A.K.A. Swear Freely

February 19, 2017:

Peggy Carter and Jessica Jones team up to begin unraveling the mystery of Tony Stark's missing technology.

Starts in Hell's Kitchen, moves on to Brooklyn

Characters

NPCs: Various

Mentions: Tony Stark, Silk, Obidiah Stane, John Constantine

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Jessica hadn't been fooling around on the phone. She really did have an appointment with Dr. Gardner today. It just so happened it was hella convenient for making sure there was no suspicion when she, in fact, swung by Peggy's office.

She stops in the hallway long enough to take one of her new pills with the help of a water fountain. They're big, and they're white, and they are, she's told, specially formulated from her blood samples taken while she was out cold for five days…a fact which tells her that SHIELD biochemists might be playing with her DNA For!Science! and not just for altruistic reasons. She decides she doesn't care. If it can turn her into less of a hot mess, she's all for it.

She'd semi-dressed up, and she's wearing clothes that look new. A blue t-shirt with new jeans, a suit jacket. Only her boots remain the same; scuffed and old. A keen eye might see those are Stark brand clothes, good at repelling bullets and wrinkles alike. She'd gone somewhere between her normal mode of dress and something more professional, a sign, perhaps, that Peggy still both impresses and even intimidates her a little bit. Anyone who assumes Jessica Jones, with all of her enhanced strength and durability, is incapable of being intimidated in a variety of ways simply does not know her well enough.

She makes sure her visitor's pass is clipped prominently in place and very politely checks in at all checkpoints before finally being allowed to go knock thrice on Peggy's door.

—-

Jessica does not have to wait for long before a firm voice instructs her, "Come in." It's lunchtime and Peggy Carter may not have a lunch on the books, but she is expecting Jessica Jones to take her out to a diner.

The fact that what Jessica mentioned has to deal with Starks and she doesn't wish for anyone that may be monitoring the calls to hear what she has to say has the Agent's interest piqued. From behind her desk, Peggy is already gathering her things. She's dressed in a dark pants, a button-down blouse, hair curled and make up pristinely in place. It's her work attire. Grabbing her purse and pulling on her jacket, it's clear she expected and is pleasantly surprised that Jessica is on time. They might not have decided on an exact hour of meeting, but this is certainly lunchtime.

A keen eye for observation, she does notice the Stark Clothes and the differences between how she is dressed today as opposed to the last time they met. That was during a raid, of course, but she does not jump to conclusions. She knows the woman is here to see a doctor, she assumes she is dressed up for that and not for their meeting.

It might please her to know that she is possible to intimidate a women she has concluded to be both physically strong and emotionally closed off. For most of her time during the War and afterward, she had to convince others that she could be just as strong and capable as a man: being intimidating in her line of work is generally considered a compliment.

"Good afternoon, Miss Jones. I look forward to this diner you spoke of on the phone. Are you ready to go?" Instead, she smiles and gestures that they need not spend more time than necessary inside the Triskelion.

—-

"I am, Agent Carter. And please, call me Jessica, if you like." Jessica says. And it certainly sounds a little shy, as is the smile she gives the other woman. This is the first time she's been around Peggy Carter one-on-one.

Still, she's business-like as she heads out with the other woman. "It shouldn't take us long to get there, I figured we'd pick up the sandwiches and head somewhere else." Because the last thing she wants to do is bring more trouble down on the head of the mild-mannered deli owner.

She does not make much small talk on the way; she's terrible at it. She is happy to respond if Peggy does it, but this is definitely where the "emotionally closed off" part comes in. She does ask if their mutual friend had gone ahead and extended the invite for "80s Movie Night" at Alias though. Still, there's nothing unpleasant about her as she falls into step with the other woman. As they finally find themselves outside the deli is, "This man makes the best sandwiches in New York City."

She pushes open the door, and the smell of sandwich heaven follows; fresh-baked bread, hand-sliced meats, farm-fresh vegetables, cheeses. There are vegetarian options as well as meat options, but the meat definitely takes center stage. The man behind the counter is belting out Smoke on the Water as he slices tomatoes. "Hey hey, Jessica Jones! Who's your lovely friend?"

"This is Miss Carter," Jessica replies with a smile. "I'll have my usual to go, and whatever she'd like; and…" here she lowers her voice. "If we can sort of take our To-Go through the back exit we'd be much obliged."

"Sure thing," Sal says, gesturing behind the counter. Then he turns his attention to Peggy. "What may I get for you?"

—-

Agent Carter is fine with companionable silence. It surprises Peggy to find Jessica a bit shy in her presence. This is not someone who has disrespected her or who she feels the need to assert her authority over, so she attempts to put her more at ease. With a smile, she quickly leads Jess through the hallways of the Triskelion and out onto the street.

"A nearby deli that does take out? I'll have to be sure to remember it for later." She often eats her lunches at her desk and she's glad to have another restaurant to add to her list. The movie night is met with a shake of her head. That's not something she has heard of yet, but now it brings up a raised eyebrow. Her voice is actually teasing when she asks, "Is this an attempt to gather the three of us - " those that don't remember the 80s, " - in a room to gauge our reaction to modern movies?"

