Chapter Four: Between the Lines
Disclaimer: There is a quote from the Batman comics, Forensics for dummies by D.P. Lyle, and a Lemony Snicket quote.
Author note: I would like to thank moonbunny, wizathogwarts, and Xayian for the recommendations. I would also like to thank everyone who reviewed. You are all awesome and it means a lot to me. I would also like to thank ConstanceTruggle whose review inspired a scene in this chapter.
First of all, this chapter has not been beta. A beta version is on its way so until then please forgive the mistakes that I missed. Furthermore I edited this really late at night so if I miss more than my regular mistakes again please forgive.
Sorry it took so long to get this chapter up, but I have been pretty busy of late. Hopefully it was worth the wait. Enjoy!Chapter Four: Between the Lines
Tim turned sharply around the corner of the hospital hallway, barely remembering to fake the use of his crutches in his rush to reach Elizabeth’s room. He slowed his gait as he spotted Detectives Bullock and… Montoya? When did she rejoin the force? Tim frowned, noting the pair holding a guarding position outside Elizabeth’s room. Did Commissioner Gordon send them to be extra security, he wondered, or was there another reason? The situation was always bad if the commissioner felt it was needed to send Harvey Bullock on the case. Perhaps the situation was worse than the pieces they had put together.
Tim stopped in front of them. “Detectives.” He fidgeted slightly in worry. “Joyce called me. Is Elizabeth?”
“Relax kid.” Detective Bullock interrupted as he leaned against the wall. “We’re not here to bust ya. We knew you were coming. The commissioner wanted us here to guard the little miss until he could determine who else could be trusted with the job.”
Tim nodded as he reached for the door, pausing as Detective Montoya stated. “Mr. Wayne, after your visit, we would like to ask you some questions.”
“Is Tim a suspect, Detective Montoya?” Dick questioned from behind him.
“Not at this time, Mr. Grayson.” She answered him. “We just need to ask the routine questions.”
“It’s not a problem.” Tim said as he opened the door. “I’m willing to answer whatever questions that will aid in putting the person responsible behind bars.” He nodded again at the detectives before stepping into the room and froze as he stared at Elizabeth’s prone form. It wasn't right. She was so pale and still. It seemed wrong seeing her this way. He clenched his left hand as pain, guilt, and anger waged in his heart. He should have walked her home or followed her from the shadows. He had known that Collin had been stalking her. He should’ve done something.
But was Collin the attacker? Or was someone else responsible? Slowly, he examined Elizabeth as he pondered the situation. Had somebody realize she was looking into the Hunters of Twilight and wanted her silenced? Already he could see bruises littering down the left side her face and neck until they disappeared from sight underneath the blanket that was pulled up to her chest. Several bandages covered her left shoulder and upper chest.
Tim quietly took another step into the room. Elizabeth had already been out of surgery by the time Joyce had called him, but she had still sounded greatly upset… No, she had been scared. How badly wounded was Elizabeth? She was going to live, wasn’t she? He glanced to the heart monitor and watched it briefly as it gave off stable readings before looking back to Elizabeth.
Several seconds later he forced his gaze away from Elizabeth and spotted Joyce sitting in the chair on the right side of the bed with David standing behind her. Her hand was shaking as she brushed a piece of Elizabeth’s hair behind her ear. Tears were falling from her face and there was a grim look to David’s features. Fear gripped his heart tightly. That was not a good sign at all.
Tim glimpsed back as he felt Dick squeezing his shoulder gently in support. A few seconds passed before he returned his attention back to Elizabeth and questioned. “How is she?”
Joyce looked at him. “Tim.” She struggled to smile reassuring at him while she rose from her seat, but the smile dropped within moments. “Thank you for coming.” She whispered as hugged him. “She would want you to be here.” He gently hugged her back as his heart clenched again in fear. That really didn’t sound good. Please say she wasn’t dying, he mentally pleaded as he peeked back at the heart readings. A steady heartbeat had to mean something good, didn’t it?
“She… Well…” Joyce started to answer as she pulled back from the hug. “Elizabeth is…” She paused again, gripping her hands together as she took a deep breath to calm herself. “We don’t know if she’ll be ok or not.”
“What?” Tim asked confused. “Didn’t the doctors tell you their diagnosis?”
David gently pulled Joyce into a hug as he answered. “They did, Tim, but she is in a comatose state.”
Tim glimpsed quickly at Elizabeth before staring David in the eyes. “What caused it?”
“The doctors aren’t sure.” David explained as he rubbed small circles onto Joyce’s back. “There are several factors that could have contributed to the cause—the physical beating, the drugged that was found her system, the shot wound, or even the blood loss.” David sighed. “That’s the just the tip of the ice berg. After everything, she might not want to wake up.”
“No!” Tim denied, shaking his head. “She’ll want to wake up. Liz is too stubborn to just give up. There times when I wonder if she knows the meaning of giving up.” He stared at the floor for several seconds before looking back at them. “What… Just how badly hurt was she?”
Joyce pulled out of David’s arms. “She was shot in her left clavicle. They didn’t find the bullet; it seemed to have shot through, breaking the bone and causing damage to her muscles and tendons. Surprising, her arteries were spared.” She took a shaky breath before she added. “That still puzzles the doctors.”
“Elizabeth had suffered from severe blood loss.” David continued. “But what the doctors were most concerned about was the drug they discovered in her system. They estimated it to be a dose needed for an adult male twice her weight.”
Drug overdose? It pointed towards the attacker having no medical training, Tim pondered as he slowly pushed pass everyone to stand next to Elizabeth’s bed. Either the assailant had no common sense or he didn’t care. But why use the drug when the person planned to shoot her? What drug did they use? “Did…” Tim paused in his question, clenching his hands in anger at the thought of the physical beating that David had mentioned. Had she been rape too? He prayed that wasn’t the case. Again, he felt his shoulder being squeezed in sympathy. He peeked over his shoulder, spotting Dick standing there with Damian fidgeting slightly beside him. He took a calming breath and continued. “Was she raped?”
