There was no echo as she walked. The hallways were unpolished, the paint on the walls peeling. The entire building looked like it hadn't been touched since the mid-90's. Until you reached the second floor, which was immaculately clean on the outside, the door varnished and the frosted window emblazoned: Nelson & Murdock, Attorneys at Law.
She half-stooped to enter the doorway, her Amazonian stature not suited to the cramped Hell's Kitchen. Inside, papers were piled halfway to the ceiling, and a new secretary (there seemed to be a different one every year) was diligently typing away, attempting to ease the chaos that was the lawyers' workload. Pacing through the labyrinth of court orders was Foggy Nelson, who stopped dead in his tracks when he saw her.
"J-Jen!" he exclaimed, observing her in awe.
Her hair was tied back, business-like, but her attire was a simple blouse and a pair of tight jeans. You'd mistake her for any passer-by in New York, if it weren't for her bright emerald skin.
"Hey, Foggy, is he here?" Jennifer Walters smiled.
Foggy's expression fell as he realized she was here for Matt, as most beautiful women were when they darkened their door.
"Nope. Your guess is as good as mine. If you see him, tell him to get his butt over here, we're drowning in this stuff."
"Ah." she sighed. "I may have to add to your caseload."
"Is it any good?" the portly lawyer quizzed.
"I don't have all the details yet. Let me get Matt and we'll talk over coffee." She turned to leave, "See you later, Foggy!"
The door closed, Foggy was still for a moment, before collapsing, sighing wistfully, into a chair which his secretary raced to catch him in.
"Isn't she wonderful?" he smiled.
Outside, Jen entered the cold, narrow streets of Hell's Kitchen and bristled at it. She knew good people lived here. Good families, trying to get by, but she couldn't help it. A place like Hell's Kitchen would make anyone turn their collar up or hold their wallet a little tighter.
She stepped into the adjacent alley, keeping her eyes up, trying to spot a red blur on the rooftops above. She was so engrossed in her search that she failed to notice another person in the alley, until she collided with him.
"Oh! I'm sorry!" She said, gripping the person before they hit the ground. They were bundled in heavy coat, muffled behind a thick scarf, and hidden beneath a wide-brimmed hat, which had miraculously survived the collision.
"Not a problem, doll." the Brooklyn accent rasped. "Say, you ain't the She-Hulk?"
"Not on the weekdays, buddy." Jen answered, smiling as she walked away.
"You here to see Daredevil?" he called after her.
"He's not Daredevil!" she tried her best to conceal Matt's already-public identity, "But yeah."
"Well, if you see him, tell him I got something for him!"
She turned to finish the shouting conversation, but before once she did, two hands gripped her shoulders, hard. She saw the arms that held her lead into the man's sleeves, on the other end of the alley, were a telescopic steel contraption.
Oh, you've got to be kidding me, she thought. "Stilt-Man!?"
"The very same!" the minor, laughing stock of a villain yelled in triumph.
Inside his arms, servos began to spin, pulling She-Hulk toward him. She dug her feet into the earth, and stopped him in his tracks. For a long second they stood there, neither moving, neither flinching. Until Jen gripped Stilt-Man's wrist and lifted him off his feet. His arms collapsed in on themselves at breakneck speed as he shot towards her.
She fired a devastating punch to his head, and he shot high into the air. She leaped at a nearby fire escape, racing to catch him halfway down, but he fired up his extending legs and stomped on the top of the fire escape. Old and rickety, the iron had no chance against his onslaught and collapsed. Jen's wrist was trapped instantly, and she was pulled into the collapsing structure.
Stirring her head, she recovered quickly and pushed a half-ton of metal off herself with little effort. She flung a warped chunk of the fire escape at the 30-foot leg in front of her, and ruptured it at the knee.
Stilt-Man came down fast, but his arm came down faster, striking the ground like a lightening. Jen leaped to the side to avoid the strike, but another quick whip flattened every trashcan on that side of the alley, as well as sending her into a She-Hulk-shaped crater in the wall.
She grabbed the arm as it contracted, pulling Stilt-Man to her again. He may be laughable, but he wasn't dumb, and he was able to disengage her grip before she reached him. She brought her heavy green fist down at his head, but he crossed his arms and blocked, then folded his arms over her hand, trapping her.
He twisted her wrist hard, and she cried out, not expecting such a strike from a minor nuisance. She smacked him upside the head with her other hand, jarring him for a moment, before she brought it down on top of her bindings. The arms kinked beneath her strike, but not enough to let her go.
She-Hulk grabbed hold of the arm, and crushed it against her trapped forearm. The metal buckled and locked in place, unmoving. Inside his suit, Stilt-Man tried to retract his arms, to no avail. He looked at the forest-skinned femme fatale with panic in his visored eyes, and she just smirked at him.
She picked him up by his tangled pretzel arms and swung him against the wall of the alley, then against the opposite wall. Then back again for good measure. When she set him on his feet, she tore his extend-O-arms out of their sockets. He lifted his uninjured leg to strike her, but her heavy (yet fricking gorgeous) boot met his chest quicker, and he was launched 50-feet into a pile of week-old trash.
