Closing the Loop

December 23, 2017:

Daredevil touches base with Agent Coulson about the aftermath of the Monterey Shock prison raid. He receives news both bright and grim.

457 W 57th St., Hell's Kitchen, NY

Still has that 'new furniture' smell.


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The reply to the message that the enigmatic Daredevil wished to 'close the loop' on the Monterary Shock raid came rather immediately in the form of a texted address.

457 W 57th St.

It's a testament, really, to the ridiculous amount of funding this organization has that it can have safehouses peppered all across the city, not just apartments but entire brownstones which have allowed them to take ownership of every apartment inside. Usually they rent them out to agents anyway, because making sure agents can have affordable places to live is just good policy, and not everyone can or should live within the Triskelion (which also has its own suites of apartments).

Unit 4C has the benefit of having an exterior facing balcony with plenty of room for the sorts of feats of derring do which the Man Without Fear is known for indulging in. Phil just sorts of waits out on the balcony, though he's currently using a car scraper/snow brush to sort of get the snow out of the way, shoving it off the balcony railing. He is in fact thinking second thoughts about offering this method of approach, contemplating the icy layers of icy everything that seems to have descended over the city of late. There are literal drifts on this balcony, and he's sort of kicking sort of those out of the way too. Various bits and bobs of temperature perception might hint that his nose is probably cherry red, just one icy little spot on his face that is icier than every other spot on his body. Not the top of his head, mind, he's got a very comfy hat on that. With earflaps, even.

Truly, were anyone to encounter this man today they'd probably be far more convinced he is far more likely to go pick up a last minute dolly for some tiny niece than arranging clandestine meetings with superheroes, even if they did happen to catch the television versions of his impatiently-delivered recent broadcasts.

For all of Phil Coulson's second thoughts, it turns out that neither sleet nor snow nor gloom of night will keep the Devil of Hell's Kitchen from attempting all manner of unwary feats. If there were any number of near-slips on the ice-rimed Manhattan rooftops that led him here, he'll never tell, but his descent from this rooftop — preceded as it is by the drop of the cable stored in his billy club — seems a smooth and unhurried downward scale.

He'll drop that remaining few feet of distance before yanking the cable and the other end of his instrument down from the height above them, catching it with aplomb. And then, he'll rise to his full (and relatively modest) height and turn to regard Agent Coulson. "Thanks for getting back to me," he says in a quiet rasp and wreath of winter mist.

Phil Coulson is duly impressed. This is one of those feats he could not have pulled off even in his younger years. Compact strength he has, as well as bullish determination, but acrobatics of that sort have always been beyond him. He has never even been the Agent who would so much as pull off a high kick. Barrel in fists flying, sure. If he has to. Guns from a distance are even better.

He opens the sliding glass doors that lead into the far warmer apartment and says, "Of course." A flash of warmth in his voice, "I think you've more than earned prompt replies."

Coulson is aware handing SHIELD itself a coup by handing the prison raid off to Phil's flavor of authorities probably wasn't at the top of Daredevil's list of concerns that night, but. He still did it. And a host of good things that came as a result of taking on that task at all.

The furniture in this apartment smells like Furniture Store, which is to say it probably has been sat on less than ten times in its entire life. The smell of coffee also permeates the room; hot. The heater is a bit higher than it strictly should be for environmental kindness. Phil strips off a pair of gloves, flexing fingers that are feeling rather numb, and which, sadly, are starting to feel the faint twinges that can start occuring during cold, wet weather when one starts their slide down the proverbial hill.

"Thanks," the Devil says, softly and simply, as he slips throught he sliding doors and into the comfortable warmth of the hideaway and, in his own strange and idiosyncratic way, giving the place a look around. He's duly impressed with SHIELD's resources — brownstones in mid-town, even in Hell's Kitchen, are not cheap. To invest in one just to hold meetings or stow away the odd agent? Matt's operation is strictly McGuyver, put together with bubble-gum wrap and tin foil. What Coulson has at his disposal — the flying cars, the endless agents and bases of operation — is nothing short of staggering.

"Have I earned a cup of coffee too?" Daredevil asks wryly as he walks into the room. He won't sit, opting instead to lean against the back of a chair in some section of the apartment where he can feel the least amount of light laying on him. "Either way — I wanted to check in and see where things stood after Monterary Shock."

