more attention to her, but that's fine... that means it draws *less* attention to her mission partner for the evening. Besides, she wants to be noticed. That's how this hustle works.

Peggy Carter has posed:
Since Lily wants to be noticed, Peggy is the blend into the shadows tonight. It means she's dressed plainly. Her brown hair is down and fallen to mostly straight. She's got round glasses on and a plain black, somewhat conservative dress. She looks like the shy librarian who has been drug out for drinks by her more outgoing friend. She gives a shy smile to the bartender on occasion and asks for a soda water in a stammering American accent. She is as far from Peggy Carter as she ever gets, which is good, considering the last time she was in this club. Her eyes flicker between the red dressed agent on the floor and the rest of the room as she nurses her water. At least she tips well.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    It's a good time to be alive. Five years after the War's end, things are finally starting to return to normal... Which includes organized crime.

    In particular, a local syndicate has been making shady deals and moving on their competitors more aggressively than usual. The Shadow's agents believe they're in negotiation with an even shadier group - one which SHIELD's analysts believe may be a front for HYDRA or something else.

    La Martinique has always been a favourite locale for such deals -- its normal clientele features the rich and mighty, and neither of those tends to look kindly on police interfering with their relaxation, so law enforcement is forced to keep a very soft touch.

    Lamont Cranston, of course, is a frequent visitor -- although today he's here on invitation by one of his infrequent business partners trying to sweet-talk him into a new venture. Truth be told, he already Knows everything Larry is saying - and quite a bit about what he's trying to avoid mentioning - but that's fine; it gives him time to drink, act disinterested, flirt with the serving girls and otherwise act the frivolous play--

    He manages to avoid choking on his drink or spitting fine cognac all over Larry's entirely-too-cheap suit, because he had not expected to see that face again. Possibly ever. He doesn't know /how/ far into the future May had traveled - hadn't asked, didn't /want/ to know - but he's certain it would've been further than this.

But if it is her - and it very much looks that way - she's almost certainly not alone.

    Lamont takes a moment to look at his glass, 'noticing' that it's all but empty, then looks around to wave the nearest waiter over -- and taking in the rest of the room while he's at it... Ah. There. The mousy-looking librarian at the bar. Excellent camouflage, and a very nicely arranged double play.

    He waves the waiter over, then leans back to smile and nod at Larry's prattle.

The night is already starting to look up...

Melinda May has posed:
Lily retreats from the dance floor, on the arm of a tall, older gentleman of questionable morals but oddly sterling reputation -- a reputation that, in the future, would totally be a PR fabrication (and likely is now, too). The smile on her red lips as she turns back to her 'date' is playful and flirtatious. Indeed, it's a look none of Melinda May's contemporaries would ever recognize on her. Well... Phil might. But even that's pushing it.

Her laughter is light, high pitched, and completely unlike anything anyone who actually *knows* her would place as hers, coming on the heels of some comment he makes. Nevertheless, she lays her hand lightly on his waist and leans up to say something very softly in his ear before she picks up her small clutch from the table and turns away to head toward the bar. The ladies room is, after all, just beyond it. He watches her retreat with almost an almost predatory gaze.

Peggy Carter has posed:
As Peggy reaches her drink up to her lips, she whispers very quietly. Hopefully these little ear pieces that Samberly has developed actually work, one gently tucked into Lily's ear and well hidden beneath her hair. It's the first field operation where they are actively trying them after several tests in the lab. "Good work. Now once you get him comfortable, see if he'll start bragging about the developments they've made on H-56, or anything with the Vittoro family. I'm at your back if you need me. Just make the sign." Peggy is still watching the room for one of their other marks.

That's when she sees a different face. Lamont. It's been ages, but it's almost certain to be him. A curious smile twists at her lips behind her soda water. She suddenly starts looking a bit closer at who HE is with. Were they here on the same case?

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    As to Peggy's second question, probably not - Larry Fresnick is an industrial magnate who's been trying to deal with having to retool his production lines from tanks and jeeps back to personal vehicles now that the military isn't buying up his entire output as fast as he can produce them anymore, and he hasn't been doing well. That's one of the reasons he's trying to talk Lamont's ear off, as it happens - he's hoping that the heavier engines used in tanks can be efficiently retooled in a new line of heavy freight vehicles, but he's going to need someone willing to invest in a new fleet of cargo trucks...

    Lamont nods at something Larry says, idly looking at the lights through his refilled glass. He meets Peggy's eyes for a moment as he looks back down; a hint of a nod and a brief twitch of his glass acknowledge her -- if she needs help, she has but to ask.

