CSI: Hell's Kitchen Division

August 16, 2017:

Daredevil and Jessica Jones team up to walk the scene of the Mizizi na Nyasa arson, and discuss a few more things they can try in the ongoing quest to clear Bucky's name.



NPCs: None.

Mentions: Melinda May, Bucky Barnes, Kinsey Sheridan, John Constantine, Zatanna Zatara, Jane Foster, Red Robin, Michael Carter, Peggy Carter


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

What Jessica Jones hopes to gain by walking the charred, burned remains of the building that held the Mizizi na Nyasa conference, even the PI would be hard pressed to say. The crime scene has already been picked over by authorities, is months cold, has been exposed to the weather, and is little more than a burned out husk.

She's as yet unaware that some of their other friends have entered Wakanda, though she knows a certain Agent May is on the way. Otherwise she might have called on some of them rather than coming out here alone.

As it stands, walking the scene of the incident is basic due diligence, and by now she's just hoping to find something. Anything. Even if it's only perspective.

What she actually finds is a piece of debris that she tries to shift, a piece that ought not be shifted. A spike in her heartbeat and the crash-clatter-clash of some of the upper floor falling on her head announces this mistake to even un-altered ears.

Of course, Jessica Jones being Jessica Jones, there are no broken bones, no fluttering of vitals to indicate unconsciousness, nothing but the sound of her hard-bitten alto hissing: "Ow! Shit!"

She does this rather in the same tones any other woman might use to indicate that they'd, say, stubbed their toe in the dark, if that self-same woman had, perhaps, been stubbing her toes every night for months, irritated with an aggravated side serve of 'god damn it, why is it always me?' sentiments.

Along with the crash-clatter-clash and the sudden exclamation that fill the charred and crumbling ruins of the Wakandan facility there's a brief scuffling, shuffling sound — as if Jessica's disturbance had frightened some otherwise native fauna out of its restful slumber and sent it scurrying. Save, perhaps, for that the brief-lived noise races towards its fellow sounds rather than away from them.

That's all that will suggest the presence of anything — or anyone — else in the shadowy mass grave in which Jessica Jones is surveying, at least for the next dozen or so heartbeats. Then a dry and familiar voice sounds from the dark: "Try not to bring everything down on you, okay? They're already laying enough bodies on Bucky."

The start of surprise that Jessica feels at hearing Daredevil's voice here, of all places, is palpable, and for a moment it simply freezes all of her responses right there.

Then she gently lifts a piece of concrete off of her stomach and puts it to the side, brushes ceiling off her head, and peers into the darkness while an emotional soup descends on her. There is so much in there that for a brief second sorting it all out might defy even his ability to do so, but a few shake out: embarrassment to send a flood of heat to her face, irritation— but then her misadventure already had that in there, lingering surprise, others. She's happy to hear his voice, but there's certainly been a shift in her feelings since last they spoke.

Since she spoke with Kinsey.

It's not that the torch she's carrying for him is dead, but it's certainly muted and guttering, her response to him now something closer to what she might have were she standing, say, in John Constantine's presence rather than reflective of the sorts of feelings she would routinely have while standing in his.

She stands and brushes her skinned knees off too; more vulnerable to cuts and scrapes than she is to blunt force trauma, though some of it was hard enough to bruise.

She opens her mouth several times to frame a response, her emotions shifting with each intake of breath. One that's almost certainly a snarky rejoinder, one that's maybe a question. What she finally settles on is a very gruff, yet warm: "I'll definitely try a lot harder, now that I know you're in here. I thought you were still back home."

For all that Daredevil's sensitivities to non-visual cues are otherworldly, he is not actually an empath. The muddle of emotions that Jessica registers in the moment after she hears his voice come through as just that — a muddle. That's all the more true in this place, where so many of the sounds and smells are alien to his refined senses. It's too much new information to process all at once — and though he has been living with his gifts and handicaps for longer than she, he still lacks his sometimes lady-friend's A.I. assistance to filter the signal from the noise.