It was a hard thing for a famously independent figure like the Devil of Hell's Kitchen, to leave that (literal) mopping up to anyone, even this spook who'd proved improbably useful during the Barnes trial. All those people dead, all those living terrified. And, of course, there were the others — the guards beaten to unconsciousness, and the metahuman sociopath in a coma some doors down. So many variables to leave in the hands of others, even hands as capable as Phil Coulson's.

"Of course. How do you take it?"

Phil closes the sliding glass doors behind them both and locks them out of habit. Also habit: drawing the blinds across the glass. He takes off his hat and coat too, hanging both neatly on a coatrack.

Then, he moves to the kitchen area, taking down a pair of coffee cups, pouring coffee into it. Into his, he pours about half a cup of coffee. The rest is creamer. And sugar. Enough of both that one might be forgiven for suspecting he was preparing a starter cup for a fourteen year-old instead of for a grown man.

"What do you want to know first?" he asks. There is, after all, plenty to cover, and he's content to let Daredevil lead the conversation. This, too, is almost out of habit; a staggering number of his conversations tend to get interrupted by gunfire, so letting the guy he's here to brief decide what the proverbial 'reverse pyramid' looks like to him just makes good sense.

Not that Phil much expects it tonight. They're at a safehouse, there's no good reason for them to get shot at, even a lot of the world's most terrible people tend to wind down during the holidays, and the weather outside is frightful. All the same, none of that is any good reason to ignore best practices as he sees them.

"A little milk, and no sugar," Matt answers as he plants his gloved hands behind him and faces the man on the other side of the living space. And then Phil throws the ball back into his court. Where to start, really, with the number of threads left dangling after the climax of several weeks past? It was a triumphant (if incredibly messy) moment, but in the span of time since he's felt himself questioning how much, if anything, was truly resolved by their derring rescue.

"The first thing I want to know," Daredevil says carefully, deliberatively, "is where Kevin Thompson is now, and what's to be done with him." The masked man had given Coulson an indication of what the man called 'Kilgrave' was capable of before a bus rendered him comatose, and the havoc he could wreak if he ever woke up in his hospital bed and decided to ask someone for something — anything. Besides, he owes it to Jess to be able to give her a firm, clear answer on Kilgrave's ultimate fate if she ever wants to know.

That isn't to say it's the only question. To wit: "Also? The status of Parker or any of the people arrested at Monterrary Shock, and whether anyone's pursuing deals to get them to testify against higher ups at IGH, or in their operation." In theory, Parker alone might be enough to name, indict, and convict Wilson Fisk. In theory

A hint of milk and the coffee is stirred. Phil brings it over to Daredevil, then takes a seat in one of the kitchen chairs, warming his hands around his. He turns it to face his guest, and takes a sip before answering.

The status of the two men in question produces entirely different responses.

"Thompson," Phil says, his voice betraying no flickers of emotion, "was exposed to extensive operations during the course of his captivity. In addition to having his vocal chords cut by those mad scientists, multiple organs had been removed. Blood and tissue samples had also been taken with what can only be described as unconscionable abandon. He was unlikely to ever live again off of life support, and that made moving him…problematic. I'm afraid he suffered complications in transit related to the difficulties of maintaining said life support en route, and he did not make it. Though our scientists had also hoped to study him, I'm afraid some unfortunate paperwork mistakes ensured the body was cremated before they were able to get to him."

This man takes 'butter wouldn't melt in his mouth' and kicks it up to eleven. He says it all so very matter-of-factly.

Even his heartbeat, which theoretically ought to be pounding out a bossa nova in response to all of this expedient equivocation, offers little more than a gentle beat displacement throughout this recitation. Such shades of grey and feats of cold calculus are so second-nature to this man that truth and lie tremble on the tightrope.

But on the matter of Parker there is genuine anger and frustration. "As for Parker, he was remanded to Riker's Island instead of our own facilities thanks to jurisdictional issues which began getting thrown our way almost immediately, with the local DA's office becoming particularly incensed and difficult. Seventeen political pressures later and he was out of our control, 24 hours after that he, too, was dead. Seems Parker had a peanut allergy. Seems someone conveniently forgot about it."

Bookends of plausible deniability, set across from each other only in the intent, reasons, and heart behind the acts.

Mention of the respective men draw two very different answers from Coulson, and his answers in turn provoke two very different reactions from Daredevil. The first one is muted. There's a tightening at Matt's jawline, a shifting of its hinges left and then right as he wrestles with what may have been the wrongful death of a man who, perhaps more than most others in the course of human history, needed killing. Coulson's heartbeat doesn't betray it, exactly, and his answer provides a veneer enough to where the Devil of Hell's Kitchen can look the other way and put his principles on the matter of lifetaking away — if he so chooses.

