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: 6437
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: Karen has a stalker and she's not the only one of Matt's friends in trouble!
References: Daredevil Vol. 1 #231. Some dialogue in this chapter was originally written by Frank Miller.
"It's a good thing that the new place is a two-bedroom," Foggy remarked, nearly a fortnight later. "It's getting a little crowded in here." He held up a warning hand. "And no, that is not a subtle hint that I want either of you to move out."
Matt smiled. "But it is cramped."
"It's still more than four times the square footage we had in the Columbia dorms," Foggy retorted. "It just feels like more than four times the furniture, too," he added in an undertone.
"I know," Matt nodded. At first, it hadn't been hard for him to be a 'good' guest. Those first few days, he'd been wiped out, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Just pulling himself together enough to eat or letting Foggy drag him clothes shopping had been about all he could handle that first day. After that, he'd put himself through the motions: going to the library to research Fisk, even though the information that might have helped him wouldn't have been publicly available; going to the gym to get back into shape, even though he'd fast grown restless and decided to confront Fisk far too soon.
Being able to be there for Karen and finding the new job had both been godsends for him, but he had to admit that in such close quarters, it was harder to tune out the sounds and smells that surrounded him. Foggy still snored. Karen still moaned in her sleep, though less than she had those first nights. This was an older building and there had been several occasions when he'd been jolted awake by the flush of a toilet or the scrape of a chair from the floor above or the unit next door. He'd gone with Foggy to the new apartment a couple of times. It was quieter and the hallways were missing the musty smell he'd almost stopped noticing in Foggy's current building. Almost, but not quite.
"At some point soon," Matt said, "I think Karen and I will both need to move on. Hopefully, before you have to hint about it for real," he added, smiling when he heard Foggy chuckle. "For now, though," he reached into his pocket for the envelope Otto had given him at the end of his shift, opened it, and removed several bills. He frowned a bit as he ran his fingertips over them, concentrating to determine the denominations. "Consider it my contribution to expenses," he said, "or a partial reimbursement for that shopping trip that first day."
"You don't have to…" Foggy started to protest.
"Neither did you." He peeled off two bills and pocketed them. Then he held out the rest to Foggy. "Please."
Foggy accepted them with a sigh. "Seriously, if something comes up, if you need…"
"What I need most right now," Matt said, resting a hand on Foggy's shoulder, "is to get back on my own two feet. And part of that involves paying my way. At least, as much as possible. I realize that, at my current salary, I can't contribute my fair share, but I'd like to put in something. Please," he asked again.
Foggy covered Matt's hand with his own. "Sure thing, buddy," he said with a smile in his voice. "Sure thing."
Leaving the church with Karen on the following Monday, Matt wondered where the guy would be this time. Two weeks ago, he'd been sitting on a bench across the street when they'd exited. He'd reeked of cigarettes, menthol, and too many days without a shower, blended with the aniseed-heavy fragrance of Brut 33 deodorant. He'd been reading a newspaper, and Matt had thought nothing of it.
The bench had been empty the next day, but Matt had picked up the same bouquet of fragrances emanating from a bus shelter, one block later. He hadn't encountered the guy again for two days, but when he did, it had been another block closer to Foggy's.
He'd told Foggy to hold off on going to see Manolis. The recorded confession, while admissible in court, wouldn't carry the day unless Manolis was either willing to testify or sign a sworn statement corroborating what he'd told Matt. If Matt was being followed, if Kingpin's goons had somehow penetrated his disguise, then allowing Foggy to involve himself was out of the question. It was one thing if Matt's whereabouts were unknown and Foggy was still trying to clear his best friend's name, should he resurface. But if Kingpin knew that Matt was still staying in Foggy's apartment, then Foggy couldn't be seen following any leads that might actually help the appeal. And he definitely couldn't be playing Encyclopedia Brown over at Kelco. Any misstep could be fatal and both men knew it.
Matt frowned. Something wasn't adding up. Kingpin already knew where Foggy lived. Having Matt tailed in this manner—observing the route he took to get home, never actually following, but rather observing him each day, getting progressively closer to his destination… that rather heavily implied that whoever was doing it didn't actually know where Matt was headed. Was there another player involved? Was someone after him because they thought that he might have overheard something he shouldn't have at some point during his shift? Or did someone think he might have seen something he shouldn't have?
