2020-04-02: Look But Don't Touch

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Featuring River, Nikita Sokolov
Rating PG-13
Synopsis On a dark and stormy night, River and Nikita are on the hunt for kidnappers!

Atlantic City. The Boardwalk. To those who've never been here, it's little more than a property on a board game. To tourists, it's a strip of glitz, glamour and excess - with high priced hotels, casinos, restaurants and clubs representing just about every vice imaginable. The locals, however, know it as something else - many of them work here, day and in and day out, and see the underside of that glitz and glamour only too closely. Most locals can immediately spot each other, even if they don't know each other. Tourists stand out - they're loud, they're distracted, they're often lost. The locals keep their heads down and are usually only here on the Boardwalk because they're going somewhere. They're not here to soak it in. They're just here to move on through - to home, to food, to their work. That's just the way it is.

On this rainy weekday evening, it's no different. To those who know how to look, there's two distinct classes of people in the thick crowds of the Boardwalk. The obnoxious and oblivious tourists, and the tired and often dour locals. And in between all of these, there's at least one other who stands just a little apart from both camps - Nikita Sokolov. Though he's really more firmly in the category of a local, he's not here on the boardwalk trudging along like the others. He's come here with purpose this evening, his gaze intent as he watches the entrance to one of the lower-end resort hotels along the expanse. There's been a handful of missing children cases over the past few weeks, cases which the local police have either been unable or unwilling to do anything about. With their hands either full, tied, or otherwise uncaring about the situation, Nikita has started to poke his own nose into the matter. The disappearances have been in multiple locations but this hotel - The Regalia Resort and Spa - is right in the middle of all of them. In fact, the most recent disappearance was from a family actually staying at the hotel proper. Nikita's heard that the family has started to bypass the police after getting railroaded by the authorities, making a few public pleas for aid and assistance, though he's not sure what's become of them.

Though he's not quite sure what he's looking for yet, Nikita stands watching quietly and observantly, tucked underneath an overhang to keep out of the rain as he pays attention to those coming and going from the hotel. If there's a scout or recon man, he'll turn up sooner or later and then Nik will hopefully be able to tail him to the whatever base of operations might be in place. He knows it's likely that the kidnapping ring or whatever is at play here isn't based at the hotel proper, but he's got to start somewhere...

River Walker. Honestly; if she could have chosen her own name, it probably wouldn't have been any different. The brunette enjoys the name, the quirks of eyebrows she gets when she introduces herself, and sometimes, even joins in on a laugh on her parents, all in good nature of course. Yet, for this dark, dreary, rainy, and horrible evening, she's on a mission. A very important mission indeed!

A few days ago frantic parents came to River seeking help in finding their lost child. The lost are River's specialty, all things considered. She's reunited many people with their lost loves, sadly most of those times were the bodies of their lost loves, but at least closure was given.

A child lost? Or taken? Well, that's even worse, and River needs to work quickly, the longer that time passes, the less chance the child will be found - alive at least. (Or sometimes at all.)

For a private investigator, starting somewhere means usually starting at the scene of the crime, and for River, that's no different. Through the dark, shadow, rain filled evening she slowly makes her way towards the location of the abduction. At River's side is a dark, wet dog, the German Shepherd is leashed, though River really doesn't need to /have/ a leash, it's just the law and all. The dog walks very loyal and diligently at River's side, though her nose does pick up something that she whines ever so slightly at River for.

Next to Nik a cold nose will find itself suddenly burying into Nik's hand, as Vesper happily announces her presence with a cold nose and soft woof. River is not nearly as happy to greet the man. "So help me, if you've touched anything..." That's a River way of saying hello.

One moment, he's standing there, intently watching the entryway to the Regalia and counting family members and groups as they come and go from the hotel, and the next Nikita finds something cold, wet and.. wriggling? against his palm. He's a little startled, but quickly realizes what's going on - and who's responsible for the canine snout that's nuzzling into his hand. With a broad grin, Nik is quick to open his palm fully, moving his hand up and around Vesper's head to scritch the dog between her ears and along the back of her neck. "Hey there girl," he greets her, before looking up to see the dog's owner holding the leash. And not looking nearly as pleased to see him.

