Choices Chapters1: Prologue
Choices: Chapter 18
Face to Face
by Marilee Stephens
"Like hell you are!"
This out-burst, low-voiced but definite, was accompanied by a glare from the Huntress. When Dick looked deeper though, he realized it stemmed from a deep concern for him on her part. Batwoman didn't say anything but just stood there silently, her arms crossed over her chest, a scowl edging its way around her mouth. Still, he sensed she was having the same reservations as Helena.
Dick was about to explain why this was the best route to follow when Huntress motioned for him to be silent. The action almost struck him dumb, as if reminded him so sharply of similar gestures his Batman would sometimes make while he was thinking and didn't want to be disturbed. This woman was definitely Bruce Wayne's daughter, even if it wasn't the Bruce Wayne he knew.
After a long moment, Helena spoke. "I can see where you're going with this, and it could possibly be a way to get at the big man behind all this more quickly. But, to play Devil's Advocate for a moment, it could also badly backfire. What if these guys don't decide to take you to see their boss, but decide it's better to take you down outright?"
Batwoman interrupted the Huntress, "I don't think so. From their discussion, the leader is the one who makes all the decisions here, even if they don't agree with them. It doesn't seem like they would or could do whatever they want here."
Dick nodded with Barbara's thinking. "That's my thinking. Besides, they'll probably think of me as a prize or something. They'll want to take me back to give me to the headman to win favor. And you can follow. These gives us a way to locate their main hideout and find out who's behind all of this, while leaving you two free to call some back-up, get in and get me loose and we can work on taking everyone down, not just this bunch."
The Huntress nodded her agreement. "All right. I'm convinced. But we'll be right on your tail."
"I expect that. And this will help." Dick opened up one of the cuffs on his forearms. From it, he extracted two devices, both small in size, though one was tinier than the other. Handing the larger of the two to Batwoman, he noted, "Here's a tracking monitor for this tracer", he held up the small device, a miniscule disk, which he then affixed in the very small hollow above the mastoid process behind his ear. It was so small and flat, as well as being hidden by his hair, that someone would have to do a very thorough search of that area to even be able to feel it. Dick didn't think this quartet of crooks would be too interested in, or maybe even think about, doing such a complete search, though there was always a chance. Still it was only a back up in case Batwoman and the Huntress somehow lost track of following him, something Dick wasn't particularly worried about. Not if these women were anywhere as skilled as their counterparts on his earth, which he was sure they were.
"Okay So we're set with all of this?" Dick wanted to make sure that the two women were comfortable with his plan. One, it meant things would run more smoothly, and two, he didn't want either of them to feel that he was overstepping his bounds. After all, this was Batwoman's Earth, they were both older, and maybe even more experienced than he was, and while he had sort of fallen into being the leader in this plan, he was on unsure footing here.
But neither woman appeared to be uncomfortable with his taking the lead. Instead Batwoman just pulled out her radio. "I'm going to notify Prophet of what we're up to. He can get a hold of the others. That way, everyone will know what's up and they can join us as soon as possible." With that, she moved off a few feet and Dick watched as she spoke quietly and quickly into her transceiver. When she rejoined them after a few moments, she nodded that everything was a go.
"He said that he'll get in touch with Batman and Starfire and let them know what we're doing. He also notify the JLA and he'll try to tell my Robin, but Jason's in a business meeting at the moment and it might take a while. Even so, we should have plenty of back-up if we need it."
"I think we should wait a few more minutes before busting in, 'Wing", the Huntress interjected softly. "We should listen in a few more minutes and see if we can pick anything else up from these guys before making any moves. Especially since we haven't found out anything about that other woman in there."
Dick knew that she was right. With his nod of agreement, the three of them headed back to the broken skylight and crouched down to listen in some more. Looking down, the three of them quickly assess any changes in the situation.
There didn't appear to be many. They could still only make out where three of the four culprits were, and they hadn't moved much from what they had been doing before. Dick, like the Huntress, wasn't comfortable with the unknown fourth quantity of the unseen person, and he was sure that Batwoman would feel the same way. But that unknown person still wasn't showing herself. And the others were just chatting amongst themselves.
"How long do you think the Boss is going to make us wait here?" The smaller of the two men was still playing with his knife and was making it twirl between his fingers, flashes of light reflecting off the spinning blade.
The tall red-head took one last drag on her cigarette and snuffed it out before answering, "He'll call us when he calls us. There's not use trying to guess his actions, given how capriciously he tends to decide things."
"Yeah, I know, Meek But it still drives me up the wall."
The dark man moved closer to his apparent partner and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry, Solid The boss knows what he's doing."