    "... I don't know, Larry, that sounds a bit... Far-fetched. Do you really think you could make them corner in the streets downtown? With the kind of load you're describing, you could bring down half a building with a bad turn... Go a bit easier on your drinks, you've already had quite a few; perhaps it's time to call it a night?"

    "You've got a point about the inner cities, but I tell you, they could revolutionize the interstate traffic. We can't go over the speed limit, of course, but one of these could haul up to three times as much as the current generation of trucks before slowing down, it'd be..." He blinks for a moment as the Shadow's influence subtly washes over him, then looks at his glass. "... How many of these have I had? I probably ought to call it a night, soon... Call me during office hours, we can hash something out..."

    "Will do, Larry. Will do." With that, Lamont helps his friend stand and waves a waiter over. "Can you call a cab for my friend, please? He's had a few too many," he explains, a fifty dollar bill held casually between his fingers.

    The waiter offers a polite smile as he makes the bill vanish. "Naturally, sir, you can rely on our discretion. Do enjoy the rest of your evening..."

    Larry safely ditched, Lamont settles back into the VIP seating, an easy grin on his face as he looks around the club for an evening's entertainment...

Melinda May has posed:
"Mm." Lily's voice is dry through Samberley's comm. "Have I mentioned how much my face hurts?" She weaves back toward the powder room, passing Peggy as she does and slipping a hotel key into her hand without missing a step. Her date's, of course. Not that he intended to slip it to her. Her fingers are quite light.

She spends long enough back there to make the trip believable. Then, she reemerges, her smile set back on her lips. She eyes Peggy briefly as she passes and then continues back to her date, giving Lamont a casual glance as she passes. She only has bits and pieces of Melinda's memories, but something about him registers as important. She can't say what or why.

Nevertheless, she's soon back with her date and sliding into the table opposite him to begin the leading conversation.

Peggy Carter has posed:
The very subtle sleight of hand that gets her the hotel key is not something anyone human would notice, not in a place like this. It doesn't mean Lamont doesn't notice it. But Peggy accepts the key without ever looking at Lily or even turning her direction, carefully putting it into the hidden pocket on her dress as she finishes her drink. "Your face is going to have to hurt a lot longer if I'm tossing his room while you keep him busy. I owe you a drink after this." Peggy's voice is almost apologetic across the comm, but also a hint amused.

She then sets down two dollars to pay for her drink and then some, she always tips well, and stands up almost shyly. The sight of Lamont across the room has caught her attention, even if he's in the VIP area. It's worth giving her respects if nothing else. Keeping in good with the Shadow was always a helpful contact to have, and she knew this was one of his Lieutenants. "I'm saying hullo to an old friend, then I'll hit the hotel. I won't be long."

Then Peggy is smoothly brushing by his table, a small smile pulling at her unpainted lips. "Cranston. Tell your boss I said hello. Hopefully we're not here on the same business..." She mutters to him.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    Lamont smiles condescendingly at the little mouse trying to offer herself to her betters -- casual, derisive dismissal in every line of his body language except his eyes. "If he is, he hasn't told me," he murmurs back, the quiet tone of his voice entirely at odds with his sneering expression. "Just to keep a general eye out. But if you need a hand I can pass a message."

    His gaze flickers ever so briefly toward the still half-full glass Larry left behind that the waiters hadn't gotten around to cleaning up, then back at Peggy. "Please not on the suit, if you can avoid it. I just had it dry-cleaned yesterday..."

Melinda May has posed:
"Whiskey," Lily says softly into comms before she approaches her table. "The good stuff." Like it was ever a question. Of course, given the martinis this guy keeps plying her with -- there's a fresh one at her spot as she slides into the chair -- she may not need another drink tonight.

Nevertheless, she's entirely capable of keeping the man's attention. She weaves the conversation deftly around to his work, deflecting too many questions about herself without seeming to do so. A demure look, a flash of just enough of a smile to still be enticing. She's no flightly young thing. Ageless enough to be flattering, but not so young as to make him seem the cad. She knows about how long it will take for Peggy to get to the room and toss it.

This man better be willing to spend well on dinner.