"Only your dog," he's quick to answer with a smile, giving Vesper another rub behind her ears before returning his attention to River. "Good to see you again too," he continues, a bit wryly. "I don't need to guess why you're here. The Frandells weren't quiet about turning to other avenues when they told off the police." He glances back down at Vesper for just a moment then, his free hand fishing around in his jacket pocket to find an old granola bar there, as he unwraps it and feeds a bite to the dog. "But yeah, don't worry, I haven't been in the room yet. It's still cordoned off and I don't have credentials to let me through. Besides," he adds, "Police have already gathered any evidence that would tell *me* anything. Whether they've got it to use it or bury it."

Nik glances back over to the entrance of the hotel before he returns his attention to River, another smile creeping onto his features while the dreary rain pelts down to the ground, just outside the overhand which protects the two individuals and accompanying dog. "If you're heading in, mind if I tag along? I promise to keep my hands to myself." His smile widens then, and he can't help but add on to that, "Unless you don't *want* me to, of course..." The tone is playful, matching the light twinkle in his eyes.

Vesper, for her part, is only too happy to not only gobble up the treat offered, but the attention too. The large dog is practically a wriggling worm of happiness, as she nuzzles into the scritches, getting wet dog hair all over Nik's clothing. (And Vesper? She doesn't care one darn bit, either.) The canine is too well behaved to stand up and put her paws on Nik's shirt, but if he'd given any single indication that it would be okay, she would have done so.

A single command of 'Sit', from River, does work, however, as Vesper settles down onto her haunches at River's feet. The dog's tongue idly lolls to one side, as she pants and waits for further instructions. "My sources wouldn't confirm it, but they didn't deny it either - there are rumors some of the evidence has conveniently been 'lost', in this case, or completely glossed over. There are too many kids missing, right now, to believe someone on the force isn't involved."

As Nik asks to come, and even adds an impish tone to the last, River just rolls her eyes. "Vesper would love for you to do nothing but tickle her neck, but as for me?" River's grin returns the impish nature. "Just keep your paws to yourself, and don't touch -anything-, at least until I've checked it over. We'll have to be a bit quiet to get into the room."

Thankfully the hotel is one of the few that allow dogs inside, so Vesper doesn't have to stay out in the rain. With a twist of her booted feet, a quiet, 'Vesper, Come', and River spins about and begins heading towards the hotel - and the direction of the last place the child was seen, Vesper happily trotting by River.

Truthfully, Nik wouldn't mind at all to have had Vesper up on his chest to give the animal a good double-handed neck scritch and side rub, wet soggy hair and all. He's not afraid to admit he's a dog person, through and through. But, he also realizes that even though she's semi-'retired', Vesper's also a working dog and so doesn't encourage the playful behavior any further than the granola treat and ear scritches. To the comment about neck tickling though, Nikita can't help but grin a little wider. "And you're sure Vesper's the only one who'd like that, mm?" The tone is kept playful and light, but Nik doesn't press and instead moves to pull his collar up around his neck in preparation for braving the rather unpleasant rain.

Despite the weather, the tourists of the Boardwalk are in full force - families, groups of college students, throngs of business men at sales conferences - they're all bustling to and fro, loudly yakking and carrying on as they crowd under umbrellas or dash from one awning to the next. Nikita keeps his head tilted forward against the precipitation but doesn't otherwise hurry - keeping pace with River and Vesper as he has only his jacket collar to protect his head from the elements. His longish hair gets damp and then full-on wet, though he normally keeps the coif slicked back along his scalp anyways, so it's not like he's really damaging his look.

"How many contacts you still got on the Force?" Nik asks River as the two cross over towards the Regalia then, a combination of making small talk and also hitting up the PI for information about her sources. "And is that place really as infested as everyone says it is?" He pauses his words for a moment, an eyebrow lifting as he realizes something. "That why you left? Too much corruption to fight the good fight?" A more personal question than he's asked River before, but, the two have partnered together on a few cases now and he's of the opinion that he'd like to start to get to know each other better. Hopefully, River's of the same mind.

