Spooky Urban Legends

July 22, 2018:

A vigilante and a mercenary's very different approaches to pumping a mid-level crook for information about the Hell's Kitchen bombings intersect.

Bronx, NYC

Characters

NPCs: Attica, a member of the Albanian mob

Mentions: Kingpin, Punisher

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

In one fell fiery swoop, organized crime lost its last big toe-hold in Manhattan. While the rest of Manhattan gentrified and Disney-fied, Hell's Kitchen somehow remained a seedy & highly lucrative beachhead for half-a-dozen gangs that quietly vied for supremacy. Irish, Russian, old-school mafia — you name it. Each gang moved the majority of their operations to the outer-boroughs, but control of Hell's Kitchen was always the dream.

Now, all those dreams are ashes. Hell's Kitchen is a literal ruin, and one cordoned off and patrolled by any number of feds: FBI, DEO, even SHIELD. It's left the gangs scuttling to their respective corners, both literally and metaphorically singed, and like the rest of New York, not knowing quite what to make of this new order.

For the Albanians, that corner is Williamsbridge in the Bronx, and that's where the avenging shadow popularly called the 'Devil of Hell's Kitchen' has followed them. The sun has finally set, the air is crisp and cool for July, and three bodyguards are strewn around around a darkened alleyway in various degrees of consciousness. The Devil has the fourth man — big, dazed, breathless — backed against a brick wall. Red-gloved hands clench the man's balding head tightly, as if they were contemplating giving it one short, sharp twist.

"I'm not going to ask again," the red shadow seethes quietly. "Where. Is. He?"

*

SOME TIME AGO

"I get it, Val," Domino says via burner, "it's hard out here, right now. Everyone's antsy, paranoid— figuring out where the lines are, now. I don't blame you for not wanting to pop your head up, but look: I just want to talk, okay? If you help me, you get paid… and maybe we both get to find out how the hell your territory went up in smoke and who to blame. Bring bodyguards if you want! Two there— I don't care; I'm on the level. I promise: you'll be in and out in no time, easy as can be."

NOW

"I-I-I— I don't— " Val Vata stammers, clutching the gloves around his head in vain. "I, I know the NAME, but I don't know where the Kingpin is…! N-NOBODY does, n-nobody's…"

"Shiiiiiit," Domino whispers to herself while leaning over the edge of a roof so she can watch the Devil work. The masked man surely would've heard her boots scraping and thudding against surrounding rooftops in the minutes leading up to her timely arrival as her would-be contact is seized. Clad in dark, form-fitting leather from neck to toe, she's got guns on her waist and back; and who knows what else in the pouches lining her belt.

"… knows what he LOOKS like, who he IS, e-except— that he is a man not to be tr-trifled with…!"

If the whispers and the scraping weren't enough, Domino gives a short, shrill whistle as Val trails, then props an elbow against the roof access door. A dainty wave follows closely behind.

*

E-xcept — that he is a man not to be tr-trifled with…! the Albanian underboss says.

"Neither am I," Daredevil rasps in reply, while arranging his face into something that — with the devil mask — must look positively feral. He can sense that the man's skip-stutter heartbeat is an honest one, at least in this moment. He couldn't I.D. the Kingpin in a lineup if his life depended on it, and given the charges these gangsters may one day face in connection with the bombing, it one day it might.

But that doesn't mean he knows nothing. It's just a matter of finding the right questions to ask. They're just getting star — oh.

Scuffling feet, a hushed curse, and his whole frame tenses in anticipation of ambush. But then there's a dainty wave he can't appreciate, a short whistle that he can, and a swirl of dimly familiar sounds and scents carried down three stories. "Oh… hey, frag grenade lady," he says, craning his head up as if he were really looking at her — it's only polite. His forearm stays pressed against Val Vata's windpipe.

"Hush for a second," he whispers as an aside to the larger man, as if he had a choice.

*

"Inspector Devil."

An unseen wave becomes a quick, unseen salute with two fingers that's accompanied by an invisibly arching brow. Tipping her chin down, she tosses off, "Val," but the man's too fixated on Daredevil to hear her.

"Can't say I'm glad you two are getting acquainted." Brown eyes shift so she's focused fully on the person most inclined to respond rather than quiver. "I was just gonna pay him for intel, but I'll grant that this' cheaper." Stepping forward, she plants a boot against the edge of the roof, climbs up— and takes another step. A loose piece of brick falls as she does and smacks into a fire escape ladder, forcing extension. Brown and white fingers find its bottom rung as the mercenary's body tilts boots over head, drawing distressed creeeeaaaaaaking from its frame. It bends mildly out of shape but holds up well enough to swing Domino towards metal stairs, which she plants her feet against and vaults off of so she winds up opposite Daredevil with Vata between them.

