Ashes to Ashes

February 23, 2017:

Jessica Jones, Red Robin, and Elinor Ravensdale venture into Abyss. What they learn doesn't make anyone particularly happy.

Abyss Nightclub, New York, NY

Where the magical elite, both living and dead, go to play.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, John Constantine, Daredevil

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Jessica had posited to Red that the best time to actually reach Elinor Ravensdale, Ghost Whisperer, was in the afternoon. Not in the morning, while she slept, or the afternoon, while she worked.

And so it is that once she and Red Robin have reuinited from their own separate endeavors on both this and other equally important things that she stands in her apartment hallway and lifts her hand to actually knock on the witch's door for the first time. Not break it down thinking someone needs a beat up…or break it down thinking it's her own because the headache is so bad she can't see.

Really, if it weren't so important to do this, she might have lost her nerve here. The balance between her and this woman is definitely running into the red on her side. She owes Elinor. Elinor does not owe her a damned thing. But Jessica will shamelessly push other people to do whatever she thinks they need to do if it will accomplish whatever she thinks the greater good might be.

Thus, her rapping knuckles sound loud and firm.

—-

Red Robin had only just returned from Metropolis before meeting up with Jessica; in an alleyway not far from her building was parked an angry-looking, sleek black and red car, the Redbird, currently discouraging anyone who thought they might try to mess with it or worse via the application of light electrical shocks.

You know, like in aversion therapy.

The vigilante himself is a tall, slender shadow beside Jessica, his cape left to drape around himself as he lets Jessica do the knocking, since she is apparently already familiar with this… Spirit medium? Ghost whisperer? Individual of arcane talent, in any event. The white lenses of his cowl don't just help to hide his eyes, of course: They also show him all sorts of interesting things through a heads-up display and augmented reality overlays, cycling through watching how the electricity moves through the building and the PI standing beside him, to thermographic, to normal vision.

Well, he's had cause to be a bit paranoid, lately.

—-

Elinor had a late night. She had been working with a ghost who had been reliving it's death in an endless loop. It took nearly to dawn but she was able to break them out of the loop and get them to move on. So as elated as she was, she fell right into bed when she got home and crashed hard. The apartment is silent so the knock rings through it, but it still takes several seconds before it registers to Elinor that someone is knocking on her door. Soon several random crashes are heard and the door slowly cracks open. The security chain is still in place so just her pale and weary eye peeks out. Elinor squints at the both of them before the door shuts and it gets quiet once again. Finally she slowly unlocks the door and opens it. "Jones. I see you've brought more friends." Her voice is still heavy as sleep. The apartment is very dark, every window is covered with heavy shades, and she hasn't bothered to turn on a light. "Thanks for knocking."
"No problem," Jones says, uncharacteristically subdued. "Red, this is Elinor Ravensdale. Elinor, this is the Red Robin of Gotham." She pauses to let that sink in, then says, "Look…this is awkward. But…we need your help. I know you have no reason to help me, I've been nothing but a pain in your ass, but it's not for me. John Constantine and Zatanna Zatara are missing. I don't think you met her but she's only like 19. And one of our only leads is in a club only a mystic can get into."

She glances back at Red, looking momentarily worried…if she refuses to help, they're going to have to come up with a brand new plan and quick.

The electricity moves through the building pretty darn good now that electricians have been here, something which Red himself made possible. Jessica's body temperature is uncharacteristically low for her, according to thermographic vision, but if it's bothering her she's not showing it.

—-

If the masked vigilante is worried, he doesn't show it… But then, it would be difficult to tell in that getup, wouldn't it?

At the moment, Red Robin can't contemplate the possibility of failure. Too much is at stake, and they have too few options, and the only other possibilities he knows of would be unpleasant. And besides, he can't help but recall the reading done in that incense-fogged back room, the visions that had come with it. It couldn't be as simple as names, could it? But if the 'robin' and the 'broken jewel' were that obvious…

"She's eighteen," he corrects Jessica, to emphasise the youth of the young woman currently missing. His voice is electronically shrouded, modified from its natural sound, hiding his identity all the further. Layers and layers to armor his name as much as his body. "We wouldn't be bothering you, Miss Ravensdale, but we have reason to suspect that at this moment, you're their only hope. You were mentioned in a prophecy."

It sounds ridiculous, to him. It is ridiculous. But if it saves Zatanna and Constantine, what does it matter?

—-

Elinor narrows her eyes at Jessica as she speaks, as she tries to focus on the words and make sense of them. Red Robin's voice does startle her, she wasn't expected it to be modified. "Nice to meet you." She shakes her head at the both of them and gestures into the apartment and toward her sitting area before stumbling toward the kitchen and getting tea ready, since that's the only thing she can think to do first. Leaning on the doorframe between the living area and the kitchen she crosses her arms. "I'm used to the dead knocking on my door, since I've met you it's the first time the living has been knocking on my door." When a prophecy is mentioned she blinks several times and looks just a touch dubious. "I'm in a prophecy? Please tell me I'm not raising an army of the dead, that's number one on my nightmare list." Still she rubs her buttom lip. "Why don't we start at the beginning."

