Cindy Takes Detective 101!

February 02, 2017:

Jessica Jones gives Cindy some advice about how to proceed with the investigation into her parent's disappearance.

Alias Investigations, Hells Kitchen, NY


NPCs: None.

Mentions: The Dark Devil, Spider-Man, Zatana Zatara, Elinor Ravensdale, Rocket Raccoon, Groot


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

In the last few days, Cindy Moon has been very acutely reminded of how much she didn't miss high school.

Sure, she had textbooks and educational material in the bunker to keep her company— a bit of world history, math, science— but she didn't even give those books any thought until months into her exile from the modern world. Though she's not by any extent of the imagination the only young student in the GED class, she still does feel a bit self-conscious when the conversation or class topics shifts to current events— or events of the last few years.

Then, there's her time in Alias Investigations. Getting some help on how to approach her case so that all of her secrets— and those of Spider-Man— are not exposed to an increasing number of people has given her a bit more incentive to get out there and chase down a few of her own ghosts. In her room— or at least, the room she's borrowing— Cindy's also made a bit of a wall for herself, touching photos and notes to the wall with a bit of (slightly) tacky webbing from the tips of her fingers.

A few strands are red, a few strands are green. Lord knows how she does that.

Few people from the neighborhood remember her, or her family. Those that do talk about how Albert was such a great kid, or how her mother worked so late, or how her father was always there to help out someone else, but nobody remembers when they left— why they left. A few still were surprised to see Cindy in the city at all.

The realtor's story is unfortunately the same kind of thing that chases around the Moon family from start to finish in the last few years: They moved out very unexpectedly— according to Cindy's numbers, within a few weeks of her moving into Sims Tower, and eventually, the bunker. The apartment changed hands again after that, but they paid their last month and security deposit in cash.

Snider Moving Co. took the reins next: They didn't move into a new apartment, but their belongings moved along to a storage unit downtown. An entire family paid up in cash, then moved one more time. Checking accounts and savings, closed. Driver's liscences, social security, not even a library card opened in the names of anyone from the Moon family in the last five years. Cindy's ex-boyfriend, at least as far as she knows, is at Boston College, but she hasn't touched that avenue of communication yet.

She still feels bad about the break-up.

Sprawled out across the bed, Cindy's clutching a few receipts from the moving company while thumbing through her phone— at least, the ones that she could get her hands on. There's no record of the family's belongings even leaving the storage unit.

The phone is literally a relic by this point, too— one of the last flip phones before the advent of the iPhone. No signal, no service, no SIM card that's valid, but at least it has a few old pictures of her friends, family, and old life.

Jessica Jones comes in and drops a new phone on the bed next to Cindy. "You can't function with that thing," she says. She has one for Az, too, but she puts that on the desk. It's still in the box, courtesy of Jessica's carrier; she'd simply switched to a multi-line service. "If you're in trouble it's good to be able to communicate. You'll have to charge it before setting it up though. They're all touch-screen now, so that'll be different."

She sits on the other bed— Az's, just on the edge, to face Cindy. "So we're at this fork in the road here now," she says without preamble. "If I'm going to coach you, well, I can. Right now I don't have any other advice to offer other than taking the name of the person who came to get you and running them through the database, see what happens. Someone gave your family a lot of cash, or they liquidated every retirement plan and asset they had very quickly. Either way it reeks of a cover up."

"There are advantages to doing that. This protects your secrets. There are also disadvantages. You'll lose my eyes, my experience, the way that I think that's trained to go down certain pathways, to ask certain questions. But whatever you decide to do…I'm going to respect that decision. Maybe Spider-Man will even show up today and we can all talk about it together."

The extrasensory Spidey-sense tingles in the back of Cindy's mind. She's getting better at tuning out some of the noise, but it's … hard. Closing her eyes, letting her mind drift for a moment, she doesn't hear the door clack shut or Jessica come tromping into the room, the phone box landing at her side. Looking at the screen, the spider-girl frowns. "I'll still keep it," she says, sitting up with a slight kick of her legs over the edge of the bed. There's a scrunch of her brows as she remembers to add, "Er. Thanks."

