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  1. #31
    Junior Member Dragonbat's Avatar
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    Statistically, anesthesia awareness is believed to affect 0.2 to 0.4 percent of patients undergoing surgery. It occurs when the patient has been given too little general anesthesia to keep them fully unconscious during the procedure. For the majority of patients in this condition, there is no pain. Approximately one third, however, do report feeling some level of distress ranging from mild discomfort to agony. If no muscle relaxant has been used, the patient is able to move, which alerts the operating staff, who can then administer more anesthetic.

    The muscle relaxant was the only reason that Matt wasn't screaming right now. He couldn't make a sound or move a fraction of an inch. All he had were his thoughts and he needed to marshal them, channel them away from his current situation or he was seriously going to lose it and nobody would even realize it. That much, at least, was familiar. Very much like...

    ...Another time, another hospital, a different pain...

    Hard to think of anything except the agony, the terror... It's dark. Too dark and loud and smelly. Why is everyone shouting? How are they even breathing through the stomach-wrenching odors of medications and sweat and he doesn't even want to know what else. He has to think of something different before he loses it and so, he tries to remember how he got here.

    (Why is it so dark, anyway? The sun was shining just a little while ago and it can't be night yet...)

    He was past the schoolyard, walking down the street as quickly as he could, trying to put some distance between himself and the usual crowd of bullies, Nate Hackett's taunts still ringing in his ears.

    "Daredevil, scared-devil, wears girl's underwear-devil!"

    He won't give them the satisfaction of seeing him run, but he has no desire to stick around and keeps to a brisk trot, feet hitting the pavement, because he can't hit Nate and his gang. Can't. Won't. Same difference. He promised Dad. He promised... Wait...

    Wait, why isn't that truck slowing down? It's going to hit the old man!

    He remembers the truck, the man, the running leap that almost feels like flying as he springs into action, shoving the pedestrian out of the way. He lands wrong, his ankle buckling under him as he falls to the road, only a few feet in front of the truck. Horns honk and brakes squeal as the other vehicles halt. The truck driver has finally stopped daydreaming but, like the helmsman on the Titanic trying desperately to avoid the iceberg, he turns too late. A single canister dislodges from the truck bed, falling toward Matt and there's no time to avoid it. The canister bounces once and its lid comes off. It bounces once more. And then, the yellow goop is upon him, splashing his face, his eyes, he's on fire. He's burning up. Instinctively, he tries to wipe away the stuff with his arm, but he can't understand why even though he gets a lot of it off, all he can see is a haze of yellow that slowly fades, leaving him in the dark. The traffic has stopped and he can hear voices, people who have run into the street to help. Where were they a minute ago?

    "Bravest thing I ever saw! But his face...his eyes..."

    "That thing that fell from the truck, is it... radioactive?"

    (It is.)

    "Look at his face!"

    What's wrong with his face? What's wrong with his eyes? Why does it hurt so much? And why is everyone shouting?

    He finds his voice, finally, and starts to scream. It feels like his blood is burning, his heart is trying to burst from his chest, everything hurts and he doesn't know where he is. But it smells like chemicals and whatever he's lying on feels like sandpaper and they're cutting into his face and it hurts, it hurts so bad and...

    ...And he wasn't fifteen anymore. He'd learned a lot since then: how to manage his heightened senses, how to control his pain. He'd had to. He couldn't move, but he could still think... and breathe... and focus. He pulled his awareness inward. Focus. Find the center. Find your core. Slowly push your consciousness out, let it expand. Take in your surroundings...

    He was lying down on something more comfortable than asphalt as people surrounded him once more. They talked of medications, vital stats, instruments. They moved quickly and spoke in confident tones. They knew what they were about. Nobody was panicking, so whatever it was that they were doing to him seemed to be proceeding smoothly. And it didn't really hurt that badly now that he had a better idea of what was going on. Nothing like... before. Before... when he lost. When Kingpin beat him. Nothing like that explosion of pain, the wet snap in his chest and the fire of cracked ribs. His chest still hurt somewhat now, and not just because that seemed to be where the... doctors? Yes, he'd call them that for now. ...Where the doctors were concentrating their efforts. They'd cut him there earlier, he realized; he could feel the incision site.

    As his calm deepened, he began to make more sense of the conversations. Now he heard terms he recognized: flail chest; punctured lung. He couldn't focus enough to be sure whether they were describing what was wrong with him or what could have happened or what might yet develop and he fought another swelling tide of apprehension. The doctors weren't panicking, he reminded himself. They might not even be talking about him, right now. It could be that they were discussing a similar case when the patient had been in worse shape. Maybe. Steady voices, steady hands... it sounded as though they had things under control. And while he still didn't know where he was, he recognized that it was probably some kind of medical facility. And these people were trying to help. He should probably let them. (Not that he was sure he could stop them in his condition, but it was easier to stay calm if he let himself believe he could.) He could deal with the discomfort while he tried to get his bearings, figure out where he might be from the sounds and smells outside this room... He just had to expand his awareness and allow his senses to sort the data...

    "...Normally, just need a local for this. Why did we put him under?"

    "Boss-lady put the order in herself. She says numbing the area might not be enough. You want to ask her what she meant?"

    "No. I can figure it out. I wonder which one this is."

    "Ten bucks says Cap."

    "No, I patched Cap up last week. Totally different guy. Fifteen says it's Spider-Man."

    "Only if he was brought in by his clone. My money's on Hawkeye."

    ...If he could have smiled, he would be grinning from ear to ear and not just because of that conversation. Beyond these doctors, maybe fifty yards away, he could hear two voices, two heartbeats, both familiar, both relatively calm. He heard his own name mentioned; Spidey was telling Foggy about the Sin-Eater murders. Matt wondered how much of the record he was going to need to set straight later; Spidey was prone to exaggeration at times. He tried to zone in on their conversation. It was a welcome distraction from whatever was going on with his chest right now.

    "He's awake," a woman's voice said sharply.

    There was an expletive, quickly swallowed and an order for more anesthetic and a whispered apology from a couple of feet above his left ear. Around the ten o'clock position, Matt thought tiredly.

    He heard a flurry of movement as someone approached his head. Much as he would have liked to hear more of what they were saying, he didn't try to resist the sickly-sweet chemical smell when it enveloped him. Already, he seemed removed from the pain in his chest. Maybe when he woke again, it would have vanished entirely...

  2. #32
    Junior Member Dragonbat's Avatar
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    It hadn't. He woke up feeling like his torso was on fire, but somehow muffled, as though there were several layers of cotton batting between the pain and his nerves. His upper body was elevated to the point where he was partially sitting up. Any attempt to alter his position was agony. The smells of chemical disinfectants and medications assaulted him. There had been something in his nose earlier; the inside felt as though something had scraped it. He was aware of a bitter, metallic taste in his mouth and a soreness in his forearm, close to the wrist, as though someone had stabbed him with a needle earlier. That... was familiar. In fact, it seemed to happen frequently in hospital settings. If his suspicions were correct...

    The jumbled impressions of his radar sense slowly smoothed out, penetrating the haze of sleep and medication. Yes. There was an IV drip next to him. A narrow tube connected the bag to his arm. Well, that would account for the soreness. He wiggled a toe experimentally and was relieved when his radar sense registered the twitch of the bedclothes and he felt the cotton fabric slide over his skin. He was in pain and he couldn't move much, but if he could wiggle his toes, then he doubted that he was paralyzed. Now why was he here...? Because Kingpin had nearly beaten him to death and the last time he'd had a semi-conscious thought was in an operating room. Genius. He wondered exactly how badly he'd been hurt and what had been done to patch him up.

    He let his mind drift back to his confrontation with Kingpin. All that training... the gymnastics, the capoeira, the kickboxing... and then, when he'd stood face-to-face with Fisk, he'd tossed it all out the window and tried to bludgeon the man with his billy-club. A groan escaped his lips. He should have known better. He did know better. The first time he'd fought the Kingpin, he'd nearly beaten himself to a pulp charging at nearly 400 pounds of solid muscle. He knew that a direct attack on Fisk was all but doomed to failure. Or, at least, he should have known. Then why...?