"Is everything all right?" Karen asked. "You look like you're a million miles away… and wherever it is you're visiting, it's not a nice place."
Matt smiled. "I'm fine, just thinking."
Karen gave an exasperated sigh. "You know, you're much better at lying to me when you're wearing shades," she said, moving a bit closer to him. "Seriously, what's wrong?"
He was going to need to remember that: people who couldn't hear heartbeats and smell sweat pheromones also had tricks for noticing when someone was being less than truthful. Since he didn't want to burden her, or worse, scare her, he settled on a half-truth. "I guess I'm just feeling a little antsy. This may be the longest I've gone without my… other suit, since I got it. In fact," his smile broadened. Let his tail wait and wonder today. "How about we head over to a fabric store and see how much leather is selling for today?"
Karen relaxed. "And I guess you want me along to help you with the color."
"Well, it would help to ensure that I don't walk out of there with some kind of Scots tartan. Do they make plaid leather?"
Karen giggled. "I don't know and I don't think I want to. What are you going to do for a billy-club?"
Matt chuckled. Crisis averted. Aloud, he said, "First things first, darling. First things first."
Paulo peered around the edge of his newspaper. Karen Page and her new meal ticket should have passed this way by now. To his right, he had a clear view of the way that they should have come. He'd been watching to see if they would continue straight past him or turn at the intersection. They should been there ten minutes ago.
His hand clutched at the edge of the paper, crumpling it. He had not found Karen Page just to lose her again. There was no way that some little piece of skirt was going to play him for a fool!
What the hell was she doing at that church anyway? She might be pretty enough to be an angel, but he knew better—and he had the videocassettes of her most recent movies to prove it. Not to mention the ways she'd had of showing her gratitude to him for driving her to New York. He'd thought he meant something to her, but as soon as she got what she wanted from him, she'd been fixing to leave him behind. He'd just been one more rung on the ladder to her, one more person that she could step on. Well, he wasn't going to take that from some skank! She needed to learn her lesson and learn it good.
And Paulo was just the guy to find her and teach her.
Karen Page wouldn't act so high-and-mighty when he was through with her. And he was going to keep looking until he found her again.
"I think this is the last load for now," Foggy said. The apartment didn't look much emptier; they still needed most of the furniture. However, it was a sight less cluttered.
Spider-Man turned a web-bag of bankers' boxes nearly as tall as he was horizontal, and hoisted it through the open window. As he watched them sway from side to side, Foggy was glad that Spidey had wrapped each box in webbing separately, before creating the bag, so as to keep the contents of the boxes from spilling out. Once the bag was out of the window and secured to the side of the building, Spidey stepped back into the apartment and webbed up another stack. "Is there anything else you need done?" Spidey asked. "Pick up your dry-cleaning, wax your car, slip your business card to the next crook I leave for the police?"
Foggy laughed. "Maybe if we'd met a few months ago," he said. "I'm doing corporate litigation now."
"Slip your business card to the next white collar CEO crook I leave for the police?"
"In-house," Foggy clarified. "Not taking clients; just representing the company I work for in their lawsuits." He frowned. "Actually… maybe there is something you could do."
Spidey paused and looked up from the boxes. "I'm listening."
Quickly, Foggy brought the masked man up to date, both on his new job and on Matt's encounters with Manolis. "The thing is," he continued, "having Manolis on tape consenting to being recorded makes his statement admissible in court. If he can't be present—and considering that the guy was already beaten so badly he was ICU for a couple of weeks, and someone tried to kill him when he wanted to talk to the press, plus he's currently still in the hospital, in traction… Look, Matt's my best friend. I'd be willing to risk my life to testify for him in court, but I don't think I could ask Manolis to do the same."
"Well, can you win the appeal if he doesn't testify in person?"
Foggy sighed. "It'll be a lot harder. Kingpin's… well, I guess you don't need me to tell you what he's like, when you probably know first-hand and I'm just going by hearsay. Which," he shook his head sadly, "is the problem with Manolis not showing up in person; without his being present and available to be cross-examined, what I've got on tape is 'I can prove Matt's innocent because Manolis told me he lied.' That's hearsay. Generally not admissible."
"Generally," Spidey repeated. "But sometimes it can be?"