Artfully dodging the flirting, River pretends to simply not hear it, as she opens an umbrella up with a swift flick of her wrist and careful swish of fabric up and over her form. Hey. It rains a LOT in Atlantic City, and River simply wishes to not get wet. Besides. Rain is weird. It carries energy as well, something that River doesn't entirely like, as sometimes - that energy still can get past River's current defenses and carries with it a slightly disorientating burst of images.

To Nik's questions, River turns her head, soon realizing that she really should be offering the tall Russian her umbrella, which she does - finally - moving it so it covers both herself, as well as Nik - now at least. Vesper, she's on her own, but she doesn't mind, loyal silly canine that she is.

"Not many." River offers with a wrinkle of her nose. "Enough to keep tabs on things, and one really well placed friend?" Yeah you'd call her a friend, River guesses. "But I have a few that I can talk with, learn things and get help from, the number dwindles as time goes on." With the umbrella placed between them, River's gaze flickers back towards the hotel. "Y'know, ask me another time that's a long story, a long, convoluted, story. Though, I suppose, the quick answer I can give you is - yes, and no." A wry grin creeps into River's expression then, before she's stepping into the lobby of the hotel and moving towards the front desk - where a woman stands before, giving Nik and River a suspicious once over - especially as Vesper comes into view.

The umbrella is lowered and closed, as River steps up to the hotel, her hand touching down on the lobby's desk. For a moment, River's eyes seem to gloss over, and she just stands there, staring ahead. The woman behind the desk inquires, "May I help you?" Though River doesn't answer, just stares into the distance, unblinking and unmoving.

Quickly stepping underneath the offered umbrella, Nikita offers a genuine "Thank you," one hand slicking back the excess water off his hair while the two move on towards the Regalia. He then turns his head half towards River as he listens to her - half focused on where he's walking, half focused on the PI next to him - interested in her answers to his questions. "Well... that clears things up," he answers wryly. "Don't worry," he continues then, grinning. "I won't forget to ask you again. I like long and convoluted stories and I can tell that this one is going to be a good one."

As the two reach the hotel, Nik is quick to act the gentleman, reaching out to hold the door open for River (and Vesper), keeping it open while River shakes off and closes her umbrella, and then follows in afterwards. He scans the lobby deftly as he enters and lets the door close behind, surveying the layout with a practiced eye as the cold rain is shut outside. Not surprisingly, the establishment is in need of a little repair - the carpet has a clearly worn path from the entrance past the front desk and to the elevator, the upholstery on the furniture in the lobby is faded and there's numerous scuffs along the front panelling of the main desk. It has the feel of a place that, at one time, may have been ritzy or high-end, but for whatever reason just hasn't kept up with the times and has fallen behind the mega-casinos and resorts that Atlantic City is now known for.

After his scan, Nikita steps up to the desk with River, prepared to allow the PI to do the talking - though that plan is tossed to the side when he sees River's eyes sort of glaze over and the girl just stands there mute. It's a look he's seen on her before, though it still takes him a beat to realize what's going on - he's not yet that familiar with her powers that Nikita is immediately able to key in to what's happening. But he does figure out it without too much of a pause on his and River's end - and also quickly enough that he has the good sense not to touch her or the desk where her hand is at - and instead remains a step away as he answers the attendant's question. "Oh, yes, thank you," he sounds out in his Russian-tinged baritone. "We're with Walker Investigations. ACPD was supposed to have called ahead, we're going to need access to the Frandell's room, the one they were staying in earlier this week." He gives a winning smile then, and pretends as if the strange behavior of the woman next to him is actually not strange at all and that there's nothing amiss about someone just sort of spacing out like that when asked a question.

Blinking. That's the first sign that River is coming around, as her eyes blink repeatedly, the next is a narrowing of her brows as her gaze settles onto the woman behind the lobby desk. The expression given to the female is one of pure annoyance, if emotions can be read through expressions alone - that particular clerk should be dead right about now.

As it is, the hotel staff member offers River a confused expression, before turning back to Nik. "I'm sorry, but we don't have any sort of -- " She begins, only to be interrupted by River's quiet voice. "Miss." River begins, "I'm a private investigator. That means that I know everything, including to the fact you're a supplier of marijuana and that's not legal in this state, quite yet. Oh don't try and deny it, you've got enough in your pocket right now to get you a felony charge. Now, I'm a firm believer in the medicinal purposes of weed, and I'm fully behind it becoming legalized, but until that happens, it's still illegal and can get you fired. So why don't you hand us the key, you can stay out of jail, and we can go investigate a room that has already been gone over by the police, huh? Or shall we have the police look a little closer at your quaint operations here?"

