"Don't go yet, please."
She's already partially through the doorway, but Elle puts a hand on the frame and stops herself. Without pause, though not quite without question.
"You need me for something else?"
"I know you probably have a busy afternoon of staring at a wall to get to." His tone would (should) be infuriating enough, let alone the indication that he's asked around about her. Learned about her. Knows what she's up to, that she's still not permitted anything from the all-knowing Noah Bennet. "But I want you to stay for Ms. Giddens' interview."
Elle presses her hand against the doorframe, and twirls on her heel to face him again. "Why?"
Bennet shrugs. "You brought her in."
"I'm not interviewing her." That, fortunately, was left to people with far superior people skills. Bennet doesn't argue this, but folds his arms, his head bowed for a moment as he thinks of a response.
"This isn't the Company, Elle. You're not just an agent."
"I know this isn't –"
"That's not the point," he says, lifting a hand to the onslaught she could easily unleash, if she'd wanted. But she stops.
(Because she doesn't really care.)
"You're going to have to be a person here, too."
Elle steps away from the door way, and toward him. She's still in her "work" clothes – jeans and a loose blue top, hair tied back in a braid. (At the moment, her hair is also black – that was courtesy of Rati.) Her voice twists up, but the inflection doesn't reach her expression. "Who decided that?"
"Just – trust me on this, Elle." Again, before she can argue, even fairly – "Please, just. Come in. Watch it."
The real trouble is, she doesn't care either way. So finally, she turns, and heads for the door they'd just exited. It leads to another concrete room, but this one is, well, cozier. There's a red rug on the concrete floor, and a haphazard collection of chairs pushed around it. Most are small but cushioned, but there are also plastic folding chairs, one rather straight wooden chair, and even a bean bag in one corner. It's the seat Elle takes, as Bennet chooses the wooden one. Six of the rest on the other side of the room are taken – there's new Ms. Giddens, whose hand fiddles in her curly dark brown hair as she listens to Rati, who's reading something from a clipboard they've apparently provided her. Always wanting to get more involved. Hana's sitting on her other side, though she's also constantly glancing around the room, as if something of greater interest might appear. Rati asks a few questions and Ms. Giddens – Carlotta Giddens – gives quick but immediate answers.
"So you knew about your ability?"
"No offense, but I was hopin' it'd have nothing to do with all this." Her eyes fall and she fumbles all the more as she says it, but who could blame her. Who would want to end up in this concrete room, softened only by a rug and some mismatched chairs, stuck in a bunker under the desert until who knows when. Bennet nods and grimaces. Elle watches him, and wonders if that's what he means by being a 'person.' Is this commiseration? Consideration? It's a mild interest at best.
"I thought there just might be something wrong with me," Carlotta continues. "Maybe not – in such a bad way. But that it was just – in my head –"
Rati glances down at the clipboard, but doesn't seem to find anything helpful there. She looks up to glance at Elle, and after a pause for Elle to remember what this means, she holds up her hand, and waves her fingers a bit.
Somehow, from this, Rati gets – "Can you show us?"
"Oh – all right –"
She turns away from Rati, looking to the center of the room instead, and her eyes go a little unfocused while her hands reach out into the air. Then, her fingers twitch, as though she's plucking the strings of some invisible harp. Two notes strike through the air, as though someone had just strum them on a guitar. She does it a few more times – the sound becomes that of a trumpet, an accordion, and a violin. Rati grins, and Bennet says, "That's incredible."
Carlotta's hands still for a moment, and then she moves one finger smoothly through the air. Bennet's voice rings out again. 'That's incredible.'
"Why are you doing that?" Elle asks. Half the room blinks over to her, as Elle has never stuck around for one of these before, let alone asked a question, and it takes her a moment to think to add, "With your hands?"
Carlotta looks down, waiving her fingers in the air (though no sound accompanies them this time), before answering, "It's like I can see the sound. They're strings in the air and I'm just reachin' out to them."
"But then it's likely still mental," Bennet murmurs. Her hand reached out, but it was her mind that spun the sound waves as she wanted.
"Look, I'm sorry," Carlotta's hands lower to her lap again. "I took your word for it, but how long do I have to be here again?"
