Converging Threads

December 11, 2016:

Jessica returns to Shadowcrest after her confrontation with the Winter Soldier, and discusses the next steps of the investigation with Zatanna.

Shadowcrest Manor - Crest Hill - Bristol - Gotham

The ancestral home of the Zatara family, Shadowcrest is full of mystery, danger and wonder. It's not surprising that even the house guests think that it's got a life of its own.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: The Winter Soldier, Bruce Wayne

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Jessica had gone off to interview auction commissioners dressed in things that weren't her usual fare. She'd actually looked rather smart in her trenchcoat, black pantsuit, crisp white shirt, bun and…well, combat boots, but nobody's perfect.

She comes home (home? When did she start thinking of Shadowcrest as home? She resolutely moves that thought /away/ from the front and center of her attention)…looking quite a bit worse for wear. Her neat hairstyle is half in, half out, which means there's a fall of thick black hair on the right side of her head and a sort of hopeless reminder of a bun in the back. There's a bloody gash across her forehead and another on her cheek, as well as smaller scrapes all over her face, and some nasty ones on her hands. She moves slowly, as if bruised all over, though knowing her this is from injuries that would send any normal person either to the ICU or the grave. Her neck is a mess of bruises as well.

The combat boots look perfect though. Score one for combat boots.

Predictably, she heads to the liquor cabinet to pour herself a bit of something.

—-

Zatanna Zatara has just returned from class.

Jessica would find the young woman in the kitchen when she seeks the alcoholic embrace of Shadowcrest's infinite bar, with a cup of hot coffee on a coaster next to her and a fashion magazine that she is flipping through in a half-dazed state. It has been a couple of days since the incident in Red Hook, and when by herself, her mind can't help but gravitate towards the images that night has indelibly etched in her memory - the blades, the bloody sigils and the corpses of the sacrificed girls sharing the same space as her. With the investigator's intrusion, it helps her to focus on other things - namely her appearance.

Her eyes widen a touch. "Jess, what happened?" she wonders. It's Jess now, having fallen away from calling her Miss Jones after what they've been through together in Chinatown. She knew she had left the house to pursue some leads, but it appears that in this instance, said leads have decided to lead her in a merry chase and scuffle.

—-

Jessica never corrected her either. She might find it endearing, or at least not worth making a fuss over. It's hard to tell with Jessica. "A couple of the commissioners I interviewed talked about a man with a metal arm. I needed to go see Robert Carter next but he's dropped off grid. Tom Weiss, his close friend, was the closest lead. I headed there. Apparently, he was the closest lead for the attacker, too. I'm pretty sure he /does/ have a metal arm, though it was all under a sleeve and a glove. Don't worry, the Weiss' are fine. I think I learned something, too. Carter is the only one who has the guest list information, and /that/ is what he is interested in. That suggests two possible next steps to me."

She shucks off her trench coat and lays it across the back of one o the chairs, oblivious to the bits of glass that hit the floor in its wake. She downs the drink and closes her eyes, savoring it. Ironically, given the presence of an /infinite/ bar, she hasn't been drinking /as/ much.

"I'm not 100% sure the attacks are about the book exactly though. It could be all /sorts/ of things are coming to a head about this auction house. I mean, our first guy killed with magic. This fellow was some sort of a professional with a gun and skills, definitely no hocus pocus at all."

—-

The man with the metal arm. Zatanna looks up at Jessica, startlement in her eyes. "I knew he was active in Gotham," she tells her slowly. "One of the city's vigilantes attacked him while he was trying to attack someone else and the only reason I know this was because I fixed her injuries. I was honestly worried that she was just going to die in the dumpster right there when I found her."

It has to be a coincidence. It has to be.

Wasn't it?

"From what I heard he's some kind of super assassin, so if he has any interest in the auction, it would probably be interest around a person and not an artifact. Right?" It makes sense to her, and while she's not a detective, or even someone who can put together things as quickly as the likes of Tim Drake, what she has plenty of is common sense and an intense familiarity with human nature.

"I met him before," she confesses finally after taking a sip of her coffee. "I found him in a bad way also. I saved his life - at the time, I didn't know if he was the victim or the murderer, but I couldn't just let him die. There's something…" She pauses, hesitates. "…he isn't all there. I don't think so anyway."

—-

Jessica considers that, finally taking the bun out all the way and shaking out her hair. "He could have killed me," she says, matter-of-factly. "He didn't. I don't know why he didn't. Could have been practical, could be he's not bloodthirsty. But then, he left Ford alive too. Not common behavior for a super assassin. He didn't even really work that hard at asking me who sent me. I expected him to—well. I didn't expect him to just take off when I wouldn't give an answer. I thought for a moment I was about to be in some really deep trouble. If you think there's something about him, trust your instincts, as long as you're safe first. "

God knows she can remember a time when she wasn't all there, doing terrible things.