Fumbling with the receipt in one hand and the box with the other for a moment, she looks at the photos and glances briefly at the features. "Touchscreens? For real? They only just started puttin' those out…" she starts, then tilts her head, letting her thought essentially finish itself.

Cindy sets down the box and sighs. "It was probably the guy that owned the building I… lived at."

Turning back to the webbed-up wall, she touches the tip of one finger to the top edge of the paper, letting a bit more of that slightly-tacky organic webbing bleed out through her skin before putting it up on the wall with that short, brief paper trail starting 'the date they moved out.'

"I still don't know everything myself, with me and Spider-Man. I'd like to talk to him, but I don't… I think…" The spider-girl sighs, looking back, past Jessica, then down, obviously worried. "He probably has a lot on his plate. I have a feeling I know where he is, but it's not… I really don't want to keep things from you, Miss Jones, you've done so much for me already, but I think I should handle some of this alone until he's ready to talk to me. I want to know where he stands on, you know, me, before I start making decisions that could effect us both with your involvement."

"Anything you can suggest for where I start can help."

Jessica walks into the other room for the legal pad devoted to Cindy's case. "Well. Okay. Let's give your guy an alias. We'll call him…Mr. X. What are you willing to tell me about what happened when he showed up? Was he alone, or with others?"

The parents are a dead end…time to start dealing with the ones who pulled them into the orbit of disappearance to begin with. She doesn't ask what the man said, because she figures that will lead back down the rabbit hole they're tiptoeing around right now. This is not the best way to investigate a case, but…it is what it is.

In the other room, a pot of coffee brews, filling the apartment with a dark, rich aroma. She'd started it before she came in here. One might think after ramming into so many dead ends she'd be frustrated, but she almost seemed to expect it, running down the final conventional leads more out of a sense of due diligence than out of any real expectation someone would let something slip.

The smell of fresh coffee that doesn't come from a bulk economy single-serve packet set helps set Cindy's mind into action. Her head tilts a little. Mr. X, when he showed up… "He wasn't alone. He had an associate— a secretary, named Ms. Pearson. Blonde, tall, gorgeous. I was in my room when he showed up, so I didn't hear all of it. He said he could help me with my 'condition.' It wasn't the only visit, either— he came back a few times, explained how he could help me and show me how to control my powers."

"Originally I was just going to stay in the building, but I had to be willing to /live/ there, just in case. I mean I was worried about him being some nut job that wanted to dissect me, but he showed me the place before I moved in." Cindy's expression shifts a bit, sitting back down on the edge of the bed and picking up the box with the phone. Her thumbs fiddle with the edges a little bit instead of actually opening it.

"He actually did teach me a lot about how to control my powers. Before I was a mess— I actually trashed my room once with the webbing. That was how Mom and Dad found out," she says, glancing at Jessica briefly. "I don't know if he's done that kind of thing before or what, but. One day he got all weird. He said there were things out there that would be looking for me, that they might have caught wind of me, and that there was only one way to keep me safe, so I … I had to go into hiding."

"He was… tough. Honestly, he showed me how to move, how to fight, so … I knew he could hold his own." Cindy says, smiling for only the most fleeting of moments. Then it drops flat. "I was scared because he was scared. So… I did it."

Not just 'away,' not just 'alone.'

"I went into a bunker. We sealed the door, and I didn't know when I'd be able to get out."

Jess stands and gets a second legal pad, this one for Cindy. "I'd be interested to know how he and Miss Pearson knew you had powers in the first place. How many months had passed between gaining them and his visit? Did he ever say how he knew? Did he produce proof of these hunters? If so, what? And…if he sealed you in, how on earth were you fed? But look, write this down."

