RP Meta P.I

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Vincent was on his third cigarillo and fifth cup of coffee, his doctor had warned him multiple times his heart wasn't going to like him later in life if he kept up like this, but Vincent reasoned his work wouldn't like him if he stopped. Taking a drag, he pinned a new picture to his ever-growing conspiracy board - a practice his coworkers made fun of and his boss suggested might look bad for a U.S Marshal however he couldn't argue with the results. Vincent had long since gotten a name for himself as the agent to call when there was meta related crime, and that's why this file was handed over to him.

Ronnie Howard was a rather up and growing drug lord, something that had caught the attention of the DEA. And usually that would have been their case and Vincent would have never touched it, but it was a little different this time. Evidence suggested connections to a growing Metahuman crime and terrorism cell, Slate. Headed by the mysterious Obsidian. There was a link between Howard and Slate, and Vincent was tasked with finding it. His first point of interest was Howard's choice of security - a company known as Stonewall Security Company, headed by James Fielding who's picture Vincent just pinned to his board.

He was young, and good-looking, not someone you'd think to be heading a security company like Stonewall. Then there was chatter about Stonewall personnel protecting Slate assets potentially. James Fielding was the link. Yet still something bothered Vincent about the whole thing, there was something he was overlooking, something passing him by. He sighed, and decided to use his other tactic that no one at the office approved of.

Vincent pulled out his flip phone and speed-dialled the number, it didn't ring for long.

"Hey kid, you busy? Could use your help on a case."
 
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Oscar swiped up with his free hand the second he saw the caller ID. He wasn’t really sure what the traffic laws about that were in Pennsylvania, but after last time, he definitely wasn’t going to ask Bernadette. Especially not with Vince on the phone.

“Hey, Marshal. I’m driving and I’ve got Dot in the passenger seat, so as long as it’s nothing sensitive, shoot.”

They’d been driving for a few days now, and he knew Dot was probably as antsy as he was. A case might help clear his mind for the rest of the drive. He’d always loved puzzles. Dad had said he was gifted when it came to putting shit together. There’d come a time when Dad wasn’t so happy about that fact – but neither Dot nor Vince knew about that, and he was going to keep it that way.

He’d met Vince shortly after Dad died. It’d been a coincidence that had almost been a close call, but thankfully the old man hadn’t put the pieces together, and since then under-the-table PI Todd Oscar Fowler and Marshall Vince Valério had worked a couple cases side by side. Vince really only called when he needed someone to bounce information off of – or if he needed info that needed to be acquired, as Ozzy often managed, off the books and with a good excuse to boot.

Which one was this? Hard to say, based on what the Marshal had said already. He’d just have to wait it out and see, and hope Dot in the passenger seat didn’t give her two cents too loud.
 
Dot had her feet up on the dash when Todd answered the phone. She waited a few moments to make sure it wasn't actually an important phone call for Todd's work. The moment he'd said "Marshal" Todd should have known there would be consequences. She raised her voice slightly, "Ozzy, I thought you said you wouldn't smoke weed when you were driving...also slow down, we're in a school zone."
 
Vince heard Dot in the background and rolled his eyes, but couldn't help but crack a smile. These two had brought him nothing but years taken off his life, but he loved them both to death. They were an odd bunch, folk who knew them questioned the set-up, but Vince had figured some people were meant to be family. He'd only been able to legally adopt Dot since Ox had been too old, but they were both his children as far he was concerned.

"Dot, leave your bother alone, anyway, it's the Howard case, kid. Slate, Stonewall, my new lead is a James Fielding, I think he might be the link, but there's something tickling me about the whole thing..." Vince paused, Slate had been practically harassing his son. Sending its goons out to corner him into joining. They were desperate to collect any Metas they could, seemingly. But had shown a particular interest in Ozzy, to the point he'd had to fight them off a few times. And that pissed Vince off. Their interest was strange, Ozzy was a meta but not a particularly powerful one, he healed fast, could freeze water, and had antlers. Not exactly comic book villain material. Still he maintained the pretence of wanting to investigate Slate for professional reasons, in reality he wanted to tear the whole thing apart so they'd leave his kid alone. "I could use an extra pair of eyes, what do you say?"
 
