A light rainstorm fell on Harlem that scorching hot summer night. Instead of breaking the heat, the rain just increased the humidity. Luke Cage could see steam wafting off the pavement from inside the car. He pulled a handkerchief out of his dress’ shirt’s breast pocket and dabbed sweat from his bald head. Marcus, sitting in the driver’s seat, perused over a racing sheet. The rain futzed with their radio, but the sounds of big band music filtered through the static. Glen Miller and his orchestra were playing at the Rainbow Room and NBC was broadcasting it out across the city and the country.
“I think your tip may be bullshit,” Cage grunted.
“Turk just likes to take his time is all,” came Marcus’ response.
Cage had been working with Sergeant Marcus Stone for five years now. The two men were the only black plainclothes officers among the NYPD’s sworn officers. And, naturally, they were assigned to work Harlem from the 32nd Precinct. Stone was the only black sergeant inside the organization, just one of two black men to attain any kind of rank. Cage knew that Stone had earned those sergeant stripes and then some. He’d had twice as much service time as Cage, not to mention the things he'd seen in France. Cage had tried to ask him once or twice about the Great War. And every time Stone changed the subject.
“Speak of the devil,” said Cage.
The skinny form of Turk Barrett came out of Ms. Sadie’s, pulling the collar of his blazer up against the rain. Cage started to open the door but stopped when Stone put a hand on his shoulder.
“Not yet. From the way Turk is walking he just lost a lot of money. Five gets you ten he’s going back to find work.”
Stone tossed the racing form into the backseat and started the Ford. They gave Turk a long leash as he walked down 110th Street in the rain. Cage lit up a cigarette despite Stone’s dirty look. Cage cracked a window to temper his partner’s passive aggressive waving.
“Think he’s going to the Cotton Club or to Harlem’s Paradise?” Stone asked Cage.
“Depends on how much money he lost gambling,” Cage replied.”If he lost a lot, he’ll go to the Cotton Club and pick up a package. If he lost everything, then he’ll go to Harlem’s Paradise and put himself at Stokes’ mercy.”
Stone nodded slightly at the younger cops’ logic. If Cage didn’t know any better he may have seen a flash of pride on the man’s face. Cage felt even better as they saw Turk approach the Cotton Club. They knew he was heading towards the club’s back door. Harlem’s premier nightclub was white’s only for the most part. You had to be somebody rich and famous if you were black and wanted to pass through the doors. NYPD were also pretty sure it operated as a front for organized crime, with heroin being sold out the back. How else could you explain “dishwasher” Turk Barrett being able to afford such nice suits and such hefty gambling debts.
“What’d I tell you?” Cage said as he flicked the butt of his cigarette out the window.
Turk ducked into a side alley beside the club. Stone parked the Ford and put it in park.
“Alright,” said Stone. “When he comes out, we put him against the wall and shake him down. Try to sweat him and see if we can roll him up. From there we-”
Stone’s words were cut off by the sound of gunshots. Four soft pops coming from the back of the Cotton Club. Cage and Stone jumped out of the car with their own guns drawn. And that’s when all hell broke loose.
Blake Tower got out the backseat of the taxi and quickly paid his fare. He watched the yellow Desoto speed off into the night as he opened up the umbrella in the pouring rain. Even though he had a short distance to travel he wanted to stay as dry as possible. His tailored suits were far too expensive to get soaking wet.
Tower tipped back the brim of fedora as he entered the shabby little lobby and crossed the scuffed parquet floors towards the building directory. He found the listing he needed on the third floor and started the climb up. There on the third floor landing was the door with frosted over glass and faded gold letters: Nelson & Murdock: Attorneys At Law. The door opened before Tower could attempt a knock. Foggy Nelson stood in the doorway to greet him, his face peeking out of the threshold to make sure Tower was alone before he waved him inside.
“Thank you for seeing me with such short notice,” Tower said as they walked through the office’s small reception area. The desk where a receptionist usually sat was empty. Tower expected that this time of night. Foggy took his raincoat and hat before hanging it up on the stand by the front door.
“We’re night owls,” replied Foggy. “Or at least he is.”
