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Sine Labore Nihil

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The information flows more slowly and gets more indecipherable as it becomes harder to find safe channels. Jack gets more and more frustrated with this game of penitentiary telephone, forced to take his own initiative more and more often. He wonders if it was ever any easier to get information to and from maximum security prison. Not for someone like Elias. They don't give his boss a television in his cell, even. Jack knows this because he ran an ad on the local public television channel for two weeks in code so simple a child could figure it out, his own decision, and not even a rebuke had come his way. He's flying solo, operating under a bond of trust only.

Even the other guys had missed it, the hovering guardian angel wannabe with all the hardcore tech and his sharp eyed, lean and hungry attack dog. He'd never expected them to ignore the low-tech, but they had a blind spot for analog - which meant that it was definitely called shots, and the trained muscle listened. Because Jack knows his training might have been less classical - six years in the military hard and then ten more years in the quiet squads, and finally he'd worked the quietest of them all. Family - which was what that was always be about but then - then there were the ideas.

He knew it was dangerous to have them, because asking questions was dangerous too. People were so attached to status quo. Him, too, if he's honest with himself. And he was, to a fault. It was part of how he was so good at keeping quiet, his inner knowledge that words wouldn't matter too much, coming from him. Not until his actions had gotten him into position. He let Elias do the talking.

Jack does the communicating instead. So he knows that his training included all manner of ways to accomplish that, and he knows how to interpret Morse code if it comes to that. He knows the man in a suit knows it too. So it's with a rising realization of how little internal initiative that John actually bothers to have that Jack understands that there is no subtle way to communicate with just him. It makes him mad, for some reason. He acknowledges that he wants to grab the man in a suit and tear him free, shake him until the muzzle falls off and he thinks for himself again, but he doesn't understand why he wants that.

The man in a suit has his ears and eyes closed except to what his boss points him at. He's a seeing eye dog. Jack actually laughs a little at the thought, aloud. On the street.

People move out of his way, but he's used to that, even in NYC. He knows where he's going, passing giant screens without looking up, sliding through the people milling around tables and costumed entertainers. There's a police car parked on the median in Times Square, the officer is on the other side posing with tourists for pictures, like always. Jack audaciously reaches out to pass his fingers over the motto on its flank.

The city's changed - is always changing, he allows, passing a shop selling post cards and 9/11 tribute merchandise. Since he moved here and learned his way around, learned to be invisible even when hew as in a uniform, it's been changing. It rubs him the wrong way, what he's about to do - how visible he's about to become, but he's tried everything else.

He stands at the statue of George M. Cohen, and first looks up at the resting people on the worn steps below the screens, then down at the pavement. There's a square in yellow paint, like a road marking, and he stands on it with his hands in his pockets and looks up. There's a pole, with cameras here, a whole series of them with official NYPD markings, but only one swings toward him as he remains in place.

He pulls off his hat and stares at it, oblivious to the people passing around him, until the stopwatch his free hand is curled around in his pocket shakes out the communication that five minutes have passed. He puts the ball cap back on - Yankees - and moves away into the crowd.

Ball's in their court. He doesn't move invisibly, lets the cameras keep him and keeps his path simple. He doesn't know how long he'll have to wait, how to tell if it even worked. If this doesn't, he's not sure what to try next. Jack makes it a point not to get ahead of himself. Instead he ducks into a Starbucks - comfortably anonymous - pays too much cash for a cup of coffee and settles in to wait.

He discovers he hates Starbucks coffee. Also, in the men's room, he finds - not the man in the suit, but he'd guess a cop. Maybe detective. Soft around the middle and with a cheap tie that to Jack suggested the man was a father. The sort of thing you'd only wear if you were under pressure from your younger, less understanding and more adoring family. He carried his weight easy, but Jack knows when he's being looked for. The detective eyes the scar by Jack's eye, and makes a face that suggests Jack is recognized. He's not sure from where.

"The hell?" New Yorker. Definitely. Jack arches his eyebrows wordlessly, washes his hands. Nobody has a conversation in the men's room, and he has even less desire to talk to the hired help. "They didn't tell me it was you," the detective accuses, but at least has the sense to lower his voice.

