Chapter Three: First Blood
There are a couple Batman quotes in this chapter.Author notes:
I would like to thank AbigaelRose for the recommendation. I would also like to thank everyone who reviewed. It means a lot.Updated 8/13/14
I would like to thank AnneLilian for editing this chapter. Enjoy!Chapter Three: First Blood.
He knew Dick had a point, Batman yielded as he jumped to the next building. A couple hours had passed since he had separated from his eldest, but the conversation had not left his mind. Tim had always been very dedicated to those around him. He had once given up his role of Robin in order to prevent hurting his birthfather. If he asked him to stop seeing Elizabeth there was a strong chance he could lose him again. Either choice would damage their relationship.
So he had chosen silence for he could not give his approval. Not yet. He wasn’t sure he would ever be able to. When he had come back to Gotham, he had done his own investigation into Elizabeth Anne Winters. It yielded very little, with too many unanswered questions. Questions he couldn’t let go because of her blood relationship to the Joker. She had come close to crossing a line, and there was still a high probability that she one day would. He feared that if Tim lost his heart to this woman and she snapped that she would end up taking him with her.
Tim had gone through a lot since he had joined their family. He was darker than before, and for a time he had feared that Tim was becoming too much like himself. That had begun to change since Tim had met Elizabeth. She had gotten Tim to start opening himself up again. From what he could tell, she had the same knack as Tim for having trouble finding her. Batman released a grappling line and swung to the next building. But Tim had never backed down from a challenge before and had always proven to be one of the most independent partners he had ever worked with. Which meant he had to handle Elizabeth carefully.
Batman studied his surroundings as he checked the tracker information again. The assassins knew about the tracker device: they had abruptly altered their course twenty minutes ago. They had been heading north in the direction of Crime Alley before they made a sharp turn west. About five minutes ago they had stopped at Aparo Park. He was heading straight into a trap.
He glanced up as the Bat signal lit the sky. He frowned as he studied the mutation. How many teams did this group deploy this evening? There were over a hundred different assassins groups around the world. He could cross off over ninety percent of the list as possibilities. He activated his com. “Nightwing.”
“Already on my way, boss.”
Nightwing frowned as he landed in the shadows of the Police headquarters’ roof with Robin on his heels. The mutated bat signal had been shut off a few minutes earlier. He stayed hidden for a few moments as he studied the scene around him. There were about a dozen policemen on the scene, and about a handful of them were staring at the body of a dark haired teenage girl that was tied down onto the bat signal. He narrowed his eyes as he stared at the girl. He had a bad feeling he was going to discover what had happened to one of the missing girls, but he couldn’t give a positive ID from this angle.
Nightwing spotted Red Robin landing on the other side of the roof as Commissioner Gordon ordered: “I want a forensic team here!” He turned to the cops to his right and continued his directions. “Xue, get the footage from the cameras pulled up. I want pictures of our suspects brought to me. Lance, get working on identifying this girl. The rest of you keep the press away from here. Do not answer their questions!”
Nightwing stepped out of the shadows as all the policemen except for Commissioner Gordon left the roof. They had a few minutes before the forensic team would arrive. He studied the body of the teen closer, anger and sadness raging in his heart.
She hadn’t been dead long, he would estimate two or three hours. The teen had very few wounds on her body: the bruises on face and upper neck looked to be days if not weeks old. Her fingernails were badly cracked and stained. She had tried to fight them, he concluded. If her attacker hadn’t been careful there might be some DNA under her fingernails to aid the investigation. There was a gash on the right side of her face, but the most prominent wound she had was the deep carving of the Red Robin symbol in the skin by the collar bone.
“Do you know anything about this?” Gordon questioned quietly towards him.
“Her name is Eileen Haris.” Red Robin answered as he came to a stop by his left side. He glimpsed back at him. Tim sounded calm, but he was good at masking his feelings. Briefly, he spotted Red Robin’s right hand clench in anger. “She was kidnapped nearly a month ago from her home in Fremont, California. The kidnappers never asked for a ransom.”
Gordon glanced at Red Robin. “Who’s responsible?”
“We don’t know.” Red Robin replied.
Gordon frowned as he turned fully towards Red Robin. “This attacked was directed at you. They want your attention.”
Red Robin looked away from the Commissioner and towards the edge of the roof. Nightwing was sure that Tim was already blaming himself for the girl’s death. “They believe that I protect the one they desire.”
“Do you?” Gordon questioned.
Red Robin stayed silent for several moments. The pause was too long. Tim had learned something about who this assassin group was after since they had last spoken. “No. I don’t.” Nightwing studied him. He was sure that Tim had just lied.
