Characters: Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, Wilson Fisk, Peter Parker, Karen Page
Genre(s): Hurt/Comfort, Action, Angst, Drama
Spoilers: Daredevil Vol 1 #229
Warnings: Drug withdrawal
Word Count: 6303
Story Summary: Born Again AU. After the grand jury's ruling is handed down, Foggy can't help wondering if he could have done more. He decides to drop in on Matt and make sure that he's doing all right.
Chapter Summary: Kingpin has a dilemma. Matt may not be ready to don the costume, yet... but that doesn't mean he can't lend a hand!
Some of Frank Miller's writing from Daredevil Vol. 1 #229 has been incorporated into this chapter. I've made a few tweaks.
Wilson Fisk was not a man who panicked easily. He took realistic stock of situations, calculated odds, and did his best to create contingencies for circumstances that defied those odds. He was seldom unnerved by the unexpected.
There was no corpse.
He had no idea why he was unsettled now. When the web-slinger had invaded his office to grill him on Murdock's disappearance, Fisk had not been understating the matter when he'd referred to Murdock as a mosquito. Daredevil had been an irritant, a passing annoyance that he had opted to torment for his own amusement, before utterly crushing the man.
But if one swatted at a mosquito and the insect managed to escape, then there was no need to pursue it further. So long as it had removed itself from his sphere, it was of no consequence.
There was no corpse.
Sitting at the weight machine, Kingpin replayed their last—what he had believed to be their final—encounter once more. He had taken Murdock's measure, found him wanting, given him a moment to realize just how outclassed he was... and put the man out of his misery. But Murdock's last words had been words of defiance directed not at him, but at fate. His final words had been a... a... pep talk.
They had not been the words of a man who would quietly lie down to die. Nor had they been the words of one who would, having escaped a tiger with his life, count himself fortunate among men and avoid the jungle thereafter.
There was no corpse.
Murdock was alive. It shouldn't matter. He was now bereft of money, power, influence, security... Fisk might not have literally taken his life, but he had certainly done so metaphorically. Murdock knew, had to know now, that he had no hope of reclaiming any of what had been taken from him unless the Kingpin allowed it. He was no threat. At least, he shouldn't be. Fisk didn't know why he was worried. What could the man do to him now? Again, he tried to shrug off his concern. He told himself that Murdock was of no consequence, only ever a minor concern and now, even less so. Unfortunately, he grimaced as he gripped the lateral pull-down bar and slowly lowered it, in his heart, he knew better. Murdock was far more than some annoying insect. He always had been. And now, Kingpin felt his apprehension increase ever so slightly, as he realized that he might have just taught Murdock that a man without hope...
...Was a man without fear.
"Will you just call him already?" Foggy demanded.
Matt stirred his peppermint tea and turned his head in the direction of his friend's voice. "Who?"
"Or her," Foggy continued. "Whoever it is you keep half-reaching for the phone to call and then changing your mind."
Matt said nothing for several long moments. He wondered idly whether Foggy could hear the scrape of his spoon on the bottom of the ceramic mug and the slosh of the hot liquid. He inhaled the strong fragrance of the tea. The menthol burned his nasal cavity, but in a good way. Absently, he moved his hand toward the phone again. Then he smiled self-consciously, pulled back his arm, and sighed. "I'm debating whether to give Ben another try," he admitted.
"Ah. And the reason for the debate is...?"
Matt massaged his forehead with three of his fingers. "When I called him before, he wasn't just trying to brush me off because he couldn't talk. He was terrified."
Foggy sat down across from him at the table, pulling the chair closer with a scrape that was almost a screech to Matt's hearing. "Sorry," he said, when Matt winced. "Maybe he was still spooked over what they did to Manolis," he suggested. "Not to mention what they did to his fingers." He paused. "Of course, he might have calmed down since yesterday."
Matt released his spoon and heard it clink against the rim of his mug. "The attack happened on Christmas Day. It was already over a week later when I called him yesterday. I doubt that in the last day or so, he's calmed down enough." He pushed his chair away from the table.
"Where are you going?"
Matt didn't answer, but Foggy heard the bedroom door open and close. A moment later, the same sounds repeated and Matt returned. He had one arm through the sleeve of his jacket and he was struggling with the other. "Karen's asleep," he said softly. "I'm going to the hospital. If Ben won't talk to me, maybe Manolis will."