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It always made Ozzy smile when the Marshall called him Dot’s brother. They were family now. The only thing that had kept Vince from adopting him on the spot was the fact that when they met, Marshal Valério hadn’t known he was underage. He’d done a better job than Dot of keeping up that facade until he was old enough to do some things more licitly.

The smile disappeared when Slate was mentioned. His stomach clenched a little, and a small crease appeared between his eyebrows. He licked his lips a little – a tell Dot saw pretty often, but he hid well in front of Vince. Vince was just on the phone, though. He had no way to see the little guilty tells. Bernie had been there when the first one died – fuck, he’d killed that first one to protect her. The rest… the rest he’d tried to take care of far, far away from her. But the first one’s powers were the only ones that Vincent knew about. Dot knew about the others, because she’d had to help him get the hang of them before the next one popped up.

He was quiet for a little too long. He hoped Vince would just interpret it as discomfort.

“I see.” He gave it a few seconds, then took a deep breath. “Would this be a government rate, or family rate case? Just so I know if I should try to set up a job while I’m there.”

“Government rate” would mean this was an official case. “Family rate” meant that this was a favor for Vince, with no compensation but looser rules. It’d set the standard of what to expect once they reached wherever they were going. He put the phone on Dot’s lap, and gestured for her to open up the GPS.

“Speaking of there, where’re we off to?”
 
Dot glanced sideways at Ozzy. Something about this case was worrying him, or he was remembering something bad. There was a lot of bad stuff he remembered better than she did since she had been so young, but Ozzy didn't talk a lot about it. Dot certainly wasn't gonna mention it while Dad was on the phone. It could be about Ozzy's powers, his eating habits, or a million other things she'd spent her life lying to the Marshal about.

She grabbed the phone, making a note to ask Ozzy about it when they hung up with Dad, and opened the GPS. Ozzy's worries would have to wait. Dot put on her best lighthearted tone, and took her feet off the dashboard, "Please tell me we're going somewhere interesting, or warm. I'm pretty sure they kill people in Miami this time of year."
 
"Well they really wouldn't like that I'm pulling you into this one, kid, I'll tell you that much, but I'll make sure you get paid for your work," Vince knew the kid would do it for free, he insisted that Ozzy always take pay for work; out of self-respect. "No where nice, I'm afraid, this one takes us to Philly."
 
Oscar didn’t argue with the old man about pay. As long as he played by the rules, he’d be fine. He was getting better at it. He still didn’t like it, but he’d learned how to at least pretend.

He looked at the upcoming exit signs. They’d been through this stretch before, and he knew about how far out they were. “We’ll be there around noon, day after tomorrow. Should Dotty book a room, or are we bunking again?”

That was an important question because if he was getting his own hotel room, Ozzy could hunt before they left town, after Vince left. If they were sharing, he’d have to plan a route that had somewhere big along the way as a stopover, or else wait to hunt again until they got to the next big city. It wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it’d be helpful to know. On the other hand, if the room was in Vince’s name, Slate might actually leave them be as long as Mr. Fielding didn’t recognize him during the investigation. He doubted they’d chance getting a cop involved.

But as far as the Marshal was concerned, the question was purely financial. And because of that, he was pretty sure he already knew what the answer was.
 
"I'll get a room for us all." Vince said.

Vince was able to book them a room at the Churchyard by Marriott and planned to meet the kids there. It has been a while since the three of them had taken a trip together - eve if this was for work - ever since they moved out it was deathly quiet. Ozzy especially moved around a lot, he was a wild one, hard to pin down. Vince kept wishing some lady - or man he suspected Ozzy might be on that persuasion - might show up and trap him finally. Really he just wanted an excuse to live near him, of course when he said any of this to anyone they told him he sounded like a forty heard old mother.
 
