The Retainer
Roleplaying Log: The Retainer
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Tessa brings home a prize Cat for her employer.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: August 04, 2019
IC Location: Hellfire Club, NYC, NY
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 20 Sep 2019 23:13
Rating & Warnings: PG-13 (Sexual Allusions)
NPC & GM Credits: Sebastian Shaw by Ursa
Associated Plots

It’s been a little more than a week since the escapade that brought together a catburglar from Gotham and his personal assistant in the wilds of Alaska. It’s been a little less than a week since one Selina Kyle found herself departing Tessa’s company in possession of a case with no small amount of cash bundled inside.

Indubitably, in the privacy behind closed doors in the wake of those two events, there were numerous discussions. Between the highest echelon of the black court. Between kings. The latter of the two conversations, Tessa will know, found him made only more disagreeable and vindictive in his pursuits for the days that followed.

In the end, however, Sebastian Shaw finds that he is willing to trust the counsel of his assistant who has, yet again, delivered precisely what she promised. But it isn’t a blind trust. Oh, no.

He wants to set eyes on the latest asset that his pet savant has found, and he wants to do so in the comfort of his own surroundings. And that means a private parlour at the recently redecorated Manhattan townhouse belonging to the Hellfire Club.

There’s a scandalous going-on only two rooms down if the sounds heard in the hall are to be believed, but the broad man settled in his imposing wing chair isn’t bothered by that in the least. The room he occupies is quiet, and dimly lit. In his meaty hand is a snifter of cognac, which he swirls impatiently as he waits for Tessa to fetch the evening’s guest.


Of course Selina knew about the Hellfire Club. One hears whispers. One also hears, when socialites are plied sufficiently with drink, outright conversations, declarations, and bragging. She assumed initially it was just another one of those Old Boys’ Clubs, full of men whose greatest achievement was being descended from someone who came over on the Mayflower. Over time, she realized it was more than that. Over more time, she realized that it was even more than she expected. How much more she doesn’t know quite yet, but every cat is curious.

Selina also knows what happened to the curious cat. She also knows the second, less well known half of the adage.

When she found out she had an appointment at the Hellfire Club in Manhattanreally, it’s amazing how often people have appointments with Shaw they knew nothing aboutSelina had the presence of mind to dress appropriately. Naturally, she’s not walking in unmasked; just as naturally, she’s not walking up to the door dressed in a cat-cowl and ballistic fiber suit. For any variety of reasons.

At first glance, she’s dressed like a Halloween eccentric. The top layer is a cloak made of closely-worked lace in shifting black and purple, marbled and mottled to look something like the shadows of a midnight garden. The hood is deep and drapes over her face, but given that she moves without evident difficulty it must be possible for her to see through it. Still, it’s just possible to see beneath that her brow, eyes, and nose are covered in lace as well, patterned to obscure and smooth out her features. Her lips are perfectly painted crimson. Plum-colored opera gloves cover her hands and arms, with an intricate gold ring set with a jet cat’s head weighing down the middle finger of her right hand. The dress she wears beneath her lace shroud is the same color as the gloves, ankle-length but cut deeply at the front and high at the hips. Her heels, too, share the same shade, and a keen eye would notice that the T-straps are constructed so to give more ankle support than the average high heel. A dancer’s shoes, even.

She’s here at the appointed time, meeting Tessa at the appointed place. In almost any other city than New York, she’d stand out. Here, she’s just one of the elect.


There are many things that please Shaw, and many things that displease him; but 'many' is a very open ended term, not the sort of thing that you want to apply in greater detail, because 'many' is in one of these cases a much larger section.

Tessa meets Selina, at the appointed time, exactly, to within a margin of error of less than two seconds.

She is dressed— well—

She is dressed as she always is, here. Her hair is in a voluminous chignon. Her makeup is immaculate. She has shaped her eyebrows. The leather is new, but not overly shiny. The only thing that isn't a cool glossy black, or her skin, are her lips. They are red, of course, but in a way that never smiles.

"Good," Tessa says. "An excellent balance."

While she approaches the sanctum, the court of the King, she explains while passing —

— a live flogging, featuring a Congressman: "Violet is flattering, but not outre."

— a pulp-fiction parody opium den in miniature: "You've danced before."

— the room of scandal, foreshadowed a moment ago: "Italian? Or Thai? Please tell me your opinion. It will inform -"

— a Black Mass's early stages of preparation: "Excuse me — Hello, Albert. I will join if I can. Good evening. - As I said: It will inform our purchasing decisions."

How friendly of her! At the portal to the parlor, Tessa lingers. "Be respectful," Tessa tells Selina, "but be honest. He loathes pretense."

Why such amiability? Tessa herself knows why. (And that reason, dear readers, is that this woman, the Cat, has been an astonishingly effective operative… for what she is. It is good to know talent; better still to hold good relations. A time might come when a social connection can be ruthlessly sacrificed for one key play. And if it should never come to that? Why, then: she will think of generosity. Or so Tessa might explain her reasoning, if asked.)

She raps her knuckles lightly at the door. Once. Twice. Thrice. Then she opens it.

"Presenting our guest, as per the appointment," she declaims, and she enters after Selina; she closes the door; and then, with the smooth antique CLICK of the bolt, she locks it.


“Ah, Tessa. There you are.”

Straightening in his chair, Shaw’s dark eyes turn in the direction of the door. He pulls his square jaw off of the upturned fist where he’d been resting it, and extends his open hand expectantly towards his assistant to wordlessly summon her past Selina and to his side. It has the distinct air of theatre about it, aided in no small part by the clothes that he wears. With no other members of his little cabal present to outrank her, he can afford the woman a measure more familiarity than he might otherwise.