Once they are inside the deli, she glances about the space, suddenly very hungry at the smell of good food and bread. "A pleasure," she smiles at Sal and bobs her head. "I'll have a turkey sandwich, please." Giving her toppings order, she gives Jessica a bit of a surprised look at the question of heading out the back. So, this is one of those meetings, is it? She expected as much, but this is the first confirmation of that.

—-

"It's attempt to gather the three of you and a few others into a room to have some fun, and to experience what has got to be the golden age of movie making, two cultural icons no person should be without: Back to the Future and the original Ghostbusters. Granted, most of the golden age of movies happened mostly before I was born, but…my parents instilled the proper nostalgia when I was young." Jessica gives a quick grin. "So you know. Just bring yourselves, I'll have food. I've never done anything like this before so…hopefully I won't set anything on fire."

"Yes ma'am!" Sal says. He bustles about, getting it all put together, not at all surprised by Jessica's request, apparently. He has it done in less than seven minutes; Jessica pays and then they're out the back, where Jessica leaps up to grab the ladder of a fire escape and pull it down. She steps aside to gesture Peggy up, noting, "There's an employee break area up top of that building that nobody ever uses; they keep that door locked pretty much at all times. It doesn't have a bad view and it will allow us to speak pretty freely."

But she starts talking about halfway up the building, lowering her voice. "So Tony Stark shows up in person in my office to hire me to be a fresh pair of eyes on some stolen tech problems he's having on the day a knock-off Iron Man suit attacks a young friend of mine. He says you are also on point on this, and…I figured we could work together. I wanted to see where you'd already gotten with this, maybe we compare notes, maybe we go back each other up while we dig through some trash and try to figure this thing out. Obviously I think we should eat first, before digging through trash."

And just like that, Jessica is at her ease; suddenly she's working, and everything about her just seems to snap into place, a driven, focused bull dog on the hunt. "Especially as we both have a lot on our plates."

—-

"Fun? I'm sure I don't know what that word is. Is that a new slang word I missed?" Peggy smirks at Jessica, but nods her head as she explains more about the intended goal of the get together. "I've slowly been catching up on what I've missed, but I certainly have not yet seen either of those. Back to the Future sounds like a rather apt title." Once they have their sandwiches, she follows Jessica out the back and then up the fire escape ladder and stairs.

The clanging of the metal does not bother her and she feels almost at home on the rickety feeling construction attached to the building. The information that Jessica tells her is met with a nod of her head and as she processes. "Yes, I was alerted to the problem. To be honest, I have yet to have a chance to look into it more than superficially." The fact that she is not further along annoys her, but there has been other cases and official reports that have taken up a bit of her time.

A knock off Iron Man suit attacked her friend? That pulls a frown from Peggy. She can see that Jessica is almost a different person while talking about work. It's something that she recognizes from her own past: the confidence that comes from putting everything personal to the side to allow work to take over. She used to do that. To tell the truth, she still does.

"Most of my information Tony already knows. We were alerted to the situation by his work partner. I've been looking into some mysterious disappearances and deaths that are surrounding the company." When she says deaths, her expression turns even more serious. "It sounds as if whoever is attempting to steal Tony's designs may be trying to replicate the Iron Man suit."

—-

"It is a little on the nose, but…couldn't be helped," Jessica says, of Back to the Future.

"Well, if that's the aim they've already done it." Once they're up, she pulls out a Stark Phone, noting…"Your friend, by the way, needs to have his picture next to the words 'generous' and 'extravagant' in the dictionary. I ask for a knock off vest; he gives me clothes. I ask for his phone number, he gives me a phone. I ask for a retainer, he adds 20%. I'm not an idiot, so I take it all, but I did find myself wondering if he'd just accidentally sketched the plans for a suit on a napkin and gave it to someone in a bar because they said they were curious about arc reactors once."

She fiddles with the AR display with the fumbling air of someone who is not used to an AR display, but brings up the video of the other suit attacking Silk. "She barely survived," Jessica says. "She said the pilot was after Spider-Man, which prompted Tony to say this was personal as he apparently did some designs for him."

She pulls out four thick files. "As for the employees, there are interesting patterns here. Every one of them was either single, divorced, or separated. Every one of them committed suicide. None of them appeared to know each other, which means they weren't a ring; one of them was clear out in LA. This, to me, points to a central mind behind all of this. Perhaps the pilot of the suit. Perhaps someone else. And my very first question is what they were getting out of all of this, why they did it. If we figure out the victims, we might figure out our perpetrator."

—-

Peggy snickers at the description of Tony. "His father was the exact same way." She knows Tony would hate to hear her say that. But, on some things it's impossible to not see the direct link between Tony and Howard. The way he approaches this aspect of his life is one of the larger overlapping personality traits. "Money and things don't matter to Tony. He has enough of those. But, his work? No, I don't believe he would be careless with that." Of course, some of this is extrapolating from what she knows of Howard.

Moving closer to Jessica, she watches the AR display with a worried expression on her face. "I'm sorry about your friend. Will she be alright?" Seeing Silk fight the suit, she can guess the woman was special abilities. Hopefully one of those is a healing factor. However, she attempts to not focus on Silk, instead watching the suit move. She is no science expert, but she sees the differences of the design compared to Tony's suit. "They have already made a suit, but it's not quite the same. It still looks…rough." It's impressive, but there is a crudeness to it compared to the sleek and shiny Iron Man.

