Insinuations

March 29, 2018:

A strange visitor arrives at Alias Investigations. One who knows too much…and says too little.

Alias Investigations, Hell's Kitchen, NYC

Yeah, yeah, it's a dump.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Sizani, T'Challa, Shuri

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Jessica Jones can be found at a rare location today. Her own desk. In her own office. She's reading through some mail with a furrowed brow and has a Red Bull energy drink half forgotten a few inches away from her hand. She has made no more effort to look professional than she ever does; her jeans are ripped, her dark blue tank top is just that, a tank top, and her hair is wet from a recent shower that indicates she might have just gotten up no more than an hour ago.

'Early to rise' is not really a truism Jessica believes in.

A few items may be of interest in her office, at least to some eyes. There's a portrait of an old Wakandan grandmother sitting on the built-in shelving. And a holographic portrait of Sizani. Two dead women. The only other photograph is a family photograph featuring a teenage Jones, and three people who are presumably her parents and a brother.

*

There are appearances that are often announced but the arrival of a man in a stylish dreadlock haircut has arrived without making himself known. He doesn't even knock. He just grabs the handle of the door and lets himself in. His slim-fitted harem pants are sagging just enough to prove his Westside heritage. He's rocking a white t-shirt with a furred jean jacket over the top. African beads that are decidedly designed to look 'Wakandan' but are not are also worn.

The Black Hipster (aka Hotep) look is completed with the gold rimmed glasses that are on his face.

The man enters with a look of blissful innocence on his face and as he approaches the desk at a gradual pace, he takes his sweet time and looks around the room. Things are silently noted and committed to memory, mostly to be used later. Or something. Who really knows. He could just be taking his time on his approach. He doesn't seem to be in a hurry to even acknowledge the fact that Jessica Jones, the Alias, is at her desk. He's got too many other things to look at right now. He does keep both of his hands where they can be seen though. Just in case.

Besides, it's better if she talks first.

*

There are times when Jessica Jones is all diplomatic client relations. She'd have to be, or she'd never get any work. And there are times when this needs to extend to others: sources, witnesses primarily. And there are times when…

"The all-organic gluten free juice bar or whatever is about 10 blocks from here."

Her tone is dry, her features twisted up into something like disbelief. It's not that she wouldn't take money from all kinds of hipsters…she has, and she will again. It's just that sometimes, the snark must flow. Like spice.

She puts her work in a desk drawer and leans back, adding, "Unless you really did mean to walk into Alias Investigations, looking for a PI."

She leans back in her seat, right on the back two legs of the thing the way mothers everywhere say not to do, and fixes Erik with her dark-eyed gaze.

*

"Y'know… considering the people you're associated with, I would've expected a much nicer office." Erik doesn't lay his snark on thickly. Not this time. Instead he just kind of tosses a soft dig that's led by some information that he's been asking around or knows things that he probably has no business knowing. He's got a bit of a smugness to the way he just wanders around the office and looks at things.

He doesn't touch though. So he does have some manners. He doesn't touch anything.

"I don't need a PI. I can handle taking raunchy pictures all on my own." Erik finally stops as he gets closer to the desk and turns to look at Jessica with a bit of a smile. "I do think you might want to get to know me a little bit better, though." Erik takes a seat and leans back in it with a nod in the general direction of the holographic portrait of Sizani.

"That is, if you want to know what I know."

*

Jessica decides this is gonna be a cigarette meeting right around the time he says something about the office. She lights one up and takes a drag, pulling out an ashtray. "I like my office," is what she says, leaving it at that. There's no defense of it. Digs at the office come all the time. And the truth is, she does like it. It is familiar, and home, and if there's one thing she likes it's things which are familiar, and hers. She watches him look at things (and there are plenty of others to look at, from The Complete Works of Arthur Conan Doyle to an obsidian statue of a goddess to the punching bag, still swinging lightly on the chain).

She hasn't taken raunchy pictures in awhile, but she doesn't argue with him there either. Either because she wouldn't, or because…

Well. What he says stops her cold.

She's been asked not to work the case. The thought flashes across her mind in a matter of seconds, before her curiosity and the fact that information that might well evaporate is right here means that yes, she's ready to ask all kinds of questions.

Like:

"Who are you?"

As she asks, the cig dangles from her lips, almost, the orange tip burning away.

*

"Nobody. But you can call me Erik."

Erik gets nice and comfortable in his seat and even extends his boots out to cross his legs at the ankle. He doesn't go so far as to put his feet up on her desk but he's just getting comfortable enough to show how relaxed he is.

And to show just how much in control of this situation he is. He's got all the cards.

"Smoking's bad for you, by the way. You should probably try to quit." Erik offers an actual genuine piece of advice there and then moves right back to the topic at hand. It's weird that he's jumping around with topics. Maybe trying to keep Jessica off-balance or something. Who knows.

"So how do you want to do this? What do you want to know first?" Erik reaches up to make sure his glasses are straight. "… Or is it more of a who do you want to know about first?"

*

Being shown someone else is in control of the situation puts Jessica right on edge. So it is that she takes a real long drag on that cigarette before blowing out a stream of smoke. Erik, no-last-name-given, in his faux-Wakanda outfit, here claiming to have information about her dead friend.

But she suddenly just smiles. It's a hard smile, one that shows no teeth, one that shuts her face down. Her head dips to one side before coming forward again, and she finally says what she's said to a hundred clients and witnesses since beginning her career.