Her gaze takes on a faraway stare as memories of the bad old days flood into her, leaving her clutching the drink without touching it.

She mutters a few street names and tears herself out of it, shaking herself in annoyance. "Can your um…what was his name? Wayne friend? Get you a copy of the guest list as easily as he could get us on it? Because that was route #1. If we can see the list, we might be able to see who he's after. My second thought was…you've got magic. Maybe you could use it to find Robert Carter so we could talk to him ourselves, and to make sure this guy really can't find him."

—-

"Like I said, he's not all there," Zatanna reiterates, taking another gulp of her coffee. "Maybe he's such a good do-bee that unless it's part of his packet or whatever Cold War dead-drops he uses to acquire information…" She may not know anything about international espionage, but she's watched plenty of movies and is an avid student of history. "…he doesn't touch anyone. I mean, it makes sense, right? The last thing you want to do if you make a living as a ghost is leave a trail behind."

Though whoever this Valerie Vicks of the Gotham Gazette is, she must be one incredibly tenacious reporter to even come up with the story that she has.

"Looks like security was just increased around the gala too. Anyway, I'll talk to Bruce but I don't know if I want to push my luck there, I'm already asking him for a favor and if I even so much as say anything about looking at the guest list, he might be convinced that I might get into trouble if I'm poking into the business of a clearly dangerous individual and deny me an invitation immediately out of the respect he has for my father. We might need to look for some other way to get it."

This might be more Jessica's expertise than hers.

—-

"Then you definitely don't want to talk to Bruce," Jessica replies, very quickly. It's not even a decision. They need to be in there that night, and that's that.

"What about the magical angle?" Here's where her expertise falls apart. "Can you look into a bowl of water or something and find out where Carter is? Alternatively…we could just visit his house, see if he left a copy of the list on his computer or something. He might have left without knowing precisely what the attacker was after, which means he might not have thought to secure the information."

"I could," Zatanna says slowly. "But I'll need a piece of him to be able to scry - hair, blood. Blood is best, as usual, but a few hairs from a comb would work as well. Alternatively I suppose we can try and break in again and see what he's got, though now that this has caught some attention with the local authorities, maybe we should expect additional security."

—-

Zatanna purses her lips in thought, leaning back against her chair and crossing her arms over her chest.

"…you know who might have that information?" she wonders, glancing at Jessica, an idea suddenly popping up in her head. "The reporter. The one who broke the story about the attacks on the commission members in the first place. If she thought to write about it, maybe she has information about the gala itself by now." She makes a face. "I mean, we're going to have to probably trade parts of our souls in exchange for it, but I'm not a stranger to talking to reporters, that always happens. Valerie Vicks is going to want a piece of what you find out, if we go that route."

It could help, or make their efforts and lives a little more difficult whenever the story gets printed.

—-

Jessica contemplates this. She has /zero/ experience with reporters, which makes her a little more apprehensive. She finishes her drink, then strips the jacket from her pants suit, leaving the ruined shirt. She rolls up the sleeves and crosses to join Zatanna. At last she asks thoughtfully, "What could we give her that wouldn't hinder our chances of finding your Dad? It's a good idea, but we'd better go with an offer in hand."

She also studies Zatanna closely. She knows the girl has recently been through something horrific. She's still kicking herself for not being there to beat the crap out of the people who put her in that situation. She doesn't exactly have the emotional depth to offer a shoulder to cry on, but she can make the visual check to see if she can determine just how 'okay' Zatanna is. This of course leads her to the thought of what they might offer, and she says, "Do you think she has the story of those psychos in Red Hook yet?"

This may be a sensitivity fail, but there it is.

—-

Visually, the young woman appears fine.

Despite her youthful appearance, she is a veteran when it comes to the supernatural and the strange, and while it is guaranteed that exposure to true evil could change a person, as Jessica herself could attest, the teenager still manages to be the same as ever - cheerful, sassy and the sort to laugh and make others do the same no matter what difficulties life deigns to throw at her. Zatanna wears her usual goth-inspired fashion, her eyes bright from the effects of the coffee near her - the only true indicator that she is in any way affected by what happened to her in Red Hook was she isn't ribbing Jessica about her alcohol intake.

