Exclusive
Roleplaying Log: Exclusive
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Matt Murdock offers Lois Lane a big story on the fight against New York's registration law.

Other Characters Referenced: Foggy Nelson, Jessica Jones
IC Date: March 28, 2019
IC Location: Law Offices of Nelson & Murdock
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 29 Mar 2019 00:43
Rating & Warnings: PG
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

The law offices of Nelson & Murdock are not the gleaming, glass-and-steel space that come to some people's minds when they think of Manhattan Law firm. The place is drab, and still a little dingy even after Pepper Potts lent an office assistant to spruce it up with plants, pictures and news clippings of the momentous Winter Soldier trial, assorted knick-knacks. Some of that residual roughness may be intentional. It's a signifier that for all N&M has changed throughout its short life, at the end of the day it's the project of two working-class kids from Hell's Kitchen who came back to save their neighborhood.

So, yes, drab. Drab but busy. The law firm has been hiring busily, expanding into the office next door and then the entire floor. Even now it's bursting at the seams. Ever since the registration deadline went into effect, the phones have been ringing off the proverbial hook. Every office is filled with two or three associates or interns pouring over papers, talking to prospective clients, typing furiously on laptops.

Except for one room. That's where Matt Murdock sits alone, reading by braille-display, with his coat cast over the back of his wooden chair and the sleeves of his oxford-cloth shirt rolled up his forearm.

He's reading, yes, but also waiting for a very significant appointment. The office manager — thirty-something, with big glasses and a mess of frizzy hair — will lead the guest right to him and swing open the doors.

—-

Nelson and Murdock ain't no Baker Botts, but if they were, Lois Lane would be a lot more likely to be investigating them than going to them for a rather more straightforward interview. She hasn't been idle for the last little while. What she's discovered, of course she can't tell anyone, not until the article's ready, but she's a girl who can sit on a bombshell quietly right up until she sets it to explode.

In another world, in another life, Lois might've been a lawyer like Nelson and Murdock. She has a head for complexity — and for cutting through it to make it simple. She can turn a lot of disparate facts into a story. And she's a ferocious advocate for the little guy, even if some of the guys and girls coming to the Hell's Kitchen firm aren't all that little. Physically speaking, at least. Some of them probably shake the foundations.

For what it's worth, Lois is as perfectly turned out as ever: lavender blouse, snow-white pencil skirt with a beige boucle swing coat somehow still clean even in the grubby New York City springtime, pale pink low heeled T-straps, and a matching folio purse. Her hair's pinned up at the temples, and while the whole look is certainly femme, it would be a mistake to take her less seriously for it.

She strides to Murdock's door with the tell-tale click of women's heels and pauses just inside, taking the measure of the room before stepping further forward to introduce herself.

"Mister Murdock," she begins. "Lois Lane, Daily Planet. I'm grateful that you've made time for me today."

—-

Matt is 'looking' up as soon as the door swings open, the round-rimmed spectacles fixing on the space almost as if he could see the storied journalist who steps into it. He pushes himself out of his seat, chair rolling backward an inch or two behind him as he extends a hand for her to shake.

"Ms. Lane," he says. "A pleasure to meet you. I'm a fan of your work." The voice is the same as the one from all those television and radio interviews, back when the country hung on the fate of hero-turned-assassin James Buchanan Barnes. It's deliberative and soft-spoken, often affable and slightly wry.

The man himself seems — tired. Like someone burning the candle at both ends. His strong-boned, boyishly handsome features are overlaid with that trademark stubble; his hair is disheveled. But he seems in decent spirits as he gestures in the general direction of where the chair sitting across from his desk should be. "Please, take a seat. Thanks for making the trip over. If it was from Metropolis, I will try to make this worth your while. Want some coffee?"

—-

She remembers him from radio and TV. And from sitting in the back of the courtroom and taking notes and writing stories, too, for that matter. Because of course the Planet sent her along for those.

Lois steps forward, taking his hand and giving it a firm and hearty handshake. "It was," she admits, "but I'm planning on a few more stops in town before I go back. Nothing timed, though; you have as much of my day as you have time for." She doesn't comment on the state of him. It's rude to say 'wow, you're clearly packing on the hours', but she certainly makes the mental note that, unsurprisingly, at least one of Nelson and Murdock is burning the midnight oil.

"I never say no to coffee," she adds. "So yes, please. You seem to be handling the sudden influx of clients well; at least you had some notice."

—-

"Two coffees, Jane?" Matt says to the office manager behind Lois. The request is met with a rise of the woman's eyebrows; gourmet tea has always been Mr. Murdock's drink of choice. But she still says, "Yes, Mr. Murdock," and slips out, closing the door behind her.

