June 15, 2017:

Jessica Jones seeks out the elusive and mysterious Grymalkin, hoping to secure his aid. Unexpectedly, she receives his advice instead…and a plan to snag a new witness for the defense is born.

Central Park, NYC

It's even pretty cool when it's pouring down rain.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Matt Murdock, Bucky Barnes, John Constantine, Zatanna Zatara

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Hours of studying a certain USB drive, making phone calls, checking on locations, and double checking.

It's the most energized she's felt since Bucky's arrest. She can do something. She can do something useful.

It's a rainy day. It's a hot day. It's a nasty, miserable day. Somewhere along the way she found an umbrella so she could work her electronics without frying them. Which is good, because after she identified her target— one Peter Smirnov, living in the United States as one Peter Smith— she had to make a phone call. To one Matt Murdock, attorney-at-law, letting him know that she had identified a potential witness, a 'trainer' and administrator of a program known as the Kindergarten. A program devoted to taking young children, brainwashing them, and turning them into assassins. A program that in fact was derived from the Red Room and Wolf Spider programs, which was in turn derived from what was done to the Winter Soldier.

Of course. Smirnov/Smith is not exactly on the side of the angels, and is unlikely to want to expose himself to possible prosecution by confessing his crimes for the good of James Barnes. Not without some pushing. He's got a fine, fine career as a god damn Political Science professor at NYU now, of all fucking things.

Matt was surprisingly unconcerned by the idea that Jessica might start making those pushes. His only cautionary note was this: "He can't crack, and he can't admit there was any duress, because Archer's going to ask him why he's telling us all this on cross."

He can't crack. And he can't run.

Jess wasn't sure when the idea was born. He has to feel guilt. Real guilt. He has to want to confess. And he has to feel fear. She's not sure when she added up that equation and got 1+1=get Grymalkin.

But that is, in fact, what happened.

Which is why she's out making the rounds again among her contacts, doing the same sort of search that brought her face-to-face with him the first time. After wrapping up an interview with an old drug dealer playing chess under a pavilion in Central Park, Jessica mutters, "I gotta buy this guy a phone."

The chances of finding one black cat in all of New York City is daunting at best. Make that an invisible illusionary magical cat. Couple that with the fact that Jessica Jones very specifically told him to keep a lower profile in his adventures and.. Well.

Grymalkin ironically enough is not slumming amidst the lowest of the city as he once did. These days he's haunting the pinnacle of modern security and civilization. Jessica might have gotten a tip if she had contacts in the Triskelion about 'odd black cat disturbances'. The sorts of disturbances that would seem to be like her culprit, but what he could be doing in SHIELD's backyard is anyone's guess.

And it's been a few weeks since the last known disturbance. From what little she had endured of him, he seems to the type to show up when wants and be on call for no one. Perhaps she needs to rethink her strategy, finding Grymalkin is not on the table and she needs to consider her other allies of the mystical persuasion to-

"Buy who a phone?" A familiar voice in her ear. This time it is no disembodied voice, but a young man wearing what seems to be some sort of english suit. His head tilted just so to be looking over her shoulder with innocent curiosity, his gloved hands stuffed in his pant pockets with his longish hair sweeping over his blue eye. The golden eye peering with some mirth.

As serendipity would have it, Grymalkin was in the neighborhood. He had met with a certain friend of his earlier and decided to explore Central Park for all it's secret madness and beauty.

Oh he had heard from more than one or two acquaintances that Miss Jones has been busy on cases or rehabilitation in equal measure, but decided not to bother her further. She seemed a decent enough sort and was taking care of Juno sooo.. Let her live her life without Grymalkin's particular brand of shenanigans.

But when she was walking around and talking to dealers in Central Park in the hot rain.. He just couldn't help himself.

A wide black umbrella with a curved cane handle currently keeps the rain off of him, making him look like Mary Poppin's understudy.

As it happens, Jess does have some contacts up at SHIELD. The timely tip is helpful, but it's frustrating. Maybe she needs to just rethink the whole pl—

And there he is. Serendipitous indeed.

"You, as a matter of fact," the PI says, inclining her head to him. "Though it seems like I got lucky this time." And last time, really. But she will never turn down the power of luck; it is a fine professional tool.