Make no mistake, it is Daredevil that emerges from one of the shadows that line the ruin and wreckage of the complex, and not Matt Murdock. He had to make a choice when coming — the canny but mild-mannered lawyer, or the warrior? The first had saved James Buchanan Barnes from a death sentence in America, but here? Here the warrior seemed called for, and so it's his horned, crimson silhouette that stands before Jessica Jones.

If he's aware of the new normal, his bearing and masked visage betray no sign of it in the moment. "I caught a ride with John and Zatanna," he says, with a wry undercurrent that acknowledges the ambiguity in the statement. A trip with that pair could come in the form of a jet plane, a wormhole, or even a tornado — take your pick.

One thing's for sure: he's not in Hell's Kitchen anymore.

"You alright?" he says, canting his head like a cat's.

"Of course I'm alright," Jessica says, snorting. "It's going to take more than a little ceiling to fuck up my day. So they're here too? That's good. Maybe John can do his dust shufti and tell us what the Hell went on here."

She exhales. Maybe I should have asked them to come in the first place, but I wasn't sure that was the right call. Just as well. That left them free to bring Daredevil over.

She looks around, then picks up the flashlight that had spun away in the course of her misadventure. No matter what else is going on with her, the truth is that this case, shitty as it is, is pretty much the only thing that's going to be able to live in her focus for long, and that is what every part of her gets back on quickly enough.

"Any chance you can ah— " And then she pauses. Lowers her voice. She figures they're alone— but just in case. "Pick up on where some traces of the accelerant might be? If we can get some samples, I think we've got a few options for getting them analyzed at this point."

"Hopefully no actual Hell went on here," Daredevil fires back as he closes the distance between them with a few stalking paces that differ so markedly from the lawyer's careful gait. "Had enough of that with the startup demonologists." It's a quip, to be certain, but subdued. This is a mass grave, and he more than most can sense the trace signs of lives lost to fire, smoke, or the crushing weight of debris.

The masked man meditates briefly on the fallen Wakandans whose violent deaths were attributed to his former client, while Jessica gets practical and asks him — in a sensibly roundabout way — to put his supersenses to actual use. He nods a little before drawing in a breath — there's no sniff or sniffle — all he needs to do is draw in a quiet and unhurried measure of air — and with it some measure of this strange new world. Smell is really about taking some small sampling of the particles and molecules that are the building blocks of the world around you. In this case it is a ruined world: ash, soot, concrete, pollen, dung, a mish-mash of chemicals from melted plastics and alloys, and the still-coppery tang of dried blood.

Other things too. Petrols and ethanols, even more exotic than the kinds found in the specialty garage of one Kinsey Sheridan. Chemicals that share its flammable traits that are even less easy to discern with exactitude, but that lead the vigilante in slow, deliberative steps that summon to mind his other life — towards a pile of debris near the half-fallen east wall.

"Maybe over here," he says, nodding her over after he's caught the trail. "You have something to collect it?"

A beat. "Do you have a Foster to analyze it?"

While the Devil of Hell's Kitchen had performed his quiet analysis Jessica had similarly remained quiet and still, not wanting to add more sensory input to the flood than she already adds by virtue of the fact that she's standing there at all. When he finds the spot, she exhales with real relief.

It's safe to say she's had her moments to contemplate the weight of the dead, but for her, this happened back in New York. Now she's bogged down in weary pragmatism punctuated, for the most part, only by anger, irritation, and uncertainty, with the exception of the brief ripples his own surprise appearance had created. In a case that feels a bit like getting a dose of Sisyphus' fate, she hasn't even really been able to allow herself to contemplate Bucky's current straits, conditions, or the implied deadline. If she did that, she wouldn't be able to do what she needs to do here. She'd collapse into depression, and she knows herself well enough to know it.

As it is, Daredevil's appearance brings the first piece of actual, physical evidence they've gotten, and she hastens to make her way to the indicated spot.