Jack shakes his fingers out, notes that this is one of those forward thinking bathrooms that eliminates paper waste with air dryers. He pushes the button hard enough to show it he means business the first time and the detective' s protests are drowned under the rush of air.

If this idiot is too stupid to follow him out and talk outside, he's going to have a much lower opinion of the man in the suit and his boss. Maybe he does anyway, because the only reason the detective seems to follow Jack is because he's not done talking at him. The patrons stare at him - them really, since Jack's quiet under the whole tirade, as they make their way out of the coffee shop.

Jack holds the door for the detective, who doesn't even notice, because he's reached "...Give me one good reason why I shouldn't haul you in right now for impersonating an officer and obstructing the law."

Jack shows him his badge. Quickly, without fanfare. The detective shuts up, having no response to that.

"You really a cop?"

Jack suppresses the urge to grab this guy by the lapels and educate him on why it's a bad idea to ask stupid questions, instead he hooks his hand hard into the detective's elbow and yanks him around a corner, off the main street where hundreds of people are passing.

"What'd they ask you to do?" Jack says, sticking his hands in his pockets to be somewhere between non-threatening and terrifying.

"They who?"

He looks at the detective frankly, and tries for a patient tone. "Man in a suit. Tall guy. Kneecaps bad guys. Saves the innocent. Batman, you know. And a shorter guy. Glasses. Stole a baby, once."

It's the most words Jack's strung together in a while. People spoke more if he was quiet, and they thought he wasn't smart. It served him, except when mouthy detectives took personal offense to actions he didn't remember.

"What the hell do you care?" The detective asks, sounding aggravated. Out of the loop. "Last I checked you were in cahoots with the big bad guy."

"Cahoots?" Jack isn't sure if he should be amused or annoyed by how simple this guy seems, how amiably backwater. He's... quaint. If one could be quaint and still live and work in New York City. "Detective, what did they ask you to do."

The detective frowns, shows all his emotions on his face and looks lost before he just fails to come up with a lie fast enough. "They told me to pick you up. Find out what you wanted. Only it wasn't they..."

Just one then? He's not sure which to expect - then he realizes it has to be the handler.

"I wanna talk to them," he answers, knowing that'll be the way to get just the man in the suit. John's boss won't expose himself like that, will limit his presence to just a device.

"What? Well you got me. You can talk to me."

Jack takes the detective's wallet before the man can protest, spins his grab into a fall and kicks his shins out from under his overweight center of gravity.

"Hey, you son of a bitch!" Fusco - Detective, Jack was right - protests Jack's methods for introductions. Jack doubted the man in the suit was any politer.

"Relax, Detective Fusco." Jack glances only far enough into the wallet to learn his address and see a picture of him and his kid before he drops it onto Fusco's chest and takes his foot off the man's middle. Lionel, he thinks with a little amusement. It's an unusual name - doesn't quite suit him, but it settles on him in an odd way anyway. Permanent.

"Yeah, yeah," Fusco is getting up in a resigned way, an obedient way that suggests he's' been through this before and is used to eating his own pride for breakfast. "Now you know my name, do I get yours?"

"No." Jack finds it best not to lie. "How'd you get tangled up in this anyway, Detective?"

"You hit me." Fusco bluffs - insistently though, so Jack knows it's true, even though it's not an explanation. "I haven't forgotten that."

Jack has. But his face is a little harder to forget than Fusco's. "You want to try your luck at returning the favor?" He dares, putting his hands back in his pockets and watching expectantly . Fusco stares at him and realizes he's serious, that Jack would stand there and let himself be hit. Fusco also realizes what a bad idea it is.

"No," he says, angrily. Reluctantly, almost. Meaning 'yes' he wants to, but he knows better.

"Tell them I'll be here again tomorrow, and I want to talk," Jack says, and steps off the curb, out of the alley. Loses himself in the mass and moves off camera, changes his hat, reverses his coat. Vanishes. He takes the roads with no cameras home, but expects company when he opens his front door anyway, draws his gun and feels disappointment when all that greets him is the angry yellow reflected light of his cat's eyes.

The cat doesn't have a name either, but he's trimmed neatly in black and white, as if he wore a dark suit over a white shirt with the top three buttons left undone.