January 18, 2017:

Jessica Jones returns home at last, only to receive an unnerving visit from The Red Robin.

Alias Investigations, Hell's Kitchen, NY


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, Steve Rogers, The Winter Soldier, Batman

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It really hadn't taken Jessica Jones very long to get back on her feet and get discharged after she woke up. The bulk of her healing had been done while under the influence of the drugs that had coursed through her system, treating her for shock. A few hours after her conversation with Captain America she felt fine, if a little achy still, all drugs worn off, more or less good as new. She'd gotten up, found her clothes, found that her phone was out of juice, and found that she was ravenous. Fortunately, a doctor had come by to give her a clean bill of health. With that she had gotten dressed. Not that her clothes were in great shape. She'd tucked the gifts Steve Rogers had given her into the inner pocket of her leather jacket, had signed her paperwork, had uncharacteristically thanked everyone she'd come into contact with (though these days it is getting more uncharacteristic), and had…gone home.

For the first time in weeks the tiny office-apartment holds no fear for her whatsoever. It had just been home, welcome even, despite needing some TLC. She knew she was going to sleep here tonight, and she knew she could do so without losing any of the hard-won connections she'd been granted over the past two months, and without having to fear that she couldn't handle anything that might come knocking on her door.

Three Home Depot bags sit on the floor by the door, awaiting a day when she'd have time to give the apartment the aforementioned TLC. But she'd stepped past those to get a shower and get clean clothes, truly clean clothes from a drawer. She'd also ordered Chinese, though by now she's finished eating it. The warm smell of the spices still lingers in the air, as does the scent of rich coffee, brewing away in the little red pot that sits in its place of honor in her tiny kitchen.

Alias Investigations does have a website, so it's not hard to find. Nor does it list office hours, saying only that potential clients could feel free to call and if she didn't answer she'd get back to them at the earliest possible opportunity.

The office light is on, spilling out into the hallway, illuminating the gold letters on the frosted door plate.

She's sitting at her desk, computer open. She'd sent some e-mails, including the suggested one to Melodie the Secretary, both to address the help she'd asked for and to ask her to convey to Steve that she'd been discharged so he didn't waste any time going back up to check on her. A couple to Zatanna and Constantine (ignorant, as she is, of the fact that they already have larger problems than checking their e-mail) to let them know she was up, okay, and out of the hospital. A voicemail to the lawyer she met the other day, because once she'd seen the date she thought he might think she was blowing off her promise.

Now she does something she hasn't done when she was six…hand-writing a thank-you note. She felt Steve might appreciate the gesture; a touch of the old world.

All of this means she is for once remarkably easy to find. The phone is now charging, which means it's possible to reach her by phone, but the simple expedient of stopping by, apparently, works too.

As is probably not too surprising, Red Robin isn't big on calling ahead.

It doesn't really fit in with the whole modern-day mythology the students of the Batman follow, after all. The air of mystery, of being something more than just a human being in a possibly ridiculous costume, requires a certain amount of showing up when and where you want, rather than following the schedules of others. You would think that he'd want to make doubly sure, given the time investment in travelling between Gotham City and New York City, but if you don't think making dramatically appropriate entrances means occasionally having to wait around for the right moment, you're fooling yourself.

That's why so much of the ninja training emphasises stillness and patience. Sometimes you have to lurk on a rooftop for hours to be certain of your opening.

Case in point: The figure that melts out of the shadows beyond the reach of the office light, basically seeming to appear in the room rather than having snuck in during a few seconds while Jessica was absorbed in what she was doing rather than paying attention to every tiny noise, every little movement. Sneaking up on her completely wouldn't be easy - she's no doubt too cagey for that - and it would also be stupid, because he's pretty sure she could bend him into a pretzel if she had the inclination, but there's still that air of mystery to maintain, so he found a way to strike a compromise.

Knocking on the door is apparently as taboo as calling ahead.

"Miss Jones," says that voice, unrecogniseable as any actual person's, blurred by an electronic device worn strapped to his neck, under his cowl. The register lowered, the tone slightly fuzzed. The black cowl that leaves his mouth bare, the featureless white lenses that cover his eyes, while also providing him with all sorts of handy enhancements to his natural vision. He lets his costume's cape drape around him, mostly covering the rest of the suit, but the gold and black logo on his chest, a stylised bird's head in profile in a circle, stands out.