Matt reaches behind him to search for the arm of that chair behind him so he can orient himself and ease back into it. At least you had some notice, brings a twitch to the lawyer's lips. "We asked for it," he says. "I'm sure you saw the billboard on the corner outside."

The one with Foggy Nelson's smiling mug on it, with the tag: "Worried about registration? Nelson & Murdock is here to help."

Matt sits back in his chair, calloused hands clasped and resting against his burgundy tie, just above the sternum. "On the other hand, our clients didn't ask for any of this. We're trying to rise to the occasion for them."

He takes in a considering breath, exhales. Alright, Matty, time to roll the dice. His hands — a little bigger than they should be for a man of his size — open, spread. "Look, I'll get to the point. You were one of the most thoughtful writers on the Barnes case. I'm coming to you because we've got a big story on registration that I think you can use. And if you do want it, you get to break it."

—-

"It was hard to miss," Lois replies with a not-all-that-tiny amused smile. "You're lucky: I've seen a lot of law office billboards, but Mister Nelson manages to look earnest and trustworthy as opposed to the usual two extremes of 'uncomfortable' or 'shady.'"

But she's shutting up when she hears Murdock begin his… proposal of sorts. Almost, though not quite, a plea for help. She stops there for a moment and considers her own words with care.

"As a journalist," she begins, "of course I'm officially neutral to all but the facts of the matter. I'm biased on the side of reality. That's how it was with Barnes, and that's how it'll be with whatever you have for me. But if I thought you wanted something else, we wouldn't be having a conversation, so… I'm absolutely listening."

And definitely not promising anything except her trademark incisive honesty.

—-

Matt's shoulders shake once, twice, in a silent laugh when Lois comments on Foggy's photogenic qualities. "The camera tells it straight," he says of his partner with helpless, undisguised affection.

And then, a wry addendum: "And I know you do as well, Ms. Lane. I don't expect anything else, and wouldn't ask for it." The door swings open, and 'Jane' brings in two coffees. She hands one off to Lois, then places the other on Matt's desk in front of him. "At your six, Mr. Murdock." The man nods a little in thanks, and she lets herself out and leaves the lawyer and the reporter alone.

I'm absolutely listening.

"One of the lesser-reported aspects of registration is that all members of state and municipal government must take a blood test for the X gene to establish that they're complying with the new law," Matt begins as he reaches for his plain blue mug. "Firefighters, police officers, sanitation workers — school teachers."

A beat. A sip of the bitter brew, mellowed by a little bit of milk. "In advance of the deadline, one school teacher — a woman in her early forties, a mother of three who teaches first grade — complained about the testing to the school principal in advance of the deadline. Then, the day before the deadline, she quit her job."

Matt's jawline shifts and works under stubbled skin. The facts of this case roil emotions within him, and he makes no attempt to hide it. "As we understand it, the school reported her to NY DPS as a possible unregistered. They began interviewing friends and associates, poking around. Whatever they found gave the judge probable cause enough to order a mandatory blood test for the X-gene. She tested positive."

The coffee cup slowly twists in Matt Murdock's hands, an empty, absent gesture. "Her 'superpower' is a low-grade empathy," he says after a pause. "It's actually part of what made her a good teacher. Being able to read her students' emotions. And now she is now sitting in a cell at the Raft."

—-

An aside, perhaps, but: Lois has, throughout her professional life, been impressed by assistants like Jane seems to be. If she were to put money on it, she'd absolutely bet that Jane knows the names of everyone who works for the firm, not to mention their birthdays, family members, and favorite flavors of birthday cake. And, for that matter, the names and schedules of all his current clients. For some, those calendars are just for show. They know more than it should be possible to know and are worth more than their respective weights in gold. Lois really likes a good PA.

Lois takes a sip of her coffee as she listens, ponders the flavor, then simply leaves it be. She listens to the story and… and the hair rises on the back of her neck as she realizes what Matt might be handing her. It's something she mentioned to Jessica Jones, at the very least, because she understands how the law works. For a law to be repealed, it must be taken to court. For a law to be taken to court, there must be someone who has been hurt by it. That person — or, perhaps more appropriately, their lawyer — needs to be able to prove the law hurt them, that the damage was unjust. They need standing. That's for the case to go to trial. To win, the lawyers have to make the better argument, the judge has to be open to it, and, in the world of real people and messy situations, the person at the center of the case has to be not only a picture-perfect example of the law's injustice but also a blameless human being.

She knows this. She knows Nelson & Murdock know this, too, and of course they know what she knows. They know as well as she does that the real fight won't be just between the lawyers: it'll be in the press, in the court of public opinion. So Lois sits and contemplates the so-far-known facts over her cup of coffee.