"Foster's a no-go. She told me she was dropping right off the grid right around the time she sent the mass text. She's got her own angle and she's got zero interest in telling any of us what it is." The tone is grimly matter-of-fact.

"But I do have a collection kit. I'm thinking three samples. One you maybe take back to Zatanna; ask her to send it to Red. He has stuff. The other I'll hand to Peggy's brother, who is here, helping, and MI-6; they'll surely have a competent crime lab. The other I'll hand to Peggy's friend Agent May, who is on her way tomorrow. Peggy got suspended, so she can't send anything directly, but May can. One of them will get it back to us faster than the others and maybe we'll start getting somewhere."

She has not, as far as she remembers, used her STUFF app in front of him before. She lowers her voice to a bare murmur so she can warn: "This might feel weird, I dunno."

She pulls out her phone, touches the screen. A burst of ozone, a rippling distortion in time and space that is briefly no bigger than her hand and briefly bigger than a breadbox. Jessica reaches into that and withdraws an evidence collection kit. Then it all collapses, leaving a normal phone once more. She balances her maglite as best she can, pulls on a pair of gloves first and foremost, and then starts scraping debris into tiny vials.

Daredevil's helmed head tips down and to the right when Jessica says Jane Foster has gone off the grid to follow her own path towards Bucky Barnes' liberation. It's not just that they don't have access to her formidable mind. That soulful pose and shifting jawline may best be attributed to the fact that he, more than most, knows just how dark and bloody her path might be. It was a hanging thread left after the trial that he meant to pick up and follow, even if it led to other unravelings — but then this megalomaniacal despot fucked up all his follow up. Now, no matter how things end, he's suddenly sure that Jane Foster will be that much more steeped in blood because of it.

But Jessica, still practical, has a backup. Zatanna, "Red" — that bossy guy with the voice distorter from the park? — and…

"Wait," Daredevil says with a glance over his shoulder towards Jones, for all the good it will do him. "I'm sorry. Carter has a brother in the field? What is he, a nonagenarian?"

There's more news, to be sure: more SHIELD is coming. Peggy herself was suspended, which brings an internal sag to his chest, but none of it summons any further response, perhaps because Jess gives that warning and then…

…ozone is in the air and the fabric of space and time is tearing a breadbox-sized hole. It's a good thing he's already seen Bucky pull this trick on the Easter River. He fished for weaponry through that dimensional shortcut, while Jessica finds her collection kit. The brief exhale the masked man gives is the only hint of how supremely creepy he finds the app. "Anyway," he says, "I'll take my sample to Zatanna. Found any other leads while over here?"

Jessica hesitates when asked about one Michael Carter, in part because she's trying to decide if it's her place to say anything. Then she realizes how foolish that is. For one thing, Michael himself hadn't treated it like any kind of real secret. He'd told her all about it on her first meeting with him, and for all she knows Daredevil could pick up on the rest. Still, she borrows some of the red-clad warrior's customary discretion.

After a moment's thought, she decides to take 9 samples total, just in case, three for each of their respective stabs at getting information on the accelerant, and as she does, she replies. "He's got abilities that have kept him well preserved, and everything else is probably his to tell."

"He's been invaluable though. We do have other leads, and he was the one that shook out both of them. The first is this. Wakandan Intelligence Services— the Akili, they're called— were running security for this event, which is strange in its own right. The second is that one of their agents, an operative named Bhekizizwe "Beck" Wright, codenamed Blackstone, was definitely here. Thing is? He was an external operative, not an internal one. He apparently came to do this thing, then went missing directly after that."

A well-preserved man, she says. Ah.

"I'm surprised someone hasn't bottled and sold that stuff to billionaires yet," Daredevil says of super-soldier serum as he stands above her while she collects the samples on the ground. It's an absent remark, really, as the masked man reaches out with his senses to take in whatever stray details can be gleaned from the ruin around them. Which likely isn't much more than the accelerant they've already found, to be honest, but it's now a force of habit at the scene of a mystery.