"Spooky Urban Legend's real low in the salary rankings, so I get it," she allows while leaning to rest her shoulder against the nearby wall. Her voice is as wary as her expression, despite the words.

For his part, Val doesn't look the slightest bit relieved even now that he's actually processing Domino's presence. In another lifetime, Val was a demolitions expert in his country's army. He was meant to give her information on the Irish's contributions to the mayhem: the workmanship on the bombs beneath PS 35, not to mention the thermite carefully seeded through its halls to maximize the destruction had their prints all over it, to his expert eye.

Of course, Val was also one of a few middlemen responsible for arranging the Albanians' piece of the carnage, which is probably how he ended up on the wrong side of the Devil.

"Hh— " she starts to ask, only to spare a glance for Val. Her eyes bounce between the two men for a moment before she assures the criminal, "Coincidence," with another chin-tip towards the costumed man, then it's back to Murdock.

"How's it hangin'?"

*

Domino salutes and then makes her roundabout but weirdly graceful way down to the ground beside Daredevil and his victim. "You've got a knack for landings," he notes dryly. She signals wariness and insouciance in equal parts, but it's hard to get any sense of his attitude towards her with that mask obscuring the top half of his face. Though, even in a darkened alley, there's a tightening of his jawline when she divulges what exactly he interrupted.

"I prefer not to line the pockets of people who blow up city blocks," the man in red says while fixing the regard of his red-lensed head squarely back on Val and perceptibly increasing the pressure of his forearm against the man's throat. "Call it a matter of principle." Though he can't fairly expect a man to answer questions under duress, bribe, extortion, or otherwise like this.

How's it hanging? she asks him. His whole leather-clad frame shake once in a silent laugh. "I've had better weeks, to be honest." A beat. "So, why are you looking for answers, lady? I've never seen you around Hell's Kitchen before."

*

The dry comment gets a briskly circling hand gesture and a slight bow before Domino folds her arms.

The next draws a double-take towards Val.

"People who do what, now?"

A curious growl slides into the woman's voice as its register dips. She'd accounted for Irish, Russian, LCN, and Triad involvement, but for all his past expertise, she knew Val primarily as a weapon and drug-runner within the greater Albanian establishment; the bombs were normally reserved for pushy rivals or exceptionally troublesome customers.

click!

"You know how they found the first bombs under a school in the Kitchen? Because of a threat? I disarmed them," she says, even rather than prideful, "and then a shitload more went off. It's the kinda thing that leaves a girl curious."

She's a good liar: she doesn't hesitate or blink; it helps that what she's saying has at least some truth alloying it, but the soft stutter of her heart gives it away.

"Val," she then says to the gangster who now has a gun barrel hovering beside his temple, "not that I care whether you, or the Irish, or whoever else wants to smuggle stuff into the city smuggles the most stuff - like, obviously, putting me onto them was always gonna help you out - but I thought I was pretty clear about doing it because I wanted bombing-intel. Maybe I'm crazy, but that seems like a little bit of an oversight. If it's true."

Val gurgles amidst shallow, frantic gasps for air.

Domino stares at the gangster for a couple of long seconds before shifting her gaze towards Daredevil. "Is it true?"

"P-please… di-didn't… mean…" is the best Val can manage for himself.

*

She tells him there are several hundred children alive today in Hell's Kitchen because of her; that she saved them all before running off to save him from the explosions she couldn't stop. If he truly believed her, he'd be visibly moved despite the mask. For all the fearful urban legends he stokes out on the streets, he's got a sensitive spirit and an outsized heart when it comes to his beleaguered neighborhood.

But some part of it is a lie, which means all of it could be a lie. No points. His face might as well be carved out of stone — it sort of looks like a gargoyle anyway, doesn't it?

That cool demeanor betrays outright agitation when she draws her cocked weapon and places it against Val's temple. What he knows: a woman has lied to him about her part in the Hell's Kitchen bombing, and now seems ready to murder a man he is shaking down for information. And sure, she seems legitimately angry over his role, but he's a bullshit detector, not an outright telepath. There are angles he may not know yet.

"You need to lift that gun right now before we continue this conversation," Daredevil says softly and evenly to Domino. He's spent the last few months on a knife's edge between standard cape-wearing vigilantism and something darker, but he knows Albanian mafia middle-management like Val Vata isn't the place to start that slide.

*

Domino doesn't lift the gun.

"It's not for you," she assures. Despite the growl and the dip, her voice is steady, verging on relaxed; if it wasn't for the surprise and agitation brought on by Daredevil's revelation, she'd probably be there. "It's for my pal Val, who's sounding like he could use all the help he can get to remember e-v-e-r-ything he knows about the bombing, instead of just the stuff he's hoping'll get some of his rivals off the board."

