Mirrors and Shadows

December 17, 2016:

Jessica Jones breaks into Gottfried Muller's suite at the Excelsior, but before she can pass on the information she finds, the man himself traps her in her worst nightmare.

The Excelsior - Midtown - Gotham City

A swanky penthouse suite in the Excelsior Hotel.


NPCs: Gottfried Muller

Mentions: John Constantine, Zatanna Zatara, Giovanni Zatara, Zebediah Kilgrave


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

When Jessica manages to break into Gottfried Muller's suite, she would find it empty and unwarded.

By all rights, this is a good thing - none of John's items have reacted to anything as she steps inside the spacious, opulent rooms - the Excelsior has a specific reputation in Gotham for being the creme de la creme of the city's hospitality industry, an unrivaled gem in the business. Anyone who was anyone who visited Gotham stayed there, and Mr. Gottfried Muller was no exception; he enjoyed a reputation for being a savvy businessman, but cold, though not to the point of being stiff.

The double doors open to the main sitting room, with a well-stocked bar and a more formal dining area close to a set of large, floor-to-ceiling windows that open to Gotham's sprawling landscape. He was at the very top floor, and this crime infested urban jungle appears to stretch on for miles. Another set of double doors lead into the luxurious bedroom and the master bathroom, and while there were several electronics present - a giant HDTV, digital docks for laptops, an advanced wi-fi system, none of these appear to be touched.

But Jessica has been a PI for several years, with a streak of paranoia as wide as the day is long. Just because nothing is moving does not mean nothing is there.


She pushes the maid's cart into the room and closes the door gently behind her. She wasn't about to tip anyone off that she wasn't part of housekeeping. She'd even knocked and everything, a fine way to triple check nobody was in the room. She didn't worry too much about tripping John's wards right away…frankly for the room to look this nice he had to be letting housekeeping in.

No. She was concerned more about the moment she started snooping.

She did a perimeter walk first, visually checking every door and drawer. She's looking for signs of magic at work. Runes. Symbols she doesn't understand. Chicken skulls. So /far/ at least the pattern seems to indicate things even someone like her can /see/, and John did tell her to treat these wards as /flu shots/, not as a 'stick your hand in the hornet's nest and feel safe.' She didn't enter until she was pretty sure Muller'd left, so unless he turns back around and shows up immediately she figures she has the time to do this right.


The living room seems like it hasn't been touched, which is strange considering Muller's been in the city now for several days. It could simply be housekeeping's good work, but that would entail that Muller actually allows strangers and whatnot to visit his suite to do fulfull the terms of their services. It would open himself to a variety of risks, one would think, if strangers were simply allowed in the space whenever he isn't there, but her eyes would not lie in that regard. The suite is spotless, as if nobody had been staying there at all.

The bedroom seems to be the best bet for any search, and the closer Jessica wanders over there, the items that John had given her will experience some activity. It starts as a faint emanation, heat pressed into her skin - it serves as much of a warning as well as an assurance that it was /working/, and that maybe if she plays her cards right, she'll come away with some answers.

Nothing happens, however, when she steps inside of the bedroom - her magic item assures her that there is something in the bedroom, and it is active, the thing glowing so hot that it threatens to sear her skin. It only grows more insistent closer to the desk, facing yet another large window that overlooks Gotham City.


"…Fuck. He's staying somewhere else," Jessica mutters. But that doesn't mean the thing in the desk isn't important. She goes to retrieve a mop from the cart though. If the desk drawer isn't locked, then why get close? It's possible that opening the drawer is the trigger, after all. She reaches out with the mop, slips the handle of the pole between the drawer pull and the drawer itself, and slowly tugs it open.

Too bad it's not a ten foot pole.

This is literally a situation in which a 10-foot pole would come in handy.


That isn't entirely accurate. Pale green eyes observe her from his seated position on the desk.

Gottfried Muller watches her dispassionately as she takes a mop and starts prying into one of his drawers, easing away to make room for her - he isn't invisible, not really, but creating pocket mirror dimensions is a skill that he mastered a long time ago - a layer within an existing space that copies the objects within it, where those outside can go about their business as usual thinking he isn't there when nothing couldn't be further from the truth.

He had been advised not to underestimate John Constantine - anyone who has lived as long as he has would easily do the same, and his reputation has been such that even those who ought to know better have fallen into that particular fatal flaw.

Truthfully he had been expecting John any time now, he has spent the last day or so barely leaving the suite, save for a brief excursion the night before to acquire something that he needs.

Something that he has already sent off to someone else.

This however is unexpected, proof positive that Mammon wasn't just being cheeky or paranoid. Who ends up breaking into his suite is a woman she hasn't seen before, lulled into the false sense of security that he had left the hotel - dopplegangers have been easy to procure, for a man who has practiced sorcery for close to a hundred years. Not Constantine, but an…agent? It appears that the Englishman was doing everything he can to stay away from him, then. Or at least he was attempting to avoid facing him in his turf.