But then Jess is going into their leads, and the masked man's lips part as he mulls the matter. "Might be Blackstone was trailing the HYDRA agents who actually did this," Daredevil suggests with a cock of his red-horned head rightward. "Or was at least on guard for them for some reason. Things went bad." One possibility among almost countless, and quickly followed by qualifications: "But if that's the case, if anyone was tipped off, why the fixation on Barnes?"

A beat: "What's your next move? After we analyze these samples."

"I don't know," Jessica says quietly. "The answer to either question. James says Hydra set out to frame him, that was his contribution weeks ago. I do still think there's an inside job element here. And I don't know what the next move is."

She pauses to neatly label each vial, then stands to offer him three of them. It just says 'Accelerant Sample - Crime Scene' and the date.

"We can't even access public records here. We can't get old newspapers. We can't hit the Internet. I've already canvassed everything for a 2 mile radius, called every friendly foreigner I could get in touch with who was injured in this fire. There is a whole list of things I would normally do on a case that I can't do here, and I barely know how to work it. I can think of two things I'd like to ask you to do, unless you had some next steps of your own to go pursue. And even then, the first one shouldn't take real long."

He can hear the frustration in her voice, and understand the reasons behind it — but can't bring himself to feel it himself. What's the internet to a man who can't see a screen, or a newspaper to a man who can't read? But give it time — chances are the Devil of Hell's Kitchen will find more than his fair share of frustrations in this country.

He'll take the offered vials with a gloved hand and a brief nod of thanks, and meets her request with a flicker of a smile. "I'm just getting my bearings around here," says the parochial superhero who has barely spent any time at all outside of his seedy, chaotic, steel-and-concrete island. "I'll gladly take some direction if you've got some."

Jessica just assumes he gets great use out of his Braille reader or Siri, but sometimes she tends to assume a lot when she isn't actively trying to solve any kind of a case about someone's life. Or when it's just patently none of her business how a person makes things happen.

His flicker of a smile is met with whatever physiology accompanies answering smiles, even as her voice shifts to something wry and self-deprecating. "Awesome. About all I've accomplished here is asking slash begging slash bossing all my friends to do shit I can't do myself. The pattern's set, now, you're all screwed."

Despite the fact that she's joking, it's still frustrated. Because that is NOT how she is used to working. She has barely gotten used to the idea of taking back-up. Being unable to do things directly is so unlike her modus operandi that she is about to scream. Still, she got to take some samples. There's that. She packs up her own and decides this next thing is close enough to doing something.

She points. "So it looks like the nearest exit from this pile of crap where we found our samples is over that way. I would like to try to establish the minimum amount of time it might have taken someone to start the fire and leave. It might not be important, but…I don't know, it just seems like it might help if it would have taken our direct culprit 3 minutes to get the Hell out of there or whatever. This whole experiment is probably stupid as fuck, but. I don't know, maybe it won't be. Maybe if you start there at the pile, give me maybe a 'I'm not suspicious' walk to the door and then maybe a 'ok the place is on fire and I'm booking it' run to the door, and I'll stop watch them? That's the fast request."

She'll get into the longer request in a moment.

A chuckle shakes the vigilante's shoulders when Jessica makes her self-deprecating quip, knowing and full of commiseration. "Oh, I get it — the begging, bossing, corralling, directing," comes the rueful reply from the orchestrator of Bucky Barnes' arguably irrelevant — even pyrrhic — court win. "It's all I was doing for months before this happened. Someone needs to, obviously, but I'm just as glad to hand off that particular baton to the expert in this field."

Of course, he doesn't give up his volition or his judgment when he names Jessica Jones unofficial leader of the expedition. See how there's a brief pause as he thinks it through — prelude to a shrug. A simple enough request to meet. He places the vials in one of the small pouches on the outer-thigh of his body armor and makes for the exact spot where Jessica Jones made her collection. "Walking first," Daredevil says, and waits to actually hear the press of her thumb on the phone that starts the clock ticking before he'll begin a casual amble entirely at odds with all that dramatic get-up.