"When we're done with this conversation I want you to log into my TOL account— password is saved, and run X's name and Mrs. Pearson's name if you have her first name. Two. If either of them are deceased, I want you to get on the phone with every funeral home in the town where the death certificate was signed until you find the right one. Find out how their remains were handled, the cause and manner of death if the funeral director knows, and most importantly…who paid for it. If they're still alive and they aren't both as missing as your parents, you'll have new leads. Third. I want you to head to the library. Old newspaper articles don't show up online, always. I want you to pull newspapers around the date your parents moved out, now that we have an effective date. Two weeks before, two weeks after. You'll have to look at them in microfiche. See if anything comes up around either them, X, or Pearson. Fourth, I want you to head to the City offices to get a building permit history and the County Tax Assessor's office to get the building sales history for the building where the bunker was, just like for your house. "

When she's sure Cindy has all this, Jess says, "What's going on with this bunker now? You make it sound like you were locked in, then one day Spider Man just heads in and lets you out, and then there's nobody else there at all."

Cindy's head tilts, eyebrows lifting… like she hadn't thought about it before. "Honestly, it was more like weeks."

"He didn't, and… no. It was mostly stories. Sounded like a bunch of magic mumbo-jumbo. I mean, magic, pffsh, right." she says, setting the box aside and laying the pad against one thigh, jotting some notes down. "Well.. the place is… actually fully stocked— food, water, pretty much anything you can think of as long as it doesn't involve calling to the outside. Most of the food came from packets or it was freeze-dried stuff, like, MRE military food meal stuff, and air and water purifiers. There was a small gym I could exercise in, and a pool. I didn't have to do much to keep the place running."

Cindy's eyes drift down a little. "I had a bunch of tapes… some DVDs, books. Paced around a lot. I keep wanting to walk on the ceiling— clear my head— but I keep getting afraid of someone walking in again. At least now I can go outside and swing."

She jots notes— she'll remember, but she jots them all the same. Zeke and Ms. Pearson, details on if they're alive or dead, remains, funeral directors, who paid for it, if they're missing or aren't missing. Newspaper articles. Dates. City offices, County Tax Assessors— all of it being taken down in hard detail.

Her weight shifts a little uncomfortably. "That's pretty much it. It was like I could feel him coming… if that's … I mean if that makes any sense? I… I was trying to get out, too. I felt like I was going crazy in there. I kept trying to open the door— I didn't know the code. Spider-Man figured out the other half of the code, and let me out. I got so… excited, I just… I dunno, I lost myself. I didn't realize the condition of the place until I was in the lobby."

"Magic is real," Jessica says, shaking her head from side to side. She speaks completely matter-of-factly, with no irony or even an overly intense push to make Silk believe. "It's pretty much all I've been dealing with for weeks. Seriously. So I'm going to give you my friend Zatanna's business card; she's an expert in the occult. Make talking to her the next item on your list. Tell her what X said. Find out if it sounds like mumbo-jumbo to her. If it was fakery, then you'll know the guy was running an angle, maybe trying to turn you into a weapon, or vastly deluded. If any of it is legit, you'll be that much closer to knowing what the Hell is going on."

"Okay, so there was a keypad. If it's safe to go back, go back and find out what company made the keypad. Find out who made the security system for the whole building, they might have monitored it, or known something about the installation. What is the condition of the place right now?"

She's asking the questions slowly, even if she's asking them in clumps and groups. Her brain seems work by generating a massive internal mind map of relevant question after relevant question.

"Now let's rewind. How did you get your powers? If you can't tell me that's okay. But wherever that was, whatever that event is, there has to have been some manner of tie between Mr. X and that place, or that event. I myself got my powers," she hadn't even mentioned powers in the past, nor used them in Cindy's presence, but she just sort of rattles this off like it's nothing, "In a car accident. Obviously getting hit by a truck doesn't do that, so…there had to have been something in the truck. If someone had showed up in my hospital room telling me I had powers before I found out? I would assume they were connected to the owner of that substance, for example. Of course, it's very possible he's a magus and followed magical things to get to you, rendering some of this invalid, but the mystic community is so small as to be minuscule. If Mr. X is a mystic, Zatanna will know him by name and reputation, even if not by sight."