"Meek" "Solid" What kind of names are those, Dick had to wonder. Especially when he heard what "Solid" called the other man.
"Yeah yeah Twitchy, I getcha. But the waiting is driving me nuts."
Dick mulled over the names before he had to file this away for reference. A pair of mismatched men, who went by names that were mismatched to their apparent personalities, and thus mismatched to the opposite man's name as well. It all made sense, in a very twisted sort of way. A way that Dick was pretty sure he recognized, and which caused what had been a very small knot in his stomach to increase slightly.
Still, to really test out his hypothesis, he would need to find out what "Meek's" partner's name was.
After a several long minutes, in which nothing of real consequence was talked about, Dick decided that they probably wouldn't get anything of use from the people below. These goons seemed to do what their boss told them, without either really considering or without caring what the big picture behind their actions was. As such, he nodded to the women that he thought it was time to make their move. They nodded back in agreement. They only paused for a moment, to steel themselves before the battle, before nodding they were ready.
From below, Dick heard the voice of the black-clad, smaller man float up. "Solid" was really starting to get antsy for something to do. "I wish the boss would contact us to let us know what he wants next. This sitting here is getting boring."
Using that as his cue, Dick jumped down into the room. "I don't think the four of you should be worrying about what your leader wants you to do at least, not considering where you're going next." Dick made his voice sound even more confident than usual as he led the ladies in swinging down through the busted skylight. He managed to vault down almost on top of Meek, using the acceleration of his descent to give added power to the fist he landed on her jaw before flipping out to land in front of her collapsed form. But while the move had obviously caught her by surprise, but it hadn't downed her completely. Almost as soon as she was down, Dick heard a moan and saw her start to rise. His partners hadn't had the opportunity to attack either of the men via their entrance, so they had landed on their feet in the center of the room, backs to one another, as they scoped out their opponents from this level.
In that quick moment, Dick scanned the loft, trying to find the other unseen woman. But he couldn't locate her. He wanted to take more time to search. However, since he, Batwoman and the Huntress needed to keep utilizing the element of surprise their entrance had generated, he quickly moved back into attack mode, moving in on the green-clad female he had sent reeling, but who had regained her feet very quickly, and was advancing on him.
While he kept his main attention on the woman coming at him, Dick was cognizant of the fact that the Huntress and Batwoman were double-teaming on the two men. But he had to let even that little bit of attention focus back on his current opponent, as the tall woman drew some throwing stars from the belt around her waist and made to use them.
The next few minutes passed in a whirl of moving bodies. In the few moments he had to draw breath, either due to the fact that he had dodged an attack by Meek or one of the men, he scanned the room for the missing woman. He knew that the Huntress and Batwoman would be doing the same thing. But every time he managed to catch one or the other of their eyes, they both indicated that they hadn't spotted anything.
It made Dick uneasy, but he couldn't spend too much time on it, as Meek was proving to be difficult opponent. Nothing he couldn't handle, but she was quick on her feet, was obviously trained well in a number of judo and jujitsu moves and was quite adept with the various fighting tools that she kept pulling off her hip belt. A variety of weapons, such as the fighting stars, a set of numchuk sticks and a short staff, as well as some other gear, were brought into play. Still, with his own escrima sticks and his acrobatic moves, Dick managed to avoid getting hit too bad, while landing some good blows of his own. Meek wasn't down yet, but she looked like she was about to start staggering.
When he had a chance to see how Barbara and Helena were handling the men, he noted that Twitchy wasn't averse to getting right into the fray. He had some powerful moves of his own, including a number of strong boxing and wrestling maneuvers. Solid, on the other hand, stayed in the background, tossing a number of different style knives at the women, and occasionally one or two in Dick's direction, which Batwoman or the Huntress were kept busy deflecting. The set of men were working well as a team, which in fact was an advantage to them, as Dick knew he, Helena and this Barbara hadn't totally gelled yet in that regard. But their little trio was managing to hold their own, and provide a good counter-attack.
Still, the missing element to all this was constantly sitting in the back corner of Dick's mind. He had to wonder if and when the unseen woman would make her own moves. And they still did have their plan to implement. In just a few more moments, Dick thought, he should signal the others to go into their "retreat".
But, as it turned out, that opportunity never came.
Dick was concentrating on counteracting some of Meek's moves when he heard Batwoman issue was sounded like a warning shout. "Huntress, look out!" In the next instance, a sound occurred that caused his blood to run cold. At nearly the same time, the Huntress screamed, "Batwoman!!!"