—-

"Eighteen," Jessica agrees.

Then, Elinor's going on about armies of the dead. "You can do that?" Jessica asks, double taking. But…she sits down. Hey, Elinor's tea is good, and if it's going to take a cup of tea to make her a little more interested in diving into this, she's all for it.

But here, she defers to Red. He brought the problem to her attention. He brought the first set of leads. He heard the I Ching reading. And he might present a more credible case than the woman who was vomiting into Elinor's toilet just a few nights before. She glances at him, very silently passing the ball in a comfortable way.

—-

Though the two who enter Elinor's apartment are probably very much alive, Red Robin makes as little noise as a spectre, his booted footfalls nearly silent no matter how uncertain and creaky the flooring might be; that white-lensed gaze moves over everything, taking in the interior carefully in case of any surprises, before turning his attention to the medium herself.

"The beginning… Fine," he says. "The last time either Zatanna Zatara or John Constantine were seen by anyone was Valentine's Day. The last known sighting of Miss Zatara is this." His cape shifts, one gauntleted hand coming out from under it, and then a holographic panel is projected in the air over his hand, showing footage of a dark-haired young woman climbing one of the statues at Rockefeller Center. "Posted on social media that night. Since then, no one has seen or heard from her, and the last place I was able to track her to was here."

The image changes. The entrance to some kind of nightclub, guarded by a single large, dark man in a tuxedo.

"The Abyss, an exclusive social spot for the magically oriented," Red Robin explains, though he perhaps hopes that Elinor already knows about it. "Miss Jones and I have been following up with some of Constantine's contacts in the city, and I was able to obtain a… Reading. Signposts to look out for, if we want to save these two from wherever they're being held. Among others, it refers to a robin," he gestures at the emblem on the chest of his costume, a bird's head in profile. "And a raven, Miss Ravensdale. 'The raven must speak to the weeping whore in the ruins of the glittering ashes,' is the line in particular. I don't suppose anything about that jumps out to you?"

—-

Looking to Jessica she shakes her head. "No, I can't. I could, and I would probably be really great at it, but I don't." She has her reasons, but this doesn't seem the time to get into it at the moment. When Robin is given the task of retelling the tale, she turns her attention to him. She walks closer when he pops up the hologram and leans forwards to get a closer look at it. "I can't say I've heard of it, but I can't say that I'm socially oriented." At least not with the living.

She crosses her arms behind her back as listens to this prophecy and shakes her head. "Surely there are more ravens out there besides myself, and a weeping whore isn't very specific." She says with a sigh. That's when something odd happens. One of her arms is tugged out from behind her back, as if someone shorter than her was tugging on it. This happens several times before she looks down and shakes her head. "So, do you need me to stake out the club, or look for a whore in haystack?"

—-

"We need to gain entry to the club, which you can probably do because you're a mystic…and then we need to find out what happened to John and Zee in there." Jessica says quietly. "I'd start by finding out where they were in the club. I imagine the opportunity will present itself. Maybe you can get one or both of us in with you, and then we'd be able to help guide the investigation as well. Red, if you have to choose…he's more versatile and better at the job."

If she feels any upset or embarrassment about saying this, it doesn't show; it sounds like frank and normal admiration.

"But both if you can."

—-

"Believe me, I wish the clues we were given were more specific, too," Red Robin says. Under other circumstances that might be said ruefully, with a hint of a smile or something; right now, though, the vigilante is increasingly feeling the weight of time pulling down on him, and the way their lack of real knowledge about what's happened grates on him. Makes him fret, worry.

But rather than getting frustrated, he just gets focused. It is, after all, the only chance they really have.

He does notice the way Elinor's arm… Moves… Though she doesn't seem to want to deal with whatever, or whoever, is causing that to happen right now; his gaze shifts down towards the empty air beside the medium's hand, but of course there's nothing there for him to see.

Disconcerting.

"It must refer to something, these 'glittering ashes'. And I would hope that these hints aren't… Completely random. There must be some way to figure it out. Maybe something will stand out for you in the Abyss. Although it seems someone else needs your attention…?"

—-

"I suppose it wouldn't be a prophecy if it came out told you want you needed to know." Elinor says dryly before she looks over the Jessica. "I could probably get in there, though how fancy of a dress is this place? If this guy out front was in a Tuxedo, I should probably look the part. Between the living and the dead, someone must have seen them." Though she does look a little nerverous at the thought of how crowded this place might be. "Who ever wants to come along is free to do so, but would you look a little obvious dressed like that?" She gestures to Robin's outfit. When he mentions the ghost that is bothering her she nods. "Just one second."