Foggy nodded. "Don't go by what TV and movies tell you about court procedures. It's rare that you get someone shouting 'Objection!' every five minutes. And—sorry to digress, but this one always makes me want to tear my hair out—circumstantial evidence is very admissible." He took a breath. "To give you an example, suppose police get a notification that burglar alarm went off at an electronics store after hours. Upon arrival, they see that the security gate's been forced open and the shop window smashed. They see someone running down the street and follow. Suspect has cuts on his hand and is carrying a microcassette recorder, still in the sealed packaging, no bag or receipt. Suspect says that he picked up the cassette recorder from a friend who'd bought it earlier and that he'd been walking down the street, not really paying attention to anything and absent-mindedly been brushing his hand along the storefronts, and when he passed what had been the window, he cut himself on the shards still in the window frame. Then he heard the sirens, panicked and, because he's already got a record and is out on probation, he ran." He smiled. "That's circumstantial. No witnesses saw him break the window. Nobody saw him grab the recorder. But he's fleeing a crime scene where a window was broken, and he's got a bloody hand and a new microcassette recorder. No police officer worth his badge is going to say, 'We're pretty sure we know what happened, but we can't arrest him, because the case is circumstantial and it's going to get tossed out of court.'"
"With you so far," Spidey nodded.
"With hearsay," Foggy continued, "and I'm simplifying, if I were to testify in court that you came to my window and told me that… that Chicago got hit by a-a blizzard—"
"That's me," Spidey nodded. "Your friendly neighborhood meteorologist."
Foggy smiled. "If I'm trying to prove that Chicago had snow, then my statement is hearsay."
"Because you didn't see it."
"Right. But if I'm using it to prove that my window was open, because I'm actually a witness in a murder trial and because my window was open, I heard the victim scream and immediately looked out to the fire escape next door, where I saw the defendant take the victim by the throat—"
"—Which I didn't notice because I was preoccupied with telling you about the weather in Chicago—"
"—Then my statement is admissible, because although your report on the blizzard is hearsay, it is also completely irrelevant to the murder trial. The relevant part is that my window was open, so that I could talk to you and therefore, I heard the scream from my apartment and witnessed the murder." Unfortunately," Foggy's face fell, "as I'm sure you noticed, Manolis's statement doesn't fall into that category."
Spidey made a disgusted gesture. "Just when you got me excited," he muttered and resumed sealing the boxes.
"Yeah, sorry," Foggy apologized. "I sort of get carried away sometimes."
"So, the only way Manolis's statement can help is if he testifies in court? What if he disappeared? Or if Kingpin got to him and he couldn't be there?"
"That could happen," Foggy nodded. "And that's where you could come in. It's still bringing the chances down from 'none' to 'slim,' but if you could get Manolis to sign a transcript of his confession before an official—like a notary public, it… well, it still wouldn't be ideal. Or typical. Usually, sworn affidavits are helpful in two instances. One: to use as a… a baseline. So if Manolis states something in the affidavit which he subsequently contradicts on the stand, it could be used against him. And if he sticks to the original version, that works for him, of course."
"That's assuming he testifies."
"Yeah, well, the appeals process can take a while. Hopefully, he'll be out of the hospital and in a safe-house somewhere by then. But, if he's," Foggy's face twisted, "dead or otherwise incapacitated, or he's off the grid, the court might make an exception and allow the affidavit. Personally, I've seen it happen three times, and in each case, there was some other corroborating evidence."
"Which you don't have now."
Foggy smiled. "Which we don't have, yet. But until a couple of weeks ago, we didn't have the recording either. So. Do you know of a notary public who would be willing to make a house call? Err… hospital call?" When Spider-Man didn't reply, Foggy continued, "I'm trying to cover all my bases. Because this isn't going to be an easy case to win. I don't think I can afford to let things lie now, if later, Manolis up and vanishes… or worse. We get the affidavit signed, witnessed, and notarized, and it'll be there, should new corroborating evidence come to light. Will it help? I don't know. But I do know that if there's the slightest chance it could, I want it in Matt's file, just in case."
Spider-Man hesitated for one moment. Then he clapped Foggy on the shoulder. "I don't know of anyone off-hand, but I'll see who I can find. Meanwhile," he enclosed the newly-sealed boxes in another web-bag, "I'd better get the rest of these packed up before the webbing on the first lot dissolves."
"Um… you might need extra," Foggy ventured. "For reinforcement. I'm pretty sure half of those boxes are filled with law books."
"Law books?" Spidey whistled. "Good thing I've got the proportional strength of a spider."