He'd let today's mild temperatures fool him into forgetting how cold it could get when the sun went down. The wind whistled past him, sparing a gust to blast through his half-zipped jacket. He shivered and nearly cried out when the movement sent a spasm of pain through his half-healed ribs. He pulled off a glove and fumbled with the zipper-pull, closing it up past his neck.
He felt a bit guilty leaving Karen, although he knew she wasn't alone. Foggy was there. And now that he'd been out of the apartment, Matt found that, instead of finding it easier to cope, he was more restless. He'd been spending too much time cooped up, laying low, recuperating both physically and mentally. He needed to start doing things. The job was a start. Being there for Karen was a start. It wasn't enough. He'd known Manolis was hurting all those weeks ago. Maybe if he'd spent a little more time delving into the reasons, Matt could have found a way to get through to him, help him find a way to help his son without dancing to Kingpin's tune. Now, Manolis was in a hospital room. Ben was apparently too frightened to talk to him.
Another time, Matt might have let those matters lie, preferring the sorts of battles that could be won with fists and billy clubs. He wasn't ready for those, yet. But he was ready to start rebuilding some of the bridges that had been burned recently. Manolis tonight. Ben tomorrow. And after that? Maybe it would be time to start back at Fogwell's.
Almost as soon as he stepped through the main entrance to Bellevue Hospital, Matt knew he'd made a mistake. The subway had been bad enough, but at least he'd been fortunate to find himself in a car that hadn't been too crowded. The hospital was worse. The air was lousy with adrenaline; too many people here were scared, stressed, or both. Medical staff were hurrying to treat emergencies. Patients were frightened to find themselves here and wondering what was wrong. Family members were frightened for the patients. Matt would have found it hard to deal, had adrenaline been the only major smell in the area, but it wasn't. The human body was capable of emitting several substances that smelled far worse than human perspiration. Fumes from cleaners and disinfectants made his throat burn. Medications had their own distinctive odors—none of which were pleasant. And, no matter where you went, there were always a few people who seemed to bathe in heavy perfume. Add in the screech and clatter of older medical carts and gurneys, shouts for assistance, the hums and rattles of various pieces of equipment, and Matt was almost ready to walk out as quickly as dignity would permit, take the subway back to Foggy's, and call it a night.
He had to be up early tomorrow anyway, if he was starting the new job. Karen needed him. Foggy would probably be pacing the living room until he got back—if he didn't take it into his head to chase after him again. Matt's lips twitched. He'd always thought Foggy was... smarter... than that. He refused to consider how his actions reflected on his own intellect.
Instead, he ran his fingers over the directory, thankful that the department names and floors were engraved on metal plates—easy to read with his fingers. He wasn't sure where Manolis would be, but ICU seemed like a good place to start.
Emerging from the elevator, he walked down the hospital corridor, hoping it looked like he knew where he was going. At this hour, some of the departments would be closed for the evening, but perhaps... He smiled. There was an open area with chairs and end-tables, clearly a waiting area of some kind, or maybe a lounge. There was nobody else there. Matt walked to the far wall, as far from the bustling hallway as he could get, and took a seat. It was quieter here, easier to think. He tried a basic meditation technique, drawing his focus inward, closing himself off as much as he could and then, slowly, expanding his awareness, trying to take in as much as he could, probing... probing...
"Doctor, Mr. Tersigni's fever is up again..."
"We have been waiting for twenty minutes for a hot blanket! Where is everyone?"
"Okay, Mrs. McIntyre, we're just going to take you down for some tests..."
A heavy door creaked open, startling him. From the echoes, he had to have picked a spot right by a stairwell to try this exercise. This wasn't such a great spot for concentration after all, not if the door was going to keep opening. He was about to move off in search of a better place when he heard...
"Madge, are those Mr. Manolis's night meds? I'll take them."
Matt sat bolt upright. The voice had been coming from one floor above. He got to his feet and fairly ran past the surprised individual, who was still holding the door open.
One floor up, he slowed to a walk and tried to listen for the voice he'd just heard. Instead he heard a more welcome one, weak and labored, but still familiar.
"...Manolis, Mr. Urich. I been able to talk for a couple of days, now... but you haven't called."