The rain is nice for keeping most people away, at least. She shifts her own umbrella— it's steel grey, and modern— and says, "I've come to ask for your help with something. It…might be…entertaining for you?" She does know how he likes his entertainment.

(As for keeping a low profile, she has heard a thing or two about a certain incident with a young lady and a car, but…she's chosen not to address it. Sally wasn't hurt, after all, and since 'not hurting people' was what Jones had stressed…she could only sigh at her own wording choices when she heard).

"And if entertainment isn't enough to compensate you, well, maybe we can work something out."

She tilts her head at him, a silent request to see if he is interested in hearing more.

"Meeee?" The familiar voice draws out the word as he straightens, resting the shaft of the umbrella on his shoulder as he takes a more conversational distance and listens to Jessica's offer with grinning disbelief.

He lifts a hand to point a finger with hooked wrist, chuckling as he finally states, "You. You must be seriously desperate." Himself amused enough at the notion that this woman, without any real hope of finding him, would seek him out of all beings specifically for the reward of precisely what she got furious with him over the first time they met.

The well dressed fellow gestures then to a nearby park bench, "Oh. Oh I have -got- to hear this. Please." He sweeps a hand and the layer of water upon the wooden bench splashes away leaving it briefly dry. Dry enough to sit upon as he throws himself onto the outdoor furnishing as casually as if it was a sofa. Throwing one leg over the other.

Notably, that British accent she first heard in his voice is gone, as is much of that menace that was there. Perhaps it was all just a show? It was a terrorizing performance of a sort.

It's a measure of how exhausted and depressed she's been that Jessica Jones doesn't even bristle at his teasing. A measure of how desperate she actually is that she doesn't deny it. She lets herself be swept to the bench, looking moderately impressed by the trick that renders it dry enough to sit on without soaking a puddle of cold water straight into her ass.

She notices the lack of accent and menace, and just sort of notes it. Show is what she'd guess. He's capricious and playful and probably can do more accents than the late Robin Williams. And possibly still in trouble, though he certainly seems content enough today.

For a moment she says nothing, but she looks more like she's gathering her thoughts than withholding. At last she says, "You can't have missed the matter of the Trial of Two Centuries." Start there, ground him, give the information out slowly. She's learned her lesson, at last, about simply dumping dossiers of information on people's head at top speed. It's a matter of having had the firehose effect turned upon her one too many times in recent weeks.

Social skills come slowly to this woman, but they do eventually come.

"Yes! Buckyyyy." Grymalkin draws out the name as he catches on immediately. It seems someone reads the news very regularly. "Sergeant James Barnes on trial. Did you know I actually met the man recently?" The amiable fellow grinning brightly, settling into the conversation like Jessica was an old friend. Off-putting to say the least. "Turns out our favorite little Ghost Girl looks up to him very highly. I had wondered why and what this 'Winter Soldier' code name business was about.. Until the story broke. Heh! Wow, all the skeletons in his closet eh? If only I knew then. If only!"

He shakes his head and clicks his tongue at the missed opportunity to tease information out of what's currently the single most interesting person in America.

Grymalkin ventures then, mismatched eyes twinkling, "Don't tell me you want me to spring him for little Juno's sake.."

Ah. Of course. Jessica listens to this cheerful narrative, connecting some dots. But she hardly reacts to that either. He speaks of springing Bucky, and she shakes her head. "No. Things aren't that simple, and what he needs is acquittal. Not to be caught on the run the rest of his life. If he really wanted to get away, he could, without assistance from either of us. Juno's already been managed."

She's already had to warn Juno off doing anything rash. It hadn't occurred to her that it might occur to Grymalkin to intervene. Well. She's issuing the warning now. "I've found a witness who might be very helpful to the defense," she says. "But he's a shithead. A villian of the highest calibre. He was one of the ones who ran the program Juno came from. Looks like he might have been involved in an older program too. Both touch on the issues surrounding this case. Both programs touch on Bucky. Too. We need this guy to be a perfect defense witness, but…he's not going to tell his story just cause it's the right thing to do. Ideally? He'd feel real guilt. Real remorse. Maybe a fear of something bigger than his former compatriots, or going to an American jail for what he's done. And he needs to think it all came from him, that he wants to do this…and he can't have any cockamamie stories when the prosecution asks him the big why. Not mind controlled into it, but just. Nudged. Manipulated. And I thought, given all your games around the city, that you might have what it takes to make him think it's in his best interests to play ball."