Peggy Carter has posed:
Falling into 'role' with him, Peggy gives a little, almost shy curtsey and a shy dip of her eyes, "Oh, oh, of course, mistah! Of course!" Her stammering American accent offers. It's a good mousy role for her, though rather ridiculous to the people that know her. Then, as she's dropping over to scoop up the drink beside him, like she was clearing something for the waitresses, she whispers next to his ear. "One of my best is over there, in the red dress. I have to duck, but keep an eye on her for me? I'll owe you..." And with that little message, Peggy stands up and goes to bus the drink, not bothering the VIP again.

As she weaves across the room, she mutters into the little comm piece, "Got you some back up while I'm gone. Cranston, in the VIP lounge. He's one of the Shadow's. We're almost friends. If you need help, you look to him. I won't be long..." Peggy flashes Lily one more look, just a bit worried about leaving her abandoned, but she knows she can handle herself. Then the mouse is headed to the door.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
     Lamont smiles smugly as the little mouse cleans his table, then leans back in the comfy seat to enjoy his evening. "Friends don't owe one another, agent Carter," he murmurs to himself after Peggy is well out of earshot, then takes another sip of his excellent whiskey, checking out the red dress and its wearer -- entirely understandably; he's far from the only one.

    Probably not agent May, then, although he doubts Peggy would have mentioned it even if she were. But someone extremely similar. There's a story there, he just Knows it...

He leans back again with a lazy smile. This evening is definitely going to be so much more interesting than he'd expected.

Melinda May has posed:
Lily's brown eyes sparkle. She laughs at the man's jokes. And she nurses that martini like a pro. With Peggy's departure, she does a casual scan of the restaurant, clocking the man Peggy indicates as 'Cranston'. For now, she's fine, but knowing where he is, is helpful.

Dinner arrives and Lily lingers over it. If the man's impatient, he doesn't show it, though he does occasionally look at his watch as if expecting something.

There's a small tell as Lily's chin rises, her head canting faintly at something the man says. It's obviously something that intrigues her. She pursues it, but he deflects. Eventually, he graciously excuses himself, promising to return swiftly. Lily watches him go, dark eyes hooding slightly.

He slips into the VIP section, angling towards another man who has been entertaining a small party of his own throughout the evening. They greet each other as old friends and business partners, though there is something about the look that passes between them that suggests they are more than that -- and not in some sort of mutual attraction sort of way. These are men who have darker businesses in common.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    Lamont gives the man a glance as he passes, with a bit more evaluation than might be assumed from the way he's holding his glass.

    The VIP seating has been very carefully arranged for discretion; a normal human wouldn't be able to pick up any stray comments without very obviously trying to.

But in a place with this many shadows... Lamont is far from normal indeed.

Melinda May has posed:
"Everything's ready?" The VIP, a younger man than Lily's date, asks.

The older man nods. "It is. I'll have to ditch my date for an hour... unless you've got room for her at your table?"

The younger man's eyes stray to the lady in red. "You always did have an eye for the exotic."

"I suspect she's Yakuza. Or Triad. She's asking questions, but she's not pushing."

"If I wanted Wong to have a seat at my table, he'd be here," the younger man says, scowling slightly. "Get rid of her. Then meet me at the factory."

The older man nods. He smiles warmly. "Consider it done."

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    Lamont permits himself a thin smile. Trust Peggy to take a shot in the dark and hit the bull's eye. Of course, considering the context, 'get rid of her' almost certainly doesn't mean 'put her in a cab and send her home'. Not that he's likely to realize just how dangerous that woman likely is, but... He'd just as soon not explain to Agent Carter how one of her people wound up dead because no one had her back when she needed it.

    He finishes his drink, then looks at his watch, and gets up with a sigh of reluctance, wandering off toward the coat check, giving the lady in red one more glance as he leaves, fumbling slightly with the coat he's draped over his left arm, a clumsy flail that almost no one who isn't deaf would be likely to recognize as the ASL for 'danger'...

Melinda May has posed:
But Melinda May... she knows ASL. That means, so does Lily Chen. She's well aware of where her date is, even though she has to spy on him using the mirror in her compact. Nevertheless, she sees Cranston making like he's going to leave. She shifts carefully in her seat. And when she sees that sign, she folds her compact up and slips it back into her clutch. Rising elegantly, she begins making her way casually through the club.

When her date notices her on the move, however, he excuses himself from the younger man's side and starts after her. "Lian," he calls -- the name she's given him for the night. "Don't tell me you're leaving."

"Of course not," she laughs, turning back toward him with a smile. "I was just going to freshen up. You were taking such a long time. I thought maybe you'd gotten lost."

"Only in your eyes," he says, stepping a little closer.

