Three Interviews in the Garden of Good and Evil
Roleplaying Log: Three Interviews in the Garden of Good and Evil
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Jessica Jones and Luke Cage travel to Savannah to look into Cage's wrongful conviction, but the trail leads them back where they started.

Other Characters Referenced: Danny Rand, Foggy Nelson, Matt Murdock
IC Date: January 15, 2019
IC Location: Savannah, Georgia
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 15 Jan 2019 14:27
Rating & Warnings: R (Language)
NPC & GM Credits: Daredevil
Associated Plots

INTERVIEW 1: PEDRO HERNANDEZ

To most, storied Savannah brings to mind regal homes, ancient oaks, sweltering summers, and southern gentility.

But former police sergeant Pedro "P-Dough" Hernandez lives miles from that famous historic district and its sundappled streets. His one-story plywood house is squarely situated in the working-class West Side, and it's as far from the picture-perfect image of the southern town as you can imagine.

Pedro's wife Jasmine answers the door dressed in hospital scrubs, looking tired. "You the P.I.?" she asks, skeptical eyes ticking down, up, and down again. "Come on in, then."

The man himself is in the television room inside and around the corner. Back in the day he was muscled as formidably as his old partner, but now Pedro is wheel-chair bound now and much of that sinew has gone to flab and paunch. The good humor that Jessica might have heard second hand seems absent from his almond-colored eyes. He gives the detective a flat look and little in the way of welcome, waiting for her to start.

Welcome to Savannah, Jessica Jones.

Jessica Jones settles down across from Hernandez. “Thanks for agreeing to see me,” she says, a follow up to the thanks she’d offered his wife.

She doesn’t wait for a reply to the pleasantry. For all that she put on a knee length floral dress with a little jacket for this affair and twisted her hair up into a bun figuring it might get her a little more mileage for these interviews than her normal look, considering her location, she’s still herself. And it doesn’t look like Carl Lucas’ former partner gives a shit anyway, about exchanging such things.

“Like I said on the phone, I’ve been hired by an interested party who believes your former partner might have been framed. What can you tell me about the night of that drug bust?”

The word 'framed' rolls across Jessica Jones' tongue, and P-Dough's face sours like he has a bad taste in his mouth. He sniffs, almost snorts. "What I can tell you is that my shitbag of a partner stole a kilo of heroin that night, and almost cost me my pension," the former police officer throws back, still seething after more than half-a-decade. It's more than just anger; it's a palpable sense of betrayal. "What do you think happens when your partner goes down for something like that? I had IA up my ass for two years after that bust."

He swallows, his eyes tick downward, and he shifts slightly in his wheelchair. "Sorry," he adds gruffly, maybe finally remembering she's his guest, however unwelcome. "You want coffee?"

“Yes, please,” Jess says, unruffled. “And it’s fine. I understand. This sort of thing…dredges stuff up.”

She tilts her head and says, “I’m not his cheerleader. I’m just here to find the truth. What made you so sure he did it? Had he given any sign or indication he was thinking about it? Did you ever have reason to believe he’d done something like that before? Was he having financial problems?”

Jess tilts her head to the other side, thoughtful. “Or did you see something that night, something you dismissed at the time but which made sense to you in retrospect, after they found the stolen drugs in Lucas’ place?”

"Hey Jasmine! Cup of coffee for the lady?" Pedro calls into the kitchen behind them before he turns his blood-shot attention back to Jessica Jones, who's talking to him about his feelings.

He runs a hand through his hair — dark and healthy, even if his stubble is salt-and-pepper. "Look, I don't even know. They found the missing kilo in his apartment, all divided up into little bittie dime bags. You going to tell me it wasn't him? Shit, lady, every asshole perp says they've been framed."

But Jessica Jones is good at what she does, and her follow-up questions linger beyond Pedro's knee-jerk reaction. "Carl never said shit about skimming," he says to her first question, and now that the vitriol has died down it's easier to read the hurt in his bitterness. "And naw, no money troubles or anything like that. At least not that I knew about. I mean, he was the son of a minister. That's like fucking royalty in Savannah."

He leans forward in his chair, brow knitting and his whole body briefly focused on peeling back year's worth of memory. "Man, I don't even know," he finally says. "The Hall bust — that whole morning was fuckin' unusual in itself. Carl and I just walked a beat, you know? Breaking down a drug-lord's door was some next-level shit. Hall was no joke. He was a kingpin,, you know? And we didn't know it was going to happen until that morning."

A little of that storied humor creeps in when he adds, "If we had known, I probably wouldn't have gotten so fucked up the night before."

Jessica leans forward with him. Now they’re getting somewhere. She quirks a half-smile at not getting fucked up the night before, allowing the rueful commiseration of someone who can point to a whole lot of mornings she should not have gotten fucked up the night before play over her face. She doesn’t speak to it, not directly, but the I hear you, man is right there in her expression.

“So…you two were just walking a normal beat and this bust just lands in your lap? How did that happen? How did that morning go precisely?”

Other than that mirroring lean, Jess doesn’t put much into her voice except professional interest. She is in every way working to project the image of a detached professional doing her due diligence on behalf of the client because that is her job, no more, no less, sold on no particular side of the story in particular and interested to examine the cold case anew. Anything else could be deadly to her ability to shake down new answers.

Jessica has her foot in the door, and her personable, affable nature gets her the rest of the way. After another sniff an dmoment's deliberation, Pedro begins: "We got the call to come into HQ that morning, instead of the usual patrol," he says, eyes slimming through the haze of memory. Jasmine enters briskly with a tray of coffee, sets it down, and leaves just as quick — wordless. "Harmon led the briefing — he's deputy chief now, but back then he was just a sargeant. Told us the basics — according to a C.I., Carlos Hall had gotten sloppy and was keeping heroin in his own home after a big buy."

There's some skepticism there, impossible to miss: it's in his voice, in the twitch at one cheekbone. Drug kingpins don't just suddenly 'get sloppy' and turn their matress into the stash.