"Sorry for dropping in unannounced," the vigilante says, though whether he actually /is/ sorry is a question for the ages, these guys seem to turn up where and when they feel like it. "But I needed to talk to you about our recent excursion to Switzerland, if you don't mind."

At least he's polite?

The woman is healing, but that doesn't mean this dramatic entrance doesn't provoke an equally dramatic reaction.

"Jesus fuck!" she snarls, and in a heartbeat she's up, launching herself out of the desk and towards him, fire in her eyes, fist already raising, heart in her throat.

His calm, polite words in the electronic voice she recognizes as the voice of the Red Robin' brings her up short, but only barely in the nick of time. She drops her fist and gives him a disgusted, fierce scowl, dark eyes narrowed into slits, her ire only a little quenched by the recognition and his apologies. When roused, her rage is considerable, and being snuck up on makes her more furious than most.

"Never. Again," she says through gritted teeth. "Don't you ever do that to me again. Just because you can appear out of thin air or whatever doesn't mean you should. I'm not some murder clown or freak who squeezes radioactive fish out of his asshole like you have down there in Gotham, so give me that god damn basic courtesy."

She stalks to the desk, yanks out one of the client chairs, and gestures to it, apparently willing to talk in spite of giving him what for over his methods.

Unlike most sensible people, Red Robin doesn't try to get out of the way of Jessica's lashing out.

Seemingly unflappable, he stands there, as though getting charged at by a furious woman with superhuman strength was something that happened every day, though internally his state is far more… Tumultuous. He might be able to redirect her attacks, though she's got speed to go with that strength, but she'd really only need one clean hit to stand a very good chance of taking him down, possibly permanently.

Still, he doesn't move.

It wouldn't be good for the mystique to get out of the way too soon.

At another time, he would acknowledge that he can't fault Jessica for being angry at some dude in a weird outfit just sneaking into her office, but instead he treats her angry (and objectively understandable) admonishments with a certain Batmanesque stoicism. He does look at the indicated chair for a moment before turning his attention back to Jessica, slowly stepping closer to the desk.

"There isn't much time for courtesy. I found some information about the man responsible for the attack at the gala, Hanussen.. Or Hermann Steinschneider, as he was apparently known before. He was a clairvoyant, I'm told, and involved in Nazi research involving the Spear of Destiny. When we were in Switzerland, before the cultists noticed us, whatever or whoever was calling himself Zatara mentioned a boy in Germany that they were watching. Waiting to see if his great-grandfather made contact with him. So far, my search hasn't turned up anything useful, but I've heard you're a damn good detective, Miss Jones, and you probably have access to sources I don't. We need to find out of Hermann Steinschneider has any great-grandsons. Maybe one who's a priest."

She breathes in and out while he talks, measured breaths taken to a slow ten count and released, trying to calm herself. She's impressed by the way he just stood there on one level, since he couldn't know that even when so startled, she'd never deliver a lethal hit. On the other, her body still thinks it is panic time, and that's not pleasant.

She shoves her hands in her pockets and leans against the desk, letting him say his piece. Her scowl changes to one of concentration as he does.

She has the names of the relatives memorized. She's pleased John had done exactly as she'd asked, concealing the trail of the information she'd brought him so well that now it was being reported back to her. But quite a bit of that is new, regardless,…the Spear of Destiny in particular. And she hadn't really considered running the names of each of the living relatives to locate professions. At the time it was irrelevant…good investigation meant not running down rabbit holes.

Being told she's a damn good detective loosens the rest of her ire. A high compliment from one who was associated with the one called the Greatest Detective in the World…even if Jessica's assessment of Batman was that he was a raging prick.

Still, the young man before her is not a raging prick, so her voice has returned to business-like thoughtfulness by the time she speaks again. "I can do some digging, though it will take time. Did he specifically say priest the way most people would understand that, as in a Catholic priest? Because if the great-grandson is, say, a cultist-priest instead that's probably not his day job. I honestly can't remember a damn thing that was said. I'm glad you were paying attention." Getting burned, electrocuted, and frozen has blanked out some of the specifics of the various cult rants and villain speeches that were getting tossed around. "Do you think the Spear of Destiny is relevant, or is that just an apocryphal detail in this whole thing?"