"I could trade the information for an exclusive on it," the young woman offers without even batting an eyelash. Anyone would balk at being able to talk about it, much less get it printed on the newspapers for the whole city to read about. "It might be enough. Let's go with that then and we'll improvise if she rejects the offer." She purses her lips and flashes the older woman a grin. "Maybe you can talk to her on my behalf, like…if I'm too ready to talk to her about it, she might think there isn't much of a story there, but if you make it seem as if I'm not willing to talk about my harrowing, traumatic experience at all unless you convince me to, maybe she'll bite."

It's sneaky and manipulative, but the young woman isn't above it. She was a master at misdirection, it stands to reason that her aptitude for deception was higher than most.

—-

"You know. There's a reason why I like you, Zatanna."

It's the first time that Jessica has /admitted/ to liking her. She can count the number of people she /likes/ on one hand. "We'll play it exactly that way," she agrees. "I'll put in the call tomorrow, and see what we can't get done. "I might not come hoheredirectly after, as I'm also trying to help Rocket find his…Groot. Unless something goes wrong I should be back in time to update you on how it all went in time for dinner though. And…"

Here she gets a little uncomfortable, putting down her drink and sliding her hands into her pockets for a moment. "Any chance I can get you to check in with me on some sort of schedule so I know to come looking for you if you need help? The people who made your father disappear could try to make /you/ disappear. You've already had that run-in. Minutes matter when things like that go wrong. I don't want to overstep my bounds…you're my employer…but…"

—-

The expression on Zatanna's face afterwards when Jessica poses her request is downright indescribable; while she finds others easy to like, she knows that in Jessica's case, that distinction is hard won, indicative of a life that has spiraled downward due to an egregious betrayal of trust. The young woman smiles at the private investigator in a self-conscious way, absently rubbing her cheek. She doesn't hear that often, especially from those who aren't particularly emotive outside of the predictable ranges of irritation and sarcasm.

"I like you too, Jess," she tells her, sincerely. "Even with your daily attempts to drink me out of house and home."

There it is.

If that isn't surprising enough, the request after is even more so. She isn't accustomed to people being concerned about her, but with Azalea's visit in the hospital and now Jessica's request, she couldn't help but be amazed. Part of her fiercely independent nature was influenced by the fact that outside of her father, nobody tends to care - or even communicates to her that they do, even the sentiment is less than honest. Now…

"…I'm sorry, I didn't mean to worry you," Zatanna remarks. "Sure, I mean, I know you're just looking out for me. I'll give you a copy of my schedule and most frequent haunts. And if I go out at night again, I'll let you know. Would that be enough? Do you need more?"

These were signs as well, of a young woman who has so few personal connections that she doesn't take concern for granted.

—-

"That should be plenty," Jess says. She's not prone to a lot of smiling or grinning, but something like that flits across her face; fleeting, then gone, but visible. Perhaps there's just a kindred similarity between them that isn't immediately obvious. Maybe it's the fierce independence. The feeling that few-to-nobody gave a damn. Maybe it's just how Zatanna accepted her without immediately doing more than teasing about her alcohol. No attempts to dive headlong into her issues, or to shove her into therapy, just trust and space. Those things are powerful things.

Whatever it is, she knows she finds Zatanna…soothing. Everything about this place makes her feel less crazy, less on edge. She feels like she can stop and go have a bath and some sleep after this drink instead of having another four. Or eight. At first she'd thought it was just having something to do, a case that took a bit more mental energy than snapping pictures of faithless people doing the nasty. But she's aware it's more than that, suddenly. Not…that she's going to start discussing these things.

"Thanks." She /does/ smirk at the joke about being drunk out of house and home. "I'd cry more tears for your budget if I hadn't watched in fascination as it replenished itself over and over for a good 4 hours the first night I got here. As if by magic, or something."

—-

"Kind of appropriate, eh?" Zatanna says with a grin. "The magic thing."

She reaches out towards Jess, resting a hand on her sleeve - it is no skin to skin contact, but the physicality is enough. She closes her eyes, her lips parting to whisper a few words:

"Seirujni S'acissej laeh."

The scratches on the investigator's face recedes, her aches and pains washing away at the wake of some inexplicable, ephemeral warmth. Bruises fade and blood drops vanish with just a few careful words. It is power, how many people can make the world as she wills it to be by just a few words?

But perhaps it is more than that.

"Anyway I think I'm keeping you from your very well-earned bubble bath," Zatanna suggests. "I don't intend to be anywhere else today so maybe after dinner we can figure out how to pitch this to Miss Vicks. Sound like a plan?"

—-

As such, she'd only stiffened just a little when touched—and then had immediately relaxed. "Now that's bad ass," she comments, touching her face. She flexes her newly healed fingers and…there it is. A real smile. Ducked head, but lingering longer. "It sounds like a plan." And with that she heads up the stairs. Just heads up there, with none of her usual stomping, prowling demeanor.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License