"Anyway, we were excited," Pedro adds with a shrug. "Carl and me. You don't get many chances at a bust like that, if you aren't S.W.A.T. or major crimes. We were put on back door detail. We went through the driveway, circled around to the backyard and waited for the front squad to bust the door open."

Mentally, Jess adds Deputy-Chief Harmon to the list of people she definitely needs to speak to. She also notes how he's skeptical now, but clearly they weren't then. Then it was an exciting career opportunity. 20/20 Hindsight really is a bitch.

"Then what happened?" Jessica asks. This is the point where she's trying not to do anything to stop his flow, or ask anything that might take him on a tangent. Anything that might clam him up, either. A few follow-up questions are forming already, but she wants to give him his shot at getting all the way through the narrative first. For one thing, he might remember some detail he's never thought about before. For another, he's finally doing this instead of radiating hostility, and the last thing she wants to do is spook him back towards the latter.

"We heard it — the front door busting open, the boys out front shouting and telling Carlos to freeze, put his hands in the air," Pedro says, shifting in his wheelchair. "We went in, after that. It was a rush. Felt like we were on TV. The backdoor led into the kitchen — it was empty. We went into the hallway and started sweeping rooms."

He draws in a breath, eyes ticking upward. "When we got to the TV room, Burton had a gun pointed at Hall and his woman. They were both on their knees, hands behind their head. The woman was quiet, but you could tell she was freaking out. Carlos was — it was like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. Cool as you please."

A long beat. "Harmon told Hall we had a warrant to search his house for narcotics, and Hall just told us to do what we needed to do. So we did. We swept the place three, four times. Two by two we'd go into every room, turning over beds and going through every cabinet and drawer. Place looked like a hurricane came through by the time we were done with it. And Hall was just smug as you please."

Pedro chews on his lip. "It was Harmon who eventually noticed it. Scratch marks on the floor next to a big sofa chair in Hall's bedroom. Like the chair had been moved again and again. He called Carl and I in there and we moved the chair — found a hatch in the drywall. Inside was 50K and six bricks of H. Jackpot.".

Jessica is mentally tracing this story. They're sent to the back. The other team gets there first. Time for any number of exchanges between Burton, Harmon, and Hall. Except this woman that's freaking out. "Who was the woman?" This is the first time she's heard of a woman.

"Carlos' girlfriend," Pedro answers with a shrug. "Marcie was her name, I think? Marciela? She got taken in and processed, but there was nothing to keep her on. Wasn't her house, wasn't her wall, so we couldn't say it was her drugs. Don't know what happened to her." To Jessica's second question, Pedro smirks. "Yeah, nine times out of ten, you have a finder on a bust like this, and their whole job is to take custody and testify. But this was a rush job, and we didn't have one with the squad."

The man's bleary eyes tick back down, weighing his own words, and their implications. "So Harmon put Carl on point," he said, brow knitting, lips parting. "Made some joke about a preacher's son's word holding up in court. Harmon took Carlos in his car, and he and I took the drugs and the money back to HQ."

Jessica makes a mental note to run an Accurant on Carlos Hall. That might shake out Marcie/Marciela's last name. It might have been in the case files too, she supposes, something she hasn't hit yet in the stack of reading she's dutifully doing. Either way, she has to be tracked down too.

Jessica Jones hears another convenient Harmon fact. It's like this guy was setting up dominoes, then aiming Luke at them like a big Man Mountain mousetrap ball. "Where were the drugs placed? What's the procedure here in Savannah, for transporting evidence like that?" Because no matter what, Jess has got to establish some sort of timeline for these drugs. She knows they didn't walk off with Luke, but they sure walked off with someone. "And when you took the drugs and money back to HQ, what then? Did you both take it down to the evidence locker? Who was doing intake at the locker that day?"

Pedro sniffs and looks up at the ceiling, uncomfortable. "We put the drugs and money in plastic bags. Labeled them, the way we always do. Started driving to HQ, and —"

The man's hands clench. "Jasmine called me. She'd been having these — these little contractions. Or something like them? But it was waaaaay too early for that shit. Five and a half months. We'd spent the whole night in the hospital dealing with them a few days before, and she started feeling them again. She wanted me to come to the house, get her to the doctor — so Carl dropped me off at the house. Said he'd handle the handover."

"So I don't know who handled intake at the locker. Because I wasn't there." His face reddens. Is it anger? Shame? Guilt? Hard to say, until he settles the question: "Carl was like a brother to me. He came to our home, had food at our table. And he took advantage of me. Killed my career, just by association."

So there were six bags when Pedro got the call. Jessica considers that, glancing long into the kitchen. Considering possibilities. That was convenient, lucky timing for someone, and Jessica entertains three possibilities.

Did the real perp know she was having medical problems, taking a gamble that this would work in his favor? Possible. That's a hell of a gamble though.

Did Jasmine fake it, perhaps to get her husband off the streets, afraid for his life? That's a huge breach of marital trust. Hardly unheard of. Jessica's stock-in-trade, once. But could she have fooled the doctors? She'll have to see if she can't get a copy of the medical records. She keeps that possibility in mind.

Third possibility: the net was meant to take in Pedro and Lucas, and Pedro got lucky.

There is no graceful way to learn that here, so she takes a sip of her coffee while Pedro circles briefly back to his ire. She lets him have his moment, and this time doesn't address his feelings at all. This time, she asks, "When Harmon first called you to the station, did he say why it was you two? And not SWAT, or Major Crimes? Why he specifically pulled the both of you off your normal patrol for this bust?"

She has more, but she grabs the reins, not wanting to bombard him. Some witnesses you bombard. This isn't one of them. .

"Just that the news had just come in through a C.I., and that it was solid and that we had to take our shot while the judge's ink on the warrant was still wet," Pedro says, shrugging a little.

"I mean, those calls were above our paygrades back then." He puffs out a bitter little breath. "Still are, I guess."

