Watch and Prepare
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A tenant's strange behaviour interrupts an evening at Lucy's cafe.

The Jaberwocky Cafe

January 20th, 2012

"No one can help me."


The Jaberwocky Cafe is in its last hour of business for the day. It's business as usual, for the most part; almost every patron inside is from the adjacent Lockwood Towers apartment building, including Maevis Shine, the overworked building manager. She tries her best to be here every single evening — supporting the locals, she always says, with a warm little smile for Ms. Lucy, but she sure enjoys the sweets an awful lot; given the woman's big heart, it's probably equal amounts support for Lucy and for her own sugar habit — save for the evenings that get too bogged down with building complaints and tasks. Of late, she's been more scarce than usual, but she currently stands half-bent fussing over the confections with her mouth drawn tight, leaning her weight onto the purple pharmacy-brand cane she perpetually uses because of her poor left leg.

It's dark so early, these days, and has been pitch for some time, as well as growing stormy; the next customer who slips in does so under the dripping hood of a black raincoat, hurrying in from the freezing rain.

From behind the counter, Lucy pours boiling water into a large red mug (all the mugs at the cafe are either red or white) and slides it over toward Maevis. "Ms. Shine, here's a tea for you. Peppermint." No charge, is what's unsaid. She sometimes slips Maevis an extra tea here and there along with a cupcake depending on the day that she's had. Lucy can't help but be sympathetic toward the old woman. And it always helps to have a tea while thinking over desserts.

The next entrant gets a smile and a tilt of her head in greeting. She'll wait until the rain coated man steps up to the counter to order before greeting him - it's not nice to rush customers. Especially in a tea shop. It's a place to relax and enjoy sweet things.

The black trenchcoat of a larger man can soon be seen, having been roughly two minutes too late to avoid the chilly torrents from assaulting his body and soul. Long 'blonde' hair mats against the back of his head and coat, making it appear as if it was less hair and more of a dead rat.

"Man, it's freezing out there," the newcomer states loudly to anyone who wishes to hear. To regulars, they know who it is, Phillip Stone, professional has-been who makes being shadow of himself into an art form. Still, he comes in and enjoys the green teas if/when they are offered at the cafe, even personally bringing in white teas from time to time when he wishes to share a true brew from the east and doesn't wish to drink along. The 'white tea' days seem to grow further and further apart from one another over the months.

Slowly peeling off his trench to reveal a black dress shirt and some blue jeans, Stone glances around. "So, everyone doing okay?" he asks, speaking again to anyone who gives him heed.

"Bless your heart," Maevis says, taking the tea with a slightly arduous stretch as she takes a bit of her weight off her cane. "How is your electricity at home, Lucy, some people have been complaining about their lights going off next-door. Power surges, I think, but you never know with that old building. Are your lights in here looking a little dim? I have an electrician coming in tomorrow. I'll tell him to wander over here too." In all likelihood, there's no way the wiring is connected between the old building and the new addition the Jaberwocky Cafe is in, but Maevis is a worrier. She'll have the poor electrician run ragged with her good intentions.

A regular at one of the tables — a thirty-something fellow with a handsomely squared jaw and neatly groomed black hair, of Middle-Eastern decent perhaps, wearing a suit — who's been quietly catching up with the newspaper's word games over a cup of tea happens to glance up and eye Maevis for a long moment before returning to his crossword.

"Well hi Phillip," Maevis casts genially over to the newcomer. "Oh, you know," she answers; her usual reply to how she's doing. "You go on ahead of me, I'm still hemming and hawing."

The figure in the raincoat has moved away from the door, but veered oddly to the right and started to pace, accomplishing little but gathering a puddle of cold water around his feet where it's slicked off— his?— coat.

And, after a moment, to warrant a sideways look from the next customer: Sarah, a familiar face from both the Lockwood security office and this cafe. She likes her cupcakes while seeming to have a personal vendetta against tea and coffee — but always has a friendly word for the owner. The pacing hooded man is given a distinct the hell is your problem eyeing, but she doesn't break her stride: it's a singular trek from outside to the counter, her hands in her pockets. She's not wearing a coat, and her dull grey dress shirt and the thin, dark blue tie of her official uniform are half-soaked.

