Karen's heart sank the moment the door opened.
Even through the narrow gap the chain allowed, she could see that this wasn't the corroborating witness she'd spent two weeks hunting down to finally, finally, finally catch a break in the Horovitz suit. It was the right woman, sure, but Karen knew the look in her eyes too well. Charissa Samson wasn't going to be testifying against her thug of a boyfriend any time soon, and Karen had just been wasting her time.
Well, she was here now. "Ms. Samson?" she asked, trying for an amiable smile. "May I come in?"
Twenty minutes later, Karen clutched a dish towel to her arm and tried to keep the smell of blood from carrying her places she didn't want to go.
A steady steam of, "Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God," tumbled off Charissa's lips to swirl uselessly past Karen. No help there.
Karen sighed, also unhelpful, but better than screaming. "Now do you want to file charges?" Damn. She hadn't meant to snap, but her arm burned like a bitch. She was sure it needed stitches.
Charissa's skin, washed out when she'd first opened to door, had paled to ash. "Oh God. You can't. Promise you won't. He'll kill me."
"That'll be a change!" Snapping again. Fine then, but he would have managed it, if Karen hadn't gotten in the way.
"Oh God." Sobs doubled Charissa over, and she braced against the counter, trying to breathe through them, the forgotten kettle shrilling beside her. Karen could have killed that kettle.
"You wouldn't be alone," Karen insisted, forging the urge to scream into words, even if they were ones she'd been repeating since she got there. "We'd–"
Charissa rose and twisted, her fingers dug into Karen's shoulders. "You can't! Promise me!"
She hadn't known who to call, so she'd called Claire. "I got your number off Maddie's phone," she'd said, and, "He came over unexpectedly and went at her with a knife. I got in the way," and, "I don’t want to be a client instead of an employee," and, "I don’t want to tell Maddie." All true, and none of it the whole story.
It had been a bullshit day anyway, so why put it on Claire?
Instead, she'd leaned in and kissed Claire. Because Claire had that look in her eye, and Jesus Karen had needed to feel something that wasn't hurt. At least this was a different kind of hurt. Claire's fingers dug into the same places as Charissa's had, and her lacerated arm still burned with every heartbeat. This was Karen's doing, her pain, and she was in control, just like in the story she'd told Claire.
They hit the floor pretty quick, with Claire taking the impact to shelter her needlework, and Karen's good hand already down Claire's pants.
"Dammit," Claire muttered, but she pushed her hips up and nipped Karen's earlobe, so it didn't sound like a "No." That and she'd already got Karen's bra unhooked and pushed out of the way. She was trying to get a knee up under Karen's skirt, but the angle wasn't right, and Karen's balance wasn't going to last.
They tumbled again, sideways across snipped bandage ends and paper wrappings, and Claire came up on top, rucking Karen's skirt up past her hips, and bending down to bury her face between her beasts. Karen let herself be pinned, for now, and bit her lips when Claire's teeth closed on her nipple.
Claire was wet under her fingers, and, if Karen was falling, at least for now she wasn't alone.
The next morning, Maddie knew before Karen stepped foot in the office. That damn nose of hers sniffed right past it all–the sex, the shower and outrageous over-application of Vivienne Westwood's Boudoir that Karen had been hoping would act as the olfactory equivalent of aviator glasses over a black eye–and found blood. Seconds later, she'd trapped Karen's wrist and pushed her sleeve back up over the bandage.
Foggy, of course, was right there over her shoulder, demanding, "What happened to you?" Then exclaiming, "The hell!" when Karen told her it was nothing.
She jerked her arm away from Maddie–the jolt of pain almost stopped her heart–and stepped sideways and away. She held up a hand so they didn't follow, and kept backing up until her thighs brushed the desk. "Back. Off," she snapped.
Maddie's eyebrows dipped down behind her glasses in a suppressed frown, but it was Foggy's set expression–her lips thin and turned down in disappointment and distress–and her imploring, "Karen, please," that broke Karen's resolve.