“No, Tim. The drug was a sedative.” David answered as he placed his hand on Tim’s other shoulder. “But the test came back negative. They did not rape her.”
“Thank god.” Tim whispered relieved that Elizabeth hadn’t suffered through that nightmare.
“Did they catch her assailant?” Dick questioned from his position.
“I’m sorry.” Joyce said as she looked at Dick. “But who are you?”
“I’m Dick Grayson.” He answered before gesturing to Damian. “He is Damian Wayne. We’re Tim’s brothers. We were with him when he received the call. I’m sorry for what happened to your daughter.”
“Thank you.” Joyce stated as she turned back to her daughter. “But no they have not caught the person responsible.”
Tim met his brothers’ gazes and they nodded back at him. That would change. They would make that change. He watched as his brothers quietly left the room. There were going to start the search. He would join them in a couple of hours. He carefully kissed Elizabeth on her forehead. He was needed here for the moment.
He clenched his hands briefly. He failed to protect her, but he wouldn’t fail to make her attacker pay. Collin Hunter better pray he had nothing to do with this for he wasn’t going to give him another chance.
Nightwing stared down into alleyway surveying the area. There was a marker sitting where Elizabeth had been found. The pool of blood that laid there looked like it had dried a few hours ago. He flipped off the roof and free-fall for several moments before grabbing the bar extending between the buildings and twisted, looping over the pole once before landing lightly on his feet.
There was a lot about the situation that wasn’t adding up. The official police report hadn’t been much help. They had found two shell casings of the three bullets used, but not the bullet that shot through Elizabeth. Was the bullet still around here or did the attacker keep it as a trophy?
The instrument used to inject the sedative hadn’t been found either. Was the sedative delivered before or after she was shot? He paused briefly at the marker before he continued to the left wall. According to the police’s report, this was where they had found one of the lead bullets’ fragments. It was likely to have been shot from a revolver or a semiautomatic pistol.
Nightwing fingered the small gouge in the wall as he assessed the situation. He was sure this was where the first bullet hit. It would’ve been aimed at Elizabeth’s upper chest or shoulder, but the angle suggested that the shooter had been on the ground at the time of the shot. Either way, Elizabeth hadn’t frozen when she had been shot at. Had she seen her attacker or heard the gun? No silencer had been used since multiple people had come forward and reported gunshots. In either case, the scenario pointed to the shooter being a rookie or extremely cocky.
He moved slightly further into the alley and crouched in front of the gouge in the cement floor. Two bullets’ shell casings had been found roughly eight feet from this spot further inside the alley. But unless you counted the fire escape, the alley was a dead end. Elizabeth would have been chased or lured into it. As no witnesses had come forward to report a chase it suggested that she had been lured. Elizabeth had recognized her attacker.
“Find anything?” Nightwing heard Tim asked through his com.
Nightwing stood and circled widely around the marker that represented where Elizabeth had lain. “Aren’t you with Elizabeth?” He questioned back. The third shot had hit her. Why? She had dodged the previous bullets. Furthermore, the doctors had found no bullets fragments when they had operated on Elizabeth. It was highly unlikely that a lead bullet wouldn’t have fragmented. Was a different set of ammo used? Why? What was motive?
“I stepped out for a moment.” Tim replied. “I couldn’t stand not doing anything while nothing changes”
“It might be awhile before something does. But Elizabeth is a strong person, I’m sure she’ll pull through.” Was there a second shooter, Nightwing wondered as he knelt beside a set of bloody footprints. He frowned. The beating started after she was shot. The assailant was emotionally driven. But when was she injected with the sedative? Before the shooting? Unless they had gotten a lucky hit in it would have require a dart gun.
He studied the different bloodstains. According to the doctors’ reports, Elizabeth had several bruises around the neck, left shoulder and chest areas, but very little bruises on her hands. It suggested that she didn’t fight back during the beating. Likely, she had been drugged at this point. The doctors had also found bloody footprints on her clothes but not her neck. Had the attackers cleaned it in remorse or as a cover up?
Earlier when they had drove to the hospital, they had come up with two possible theories concerning the attack on Elizabeth. The first possibility had been that Collin Hunter had attack her. There was some evidence that lend credit to the hypothesis. The miss shots, lack of a silencer, the incorrect sedative dose all pointed to the work of an amateur. “Is there anyone who had cause that would work with Collin?”
“You think it was a group attack?” Tim questioned before he paused. “It’s possible, but I can cross off most of the obvious choices. His best friend, Kyle Weston, started to avoid him roughly a week ago.”
Nightwing frowned again as he studied the scene. “There not much suggesting it, but my gut is leaning towards a group attack.” The footprints were leading towards the fire escape. “Is Collin’s capable of murder? Would he have access to the drug?”
“Yes.” Tim answered sharply. “His actions have been more aggressive of late, but so far he has no record. No charges, no arrest.”
Nightwing paused by the fire escape as he noticed a dark stain a few feet away from the crime scene. “Not even for his attack on Elizabeth in school?”
“The principle refused to believe us and Liz never pressed the matter further.” Tim answered, a note of frustration seeping through his voice.
“Tried to get her to press charges with the police?” Nightwing guessed as he walked over to the stain.
“Several times.” Tim replied before he sighed. “She has no faith in the authorities.”
He knelt down beside the stain and noted that it was splatter of closely gather small dots. Was it blood? Did Elizabeth managed to wound one of her attackers or was this from an unrelated case? “From the sounds of it, the authorities haven’t given her a lot of reason to believe in them, us included. What’s Collins background?”
“Bad childhood. He was removed from his parents’ care when he was eight. His father was an abusive drunk and the mother was negligent.” Tim answered. “He was taken in by his aunt and uncle. Nothing unusual occurred after that until about a three month ago.”
“His uncle was killed by the Joker.” Nightwing stated as he pulled out a few tools from his belt and scraped a sample into a small tube. It could be a dead end or it might provide a vital clue.
“And his aunt was fired for revealing patient information.”
Nightwing carefully slid the tube into a side pocket and made his way back to the fire escape. “Elizabeth’s parentage.”
“Precisely.” Tim confirmed. “She killed herself a month ago.”