Turning, Dick was confronted with a tableau of another nightmare come true. "NO!" he called out at what he saw. On the floor was sprawled the darkly clad form of Barbara Gordon. Dick could see a pool of blood gathering under her back and one arm. The Huntress was holding Solid in a tight grip, but her head was turned to stare almost blindly at the downed woman, who had apparently finally dropped Twitchy before the blast had occurred.
For a split second, Dick felt like he was frozen. In his mind's eye, he saw another Barbara Gordon that had been downed by a bullet. However, that one hadn't been dressed in a cape and cowl, nor had he been there to actually see the destruction the Joker's bullet had caused. But he still felt a pain rip through his chest at the scenario that he had pictured in his head a thousand times. This this situation was too close to that.
Yet, even in that split second, his instincts for survival were working. While his eyes didn't leave the downed form, he managed to avoid Meek as she rushed him, thinking him distracted. Instead, he sent a flying roundhouse kick straight at her temple, putting as much power in it as he could, causing her to drop like a stone. In the next moment, he was flipping over towards where the Huntress was just kneeling beside Batwoman's form, she herself having toss Solid up against a wall, knocking him out.
"She's been shot, Nightwing!" The Huntress managed to get out just before Batwoman started to moan and try to lift herself up with her left arm. Dick drew a very slight sigh of relief that she was conscious and could move, but the fear he had felt was still present, just the merest whit abated. He could see that the bullet had hit on the upper right side of her chest, a couple of inches lateral to her sternum and below her clavicle. Her right arm would be totally useless, and there was a possibility that her lung had been hit. But the bullet must have gone clean through, given the pool of blood that had been seeping beneath her body.
"It I'm I'm okay", Batwoman tried to reassure her two compatriots. But even as she started to lift her upper body, her wound made her slump back. "It's It's really not "
A high, almost shy sounding laugh floated over to them. Dick and Helena raised their heads long enough to see the woman who they had all been trying to locate during the fight step out from behind a door. Over her back was slung a high-powered rifle, while in her hand was a still smoking handgun. From this distance, it looked like a Glock, but Dick couldn't make out the caliber. Luckily, or as luckily as could be said in the situation, the caliber couldn't have been very big, or Batwoman would be a lot worse off. She seemed to have a few more weapons situated about the deep red, almost paramilitary outfit that she wore.
"Should have been looking for me long before now, don't you think?" The woman's slight voice was very confident, almost challenging, but also seemed almost childlike in tone.
Dick, not taking his eyes off the woman, gestured at the Huntress. "Get Batwoman out of here."
"Nightwing ". Dick could hear the uncertainty Helena's tone. While she obviously knew they had to get Barbara to safety as fast as possible, she apparently wasn't comfortable with leaving him here alone.
"Get her out of here NOW! I'll cover you", Dick managed to grit out. This was not how their plan was supposed to go. But it had happened, and now he could only work on getting Batwoman to medical attention with the least amount of delays. And even with the almost reserved manner Batwoman's attacker was evincing, Dick had a feeling that she wouldn't hesitate to blast them all away. Her confident stance and gaze convinced him of that.
Even as he could feel the two women just behind him shift, as the one helped the other to her feet, he focused back on the slightly built woman standing several feet away. Again, she was almost the physical opposite of Meek, who had to be her "partner". This woman was small, with long dark hair that was pulled back into a ponytail that was secured at the nape of her neck. And her features appeared to be a cross between Arabic and Asian, with an olive skin tone and deep brown, somewhat tilted eyes.
"You'll cover them? But then who'll cover for you?" The woman questioned in her small voice, while almost casually holstering the gun, but before Dick could do anything to reach her, she had almost super-humanly fast whipped the rifle from her back.
Even as she targeted him, he moved to keep his body between her and the escaping Huntress and Batwoman, who were headed towards another door, hopefully one that lead to an exit out of the large loft area.
"I can take care of myself just fine."
"Oh, I'm sure you can. But a little help is always appreciated. Right, Meek?"
Dick shifted his attention for a fraction of a second to see her partner rise, slightly unsteadily, to her feet as she clutched her head. "You know it, Bold. Thanks for watching our backs. Just don't wait so long next time."
The smaller woman almost bowed her head in deference to the larger. "I was just assessing their abilities before acting. The Boss said it's better to get as much info as we can before doing anything. And I would have got the dark-haired one dead on if that Batwoman hadn't jumped in front of my shot. Besides, I don't like getting my hands dirty You know that", she whined out, almost as an excuse.
Dick, even in between his extreme worry about how the Huntress and Batwoman were doing, and trying to stay focused on knowing where everyone was in relation to him and what state they were in, was somewhat amazed at the interplay between the two women. "Bold" had just calmly put a slug in another person, and yet here she was acting like a scolded child. Just what was going on with these people?