Cindy hoods her eyes a little, mouth pulling into a bit of a taut line. "I kind of snuck back once or twice to just get a few things while you were out working," she admits, a bit sheepishly. "I wasn't followed, though— I made sure of it." It's tough to be chased around when you enter through the roof and then basically drop straight down an elevator shaft on webbing!

"The building's just … abandoned. Everything's shut off, the doors are closed, the lights are off. The dust's kind of thick. The power in the bunker was running fine. I don't know much else besides that."

How did she get her powers?

Well, she was kind of distracted with her boyfriend at a class trip and there was a demonstration and she was bitten on the ankle by an irradiated spider during a safe handling-and-disposal demonstration not long after this nerdy scrawny guy took a bite to the wrist, and…

"I— I can't say right now. I mean I know, but it's… I can't say."

Then her head tilts back a little. Magic is real? Jessica has powers, too? "That explains the thing about punching people," she murmurs offhandedly, rubbing at her jaw. And now a new name: Zatanna.

"Is she someone I should meet?"

"Generator, or someone's paying the power bill even now. Call the power company. Find out if it's on the grid. Try to find out who is paying the bill if it is."

Jessica says that one without even thinking.

She smirks. "Yeah. Spidey's really hung up over what and where I choose to punch. He'll back me on the magic thing though. He was there for some of it. And yes. You should. She might still be in town, but…I can get her here. It might be a bit, she's been through a lot lately and she might need to withdraw from the world for awhile." Who wouldn't? But Jessica had already warned this would be a long road. John could have helped as well, but she can imagine his incredulous look at the idea that she was giving out his number to masked spider people. He'd make her bleed on the edge of his rapier wit. Meanwhile, Zatanna would probably take one look at this girl and start baking cookies, right in Jessica's kitchen. "She'll come here if I ask her to, you won't have to seek her out."

She has nodded to the comment that she can't say, saying, "Find out if the location was owned by the same people who owned the building, find out what else they own. I think that's probably as far as I can take you right this second, without getting the results of what you've just gotten. You might also look for microfiche for about a month prior to that event, looking for stories which might have occurred close to the location. If you're not a mutant, with no X-gene to activate, then…think labs, medical facilities, alien sites. I suppose you could have been activated mystically, too."

She drums her fingers on the pad. "No, wait. I haven't exhausted everything. There's a…ghost whisperer, down the hall. Her name's Ravensdale. Elinor Ravensdale. She's legit, though I don't know if she's trustworthy. If anyone turns up for sure dead on your search? She might be able to whistle them up and get answers. And…she might be able to confirm whether your parents and brother still live." Jessica is loathe to send anyone to Ravensdale, for many reasons, but…at the least Elinor didn't strike her as the person to gossip. "Maybe don't mention me when you do though. We had kind of a rough encounter." There, that should settle that.

holy shit magic is real what is this reality she's living in what happened to 2012— or well more like late 2011 but it was 2012 when she went in and she missed movies and stuff and now MAGIC IS REAL WHAT

Cindy sits forward, eyes wide. "Wait, you're for real? Like— for real-for real? Magic for-real real for-real real? Real magic?"

It takes a second for her brain to catch up— generator, paying the power bill. Check into those things. Notes are jotted quickly, though her mouth is hanging a little and her expression hasn't changed.

Magic is real wtfffff

Cindy opens her mouth further, lifting up the pen a little, searching for the best way to put it. "I— know how I got my powers. It wasn't magic. Like, magic-magic. 'Cause magic is for real." She clears her throat a little, "Erhm, um. I see." Maybe Zeke had something to do with the exhibition…? She notes that down with 'MR. X - DAY 0.'