"Okay," Jessica says, nodding thoughtfully. "Just three more questions, and then I promise I'll get out of your hair."

She pauses just long enough, just enough to give him a another breather from the bitter emotions she's stirring up. She's not without empathy for this. She gets it. She hopes she can put all this sense of betrayal to rest by clearing Luke's name. Showing this man he got screwed by someone else won't end all the bitterness, but perhaps it will restore something. Even if she didn't have a whole host of personal reasons to care about this case, even if she didn't give her all to cases in the first place, that would be a compelling reason to get this all done right.

This time, she asks them all at once. They're all woven in and out of one another, really.

"Did this drug bust factor at all into Harmon's promotion to Deputy Chief?" Jessica asks. "Did he have some sort of history with the Hall case— was it his CI, or another cop's? And finally, how would you say you, Harmon, and Lucas all got on?"

She finishes her coffee. Gently puts the cup aside. A visual signal she'll be true to her word and leave when he's given her this final bit.

"There's a few steps between sargeant and Deputy Chief, but yeah, taking down Carlos helped Harmon make rank," Pedro says, eyeing the coffee cup as it is gently pushed aside. This hasn't been an easy conversation for him, roiling old memories and prodding old wounds. He'll be glad to be done with it.

"And I don't know whose C.I. it was — like I said, above my paygrade. But it was definitely Harmon that got the credit for the bust."

How would you say you, Harmon, and Lucas all got on?

"Alright, I suppose," Pedro says. "Harmon wasn't bad for brass. He was a worker, and a — a politician. You know? Always looking for an angle."

The wheelchair-bound man's lips part as he adds: "There was one other thing, you know? Carlos — he was cocky as shit when it started. Like we weren't going to find a thing. When we did, he started screaming at the top of his lungs, bucking the guys who had him in cuffs. Maybe he was just playing it cool until the game was up. That's what I always thought."

Thought.

Marciela had the best opportunity to know where the drugs were. Especially given they were in the bedroom. She must be the C.I. It would explain why I didn't see her name come up when I did that light reading, too. I've got to find her.

Jessica Jones pulls out a plain piece of card stock with her name and cell phone number on it. She doesn't want to risk someone linking her to Defenders, to Cage, to Lucas. "Thank you very much for your time. You've been an enormous help. If you think of anything else, no matter how trivial, please don't hesitate to drop me a line. I appreciate the hospitality, too."

On to the next interview.


INTERVIEW 2: MARCIELA JOHNSON

Marciela Johnston is easier to find than Jessica might think. She isn't dead of an OD, or in some halfway house or slum. A little bit of googling and detective work will find her address just southeast of the city proper, in a small and unpretentious house across the street from the Skidaway River. Marciela has one child, Melvin, aged fourteen, a freshman at a suburban public school. Both of them have a social media footprint, though the boy's is less guarded — especially on platforms that are less accessible to those of his mother's generation. Apparently, he's a gamer.

Marciela herself has held a steady job as an office manager at a local insurance company for the last six years. While her twenties were littered with misdemeanors, including fines and a short stint in the county jail, there's nothing in her profile to suggest those troubles have persisted. Against all odds, Marciela seems to have fashioned an idyllic suburban life in a small house on a quiet street with a pleasant view of the river and the indolent oak trees that line its banks.

Jessica had cased the place before she came anywhere near it. And decided to just drop in, rather than calling. Calling in this case, she thinks, might spook Marciela so she never gets another chance. She has returned to her normal digs: jeans, plain t-shirt, leather jacket, rather than trying to soften her image for the male Southerners. In the course of life she rarely thinks about clothing for any other reason than this. Evaluating its role in the impression she makes, deciding whether what she is wearing will help or hurt or fail to impact her efforts to get information.

She waits until a decent hour on the weekend to knock on the door, somewhere around 1 PM on a Saturday, and, if possible, at a time when Melvin is out with friends or otherwise not hanging about. Nobody wants to talk about their god awful past with their kid around. Jessica's not sure, as it is, that Marciela will be too happy to delve into it to begin with.

When she knocks on the door she takes a good step back from it, her eyes flicking to the Skidaway briefly before returning to the door. She doesn't want to crowd the woman, and she wants to give her a chance to get a look at her before answering the door. Neither threatening by initial appearance, nor any kind of a salesperson. Hopefully that will get her a few minutes of time to get her foot in the door.

It is, again, a quiet neighborhood. Safe, as far as these things go. So a doorknock on a Saturday morning is no cause for alarm. There's no looking through the peep-hole or furtive glance between window shades. Marciela Johnston just opens the door, without any apprehension whatsoever.

That part will probably come later.

She's a handsome woman in her late thirties or early forties, with dark skin and a bob haircut. She's in jeans and a green, long-sleeved v-neck. There's a long, old scar that traces the round of her right collar-bone.

Whatever Jessica dressed in, it's hard to imagine she could pass for a local.

Wariness creeps into Marciela's previously unguarded expression, and she gives Jessica an askance look when she says:
"Can I help you?"

"I hope so," Jess says. She spreads her hands, palms up, amazed at the difference between a nice suburb like this one and…New York, she supposes. Or just her own life, where knocks at the door are cause for caution.

"My name's Jess Jones. I'm a private detective who has been retained to work on a wrongful conviction case. Your name came up as someone who might have seen or heard something that could have been relevant. I'm sorry to disturb you, but I was wondering if you'd give me a few minutes of your time to ask a few questions." Phrased like this because the last thing Jess wants Marciela thinking is that she's here to destroy this carefully built life. Quite the contrary. She's already trying to think of how her name can be kept out of it if she happens to have anything good.

No need to sic a drug gang on her.

Matt will know what to do if that's the case, she decides. She can respect anyone who crawled out of a hole of addiction and crime to build something positive.