That was just fine.

The drawer opens without any resistance. Jessica would be able to reach inside and pull out a few documents - all related to INA Germany, boring financial stuff that investors tend to salivate over.

But if she shakes it, two things fall out of the folder, both photographs - one in color, one in black and white.

The monochromatic image is grainy, but the figure in the foreground is unmistakeable - Adolf Hitler, his fist held up, with two others standing with him on a balcony. The man in the middle is fair-haired, dressed in a long coat, a dress shirt and tie. Things that Constantine would wear.

The colored photograph is of a young woman with black hair and pale, ice-blue eyes. A face that Jessica would know very well.


Jessica's first impulse is to dutifully snap pictures of all of this then e-mail copies to herself and Zee.

But what niggles at her is…none of this explains the /magic/.

/Something/ is tripping these wards, and unless their target does some particularly unsavory things with his Happy Hitler keepsake, she can't see anything in this pile of crap is it. Whatever it is— that's the important thing here.

So she doesn't allow herself to become distracted by it. She'll pick all that nonsense up if she gets the chance, but first she lifts the desk up and away from the wall, tilting it one-handed, this way and that, to see if she can spot something under it, or behind it, or in some other surprising place.


Click. Click. The smartphone does its job, committing both photographs she finds to its memory, but before she can attach the pictures to an e-mail and send, the device suddenly flies out of her hand, smashing into splinters on the nearest wall.

She would only have that momentary flash of warning when her shadow suddenly comes alive, coiling around her ankle and /pulling/ in an effort to toss her right on her ass. It starts dragging her across the carpet and if she isn't careful, she'll fall on the desk also, though chances are it wouldn't affect Jessica too much.

John's item resists - the wards fry the shadow coil, but more and more join it, over her calf, snapping for her wrist; they're intangible but alive, worming their way over her limbs even as she tries to fight. Sparks fly as John's protection reduces a few to cinders, but more come and they seem to come from everywhere. They move from under the bed, the closets, the vanity, as the dim light inside the room flickers overhead, growing darker and darker by the second until the only light remains is when John's item activates in a desperate attempt to bat away the darkness trying to get ahold of its charge.


She flings the desk away from her, even as she's dragged on her ass. She flings a sidefisted punch at one shadow, and when it connects is greatly encouraged. She kicks her foot as hard as she can to free it, then scrambles to one knee. She snaps her arm up in a hard block as one slips down from above, then rips one free from her neck.

This is unsustainable. Every instinct says so.

She gathers her legs beneath her to leap towards the door, only to be dragged back when something whips around her waist and yanks her back. She can't even /see/ anymore, but that doesn't stop her. She twists her body hard, /landing/ hard when something snaps around her wrist. "God damn it!" She shouts roughly, and if it's perhaps tinged with a little fear, who can blame her? She yanks the wrist over just to BITE at it.

She's going to keep on in this vein until she either reaches the door, or can no longer keep on in this vein.

One really stupid though crosses her mind, worming through her thoughts like the cold icicle of fear that's worming down her spine. Jessica Jones. A woman who is such a piece of shit, her own shadow hates her.


She is close.

So close.

Jessica manages to rip away from the eldritch mass enough to be able to leap towards the door, but she would find it shutting in her face, the wooden appendage swinging with a slam. Her body crashes into it, her superhuman strength reducing it to kindling - but they are still coming for her, coiling into one another as they reach for her legs. John's wards fry those that are incoming, but more are resisting and they come too fast, and too numerous, for her protection to be sustained for long.

She has time to yell before she's forcibly dragged back into the bedroom, further and further, pulled by inky, ephemeral ropes by the waist and legs, pulling her roughly across the carpet until she's pinned there, more darkness ropes binding her fast, coccooning her in their embrace - but they leave her face bare, her mouth ungagged.

The space by the desk ripples, as if a stone cast in an invisible lake. A tall, blond man in a suit emerges from the unknown space beyond, walking over towards the bound Jessica with the unhurried pace of someone who has all the time in the world….and while she wouldn't know it, he does.

Gottfried Muller plants one foot on either sides of the bound private investigator, lowering on one knee as he brings his face to hers. She would recognize him now, because she has seen his image recently - the man in the coat and tie, standing behind Adolf Hitler.

And he has not aged a day.

His pale eyes roam over her face, though he doesn't touch her yet.

"You don't look familiar," he drawls, his voice tinged with an unmistakeable German accent. "Did John Constantine send you? It would be consistent with his reputation….letting others take the brunt of his follies."


Jessica is panting and sweating by the time this is done. She glares up at the man and struggles a little more— actually a lot more— while he approaches her, not quite ready to conceed the battle yet. She finally conserves her strength, letting her struggles come to a stop as she settles down into the position she's been forced into.