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Dotty waited until Ozzy hung up the phone, and set the gps on the console where he could see. She waited a few moments, polishing her sunglasses.

Her brother wasn't a very open book. Dotty only knew him well enough from living on the run with him when she was nine, and the many years after. It was difficult to get him to talk, and when he did she'd kept his secrets. Dotty didn't mind. Ozzy had done a lot for her, and his situation was...complicated. And that was before the murder in the hotel...It was astounding really that Mr Valerio was a cop.

"So..." Dotty said with a heavy breath, donning her glasses. "What are we keeping from Dad this time, Oz?"
 
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Ozzy rubbed his brow without taking his eyes off the road. They’d need to get off an exit in the next city that’d take them to a different freeway heading eastbound instead of south. He’d need to keep any eye out. He definitely wasn’t just avoiding looking at the kid he’d adopted as his baby sister almost a decade ago. And she definitely wouldn’t recognize it.

“The usual. I don’t eat people, and I’m definitely not planning to eat anybody after we’re done talking. He can’t know why Slate’s looking for me.”

Though, in fairness, Dotty didn’t know either. Vince only knew part of what he did because he was a pretty good cop – the part where Slate wanted metas, any metas, who might support their cause. Dotty? After Jade, he only told Dotty what she needed to know to keep out of Slate’s way. She didn’t need to know why they’d want him. As far as she was aware, Jade was the only casualty of that trip. She didn’t need to know Obsidian still wanted him after hearing what he did to his people.

Todd Oscar Fowler felt no regret for the things he did to people like Slate. There’d been a time in his life when he’d felt no regret about doing those things to anybody at all. He had to eat to live. It hadn’t been his fault they’d been weak and vulnerable when he was hungry. But that was before he had someone weak and vulnerable to take care of. Someone people like Slate could take advantage of.

He laughed, shaking off the tension that was starting to grow in the car as he reached down for a cigarette and his lighter. “I really hope this Fielding dude doesn’t have a close enough connection to recognize the antlers. That’d be fuckin’ awkward, huh?”
 
Dotty raised a brow. He was slipping. He didn’t talk to her much about Slate, or why they were interested in him. “Why would they be looking for you, Ozzy?

But he had already changed the subject, laughing about his awkward antlers. Dot would have tugged on them out of habit if he hadn’t been driving. Oz was certainly distracted enough. He loved to avoid anything difficult.

“Dont change the subject Ozzy. I worry about you…I’m not some kid you can yell at to hide in a bathtub when trouble comes around anymore.”

Dotty sighed. She didn’t mean to sound harsh, but it was irritating having to lie for him when he couldn’t even be honest with her.

Slate helps metas, don’t they? What’s the worst that can come from talking to them at least?”
 
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There’d been a time that would’ve worked. Dot was a smart kid, though. He’d been considering offering her an in to his investigations ever since she turned eighteen, but… sometimes those came too close to his teeth. They were dangerous, and he didn’t like putting her in more danger than just being around him was.

The change in his face was subtle. Most people wouldn’t’ve even been able to pin what, exactly, was different. His sharp eyes, the set of his jaw, even though he never stopped smiling. Even though his vocal tone never changed.

“You know how I feel about organizations like that, Dot. There’s always a catch. And just – I’ve got a bad vibe. Whatddya think they’d do if they found out what I am, Dotty? What I really do? My money’s on ‘nothing good’. Either they kick both of us out – or worse – or they show their real colors and ask me to do things I’m not comfortable doing for other people. I’ve given it enough thought to trust Dad on this one.”

It was the same reasons he’d always given her. They weren’t real reasons, because as far as she was aware, he’d never met Slate. And he wasn’t going to tell her they were connected to Jade at all. He didn’t need to worry her, even if she did seem hopeful about their message. She might be smart, but she was still an impressionable kid.
 
I trust Dad too, but you know he’s overly protective when it comes to us. He doesn’t even like it when I travel with you…He’d probably stop me from joining the police academy if that’d been an option for me.”

