The Great Ninja Detective

March 27, 2018:

Danny Rand visits the offices of Nelson and Murdock to talk law stuff. Other things get discussed first.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It's safe to say that the law offices of Nelson & Murdock bear little resemblance to the sleek, polished suites of the many white shoe law firms currently on retainer by the Rand Corporation. For all Nelson & Murdock's fling with fame during the Barnes trial, their office remains humble and at least a little harried. The elevator to their second-floor space creaks; the knob on their front door wobbles; the space itself has only in the last few months really enjoyed finishing touches like potted plants and pictures. Some of those are framed articles — a Bugle headline here, a profile of the two grinning twenty-somethings on the cover of New York Mag there.

At the front desk sits a woman in her thirties, more polished and poised than her surroundings. "Welcome to Nelson & Murdock," she says with a brisk smile to any entrant. "What can I do for you today?"

*

Danny Rand took the stairs, because of course. He has learned over these last few months that certain peons within Rand like to corner him in the elevator. It's one place he can't scurry away when he doesn't feel like dealing with business?! issues.

He doesn't look like he belongs in the gleaming white law offices, but nor does he seem like he quite fits in in these humble surroundings either. Danny steps through the door wearing dark wash jeans, a white long-sleeved tee and a well-fitting blazer. He's carrying a wool peacoat. Those are all high end labels, even if they're configured in a casual arrangement. His hair is disheveled, and his beard could use a trim.

"Yeah, uh, hi. Danny Rand. Jeri Hogarth told me I should come talk to you guys about a problem I'm having?" Vague it up, Rand-o.

*

Safe to say that it's not every day a billionaire executive comes strolling through the front door of these offices, but if the buttoned-up woman sitting at the front desk feels any surprise, she doesn't it tell. That smile holds as she sweeps out of her chair and says, "Of course, Mr. Rand. Let me check and see if Mr. Murdock is available for a consultation. Can I get you water or coffee while you wait?"

No sooner is she asking than one of the adjoining doors opens to reveal the man himself. "It's okay, Lydia, I heard you," he says through a slight, rueful half-smile. Matt's dressed in a slim-fitting navy suit, an off-white button-collared shirt, and a skinny dark blue tie. There's no walking stick, but the ever-present red lenses are perched there on his nose, twinkling reflected lamplight.

He could use a shave too, but he's presentable enough for a client intake — even this client. "Mr. Rand," he says with his customary quiet and affable confidence as he extends a hand into the air, close but a little off-target from Danny. "Matt Murdock. Good to meet you."

*

"We uh, actually met briefly. I think. Luke's Christmas party?" Danny steps forward and closes that space, shaking Matt's hand firmly. "I've heard good things about you. Hogarth only sounds a little bit pissed off when she talks about you and Mr. Nelson." He smiles good-naturedly.

*

"Oh, yeah, sure," Matt says with a lift of his chin at the reminder, his smile growing at the mention of Cage. Talk of Hogarth and her relative pissiness sees the lawyer briefly duck his head, stifling whatever expression wants to bubble up. "Ms. Hogarth is a very good lawyer," he says wryly. It is both high and faint praise.

"Anyway, come on in," Matt adds, with a nod towards the door to his office. He's already making his way through, though — allowing others first entry is a bit of mannered luxury the blind man can't afford.

The office is, like the rest of the suite, modest. It's dominated by a simple wooden desk, covered in stacks of braille papers. A laptop with an earpiece and braille display is perched next to the high-backed chair Matt is already in the process of claiming.

"So tell me, Mr. Rand," Matt says as he circles the corner of the desk with a few light touches of his fingers on the surface to guide and anchor him. "What can I do for you?"

*

There is something a little bit lingering in the way that Danny shakes Matt's hand. He may seem clueless, but he's actually fairly observant - at least when it comes to certain things. There is a subtle blip in facial expression that would be hard to read even with conventional eyes.

He follows behind Matt, then closes the door once he's through. "Well, there's a couple of things. Jeri's my lawyer, but she thinks there's a couple of things where a little distance from corporate law might be beneficial. So I uh, I don't know if this is a consultant thing or a retainer thing?" he sounds a little helpless. "But you can invoice me for your time however you want."

*

For a blind man, Matt Murdock picks up a lot of things the rest of the world can't. But when it comes to momentary facial blips, Matt is as lost as any of his ordinarily-blind bretheren. He eases into his chair without any indication of — well, anything, save focused attention on Mr. Rand and what he has to say.