“The stressor.” Nightwing quickly made his way up the ladder following the fading footprints and paused as he spotted a partial print of another set. “He started to stalk her around the same time.”
“Her school situation?” He questioned as he bent down and studied the print. It had a different tread. It was heavier, but not as worn. It was likely to belong to a boot and not a regular shoe. It was the first clue that confirmed a partner. “Does anyone else have reason to go after her?”
Tim sighed. “The authorities are getting anonymous tip about the school.”
“Not yet, but it is building. If not stop soon, it’ll get ugly.” Tim answered. “I should have done it sooner, but I was trying to get Elizabeth to press the charges.
Nightwing continued to follow the trail as he thought back to his previous conversation with Tim. “Would this involve how Elizabeth got a three day suspension?”
“Um…” He smiled briefly as Tim stumbled for words before he admitted. “Yeah, that was my fault.”
“Started the fight?” He guessed.
“Yes.” Tim answered, a hint of anger seeping into his voice. “This class A bully, Matthew Wood, kept picking on Liz. His groupies were starting to get involved in the act. The teachers were turning a blind eye to it and…”
“And you just reacted like you did with Dragoncat Phil.” Nightwing stated as he paused on the other side of the roof and glanced down towards the fire escape. Cleaver escape plan. Hop over the roof and down into the next alley that opens up into the opposite street. “You do realize that if she could fight the Joker to a standstill that she could’ve handled a couple of school bullies?”
“I know, I just…”
“Reacted.” He interrupted. “Bullies always had a way of pushing your buttons.”
“They do.” Tim agreed. “Liz interrupted before I had to take a beating.”
“The joys of having secret identities.” Nightwing replied dryly as he studied his surroundings again to ensure that he didn’t miss anything.
“She knocked most of them unconscious in one hit. Most of the lesser bullies back off after that.” Tim continued, amusement coloring his tone.
“It’s something to keep in mind when you make her angry at you.” Nightwing cautioned.
“I keep the apartment stock with chocolate and ice cream since that event. It helped me get out of the dog house.” Tim replied before asking, “Have you looked more fully into Collin?”
“Robin is looking into that part of the investigation.” Nightwing paused, waiting for usual snappish comment. He smirked when the line remained silent. “Trying not to cheer?”
“Collin deserves him. “ Tim stated flatly.
“Harsh.” Nightwing replied as he started to make his way towards Tim’s apartment. He had to pick up the files before heading to the cave. Robin would call if he ran into trouble. Possibly. Nightwing paused for a moment. He’ll give him another half an hour before checking on him, if Robin hadn’t beat him to the Cave already. “If I knew Liz would be the key for the two of you to start your brotherly bond, I would have introduced her to Damian sooner.”
“Any chance of returning to reality?” Tim questioned.
“Twerp!” He chuckled. “Leave my delusions alone.”
Tim’s small smile faded as he closed his cell phone and leaned against the outside wall of the hospital. He appreciated Dick support in the belief that Elizabeth would wake up. But he knew the odds of that happening. Nine out of ten people in similar situation never wake up. It was lucky that the drug overdose hadn’t killed her. He frowned. Why didn’t it?
“Hey kid.” Tim looked at Harvey, startled, as the detective stepped out of the shadow of the entrance. Why hadn’t he noticed him before? Was he that far off his game? He nodded at the detective. Had he overheard any of his conversation with Dick?
“You’re her boyfriend, right?” Harvey questioned as he came to a stop beside him. “How are you holding up?
“As well as I can, detective.” Tim carefully eyed the detective’s face. He knew that look. He had seen Harvey aimed it at suspects many times before as Robin. Apparently, his spot on the list of possible attackers just move to the top. He grabbed his crutches and started to move back towards the hospital entrance. “Excuse me, Detective Bullock, but I need to return.”
“Planning that anonymous tip?” Harvey questioned. Tim paused by the doors as the detective continued. “Think it will help cover your tracks? Make it easier on yourself kid, confess.” How much had he overheard? Tim hands tightened on his crutches. Bullock was like a dog with a bone. He had to give detective credit, though, Harvey could tell something wasn’t right, but he had the wrong angle.
“What difference does it make to you?” Tim challenged him as an idea that could help Elizabeth sprang to mind. “Liz wouldn’t trust the police with the harassment she got from school. After all, you did nothing about the first attack that sent her to the hospital.”
Harvey frowned. “What are you talking about?”
Tim turned and stared the detective in the eyes. How far should he take this? If it played out correctly, it could possibly get Elizabeth’s diagnosis of schizophrenia reverse by getting the police to realize there was an outside reason. It would take a visit from Red Robin to fully work but that could be arranged. It could reopen several doors for Elizabeth if she ever woke up. He snorted and turned away in fake disgust. “She was right, wasn’t she? You never bothered to look into the situation.”
“She had a mental breakdown, kid. I read the report.” Harvey stated.
“If she had just suffered from a mental breakdown then why was she submitted into Gotham General in a catatonic state for twenty-four hours before she was released to Mercy Mental Clinic?” Tim countered. “Liz doesn’t like to talk about it. She doesn’t trust that anyone would believe her. After all, who would believe her over a professional doctor? But I found that detail odd. No one just wakes up with schizophrenia. It doesn’t work that way, does it?”
Harvey frowned and remained quiet for several moments as he studied him. “You think someone is responsible for her previous condition?”
“I’m sure of it.” Tim replied. He ran his right hand through his hair as he sighed. “Look, I don’t know much about the situation. Like I said, Liz doesn’t like talking about it. But the few times she has, she mentioned a female being involved. Her lack of trust of authorities had to stem from somewhere.” Tim watched Harvey as pondered the scenario. He was sure her trust problems came from her experience from her previous life, but Harvey didn’t need to know that detail. Liz was likely to be mad at him for interfering, but he would gladly take the tongue lashing if she woke up.
“If your right…” Harvey started as he took a couple steps towards him. “How did she escape this person’s hold?”
Tim shrugged. “She briefly mentioned something about an injection. Maybe what was in it was enough to cancel out the problem or maybe a dose was missed. I don’t know. She really doesn’t like talking about it.”