Matt smiled. He'd pop in after the nurse was done. It was probably after visiting hours anyway. It was best to avoid drawing attention to himself. Just tail the nurse, hang around outside until she left, and then look in on Manolis. He could follow the nurse just fine, as she walked down the long corridor. She had to be carrying a tray; he could hear pills clinking together softly. Now how to explain his presence when he (hopefully!) didn't look anything like he usually did? As he walked, he considered various cover stories. All at once, he froze. Something was wrong. The nurse's heart rate was spiking, even though, from the sound of his voice, Manolis didn't seem to be in any distress. Matt's heart lurched. Something else was wrong. She was wearing heavy shoes; he could tell by the tread. Now his own heart was pounding. That was no nurse...
The woman nearly slammed the tray down on a nearby gurney and quietly opened Manolis's door. Manolis was still talking.
"Oh," his voice was dejected. "I get it..." Then, with a sick note of horror, "Oh no."
The hell with being discreet. Matt broke into a run.
Nick Manolis knew that he was about to die. He'd been lucky thus far: wounded in the line of duty on a few occasions, but never seriously enough to keep him off his feet for long; slammed around by Daredevil—who had somehow known about the deal he'd made to testify against Murdock (yeah, he'd hated himself for doing it, but it had been worth selling his soul to get Anthony that operation—or it would have been, had his boy lived); beaten to a pulp in a parking lot when he'd realized how low he'd fallen and been about to tell all to the reporter who'd been pestering him. He'd thought that last one would finish him, but he'd pulled through. Part of him wished he hadn't. He'd ruined a good man's life. G-d didn't owe him any favors. But waking up in ICU, Manolis had been consumed by one burning thought: even if it was too little too late, he still needed to come clean on a few things. He'd lost his son. He'd lost his self-respect. But he'd also lost Matt Murdock his career and reputation. It was only fitting that he sacrifice his own, if there was a chance he could set things right.
As soon as he was well enough to be moved from ICU to a regular ward, he'd made up his mind to call the man who'd been most interested in his story: Ben Urich. But Ben had refused to listen, first trying to brush him off, and then going so far as to say that he didn't know who Manolis was talking about.
So, Manolis realized with a sinking feeling, Kingpin had gotten to Urich after all. Before he could fully process what that meant, his door opened and a hulking woman in a nursing uniform stalked in. This was no angel of mercy. This woman, who was single-handedly responsible for landing him in ICU in the first place, this was an angel of death.
Before Manolis could yell for help, the woman had one meaty hand pressed tight around his throat, while her other tore the phone receiver from his hand. She regarded him stonily for a moment. Then she brought the receiver to her own ear and mouth. "My employer would like you to hear this, Mr. Urich," she said, calmly menacing.
Nicholas Manolis thought a quick prayer and prepared to meet his Maker.
Matt took in the situation the instant he entered the room. Manolis was in bed—not restrained, but not in any position to defend himself against his attacker. Now that he stood only a few feet away from her, Matt was better able to size the woman up. She was easily his own height and half again his width. She probably had at least 75 pounds on him, but like Kingpin, her bulk was comprised of muscle, not fat. Her back was to him and she held the phone in one hand, while her other was clamped around Manolis's throat. She didn't appear to have noticed him.
For an instant, Matt wished he still had his billy club. He banished the thought. No point in thinking about what he didn't have; he had to work with what he did. His first kick rammed into her kidney. She grunted in pain, dropped the phone and tried to swing at him. Matt dodged and countered with a kick to the side of her knee. With a snarl, she released Manolis and lunged for him.
Matt evaded her once more. He'd hoped to take her down quickly, but rage and adrenaline kept her a threat. He grabbed at a nearby chair and slammed it down on her head. He heard the impact of metal on bone and smelled fresh blood. Although she was dazed, she was still coming for him, snarling in incoherent rage. Matt grabbed her by the throat and banged her head into the wall, not stopping until he felt her body go limp. Only then did he release her. She slumped heavily to the floor.
Matt got to his feet with a groan. His chest felt like it was on fire, even if he didn't appear to have taken any serious damage. "Lieutenant?" he whispered.
Manolis coughed. "D-Daredevil?" His whisper was barely more than a rasp.
For a moment, Matt was nonplussed. Then he gave a mental shrug. It was dark in here; the electric lights that had hummed in the hallways and stairwell were noticeably absent in this room. Manolis might recognize his voice, or he might simply assume that Daredevil was the only person likely to be on-hand to take down the would-be assassin, but it was unlikely that the injured police officer could see him well enough to identify him at a later time "Yes. Are you all right, Lieutenant?"