“You came across this group but know nothing about them.” Gordon surmised before sighing. “Until the culprits behind this are brought in more will follow this girl’s fate.”
It was going to be a long night.
Batman stayed hidden in the shadows of the upper branches of one the trees near the gate of the park. The assassins appeared to be gone, he noted as he studied his surroundings. He doubted that was the case. The tracker that Nightwing had planted on them was lying on the ground before the gate. Bait to spring the trap with.
They’d been played with. He narrowed his eyes as he spotted a glimpse of one of the assassins hiding in the tree across the clearing, before he was gone. The skirmishes of the past week had been planned. There was no other explanation for their previous lack of stealth. What game were they playing? What was the end goal?
Batman heard a slight creak behind him. He twisted and threw a batarang causing the assassin to jump to the ground. The assassin was covered in black ninja clothing, leaving only the eyes uncovered. It made it impossible to identify him. The cut of the cloth was useless: though it was similar to Ra’s, this group was not part of his guild. If they had something that Ra wanted he would have attacked their homes like he did once before.
The assassin smirked at him. “I was hoping to finish the hero off, but I have no quarrel with handing him your head either.”
Batman jumped down to the ground. There were two assassins behind him. “Which organization do you work for? Ra’s?”
The assassin laughed. “Hardly! Ra’s Al Ghul fears us.” He rushed forward with a kick as his companions circled around.
“I doubt that.” He replied as he dodged the kick. He threw two smoke bombs to the ground and sneaked around the assassin to his right. He aimed a punch at the assassin’s jaw.
The assassin ducked and kicked back, forcing him to retreat a couple of steps. Batman dodged the kick that came from his left. “You don’t get it.” The assassin stated as he twisted and lashed out with another series of attacks. He landed two hits; the first on his shoulder and the other grazed his rib cage. “We were here long before Ra and we will still be here long after him.”
Batman threw a batarang at the assassin to his right forcing him to drop the dagger he held. This group was an assassin group older than Ra’s? The crossed off every assassin guild that formed in that last several centuries. There was only a handful he had heard of that could boast about that. Most of them were dead.
He blocked a punch and countered with one of his own. For several minutes he traded blows with the three assassins. The assassins kept the advantage until he succeeded in knocking one of them unconscious. The leader of the assassins jumped back with one hand held to the left side of his face. “We can take him!”
“Getting called back to your master?” Batman mocked him as he traded blows with the other member. “Who is calling your shots?”
“You’ll know soon enough.” The assassin growled as he threw a handful of smoke bombs. ”Retreat.” As the smoke filled the air Batman quickly threw another tracker at his last opponent. When the smoke cleared a few minutes later all three ninjas were gone. He scanned the surroundings before pausing at Nightwing’s tracker. His tracker was lying next to it. That was getting annoying.
What did they want? Elizabeth wondered as she ran through the darkened corridors. She glanced backward. Nothing. What were they? She felted something crawling around her left wrist and glimpsed down. A blackened shackle was starting to form. Not this again.
Elizabeth dived to the ground at the sound of gunshots. She rolled to her feet, pausing briefly to look back. The hallway was empty. But along the walls the shadows were moving, sliding closer to her. She looked around. There was no damage around her. Where was the sound coming from?
She shook her head. It didn’t matter. Elizabeth sprinted towards the door on her right. She couldn’t be caught. She slammed through it and froze in shock as Red Robin stood in front of her. He was helping Dick off the floor. Batman stood to her left, guarding the boys from their exposed side. What were they doing here?
“Are we clear?” Red Robin questioned as he aided Dick towards the door before he was shrugged off. Was he talking to her?
She narrowed her eyes as she spotted a white-gold heart shape necklace around Dick’s neck. Was that the locket that Tim gave her? She ignored Red Robin as she passed him. She paused briefly before reaching out with her right hand and grabbing the necklace. Gently she opened it. Inside the locket was hers parents pictures. Why did Dick have her locket?
Dick gripped her hand. “It made a difference.”
Elizabeth twisted sharply around as she heard the gunshots again. Nothing. She frowned as she noticed a new weight around her neck. She reached up. Her necklace was back.
What was going on? What was her dream telling her? She turned back towards Red Robin and froze in horror. Tim, not Red Robin, was laying there, his eyes staring lifeless at the ceiling. “No. No. No.” She ran to the prone body on the floor. She quickly checked his pulse. Nothing. She looked around. Dick was pinned to the wall by the sword through his chest. Batman was nowhere in sight.
She closed her eyes at the sound of gun fire and refused to move from her position. Seconds later she screamed as pain racked her body. She gripped her chest tightly. Briefly she pried her eyes opened to glimpse down. Why was she bleeding?