In fairness, Batman would probably take that as a compliment.

Red Robin, like the others who have 'graduated' from working alongside the Dark Knight, doesn't completely hew to the script laid out by the quasi-legendary figure of the Gotham underworld. He doesn't see the need to work alone the way Batman does, where even when he has other people working alongside him they're more just tools, extensions of himself. And, knowing full well that Batman's behaviour after the incident at the gala would have a deleterious effects on the charitable inclinations of the people he told to get out and stay out of the city, he's made a bit more of an effort to be accomodating.

Just not so much that he hasn't been sneaking into people's places of business. He was even going to sneak into the Triskelion, but having spotted Agent Carter on her way to a coffee date with a certain surly magical Englishman forestalled that plan.

All that prep work, wasted.

"No, the priest thing is a hunch on my part," the cowled young man says. He remembers every word that was said there, waiting for him to think on it, like pages in a file, perpetually at his fingertips. But there'd been so much else going on that the exchange about the 'great-grandson' had been lost in the clutter until he went back and looked.

"My source suggests that the Spear of Destiny is a powerful magical artifact, and apparently items like that can become… Unstable over time. That something that powerful has been sitting in Europe for so long without causing mystical upheaval apparently means that it's probably in the hands of someone who knows how to maintain it, and that this would probably be a priest since it's a religious item."

He might as well explain his reasoning, he figures. It helps keep him from thinking about something else. Something worse.

"Steinschneider was deeply involved in this occult research of the Spear, until he was apparently assassinated on Goebbels' orders, but his grave is empty, and we know Hanussen is walking around now, the better part of a century later. Whether the man on the cross was really divine, or just some powerful magic-user," Red Robin, of course, is leaning towards the latter, "the spear that killed him, that bore the stain of his blood, must've… Inherited some of that power. The power of a man who, if the stories are accurate, rose from the dead three days after being stabbed."

The cowled head tilts slightly. It's hard to read, the face half-covered, the eyes invisible behind those white lenses.

"Sounds a lot like someone else running around, coming back after being killed. I think the Spear has something to do with Hanussen's abilities. If that's true, and for whatever reason he couldn't just carry it around with him, he'd want it kept safe. Why not in the hands of his own descendants?"

"That's more than gut, that's solid," Jessica says, finally ready to offer compliments of her own now that she has been distracted from the way this meeting started. For a moment her thoughts drift back to Steve with his Bible on the bedside, but she has no opinion on the Jesus-Wizard vs. Jesus-Divine debate. He seemed like a stand-up guy either way, though Red Robin can take some comfort in the notion that if Jesus Christ Himself snuck up on her in her apartment, he'd have gotten precisely the same sort of greeting.

She moves towards the computer thoughtfully. It won't be on any database, especially in another country as it is; he probably doesn't have a LinkedIn page or a Facebook, even if the Pope does have Twitter now. But she can bring up the diocese numbers for Berlin and the surrounding areas, reasonably sure Catholic is the way to go. Methodists, say, weren't really known for their acumen with the mystic arts, for example.

"Do you speak any German?" she asks, looking up at him. "If you do, and we're careful, you could pretext the diocese and see if you can't dig up whether there is a Father Steinschneider and if so, what church he might be assigned to. Course, you'd have to take off that thing which makes you sound like you've got emphysema first, which means you probably don't want to do that here. I'm not sure what time it is over there anyway. Early morning? If you don't…well, I can take your idea to Zee, since I want to see her soon anyway, and teach her all about how to pretext."

'Do you speak any German?' Jessica Jones asks him.

"Ja, ich kann Deutch sprechen," the caped and cowled young man responds, because of course he can. Red Robin is a little disappointed in himself that he didn't think of exactly what Jessica is suggesting they do, but he supposes that's one of the differences between a private eye who has to get down in the muck to make a living, and a crime fighting detective who spends most of his time dealing with obsessively themed master criminals: For her, much of the work is just second nature.