"I'll live," the officer wheezed. "Thanks to you." For a moment, he was silent. Matt heard him fumbling for something. "Phone?" he asked. "I was... talking to... Urich. Wanted to come clean... finally."
"Come clean," Matt repeated. Now that the fight was over, he was more aware of the sounds that surrounded him, including the dial tone. He crossed the room quickly and picked up the dangling receiver. "I'm afraid the line's been disconnected," he said.
Manolis wheezed again. "Not... surprised. He got to him... too."
"The guy who got me to accuse Murdock," Manolis rasped. "Spooked Urich. Tried to kill me to keep me quiet."
Matt hesitated. He could hear footsteps approaching at a brisk trot, doubtless in response to the altercation a moment earlier. He had to go. But first... "Quiet. About...?"
Manolis took another breath. "Murdock. You... know what I did. Knew from the start. I... hated to. But my boy..."
"Easy." They'd spot him leaving the room if he used the door now. He moved to the window. "Easy. Rest up. I'll be back when I can." He eased the window open, offered up his thanks that it wasn't screened, and stepped out onto the ledge.
It took him a moment to get his bearings and realize that the room faced East 27th Street. Once he did, he moved along the ledge until he reached the corner of the building. He turned and noted immediately the lull in traffic noises. He was over the parking lot now, and while FDR Drive was busy tonight, it was also far enough away that he doubted he'd be spotted by passing motorists. He listened carefully. There was nobody walking through the parking lot. Here was to hoping that anyone still in their cars wouldn't see him descend.
When his feet finally touched the ground, he breathed a sigh of relief before strolling off to catch the 6-Train. No question about it: if he was going to go back to scaling buildings, he needed a new costume.
Foggy was still awake when Matt turned his key in the lock. "Karen was up for a bit," he greeted him. "She's still not keeping much food down."
Matt nodded. "I'll check in on her." Briefly, he told Foggy what had happened at the hospital. Foggy sucked in his breath.
"You're saying Manolis is ready to admit he lied under oath about your bribing that witness?" he repeated.
"He was trying to come clean to Ben when that woman tried to kill him. And we know that's how he ended up in ICU in the first place: trying to come clean to Ben."
"Which begs the question," Foggy said slowly, "is he safe where he is?"
Matt was silent for a moment. "It's not ideal," he admitted, "but there's really no other place. He's got a broken leg in traction and I'm not sure what other injuries he sustained that he's still recovering from. The hospital isn't ready to discharge him; I don't think bringing him here is a good idea..." He ignored Foggy's snort of laughter. "I have no other safe house. However," he added, brightening, "Manolis was conscious and alert. And hospital personnel were on their way in when I made my exit. They'll find the would-be murderer out cold on the floor and Manolis able to tell them exactly what happened."
"You said she was choking him?"
Matt nodded. "One-handed."
"There'll be marks on his throat to corroborate, then. So the hospital will have to slap a guard on him, right?"
Matt nodded again. "Hopefully, not another one of Kingpin's people."
"You would have to mention that," Foggy groaned. "But, hey, if this pans out, then..."
"I know," Matt replied. "I'm planning to stop by the hospital again after work tomorrow. With a tape recorder."
"In broad daylight?"
Matt shrugged. "It was dark in there tonight. Manolis assumed I was Daredevil. If I show up during the day, I can just tell him that street clothes are less conspicuous than the costume. It's not as if he's going to recognize me as Matt Murdock. Unless..." he frowned. "How good is this disguise? Truthfully?"
"Truthfully?" Foggy hesitated. "To look at you, nobody would make the connection. But someone who knows you well—someone like me, for example—might figure it out, because there are some things that haven't changed: gestures and mannerisms; turns of phrase; voice; voice inflection. It could arouse suspicion." He slapped his forehead. "What am I saying? I didn't notice that you were freaking Daredevil for years, and I'm your business partner. Was. Will be again someday, I hope."
"Thanks," Matt said, smiling. "Manolis doesn't know me all that well as Daredevil. And I believe he only faced me as me at the grand jury hearing. The new look should hold up." Abruptly, he rose from the sofa. "I'm going to check on Karen and then," he smothered a yawn, "I'd better turn in. Would you set the alarm for five?"
Foggy groaned. "As long as you turn it off before it wakes me. Next time you save the day, could you do it someplace where they reward you with a nice nine-to-five shift?"