Elizabeth jerked awake, gasping. She rapidly glanced around her room before closing her eyes and taking several deep breaths to calm her racing heart. What was her dream trying to tell her? She peeked at her clock as she rose from her bed and groaned. It was seven o’clock. She barely managed one hour of sleep after she had finished copying the case files that David had brought home.
She stopped in front of her desk and gently picked up the necklace. She turned it over in her hands as she studied it. Why was it in her dream? She opened the locket. Nothing seemed odd. Why would it make a difference or was there something else?
She narrowed her eyes as her fingers felt a slight roughness around the edge. She held it closer to her face. It was minor, but there was a fused edge. Elizabeth frowned. Was there supposed to be another chamber to the locket? Why would Tim have it sealed?
Elizabeth gently closed the locket. He had given it to her as a gift when he had faked her parents’ death. She had gone after the Joker and Tim… “You clever, annoying…. I really should punch you.” She muttered irritably as she placed the locket into the side pocket of her bag. She had already put the duplicated copies of the case files in the main compartment before going back to sleep. She could bet that Tim had placed some type of tracker in there. He was fond of those, after all. It would explain how he had found her so fast that night.
After a quick shower she got dressed for the day and sat down at the kitchen table with her own copy of the files. There was still a lot she didn’t know, Elizabeth decided as she flipped through the papers. There were only seven cases and none of them took place in the same city. In each one, two teens had been murdered in a ritual killing after a three day warning from the Hunters of Twilight. The killers were never caught. Was the attacker from the restaurant part of this group? What was the ritual for? Was it symbolic or was real magic used?
Only two occasions differed. In each event, one of the original victims received the Eihwaz symbol and despite being attacked they had survived. But it didn’t stop the ritual. Elizabeth frowned as she rearranged the cases according to when they had occurred. Ten years seemed to pass before another killing took place except when half the victims were killed. Then the next murder had happened five years later. What did the captured girl in her dream represent? Was she a past Chosen, one of the victims, or a survivor? None? Was she the source of the ritual?
She checked the date on the last case. It occurred five years ago, but both victims had died. Had similar events been missed or did something change? Was her dream trying to warn her about this? Was Dick one of the next victims? Elizabeth shook her head. It didn’t add up. None of the victims had been out of their teens.
Was he bait? Elizabeth bit her lip as she stared at the papers. It felt right. But who was he the bait for? Tim? She looked up as David entered the kitchen to make breakfast that morning. “You’re not going to get in trouble for taking these case files, are you?”
“I could, if anyone realized that I have the copies.” He replied as he pulled two pans out of the bottom cupboard. “The chances are slim since the originals have been returned.” He glanced back at her. “It’s only nine-thirty. I’m surprised you’re already up, with how late you got home. Did you and Tim have a good time?”
“We did.” Elizabeth smiled as she stretched. “Was it really necessary to give him such a hard time? He’s always been a gentleman. He even passed your background check with flying colors.”
“Fatherly duty.” David stated he turned on the TV seating on the counter in the corner of the kitchen. “I’m well aware what goes through the mind of a teenage male. I used to be one after all.”
Elizabeth snorted and opened her mouth to reply but froze at the news reporter’s words. “At two-fifteen this morning the legendary bat signal was turned on without the authority permission. The symbol had been mutated. As it turned out the mutation was due to a dead body lying on top of it. At this time, the police are refusing to release the identity of the victim and details of this...”
“Vultures.” Elizabeth mumbled as she used the remote to turn off the TV. She glanced down at the case files again, before sighing. “I need to get to Tim’s.” He was supposed to pick her up thirty minutes ago. But in the aftermath of the events she doubted he would remember. As it was, she was surprised that he hadn’t called and canceled. She bet that it had slipped his mind.
She wasn’t angry, not when someone’s life was on the line. She knew what the life of a protector was like. It wasn’t easy to juggle two lives, but she couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed.
Regardless, it was important that she got this information to Tim. It just might help. But how should she handle this? If she didn’t wait for Red Robin it would tip him off that she knew his secret. But was that really a bad thing? Elizabeth bit her lip briefly. Were they ready to get rid of some of the secrets? Furthermore, how much should she tell him about her past? She still had a hard time accepting that he had believed her as easily as he had. Better question, how was she going to get Dick to accept the necklace without hurting Tim? That was what her dream was suggesting, wasn’t it? To use this method to track Dick.
“Breakfast date?” David asked.
“Yep.” She answered as she rose from the table.
“Leave the files. I’ll comb through them for some clues that coincide with your dreams and see if I can’t come up with a lead for us.” David said as he cracked some eggs into the smaller pan.