She kneels down and turns to look at the Ghost, and it's obvious by the look on her face it's someone she knows well. "I know Bobby, but I can't help everyone who likes Pizza, that can't be my criteria." She reaches up as if to brush some hair out of someones face before she nods. "But if it'll make you happy I will." She ruffles the ghosts hair, which still looks odd since neither of them can see him before she nods. "So, when do we start?"

—-

"It's fancy," Jessica agrees. After all, it would only take a few hours of surveillance to tell that, and Tim's had the place under surveillance forever. That's why she's back in what Red might have called her "librarian mode"—the black pants-suit and the bright red blouse. She doesn't own an evening dress or anything, but that's close enough. She did get new shoes. Her hair is down for this though.

She glances at Tim, but…that's his problem to solve. "It's also a weird crowd," she says slowly. "So…you might be able to play it straight anyway, Red…" Well, she has no idea. But she stands up, sort of eager to go. She spares the space where Bobby is a glance, but as long as he's not throwing shit she's all good. "Now though. If we can. Or at least you know. As long as it takes folks to get…attire."

—-

"If you need appropriate clothes we can get you some, the club is only open at night," the vigilante says. He's been doing his homework on the place, or at least as much as he can. Any nightclub where the surname 'Wayne' can't get him through the door is definitely going to be a tough nut to crack when it comes to mundane research.

Slowly, his head turns to Jessica.

"You too, there's no way you're going to a fancy nightclub in a pantsuit, Miss Jones."

In another situation, that too would be a joke. Right now, it's just a simple statement of fact. As for him, well, he doesn't have much choice but to go in the way he is, which is definitely going to attract attention, but if he attracts attention then hopefully the PI and the ghost whisperer won't.

"There should be some places downtown still open."

—-

"Let me get dressed then." Elinor had pajamas on at the very least, definitely not something you can go to a fancy club in. "Well I am sure the sort that hang out there are not the sort to like to hang out in the day time." It only takes her a moment to get into something to go shopping in, and tame her wild hair into a messy bun. Calling out from the other room she speaks to whomever will listen. "Can someone get Ninja Turtles going on Netflix?" Sure it's a random task, but it'll save her time getting out of the door.

Once she is all dressed and presentable, she grabs her satchel and walks over to one of the windows. Very carefully she pulls back the shade and looks outside. Frowning, she adds a hoodie to her outfit and grabs a black umbrella out of the closet. "Lead the way. If we can get there through back alley ways, that would be fantastic."

—-

And so it is that the three heroes find themselves in the lobby of the Abyss nightclub as one young ghost watches Ninja Turtles on Netflix. Jessica is feeling exposed and vulnerable in a midnight blue evening dress, but she put on make-up and put her hair in a bun. She'd worn flats, making it even worse, because she can't run in flats. But she'd seen the wisdom. She hadn't complained. For John and Zee she'd go a lot farther than this. And if she gets uneasy every time it looks like people might be paying too much attention to her in this get-up, for she does clean up very nicely indeed, she nevertheless keeps her mouth shut about it.

A tall, handsome black man in a flawless tuxedo meets them at the entrance, blocking the way to an elevator that leads into the club proper. He clears his throat slightly, his gaze sweeping over the three of them contemplatively before settling on one Elinor Ravensdale.

"Welcome to the Abyss," he says. "I don't believe we've had you here before." He explains their cover charges and rules, noting the fact that Abyss is neutral territory and that magical dueling is not allowed, and then: "Your retainers may accompany you if you so desire, but know that you will be held responsible for their behavior."

—-

Truthfully, Red Robin had given the two women some money and let them take care of it, both because obviously women would have a better idea of what they were doing than he would, and also because it would be extremely strange for him to be hanging around in costume and offering outfit suggestions.

It probably doesn't matter as long as they both look nice, right? Right.

Sensibly, the vigilante also keeps his mouth shut about how nicely Jessica does or does not clean up, figuring she probably would be sensitive about the matter, and instead he focuses on getting them to the entrance of the Abyss with as little fuss and bother as possible, keeping them away from the crowds as per Elinor's preference… And once they're there, well, it's the magically active Ravensdale who gets addressed by the doorman, so Red Robin looks to her, letting her do the talking.

—-

Elinor's dress is simple, it's a long black dress with a long slit up one side, and long bell sleeves. Her hair is also pulled up off of her neck, and her makeup isn't completely goth, just subtly. When they walk up to the place, she's already working her magic. She's taking a mental note of who is already here and dead, as well as those who are here living as well. Before they get to the man at the door, she links arms with Jessica and puts on a chummy act with her, while letting Red look like the hired muscle. When she gets to the man at the door she fixes her posture and puts on a slightly bored smile. "You have not. Elinor Ravensdale, I believe that I fit your criteria for enterence." She'll let Tim handle the money but nods her head. "They have assured me that they will be on their best behaviour. We simply looking to have a good time this evening." She's at least attempting to be charming, which is a contrast from her normal grumpy demeanor. "Right darlings?" She says gesturing to her 'friends'.