Lily has to work *very* hard not to roll her eyes at that one. But her smile remains fixed in place. "Flatterer," she chides lightly. "But that's a line, and we both know it."

He manages to somehow look sheepish without looking like a school boy. "Maybe," he admits. "But you have to admit it's a good one."

"I admit nothing," she says archly.

"Why don't we get out of here," he suggests, stepping a little closer still. "Go back to my hotel."

"Now, you're being improper," she says airily. "I'm not some naive young thing to believe there's anything innocent behind that suggestion."

"Of course, there's not," he laughs, deep and throaty. "I didn't really think you'd mind."

She straightens, her chin rising. "I don't," she admits. "But that doesn't mean I'm going to go with you. I am not so easily bought as that." She reaches up and touches his cheek gently. "You go take care of your business tonight, and I'll take care of mine." Her smile widens, her eyes gleaming. "We make another date. Say... next Friday. And you can try again."

All the while, she's slowly easing herself backward, toward the door, forcing him to advance with her, step by flirty step. She'd rather not knock him on his ass in front of all these witnesses. She will if she has to. But, perhaps, if she gets close enough to Cranston, it won't matter.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    Most people have to walk backwards carefully because they're rarely certain of exactly what's behind them, but Lily's situational awareness is well above average. So she's /acutely/ aware that Lamont, just a few more steps away, also has his back turned to them and is fiddling with the door in a way that suggests he's about to pull it open a bit harder than is wise, and stumble from the lack of resistance, setting up for an embarassing accidental collision if she takes just two more steps just like so...

Melinda May has posed:
"But that's so long from now," the man complains, reaching out to brush her shoulder.

It's like a dance, really. Lily laughs lightly, pulling enough back from that touch to seem playfully coy, rather than clearly avoiding. She twists slightly. One step, another, and then her body is colliding with Lamont's and she's sliding around past him, out of the other man's reach.

"Lian! Are you--?" He actually tries to look concerned for a moment, even though there's this other fellow clearly in the way and in between him and his target. "You need to watch what you're doing, buddy."

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    "--Oof!" The exclamation sounds genuine enough even though Lily recalls bodily colliding with linebackers that had less give. Clearly this Lamont Cranston works out more often than he lets on.

    From her angle, Lily can see the smile flickering over his face that her 'date' can't before he straightens and turns with slow deliberation, letting the man realize who he's just insulted.

    "Oh, I'm sorry, miss--?" Lamont asks, offering a hand to Lily to help her up before looking at her 'date'. "... And you are--?" he asks, tone shifting from gentlemanly courtesy to bored disinterest without so much as a hitch.

Melinda May has posed:
"Zhang," Lily says smoothly, taking Lamont's hand and straightening. She looks at her erstwhile date, "William," she chides. "It's just an accident."

The man puffs up some, but he can tell by Lamont's baring that he's more the ilk of the younger man he met only moments ago, than a man he can easily intimidate. Not to mention, Cranston is probably 10 years his junior. "Just be more careful, next time," he says, not quite willing to back down entirely. "She could have been hurt."

"I'm fine," Lily assures him with gentle tones. She lays her hand on his arm and, somehow, he seems to calm in a way that one might not quite expect. "This was fun, William. We'll do it again, next week. But I'm tired. I'm going to call a cab." She guestures to the VIP section. "Go join your friends."

William doesn't really look like he wants to, but at the same time he has calmed considerably. "At least let me wait until the cab comes..." He eyes Cranston warily still.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    "Allow me," Lamont offers smoothly, one hand lightly on Lily's shoulder as he guides her outside, the other in the air almost the moment they exit the door -- and as if summoned, a taxi pulls up not two seconds later. "Please take this charming young lady wherever she wishes to go," he instructs the driver, dropping another Grant onto the dashboard as he holds the door for Lily. "Don't worry about me, I'll just take the next."

    Again, the 50-dollar bill vanishes within an eyeblink, and the driver - an older man, weathered and graying -- nods and waits for Lily to get seated.

Melinda May has posed:
Lily slides in, giving Cranston a grateful smile and nod. William is left at the doorway, silently fuming. As she settles in the cab, she says softly to Lamont, "Thank you. I'll let Peggy know what happened." And, hopefully, get her out of that hotel room before William gets there.

For once, she'd like to see Peggy come home from a mission WITHOUT bruises. Or a gunshot wound.

As it is, however, William has other business he must attend. He'll have to deal with Lian Zhang, later... if he can find her.

Because the shadows hide a lot more than the darkness in the hearts of men.