"Fine fine," Lucy tells Phillip with a warm smile. "Luckily, it's warm in here. Any new tea to show me?" Even if the days are a little thin on ground between white teas, she always asks. It shows that she does appreciate her customers and their tastes. In fact, she's attempted to get more white teas in for Phillip whenever she can. "A green tea? Maybe a cookie?" she offers.

To Maevis, she shakes her head. "No no, the electricity here has been just fine. No black outs. Not even a glimmer. If he's in need of some nice warm tea to keep him going during his fixing, just let me know. Did you see the new Checkerboard Shortbread? It's a new recipe. I think you might like it."

As for the handsome man and the newcomer, she doesn't quite have the time to greet them properly yet - in fact, they haven't even made it up to the counter and she has customers. So, she'll keep to her business until they either make trouble, or make up their minds about an order. "You're soaked, Sarah," she tells the Security guard. "I know you're not one for tea or coffee, but you should get something warm."

"No rush, need a second to warm my bones anyway before deciding what I want… Other than something hot. Maybe a cup for my hair so I don't drip and make someone slip," Phil replies, returning the kindness with some of his own. Once everything is hung up or put next to his seat, Phil begins to relax, the seat groaning a little under the heavy burden of once proud muscle hidden away under an unhealthy coating of fat.

An awkward smile is given toward mention of white teas. "Nah, just the ones I brought in last time." It was the last of the tin too, only sweet smelling specks left in the metal bin. "Thinking about getting one with some Jasmine sometime soon, we'll see. For now, green tea is fine. Likely should only have one cookie." There is a pause before he raises his hand to display his true ordering desire, three fingers raised. It is as if not mentioning the other two verbal means that they lose their caloric influence upon him.

As the door opens, Phillip turns, his eyes resting upon Sarah for a moment before noticing there are others here. The attractive man gets a stare from Stone, reflecting on the man as if he was more of a memory than a person. After a second or so, the attention shifts, moving toward the pacing individual. A brow is given toward the 'crew' and the owner, as if silently inquiring for more information on the raincoat clad person.

Sarah's hands remain firmly in her pockets, her shoulders stiff and squared, stubbornly fighting shivers. "No kidding, it's suddenly fucking hell frozen over out there. Can you put some whiskey in the microwave?" she asks with a smile that twists toward joking around — although she is looking a little rough around the edges. She glances aside and ducks her head, "Uh, not that I'd drink before shift," she says to Maevis, looking a little hangdog, particularly when her untied dark hair falls to hide her guilt. Guilt that she doesn't have because she was completely kidding. She pops her head back up and smiles at Lucy, a thin hand jumping from her pocket to tuck damp strands behind a twice-pierced ear. "Nah, actually, if tonight's shift is anything like last night's, I'm just gonna need some sugar to get through it."

Ignoring Sarah in the most good-natured of ways, Maevis starts nodding with growing, if still wavering, decisiveness; her order takes her attention well away from the pacing man. "I think I will try that new Checkerboard Shortbread."

"I'll have anything with frosting," Sarah chimes in. She misses Phillip's eyebrow, but the rate at which the feet in the corner of the store have begun to pace with increasing speed becomes too much for her to ignore, then; pace, pace, pace…

The raincoat man starts rubbing his hands together; most certainly a man now, as his hood has fallen back slightly, but is kept bowed, shadowing his identity. Disjointed syllables rasp from his mouth, spat like curses — maybe prayers — all too whispery to determine by saner ears. It's starting to put the other customer, the man with the newspaper, on edge; he stiffens in his seat and glances from his crossword uneasily.

The awkward smile is met without a change in her own. However, Lucy makes a mental note not to bring it up again as it seems to make him a little nervous. "One green tea coming right up." Taking one of her to-go cups she also slides it over to Phillip for his wet hair problem without making a production of it. Then, she grabs a cookie - one with white frosting that has a red knight chess piece piped on it - to go with it. All of these are slipped into what she is now thinking of as Phillip's pile.

"I could put whiskey into the microwave if I had a liquor license. Or, if you were willing to slip me a twenty." With a grin, she starts to pull out the shortbread for Maevis. "Not even some hot water with lemon and honey? Wouldn't do to let our brave souls get a head cold." Handing over the cookie to Maevis, she smiles. "I think you like it. It's got just a touch of ginger. Gives it a nice little spice." Should she be telling trade secrets?