She sighed, and started, "I found that new girlfriend Ms Horovitz mentioned, but when I went to her, apparently..." This time, she didn't leave out any part of that night. Anything, except Claire.
While she explained, she braced for Maddie to go off the rails and threaten extra-judicial vengeance, and for Foggy to put a restraining hand on her arm and look like she felt sorry for both of them. The depth of Maddie's anger scared her, and Foggy's pity made her sick.
But Foggy said, "Oh, man!" like she'd won the lottery, and Karen started. She'd been watching Maddie, and had missed Foggy's gleeful little smile. "We are going to nail this guy to the wall like a... a painting... of something nailed to the wall."
Maddie tilted her head and squeezed Foggy's arm, saying, "Foggy," at the same time as Karen leaned back to rest on the edge of her desk.
Foggy ignored them. "When Judge Hau hears about our boy assaulting a law clerk with a deadly weapon, it's not going to matter who his uncle is. This is better than a thousand corroborating girlfriends."
"Foggy," Karen said warningly. Maddie shook her head.
"What? Come on, I can smell the damages from here."
"Claire stitched her up," was all Maddie had to say.
"Shit," Foggy said.
Karen just hoped Maddie couldn't smell her relief.
They'd had to go around that circle for another half hour before Foggy let it go. "I guess we're not any further back than we were," she finally said, but she looked like Santa had stolen her candy cane.
Maddie just looked murderous. Karen would have to do something about that before nightfall. After Karen took a handful of painkillers and the chance to scream.
By some small miracle, Maddie and Foggy had managed to work through all the reasons Karen couldn't press charges–the lack of hospital records, the problems with asking Claire to testify, Karen's promise to Charissa–without once mentioning the real problem. Karen wondered if it were possible that they didn't know what it had taken Ben Urich less than a day to dig up. Were they just being polite, or did they really not understand why putting her on the stand was a terrible idea?
They retreated to Maddie's office, leaving Karen to the reception desk and little to do. She'd burned through her paperwork waiting to go to Charissa's the evening before, and how often did they get a new client?
Karen picked up her phone and scrolled through the contacts to C–the newest at the top, just that letter–then blinked and paged back to home. She stared at the screen, wondering where she'd gotten that urge.
It wasn't complicated: last time she'd been hurting, Claire had made her feel better.
Hell, there'd been a moment when they were both lying on the floor–Karen's head on Claire's chest, their hands laced together on Karen's hip, both of their hearts still racing–when Karen hadn't thought about what it felt like to put nine rounds into the chest of a living man and never tell a soul.
Karen put her phone away.
Tedium had reduced Karen to filing her nails, which was a stereotype, but she couldn't help it. Her girls hadn't sent her home, but she wasn't back in the loop either.
Her only advance had been talking Daredevil out of a revenge spree.
"He tried to hurt you." Maddie's voice had been pitched just too low for Foggy to hear. "With a knife."
"We use the law," Karen had insisted. "We have a decent case already."
Decent, but not stellar, neither of them had added, though Maddie's face had hardened.
Now they were doing busy work until the court date. Rather, Nelson and Murdock were doing busy work. Karen was doing her nails.
She looked up as the door opened, the beginning of a greeting coming automatically, then dying before the words were out.
Charissa Samson didn't look any less scared than she had the first time Karen had seen her, but her expression had changed all the same. She's lifted her chin like she knew someone was going to hit her, but this time she planned to be ready for the blow.
"Is Ms Murdock in, Karen?" she asked. "You were right. I do need to talk to her."
If they were lucky, Josie's booze would kill them before anything else in this wretched city did.
"To Ms Page," Maddie toasted, and Foggy seconded, pronouncing each word with care, "A procurer of witnesses and keeper of promises." Their glasses clinked over Karen, nearly sloshing onto her phone.
C. The letter still floated blearily on the screen.
Karen smiled. The keeping of promises, it seemed, had mattered most of all, at least to Charissa Samson.
She slipped the phone into her purse before knocking back her drink and saying, "That's it for me, ladies. I've got a call to make."