You don't need to be the great read of people that Jessica Jones is to see what passes over Marciela's face: sheer terror. It's there in the slight widening of her eyes, the flare of her nostrils, the way her free hand unconsciously moves up to her chest, to where her heart just skipped three whole beats.

When she speaks, it's halting: "I — I don't know what you're talking about that. Or how I could help. I — I need to go. Excuse me."

And then? Then she makes to close the door right in Jessica's face.

And Jessica sighs. She reaches out to try to stop the door with one hand, not even doing the shoe trick. Her eyebrows lift as she says, "With a reaction like that? Clearly. Yeah. You don't have a clue why I'm here."

There may be deserts drier than her voice, but not by much. "Most people would say 'oh? What case? Who?' Look. I'm not here to tank your life. I'm not here to ruin your reputation, I'm not here to get you into trouble with anybody. But it looks to me like you not only know exactly what case I'm here for but you know the man in question is innocent."

She lets that hang in the air before adding: "Woman who worked this long and hard to get clean seems like the kind of woman that would care about that."

Then she holds her breath. Because past a certain point, she won't be able to pursue this. Not in the same way, anyway.

Marciela tries to slam that door, but Jessica's hand stops. She pushes again, feels the strength in Jessica's little arm, and fear and frustration give way to something like shock. That beat of shock gives Jessica enough space to get her words in. I'm not here to tank your life. I'm not here to ruin your reputation.

That last part though, the part about innocent men, provokes a flash of — what? Anger. Indignation. Marciela looks to the door between them, scans behind Jessica for anyone who might be in eye or earshot. With a sharp breath that flares her nostrils she says: "I didn't know any innocent men back then," she says. Her mouth presses into a thin line, and the pressure on the door relents. She swings it open, stepping to allow Jessica entry.

"Just… come inside."

It's a nice place: modest and well kept. The living room has a sofa and a few cushioned chairs in ampitheatre form around a small flat screen. There are knick knacks, coffee table books about the storied city. Marciela walks to the open doorframe between that room and the kitchen in the back.

"You want me to make you some coffee while you tell me what you think you know?"

And step inside, Jessica does. Marciela's hostility rolls right off her, to the point where her head dips to the right as she says, "Coffee would be great, thanks."

And then on to what she thinks she knows.

"The only facts I know are these: you were on your knees next to Carlos Hall while Sergeant Harmon of the SPD, Jay Burton of the SPD, Officer Hernandez, and Officer Lucas searched the house for drugs Hall was real certain they couldn't find. The story is they were there at all thanks to a confidential informant's tip. Hall seemed real sure they weren't gonna find any drugs. And yet they did, in a real clever hatch in the drywall. 50K. Six kilos."

Then she shrugs. "On to what I think I know. Maybe dude is just overconfident, right? But maybe he was right. They might not have found the drugs. Not without more help than Harmon let on that he had. Not unless Harmon knew exactly where the drugs were before even entering the house, and the search up until then had been elaborate theatre. And then I ask myself, well, who is the most likely identiy fo Harmon's C.I.? Who'd know where the goods were, especially given they were in the bedroom? Only one likely name sprang to mind. Maybe he abused you and this your way out. Maybe you were just sick of being a criminal. Maybe Harmon offered you a deal too good to resist, or had leverage on you. Maybe a little of all of it."

She arches her eyebrows, waiting for Marciela to weigh in.

Whatever composure Marciela has briefly summoned for this unexpected encounter threatens to crack almost as soon as Jessica begins.

You were on your knees…

Sense memory asserts itself, brings her back to that ugly morning. She flinches, nose prickling, and turns to the kitchen to make that coffee. It's a Keurig, so it'll be quick, but it gives her time enough to reassert some emotional control.

"I'm sorry, I don't know what it is you want from me," Marciela says as she enters with a tray and two cups, some milk and sugar. "That was another life, and I've worked my fingers to the bone to build this one. And now you — want me to tell you that I snitched on Carlos? So you can tell someone else? And they can tell someone else? Even if I did exactly what you said, what good comes out of that?"

"None," Jessica says. And she looks down and to the side for a moment. There are days this job makes her feel like a real wretched shit, and this is one of those moments. But then she asserts some control.

"This isn't about Hall though. This is about what happened next."

She watches the woman closely. "Someone stole a brick out of evidence. Somehow that brick gets up to a cop's apartment. Gets all bagged up and ready for distribution. Hell of a plant. Open and shut case. And again I ask myself, well. How? None of the officers could have risked going over there. They might have been spotted. Neighbors. Friends. Maybe even a traffic camera or a cell phone ping. But they could pass that brick to someone else. Someone else with simultaneously a lot less to lose, and a lot more."

This is a shot in the dark. Jessica isn't entirely sure on this next point. But sometimes you take those and see what happens.

She softens her voice. Lowers it. "Was it you, Marciela? Did Sergeant Harmon hand you a brick and tell you that you were free to go if you just did this one, final task? Run this thing up to an apartment…maybe you don't even know whose. Get it bagged up. Maybe he's dirty and it's his apartment and he's going to sell it. Why should you care? Maybe he tells you 'this will help get another truly bad man off the street, and then you'll be safe.' Maybe the reason doesn't even matter. But it got done."

Recognition dawns on Marciela's features somewhere on the backwards walk from the coffee table to her sofa chair. It's punctuated by a sharp catch of breath.

"No, no, I didn't — I read the stories about that officer who got pinched for stealing the drugs," she protests as she lowering herself down and sitting spine-straight on the sofa chair. "But I didn't pay it any mind. I was just trying to move on, you know?"

She swallows. "You're working for him? The — police. What was his name again?"

Jessica takes up her Keurig-made coffee and sits across from her.

"I'm working for an interested party. But yes. I'm talking about the officer who got pinched. Lucas. Carl Lucas."

She lets the name hang in the air.

And then she leans forward and deliberately sets her cup on the coffee table, a move which sees her leaning forward, trying to catch the woman's eyes.