She probably wouldn't shoot him - she doesn't love being lied to, but if she shot every client who ever held critical pieces of information from her to serve their own ends, she wouldn't have the reputation she does. Val Vata is hardly worth the risk to the most valuable commodity a mercenary can have.

But Domino is a good liar: there's little to suggest that she wouldn't pull the trigger because a gun to the head has no value if the other person doesn't - can't - buy it. Her heart's beating quicker thanks to Daredevil's command and the distant question of what happens if - somehow, unthinkably - she does have to followthrough, while the gun and her breathing remain completely steady.

Val doesn't have an answer beyond gurgling and casting fearful glances between Domino and the Devil. He was already primed to spill whatever info Matt could've wanted after seeing his men dispatched in a flurry of red and feeling raw, barely-checked vengeance crushing his throat; the brewing disagreement in tactics hasn't heartened him, exactly, but when his eyes finally rest on Daredevil, a plea for mercy shines within them and adds a telltale tremolo to his whimpers.

"Everyone's gonna walk - or be carried away - and go on home once his memory starts working again." Brown eyes briefly dart between the gangsters. "Some of those homes might be a little more federally owned than others, but the food's cheap."

*

If this were the other person he knew with a whole lot of guns and a penchant for pulling them out, the situation would be less fraught. He has a basic trust that while James Buchanan Barnes certainly isn't above putting a gun against someone's head for information, he also isn't going to go blowing the heads off of random Albanian gangsters. But this woman is an unknown quantity. If the woman isn't bluffing and the man comes up short, then he will have perhaps a second or two of warning when her heartbeat spikes before she pulls that trigger — as it almost inevitably must, no matter how cool or calculating the would-be shooter.

Is that enough? At this distance? Against a normal opponent, perhaps. But she's fast and she's trained and she has something uncanny about her that he can't quite put his finger on.

For all the visible annoyance that passes over the lower half of his features that is actually exposed, he decides to roll with it for now. Escalating this while her finger is on the trigger, is only more likely to get this asshole killed more quickly. He grits his teeth and leans in. "You hear that, Val? She's not listening to me. Guess you better listen to her and start talking."

And to allow that, he lifts his forearm incrementally off the man's windpipe — and keeps his ears open to both Val and the woman whose gun is pressed against Val's temple.

*

"I-it was— " Val sputters after coughing, "I-I— I was told by /my/ boss, he— he told me where to plant the bombs…"

SOME TIME AGO

Bring bodyguards if you want! Two, three— I don't care; I'm on the level.

The first thing Val Vata does when Domino hangs up is compose a text:

VAL: need a nanny on the 15th
VAL: will pay very well for good nanny service

(10m later)

VAL: ????
??????: yes. we're on. check your bank account. thanks for the deposit.

NOW

"… when they needed to blow— how bad it ought to b-be… and then he b-b-bragged, a lot. To-told me I had a bonus coming— that he'd heard the man who hired him was sniffing around other g-gangs, but we were the ones he chose. Look how that turned out— goddamned Irish…!"

Val takes advantage of the little bit of freedom the Devil's giving him to turn his head and spit.

A couple blocks away, in a white van with black windows and no markings, a man in an exoskeleton squints at the camera feed stretched across his windshield when a few flecks of Val's spittle hit the Albanian criminal's necklace, leaving splotches across his field of vision. The distorted guitars and screaming that've pumped through the van since he pulled up to play nanny go dead. Daredevil, then Domino's appearances - not to mention the gun to his client's head - introduced a ream of unexpected variables to the job that necessitated hanging back and banking on the costumed vigilante holding back juuust enough while he reconfigured.

Whirring machinery grinds to a halt behind him. The van creeps into motion, rolling towards a meeting gone terrible wrong.

Back in the alley, Domino looks between the two men for a couple seconds before settling on Matt. With a slight tip of the chin, she wonders, "When I came up, I thought I heard you asking about— I dunno, some guy? Literally, some guy; 'He', with a capital 'H'. What was that about? The bombs? Some personal beef?"

"Some apartment on 38th Street," Val ruefully hisses, half to himself. "Lots of money to place lots of bombs in some shitty apartment, and boss thinks we're the kings of the city, tch…"

*

If your ears were as good as Matt Murdock's — or maybe even half as good — you could hear his teeth grind together at Val's answers. "So your idea of a bonus is blowing up a goddamn NYCHA project?" he rasps at the gangster, his arm creeping back upward towards the man's neck with renewed strength behind it.