Elizabeth smiled. “Thanks.”
It was frustrating. They had gone up against this group over eight times and they were still no closer to a lead on their whereabouts. Tim sighed tiredly as he ran his left hand through his hair. He leaned forward and punched several commands into the computer causing a map of Gotham to be pulled up onto the screen with several red dots scattered across it. “This is where we’ve confronted them. If you use them as markers the central location should be somewhere here.” He explained to his companions as he hit another key causing a red circle to encompass a fourth of the map.
Damian scowled as he studied the map. “Can’t you narrow it down? That covers over a dozen miles. You might as well put a needle in a haystack.”
“Not without additional information.” Tim answered. Every time one of them tried to push a member of this group into a no-win situation they had seem to be five steps ahead with their last five moves covered. If it wasn’t for the fact that the lives of a handful of young girls were on the line, he would’ve found this challenge thrilling. Tim glanced briefly to the clock. As it was, there was only sixteen hours left before another would be lost.
“Not much of a detective, are you?” Damian sneered as he crossed his arms. “There are hundreds of security cameras that could be utilized to narrow down the search. Move aside, you have wasted enough of our time. It would be child’s play for me to go through them.”
“Like the six hours child’s play of cracking my password?” Tim countered, smirking. “Have you given up trying to crack my new one? I believe you’re at eight hours now. You have yet to bypass my security walls.”
“Tim. Damian. Let us stay on topic.” Bruce reprimanded through the video link.
Tim nodded and type in another command. Three green lines appeared on the map. “From the information that Oracle and I have manage to gather from a few of the camera’s footage these seem to be some of the patrol lines. However,” Again, he keyed in another command, causing eight black dots to appear, “the camera’s footage in these locations have been tampered with.”
“Have you managed to recover any of the original data?” Dick questioned as he leaned forward while studying the map.
“Oracle is still working on that.” Tim answered before turning slightly in his chair. “Bruce, have you ever heard about a group called the Shadow Men?” His search had brought up very little. There was only a brief mention of an old legend about a fight against an ‘old one’ and the creation of a weapon, but that tale was blotchy at best. Its wording style differed in several different sections; it was almost like someone was trying to alter or delete the story while another kept restoring it. And from his phone call he was willing to bet on who was doing what. Was it possible that the tale held some truth to it like the story that was told to Solstice by her father? The original copy of the myth would’ve been informative, but he didn’t have the time to hunt it down.
“No. Do you believe them to be connected?”
“Possibly.” At Bruce’s raised eyebrow, Tim elaborated. “The master mind of the assassin torments contacted me last night. He called this group Shadow Men.”
“It doesn’t match any of the names of the assassin’s guilds that are older than Ra’s.” Bruce replied. “Did he want anything else?”
Tim shrugged. “Just to inform me that the Chosen must be protected from them or suffer a fate worse than death.”
Bruce frowned. “And you still don’t have any idea who this Chosen is?”
“No.” Tim lied, shaking his head. He wasn’t going to put Elizabeth any higher on Batman’s radar until he had to. As much as he respected Bruce, the man did have his blind spots and grudges. Tim had no doubt Bruce would protect her, but there was a strong possibility of Elizabeth losing the chance of getting passed his suspicions. And he couldn’t tell Bruce her secret, it wasn’t his to share. Unless she crossed a line she should be given the right to choose who is allowed to know.
“Tim, can you connect the lines together with the tampered camera’s markings?” Dick requested.
“Sure.” With a quick command the green lines extended to form three circles. Tim stared at the map. Damn. One of the markings circled around Elizabeth apartment complex. The other markings circled around the area of their school and his apartment. Did they suspect Elizabeth? Or did they have suspicion about his identity?
“Have your cameras pick anything up?” Dick asked quietly.
Tim shook his head. “They haven’t gotten close enough.”
“We will need to set up a surveillance system in the other two locations.” Bruce stated. “I—“
“I’ll set up the one at Liz’s apartment.” Tim interrupted, staring directly into the cam link. He wouldn’t put it past Bruce to put a listening bug inside the apartment. He’ll have to check to make sure he hadn’t already done that.
“Tim…” Bruce started.
Again Tim interrupted. “I insist.”
“And I’ll handle the school.” Dick stated as he ignored the frown on Bruce’s face.
“Very well, since that matter is settled.” Alfred injected in the brief pause in the conversation. “It is my high hope, young masters, that you take the time to eat a late breakfast and not follow your elder’s example of leaving the meal cold and untouched on a computer console like the fate of many of their predecessors.”
