Another Missing Persons Case

November 21, 2016:

Jessica Jones meets a new client, who asks for her help in locating someone who has practically made a living making himself disappear.

Alias Investigations - New York City


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Giovanni Zatara


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

There is unspecified grime on the exterior of the Alias Investigations windowpane. There's more unspecified grime on the floor outside of it. The building is zoned residential, not commercial, but nobody seems to have noticed or cared about the very commercial door being set up here.

But it is marginally cleaner than the pea-green elevator that leads up to the place.

Jessica's marketing is minimal. She's in the yellow pages. Some Google aggregator picked it up with no particular effort on her part, so that she does indeed pop up when you type "PI, New York" into the little box. But if one asks around, well, referrals do tend to drive business to her less than impressive door. And if one of those patrons appears to be a cockroach, now departing, well…it /is/ New York, a place where you can't afford a cockroach free lifestyle unless you can also afford silver spoons.


She isn't without her contacts, inherited or otherwise, and given her current status as a university student, she was not above doing her homework.

It was simply stubbornness that had prevented her before from finally seeking out this route - hiring a professional to assist her with the seemingly fruitless task of finding a man who practically made a living out of dramatic disappearances. As the dingy elevator doors slide open, quick bootsteps take a young, black-haired woman through the narrow hallway and its peeling paint, the musty notes of old New York still clinging to brickwork that has long since fallen into disrepair.

A pale hand with black-lacquered fingertips give the door to Alias Investigations a couple of raps, before it swings inward, Jessica's new visitor letting herself in, though she tries her best not to be rude. Ice blue eyes peer from under an artfully messy fringe of, poking her head in first to inquire.

"Hello? Miss Jones?"

Once she lets herself in the office proper to be glimpsed by its proprietor, Jessica would find that her visitor couldn't be more than twenty, youthful and in her own way fashionable, clad in a pair of dark red leather pants tucked into black ankle boots. Her leather jacket, of a style the PI herself would appreciate, was tossed over a black halter, exposing hints of a silver belly ring, though those wouldn't be her only piercings, several of them dotting her ears and made all the more prevalent by the array of earrings that lined each arch. She wears dark makeup, which only made her skin look paler and her blue eyes all the more striking, the usage of dark purple lipstick serving to add an additional pop of color in her mostly monochromatic ensemble.

Needless to say, Zatanna Zatara does not look like she belongs in her office.


Jessica starts from her position on the couch. Not on the couch working. On the couch, face down, in a tank top and a pair of underwear. She stares blearily at her visitor, her hand still clutching the Jack Daniels bottle which had just sort of been dragging on the floor while she apparently slept. She slowly unleashes it, and the empty bottle falls lifelessly to the floor, spinning around and around as if the detective thought to play spin-the-bottle with the new guest. It wafts more booze smell into an office-and-living area that already smells of booze and water damage.

Slowly, she wipes a trail of drool off her chin and says the first thing that pops into her head, squinting into the light with an apparent headache. "Bondage club's three buildings down."


Dark brows lift more at the greeting than the disheveled sight of the professional private investigator crawling off the couch, Zatanna's head inclining slightly to the side. While most would be put on the defensive immediately, the girl simply gives her a brilliant grin, one that belies her overall appearance to the point of blatant incongruity. "Ha ha ha, well, I was really going for more 'The Craft' and less 'BDSM', but I knew I should've shelved the leather pants until I came up with a really creative safe word."

Her hands slid in the pockets of her jacket. "Do you need aspirin or anything?"

She sets her message bag down, looking around to see if she could find something to hydrate the older woman. Opting for the less dangerous path, she manages to find a an empty glass, treading over to the nearby sink so she could fill it.

Returning to where the couch is, she offers it to Jessica wordlessly.

"My name's Zee. I was sort of hoping I'd be able to hire you to help me find someone."


Jessica stares at Zee for a moment in…well…confusion. Not put off, check, an act of kindness…check…she slowly takes the glass and gulps it down, and comes up with a notion.

The notion is that she should probably put on pants. She stands up and picks up the pair from the floor. She sniffs it, makes a face, and drops said pair *back* to the floor. Then she picks up another from another location. This one gets sniffed twice.

After a moment, it occurs to her that maybe she should address the person that is here to hire her. "I'm listening. Here…" she steps over to the guest's chair in the "office" portion of the space. She just tips it over, dumping a mountain of unopened mail onto the floor. Most of it is stamped in really big letters with cheerful notices that say things like, "Urgent!" and "PAST DUE!"

She sets the chair back where it goes and pat pats it, then goes on with her ritual of pants-finding, plucking a third pair off the floor to subject it to her special qualification procedures.



The stereotype entails that anyone who dresses like the token goth chick in the typical teenaged movie should be grim, surly and not at all sociable, but Zatanna's relatively cheerful aura remained in spite of Jessica's less than welcoming demeanor. The young woman moves to take the offered seat, dragging her messenger bag towards her and sorting through the items there. Jessica would be able to see textbooks, the heavy ones that colleges preferred to peddle to their students at exorbitant prices, the volume on Biblical Aramaic the most prominent of these, as well as a couple of notebooks and folders. Pale fingers draw out a red one, offering it to Jessica once she was done fishing for pants.