The woman behind the desk goes from red faced, to pale, to red, to pale again as River talks, before pulling out a card - without a sound - and putting it through the proper electronic keying, then handing it to Nik. "I seem to have been mistaken, the note must have gotten lost."

River's smile is bright, "So it seems." As she turns about, allowing Nik to collect the card, while River moves towards the staircase, Vesper trotting along happily beside her master.

To Nik? River just grins, her brows arching upwards then down again as they head towards the room.

Fortunately for Nik, he's not left to his own devices for very long before River finally comes to out of her mini-spell, addressing the receptionist and summarily airing the woman's dirty laundry in order to procure access to the room in question. As the exchange goes on between River and the woman, Nik is just left to stand back and smile softly - he's not about to interfere with this type of masterwork, even if he knows that her 'keen' investigative skills are actually the benefit of a metahuman power to glimpse into the past, rather than any type of Sherlockian deductive reasoning.

When the staff member capitulates, Nik finally chimes in, unable to help himself. "There, was that so difficult?" he asks, more than a bit smarmily, though the confidence in his tone drains noticeably as the electronic key card is handed over to him. The performer is quick to take a step back from the offered card, hands up and palms out almost as if touching the item might infect him with some contagious disease. "Uh, no thank you," he is quick to state, giving a glance towards the rapidly retreating form of River. "I..." He frowns then, clearing his throat and calling out to his partner for the evening.

"River? Excuse me, River?" Nikita waits until he's finally gotten the woman's attention before he gestures to the key card, lifting his eyebrows as he does so. "Would you mind taking the *electronic* key?" He puts a none-to-subtle emphasis on the word, supposing (perhaps correctly) that the woman may have forgotten just what would happen if he were the one to carry it. "I, ah, know how much you like to be the one to enter the crime scene first..." Nik then gives an apologetic grin back to the desk attendant, who at this point just slaps the card down on the top of the counter and rolls her eyes before directing her attention to her computer screen, muttering under her breath about hating the night shift.

River and Vesper are already half way up the first flight of stairs before it dawns on her that .. oh. Wait. Electronic. Maybe she heard Nikita - and maybe she didn't, regardless the woman does eventually come down the stairs and collects up the key. She offers an apologetic shrug towards Nik then, nose wrinkling upwards. "...thanks?" She offers with a slight question to her tone, before she's once again moving up the stairs, a fairly confused Vesper following her.

The stairs are quickly traversed as River offers another apologetic, "Sorry about that - I forget just how many things you CAN'T touch." Her hands run splayed through her dark hair, as River scampers up another flight of stairs, stopping at the third floor, there her fingers idly brush against the doorknob. She's only still a moment, before the door is parted open and she heads on through.

"I'm guessing the night clerk there lets a lot of people through, if they've got blackmail on her. Her operation is not exactly quiet, she's pretty obviously selling. I don't know who her supplier is, I'm not sure she does." A shrug, and River's steps lead her towards the door. A large amount of police tape is the first thing to be seen, yellow and black tape that River pulls carefully loose. Even this - she pauses slightly on, taking a full minute before continuing to put in the electronic key and part open the door. "Vesper, stay. Guard." At the command, River turns her gaze onto Nik then, "And you too." With that, the dark haired woman steps inside, her fingers idly tracing across the doorway at first.

Wrinkling his nose at the attitude of the desk clerk, Nik stops just short of sticking out his tongue at the woman's back while he waits for River to come back down the stairs and collect the key card. He's got his arms crossed over his chest by the time River arrives, and then moves with her back towards the stairs as she grabs the card and takes back off with it. The stairs are navigated easily - Nik's in fit shape - and his breathing isn't labored in the least as the two head upwards into the hotel.