Crap. Tim moaned in despair. His date with Liz… He glanced at the clock. He was supposed to pick her up an hour ago. She was going to kill him.
Bruce chuckled amused. “I’ll ensure that I eat lunch, Alfred.”
Dick looked down at Tim in concern. “Are you alright Tim?”
“No.” Tim answered. “I forgot to cancel my date with Liz this morning.”
“Ouch. Either come up with a really good excuse or start groveling.” Dick suggested. Tim glanced at him. Groveling wasn’t that bad of an idea, actually… It might get him out of the dog house anyways. What was her favorite ice-cream again?
“Pathetic, Drake.” Damian scoffed. “I already knew you were a second rate detective. But to fail in your duty as a suitor is truly a new low that cannot be tolerated since you insist on carrying the Wayne name, unworthy as you are. Seek aid immediately.”
Tim glared at Damian. He hated the brat. He really did. “I suppose you believe that you would do better, huh?”
“I know I would.”
Tim snorted. “Remind me to record your first date so I can laugh later.”
Dick sighed. “Guys, claws, sheathe them.”
Tim froze from a moment as he heard the doorbell ring before he switched the screen to the camera view of the front door. Elizabeth was standing there holding two different bags. He was so dead. He pushed himself out of his chair. “Wish me luck.”
Tim started to walk towards the stairs and paused as Alfred called after him through the web cam connection. “Master Timothy, a proper apology should help immensely. I’m sure that Miss Elizabeth will understand.”
Tim smiled at Alfred gratefully. “I hope so, Alfred.” Damian snorted as he followed him. Tim stopped and stared at him, irritated. “Don’t you have somewhere else to be?”
“Not at all, Drake.” Damian smirked at him. “I wouldn’t miss your moment of complete failure.” Tim glared at him before continuing his way up the stairs.
“I better go referee.” Tim heard Dick say as he exited the secret door leading into his living room with Damian on his heels.
Elizabeth glanced behind her as she waited for Tim to answer the door. Collin darted behind the corner of the next building to her left. She sighed. He had started following her after the Joker had been thrown back in jail. The amount of times had increased this past week; she could hardly go anywhere without seeing him. She really needed to do something about him. The stalking thing had gone passed the annoying stage.
A few minutes later Tim opened the door. He ran his left hand through his hair, nervously. “Liz, I’m sorry. I meant to call you…”
She silenced him with a finger on his lips. “But the business from the night before blew up in your face. It’s fine, Tim, I’m not angry.” Even if she had been, it would’ve been hard to remain angry at him when he looked like he was approaching his own death.
Tim’s eyes widened in shock. “You’re not?”
Elizabeth shook her head. “No. However…” She continued as she pushed pass Tim into the apartment. “Next time you can’t make it, call. I hate wondering if you’ve been hurt or are lying dead in an alley.”
“I can do that.” Tim replied as he followed her towards the living room. “You’re really not angry?”
Elizabeth chuckled. “Really not.” She held up a small brown bag. “I even brought you something to eat. Something tells me you haven’t taken time off to take care of yourself.”
“I wouldn’t quite put it that way.” He countered before shaking his head. “I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand you, Liz. You keep defying my assumptions every time.”
She paused a moment and turned back towards him with a raised eyebrow. “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“Definitely a good thing.” He replied before gently taking her hand and tugging her in the opposite direction. “Let’s go to the kitchen instead.”
“Something you don’t want me to see?” She questioned as she followed him. How was she going to do this? Just hand him the information? His first instinct would be to deny being Red Robin, wouldn’t it? If she pushed the subject would it hurt their relationship?
Tim shook his head. “Not really. My brothers came over to aid with the business problem….”
Elizabeth froze a moment before interrupting. “Dick’s here?”
Tim looked at her bewildered. “Yes. Why?”
“I need to talk to him about something.” Elizabeth replied as she broke Tim’s grip and made her way back towards the living room. Crap. How was she going to do this? She couldn’t come up with a lie that would be believable and the truth sounded crazy. She needed Dick to keep the necklace with him but didn’t want to hurt Tim by giving his gift away. Why was her life never simple?
“About what?” Tim questioned as he swiftly caught up. He grabbed her hand again and stopped her from entering the living room as he looked at her in concern. “Liz, what’s going on?”
“I’ll explain, I promise, but…”She bit her lip. This would be so much easier if he just knew everything from her past life. Of course that could cause him to run towards the hills. She was surprised it hadn’t yet. “Umm well… I get these dreams every once in a while. In this last one both you and Dick were killed.”
Tim frowned, before he tucked a piece of Elizabeth’s hair behind her ear. “It’s probably just a nightmare. I ensure you Liz, both Dick and I are fine. We’re pretty good at getting out of tight situations.”