"The Registration Act ruined her career. And if she's in the Raft, it's taken a mother away from her children, her family," Lois murmurs. "At least, that's your argument. You know I've been reporting on the facts around registration, and on all sides of the matter. I'd be very interested in knowing the details of the case. I have to say, though," she continues, "which I'm certain you know but I'm not sure the lady does, that as things are, if she becomes the center of a contentious and highly-publicized court case, every aspect of her life will come to the surface. Every sketchy family member, every enemy, every time she was rude in a deli. Her children will undoubtedly be dragged into it, as will her spouse, if she has one, and the rest of her family. Anyone related to her will assuredly be tested for the X-gene, and it'll be done under the auspices of probable cause and 'just doing our job, ma'am'."

Lois's hands curl around her own mug as if seeking to draw the warmth and energy into herself just by clutching it. "No doubt," she adds, "this has all already crossed your mind. It won't be the first time you've fought an unpopular fight."

—-

Naturally, Lois immediately picks up on the subtext of this unnamed teacher's sad story, its implications, promise, and peril. Matt takes a sip of his coffee while he talks, his features schooled to neutrality. They have an assist from those crimson shades, robbing her of all the little cues around the eyes. And the expression remains opaque right up until she adds that part about how this isn't Nelson & Murdock's first step into the ring of a high-profile court case. Then? A ghost of a smile, rueful and acknowledging.

"She knows what it means," Matt answers of his presumable client. "As much as any person ever really can without having gone through it. We've gone over it with her again and again. But Ms. Lane — she's already in jail. In jail awaiting trial for a felony that could put her away for years."

He leans forward, places the half-drunk cup of coffee back on his desk. "A successful class action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of MRPSA is her best shot at getting to finish seeing her kids grow up," Matt goes on, bringing the subtext into text and making what is really going on in this room explicit. "Which is why next week we plan to sue in federal court on her behalf, as well as a dozen others currently incarcerated at the Raft. And we expect that number to grow."

—-

Lois's fingers curl just a little more tightly around the mug in her hands. She inclines her head, reminds herself that Murdock can't see her doing that, and lets out a very brief self-deprecating almost-laugh.

"Then I assume you've already completed your side of the investigation. And you'll be wanting to get ahead of any rumors so you don't have any surprises. But that's probably just me telling a duck how to swim."

The smile on her face — Lois has no reason to imagine Murdock can see it, but it's absolutely audible in her voice. "I have the feeling," she says, a touch of warmth in her voice, "that you're an angry man. I like an angry man with a face like an icicle. They tend to make good lawyers. Especially when they spend their evenings at the ring getting a few rounds in with a punching bag." Lifting her hands, she adds in a dryly conversational tone, much as if she were discussing good coffee shops, "I alternate between the ring and the range myself. It's a solid alternative to screaming."

Shifting forward, sitting up a little straighter, she continues: "I'll be covering this story. Personally, and beyond a doubt. If I have the details now, I can even get a head start on the story and have something solid ready by the time they step into the courtroom. I'll try not to irritate the judge too much," she adds smoothly, almost as an afterthought.

—-

She asks whether they appropriately vetted this woman, who is about to be at the very center of the storm, and who will be the subject of so much scrutiny. Matt's faint smile remains, and he nods ever so faintly in her direction at talk of ducks and swimming. "Do you know Jessica Jones?" Matt asks like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. "Her office — Alias Investigations — is downstairs. Good people."

And that, it seems, is as much of an answer as he'll provide on whether they've oppo'd their own client.

Besides, she's then moving her commentary to him, assessing him with that reporter's eye. His chin lifts a little at her remark, first in surprise but then, after a moment, in subtle appreciation. His lips press together. He weighs the moment. He could use any good lawyerly trick: deny, demur, deflect. Flip the conversation back to her own rage.

Instead:

"Never been much for target practice," the blind man says, voice as arid as the Mojave. "My dad was a boxer, though, and that stuck." A beat. "Sometimes anger's the only appropriate response to what this world throws at us."

After that dangerous detour, she steers them abruptly back to the conversation at hand. "Good," Matt says at once, punctuated with a short nod. "I'll see if I can arrange an interview between you two at the Raft, though that'll be tricky. Family and friends will be easier, and we can start that right away."

There's a drum of his fingers on the desktop. Once. Twice. Thrice. Then he's done mulling. "Her name is Mary Peterson," he tells her. It's a common name. Unremarkable. Inoffensive. And if Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson have their way, it will be forever enshrined in the history books.

Peterson v. New York.

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