"Perhaps," she agrees as she thinks. "It was my belief that they all must have had something the perpetrator wanted. Either that or all of them had something, but not all of it. It's why this continued." It feels wrong to talk about these people so casually and coldly, but it is the way of investigating murders. "I was looking into which departments they worked in and of what they were in charge." She sighs.

—-

"She seemed fine after a quick power nap," Jessica admits, nodding her head. "She heals fast. I think I'm more pissed off about it than she is. Er. Sorry." She isn't sure if Peggy shares Cap's lack of appreciation for foul language; she does her best around them both.

She hadn't noticed, about how rough it looked. Jessica peers closer and nods. "That might explain why things still seem to be leaking out. I met with Stane— by the way, he assumed you brought me on board and I let him think that, because I'm not sure if I trust him yet— and he gave me a little more that seemed to have been smuggled out. For Ben Sanderson, our LA dead guy, I had a remote PI get on the case. Sanderson had a USB drive in his car with technical scans housed at the facility he helped to manage. Testing materials that had been used as a base for several earlier Iron Man suits."

If Peggy had been looking into the departments and what they were in charge of then she has some of the information Jessica has already. Kelly Anders, resided in Brooklyn, an electrical engineer with a background in technical specs and designs, worked on technical drawings for the Alita satellite project and did on-site supervisory support for the Stark Building for systems integration.

John Abrams, a mechanical drafter who worked on custom fasteners and bolts for the Danube River reclamation project. After the project he was transferred to help with on-site support for Stark Tower and helped with a custom re-design of certain system integrations; he had no direct contact with Kelly Anders.

Lena Katsulas of Gotham, working on the Aegis Research project, creating technical specifications for the Aegis chipset with several start-ups around Gotham, as well as virtual reality interfaces. She had also designed code used in Jarvis' visual recognition systems.

And the aforementioned Sanderson.

"I would have bought one suicide. I don't buy four, as far as I'm concerned these people were murdered." Jessica says grimly. "And now? There's a long list of things I want to know. I thought maybe we could hit the Anders residence today, maybe the Abrams residence too. I also wanted to ask about this blonde guy that was supposedly handling the drops to the Triskelion. I'm sure there are a ridiculous number of blonde men working there but…I don't suppose I could get you to pull the list of people who match the scant description we have? We may be able to narrow things down with a little more time. If you haven't already."

—-

Relieved that Silk should recover fine, Peggy gives a nod and then a bit of a smile at the apology. "No need," she assures her. While she attempts to observe the no swearing rule in front of Steve, she doesn't seem to have the same aversion to swearing that he has. "You may swear freely."

Quickly flipping through the files, she sees much of the same information that she already has. She nods, though these are the actual Stark Personnel files and she was working from what she knew from SHIELD. Handing them back, she nods.

"Same," Peggy agrees about the conclusion that they are murders. "It's someone attempting to cover their tracks and murdering these people to do so. I'm not sure what it is that all these people might have in common or what knowledge they all collectively might have. Perhaps we should speak to Tony about that." He may see something about those four that may link in ways neither of them would. That's all the science stuff.

"That is a little trickier, as I have to attempt to look into him without alerting either SHIELD or him that I am attempting to do so. Asking for a man of his description might set off an alert that I am doing so. He'll rabbit." SHIELD is an information gathering agency, after all. They log every search, every login, every entrance and exit into their building. All the information is most likely there, but that also alerts others that she is looking for it. "I'm attempting to find if there may be a way to do this that will leave no paper trail." Not that it is an actual paper trail, but that's her terminology.

—-

'You may swear freely.'

"Oh thank fucking God," Jessica says in relief, all but sagging. "Do you know how much effort that takes?"

She's not even joking. It's as bad as trying not to smoke or drink, truly.

She nods to the paper trail and admits, "There are a lot of things your authority could do that mine sure can't, but I am not sure to the extent you can do it without causing our middle man to bolt. Like…I want to see bank statements in the worst way, but it's been illegal for PIs to pretext their way to that shit since '06. You, on the other hand, might be able to walk right into their bank, flash your ID, and say, 'pull these' without leaving a paper trail at all. Granted, if we find anyone's computer with saved passwords in the browser, whoopsie, I want a look. Cause if there are payoffs, that's a trail we can follow. And if there aren't then things are even more interesting. I want to see morgue reports too. I keep trying to figure out how someone makes another human being kill themselves. Katsulas literally slit her own wrists. And that's not something you can even make someone do with a gun to their head. You put a gun to my head and tell me to slit my own wrists, I say fuck you, you're going to have to make me eat a bullet so at least I can inconvenience your sorry ass when I die. So. Blackmail? Hydra chips in their heads like our last mission? Guns on the loved ones?"

She finally unwraps her sandwich and says, "And yeah, that's a good idea, talking to Tony. I'd wondered if all these things came together to make things other than suits to be sure." The roast beef and cheese are perfect, but Jess only gets through about half of it before asking, "Wanna go see what we can see?"

—-

Peggy can't help the laugh as Jessica physically looks more relaxed at the fact that she can swear freely in front of her. "I worked in first the British and then the American Armed Forces for years," she explains with a grin. "If I were to become offended every time I heard the word 'fuck', no one would have taken me seriously." It was different for Steve. His desire to keep language clean helped feed into his clean-cut Captain America image. Mirroring Jessica, she unwraps and starts in on her own sandwich.