A choice made all the easier by what Phil Coulson says next. Daredevil is no boy scout. He's not even a Captain America. He has always been somewhat cynical about institutions, which itself provides some explanation for why he chooses to work around them as he does. But the fact that Dr. Parker, potential star witness in any case against Wilson Fisk, was dead within a day of entering SHIELD custody leaves Matt Murdock in a state of open shock. His mouth parts, and he actually hears himself giving utterance to a quiet, solitary, and dumfounded: "…what?"

His gloved hand tightens around the steaming mug of coffee so tightly it risks a break. "A local DA derailed a SHIELD investigation and got your star witness killed in a matter of hours?" Daredevil repeats. "And wait — just let me guess. None of the other guards or researchers in the prison can identify anyone high up the food chain."

"A local DA, who happens to be the buddy of a guy in the FBI, who happens to be the brother of a guy in the CIA, who happened to have just enough of some-sort-of-leverage with some politician whose name I wish I knew, all to get a call put in to my direct supervisor, who put pressure on me. Some watchdog group got involved, even. I then pushed back, and six or seven more phone calls got made, and the next thing I know 'our hands are tied' and 'he's a local problem' and 'outside of SHIELD's purview.'"

Mirroring Daredevil, Phil's grip tightens on his own coffee cup. "It was all insane. Political favors trading hands left and right. The mastermind behind this stuff has some serious connections. Some powerful people are in his pocket. SHIELD has a lot of authority, but it's not absolute, and our status as an International organization is as difficult as it is helpful sometimes. To wit: the watchdog group is the sort who disapproves of the existence of black sites and who routinely question the Constitutional validity of having SHIELD involved in any domestic affairs. It was like someone was just waiting to hand-craft a mess that would rip that guy out of our hands. I was trying to get him back, but they only needed him for a few hours to do what they needed to do. And nobody can identify anyone; the food prep guy quit and went missing the same day and everyone's covering everyone else. I can't even pin down the Warden with disciplinary action, let alone pinpoint the specific person who murdered that witness."

His voice lowers, and he leans forward. "It seems you don't pick your enemies too lightly."

As Phil Coulson gives a more in-depth, play-by-play look at how Dr. Parker and, by extension, Wilson Fisk, fell through the fingers of the largest and most sophisticated security operation in the world, the man behind Daredevil's mask grapples for that cool, dispassionate part of his mind the moment calls for. He tries to focus on Coulson's words, on his breath, on the smell of a cup of coffee that Matt wants to do nothing more with than hurl across the room of this unlived space. But somehow, despite his powers of focus, the same thoughts come bubbling up: You lost him. Lost him, lost him lost him. Daredevil's head dips ever-so-perceptibly downward in an unusual slant — brief, momentary defeat.

All of it is so galling. The DA with friends and family in high places. The politicians on the take. And especially the notion that some do-gooding lefty watchdog group was enlisted to help block SHIELD's involvement. "His name is Wilson Fisk," Daredevil says of enemies, his voice subdued by shock until it rasps a vehement: "And he chose me." And it's true, even if Fisk himself doesn't know it yet.

A hard swallow. "The prisoners. All safe?" That is something. More than just a silver lining — it's a victory in and of itself. So why do the words that form the questions still taste like ash in his mouth?

"I'll see what I can dig up on him from my end, set up a drop to get it to you when I have it." Phil promises. It may not be much of a consolation, any more than the fate of the prisoners may be, but it's what he can do. His own anger is soon fading.

He's been operating in a world where things like this go wrong for a long time, has been in scenarios where he's had to swallow his bile and deal with the reality he's been handed. So his own emotions about the entire affair are soon gone and dealt with; he will keep doing what he can do and that's just about it. His fingers even loosen about his own coffee cup; he takes a sip, stands and heads to the kitchen, tops it off, and continues conducting what is, in essence, a two-man briefing.

"The human prisoners are doing very well," he reports. "They have all received extensive medical care. Those who were exposed to the drugs are still receiving said care, we're working on trying to reverse the damage done to them as a result of said exposure. The meta prisoners are a mixed bag. Ten of them were fugitives from the law themselves; somehow they, too, ended up getting 'misplaced' from various prisons and put into Fisk's hands."

Probably not too surprising, since a couple of them were some of the very snake people Matt and Friends fought in a weird amusement park battle last February, and that much of course would have been evident even before SHIELD stepped in.