Tower followed Foggy into the back office. He saw, amidst the bookshelves crammed with files and law books, framed newspaper clippings touting the firm’s headline victories over the years.
Deadlocked Jury Means Mistrial Declared in Potter Murder Trial
I DID IT!
Blind Lawyer Makes Prosecution Witness Breakdown and Confess in Court
WASHINGTON HEIGHTS SIX ACQUITTED
Puerto Rican Gang Found Not Guilty by Jury
Sitting behind one of the two desks that occupied the center of the room was Matt Murdock. Like Foggy, his suit coat had been stripped off and he wore a white, sweat stained dress shirt with a red necktie slightly loosened around his neck. His red opaque glasses glinted in the dim lighting as he tilted his head towards Tower.
“If New York’s most expensive defense attorney cold calls you at your home,” said Murdock. “You tend to open up your social calendar.”
Foggy motioned towards one of the free chairs facing the twin desks as he leaned against the side of his desk and crossed his arms.
“I’m the best,” said Tower. “Not just the most expensive.”
“No,” said Foggy. “We’re the best.”
“You’re just the most connected,” added Murdock.
“A good lawyer knows the law,” said Tower. “A great lawyer knows the judge.”
“And if you can’t talk about what you need from us over the telephone,” said Foggy, an eyebrow raised. “It must mean even those great connections are coming up short.”
Tower leaned back in his chair and adjusted his bowtie slightly as he cleared his throat.
“Are you gentlemen familiar with Rand Industries?”
“They sponsor Jack Benny’s show,” said Foggy. “I hear him and Rochester talk about them at least twice an episode.”
Tower spread his hands slightly as he spoke. “They do more than that. Petroleum, chemicals, car tires, radios, weapons. You name it, they make it. One of the biggest companies in the world. Their owner, Wendell Rand, is the Rockefeller of the 20th century. He’s a client and a close personal friend.”
“And what kind of trouble is he in?” Murdock asked. He laced his fingers together and tilted his head away from Tower. He figured it was Murdock’s way of concentrating on Tower’s words. "And why can't you get him out of it?"
“It’s not him,” said Tower. “It’s his boy, Danny. He was arrested for murder tonight. Wendell is doing everything he can to keep it off the radio, but I’m almost certain the news will hit the morning edition of all the papers.”
Tower saw Murdock lean forward in his chair and place his elbows on the desk. It almost looked as if he was looking straight into Tower’s eyes through his sunglasses. Tower felt a shudder go across his body at the feelings.
“And where do we come in?” asked Murdock. “Surely, you have enough paralegals to help with legal filings.”
“Young Danny is refusing my firm’s help for legal representation,” said Tower. “He’s requesting the two of you specfically.”
Murdock remained stoic while Foggy let a soft grin seep on to his face. Tower knew enough about the two of them to know here would be a debate. These two men were among the best defense attorneys in New York State... but they were among the rarest breed of lawyer, those with unflinching integrity. For all their famous cases, it had done little to line their pockets. Tower reached into the breast pocket of his suit and pulled out a folded piece of paper.
“I have a very generous retainer check,” said Tower, passing it to Foggy. “It’s made out to Nelson & Murdock. If you accept it, I’ll need at least one of you gentlemen to accompany me to the 32nd Precinct.”
NYPD 32nd Precinct
Frank Castle smoked a cigarette and looked in on the interrogation room from the two-way mirror. The tight little corridor ran the length of the three-two's five interrogation rooms, it provided observers the chance to look in on multiple interrogations at one time. Currently their doer had his head down on the bolted down metal table. He’d lawyered up not long after Stone and Cage hauled him in. Normally that didn’t stop the detectives from working over a suspect for a little bit until that lawyer came. But word had come down from on high to treat him with kid gloves. To Frank that meant the kid was politically juiced somewhere down the line.
He moved down the corridor to the next room over. Henderson and Matthews were in there with Stone and Cage, going over their statements. All of them had stripped their jackets and ties off, their dress shirts soaked with sweet and their sleeves rolled up off the wrist. Cage had an ashtray beside him as he chain smoked one butt after the other. Stone was leaned back in his chair, arms crossed.
