2019-05-25 - Shield Agent Shenanigans


Coulson and May do not take the most direct route

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Sat May 25 06:11:26 2019
Location: {$location}

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There's a little cafe on the edge of Central Park East and the park itself, the kind of place that's open 24 hours a day. It's not unreasonable to schedule a meeting for 7:00 PM in the Big Apple, and Coulson has gone through all of the official channels to make it so. Thea Harman was contacted through LinkedIn, with a request to interview her for some corporate translation services. Something about a real estate investment company run by one Jack Coulson and communication challenges faced by the small LLC's expansion into the international capital markets.

Of course, there's an ulterior motive to the meeting. Harman has come upon SHIELD's radar in recent days, which is why Coulson was called back to the Big Apple from his deployment in the UAE.

"Well, non-withstanding, the architecture is something to shake a stick at," Coulson is telling an Asian woman who is with him, presumably a business partner. "But they're quite good with zoning. You have to go pretty deep to actually see the income disparity. But, trust me, it's there."

He's dressed smartly, wearing a light grey sport jacket and darker slacks, but he's ditched the tie in order to fit the part. Real estate investors who wear ties are not to be trusted.

His companion blows on the cappucino in her hand. Blue suit. Navy, with a periwinkle camisole blouse under it. The shoes are stylish stilettos, perhaps too fashionable for a corporate office but appropriate for someone making a living as a saleswoman. Even if it's just property.

May's hair is worn straight to her shoulders and subtle jewelry adorns her wrist and ears. She looks every inch the professional developer or real estate agent, and one can almost see the backstory for the character: late thirties, with makeup that's a little heavier than a married woman would wear. Recently divorced or late-life single, then, someone throwing herself into a new career.

"I'm expecting good things," May agrees, and shifts in her seat. She sits upright so her coffee can't remotely splash on her pristine outfit. "It seems like we're in a good place to move forward and take over some underdeveloped property." Her eyes flick around with a lazy seeming lack of awareness, come back to Phil. Her brow twitches downward, lodging an entire conversation's worth of complaint with the other 'developer' at her table. She very subtly glances at her watch. May's a stickler for punctuality, after all.

There's a load of suspicion even being contacted for a meeting. This is her actual name, her actual 'job description', but she's so used to working for political and business interests of family, or friends of family, that being contacted out of the blue - even on Linked in, has the biokinetic going in loaded for bear. She will arrive at the diner, having walked past once to study through the window without a slow in her step.

She will step in, taking a moment to look around as if unsure whom she is meeting. Her hair is strawberry blonde currently, eyes a vivid blue that matches the blouse under the loose, rolled sleeve black blazer. Pants are equally black, and she is in heeled boots a shade more sensible than stilettos. People in certain occupations could probably guess where weapons may be hidden, but most of them never expect the woman herself to be one.

Steps will lead her to the table, eyes not even sweeping over them as her powers take them in, May a touch more than Coulson. "Mister Coulson?" She says, her voice firm and pitched over the usual noise of an eatery, a hand offered despite her expression being so very neutral just yet.

A look is indeed worth a thousand words. Coulson doesn't bear a visual sign that he's interpreted anything out of the ordinary from May, but there is a look in his eye that only she would likely catch.

When the woman approaches, Coulson looks up to Thea with raised eyebrows. "Oh! Miss Harman." Dusting his hands on a napkin just to make sure there's no cinnamon roll left over upon them, he rises to meet the woman with a confident handshake and a friendly smile. "Thanks for coming. I hope you found the place alright?" He gestured toward May in a professional manner "This is May Li. I've brought her on board to handle my international affairs." He then looks back to Thea, eyebrows still lifted. "Can I get you anything? They make a mean dirty chai." There's a subtle upturn of his lip. Espresso, the speed of the law abiding white collar army.

The look's met and returned, and then Thea's at the table and May rises as well. A smile smooths into place, Perfectly Professional and utterly in line with the character. "Hello Miss Harman. Please call me May," she invites.

When Phil gestures for them to seat themselves, Melinda settles into her seat next to him so they're both facing Thea in the third position. May's perhaps a few degrees of arc closer to Thea than Phil is, creating an encouraging female presence at her elbow. "You have a very impressive resume, Miss Harman. How are you enjoying your time in the industry so far?" she asks, and balances her coffee mug on her fingertips again.

"Thea, please." There is the faintest hint of a polite, work appropriate smile. She will turn to May, offering her a hand as well. She will move to seat herself, posture showing the actual private school learning.