A pause. She's been looking out at the rain all this time. Now she looks at him. "I thought up a plan. You might have an even better one. I'm definitely open to suggestions. But either way, I thought of you, and thought you might have the extra edge that could deliver us what we need."

"But he will be on the run the rest of his life." Grymalkin points out casually with an apologetic grin, "If he actually did what they said he did, they will never let him go even if these 'courts' say he's innocent."

With that nugget of unsolicited wisdom volunteered, Grymalkin then listens to Jessica's deal with calm patience. He listens to details about this stool pigeon, placing his first knuckle to his lip in contemplation. Clearly any moral outrage of manipulating the witness does not dawn on the dressed magician in the slightest.

He considers a moment longer with the rain lightly drumming his umbrella, internally debating how much he wishes to reveal of what he can actually do before he ventures, "I should point out that I cannot influence minds directly." Both an unfortunate revelation and reassuring all at the same time, "But that's not what you want anyway. Hrmmm. Quite a pickle." He grins then and chuckles, "Your problem is that he has every reason to keep our illustrious killer in jail. Our 'Winter Soldier' will kill him the moment he's able for what was done to him. If these rumors are true that is." Illuminating a point that Jessica may not have considered. "At the very -least- his safety must be assured. Exchanging his personal safety in return for his cooperation would be a pretty good start."

Jessica's mouth tightens at the first revelation, but it doesn't change the facts. Bucky has chosen to stand trial. If he isn't acquitted, he will definitely die to lethal injection. He's not going to run. He's not going to allow someone to spirit him away. He's going to allow them to pump as much lethal shit into his arm as it takes, and then he's going to die.

She's a lot less worried about people coming for him. What's going to happen to those people is they are going to die. Any assassins ballsy enough to come calling on James Barnes? She wouldn't lay bets on them lasting 5 minutes. She would be interested in laying bets as to whether Bucky simply beats them, tells them to fuck off, and sends them back to their handlers though, because she could see him doing that too.

The notion that he might kill the witness later doesn't strike Jessica as hard as some of the killing she's been trying to avoid herself. It doesn't provide the same uneasiness as Bradenburg. It's funny to her what strikes her conscience and what doesn't.

Instead, she turns her mind back to the problem. "Yeah. The plan I had originally involved you maybe scaring the shit out of him in some way that also brought him face to face with his crimes, and then me showing up to offer 'my protection' if he'd play ball. Something involving some carefully chosen illusions, maybe, or…"

She spreads her hands. A trickster, Jessica Jones isn't.

A trickster, Grymalkin is.

To her initial plan, the well-dressed man gives a 'not bad' expression as she describes the good cop, bad cop play. An oldie but a goodie, even for Grymalkin's sense of 'old'.

As her trailing voice requests his input, he gestures with his hand and adds, "Or we just simply tell him what he already knows. Something we already know."

He holds his hand as flat as a knife, palm inward beneath his chin.

"You and me both know that Sergeant Barnes could escape jail at will. At any time if he really wanted.

The hand sweeps upward, covering his face in brief. Where his hand passes Grymalkin's head disappears.. Replacing with Bucky's.

"And we both know Bucky would kill him in an instant for what he's done, if he just knew where he was." Grymalkin's voice has changed, sounding very much like the Bucky he himself met and talk to a few weeks ago. A perfect, illusionary resemblance now, even if his body is nowhere near powerful or tall enough to pass for the Winter Soldier, but these things can be arranged.

"It's amazing what people will confess to when faced with their own monsters, wouldn't you say?"

Not bad indeed.

Jessica Jones leans back thoughtfully. "If he tells the prosecutor Bucky threatened him though…we're toast. It'll just put another nail in his coffin. He might even freak out on the stand and tell Archer all about how Bucky showed up to shake him down, just to make sure he goes to prison, just to make sure he's safe."

She draws her umbrella closer over her head, frowning, trying to think her way through it. They check the RFID logs, note that Bucky was never actually there, but people might believe anything of the 'Winter Soldier', including that he could fool the logs. Jane certainly could. It could create a mountain of trouble.

