Alice contacts Norman with some alarming evidence.
The list of people who get to meet with Norman Osborn /without/ scheduling an appointment is a very short one. Alice gets past his secretary's secretary without a flinch; when she gives her name to Heather (his current secretary), she visibly straightens and immediately hits the intercom. "Mr. Osborn? There's--"
"No disturbances means /no/ disturbances, Ms. Motley." His voice is low -- irritated -- a dark, rumbling avalanche.
"Yes, sir, it's just -- you said no disturbances /except/ for..."
"Ah," and now the irritation melts away into... something else. Caution? "Of course. Send her right in."
The large wooden doors make a click as Heather hits the button to unlock them; at once, Alice is stepping into a large, clean office -- three of the four walls are glass, giving a pristine view of the cityscape. The desk has an organic shape to it -- there is a bookcase full of manuals on engineering, chemistry, and military history. And, of course, Norman Osborn's collection of grotesque masks.
Norman himself is sitting at his desk -- laptop open, reviewing what looks to be blueprints. As Alice steps in, he does not look up from his work: "Ms. Lambton, wasn't it? You'll have to pardon my lack of pleasantries; I'm reviewing some critical engineering updates to one of our devices."
When Alice Lambton means to see someone, they are seen. As a result, even as Osborn rumbles his annoyance at the secretary, she is striding towards the doors--trusting that they will open just as she reaches them.
And so they do!
She is in a blue silk suit, a deep navy shade made darker still by the greens and golds of her gauzy blouse. Her heels sound loud on the floor as she crosses the expanse between door and desk, briefcase held loosely in her left hand. The masks receive only the most cursory of glances--her attention lingers longest on the bookshelves--but all too soon the full force of her green eyes land upon the man at his laptop. Her smile is pristine.
"I am not here for pleasantries, Mister Osborn. I do, however, feel it is in your best interest that you finish your reviews at another time."
Osborn is not smiling. He looks upon her -- is that contempt? Or merely irritability? He is a hard man to read, sometimes. But, at her suggestion, he sighs -- reluctantly moving to close the laptop with a delicate click. Then, at long last, he offers her a polite smile -- one that does not touch his eyes. "Of course." He rises from his chair and gestures to the seat in front of him.
"Please, sit. What can Oscorp do for Uncle Sam?"
Unbothered by such things as skin-deep smiles and difficult to decipher looks, Alice moves to take the indicated seat. She rests comfortably, or as comfortably as ramrod straight posture allows. One leg ticks over the other, and her wrists are folded neatly over her knees. The briefcase is left beside the chair, ignored for now.
Her own smile, when it appears again, touches everything. Lips, of course, but also her eyes, giving them the appearance of true warmth. Of understanding.
"This visit is less about what you might do, Mister Osborn, and more about what you /have/ done. It was mentioned in certain circles that there might be things you would wish to divulge to us." Alice's smile deepens a notch. "And so here I am. All ears."
Something about Norman Osborn changes.
It is difficult to pin down precisely *what*. A faint deepening of the crow's feet that have gathered about his eyes; a slight stiffness in that mouth -- a darkening of the shadows that line his face. His eyes -- a handsome, amber brown -- grow perhaps a shade lighter. Just the slightest shift toward a more... yellowish hue.
He draws in a slow breath, then. In the silence that comes, it may be assumed he is counting to ten. When he finally *does* speak, it is with infinite slowness -- each word plucked and polished with great care before leaving his lips:
"I am not very good with games, Ms. Lambton. Particularly not when I am unfamiliar with the rules. Please," and now, he leans back -- a conscious attempt to *relax* himself. "Tell me. What is it you think I should divulge?"
Alice's head tips gently to the side while she studies him. Her life has been spent watching for the small signs. There are plenty here to observe, and she takes a moment trying to decipher what is seen. Together, they're enough to cause her smile to thin. She disguises this by leaning to the side and lifting the briefcase into her lap. The snaps are opened, the lid opened and a file drawn from them. This she places on his desk within reach.
Inside are reports, photocopies of news stories, pages with large blocks of text blacked out: a suspicious explosion reported in the city, internal reports of Oscorp research, a flagged report on the attempted murder of an NYPD officer, and two grainy cellphone camera pictures of unidentified flying objects.
"Let's begin with this," she suggests. "Do we have reason to be concerned?"
At once, whatever tenseness overcame Norman Osborn seems to melt away. He even manages to smile -- a smile that touches his now-dark amber eyes.