—-

"Of course, darling." Jessica says, looking for all the world like a bestie, or more.

Jessica may be learning how to have real relationships, but she can fake them with a vengeance. It's all very easy when she doesn't have to give a shit about the emotions or reactions of the other person on the end of the transaction— in this case, the doorman. It only gets hard when she finds herself caring about everyone involved. Really hard, then, in fact, making every interaction a lot more…fraught.

But nothing is fraught tonight. She is on the hunt.

"Very good, Miss Ravensdale," the doorman says primly.

They are given entry into an ostentatious elevator that looks like a cylindrical glass cannister with a mother-of-pearl floor. It seems to look out on a panorama of galaxies and stars. Elinor could see it's a glamour, but it's a well-constructed one.

It does not ascend, but descends.

"Right. Abyss," Jessica says thoughtfully, as she feels the elevator glide down, though in truth there is very little sensation.

At this stage there have been very few dead people. The elevator opens onto a coat room. And then the establishment itself: exclusive and filled with the living and the dead alike, with various wings and floors. The central, main floor room has vaulted ceilings, chandeliers and a wall-length bar. Carnivale is coming; many are in masks; gold, green, and purple flames drip from the chandeliers. It's a beautiful place. The dead dance alongside the living as a live band plays very classy music. Sometimes the dead dance with the living.

There are no sign of ashes or anything like that yet, but…they are most definitely in. And once they are in, even Red will find that he's more an object of curiosity than prejudice; he's not exactly the only non-magical person in here, but he may indeed be one of the more exotic "retainers."

—-

Since he's the muscle, Red Robin's only response is a quiet grunt of acknowledgement, though it seems he'll also be dealing with the cover charges. It's not like he minds - he would, and has, paid worse prices in the hopes of finding Zatanna and Constantine. Still, it's a kind of relief once they're in the elevator, headed down. He seems impassive as always, but of course the vigilante is observing everything, at least everything he can see once they're in the club proper, cataloging everything. You never know when any seemingly minor tidbit might be important, later.

"Hnnh," he rumbles, cape settling around him. Of course, he would still manage to be the most outlandishly dressed person even in a secret wizard nightclub. "Nice place. Anything catch your eye, Miss Ravensdale?"

—-

Once they are through the door and in the elevator, Elinor relaxes just a touch. The hard part is done, and now the harder part begins. Once the doors open and they see the opulent room around them she sighs. "Of course a place like this would be that expensive." She watches as the dead dance with the living, and for just a second she gets lost in the ambiance. When Red speaks, she shakes her head and begins to focus. "There are plenty of the living and the dead here, they seem to mingle with each other as if they were all the same. It's absolutely fascinating." Though she knows she can't study that at the moment she needs to focus. "I don't see any sort of dust here, but it could be mean anything. I'll ask around and see if I can see if anyone has seen your friends." With that she looks over the room ,looking for a solitary ghost to pester, someone who isn't dancing. She isn't that brave to go out on the floor just yet.

—-

Elinor finds a blonde man in a bowler hat. It's drawn low over his eyes, and he's shuffling cards in his corner of the room. He wears an absolutely beautiful vest; his clothes are impeccable.

He knows her. "Elinor, darling," says the ghost known as Preston Bayweather, a former luck-twisting wizard who is now quite dead and quite content not to move on because he's a little uncertain about his ultimate destination. "This isn't normally your cup of tea. Have you come to ask me for a dance or a game? Or are you here on business?"

Jessica lets go of Elinor's arm to let her do her work, then looks at Tim, blowing her cheeks out. "I hate to leave all of this to Elinor," she murmurs under her breath. "I'm going to work the room just a little until she finds something, talk to some of the guests if I can. Do you wanna quiz some of the staff members? We're in now, we might as well make the most of it. We maybe all should stay in line of sight of each other though, if we can, so we can regroup as soon as anyone finds anything."

She'll soon suit action to words. It's just not in her nature to just stand there; this being neutral territory means Elinor hardly needs a bodyguard, any more than Jessica needs shoes she can run in. Though it's not completely without danger. The line of sight precaution isn't just so they can regroup quickly.

This is, after all, the place where John and Zee came…and disappeared.

—-

"It's her area of expertise," Red Robin reminds Jessica. Or at least it's what he's told her area of expertise is; for all the reading he's done in the books Zatanna lent him from her father's library, it's only the very basics of the basics. He wouldn't know how to discern if Elinor was the genuine article or a madwoman, though the fact that the doorman let her in is at least suggestive of the former.

He really hopes.

"But that sounds like as good a plan as any. Go turn on the charm, Miss Jones, and I'll…" He looks down at himself, and then shrugs. He'll do things his way.