“You don’t get it.” She argued as she shook her head. “I had these types of dreams before in my past life. They always warned me of what’s coming or how to beat it, but they rarely make sense until the actual event is taking place.”
“Visions? Are you sure?” Tim questioned.
She stared at him for a moment before snorting. Quickly she opened the side pouch to her larger bag and pulled out the necklace he gave her. “Give me an honest answer, Tim.” She ordered as she held it out to him. “Did you put a tracking device inside it?”
He stared at her in silence for several moments. She studied his reaction. His face stayed impassive but his eyes had widened briefly before returning to normal. It was hard to tell what he was thinking. Times like this she really hated his acting ability. “Liz…”
She silenced him with a finger on his lips. “Don’t. I’m not angry about that. I get it. You were worried and wanted to protect me. I’ve been on the other side of the fence in my past life. However, you do it again and I’m going to kick your ass.”
Tim gave Elizabeth a sheepish smile as he rubbed the back of his neck. “How did you figure it out?”
“My dream.” She stated as she turned away and entered the living room. Dick was sitting on the couch next a scowling, younger boy watching TV. “Dick.” She called out as she stopped beside the couch. “I need you to do me a favor.”
“What’s that?” Dick questioned.
Elizabeth paused a moment and bit her lip. She glanced back at Tim worriedly before holding out the necklace towards Dick. “I need you to keep this on you so we can find you later.”
“Come again?” Dick asked, sounding confused. “I don’t see how a necklace will help with that…”
“She knows about the tracking device.” Tim interrupted as he stopped next to her.
“Did you?” Dick questioned and Tim shook his head in answer.
“Pathetic, Drake.” Sneered Damian.
Tim glared briefly at Damian before turning towards Elizabeth. “Liz, can you please explain your dream vision?”
“Simple version: gunshots, corridors, and Dick wearing the necklace while being rescued by Batman and Red Robin. Gunshots again and then I saw Dick without the necklace, dead, and you…” She paused for a moment as she recalled the slayer dream before turning towards Tim. “You were lying dead on the floor.”
“Ouch.” Dick stated as he rose from his seat. “Can we have the more complicated version?”
Elizabeth held out the necklace. “Can you just take the necklace?”
“There are other ways…”Dick started.
“Humor me.” Elizabeth interrupted.
Dick briefly glanced back at Tim and waited for his nod before shrugging. “Ok.” He grabbed it out of her hand and slipped it around his neck. “How long do I need to have this on?”
“Until Hell stops breaking loose.” Elizabeth countered. “The dreams have been coming more frequently so I image that the events will be soon.”
Tim placed a hand on her shoulder. “About your dreams…”
“I wrote them down.” Elizabeth interrupted as she dug through her large bag and pulled out eight different files. She handed them to Tim. “My dreams are in the top one.”
Tim raised an eyebrow, amused. “And the rest?”
“Information you’ll need.” She replied, before glancing at the clock. “I’ve got to go. I’m supposed to meet mom and Jeannie for a shopping trip. You know how to contact me if you have questions.” She was taking the easy way out, but she wasn’t quite ready cross the line that those files were going to force. She just needed a little more time.
“I’ll take you home.” Tim offered as he handed the files over to Dick.
Elizabeth shook her head. “Not needed.”
Tim frowned. “Liz, was Collin following you again?”
“Stop worrying.” She replied as she kissed his cheek. “I can handle him.”
“Liz…” Tim started.
“No.” Elizabeth interrupted as she silenced him with a finger on his lips. “You’re needed here.”
“Drake, are you going to allow her to wear the pants in the relationship?” Damian scoffed. “Can you get any lower?”
Tim glared him. “Aren’t you needed elsewhere?”
Elizabeth chuckled. “Brotherly squabbles. Cute.”
“We’re not brothers!” Tim and Damian exclaimed together.
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. “Really?” She glanced at Dick, barely holding back her smirk. “So I guess me and Dick need to leave so you two can work out your sexual tension?” Thank you Anya! The males look at her in shock before Dick started to snicker.
“Liz!” Tim cried out in horror.
Damian turned sharply towards Dick. “Grayson! Teach Drake to properly satisfy his woman! He must be doing poorly if she believed there was attraction between us.”
Elizabeth smirked. “Not so bad being brothers now, huh?”
“You’re awesome.” Dick stated once he stopped snickering.
Tim glared at Dick, annoyed before turning towards Elizabeth. “You’re horrible. You don’t really think…”
She shook her head. “No, but it was a perfect opening. Denialville is not a good place to be, trust me.” She smiled in amusement at Tim’s disgruntled face before turning to leave. “Go bond with your brothers, we’ll talk later. I might even tell you a bit about Dawn.”
