Faces Come Out in the Rain

November 14, 2017:

Dr. Strange seeks out one Jessica Jones, who is still licking her wounds and making Bad Decisions in response to her encounter with the demon bear.

A Gotham Bar, somewhere near Crest Hill.

They serve Vodka, does anyone need to know anything else?


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Michael Carter, Dani Moonstar, John Constantine, Zatanna Zatara, Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Jessica Jones is nowhere near her normal stomping grounds.

In fact, she's nowhere at all she ought to be. She's found her way into a bar about 15 minutes outside of Crest Hill, right around the time said bar opens. She sits not at the bar itself, but in shadows in a table at the back, drinking Vodka. Vodka is not her drink of choice, but it's the last, best stand for alcoholics who don't want to let people in their lives know they've decided to crawl back into the bottle. And 'the bottle' is about the size of it. One sits on her table, about a quarter left inside.

She's at least taking the time to pour it into shot glasses.

She stares down at her phone. A text from Michael Carter: Message me if you need help.

Her fingers hover over the keys. She could invite him back in. Tell him she just needs help, support, all the little gestures he's proven himself to be so good at. She could, if things inside her didn't roil and twist and quail at the thought.

He's a good man. Breaking up with him— for that is, essentially, what she has done— via text was a shitty, shitty thing to do.

It's also the best she could do.

At length, she shakes her head. There is no help for this. There is only waiting it out, putting an alcoholic buffer between her and the wounds, hoping that she can repair the damage inside, a process she knows from experience could take a day, a week, a month, or longer. At length, she deletes both his text and hers, and shuts off her phone, tucking it away.

She pours another shot.

A few hours ago Strange was again too late. To a battlefield of sorts in Westchester County. Again here? And pretty near where the soul-taking creature crossed over a month and a half ago.

These might be the bear hunting grounds, after all. Not a coincidence.

Spells to watch the past show a blur of shadows. Potent magic was used to repel the monster. And Strange believes he recognizes the mystical signature. Constantine. A tracking spell leads him to Crest Hill. To the bar. Cementing the idea he is following the British magus. But no… it is a dark-haired woman.

Doctor Strange in his expensive dark suit and the odd golden amulet around his neck is a rather usual sight in a place like this. For a second he draws glances. But then he concentrates briefly, shrouding himself with a veil of non-importance. And walks to Jessica's table. "Good evening, miss," he greets. "I apologize for imposing my presence, but it is quite the crisis that brings me here. I believe you have been injured recently by… a creature I am trying to find."

Jessica looks up with slightly narrowed eyes.

They drop to the amulet. They take in the suit. They look up to his face. Her own is closed off. She sits there in a black hoodie, a black leather jacket, a grey scarf, black fingerless gloves, even though most people would strip off their winter wear inside. She downs the shot and finally admits: "Most recently, as far as 'creatures' go, I've had a run in with a shapeshifter, and a god damned demonic bear. Which one are you looking for?"

And then, eyes narrowing still more, "And how do I know you're not either one of them? Or someone else, out to cause some kind of trouble?"

Paranoia which had been dialed down to medium low are now on high. Everything about this woman says she's quite a bit on edge. She leans back from him, in fact, tense, every line of her saying she's ready to flip this table and fight if she has to.

"The bear," replies Strange. God-damned indeed. "It has been loose since the end of August and is an elusive monster," he pulls a chair closer and sits down on the table uninvited. Shocking rudeness for those who know him, but he is in a hurry. "Doctor Stephen Strange," he states as introduction. "I had the unwanted privilege to meet the bear as it crossed over and also had a few trees dropped on me."

Apparently he wasn't crushed. Or not as badly as not to be walking around a few weeks later. "There have been a few attacks since late August. Not many survivors or witnesses. I'd like to talk with you, and with the sorcerer that drove him away this time."

"Strange huh?"

Jessica waves to a server. "Bring another bottle," she says curtly.

Then she looks back at the man who has sat down at her table. She eases her seat around, putting a bit more space between them, but makes a soft stab at a joke. "Faces come out of the rain?"

When the bottle comes she pours another shot. Colorless, odorless liquid hot courage. She eyes him sidelong. "I think I've heard of you, but I think I'm going to need some confirmation of your identity before I tell you shit about shit, man. No offense, but information kills when it's in the wrong hands, you know? And I'd like to know how you found me at all."