Harvey nodded as he stopped in front of him. “I’ll look into it.” The detective glared at him. “Now stop giving me the runaround kid. What was that tip going to be about? If it something that could lead us towards her attacker then stop with this cloak and dagger crap and help us catch the bastard.”
Tim repressed the urge to smile. Harvey had taken the bait. It looked like it had the added bonus of shaken his belief about him being one of the attackers. He shook his head. “I’m not sure how much help it will be. But the teachers of Gotham High are not stopping the harassment aimed at Liz. They don’t even try.”
“What harassment?” Harvey questioned. “When did it start?”
“At first it was just normal teen squabbles—nothing to be concern about, you know, stuff that was easy to ignore.” Tim sighed as he leaned against the door. “It was after her parentage was revealed that it changed.”
Harvey raised an eyebrow. “How so?”
“Shortly before Liz and I were kidnapped by the Joker, Collin Hunter and Kyle Westson attacked her in the Student Lounge.”
“She told you.” Harvey stated.
Tim shook his head. “I witnessed part of the attack.” He paused for a few moments before he continued. “Throughout that week the student’s hostility started to increase towards her. I started to escort her home and to some of her classes. When I saw her walking in the opposite direction of our meeting point before talking to me, I got concern, so I followed.”
“Was the attack reported?” Harvey questioned.
“We told the principal, but he accused her of making the whole thing up.” Tim clenched his hands again in anger as he remembered the event. “He went as far as to accuse her of attacking them. He didn’t start to back down until I threatened to bring in the Wayne lawyers.”
Harvey smiled darkly. “That would silent most. What was the aggression like after your kidnapping?”
“It muted a little. The majority turned a blind eye, pretending she doesn’t exist. But there are handfuls that have threatened her, destroyed several of her belongings….” Tim paused a moment as he glared darkly at the ground. “One jerk even had the nerve to try to prove that she would be nothing better than…” Tim paused again as he clenched his hands. “Than a whore.” He really hated that term.
“Punched him?” Harvey questioned quietly.
Tim nodded before shrugging. “Liz had to rescue me, though. She pretty good at hand to hand.”
“You were handicapped kid. No shame in that.” Harvey countered. “You defended your lady’s honor and that a good thing.”
Tim snorted. “Tell Liz that. She was mad at me. She doesn’t like to be treated like a damsel.” He smiled briefly. “She’s usually pretty good at taking care of herself. She was ignoring them to prevent it from escalating to a higher level I think.”
“The teachers did nothing?” Harvey asked before sighing at Tim’s nod. “Geez, that kid has it rough. Didn’t happen to threaten to bring down your wrath, did ya?”
“I think Liz would kill me if I did.” Tim stated, slightly amused. “I tried to convince her to press charges, but…” He shrugged. “Again, authority’s issues. At least, I think that partly why. She hadn’t planned to stay past Christmas though. She was going after her GED.”
Harvey studied him for several moments. “What aren’t you saying, kid? Where does this Collin fellow come in?”
“Collin Hunter had been stalking her for the past month.” Tim stated as he look Harvey in the eyes.
“And you didn’t report this why?” He questioned flatly.
Tim looked up at Harvey in surprise. “I was trying to convince Liz to get a restraining order on him.”
“Look, kid…” Harvey stated as he placed a hand on Tim’s shoulder. “If she wasn’t going to report a serious situation like that then you should have.” Harvey glared at Tim as he opened his mouth to interrupt. “You didn’t want to go against her wishes, I get it. She had a lot of crap happen to her. But sometimes a person has to put their foot down in order to protect others. You should have at least told her parents.” Harvey paused as he frowned. “There’s no way David wouldn’t have reported the stalking.” He sighed and released Tim’s shoulder. “From what it sounds like, your girl needs to relearn to trust that others will have her back.”
“She has been through a lot.” Tim replied quietly.
“Yeah, she has.” Harvey agreed. “But she has people around her that won’t write her off. The faster she realizes that the easier life can become.” He slowly walked back into the hospital as he stated over his shoulder. “I’ll look into these matters once my replacement comes. Might even give pointy ears a call.”
Tim smiled. Harvey was a good person to have in your corner. He sighed before he made his way back towards Elizabeth’s room. He would have to beat Bruce to that call. That might prove to be difficult. Now if Liz would just give him a sign that she would wake up.
Robin paused on the opposite rooftop as he observed the apartment complex before him. On the third floor belonged the apartment of Jake Cole, the oldest child of the deceased Mathew and Juliana Cole. The only family Collin Hunter had left. According to the reports that Oracle had found, Jake had followed his father’s footsteps and was a guard at Arkham. He had motive, training, and access to weapons and sedative drugs. He could have been involved in the attack on Winters, except the camera footage had shown him to be at work during that time.
He returned his binoculars to his belt and shot a grappling line to the apartment’s rooftop and swung. This was the best place to find Collin Hunter. No witness had ID the shooter or had a description that matched him. It gave Hunter no reason to believe he had to run.
Quietly, he sneaked through the living room’s balcony window. He glanced around the area. The lights were off and nothing seemed off. Slowly he walked through the apartment and paused at the hallway leading to the apartment’s entrance. A pair of shoes had been left out.
Robin knelt beside them. There was a dark red, nearly black stain splattered on them. Hunter had been careless. He picked up the left shoe and studied the tread. He frowned. There was built up crud between the tread marks. He swiped a finger across the bottom and watched as the muck crumpled. It had been gathered recently.
Swiftly he gathered a small sample into a container to be examined later at the cave before continuing his search of the house. He paused a moment before the kitchen doorway. There was a foul stench in the air. He pushed through the door, stopping sharply as he found Hunter face down on the floor a foot away from him. Robin scanned the area for the assaulter before bending down and checking the pulse. Nothing. He had been dead for a while.
He stood and studied the surroundings again. Roughly two feet away from Hunter was a tip glass with some dark liquid remaining inside. Robin turned to his left. On the counter there was a half empty wine bottle and a piece of paper. He stepped around the body and pick up the paper and read the contents. He raised an eyebrow beneath his mask and snorted in disdain. It was a suicide note proclaiming his guilt in killing Winters. Pathetic.