"I was hoping you'd help me find my dad, John….Giovanni Zatara. John is his stage name, he's in showbiz."

He was famous back in the day and in the right circles, but the young magician is not assuming that Jessica would have ever heard of him. "He's an illusionist, which more than explains why I haven't been able to find him myself," she says lightly. "Especially when he doesn't want to be found, but I think something happened to him. We're very close, you see…even when he's out of town, he always manages to keep in touch with me. But it's been a couple of months and I haven't heard any word. When I asked around, it took me across Europe until I finally heard from a friend of a friend of his that he /thought/ he saw him here in New York."

he folder contains details, a dossier cobbled together by the only person living who knew John Zatara best - birthday, photographs and detailed copies of pages from a handwritten journal written in a feminine hand, tracing the man's whereabouts through Europe and the purported New York sighting.


She finally slides into some pants that unfortunately still smell pretty stale, but her dark eyes are suddenly sharp as she sits down and begins going through the journal. As her eyes flick from books to the pro-offered explanation she skips what normally would have been her first question to anyone coming to her with a missing person's case. Instead, she digs around until she finds a legal pad, trying a few pens and throwing a few dried-up ones angrily into the garbage can until she locates one that can write.

"Where exactly did the friend of the friend see him, and did they give any additional details about the sighting? His apparent state of mind, whether or not he looked frightened, if he was carrying anything…?"


"Chinatown," Zatanna supplies readily. "Stepping out of a place called Madame Chong's. It's largely a place where old ladies play mahjong and have tea, but it claims to specialize in Eastern artifacts. Terracotta figures, silk paintings, that kind of thing. It was just a really quick glance, Bill…er….Bill Durham, that was the name of my father's acquaintance, supposedly saw him there two days ago but when he tried to greet him, he just kept moving and he lost him in the crowd afterwards."

The young woman chews faintly on her bottom lip, though her lipstick doesn't manage to stain her teeth - quality makeup was a must for a modern girl, after all. "I don't know about his state of mind…but if there was anything unusual, Bill would have mentioned it. He did say he seemed like he was in a hurry, though."

Her fingers fall on her lap, linking together. "Daddy was called away a couple of days after my eighteenth birthday. Someone needed his help dealing with something difficult and really unusual. If you looked through his file, you'll see he's a bit of an expert in that kind of thing. It's also one of the reasons why I came to you, Miss Jones. I wanted someone who could both think and punch her way out of danger and that's what the word on the street says about you."


Jessica flips through the file, looking for the call and what was said on that call. "That's all the details he gave you? Did you ask Madame Chong yourself, or is that a fresh lead? This Bill guy, what can you tell me about him, who is he?" She scribbles down notes quickly:

Bill Durham—>Sighting

Madame Chong's>Eastern Artifacts>GZ in hurry. Why? "Your Dad sounds like the type to make a lot of enemies. Any enemy illusionists? Someone who might have posed as him, and left in a hurry because he didn't want his cover questioned?"


"Back in the day, he used to be Daddy's propmaster," Zatanna replies. "He's retired now, though, lives in Greenwich Village with his wife, Susan. No, I didn't ask Madame Chong myself, I honestly just arrived a couple of hours ago from Madrid, a family friend picked me up from the airport. She's still at work, but she was the one who suggested I come here in the first place before I did anything else. I haven't lived stateside in quite some time, she thought I ought to just ask someone who knows the city better than I do, now that I'm poking into Daddy's business….and as you guessed, that can get quite dangerous."

There is a wry turn to her mouth, drawn there by the PI's comment about her father having many enemies. "Quite a few, I provided a list, you can say they're…industry rivals." Though she's left a few names off said list, namely those of the demonic persuasion. "And one puppeteer with a tremendous grudge, though none of them have ever pretended to be him….at least not yet. None of them are currently local in New York, though…it makes me think that whatever he's doing now is somehow connected to what he was asked to do initially, but I know nothing about it. I don't even know who called him."


Jessica closes the file and places a firm hand on top of it. Sudden suspicion crosses over her features, a raw paranoia that makes her stiffen for just a second. Her sallow face goes a notch paler for just a moment, making her lips look as though someone has smeared blood across them. "The friend's name?" she asks, her tone taking on a sudden edge of tension. "The one who referred you to me? And the puppeteer…does he literally play with puppets or is that just a turn of phrase? Is he big on purple?"

She's actually putting so much pressure on that folder, all without meaning to, that tiny crack-lines are traveling slowly across the surface of her desk, forming little splinters wherever they go. But her eyes stay steady on Zee.


Confusion ripples over the young woman's expressive face, Zatanna glancing down at the hand pressing hard on the folder and then back up to the private investigator's tight expression. Body language is a thing and there are few who aren't as perpetually aware of it as those who specialize in misdirection; while young, she has lived and learned all her life from a master in such arts, and while she has clearly made her host uneasy, she is at a loss as to just exactly how.