    Because he'd let his emotions do his thinking instead of his brain. Damn it, it was as if nothing had changed since their first encounter. Then, he'd nearly been down for the count before Fisk had even landed a punch on him and he'd still almost been too stubbornly stupid to break off his attack.

    So, just why had he gone for a direct attack when he'd known it was almost certainly doomed to failure? Matt winced as he tried to remember the sequence of events. Fisk hadn't even attempted to defend himself at first. He'd just stood there, unconcerned, making Matt feel like some petty annoyance to be tolerated or dispatched at whim. It had been Fisk's sheer... refusal to view him as a threat that had sent him over the edge. There were visual metaphors for the way that serene arrogance had affected him, Matt reflected. Blind fury, seeing red... He wasn't oblivious to the irony of his using such phrases. But the phrases were accurate, no matter who was using them. He had seen red, figuratively speaking, at least. He had attacked blindly—in every sense of the word, not just the obvious. The warnings had been there all along. He'd ignored them. He'd forgotten all of Stick's cautions against self-pity and letting anger make him careless. Hell, Foggy had tried to tell him as much... had it been only yesterday? It was a good thing, he thought dryly, that he was stuck in bed. He wanted to kick himself. Hard.

    He needed to know how badly he was hurt and he wouldn't know that until he could get out of bed or, at the very least, talk to someone. He started to take a deep breath—and stopped, gasping, as agony stabbed him with white-hot fire. No deep breaths. Not now, anyway. Fine. He thought for a moment. From the pressure around his torso, he guessed that his ribs were splinted. Maybe he was restrained, maybe not. He couldn't move enough to be sure. But his hands were free and that was something. Carefully, his fingers explored the small bit of mattress and bed rails within their reach as he tried to make sense out of the shapes and contours that surrounded him. He allowed himself a triumphant smile when he recognized one such shape: a square box with a round doorbell-like button that protruded slightly—familiar to him from earlier hospital stays. If it was within his grasp, then it was fair to assume he was meant to use it. Only one button meant probably wasn't the bed control panel. However, if he was right about this device, its presence was still most welcome.

    He reached for the box—plastic, as it turned out—pressed the call button, smiled when he heard the faint tone sound some thirty yards away, and settled back to wait.

  3. #33
    Junior Member Dragonbat's Avatar
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    Rubber-soled shoes on an epoxy floor, a whiff of Castile soap and floral shampoo, and a firm no-nonsense voice that said, "Good afternoon, Mr. Murdock. Nice to see you awake."

    Matt managed to smile. "Where...?" His voice was hoarse to his ears and his automatic attempt to sit up straighter nearly made him cry out as his ribs protested.

    "Easy," the woman said gently. "I know it probably doesn't feel much like it at the moment, but you're well on the road to recovery." She drew closer. "I'm just going to check a few things, if that's okay."

    He nodded. "Who are you? Where am I?" The pain wasn't as severe when he was expecting it, but it was still pretty bad and it showed in his voice.

    The woman's voice grew warmer. "I'm one of the night nurses," she said. "You're at a clinic on the waterfront. Spider-Man brought you in." Her hand was on his arm as she added, "with two broken ribs, a punctured lung, mild hypothermia, a truly impressive black eye, and various bruises and lacerations. We were pulling glass shards out of you for a couple of hours, easy," she added. Matt winced, even as he relaxed once more. He knew about the 'Night Nurse Clinic,' although he'd never been here before. Spider-Man had told him once that they dispensed free medical care to those costumed adventurers who needed it, no payment required (though donations were welcome) and no questions... no irrelevant questions asked.

    "Do I want to see the other guy?" the nurse asked.

    Almost no irrelevant questions. He didn't feel like answering that one and the nurse dropped it.

    "Okay," the she said as she circled behind him to come to the other side of the bed. "You've been here for almost two days. If your throat is sore, it's because you had to be intubated while we were working on you. It'll pass. It won't always hurt when you breathe either, though I know it does now. I'm afraid painkillers can only do so much..."

    Matt nodded his understanding.

    "There are breathing exercises you'll need to do. A respiratory therapist should be here a bit later today. You're still at risk for pneumonia right now, and as painful as it is, you're going to need to take deep breaths at intervals to keep the air circulating throughout your lungs. If you don't, you'll be leaving yourself wide open for infection—something that was already a concern, seeing as you were fished out of the East River."

    He remembered that now. Waking up in agony in a car, smelling the foul water outside, knowing that despite his pain, if he wanted to live, he had to move. Adrenaline had done the rest. There'd been an empty bottle next to him reeking of whiskey. He'd smashed it on the dashboard and used a jagged shard to cut himself free of the safety belt when it refused to open. When the door had behaved similarly, he'd had no choice but to break the windshield. He'd pulled his hand up his jacket sleeve, made a fist, and swung. When the water started to pour in, he'd given up on trying to get out of the car without getting cut by the windshield glass. There hadn't been time for anything fancy. He'd shouldered his way through. He remembered thinking that he needed to figure out which way the surface was and then... nothing. Until he'd woken up here in the clinic. Had he come to earlier? And was Foggy...?

    "You're currently on full-spectrum antibiotics," the nurse continued, "in case you picked up something nasty in the river. Once we've confirmed that your blood is free of infection, we can probably set you up with an epidural. Should make you a lot more comfortable."

    He smiled. 'A lot more comfortable' sounded wonderful. Now, where was... "Foggy?" he asked.

    "Your friend? He'll be here shortly. To be honest, Mr. Murdock, we weren't sure when you were going to regain consciousness. Mr. Nelson just went to get something to eat... which, come to think of it, might not be a bad thing for you either. I'll tell him you were asking for him when he gets back."

    Matt nodded, satisfied.

  4. #34
    Junior Member Dragonbat's Avatar
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    The clinic seemed to get less traffic than most of the hospitals he'd visited in the past. He said as much to the nurse when she returned with a tray of food. "While we wouldn't turn away a person in need," she explained, "the only people who generally come here in an emergency are those who heard about us through word of mouth—from a community that tends to be somewhat secretive. Otherwise, it's mostly cuts and scrapes, the odd broken bone, and before the start of the school year, inoculations. Our full-time staff is comprised entirely of nurses, so most serious cases that don't involve people like you tend to end up at other clinics or hospitals." She set the tray on a half-table connected to the bed by an extending arm and showed Matt where the controls were to push it aside or move it closer.

    Matt frowned. "But... I had surgery here. Didn't I?" He smiled slightly, as some part of his brain registered a familiar heartbeat and the smells of diverse meats, cheeses, and condiments that probably weren't intended to be combined on a single submarine roll. The footsteps drew closer, and then paused.

    "Minor," the nurse admitted. "Some of us have been field medics or worked in parts of the world where the distinctions between doctors and nurses were a bit blurrier. In extreme circumstances, we would call in a doctor, of course, but for the most part, we're more than capable of treating situations as they arise. And our services tend to be more discreet. For some in your line of work, that last bit tips the scales. Though if you've any complaints...?"

    Matt shook his head. "You know who I am then."

    "I imagine Nurse Carter does," the nurse replied. "She has a talent for figuring things out. As for me, I've learned that it's wiser not to ask those kinds of questions. Spider-Man brought you in. He made sure we noted a few details relevant to your treatment. I can guess you wear a costume," she admitted. "But as to which one? Not important."

    Oh, Mr. Nelson. He's awake. And asking for you. He's in the...

    Room on the right! I know! Thanks!


    Matt mulled the nurse's words over, even as Foggy's footsteps sped up.

    "Thanks," he said finally. "Um..."

    "Julie."

    The door opened. "Matt!"

    Julie took a step back. "Enjoy your dinner, Mr. Murdock. I'll be in to check on you later."

    Matt smiled. "Come in, Foggy." He started to lean forward, but the pain in his chest reminded him of the reason that he was here.

    Foggy obeyed. "How are you doing?"

    He groaned. "It only hurts when I'm conscious." He sent the tray away, appetite forgotten, and shook his head. "I lost, Foggy."

