House Of Cards (Part One):
Setting Them Up

(Meta 7)

by Cyc

Back to: Down The Rabbit Hole

The radio was quietly playing some maudlin love song when Chris walked into the kitchen to find Josiah hunched over a cup of coffee at the farthest end of the long table, looking bleary-eyed and surly.

"Mornin', Josiah," he greeted low, moving down the grey worktop to the coffee percolator.

The grunt he received in return could have been his name but was more likely a curse word.

Paying no mind, Chris picked out a plain white mug from the cupboard above the sink and poured himself a coffee before refilling the cup Josiah held blindly out to him.

"Four times," Josiah growled in his deep, early morning gravel voice. "Four times that thrice-damned alarm clock went off in my head." He took a sip of coffee then rubbed his eyes. "Even after I threw it out the window, the visions kept coming."

"See any images of tonight?" Chris leaned back against the worktop, sipping his coffee.

"Not a thing," Josiah replied. "Still got that nagging feeling that we're missing something, though." He shook his head. "It's so damn strange that we couldn't find out anything last night. Not even a whisper."

Acknowledging this with a frown and a nod, Chris turned to check the cupboards for breakfast inspiration.

"Don't bother," Josiah sighed, staying his hand. "The choice for our most important meal of the day comes down to two things: frozen waffles or frozen pancakes. If it isn't frozen and can't fit in the toaster, it ain't on the menu."

"All right." Chris moved over to the freezer and opened the door to scowl inside at the bags of frozen foods cowering in the corner. "What did you have?" he asked suspiciously.

"Pancakes were all right," Josiah replied ambiguously.

Chris had chosen a couple of waffles and was crossing to the toaster when Vin came into the kitchen looking almost as weary as Josiah.

"Mornin'," he said softly, sparing a frown for Chris' waffles before getting a mug of coffee.

"Didn't keep you awake, did I?" Josiah asked him with concern.

"Nah." Vin shrugged, pulling out a chair to sit at the table. "I'm just not used to Ezra yet."

"He was moving around?" Chris asked, surprised.

Vin shook his head. "Not really. Just dreamin'. But his scent's all screwed up with them drugs in his system and I guess it was making me paranoid."

"You? Paranoid?" Josiah grinned just as the toaster pinged up Chris' slightly underdone waffles.

"Don't start with me, esp man." Vin smirked back. "Least ways I don't worry when I don't sense something."

"Touché." Josiah toasted Vin with his coffee.

"Everyone else up?" Chris asked as he tugged off a sheet of coffee bean patterned kitchen roll to put his waffles on and vaguely wondered what had happened to the roll of dancing farmyard animal paper.

Swallowing down a mouthful of coffee, Vin nodded. "Nathan and Ezra are talking in his room. Buck and JD'll be along any minute." He paused to listen. "In fact..."

"Mornin', boys." Buck breezed into the kitchen, making a beeline for the freezer. "Josiah, Vin, it's hard to tell which one of you two were beat harder with the whooped stick all night," he continued with a grin before raking out a good handful of frozen pancakes and crossing to the toaster as Chris took a seat at the table.

"I take it you slept well?" Josiah returned dryly.

"Like a baby!"

"You sure don't snore like no baby," Vin grouched good-naturedly. "And don't go turning up that dial none neither," he went on as Buck made a big show of fiddling with the toaster settings. "I don't want the stink of burnt pancakes hanging around me all day."

"Well, someone got out the wrong side of the bed this mornin'." Buck looked to Chris. "There's something wrong in the world when a man can't even set his toaster just right without rubbing someone up the wrong way."

"Amen to that!" JD charged in and was queuing behind Buck, waffles already in hand, scant seconds later.

"What did I tell you about rushing around first thing?" Buck blocked JD's attempts to slip his waffles in the toaster before his next round of pancakes. "You're making my head spin before I've even had my breakfast, boy."

"Oh, quit complainin' an' hurry it up, Buck. A man could starve to death waitin' on you cookin' breakfast."

"That's not cookin', son," Josiah said sagely. "That is toasting."

"Well, we need another toaster," JD concluded then groaned as Buck put yet another round of pancakes into the slots. "We can afford another toaster, can't we, Chris?"

Chris shrugged. "Depends on how many winners Josiah picks this week."

"You gonna eat those waffles?" JD returned hopefully after spying Chris' untouched breakfast.

Shaking his head slightly, Chris leaned away from the table to let JD swoop in just as Ezra strolled into the kitchen looking impeccably turned out in his fancy tailored clothes.

"Good morning, gentlemen." He smiled, nodding thanks to Buck for the mug of coffee he handed him. "Mr Jackson asked me to relay the fact that he will be joining us shortly."

"You're looking a hang of a lot better today, Ezra," JD said around a mouthful of waffle as Ezra sat down on the opposite side of the table from Chris. "You looked like hell last night."

