Avox in Arcadia (perpetual) wrote,
Avox in Arcadia
perpetual

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A Conspiracy of Ravens - Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Title: Power Vacuum
Author: Kairos
Fandom: Netflix MCU mashup
Wordcount: This part, 2904
Rating: Teen (aka the usual)
Summary: Everyone who wasn't in the yacht last night has a lot of questions.



The phone on Foggy’s desk was flashing with two calls on hold while he tried to finish up the call he was already on, and the phone in his pocket was vibrating again, when Jessica stormed into his office. Trish Walker was right behind her, which was a surprise -- she and Foggy had met before, but never at his workplace, and he still thought of her first and foremost as the host of Trish Talk.

He raised his eyebrows at the women and then said into the receiver, “Jeri, she’s here now, I’ll call you back.”

“The moment you can,” Hogarth demanded from the other end. Her sharp tone didn’t bother him; it was probably just her way of maintaining the appearance of control when she knew he was about to hang up on her either way.

Jessica was already leaning over his desk and scowling at him. “Donovan Wake is fucking dead,” she announced.

“So everyone keeps telling me. Are you here to criticize my grieving process?”

“Seriously?” That was Trish, hands on her hips, looking and sounding just as agitated as Jessica. “You’re going to make jokes about this? We need your help and we need it now.

Foggy returned their glares, albeit halfheartedly. “Everyone keeps telling me that, too. Can you at least let me deal with these calls from people who didn’t come barging in here without making an appointment?”

Jessica glanced down at his desk and the flashing buttons on his landline phone, and swiftly wrapped its power cable around her finger and unplugged it. “They’ll call back,” she said as the digital display went blank.

That should have been the last straw, but Foggy couldn’t help feeling a little relieved about the quick solution, regardless of the consequences he knew he’d face for it later. “Why are you even getting involved in this?” he asked Jessica. “All you signed on for was tracking down the fake Punisher, and that’s done with.”

“Russell Blagg wasn’t the only fake Punisher, and you’re not my only client.”

“What?” Foggy knew Jessica was prone to using her job as a cover for actually caring about things, but he didn’t know what other client she could mean.

“Forget that,” Trish cut in. “The important thing is that Wake’s death is going to cause an underworld power vacuum--”

Jessica whirled to face her. “I swear if you say the words ‘power vacuum’ one more time today--”

“What?” Foggy repeated, but they were talking right over him and each other now.

“You know I’m right! Even if nobody takes up the Punisher mantle, Javelin’s going to be moving in where Wake left off just like Wake did with Fisk. This is probably their dream come true!”

“We know jack shit about Javelin so far and slinging theories around isn’t going to change that. The only lead we have is Wake, and that’s why we’re here, Trish, remember that?”

Trish huffed. “The reason I’m here is because Karen came home late last night and didn’t set an alarm this morning for the first time since she started sleeping at my place.” She turned sharply back to Foggy. “She knows something. What has she told you?”

Foggy shook his head, his mind racing. “Nothing. She came here the other day and we talked about Wake, but the only information she had was what she dug up with the two of you. She was upset, I mean, who wouldn’t be? But the plan was to expose him, not...whatever this is.”

Jessica and Trish looked at each other the way women did when they thought a man in their presence was being stupid. Then Jessica met Foggy’s eyes and said simply, “Castle.”

“Okay, what?” Foggy pushed his chair back from his desk and stood up. It seemed increasingly ridiculous that they were coming to him for answers, when he didn’t even have the right questions to figure out everything they knew that he didn’t.

“You want to know what this is?” said Jessica. “This is Frank Castle. And it’s not like we’ll get anything out of him, so we need to ask Karen.”

Foggy scowled. “I’m not going to pressure my friend to go grilling a guy I always wished would stay away from her...what?”

The women were looking at each other again. “Does he not know?” Trish asked Jessica.

“Hell,” Jessica replied with a heave of her shoulders, “Karen probably doesn’t even know.” She brushed her hair behind an ear and sighed in Foggy’s direction. “She’s in love with Castle. Sorry.”

Foggy’s stomach flip-flopped, but he kept his composure. “No,” he informed them both. “She isn’t.”

“We saw them together,” Trish said gently. “It was hard to miss.”

“I don’t think they’re screwing, if that helps,” Jessica added.

It did not help. Foggy fought back an onslaught of memories involving Karen afraid and Karen with her heart broken, and that awful year that Nelson & Murdock had represented Frank Castle. He wanted to believe that her passionate defense of Castle had just been an expression of her own need for justice, but if he had learned one thing about Karen, it was that he hardly knew her at all.