But that wonder had to take a back seat as he sensed that the other downed pairing of Solid and Twitchy were coming around, and getting to their feet. Soon, he'd probably have more to deal with than he could handle by himself, especially given the weapons that Bold was handling.
He decided it was time to make his getaway, while he still had the chance. The women should be out of the danger zone by now. All he had to do was leap and send a line up to the broken skylight and he could be out of here. It would mean their plan was wasted, but maybe they could get at the headman some other way.
But even as Dick was gathering himself up to move, Bold centered her attention on him again. The confident tone was back in her voice. "Un-uh I don't think so. Move and you won't be moving ever again. I think the Boss will want to meet you."
Dick steadied his eyes on her in a steely fashion, even as he felt, more than saw, Twitchy move up beside him and grab his arms. But then he didn't do much of anything as he felt a needle pierce his arm. Apparently knives weren't the only sharp things that Solid liked .
Later, he decided that whatever had been in the needle, while fast-acting, couldn't have been very long lasting, as the next thing he knew, he was lying in the back of a moving van, his arms and legs bound, with Bold and Meek sitting on either side of him. His arms and legs were fairly tightly secured, but wriggling his limbs a bit, he did find some give in them. For most people, it wouldn't have been enough, but with his flexibility, and even double jointedness, with time, he could be able to do something with the slight laxness. He couldn't see though, as they had covered his eyes with some sort of tape. He didn't want to alert them to the fact that he was conscious, but even so, their conversation was kept to a minimum and he didn't gain any new insight into just who they were taking him to meet. But a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach was starting to grow, as he came closer to decidingwho the most likely candidate was. And it wasn't one he was looking forward to seeing.
During the part of the van ride he was awake for, Dick tried to track the amount of time they were moving, and when and in which direction the van turned. It wouldn't mean much in terms of how close they were going to end up in terms to where they had been, but it would give him an estimate if they were travelling a long time, or a very long time. But his mind kept going back to what had happened in the loft. He could only hope that the Huntress had gotten Batwoman to medical aid quickly. It had nearly torn his heart out to see her lying there like that. One part of it was the fact that he knew this woman had a life of her own, was a wife and mother to two small boys. But the other fact really, in a lot of ways, had nothing to do with this version of Barbara Gordon. It had more to do with the fact that she was the counterpart to one of his closest confidantes Who had already been shot and who, Dick knew, was still dealing with the consequences of that one tragic moment in her life in a number of ways.
Still, this wasn't the same. Yes, it was a horrendous wound, and would require a lot of time and care to recover from. But from all appearances, it shouldn't have the type of lasting consequences as the gunshot his Barbara had suffered, and in some ways, was still suffering from. This Barbara Gordon should still be able to get up, walk, run, swing through the air, play with her kids, stand up to hug friends and family. Fortunately, it all went well, it wouldn't have the same outcome as that other shooting. Still, it didn't stop him from worrying about her.
He could also hope that the Huntress, once she got Batwoman the medical attention she needed, would be able to hook up with others and pick up his trail. Through some deep, yet inexplicable way, he knew that he was going to need help here.
Dick felt the van they were travelling in draw to a halt. Taking a deep breath, he let himself fall loose as the big man picked up his bound form. Hopefully, they had arrived at the headquarters of whoever was in charge of these people and he would be able to get some answers.
Training his available senses to pick up any clues he could, Dick realized that he was only carried for a few minutes. During this time, he felt and heard the sounds indicative of two very heavy doors being opened and shut, and the five of them descending down via elevator to a lower level of whatever building they were in.
Exiting the elevators, Dick sensed that they had entered a large room, one that was already fill with a number of people, if the number of different chattering voices he was able to discern were any indication. However, within only a few seconds of their arrival, the voices ceased abruptly, as if someone had indicated for silence.
Dick then felt himself being dropped abruptly onto a hard surface. The floor, he figured, by the distance his body descended before smacking into what felt like concrete. No carpeting here to muffle foot falls and the like. He should be able to tell if anyone approached him, even with the duct tape covering his eyes.
However, that wasn't problem, after all, he realized. While he was alerted to the one person that approached him a minute or so after he had been dropped, and therefore went into as defensive a mode as he was able, it turned out this was the only time he needed to worry about doing so. For in the next instant, he heard a harsh ripping sound, in conjunction with a stinging burning sensation across the skin of the bridge of his nose, temples and forehead that he knew meant the tape was being pulled from his face. He had to blink rapidly a few times to prevent the resulting involuntary tears that gathered in his eyes from blocking his vision before looking up to see who he was confronting. In the meantime, hard hands kept a grip on his shoulders such that he had to stay in a kneeling position and his arms remained bound.