"For now, you should just tell me the kind of help you need," Matt says with a spread of his hands — which are rough, calloused, and good-sized for his relatively modest frame. "If you decide to take us on, we can worry about the pricing and the structure of it all later."

*

At the best of times, Danny has a hard time focusing on the Rand-related things he's voluntarily taken on since his return. So when something else is not adding up, it's a little hard for him to stay on-topic. He hesitates before sitting, then when he does, his eyes land on Matt's hands.

With very little preamble and no attempt at easing into it, he says suddenly, "You're a fighter."

*

Matt lets out a little puff of a chuckle, and puts up one of those boxer's hands palm-first. "Jerri's too kind," he says, completely mistaking Danny's one-liner as more of Hogarth's praise for his legal skills. "Yeah, Foggy and I fight hard for our clients. Though like with any fight, it's win-some lose-some."

His brow knits as he presses the point. "So what kind of fight are you in, Mr. Rand?"

*

"No, like…" Danny puts his fists up, shadowboxes a half-second (not bad form) "…a fighter." Ever since he himself was outed by his hands, he's become more conscious of others. "The way you carry yourself. The way you shake. Your hands." He says all of this as if it's fact and not just supposition.

*

At that on-the-mark accusation Matt pauses, does a quick double-take, before letting out a short laugh filled with wry skepticism comingled with confusion. "Uh, thanks? But I don't — I mean, I work out, but fighting…"

He gestures towards his glasses, a silent but eloquent gesture, suffused with rueful self-deprecation.

*

Danny squints. Headtilts. It takes him a second to realize why Matt is motioning at his glasses. "Oh. Well. I know lots of blind fighters." A beat, then, "I used to spar with them. They learned to sense their surroundings by reading the chi of their opponents. One of my final tests was to fight a blind man while I was blindfolded." He grins a little. "I lost three times before I finally won."

*

As Danny Rand explains his trials against blind martial artists, Matt's fair forehead crinkles; his smile is amused and bemused at once. "Ah, I've certainly heard about the trope in the movies…" the lawyer offers. "Blind warriors and all that. Even heard about a few blind boxers out there — the disability journals eat that kind of stuff up. But that sounds, ah, like quite the story, Mr. Rand."

*

Danny looks at Matt. Squints. Then he holds up a hand. He blocks half of Matt's face by holding the hand in front of his own face. He squints, drops the hand. Frowns. Then something clicks into place. You can almost hear the gears sliding, grinding, clacking - hear the hamster peddling in its wheel.

He puts a hand over his mouth, then shirks back in his seat, then stomps once. "You're him. You're the Devil. I always wondered how you could see out of the dark lenses in that helmet. When I tried to make my own, I couldn't see a damn thing and keep the eyes hidden." He snaps emphatically.

*

It's not the first time Matt Murdock has been exposed. There was the time the Aztec murdergod ripped his helmet off on Hell's Kitchen's rooftops. There was the time his own girlfriend sussed out the man behind the mask using her remarkable voice and facial recognition technology. But this is the first time anyone has deduced Matt's alter-ego, and it shocks, galls, and rankles.

It also leaves him with a sudden, split-second decision to make. He can either continue that lie — feigning incredulity, taking offense, or adopting any number of other plausible reactions — or he can own up to it. Complicating all of this is the fact that Danny Rand — hippy-dippy Danny-fucking-Rand — is a member of the makeshift crew he's put together. And the only member of said crew who does not know Matt's alter-ego.

To keep lying to him deepens the offense, means that coming clean at a later point becomes that much more fraught. You felt like you needed a team to take on Fisk, says the calm, rational side of Matt to that other side, that's busy raising his hackles and sending his heartbeat speeding a mile a minute. This is what having a team means.

Most of that inward debate and deliberation is entirely internal, reflected only in a hard bob of his Adam's Apple and a shift of his square, stubbled jaw. Eventually, though, he'll reach over and press a button on his desk, activating the room's white noise machine. It's grating on his sensitive ears, but it's a necessary courtesy afforded to clients concerned for their privacy.

And it could be the only thing keeping the woman on the other side of the doorway from hearing all sorts of things she should not hear.