"Most of the others only required a few days of routine medical care to deal with the effects of the induced comas they were under; none of the rest had been subjected to any organ removal, though some needed a fair amount of painkiller and recovery time for the biopsies, spinal taps, and other sundry issues."

He pauses, then says, "The two bird children are in this building, downstairs, if you want to visit them. The one previously known as #48 demanded a baby name book pretty soon after waking up, she's named herself and her sister. The one previously known as #14…"

He hesitates, then leans against the counter, adding, "SHIELD…has some medical technology that is above and beyond what's out in the world at large. I authorized some procedures to try to help her with the mental disability she'd been saddled with."

He seems uncertain as to the reception to that news, oddly; on one hand, the thumb drive made it clear #4 had previously had the intelligence of an owl, which would have made doing anything with her very difficult in the long term. On the other hand, Phil is not entirely sure what right he, himself, had to authorize acting in loco parentis to this child, ordering up a suite of highly experimental treatments on her brain. There's no sadness or grimness accompanying this revelation, which perhaps indicates it went more or less okay, but even so he's…uneasy…with his own decisions in that regard, in a way he wasn't uneasy with Thompson's 'unfortuante medical accidents' or even the nasty realities that took Parker out of his reach for just-long-enough.

"Thanks," Daredevil summons up when Coulson offers to find out more about Fisk, and he tries to make it sound halfway sincere. For all the disappointment in Parker's death, the vigilante at least has the presence of mind to know that few law enforcement agents would take a head's up from a masked man and devote the level of attention and resources to it that Phil Coulson did. Had it not been for SHIELD, Fisk would have been able to 'clean up' Monterey Shock the same way he'd done Vistoya Trucking. At least now there is a growing body of evidence being amassed — something that would have been impossible without the cooperation of the more seasoned operative.

He takes a sip of his cooling coffee to get the acrid taste out of his mouth as he listens to Coulson outline the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding the people rescued from Vistoya. He smirks slightly into his coffee cup when Coulson mentions that one of the girls has decided to name herself and her sister. After all, he's had his own run-ins with precocious bird people. The matter of her less-precocious sister has him grimacing again. "They have a brother — he was stowed away in that truck I nabbed a few months back." The high-speed car-jacking that garnered his name. "Back then we were worried Fisk would try to track him back down, so we found a home for him far outside the city. Eventually — eventually we ought to see about reconnecting them."

Daredevil's attempts at sincerity, and his frustration on the matter of Parker, at the very least don't ruffle or offend the Agent overmuch. He gets it, and truthfully he would have liked to have provided the masked man with better news.

As for the existence of a third bird kid? Phil nods in response to that one, unsurprised by this revelation— the footage was something he's seen by now, and he'd noted the little bird boy, captured ever-so-briefly by the footage of the intrepid stoner who thought to put it online that day.

"I'm content to help you make that happen whenever and however you see fit. SHIELD can do a lot, but we can't really give them anything approximating a normal life. And we've done all we can do for Valencia— that's the older one. She probably won't ever talk, but she's been making some progress on pre-school lessons with a leapfrog tablet, and has mastered basic self-care in a short period of time. It's good enough to make me think it's time to stop trying to fix her, at least. Tesha makes me very glad 'Kindle Unlimited' is a thing; I think she'd have blown an agent's salary in books by now if not. But they've basically been confined to the safehouse more or less every moment they weren't in medical, and I'm sure they'd appreciate being placed somewhere they might stretch their wings. Literally. Their muscles both suffered from a great deal of atrophy. Being cooped up isn't helping that much."

The masked-man has another wince waiting in the wings when Phil Coulson says that the muscles of the children have atrophied. He remembers all too well how frail Hunter was in that hospital bed shortly after his rescue. "This place is better for them than any cell or testing room," Daredevil says of their current arrangements, here in this comfortable, new-furniture-smelling Hell's Kitchen brownstone. "But yeah, let's find something permanent. Let me talk to my friend, and I'll get back to you soon on it."

He takes a final sip from his cup before walking it over to a counter and setting it down with a 'clink.' "I should go," the masked-man says. "If Parker or Monterey Shock isn't the path to taking down Fisk, it's on to Plan B." Whatever that is. There's a lift of his well-defined chin, a casual gesture that nevertheless communicates no small measure of respect. "Thanks for the assist on this one, Agent Coulson." And with that, he's backwards walking towards the sliding door, and the sleet-filled night beyond it.

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