Then Domino is leveling her next question at him rather than the suspect he's choking and she's holding at gunpoint. Another flicker of annoyance before he turns the question back on Val. "The guy who hired your boss," Daredevil says as he cocks his head to the right. "The guy who hired all the bosses, but didn't tell them they were all getting the same deal — just for different properties. Isn't that right, Val? Do you even know his name?"

Val blanches further, if that's even possible. Bug eyes flare. "No! No, I don't," he pleads. "I don't know it! And… even if you do know it, you don't ever say it." Is it possible for the man to be more afraid of this unnamed party, three rungs up the ladder, than it is of the gun at his head or the arm at his throat? Seems so.

Daredevil, for what its worth, rolls his eyes under his mask. "Come on, Val," he says, canting his head to the right. "You people have all kinds of cute nicknames for each other. Kind of like us capes. You're saying you don't have anything for the big man?"

There's a pause, both because Daredevil is waiting to hear Val's answer, and because there's been a slight but perceptible dip in the ambient noise around them. It happens sometimes. A movie playing at a nearby theater ends, construction a mile away comes to a halt — or obnoxiously loud music playing in some vehicle gets switched off. Normally it's not of much note to Matt Murdock, and it still doesn't rise to the level of 'actionable' for Daredevil — but for the latter, every detail matters.

*

"Yeah, Val," Domino says as her eyes slide back to the guest of honor, "c'mon: it's just one guy, right? We're a lady and a guy, so— "

"You think it's that simple?!" the gangster sputters to the mercenary, wide-eyed. The sheer shock of seeing his men beaten, then personally being pinned by Daredevil all in a matter of seconds had been enough to make him babble the magic name before Domino interfered, but given a moment to breathe - and to think of his wife, his children - Daredevil can smell the perspiration and hear the erratic jackhammer of a man who very well may be more afraid of someone he's never seen or spoken to - a rumor, a mythic idea of a man, as far as he knows - than an armored fist and a gun. It's a close race, though; his eyes keep bouncing between the arm and the gun, sending tremors through his chest and gut each time.

"He may not even— nobody's ever seen him, spoken to him— the Kingpin is just— " A beat; a heart-flutter.

"— my, my boss was hired by a man in a suit, but that isn't— we looked into the nice man in the suit, and we don't know who sent him to hire us. Boss makes big assumptions, but he doesn't— nobody— "

Another beat.

"You— you think he's real… and you're… you're looking for him…?" he wonders of the Devil, fearful and astonished.

Jazz fills a van with blacked out windows as it accelerates towards the alley.

*

Domino and Daredevil tag-team against the Albanian mob's middle-management in a way he should never be able to withstand, and //still/ Val protests. Seems incredulous at the idea that they'd ever willingly seek out this underworld legend with so many diabolical plans and well-mannered sharks in suits at his disposal.

"Oh, Jesus Christ, Val," says the vigilante, exasperated at the man's honest fear. Furious, really, at the way this Kingpin has managed to wreath himself in urban legend every bit as effectively as Daredevil himself. Maybe more so, from the way these underworld types quake at the mention of him. "He's not a mutant or a monster," Matt insists. "He's just a man. And you know what? I'm tired of leaving his name unspoken. That's what's given him power all this time. The world doesn't end when you say his name. I've said it before. You want to say it with me?"

He hears the roll of the car, the sound of discordant jazz behind glass windows, but Daredevil is too wound up and strung out to take notice. He raises his voice from that quiet rasp, says it loudly enough to reach three stories up and a block down on either side. "His name is Wilson-Fucking-Fisk — "

And that, of course, is when the hail of gunshots start.

*

Machinery whirrs to life while a van's side door slides open. Tires squeal to a stop, kicking up filth and gutter water.

Domino's, "Okay, so who's Wil—?" is cut short as she flicks her eyes towards the squealing.

A motorized arm makes a last-second adjustment—

*BOOM!*

— and the rifle mounted on it launches a sizable shell in Daredevil's direction.

"Fuck—!"

*BOOM!*

Domino was already diving after the first shot; the second bores through her hair on the way down but leaves her otherwise unharmed.

"Fucking baby," a man grunts, audible only to cowering crime lords with earpieces and people with radioactive ninja abilities. "I was right there, Christ."

"F-f-FUCK YOU, Attica!" Val stammers over the thundering reports of further gunfire. Just staying down isn't quite good enough: the arm's got enough mobility to track its targets through the alleyway and a good rate of fire. Domino nearly finds this out the hard way before rolling into cover behind a dumpster, leaving a divot where her head was moments prior. It isn't terribly fast in its movements, however, giving a spry vigilantes and mercenaries a fighting chance despite tight confines.