Matt thought about the long irregular hours they'd both put in during their years of practice and shrugged. "I wouldn't know what to do with one of those if I had it. Back in a few."
Fisk looked at the sweating man who stood before him and fiddled with his tie clip. On his lap, behind his desk where his underling couldn't see, his meaty hands clenched into fists. The news he was about to hear would not be good, but this wasn't Ancient Greece. Kill the messenger and next time, he wouldn't be given the information he needed to plan a course of action.
Deliberately, the crime lord got up from his desk, walked to a small cabinet, and withdrew a decanter more than three quarters filled with an amber liquid and two shot glasses. "Brandy?" he rumbled. "It will steady your nerves."
The man nodded. He was trembling now. Fisk wondered whether the sniveling fool suspected that he was about to be poisoned. As though Fisk would keep something so potentially incriminating in his private office, in the event that one of those costumed fools was able to convince the police to obtain a search warrant for the premises. With a sigh, he poured out two glasses. "Please," he said, setting them down on his desk. "Choose one."
As soon as the man picked up one glass, Fisk downed the second. "Drink," he ordered. The man obeyed. Fisk waited a moment. Then he leaned back in his padded office chair, steepled his fingers, and nodded toward him. "Report."
The man gulped. "Lois was arrested at Bellevue less than two hours ago. She's currently in a holding cell at Thirteenth Precinct. As per procedures, she made her one phone call to Lurvy."
Kingpin frowned. "Details," he requested.
"According to Lurvy," the underling said, "Manolis called that reporter-guy, Urich again, trying to come clean. She was in the process of carrying out her orders for that eventuality when someone came into the room and attacked her. Knocked her out. When she woke up, she was in handcuffs and a cop was reading her her rights."
"Ah." Kingpin mulled that over for a moment. "One of ours?"
"We don't know, yet."
"I see." He frowned, thinking. They'd be watching Manolis now. And Urich was no fool. He might be cagey enough to leave what he knew with someone he trusted—to be opened 'in the event of his untimely death'. No, it was best to leave those two alone for now. There was another way to contain the damage. He smiled. He'd never dealt with Manolis directly; he hadn't wanted Manolis to be able to finger him if things went awry. As it turned out, it had been a wise precaution. If Manolis decided to reveal how he had helped to set Murdock up, the only people whom he could possibly incriminate were Manolis himself... And the man who had handled the contacts and the money for his son's hospital treatment, Lew Sherman.
Kingpin's frown deepened. Sherman was a good man. Effective, loyal, capable... but at the end of the day, replaceable. And if he were removed now, before Manolis had the chance to talk to the press, the trail would end there. He'd given the orders to eliminate every link of the chain that carried Murdock's secret to his ears. It might be time to sever the ties that could connect him to Manolis. He nodded to the still-sweating man before him. "Thank you for your assistance. It should prove invaluable." He opened his desk and passed a small yellow envelope to the informant. "That will be all."
The man accepted the envelope and left hurriedly. As soon as he was gone, Kingpin picked up the phone and dialed a number. "I have a job for Stegman," he said to the party on the other line. "Lew Sherman. He is to make it appear as though it were an accident. Yes, the usual recompense. Thank you." He debated sending someone to deal with Lois, but decided to wait. Her nurse's credentials had been earned honestly and it wasn't always easy to gain access to patients in the hospital—particularly when they were under guard. In those circumstances, Lois was invaluable. With the right pressure applied to the right people, the case against her could be dropped before it ever came to trial. As to the party who had laid her low...
He made another call. "Arrange bail for Lois Barton," he ordered. "And find out everything you can from her about her assailant." Details had been sketchy on that front. If her attacker had been a hospital security guard or a random staff member or visitor, no action need be taken. But if it had been Murdock...
Kingpin smiled. If it had been Murdock, it was irrelevant. Let Manolis squawk to him all he liked now. The damage he could do was fairly limited. Let Murdock try to get his license back. Even if he managed it somehow, he'd never live long enough to use it. Kingpin smiled. If it had been Murdock, he would try again... with Manolis, or perhaps, Urich. Sooner or later, Kingpin would have him. His smile widened. This barely qualified as a setback. The ultimate victory would be his.