Jen sauntered up to him. She had no need to rush, given that he was currently slipping on garbage juice in a futile attempt to stand. As he slid into the black bags again, she gripped him by the helmet and lifted him to head-height.
"Why are you attacking me?" she asked flatly.
"Don't know what you're talkin' about."
"Seriously? Seriously? That's what you're going for?"
He remained tight-lipped.
"I'm going to smash you into more walls, unless you tell me something that makes me happy."
His face contorted slightly. Less "stoic scowl", more "I want my mommy".
She swung him fast, stopping just before his skull caved in the pavement.
"Ohgodnopleasestopdonhurtme!" He babbled. And continued babbling. She had to slap him to get him to shut up.
"Okay. Let's start again. Hi, I'm She-Hulk. Who hired you?" she smiled sweetly at him, but her grip tightened.
"I dunno, man, honest! A guy came up to me while I'm flippin' burgers at this joint on 9th Avenue, tells me to kill Daredevil, gives me $10,000 in cash, buys a Pepsi and leaves! What do you want from me!?"
"A believable story, for one!" she rattled him.
"That's my story and I'm sticking to it!" he squealed, "It's the truth!"
She nodded, understanding, then slammed him into a wall. Stilt-Man crumbled to the ground, unconscious, as She-Hulk accepted his story as fact. Hell, this guy was hardly the brains behind the operation, assuming this attack was even connected to the issue she needed to speak with Matt about. Could just be your run-of-the-mill super-powered lawyer killing.
Someone she could ask, though, would be the scarlet streak that darted across the sky above the alley just then. Jen turned and strode back into Nelson and Murdock's cramped high-rise office, nearly giving Foggy another heart attack with her smile, before she pushed past him and into Matt's office, where she found him with his suit pants halfway up over his red pyjamas.
"Hi, Jen. Don't suppose you have an appointment?" The redhead smiled. His eyes radiated warmth, despite the fact that they were almost completely milk-white. He put his sunglasses on, buttoned up his shirt, and took a seat at his desk.
"Actually, Matt," Foggy began, following her into the office, flanked by the secretary who was armed with a tray of coffee, "Jen's here to talk to us about a case."
"Huh. It's not often one of New York's premier counsellors comes down to talk to us street-level types. Has something happened?"
"Needed your experience with a client. The Punisher was arrested last night." Jen laid the facts out plain, having never been one for theatrics.
"What'd he do?" Matt asked, a single eyebrow arching into his forehead.
"What is he accused of doing?" Foggy corrected his friend.
"Oh, no, he totally did it." Jennifer said. "If it's Punisher, you can be sure he did it. Last night, he stormed a penthouse in Soho, killed 10 people who'd been living there. It was a makeshift barracks for The Hand."
"The Hand?" Foggy asked. "The Hand are back in New York?"
"The Hand probably never left New York." Matt stated, "What worries me is that Frank got caught. Frank doesn't get caught."
"Well, he got caught this time. Boys in blue were on the scene within five minutes."
"Five minutes?" Matt blurted, incredulous. "In Soho? Not a chance. This is some kind of fix."
"That's what I thought. But he won't tell me who gave him the tip-off, won't tell me about his planning the attack, won't even give testimony. He just sort of, sits there…" Jen trailed off, looking absent-mindedly at her coffee.
"He's been to prison before. He knows how to bide his time until he can make an escape. He knows he's done for, and he's preparing himself." Matt spoke matter-of-factly when he spoke about The Punisher. Not his usual, caring self at all.
"I dunno about this case, Matt. I know he's not innocent, he's unrepentant, and he has almost no sense of limitations to do what he thinks is right. He killed people. They weren't good people, but he killed them." Jennifer still couldn't meet his eyes, even if he was blind.
"I know, Jen. Frank inspires this kind of duality in people. He's what we would be if we didn't have conscience." The softness had returned to his voice.
"So you gotta do what you think is right," Foggy piped up, "if you don't think you can represent him, then you can transfer. But if you choose to go for it, you gotta go for it with everything you got."
"I know he's going away, there's nothing I can do about that. The Punisher knows it too. But I still don't think that would be justice."
"What do you have in mind, Counsellor?" Matt asked.
"I want to find the guys who set him up. I want to bring them down with him. At least then there'll be some balance to all this." Jen downed the last of her coffee, tasting where the sugar had set.
"So that's why you came to see me?"
"No." Jennifer said, "Not exactly. You've represented him before. You've stood by him. You've even worked with him on occasion…"
"When the time called for it, and under strict supervision." Matt interjected.
"Yeah, but you did. I wanted you to tell me that I was doing the right thing, Matt. I didn't know where The Punisher falls in this whole heroes-and-villains world."
"He doesn't fall anywhere. He's going to pay for what he does, one day. Hell, he pays for it every day."
"So you'll take the case?" Jen smiled.
"Daredevil will take the case." Matt returned her smile. Somehow it means more coming from Matt, when you know he's can't be mimicking your smile to make you feel better.
He stood, and walked to the other side of the desk, placing his hand on her broad shoulder.
"Matt Murdock, though, wants to tell you that you're doing the right thing. This is how it's meant to go, Jen."
She gripped his hand and smiled wider. Foggy just downed his coffee, the awkward third wheel.