Wilson Fisk sat in his office reviewing reports. Lois was currently out on bail, as he had ordered. That was good. He meant to assign her to various hospitals, in hope that one of them might have treated Murdock. If they had, then he might have registered with an address or contact telephone number that could be traced. His people had been keeping an eye on Murdock's family physician of record; Murdock hadn't been there. However, it was possible that he'd opted for a different GP. The paperwork might provide a name.
His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on his door; his secretary was bringing him the morning paper. He frowned when he read Urich's piece, purporting to expose him as the Kingpin of Crime. Fisk frowned, thinking. Jameson wasn't one of his people, unfortunately. If he had been, the story would never have seen the light of day. He sighed. Urich had stopped short of linking him to the attack in Bellevue's parking lot on Christmas night. He'd written about the beating though, and he'd accurately described Lois. That was trouble; the hospitals might be looking out for her. Fisk pursed his lips. So much for his plan to use Lois to uncover Murdock's whereabouts. New York was no longer safe for her. He placed a call to one of his underlings, ordering him to make certain arrangements. He hung up satisfied. By this time tomorrow, Lois would be on a flight to Arizona, where she would rest until the Manolis affair blew over. He might even have a job or two for her down there.
Some show of outrage against Urich and the Bugle was probably called for. He could threaten legal action. It might be amusing to have Nelson handle it. Jameson would likely settle out of court; he was a stubborn man, but he could be made to see reason when the wall-crawler wasn't involved. Fisk put the paper aside for now and went back to his reports.
While his outward demeanor was serene, inwardly his thoughts were in turmoil. Murdock was off the grid; he had no idea where to find him, but he knew that his adversary was biding his time, waiting for the right moment to strike.
He wasn't overly concerned. He knew that he could deal with anything Murdock might throw at him now. He was all but positive. However, the prudent man left nothing to chance. He wanted Murdock under surveillance, his movements tracked, his behaviors noted. Learn his routines, learn his patterns, and one could predict his likeliest direction of attack and plan accordingly.
At the moment, Murdock was a ghost.
Fisk disliked ghosts.
His telephone rang and he forced himself to wait until halfway through the third ring, as always. "Yes?"
"We've located that loose end we were unable to tie up in Mexico," the voice on the other end spoke briskly.
Fisk smiled. "Excellent. Have you rectified the situation?"
"Negative, sir. There's a complication. The loose end is currently in New York and, while we've been tracking her movements, she's never outdoors alone. She's staying with one Franklin Nelson at..." At the sound of the name, Fisk's hand clenched in an involuntary fist. "In the last week, she has not ventured outside of Nelson's apartment alone. She's always either with him or with another man who seems to be living there. I thought it best to advise you before taking further action."
"Most wise." Fisk opened his desk drawer and quickly consulted a dossier. He knew about Nelson's new roommate, of course. He'd paid the matter little mind when it had been brought to his attention, secure in the belief that Murdock was entombed at the bottom of the Hudson. If Nelson wanted a companion to shoulder part of the rent, it was of no importance. But if Murdock was still alive, then… "Continue your surveillance," he said. "For the moment, you are to observe the apartment. Notify me should Page, Nelson, or…" he double-checked the dossier, "Jackson leave the premises. Do not follow without clearance from me. Report to me at this time tomorrow." He replaced the receiver without waiting for an acknowledgment.
He smiled. Murdock's best friend and former girlfriend were together. Perhaps Murdock was with them—this 'Mac Jackson' character, perhaps not. It didn't really matter. He picked up the telephone and dialed another number. "Inform Mr. Potter," he rumbled, "that I have a commission for him."
"Honestly," Karen said, fighting not to laugh, "how did you make the first one?"
Matt ran his finger disbelievingly over the bent darning needle and sighed. "I was using my father's boxing robe as the fabric. Silk was a lot easier to stitch."
"Silk?" Karen was finding it harder not to laugh. "B-but silk is dry-clean only. And it wrinkles. And it shows perspiration stains."
"Yes," Matt replied, somewhat testily. "I know that now." He reached for another needle. Karen reached for his hand and squeezed it.
"Nuh-uh," she said. "You're just going to break that one, too. Wouldn't it be easier to do it by machine?"