Well, calling her an expert in the field doesn't hurt a thing, and Jessica chuckles, frustration easing a bit. "I suppose you did at that, and you kicked massive ass at it," she says, but that's awfully dangerous territory even in an abandoned building while the man is in costume, so she drops that hot potato nice and fast, other than to say, "I keep expecting the spies to tell me to stuff it in the most British and polite terms possible, though."

She hits the button, and watches her phone critically, cutting her gaze from it to him. Anything they get is such an approximation, and even she knows it…things are missing from the convention center that might have been in the way that day, as are people. But when he makes it to what's left of the door, she still reports, "Okay, so we have…1 minute, 45 seconds on that."

She pulls a notebook out of her pocket and scribbles the time down. It'll maybe help establish a window of footage to ask for, if they ever get any footage.

The complement is likely appreciated, but he leaves it alone likely for the self-same reasons she does. Besides, there are other threads to keep conversation going as they experiment with distance, trajectory, and time. "Peggy Carter is a woman of strong opinions," Daredevil calls out wryly when he makes it to the doorway and turns around.

Jessica marks the time of the slow-walk and the masked man nods once, shortly. "Depends a little on height, gait, but it's a good guestimate. Now for part two." He'll wait until she's ready and then, when he he hears that clock go, he — runs like the building might explode. Say what you will about Matt Murdock — there are other stronger, sturdier, more imposing figures that do what he does — but the man is and always has been fast. His rushing footfalls echo through the ruin and carry him back to the detective.

"She is, that's why I kept expecting it." But then she's got a distraction away from the oddity of Peggy Carter's actions. Daredevil is back, and quickly.

Jessica Jones hits the stopwatch button to stop the clock on her phone with an impressed intake of breath.

"Jesus Christ, dude. I think that was faster than I could have done it." Granted, she only can run fast at all because she cheats with her strength and endurance; she practices inconsistently when she practices at all, because the truth is she feels like an idiot whenever she runs around but for no reason other than to run. She'd had that brief enthusiastic period where she'd tried to push herself, and then she sort of got distracted by other things and quit.

As it is, things people have to work for are more impressive to her than crap she just sort of got almost literally dumped in her lap.

She marks the time, but then scribbles something else next to it, noting some variances. She has her doubts that others might have matched Daredevil's fleet-footed prowess, but…it's certainly possible.

With that, she flips the notebook away and puts it back into the pocket of her cargo shorts, along with her phone.

"Alright. So there's our dubiously useful experiment done. Ready for the second thing?" As it stands, she sounds a bit more confident about making her requests.

"Kind of you to say, but my money's on you," answers Daredevil to her compliment with a slightly out-of-breath puff of a chuckle as he takes his hands off his knees and comes up from his slight bend to a full rise and stretch. He's used to, at this point, being around metas whose abilities outstrip his. Not that the abilities he inherited from the green ooze that wreaked havoc on the East River last week are powerful in their own idiosyncratic way — but he knows there's no leaping off tall buildings in a single bound.

He hears the renewed confidence in her voice as she broaches the second task and cracks a slight half-smile. "Sure thing, boss," he says gamely. "What's next?"

Rueful embarrassment makes heat flush at her cheeks, but there's a grin in her voice too. Really, it's a nice change from feeling grouchy and frustrated, and she'll hold on to it for as long as she possibly can. "So everything we've got so far points back to Wakandan Intelligence," she says, lowering her voice. It's not quite a whisper, that would be ridiculous, but…it is that really low-key murmur that would be obnoxiously low if she didn't know exactly whose ears she was pitching it for.