"Maybe Bucky's not the right person to be," she says slowly. "Maybe you need to be Juno. One of the girls he broke. One of the girls he turned into a killer. Out for revenge of her own…being exactly what he made her to be. But Juno's no Bucky by reputation, and that could have unexpected consequences for her."

Damn, but she's tired. Fuck. There's a way through this quagmire, but it has to be just right. She rubs her hand over her face. "I'm sorry. I'm not trying to waste your time. It's just that if he says the wrong thing on the stand he could do way more harm than good."

Grymalkin is not as well-versed in this digital age, in how well they keep track of individuals and the flaws of his plan. 'Bucky' then disappears as his hand sweeps back down, replacing Grymalkin's younger face as his familiar mismatched eyes return, "Oooh I have a lot of faith in fear. If he knew Bucky could escape jail, for certain, he'd know that if he did offer condemning testimony he'd be a dead man. And Barnes would simply have to live 'on the run' as feared." Shrugging his shoulder, lifting the umbrella a few inches higher. "No plan is one hundred percent of course."

As Jessica then suggests using Juno's visage Grymalkin simply laughs, "But you have Juno herself. No illusion I have could replicate her so exactly as the real deal." He grins wider now, "Care to put her rehabilitation to the test?"

As she visibly shows a minute of exhaustion, he tilts his head. Unlike her he seems inexhaustible, but then someone as cavalier as he probably doesn't even understand what 'stress' actually means. No identity, can be invisible and look like anyone or anything? Responsibility must be alien to him.

The cat whom is a man does offer this further insight, "Unless we chain his mind there is always the chance he says the wrong thing, no matter what we do." He chuckles then as he adds, "Of course, if we do enslave him we're just as guilty AS him. I suppose that would mean we'd both have to hang then." He grins wider, "Since I can float that's more an inconvenience for you I think. Heh heh!"

Sobering a fraction his tongue runs the inside of his teeth as he continues, "I am no stranger to human nature. Any man who could turn a child into a murderer has no fear for others, only himself. He will do anything to save himself, including playing along someone else's game - no matter how twisted. Rather than create a new fantasy for him to fear and obey, he's created one for himself far more vivid than anything I could do. These Russian killers are weapons of terror and nothing else motivates a man as completely as terror."

A ominous pause.

"I could of course bribe him!" Breaking the tension as Grymalkin cheerfully pipes up, raising a finger, "What would be worth the testimony? It seems people kill each other over a few million dollars, that should be enough."

"She's not nearly rehabilitated enough," Jessica says, shaking her head firmly.

She might never be rehabilitated enough.

He's right, of course, about the fact that there's always a chance, and a good one. "I won't enslave anybody," she says, the same old anger surfacing in her words. "Not for any reason, not even to save Bucky, even if I had the means, even if you did, that is a no go."

She drums her fingers against her knee, staring off into the distance. What would Bucky think of her using his face to shake a man into confessing on his behalf? But what else would this man fear as much or as completely? The moral dilemma turns over and over in her head.

"He won't take that, he can't spend it if he's dead, or in prison." That in response to the million dollars.

And then the answer hits her, all at once. A hybrid of Grymalkin's plan, and her own.

"The Winter Soldier," she says slowly, "Doesn't have to threaten him directly to make him piss his pants. He has to be…behind him on the street for a moment. At a cafe. At the grocery store with him. At his window, then impossibly gone. He goes to look, or to run, and there's just a cat there. Ramp up the legend. Never say a word. Bucky can't be held accountable just because someone thinks they saw him. And then maybe I do roll up with 'come with me if you want protection, I will tell you exactly what to do.' Because you're right, there's probably nothing that's going to scare him more. It might…just take a few glimpses of a man he can't prove was ever there."

As Jessica seems to dismiss the possibility of involving Juno, Grymalkin speaks up as he clicks his tongue, "Don't be so sure." Resettling on the bench he leans forward enough to add with a sincere look, "In what I've seen of Juno, she worships the ground the Winter Soldier walks upon. Given a choice between her own revenge and Barnes' salvation.. I think you may be pleasantly surprised which direction she'll jump."

