It's gotten colder, frost riming the world in the mornings, and the chill damp of the lakes lingering well into the day. By afternoon, most of the frost has melted, but for the shadowed places, and the temperature has crept up a little bit. Forty is not -warm-, by any stretch.
Milano's is closed for construction, with big signs declaring renovations in the works. The place is a pizzaria in a corner spot on a strip mall. On the surface, the blood has been scrubbed away, and it looks like it's been cleaned. He can scent the cleaning products with his sensitive senses. And the blood that lays under it. The familiar scents of violence.
Axel is on alert, familiar with the dangers existant in Chicago's streets, but moreso, now with word of a group of Hunters active in the area. He is dressed to avoid detection, in a knit cap and puffy jacket, baggy jeans and high-tops; he blends in to most areas of Chicago, hiding in plain sight. He walks with the appropriate swagger around the area, taking his time to circumnavigate the block and watch for watchers, senses attuned to the sights, sounds, and smells of insidious danger, before ever taking a closer look at the pizzaria itself.
Clues have been swept up. Evidence erased. Whoever did the handling of it was thorough - that, in itself, a clue. It was Cleaned.
Cruising the bloock is a smart move. sharp senses picking up a faint, shadowed figure atop a building near the pizzaria. Laying prone, elbows on the rim of the roof, glassing the area to look for anything out of place.
Axel maintains his facade of normalcy, just another thuggish young man of a lost generation, wandering the streets. He takes a roundabout route to then check out the rooftop access of the building with the spotter. He checks for means of access and egress, be it an external fire escape or the need for stairs internally. The hunter, falling into his role, also checks nearby buildings, to see if he can secure an angle, by which he can watch the watcher.
The easy path if a fire escape. But there is like an internal access as well - it's a good three stories tall, so odds of a maintenance hatch are high. Pros and cons to both.
A door up top would make a sound, likely, and give away his position, but the way up is less open to being spotted from outside.
A building next to it higher, but doesn't have as good an angle on the pizza joint. It does, however, offer a decent view of the building the Watcher is upon. And it has an external access.
Axel makes his way to the adjoining building, his mind calculating all the while. The Watcher seems hunkered in place, in for the long haul. Axel has the benefit of some time, so opts for the more stealthy and roundabout way, to at least get eyes on the watcher and see what the threat level is.
Silence. Not even the sound of his clothing can be heard - and he's wearing it. Easily cresting to top of the building, he can look down at the lower one where the Watcher is.
It's not one, but three. Two glassing the area from different angles, and a third perched on a stool, loosely keeping overwatch on the roof itself. This close, and from above, it's easy to see paramilitary gear, assault rifles, sidearms, and likely body armor.
He lowers himself down, avoiding skylining his silhouette as he lays in wait. Drawing his hood up he calls upon the blessings of the Lunes to shift some of his features, a wolf-like snout lengthening, his eyes turning an amber shade, while ears shift upward, growing pointed. All the better to observe with, while retaining a human shape. With even sharper, Urhan senses he sniffs for the scent of the three, he watches them, he listens to them. Surveilling them as they keep an eye on the pizzaria, he draws out his silenced cell phone. A quick text message to some low-lives he knows, through his time on the street. He doesn't want to get anyone killed, but he does want to see this trio as they react to some stimulus. A small group of thugs posting up near the pizzria briefly should do the trick. His sharp senses watch for details - radio calls, phone calls, orders, names... any insight that might be gleaned from observing their tactics and operations.
It takes a little bit for the thugs to arrive and take up their post - organizing people and travel times are still a thing.
When they do, the first man calls it four unknowns near the target. The third, on the stool gets down and moves in, crawling to the edge and using his own binoculars. There's a very calm flurry of activity, any weapons the boys might have called out between them, the crew efficient and moving together like a well oiled cog.
Ax watches and listens. He texts down to one of his crew, when a glance reveals he already has his phone out. Asking him to check to see if the pizza place is open. He ups the ante slightly, while still hopefully not triggering an assassination. He continues his vigil, studying the three-man operation as he does.
