Double Trouble

October 24, 2017:

Jessica Jones' weird case gets even weirder.

A coffee shop, NYC

The tree is annoying.

Characters

NPCs: Melody Attah, Marc, emitted by Clint Barton.

Mentions: Matt Murdock, John Constantine, Kate Bishop

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Jessica Jones’ meeting with one Matt Murdock had left her with a rather large to-do list to tackle. But first and foremost on that list?

Protecting her client, set to have a meeting with Marc, the artist with whom she supposedly (but most definitely did not) sign contracts. Having a friend who can double as a human lie detector is definitely an edge for her, because it allows her to stop distrusting her client and really get to work.

She hadn’t liked hearing Melody thought Marc would bolt if they were both there, but she supposes Attah knows her artists. It’s possible he really would have. But he could be under what she is starting to call the Checkerbrick Effect too. He could get violent for other reasons.

She’s not going to let that happen. And so she tracks Melody on the roof road, taking advantage of the fact that people never do look up.

The Checkerbrick Effect. If this gets too much weirder I’m going to have to call John in. This is starting to look like something quite a bit more up his alley than mine.

But so far she has a fat lot of nothing, a host of documents to go pull from a bunch of city offices, a shitload of microfiche to paw through, and two more witnesses to interview. She has to wait for Ravensdale to talk to Officer Briggs’ ghost, if he’s around. All of this means she doesn’t have anything for Constantine yet, especially as she knows he’s already hard at work trying to do whatever it takes to get a certain corpse evaluated at last.

She shakes her head, thinking of all those records and all that microfiche. People who fantasize about being PIs never quite realize how much of it involves patiently sifting through various records in the hopes of finding something relevant, and how often hours of work can translate into bupkis. Hours of work that must be done anyway, because otherwise how would one know if there’s anything to be found or not?

Patiently sifting through hours and hours of material, but also a lot of sitting and waiting. Melody isn’t usually the type to show up early to things, but she’s made an exception in this case. Marc, of course, is late, so Melody is halfway through her coffee before he makes an appearance.

She chose a cafe with an open air patio. Even if it wasn’t unseasonably warm, the heaters extend the season a little longer. As it is, the patio is quite full. There’s a maple tree that has burst into fiery colours. Which is lovely, but that also shrouds Jessica’s view slightly.

The pair greet each other with kiss-kiss and compliments about their outfits, then sit down. They don’t get down to business right away. Melody needs another coffee and Marc needs his first. When the latte does come, he disrupts the artful leaf with a dash from a silver flask, which he isn’t even particularly subtle about.

Melody might consider Elise to be the savvy one, but she proves her own savvy by not letting on that anything is wrong. “So. Marc. You must have heard that Elise is upset about the contracts.”

“I’d be upset, too. You gave me a hell of a deal, Mels,” says Marc as he sips at his be-boozed coffee. He sounds like a New York native, though the borough is hard to place, probably because he obscures it on purpose.

—-

Interesting.

Matt knew Melody wasn’t lying, but Marc seems convinced she actually did the deal. Of course, he’s an alcoholic— takes one to know one— and he might have been near the point of blackout, for all she knows, when a close-enough double of one Melody Attah came to do the deal.

Or. Melody did it, and doesn’t remember doing it. If that’s the case, she would tell Matt Murdock she hadn’t without betraying so much as a blip to his enhanced senses.

Jess scowls at the tree, trying to decide if she can pick her way into that, instead. But it might rustle. She’s reasonably confident she can leap over it, though, if Marc reveals himself to be a nasty drunk.

“And why do you think I’d give you a hell of a deal, Marc?” Melody asks, cautiously. She’s baiting him, very subtly. Teasing out information. Maybe she missed her own calling as an investigator or a journalist.

Marc’s response to that is extend his arms wide. He is not, even obscured by trees or Instagram filter - an unattractive man. He is handsome, but in a dull, ordinary, CW ‘ugly best friend’ way. A forgettable attractiveness, which is perhaps why he’s a douche. Gotta make his mark somehow. “Because I’m awesome.”

Melody barely conceals an eyeroll. “Yes, but why would you sell so well in our shop? You get jack shit if your commission doesn’t sell. So if it’s sitting in the wrong place, it just gets dusty and maybe even…” she hesitates, “…damaged.”