*

Matt has about a second-and-a-half of warning before it all goes to hell; in this case squealing tires and rattling machinery give him a moment's notice. Add to that the irony: They tell you at church not to take the Lord's name in vain, he'll think once he has time to — if that time in fact ever comes. No one ever said anything about the devil.

As usual, he makes due with the time he has. Spry is right. He throws himself backwards, if less elegantly than usual for reasons of haste, and the shot that would have caught him in the neck and really put Jane Foster's protective gear to the test barely grazes his throat on its way to slamming into the brick at the alley's far end.

"Don't you move," he shouts at Val, pointing an accusatory finger at the gangster before he himself makes a zig zagging run down the alleyway that at first looks like a retreat but seems to be about momentum that will allow him to leap and catch the lowest rung of a fire escape. He pulls himself upward nimbly, narrowly missing another shot.

She goes low, he goes high, and pulls his batons out of their slings at either calf. Fighting against guns with sticks — this is what he does.

"Got any more of those grenades handy?" he shouts to Domino below him. A beat punctuated by gunfire before he's making his way up the stairs, better to get a flying start towards the leap that will take him on top of that van. "That was a joke!" he adds, in case there was any confusion.

*

Val doesn't dare move, having hit the deck shortly after his outburst. Bullets are ricocheting everywhere, turning the alley into a lethal drum solo for Daredevil and Domino to dance to. Shattering glass, screaming alarms, and shouts of surprise fill the air with harrowing melodies. The gun manages to track Daredevil through the alley and up the rungs, blowing the bottom half of the fire escape off moments after Daredevil pulls himself clear. Another bullet punches through a rusted railing, giving the Devil perilously listing stairs to scale before he finally leaps clear of the mechanized weapon's arc; a final shell cracks the night sky and vanishes, then armored boots hit the top of the van.

And there's only one target left to focus on.

"Really wish it wasn't!" Domino calls back while sprinting a few steps up a wall and leaping onto the damaged ladder Daredevil just used. "If there's one thing frag grenades are even better at than rescuing kids, it's blowing up armed vans!"

BOOM!

A shell carves a burning gouge along her calf instead of bursting through her knee when the sound of thunder inspires her to hastily pull herself onto the fire escape. She makes it to her feet without too much delay, but risks squeezing off a couple of return shots instead of getting right back to running and jumping. One bounces right off of the van; the other hits the rifle, causing it to hitch and chug loudly, buying her a few seconds of respite.

The inside of the van is a chorus of machinery. The rifle works to unjam itself amidst a dozen distinct whirrs and hums— some of which sing louder than others. Attica's slapping an Uzi magazine home so he can lean out of the driver's side window and offer the Devil on his roof a little discouragement. The angle's no good, and he knows it— it's just a distraction.

Those loud machine voices give Daredevil a second or two of warning before a second mechanical arm - tipped with an oversized sawblade rather than a gun - reaches out of the van in an effort to slash the Devil to bits.

Attica's a bald man with a LaForge-esque visor built into a red, metal helmet that covers everything but his mouth, ears, and just a bit of his scalp. Multiple wires of varying thicknesses snake from the back of his skull into the van. His shoulders chest are plated in red, as are his wrists and waist; the rest of his body is armored in dark blue.

Given keen enough senses, no small amount of machine-noise can be localized to the man himself thanks to his mechanical exoskeleton.

*

All this deadly gadgetry for a guy in a devil costume who beats on people with his bare fists. "I knew I should have brought our hacker," Daredevil laments with a grimace as an oversized saw blade set loose by a man in a bizzaro exoskeleton tries to cut him in two. It doesn't, only catching the back of his calf as he spin-kicks his way over it. The suit — made of some advanced material from carbon nanotubes that he barely understands — is meant to take a beating, but it's not indestructible. Attica — or his mechanical hands — draws blood and a cry of pain from the Devil of Hell's Kitchen.

But Matt stays in motion, and vastly prefers playing offense to defense. Man with an uzi? Meet a man with close to zero survival instincts. He's flipping fast-as-can-be up and over the roof to land beside the driver's side door, re-attached billy club in hand, and takes aim not at his foe's well-armored body but at the weapon he brandishes. He looks to strike the gun out of Attica's hand or, failing that, render it unusable.

"Don't suppose you have an EMP gadget or something?" Daredevil calls out to the woman still on the fire escape. "You seem like a lady who comes prepared!"

*

"No!" Domino calls back, unclipping a grenade from her belt and hurling it at the vehicle.

Matt might not be able to see the many wires running from Attica to the vehicle's console, but to an expert fighter, it should be abundantly clear that something is keeping the hired guard from moving properly. It'll take a few whacks to get the gun out of his hand - his grip is quite strong - but several strokes and a brief spray of lead into the concrete later, the weapon's tumbling out of Attica's grasp to crack on the concrete.

