An Off Day

October 23, 2017:

A quick pro bono deadbeat dad case takes a twist for Jessica Jones when she realizes her target is a lost member of a criminal organization, one who doesn't want to go back to the life.

A bar in Queens.

Don't try anything on the menu.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Two months. Owen's been good for two whole months, no bank jobs, no armored car heists and not even so much as a snatched purse. He has managed to make a clean break as it were, starting fresh in Manhattan with what little resources he had scraped up before his time away. He's sure that by now the Rogues know that he's out, but he's making sure to keep off the radar. It's funny because in a way, he expected going straight to be a lot harder. Turns out it's not hard, just unbearably boring.

Working life is almost entirely new to Owen. Being somewhere every day (or so), on time, and doing what's expected does not come easy. At all. But he's been showing up, putting in his hours and collecting his sad paychecks. He keeps telling himself that he will still get to have a thrilling life, it will just be when the US Government decides to call.. that can be enough.

Right?

*

Be careful what you wish for?

Jessica Jones background checks into her clients almost as carefully as she checks into the targets of her investigation. But that's starting to become common knowledge, because she's come back and refused quite a few cases that would have led her to play into the hands of various sleazeballs.

But Andi Price had seemed to check out alright. She'd shown up with tears in her eyes and a babe in arms. The baby looked like it could, indeed, be a cross between her and Owen. Jessica found public assistance records, even, unaware that this particular "client" had been given a substantial payoff just to get her on this case. She'd even taken the case for free. It seems textbook, for her, on the sorts of stuff she would do pro bono.

And on the other side? Someone who pretty much looks like a sleazeball. Maybe a reformed sleazeball, cause he's gone and gotten a job.

Walking into a bar is supposed to be the ultimate test for a recovering alcoholic, and today the booze barely draws the glance of the woman in jeans, boots, grey v-necked shirt and leather jacket. She walks up to the bar.

Not wanting to spook him, the first words out of her mouth are, "Just a Coke."

She has a hard-bitten alto which carries a heavy edge of habitual irony, but her facial expression has settled into neutral lines.

*

Polishing his sixty-third glass of the day is just as riveting to him as the first sixty-two, so Owen is initially glad to see another patron come in. The people part of his job is actually not as terrible as he expected it to be. Turns out that just because he was an insufferable dink to service people, that not all people are. He doesn't even get the usual prompt out before Jessica orders.

"Comin' right up" He doesn't seem to take much notice of her appearance or check her out at all. He sets the drink down and asks "Want a menu? " before adding just a touch guiltily ".. I wouldn't recommend it."

Indeed most of the other patrons at the bar do not seem to even notice if there is a kitchen in this place. It's mostly bottles of domestic and the occasional pint, but at least there's no more smoking in bars so the air is relatively clear.

*

"No," Jessica says dryly. "I've been in enough of these places to know I absolutely do not want a menu."

She studies him, brown eyes narrowed, slightly, in thought. She waits until she gets her Coke, takes a sip, and says, "Name's Jessica Jones. I'm a PI."

The last thing she wants to do is get a former criminal thinking she's here to kill him. So she says it casually, like someone looking for bar chit chat, but she also just drops that factoid so that when she says his name next he doesn't pull a gun.

Or a…boomerang.

A schtick that had made her squint a little bit, when she'd read about it.

Whatever it is, she doesn't want him to pull it. And if he's going to be a runner at 'PI' she wants to know that, too.

*

His broad smile at her crack about the menu is pretty short lived. At her introduction, he doesn't reach for anything or go crazy. Instead, he stops polishing glass number 64 and slowly sets it down.

"Oh. Hello Jessica Jones, PI."

And now he's suddenly very interested in her, how she's seated, did she looked armed. Why did she just flat out tell him? His mind races through a list of questions and he finds himself really wishing he was paying more attention to her when she walked in. But he's stuck now, and at work so he plasters on a much faker smile and pushes on.

"So, what brings ya into our lovely establishment, besides probably the worst coke you'll have all week?"

*

There is no tell-tale bulge of a gun in her jacket, nor any sign of a gun at her waist. She looks as unarmed as can be, a tall but smallish woman. "Came looking for you, Owen," she says, simply enough. "Andi and the baby would really love it if you'd pitch in with some child support. They're hard up for groceries. I know you're not rolling in dough, working this gig, dude, but you gotta take care of your kid."

She looks up at him solemnly, not with any particular judgment, watching to see, again, if he's going to react in some sort of way she'll have to deal with. Often with these cases just showing up is enough to get the money flowing back to baby mama. Jessica wishes she could get into the child support disbursement system to verify amounts, but that's one database she simply is not allowed into by any stretch. And in these cases anyway sometimes it's all under the table to begin with, everyone involved wanting to avoid cops, courts, and expensive paternity tests.

*

Owen is certainly expecting that she's there for him. He's got just the right amount of paranoia for someone in his situation to be expecting that. He gives a small curt nod and he is about to ask what it's about when she provides an "explanation."