As his eyes cleared, he gradually began to make out the features of the man standing before him. A part of him had hoped that he had been wrong earlier. He had felt uneasy about this whole case since his talk with Batman, before the women had arrived. Of course he should have known that he had been right in his deductions. But a part of him wished he hadn't been.
For, as he could have almost bet on for the last couple of hours, it was the twisted visage of Two-Face that was glaring down at him!!
"Well, well. What do we have here?" The man Dick knew as originally being Harvey Dent was casually flipping his ever-present two-headed marked coin over and over as he stood over Dick's bound form.
"Batwoman and the other woman who got away called him 'Nightwing'." Bold was quick to inform the two-toned man in front of them, as if trying to curry favor.
The man spent a few minutes circling Dick, scrutinizing his form before drawing the conclusion, "You're not the Nightwing we're acquainted with. The evidence is too much against you for that to be the case."
The tall man, dressed in his usual outfit of a mis-matched suit which, following the division of his one-half handsome, one-half scarred face, was one-half classically elegant,, one-half trashy and badly in need of repairs, paced back and forth as if contemplating what he was going to do with his newest "acquaintance". The former DA part of Harvey Dent seemed to take center stage at the moment, as he started to list off the "evidence" that proved Dick couldn't be the Nightwing that he knew.
"Point One: You're much too young."
Dick knew that much was obvious. The older Nightwing had at least a decade on him in age. While the physical changes were slight, maybe even slighter than in most people who didn't keep up a rigorous work out regiment, they were still there.
"Point Two: The costume is just wrong. Unless you've decided to come a bit more over to the darker side of life recently."
"And last but not least, Point Three, which is a follow-up to Point Two: You don't seem to be your usual happy self."
Dick started a bit on the inside, though he didn't show any outside indication that Two-Face had managed to touch a nerve. It was silly, he knew. He doubted that the other Nightwing would ever seem "happy" when he was around this man. Still, was there something in his instinctual attitude that indicated that he might not be as fulfilled as that other Dick Grayson? Was he a bit more "darker" than his Earth-1 counterpart, inside as well as outside with the differences in their costumes? He didn't like to think that he might be Though his older counterpart did seem more content with his life, Dick had to admit. He still wasn't searching for his place in the scheme of the world the way Dick was.
"Of course, the fact that you're not the one we know doesn't really mean that you're not a Nightwing Given what we heard about you earlier." Dick had only a moment to wonder what the mad man meant by that before Two-Face continued. "Circumstances as they are even in this very room would argue against that scenario. Wouldn't you agree, Harvey?"
Dick had been busy focusing on the pacing man in front of him. At the sound of the man's question, he knew that this man was as insane as the Two-Face he was well acquainted with back on his earth. The irrational "Two-Face" side of his personality was even asking rhetorical questions of his saner "Harvey Dent" side out-loud.
At least, that's what Dick believed until he realized that Two-Face was actually speaking to another man, sitting bound at the other end of the room away from Dick.
Dick's eyes widened in shock, even though he managed to not make a sound. The right side of the man's face, while older, was a double for the good-looking side of Two-Face's visage. This man was another Harvey Dent.
But a Harvey Dent that obviously never been mutilated by a bottle of acid being thrown in his face, though it looked as if there had been some damage done to him more recently. Thin trickles of blood coming both from a split lip and a nostril had dried on the lower part of his face, while one eye looked swollen and well on it's way to developing a shiner. Looking at the man, Dick figured he must be in his mid-60's or so. This must be the "old geezer' that Meek had mentioned back in the abandoned building. She had also mentioned a "family".
While there was a woman, about the same age as the man, who was also tied up, seated right beside him, Dick couldn't see any other people being held. But there must be someone else here somewhere. Otherwise, the "family" comment didn't make sense. Meek would have just talked about two older people, or the man and his wife. No, Dick decided, there had to be other members of this couple's family being held here somewhere where Dick couldn't see them. Maybe it was just one, or maybe it was more, but there was others here somewhere.
If that were the case, Dick would have to tread even more carefully in his dealings with this man and his assistants. He could unwittingly put the others in danger with his actions if he was careful.
He could only hope that however badly hurt Batwoman was, it wasn't enough to prevent her and the Huntress from getting a hold of the others and letting them know how to track him. But even so, he knew that it would still take awhile for anyone else to get here. As a result, he was on his own for now.
And he was made aware of the fact about how alone he was when one of the several people around the room broke into Two-Face's musing. "Hey, Boss If this here isn't Nightwing, can we take off his mask to find out who he really is?"
