Fandom: Netflix MCU mashup (Punisher focus)
Wordcount: This part, 1902
Rating: General for now
Summary: Karen hears of a disturbing recent crime. Foggy struggles with an ethical question.
“Looks like your boy’s at it again, Page.”
Karen didn’t look up from her desk at the sound of Ellison’s voice. She leaned her head in one hand and picked up the memo in front of her with the other, waving it in his general direction. “A report comes in that mentions Frank Castle, and you come darkening my doorway,” she said. “Can’t have one without the other.”
“Now that’s not true at all,” he replied, coming further into the office. “I darken your doorway for many different reasons.”
He was right, but it didn’t change the fact that he and practically everyone else at the Bulletin had a few things to say to her as soon as the slightest rumor about Frank came up. “Did you read the same draft that I did? Because I have to say this is some of the most irresponsible journalism I have ever seen, and if you tell me we’re publishing this version of events I--”
“I don’t know if we’re publishing any version,” he cut in, holding up a hand to silence her. “First give me your take on it and then we’ll talk about building the story.”
Karen took a calming breath and nodded. “My take is that there’s no way this was Castle. It reads like someone wanted someone to blame and he was convenient, but the facts don’t point to him at all.”
Ellison shrugged. “Six dead and every one of them a criminal, that sounds fairly Punisher to me. And we have multiple survivors claiming they saw a gunman wearing a skull vest.”
“Criminals kill each other all the time. And anyone can paint a skull on a vest.” She tried not to show how much it troubled her. She was sure Frank had nothing to do with this, but killers using him as a scapegoat was a story that couldn’t end well.
“Why don’t you--” Ellison coughed nonchalantly-- “ask him?”
Karen gave him a glare that she knew he didn’t really deserve, considering she had been pacifying him with evasions and half-truths for months. “I keep telling you, I don’t have a direct line to Castle. Yes, I knew he was alive before the press did, yes, I’ve encountered him since then, but that’s a far cry from a reliable source.”
He tilted his head, skeptical as ever, but instead of disputing her version of events, he set down a page in front of her and tapped it. “Why don’t you ask him?”
She picked it up to take a closer look. “This is one of the witnesses? We’re in touch with him?”
“He’s at Metro-General. If you’re going I don’t want you going alone.”
Karen was already gathering her purse and jacket. “Then find me someone who can keep up, boss.”
Ellison elected himself, but by the time they reached the sidewalk he was complaining about how fast she was walking. “You’re not even from the city. If this is your normal pace, your youth and vigor is out of hand.”
“I walked faster than everyone at home too,” she informed him even as she slowed herself down. In truth, she did have an extra spring in her step today. A story on the horizon would do that to her, and this one had the additional incentive of involving Frank. It was bad news, sure, but at least it would give her an excuse to see him.
She had often considered asking to see him without bothering with an excuse, but the last few times they had talked, he had deflected her innocuous questions about what he was doing with his life these days, and she could take a hint. She didn’t even take it personally, exactly. He had his reasons, and she knew he still cared about her. He would be there for what was important, which was why he wouldn’t turn her down when she told him they needed to discuss a case.
Sometimes she felt like her life was finally looking up, but that wasn’t right. The stability she had gained from the Bulletin, and from the elimination of a few major threats, could hardly be counted a fair trade against all of the losses she had endured since moving to New York. But she felt more competent and more driven every time she plunged into another project. She had a purpose. She had a growing network of allies, since meeting Trish Walker at the NYPD. She had some closure, too, as much as she might wish that everything had turned out differently. Matt had, after all, died a hero, and she didn’t have to be the only one who knew about it. At long last, Foggy was making plans for a funeral, so she could say her final farewell and begin to look to the future.
And she could see Frank again. Matt’s funeral was important: he would be there.
Foggy passed by the front doors of the Church of St. John of the Cross and went around the back to ring the bell of the rectory. He hadn’t really wanted to go through Matt’s church, knowing how painful the memories would be, but the face of Father Lantom, when he answered the door, was an emotional blow of the same order. Worse, in a way, because he wasn’t prepared for it. He screwed his face into a smile and said, “Thanks for meeting with me.”
“You drink lattes?” the old priest asked him, and ten minutes later they were in a downstairs kitchen, making easy conversation about hard topics. It was worlds away from the kind of intensive debating that work at HCB entailed, and even the efficiently phrased patter that he engaged in with his colleagues off the job, and Foggy realized with dismay that it had been ages since he had sat down with someone trustworthy and talked about his troubles without any pressure to fix them. It reminded him of Matt, again, but in a bittersweet way, and he welcomed it.