The guy down below stares at his phone, then looks at the window. Then the phone. There's some laughter from down below, one of the guys banging on the glass. "Hey! HEY! You muhfuckas open?!" More laughter. Another of them goes to the door and dramatically pulls on it, rattling it hard and quickly. It's locked of course.
The attention of the Watchers sharpens, one pointing between the men on the ground.
There's a low radio call, and a minute later a dark minivan rolls up and a couple more of the heavies get out, gesturing and clearly trying to get the gangers to bust up.
Axel has his phone out. He opens his note-taking program and keys the licence plate from the van into it, as well as the make and model. For good measure, he snaps a few images - the van, the heavies (although certainly not with any great degree of zoom), as well as the operation on the adjoining rooftop. He watches the fracas down below with one eye, while also keeping an eye on the trio on the next building. Passively watching for now, opportunistic.
Reluctant to clear out, the four down below put up a good show... until the weapons come out. Then hands hit the air and they start backing off. No shots fired - a minor miracle in this city. Must not be cops. But they have the high end gear.
The men down below wait until it's clear, then load up and roll out. Those on the roof can be made out whispering into the mics, then resuming their posts.
Ax texts back to his contacts, thanking them and apologizing for the unexpected hassle. He lets them think he's casing the joint while it's closed. Of course, with this level of heat, he's not about to break in - in reality or for the purposes of this false narrative.
He settles in once more, now to test his patience against the Watchers'. The next notable occurrence he waits for is the shift change. He tucks exposed skin away under his clothes and settles in for a long wait.
Hours slide by, and about three hours into the waiting game, the access door opens and three new people come up. The shift change involves trading information, gathering weapons and the like, and swapping.
The implication is simple: There's a pack of hunters in that building on rotating watches, that ALSO have a secondary group in a van.
Axel watches the next group briefly in the gathering darkness. Photos are taken - likely grainier than the first set - and he takes a whiff to get a sense of their scents. He takes a few more notes into his phone, basic physical descriptions. He listens for any exchange of pleasantries, names or codenames, sit-reps, that sort of thing. And, chewing on his lip faintly, he waits longer still. If he can wait out until the end of the next shift, it will give him a better sense of how the schedule likely works - and whether there are two or three groups of three on building watch. The reality of course, is that this is the way surveillance goes: brief moments of excitement, and then long house of sitting still and focusing.
Six hours. Closer to ten total in the cold. But six hours seems to be the rotation. Short shifts for better attentiveness. Means there's upwards of nine to twelve inside, with four in the van. Too long and bodies get stiff in the cold. To top it off, every two hours fresh thermoses of coffee and soup are brought up, as well as the doling out of disposable pocket warmers. Not just hanging wage slaves out to freeze, but all too aware of the climate and exposure and combatting it as well as the bored of it.
Axel endures, one time, what the Watchers avoid by routine. Eventually, with a sample of the operations, he is able to extrapolate. Fortunately, these paramilitary sorts love nothing more than schedules and routines and procedures. It makes tactics, at least, easier to make an educated guess at. He gets scents of a third group of the hunters (pictures at this level of light are certainly going to be useless), but is unwilling to extend his vigil another six hours. Quietly, then, he withdraws and makes his way back down the other side of the building. The address of the building is noted, and then he takes a walk to get the blood pumping once more. With the speed of response time, he knows the van would be nearby. Maybe it wouldn't be underground. So, heading in the direction the van came from, he takes a circuitous route, to see if he can locate the van, before heading on his way.
Round and round and through and under. It's not quite to grammas house, but he does find a parking garage within the response time. A quick trip up the glass elevator reveals the van, and two others. It's late enough at this point, that a couple of the paras are outside, smoking between two of the vans, talking lowly about some chick they banged together on their last job. Raucous laughter is followed by a sharing of spirits from a flask.
Hungry, still cold, and with considerably more intelligence than he arrived, Axel contents himself with that pass-by, keeping to the public areas that will not attract any undue notice, and assuring that, by the Lunes graces, he is not even noticed. A couple of more scents to catch, a couple of more descriptions to key into his phone, and then he is gone again, the Irraka disappearing like a shadow on a moonless night, that first contact with the Uratha prey do not even realize happened, before the fearsome next phases of the hunt unfold.