Elizabeth slowly walked down the street. She had fibbed to Tim. She didn’t have to meet her mother and Jeannie for another two and a half hours. But she wasn’t ready to open up completely about her past, and the information in the files was going to force open a few of those doors. She gave him the full, unedited version of her dreams.
How was this going to affect their relationship? Elizabeth wondered as she turned around the corner. She wanted the relationship to work, and secrets would only work against that. So she took the first step and trusted him with a part. It hadn’t been easy. It scared her.
Would he return the favor? Giving him the files all but told him that she knew that he was Red Robin. Would he trust her too or would he try to bury the secret further? Elizabeth sighed as she spotted Collin following her from the corner of her eyes.
She darted quickly into the alley on her right and glanced around. There was a fire escape on her left and few pieces of garbage scattered along the floor. She looked up and smirked. There was a slim mental bar connecting the two buildings. She could do the same trick she’d used on Angel the first time.
She jumped and grabbed onto the bar. Quickly she swung herself up into a handstand position and waited. A few minutes later Collin walked in and froze as he looked around in confusion. “Where…” He muttered. “She couldn’t have disappeared that fast.”
Once he turned back toward the exit she swung down. She let go of the bar and slammed her feet into his back before flipping backward to land three feet away from him. Collin crashed hard against the ground. Slowly he pushed himself unto his feet and turned towards her. “Bitch.”
“That the best you can come up with?” She asked as she crossed her arms. “Stop following me, Collin. I’m not going to be your punching bag because you’re too damn scared of the Joker. I get it. You’re hurting and want someone to pay. But learn to deal or grow a pair. I’m not responsible for the Joker.”
“You’re just as much a freak as him.” Collin snorted. “Your death could still hurt him. It’s all I need.”
Collin reached behind him for an item underneath his jacket and Elizabeth darted forward. As he brought the gun forward, she grabbed his wrist and twisted, forcing him to let go. Once the gun hit the ground she kicked it away from them. “Seriously? You need help. Lots of it.”
He chuckled darkly. “I have all the help I need.”
Her eyes widened in alarm as she heard the sound of a gun being fired from behind. She shoved Collin to the floor and dived. The bullet flew overhead. As she rolled to her feet two more gunshots followed.
Nick smirked as he watched the last assassin team returned to base with Safia Morgan, unconscious, over the squad leader shoulder. “Take her to her new room. We wouldn’t want anything to happen to the shield next surprise.”
Brandt quietly entered through the back entrance as he slipped a small container filled with blood into his pocket. He leaned against the wall as the group left. “Your assassins are angry at being held back from their kills.”
“As long as they do as they are told, it won’t matter.”
“You’re deviating from the council’s orders. They want the shield dead.” Brandt crossed his arms and scoffed. “You want to break the shield, to mold him into your personal assassin. Ambitious, Shadoway, but you plan is filled with holes. This won’t break him.”
“The council is weak.” Nick scoffed. “He can be controlled. Everyone has a breaking point and this will push him towards his. He views himself as a protector. You cannot tell me that failing completely in that duty won’t break him.” Nick turned towards the cabinet in the right wall and pulled out the middle drawer. “Not even his mentor will be able to aid him for soon he’ll have his own worries to deal with. When I gain control of the shield, I’ll have the new Chosen line as well. It will guarantee that I’m the next head of the council.”
“You would be if your plan works, but fail and they will banish you from the guild altogether if they don’t kill you first.” Brandt agreed. “The council tried a similar scheme against the old shield and it nearly destroyed them. Or have you forgotten your history lessons on how the Shadow Men transformed into the Hunters of Twilight?”
Nick ignored Brandt for a moment as he slipped on a pair of black gloves from his back pocket. “The council made a miscalculation when dealing with the old shield. I will not make the same error with Red Robin.” He pulled out the two letters he had prepared the week before and smirked back at Brandt. “Your advice is worthless. Your plans never work. It’s the reason you’re still stuck as an errand boy.”
Brandt glared briefly at him before smiling darkly. “I’m exactly where I need to be. You lack patience, Shadoway. An ocean can’t be filled without every single drop of rain. You rush and you will miss the opportunity. What you fail to realize is my plans always work. I’ll have what I desire soon enough.”
“Your history says otherwise.” Nick mocked as he walked into the other room.
“You’re an expert on my history now?” Brandt followed, chuckling. “You must have been busy to find all the deep hidden secrets. Whatever shall you do now?”