Which makes the next step looking for someone who seems to work there, and who looks like they'd be able to talk, which in his experience probably means a bartender. He moves towards the bar with the sort of confidence that says that walking in a nightclub in leather and armor, in a cape and cowl, is perfectly normal behaviour and everyone else is in the wrong, though he makes a point of keeping Jessica and Elinor where he can see them with minimal effort.

—-

"Preston!" Elinor says with a smile on her face and an ease to her step. She nods to both of her 'retainers' when they go to do their own investigating. "What, I can't dress nice and come some please that doesn't have a sticky floor and a bad sound system?" She's laying it on a little thick, but she needs information from the ghost. "I'm afraid I'm all business, but you are more than welcome to attend my next graveyard party." Leaning in she lowers her voice just a touch. "I'm looking for some friends." She says, giving Preston a quick description and their names. "They came in a few weeks ago and haven't been seen since. We're a little worried about them and if you saw anything I'd greatly appricate it if you could pass it along. I might even save a dance for you."

—-

"Ahhh. I bet I know who you're talking about. Cecily saw the whole thing, upstairs. It's been quite the source of gossip, the Valentine's gift gone horribly wrong. That of course has her in a bit of a rant. She was a lovely courtesan, our Cecily. She says she won't move on till she finds true love. Sadly, I am not in love with her, or I'd have done my very best. It's really hard to love a woman who cries into her cups. I don't remember the precise room it was though; she haunts all the suites upstairs."

The bartender is a lovely woman with a bit of sparkly green, purple, and gold glitter at the corners of her eyes. "What may I get for you?" she asks Red, like it's nothing. She gives him a lovely smile. She's waving an honest-to-god wand over a very tall glass, swirling various forms of alcohol around into a green and blue drink that looks almost smoky.

Across the room, Jessica suddenly finds herself swept into a dance. She looks tight-mouthed and tight-eyed as she basically interrogates him and steps on his feet. She does not, however, crush his feet accidentally. She doesn't look like she's getting anywhere other than wigged out, so it's up to those two.

—-

The bartender isn't really strange, except for the magic wand thing. Fancy glittering makeup could be perfectly normal. Not the magical drink mixing though.

"Just a Coke," Red Robin replies, as both a strict teetotal and also someone who isn't of legal age to drink anyway. Not that he doesn't have fake IDs, but then he'd have to take off his cowl… Honestly it would be a whole mess.

Whatever the price of the drink is, though, the tip the vigilante gives is… Frankly ridiculous, because he's trying to butter the bartender up, and again in the whole getup he can't really turn on the charm either. But money talks, as they say.

"I was wondering if anything strange happened in here last week… On Valentine's Day?"

—-

"A crying courtesan? Perfect, I absolutely need to speak with her. It's fated, or something like that." Elinor says brightly, both frightened and excited that this so called prophecy is coming true. "Can you take me to her?" Though something else occurs to her. "Wait, do they still do that here?" She needs to know, for reasons. "And a present gone wrong? Let me guess, to mystics tried to out mystic each other with their gift to prove who mystically loves each other more? This is why I don't date." She says dryly.

—-

They do serve Coke at Abyss as it happens. The bartender laughs. "Darling, look around you. Strange is the name of the game here."

But she looks down at the ridiculous tip and lowers her voice, swirling the booze. She peers down into it, perhaps to narrow down whatever it is that Red really wants, because for a moment Red will see images appear slowly in the glass that apparently gives her a wealth of information to draw from..

"Ah. That. Yes, Mr. Red. John Constantine rented a room he and his lady-friend never emerged from. For this kind of cash I assume you're talking about that. If you're hoping to look at the resonances I'm afraid you're out of luck though. They get scrubbed and wiped every night. It can be unpredictable, leaving too much trace magic about. Nobody really knows what happened, and…this isn't the kind of establishment where the owner is um…conscientious enough…to worry about leaving evidence for people, you know what I'm saying? But…" She looks left and right, then produces a room key with a number on it.

"That's the room. Maybe there will still be something that will help you. I wish you luck either way. That's really all I can say without getting into some deep trouble. My boss really values discretion and confidentiality too."

"You should date me, darling," Preston says, putting his cards away and rising. "You know you're only ever really going to be happy with a dead man. And you'd be surprised by how good I can still be in the boudoir." He waggles his eyebrows at her. "Ah good, your friend has a key. I'm afraid the locks are a bit much for me. I mean sure, I could go through the walls, but you can't." He even courteously materializes enough that Red and Jess will be able to see him too, once they all reconvene.

Now someone just needs to rescue Jessica Jones, who looks seriously ready to snap and just headbutt her dance partner over there. He's getting handsy, and now all her concentration seems to be on mysteriously blocking him every time his hands move. Her promise of good behavior has held her this far, but…it's not going well over there. But once they do…

Preston leads them to doors which are well-concealed in the main ballroom walls. This takes them to a vivarium, filled with mystical animals and gorgeous plants. But that's not their final destination. That would be another elevator, one which simply reads Red's key. This will take them up to a private room…the one John and Zee shared.