"No, thank you. I had a large coffee earlier." She's still, but for her face, going back and forth between their faces. "I grew up translating, in all honesty. My maternal grandfather's English was not as quick as my Greek from a very young age. It's a chance to see various parts of the world, learning about different cultures, different vocabulary words. I enjoy it." Even if her suspicious mind is screaming that this is not about a translation job.

"Jack," Coulson answers, clearly preferring to keep things lightly professional. He listens carefully, though his posture suggests a certain casual nature that's common among men in real estate- between the lines, he's a flipper and a collector of rents, probably has at least 10-12 LLC's established to maximize tax efficiency and minimize liability.

"Well, I don't want to take up too much of your time," Coulson says as he sits back down, resting an arm on the table and studying Thea with a demeanor that suggests casual interest. "So, I'll give you the old TL-DR. I'm a real estate investor, primarily in two-family suburban, urban singles and a handful of mixed-use props throughout the burroughs. Recently I've had my eye on some development opportunities, but I'm going with international capital to fund the purchases. Problem is, most of my biggest potential capitalists are in the mid-east and Russia. UAE and Pakistan, to be specific. Now, Google Translate's been good enough for the Russian VCs, but I'm having a real problem with the wide range of Arabic dialects."

She's sitting back in her chair, giving Coulson the majority of her focus without slighting May. "I'm surprised. Russians can be so language proud." She says calmly, confidently. "But it is true, Arabic has almost as many different dialects as American English. And considering it changes from Brooklyn to Queens, that's saying something. I speak a wide enough array of Arabic, having spent several years in the region for cultural exposure for my work, that I could likely communicate enough for your needs." She seems very self-possessed, this young woman, not showing her suspicion on the outside, at least. "I don't circulate widely on Linked in, to be honest, I was surprised at your query. Did someone recommend me to you?

"Oh, tell me about it." Coulson rolls his eyes at talk of the Russians. "At least they were friendly about it in the UAE. Hey, if you're fluent in Russian as well, that would be great."

As far as LinkedIn is concerned, Coulson shrugs. "The world's best professional networking site. I didn't have any second level contacts in translation services, so, I just started going through those in the New York area. You'd think there would be more who have fluency in Arabic." At this he sounds genuinely irritated.

"So, most of this is gonna be phone calls, emails, stuff like that. If you're able to travel, that would be great, just in case I need to go abroad to seal the deal. We're raising a $500 million dollar capital fund to take on some sizable properties, but if you can't travel, it's not a deal breaker. Shall we book a time to meet at my office and talk compensation and an at-will period for services?"

"It's more than just the languages," May volunteers, on Phil's heels. She glances at him as if asking permission to continue, then focuses on Thea again. "It's making those cultural connections. Personal. Finding someone who is multilingual and is a savvy networker, on top of being a skilled saleswoman, is a big ask."

"And, anticipating your next question: we offer medical insurance packages, Roth IRA investment matching, and paid vacation and maternity leave," she explains.

"Alas, I am not fluent in Russian. I know a few phrases, ice breakers, but I have not yet reached beyond that. I'm currently working on Japanese, though I could do some intensive training in Russian to be at least minorly fluent within a few weeks." She does find this more and more curious. "Travel is not a problem, I have a passport and no cat to feed." There is a hint of a smile.

Her eyes shift to May, left eyebrow shifting upwards just a few milimeters. "My father is in politics, as you may recognize by the last name, and there's pictures of me with him all over the web. I'm used to networking. I've got insurance, but it's nice to know what you guys offer." She has an investment portfolio already, and well, maternity leave is not on her radar, for years to come, if ever.

The look on Coulson's face could easily be taken as, 'that's why I bring her'. He smiles and seems grateful for May's input, and with his hands folded, he turns back to Thea. "I hate to rush you, but, I'll be traveling again the week after next, so if you can spare some time to meet next week, we can go over the compensation and an at-will probation period for services."

"Yes, I know about your familial connections," May assures Thea, with a tone of respect. "But we didn't come to you for that— you have a very unique skillset and wield some influence in circles that goes beyond what a lot of women your age have done. It's …" she glances to Phil, looks back to Thea. Her hair rustles with a sheen so healthy it looks wet. "It's very difficult to find someone who can work effectively with the Middle Eastern businessmen," she says, voice lowering. "Particularly for women in that area. You deserve some respect." She doesn't look like the kind of woman who lays it on particularly thick, so it comes across as earnest praise.