Robin glanced at the wine bottle again before restudying the note. The writing was clearly legible, not how a drunk would write. Had Hunter been drunk? He moved further into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator’s door. He peered inside. There was no sign of alcohol beverages. He stepped over to the cupboard on his right and looked inside. Again there was no sign of alcohol. He glanced back at the wine bottle and frowned. The details weren’t adding up.
Robin pocketed the note before silently gathered a sample of the wine inside the bottle into a test tube. He paused by the spilt glass on the floor and repeated the process with few droplets inside of it. Quietly he walked through the house until he found Hunter’s room. He stopped by the bag leaning against the left wall and searched through it until he found a sheet of Hunter’s handwriting done in ink.
He pulled the suicide note back out and compared the two. At first glanced the writings seemed to match, but the homework had small smudge marks consistently across the words. Robin glanced back to the note. It had none of the smudge marks. Could it have been forged? He frowned. He would need to run more test back at the Cave.
Dick fingered the suicide note as he leaned back in his chair in the Bat Cave. According to the test result of the wine, Collin Hunter killed himself with the same drug overdose that had placed Elizabeth in a comatose state. At first glance, it seemed like a simple open and shut case. An angry and hurt teen attacked the one he believe responsible. Guilt ridden at nearly taking another life he took his own.
It answered several questions about the case like how Elizabeth was lured into the alley. It furthered explained several of the mistakes made in the attack. But it didn’t sit right, Dick decided as he shifted through the evidence that Damian had brought back from the Cole’s household and compared it to what he discovered at the scene of the crime. The second scene didn’t match the profile Tim had on Collin Hunter. He had been planning this attack for a while; it was unlikely that he would kill himself simply because of guilt. No, Collin Hunter had wanted Elizabeth dead.
“Cover up.” Damian suggested from his right. “Someone wanted her silenced and used Hunter as the means.”
“Possibly.” Dick replied before he frowned as he studied the pictures of the two crimes. The first scene was designed to look like an attack of rage done by an amateur, but it wasn’t. There had been someone else there and that person nearly didn’t leave a trail behind. That took training. Then there was the matter of the missing bullet. Where was it?
“What’s the reason for the subterfuge?” Bruce questioned as he flipped through the case files that Dick had gathered from Tim’s apartment. “What is their motive for nearly killing her but not insuring the kill?”
“Maybe they thought it was enough?” Dick suggested with a shrug. “Most don’t survive a drug overdose like that combined with being shot and beaten.”
Bruce shook his head. “No. It was deliberate.” He typed in several commands into the computer and pulled up a list that had one highlighted number. “Oracle traced back the numbers that made the 911 call to report the attack. One came from a disposable phone minutes of the attack.”
Dick’s eyes widened in surprise. “The mastermind wanted her to survive.”
“The assailant knew she would.” Bruce corrected as he turned around in his chair. “This leads us back to why she was looking into the Hunters of Twilight to begin with. How is she involved?”
Dick shook his head and stated flatly. “Elizabeth is not a member of the group. She only knew about them through her visions she receives from her Meta powers.”
“Interesting story, but false.” Bruce countered. “Elizabeth Winters is not a Meta.”
“Excuse me? What do you mean not a Meta? Her powers are real.” Dick argued. At the sound of footsteps he glanced to his left and spotted Alfred walking towards them.
“There is no Meta marker in her DNA makeup.” Bruce stated simply as he pulled up blood analysis onto the computer. “Her visions could be careful concocted lies.”
Dick stared at the report before he scoffed. “You just can’t give her a chance, can you?” He stood up from his chair and crossed his arms. “She not Meta, fine, I can believe that. It still doesn’t mean that her powers aren’t real. There’s another explanation.”
“Do you know what it is?” Bruce questioned.
Dick paused for several moments before he frowned. In truth, he didn’t know. He had a feeling in his gut that Elizabeth wasn’t the enemy, but the unanswered question worked against that. He thought back to the conversation that Red Robin had with Commissioner Gordon. He was positive that Tim had been protecting Elizabeth. From what? The assassins? Was she the one they had been looking for?
Furthermore, Elizabeth knew their secrets but had remained silent. Had any of them told Bruce? Dick glanced at Bruce’s expecting face. He highly doubted it since he hadn’t brought it up yet. There was one thing he didn’t doubt. He looked Bruce in the eyes. “Tim’s knows the answers.” His little brother was as horrible as letting unanswered questions go as Bruce was.
“Tim is being blinded by his emotions.” Bruce countered.
Dick barely withheld a groan. “Is he?” Why was he the one having this argument with Bruce? And why did Damian choose now of all times to be silent? “Or is it you who is blinded by emotion?” Tim was so going to owe him.
“Excuse me, Master Bruce, Master Dick.” Alfred interrupted and Dick glanced at him hopefully. Alfred nodded towards him before resting his hands on Damian’s shoulder. Damian scowled at him. “I will be going to the hospital to relieved Master Timothy of his watch over Miss Elizabeth and wish for Master Damian to come.”
“Why should I?” Damian demanded as he crossed his arms.
“I dare say to show support to Master Timothy, but afraid that wouldn’t work.” Alfred stated as clasped his hands behind his back.
Bruce frowned as he interrupted. “Don’t tell me you trust her too, Alfred.”
“Sometimes, Master Bruce, you’ve got to trust the people you love. The simple beliefs of knowing that you have raise them and taught them well enough to make good decisions of their own.” Alfred countered lightly.
“But trusting her? Her story, Alfred, it doesn’t add up!” Bruce argued. “It’s filled with holes.”
Alfred calmly looked at Bruce. “Deciding whether or not to trust a person is like deciding whether or not to climb a tree because you might get a wonderful view from the highest branch or you might simply get covered in sap and for this reason many people choose to spend their time alone and indoors where it is harder to get a splinter.”
Dick looked at Alfred oddly. “Quoting Lemony Snicket, really?”