As she then describes her revelation, going into detail of how to arrange the setup, Grymalkin ahs! "Yes. Nooow you're cooking. Let his own thoughts and fears be his undoing. Let him convince himself of what move he needs to make and then just hand it to him. Brilliant!"

He folds his hands together then, his umbrella mysteriously floating in the air next to him without handling to preserve his suit, "I will warn you however. Using Juno for this has a higher chance of success and a larger additional benefit." Smiling then as he adds, "You'll banish Bucky's demons.. And Juno's at the same time."

Jessica Jones looks surprised as Grymalkin suggests bringing Juno in on it, and not his own illusions. Huh. It seems to amuse him to be her counselor in this, perhaps as much as the trick did. Or at least, he doesn't mind.

She contemplates it from as many angles as possible. By her face, she's running down a host of fears and concerns, a lot that could go wrong. Not using Bucky's face at all definitely has its appeal…

"There's a lot of merit in that," she agrees. "For one thing, what's he going to complain to the authorities about? The woman that I brainwashed was following me! It's a lot less dangerous than I saw Ziminy Soldat over and over again."

The psychological effects on Juno…

"It could also drive home the lesson that one can protect a person and help them without killing their foes. That sometimes killing them is counterproductive," she realizes. There was all that Miss Elena said about not being useless. Not being worthless. These, too, are things that Jessica Jones understands.

And there's the fact that Jessica wouldn't even have to fake being someone Juno listens to. Because Juno mostly does seem to listen to her. The protection— from Juno, at least, would be real. He'll have to negotiate his own protection with the law enforcement authorities…which of course he could. Because he knows the rest of the operations, and could give them up…

Thus shutting it down.

As it all unfolds, she sees the brilliance in Grymalkin's own words, the simplicity of it.

She gives him a smile. It's a real, genuine, warm smile, one of her rare ones, one of the ones that lights up tired eyes. "You're right," she says. "You're absolutely right. Thank you. That was damned good. I guess being a powerful immortal creature has got to be good for something, because that? That was fucking invaluable."

It seems 1+1=Grymalkin was the right answer after all…and in damned unexpected ways. "I'll talk to her about it. It might even be fun for her."

Grymalkin would be purring right now if he was wearing black fur. It also tickles him to know that the object of her salvation was right under her nose the whole time. He listens to her break down the pro's of the Juno Plan with knowing agreement, nodding as she makes each point. He then adds yet another point, his gloved fingers laced together and settled on his crossed knee.

"I know little of Barnes but one thing I gleaned quickly is that he cares for the girl. In all of this a soldier is always prepared to die, I am certain he does not fear the outcome of this trial one way or the other. But. If he knew Juno was given a chance to confront the architect of her own Hell in the service of others.. I am certain he would endorse this plan entirely, no matter what it would mean for himself - good or ill."

The suited man then rises to his feet, catching the floating umbrella out of the air as he smiles down to Miss Jones. "For my consultation fee, we'll just say you owe me one." Winking his gold eye mischievously as he begins to return to the New York Park that spawned him.

Jess doesn't really know about what Buck would think about her involvement of Juno, other than the fact that Bucky is pretty self-sacrificing. But she doesn't really intend to consult him or give him a vote.

He's feeling way too guilt-ridden and self-destructive. He's just going to have to deal with the fact that she's going to try to save him, and if he dislikes it, well, he'll have to live to Dad-face at her. And Juno is an adult, for all that she seems twelve. And this will also be a decision. One of the biggest she's ever had to make. Juno can still say no, and Juno saying yes or no…not Bucky saying yes or no to what Juno does…is important.

She smiles back at him. And remembers she's dealing with a supernatural creature. She's not about to promise 'anything', so she says warmly, "I owe you one favor of the sort that I would do for any friend," she agrees, just in case he comes back later with something that might make her soft heart curdle. She likes him. She still thinks he probably could use some help.

But between her tenure in the school of hard knocks and her association with John and Zee? Yeah. She clarifies a little.

"Thanks, Gry."

She stands, just in case the bench is going to get wet again with his leavetaking, and turns in the other direction.

She's got some surveillance to do on Professor Peter Smirnov/Smith before she puts this plan to Juno Hart.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License