"A lot of young women my age haven't had the same opportunities, to be fair." If one can call being sent away as a scared teenager to a completely different culture, no family and no ties, to be an opportunity. "Men in the middle east are much like men everywhere. They want a woman to play a certain role. A translator, such as myself? I am a necessary evil, to many of them. So long as I keep myself attractive but modest, and don't act overly liberated, they accept it well enough. Especially for business purposes." Especially, as well, when the woman in question can mellow their brain chemistry to make them much more malleable. "When shall we meet again?"

Reaching into his jacket, Coulson produces an iPhone and calls up a calendar. Should Thea have a glance at it, it's filled with calendar entries related to things a real estate investor might be involved in. "Why don't we say, Tuesday, 4:00?" He then passes a business card her way, with the name 'P. Jack Coulson, President' and a business name of '5-B Property Management LLC', complete with a landline, cell, fax and email. There's even a website.

"Just shoot me your contact info via SMS," he offers, with a pleasant smile. No comment was given on the conversation between May and Thea, perhaps because he just doesn't give a damn? It's difficult to tell, but he seems to have been actively working to prevent an eye-roll.

"If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out," May tells Thea. Sensing the interviews ending, she rises when Phil does and offers the woman a handshake and a smile. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Thea. I hope you decide to come on board. You'd make a great asset for the company."

Thea rises easily enough, though there is a look at Coulson, as if she's trying to piece something together. But when she shakes May's hand, those vivid blue eyes (thanks contacts!) meet the other woman's with a dead on stare. Suspicions are just ever so high, for one so young.

"Asset, yes. I have been called that before." She knows there is more going on under the surface, but her power lays with the body, not the mind. She will release May's hand, and that suspicious look lingers as she glances at Coulson.

Tucking his phone away, Phil rises to his feet and meets Thea's suspicion with a truly disarming smile and a pleasant demeanor. "Have a great day," he tells Thea, before gathering up his disposable coffee cup. It even has 'JACK' written on it, because there's no way the barista was gonna mess that one up. He waits until Thea is just far enough away that he can ask May what would seem to be a casual question, but still allowing Thea to be within earshot. "So, the Barton's are apparently having a grill out for Memorial Day. You going?"

"Of course," May tells Phil. She matches his casual tone, walking on his left side in a deferential position. "Clint's a little intolerable, but it's hard to say no to those children." She glances in a window reflection as they stroll away, keeping an eye on Thea via a reflected image in a building's sidewall. "How about you? Bringing anything good to eat?" she asks of him. Phil would know what May's doing. It doesn't need to be explained.

She will fall into step behind, after all there's only one handy exit. "And here I thought you didn't want to waste my time." She says with a sigh. "At least I know I wasn't completely off, though I could have explained her past injuries and her calluses away as her being your body guard. You know, I do much better with a blunt, frank approach. As your Mister Barton discovered the other evening. Cloak and Dagger is all well and good when there's a point, but otherwise you're just playing games. I prefer to keep my game playing to casinos and poker nights."

Coulson opens his mouth to provide an answer to May, but he doesn't get the chance. Instead, he turns and looks to Thea with a set of raised eyebrows, a precursor to another smile. "We really do have a great benefit package," he tells her, before winking. "Tuesday, 4:00." Then, he points a finger at Thea in the shape of a gun, and clicks his tongue while thumbing the proverbial hammer.

The game's up, and May turns to face Thea. The expression drains out of her face, leaving nothing behind. No smile, no warmth. The expressions of friendliness were merely an act— an unnervingly good one, it seems. She stares at Thea while the woman lodges her complaints, making no remark or gesture.

She moves a half-beat after Phil does, eyes on Thea for a partial stride. Phil trusts people. May doesn't. And from the way she walks, she's clearly keeping his safety forefront in her mind.

MAy will be met with a blue-eyed morror of her expression. Thea is ever so mildly annoyed, to the point it doesn't show. There's a low laugh at the way MAy falls in slightly behind Coulson, as if she could protect him from someone like Thea. Hands are in her pockets, as Thea strides along the sidewalk, intent on her own destination and diverging from Couson and May soon enough.

Turning away from Thea, Phil walks in a different direction from the woman, turning a sobered expression toward May. "You know," he remarks, "it always goes that way. If only people actually responded well to, 'Hey, we're with SHIELD. Want a job?'" There's a casual and light humor to his words that does nothing to betray just who the man himself really is.

"I think they'd be disappointed that we blew our cover as agents," May tells Phil in a neutral tone. "Either way, we're incompetent. Nice knowing some things never change." She walks with a leggy easy, outpacing Phil very slightly because of the extra height those heels give her.

"And I need to get out of those shoes. They're killing my feet," she says, glancing down at the designer footwear with a grimace.

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