Plus, when you can't just sneak up on somebody in a scary costume in the dead of night and frighten them into answering questions, being able to get answers over the phone with a bit more duplicity is probably pretty handy. And it doesn't give you that sort of reputation.

He's about to offer to turn his voice-masking device off, at least for the purposes of making some phone calls, but Jessica brings up an important name in this situation. A name that makes him think about what he's been trying to not think about. The quiet from the masked young man changes in character, from stoic to ominous. There's a weight to it, now.

"Zatanna Zatara is dying, Miss Jones," Red Robin tells her. "She was captured by an organisation, not the Cold Flame or Hanussen's minions, and they… Did something to her. They used a magical device to do exactly what we went to Switzerland to keep from happening, they stole her soul. Or most of it. I doubt she or Constantine are simply going to let it happen without trying to get her soul back, but…" Red Robin shakes his head. He keeps it bottled up, the frustration, the anger. He wants to rage at the world, but it stays hidden behind that unflappable demeanor. "I thought you should know. It doesn't change the importance of dealing with Hanussen, or Mammon and his minions, but it…"

He stops, takes a breath. Exhales short and sharp.

"I just thought you should know."

Horror floods Jessica Jones' features. She doesn't bother to hide it. Pale features go even paler. White lipped fury takes over her expression, and fear. It doesn't take a detective of either kind to tell she cares fiercely for the young mystic. "Five days. Five fucking days. She got five fucking days!"

She kicks her own office chair so hard it rebounds against the office wall, but even in her fury she instinctively expresses control of her ability. If only she had such control of her temper. The chair makes an awful noise, but it doesn't shatter or even dent. She exhales, pulling her thick, black hair back from her face until she looks prone to yanking it out, though of course she doesn't do that either.

She exhales and snarls, "Damn them all. Damn them all straight to Hell. Thank you for telling me. I'll…well." She has immediately thought of something, but it's not for here and now. She'll have to put in a call to John for that.

Here and now, she has to be useful in another way. "Okay. So if it were my call to make, I'd pretend to be from a charitable foundation. Use a name that sounds close to an existing one, but is not exactly the same. Syrian refugees are hot right now, so maybe something to do with that. I'd offer gushing praise for his congregation, but then say something like you tried to send a thank-you letter but the address got returned; you think your assistant messed up the data entry. Can they confirm the address for his church? If they're like…we don't even have a priest by that name just grumble that she probably got the name wrong too and back out. I'm sorry if you know all this already." She doesn't really know much about his efforts, she just needs to focus on something else for a moment, and rambling about her methods is the easiest way to do that, now that they've established he will be the one making the call.

The angry outburst from Jessica doesn't get much more response out of Red Robin than her almost punching his face literally off of his head earlier did: He doesn't flinch, like most people would at the sudden noise, the sudden violence. Honestly, he agrees with her about it, in both nature and intensity… But right now, he can't allow it to show. Right now, he needs to be cold, dispassionate, calculating. Zatanna doesn't need him going off half-cocked, and neither do the people who have already died because of Hanussen and Mammon and all the rest. All the people who might yet die, because of the games being played by wizards and demons.

Instead, he nods at Jessica's suggestion of a plan of action with regard to the call, not seeming particularly put out by what she says, rambling or not - but then, it's tough to get a read on him, under that costume and all. Not quite as bad as Spider-Man, given his full mask, but the wall-crawler does everyone else a solid by saying everything that enters his head anyway which offsets things.

"It's fine, I don't make a lot of calls like this," the vigilante says, not wanting to contribute to Jessica's emotional turmoil any more than he already has… And probably will have to further later.

His cape shifts, before his hand comes out from underneath it, carrying… A cellular phone, because he doesn't want to run up her long distance bill, she seems like she doesn't need the extra financial hassle.

Plus it's quite likely that his cellphone is nigh untraceable.

Once he gets the phone number for the diocese from Jessica, and dials it, he puts his other hand to his throat, deactivating the device that hides his voice. Of course, the voice he's going to speak in once he actually gets connected is going to be pitched down anyways - nothing Jessica would recognise, even if she happened to keep up with the wealthy families of Gotham City, which doesn't really seem like one of her hobbies.