"Ms. Giddens…" Rati begins to speak, but breaks off, shifting as she looked to the clipboard, as though it'd offer some easier way of explaining why she couldn't leave. Bennet, didn't take long to step in, instead.
"I'm afraid you've been identified by a group that's attempting to wipe out the R+ population." He says it all without hesitation, though not without a note of sympathy in his voice. "This group is very far reaching, and it wouldn't be safe for you to leave in the near future."
"But –" she blinks around the room, face to face, as though to check if anyone else finds what Bennet has just said to be ridiculous. "I mean, I have friends – and what about my family –"
This time, Rati rifles through the clipboard's contents until – "I believe both of your parents are deceased? No brothers or sisters?"
"But my son - Michael - I mean, he's with David right now but..."
And maybe because she can see it, the silence that hits the room, every eye now turned to her – Carlotta stops speaking, her own eyes darting between the others, quicker each time, as though even one person here has an answer –
And Elle stands, all at once. Bennet takes only a moment more.
"Where is he?"
Carlotta stands, as well, looking to Bennet, her gaze unwavering, though her voice can't quite match. "In Cincinnati. He stays there when I'm on tour."
"I don't understand –" Rati murmurs " – this wasn't in the research."
"And we haven't been tracking her for that long," Bennet answers, without looking away from Carlotta. "How old is he?"
"He's – five, he turned five four months ago – I don't understand, what's –"
It seems just as sudden, somehow, when Elle realizes her knees are buckling. She takes a step back toward the wall to hold herself steady, and she can hear Bennet yell something at Rati before his hand is on her arm, and he's pulled her back out of the room. She regains her footing as she passes through the door, managing to pull herself away from Bennet, but it hasn't really gone. She walks straight for the other wall, leaning into it, blocking out the light from the ceiling and trying –
(Isn't this what you've been searching for?)
- to hold it together –
(My father would never let that happen.)
- it shouldn't be this hard.
She doesn't turn, but stays against the concrete wall, really pushing herself against it now, as though it will matter. As though it could, in some moment, do anything to cool her mind. Instead, she only burns against it.
But still, she speaks –
"We have to go.
(They haven't figured it out.)
Hiro's in Bhutan. It takes some convincing to get Hanna to go – she hasn't being doing it with others for that long. She doesn't want to run in blind when a they're involved, when they might be there.
"I know what they do –"
"Yeah, that's the point!"
"Then I'm not going to walk right into them!"
"Then wait in the car, I don't care, just get me there –"
She'd thought Bennet would try to make her stay, but instead, he was the one who got Hanna to take them both. Elle could hear Carlotta Giddens shouting through the concrete halls before they all faded away, in a quick rush, and they were standing on a suburban street corner, just after midnight. Hanna sits in a bus shelter as Bennet takes Elle's arm, and they walk two blocks before reaching the address. The blueish light of a television winks through the drawn curtains of the front window. Bennet tries knocking, before he finds the door unlocked.
Elle sees it at once, but barely stops to take it in before she turns into a nearby hallway. Three rooms, the first is an empty bedroom, so any others are likely here, too. But Bennet stays in the living room through which they'd entered, walking over to the corpse on the couch. Headshot. Still facing the television, volume still on. Bullet casing on the floor and blood spray along the top cushion of the couch. They didn't even try.
"They usually hide it," he wonders aloud, stepping carefully around the sofa, as though expecting a trip wire. Another shot. "Why didn't they hide it?"
"Because they couldn't."
She's returned, standing in the doorway to the hall. Just like her voice, she's shaking, even gripping the door frame, though she nods her head back for Bennet to come and see. He follows her into the hallway, not attempting to steady her as she takes him to the third door on the right. Inside is a small room with a small bed. Toys strewn on the floor. A window open and moonlight in the fluttering curtains.
And over the emptied bed, blankets and sheets ripped off. A stuffed dog is upturned on the floor next to it.
"Way more use alive," Elle mutters.
Once again, Bennet grabs her arm, but this time she yanks it away from him. Elle steps forward into the room, ignoring Bennet's warning as she heads toward the bed, but no trap manifests. Nothing more is here.
She reaches forward, and her hand trembling, and wraps her fingers around the stuffed dog's leg.