And then … the ghost whisperer.

Cindy's brow creases there, as though Jessica came to the thought that the spider-girl wanted to avoid from minute one, second one. Of course, that assumes that ghosts are real too HOLY SHIT GHOSTS ARE REAL? The realization is muted, of course, by her worry and the way her eyes cast downward. "Yeah," she says. "I'll avoid bringing you up, then…"

Jessica gives a slight, comforting smile. "You hang from ceilings. I can lift a Prius over my head. And magic is where you draw the line? Whackadoo is whackadoo. Aliens exist too. One of them looks like a damned raccoon and the other is a tree with a limited vocabulary, but they do exist."

"But good. If you know, you can dig into it. If I haven't thought of a question you just…keep asking questions and asking yourself how you can find out, who would know, or call me back in with your answers so we can go over it and think through what the next logical step is. You don't want to chase down every rabbit hole, but…if you can find even one little thread to start tugging on, often you can unravel things. And I think how he knew is the most important question in all of this, because that's the catalyst for everything else. You might do a full microfiche search on his name period, just because he might have an entire history that brings things to light. These things don't always make the papers, but they do sometimes. And I mean…the bunker's description alone tells us there's serious money involved."

She puts down the legal pad. "And that's what makes this all so dangerous. Big money means big secrets. Sooner or later someone comes out of the woodwork to defend those secrets."

A pause as she stands up to pour herself a cup of coffee. "Usually they bring guns."

Cindy's back straightens, eyes wide, and she sputters. "I MET THOSE TWO THE OTHER NIGHT!!"

Pulling her hair back over her shoulder, the young spider-girl looks over her shoulder a little— among the other papers on the bed includes a few drawings (all very crude) of a better super suit than the one that she wore the night that she arrived on the doorstep (windowsill?) of Alias Investigations. "Squeaks— the little pokemon dude— he was making a lot of fun of me. He's a bit of a jerk. I liked the tree, though."

Her head tilts back again, like it just hit her. "Oh my god I met /aliens/."

Cindy sucks in a breath, shoulders rising… then the fall. "Right. I understand. I mean, even with the mixed metaphors— rabbits and threads and all that. But I get what you mean. What Eze— what 'Mr. X'— said, and paid for, all of that, I can… I can definitely start tracking him down through all of that." Jessica adjourns for coffee.

By the time she returns to the room, Cindy is already sitting with her back to the wall, her legs bent and feet sticking to the wall, clutching another paper. "I'm not sure how much I can lift. I always got nervous when I was benching, 'cause… you know. … Alone."

"Yeah, they're a riot aren't they?" Jessica calls from the kitchen. "Don't mind Rocket, he only pretends to be a jerk."

She comes back and arches her eyebrow about the benching. "Smart," she comments. "I wouldn't really recommend lifting a Prius anyway, it tends to make people tense. And I mean if you throw it, you wreck a perfectly good car and make a big mess, it's just a pain in the butt." Her tone is light, joking, a smirk curling her lips.

And yes, in addition to running on questions, Jessica's brain runs on mixed metaphors. Those weren't the first and they won't be the last…she's no poet.

Of course she's noted the first name of Mr. X starts with Eze, which means her brain jumps to Ezekiel. She mentally files it away. What Silk unfortunately doesn't know is that her search on TOL will show up in Jessica's search history; it's how she's billed. If Cindy and Spider-Man get into deep trouble and disappear, she'll have what she needs to track them down. She just won't look at the information or pursue it unless they need her, or decide to bring her in. It's the fine line she walks between being honest, and not just leaving the kids to twist in the wind.

"Oh my god his name is Rocket, and he's a raccoon. I Am Groot didn't really have a big problem with us, but I guess they wanted ice cream. In January. Like. What the hell, right?" she asks, tilting her head with a quirked eyebrow.