    He heard the scrape of wood on epoxy as Foggy dragged a chair next to his bed and sat down with a creak. Foggy sighed as he set a take-out bag down on the floor. "I hope so."

    "What?"

    "I hope so," Foggy repeated. "Because if this is what winning looks like... it's pretty overrated."

    For a moment, Matt froze. Then his lips twitched.

    Foggy chuckled.

    Matt started to laugh, but broke off with a gasp and brought a hand swiftly to his ribcage.

    "Matt!" Foggy was half out of the chair. "Are you okay? Let me call—"

    Matt placed a firm hand on Foggy's arm. "Don't. I'll be fine. But," he winced, "Reader's Digest notwithstanding, laughter isn't always the best medicine. Exhibit A: fractured ribs." He kept holding on until Foggy relaxed.

    "I'm sorry," he said heavily, sinking back to the chair. "I was trying to cheer you up, not..."

    "I know." He frowned. "How did you know to come here, anyway?"

    "I didn't," Foggy admitted with a sigh. "Spider-Man brought me after I took a nosedive into the East River."

    Matt's frown deepened. "Wait. What?"

    "Yeah," his tone was deceptively casual. "See, after I followed you to Fisk Enterprises... don't get mad, I wasn't going to interfere..."

    "You followed me," Matt repeated flatly, sounding very much like he was questioning a witness. "Go on."

    Foggy gulped. "Well, when I didn't see you go in or come out, I decided to—"

    "You did not go inside," Matt cut him off. "Tell me you did not go inside."

    Foggy hesitated. "That swim you took wouldn't have shorted out your internal polygraph, by any chance?"

    "Foggy..." Matt groaned. "You almost got yourself killed."

    "Yeah, but that came later."

    "Excuse me?"

    Foggy sighed. "If you keep making me get ahead of myself, I'll get all mixed up."

    Matt tilted his head to one side. "Are you drawing this out in some attempt to distract me?"

    "Hey, it's not making you laugh."

    Matt glared at him. Then he gripped the bed rail tightly and grimaced. "Fine. You went inside. Totally oblivious to how stupid it was."

    "Sue me."

    "Can't." His lips twitched. "You're the best lawyer I know and after the performance you gave before the grand jury, I would not want to face you in court representing myself."

    Foggy laughed out loud. "Fine. I went in. Didn't get past the lobby, but I saw a couple of guys hauling you downstairs. By the time I registered what was going on, the doors had closed. I went back to the car, circled around and..."

    As Matt listened, his jaw dropped lower and lower.

    "...And then Spider-Man left me here and went back for you," he finished. "But seriously, if you hadn't drilled me on that kick, it could have gone down a lot differently. It saved my life."

    Foggy actually believed that, Matt realized. He didn't see that his life wouldn't have been in danger in the first place if they hadn't been friends. He...

    "Matty? Are you... crying?"

    He could have blamed it on his ribs, he supposed. Or denied it outright. Foggy would have pretended to believe him. Instead, he simply said, "Sue me."

    "Oh, please," Foggy got up and put a hand on Matt's shoulder. "Haven't you already had enough legal troubles to last a lifetime?"

    Matt's lips twitched. A guffaw burst from his lips and then a gasp.

    And then Foggy was apologizing for making him laugh and Matt was holding onto him and letting his tears come any old way they wanted to.

  5. #35
    Junior Member Dragonbat's Avatar
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    References: Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #134, 137, Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #276–8. Daredevil, Vol. 1 #228–9.
    Some dialogue lifted directly from ASM #277 by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz (Marvel, 1986).

    Chapter 9

    The epidural brought his agony down to a more manageable level, but it didn’t eliminate it. “Effectiveness does vary,” the nurse said apologetically.

    Matt nodded his understanding. “It’s an improvement,” he said. Meditation should reduce the pain further. At least, thanks to the epidural, he could achieve the necessary focus for that. He reached for the glass of water on the side table and fell back with a gasp. “Really.” He frowned, picking up a slight hesitancy on the nurse’s part and an increase in her stress pheromones. “Is something wrong?”

    “Well,” she replied, clearly uncomfortable, “you do understand that this is an emergency clinic. We generally patch you up to the point where you’re able to go home and then expect you to follow up with your primary care physician. Your friend mentioned that there were some complications relative to the security of your current address...?”

    “Oh,” Matt nodded again. “Yes,” he said with a faint smile, “unfortunately, there are. I’ll talk to him. Maybe between the two of us, we can work something out.” He tilted his head, questioning. “How long do I have?”

    “I suppose,” the nurse said, “it depends on whether someone else in your line of work comes in for treatment. We really only have the one room set aside. We like to keep it vacant as much as possible.”
    “Ah.” Matt reached for the IV pole and tried not to wince. “All right,” he said, stifling a groan. “I,” he gasped as he struggled to swing his legs over the side of the bed, “I guess I’d better... agh! ...g-get up.”

    “I can help—” the nurse started to say, but Matt cut her off.

    “You... won’t be there after I... leave,” he pointed out. “I’ve got this.” Gritting his teeth, he forced himself out of bed, clutching the IV pole for support. His legs promptly buckled and he fell to the floor.

    “Mr. Murdock!”

    Matt reminded himself forcefully that there was a fine line between pride and idiocy. And that pride went before a fall—as he’d just illustrated. “I’m... fine,” he lied. “Who,” he tried to smile despite the pain, “who took the muscles out of my legs?” He tried to pull himself up, gasping as his ribs let him know that epidural or no epidural, they were a long way from healed. “Is that offer of help still open?”

    The nurse stooped down and offered her shoulder. “We’re not kicking you out quite yet,” she reassured him, “but there’s absolutely no reason for you to be on total bed rest. What I’d like to do is get you sitting upright in a chair; there are a number of exercises that you can start with to build back your strength.”

    Matt nodded. “How far away is the chair?”

    “There’s a good one just over in the corner. I can move it closer.”

    “No,” Matt shook his head and rested a hand on her shoulder, even as he tightened his grip on the IV pole. “Better move me closer to it. Help me up.” He winced again, this time for a reason that had nothing to do with his ribs. “I’m sorry. Please.”

    “Of course, Mr. Murdock,” the nurse replied and Matt could hear the smile in her voice. “I’m going to straighten up now. Ready?”

    He nodded and braced himself for the pain that he knew would follow. Despite his best efforts, another gasp escaped him.

    “I’m afraid you’re going to be feeling that for some time,” the nurse said sympathetically. “Are you sure you’re up to walking to that chair today?”

    Matt forced himself to take a deep breath, despite the fresh stab of agony. “Only one way to find out,” he replied. “Let’s just... take it one step at a time.”

  6. #36
    Junior Member Dragonbat's Avatar
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    He was sitting in the chair, slowly stretching his knee to his chest when he recognized a familiar heartbeat headed toward him. The only question to Matt was whether he was here in costume. “Up for visitors?” a soft voice, somewhat muffled by a face mask, inquired from the doorway.

    In costume, Matt confirmed to himself. Aloud, he said, “As long as you don’t mind if I keep exercising.” Even so, he held off on resuming his stretches and waited for Spider-Man to come closer before he spoke again. “Foggy told me what you did. I—”

    “I’m sorry,” Spider-Man interrupted. “When you weren’t breathing, I didn’t even think that maybe chest compressions would make things worse. I panicked and—”

    Matt held up a hand. “I wanted to thank you,” he clarified. “Not just for saving my life, although I am grateful. If Foggy had...” He let his voice trail off, as he listened carefully. Once reassured that his friend wasn’t within earshot, he continued. “I never dreamed he’d go after me on his own like that. If I hadn’t told him... he wouldn’t have followed me and he’d have been sa—” He shook his head. “No. From what he told me, the Kingpin was planning to have him killed and then frame me for the murder. If...” He broke off when he felt Spider-Man’s hand on his shoulder.

    “Matt,” Spidey sighed, “do us both a favor and stop beating yourself up. That’s one of those areas where you really don’t want to outshine Kingpin.”