Matt brought his free hand to his forehead and pushed back his hair. It was getting longer; he'd need to touch up the dye job tonight. "It would be, but I can't afford one right now." He sighed. "I need to get out there. Did you see Ben's exposé on the Kingpin in today's Bugle? Fisk generally lets stuff like that pass, but since he thinks I'm out of the way, he might decide otherwise this time." His jaw hardened. "And, thanks to my hearing, I don't need a newspaper to know that criminal activity is up. This is a relatively safe part of the city and there were at least half a dozen robberies within five blocks of here last night. And those were just the sloppy ones. There were probably a couple more perpetrated by people who knew how to deactivate the burglar alarms."
Karen squeezed his hand again. "But your ribs…"
"They still hurt a bit," Matt admitted. "But nothing like they did those first few days. The leather would give me some protection. It's not as good as body armor, but for some reason, Paron doesn't sell Kevlar by the yard." His eyebrows shot up. "Hang on a minute," he said in a completely different tone of voice.
"Just an idea. There's a guy I know who might be able to help out with this. And he owes me a favor." He smiled. "I think I might take a walk tomorrow evening after work." He sighed. Otto had asked him to come in for the supper rush tomorrow; the regular cook was taking his GED the next morning and had begged the day off to study. Matt was going to pick Karen up at the church in the afternoon and bring her back to the apartment, then return to the diner.
"Want some company?"
Matt shook his head. "Not this time," he said, smiling. "But I'll tell you all about it when I get back."
Wilson Fisk clenched his fist around his black-laquer fountain pen (a Montblanc Noblesse) and fought to keep his temper from flaring, as his underling made his report.
"She just stormed out of my office, after I told her why she was being relocated," he said. The man was sweating and Fisk noticed that his knees were knocking together softly. "Once she knew it was because of Urich's exposition, she offered to, and I quote, 'relocate him'. Of course, I told her, as per your directional, that she was to digress from thinking that way, but she refused to conversate further."
He felt the metal beneath the laquer give, as he crushed the pen in his hand. He reached for the Bugle once more and reread Urich's piece. Slowly, he felt himself relax. "Your speed in delivering this information to me is commendable," he said finally. "You're dismissed." He went back to the paper. Only when his underling had left and closed the office door gently behind him did Fisk allow himself a brief smile.
Although Lois's decision to go rogue irritated him and, assuming she returned to his service, some disciplinary action would be warranted, he wasn't at all dismayed that she was gunning for Urich. In a best case scenario, she would remove an irritating thorn from his side and he would find her some place more remote than Bisbee, Arizona to lie low. And, if she were to be caught by police, perhaps he would let her languish a bit longer in her cell this time—the aforementioned disciplinary action—before arranging for her release. If anyone dared to question whether he had sent Lois to dispatch the reporter, he could truthfully state that he had not. And if Lois were to talk… he had people in every police precinct that would be able to silence her accusations before they got too far out of hand.
He smiled. If he played his cards carefully, the situation would quickly resolve itself, and much to his benefit.
Ben came into the diner just as the supper rush was winding down. ('Rush' was somewhat debatable. It had been slow tonight.) The cigarette odor on his clothes wasn't much of a tipoff; it already permeated the dining area. But there was no mistaking Ben's world-weary, thin, slightly-rasping voice. He was making small talk with someone unfamiliar—not one of the wait staff. If On the plus side, people who dined with others generally stayed longer, and Matt wasn't quite finished in the kitchen. On the minus side, approaching Ben if he wasn't eating alone might not be the most prudent of moves. Of course, Matt could always follow at a distance until Ben's companion left.
As soon as his kitchen duties were completed, he took himself to the empty booth behind Ben's, trusting that his disguise would hold up. Ben and his companion were talking about the hamburgers. Ben was explaining to his companion that this had always been a good place to get some writing done, once a person got used to the smell, in part because the food was generally lousy. He even sounded a bit put out that the food was good this time. Matt fought not to laugh when he heard that! The two men talked a bit more and then Ben got up to call his wife. It seemed that Ben's companion—who, going by the way he comported himself and the smell of gun oil was probably a bodyguard, maybe a cop—was going home with him.
Unseen by either of the two men, Matt smiled his approval. After the story in today's Bugle, Ben needed some protection.
When Ben and his companion got up to leave, Matt followed them to the subway at a discreet distance.
Kingpin rarely involved himself directly in work of this nature. He much preferred to pull the strings from a distance. But he wanted to have a look at the man who was going to carry out his plan.