"Yes, it's the alerting others to my search that worries me the most. If we are to keep this middle man unawares and he has the same clearance that I do? He'll know we're coming from yards away." That's the problem with attempting to hunt down someone who has the same resources that she does.

"Being with SHIELD does, certainly, open more doors for us. However, to get some of that information, it would require approval. Though, we can certainly try the flashing a badge and seeing how far that can take us." A woman of the old school, it seems she has little problem in that method. "To find his bank records, we first must find a name. Though, we can try our luck with Anders' accounts to see if she was either blackmailed or paid into this. Perhaps they were not simply victims, but paid accomplices until they either reached the end of their usefulness or pushed too hard. A person willing to kill for information is not beneath killing to clean up a trail."

Folding up the second half of her sandwich, she slips it into her purse: waste not, want not. "Yes, that sounds like a marvelous plan. Shall we?"

—-

Jessica listens to Peggy tell her a little of the past, and says, "You must have the thickest skin imaginable to avoid exploding every time one of them pulled some sexist bullshit." She sounds frankly admiring, but something has shifted. Peggy can see it, the moment when Jessica decides she simply likes the reserved SHIELD agent, the moment she decides to stop being intimidated entirely.

She eats the rest of her sandwich on the way to the Anders residence in Queens.

She knocks thrice on the door, and a timid woman with a cascade of blonde ringlets opens the door and looks out at both of them. "Can…I help you?" The woman asks, chewing on her lower lip, looking from Jessica before her gaze ultimately settles on the more professionally dressed Peggy as the one to pay attention to. Jessica more than allows this, stepping back subtely to reinforce that authority, seamlessly allowing Peggy to do the talking here for the time being. It is, perhaps, just as well that she decided to avoid the ripped jeans and leather jacket look today though, as she can nevertheless give an air of 'belonging' with the better dressed woman.

—-

The compliment - as that's how Peggy takes it - about having thick skin is met with a smile and a shrug. "To blow up at them would merely give them what they wanted: a reason to dismiss me. To think of me as an emotionally unsteady woman who did not belong in their midst and could not take the vigor or horrors of war. Instead, I merely made it so it was impossible to ignore me." Taking cases, doing things on her own, pushing herself into interrogations and meetings. She simply did not take no for an answer. "It also helped to know there were some who believed in my abilities. I did once punch out a sexist candidate for Project Rebirth. That was remarkably cathartic."

On the way to Queens, she does not finish her sandwich, instead studying the people about her with interest. Peggy has always been a bit of a people watcher.

As Jessica steps a bit behind her, Peggy decides that is her cue to take the lead on this. Smiling at the blonde haired woman, she introduces herself. "My name is Agent Carter. Was this the residence of a Ms. Kelly Anders?" Pulling a badge from her purse, she holds it up quickly for her to see. Despite her words to Jessica earlier, it seems as if she has no problem showing the badge to try and put the other woman at ease that this is an 'official' visit. If people believe SHIELD is involved with this, seeing her reaction to this badge would certainly be telling.

—-

Peggy takes it more than rightly; for that is how it was meant. Green-flecked brown eyes crinkle with delight at the image of Peggy just decking some son of a bitch.

"It was," the blonde says. "She was my roommate. I'm Amelia." She blinks at the SHIELD badge, mostly in bewildered, wide eyed surprise, and just…steps aside to let them all the way in.

The apartment is small but neat, just big enough for two. Jessica pulls out her wallet and flashes her PI license so quickly that the woman could be forgiven for thinking she's a SHIELD agent too. The PI closes the door behind them.

The blonde wraps her arms around herself and says, "Kelly died of a Xanax overdose. I… I didn't think that was the kind of thing your organization dealt with, Agent Carter. Is it because she worked for Stark Industries? I'll try to help however I can but…"

Jessica takes that as a cue to start looking around, though it's just a cursory search of the entire place for the time being.

—-

Stepping into the apartment, Peggy continues to keep up a pleasant, mild manner in front of Amelia. Seeing the wide eyes, the bewilderment, it doesn't look like she has to pull any form of rank or intimidation tactics to get any sort of information. However, this isn't the first time someone attempted to hide more sinister intents behind a demure and scared attitude.

As Jessica flashes her own badge, she smiles. She purposefully did not introduce Jessica, allowing her to either play along or do something else entirely. Teamwork! The professional atmosphere continues, though as she calmly looks about the place and nods to Amelia's observations. "Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to comment on ongoing investigations, Miss…" she trails off, hoping to get Amelia's last name. It will help to look into her later, should they need it.

While Jessica does a more cursory poking about, she remains talking to the roommate. "What can you tell us about Ms. Anders? Any bit of information can be helpful."

—-

"White, Amelia White," Amelia says, gnawing on her lower lip. "She was a good roommate. Always paid her bills on time. Actually she made a lot more than I did and sometimes just covered us both; I just do odd jobs around town. I'm going to have to move out at the end of the month. I relied on her in a lot of ways. She was really nice to me. We went to college together; but like an idiot I went into the liberal arts. I didn't even know she was on Xanax. If I did I sure wouldn't have let the fact that she kept some booze in the house slide. I can't believe someone smart like her would just mix them up like that."

Jessica pauses to interrupt. "Is this her room, Miss White?"