Two steps downward lead to a shallow sitting area, the difference in height forming a plush, deep-ring shaped sofa that circles a central table. In the very center there's a low gas fire. The rest of the room is strangely blank.

One woman sits there, though only to Elinor's eyes. She's dressed in a bright red 1920s dress with a slit ripping right up the side of her leg. She nurses a ghostly drink…somehow someone has contrived a way to get the ghosts here drinks they can actually enjoy, and stares mopily into it. She's not actually weeping, it might be noted, but close enough. She's an uncommonly beautiful woman, with short-cut black hair in the flapper style.

—-

This is why, even though he doesn't drink, Red Robin likes bartenders. They always know things, even things they're not really supposed to know… And it's usually not hard to get them to give up an answer or two, as long as you've got a few presidential friends along to help smooth things out.

Which isn't to say that he likes what he hears, for various reasons. It sounds like a dead end for one, with all this talk of scrubbed resonances, and for another there's a distant feeling of something in his gut clenching, a feeling he tries to push further way, to ignore. That's not useful right now, or ever. Right now it's the Work, and nothing else is in any way relevant.

"You might find it hard to believe, but I'm big on discretion and confidentiality too," says the young man in the full body costume, his voice disguised. But he manages a tight smile for the bartender as he makes the key vanish by a perfectly mundane feat of legerdemain, finishing off his cola quickly.

"Thanks for the drink," he tells her, before moving away from the bar. And then he sees Jessica's situation.

"Hnn," he mutters to himself.

Moments later, the Red Robin is there, a grim figure practicaly materialising out of the dimness of the dance floor. He's not going to start anything, that would jeapordise, well… Everything. Instead…

"Miss Ravensdale needs you, Miss Jones," he says to the PI, ignoring her 'dance partner' entirely before he starts actually guiding the woman away, as though he could manage to pull her anywhere she didn't want to go. They do, after all, need to regroup, since now he has the key to the private room, and Elinor has… A guy in really outdated clothing.

Well, whatever.

Soon enough, the vivarium, and then the private room, whose sole current occupant is invisible to him; instead, Red Robin scans around on various wavelengths, searching for anything mundane that the magical owners might've missed. Infrared, ultraviolet, thermographic… You never know where you might find a clue.

—-

Jessica definitely wants to go with Red Robin; she lets him guide her along as if she really was just a slip of a thing.

"Thank fucking god," she mutters under her breath. "That man needs his face broken in about 15 places and I don't know if I'd have held out much longer."

Once they're in the other room it doesn't take long for Elinor to engage the ghost in some conversation, but…Cecily is very interested in getting whatever she can out of Elinor. As Red scans the room he does find something…ash. Traces of ash in places where even a dedicated cleaning crew might miss them, for they are merely traces, as if blown back from some distant location.

And so it is that she materializes long enough for Red to see her, and then sort of…flicks a finger at Preston in what appears to be, for a moment, a sort of telepathic exchange of info. Then she winds her arm around Elinor's and draws her off to the side, looking very demanding.

"Well…" Jessica murmurs. "She did speak to her."

Preston sighs and shakes his head. "She's a terribly bitchy little tart," he tells them both apologetically. "But. It seems that Mr. Constantine gave Miss Zatanna a wishing gem. She kissed it…as is traditional…and it triggered something. They were pulled somewhere. She rather ate the psychic impression of what reverberated back down the portal…if I may?"

He reaches his fingers out to both of them, touching Jessica and Red on the forehead. They're cold, those fingers, though not unpleasantly so.

For a moment they're standing in a replica of this room, only it's not elegant anymore. It's water damaged. The couch is mouldering and disintegrating. Dust and ash coat everything, sticking firmly to their skin. There is a door, but Preston cautions, "You're just getting a psychic reflection of what happened next; you're not really here; be careful where you try to walk."

It's a good psychic impression. It's like breathing in mouthful after mouthful of ash.

—-

"A dragon pearl," Red Robin says distractedly, on the subject of the 'wishing gem'. Using it triggered something. Pulled them somewhere. He stoops to take a sample of the ashes, though he has no way of knowing if they'll be in any way useful; his mind is already racing, trying to make connections. Was it something Wong did? But if so why would he have given up any information at all, when he could've just tossed the cowled vigilante and the PI out on their asses, or had his goons fill them full of lead? Or was it, was it…

'If I may?'

The ghost touches him, and he can feel the cold through his cowl, and then the place around them is different. A psychic reflection, the ghost says, and Red Robin grits his teeth. Whatever it is, it… Isn't pleasant.

—-

"A dragon pearl," Jessica agrees; having been there the night John bought it. With…liquid darkness, which was creepy enough.