Alfred nodded at him again before turning back towards Damian. “Now, Master Timothy is bound to be stubborn in releasing his self-assigned duty and your unique skills, Master Damian, may just be enough to persuade him to relent whereas mine may fail.”
Damian raised an eyebrow. “So?”
“Consider it a challenge, Master Damian.” Alfred stated, glancing at Damian out of the corner of his eyes as he turned back towards the stairs. “Unless of course, you believe you would fail? By all means, Master Damian, stay here within your safe haven.”
Dick withheld a snicker as Damian glared at Alfred. “I wouldn’t fail.”
“Of course not, young master.” Alfred agreed as he started to walk up the staircase.
Damian scowled as he marched after Alfred. “You’re not fooling me, Pennyworth. You just want me away from Fathers and Grayson’s argument.”
Dick and Bruce shared a grin as Alfred replied to Damian’s remark. “I have no idea what you are implying, young master.”
“I doubt that.” Damian replied flatly as they disappeared through the door.
Dick chuckled as he grabbed the top file off the desk. “We’re at a dead end at both cases. Let’s dig through the files that Elizabeth brought us and compare it to some of the new ones that your search just pulled up.” He flipped through the file briefly before he typed in a command into the computer, causing the order of the cases to flip to the newest to oldest.
“It could be a trap.” Bruce stated as he grabbed his own file. “It is better to prepare for the unexpected.
Dick sighed and glanced at Bruce wearily. “She’s not the Joker.”
“Perhaps.” He conceded as he flipped through a couple more pages. “It doesn’t mean she not entangled in this mess.”
“Could you actually meet Elizabeth before you condemn her?” Dick questioned as he met Bruce’s eyes. They stared silently at each other for a few minutes before Dick threatened. “Don’t make me bring Alfred back down here.”
Bruce’s lips twitched slightly in amusement before he returned his attention back to the files. Dick sighed. How many more rounds was it going to take before he stop being stubborn about this? Tim so owed him.
Tim sighed as he flipped the page of the book that David had been reading to Elizabeth a few minutes ago. He had left it behind after Tim had convinced both of Elizabeth’s parents to go get something to eat. “Distinguishing between primary and secondary crime scenes,” he read softly read out loud. “There may be more to a crime scene than first meets the eye. In fact, more than one crime scene may exist, depending upon how the crime was committed—not to mention where. Crime scenes therefore are considered primary or secondary.”
Tim paused in his reading for several moments before closing the book and replacing it onto the table. He gently took Elizabeth’s right hand into his own. “I knew you were studying hard, Liz, but I didn’t realize until recently that you were interested in detective work.” Tim softly ran his thumb across her fingers. “Did you want to be a cop? Your mental diagnosis would prevent that, but that may change. I hope you won’t be too angry, I know it’s a bad memory, but I told Detective Bullock a little about it. He is looking into the attack which placed you in the mental clinic. The diagnosis may get reverse.”
He paused in his talk to glance briefly at the closed doors before he smiled lightly at Elizabeth’s unconscious form. “Or were you inspired by Red Robin? If that the case I could always help you out. I do know a thing or two about such a situation. Though, I probably should discourage you from that path. It is dangerous, but I doubt you would listen. Never did listen to me when I told you to not go after the Joker, just tried to find a new way to evade me.”
Tim paused again and looked towards the door at the sound of a soft knock. Alfred and Damian walked through as the door opened. They stopped beside him and Alfred asked, “Any changes, Master Timothy?”
Tim shook his head. “Nothing.”
Alfred gently squeezed his shoulders. “I’m so sorry, dear boy, but she has not left us yet. There is still hope no matter how small it may be.” Again Alfred gave Tim’s shoulder a squeeze before stepping back. “May I enquire if you had gotten anything to eat lately?”
Again, Tim shook his head. “I haven’t been hungry.”
“That is no excuse, Master Timothy.” Alfred countered as he looked at him sternly, but gently. “You are not doing Miss Elizabeth or yourself any favors by neglecting your own health.”
“I know.” He conceded.
“Go home, Drake.” Damian ordered. “If Winters were to awaken now your appearance would scare her.”
Tim glared at him. “Damian.”
“The rest would do you good, Master Timothy.” Alfred interrupted.
“But…” Timothy paused as he looked down at Elizabeth before returning his attention to Alfred. “What if something happens while I’m gone? If she dies or is attacked again?”
“Do you believe that Miss Elizabeth is strong willed?” Alfred questioned
“Hell yes.” Tim replied before wincing at Alfred’s reproachful look at his langue. “Sorry, but...” He smiled in amusement. “She really could give Bruce a run for his money in that department.”
“Then I dare say you have nothing to fear.” Alfred stated as he smiled back at him. “Worry not,
Master Timothy, should anything change, I shall inform you immediately.”
Tim stared at Alfred for few minutes before shaking his head. “Alright, you win. I’ll go home.” He gently released Elizabeth’s hand before standing. He shuffled awkwardly for a moment he before softly brush some of Elizabeth’s hair from her face. “I’ll be back, Liz.”
“I do hope you will get some food and rest.” Alfred stated.
Tim nodded. “I will.”
Alfred sat down in the empty seat. “Master Damian shall see you home.”
“What?” Both boys exclaimed in shock.
Alfred smiled at them. “There is no point in repeating work when there is one around that can debrief the other in, now is there?”
Dick stretched his arms above his head as he entered his apartment. It had been a long day and it looked like there was still a long night in front of him. He picked up the necklace that lay around his neck in thought. Did Elizabeth have a real vision or was it just a nightmare that had freaked her? But how else could she have known about the tracking device inside of it? They had never talk about it around her. In either case, it couldn’t hurt to humor her for a while, at least until she woke up.
He threw his car keys unto the table. The extra files hadn’t helped much. The Hunters of Twilight and the assassin group seemed to have different moving patterns and motives. What was the connection? Why would they appear in Elizabeth visions? The only link he saw was the age of the groups and that information hadn’t helped much.
But there had to be a link. He doubted Elizabeth’s information and the timing of the attack was coincidence. No there was a deeper meaner to her attack. He had a feeling that if they found the true reason for it that a lot of their questions would be answered.