Amelia nods, and in Jessica goes, content to leave Peggy to do the talking. Peggy might be able to literally imagine her dumping out the trash in there, but…that's something even spies have had to do. On that count, their work isn't so different.

She puts her hands in her pocket, returning her gaze to Peggy. "I mean I heard her crying sometimes, but I thought it was just this bad breakup she was getting over. Her boyfriend took off for Utah about a year ago; I don't know that she ever really got over that. She seemed nervous sometimes too, but…I always figured that was just her job, high-stress, you know. I'm sorry, all of this sounds really useless and stupid I'm sure."

—-

Continuing to study Amelia, Peggy nods at the appropriate moments and looks sympathetic. These two were more than just roommates, they were friends, it would seem. A notepad is pulled out and she starts to take a few notes. They're jotted, mostly a jumble of words that will help jog her memory later.

"If you don't mind my saying so, Miss White, this is a smaller sized apartment. If Miss Anders could afford to cover for you every now and again, it stands to reason that she could have afforded a larger place. Is there a particular reason she stayed here?" As if to emphasize the point, she glances about at the place, just big enough for two people. Queens isn't Manhattan, she imagines the rents here are not exorbitant.

Latching onto other details about her behavior, she nods a few times. "Do you happen to know the boyfriend's name?" Then, she adds, "The crying, is it something she tried to hide from you? You never talked about it with her?" Smiling, she assures, "No, this is very helpful, Miss White."

—-

"I don't really know, I never asked," Amelia says, shaking her head from side to side. "It's a good question." At least her body language indicates this is the first time she's ever thought about it. "Habit, maybe? And…yeah, she tried to hide it from me. She'd stop if I came in and asked. His name was Trent, Trent Fowler. He took a job in Salt Lake City, I'm not sure what. I think he wanted 2.5 and a picket fence, you know? But that was never going to be Kelly. She loved her work too much."

Amelia seems to relax in Peggy's presence, frowning thoughtfully. "I don't have his number or anything. I was really surprised that she cared as much as she did about that, but…I guess the heart wants what it wants. She might have his number in her room somewhere, or in with her stuff. Stark Industries already sent a private security team, I couldn't really believe what they brought out of here. A box with a gun of all things, a couple of cell phones, five thousand in cash. I took a photo." She digs out her phone and swipes across her pictures. "They didn't like it but they weren't real law enforcement so they couldn't stop me."

It looks like a standard SHIELD bug-out kit; the gun is a 9mm Glock 19. There are also four magazines, a tac harness. The two phones are actually one burner cell and one satellite cell. There's space for more stuff, personal things, but none of it seems to have been used. "Was Kelly actually SHIELD? Is that why you're here? I mean that looked like the kind of stuff a spy would have, doesn't it?"

—-

Peggy continues to write a few notes as Amelia speaks. The name of the boyfriend is certainly scribbled down to be checked on later. The mystery of the apartment might have to be unraveled later, or perhaps not at all. If it was a personal preference or a force of habit, the only person that could answer the question died. "Yes, our desires can be things we might never have chosen for ourselves."

Interested, the Agent leans over to look at the pictures on Amelia's phone, frowning just slightly as she studies the pictures. She already knew that Obadiah sent people in to check out these incidents, she had heard about the bug out boxes and kits. It is a different thing to see it for a fact.

"No," she says automatically as to whether Kelly was a SHIELD Agent. It's a visceral denial. She does not believe this to be a leak of SHIELD, that they were spying on Stark Industries and then killed their operatives. That's not part of the agency that she helped start. However, just denying does not help their cause.

"I can see why you might come to that conclusion. But, I cannot comment on it further." Frowning, she adds, "If you would not mind sending those to me?" She pulls out a business card and hands it Amelia. The email address is there as well as a phone number. "I should check in on my colleague. If you would excuse me, Miss White? Thank you."

"Yes ma'am," Amelia says, ghosting to the other side of the apartment after taking the card, perhaps to put it away.

—-

Jessica is frowning down at a few things. She's got a computer open on the bed, and she's found her way into a Gmail account. Saved browser passwords, the PI's best friend. "So there's nothing unusual in the e-mail at all, and her web history and files are clean of anything that's worth talking about." The PI says.

"I found a T-mobile bill in the trash…" that is next to the computer, "that was opened, so that at least gives us the outgoing calls. I also at least know where she banks."

She hands over an unopened PNC Bank envelope; Kelly might have been checking her bank balance online or something instead of messing around with the paper statements. Jessica gives a wry smile. Open trash? Fair game. Unopened trash? Still a federal crime for her to open, but she can look at the logos. Though for all she knows, Peggy actually does have the authority to rip open the envelope then and there.

"There's a branch not far from here. Think you can talk your way into her bank records? Because unless she's got some sort of super corporate espionage hiding place in here…that's all we're going to find in here today. Was Amelia helpful at all?"

She gently reaches over to close Kelly's computer, mindful of handling the effects of the dead.

—-

Unfortunately, even as a SHIELD agent, Peggy has to still abide by certain rules. Opening a sealed envelope in someone's room is not something she's allowed to do. The question is just met with a shake of her head and she slides the still unopened letter back onto the desk.

As for whether she can get the pair of them in there, well, that's something she's not clear on. "We can certainly try," she replies. "For this one, however, we'll have to play it straight." At least the PNC Bank statement is something. "Stark Industries already searched this room as well, so it's possible that I have some of this information back at my flat." She does have that drive that Obadiah gave her.