"/One/ frag grenade!" Domino exclaims. "Some smoke— some kind of super-adhesive thing I got from these ex-AIM guys who wanted to pay me in— like, they kept saying science, but they'd kinda shout it, like— "

While the mercenary growls and his gun breaks, the saw-wielding arm slowly but steadily extends, sliding along rails and locking new joints into place not unlike the fire escape Daredevil traversed on his way here.

After he snaps his head up to look the Devil in the eye - as best he can, anyway// - Attica nonetheless hisses, "Half his fee, right now, and we all walk away— our buddy over there gets to stew in those guts he just spilled, and you get to keep yours," as the saw arm's whirring shadow falls across the crimson vigilante. "Lemme know what you"

The saw arm manages a single demonstrative but vicious swipe in Daredevil's direction to help punctuate Attica's smugness, and then the grenade explodes, filling the van's cargo bay with green slime in a matter of heartbeats. The saw continues to whirl afterwards, but the arm stutters, chugs, then falls dead. Alarms ring throughout the van as sensitive machinery suddenly finds itself clogged or threatened with overheating.

"— 'SCIENCE!'" Domino finishes recalling. "It— wow." The mercenary squints, cants her head one way, then the other. "Gross," she quietly decides.

Meanwhile, Attica decides: "— /fuck/," and leans inside to quickly yank wires free. The van's not— driveable, at the moment, leaving him with his exosuit to deal with these two unexpected problems.

Unfortunately, the van was very much Plan A, and resorting to Plan E will take him several long, precious seconds of frantic yanking.

*

For all that Daredevil eventually, successfully knocks the automatic weapon out of Attica's hands, the mercenary has any number of weapons in that well-stocked van of his. See the buzzing, whirring, exceedingly lethal saw that comes arcing for his abdomen after the armored man makes his counteroffer.

Fortunately, all that buzzing and whirring is really loud, and it gives the sightless man a firm sense of its trajectory. He dodges nimbly, leaping backward further down the length of the van that —

— suddenly explodes with green goo from within. Gross, Domino says, and Matt doesn't have to see it spray to agree. The sound (and likely the smell) of dripping slime is more than enough to make an impression. "I've seen a lot of science over the last year, but that's a new one," he shouts back to the woman, before turning his attention to the man who had just suggested cutting a deal.

Here's a place where being an ordinarily sighted person would help, the vigilante thinks as he rounds back to the front car door where his opponent is frantically trying to extricate himself. How much can he really make out of Atticus' protective gear? Can he 'see' the naked bits and parts of him that are unarmored? Too much to hope that he'd be able to sense the difference between the blue armor and the likely sturdier red armor that protects his most vital parts.

So where to strike then, while the guy is grabbing at all the eletrical wires that connect him to his van? Oddly enough, given all his givens, he goes for the eyes that just tried (and failed) to meet his own. Daredevil grips the bottom of his billyclub and thrusts it forward the way he might a dagger or a fencing sabre, sending it right towards the man's visor.

"Gonna have to pass on that one."

*

Luckily for Daredevil, Attica's face may be the least protected part of his body. It's a definite design flaw: the visor is armored, but it's meant to protect Attica's tech more than— Attica. The yellow glass strip cutting through its center is reinforced, but compromises were made to compensate for more sensitive gear; a few more jobs and he might've been able to budget upgrades.

Instead, he gets a billy club driving through one of the most vulnerable points on his body, courtesy of Daredevil's well-honed instincts and musculature. The response is immediate as electricity arcs across head and body. There are convulsions, brief but violent; flesh flash-fries for a couple seconds before the suit shuts down and the searing arcs vanish.

Matt can probably feel it: the club didn't quite make it through the armor to strike Attica's skull or eyes…

… but it certainly did enough. The armored man's heart beats as wildly as the syncopated drums weaving through his thinking/fighting jazz and his breathing goes shallow once he settles. He could definitely stand to see a doctor, but he'll be fine. Basically.

The alarms get a little worse.

And sirens warble in the distance, the inevitable result of a maniac with a heavily armed van disturbing the— peace, such as it was.

"He dead?!" Domino wonders over the alarms after practically falling from the fire escape to the van roof. She squats, leans to get a glimpse inside, then wrinkles her nose and murmurs, "Yikes!" at the lightly smoking bodyguard within.

*

Daredevil's risky move pays off spectacularly, crunching the man's visor and sending roiling shocks of electricity coursing through his frame. He can sense the man's body convulse, breathe in the noxious smell of burning flesh, and maybe even hear the electric currents briefly course through the man's body. But it's the heartbeat he hangs on — every stuttering skip-jump of it.