"Wait! What? Who with the… baby?! Andi?!" He is starting to get fired up but catches himself. He puts his hands up in a *wait wait* gesture and says "I'm sorry. Jessica, was it? Can you run that by me at like half-speed…?"

His face is now almost bemused. He's gone from being seriously concerned that some part of his past was about to explode in his face to almost laughing with relief.

*

Jessica Jones watches him closely.

She's no expert people reader. She deals in facts, not in emotions. Telling truth from lie is a matter of matching statements versus statements versus facts, not a matter of looking deep into people's eyes or whatever. But sometimes people's reactions are honest enough, tense enough, intense enough that she starts to get a gut feeling, and she has immense trust in her gut. It has never steered her wrong before.

"Andi Price. Jimmy Price," she says.

She takes out a photo that she'd covertly snapped of them, and calls it up on her phone. It's called up as a big hologram for him to look at; the phone is an S-phone and she keeps a good hold of it.

She watches his reactions very closely now.

*

Catching himself that this is still at least somewhat serious even if it doesn't seemingly involve his dark past, Owen gets a little more serious at least. It's mundane, appropriately enough for his new life. Not an exciting life or death situation, but yet another blue collar, everyday situtation.

"Andi? Jimmy?" His disdain for Jimmy is obviously a bit rich coming from someone who once bore the moniker Captain Boomerang, but come on, baby Jimmy? Who has a baby Jimmy? Oh god… Owen mentally hopes and prays, he doesn't have a baby Jimmy.

Looking at the photo, he tilts his head and narrows his eyes. "I don't recognize her… an' as far as I know, I don't have a kid. I mean.." He shrugs a bit and says "It's possible. She's cute. I'm not sayin' I never slept wit' her. But what's her story?" And with that he narrows his eyes "How old is little /Jimmy/?"

*

"17 months," Jessica replies. She's patient with his denials. He's already said he might have slept with her, and it's not the first time she's heard 'I dunno, maybe I did sleep with her? Maybe?'

Maybe this time her gut's wrong. She's so used to shit not being what it appears to be at first glance. Maybe she's overcorrecting.

It makes her expressive face twitch into something irritated, even as those dark eyes watch him. "Her story is you slept with her," she says dryly. "Look, man, I check into the client, too, but that doesn't exactly involve asking for the boinking details, you know? I'm not going to be able to help you out by narrowing it down to a specific hotel, that thing she was wearing or whatever."

*

Mentally doing math, Owen starts shaking his head. That's possible, but he keeps narrowing his eyes. He is trying to be a good guy, so he's resisting his normal urge to tell Jessica where she can go do unmentionable things. He's thinking about it.

Of course once she mentions details, he can't help but smile a bit impishly and reply "Too bad. I'd be kind of into that.. you talking details." He let's it drop though, doesn't get too inappropriate.

Focus. "Wait. Andi. Price…? She came to you. Was she alone? Did she have money?" His pulse picks up. Crap, he knows her. He never touched her. That's someone else's side piece.

"Miss. Jones." Oooh formal! "You're being played. And FUCK! My life's about to go to shit if they followed you. Did you contact her? Do they know you found me?"

*

He says he'd be kind of into that, and Jessica pulls a face, rearing back with real disgust. "Gross, dude," she says.

"No money. I did the job for free." Jessica says, but she's hearing him out. "She contacted me. And no, I haven't told anyone a damn thing yet. And trust me. Nobody followed me. I have a real good vantage point for avoiding that sort of shit."

In stark contrast to his growing agitation, she remains calm, even going so far as to down her coke. "Alright, I'm being played, tell me your side of what's going on then. I hate being played." No telling whether she believes him or not, but she's not doing anything about him being there yet. Of course she could be lying about anyone knowing.

A pause. "You think your old crew put me on your trail?"

*

Owen is not exactly unfamiliar with being called gross, and worse. That doesn't phase him, but the realization of what's happening certainly seems to.

He's taking off his half apron, not really thinking it through but suddenly feeling the need to get out. He holds up a finger and calls out back "Tom. Break. Now!" in an agitated voice.

"Sorry, can we talk outside? I don't.. want to do this here. " He seems genuine, he's not making any fast movements (and he could!) but he's asking permission. At the mention of his old crew, his head tilts slightly left in a 'seems like it' but again, he is making his way outside before he talks anymore.

*

Fair enough. Not wanting his past to show up at his work.

She tucks the phone back into her inner pocket, pauses to drop a few bucks on the bar to pay for the Coke, and goes outside with him. This, she does with a certain level of wariness, aware that stopping to pay might have meant giving him a minute to position himself in such a way as to try to get the drop on her. She's calculating the advantage to her, still, though, because he's not carrying any boomerangs and she knows a lot more about him than he knows about her, as best as she can tell.

She ambles out, ready to defend herself or to listen, either one.