"And since you're here, well. You can park yourself, what? In a tree a mile down the road from the building, look a lot like you're taking a nap, and listen in to stuff going on in that building without arousing a hint of suspicion? It might, in fact, be the only way we're ever going to get even a scrap of information out of any of the Akili at all, and you'll sure hear stuff they'd never share with us willingly."

The request is not unexpected. He knows as well as anyone that, whatever martial talents he's cultivated, his (un)natural gifts suit him best for espionage. With hypersenses that barely respect walls, he's the ultimate one-man surveillance team. And he knows too that they are far more likely to save James with careful and patient sleuthing than they are with some sort of daring rescue that would do little more than land the lot of them in a high tech dungeon.

It's the smart play, and Daredevil is able to accept that. "I think if people see a red ninja sleeping in a tree it'll probably raise some eyebrows," the man quietly qualifies, before adding: "But I take the point. And the assignment. I'll find a good place and reason to be around there and pick up whatever I can."

"Any people in particular I ought to be listening for?"

It's a great question, and one Jessica wishes she had more answers for.

"Kagiso, maybe. He's the Minister of Intelligence, the one Michael's trying to meet with. And if they're lying and Blackstone is in the building and not MIA, definitely him. I'm sorry in advance for how bad this is likely to suck."

At least, listening for hours on end, sorting through random chatter and irrelevant crap and a bunch of other languages, even, that are not always or even often going to be English, does strike Jessica as a task that's likely to suck. Then again, Daredevil has demonstrated on about a zillion and three other occasions that he is a far more patient soul than she, so there's that.

"But if you can even shake out a few more names of a few more people who might have been working there that day that might be pretty great. Anything that even smells like a lead would be great."

"Anything that even smells like a lead," Daredevil repeats on a sardonic note. "That? That I can do."

He waves off her admission that the assignment she is charging him with is likely to suck: listening in on a building of people speaking languages he doesn't understand, hoping for some scrap of English that just so happens to yield a clue. How much worse could it be than scanning hundreds of pages of case law and footnotes, until it seemed his fingerprints would wear clean off from the grazing braille-bumps? If he can do law school, he can do this.

"Alright," he says with a little nod. "Now that it's getting darker I'm gonna go see about scouting the place out, see where there's a decent spot to set up, then get the samples over to Zatanna."

His sardonic rejoinder produces a slight chuff, little more than a puff of air. "I suppose you already did," she says. She casts one more glance around the ruined convention hall, frowning, even as she sweeps up her maglite once more. "Come to think of it, she might be able to hook you up with a glamour so you're a bit less openly red ninja-y, but can keep your gear on. Or do something about the language barrier with a spell, I dunno. That might be worth asking her. But. Call me if you need anything? I think I'm going to walk the place one more time. Just in case there's any other…anything."

She realizes this whole conversation started with her doing something dumbass, so adds, "I'll be careful." Even so, she's probably going to risk some places the crime scene team might have deemed too risky…because she can take it. But she's sure going to wait till Daredevil is out of the building before she tries anything like that. For now, she just begins combing the place once more.

She pauses, though, to look over her shoulder at him. "Hey," she says soberly. "Thanks."

It's a good thought — asking Zatanna or John for help with interpretation or disguise — even if the notion disquiets him. He's absorbed the aliens, cyborgs, and superspies with relative equanimity, but magic continues to set the Catholic boy inside the Devil of Hell's Kitchen on edge. "Yeah, I'll check in with them about it," he assures her. "And yeah, I'll be in touch if I need you. If you need me just — you know. Give me a shout."

Chances are he'll hear it.

She thanks him, he shrugs his armored shoulders as he walks himself backward. "What, I'm going to quit now? Not a chance." And he means it. After months of work spent saving Bucky Barnes from a violent end, there's no way in hell he'd let things end here. A smile, wan but true, briefly passes over his features when he adds: "Don't forget to take care of yourself while you're taking care of everyone else. Catch you later, Jones."

And then he's gone, slipped back into the shadows that wreathe the abandoned space.

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