"The roommate was helpful in confirming a few things. She corroborated Mr. Stane's assertion that Anders was nervous most of the time. Miss White apparently also heard her crying at times and attempted to hide it. She thought it was over a boyfriend that moved to Utah, but also didn't think they were that close to warrant it. Kelly was apparently married to the job. I think the blackmail angle certainly has some merit. Either that, or she got herself into something much too big for her to handle. She also had some pictures of what Stark Industries took out of here. I asked her to send them to me for study later."

—-

Indeed, Peggy's phone beeps as those pictures come over the transom.

Jessica rises and says, "Well, let's go see what we can do. If they won't let us in they won't let us in, but all we can do is try." With two more people to dig into locally it's not going to be a fast process anyway, but…at least they're making some headway.

Amelia will politely show them out, and Jessica navigates the streets with ease, knowing her way around from memory. She's studying the phone records as they make their way towards the PNC building. "Lots of calls to a 414 area code, roughly once a week," she says. She pulls out her phone, deftly side-stepping someone who nearly rams into her, and notes, "Someone in Maryland; might be relevant. Might be the person blackmailing her, if we're right about that. I'll run the number through TOL while you talk to the bank manager; try to match it to a name and address. I can't rapid-flash shit at him and the moment he sees 'PI' he's going to balk."

It's a larger branch, one with a full loan office, not just tellers, which is probably all to the good for their purposes. Jessica splits off the moment they get inside, heading for the waiting area, deep in her phone. Bank staff flick their gazes at her and stop paying attention; deciding the account holder is probably the woman they're with. "May I help you, ma'am?" one of the tellers asks. The bank is relatively deserted at this time of day, people aren't off work to come do their business, and the lunch hour has just ended for most.

—-

Leaving the more tech savvy stuff to Jessica, Peggy nods. While she's certainly better adjusted to technology than Steve is, there are still things she realizes she would never even think about that someone who grew up with the technology would. She's competent and a quick learner, but some of it is not instinctual just yet.

"That sounds like a plan," Peggy nods to Jessica. Smoothing her shirt down and taking a bit of a breath. She has no problems lying or bending truth to get information, but she does have to get into character. On their way over, she decides to help her cause a little. Pulling a hair tie from her bag and some pins, she pulls her curly hair back and immediately puts it into a humorless bun. Then, she pulls out a pair of glasses. She doesn't need them, but they'll help with what she is planning. "Time to go to work."

She gives Jessica a wink before her expression completely shuts down as if she cannot find fun in anything around her. With that, she turns into the bank and purposefully makes her way to the teller, ignoring Jessica as she peels off to an alcove. "Yes, I certainly hope so. My name is Agent Carter," holding up her badge, she shows it to the teller. "I was hoping you would be able to help me with some information in accordance to one of my investigations. May I speak with you or is there a manager on duty?"

—-

Jessica had given a delighted grin at the wink, though she'd quickly shut it down, focusing for her part on being as un-memorable as possible.

The teller starts, going white. "Er. Yes ma'am. Er. Just have a seat, ma'am…" And she scurries.

The bank manager is a statuesque black woman with impressive clothing. She clip-clops over to Peggy and takes her in with a professional gaze. An expensive perfume wafts off her; not at all unpleasantly. "Agent Carter, I'm Melissa Sharpton," she says, offering a hand. "If you'd like to step back to my office I'll be happy to try to help you with whatever I can." She gives an air of being completely in control at all times, not rattled by the presence of a SHIELD agent in her bank, but nevertheless respectful of the rank it conveys.

—-

"I will stand, thank you," Peggy tells the scurrying teller. It does not seem as if she has long to wait, either. Turning, she studies Miss Sharpton and nods, offering a firm handshake. There is no smile for the manager, instead a respectful nod is given. "I would appreciate that." Talking about her case in the middle of the lobby is not a professional way to handle an investigation.

Taking care to not pass Sharpton, she follows her back to the office and waits until the door is closed before she starts on her line of questioning. "Thank you for your time Miss Sharpton. While I am not at liberty to discuss the nature of my investigation, I came across a suspect of interest by the name of…" she flips her notebook open and reads, "Kelly Anders." She rattles off the apartment address. "Am I correct to assume that she holds an account here at PNC?"

—-

"Well, let's see." Sharpton gets on the computer; her fingers fly rapidly over the keys. "Alright, yes, if you mean the one that lives nearby this branch…there's several nationwide. You know, of course, that I can't give you access to her confidential bank records without some sort of warrant. So what can I do for you?" She arches an eyebrow at Peggy. Despite this statement, she doesn't seem in a hurry to usher the agent out or anything; she states it like she might state the deposit and withdrawal policy at her own bank.

Really, she doesn't look like she has much of a sense of humor either.

Her office is lush, sleek and gleaming. There are personal pictures on her desk; she apparently is married, with two kids, and they take charming family photos together. She earned a degree in Business Management from Columbia; it says so right on both the BA and the MBA hanging on the walls.

—-

As she does with all new rooms, Peggy glances about this one, taking in the neatness and the degrees. "Yes, of course. I did mean at this PNC branch," she replies, though there is not a snap in her voice. Instead, it seems as if she wishes her words to be precise, exacting. "Under normal circumstances, yes. I would not be here were these circumstances normal. I believe in a strict interpretation of the laws, Ms. Sharpton, believe me." Despite the pictures on her desk, she goes with the neutral Ms instead of Miss or Mrs.