“One more time for us,” said Matthews. “Just from the top.”
“We were following a suspected drug dealer,” said Stone. “From a gambling house to the Cotton Club. We saw him go into the club’s side alley–”
“Damn shame it was them,” a voice said behind Frank’s back.
He turned and saw Sergeant Russo standing there watching. Even on a hot Thursday night he was dressed for church. Russo didn’t dress much like a cop, an expensive seersucker suit draped over his body with a colorful pocket square tucked into his breast pocket. Frank would bet ten that Russo had a hat somewhere matching the suit’s color.
“They brought in the big guns,” Frank said, expelling smoke as he talked. “If Billy the Beaut from downtown homicide is here, this case must be an important one.”
Russo winked at Frank and looked back at their dozing suspect before turning back towards Cage and Stone.
“Christ, crime of the century and a couple of spooks get the collar?”
Castle let the comment pass. He didn’t know much about Cage and Stone, the two colored men stuck to themselves for the most part. That wasn't too surprising. In the NYPD the micks stuck together, the Italians stuck together, and the few oddball white Americans like Castle were kind of left on their own. So no wonder Cage and Stone had a brotherhood inside the brotherhood. He'd worked concurrent with them for four years now, enough to know they seemed to be straight shooters and hard workers. They took care of the parts of Harlem most white cops didn’t venture into unless they wanted to blow off some steam.
“What do you mean, crime of the century?" Frank asked Russp. “Sleeping beauty in there has to be a somebody, right?”
“Probably confused you when the captain told you not to give him the rubber hose treatment?” Russo said with a smile. “He ain’t anybody, Frank. But his father? The old man makes more money in a minute than you do all year.”
Frank let out a low whistle.
“Rich kid plugs six people at a world famous nightclub,” Frank mumbled. “Christ.”
The door leading to the corridor opened and Lieutenant Hannigan popped his head in.
“Need you boys to clear out,” he said in his soft Irish brogue. “Our suspect's lawyers are here.”
Matt sat down on the cold metal chair on the other side of where Danny Rand sat. Tower and Foggy had accompanied him uptown to Harlem, but they waited outside while Matt went in to talk to their new client. He needed as little distractions as possible. He heard Danny sit upright at the sight of Matt. He'd heard soft snoring through the door. How the hell was he able to sleep at a time like this?
“Mr. Rand,” said Matt. “I’m Matt Murdock, but I suspect you already know that.”
“Big fan,” said Rand. “You and Mr. Nelson did some incredible work with the Washington Heights Six. Those poor boys, you know that trial went international? I saw it in the papers in Shanghai, you and Mr. Nelson were in a newsreel at a Hong Kong theater.”
“Good to know," Matt said softly. "I had a debate with my partner on the ride here. It was on whether or not we take your case. If you’re a fan, then you know you are not our usual clientele.”
“Nelson and Murdock: The Saints of Lost Causes."
Matt could feel his face flush. Some writer at the Daily Bugle coined the term during the Melvin Potter case. Foggy loved it, but he didn't have to hear the cold derision in Father Kavanaugh's tone every time Matt went to confession. St. Matthew, he would say. What can I do for you, my son?
"Not a fan of the nickname," said Matt. "We're not Clarence Darrow."
"But even Clarence Darrow defended Leopold and Loeb,” said Rand.
“That doesn’t help your case,” Matt said with a slight frown. “But after some debate, I agreed to represent you if you can answer one simple question for me: Did you do it?”
Matt could hear the cacophony of the city all around him, from the police officer relieving himself three floors above them, to the scuffle of a lady’s shoes two blocks away. He drowned it all out and focused on Danny Rand as he answered his question.
“No. I am completely innocent.”
And Danny Rand’s heart stayed at its consistent rhythm, his forehead already damp with sweat from the heat stayed the same. There was no sounds of micro-movements – those soft almost indecipherable squirms everyone made when they lied. Danny Rand was telling the truth. He was innocent, or at least he thought he was.
“Mr. Rand,” said Matt. “You just hired yourself Nelson & Murdock.”