His plan, of course, is to follow Jessica's suggested script nearly to the letter.

She really, really does not need the additional financial hassle, it's true. This job has made it hard to pick up anything other than the very occasional odd process service job here and there. Two weeks in a nightmare realm and five days in a hospital, along with the new medical expenses she may have just incurred (though she's daring to hope those will just mysteriously get covered) mean that she might really and truly get evicted at the end of the month, despite her overly optimistic paint purchase. Especially as she has no intention of writing Zee an invoice for any of this, ever, other than the advance she took when Zee was just another client off the street. She has no intention of taking other jobs, either. The god damn electric bill just doesn't seem as important as everything else that's going on.

As for Gotham's elite (or anyone's elite) he is right. Keeping up with them is not one of her hobbies. But…It might help that she actually doesn't care to unmask the Red Robin or to know his identity, at least, not if it's not pertinent to do so. She even steps out of the way to give him his space as a measure of goodwill. Just because even now she can't see herself donning a costume or developing a code name does not mean that she doesn't have some sort of respect for those who have chosen to make other people's lives better by doing so.

Part of that respect is letting them hold to their anonymity. That information is on a need-to-know basis for a reason. It could be tortured out of her, or ripped from her mind by sorcerers, for example. But more than that, Jessica intuits the psychological advantages of keeping the real self separate from the heroic self, precisely because she has not made that choice. The persona, she imagines, offers a fantastic defense mechanism, allowing one to be more than they might be on their own. Whomever is under the mask may eat, sleep, shit, cry, get drunk and make love, but the person wearing it holds to the mission, inspires others, and gets the job done, becoming greater than himself or herself so long as that other identity is in place.

There are, she thinks, some benefits to doing it her way too…namely that she is not billed as a vigilante, but as a fully licensed professional with her paperwork in order, and that she's approachable enough for street-level people to just call her up and /ask/ for her help…but she nevertheless understands the value. Just because she's good at ferreting out secrets does not mean she needs all of them, all the time.

Instead, she paces some distance away, listening to the rhythm of the language, letting it roll over her senses, soak into her brain, reminding her that she intended to at least try to pick up the basics of the language.

Unfortunately, the call ultimately only yields the information that there is no Father Steinschneider.

"Damn it," Red Robin mutters as he ends the call, a brief moment of his natural voice before he touches that spot on his throat again, through the black of his costume's cowl, and his next words are coloured with that slight electronic blurring.

"Nothing. It was worth a shot, though." And really, if anyone would understand that this sort of work is more dogged determination than sudden flashes of insight, it would be the two of them. Still, Red Robin doesn't mind the occasional sudden flash of insight, given that it was one that led him to remembering the mention of what seemed to be a connection to Hanussen. "Might be under another name, or… Something. I'll have to see if I can turn up anything else, and maybe you'll be able to shake something loose with Constantine and Miss Zatara."

John Constantine, it seems, doesn't really merit a title. Maybe everyone just ends up calling him Constantine, no matter what.

The phone vanishes back under his cape, slipped into one of the myriad spots on his utility belt, secured there for safety in case of any of the ridiculous nonsense he gets up to on a fairly regular basis.

"There was one other thing," the masked young man says, as his gloved hand comes back from his belt with a card in place of the phone. The only thing printed on it is a number, presumably the one for that very same phone. It's much easier for him to just give a number to people who don't have a secret identity. Far less fuss and bother than he had with Spider-Man.

"What do you know about a man named Bucky Barnes?"

"There could be other professions that would fit the bill—I think you're on the right track. I'll get some digging done. They're not interested in the great-grandson for their health." She'll have to go through her mental list of names, pick out the male members of the right generation, and investigate them one by one, then use the number on the card. She hands hers back reflexively, with all the direct information about how to get in touch with her right there, loud and clear.

The question makes her press her lips together for a moment. She retrieves her chair, tests it, then settles down in it. She folds her hands and says, truthfully, "Not much that anyone couldn't find out by taking a stroll of the Smithsonian. Perhaps a tiny bit more, here and there. You were there, when he showed up to help us, though I guess you'd ziplined up the building when I greeted him." Which means he would have missed Barnes' apology, and very real guilt.