Dick yawned as he headed towards the couch. A few hours of rest should help. This was one group they shouldn’t be facing on fumes. A clanking noise of an item hitting the floor to his left alerted him to his company. He glanced out at the corner of his eye. His eyes widened in shock. A grenade? Crap. Someone really didn’t like him.
He jumped over the couch and darted towards the exit when the flash grenade went off sending powerful bright light through the room. Damn. Dick shut his stinging eyes. He really wished he had his mask on. The polarized lenses would’ve been handy at the moment. He needed to buy himself a minute and half before his sight would start to return. No problem.
He tripped over an item on the floor and threw himself into a roll ending in a crouch. Correction: slight problem. Note to self. Clean the apartment after this. He had left the pillows on the floor the last time he crashed on the couch.
Sound of footsteps less than a foot away came from behind him. He lashed out with a kick, nailing one of his opponents in the stomach. “Why are you attacking me?” He demanded as he dodged a punch from his right.
“It’s nothing personal, Mr. Grayson.” A female stated from his left. “But we have a use for you.”
“And that’s not personal?” Dick countered as he blocked a punch to his face and kicked the opponent on his left. “What purpose could I serve you?”
“Bait, Mr. Grayson. We have a bat to distract.” The female stated again, this time behind him. Damn. He didn’t hear her move. Thirty seconds. He needed thirty more seconds and his odds would improve.
They wanted Bruce’s attention away from something. Elizabeth? Tim? This group wanted the one they called Chosen who was likely Elizabeth based on Tim’s reaction, Dick deduced as he duck a kick. They wanted Red Robin dead for protecting her. And Batman?
Dick lashed out with a kick to the opponent in front of him as he thought back to the enemy patrol patterns. It circled around Tim’s apartment. They wanted Batman attention away from Tim. Why? Were they targeting him because they knew about him being… No. This was because of Batman Incorporation. They were the sons of the founder. They wanted to use them as distraction from their true target. He doubted this group knew the truth. Their identities were safe for now.
But why the patrol lines around Elizabeth’s apartment? He dived sharply to the right as he heard a faint pop go off in front of him. A soft thud confirmed that the object embedded itself into the wall behind him. Silencer? No they wanted him alive. Dart gun. It could possibly be the same one that was use on Elizabeth. Had she been right? Could the assassins and the Hunters of Twilight be the same group?
Ten seconds left. He was in the corner, wasn’t he? He reached out shoulder high on his right and grabbed a hard cover book. Yep corner. He hurled the book at the opponent twenty degrees to his left. Three seconds later there was a thud as the opponent hit the floor.
“You really should rethink this.” Dick stated as he grabbed another book. “I’m really horrible at being bait.” Five seconds.
“Enough of this.” The woman snarled, inches from him. Dick eyes widened as he quickly tried to block her. Too late. The electric charge of the Taser slammed into him. As the pain flared through him he realized the necklace was still around his neck and his lips twitched. Elizabeth’s visions were real and his attackers were going to have a real problem on their hands soon. His last thought as darkness swallowed him was he might end up owing Elizabeth.
He was missing something Tim decided as he slammed his fist into the punching bag strung up in the training portion of his lair. Damian had left the moment he had finished debriefing him on the updates in the cases. It had left him with more questions than answers, so he decided to take advantage of a trick that Bruce had taught him.
To get his heart pumping, allowing the extra oxygen to help him think faster. Tim spun on his right foot and kicked the bag with his left. Quickly he followed up with a right back hand. The bonus of the extra layer of distraction promoted lateral thought. Again, his left hand slammed into the bag.
He agreed with Dick, it was unlikely that Collin had killed himself, but it would have been easy to trick him into drinking the drug. But why was he doubled crossed? Tim hammered the bag with several more punches. Silence? Who was the partner? The framing of Collins was near perfect. It spoke of a professional. A dirty cop? It was possible, not likely. The Hunters of Twilight? Why would they use the subterfuge?
Where was the link in all this? Tim frowned and performed a roundhouse kick against the bag. There was one other suspect he could link with Elizabeth, the mastermind of the assassin’s tournaments that he had put an end to. But he had spoken of protecting her, so why nearly kill her? Unless this was his way of protecting her against the fate worse than death that he had hinted at.
“I doubt that what Alfred had in mind when he sent you home.” Barbara stated through his laptop’s com link.
He slammed his fist into the bag again before turning towards his laptop. “I doubt he expected much less. Did you find anything?”
“The tampered videos weren’t hiding anything.” Barbara replied before she smirked at him. “They were the message done in Morse code. Who knows Red Robin’s civilian name?”
Tim frowned. “Very few.”
“I’m sending over the translation of the message.” Barbara paused a moment before she continued. “Narrow down the list of suspects. This person has you pinned as the one protecting the Chosen. It furthered goes into details of the duties of the Shield and Chosen. It speaks like a legend. The human race conquered by invading demons until a group managed to capture the power of one of the demon and created the first Chosen. Epic battles and a few different Chosen until the demons were drive out of this dimension by a united force of warriors.” She paused again and raised an eyebrow. “And they believe this?”
“Him.” Tim groaned.
“Know who it is?” She questioned.
“The mastermind of the assassin’s tournaments.” Tim answered as he pulled open the files that transferred over.
Barbara raised an eyebrow. “The same mastermind which views you as his heir?”
“The very same.” Tim confirmed. “He claimed to be the first Shield and responsible for getting the Chosen away from the Shadow Men the first time.”
“According to his report, it didn’t last. They were betrayed and that Chosen became the source of the power in the Shadow Men army. It doesn’t explain how though.” She replied as she shook her head. “But why put the message in a tampered video?”
Tim typed in several commands and started a program to compare the information with the legend he had gathered already. “Because he knew I would looked through the different videos to discover the assassin’s patrol pattern once I had a general area.”
“There was still a large chance of the information being overlooked.” Barbara countered.
Tim shook his head. “He played the odds and picked the cameras that would appeal best to logic and gain my attention.”
Barbara leaned back in her chair. “How so?”