"Like I said," comes Matt's quiet, careful tone over the whirring, "I picked up boxing from my dad." His lips press together into a thin line before he adds: "The rest I picked up from someone like me — like those men you fought for your trial."

*

Danny Rand is definitely an unlikely candidate for detective of the year. And it's unlikely such an impressive feat of deduction will be repeated anytime soon. His largest advantages were the blindness being no disguise, and a fighter's watchfulness. They've fought alongside each other a few times now, and it's enough that he got an idea of how Matt moves. The real kicker, the thing that pulls it all together is just the overlapping venn diagram of their lives. The Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Danny Rand circles all overlap over street fighting. The likelihood that the Matt Murdock circle was somewhere over there, not overlapping with the fight circle, with hands like that?

He just watches Matt for his reactions. He was eighty percent sure he was right, but there was the chance he was wrong. If Matt had vehemently denied it, spun some golden excuse, the trusting young man would have bought it. But yes, a lie revealed down the line would undermine any attempt at a foundation of trust that teamwork needs.

He smiles broadly and slaps his hand down on the desk again. He leans forward, eager and a bit excited. "Who trained you on the other stuff, though? Like you said, most people think blind fighters are a thing in movies."

*

He's like a puppy, Matt thinks to himself when Danny excitedly begins peppering him with questions. He feels strangely detached in the moment. He's sure worries will crop up — If Danny could figure it out, could others? Could Fisk? — but shock is its own sort of temporary balm.

"A, ah, a guy named Stick," Matt answers forthrightly — in for a penny, right? "Or at least that's what he calls himself," he corrects. Obviously 'Stick' wasn't his given name. "He never really talked about himself, or where he learned to fight. He was very, uh, practical about it all. But he was a good teacher — he taught me how to master my body, to train my mind through meditation. All that."

*

"And…do you see by reading chi? When I fight blindfolded or in the dark, it's an exercise. If I quiet my mind, I can feel my opponent's chi. But even the master blind fighters I met can't move like you can." Danny isn't really trying to hide his enthusiasm. Any talk of legal issues feels far less important. He's like some kid at a comic convention who just spotted someone else dressed in cosplay of his very favourite, obscure-as-hell fandom. "We need to spar!"

*

"My way of doing things is a little different," Matt says when Danny presses him on how he does what he does. The tone is polite, a little wry, but on the substance he's circumspect and even guarded. It's one thing to reveal that he can see more than he lets on; it's another thing to reveal how. Especially because his 'gifts' come with complimentary liabilities that could easily be exploited.

Still, the billionaire has an innocent, infectious brand of enthusiasm that thaws a little of Matt's chill. "Yeah, I'm working on a space where we could do that," he says of sparring with a spread of his hands. "Should be ready soon."

And then Matt folds his hands in front of him, one on top of the other. "But mister — Danny," he corrects himself, "All due respect? You do need a lawyer. It's something I'd have found a way to broach with you if Hogarth hadn't sent you to me. She's a good lawyer, and you shouldn't drop her — but you need someone read in on Fisk in a way she can't be and shouldn't be. If he comes at you the way he came at Luke, I'm betting it won't be with a bomb."

*

Some of Danny's enthusiasm dies down when Matt steers the conversation away from a topic he knows and loves (martial arts/kicking ass) towards something he's not very good at but feels an obligation to (businessthings). He smiles a little sheepishly, ducks his head, scratches the back of his neck. "Ah. Yeah. I started talking about…" he rolls his hand, "…and J-Money told me to shut up." No 'implied.' Hogarth said it outright. "She's worried about getting drawn into Fisk's crosshairs, I think." And fair enough. She has a lot of things she needs to protect.

He sinks back a little into his chair. "He might already be coming at me? I've been chasing ghosts all over my company for months. Shady dealings. Shell companies. Couriers that aren't transporting what they say they are."

*

"J… Money?" Matt repeats, dark eyebrows shooting up, openly incredulous at the idea of anyone calling shark-in-a-suit Jeri Hogarth anything of the kind. But then he's turning his attention to the substance of it all, and setting aside — for the moment — concerns or trepidations about this latest disclosure of his. It's almost always easier for him to focus on other people's problems than his own.

"Okay, Danny…" Matt says in that mild, deliberate lawyer's cadence worlds away from the gravelly rasp of Hell's Kitchen's red-clad vigilante.

"…why don't you start at the beginning?"

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