"Preacher's son. Marine. Never been in trouble a day in his life. Never did drugs, never known to sell drugs, not in any financial trouble. Suddenly his whole life is ripped to shreds. The one he worked hard to build."

She drapes her free hand over her knee. "Did you know they forced him into blood sports? Like a prize dog they could make money off of. Did you know they experimented on him? Stuck needles in his arms, threw him in a tank of burning acidic experimental chemical crap? Downgraded from dog, to lab rat."

Beat. Her eyebrows lift. And she says: "I bet he'd just like to move on too."

Jessica lays the guilt on thick, and Maricela is not immune. She's raised a young man, and has given more than an hour of thought to what might happen if he were ever caught up in the churning mill of the legal system. Deep furrows form in her bow as she looks down at the coffee cup. It turns restlessly in her hands, again and again.

"If someone put those drugs in his house, I don't know who it is," she says through a tight throat, cords standing out. The tone is almost pleading.

A beat. She rolls her eyes upward. "Shit," she says, the single-syllable word containing worlds of fear and regret. Her eyes close then, and she summons a breath. "Listen, you can't — if I get burned on this, I'm a dead woman. My son won't have a mother, and he — he wasn't brought up hard, like me. He couldn't make it out there alone."

And again, Jessica feels guilt of her own. It twists in her stomach.

She keeps it off her face.

"Yeah, I know. And I wish I didn't have to be here. But here's the thing. At this point there's a couple different ways this is going to go, and unfortunately, I'm going to have to ask you to pick which one it is."

Her eyes are compassionate. She speaks quietly, laying it all out.

"The first way is you don't help. I walk out of here with nothing today, while you remain my best lead. The most important link in the chain. I go do what I do— and I'm very good at what I do. I start digging into your past, present, and future. I start tugging on every thread until I find something else that gives me what I need. Some mistake you made. Some person who knows more than you wish he or she did. And because I'm asking around, things get messy. Other people start asking questions. And I will have to do that, even knowing if someone gets spooked you'll have a world of trouble, because I'm bound to certain professional ethics and standards, and they mean that I cannot just walk away no matter how much I want to."

She leans back. God. As much as I hate cops I sure sound like one sometimes.

"Or there's the second way."

She pulls a half-folded sheet of paper out of the inner pocket of her jacket. She had thought she might need this today. And a pen. It's an affidavit form. She places both on the table before her.

"Or you write out the truth as you know it. All of it. I take this back to my client and my lawyers who are very damned good. Lucas gets his name cleared before any of this ever makes it to court or any public forum. Some of those negotiations end up taking place in another state, even. Meanwhile, I have a discussion with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who as I understand it basically gnashes its teeth constantly to get its hands on corrupt cops in this state. If the good Deputy-Chief has done one shitty thing he has done one hundred more, and GBI nails his ass to the wall on one of them. And they'll be happy to go looking, because nailing a corrupt Deputy-Chief looks real damn good to them. You go on living your life knowing you've done the right thing. Nobody from Hall's organization has any reason to come looking for you. Nobody from Harmon's either."

And then, softly, "Please, Marciela. I actually do know what it means to scrape your life back together after getting involved with shit and with people I wish I'd never met, after doing things I wish I'd never done. I do respect the hell out of it and I do want to make sure you get every ounce of protection I can give you. I want to be on your side and the side of the truth. But that can only happen if you're on the side of the truth, too."

It's when she sees the teacup shaking in her hand that Marciela first realizes she's been trembling. That prickle in her nose has turned to redness in her eyes as Jessica plays both bad and good cop at once. She raises one hand from the rim of the cup to wipe at a stray tear.

"Should have known it wouldn't be that easy to get out from under," she whispers, almost to herself, before training her bloodshot eyes on Jessica Jones. "I didn't plant the drugs at Carl Lucas' apartment. I planted them at mine. Ours. In the hole in the wall where I knew Carlos kept the money."

She pushes out some hair behind her hear, distracted. "A man came to me a few days earlier," she says slowly, through the haze of years and recall. "He said he knew what Carlos had — how he'd been treating me." Her eyes slant sidelong to the right at that old, sore spot. "That Carlos had a lot of enemies, and he could help me. Make him go away for good, and make sure no one bothered me after. Get me set up with enough money to start fresh and get my boy a new life."

Her brow stitches. "He asked me if Carlos kept any of the stash at the house, and I said no — he's too smart for that. So he — he gave me some of Carlos' own product. Told me to put it wherever he keeps his cash, and to — to call Sgt. Harmon. Said it had to be Harmon. And the police would come… and Carlos wouldn't make bail. I'd never see him again if I didn't want to."

Jessica produces a tissue and offers it out to her, brow furrowing. Marciela tightens up about how she'd been treated, and in response Jess' voice drops to a soft, very real, "Yeah. Been there."

It casts some of this in new light. Carlos didn't act so smug because he had such a cool hiding spot. He just didn't think the drugs were there. Harmon got the call and it all played out like it was supposed to.

And now there's this new figure. This man. "What did he look like? Had you seen him before? If he had some of Carlos' product was he one of the dealers? Or was he maybe a cop? Where were you when he made you this offer? Did he give you any name, even a nickname?"

Even though they come one right after another she doesn't ask these questions rapid fire. She asks them gently, water falling gently over rocks fashion. With enough time to make sure they don't overwhelm her. They're kind of all one question, or at least all point to one place.

Who the Hell is this guy?

Having made the decision to come clean, at least here, Marciela does to take on Jessica's questions. It's not systematic or sequential, but she aborbs them and tries to answer them all.

"I was just visiting my mama," Marciela says as she dabs at her eyes with the tissue. "The same way I did every Sunday after she went to church. We'd just finished and I was putting Melvin in the car seat in the back when he, uh, called out my name."

She wrings her hands together. "I'd never seen the man before. He was big, just, all around. Tall, shoulders, you know. Had a high-top haircut and this — this scar right here."

Marciela traces a line right underneath her right cheekbone.