"Ah," he says, and now he moves to flip through the documents, eyes scanning them. The pictures, the reports, the articles. The smile never fades, never flickers -- he almost seems /amused/. Up until the point that he catches sight of the report on the attempted murder. Then, he pauses -- staring at the report. Reading it /very/ closely.
Rather than answer her question, he holds the report up to her. "When did this happen? Yesterday?" If Alice is any good at poker, she can tell one of two things: Either Norman Osborn has no idea what the hell this report is about, or he's /very/ good at bluffing.
For the first time, Alice allows herself to sink back into the chair while Norman looks through the material she's provided. Her smile has been reconstructed to its previous warmth and benevolence; her elbow rests on the arm of the chair, two fingertips touched to her jaw, ring finger curled to rest below her lips. While he is amused, she observes. While he reads closely, she continues to observe.
But when he flips that particular report around, she lifts an eyebrow at the unexpected.
"Friday, Mister Osborn. Some time in the morning, I believe. Strange, don't you think? The only available witness to the, ah, incident with the UFOs suffers an attempt on his life."
Osborn is not a man prone to expressions of rage. But, for a moment, his eyes shine with it -- his teeth /clench/ with it. He is not looking at Alice, but rather past her -- at the masks on the wall. As if they were somehow responsible for this... indignity. This /problem/.
But then... the rage subsides. He sighs, neatly shuffling and lining up the documents -- setting them back on the table in front of her. And then -- Norman Osborn has returned. Cool, charming, warm -- his smile yet again touching his eyes:
"The report mentioned he was attacked by a mutant; are you sure this isn't reciprocity for that fiasco in Central Park?" Osborn is apparently familiar enough with Officer Sutton to know he was the one photographed giving Jackson a ticket. He's been keeping track of his whereabouts. "If you're trying to imply that Oscorp is involved in some manner of... what would this be -- mutant-murderers-for-hire?"
"I imply nothing. You may consider this visit a courtesy in some ways, Mister Osbourn." Alice lets her hand slip back into her lap, curling loosely with its twin. Her tone is crisp. British. The smile has gone; she's all business now. "Flags have been raised. These flags concern those with an interest in your business and an investment in remaining below the radar of public attention. So I must ask you again...do we have reason to be concerned? If so, how do you intend to proceed to allay those concerns?"
Osborn folds his hands -- and nods. As Alice's smile fades, so does Osborn's -- although there's still a hint of it. "Fair enough, Ms. Lambton. I understand -- and I empathize. But I assure you, you have nothing to be concerned about. The mutant responsible for this attack on one of New York's finest? I am /positive/ he will be found, just as I am /positive/ an explanation for this attack will surface. Let's say -- by the end of the week, yes? Yes." Osborn is smiling again. He can't help himself. "I am sure of it."
Then, quite suddenly: "You have lovely eyes, Ms. Lambton. Did you know I'm holding a bit of a soiree later this month? A small 'get-together' to show off some of my more -- ambituous products to Uncle Sam. I'd be deeply flattered if you'd attend."
Alice touches her fingertips to the curve of her jaw again, the tip of her ring finger tapping lightly against her lips. It is the most thoughtful of poses, adopted while she studies Osborn and his little mannerisms. Her face is a mask, neither pleased nor displeased--as might be expected of a diplomat.
"That is rather vague, Mister Osborn, but I look forward to seeing the explanation that surfaces," she says after a moment. A small breath stirs before her lips, a sigh that ends with the woman glancing briefly to the side while the invitation is considered. In the end, she adopts her smile again and produces a card from the briefcase. It's set on the desk, where the folder had been originally placed. "That's quite kind of you. I would be honoured to attend. You may call my assistant to provide him with the details."
"It will be my pleasure, Ms. Lambton. I'll see to arranging the details." The card is carefully plucked from his desk; it disappears at once into his coat pocket. "As for the vagueness -- my apologies. But yes, I have every reason to believe that the matter will be resolved to your satisfaction. I'll be in touch," Osborn adds, and his hand is moving back toward his laptop. "Is there anything else?" Still smiling. Much more pleasant than when she first stepped in.
"I'm sure it will; we have great faith in you, Mister Osborn. Great faith. Thank you for your time," Alice says, cue given to rise and collect the briefcase. Her smile curls at him a last time before she turns to make her way back to the door.
He watches her go, still smiling. But when the door closes behind her... that smile fades. He reaches for the intercom, clicking it on: "Heather," he says. "No interruptions. And this time, I /mean/ it. No one."
He reaches and presses the button underneath his desk... causing the windows to darken. Tinting to opaque. A wall-length mirror descends beneath the shelf of masks. And then he pushes back in his chair, rising to stand in front of it.
"We need to talk," he says. "Now."