'You were there, when he showed up to help us.'

Immediately, Red Robin recalls who was there. Captain America, Constantine, Jessica herself… Spider-Man, and…

'I bet you main Soldier 76,' he'd said upon seeing the Winter Soldier, with his mask and his body armor and his guns. It had been a smartass remark, an attempt to defuse some of the tension in the situation, given that they were strangers, and the Winter Soldier had lately been pointing a gun at him.

He'd been right there.

/Right there/.

The sound of leather and high-quality anti-ballistic weave tightening is fairly audible as Red Robin clenches his fists, the first overt sign of an actual human emotion he's really shown since he arrived. Anger. Anger at himself, irrational though it is. There's no way he could've known what would happen. As far as he knew, the gunman was there at Constantine's behest, having owed him a favor.

"Do you have any information on who Barnes works for? Nobody gets that kind of hardware just because, and he doesn't seem the lone vigilante type."

It takes one to know one, after all.

A flitter of surprise across Jessica's face. "No. I have no idea. I strongly suspect that he was working for them under duress. Some sort of mind control or brainwashing. It's something I've had contact with before." She says it very casually, as if she'd /observed/ someone under mind control before. "I think he's struggling very hard to break whatever was done to him, to find a path back. He and I crossed paths in an antagonistic capacity while he was trying to shakedown members of the board of the Gotham Antiquities Commission. I didn't ask him for an apology for that incident, but while we stood there at the base of the Cold Flame's tower, he gave me one. That's the thing about mind control. Your hand still wielded the weapon or created the problem, so…the shame remains, even after you've managed to become your own person again."

She hitches a shoulder, /vastly/ uncomfortable with this topic, but…"You wanna tell me why you're so pissed off at him?" Reading body language was, after all, part of the job.

Mind control, or brainwashing, Jessica says.

Red Robin knows that sort of thing is perfectly possible, that there are all sorts of individuals or groups who could subvert a person's will if they felt like it. It isn't only the victim of such things that finds it difficult to absolve themselves of the guilt, even if they weren't in control. Even if you know someone was forced to do something, it can be difficult to look at them and not think about what they did. It can be difficult to truly grasp the concept of a subverted will.

Bad enough when it's just Poison Ivy manipulating men into protecting her or the like. Some sinister organisation creating an armed killing machine to do their dirty work like a flesh and blood robot for seventy years…

"I suppose you'll find out when you talk to them. It was Barnes who turned Miss Zatara over to his organisation, and they're the ones who did this to her. I don't know if he was being controlled to do it, and at the moment it seems like a moot point. It's something else I'm going to have to try and find some leads for. Guess I'll have to kick over a few hornet's nests, after all."

This time there's no explosion of anger. Jessica just looks incredibly sad for a moment. "Aw, shit, they got him again," she says softly. "Not that I know who 'they' are. He cares about Zatanna; I've seen that too. That's one more thing that's going to twist him into knots, if he ever does come in from the cold."

It may seem like an echo of his thoughts, what she says next, but it's not because she read it on her face. It's just borne out of the same issue that makes her so ready to believe the man isn't acting under his own power. "It's hard for people to accept, because there's always that little suspicion that they wanted it, that it was really part of them all along, that it's just an excuse. It seems like an easy out. But the man was an American hero. If he can be pried away from these dickheads and set to rights again, that's something that is worth pursuing. He doesn't deserve to be killed or prosecuted."

She's got to find a way to help Sargent Barnes, too. Takes one to know one indeed.

She leans forward on the desk and lets out a heavy sigh, pushing her hair back from her face and looking sourly off into the distance as she contemplates the possibilities for outcomes, so many of them so very dark.

Finally she says, "I think that's going to be the order of the day for a great many people until Zatanna gets her soul back and people stop trying to take it from her. But. We've already exchanged information. Let's try to keep each other in the loop. There's no sense in everyone trying to work in a vacuum. All the assholes have themselves a big cozy asshole network; we'd all better do the same."