She contents herself with a glare and a sneer of contempt. Neither is unfeigned. Retreating into fury is what she's got. For other people, it might just be sheer stupidity, antagonizing a captor. For Jessica Jones, it's sanity-saving. She does /not/ have time to go into a god damn PTSD induced freak-out right now. She just doesn't.

"Screw you, Nazi. I got no idea who you're talking about."


The term makes his lips curl faintly, but it is nothing so overt that it shows his teeth - merely a tic in his mouth before it fades once more on the largely impassive face. He neither confirms or denies her assertion, not the sort to spill anything more than he truly has to; people tend to do that, talk too much, and passionate disclosure was often fuel to the crafty types like detectives and investigators, or those who tended to poke their nose into other people's business.

Much like whoever this woman is. But he intends to find out.

"We will see," he says, curling his thumb inward to his pinky ring, pressing a hidden switch to let a small, hooked blade swing loose from its textured surface. He leans forward, his hand cupping her cheek, depressing the blade against it until blood froths into his palm, leaving a garish, crimson streak across her pale skin, staining his fingers.

As always, blood is a powerful tool.

His other hand grabs the top half of her face, his fingers digging into her eyes and forcing her lids open, pushing his full weight into her forehead to pin her down, in the event that she tries to headbutt him or worse. Sensing his intent, the coccoon around her tightens, binding her fast onto the floor as he leans in closer and closer, so close she could taste his breath, her forced-open eyes staring right into those green irises.

John's items struggle - they burn his hands, energy crackles over his skin in an attempt to repel his oppressive presence, force him /off/ the investigator but the more they push, the tighter he grips her. This close, she would be able to observe it; satisfaction bordering on relief as the stench of burning skin hits her nose. Satisfaction from the pain, from being able to feel it, still.

Something shatters against her person, the wards sputtering in their death throes, the miasma of sparks fading around them.

He peels her brain like an onion, layer by layer, slowly, torturously. It is nothing physical, but she can feel it deep inside of her, as if his hands have reached into her cranium instead, unraveling her cerebral cortex with those thick, callused fingers. His stare doesn't leave her eyes as he floods her with that feeling - one that she knows well, one that she fears.

Invasion, as the German burrows deep into her memories, staring at the images that flash across her eyes. It is not delicate work, there is no surgical precision. It is painful, it is sick, and he rifles through those forbidden drawers like a thief, a burglar that has forced himself into the sanctity of her own home.


She flinched away from the blade, angry, angry that he's cutting her, angry that she's caught…

Angry at the flash of fear that rages across her eyes and through her person.

She grits her teeth as he forces her eyes wide open, and absolutely she DOES try to head butt him, and with all her strength, but…he's ready for her strength. She already gave that game away, and he's ready.

She asked for a flu shot. Then she came in here and got Ebola.

And then he's in her brain.

He's in her brain.

He's in her BRAIN.

So the first thing he sees is Kilgrave bent over her, licking his long tongue against her cheek while she stares up at him in helpless paralysis, a lean and hungry man with a five o'clock shadow and a strange purple suit; the memory strangely shaded in purple and blue lights to her, perhaps representing the way she saw the world when wrapped up in his mind control. That's the first thing he gets, because that's what this evokes to her, and the raw terror of it (notagainnotagainnotagainnotagain) brings THAT to the forefront of her head first.

Then streets. Streets, streets, streets, an endless array of streets, shattering and reforming in distorted panic even as her mouth opens in a wordless scream. Birch Street. Higgins Drive. Cobalt Lane.

BiRch STreet HiGGIInnnnnnns Drive Coooobalt Lane. BirchStreetHIGGINSDriveCObalt LANE.

She flees him on those streets somehow, but then they shatter as he peels through another layer of memory.


Kilgrave again.

"Bondage club's three buildings down."

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."

Jessica, forcibly pushing against him with all of her puny, broken will. She CARES about Zatanna Zatara. Like a little sister she never had. A spark of goodness in an otherwise very fucked up world. Higgins…Cobalt…NO!

But she can't stop him, and a mental sob rips across her mind. Physically she sobs too, tears pouring out of her eyes fast enough to make her mascara run, too fast and messy for individual tears, choking snot following.

"Out! We get out. Come on!" Jessica tugs unceremoniously at Zatanna's arm, aiming to drag her right back out to the street. "If you can put it out, put it the hell out!"

She charges towards the door, swearing, hoping the flaming insect swarm doesn't follow them?

"Yeah. Dial me up a Madame Dead Lady."

"KIllEd mE?" comes the unearthly, sibilant hiss. "iT KIllEd Me?"