Nick glared briefly at him before handing the letters to the smallest assassin by the door. “These are to be delivered to Mr. Wayne and Mrs. Winters come Monday.” After the assassin bowed, Nick dismissed him from the room.
“Catherine, your team is in charge of the next mission.” Nick stated as he turned towards the red headed woman leaning against the left wall. “It’s time for Mr. Grayson to join our games.”
It figured Elizabeth would leave out the part about herself being killed when she told them about her dream vision. Tim frowned as he continued to flip through the stack of papers of the first file. She was headstrong, independent and often determined to handle things herself. He could understand it, sort of. He was certainty guilty of it himself. But she opened up to him and that had to mean something. Right?
“Tim, do you know why Elizabeth would give you case files about several ritual killings?” Dick asked as he turned another page, before pulling a picture closer to study it. “And how did she get her hands on these? They’re not the originals, looks more like a scanned copy. They make an interesting read. “
“They’re all unsolved cases.” Damian added as he flipped through his own folder. “Each case seemed to be spaced about five to ten years apart with the same apparent attackers. A group called the Hunters of Twilight. They were on father’s list of groups older than grandfather’s guild.”
Tim shook his head. “Liz had no reason to give me these. I didn’t even know she was researching them.” He frowned. He couldn’t help but worry about Elizabeth. What trouble was she getting herself into? “Last night I did question her as Red Robin about the Chosen. She reacted to the word at the restaurant.”
“I’m sensing a but.” Dick stated.
“We were interrupted by the signal. She told me she would give me the information the next time we met.” Tim answered as he stared at the page. She couldn’t have known his identity. He had covered his trail. If she did know, why didn’t she say anything?
Dick chuckled, amused. “She really is perfect for you. “
“Huh?” Tim looked up. “You’re not implying that…” Tim shook his head. “She’s not joining us in our night jobs. She finds enough trouble as it is.”
“Remind me how you got the job again?” Dick teased. “Wasn’t it by fingering out our identities?” He leaned back in his seat. “You might as well make a suit for her.”
“Dick… we don’t know for sure.” He shook his head. There wasn’t another explanation that made sense. It was possible that she gave it to him due to the Wayne connection to Batman Incorporated. It was doubtful. What was he going to do? He once swore to never get a sidekick after what happened with Dodge. “Besides, you know Bruce won’t approve.” And that was a whole different set of problems.
“She wouldn’t be father’s partner.” Damian stated as he turned another page. “She would be yours. Fix you mess, Drake. I assume that termination is not an option. She had shown some potential. Taking her into the fold might work. She just might be less useless than you.”
Tim blinked in shock. Did Damian just support him regardless of the insult implied? “What should I do, Dick?”
“I can’t tell you that Tim.” Dick answered. He placed the file he was reading on the table and walked over to Tim. “Do you believe she will find her way to this path even if we discourage her?”
Tim looked down at the paper he was holding as he thought the question over. The moment the Joker went after her family she stood up and looked for ways to stop him. She was trained in her past life. He could see that in the way she handled herself in a crisis. The doctor’s notes gave a rough picture of her having a similar path in her previous life. Tim fingered the file in his hand. She was already finding the path with or without help. She wasn’t one to let others decide what she could and couldn’t do. He looked up. “Yes.”
Dick stopped in front of him. “Would she believe any cover up in our identities?”
Tim shook his head. “Not a chance. She would be expecting it.”
“Would she reveal our identities?” Dick asked.
Tim looked Dick straight in the eyes. “Never.” He wasn’t sure when she figured out that he was Red Robin, but she could have told his secret a month ago and never did. She had helped him instead. As he thought back to previous conversations, she had given him clues that she knew with her comments of birdie, damsel, and stalker. He had brushed them off.
Dick squeezed his shoulder. “Whatever you choose to do, little brother, I’ll support.”
He opened his mouth to reply when his phone rang. He shrugged and answered. “Hello.”
“Tim?” Mrs. Winter asked. Why was she calling? Wasn’t she shopping with Elizabeth?
“Mrs. Winters? Is something wrong?” Tim asked as he felt dread pooling in the pit of his stomach. He should’ve walked Elizabeth home.
“Can you…” She started before she paused. She sounded like she was crying. He heard Joyce taking a shaky breath before continuing. “Can you come to Gotham General?”
“Certainty.” He answered. Please be alright Liz. “What is going on?”
“It’s Elizabeth. She has been shot.”
Tim closed his eyes in anguish. Elizabeth’s dreams! Dammit. He opened his eyes and saw both Dick and Damian looking at him in concern. He briefly watched as Dick grabbed the car keys from the counter before making his way towards the exit. “I’m on my way.”