Of course, that didn’t mean he was about to admit that Jessica and Trish knew her any better than he did, especially when they were apparently basing this on something as subjective as a shared observation. “When did you see them together?” he asked.

Trish looked a little reluctant to answer, but she had a very direct, confident gaze to match the tone she used on her radio show. “She’s staying with me. He came to my apartment to see her.”

That was worth a few more questions itself, but Foggy restrained himself. “Sounds like you might as well go straight to the source.”

“No,” said Jessica. “If Karen had a hand in this, she and Castle are gonna tell all kinds of lies to protect each other. We have to deal her out for now.”

“Then deal me out too. I don’t have anything to help you anyway.”

Trish gave him a mellow smile that he didn’t trust at all. “Foggy -- can I call you Foggy?” She waited for his nod before continuing. “We’ve been discussing this all morning and as far as we can tell, there are two possibilities as to what happened to Wake. The first is that Castle decided it was time to declare war on violent criminals again and that he should start with the one who had been sending out decoys of him. The second is that Javelin was responsible, since one of the only things we know about them is that they’re a rival to Wake’s organization.

“Right now, only Castle knows whether or not he’s the one who did it. If he didn’t, he knows it was Javelin. And if Javelin didn’t do it, well, that goes vice versa.” She held Foggy’s eyes with utmost earnestness. “My point is, one way or another, they’re going to end up in each other’s sights. The city’s going to bleed. Karen’s bound to get mixed up in it. And if Jeryn Hogarth is as much of a control freak as I’ve heard she is, you are too.”

Foggy paced a few steps, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. “Alright,” he allowed. “I’ll see if I can find anything out. No promises. But that means you’re going to be up front with me too, right?”

“As much as we can,” Trish started, but Jessica cut her off.

“Castle has some kind of source of his own. If it’s a PI they’re as good as I am. He knew as much about Wake as I did, before I did, and probably a lot more that he didn’t mention. I think he was playing along with us until he had what he needed to set up this assassination on the yacht, so we’re not likely to see him or hear from him again now that it’s done.” She shifted uncomfortably. “Unless I find out something about Javelin that he wants to get out of me. But I don't know what that could be.”

Trish looked just as startled by this sudden candor as Foggy was. All three of them were quiet for a moment, and then Foggy said, “I’ll get what I can on Javelin. Just one question.” Jessica and Trish raised their eyebrows, and he took a deep breath. “If Karen really is in love with him...do you think it’s mutual?”

Jessica snickered humorlessly. “Is that news to anyone?”

Trish’s expression was more sympathetic, but she didn’t give a sign that there was any doubt in the matter. “Thank you for talking with us, Foggy,” she said. “We’ll keep in touch.” With a flip of her pale hair, she turned and headed for the door. Jessica raised a hand to Foggy, let it drop, and followed.

After they had left his office, Foggy sat back down behind his desk and pulled out a drawer. The picture of Daredevil that might really be Matt was still sitting there, and he still hadn’t shown it to Karen or decided if he should. He wondered if there was anyone else who could offer an opinion. Father Lantom, maybe. Or Claire, if he could somehow talk her into looking at it.

He missed Matt badly. He missed the glue that held him and Karen together as a team, and not just friends who asked each other for help and never quite knew what the other was up to. Every day he thought about quitting Hogarth, Chao & Benowitz, and every day he changed his mind for no better reason than that it would be too hard to explain it to Marci.

He closed the drawer and wrote himself a few notes before plugging his phone back in. It was going to be a long day.

//////////\\\\\\\\\\//////////\\\\\\\\\\//////////\\\\\\\\\\


The atmosphere at the Bulletin was full of nervous energy, which Karen found oddly reassuring. If people were nervous, they were uncertain about something, and uncertainty could only be an asset right now.

Everyone knew that she had been at the crime scene last night, but she shook off their stares as she entered by striding purposefully toward Ellison and giving him all of her attention until they were both safely behind his door. He was more angry than he was nervous, and she couldn’t blame him, but she had a plan for this.

“So here’s what I heard from the NYPD officers who were on the scene,” he began. “You saw this frightened young lady come running out of a boat owned by one Donovan Wake. You called the police, waited with the girl until they came, and then went home by yourself. Does that sound about right?”

“I would say they took down my account accurately, yes.” It was the same account she had gone over with Leigh, who had immediately agreed to say whatever Karen thought was best. Karen knew she couldn’t rely on her to hold to it, but if she slipped up at some point in the future it was likely to be with someone who wasn’t connected to the authorities. Either that, or her recollection of the event would be seen as faulty.