As for the man in the corner, he now has Lucy's attention. The general shift in attitude of her customers is one that she's attuned to and seeing what is causing it to happen, she takes in the dripping, the muttering and gives him a smile. "Sir, would you like a warm tea or something? I'm sure it's cold by the door." Maybe he just needs some extra handling. Something to pull him out of his reverie.

As the eyebrow is not met with any real response, Phillip's demeanor loses some of its warmth. While the cafe is not a place that really needs nor requires a bouncer, his past and personality combine to have him often take the unspoken position, even if others wish he'd do otherwise. The hair is wrung out into the provided cup. Even dyed blond, it still seems thick enough to take in the rain like mob.

His hair no longer weighing him down, Stone rises from his chair as Lucy asks her question, moving to throw away the cup in a nearby trash can, but he still keeps an eye on the situation as he moves. For now, the talk of drinking and working are met with silence as Phillip seems to be lost in thought, waiting for something, or merely having nothing to add.

He doesn't seem to notice he's being addressed. His reverie is deep and unpleasant, not made out of the stuff of daydreams.

Pace, pace, pace…

Sarah opens her mouth to reply to Lucy about that lemon and honey, but her jaw barely moves before muscle clamps tight around the bone. She's now fixed on the pacing figure.

His whispers grow louder and — just barely — take form, escalating as his pacing does. "…save save… save save save… save save savior, savior savior savior savemesavemesaveme!"

Even Maevis pops stops tittering over her shortbread to watch uneasily.

"Shit, that's 609," Sarah says when the man's hood slips down over his wet forehead — not only slicked by the weather, but by a waxy sheen of perspiration that plasters his thinning hair to his sallow complexion. The security guard moves closer to the counter conspiratorially while her head is turned over her shoulder at him. "He kept me and half of six and seven up all night last night because he kept shouting like a fucking crazy person, fucking bloody murder until I had everyone calling in complaints to security. I went to his apartment three times and every time he's just standing there cool as a goddamn creepy cucumber asking if I'd like to come in for some tea, place was dead silent until friggin' 3 AM when 509 is calling me saying they can't sleep because there's all this noise above them."

Maevis looks worried to the point of pain. "He's a banker," she pipes up. "Always been nothing but friendly… he seems— awfully perturbed…"

Sarah turns around with a determined push off the counter, standing tall. At a glance, Phillip may look the more traditional part of a bouncer more than her, this wiry woman (cheap uniform not withstanding) but as building security, she is, for all intents and purposes, just that. Prepared, she eyes "609" with her dark eyes; guard dog eyes, fighter dog eyes, moody, watchful, on-edge.

The hooded man jerks his head up as if feeling the wave of being watched by multiple gazes. His own eyes flash wide and bloodshot, wildly suspicious — but he focuses on no one person. He stops pacing abruptly and starts to stride unevenly for the counter, looking to be on an eventual collision course with Phillip, not seeming to truly register any obstacle as he goes along fidgeting and mumbling. "… save… savior… need!… coming… coming…"

As everyone's attention now seems to be incredibly focused on '609', Lucy blinks. Pouring a hot cup of water in a to-go cup, drops in a lemon and squirts in some honey, she pushes it over the counter. She hasn't seen this man in her coffee shop before, but at least she can give him something hot. With Maevis' stamp of approval, he deserves something warm - especially if he's that worked up over something. "Save?" she asks softly? "What's coming?"

The talk of who this mystery man is or has done gets a simple nod as Phillip looks away for a moment to listen. Turning back, the ex-trainer sees that man is moving toward him. However, he doesn't treat the small guy as a threat, the meaty hand of Mr. Stone rests firmly on the man's shoulder. While it is a gentle gesture at first, it can easily dig into the man's limp to keep him still if required, perhaps concerned of him freaking out and trying to flee. Despite his action, however, his tone and demeanor remains calm and his tone gentle.

"It's fine, buddy, no one is going to hurt you here. Just take a load of, take some deep breaths, should be able to settle your nerves." If he seems interested in the man's rantings, he doesn't seem to show it, merely guiding the man to take a seat if he can.

The ranting man walks into Phillip's hand, bearing against it as if it's nothing more than a branch to brush past in his path. In reality, it's a good deal stronger than that — he walks in place, as if on a fruitless treadmill against Phillip's strength, himself a thin and waning man, the opposite of the tall figure he's up against He then snaps his head up with nearly enough sudden force to twist a vertebra; his Adam's apple points at Lucy, trembling, his head rolling far back as his eyes focus on her — yet still they're far away. He might not be seeing Lucy at all, but whatever he sees, he sees it with great intensity. He trembles beneath Phillip's hand from the sheer anxious might which with his muscles are constantly tensed.