Marc shrugs and sips at his coffee. “Dunno. You’re both hot? Your store’s in a good spot. Are you trying to back out of the deal now that you know your friend has a hair in her ass about it?”

—-

Good girl, Jessica thinks, impressed. In truth, she’s not sure she would have been so smooth after getting the unwelcome piece of news which said even Marc thinks she did it, while knowing herself that she did not.

The kid is, it seems, cool as a cucumber, and despite all the preciousness of everything to do with this store, she rises up a few notches in Jessica’s estimation.

Meanwhile, someone needs to smack Marc with the flat of their hand, but that’s not her job, in particular.

He could be bluffing of course. In it all with Elise, a massive mindfuck meant to gaslight Melody out of the biz. A theory she might entertain a bit more seriously if she didn’t already have Matt’s information.

“Because we’re hot. That why you like to take Instagram pictures with your business associates? Because you like to do business with pretty girls and like it to fill your feed?” There’s a cynical, almost haughtiness to Melody’s words, but also a familiarity. She’s asking questions, but it seems she knows this particular douchebag well enough that she can predict what his answers will inevitably be.”

“Not just the hot girls,” says Marc as he sucks air between his teeth. “You follow me, Mels. Surely you’ve seen.”

For a moment, Melody’s expression seems to say, ‘what?’ like she’s confused about something. She fishes into her purse for her phone, and from Jess’ angle, she can tell she’s opening the Instagram app. She goes silent a moment.

Marc apparently can’t take not being the centre of attention for five minutes. So he shifts forward. “Are we getting ready to take a selfie? Because we already had one of those.”

“Shit,” says Melody. It seems unrelated to what Marc is saying. She stands abruptly.

“The contract is still good, babe! Ironclad. No weaseling out of it. I’m working on some sweet pieces for you,” says Marc as he makes the OK symbol with his hand.

“Yeah, I’ll get back to you.” And then she’s abruptly moving away from the coffeeshop. Her last act, it seems, is to stick Marc with the bill.

A text comes through a moment later to Jessica.
My fucking Instagram got hacked. My old account that I stopped using a few years ago. The password doesn’t work anymore but there’s been activity.

Jessica is already moving to pull up Melody’s Instagram feed, to see what’s on it, opening a second holographic window in the air to text her back. Looking now.

And this case just got weirder and deeper, because that is a turn she didn’t expect for it to take. But before she worries about the hacker, she wants to see what he or she has been posting there.

She does text back: Can you manage to get into the change password link to get your password changed and your hacker locked out of there?

She opens a third window, quickly Googling: “how can I track the IP address of someone who has logged into my Instagram account?” She doesn’t even have to click the links; she sees ‘you’ll have to get an attorney to subpoena this information from Instagram’ in the meta-description of at least three sites.

Well, good thing she knows one of those. Granted, it might be a little faster to go to another hacker, but her vast reluctance to involve Kinsey Sheridan in even one more of her cases wells up within her. She supposes Red might be able to do it for her, he’s good with computers, but considering this case might end up in court, and considering it might touch on other cases that might end up in court…

Well. She’ll fire an e-mail over to Matt later. The hacker could be under the Checkerbrick Effect too, or something even more convoluted is happening than she thinks.

Melody’s main Instagram, the one tagged in Melody Fur Elise posts doesn’t seem to be the one she’s referring to. That’s confirmed by a text a few moments later from Melody with a different handle linked to it.

This is the one I used at school. When I graduated, I started a new one that was more curated based on Elise’s advice. I haven’t touched it in years. But it’s been liking posts.

Melody is walking away from the cafe and is sort of pacing. She’s clearly agitated. She looks around for Jessica. Oh shit, I don’t know how to prove that it’s my account. I have to get on a proper computer to figure it out. I think it’s linked to my old school email that I haven’t checked in years.

—-

Jessica jumps down directly beside her after making sure Marc can’t see.

“It’s going to be okay, Melody,” she says, projecting as much confidence and authority as she can. She learned a little about how to do that, in Wakanda, and she’s seen it out of Matt, Peggy, Bucky, John, and Captain America.

When someone places their trust in you like this, she decides, being able to project that you’re going to handle so they can continue sleeping at night it is paramount.

It doesn’t hurt that she actually feels confident in her ability to resolve this, especially with the help of the people who she knows she can call on, no matter what.