Her powers had put a quick end to considering applying to the police academy. Dotty had solid control over her powers but any slip ups, or overextension of her powers, and things could go poorly. At the very least there’d be a good chance the force would be hesitant to accept a meta.

Dotty put her feet up on the dash again, and stared out the window, thinking of the many hours playing hide and seek as a child. Ozzy had trained her in becoming undetectable. How to make it so not even her scent could be detected.

If Slate ends up being horrible, it’s not like we’ve never cut and run before.”
 
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His smile turned wry. “C’mon, Dot. The Marshal would support you no matter what. He’d be ecstatic to have one of us in the academy, and he’s already learned he can’t convince me. I’m actually surprised he’s never mentioned you doing it.”

He wasn’t. He wasn’t surprised, because he knew that Vince didn’t want to feel like he was pressuring him by proxy. He was respecting that Dotty’s decision not to go into the force was her own, the same way he kind of was with Ozzy. It was a nice thought, even if he didn’t understand the whole situation.

The smile went away again, though. His face turned serious. It wasn’t like him to stay serious like this. It’d go away eventually. But while it lasted, everything in the car seemed heavier, somehow.

“We’ve never had cut and run from other metas before, Dotty. Not since–” he paused, took a deep breath. He’d been about to say Atlanta. Instead he finished with, “Since that guy at church in Boston. I don’t really want to have to deal with that on a large scale.”
 
"You're welcome for that, by the way." Dotty said snarkily, remembering vividly having used her powers to make the both of them undetectable, making their escape after communion. She also vividly remembered what Ozzy would never let himself say, much less talk about. Atlanta. She'd made peace with what happened, even if now it occasionally scared her, reminding her what he was capable of. She had the scars on her arm to remind her. Yet Dot couldn't help but love him regardless. Ozzy was her brother.

Dotty tapped her fingers on the center console. "It's just...you know what I can do. I feel like I'm wasting my life driving around and not actually doing something worthwhile to help people. I don't want to do the college thing, I'd go nuts. You won't let me help you..."

She had never quite figured out how to phrase it. "Not fitting in" was too cliche. Dotty was all too good at fitting in, becoming what people needed in the moment. She also didn't care about noteriety, or attention. Being a vigilante wasn't about wanting to be seen.

"I want to know who I am when I'm not holding back."
 
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He made a show of rolling his eyes without ever actually taking his eyes off the road. She’d been as worried as he was that day, but ever since, she’d never actually let him live it down. He had yet to have anything to actually leverage against that, so he let it go with a sigh.

He’d been thinking for a while. Thinking about how Dotty was now a lot older than he was when he’d run away from home. He hadn’t had a normal childhood. He’d tried to do what he could to give her what he could, but there was a lot he couldn’t understand. As much as he wanted it, they couldn’t be the same. But he did know that he could give her something to tide her over, until she was ready to break away completely.

“Okay, listen. I was kinda saving this for later, when you decided to get insufferable on me again.” Which, arguably, she was, but… he also understood. He let the seriousness melt away. “And I definitely shouldn’t mention it now, because it means I have to preface – no, you can’t help with the Slate job.”

He held up a finger to stop her from interrupting, then put his blinker on and passed someone going 10 under the speed limit. When he was back in the right lane, he continued.

“I think it’s time that, ah… maybe we find someone to forge you a license. We’ve been a little more strapped for cash than usual these last few months, and I think maybe having two Snow Owls working wherever we stop might be a smart idea. What harm could a cheating husband or embezzling boss do, right?”
 
Bernadette stared placidly out the window, listening to Ozzy. She was surprised at his suggestion, and gratified for it, but something in her brain couldn’t help her but label the idea of her becoming a PI as a consolation. Ozzy was just trying to keep her close, but if he didn’t give her something she might go off on her own. The same overprotectiveness he always had.

Dotty sighed. She also knew the offer was an olive branch. He was trying. He was doing his best, and she wasn’t petty enough to throw his offer in his face.

Thanks Ozzy…I’d like that.”
 
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