It wasn't what Red Robin had expected, honestly. He'd figured that Jessica would respond with another outburst, not with such obvious sorrow. Honestly, he was expecting that poor chair to get it again, and more forcefully this time.

But past trauma is a funny thing, and people respond in different ways to it - not always the way you would expect them to, if you were to guess from their general personality. She talks again like she has more intimate knowledge of the topic than most people would like to consider, but Red Robin is neither foolish enough nor inconsiderate enough to pry. Everyone has their demons to carry around with them, and there's a time and a place to express interest in someone else's.

This isn't it.

"She really has a talent for making people care about her," the caped and cowled vigilante agrees. "I can't say that I ever figured carrying her out of that serial killer's lair was going to lead here." There is a faint, faint shrug of his shoulders, almost imperceptible. What can you do, really? Sometimes you just get tangled up in another person's life, even if you are at least half urban legend.

"If I can assure you of anything, Miss Jones, it's that I don't kill people, and I do everything I can to stop other people from doing so. Barnes will be taken in alive. Hopefully he can get the help he needs." Red Robin is well aware that he's getting pretty far ahead of himself with this, but… Jessica seemed pretty adamant on not wanting Bucky to die. Maybe she could use the assurance.

"And I have every intention of keeping the right people informed of whatever I find out. Besides, I'm pretty sure I don't want you mad at me." She is /really strong/.

But unless it turns out that there's anything else, Red Robin starts heading towards the exit… And as a further sign of politeness, maybe a bit of an olive branch over his arrival, he'll walk out the office door like a normal person, keeping his mysterious vanishing act for later, once he's out in the hallway.

She smirks when he says he doesn't want her mad at him. "Damn right you don't," she says, as he leaves.

But her humor doesn't last long.

Jessica usually leaves Constantine and Zee alone; she feels like their time is precious and she needs to mostly give them space unless she's got a good reason to bother them. Not an hour ago she'd sent an e-mail simply letting them know she was out of the hospital and fine, looked forward to speaking them soon and her passport application was in.

They probably haven't even gotten it yet.

But the phone rings now, with her name on the caller ID.

It's more rings than usual before John answers his phone, and he shoulds rough when he does. Sleeping. Or hung over. Or…something. Groggy.

"Jones. Still in one piece, then?"

She blows right past that. "Give her some of mine," she says grimly. "To tide her over, to make her better, fuck, to recycle into new soul for herself, I don't care, whatever you can do to buy her time." Her voice holds no doubt that he can do exactly that.

Someone has apparently dropped the news that all is not well with Zatanna Zatara.

There's a long white hiss on the other end of the line, a few clicks of interference that suggest he's in his warded bolt-hole, where reception exists only at his whim — the space technically being located quite a ways underground.

"That's not really how it works, luv. But I'm sure she'll appreciate the thought." She'll hear the big, reluctant breath he takes, as though he isn't sure how far into this he wants to dig, but is bound up in the necessity of it: "Who told you, then?"

"God damn it. Damn it. They get to siphon her god damn soul out like it's cotton candy that can just be moved from one god damn container to another, but I can't help her?" She exhales, seething, not at him, but just at the pure bullshit of it all.

But she'll answer his question.

"Red Robin."

"Yeah. Well. You don't have a Tarnhelm. If you run across one laying around, maybe we can re-evaluate." John over-enunciates the last word, ever dry. …definitely hung over.

He takes another moment to process that small piece of information, another silence inserted into the flow of the conversation. "Huh. An' how'd he know, then?"

"I don't know. I didn't think to ask him…I waited until he left before I called." This gives Jessica a moment of confusion and concern. "I…thought maybe he'd been there to help pull her out, or that one of you had told him. Damn it. I should have asked." She has no idea what a Tarnhelm is. Maybe she'll Google it later.

"Nobody else was there. Just me, 'tanna, the assassin, and the asshole in the bad hat." …and a lot of dead security guards. He leaves that bit out.

There is muffled static noise on the mic of the phone: that's John rubbing his face. "That's going to need looking into. Listen, Jones…can I ask you for a favor? I've a mate who was working with Doctor Foster before Barnes snapped. He has her now, and my mate's got some sensitive work. Cutting edge stuff. He's going to need some help moving his equipment somewhere safe, just in case they do to her what they did to Barnes. I know you're recovering so, if you can't swing it I get it, but…"

"Yeah. He mentioned those mother fuckers had Barnes again, that he was involved," she says.