Did she say something to accidentally offend her?

"Her name is Ginny— Virginia Townsend, she owns White Light Pentacles in Greenwich Village," she says. "She hired you before, when she suspected an employee of hers stealing some artifacts from her back room."

The question about a puppetmaster with a fondness of purple only heightens her confusion. "No like…he's an actual puppeteer. Sesame Street, that sort of thing. I haven't seen or heard from Oscar Hampel for quite some time, but I don't…think…he feels either way about purple?"

Well, this just got weird.


Instant relaxation. "I remember Ginny. And good. That's good. About Oscar."

Jessica isn't about to clear up the confusion, it seems, any more than she'd acknowledged Zee's compliments. She sort of walks over to the pile of mail, sorts around in it, and finds one that's labeled "East End Management Company." The stamp on the outside says, "Eviction Notice."

"My retainer is…"

She opens the bill and reads, "$984.32," she announces, quite precisely. "Fees are $100 an hour, plus expenses."

Ginny told her to expect twice that.

"I take it from the books you share some of your father's skills and don't feel like sitting this one out? It would be safer for you if you did." But an investigator also knows how to read people, and nothing about Zee's vibe tells her this is a sit on the sidelines kind of woman.


"Sure. That's no problem at all."

Zatanna doesn't even negotiate the fee; her black-tipped fingers reach inside of her book bag again, pulling out her checkbook and a pen, scribbling out the retainer and signing the bottom line with flourish. Tearing the slip carefully from the pad, she hands it to Jessica, her eyes falling on hers. She doesn't seem to notice the obvious signs of trouble and destitution - the eviction notices, the past due bills…not because she was uncaring or unfeeling, but largely because she has always been, much like the private investigator herself, a good read when it comes to people, though this is largely due to her genuine interest in the lives of others than a skill cultivated for the purposes of survival.

And it didn't take her five minutes to know for a fact that Jessica Jones safeguarded her privacy like a rabid rottweiler chained in a junkyard.

"Yeah, I'm alright," Zatanna says with a small laugh, rubbing the back of her neck. "A lot of people say I'm a chip off the proverbial block. But you're right, I'd rather help than not. Besides….trust me, you're going to need someone to explain the weirder parts to you. Daddy's involved, so it's always going to be weird. Weird and unusual." She bites her bottom lip again, a girlish gesture in the midst of her smile. "Sorry in advance, for that. Hopefully you won't fire me for being a client."

Standing up, she plucks her bag off the floor, slinging the strap crosswise from her shoulder and letting it rest on her hip. Her fingers lift, offering Jessica a card that…well, was not there before:

Zatanna Zatara
Mistress of Magic, Princess of Prestidigitation

And her number.

Not even out of her teens and she has her own business cards already.

"I'm not gonna assume that my case is the only thing you're working on right now," the girl continues. "But give me a call when you're about to check out Chong's? I'd like to come, if you'll have me."


Jessica takes the check and the business card with a nod of thanks, and says, "I'm going to spend tonight going through this file, maybe trying to pull up some public records. Then…let's go to Chong's. One more quick question. Your Dad…he got credit cards? A bank account? An e-mail address? And if he has a social security number to go with that DOB you provided, that could help as well. "

She narrows her eyes in sudden thought. "Actually…maybe this isn't so quick. You capable of mimicking his voice? Cause if you are, and he has all that stuff, well, we can break in, and see what the last charges are, see what e-mail messages have been flying across the transom…might shed a bit more light on the subject. And if not, with his social I can pull a credit report and see if he's opened any new accounts lately. Could be a long shot. Could be vital."

It seems like, yes, Jessica Jones will have Zatanna Zatara as both client and partner in the work.


"Daddy's pretty worthless when it comes to technology, but he does have an e-mail address. He rarely ever uses it though, you know the old, they'd rather meet someone face to face or get on the phone if they can't do that," Zatanna supplies. "But he does have credit cards, which he's been using occasionally. It was how I managed to track him across Europe, I just open the mail when the bills come in. I can send you what I have if you think that's helpful."

Pretending to be her father, though, did not occur to the young woman. "I hadn't thought of that," she confesses. "I'm not exactly a detective, but that's pretty clever! I could probably break into his stuff and get some more real time information. I'll let you know what I find. His social is written down in the copy of the birth certificate I included in the folder."

A vibrating sound emits from the back pocket of her pants; Zatanna fishes out her smartphone, squinting at the text she just received. "It's Ginny, she's closing up, meaning I should probably go back to White Light. I'll keep in touch….thanks for taking my case, Miss Jones. I really appreciate it!"

If there is nothing else, the young woman turns to trot out of Jessica's offices, releasing a breath she hasn't realized that she has been holding, There are no results yet, and time will only tell whether their partnership will yield some answers, but it's a step in the right direction which brings a certain sense of relief on its own.

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