He took a sip of his latte, which, give it to Father Lantom, wasn’t half bad. “Matt didn’t have any family, but there are still a lot of people who will want to come to his funeral. If you don’t have the seating capacity, I’m not sure what to do. I really don’t want to have it anywhere else.”
Father Lantom nodded slowly. “This is Matthew’s church.”
“And some of his friends are…” Foggy exhaled. He had never been sure exactly how much Lantom knew, about Matt or about anything else. “There’ll be a lot of people with secrets. Some of them might not get along with each other.”
“You’re telling me fights will break out in the pews?”
Foggy winced. “No! No, not that. I just don’t want to -- I mean --” He stopped to think while Father Lantom waited patiently, cradling his cup in his hands. “Okay. So here’s the thing. You remember our friend Karen? She’s friends with one of our former clients, and she asked me if I thought it would be okay if she invited him to come to the funeral.” That had been a rough conversation, for both of them. They hadn’t come to any resolution, so bringing it here was all he could do. “The guy’s not technically a wanted man, for now, but he’s a killer. Pretty much a remorseless killer. I told her I didn’t think it would be respectful to bring him into a church, and, well, now I’m basically hoping you can tell me something that backs up my argument but also saves our friendship.”
There was a long pause. When Father Lantom spoke, he didn’t sound happy: “So the Punisher wants to pay his respects to the lawyer who failed him, huh?”
Floored, Foggy could only gape for a few seconds, and the first words he managed get out were no more than, “How...I never said...”
“You didn’t need to. I keep up with the news, Mr. Nelson.”
“Foggy,” he corrected faintly. He had too many people in his life calling him Mister. “Okay, yes, I’m talking about Frank Castle. He’s apparently got a new identity now. I don’t know the whole story with Karen, just that she’s convinced he’s no danger to anyone.”
Father Lantom raised an eyebrow. “And you’re not?”
“How could I be?” Foggy pushed a hand through his hair, which was shorter than he liked it and made him feel like a corporate tool. “I don’t think he would disrupt a church service, no. I don’t think he would hurt innocent people. But as far as I understand what you do here -- my family’s Methodist, I think in this respect it’s not that different -- murder isn’t okay. Murderers don’t get waved into funerals just because I don’t want to hurt Karen’s feelings.”
To his surprise, Lantom half-smiled at that, eyes unfocused as if he were using every sense but his sight. “Do you know, Matthew would come here with his...moral quandaries, and we would sit here, just like this, while I told him what I thought. He never seemed to run low on moral quandaries.” He sighed and then looked directly at Foggy, and his voice became firmer. “I may not have the answers you want, but there are two things I can tell you. First, sinners are the reason we have a Church. If I turn Frank Castle away for falling too far from God, I may as well turn the homeless away from our soup kitchen for being too hungry.”
Foggy didn’t try to analyze the theology of that reasoning, but somehow, the way it was delivered made him feel ashamed that he had even brought it up. He nodded unhappily. “What’s the second thing?”
“That the Church of St. John of the Cross will not be holding a funeral for Matthew Murdock.”
There was a jarring clatter of Foggy’s chair on the floor as he jerked back in shock. “What? But you said--!”
“Calm down, son.” Father Lantom stood up, taking the two empty cups and saucers with him to the sink. He raised his voice to keep talking while he was washing them. “This has nothing to do with your, ah, friend of a friend. The rites can be performed without the body of the deceased, but in these cases, sufficient proof of death is required.”
Foggy’s heart sank. He had never dreamed that this would be an issue. “What kind of proof would be enough? It’s been six months, and there was no way he could have survived Midland Circle.”
The sound of the water splashing over the dishes undercut Father Lantom’s response. “That may be.” Finally he turned back around, drying his hands on a towel. “But I, personally, don’t feel certain that Matthew is not among the living. I’m sure you can see how that’s an obstacle to conducting a funeral for him.”
Foggy expected to be depressed and angry for the rest of the day. He had a dead friend to honor, and the only way to do it properly had just been closed off to him. But as he walked back to HCB, taking the long way to clear his head, he found a kind of peace inside himself.
He didn’t believe there was any chance that Matt was alive. But it was good to know that someone did.