"I figured he was in the game, but I'd never seen around with Carlos or anyone else," she offers with a little shrug. "After it was over, he came by the house and gave me the money and that was — that was the last I ever saw of him."

She sighs and leans backwards against the cushion. "I guess I'd always figured the man worked for Freddie Green. He was Carlos' second, and took over when Carlos went away. Cut Carlos out of all of it and just let him rot away in Seagate."

Even now, she seems quietly satisfied by that outcome.

She jots it all down. The physical description. The scar. Freddie Green, a new name for Jess to go talk to. Hopefully without getting herself shot. Maybe she'd just better watch him? Either way, he's her only link back to Scar.

She picks up the form and the pen. Marciela wasn't the defining link in the chain after all, but she was certainly incredibly useful.

"You've been a big help," she says. She can't promise she will never hear about this ever again. It might turn out to be vital for Matt or Foggy to be able to pull her in as a witness to build the link to the big man. But she does jot down her number.

"In case you need a helping hand," she says, sliding the card across the table. "Thanks. You've done the right thing here today."

Of course, the moment she's outside something occurs to her. She dials Luke up as she walks back to the rental car, fishing out a cigarette and lighting it. Without preamble (as ever), she says: "Babe? You ever cross paths with a big guy with tall, big shoulders, high-top haircut, and a scar under his right cheekbone?"

There are tell tale noises of video games in the background as Luke quickly picks up the phone and wedges it between his ear and shoulder. Danny sent him along with a console and some games, and when the Billionaire isn't available for long distance bro team-ups, Luke's been playing through the solo missions. "Heh. Unless someone else is unfortunate to look like his ugly mug, you might be talking about Willis. Buddy I grew up with. Remember when I got pinched stealing that car as a kid and chose the marines instead of jail? He was riding shot gun. Wait. Why?"

For one long moment, Jessica Jones isn't sure what to say. She starts the car, and takes a little too long on her cigarette.

At last, "Because he's involved. This Willis. He talked Marciela into setting Carlos up. Carlos thought the drugs weren't even in the house that day. Willis took the shit from Hall's own stash and told her to call Sargent Harmon, and nobody else. I'm not even sure at this point that Harmon had it out for you. Willis talked her into doing it so she could be free of Hall's abuse. Not so hard to imagine he talked Harmon into it the same way. You'll make your career this way, I'll hand you hall, blah blah blah. And he's much more likely to have a beef with you than Harmon is, but it explains why Harmon tapped you personally. Did he go to jail while you went off to the Marines? Do you know what happened to him?"

Where is she even driving off to? She doesn't have a destination yet. She pulls her car over three streets away and just parks on the side of the road while she digs up her case log and scrawls everythign Luke just told her into it.

"Why would…naw, babe. I mean yeah, the judge wasn't so lenient with Willis because he'd been in trouble before, so he went to lock up. He bounced in and out after that." Bee-de-dooo. "Oops, hold on. I just jumped off a cliff." The receiver goes fuzzy as the big man shifts around and turns off the console, tossing the controller aside to give Jess his full attention.

"By why would Willis set me up? He went to our church Jess. His mom worked for my Pops. That doesn't make any sense."

"Dude. You went off to become a big Marine hero while he went to jail for the crime you committed together. For some people that's plenty."

But this is an interesting detail. "What's the Mom's name? Is she still alive?" Moms almost always know where their sons are, but the fact that she worked for Luke's Dad strikes her as very interesting.

A litany of cheating spouses cases prompts this cynical, tactless question. "Was he…"

Ok. Maybe not so much without tact. She remembers abruptly she's speaking to the man she loves, so softens what she was going to say.

"Do you know if your father was ever involved with his mother?"

"Dana, Dana Stryker. And I don't know, I sort of lost track of the family after I went to Seagate. I seem to remember something about her dying though, I think same way my moms went. His dad was splits-ville."

The big man is up now, pacing around their hotel room which is just a tiny bit too small for his long legs to very far before he needs to turn around and head back the other way. She can likely hear the uncomfortable note settle into his voice. "Look, Jess. I…I have no idea. If something was going on with her and my pops, I was just a kid. I probably turned a blind eye to it, if there was anything. But he was a preacher and the bible sort of looks down on those things."

Really? Two women both connected to Luke's Dad die of cancer?

"This like a heavy duty fracking or oil or pollution town?" she asks. Because it could be as simple as that.

She does hear the note, and her mouth twists as she takes a drag on her cigarette. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm sorry I had to ask," she says. Which of course doesn't commit either way, really. Doesn't even begin to touch on the number of times preachers talk out of one side of their mouth on Sunday and act an entirely different way the rest of the week. Steering clear of fraught issues around Luke's Dad, she says, "Alright. Gotta go. These are leads to chase down. We're getting close, Luke. It's all falling into place. It'll be okay."

"Now you've gone from investigation to conspiracy. If you start wearing hats made of tinfoil, I might have to reconsider my vows. Wait. No. That's not a deal killer. In fact, pick up some foil on the way back." Luke throws in some humor to alleviate the tension in the conversation.

"And it better be." Luke says of everything being okay. "Because I lost out on a re-spawn after that cliff dive, and now I can't stop thinking about all the times Missus Stryker was helping my dad with his sermons." A pause, "Hey Jones? Stop frowning like that. Love you."


INTERVIEW 3: THE REV. JAMES LUCAS

Mount Calvary Baptist is no megachurch. The single-story space is positively humble, just two dozen pews in two rows. But it is an institution in Savannah's African-American community, and so those pews are always packed. A few of the men usually give up their seats and stand in the back.

She'll be able to see the resemblance immediately. The pastor, James Lucas, has all of his son's swagger and more. He's a commanding presence, but filled with good humor that he uses to good effect at the pulpit.

The sermon stretches as far back into the Bible as Esau and Jacob, a narrative of jealousy and fear and resentment between two people who should be brothers. There are vague references to what's going on in New York, how many people in this room of a certain age have seen it all before, and how there are no new stories on God's still-green but slowly-warming earth.