At the sound of the woman's voice, the younger Harvey Dent whirled and stalked back towards Dick. "Hmmm That is an idea. And even if you're not the Nightwing we know, finding out who you are will tell us so much about him and all his friends, wouldn't it?" Even as the man voiced his thoughts aloud, he was reaching towards Dick's mask.
Dick, feeling more than a slight twinge of anxiety, knew where the man was going with this. As such, he knew that he had to appeal to Harvey's proven M.O. to at least buy him time, letting the others have a chance to locate him.
"Is that fair, Harvey?" Dick, keeping his voice steady and devoid of any of the slight nervousness he was feeling, deliberately used Two-Face's given name, to try and appeal to the more logical, if still skewed, side of his personality. "I thought you always left these types of things up to chance. Isn't it more appropriate to let the coin decide."
Two-Face stood silently for a few moments, his focus shifting between the coin in his hand, and the covered face of the young man kneeling in front of him.
Finally, after what seemed an excessively long time, though it probably wasn't more than a minute or so, Two-Face let out a laugh. "You know us too well, 'Night-who-ever-you-are'. So be it. The coin will decide. Good side up, you keep the mask, and thus your identity to yourself. Bad side up, and we get to see what you're covering up."
With that, the scarred man tossed the scarred two-headed coin in the air. The room seemed to stop, as everyone in it seemed to cease breathing to concentrate on the rotating sparkle of the metal disk. Dick watched it spin, almost as if in slow-mo, before it landed back in the man's hand, to be flipped over onto the back of the other hand.
Lifting his hand away, the good side of Harvey's face smiled almost wistfully in a crooked sort of way. "Well, my friend, it looks like today is your lucky day. No unmasking for you." But just as Dick let himself draw in a deep breath in relaxation, Two-Face added, "at least, for now." With that, he turned away.
"So, Harvey What do you think we should do with our new little friend here?"Two-Face strolled over to the older man. But that Harvey apparently decided that he wouldn't reply to the twisted caricature of himself that taunted him. He wouldn't even look up at the man, though Dick couldn't tell if that was in defiance or more as if he didn't want to face himself, even if it was not really him, in this demented version.
But the madman version apparently wasn't going to take silence for an answer. "Come, come, Harvey You must have some ideas. After all, we do and the two of us are so much a like. Two of a feather and all that."
With that, the woman leapt in to interrupt. "Stop it. He's nothing like you! Do you hear me -- Nothing!!'
Dick watched fascinated at the scene that was playing out in front of him. Two-Face scowled over at the woman, raising his hand abruptly as if to smack her. But for a second, Dick got the impression from his stance that he was hesitant, as is part of him was fighting with the other to follow through with the act. This was borne out by the fact that when his hand did move, it was only to reach over and trail a slow finger down the woman's cheek.
It was this act that caused the other man to finally respond. "Take your hands off of Gilda right now, or regardless of how much I will not be like you, I will make you sorry."
This Harvey's statement of intention seemed to bring Two-Face out of the moment of reverie he had been indulging in. Turning back to his "twin", Two-Face commented lightly, "Come, come, Harvey. How can you say you're not like us? You are us."
The older man came back with a "No, I'm not", before he seemed to remember that he wasn't going to speak to this maniac unless he had to. Dick had to feel sorry for him. The older Harvey obviously wanted nothing to do with his copy, even if Two-Face seemed to be taking in some sort of joy with the knowledge that another Harvey Dent existed. Even if this Harvey wasn't a totally warped human being.
And revel in that knowledge, Two-Face was actively doing. He even sat in a chair place next to the older man and wrapped his arm around Harvey's shoulders almost in a comradely fashion, while the other hand just kept flipping his damn coin. "Harvey, let's talk men to men as it is. Plastic surgery may have managed to hide the true you, at least on the surface. And what did that brat of yours say You've actually had to go under the knife twice to finally get rid of your version of our 'better' half. The perfection of it 'Twice' Don't you see how the duality of it all just fits? You know that the real you is still in there", Two-Face pointed a finger at the other man's head, "and there", followed by pointing it at Harvey's heart. "You just have to let that part of us be free."
Dick had to take a moment to absorb what he had just heard. First, the older Harvey had been scarred?!? And it seemed had used the moniker "Two-Face" at some point in his past. But that plastic surgery had managed to correct his face, and somehow therefore fixed his psychosis? Dick found that to be almost unbelievable.
Second, Two-Face mentioned Harvey's "brat". Therefore, there was another member of this family around somewhere, and Two-Face was holding him or her. That confirmed Dick's earlier deduction, and his resolution to be extra careful.
