People Taking Care of People

August 31, 2018:

Zane Oldman of VigiWatch brings one Jessica Jones onto his show for an interview.

Zane Oldman's Apartment

Also known as…the Geek Cave! Or…perhaps…the Fortress of Geekitude?


NPCs: Zane Oldman, emitted by Batgirl

Mentions: Matt Murdock, Tony Stark, Batman, Spider Man


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Zane Oldman is a man of constants. He wears the same Zelda t-shirt; it's dark blue with a golden yellow Hyrule crest. He always pairs it with a pair of jeans that fit much better when he was twenty pounds heavier, and instead sag from the belt at his waist. His black hair is always cut the same way — close and cropped to his head, emphasizing the dense curl that pairs well with his dark skin. His eyes are serious and blue — a startling color for his complexion. He's quick to smile, and makes an obvious effort to make eye contact.

And he's always quick with a joke. Literally.

"Alright, I got one for you," he says easily as he opens the door, not even saying hello at the sight of Jess. He's already smiling, looking down at his feet as he steps back to let her into his small apartment that also acts as his podcast studio. "Which two letters of the alphabet are always jealous?"

He glances up slightly to Jess, almost expectantly.

Here's a truth.

Jessica Jones had her reservations about accepting this invitation. She had many.

And yet, in the end, she accepted. Because there were reasons why doing so could be a good idea.

And if the stompy PI, back in her leather jacket just in time for Fall, also is wearing her own signature look right down to the slightly ripped jeans and combat boots, the truth is seeing this dude in his Zelda shirt put her somewhat at her ease. Not a lot. She's aware a Tri-Force can conceal a bulldog of a citizen reporter, or a muckracker, with ease. But enough. And the joking reminds her enough of Foggy Nelson that a twitch of a smile forms right at the corner of her lips.

Or, if you will, the riddle, which she considers for a moment, her brows drawing down. She can't leave a puzzle alone, or she wouldn't be in the profession she's in, and usually she's good at riddles. "Best, off-the-top-of-my-head guess? P and Q. They're like mirror images of each other, but they face in opposite directions. But I could be overthinking it."

And then the other truth of her profession, the dirty secret people don't realize when they think about detectives. People think about detectives, and they think of Sherlock Holmes, or Columbo, or Angela Landsbury in Murder She Wrote, effortlessly deducing The Truth from scant evidence. Meanwhile, The Truth about Jessica Jones' job is that often it's just a matter of asking the right questions of the right people. In fact, if pressed she'd say that's 70% of her job, and evaluating evidence is only the other 30%.

All of this boils down to just one thing. The fact that she immediately follows up her guess with: "Am I right? What's the answer?"

Zane waits until Jessica Jones is all the way inside before he shuts the door. He just turns the deadbolt, not worrying about the chain that hangs limply along the lacquered doorframe. The VigiWatch reporter flashes up another easy smile that seems genuine for all his social awkwardness.

"That's not a bad guess. But, you're overthinking it… this is a homophone joke…" When he looks up again, his smile is wider and almost boyish in quality. "N. V. Envy."

Zane's apartment is meticulous and organized. There's an obvious nerd worship self of Zelda and Star Wars collectables, and his movie collection is almost entirely centered on the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres with a bare toe-tip into comedies.

He has an entire wall dedicated to newspaper clippings, all of them vigilante in nature. They are all carefully organized, and lack the idiosyncrasies of a true obsessive; there's no yarn connecting photos to conspiracies, or wild circles, or squares, or X's done in market. It's just a wall of acknowledgement: these people are important, and here's why.

Jessica, along with most of the other Defenders, occupy the center of this wall. There's a reason why Zane has been the Jessica Jones correspondent for VigiWatch: he's all about the vigilantes who help the individuals; people like him.

"Letter and number jokes are often all about sound-alikes. Play on words. You can get quite obscure, like… 'What's the purpose of a reindeer?'" Beat pause. "'To make the grass grow, sweetie.' Reindeer is meant to, instead, sound like a weather pattern followed by a word of endearment."

His eyes have dropped since he started speaking, and he corrects himself, looking back up at Jessica as he gestures her to the modest area that is his dining room. A miniature version of the high-end equipment Trish Walker uses for Trish Talk occupies the table.

"Right. Because seven ate nine," Jessica says, with a groan. "Well, I hadn't made the connection to number and letter riddles being almost always like that. Now that I have if someone ever asks me one of those with a gun to my head, I'm set."

What? Stranger shit has happened to her.

She rubs the back of her neck as she takes in the Vigilante Wall. There are people who are comfortable with being publicly known. She's not sure she's one of them. She's certainly never been on Trish's show.

To hide her discomfort she turns one of those chairs around and straddles it, resting her arms over the back of it before the microphone, as if putting up some sort of shield. After all, anyone who is listening can't exactly see her, and it makes her feel a little more comfortable, herself.

"Sorry we couldn't meet at Alias," she adds. "It got destroyed."