He's come close to killing before. It's impossible not to when you're in knock-down, drag-out fights with people trying to kill you on a nearly weakly basis. You try to calibrate, you try to hold back, to be responsible — but one punch in the wrong place, one person with the wrong congenital defect or unknown injury and suddenly you've gone from vigilante to murderer. A venal sin becomes a mortal sin, and your soul is stained irrevocably.

Matt Murdock lived in fear of that possibility ever since he first put on the mask, but after months of wrestling with whether he would take that final step to put an end to Wilson Fisk, the prospect that it might happen here, in the course of some random shakedown, legitimately terrifies him. He holds his own breath while he listens for the man's, which —

He dead? asks his — ally? For him, it's the million dollar question.

"…no," Daredevil murmurs after a long beat, helmed-head cocked like a cat's when it hears a far-off sound. It's a single, quietly voiced syllable, but it doesn't take super-hearing to measure the worlds of relief contained in it. And then with a nod in the direction of those approaching sirens he adds: "He'll probably be fine after they've seen to him."

He cranes his neck up to face her squatting figure above him. "You should get out of here, though," he offers. "I can stick around at a distance, and make sure the right authorities get their hooks into Val." There's a moment of undisguised assessment, a measuring of the minutes they've spent together, both tonight and on the day his neighborhood literally went to hell. "You want to help get who did all this." It's an assertion, not a question.

*

"Yep!"

It isn't the whole truth - she leaves out the part where she's being paid to dig into the nightmare in Hell's Kitchen - but it's the truth.

"How many other schools were hit?! Or parks, or…" A quiet beat as she drops from her squat to take a seat on the edge of the roof rather than prepare to flee. Her left leg comes up so she can gingerly clamp a hand over her bleeding calf.

"How many other kids didn't have you and me to help them?" she wonders. "I'd really like to know who'd do— that, and why."

A pouch is undone. Dead trees shuffle, then Domino flicks a business card with her nom de mercenaire and a phone number printed on it between Daredevil's eyes. It's deliberate, just forceful enough to make the distance; an easy catch.

"Thanks, by the way— this asshole came out of nowhere! Who drives around in a van, with— mm." Her nose wrinkles in annoyance. "Anyway: you've got a name, right?! I mean…" She briskly gestures around his costume with her free hand.

*

Whatever her other motivations or incentives, Domino speaks with enough sincerity about the horrors of the bombings to pass muster with Daredevil's sense-augmented BS detector. And why not? Who wouldn't be horrified at the firebombing of an entire neighborhood.

"No other schools," Daredevil answers readily as he expertly catches the card wafting in the summer wind, runs a casual thumb over the words and numbers embossed upon it. "No parks either, at least intentionally. It was mostly older apartment buildings and stores." Of which, for a seedy neighborhood like Hell's Kitchen, there were a great many. As for who, and why? "This 'Kingpin' — " the name drips with derision on his tongue " — he's a local crimelord who keeps a low profile but has big ambitions. A group of us have tangled with him over some street drugs he put out last year. Why he'd do it, risk it, we haven't nailed down yet." At least, not fully enough to share with just-met acquaintances.

You got a name, right?! The masked man's smile is chagrined. "I, uh, might have come in a little too hard, too fast for that. Might be some identifying stuff in the van." Though it's debatable how much could be salvaged from the fried electronics in his souped up merc van. "He offered to pay us to walk away, and seemed to hint that Val had hired him for, uh, protection." A beat. "From you, I'm guessing."

*

"Wh— no, I mean— "

Domino's gestures get more energetic for a moment, then she just clamps that hand to her calf too and explains, "— you, with the— you've got a name to go with the horns and everything, right?"

The rest doesn't exactly inspire relief: kids are everywhere, even if she could barely begin to guess at where they might be gathered. One of the bombs could have taken out a toy store or something, for all she knows.

"Maybe we can help each other figure this Kingpin bullshit out," she offers with a slight shrug. "Whatever he's doing, he's got an awful lot of resources to throw at doing it, so— more the merrier, right? He's… I mean, you don't do all that just to get a little more drug turf, right? Kill a bunch of people, sure. Shoot up some corners, picnics… but that's gonna be in history books. People are gonna remember it. Whoever he is… he doesn't seem like someone to hunt lightly."

A pregnant pause as Domino dips her chin and tries not to think about those other apartment buildings, those stores…

"… Christ," she eventually murmurs after a quick shake of her head, "did he seriously offer to pay us?" She sharply raps her heel against the van a couple times after that 'he'. "Him and Val deserve each other, I swear! I was just gonna talk to Val, even— like, good thinking on his part, in hindsight, but still. Still!"