Still, with Two-Face's attention focused on his doppelganger, and therefore several of his hench-peoples' attentions being focused on the scenario playing out between the two men, Dick could work on the slight amount of give he had managed to maintain in his bonds. But he kept one ear on the two Harveys' conversation, hoping to pick up on more clues.
Two-Face was truly warming up to his topic. "Can't you just see it, Harvey. Two Harveys Two Two-Faces. It's just so perfect. We wish we'd known about you years ago. We could have done this so much sooner. We'll really have to thank that Voice that hooked us all up when we have a chance."
The Voice!?! The other crooks Dick and the others had been fighting the last few days had referred to a "voice" as well. It was whoever was directing all the inter-demensional going-ons of the past several days. When Dick really thought about it, he knew that the older Harvey was from another earth. But which one? Obviously this Earth's Two-Face used the knowledge of the multiple earths to track down his counterpart.
And a line from the message that Batman had got at police headquarters now made sense. The matched pair One broken, one repaired. It didn't refer to any objects. It referred to the two Harveys!
But then Dick remembered the rest of the riddle. It indicated that the writer wanted a matched set again, a "duo reborn". Somehow, Dick was pretty sure that Two-Face wasn't interested in being repaired. No, he wanted Harvey to turn back to the dark side.
"Great", Dick's thoughts almost unconsciously wandered for a split second, "now I'm referencing Star Wars. This Two-Face is Darth, Harvey's Luke I guess I'll have to be Obi-Wan."
But this thought, while it might have brought a smile to his lips at another time, only caused him to concentrate more on trying to work his bonds loose in as surreptitious a manner as possible.
Even as he worked, Dick heard the older Harvey finally respond to Two-Face's taunts. "Listen, you maniac. I am not you! We may look the same. I may have even had an accident like yours. But I was cured years ago!" Hearing him, Dick knew that while the man was trying to put up a brave front, he was obviously under more strain than he wanted his double to know about. Still, his next line took Dick by surprise long enough for him to stop working on his bonds for a moment. "If you really want proof, just look at our last names. I'm not Harvey 'Dent'. My name is Harvey Kent!"
"Whoa", Dick's mind whirled. While not a really pertinent fact at the moment, it did indicate how the various earths' versions of people could be different from each other in even the smallest of details. It was something to remember.
But Two-Face didn't seem to think that was important, even if his reply seemed a little huffy. "'Dent' 'Kent' What's a letter between kindred souls? All that matters is that we're both Two-Face."
"I AM NOT TWO-FACE!!!" Harvey Kent shouted at his evil twin. "For me, Two-Face died years ago. I've made a life as Harvey Kent. A good life with family and friends that know and love me regardless of what I had done all those years ago. And nothing you can say or do will make me turn my back on that life. Do you get that? Nothing! Go ahead and throw acid in my face again, if it makes you feel better. It still won't make me become Two-Face again. I won't let it!"
The still handsome side of Two-Face's twisted visage morphed from the almost joyous look it had when contemplating the idea of a pair of Two-Faces to that of a cold, calculating sneer of deadliness. The single-mindedness of the man's intent showed up in the fact that he even dropped using the plural referencing of himself and came back with "Oh, I think I can come up with a means of changing your mind, Harvey. I mean, it's not just you that you have to worry about me hurting, now is it?"
During this whole confrontation, the various sets of mismatched "pairs" of people had been waiting quietly while their boss faced off with his unwarped mirror image. But at a toss of Two-Face's head, one set moved off through a set of double doors that led into another part of whatever building they were in, which then swung shut behind them. After a few minutes, Dick could hear a commotion coming from behind the same doors, getting louder with each second that passed. Individual voices started to be distinguishable, and just before the doors re-opened, Dick realized that he recognized one of the voices, but he wasn't sure from where.
"Where are my parents? Where are you taking me? Hey, stop that! Let me go!!"
It only was when the duo hauled a struggling third person into the room that Dick remembered where he had heard her voice before. But it wasn't him that verbally responded to her appearance.
"Mom! Dad!" Frantically, the young woman that had introduced herself to Dick as "Kate Richmond" only a few hours earlier, broke free of the two-some holding her and moved to rush over to the tied-up couple. It was only Two-Face's presence that brought her to a halt a few feet from where they sat. Taking a moment to stare in horror at what had been done to the man Dick now knew was Harvey Kent, she whirled on the deformed figure that stood smiling evilly at her.
"You MONSTER!!! You promised you wouldn't hurt him! You said it would be like hurting yourself! Didn't I do what you asked? Let them go! NOW!"
Two-Face seemed to take in her rant with an almost bemused look. "Oh, yes. You did very well. Look what you being the eyes for us brought us."