Looking at him through the thick glass pane of the cell door, Kingpin saw a man of Murdock's height and build. His expression was brutish, his eyes vacant. Of course, garbed in the attire that Kingpin meant for him to wear, nobody would be looking at his eyes.
"This one has a thing for families," his advisor told him. "I'm afraid I can't give you an exact body count; his lawyer got the record sealed… but it's respectable. Goes for knives, mostly, but I'm sure he could be talked into using a club. I should warn you, he's unpredictable."
He was also expendable. Still, it occurred to the Kingpin that it might be better to seek out a more stable candidate for the task at hand. The man he observed through the window was scarcely more than an animal. He considered moving on to the next name, then rejected the notion. He could go through another name, another dozen names, another hundred. None would be perfect. He didn't need perfect. He just needed someone who could flush Murdock out… or set Murdock up. At this point, he didn't care which.
"He will do," he told the advisor. "Arrange for his release."
From the privacy of his limousine, he made one telephone call to another of his lieutenants. "Have you secured Mr. Potter's cooperation? Make it clear to him that his store, and his life depend on his compliance. Should that not suffice… I believe that he's grown rather fond of his therapist. Elizabeth Beatty is her name, I think? If he doesn't value his own life, he might set greater store by hers."
If Matt hadn't been so intent on being discreet, he would have been close enough to realize that something was very wrong in time to warn Ben. As it was, when Ben was unlocking the door of his sixth-floor walk-up, Matt was still four floors below. It wasn't until Ben got the door open that Matt realized the danger and quickened his pace. There was someone else in the apartment; a woman with a heavy tread and a gravelly voice—deep for a woman—that he recognized from the hospital. It was the nurse who had nearly killed Manolis.
As he raced up the last flight of stairs, he heard the air whoosh out of Ben's lungs as a heavy fist slammed into them. Then a scuffle and a crash; he guessed that the bodyguard was trying to fight, but it didn't sound like he was doing a good job of it. More horrifying, though, was the choking gurgle coming from somewhere behind the fight.
He burst into the apartment to find the nurse beating the tar out of the bodyguard. Ben was crawling in the direction of the choking sounds, gasping his wife's name. Matt thought quickly. Whoever was in the bathroom was still alive and it didn't sound like anyone else was in the other room with them. Meanwhile, the bodyguard needed help now. Matt charged into the fray, delivering a chisel fist to the nurse's throat. She reeled back with a gasp. For a moment, Matt thought that she was down for the count, but then she plucked the handgun from the fallen bodyguard and surged upward.
Before she could level the gun to aim, Matt kicked it out of her hand. Without pausing, he swung the same leg upward, slamming the back of his thigh into her jaw with a satisfying crunch and knocking her head into the wall. She slumped to the ground, unconscious.
Matt moved to check the other person in the room, the man she'd been beating on. He was breathing and his heart was steady, but he was pretty badly hurt and not moving. He was also carrying a pair of handcuffs. Somehow, Matt didn't think the man would mind loaning them to him for the purpose of restraining the nurse.
He'd just clicked the cuffs on when he heard Ben coming back. As much as Matt did want to talk to him, after what had just happened, this was definitely the wrong time. He exited quickly, just as the telephone began to ring.
Something made him wait in the hallway to hear who was on the other end. His eyebrows shot up. It was the man he'd been planning to see tonight, before Ben had walked into the diner. And he sounded scared.
"It's about Daredevil," Melvin was saying. "It's urgent."
Matt couldn't blame Ben for telling Melvin that he couldn't talk tonight, after what had just happened. At least one person in the apartment right now needed medical attention; possibly more. And given what had transpired here, Ben would certainly be calling the police. No, Matt totally understood why Ben was giving Melvin the brushoff.
But when he heard Melvin saying, "But it has to be tonight. It's a matter of life and…" he took off down the stairs at a run.
Had Matt still had an intact costume, he would have gone into Melvin Potter's costume shop through the back door in the alley. Instead, he made his way up to the roof to scout the place out. Desperate as Melvin had sounded, Matt wanted to find out a bit more about the situation before he made his entrance; particularly since, once he doused the lights, he'd have only a couple of minutes to talk to Melvin before the ex-con got antsy and flicked them back on again. Melvin was a reformed man, but as much as he tried to steer clear of his old activities, he'd been known to backslide—or be blackmailed into helping old associates—before. The last thing Matt wanted now was for someone to give Kingpin a description of his current appearance. He couldn't trust Melvin not to. He crouched by the skylight and listened to the sounds coming from the shop below.