When Matt returned to Bellevue the next afternoon, he heard the hum of electric lights in Manolis's room. He debated hitting the switch on his way in; it was probably just to the right of the doorway, but thought better of it. He didn't want to alarm the recovering man, particularly when said man would probably hit the call button if he suspected that he was about to be attacked again. He squared his shoulders and walked inside. "Detective?"
Manolis's heart rate jumped slightly. "Who are you?" he demanded.
"Just someone who was looking out for you last night," Matt said quietly. "In case you're still being watched, I thought it might be safer if I showed up in street clothes. Probably best not to use my name," he added as an afterthought. "Walls have ears."
The police detective chuckled softly. "You're not wrong. And... Thanks. I guess you guys really do help everyone—including losers who don't deserve it."
Matt drew closer to the bed. There was a chair next to it—not the one he'd used as a weapon the night before. "Pardon?"
"Oh, come on," Manolis said bitterly. "You know. You knew that night, too. When you asked me..." His voice trailed off. "Suppose you tell me what it was you asked me," he said suspiciously. "Just to establish your bona fides, you understand."
Matt nodded. "I asked you why you were trying to ruin Matt Murdock," he said. "It didn't make sense."
Manolis sighed. "It did to me. My son was sick. He needed an operation with six month waiting list and a price tag more than three times my life savings. Out of the blue, I get this phone call from someone telling me that they can get him scheduled for two months from then, all expenses paid. So long as I did them one little favor." He sighed again. "I'm not going to pretend I thought for one second that I was doing the right thing. But it was my son. Murdock might be a great guy..." a concerned note crept into his voice. "How is he?"
"Safe," Matt said. "Lying low for now."
"That's good," the detective rumbled. "I figured ruining his rep was worth my son's life. I don't expect you to believe me, but I'd always planned to come clean about it after the surgery." His wheeze was almost a laugh. "Would've ended my career, but at least, I'd've had my son. Life's a bitch. He... he died on the operating table. I figured I had all the more reason to talk to the press at that point. I..." he sighed. "I might have held off spilling my guts for a bit; let Tony recover before his old man's name got dragged through the mud. Guess there always would have been something," he admitted. "But when he didn't make it, that reporter from the Bugle was there in the waiting room. Urich. I know he's done some articles on you, so I guess you must..."
Matt put a hand on his shoulder. "I know who he is." He took a deep breath.
"Detective Manolis, I'm trying to get to the bottom of this. It's bigger than you know. And I need to make sure that I don't forget anything you might tell me now. Also, if Murdock's name is to be cleared," he reached into his pocket and pulled out a tape recorder, "I'd like to get the full story on record." He registered Manolis's head as it jerked up and down once. He smiled. Then he pressed down on the 'play' and 'record' buttons. "Do you have any objections to our conversation being recorded?" he asked.
"Will you state your name please?"
"Detective Nicholas Manolis."
"Thank you. Please, start at the beginning."
Manolis took a deep breath. "On the evening of October 19th, I received a telephone call from a man who identified himself as Lew Sherman..."
Foggy and Karen were in the living room when Matt got back. The TV was on and Matt winced when the laugh track played at nearly twice the volume of the conversation.
"How'd it go?" Foggy asked, as Matt bent down to kiss Karen's cheek.
Matt smiled. "Work was fine," he said blandly. "As for my talk with Manolis..." He took the cassette tape out of his pocket and flipped it into Foggy's lap.
"Is this what I think it is?" Foggy breathed.
"A recording of Nick Manolis admitting to committing perjury at the grand jury hearing, obtained with his full cooperation, as stated on the tape." His smile grew bigger. "I'm still not sure how easy it's going to be to get the verdict overturned or how long it might take..."
"But this is a first step," Foggy finished. "Not quite as good as a sworn declaration, but way better than anything we had at the first go-round."
"I thought about that," Matt admitted. "But I wasn't sure I wanted him thinking too much about Daredevil knowing how to draw up a legal document on the spur of the moment. He's a smart man who's laid up in a hospital bed twenty-four-seven. That gives him a lot of time to think. And I don't want him coming to certain conclusions about where Daredevil might have acquired his legal expertise."
Foggy nodded. "I'm your lawyer, anyway," he pointed out. "I'll give Manolis a call once he's been released from Bellevue and set up a time to take care of the deposition."
"While working for Kingpin?" Matt snapped. "Wait," he added less harshly. "Are you going to be? You called today, right?"