"Oh, I can touch anything I want," he's quick to answer River at her comment. "It just depends on what I want to be functional after I'm done handling it..." He lets out a quiet sigh after that. His ability can certainly come in useful at times, but more often than not it's an absolute pain. Textbook case of both a blessing and a curse. "I've been getting better at holding it back, for short periods anyways. But.. no sense in tempting fate if it's not necessary," he continues, referencing River's handling of the card.

As he follows the woman onto the third floor, Nikita nods to River's assessment of the night clerk. "It wouldn't surprise me if she's sub leasing one or two of the rooms for her own profit without management's knowledge, actually," he muses. "But as far as where she's getting her drugs..." Nikita's expression shadows, the corners of his mouth turning downwards. "There's plenty of suppliers to choose from, but story goes that if you go up the ladder high enough, everything ultimately comes from only one." The performer doesn't expound any further - they're at the police-taped door, and he's careful to keep a step back to give River room and space as she pulls the barrier loose and then opens the room door.

"Yeah, I know, I'll stay put," he agrees, shaking his head ruefully. He waits until River steps inside the room before he mutters a mock-hurt aside to Vesper, telling the dog, "You disrupt her whatever-it-is *one* time, and she never lets you live it down. How was I supposed to know that the stapler was the murder weapon, of all things?" He studies the dog a moment, then starts fumbling about in his pocket and whispers, "You want another bite of granola bar?"

Vesper lets out a soft whine, just the very faintest of noises at the sound of Nik's voice. It's not that she can really /understand/ what Nik is saying, but she knows that tone and it usually brings about a treat. Her tail thumps loudly onto the ground, head tilted upwards to gaze at Nik with soft, chocolate eyes. Really. She has no idea what it is that he's going on about, but as long as someone is paying attention to her, hey - she'll respond in kind.

As for River? Well, it takes a long time. A really long time. She moves from once place, to another. Occasionally she's moving by inches, instead of steps, and each time she stops, her body is rigid and in place. Her gaze is glassed over, mouth set into a still line. Once in awhile, she wrinkles her nose and lets out a, "Oh gross..." Especially in areas around the bathroom and bed.

Finally, River steps out of the room, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "I saw who took the kid, they were quick, efficient and professional. Their faces I can recognize, but most importantly, one of them had a gang tattoo." River's gaze flickers up to Nik, as a slow smile plays about her features. "Feel free to look around, I have enough to go on, but the sooner we get out there and find this guy, the better."

Withdrawing his hand from his jacket pocket, Nik has another bite-sized morsel of granola bar at the ready for Vesper. Sure, the bar is a little on the stale side - but it's got that people-food flavor that just can't be beat. Plus, there's that whole attention thing. Maybe one of the reasons that Vesper likes Nik so much. The man is always good about giving the girl proper attention, at least when it's not interfering with her job. He slips Vesper the granola morsel, then moves his hand to scritch the dog between her ears again. "There you are. Just don't tell River, okay? She'll think I'm trying to turn you against her or something."

As River continues to do her unique investigation style, Nik remains outside, waiting. He leans up against the wall for a moment, one leg crooked up to place the sole of his boot flat against the wall behind him, tapping his fingers idly. Then he repositions himself, standing on both feet as he pulls a slender knife out from somewhere on his person, testing the edge of the blade with a slight frown, then sliding the weapon back into whatever concealed sheath it came from. He glances up the hallway one way, then down back towards the stairs. Then in to check on River's progress and sighs quietly, leaning back against the wall where he starts to hum some medley of Britney Spears songs.

Finally, after what seems like a veritable eternity, River is finished and steps out of the room. Nik is certain he's got a white beard by this point, and pushes himself off from the wall with relief. "Took you long enough," he can't help but comment, before getting the woman's report. "Gang tattoo?" he echoes, a similar smile that echoes River's creeping onto his own features. "Now you're talking my territory. No, I'm good," he answers to the suggestion of having a look himself. "Let's clear out, I trust what you found." With that, he starts moving towards the stairwell, a knife once more in his hand that he flips end over end to catch by the hilt as he moves. He's confident that if River doesn't recognize the gang tattoo, he should, and it'll be easy enough to pick off one or two low-level members to start the interrogation process, if nothing else. There's a clearly eager note to his voice as he heads out, stating, "Next stop... Lowlife central."