Jessica walks around the ash enclosed space. Her expressive face twists into something unpleasant, and she picks up one of the rotting cushions before tossing it down again. By the time it hits the couch they're back; the impression is so short that it's hard to get much done at all there.

"Limbo," Preston says grimly. "Terrible place, isn't it? Now you see why I never bothered to move on. Unfortunately, nobody can stay in limbo for long. The human psyche won't allow it. Nobody just stays put there, waiting for rescue. They get up and start walking or go mad. And once they do they find their way out. Sadly, out usually leads to one of three places: Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. Given the ash and the dust and all of that…well. My professional opinion as a very dead wizard is that the intent was to send them straight to Hell. Nobody puts this much effort into that kind of a trap without a nasty end in mind; whoever did this might well have arranged to make sure every viable door out led in that direction. The magic is…mmm. Resonates…African, maybe, maybe Haitian. A custom job, very thorough, very, very subtle. Top notch work, though I'm sure my professional opinion might strike you as a little morbid on this count."

He settles down on the much nicer couch, taking Cecily's spot, and adding, "There's good news and bad news in this. The good news is…Hell is survivable, if you're sent there bodily. It's not fun. But it can be survived. The bad news is…if you don't find the person who cast the spell you'll never get them a portal back out again. Hell's a big place; so is Limbo. The spellcaster himself is tied to them and their destinies now, which could be used to draw them back again, but…barring that…you're never going to find them. They might find their own way out, eventually…and that is a big maybe. But were I you…I'd seek the hand that set the trap."

—-

Hell.

It's insane, of course. As a confirmed atheist - and really, could anyone come out of life in the shadows of Gotham City otherwise? - he can't really square the idea of the apocryphal Christian afterlife being somehow literally true. But he knows that there are other places, that there are things that are more ancient than the world of mortal men, things that would be called gods and demons, places that would be like Hell. He can grasp it, that way. Understand it.

The blood pounds in his ears, almost drowning out everything else Preston has to say. Haitian black magic. It's not his first experience with that sort of thing, by proxy.

It's not the first time that sort of thing stole someone he cared about, someone he…

"I could find them. If we can't find whoever did this, I have another way," Red Robin says finally, because he did hear. He did listen, past the anger. "They're still alive, Miss Jones. I would know if Miss Zatara was dead, and if she is, so is he." Yes, he has another way, if it comes down to it… But at what cost?

Those white lenses fall on the ghost. He can't try to intimidate the dead wizard; what's left that he could do to him?

"Do you have any other ideas that might lead to caster?" he wonders, anyway. He needs information. He needs to know. No time for playing games.

—-

Jessica just looks a little pale and sick; she's just imagining the kinds of torture that they could be undergoing right now, far less confident that they could just…find their way out of there. Sure, John Constantine was known, apparently, for being able to navigate the celestial circles, of knowing the rules and the laws, but if some demon just throws them down and gets to work how much good will it do?

So she only gives a mute nod to Red when he says that he has multiple ways to do it.

Preston contemplates. "A spell, a trap like this, tends to have very strange components and requirements. Think…throwing salt over your shoulder, writ large. Look for anything strange, anything out of the ordinary, unravel the thread and follow it back to its source."

"The gang in Chinatown," Jessica says grimly. "I don't get how, but— that has to be it. We had the pearl in our possession when they attacked. Maybe somehow something that went down there gave the caster what he needed. Which means if we find these fuckers, we're going to find a direct line to Main Fucker #1, and then we can cut off his ballsack if he doesn't cough up our friends. Whatever that other way sounds like, Red, it sounds like the kind of terrible and reckless idea I'm going to try to talk you out of in favor of doing this the old fashioned way. We're further than we were before…we need to keep our heads."

Jesus. Since when was Jessica the poster child for keeping their heads?

"But if it comes down to terrible and reckless ideas being our only play…you'd best factor me right into your plans."

She doesn't even know what the terrible and reckless plan is yet, but it doesn't matter, does it? She'd want to be there, right in there.

As well it's not their only play.

—-

The grim words from the PI remind Red Robin of what he was thinking before, because…

"I agree," the detective says, nodding tightly. "As far as we know it's the only other time the pearl was out in the open, and the attack smacks of being a distraction." That they were Latino gangsters in Chinatown all on its own stands out as unusual. He's still not sure the goons that were sent to provide the distraction would be still alive, especially if they were hired by somebody who wanted to send other people to Hell, but that doesn't mean there won't be threads to pull on.

"If it comes down to the backup plan we're going to need to do some more work, so first let's try to find the mastermind behind all of this and see if we can't put him in a cooperative mood." Part of him almost wonders if it's the same man. It would strain coincidence though, wouldn't it? To run into the Obeah Man again after all these years, on something completely unrelated. Of course, Red Robin doesn't believe in coincidence.