*

"Daredevil," he offers dryly when asked for a name to go with the horns. It was a name given to him by the Bugle's front page rather than one he chose for himself. And while he ditched the exclamation point the tabloid used in its headline, he's gotten comfortable enough with it to use it freely.

Her offer that they work together to get to the bottom of the Kingpin business is met with a shrug, noncommital but not shutting down the possibility of collaboration. She circles around Fisk's potential motives, the obvious pitfalls, and he doesn't comment — not yet.

That reluctance to offer his own thoughts may be because he has at least one more line of question of his own. "Just talk?" Daredevil quips on the matter of Val Vata, lifting a hand with forefinger, index finger, and thumb all extended in mimicry of the gun she'd had put to the Albanian gangster's head just minutes ago. "What sort of work do you do, Ms. — Domino? With all the guns and goo grenades?"

*

"The mercenary sort," Domino replies with a light smirk. "People need things done; I do 'em. They pay me. Sometimes," always, basically, "there're guns and goo grenades in the mix." She gives a noncommital shrug of her own and taps the van with her heel again.

"Without the, you know, the punking out at the first sign of trouble. Val was a client, once; we kept a civil relationship after. I just knew he knew something about the school bombs because he's got demo experience, so I figured I would just— pay him for that, then go harass whatever Irish guys are even left after that hit squad ran through the Kitchen Irish. And then you happened."

The smirk softens into a small grin.

"Lucky for me." Beat. "… ish. Would've been a hundred percent less shot without you, but Val woulda just given me half a story otherwise, soooo…"

She makes balancing gestures with lightly bloodied hands.

"What about you, Inspector Daredevil? Vigilante, right?"

*

She's a mercenary. What's more, she's a mercenary who did work for the Albanian mob. While the loose network that has formed out of the fight against Wilson Fisk has its questionable characters — junky and reformed (?) criminals, hackers, thieves, and on the outskirts of the club, an international assassin — it's safe to say her admission colors the slightly more straight-laced Daredevil's view.

Though it the picture of a hardened mercenary for hire may be hard to square with the woman who flung herself into a burning building to save kids who were sure not to have the money to pay her.

"Normally my job's stopping people from getting shot," Daredevil answers wryly, both to her question of what he does and to her own injury, the latter detectable to him through all the little coppery molecules she's sending into the air with every wave of her bloody hands. "But I'm having an off couple of months. The Kitchen was my, ah, beat, I guess you could say."

He's breaking his red club into two batons, bending down so he can slide them into the sheath at his left calf. "So yes, you could say I'm extremely motivated to make sure whoever did this ends up paying dearly for it."

A beat, and then he rises back up with arch: "What's your interest?"

*

"One of my other clients has a kid that goes to PS 35."

Now Domino hears sirens, prompting a glance down the street and a careful, wincing rise before she can elaborate. If, indeed, she intended to elaborate.

"And that's— our cue?" Another little shrug. "Call me if you need me! I'll— "

Beat.

"— set up a meeting somewhere with a low-to-mid-level criminal if I need to see you. We seem to work pretty well together!" She hops down from the van and strolls into the alley, right past Val, who hasn't moved an inch save for quivering. "I might screw with your job metrics a little, but— sacrifices, right?" Turning towards the Devil, she gives the masked man a wave.

"Just keep at it," she offers while backing into the darkness, "with the beat— do it long enough, and things'll turn around eventually. Luck's all peaks and valleys, you'll be fine." Probably. He'll probably be fine— he seemed to handle the automated rifle and buzzsaw pretty well, anyway; she's willing to bet on his ability to handle more, worse.

*

And there it is. A hired gun, but hired for a purpose he can live with. The revelation causes the red-clad man to shift his stance and center of gravity. Huh. "Yeah, I've got your number," is what the Devil says with a lift of his chin to the departing mercenary, and from the tone of his voice it doesn't sound as if he's opposed to using it. "No bat signals on my end, sorry."

He lets her depart with those final words of encouragement, and while he doesn't reply to them, they are helpful enough in their own strange way. Most of his thinking is rooted in responsibility, not probability. For a man who takes as many risks as he does, luck — bad or good — has never really factored into Matt's world view. It's a frame of mind the self-flagellating Catholic could probably use more of.

He'd offer to send her to the nurse he knows to treat that bullet wound, but she's blithe enough about it that he decides against it. Occupational hazard, he thinks to himself. "See you around, lady luck," he calls out with a quirk at the corners of his lips. Then he's turning himself, presumably slinking into the shadows to watch the cops clean up the body-strewn mess they've made of one Bronx alleyway.

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