    Matt’s lips twitched. “I believe there’s an expression involving a pot and a kettle that would be appropriate here,” he said dryly. “Regardless, you’re right on your main point. I have been beating myself up.” He brought his knee to his chest again and winced. “Very effectively.”

    “Um... I’m pretty sure Fisk gets some of the credit. When I get my mitts on him...”

    Matt shook his head. “No. He’s mine. But be careful. It’s very possible that he’s compiling data on more of us. He might know who you are, too.”

    Spidey flung his hands into the air. “You lay something like that on me and you expect me to back down? You must be on some really good painkillers.”

    “Not quite good enough,” Matt admitted. “Fine. If you’re going to confront him—and I’m going on record as advising against it—there are two things that I want you to do for me. I realize I’m not in a position where I can hold you to this, but I’m hoping that you’ll respect my wishes.”

    “I’m listening.”

    Matt repeated the stretch. “One: do not tell him that I’m alive. Eventually, someone will haul that submerged taxi out of the river and find it empty, but until then, if he thinks I’m out of the picture, I can afford to take the time to recuperate and plan my next move.”

    “Matt...” Spidey ventured, “Can you afford not to?”

    “No. That’s why it’s important that I have this breathing space, which I won’t have if he’s combing the city for me.”

    “Fine,” Spidey said. “What’s the second thing?”

    “Going by what Foggy told me, I’d say it’s likely that at least one of his people saw you fish him out of the river. I’m presuming that, if Kingpin believes I’m dead, Foggy’s safe. See if you can confirm that—without hinting to Kingpin that you’re any more concerned for him than you would be for any random potential drowning victim.” He sighed. “I’d like to be able to tell Foggy it’s safe for him to go home.”

    “Where’s he staying now?”

    Matt’s voice lowered a fraction. “He’s contacted his credit card providers to let them know his wallet’s been lost. He’s going to his bank to pick up the replacements tomorrow. After that, we’re not sure. He can check into a hotel—which would pinpoint his location, if Kingpin is looking for him. He can see if he can stay with a friend. He can try camping out in the waiting room here, if they’ll let him. He might have made other arrangements. I’m not sure.”

    “Got it. Anything else?”

    Matt hesitated. He hated having to beg favors, but... “I wish I had the funds to reimburse you or something I could give you to pawn,” he said slowly. “I need hair dye. Some color other than mine and I believe it’s easier to go darker than lighter.”

    “Okay.”

    “And color contact lenses,” Matt said. “The color doesn’t matter. If I’m going to lie low for a bit, it’s important that I not appear to be blind. There aren’t too many people wearing dark glasses at this time of year, and I’ve been told that without them, my condition is obvious.”

    Spidey nodded. “Yeah, it is. Okay. Look, I’m hard up for cash; I think you probably figured that out a long time ago. Still, what you’re asking for is relatively cheap. Like less-than-the-cost of-the-web-fluid-I-need-for-an-average-night’s-patrol cheap. And maybe...” he paused.

    “Maybe?”

    “Uh... would it be pouring salt in a wound if I asked you for free legal advice?”

    Matt sighed. “I guess that my being disbarred didn’t make the papers.”

    “It might have,” Spidey replied. “I don’t usually have time to read more than the front page and the comics. So, how does that work?”

    “Excuse me?”

    Spidey flung a strand of webbing to the ceiling, sailed up, and dangled upside-down. “Well, how do they remove your legal knowledge? Do they hire a telepath? Hypnosis? Surgery?”

    Matt didn’t bother to hide his irritation. “What are you talking about?”

    “I’m not looking to hire a lawyer,” Spidey said. “One, I can’t afford you. Two, neither can Flash.”

    “Flash,” Matt repeated, puzzled. The name meant nothing to him. “I don’t understand.”

    Spidey dropped back down to the floor in a graceful somersault. “I’m looking for legal advice, Matt—something I’d normally be a little too embarrassed to ask you for. I mean, normally, it’d be taking advantage of our friendship, since there’s no way I could afford your consultation fee. But one of my best friends was just arrested on suspicion of being the Hobgoblin. The evidence looks pretty bad. I honestly don’t know whether he’s innocent. He can’t afford a lawyer; someone named Sharon Banks is handling it pro bono, but I don’t know how good she is or how thorough she’s going to be. You told me, not so long ago, that everyone deserves the best defense they can get; the defendant as well as the plaintiff. If Flash’s case is being handled by someone who already thinks he’s guilty and is just trying to get him a lighter sentence when maybe he shouldn’t be serving one at all, do you think that qualifies?”

    Matt shook his head slowly. He remembered that conversation. It was more or less the same thing he’d told a colleague some days earlier, but the words had still applied, when he’d put his mind to convincing Peter of the merits of the legal system. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’d offer to take the case if I could, but I can’t. I can talk to Foggy about it for you, if you’re that worried about your friend’s current counsel.”

    “That would be great,” Spidey admitted, “but even if he can’t... look, whether Flash is innocent or guilty, he’s still a friend. I don’t know if Sharon Banks is just going to phone it in; she might be the greatest thing since Oliver Wendell Holmes. Or, she might be an overworked overextended burnout case who graduated in the bottom half of her class and will call it a job well done if Flash ends up serving ten to twenty instead of life. I just don’t know.” He hesitated before adding, “And if he really is the Hobgoblin, then I’m not sure I want to know. He came pretty close to killing me a couple of times.” He took another breath. “I was thinking that maybe with your help, we could come up with... something that we could hand her. Banks, I mean. You know, do a lot of the work that she might not have time to do. Maybe it’ll help. I mean, it can’t hurt, can it?” Without waiting for a reply, he plunged on. “That’s where I thought you could come in. I mean, if Foggy’s willing to represent him, that’s... that’d be really great. And if you tell me that Sharon Banks is good, I’ll trust you. But if you’re bored and looking for something to do...”

    And since he really did hate asking for favors... “You understand,” Matt said slowly, “that my mind hasn’t really been focused on that sort of thing for the last little while.”

    “I bet it’s like riding a bike.”

    Matt was silent.

    “Don’t tell me you never—”

    “I grew up in Hell’s Kitchen and money was tight, okay?” Matt snapped. “Dad had a hard enough time paying the rent and getting food on the table without my bugging him for a bike.” Not to mention that Dad would probably have said something about riding cutting into his study time.

    “Sorry.”

    Matt shook his head. “Don’t be. Or maybe I should apologize. I didn’t mean to bite your head off. I was just going to say that, because I’m out of practice, and considering that I’m no longer an attorney... if you’re sure you want my help, I think I can see my way clear to reducing my usual consultation fee to... say... the cost of some hair dye and color contacts?”

    “Sounds fair to me,” Spidey replied.

    Matt matched the smile in his friend’s voice with one of his own. “Can you get me a pad and pen? I’m going to need to take notes.”

  7. #37
    Junior Member Dragonbat's Avatar
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    When Foggy returned, it was to find Matt with a pad of 8 ½ by 11-inch paper on his lap, frowning as his fingertips ran back and forth over the page. As Foggy watched, Matt flipped the sheet over and repeated the exercise.

    “Hi, Matt. Tell me that’s not your treatment bill,” Foggy greeted him.

    Matt paused from his perusal. “No... Just an interesting puzzle Spider-Man asked me to look at.”

    Foggy pulled up a second chair and sat down. “Yeah?”

    “Flash Thompson. Arrested wearing the Hobgoblin’s costume. A search of his apartment turned up a crate containing pumpkin bombs and other trademark weapons. The guy was in the army, sort of drifted after being discharged, recently broke up with his girlfriend after she caught him with another woman—a married woman. Guy says he didn’t do it, but is unable to explain how he got to the place where he was arrested, how he got into the costume, or how that arsenal ended up in his closet.”

    Foggy let out a low whistle. “Tough case for whoever’s taking it.”

    “Do you remember Sharon Banks? She was in our year at Columbia? Sat behind me in Criminal Law.”

    “Sharon...” Foggy brightened. “Yeah... yeah, sure! We were both in Black Letter Law/White Collar Crime with McConnell. Sure, I even think we went out a couple of times.”