For him, sitting uninvited is unusual rudeness. For her, even in her guarded, wary state, being willing to say all this without insulting him directly to keep him at some sort of arm's length means she's operating at the very height of her personal etiquette threshold.

"Ah…" Strange looks at the woman eyes, then frowns. "You are well protected from simple parlor tricks. Very well, you want Doors?" He gesticulates with a hand, which if Jessica is paying attention is a badly scarred hand.

A gate opens in the left of Jessica. A hole in the air large enough for a van to cross over. She can see Central Park beyond. The scents and sounds of the park fill the room, yet no one else seems to notice. Then the 'door' closes. "I can't prove my identity to you. I doubt a driving license would do it. But I am a master sorcerer and I tracked you because you are still marked by that monster. Why it brought me to you and not the magician I am no sure. But in mystic dealing sometimes necessity and fate are stronger than intent."

"Yeah, okay, close that shit," Jessica says, waving her hand at the door to Central Park. "I don't even want New York by my elbow right this second."

She pours another shot. "Jessica Jones," she adds, because apparently now she believes him enough to offer her name. He says she's protected against parlor tricks, and her eyes narrow once more. She's protected from a great deal more than that. But she does shrug. "Fate, yeah. I get that." And she does.

She's seen, one too many times, how even seeming mistakes or shitty things have turned out, in the future, to make sure people trying to stop bad people from doing bad shit have precisely what they need in the eleventh hour. It's a lesson she should perhaps take to heart on the most recent adventure, but right now it's all a little too raw for that, a thought which makes her down the shot once more.

"John," she adds, "doesn't much care for other people getting in on his investigations. I'd tread a little careful with him. But, fine, what do you want to know about that fucking demon? I thought John blasted it to shit and back, but I'd just had my ass kicked, so I wasn't really asking questions at the time."

"Unfortunately no. The beast was momentarily driven off, not destroyed or significantly weakened," Strange purses his lips unhappily. "Not even the light of Agamotto injured him seriously, and that was when it arrived. The monster is stronger now, it feeds on souls and it is growing. And I believe it is hunting for something or someone. Any clue who could this be? Have you heard of a woman called 'Dani'? Possibly Danielle. Native American. Might be riding a winged horse." Which would sound ridiculous, but not so much for New Yorkers.

"Dani? No, can't say that I have met either a Dani or a Danielle. If you had a last name I could probably dig her up for you, that's kind of my schtick, but 'Dani, Native American' isn't enough to work with. Maybe the pegusus thing might bear some fruit I guess, not a whole lot of people riding around on pegusii."

This woman has seen so much that it doesn't sound ridiculous to her at all. It's just another thing. Demon bears, shapeshifters, doors to New York, women riding around on pegusii.

"Why do you think it's after her?" Jessica asks. "He took off with my friend Jane, that's the only one I know of him hunting. That whole rumble was about getting her back. I have some footage of it, by the way, if that might help."

It feeds on souls. She rubs up and down her leather clad arms, looking cold and a little sick. "Does it take a chunk of your soul even if it spits you back out, or does it have to keep you in Shitty McNightmareland to slurp off your soul stuff?"

I sure feel like it took a big damned bite out of mine. Chewed me up, swallowed me, and spit me back out as gristle.

And then, because Jessica Jones will never, ever stop asking questions or attempting to learn all she can about everything she can, asks, "What is the light of Agamotto?"

Strange shakes his head. No second names. "I am not sure who is hunting whom, but the woman knows more about the monster and my own sources have revealed little. It hides well - it might be a native of this land, and no outsider invader."

Her question is fair and important, so he addresses it instead of elaborating. "Yes, it can take a 'chunk'. And it can be deadly enough. Since you are standing and moving I'd say you will heal," he glances at the bottle. "Although drugs will slow the healing down. Rest and meditation, perhaps prayer if you have faith in something greater would be much more helpful in any case of spiritual injury."

This is probably not what John Constantine would say. But who is the real doctor here? Hmm?

"Agamotto is an… entity." He explains. "A superior being in most regards. Twenty five thousand years ago he was great sorcerer that protected the Earth from monsters. He left a number of relics and spells that are very harmful to demons and corrupt spirits. When one of them survives the light it means it is a powerful enemy, indeed."

Jessica didn't exactly ask John. For once.