Ellison looked genuinely pained. “And am I to believe that you were just conveniently taking a walk by the pier at the exact right moment to witness this incident?”

“Driving by the pier,” she corrected him smoothly. “Got lost in the neighborhood. But I wasn’t asking you to believe it.”

“Did they?”

Karen shrugged. The two female officers who had first shown up hadn’t given her any trouble about her report, although that was at least in part due to her drawing their focus away from it and back onto giving Leigh the emergency assistance she needed. By the time Leigh had departed with them in an ambulance, Sgt. Brett Mahoney was there too, and he and Karen had spent a few minutes alone, arguing about what she was or wasn’t hiding, until she told him that people were going to worry about her if she didn’t get home.

Brett, like Ellison, knew the game. They knew there were things that she would never tell, even if it meant being fired or arrested. Both of them had accepted it because they were good men and because they wanted her help, but they didn’t like it, and neither did she.

“Being at the right place in the right time is part of this job, Ellison,” she said finally. “You say that all the time. I got the story, didn’t I?”

He made an expansive gesture with both hands. “I told you when you first picked up this lead to get out if--”

“If I saw someone wearing a skull,” she interjected. “I didn’t.” That, at least, was the truth. Frank had gone without it this time. She hadn’t asked him why.

There was a measured silence. “Are you okay, Karen?” he asked, softly but gravely.

She nodded. “Yes, I am.”

“Fine.” He took a deep breath, and his posture straightened. He was back to being her boss. “I want an editorial on this, but don’t get personal and don’t take too long with it. If you’re still here after five I’m giving it to someone else.”

That suited her fine. Her agenda was too full to spend much time at work today.

Karen’s first stop after writing the editorial was the hospital where Leigh had been admitted, since she had promised as much. It was a profound relief to see that Leigh’s parents had already arrived, but meeting them was another matter. The emotion in the room, the misplaced gratitude, the desperate questions all overwhelmed her until she felt drained of any ability to keep talking.

She gave them all of her contact information and sat down with Leigh to reaffirm their new friendship -- and to check up on her mental state. It was neither as bad as she had feared or as good as she had hoped, but Karen had to admit that she didn’t really know what to look for in a trauma victim’s recovery, anyway. All she could do was commit to finding time in her schedule to keep reaching out to Leigh and her loved ones and her doctors.

Ever since the night she had been kidnapped by Javelin, Karen had been stopping at her own apartment after work and then heading to Trish’s place for the night. Today, she left the hospital and went straight to Trish’s.

There were things she wanted to talk about, but she wasn’t altogether disappointed to find the apartment empty after letting herself in. She had thinking to do, too.

She had a vague but persistent feeling that her life had changed forever. Following Frank onto the yacht, being part of a vigilante plan to put down violent criminals and save an innocent, actually succeeding at it, all of that was worlds away from the variety of dangers she had dug herself into over the years. It felt good, maybe even good enough to want to do it again, but whether that was a reasonable reaction or the first thrill of a new addiction, she didn’t know.

Frank could have helped her work through it. She felt a deep longing for his company, infused with the sadness of knowing it would be a long time before she saw him again. They hadn’t talked about it, but they both knew he would have to lay low after this.

Trish came home as Karen was tidying up after packing all of her things that she had brought over. “What’s going on?” she asked, sounding alarmed.

“I’m really grateful for all you’ve done,” Karen answered. She set the pillows back on the newly made guest bed. “But this isn’t necessary any longer. I’m going back to my place.”

“You’re serious?” Trish let her purse drop to the floor. “Because of what happened last night? Karen, I don’t think this is a good idea. That gang that was after you is still out there.”

Karen nodded. “And they have been, this whole time, with no sign that they’ve come anywhere near my apartment or tried to track me down at all. Honestly, why would they? They’ve got other things to worry about.”

“So do we,” Trish retorted. “I thought you were cooperating with Jessica and me. After last night we’re feeling a little bit used, you know.”

That was a fair enough accusation to make Karen wince inwardly. She thought of Trish and Jessica as friends now, and she had been treating them the same way she did Brett and Ellison but without the sense of acceptance that made it okay. “I’m sorry. Some of what’s been going on is just...not mine to tell. I'll be around, I won't brush you off if you need me. I just want to go home.”

Trish pursed her lips, her gaze unwavering. “And if we need Frank Castle, is he going to brush us off?”

That was fair too, Karen supposed, but she didn’t have to like it. She picked up one of her bags and slung it over her shoulder before meeting Trish’s eyes. “Good question,” she replied. “If I see him, I’ll ask.”


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Tags: conspiracy of ravens
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