When it's over, Lucas is at his smiling best, shaking hands and kissing cheeks and trading inside jokes with every parishoner down the line. It must be exhausting work, even to an obvious extravert like the pastor, but he seems invigorated by it. When the crowd begins to thin and Jessica is one of the final few he hasn't said a word to, his smile mutes but still seems full of warmth.

"Welcome to Mount Calvary, miss," he says, one hand outstretched. "First time visiting?" The church? Savannah? He's probably used to tourists passing through, hoping to catch a little of the city's culture.

Jess stood in the back with the men, not wanting to take anyone's regular seat. She may not have stepped foot into a church since she was fifteen (when her very secular, mathematician mother finally won the argument with her far more traditionally-minded Methodist father), but some habits of respect still breed true. She listens to the sermon with a tick of an eyebrow, wondering which side he's throwing in on, precisely, with this Jacob and Esau narrative. Which is which? After all, God hated one of them. But one of them also supplanted the other.

Jessica steps forward to shake his hand, and her habitual somewhat masculine swagger kind of at odds with the flowery dress she'd thrown back on for this, the same one she'd worn to go see Hernandez. "It is. You've a lovely church and a lovely city, Pastor Lucas. But I do wonder if I might take a moment of your time. I'm not just here to see the sights. Can we grab a moment in your office?"

There's probably a lot to do after a Sunday service even after the parishoners empty out. Whether it's cleanup, afternoon receptions, or even one-on-one spiritual counseling with congregants facing a rough patch, a pastor's work is truly never done.

So when Jessica asks Rev. Lucas for more than just the amount of time it would take to exchange introductions and pleasantries, she's asking for a lift. It must be something in what she says or the way she says it that impresses the seriousness of the moment on him. The glinting quality of his liquid dark eyes mutes, sobers.

"Well of course, miss —" a pause. "Sorry, I didn't catch your name," he says, paired with a flash of that earlier smile. He steps alongside her, places a hand on her back, and walks her down the aisle towards the back office.

Being touched, without being asked, does not do a damn thing to endear Pastor Lucas to one Jessica Jones. And while maintaining a polite exterior takes her a long way, she can't help the dangerous, angry flash that briefly enters her eyes, the stiffness, the quick edge of panic that rockets briefly upon her face before twisting back into the polite fiction that has her stepping out of the reach of his hand, just by virtue of walking a little too fast.

"Jones," she says. She's not even going to give him her first name after that. It's been a long time since she's reacted this way, with the need to suddenly pick up a person who takes this kind of liberty and slam him into the wall. Some of her issues over this blunted a lot when the other Defenders made sure Kilgrave was out of her life for good. But just like the need to drink, sometimes triggers come at unexpected times.

"I'm a PI. I've been hired on a wrongful conviction case, and I think as a fine, upstanding," skeevy, "member of the community who is connected by this church, you are very likely to have information that will help my investigation."

It'd be hard to miss the signals Jessica Jones sends, between biting glances and brief bursts of speed. If Lucas displays some of the entitlement too many powerful men do, he's quick enough to correct when quietly called on it, and without rancor. He follows her with his hands clasped behind his back as he listens to her lay out her reasons for coming to the service.

When they reach the door to his office, he opens it and gestures for her to go first. The space is dominated by an old mahogany desk, piled on with study bibles and knick-knacks, journals and the administrative paperwork that comes with running a church. There's a family photo or two on the periphery, with the Rev. and a young Carl and his mother.

"It's far too common a story in many places, Georgia especially," Lucas says when she lays out why she's here. He walks over to his seat, unbuttons his suit jacket, and falls into the leather chair, allowing some of that weariness to finally show. "Of course I'd like to help however I can."

He gestures to the chair across the desk from him. "Please, go on."

Backing off takes Jess off the figurative ceiling. There's still something a little wary in her stance, but she lets the stronger emotions fade.

There's even a moment of irritation at herself. She can pick this guy up and defenstrate him if she needs to, so what the fuck is she afraid of?

But that soon fades as he seems open to talking to her.

"I think you might be able to help me find a person of interest. An individual who might have witnessed something related to the murder case I'm investigating a couple counties over."

Lucas was never a man who was going to get the truth. Not if she can help it.

"Son of one of your employees. His name's Stryker. Willis Stryker? He's not in any trouble, I just think he has some exculpatory facts my client could really use right about now."

Rev. Lucas sits back in his chair, fingers steepled under his chin while he listens to Jessica lay out part of the truth. There's a flare of surprise in his eyes when she mentions the name Stryker, but it passes quickly.

"Willis," Lucas repeats, sadness and resignation creeping into his baritone. "I knew Willis, of course. He was my former office manager's boy." His mouth parts as if he's about to say more, but he holds back. "He ran into a lot of trouble years ago, but served his time. I haven't seen him in years."

Lucas' hands lower, clasp in his lap as he shifts in his seat. "Is he in trouble again?"

"Not to my knowledge, I just have reason to believe he has a few pieces of my puzzle," Jessica replies, all matter-of-fact professionalism. She takes out a file and takes a few notes in it. Not even looking at him. It's all theater.

"He's proving to be a little difficult to track down. The last reliable sighting of him I have was here in town, but also years ago."

She rattles off the date, which isn't exact. It's just randomly chosen, a few days before the Carlos Hall drug bust.

"Know of any friends, associates, former employers who might know where he was? You sound like you tried to help him out here and there."

"His mother gave so much to the church, and he was a good friend of my boy," Rev. Lucas says by way of explanation for his efforts to help Willis Stryker. It's punctuated by a sigh. "Sometimes… well. Sometimes the prodigal son doesn't come home. We always try to help men when they first come out. Get them a steady job, help them ease back into the world. But that life — behind those bars — it can change people. Grind them up."