"Probably best to start from the beginning."

She tumps some ashes into the tray, and takes another drag. This is a pose she's held a hundred times as well. Smoking, attentive, but expressionless, ready to soak up facts…or someone's version of them…like a sponge.

*

"Nah. That part's boring. Let's skip to the part where I tell you that Sizani's dead."

Erik doesn't hesitate once or even flinch when he drops what he's assuming is going to be some serious information. He's watching Jessica now. Just to see how she plays it with that information. Granted, he may be too late with that information but he's still got a few more tricks up his hipster sleeves.

The look on his face is even showing that he's got more to tell. And he can't way to tell it.

*

"And how do you know Sizani's dead? How do you know Sizani? Who are you to her?"

It might seem like Jessica Jones would be the sort to react. But she's in a mode right now. She doesn't. She doesn't flinch. Her face does harden still more, and the anger she seems to be feeling does manage to flow into her body language. Into the set of her shoulders, the posture she adopts. She doesn't let any of the fresh wave of grief she feels at those bluntly spoken words show on her face, unless one counts the flash of swiftly narrowed eyes.

She takes another drag off that Marlboro Red, feeling like nothing so much as a woman thrown into a sudden chess match.

But no matter what, her job is to ask questions, and so she does. She doesn't even allow herself to glance at her friend's portrait, not right now.

Tone? As even as her hard-bitten, world-weary alto ever gets.

*

"Like I said. I'm nobody. I'm just a man that's been wronged by the same man that's wronged you. The same man that sent you on a wild goose chase while he sent Sizani's body back to Wakanda."

Erik sits up in his seat now. Since Jessica's not about to make any body language shifting, he will. He loses the smugness in his tone and his expression as he draws himself into a more serious and genuine expression. He looks like he's been hurt by the man he's talking about so this is a bit more personal for him. Or, well, at least that's how he's playing it.

"The same man that didn't even show up to the Sizani's funeral because he's decided that honesty and truth are not as important as his running around in a bullshit cat suit."

Go on. Say his name. Erik doesn't want to.

*

"Alright, so you've got a beef with T'Challa," Jessica says evenly. "And maybe I'm even interested to hear what that beef is."

Sure, she'll say the name.

"But. So far, you haven't told me a damn thing I don't already know. You said you had information. If that's your information, it's worthless. Do you have anything which points to the identity of her murderer? Because that would be worth something to me, Erik. Whatever was done about her funeral and whyever an outsider like me was kept in the dark— and you certainly seem to know a great deal about it all— "

She blows out another long stream of smoke, and says, "Sizani's ability to care about it sort of ended at the moment she died."

She leans back, her eyes narrowing further still. She is studying every detail about him now.

*

"I'm not sayin' I ain't got beef with him and I ain't sayin' I do. What I'm sayin' is that for some reason the man doesn't want anybody to know what happened to her. What I'm sayin' is that he doesn't want anybody snooping around ceremonial tributes? Wakanda? Whatever. I mean, if I was him and someone close to me was murdered? And I have unlimited resources, not to mention access to a shitty office havin' PI, that maybe I'd want as many hands on deck as possible." Erik shrugs. "Instead of trying to, I dunno, cover it up?"

Erik raises his hands and leans back into his chair. Again. "I'm not saying he's guilty of anything. I'm just saying he's hiding something. And whatever he's hiding probably has something to do with Sizani's death. And I don't know about you but I'm not exactly in the business of letting someone that believes their untouchable just throw their weight around and make things go away. Make things, people, disappear."

Erik's gaze goes over to the potrait once again. "… People that were cared about." Frown. "Are cared about."

*

Jessica's smile is cynical. "Maybe he doesn't think much of my murder-solving skills. Maybe he already knows who did it."

Her first cigarette is done. She stands up and lights another one, restless in her own office, snatching up the ash tray so she can take it with her. She walks towards Sizani's portrait, blocking the view of it with her body, almost protectively.

"Insinuations aren't evidence, aren't information. What do you know? Anything? What would possibly put you in a position to know anything? You haven't even given me a lead yet. Just thrown a bunch of shade at the King of Wakanda, which you know. I don't know if you knew this, but PIs in shitty offices aren't very political people."

*

"Aight, maybe I mispoke. Sue me."

Erik pushes up to his feet and shrugs himself into his jacket a bit more. "My bad."

Erik turns to walk around the chair and offers a bit of a wave in his slow and gradual exit. "But if you want to know who killed Sizani, you're gonna' have to do your detective thing. Because I have no idea. If I did, I would've led with that." Erik shrugs and starts back on making his way out.

"You might want to figure out why the hell they were wearin' a Wakandan mask."

There. A lead.

"I'll be around."

*

Would he have? Jessica's eyes narrow in both frustration and suspicion alike.

He does drop a lead, with no indication of how he might have gotten it. She still has no idea who he is, or if Erik is even his real name. Or how he came to know about her mission to Gotham. Her…wild goose chase, was it?

No, there is real information in this encounter, she just has to go back through it. And maybe try to figure out who Erik, just Erik, is or might be.

She's going to have to talk to Shuri again.

She lets him make his exit, lets him have the last word. Then she pulls out her phone and scrolls to her hidden camera app. She moves slowly through the footage until she's got a good snapshot of the guy. Then she saves it.

She was asked not to work the case…

But someone dropping right into her office? That can hardly be helped.

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