But he also can't get ahead of himself. Follow the threads in front of you. He lets out a slow, steadying exhalation.

"Thank you," he says to the ghost. "You've been extremely helpful."

—-

Preston tips his hat. "Any time," he says. "I'd produce a card, but…you know. Dead." He smiles. "Still, Elinor can whistle me up if you need a bit of a consult again. It's nice to exercise my brain, remember the old craft. It doesn't work quite the same way after you cross over." With that, he just sort of edges through the floor.

Meanwhile, Cecily and Elinor come to some sort of arrangement…it appears the weeping whore fully intends to follow Elinor home. Maybe she'll end up watching Ninja Turtles with Kid Ghost.

"I need to change and get down to the docks," Jessica says, pressing a hand into her stomach. But…getting sad isn't going to help them. Worrying isn't going to help them. Anger might, because anger propels Jessica Jones like no other force does.

This is a slow way to get to the answer, but…"There are over 30 Latino gangs in New York that I've found out about. Even starting close to Chinatown and working our way out I think it would take longer to do it that way than to follow the path that Wong set out for us. If you find the Windy Vale and the Woman in White, give me a call."

—-

Getting sad won't help. Worrying won't help.

But they're going to happen, anyway.

Red Robin might as well be a statue after Preston passes through the floor, standing there unmoving with his black cape around him like a shroud. It's progress, of a kind, but that progress has come with a revelation that can only be termed terrible. There's no way for them to know, and no way they'd want to know, what sort of things Zatanna and Constantine are having to fight through now. They're both powerful, so surely they're able to take care of themselves even in a place like that, but… The only reassurance he has is that Zatanna is alive. The details beyond that are pure mystery.

He feels like an icy hand is gripping his heart, squeezing it. He's barely keeping himself together… But of course, it doesn't show. It never does, does it?

Hence the mask, hence the costume.

"What about your contact?" he wonders, his voice an electronically modified growl. Jessica isn't the only one who's angry. "Don't give up on that path, Miss Jones. We can't just wait around for magical inspiration to drop into our laps, right?" His mouth sets into a firm line. Behind the lenses of his cowl, his dark blue eyes hood. "We'll find them. They'll be all right."

If not… He's going to kill whoever's responsible.

—-

"The contact is at the docks. It's just six blocks of docks to comb through, with the police scanner going in the hopes that something tips me off, and the hopes that I find the right dock at the right time to find him stopping Russian human trafficking in the dead of night," Jessica replies, not at all put out by the growling as she feels…pretty much the same way.

"I won't give up. I'm just telling you what we're up against…six blocks and luck, versus thirty gangs. I'm telling you this cause I can't just whistle him up, much as I want to. I'll look for another way though too. It's just I was working on that fucking Chinatown thing for days before I ever knew there was a god damn problem."

She will start the walk out of there, tired of Abyss altogether. She has no mask. She has no costume. Her face settles into dark and worried lines that make her look older than she really is. Her eyes are shadowed and a grim cast takes over her mouth. She looks all too human, in contrast to his inhumanity. None of this even guarantees Dark Dude will help, but…well, good people tend to help. She's less worried about that than simply finding him. If she can explain, she thinks he'll do it. Maybe. Nevermind that she also owes him twice over, that the balance sheet is also all out of whack there.

"But you're right about one thing. We're not waiting around for shit. We will follow these signposts to a solution, and if there isn't a solution at the end of them? Then fuck it. I don't care if we have to go down there and kick Satan's balls, personally. That's what we're going to do if that's what we have to do. I just want to make it clear we're doing it together."

—-

As Jessica leaves, Red Robin follows, an intimidating shadow in her wake. He tries to push away the emotions that are trying to compromise him, to put them in that little box at the back of his mind, where they can't do anything, can't hurt him… Because with those emotions comes the knowledge that he's on the point of breaking the Rule, the one most important rule the Dark Knight has imposed on him, the thing that separates people like him from the people they fight, the depraved monsters who take and ruin lives with impunity. He knows, too, that going by the rules Zatanna has taught him, the Rule is quite applicable in a broader cosmological sense. Breaking it is maybe the one thing that can absolutely guarantee you a trip to the bad place after you die.

But if she was dead, or otherwise lost in Hell for all eternity?

Even as he seeks refuge in the cold logic of the detective, he knows. If that happened, he wouldn't care about the consequences.

"If it came to that I'd have to go alone," he says. "The spell only works for me. Maybe if there was some way to track me in there and fish us back out, but I don't know who could manage something like that." Not Gerry Craft, certainly. Maybe Wong could find someone, but the price would doubtlessly be steep. Though Spoiler had mentioned Doctor Strange…

On the way out, he does return the key to the bartender, not wanting her to get into any trouble with the management.

And then? Well, Jessica is headed for the docks, and he… He has some research to do. The thought of sleeping never even occurs to him.

He knows what's waiting for him, if he did.

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