His head dips, briefly weighed down by memories and other matters. "That date — it sounds like it was around the time Willis got out of prison. He stayed in Savannah for a few months, but left town without much of a word. His mother had passed by then — cancer — so there wasn't anything keeping him."

A crease forms in the older man's brow. "A few years ago he'd sent me a note asking me for some of his mother's personal effects, things she'd left to the church." He opens a behind the desk, rummages. "The return address was for a… P.O. Box… in northern New Jersey, around Newark."

He finds it, takes out the letter, and hands her the envelope, which is indeed for a P.O. Box in East Orange, New Jersey.

P.O. Boxes. Ugh. The bane of a PI's existence. They're real pains in the ass, because they are of course meant to conceal location. But that means the trail takes them right back north again. Willis is who she has to find, not the Rev. She's not even here to get in the Rev's grill about what she suspects. And while there are a few fill-in-the-blanks questions she could ask, they'd really only point to her real purposes here, piss off the Rev, who she might still need later, and not really add anything to Luke's case.

So she takes the envelope, copies down the address, and hands it back to him. It interests her that he removes the note, if it's just a request for Dana's things, but again, it doesn't strike her as necessarily case-relevant. She does look at the postmark though, just to get the exact date of when this was sent.

Once that's done? She passes it back and says, "I actually don't have more on him than a name and physical description. Do you happen to have a photo of him? Maybe from an old church directory, or something with him and your son? The more recent the better."

Because that will be helpful.

The pastor reaches out across the desk to accept the slide of the envelope, and tucks the letter back within it. Then he slides it into the inside breastpocket of his jacket and leans back into his seat again.

"Mmm," he says when she asks for a photo, mulling the matter. "Recent is relative, ma'am. I'm sure there are photos of him as a young man — his mother made sure he was a regular at church functions. But from those months when he got out?"

Realization flashes. "Sweet Christmas, there was one!" He pushes himself up from his desk with more energy than his previous tired slump would have suggested and makes for the shelves behind the desk. There's a row on the bookshelf for photo albums, and he plucks one out.

"We threw Willis a welcome home party at the church when he got out," the reverend says, passing the photo to Jessica. It's a candid shot of Luke — with a full head of hair and his police officer's uniform, sitting at a table with Willis. They're both looking over at the photographer, unsmiling, seemingly perturbed at being shot at all.

Jessica Jones isn't caught off guard very often, but she starts a little to hear Luke's signature phrase coming out of this man's mouth. Of course, it's stupid. Where else would he have gotten it from? But it also offends her a little. That's Luke's phrase, and this man who abandoned Luke, turned his back on him, was all too willing to believe the worst, dares to use it.

Fortunately this all happens while he's looking at the photo album. By the time he turns around she's plastered on a smile.

Jessica looks at the story this photo tells and snaps a photo with her phone. She snaps several, just in case. "This one is perfect, thanks," she says. She pulls out one of her plain cards, the one that just has her number on it, and scrawls 'Jones' across the top. "If you think of anything I might need to know, please give me a call. Other than that, I'll get out of your hair. I appreciate your willingness to help me pursue justice, Reverand Lucas."

Oh the ironies there.

Yeah. Hero Marine comes home to be a friggin' cop after his accomplice went to jail. Can't imagine why he'd be pissed. Nope, not at all.

Of course it's where Luke got it from. There two jars in the Lucas household. One for Carl's weekly allowance, and a swear-jar where proceeds from that allowance were deposited whenever Carl violated the fourth commandment — or worse.

And that jar went to the church donation box every week.

Rev. Lucas misses whatever conflict was playing out on Jessica's features, sees only the smiling face of a P.I. The conversation, the memories it's dredged up, makes a lonely old man suddenly wistful.

"If you find him," he says after a moment, "Would you tell him we talked? And that I'd always be glad to hear from him. I'd be grateful for that."

Of course it's where Luke got it from. There two jars in the Lucas household. One for Carl's weekly allowance, and a swear-jar where proceeds from that allowance were deposited whenever Carl violated the fourth commandment — or worse.

And that jar went to the church donation box every week.

Rev. Lucas misses whatever conflict was playing out on Jessica's features, sees only the smiling face of a P.I. The conversation, the memories it's dredged up, makes a lonely old man suddenly wistful.

"If you find him," he says after a moment, "Would you tell him we talked? And that I'd always be glad to hear from him. I'd be grateful for that."

And that wistfulness makes Jessica Jones even angrier. Wistful for this other guy, but not for Luke?

Keep it classy there, Rev.

But every single thing that has held her back in every way throughout this conversation holds her back now.

She may not have identified Jacob and Esau as it relates to the meta-rights conflict, but she's pretty sure she knows who got shoved into the Esau role in this damend clusterfuck.

And because she always listens to the goddamn lecture, she says smoothly: "Sure. I might even ask him to bring you some savory food."

She gives him a slight smile. It's not quite a Columbo, turning from the door, 'just one more question' moment…

But it sure has that hint of Jessica Jones salt. Just a hint. Just a little. As much as she can dare without completely burning the witness.

But sometimes it's not bad to leave a little sand in the oyster, either. To let it roll around and roll around until it becomes something useful.

And with that? Unless he stops her? She goes striding out the door.

As best as she can tell? It's time to put Georgia in their rearview.

It's an obvious reference, and the pastor catches it, but he doesn't connect it.

Perhaps because he doesn't think anyone has any reason to know the real truth about Dana or Willis, especially not some out-of-town P.I. Perhaps because he'd never begin to ascribe the parable of the warring brothers to his own household, and if he did, and if he were being honest about it, he would cast the often neglected and shoved-off bastard Willis in the role of Esau, and not Carl, who was always the golden boy.

Still, it's a pointed enough parting line to raise his eyebrows as she walks out the door. He glances down at the photo of the two boys he abandoned, and another of the wife he neglected and wronged before he lost her.

He absently traces the outlines of their figures with a gentle finger. Then he presses his lips together, and closes the book shut.

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