"Yes, I know. That was the first thing the boroughs-based crew checked in on. I was glad to find that you were not inside Alias when it was destroyed." Zane's cadence is precise and formal, if not a little restricted.

He settles into a chair opposite of her, and fiddles with some of the equipment. There's two microphones attached to a Macbook that is running some kind of audio-capture software. He looks up only when he appears satisfied, and he smiles again.

"There's only three of us that cover the Hell's Kitchen-Harlem neighborhoods. We've all been trying to figure out why anyone would want to blow up Hell's Kitchen. Do you have any leads?"

And here is where Jess gets kind of careful.

Now that they're live, she says, "Well, Zane, you've got to understand that despite the title of your show, I'm not a vigilante. I'm a private detective, fully licensed by the states of New York and New Jersey. While certainly the Hell's Kitchen bombing has spawned a lot of tangential investigations for me, law enforcement, particularly SHIELD, has been doing an outstanding job of digging deeply into the events of that night. I'm confident they'll get their man. And if I come across any information that might be pertinent I will make certain it is passed on to those authorities."

While it might sound like so much BS, not one word of it is strictly untrue. For one thing, the Defenders, via Matt, have reached out to SHIELD. And the Defenders themselves didn't really need to dig to know who did the deed. They knew who made that call from the moment their ears were done figuratively and literally ringing from the explosion.

It's a fine line to walk, but years of listening to her sister's show has offered some insight into how to walk it.

When the vigilante you cover for a totally amateur-based journalist group claims to not be a vigilante, you don't get insulted or defensive. Jessica Jones doesn't wear a cape or mask, and probably does — unlike other vigilantes like Tony Stark or Batman — rely on the professionals. Mostly.

By the way Zane smiles, he's recognizing Jess's bullshit for what it is, but also not calling her on it. Mostly.

"You think then that the NYPD and SHIELD are capable of finding, apprehending, and convicting the person or persons responsible?"

"I think so," Jessica says, and for a moment her smile is almost sharklike.

"If that person were listening, here's what I'd tell him. You don't pull crap like that without creating an awful lot of threads for competent investigators to follow. The threads are being tugged. The sweater is unravelling. And sooner or later he'll get what's coming to him."

She sort of leans forward on the chair before remembering the chair legs thunking down later in the show might suck for everyone. She slowly eases the chair legs back down to where they belong. It's a bit of restless activity and motion, but not really a sign of nerves. A sign of someone who moves and thinks and does stuff with her hands more often than not, who is slightly at a loss in a scenario where she's being asked to sit still.

Zane looks up at the sharklike smile and the words that accompany it. He sees her nerves, hears her nerves. He is at least in-tune enough to catch that. He rests his hands in his lap, fingers crossed together. He looks seriously at Jess now. "Arrested, convicted, and put in jail for the rest of his life."

There's a question there, despite the lack of inflection. Is that's what coming to him?

Well, Jess is certainly not dumb enough to say on a radio show that one of her friends might pop his head like a grape.

Or shiv him.

Or shoot him in the face.

"That's right," she says. That's what at least a few of her friends want to see coming to him, after all, and that's the only answer she can appropriately give here. No delving into the deep moral questions everyone involved is grappling with day and night as they close the gap between where they are and where he is.

"I mean you know. I wouldn't be surprised if the US Government went all Guantanamo on his ass, but that's out of my hands. Like I said, Zane, I'm just a PI."

"And not a vigilante."

There's a touch of humor there, hidden beneath his focused expression. His smile just barely tugs at the corners of his mouth before he drops his gaze once more. He rubs at one of his knuckles.

He gives Jessica a small reprieve. "Why did you decide to become a PI? Did you ever consider actual law enforcement?"

Jones chuffs a laugh at that last one. "I decided to become a PI because I'm nosy and I knew I could do it. I have always had a knack for digging up shi— stuff— "

Because she remembers, well after she's already started swearing, she's being recorded here.

"The last time I worked for anyone other than myself I was doing this customer service gig. My boss was embezzling and I dug up the evidence just kind of naturally. But no. No, I've never considered actual law enforcement."

She opens her mouth, closes her mouth, obviously about to say a whole lot of stuff she shouldn't, a hesitation that makes an audible pause. Then she shrugs. It's a matter of public record at this point anyway.

"And sure, from time to time I've toyed with the idea. Here's what stops me. First, I don't take orders worth a damn. Darn. Second…"

Again the hesitation. Again the shrug.

"Once I went to the NYPD when I really needed help, long before I became a PI. Not only did they not help me, but they actively made my life worse. They were disdainful of what I had to tell them, they refused to believe me, and that's colored how I've seen the police ever since. I don't think I could ever be one of them. I don't think they'd want me to try."

"It's alright. We use ratings on our broadcasts. Milo tracks the diversity of your explicit language and keeps count; he'll assign a rating once we're ready to publish the episode. He enjoys the process immensely." Zane can't help but smile broadly at that, like he's told another joke.

He sobers then at her story, nodding his head slowly. "Did you ever find the help you sought from the NYPD?"