Melvin was on the telephone. "They said they're going to blow up the shop and kill me, Betsy, unless I make this Daredevil costume. I know they're up to something rotten. They want it tonight. I don't know what to do."
Matt had heard enough. Although under other circumstances, he wouldn't rule out some of his other enemies trying to procure a costume in order to frame Daredevil for something or other, there weren't many out there who could make Melvin sound that scared. He was going to lay odds that Kingpin had finally discovered that he'd survived that watery deathtrap. And if the crime boss was trying to draw him out… Matt's blood ran cold. If Kingpin meant to check his last known whereabouts, then… Foggy. Karen. They were in danger! He had to…
He had to calm down. Running off half-cocked on rage, fear and adrenaline had already nearly gotten him killed. If Foggy hadn't been there… if Spidey hadn't been down by the pier… He'd probably be lying in some dumpster dying, or dead, of pneumonia right now. Kingpin—assuming it was Kingpin—wanted Melvin to make a Daredevil costume. Until the costume was ready, Kingpin's plan wouldn't proceed. There was still time. And, thanks to an overheard phone conversation, Kingpin had just lost the element of surprise.
Matt smiled. Then he stole into the store and, as Melvin hung up with Betsey, flicked off the lights. "Melvin," he said softly, "Go ahead. Make the costume. No one will be hurt."
He didn't need his enhanced senses to hear Melvin's sigh of relief from clear across the room. "Pleasure to hear your voice, Daredevil," he said.
Unseen in the shadows, Matt smiled.
Karen Page stood by Foggy's window, looking out at the pavement, trying to catch a glimpse of Matt on his way back. It wasn't working out. The window looked out directly onto the street, but she couldn't see very far to her left or right.
"I'm sure he's fine," Foggy said reassuringly. "He and Ben probably have a lot to catch up on."
"I know," Karen sighed. "I just…" she turned bleak eyes toward him. "Every time he's even a few minutes later than he should be, I start to worry. I can't stop thinking about how he might be," she swallowed hard and forced the word out, "d-dead. And if he is, it'll be all my fault."
"It's true, Foggy!" she cried. "I sold out his secret identity for one lousy fix, just like a junkie. Even if Matt could forgive me, I can't forgive myself." She turned back to the window. "If anything happens to him I… there's a part of me that could throw myself out of the…" She froze. Down there, lounging in the doorway, in a yellow coat was a man she'd hoped never to see again. Her first instinct was to get away from the window, pull the blinds, and not look outside again until Matt came back, but she lingered a moment too long. Paulo looked up. When their eyes met, he leered at her. She recoiled and yanked on the cord, bringing the venetian blind crashing to the sill.
"Karen?" Foggy took two steps toward her. "Are you okay?"
She was trembling. "Paulo… It's Paulo. Down there, just waiting, must've followed me here from the café when you and I met up. Must've been coming here every day. Stalking me."
"The guy that beat you up?" Foggy demanded furiously. "Where?" He opened one arm wide and Karen ran to him, clung to him.
"He said he'd kill me if I ran out on him… and I did. He's crazy. He'll kill us both!"
Still keeping one arm wrapped around her, Foggy reached for the telephone. "Devil he will," he said. "I'm calling the police."
There was a loud bang and then the window exploded, spraying glass shards everywhere. Foggy held her so tightly that Karen could hear his heart pounding as he hurled them both to the ground. From the street outside, they could hear additional gunshots, but no more seemed to be heading their way. "Stay down," he told her. "I'm going to make that call."
He got up cautiously and picked up the phone again, taking care that he was no longer standing in line with the window.
Karen watched miserably. So, it wasn't enough that she'd put Matt in danger. She was dragging Foggy down too. Paulo would be up here in moments and then he'd kill them both. Unless…
Her eye fell on a potted plant on the sideboard. The clay pot was big and looked heavy. It would be enough. It had to be. She stole quietly toward it. Intent on his conversation, Foggy didn't notice what she was up to until she brought the plant crashing down on his head.
"Sorry, Foggy," she whispered, as she rushed out of the apartment. "But the only way to keep Paulo from getting both of us is if I let him have me. And I know you'd never let me go to him. I'm sorry," she repeated, as she tried to find the doorknob through eyes that blurred with tears, "but this was the only way."