"I don't plan on throwing cars, I mean… if I can help it, I guess, but one way or another, like. That's a lot of weight," Cindy says, shrugging. Jotting down a few more personal notes for herself on one page, the pen jots down a few more notes on a second page— she's also got her mind on that costume again.

Stepping off the wall, Cindy looks at her fingertip again before touching it to the corner of one receipt. When she pulls her finger across to link one bill to another, the thin cord of webbing being drawn out of her finger is green. "I'll have to start searching for Mister X, then. I still want to talk to Spider-Man before I start getting too far along, I… I still have a lot of questions for him we didn't get to last time."

"That's a good next step, because you might want him backing up when you two go asking all these questions," Jessica says bluntly. "The database search, some of it is safe enough, as is the microfiche, but sooner or later your questions might just tip someone off, and when they do you're going to want someone you can trust at your back."

She watches the amazing color-shifting webbing, noting the differences between that and Spidey's consistently white webbing.

"Because if the guy who took you was actually trying to help you, then he suddenly had to bug out because they got too close to you. And if he was running an angle, well he had his reasons. And if that's the case, you getting out could even have been part of the plan. So assume nothing, question everything, and be as careful as a…tiny, non-poisonous spider in an arachnaphobe's house."

Complimented for her prudence? That's enough to get a nod out of Cindy, suddenly proud that she made a pretty adult decision. "I don't know if I spent all that time in that bunker for nothing. I don't know if I was supposed to get out. I don't know what happened to Mr. X… so… I'm going to be asking a lot of questions. Believe me, Miss Jones, I'm not gonna stop looking."

Clutching a page in her lips, she picks up the phone box and the legal pad before balancing all of it under one arm. "I'll get started on the searches. And I'll— um. I'll clean all this up later, sorry," the spider-girl adds, making a vague gesture to the literal web of photos, paperwork, and receipts that track the movements of the Moon family.

Jessica snorts. "I don't care if you make a mess." Her apartment is kind of the cleanest it's ever been. She's been a lot more studious about it since it got restored from its former awful state, both as a reflection of her improving mental health condition, and because she was grateful for the assist and determined to honor it. Having the two young ladies here has also impacted her decision to do dishes on a regular basis.

But that doesn't mean she is particularly worried about what Cindy spreads on her side of the room she's not going into these days anyway, save to get her clothes or to pass into the bathroom, mostly, on both counts, when they're not here.

"I hope I haven't overwhelmed you," she says, rising. A faint smirk. "I can be a little intense when on the trail of a mystery, and that doesn't change when I'm coaching others on how to do the same. You can feel free to tell me to turn down the fire hose, any time."

"I just don't like making a mess of everything. … though I guess I should've thought about that before I started web-swinging around town…"

Sinking down into the office chair behind the desk and setting down the pad and paperwork, Cindy grins a little bit. "It's fine. I remember everything. It's kind of a blessing and a curse," she says, letting the thought hang for a moment. Waiting for the UI of the laptop to load in, her face falls and she looks confused for a moment. "Holy crap, they changed Windows a /lot/."

While things load, the phone box is finally addressed— and opened— while she picks it up, fumbling with it a bit while looking at it as though she were being exposed to some badass mystical relic that cannot be named. "What the what. Man, I still remember when phones with the hard, like, plastic keyboards and stuff, when those were actually still pretty mainstream. Are you sure this wasn't too expensive?"

"These days you get them for zero down." If you sign your life away. In blood. But Jessica isn't going to say that. She just says, "I'm not too worried about it. You shouldn't be either. I told you I'd help you get your life together and that's the start of that."

Jessica adds, "It's the little icon that looks like a magnifying glass. The Accurant is the one that looks like an eye; that's where you get known associates and relatives from."

Then she settles on the couch with a pad of paper and her phone, going through her messages, jotting things down; giving the girl some space and time to find what she can find from the comfort of her desk.

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