    “She turned you down once. The second time, you had to cancel because you caught that flu bug that was going around. Then mid-terms happened and you started going with Monica Stebbins.”

    Foggy let out an exasperated breath. “How do you remember all that?”

    Matt ignored the question. “Spider-Man asked me to examine the case and see if there’s something everyone overlooked that Banks might be able to work with. He suspects that Thompson was framed. Considering that the guy had been trying to kill him when he was apprehended, that’s saying something.”

    “Uh huh,” Foggy nodded. “Psych evaluation?”

    “It’s been ordered. Not sure when it’s happening. Guy founded a Spidey fan-club, back in the days when the Bugle wasn’t the only voice clamoring for his head. Stuck up for him in the past. Spider-Man’s looking to return the favor. Says a lot, considering that the Hobgoblin had been trying to kill him at the time of his arrest.”

    “Admiration’s been known to turn to envy before. Or disillusionment.”

    “True. Let’s just say that I’ve had some firsthand experience with being set up. It makes Spidey’s suggestion that his friend’s been framed seem a bit more plausible to me than it would have a few months ago.”

    Foggy chuckled.

    “What?”

    “Oh, nothing. It’s just... good to see you pulling yourself together is all. I don’t think you’ve been this interested in a case in months.” He hesitated for a moment before resting a hand on Matt’s arm. “Not even yours.” Then, quickly, before Matt could respond, he withdrew his hand and added, “Anything I can help with?”

    Matt gave him a rueful smile. “I thought you’d never ask. Here’s what he’s told me, so far. I did have a few other questions for him that he couldn’t answer off the top of his head. He’s going to see if he can see Thompson or Banks and ask them, but meanwhile, if you can think of a few other angles...”
    Last edited by Dragonbat; 10-27-2014 at 10:18 PM.

  8. #38
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    Spider-Man waited in the shadows of the darkened office as the heavy, ponderous footfalls drew closer. Now he could hear the greetings of various office workers.

    “Good afternoon, Mr. Fisk.”

    “Hello, Mr. Fisk.”

    “Nice day, Mr. Fisk.”

    As the office door opened, he heard another man telling the Kingpin something or other about having assembled some data on gambling operations. Fisk sounded preoccupied, which suited Spidey just fine. The man was too busy giving his flunky the brush-off to notice that his office was already occupied. As soon as Fisk closed the door behind him and walked to his desk, Spidey went into action.

    The faint sound of his web shooters deploying did not escape the larger man’s notice.

    “You may as well come out of the shadows,” he said calmly. “I know you’re here. I heard you gluing the door shut with your webbing. I realize that I’m trapped in here until it has had sufficient time to evaporate. To what do I owe the pleasure of this unexpected visit?”

    Face to face with the Kingpin, Spidey fought to keep his temper under control. He reminded himself that he couldn’t let it slip that Matt was still alive, no matter how furious he felt. “You can thank Franklin Nelson,” he said evenly. “I found out what happened to his best friend. We both know why. I am not happy.”

    Fisk sniffed. “Why come to me? I have heard of Murdock’s misfortunes. Who hasn’t? The media has been most informative on the subject. But surely, you don’t hold me responsible. The man has been obsessed with me for a long time. How could you believe any of the charges he might level against me... especially when you consider what the weight of his troubles must have done to his mind?”

    “Methinks you doth protest too much.”

    “Talk to him. Judge for yourself.”

    Behind his mask, Spider-Man’s eyes narrowed. There it was. Kingpin didn’t know that Matt had survived. Or at least, he was hoping that Spidey would let him know one way or the other. He took a deep breath. “I can’t. He was staying with Nelson, but he hasn’t been back in more than two days. Vanished. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

    Kingpin shrugged his shoulders. “Why would I? I’m running a multi-national corporation. I have a vast financial empire to oversee. Do you seriously think I’d concern myself with one disgraced former attorney?”

    “And you don’t know anything about why Nelson fell into the East river, running from your people.”

    “My people?” Kingpin chuckled briefly. “Did they tell you that they worked for me? Do you have one shred of hard evidence to support your slanderous allegations?”

    “I...” Spidey held his tongue.

    Kingpin chuckled again. “I thought not. I grant that Murdock was a passing annoyance, rather like a mosquito. Nelson is even less to me.”

    “So you aren’t after him?”

    Kingpin sighed. “I will say this once, and once only, web-slinger. I wish Mr. Franklin Nelson every success in life. I am not conducting some witch-hunt for Murdock’s past associates. If a mosquito annoys me, I may swat it, but I have far more important things to do than hunt down the colony from which it emerged. When you speak to Mr. Nelson—I can only presume that you’re here at his behest to ensure that it is safe for him to resume his daily life—as though I had any desire to prevent his doing so—please, do express my sympathies. Losing a friend can be devastating. I can only hope, for his peace of mind, that Murdock turns up eventually—and I’m sure he will.”

    “I still think you know more about that missing friend than you’re telling.”

    The larger man smiled. “Perhaps... but what can you do about it? Beat me up? Web me to a wall? Hope the police arrive and find enough evidence to convict me? That’s your usual style of dealing with criminals, isn’t it?” He took a cautious step toward the edge of his desk, hoping to take up the walking stick that leaned against it. “I’m sorry, Spider-Man, but coming here was a waste of your time.”

    There was a ‘thwipping’ sound and a blob of webbing landed on the cane, securing it to the side of the desk. “Maybe,” Spider-Man allowed, “and maybe not.” He perched lightly on the desk and regarded his adversary.

    Kingpin let out a long breath. “Aside from serving as an occasional minor annoyance, there’s no way you can possibly harm me. I am a force quite beyond your limited abilities. My network could find you to be much more of a help than a hindrance.”

    Spidey gave an angry start. “What do you mean by that?”

    “You serve me in many ways you’ve never even realized. A large part of my income comes from people who pay me for protection from you.” He was reaching for the telephone on his desk, knowing that the push of a button would summon reinforcements to deal with his unwelcome guest, when a red-gloved hand slammed down on the receiver.

    “Really? Tell me more. But keep your hands to yourself.”

    Kingpin smiled benignly, as though he was trying to explain politics to a precocious six-year-old. “You also act as an evolutionary force to help weed out the minor criminals,” he said, moving toward the book-case and the emergency exit concealed behind it. “The survivors often find places within my organization.” He was about to reach for the book that would trigger the hidden door when Spiderman touched lightly down before him, blocking his path.

    “You think you have all the answers, don’t you?”

    “Of course,” Kingpin rejoined, hiding his anger at being thwarted. “Do you realize that every time you save the city from a super menace, you’re actually helping me, by allowing the normal business of crime to continue? You’re aiding the flow of money into my pockets!”

    “Cut it out, Kingpin!”

    “Don’t feel bad, Spider-Man. I’m sure I also serve some of your needs... though I can’t even guess at them. You and I have a much closer relationship than you could ever imagine!”

    “Well, don’t hire the band and photographer yet, chubby!”

    Kingpin ignored the jibe and focused on the undercurrent of anger in his adversary’s tone. Anger made people careless. Careless people made mistakes. He smiled and continued his verbal assault. “Perhaps... it’s time I put you on payroll.”

    That hit a nerve. “Stop it, Kingpin!” Spidey nearly snarled. “You’re pushing me too hard!”

    “Am I?” The big man peered down his nose at the costumed crime-fighter and smiled. “Such a pity you can’t do anything about it. I know you, Spider-Man... Probably even better than you know yourself. You’ll never strike me first. So long as I stand here and do nothing.”

    All of a sudden, Spidey was glad that his mask hid his expression. He had what he’d come for. He didn’t need to stand here and endure the crime boss’s smug serenity a moment longer. But before he left, he wanted to make sure that Kingpin would see him as a slightly less minor annoyance than usual. “You’re...” he forced the word out, much as it galled him, “...right. It was real stupid of me to come here. I should have used my brain instead of acting on instinct.” He hesitated. Was he overdoing it? No, Kingpin seemed to be buying it. “I should have realized I couldn’t take you on as I would a simple street thug.” Almost... Just a bit more... Much as he hated laying it on this thick, it was going to be worth it. Yes, he was being petty. Juvenile, even. But so what? Kingpin needed to be taken down a peg or two, and this was the safest way to do it. Plus, he’d promised Matt he wasn’t going to interfere. This didn’t count. Much. “The only way to bring down a big leaguer like you is slowly! Subtly! Short-term methods just won’t work!”

