Hardboiled detectives, unwashed trenchcoats, inelegant women, and unsympathetic murder victims.
Original fiction is currently bleeding my brain, so: decided to start this piece of '40s AU OT3 crackfic I'd long been kicking ideas around for as a distraction. (RAYMOND CHANDLER, FORGIVE ME.)
The parts later on where Rorschach actually starts investigating people, and shit? It'll probably be a lot like that scene in the comic where the guy's all LOLOL HE HAS FRIENDS?? MUSTA CHANGED HIS DEODORANT LOLOLOL, only MORE so. (And the people saying that stuff will be wearing awesome fedoras when they get their fingers broken.)
"Edward Blake is dead."
She said it expectantly, with blunt flourish, like the punchline to a joke that fell flat. As if the same thing hadn't already been screamed from every headline, from the mouth of every soot-faced street urchin, hands clenched tight around bundled stacks of papers this morning.
He didn't appreciate the insult to his intelligence.
"Apologies. Must have mistaken me for an incompetent reporter. Or a foreigner who just stepped off the boat to this country thirty-five minutes ago."
That was her cue for an indignant reply, a stormier exit. Instead, she smiled pleasantly, as though he'd just complimented her elaborate hairstyle.
"Winning personality like that, makes it difficult to imagine you haven't been getting more business lately."
She slouched against the doorframe without the barest hint of grace, silhouette striking against the gloomy light dappled behind her, and bit crimson lips down on a long-stemmed cigarette holder. Other men would have perhaps let their minds wander to shallow places, vile places. He merely let loose a sharp, sudden cough.
He didn't like smoking. Never had.
Pointing at the cheerfully-painted 'No smoke, folks!' plaque he'd pilfered from the greasy diner down the block (the Gunga - good for an order of black coffee and blacker toast, not exactly noted for the amicable disposition of its staff), he tilted his chin defiantly, waiting for the slightest indication of protest. She coolly eyed him, exhaling a lungful of smoke in his direction before striding forward and crushing the end of the cigarette out on his desk. He grunted.
Her lips curled into something like a smirk.
"Don't mention it."
Straightening, she loomed over his desk with startling presence, studying him; he fought the sudden, pathetic urge to shrink slightly back before she turned on her heel and moved to shut the door. Then seated herself across from him. Before he had the chance to tell her to do so.
A prickle of irritation skittered down his spine.
"Laurel Jane Juspeczyk." She was introducing herself now, albeit briskly, and the name snapped, tugged at his memory, vaguely familiar. Still. Unimportant. He said nothing, waiting for her to quickly get to the point.
"We'll talk about payment later, I'm sure you're anxious about that--" if this was meant as a slight towards the state of his office (or his manner of dress, or his unshaven jaw, or the faint smell of decay that continually seemed to hover around him like a lame buzzard), he would simply ignore it, "--but... here's the important part, see. Yes, everyone knows that Edward Blake is dead," and here, she uttered a crooked laugh:
"But I think the big creep was murdered."
He'd gathered enough information to suit his purposes. For now, anyway.
Her story-telling methods were too clipped, too tinged with barely restrained anger, to be entirely false; he wasn't giving her the benefit of the doubt, it just made an odd kind of sense. And he wanted to begin his investigation as soon as darkness hit the city - it was closely approaching five-thirty already.
She seemed content, however, to linger in his office when she was no longer needed, gazing at the newspaper clippings lining his walls with almost the gaping, open-mouthed reverence of an awed child. The articles were mostly text, past accomplishments he felt needed collecting more for quick reference than to be displayed as flat, ugly trophies, but a scant few held photographed glimpses of him, of Dreiberg, back in their glory days, wrapped in stiff-collared coats and faces shielded by respective masks. Better times. Times before he had to start working in secret, before that complacent idiot Keene caught wind of their success and whipped the city into a collective furor, before he decided to--
"And who's that on the left, there?"
She was nodding up at the last framed clipping on the wall, yellowed and wrinkled with age. At the slim, dark form just barely caught in the photographer's lense, lingering next to Dreiberg.
The boy in the photograph.
He was - or had been - a young informant of theirs, known only as The Wasp; named not only for his slight, agile frame and stinging way with words, but for dressing all in black, from his bandana eyemask and baker boy cap down to clunky leather work boots - except for those dashes of bright, punctuating yellow from four silk scarves knotted tightly around lithe biceps and thighs, makeshift garters for heavy wool and corduroy in need of hemming.
"Old informant," he gritted out. "Good kid. Fast. Clever. Didn't ask imbecilic questions."
Juspeczyk twisted her mouth into an embittered smile.
In truth, he was painting a rosier picture of their former relationship than truly existed: he'd never cared for the boy's spitfire routine, finding it disrespectful, a careless cry for attention. Dreiberg had been too stupidly fond of the child (likely of the idealism of youth) to share the sentiment, and he suspected his former partner coddled the boy with extra pocket money, surely only wasted on excess like ice cream sodas and sex-filled picture shows, on more than one occasion.
"Probably dead now," he added, by way of ending the discussion. This was likely true; mortality and ableness to work held fast together, at least as far as he was concerned. Juspeczyk's eyes narrowed thoughtfully.
A silence born of uneasiness was rapidly filling his office like another kind of toxic smoke, something he often tried to avoid. He cleared his throat.
"If you'll see yourself out, Miss Juspeczyk." She raised her eyebrows at his aloofness, but he ignored it, soldiering on. False civility wasn't part of the job description. "Work to be done here. Imagine you've better things to do than watch the bolts slowly twist into place."
"Yes; yes, I imagine I do." She stepped back, touching the doorknob, before twisting around to fix him with one last piercing look - a look that, though most likely found intimidating, left him only in fevered discomfort.
He exhaled sharply as the door finally shut behind her and the steady click of heels on hardwood floor signaled her exit, rubbing a hand along the fresh copper stubble lining his jaw. A shave and a quick cup of coffee were in order before he began work.
He had a few ideas on where to start tonight. May as well call up an old ally for a favor.