But she doesn't say that. She smiles grimly at the advice, and says, "Unfortunately, I feel like he fucking dipped me in filth that I'll never fucking wash off, and if I don't drink right now, I'm not going to be able to function, and that's Someone Up There's Own Truth." She doesn't know what she believes in, only that it's Something, or Someone, who seems to more or less be on the side of the people down here. Someone who plays Fate like harps to get the right people to the right place at the right time. Meditation? The thought of being alone with her own thoughts for more than 20 seconds makes her shudder. Shudder, and pour what surely has to be the fourteenth or fifteenth shot.

But she listens to the rest. And now she's learned a bit of sorcerous history, something she tucks away for later.

She digs out her phone. An S-phone, which means she is able to pull the footage of the bear chasing Jane Foster up as a table hologram. The thing flickers in and out of existence as it moves, but it's definitely a sort of bear. And then she shrugs and says, "Maybe I should go take a second look at the plot of land where we fought that thing. If it's chasing a Native American woman, and it's a bear, and it's native to this land, there might be histories. Old stories. Some sort of burial ground or cairn or something it's tied to that anyone who wants to get rid of this thing might should know about." It's a function she's used to offering Zatanna and John; they tend to think to go to their mystic tools first, whereas she defaults to simply working every one of these mystic cases like a private investigator. From time to time, this has offered some insights that weren't readily available before. "Where'd it drop the trees on you?"

Clearly Jessica is not meditating the right way. But then again, almost no one can do it. So he nods quietly without judging her too hard.

Strange studies the cellphone with some attention, briefly. Just to see if there has been changes in the creature. Unfortunately he can't feel the magic through the hologram. Not even a S-phone can do that. "It is the same monster, yes. And it was in Westchester County, not that far from where Constantine and you confronted him. Perhaps it has claimed the area as its territory. If it takes the form of a bear, and it was a bear spirit in ages past, then it will behave like a bear in some regards."

"Yeah, okay. I'll drive up to Westchester County, check into one of the local libraries, look at the microfiche, local history books, whatever, while you wizardly types keep at the other thing. Hit the county clerk of court. Pull up property records, fun stuff like that." This damned demon bear kicked her so hard in the ass she bounced five times and landed in a heap, but at the very least she can make herself less useless, do the thing she's good at, and tackle some research.

And she can, because she is now insulated by a beautiful blanket of alcoholic bliss that won't tip anyone off except the one friend who misses nothing at all. And she thinks he probably won't say anything about it. Probably.

It's also an excuse to stay away from those she knows for another day, even though she has to come back as early as tomorrow for an arranged meeting on John's other case.

Meanwhile, she takes out one of her business cards and slides it across the table to him. "You've got email or a text number like a normal person right?" She isn't really sure if John Constantine is really digging deep into the demon bear issue, not with everything else on his plate; he might have just been trying to save Jane. In the meantime, here's Strange, who absolutely is, and Jessica sees no particular reason not to share the information, assuming she gets any. Other than John giving her that This is All Your Fault look, but she can survive that.

Strange shakes his head. "I think it is older than microfiches or recent stories. Perhaps the natives of the region would have known something centuries ago, but I doubt it is in modern books. Or perhaps it is not from this region of America. I… think, if you want to conduct a conventional investigation, you should perhaps try to find the Pegasus' rider. Something like that must left some kind of trail in a place like New York State."

Jessica Jones gives the Sorcerer Supreme one of her signature withering looks, one of the ones that just radiates in so many words that none of his power or prestige is at all impressive to her; to her, he's just a guy, and one who just said something kinda dumb to boot.

"No, but local historians tend to write books about local legends that only show up in the regional section of local libraries. And if this thing has ever attacked anyone in the past, there might be a newspaper article. About a rash of strange disappearances, for example. And the microfiche sometimes goes back well into the 1800s. In addition, I might get information about landmarks, Native burial grounds, battles…and more. And sure, I'll look into the rider, too. Pretty sure all I gotta do to get a lead there is some aggressive You Tube searching. But in case that doesn't work, knowing more about the tribes inhabiting Westchester County would also be useful, something I could get by, oh I dunno, doing everything I just freakin' said."

She stands up, tossing money on the table for all the Vodka, and adds, "Don't tell me how to do my job, Strange, and I won't tell you how to do yours. I been helping wizards for awhile now. By doing the things you magical types never think of. And here you are, with your phenomenal cosmic power bringin' you straight to me."

A thin smile as she tosses him a wave and walks out. "Fate, right? Text me your details. Or send me a Crystal Ball for Muggles, or whatever it is you do."

With that, she's gone.

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