"I need to prepare. I need to prepare." His lips are dry; despite clothes of some expense, he looks, and smells, like someone who hasn't been taking care of himself. His whispers deteriorate and reform as dislocated phrases from the Lord's Prayer, jumbling into nonsense on his tongue.

"Sir— " Sarah takes a step closer, her voice edged with more warning than calming.

He tries to fling himself backward, only to give in to sitting. The other customer promptly takes his newspaper, his coat, and excuses himself quickly, casting rattled glances over his shoulder. Despite the cafe's underlying Alice In Wonderland theme, madness, it seems, isn't good for business.

Prepare? It sounds like this man may be late for a very important date. Lucy brings the cup of hot water around the counter toward the table where everyone else is gathering. She gives a quick look to Phillip and then to Sarah, attempting to figure out what either of them might have to say about what is happening here. Over her shoulder, she glances at Maevis as well, as the kindly manager is the one that told them that they were kindly. "He's never had any sort of mental problems before last night? I mean, I know that the economy is pretty bad right now. It's enough to get anyone stressed out. But, uh…" this is a little beyond stressed out.

She turns back toward 609 and puts it on the table in front of the man, though she keeps on the opposite side of the table from him. Kindness, it seems, only goes as far as 'close enough'. "Is there anyone we can call for you, sir? Someone who can help you?"

Phillip maintains his position next to the troubled man. He doesn't really say more than needs to be said in most cases, and this is no exception. Lucy is on point for the Q & A, so that means that he doesn't really say a word. As there is a look for insight from the larger man, he just gives a slight shrug and a look that suggests he has no idea on what the hell is going on, though he seems rather stoic considering the situation.

Despite his somber expression and silence for a short bit of time, Phil does manage to give a simple "It's fine, buddy". As Sarah seems to be on edge, Phil turns to motion with his hand to settle. After all, while the man is troubled, not like he's hurting anyone. At least not yet.

"He was… he was a little late with rent this month…" Maevis replies uncertainly, at a loss. "His name is Mr. Saunders," she adds. Unlike Sarah, the building manager has a rather incredible ability to remember every tenant and their apartment number.

"Well, I think he's late for his appointment at the psych ward," Sarah murmurs under her breath, ever irreverent. Tensing, she remains poised to move— even more on edge for Phillip's gesture of calm, sticking stubbornly to her contemptuous skepticism of the situation.

609 — Mr. Saunders — shudders as if a mighty chill has run through him. "No…" He seems to answer Lucy directly, for once — yet his gaze drifts. "No one can help me. I have to help myself…" He starts to nod — with his whole body, he rocks. When he seems completely astray, he reels in on the cup on the table; he grabs it greedily with both hands, digging into it until it starts to crumple under his nails. He even takes a sip, the hot, honeyed liquid moistening his dry lips. Once he's gulped some down, however, he becomes fiercely impatient and dismisses it in a fit of extreme agitation, jumping to his feet and tossing the cup in blind craze at Phillip. "I need— !" Kicking his chair out behind him in a tangle and clamor, he makes a mad dash around everybody for the counter, his arms outstretched childishly in front of him as if to grab everything in sight, shoving past Maevis. "… watch and be prepared watch and watch and be prepared and watch and…"

Sarah turns on her heel, on his.

The prospect of losing your home is enough to make anyone go a little crazy. Lucy nods sympathetically at both Maevis' words and at poor Mr. Saunders. Though the sympathy continues, she watches him carefully as he snatches the cup of hot water and basically crushes it in his hands. At the sudden, random violence, Lucy gives a gasp and ducks. Though the cup was not tossed at her, it is a natural reaction to something being thrown near her.

"H-Hey—!" she splutters as the man pushes past them and makes for the counter. "Stop that!" Twirling, she looks over at Phillip to make sure he doesn't have any sort of burns or the like. "Are you okay?!" Carefully, she moves forward and attempts to put a hand on Maevis to make sure she doesn't tumble from the shoving. The poor woman has a cane and doesn't have the best balance. "And you?" she adds to the manager.