“This is going to be scary, and it’s going to suck for awhile, but I promise you it’s all going to be okay. We’re going to get to the bottom of all of it. Let’s see if we can’t get into that old school account.”

And see what else your hacker’s been doing with it, if they’re using it too.
She decides to brace Melody for another unpleasant possibility. “Someone might have hacked that too, but if they did we can just call your school’s tech support, verify your identity, and get them to give you a new password. They might even be willing to send us a log of IP addresses that got into that account if that’s the case.”

Probably a little less tight-assed about it than ‘Insta’, for sure.

What follows is a lot of phone calls and a lot of old security checks with her school’s IT department. The email and the Instagram account are old enough to be vulnerable. What complicates things is that whoever got into her account set up a new recovery email - one that she has no access to. The tech people are convinced they’ll be able to fix it, but it’s going to take a little time. It’s also going to immediately alert whoever did it in the first place.

One piece of information that’s dug up in the process of trying to find the culprit is a photo on Marc’s Instagram. It’s not tagged with either Melody’s new or old Instagram. It’s a picture of Melody and him together, dated from the day the contracts were reportedly signed.

“What. The. Fuck,” is Melody’s response to that discovery. “That is NOT me.”


“I believe you,” Jessica says simply.

Hell if that isn’t the most valuable thing that can happen when someone insane starts taking over your life. Or something. Just being believed. She offers that to Melody now, with the same steady confidence.

“Chick on the tape wasn’t Elise either. Her alibi checked out. Though if you know where you were that day, it would be helpful. Also— any headaches or heat rashes? For either of you?”

Shapeshifter? Glamour? Curse? Cursed object? Definitely getting real close to Dial-a-Wizard time. What can induce paranoia, alter behavior and then pretend to be you? 20 Questions of What The Fuck. Or is this thing doing it at the same time? Maybe it’s not magic, maybe it’s a meta, someone who lives in the building. Maybe it can change its shape, but has to read someone’s brain to do it, and that causes headaches and heat rashes and paranoia side effects?

She grimaces. That is all pure speculation at this point. Theories of the crime are all well and good, but she still has more facts to gather.

“Headaches? Of course I’ve been having headaches!” Melody is shaking a bit now as she stares at that picture. It doesn’t take a lot to realize she’s having an uncanny valley or a doppelganger moment. She looks to Jessica, eyes wide. “What is going on here?” She sucks in a sharp breath. “I need to talk to Elise. I don’t fucking care. Someone is fucking with us. I don’t care about the shop. We need to be together on this.”

There is in fact a little bit of a heat rash on the inside of her elbow. It’s the kind of thing that sticks out when you know to look for it, but one that most people would overlook if they found it on themselves or saw it on others.

—-

Jessica sees it, and it makes her blood run a bit cold. She tries to decide how to navigate this.

She reaches out to gently place her hands on either one of Melody’s shoulders, trying to catch her eyes.

Normally she’d be all for Melody making up with her friend now that Matt has pointed out that if this goes to court they’ve all lost. But the heat rash is what stops her. The idea that they could get together, and one of them could turn paranoid and violent. The idea that this could suddenly become a murder case, with one of the two women a candidate for Nelson & Murdock’s criminal defense services, the victor bewildered and shattered by what she has done to one of the most important people in her life.

“Melody. I specialize in weird shit just like this, right? Surely you Googled me a bit more than Yelp before you hired me, right? You saw the YouTube videos?”

She hates calling attention to those damned things, but, well. Weird shit maybe calls for it.

Slowly, “Someone fucked with other people in that building too, and people wound up dead. So I need you to trust me. I want you to stay away from everyone involved with this. Go home, put your feet up, hang out by yourself for awhile. I’m going to try to work with her PI. If she’s half as good as I think she is,” Jess has no idea how good the newb is, but whatever, “she’s already put together the fact that you’re not guilty either. She’s an Avenger, to boot.”

She’s an Avenger, I guess I’m a god damn super-hero, and yeah.

“Together, we will solve this and put a stop to whomever or whatever is causing all this. I give you my word.”

Damn it. I’m going to have to cut off my billing right around this hour. I just can’t stand to invoice this kid anymore than I already have. Shit. I’m not sure if I can stand to invoice her past her deposit at all, except for covering Matt’s bill, if he generates one to me. Shit!

She is never going to get herself an office as shiny as Bishop’s, that’s for sure. Oh well. She likes her office.

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