"Yes, yes, and yes," Foggy said. "I start next week. And so what? Seriously. Kingpin already knows I represented you. It's probably why he hired me, remember? So if I'm contacting previous witnesses pursuant to my appealing the ruling, that's not going to come as a shock."
Foggy wasn't backing down. "The only thing he can't find out is that you're still living here in disguise, under an assumed name. Everything else? In order for it to be conflict of interest, I need to know that Fisk was behind the charges filed against you and for some strange reason, I don't see him sharing that bit of intelligence with me. Do you?"
Matt hesitated. Manolis hadn't mentioned Kingpin at any point during the recording. It wasn't surprising: Fisk was smart enough to hide his influence when the situation warranted. And, while he'd almost certainly tried to have Manolis killed to keep him quiet, the attempt had failed and Matt doubted that the crime lord would try again. He had no compunctions about murder, but he did so only when it was the most expedient option. In this case, Fisk was far more likely to distance himself from the proceedings and allow someone expendable to suffer the fallout.
"Be very careful," he relented finally. "Kingpin doesn't take kindly to being held over a barrel. If he can find a way to avoid it, he will—and he might do it in a way you never saw coming."
Foggy sighed. "You've finally convinced me," he said heavily. Matt sighed too. In relief. But then, Foggy continued brightly, "you really are blind after all. Otherwise you'd have noticed by now: I've always been the careful one in our business. Recklessness is your bailiwick. Trust me. I've got a pretty good idea how far I can push things. Don't worry."
Matt shook his head, but there was a rueful smile on his face. "When I tell you not to worry," he murmured, "does it ever work?"
"No. But I've learned to live with it and so can you."
Matt might have protested further, but Karen murmured a protest and slid closer to him and whatever he was about to say died on his lips.
By the end of the first week, Matt had almost forgotten that, until recently, he'd been working in a very different field. He was having the time of his life. The pace was frantic during the breakfast and lunch rushes, but he was used to performing under pressure and there was a three-hour lull when he could catch his breath. He was getting along well with the other staff.
Otto hadn't pressed him about his paperwork and Matt suspected that he wasn't the first employee that Otto had hired who couldn't produce a valid SSN. It wouldn't surprise him to find out that he wasn't the only such employee currently working at the restaurant. When, on Friday afternoon, Otto handed him an envelope of cash—his first week's wages—Matt tried to broach the subject. Otto shut him down.
"Look, Mac. I don't care what your story is or why you don't have the documents. I care that you're here on time, you work your hours, and the customers are happy. You show me your Social Security Card, I start cutting you checks. Otherwise, I figure I'll ask you no questions, you'll tell me no lies. Capice?"
The Italian word sounded comical in Otto Schnapp's German accent—still pronounced, despite the decades he'd lived in the United States—so perhaps, Matt's smile was a bit broader than it might have been when he nodded and replied, "Capice."
He stopped at the church on his way home to let Sister Maggie know that Karen would be by on Monday. The worst of her withdrawal symptoms seemed to be over and she'd even mentioned that she was looking forward to spending the day outside the apartment. He was smiling as he resumed his trek homeward. Things were definitely looking up.
"Well?" Matt asked on Monday afternoon. "How was it?"
Karen wormed her way under his arm and wrapped her own arm around his waist. "Hard," she admitted, "but you and Foggy were right. I need this." She sighed. "It's been a long day."
"They found stuff for you to do?"
Karen nodded. "Well... I helped with the homeless breakfast in the morning, but after the group, I just felt so drained. One of the sisters showed me the library and I think I dozed off for a couple of hours."
Matt smiled. "You do sound more relaxed than you did this morning. And I bet you were too nervous to sleep much last night." It was a safe bet. He'd heard her tossing and turning until he'd finally succumbed to slumber. "Not surprised you needed to catch up."
Some of her tension seemed to drain away and she gave a slight giggle as they continued on.
Behind the wheel of a parked Jeep Renegade, unfriendly eyes watched them go. Paulo started the engine with a cruel smile. It had been over a week, but he'd finally found Karen Page. Clearly, she'd wasted no time hooking up with some other patsy. No matter. Once he found out where she was living, it would be just a matter of time before she went out on the street without that guy around to protect her. It wouldn't be long before she'd find out that nobody—especially not some cheap bit of skirt—ran out on Paulo. He pressed his lips together in a thin line. He was going to enjoy making that lesson stick.