Finally, Lucy turns to Sarah. She's the security guard! She is the most likely to be able to do something! "I—I think Mr. Saunders needs to calm down somewhere." Somewhere that doesn't have a lot of breakable things within reach.

The name is taken up by Phil as it is offered by Maevis, filing that away for further notice. The biggest person in the room seems content to try and let things run their course. That is until the hot beverage is thrown toward him. He turns his head, avoiding it going fully into his eyes, but it goes along the side of his face and his exposed neck.

A brief cry of anger and pain is given as the martial artist instructor moves to get up after the man. However, not nearly as graceful as he was six months or so ago, he slips on the water already on the ground, his head slamming against the chair with a painful crack before falling like a sack to the ground. Awkwardly, Phillip tries to get to his hands and knees before using the chair to help himself up. While one side of his face is red due to the hot drink, the rest is red due to pure rage. As his condition is inquired about, he gives a simple "fine" despite the bruise that is start to form on his forehead.

It's clear that if Sarah hasn't handled this man by the time Stone gets his feet back under him, he might be more than willing to ensure that attacker doesn't have a chance to hurt anyone else tonight.

Maevis has caught the counter, and is stilted a little sideways, but is glad for Lucy's assistance even though she's quick to rely solely on her cane again. "My word…" She's still too close to comfort to the commotion.

"Okay, 6-0— Mr. Saunders!" Sarah's faint Southern drawl firms in authority, with a rougher edge riled up by the aggression of grabbing the back of his shirt and hauling him back. He's grabbing for trays— something clatters behind the counter— for cups— and for baked goods most of all.

"You don't understand!" he screams, "I NEED TO PREPARE OR I'M GOING TO DIE! God help me!" He's not a huge man, and, in fact, is looking frail. A frail man running on pure adrenaline and madness, however, has the strength of two men. He slips and struggles repeatedly out of Sarah's grasp until she has one of his arms crushed tight to his body. "Hey, man," she calls out to Stone as Saunders writhes, shouldering her, "Gimme a hand bringing this guy to the security office, yeah? I'll call the cops. Or the nuthouse."

Mr. Saunders' screams are certainly enough to rattle Lucy. Gasping, she tightens her hold on Maevis - not so much to steady the older woman but out of her own fear. It doesn't look like Phillip is 'fine' so much as bearing through the pain, but she doesn't want to interfere in what seems to be quite an epic struggle.

Each crash and clash on the floor brings a wince to Lucy's face - it's hard to tell if it's for her cafe or the man who's gone insane. As the wriggle and bounce more, she backs up, attempting to take Maevis with her so that they can be out of the way of the man and his flailing. "I-if he wants some food…just…just let me know. I'll bring down some to the office. Also, I'll bring your cupcake in just a minute. And your cookie and tea, Mr. Stone." She doesn't exactly shout this, so it may get lost in the din of the man's cries. But, it really seems like a sugar rush is the last thing this man needs.

Thankfully, as Sarah already has the man in a hold, it ensures that Phillip doesn't have to do his own take down, which fueled by pain and testosterone, could have led to a very hurt Mr. Saunders'. While Stone is not nearly at his peak, a large angry man who knows how to throw a good punch is a fearsome thing in its own right. He moves to take one forearm with one hand, offering a simple, "I got this" before working himself behind the man and getting him in a mix between an arm hold and a bear hug. "Do what you need to do," is all he says to Sarah before he tries to move the man toward the office, using his own girth advantage to push the man along.

For now, Lucy is all but ignored, the fake blonde merely focusing on his work for the time being on getting the man to where he needs to be and keeping him there. Despite his rage, he is trying to look on the bright side.

This has got to be burning a hella lot of calories. At least five cookies worth.

With a tight flash of — perhaps ill-placed — resentment coming and going across her face, Sarah sticks close to Phillip and Mr. Saunders, keeping a grasp on the latter man's arm to stake some official claim to the wayward tenant as he's ushered out of the cafe. She turns a look over her shoulder at Lucy and Maevis that's almost apologetic — she wishes she could stay and fix the mess left behind, but she has a mess ahead of her to deal with. "Thanks," she tells the tall man on their way out while Saunders fights and sputters the whole way. The night envelops them with striking cold and rain. A blast of biting air rushes into the Jaberwocky in their leave.

Maevis stares at the door in a state of bewilderment. "I think I'll take another of those cookies to go."

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