"Thank you for reminding me of that fact, Mr Dunne," Ezra returned distractedly, suddenly looking a tad paler as he averted his gaze from the handful of butter soaked kitchen paper and pancakes Buck plonked down on the table beside him.

"If you want something to eat you'd best get it before JD goes back for seconds," Buck told Ezra cheerily as he sat.

Ezra edged away from the butter oozing across the table towards his shirt cuff. "Haven't you gentleman ever heard of something called a plate?"

"A plate?" Buck grinned. "What's that? It's not one of those new fangled inventions, is it?"

"A plate, Mr Wilmington, happens to be a very cunning device designed to separate one party's repast from the table and, indeed, another person's clothing. I hear they have achieved a great popularity in some circles."

"Is that so?" Buck replied in mock awe. "What will they think of next!"

"It's wonder, ain't it?" JD chimed in from his toasting marathon just as Vin shook his head before addressing Ezra.

"Usin' plates means that someone has to wash 'em."

"And washin' other people's plates can create a powerful ill-feelin' in a man," Josiah explained.

"Ah, I see." Ezra nodded then took a sip of coffee. "You gentlemen have sacrificed table etiquette for the greater goal of domestic harmony." He grinned. "How idiosyncratic."

"Oh, that's us." Josiah smiled. "Idiosyncratic to the bone."

"And the rest," Buck added.

"Rest of what?" Nathan asked as he came in, heading straight for the coffee.

"We're idiosyncratic," JD told him.

"Ah-huh." Nathan poured his coffee then took a seat at the table. "Surgery's all set up and ready to go, Chris."

"Let's hope we don't need it," Buck said, getting up to get another length of kitchen roll.

"Amen to that." Josiah nodded as Chris realised what had happened to the roll of dancing farmyard animals.

"All right," Chris began, drawing their attention. "We do the same as we did last night only this time we lean on them harder. We're running out of time. Try working it from a different angle. Find out who's not in their usual patch and why. Someone out there has to know something."

"Josiah and me can head down Beggar's Row." Nathan nodded at Josiah's consent. "See which way they're movin' today. Them folks can smell trouble comin'."

"Me and JD'll work the punks at the docks," Buck said. "If there's bribe money rollin' around it'll be there by now and we'll trace it back to the source."

"Good," Chris agreed, looking speculatively at Ezra who was frowning at his coffee cup. While the abilities of an illusionary telepath would no doubt come in useful in the strong-arm department, he was reluctant to employ Ezra's talents so early in the game. As with his own pyrokinetic abilities, Chris' instinct was to keep Ezra as an ace up his sleeve.

"You all right, Ezra?" Vin asked before Chris could ponder his own motivations on the subject any further.

"Fine, thank you, Mr Tanner." Ezra blinked then smiled. "I assure you."

"You don't look all that fine." Chris studied the man who was almost fidgeting under his scrutiny.

"Well... I'm sure it's nothing..." Ezra trailed off uncertainly.

Chris' voice dropped warily, "Tell me."

Ezra frowned uncomfortably. "Well, the other night, when I had the good fortune to meet you gentlemen," he began ruefully, "the miscreants I had the ill-judgement to play poker with were discussing moving their nefarious activities to a more suitable location they had on good authority would be emptying of prying eyes soon."

"So?" Nathan said. "People come and go around here all the time."

"It's hardly the Promised Land," Josiah added.

"It was more than the intention." Ezra shook his head. "It was the manner in which they spoke. They actually used the phrase 'on good authority'. Not diction common to them, I assure you."

"You think they meant the Meta Cops?" Chris asked, narrow eyed.

Ezra nodded. "Without a doubt, given the advantage of hindsight. I didn't think much of it then, of course."

"All right." Chris looked to Buck. "You and JD get--"

"And there's something else," Ezra continued reluctantly. "At that club last night--"

"You found something out and didn't tell me?" Chris erupted from his chair, jolting the table and spilling coffees.

"I didn't think on it then." Ezra kicked back his own chair, standing up to shake coffee from his cuff. "It was just--"

"You don't think on much, do you?" Chris snarled as Nathan stood up to take hold of his arm.

"Calm down, Chris. The man was drugged. You can't expect him to remember everything."

"I expect him to do his job." Chris shook himself free. "All right, tell me," he snapped at Ezra.

Ezra scowled back stubbornly. "I received no intelligence from the barmen whatsoever, unless you count my supposed likeness to a certain celebrity when naked. However, I did overhear a conversation between the bar owner and a 'friend' of his who were discussing the possibility of opening a new bar for Metas in a property close to the main Meta thoroughfare that they thought would become available soon. Obviously, this means little on it's own but taken with the--"

"Hell!" Chris bolted for the phone, almost yanking it off the wall as he shouted at Buck, "You and JD get down to Mary's now. They're after her place by the train station."

Illusions Index On to: House Of Cards (Part Two): Watching Them Fall

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