“It brought attention to Elizabeth.” Tim answered.
“She the one, isn’t she?” She questioned. “The one they’re after.”
Tim remained silent for several moments before he admitted. “I think so.”
“What are you going to do?”
He stared at Barbara, feeling slightly lost. “Protect her.” But how was he going to do that? And would Liz allow him to?
Robin frowned as he swung across the rooftops towards Grayson’s apartment. He was supposed to meet him in the cave for patrol over an hour ago but never showed and his com was unresponsive. It was unlike Grayson to not show, especially with the events that had been accruing. There was no way he would have brush off the search for the missing girls or the threat to Winters.
He paused next to the apartment balcony’s window and peered inside. A sinking feeling filled the pit of his stomach. The apartment had been trashed. Furniture was broken and scattered across the floor. A fight had accrued here. Had Grayson lost?
Quietly he slipped into the apartment and slowly studied his surroundings for enemies. He stopped by the far wall and frowned. There was a message written on it that looked to be done in blood. It stated: Soon you will choose.
He carefully swiped a sample into a container. If the blood belonged to Grayson, then the head of the person responsible would roll. Robin glanced towards the wall that hid the secret department that hid all of Dick’s uniforms. Silently he walked over and activated the switch. The wall slid open revealing the Nightwing uniform undisturbed. He frowned. Grayson had been caught off guard.
Robin activated his com.
Twenty-four hours had passed since Eileen Haris had been killed, Red Robin noted as he quietly slipped into Elizabeth’s room. He was on patrol, but he needed to check on her. So far, there had been no signs of another kill besides Collins Hunter. The patrol had been quiet so far with no sighting of the assassins. It was causing a feeling of dread to build in his gut. What were they planning? He sighed as he spotted Elizabeth lying on the bed undisturbed. He peered closer and smiled slightly when he noticed some of the color had returned to her face and bruises seemed fainter.
Contented to see her safe, he turned to leave when he froze when Elizabeth lightly moaned. He turned back towards Elizabeth as a small hope flared in his heart. “Liz?”
Again, Elizabeth groaned, tossing her head slightly before she slowly opened her eyes. She looked at him confused for several moments. “Red Robin?”
Red Robin smiled in relief. He doubted he could have contained it if he tried. Stepping forward he questioned, “Liz… Elizabeth, how are you?” Way to go Drake, he mental chastised himself. Just in case she doesn’t know your real identity let give it away anyways.
Elizabeth briefly made a movement to push into a sitting position before she froze in pain. “Ow. I’ve been better.”
“You shouldn’t push yourself. You were hurt pretty badly.” Quickly he moved to her side and aided her in finding a comfortable position. “Do you know who attacked you?”
She shook her head. “Didn’t recognize him, but he was aiding Collin.” She glanced around the room before she pouted. “Don’t suppose I could leave now.”
He looked at her exasperated. “It’s going to take a while to heal.”
“I hate hospitals” Elizabeth complained before she smirked. “Besides I’ll be mostly healed in a week.”
He shook his head as he countered. “Not with that wound. You nearly died.”
“Accelerated healing.” She replied simply.
He stared at her for several moments before he questioned. “Seriously? Anything else I should know?”
“Probably.” Elizabeth admitted.
“Elizabeth…” Red Robin paused in his question as he studied her face. “Do you know who I am?”
She bit her lip nervously before she made a show of studying his appearance. “Kind of hard to miss it, boy mascot.”
“You know what I mean.” He countered as he glared at her.
Silence passed between them for a few minutes as they stared at each other before she sighed. “Tim. You’re Tim Drake.” She tilted her head to the side and smirked. “You’re my friend and boyfriend who kept placing tracking devices on me and fake my parents’ death. I still need to punch you for that, you know.
He smiled in amusement of her mini rant. He had no doubt he would end up paying for both of those actions eventually, but she wasn’t really angry about it anymore. More than anything he felt relief that she knew the truth. Was it wrong? It certainly had more potential of her finding trouble. What was he going to do? He had a feeling once he confirmed her statement that she wouldn’t allow him to be the only one to be put in danger by fighting crime. Elizabeth’s studies of the detective arts pointed to that.
They would have to discuss the situation Tim decided as he lowered his cowl. His com activated as he opened his mouth to talk and he heard Damian state. “Drake, they have Grayson.”
Red Robin cursed and ignored Elizabeth’s questioning look. “Dick or Nightwing?” Ok, he probably shouldn’t have confirmed Dick’s identity for Liz, but it really wasn’t that hard to figure out once you had the correct pieces. He was positive she would have figured it out soon if she hadn’t already. Dick would understand since he had invited the idea of Elizabeth joining them in their night jobs. It would be a bonus not to have secrets in a relationship for once.
“Grayson.” Robin replied. “His suit was undisturbed.”
Bruce was going to find a way to ground him and being an legal adult wasn’t going to save him, he briefly thought as he ordered. “Meet me at my lair.”
He ignored Damian’s complaint of being ordered around and turned back towards Elizabeth. “I have to go Liz, Dick was taken.”
“I understand.” She stated as she looked at him in concern. “Be careful in your rescue.”
“I will.” He nodded. Gently, he took her right hand into his. “But there a couple things we need to discuss.”
She squeezed his hand back. “It can wait.”
Tim shook his head. “No it can’t.” He paused a moment and looked into her eyes. “If you are healing as fast as you believe, it might be safer if you switched doctors.”
“You want me to switch to the one that covers your fake injury, right? Dr. Thompkins?” She questioned and he nodded but remained silent as she bit her lip in thought. “It would probably be easier to keep everything hush, hush in the long run. Plus, I wouldn’t have to worry too much about being turned into a lab rat.”
He chuckled a little bit. “Liz.”
She smirked back at him. “Ok, now what is the second thing?”
“This.” He stated as he gently kissed her on the mouth. Slowly, he pulled back. “Don’t scare me like that again, my damsel.”
Elizabeth glared at him, but the effect was ruin as her lips twitched towards a smile. “Not a damsel.”
He pulled his cowl back up. “I have proof stating otherwise.” He replied as he slipped out of the room.