As for the requested favor…

"I'm fine now, I'm out of the hospital," Jessica says, instantly. "Five days sleep and a bunch of great drugs, I can move some equipment. And I'll pin down Red Robin on how he knew. What's your friend's name? I'll go out there first thing." Then her racing mind catches up to the rest of what he's said.

"Ritchie Simpson. He's a professor. I'll send you his contact information and let you know he's coming." His exhale, and the words that follow, carry traces of relief. "Appreciate that. It'll be a weight off."

He pauses again before he circles back to Barnes. "I don't know what happened to him, but he's the one who took 'tanna. Told the people in charge of him about her…unique…characteristics." Another pause, shorter. "What do you know about them? His handlers? I'd been planning to catch up with Agent Carter to ask, but I'll take whatever you've got, if that's anything."

"Jack shit. Just that anyone who screws about with someone's head is, by definition, a mother fucker." Jessica replies grimly. "I wish I did have something for you. But if you busted into one of their facilities…they're probably moving equipment too. If they're too fast, they might leave something interesting behind. If they're too slow, it might be possible to follow them to the next viper's nest. Where did all this go down?"

All she's got is her particular way of thinking about these sorts of problems, it seems.

Another short sigh. "Nothing. There's nothing. It was just an abandoned reservoir in Brooklyn. I can send you the location on google maps but honestly, luv, I don't think you want to go out there. If you do you'll want to come and see me first. I set something loose in the woods out there to deal with the security an' I didn't have time to collar it before leaving. If you like your blood where it is you'll need some protection. Honestly, though, it was a chair with steel cuffs in a room."

Sniffing. Something creaking: mattress, probably, as he sits up. "Maybe you should come with me to see Carter. I keep getting a sense of the piece of her they took. It comes and goes. If it comes down to my kicking the hornet's nest, I'll need help."

"Of course. John. Look. I'm at your disposal, okay? If you need me to move furniture or meet Agent Carter, be your backup, or eat a hat full of magic bricks," Jessica says, her voice still low, but emphatic. "You want back up, you've got back up. I'm right here in New York again, right close by. This is my only priority right now."

"Yeah. Yeah, alright. I'll text you Ritchie's info when I get off of the phone, and…" Fumbling. Nightstand. "I'll let you know when I can schedule something with Carter. Meantime, if…" Pause. "If you want to see her you might want to do that." He tries to keep that casual, but the implication of Zatanna's situation worsening is there, nevertheless.

"I do," Jessica replies, swallowing back emotion. "I absolutely do. How do I get in to see her?" She doesn't truly understand how his doors work. On the night she'd stayed over she'd asked to be let out, and she hadn't tried to get back in. To her mind, the less attention she brought to the place the better, if it were even possible to get in without John's express help in doing so at all. And as part of giving them their space, she hadn't asked for any ability to make repeat visits.

"With the blood taken care of, she's not stuck here, so she could probably meet you somewhere if she's feeling up to it, but she's…weak. I'll, eh. I'll include an address when I text about Ritchie. The door should open to the flat for you instead of…wherever. Let me know when you're coming so I can step out and the two of you can chat, yeah? She's on eggshells wi'me right now. Putting on a brave face, an' that. You'll probably have an easier time of it if I'm not around."

"Of course," Jessica replies quietly. And you're putting on a brave face for her, too, I bet. But she doesn't voice that thought. John, like her, seemed to deal with the terrible crap in life more by springing into action or drinking or both, not by having long, involved talks , so she doesn't say anything about letting him unburden herself on her. Her attempts to make people feel better are awkward at best and disastrous at worst anyway. Better to watch his back than to step into those deep swamps. "Okay. I'm going to let you go. I'm sorry I woke you."

"Nah, it's fine. Let me know if you can find out where the hell Robin got his hands on that information. Try not to make him cagey about it, if possible, eh? Like it's no big deal." Another pause, and then just a click as the line goes dead. Not very good at goodbyes, John.

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