17th century style sets a flounce of lace at his throat, and a brocade vest is finely made as it rests over his shirt. He’ll wait until Tessa is where he desires for her to be before turning his eyes - made nearly black by the dim light - back to their guest. He sips, using the time that it affords him to consider her at length and in open appraisal. He’s a keen eye for fine things, and this - he is told - is one such thing. He’ll still judge for himself.

“And the successful retriever of our stolen property. Welcome to our sanctuary, my dear, and well done. I assume the payment was sufficient and according to terms?”


Selina does know how to comport herself in society. Still, this sort of society is perhaps a step… not above, exactly, but perhaps up and to the side of where she usually goes.

It’s not like she’s never seen a legislator being flogged, but that one—

The opium den is charming. She has no desire to chase any dragons tonight apart from the one on the schedule, but she wouldn’t mind lounging on silk and velvet cushions.

The Black Mass is… there’s a twitch of a smirk, perhaps, behind the lace. She’s somewhere between amused and scandalized, but not hugely surprised. The Hellfire Club has its reputation. Where would they be if they didn’t occasionally worship a goat-headed demon?

“I’m flexible,” the Cat replies. “Italian, generally, but it depends on the day.” Because if she wasn’t mercurial, what would she be? A girl has the right to change her mind.

And when it comes to Tessa, she’s generally pretty honest, if not to the point of adding unnecessary information. The woman is a consummate professional and remarkably effective, and Selina would be forced to admit she wouldn’t have finished the Alaska heist without her.

When she’s shown into the room of the King, she neither bows nor curtseys but inclines her head in polite respect.

“I feel welcome,” the Cat replies, her voice low and warm and rich like a good tawny port. “I feel practically at home. Thank you for your invitation. The compensation was ample; thank you. Though in honesty, the chance to visit your sanctuary is compensation in itself. It’s positively charming. I do love seeing unapologetic decadence.”


Having bolted the portal, Tessa struts towards her appointed place. It is a walk of perfect comfort that defies the shape of her heels. (It helps, of course, that it's a little warm in here. No chill to worry about.) After the flourish of her cape, she stands, poised and perhaps posed.

Watching Selina. Her face has become that mask without mercy again, though there is a glimmer in her eyes of - something? A sense of a mental nod, of being seen, approved-of? Confidence? It's hard to tell. Spending too much time reading into tiny flicks of people's eyes isn't usual behavior.

She seems, almost, to fade from attention. (Though, her eyes stay where they are, and she shifts the slightest fraction of an inch nearer to Shaw.)


“Well, we have that,” Shaw rumbles in amusement, letting his attention rest—at least in part—on Tessa as she crosses the floor. That attention pretends it is casual and languid, but one would be an idiot to believe that it is so. Once Tessa is where he desires her, to his side and at the wing of his chair, he turns his attention back to the new arrival and appraises her anew.

He shifts in his seat, from one side to the other, as he crosses his leg and settles more deeply back into the chair. He could offer for his guest to sit. …He doesn’t.

“My assistant,” he continues as though she weren’t in the room, “tells me that your work was commendable in the effort, and she is not one for idle praise. One of the many things that I appreciate about her. I, along with a few associates of mine, are always in search of consummate professionals. Which, as I’m certain you must know in your line of work, is not a commodity easily found.”

He swirls his glass to drain it and then rises to his feet to step past Tessa on his way to the sideboard to pour himself a fresh measure, as well as an additional glass.

“How do you feel about the prospect of an ongoing freelance relationship, Miss…?”

He doesn’t ask Selina her preference for alcohol; he dictates her choice by offering a portion from his own decanter as he crosses the room and holds out that new glass for her in one of his large hands even as he sips from his own. In the moment, Tessa is as the rest of the room: a beautiful piece of ambiance, perfectly pleasing.

——

“Dubrovna. But professionally I’m known as The Cat.”

The lace of her mask and the hood over her face obscures her features, but her eyesan almost unsettling, catlike green, possibly enhanced by colored contactsare bright on Shaw’s face. She accepts the glass, not questioning what it might be; she’ll breathe in its bouquet instead and muse over it and what it says about her host.

“Your associate impressed me as well. Gotham has plenty of ‘professionals’,” she says, inserting the quotes around the word with the merest shift of tone, “but she was truly professional. I’ve never had such a smooth collaboration.”

Her lips curl into a broader, more wicked smile at his suggestion, too, and she goes on: “I’d hoped you would ask me that. I’m certainly interested in hearing what you need, and given this most recent experience, I’m open to the idea. As you may know, that’s vanishingly rare for me.”


“Delightful,” says Shaw, letting the glass come to rest near his waist as his other hand disappears into his pocket. “This isn’t a public membership benefit, but I have a number of associates who…” His glass comes up just long enough for his hand to run a few lazy circles with it as an indicator of thought, before he settles on the phrasing of it. “…share some ambitions with me.”

The unsettling emerald of Dubrovna’s eyes do not trouble him. He watches her passively as he takes another sip and then sets his glass back to the comfortable resting height of previous. It’s a good cognac, probably commanding a decent price. But it’s not an obscene vintage, if Le Chat would know the difference. He rather hopes she does, because it will send that subtle message that he has no intention for paying for a thing beyond its value as he sees it.

Fortunately, the new commodity seems to be worth a pretty penny.

“My assistant,” he continues, differentiating between ranks without pointing them out specifically, “can certainly tell you that when we have these sorts of required acquisitions, they are the sort of jobs that require a deft hand. If that doesn’t intimidate you, then I think we have an arrangement. I’m willing to pay a retainer for priority on your docket, but I would expect priority when the need arises for such.”

He doesn’t really wait for her to respond before he goes back to settling in the chair that he had been in previously. Now, however, he leans in and rests his forearms upon his thighs.

“So. Let’s settle on that retainer, shall we?”

Fin.

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