Straight backed, hair pulled into a bun, she does look like the very model of a boring government employee, unwilling to step out of the letter of the law. "Miss Anders has, unfortunately, passed and while her confidentiality does continue past her untimely death, there is a credible threat. As you must know, SHIELD is able to supersede parts of confidentiality when it comes to matters of terrorism and probable funding. We have probable cause to search her bank records and do not need a warrant under SHIELD's WB-30 Anti-Terrorism Act, Section 3, Article 1 as long as the records are not physically removed from the premises. As, I am also sure you are aware, SHIELD takes the threat of terrorism very seriously. Ruling Miss Anders out of this investigation is a…time sensitive matter."

—-

Sharpton listens, and for a moment it seems like she's going to push back. Finally, however, she calls up the records and turns the monitor for Peggy to examine.

"Take all the time you like," she says, offering the mouse and keyboard as well. Peggy gets the distinct impression that Sharpton hasn't really heard of those laws and doesn't particularly care…what she had wanted, first and foremost, was a way to cover her own ass in the event that someone asks. Letting Peggy look at a computer screen after hearing an impressive litany of credentials does it for her.

There are no massive sums, no payouts that might indicate a bribe or a payment for services rendered. Instead, what Peggy finds is perhaps the answer to her question as to why the more affluent Kelly was living in a tiny apartment with Amelia. Half of every paycheck was being sent to someone in Dundalk, Maryland, an automatic bill pay straight from the bank account that Kelly herself had set up. Half of a Stark Industries paycheck for her position is quite the generous sum. The billpay goes to Cassandra Marx at 883 North Calvert Avenue, Dundalk, Maryland.

—-

The Agent Carter that Peggy is playing wouldn't smile when her ploy works. She couldn't tell if Sharpton was a stickler for the rules or a woman who simply wanted a reason to give up the files. She decided to err on stickler for the rules, as it kills two birds with one stone. Glad to see that her little bit of improv worked, she nods as if expecting it to. Why would it not, after all?

She may not be as quick as a typer as Sharpton, she is adept at moving through the system, eyebrows furrowed slightly as she takes in the information. No withdrawals, however substantial amounts taken out each month. Blackmail is certainly looking more and more likely.

While Peggy does not write down the name and address on her notebook, she commits the information to memory. Something else for them to look into once she leaves. Maryland also would line up with the number that Jessica is checking into outside. She would put money on the number belonging to Cassandra Marx.

Thoroughly, she checks back quite a ways to try and figure out when the payouts started. Once that information is received, she sits back and pushes the keyboard and mouse back. "Thank you for your cooperation, Miss Sharpton." Information obtained, she stands. "I know my way back."

—-

That scrolling takes time, but Peggy is able to ascertain the payouts have been going on for one year.

Sharpton nods and says, "Have a wonderful day, Agent Carter," with absolutely zero warmth. But neither is there coldness. It's just endlessly professional. She must be fantastic at parties.

Outside, Jessica seems to be getting more and more familiar with the AR; she's frowning as she digs through some records. This phone, however, is a thing of glory; she can easily retire her old laptop and stop lugging the bulky thing around as it does everything the computer did, only pretty much better. She'll have to write Tony a damned thank you note for going over the top.

She shuts it down when Peggy arrives though, springing to her feet. She'll wait till they're back outside to ask, "Anything?"

—-

"You too," Peggy replies in almost the exact same tone. She makes her way through the lobby and out through the door, barely even paying attention to the PI as she joins her. It's only when they're outside that she turns and smiles at Jessica.

She keeps walking for a little while and only when they've turned a corner or two, she pulls the bun out of her hair and pulls the glasses off of and stows them back in her purse. "I did. In fact, I'm almost sure I know whose number Anders was calling. A significant part of her paycheck went to a woman by the name of Cassandra Marx, a woman who lives in Maryland. I have her address."

After a moment, she smiles, eyebrow raised. "Were you able to find out about the phone number? Was it Ms. Marx's?"

—-

"It was. On the surface, that's not suspicious. Cassandra Marx was her aunt. But…I don't think that means this was innocent. Marx could just be sick, but she's in her 40s, not elderly. They could have threatened her life; they could have killed her and collected money from her account to cover their tracks. I think we'd better go down and visit Maryland. Even if she is just innocent Aunt Cassie…she might have some insight."

Probably not today though.

"Working with you is fantastic," Jessica says quietly. "I feel like we've made a lot of headway. I don't want this to look too suspicious to SHIELD, though, and we've already been gone a couple of hours. If we don't want to tip off your rabbit maybe we shouldn't pursue this much further today. Maybe we should meet up for lunch again in a few days, and tackle the next thing? I can fill that time interviewing their supervisors at Stark Industries; I've set up a corporate axe woman persona there with Tony's blessing."

This has restored her confidence, however, that she is not in over her head with this case. At the end of the day, it's the same sort of work she's been doing. There's just a lot more of it, and if the unnamed foe is skilled, perhaps far more than she, so too is her greatest ally in this endeavor.