    As Kingpin turned to face the window, Spidey made his move, taking advantage of the creak of the floor and the noise of the pane sliding back to mask his actions. Sounding bored, Kingpin opened the window wider, saying, “This has all been rather enlightening, Spider-Man, but I think you should go now. You’ve already wasted enough of my valuable time.”

    Spider-Man took a deep breath and let it out. “You’re real good at manipulating people, Kingpin,” he said, “but you’re not nearly as powerful or invulnerable as you may think. Someday, you’ll make a mistake. I’ll be waiting!” He swung out the open window, knowing that if Kingpin spotted him watching, he’d know something was up. He wished he had Matt’s ears, just this once, just so he could hear what was coming next.

    In his office, still smarting from the encounter, Wilson Fisk sat down in his chair—and promptly discovered that Spider-Man had left him a parting gift on its seat. Webbing. He was glued to the chair until the cursed stuff dissolved. Kingpin scowled and slammed his hand down on the intercom button. Instantly, his secretary’s voice came on the line.

    “Yes, Mr. Fisk?”

    He forced himself to speak calmly. “I do not wish to be disturbed for the next two hours. Keep everyone away from this office... under penalty of death!”

    He barely heard the acknowledgement. Spider-Man would pay for this humiliation. It was only a matter of time.

  9. #39
    Junior Member Dragonbat's Avatar
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    When Spidey returned to the clinic, it was to find Matt and Foggy bent over in deep discussion. They stopped as he entered.

    “Okay,” Foggy said slowly. “It doesn’t look good, but I guess you already know that much.”

    “That being said,” Matt chimed in, “I wouldn’t give up quite yet.” He beckoned Spider-Man closer. “Grab a chair. From one of the other rooms if you have to. This is going to take a while.”

    Spidey set a small paper bag down on the empty hospital cot and leaped lightly to the ceiling and squatted upside-down. “I’m good,” he said.

    “Okay.” Matt nodded to Foggy.

    “I’m willing to call Sharon Banks,” Foggy said. “For the record, if she’s anything like the way she was when Matt and I knew her in law school, your friend is in good hands. Now, we’ve never gone up against her in court, so I can’t tell you what she’s like today, but what was your impression?”

    Spidey shrugged. “I don’t know. She seemed excited to take the case, though I don’t know if it’s because she believes Flash is innocent or she’s hoping to cash in on the publicity, or what.”

    “All right.” Matt sighed. “Before Foggy makes that call, though, we might have a bit of a snag.”

    Spidey tilted his head. “Another one?”

    Matt’s lips twitched. “Spider-Man, you’ve been extremely... open with me about your friend, which I appreciate. But I suspect that part of the reason you were so open is because this isn’t the first time. Bluntly put, I know who you are under that mask, and I suspect that some of what you told me earlier would be material that Spider-Man would not be privy to.”

    Foggy nodded apologetically. “And since Matt tells me that you’ve already spoken to her in your civilian identity, it is very possible that when I approach her, she’ll let that name slip. If she does, of course, I’ll keep your secret, but I get that just my knowing it might be a problem for you.”

    There was a long silence. Spidey broke it. “I know all about ‘innocent until proven guilty’. I do. To save my friend’s life—and let’s not kid ourselves; if he’s found guilty, he’ll be facing years in prison—”

    “If he gets the maximum,” Foggy interjected.

    “Fine. If I knew Flash wasn’t guilty and this was the only way to get him off, I’d tell you. If I had to, I’d tell Banks. But I don’t know. And I’m not sure I’m ready to unmask to get a guy who’s been trying to punch my ticket for the last few months off the hook.” He shook his head. “I... I’m sorry.”

    Foggy shook his head. “Don’t be. Once that kind of information is out there... there’s no taking it back. And after what Matt’s been going through, I don’t think either of us can blame you. But it is going to make things harder.” He sighed. “All right. Let’s go over this again. And this time, I want you to take out anything written here that Spider-Man wouldn’t know. Also, before I contact Banks, I want you to encourage her to interview other people who know Thompson—if she hasn’t already. The more people she talks to before I try to get involved, the less likely I am to figure out which one of them’s you. Just... please make sure that Banks gets the rest of the information—the stuff we’re crossing out now—from your alter ego. Call Banks; tell her you thought of something that might be helpful and... I’ll try not make connections you don’t want me to if she should mention your other name to me when we review the data. Always assuming she’s willing to have me assisting.”

    “I won’t have to testify, will I?”

    Foggy gave him a tired smile. “For which side, Spidey? If you’re this ambivalent when you’re trying to get your friend some help, I don’t think we’re going to want you on the stand.” In an undertone, he added, “And good luck serving you with a subpoena.”

    Matt cleared his throat. “I do have some ideas for you if you were planning to do a little investigating of your own.”

    “No offense, Matt,” Spidey replied, “but I think I can figure out who to talk to.”

    “Yes, but do you know what to ask them? More to the point,” he continued seriously, “do you know what kind of evidence is admissible in court and what kind isn’t?”

    Spider-Man was silent.

    “Look,” Foggy said, “you want our help? You’ve got it. But now that you’ve got it, you need to know how to conduct yourself so as not to accidentally sabotage the case.”

    Spidey dropped lightly to the floor. “I’m going to grab a chair from another room,” he mumbled.

    “Do you need to take notes?” Foggy asked.

    “I’ll grab a pen and paper, too.”

  10. #40
    Junior Member Dragonbat's Avatar
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    It wasn’t until they’d gone over everything multiple times that Spidey finally remembered to tell Matt and Foggy about his meeting with the Kingpin. Both men instantly became more serious.

    “Can we trust him?” Foggy finally asked.

    Matt nodded slowly. “I think so. Kingpin doesn’t lie. He chooses his words carefully. Very carefully. If he tells you that you can sleep safely in your bed at night, he’s not ruling out a drive-by shooting.”

    “He didn’t deny that his goons were chasing you,” Spidey pointed out. “He just didn’t admit it either.”

    “Wish I had him on the stand,” Foggy muttered. “No judge would stand for that kind of garbage.”

    “Unless Kingpin had some hold on him,” Matt pointed out. “Remember Manolis?”

    Foggy nodded, but Spider-Man sat bolt upright. “Manolis?” he repeated. “I’ve heard that name before. Where...? Oh, yeah... yeah!” He stopped and looked at Foggy. “Um... you know how you said you’d try not to pry into my identity? I... this kind of touches on that.”

    Matt let out a breath. “Would you mind, Foggy?”

    “Nah,” Foggy replied, getting up. “I could use a coffee right about now. And I think I saw some Twinkies in the vending machine,” he added, rubbing his back.

    “Sorry,” Spidey said as Foggy passed by.

    “I understand.”

    As Foggy closed the door behind him, Spidey sighed. “I hated to do that.”

    “No, it’s all right. So... Manolis?”

    Spidey nodded. “I was waiting to drop some photos off at the Bugle. Jonah’s door was closed, but the guy doesn’t know the meaning of the words ‘indoor voice’. Uh... J. Jonah Jameson.”

    “I know who he is,” Matt replied. “Go on.”

    “Okay. Ben Urich was in there with him. It was...” he snapped his fingers. “That was when I found out about your home!” Then chastened, he looked down. “Sorry.”

    Matt shook his head. “Go on.”

    “Okay. Ben was arguing with Jonah. I mean, it happens; Ben’s one of the few people at the Bugle who aren’t afraid to argue with him. He was insisting on covering the story—your story; either for the Bugle or some other paper. He mentioned your house then... I’m sorry; I should have put things together. But he also said that he was going to talk to Manolis and see if he could get some insights.” He shook his head. “I am such an idiot.”