It's all his. She has no defenses against this. None. C-c-c-c-co-b-balt…

She points a banana at a racoon man and mimes firing it at him. They share a grin. They understand one another. Safe, the memory safe, the house safe, she's safe there and then BIRCH STREET

A window shatters and she flies through it. The gun hits the floor. The gunman stares at her with the coldest of cold eyes. And then the unexpected, the metal hand wrapping around her throat, choking her air supply for a moment, flinging her through a wall. "Who sent you?" The question of the hour…trying to get answers from him in turn, revealing more than she meant to reveal…

"I think he's under some kind of mind control." A dirty gym, grey, grey thoughts, barely looking at the man across from her with this All American good looks, or Zatanna with her concern.


Riding a tree man in a parade. For a moment she's so…/happy/. Wishing upon some stupid Christmas star that she could stay with these ridiculous people forever, with Zee and these goofy new friends…madness. Madness to wish. This is the result.

"Breakfast of champions, eh? You know it's hell on your liver, love."

…no sense my rushing off to act on it when I don't know what 'tanna's other hand is doing, is there? Better if we work together."…

"I agree. I don't know the occult side of this at all, and the deeper this goes the less I want her on hand to explain it to me. And furthermore, I want this solved for her sake."


His hands fall away from her face, panting quietly from the exertion - the difficulty in this specific practice is always determined by the will of the victim; particularly strong-willed ones are hard to crack, and Jessica Jones was no exception. On top of the fact that she has /experience/ with dealing with similar situations, and really, he would not have known that until he dove inside of her memories, forced him to expend more energy than even he anticipated.

But Gottried manages to obtain his answers. His fingers still smoke, gray-white wisps rising from his skin, his fingers angry red and blistered from the heat, open wounds glistening wet underneath the flickering of the room's dying light. He moves to stand up, looming over the bound private investigator; from underneath him, she would see it, how his skin gradually knits together, dead and burned skin sloughing away in a manner reminiscent of a reptile's shedding.

"For someone with an honest face, you are capable of dishonesty after all," Gottfried remarks, twisting his hand; as if by command, the shadow coils rise up from the ground, taking Jessica with them. "Still, you're in the way, and experience dictates that bodies have a way of turning up when it is most inconvenient. I have a feeling that, dead or alive, you'll find a way to interfere. So I am afraid I have no choice but to keep you here."

Reality warps, the same rippling effect moving over the room. Taking a few steps further into the room, he flicks his wrist.

The eldritch mass unravels around Jessica, throwing her towards the wall. Where she would expect impact, she would experience none, as her body goes through the 'mirror' that Gottfried has built into the bedroom of his suite. The sensation of her breach caresses her skin like silk, electrifies the ends of her hair. It jolts her awake even as she finds herself plunging several feet below. Falling, falling, falling….

She wakes up on her old bed.

She remembers these pale walls, the old posters plastered upon it, her old boombox. The sheets smell familiar, laced with the detergent that her mother preferred to use in the years in which she was alive and still doing Jessica's laundry, before the accident that took her life. The carpet is the same, her bedroom door wide open; the hallway beckons her attention, with its dark wood and white railings, the stairs that lead downstairs to the living room and the kitchen.

But what is different is the atmosphere; sounds echo strangely here, and linger longer in one's hearing.

This is her house, but not her house.

She would hear clattering downstairs, the sizzle of frying bacon and eggs, the clinking of ice cubes into a pitcher. But she will investigate, of course she would. That is what she does - Jessica Jones, Private Investigator.

She hears things but why does the house feel so empty?

She finds him eventually, his back turned to her as he bustles about in the kitchen. As if sensing her presence, he turns around; a smile curls on his lips, his handsome face set with some facsimile of affection.

"You slept for so long, I didn't think you'd wake up," Zebediah Kilgrave says, lifting up the pitcher of orange juice he was preparing.



When he was done with her all she could do was sob like a crazed, wounded animal. When he lifts her up she flinches in fear and horror. When he tells her he's going to keep her…Well.

There are many stories where people sneer they're going to make someone beg for death. Jessica had always thought that was the most ridiculous threat ever.

Until now.

"Just kill me,"

She whispers the words raggedly, utterly broken.


They don't precisely interrupt his words or his actions. They're too quiet, too broken, a low moment that surpasses all of her previous low moments, infused with sick shame but heartfelt.

And then she's being thrown towards the wall, and for one hope-filled moment she thinks he's going to show her some fucking mercy after all. He's going to kill her, and then all this, this morass of her every last god damn failure, would be over at last.

And then….She's…silk. Electricity. Disorientation and…


The blank look on her face, still frozen in horror, turns to a disgusted sneer, and then to something else. Something softer.

She wipes the last of her tears from her eyes. What a terrible dream.

If she's at home, in this beautiful house…then maybe…"Mommy?" She whispers hopefully.


She thunders down the stairs like a child at Christmas.

And then freezes dead in her tracks as she shatters yet again.

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