—-

"You're right. But, this was half of her paycheck for the past year. We should certainly look into it." The thought that someone might have killed or kidnapped Cassandra Marx and forced Kelly to deposit money into her account infuriates her for a moment. But, that anger doesn't get her anywhere. Not right now. She sighs and nods. "Yes, I should be back. It's not unusual to be gone for a few hours at random times during the day." Agents don't tend to have regular nine to five jobs.

Smiling, Peggy nods. "It's been nice to work with you as well. It's often very by the books when I work with people at SHIELD. It's been fun to go a bit off the script." As for a corporate axe woman, she nods. "Wha are you going by there? In case I need to stop by. It might be best for me not to call you Miss Jones."

—-

"Jessica Knight," Jessica says, with a hint of embarrassment; the name had been chosen mostly because of her desire to be heroic. She'd even toyed with 'Knightress' as a better super-hero name than Jewel at one point, but they're both equally dumb. So, so so very dumb. Though apparently not dumb enough to keep her from wearing a necklace that's a subtle shout-out to the Jewel costume. That's saved by the fact that this is not common knowledge.

Nevertheless, 'Knight' had been what was on the tip of her tongue when she had to make up an alias on the spot.

"I've got this thing in Chinatown too; but you can always reach me by phone." She doesn't even bother with a landline at the office; the cell is always with her.

"Freaking Stane figured it out already; he did a full facial recognition database search bullshit thing on me while I was standing in his office, and came up with a damned YouTube video, but hopefully he's the only one that's going to be that diligent. Hopefully not every damned mid-level manager in that building can do the same or I might as well just waltz in saying 'I'm a PI, so about those dead employees."

Grump grump growl, but it is what it is.

—-

While she hears the hint of embarrassment, Peggy just smiles. "I like it," she tells her sincerely. "I'll be sure to call you Knight while in Stark Industries." She nods and asks, "A thing in Chinatown?" While Jess is free to not expand, she seems curious to know. "I'll be sure to call you if I find anything. I hope you'll feel free to do the same."

As for Stane figuring it out already, she gives a soft laugh. "Yes, Mr. Stane seems like someone who is quick on the draw. That's his job, to know everything. I think he takes it very seriously." While she had not met Stane much, she knows that he was close friends with Howard. She assumes that means he knew the older version of herself, too. For the millionth time, she wishes she could go talk to her Older Self and press her for information.

"Most people don't tend to think the people they see on a show are people they would meet at Stark Industries. I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but it might go a long way to have them not figure out who you are if you dressed in a suit." Shrugging, she's trying to give her a little bit of espionage advice. She can't help herself. "There's always the tried and true, 'Oh yes, I get that a lot. I'm certainly not her.'."

—-

"The suit I have, actually, and I wore it straight up to his office. A bun and little glasses, too, and a different make-up job. Why the Hell would I take it the wrong way? I know I dress like a slob." Jessica says, flashing a fast but honest grin at Peggy's compliment for her silly name. "But— that trick? I get that a lot? That's helpful, and I'm going to use the Hell out of it. The longest pretext I've ever done before this was like 10 minutes, and before this my face wasn't out there in public."

Peggy, she suddenly realizes, can teach her all sorts of cool stuff. She files that away; but she'll be paying close attention to the spy from now on to see what else she can learn. If the last four months have awoken anything in her it's the desire to keep growing, to keep learning, and to keep getting better.

As it is, Jessica is a sponge for knowledge; she's happy to pick up whatever she can wherever she can, though her desires for it tend endlessly to the practical. Nevertheless, she shuns none of it…one never knows when something might be practical.

Chinatown isn't top secret though. She says, "Just this weird thing that went down with me and John Constantine the other day. Someone sent a perfectly mundane gang after him, directly. Latinos, so that's the wrong part of town already. I promised him I'd look into it. So far that's not going super well, but there may be a local gang expert I can tap for a little help; something I intend to do if I keep getting nowhere fast. Nothing really came of it; a very short rumble, dirty clothes and some annoyances, but…it was just…off."

Nothing in either of their businesses says it's a good idea to ignore little things that are off, since they are often the threads that unravel much bigger things.

—-

Peggy smiles back and shrugs her shoulders. "Clothing can be a delicate subject." At least, that's what she has learned. She takes pride in her appearance and likes make up and clothing. However, she also knows that some women do not and there is nothing wrong with that. "The trick is all yours to use." It doesn't sound like she has any issue with teaching Jess more of them. In fact, it's a flattering thing to her.

The mention of what happened in Chinatown is met with a nod. "Huh. Well, if you would like help with that, feel free to ask. I can see what I can find out through SHIELD. At least on that I don't have to worry about skittish moles."

At the very least it's an offer. It's good to have missions she understands. While she doesn't exactly understand magic, she does know that sending a gang after John Constantine sounds like an odd thing and she generally likes the cranky occult guy.

—-

"I'll take any help I can get," Jessica says sincerely. "There is one guy with a broken hand and a red jacket, and one guy with a broken mouth. None of them checked into any hospital that I could find. And that's honestly it; no more leads than that." Which might explain why it's going so badly. She hadn't even thought to save the gun that she'd crumpled into ruin like a tin can.

But, for now, she steps back and tosses off a wave and a smile. "Hey. This was great. Not just because we kicked some ass and took some names. It was good to get to know you better. I think between us we're going to unravel this thing, and anyone who thinks otherwise better watch the fuck out."

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