    “It seems to be going around,” Matt said quietly. “Manolis was the prosecution’s star witness at my grand jury hearing.” He took another few minutes to bring Spider-Man up to date. When he was finished, the web-slinger shook his head.

    “Want me to talk to Ben for you? Maybe found out something.”

    Matt considered it. “Better not,” he said finally. “Until Kingpin knows I didn’t drown in that car, the fewer people that know I’m alive, the better.”

    “I don’t have to mention your name.”

    Matt shook his head. “Ben’s not stupid. The only reason you’d have to be sounding him out on Manolis is if you’ve been talking to me. He’s going to make that connection.”

    “You’re sure you’re not just being paranoid? I mean, how’s Kingpin even going to find out?”

    “He had me under surveillance for weeks. He had Manolis under orders not to talk to Daredevil and to report in if I made contact. If there’s a chance that he’s still monitoring Manolis to make sure he stays quiet...” He froze. “Keep an eye on Ben. He could be in real trouble.”

    “Okay,” Spidey said dubiously. “Oh. I almost forgot.” He walked back to the cot and retrieved the paper bag. “Here’s that stuff you asked for.”

    Matt accepted the bag. “What color dye did you get?”

    “Dark brown,” Spidey said. “I figured if the clerk started asking questions, I could tell them that I’d just found a few gray hairs and wanted to touch them up.”

    “I hadn’t realized your hair was brown,” Matt replied with a faint smile. “And the contacts?”

    “Blue.”

    Matt’s smile grew wider. “Just like they used to be.”

  11. #41
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    “You know,” Foggy said, later that evening, “I’m not exactly a beautician.”


    “You’ll do fine,” Matt reassured him. “Just don’t miss any spots.”

    “Great,” Foggy replied. “Just remember, it was your idea.”

    “What’s the next instruction?”

    Foggy consulted the paper. “Um... Work mixture gently through hair from roots to ends.” He frowned. “I’d better do your eyebrows, too,” he said critically. “And I’d go for a really close shave if I were you.”

    “I’ve been thinking about growing a beard.”

    “Think about it all you like,” Foggy replied, “But unless you want to keep touching up the roots every day...”

    “Not the way this stuff smells,” Matt shot back as Foggy massaged the coloring mixture into his scalp with gloved hands.

    “When is the nurse coming back?”

    Matt tried to lean back into the sink—no easy feat in the straight-backed chair. His ribs still ached, but meditation was helping to manage the pain. “I have no idea. If they say anything, I’ll just point out that they want me gone as quickly as possible, this is probably the safest way to facilitate that.” He took a breath. “I want you to run an ad in the paper. Tomorrow’s, if there’s time.”

    “For...?”

    “A new roommate. If you get any phone calls, stall them. Tell them... I don’t know. You’ve already had a fantastic response and you’ll call them if the current batch of applicants doesn’t pan out.”

    Foggy frowned. “And I’m doing this because...?”

    “Because if Kingpin is still watching you once you return home, we want there to be a simple explanation for a new face in your apartment.”

    “Got it. I guess you’re going to be using an alias?”

    Matt frowned. “I guess I’ll have to. I hadn’t really thought about it.”

    “Well, start thinking about it. And do not think about pretending to be your own twin brother. I had enough of that garbage the first time.”

    Matt started to laugh. Then he winced and pressed a hand to his ribcage.

  12. #42
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    “Well,” Foggy said critically, “it’s a lot darker than it looked on the package.”

    Matt nodded, unconcerned. “But other than that?”

    “It’ll pass. I’m not so sure about the contacts, though.”

    Matt frowned. “Why? They don’t look natural enough?”

    “No, it’s not that.” Foggy hesitated. “It’s... you need to work on establishing eye contact. If that’s even possible for you to fake. Half the time, you already forget to face people when you’re talking to them, but when you’re not trying to act like you can see, people tend to let it slide. If you’re trying to pass, on the other hand...”

    “I’ll work on it.” He frowned.

    “What?”

    “Spider-Man,” Matt said slowly. “Something’s happened.”

    “And how do you know...” Foggy’s voice trailed off as Spider-Man entered the room, his head hanging low and his shoulders slumped.

    “Spider-Man?” Matt asked. “What’s wrong?”

    The web-slinger hesitated. “I went to look for Ben, like you asked me to. Um... Merry Christmas, by the way. As of about two hours ago.”

    Foggy’s eyebrows shot up. “Wow. How did that slip my mind?”

    “Other things on it,” Matt pointed out. He nodded to Spidey to continue.

    “I couldn’t find him or Manolis anywhere. And while I was looking for him, I ran into the usual... stuff I find when I go out at night. I might have gotten a little side-tracked. Anyway, about a half hour ago, I was in Kips Bay, passing Bellevue, when I saw a bunch of EMTs in the parking lot. They were bending over a couple of people. Ben was one of them. He was hurt and he seemed... I guess ‘shell-shocked’ would be a good way to put it. One of the paramedics was talking to him. But the other guy...”

    Spidey shook his head. “They were loading him onto a backboard. He wasn’t conscious. I’m not sure he was breathing. But I heard his name when one of the EMTs read it off of his ID.” He took another breath. “It was Manolis.”

  13. #43
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    References: Daredevil, Volume 1; No. 75, Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 1; No. 281.

    A/N: In researching Irish speech patterns, I’m hoping that I’ve gotten it right. I apologize for any inadvertent offense.

    Chapter 10

    For a moment, neither Matt nor Foggy said a word. Then, Matt gripped the armrests of his chair tightly with both hands. “Back before the hearing,” he said, “Ben called me. He wanted to find out what was going on. I blew him off.” He shook his head. “Not that I knew what was going on either, but...”

    “Yeah,” Spidey nodded. “It could have gotten a little awkward if you’d let it slip that it was Daredevil-related, as opposed to—”

    Matt shook his head. “Ben found out about that a long time ago.”

    “You have got to be kidding,” Spidey said, shocked.

    “No. He knows. And since the Bugle was following my grand jury hearing, Ben would have found out about it—which would explain why he was so hot to talk to Manolis, once he knew I was avoiding him.” He quickly brought Spider-Man up to speed on what had happened when he’d confronted the officer himself.

    The masked man clapped a hand to his forehead. “It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Manolis is a decorated officer. Well-respected. I guess it’s possible that he could be on Kingpin’s payroll, but...”

    “I know,” Matt sighed. “If he’d been on record as a Brady cop...”

    “A what?”

    “I’ll field this one,” Foggy broke in. “Say a cop messes up one time and gets caught falsifying evidence or committing perjury. That kind of thing follows them for life. Any time they might be called upon to testify in court—pretty common occurrence for most officers, as you can imagine—that testimony gets called into question.” He smiled. “Or, simply put, a known liar isn’t likely to be believed, even when they’re telling the truth.”

    Spidey nodded. “Wait. If a Brady cop is a cop who’s already been caught lying, or whatever... why are they still cops?”

    “Most of the time,” Matt replied, “they aren’t quite bad enough to be fired. Or they might be, but the department doesn’t want to get tied up in a possible wrongful dismissal suit. Trust me, the media is all over it when people who are supposed to represent the law find themselves on the witness stand for all the wrong reasons. It starts people asking questions about whether the defendant was the only one to slip through the cracks, or just the only one—so far—to get caught.” He heard Foggy’s sharp intake of breath and waved him off. “I’m fine. Anyway, rather than leave themselves open to a media feeding frenzy, the usual solution to the problem is to quietly move these people into areas where they’ll never have to make an arrest, thus obviating their need to testify against a defendant in court. They get switched into desk jobs, like permits or personnel.”

    “It sounds pretty humiliating. You’d think they’d just quit.”

    “Some do,” Foggy nodded. “But keep in mind that Brady cops are still paid a police officer’s salary. And while that’s nowhere near a seven-figure income, it’s not chump change either. Add in the pension and benefits and... There are a fair number who figure it’s worth a little humiliation.”