*

It hasn't even crossed his mind that this woman might be a threat, or that he needs to do something about her. She found him, because they were looking for him. He walks out, pulling the pack of cigarettes from his pocket and placing it in his lips before he's even outside. It's lit immediately upon exiting.

"Look. Miss. Jones, if ye know about my past.. ya gotta know that the people who are looking for me. At least.. who I assume is looking for me.."

It's quite a few drags and breaths before he fills in. "They're not playing around. I was .. " beat, wait for it, "Captain Boomerang." His eyes flick up to her at this. Yes, he's waiting for the same laughter to meet it that always does. "And these people.. are not going to be thrilled when I try to explain, I'm not. Not anymore."

Realizing he's about three steps ahead, he starts. "I know Andi. But I never slept with her, because she's .. Mirror Master's? girlfriend.. or one of 'em" He's not real clear on if she's one of a group of girlfriends or one of the other Rogue's sidepiece, but well… the respect for women and proper treatment in that group isn't exactly sky high.

*

She's trying to quit smoking again, just like she's trying to quit drinking. The former is actually a little easier. But that doesn't mean she doesn't take full advantage of his second-hand smoke, inhaling it deeply and positioning herself to catch more of it, in direct contrast to a non-smoker who might have made a face and moved to his other side.

She doesn't laugh. She apparently had her laughs over that name already.

'Mirror Master' does just make her sigh. And 'Rogues.' "Rogues. Better than the Supreme Brotherhood of Evil or whatever that other group calls itself. Seriously, I gotta tell you, I know all the superheroes took all the good names, but someone needs to go back to the drawing board on that shit, pronto."

Still. She sees, in this, a potential opportunity. If he's telling the truth.

"I'm not going to tell anyone where you are," she decides at last. "I am going to spend more time shadowing Andi."

And Owen, but no need to tell him that. She's got to verify one story or the other, now, because either bad people are trying to do bad shit to someone who has done his time, or a deadbeat dad is trying to spin her some bullshit story, and either way she's going to go ahead and make the time. Especially as it could give her a break in another case, one she's been neglecting for far too long.

*

Owen closes his eyes as he exhales. He's almost shaking. Weird considering he doesn't get nervous under fire or in combat, but somehow the surprise of things starting unravel already is throwing him for a loop.

He smirks at the cracks about the names. "I know. And I'm just Boomerang now. It's better…I guess?" No, he's not really convinced of that either.

At the part about following up on Andi, he winces a bit. "Just.. go easy. She's just a dumb bi-" yea, oops. ".. girl. I always felt bad for her, cause she'd do anything.." Classy Owen, trying to stick up for someone and he can't do that right. And it's telling that he hears 'shadowing' her and immediately perceives it as a threat. He's really not used to being on the side of the good guys.

*

It's the nerves that sell her. The shaking. That shit's hard to fake, and after a moment her eyes soften.

"Somewhat," she agrees, dryly. "You're getting there."

And then he tells her to go easy. Jessica Jones draws a blank. What the Hell does he thi—

Oh.

"I'm not going to hurt her at all. I just want to see if her boyfriend shows up," she says, gently. "Or you can just tell me what club they hang out at or whatever so I can slip in and see for myself. I gotta verify the facts, Owen, that's what a detective does. But I do believe you, and I'm not going to let these guys find you and hurt you, okay? You've done your time, you're starting over, I admire that shit."

Nobody knows better that Jessica Jones that sometimes people aren't inherently bad. Sometimes they're just people who do bad shit. Because they're in pain. Because they're confused. Because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

She pulls out a card and gives it to him. "You get into trouble, something spooks you, call me."

*

Owen accepts the card with a soft laugh. "I'm not worried about them hurting me Jessica." It might sound like bravado, except for the tone. The tone is confessional. It's almost a little shaky.

"I'm worried, they'd suck me back in."

He throws the cigarette down and steps on it. That's a bit too much feeling sharing for him tonight. WAY more than he's done in … well, a very long time at least.

"Look I gotta get back to work. But, thanks. For believing me. I appreciate that. And if I remember anything or can help figure out who it was that set this up… believe me, I want to know." He thinks about it for a second and adds "But at least yer not a dude. There's a pretty firm rule about killing women or children… " beat " pretty firm."

With that he heads back inside to his menial job, and the boring tasks which he suddenly appreciates just a bit more, now that the threat of his old life is rearing it's ugly mug.

*

Jess has a feeling they'll make an exception for her, because she's a real pain in the ass. But she has faced down all kinds of shit that's way scarier than some two bit people named Rogues, and so she just tips her finger to him and walks off with her hands in her pockets. Once he's inside, she leaps to the nearest rooftop to walk on that road instead. She knows a thing or two, too, about being believed, and not being believed, and how it can matter.

Knows a thing or two about concerns the past might suck someone back in, as well.

And she's pissed off she got fooled, cause that doesn't happen too terribly often anymore.

Still.

Anyone can have an off day.

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