"Oh, well, I can tell you right now it's going to be rated R then. Good to know," Jessica says, with a snort of humor. "But good, I can't think when I can't swear."

She almost lifts the chair off the floor again before she stops herself. He asks this question, and Jess shakes her head before she remembers this is a recording, and nobody can see it.

"No," she says. "The NYPD never did jack squat for me. They've helped some people, and I'm not saying they're all bad people or bad investigators or whatever. They just didn't help me, and I never quite reached a point where I felt I could trust them. And you may be thinking, okay, Jones, why not target some of the other law enforcement agencies which have been more helpful? Cause some have been, SHIELD especially. Well, I refer you back to my shitty order taking ability, and just add that I never made it through more than a week of college, and most of 'em want a degree. Some of 'em want a JD or a Masters, right? So those doors aren't really open to me to begin with."

"Not everyone trusts SHIELD either," Zane replies with a slight offhanded gesture. "Not everyone trusts you either." There's a strict matter-of-factness to his words. The sky is blue, trees are (mostly) green; not everyone likes you. There's no insult there.

"You don't need those doors opened though. You help the people who can't get help from the NYPD, and you are OK with helping them however gets the job done. Have you ever turned down a job before that you felt was the sole responsibility of the NYPD or SHIELD?"

"Nope. I never have. I turn down jobs when I think a different PI could do a better job of it, and when I don't trust the client, when I know the client is telling the truth but only wants me to do the investigation to be an asshole. If someone who is in legitimate trouble comes to me for help, I help them. What I do, Zane, is stay cognizant of the fact that my investigations can be brought into court as evidence. That's every bit of my work product, from physical evidence I collect to the reports I write up. I can also be called to testify in court. I work closely with my attorneys to make sure nothing I do would taint evidence. I have developed a relationship with a professional third-party crime lab so I can deliver a high standard of investigation, and since it's not backed up the way the government-owned one is I often get my results faster than the NYPD or the Feds or whomever else can."

She tilts her head and says, "And here's the thing, that's not that unusual. Distraught parents often turn to PIs to find their missing children when they feel they're not getting the attention they need from the cops. The families of murder victims often turn to us with cold cases long after their cases have been shuffled off to the back burner by public law enforcement. That's something that happens all over the country, every single day. And it's good for people to know they have that avenue they can turn to. And I don't have politics breathing down my neck, I'm not worried about my arrest stats, right, and I don't have a zillion and five cases slamming me, or meetings to go to, or whatever else cops have to deal with. All this means I can give these cases the personal attention they desperately need…and if something comes up in the course of those investigations that requires someone with a badge and some cuffs to show up, that can be arranged, you know?"

"That's a thorough undertaking, Jess. Quite a bit of undertaking for a non-law enforcement officer." There's an unspoken statement there. After all, a vigilante is nothing more than someone who undertakes the duties of the law enforcement without legal authority. At least half that definition applies. But Zane doesn't point that out. Not entirely.

"By your words, you aren't a vigilante. What do you think about vigilante justice?"

"Some of my best friends are vigilantes." And so why does she keep making the distinction? Her reasons, of course, are her own, but Jessica gives a faint smile at that.

She finally does get the chair legs off the ground, leaning all the way forward until the back of the chair is touching the edge of the table. There's going to be a slight rattle and click on the recording.

"Look, Zane, you know and I know there's a lot of shit out there conventional law enforcement isn't equipped to handle, okay? Maniacs with mind control powers. Fucking demons, I shit you not. All sorts of goddamn shit that would just tear them apart. And there are people who need goddamn help when they need it so they can, you know, not die right then and there. Vigilantes have saved my life and my sister's life on multiple occasions. Law enforcement is great but they're the clean up crew. They show up when someone's already gotten dead. I don't know about justice. What I know is…if someone is getting their ass kicked by some shithead, you step in to the best of your ability. That's what good people do. To the extent of their talents and abilities. For some? That's just calling 911, that's the best they've got. For others? To whom much is given much is required and all that shit. There's all this debate, you know, about us powered people. Well, quite a lot of us powered people feel having those abilities gives us a responsibility, a God-given responsibility, to do more than pick up a goddamn phone when we see someone is being hurt. Not that it takes powers, I know some real badasses who can do it and who want to do it by virtue of hard work and training, but it's the same principle. Not everyone, after all, has a healthy body or access to that training, right? So. You know. People just should take care of people. I try to take care of people, that's what I try to do, and a lot of my friends do the same."

The movement with the chair hardly breaks Zane's focus. He's an amateur journalist with a slick, but compact setup. VigiWatch doesn't have sponsors. These guys are paid with passion.

And, perhaps, as Jess just said… not everyone can be a person like Jess, or Spider-Man, or Batman. But highlighting the good that these people do is something that those invested in VigiWatch can do.

That's when Zane's smiling again — this time a wide and easy smile that warms his eyes when he manages to look back up at Jess. "People should take care of people," he agrees easily. "And I can safely say that the people of New York City are thankful for that motto."

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