    “So, as I was saying,” Matt continued, “if Manolis had been a Brady cop, the case against me would have been tossed out. There’s no question. A first-year law student could have won it. To make the charges against me carry weight, Kingpin had to find someone absolutely incorruptible...”

    “...And corrupt him,” Foggy finished.

    “How?” Spidey asked.

    Matt sighed. “If we knew that...” His expression hardened. “Ben would have been wondering the same thing. If he tracked down Manolis... and Manolis was ready to talk... and they were being watched....”

    “Why would they have met at a hospital, of all places?” Foggy wondered. “It’s not exactly private. Hell, this place isn’t private; it’s just a bit off the beaten track and we wouldn’t be having this kind of discussion here if Matt wasn’t recuperating.”

    “Good point.” Matt frowned. “I don’t suppose you could locate Ben’s home or office number for me, Spider-Man?” he ventured. “My address book blew up with my brownstone. I think it might be time to compare notes.”

    “Sure,” Spidey said. “I know his ext...” he stopped. “I know his extension would be written on his phone,” he continued glibly. “I’ll just stop by the Bugle after hours and get it.”

    “Sounds like a plan,” Matt nodded.

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    Two days later, Foggy arrived at the clinic to find Matt out of bed and gripping his IV pole tightly. He gave Foggy a pained smile. “I’m fine when I stay in one position,” he said. “It’s when I have to get up or sit down that I have to struggle.” He shook his head. “Still, I’m doing better now than I was when Spidey brought me in. How are you doing?”

    “I signed a lease on a new place today,” Foggy announced. “I take possession on January 2nd. Two bedrooms, not far from the old one. I even get to keep my old phone number. I figured that if I was going to go the whole ‘advertise for a new roommate’ route, it might look better if I had another room where they could sleep.” He held up a hand, wondering if Matt realized he was doing it. “Don’t argue. Don’t apologize. Don’t protest. It’s done. Over. Moving on, now.”

    Matt sighed. “How much more?”

    “None of your—”

    “How much?”

    Foggy named a figure. Matt nodded. “I’ll start looking for some kind of work as soon as I can get out of here.” He held up his own hand in conscious imitation of Foggy’s earlier gesture. “No. Enough is enough. If you seriously want me to stay on, then I need to start contributing my share. We both know that you wouldn’t be moving if I hadn’t let you get involved—”

    “Excuse me?” Foggy interrupted. “If you hadn’t let me? How were you planning to stop me?”

    “I’ve done it before,” Matt replied. “Do you remember when you collapsed in that alley in Delvadia on our way to the embassy?”

    “Huh?” Foggy blinked in surprise. “Yeah, one minute we were walking along, talking and then you...” A note of anger crept into his voice. “You yelled that there was something behind me and the next thing I knew, I was waking up with a headache and some local kid was...” He gave an angry start. “You didn’t.”

    “Afraid so,” Matt admitted. “I didn’t want to, but I...”

    “Had to get away to change into costume,” Foggy sighed. “Tell me again how much safer I was not knowing about your night job?”

    Matt shook his head.

    “And you’re planning a repeat performance?”

    “I didn’t plan the first one. I just... improvised,” he admitted. “If I’d thought things through, I probably wouldn’t have.”

    “Probably?”

    Matt let out a slow breath. “Does it help that I felt like a jerk for doing it?”

    “Well, you were a jerk for doing it.”

    “Feel any better about allowing me to pay part of the rent on the new place now?”

    There was a long silence. Finally, Foggy sighed. “If and when you find a job, we’ll continue this discussion. Until then, let’s just consider the matter tabled.” He frowned. “The next time we have a business trip in some foreign country, I’m bringing a helmet with me. Not to mention Luke Cage.”

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    It was Peter Parker who stopped by later that afternoon, a few minutes after Foggy left the clinic. He’d walked several steps past Matt, who had been slowly making his way down the hallway and grunting with the effort, before he doubled back. “Sorry. I almost forgot about your new look,” he admitted.

    “You changed your clothes,” Matt remarked. A slow smile spread his lips when Peter stopped in his tracks. “Your voice was muffled before. Don’t worry. Foggy will be gone for a bit.” He sighed. “He had to do some shopping.”

    “Groceries?”

    “Furniture. I don’t suppose you’ve heard of any job prospects for a disgraced former attorney, lately?”

    “Huh?”

    Matt sighed again. “The more he insists that I don’t have to reimburse him, the more I need to. This morning, I’m pretty sure I deliberately brought up an incident when I was... well, let’s just say that it was a time when I was nowhere near as good a friend to him as he’s being to me and I think some part of me wanted him to realize it.”

    “Did it work?”

    Matt shook his head. “Oh, he got angry, all right. Then he cracked a joke and started making a list of things he needed to take care of before my discharge. I just...” He felt a slight pressure on his shoulder and turned his head on reflex, even though his radar had already caught the contour of Peter’s hand. “There is no way that I can possibly pay him back for these last few weeks, unless he ever finds himself in a situation like my current one and I don’t think I’d...” His lips twitched. “Okay, I guess I would wish that on my worst enemy. But not my best friend.”

    “I hear you. I’ll keep my eyes peeled. Anyway, I did find something out today. Sort of accidentally.”

    “About your friend, Flash?”

    Peter shook his head. “No. Something did happen on that front; I’ll fill you in on it in a minute. But first, I did a little bit of skulking at Bellevue. I was looking for information about Ben’s condition. And Manolis’.”

    Matt stopped walking. “And?”

    “Well, Ben’s going to be fine. Broken fingers, but the prognosis is positive. Manolis... they’re not sure. But that’s not the accidental part. See, there were two records listed under ‘Manolis’. One was for Nick. The other was for an Anthony Manolis—a kid, ten years old, underwent emergency heart surgery on the night of December 24th. He... he didn’t make it. The hospital recorded the time of death as midnight. And when I was swinging by, it was maybe a half hour or so later.” He paused for a beat. “Nicholas Manolis was listed as his next of kin.”

    Matt let out a long breath. “I believe that would explain why a decorated police officer with a spotless record would commit perjury on the stand. I’ve fought insurance companies in the courtroom before. I’ve had to learn something about typical policies: what they generally cover, what they generally don’t, and what kinds of co-pays are typical. And heart surgery, even when they pay a significant part of the cost, the co-pay is... prohibitive. Sometimes, depending on the policy and what the exclusions might be, it wouldn’t be covered at all. Obviously, without seeing Manolis’ coverage, I can’t comment further. But if Kingpin offered to cover the cost, provided Manolis did what he wanted...” He nodded slowly. “It does make sense.”

    “And then the kid... doesn’t make it. And Manolis realizes that he got you disbarred—”

    “—Not to mention, gave Kingpin something to hold over him in future, should he need other dirty jobs done...”

    Peter sucked in his breath. “I hadn’t thought of that, but yeah. So... for whatever reason... grief, guilt, anger... he decides to come clean. He doesn’t turn himself in—not to the authorities—not when he doesn’t know who’s working for Kingpin and might cover the whole thing up—but to a member of the press, as it were...”

    “And he tries to talk to Ben in the parking lot, but somebody else was keeping an eye on one or both of them and follows them...”

    “And the next thing you know, one of them has broken fingers and the other one’s in ICU,” Peter nodded. “It all fits.”

    “It does,” Matt nodded back. “I’ve asked you to keep an eye on Ben. Breaking his fingers was a warning. It’s a pretty effective way to silence a writer. If, despite that, he goes ahead with the story, I don’t think I need to tell you the danger he’ll be in.”

    “I know. I’m on it.”

    “Thanks.” Matt smiled. “Now,” he continued seriously, “You mentioned something about your friend’s case? Foggy hasn’t contacted Sharon Banks yet. He was going to, but he thought it might be wiser to wait until he had a phone number where he could be reached.”

    Peter sighed. “I... It’s just as well, I guess. Two days ago, some guy named Jack O’Lantern broke him out of jail. He hasn’t been seen since. I’m hoping I can track him down and convince him to turn himself in before he gets in any deeper, but right now, I have no leads.”

    Matt nodded. “Keep me in the loop.”

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