Dick stilled the slight movements he had been using to try and free himself when Two-Face pointed to him. Kate whirled and Dick saw her blanch when she caught sight of him.
"Isn't this the young Nightwing you told us helped you out this morning?"
"Nightwing? Oh no. I'm so sorry. I didn't think That is "
"Don't bother trying to explain, dear. You did a marvelous job in finding out who, if anyone, Batman was on the prowl with. A little knowledge goes such a long way, you know." Two-Face indicated to the pair that had brought Kate in to move her over to where Nightwing was being kneeling.
As the girl was pushed down by Two-Face's mix-and-match goons, Dick leaned over to try and reassure her, "It's okay, Kate. We'll figure a way out of this."
She just raises a set of tear-stained eyes up to meet his calmer ones. A tumble of words fell from her mouth. "I'm so sorry, Nightwing. He told me I was to be bait to draw Batman out, so that he could see what Batman was up to, who he had brought out to work with him on the message he had sent to this world's Gotham PD. He had people watching me and put a bug on me, so he could hear everything I said. He said that if I tried to warn Batman or anyone with him what was going on, he'd kill my parents. I couldn't "
The non-stop flurry of words finally trickled out as Kate took a moment to a deep breath. In that moment, Dick took the chance to again set her mind at ease. "Really, Kate It's okay. I understand. I would have done exactly what you did in your place."
"You would have? Really?"
Dick nodded. Though, in his heart, he knew that it was a bit of a little white lie. He was trained in being able to get unspoken and unshown messages across. He was used to these types of situations. And he was used to crazies like Two-Face, and knew what they were capable of. He probably would have come up with some means of getting a warning out. But an average person, who wasn't used to this type of stuff No, Kate had done the best she could, given the circumstances. As a result, he wasn't going to let her think that she hadn't done all that she could have. Still, one thing about their earlier encounter did puzzle him.
"Why didn't you tell us your real name?"
Before Kate had a chance to answer, Two-Face, who had seemed to be conferring with some of his "associates" but was really listening in on their conversation, interrupted. "That was our doing. We're dealing with inter-dimensional travel here, and some of the others had reported seeing some of you super-do-gooders here that they didn't recognize. As a result, we reasoned that some of the heroes from Harvey's earth might be here as well, ones who were familiar with his past and family. There was the slightest possibility of Batman had mentioned running into a 'Kate Kent' here to someone who might recognize the name. Had to give the girl an alias to use so that she wasn't immediately connected to our pal Harv here."
"If you knew that people from that other earth were here, how did you know that one of them wouldn't be with Batman when Kate was set out as 'bait'?"
Two-Face's twisted visage scowled at Dick's logical thinking. "We didn't So we let the coin decide. It said to plant her out there. And the coin hasn't let us down yet. In fact, it even worked out better than we hoped." He paused in his explanation while he fingered the round object in his hand. "In fact, it was supposed to be a couple of our lovely duos here that were to rough her up. Her running into those drunken idiots was a stroke of luck. Got us the information we needed without calling attention to our operation."
"And then there was the sheer brilliance of coming up with the 'Richmond' name"
Dick cocked a skeptical eyebrow at Two-Face's pronouncement. While "Richmond" wouldn't alert anyone to Two-Face necessarily, something like 'Smith' or 'Jones' wouldn't have either.
Two-Face must of picked up on Dick's frame of mind. Shaking his head in a disparaging way, he explained, "Think about it". Moving back over to where Harvey and Gilda Kent sat forlornly, he gestured at the older man. "Look at Harvey here. Loving wife, beautiful daughter, according to him, a very happy life." Two-Face grimaced slightly, as if he didn't actually share the man's sentiments about his choice of life-style. "We think Harvey here would describe himself as a very 'rich man', wouldn't you, Harvey." Two-Face added extra emphasis to "rich man", making Dick aware that he was supposed to see the connection between that term and Richmond.
Harvey Kent only glared up at the man in extreme disgust. Two-Face didn't appear to notice, or maybe he just didn't care.
Dick decided to draw Two-Face's attention back from the couple and onto himself. "Fine Rich man Richmond." He deliberately tried to keep his voice neutral, but Two-Face seemed to take offence at the idea that Dick wasn't impressed yet. And so the lawyer part of him decided to present more evidence to show off his perceived intelligence.
"Oh, but that's not all. Let's divide the word 'Richmond' into its syllables. 'Rich' and 'mond'. Now let's take a pair of identical letters 'E', for instance, and add one of them to the end of each word. That gives us 'riche' and 'monde', which in French means "
"Excellent Though it also means 'wealthy or well-off world'. But there's hope for you yet. And we're sure that's how Harvey here sees his whole life nowadays. Though we know better."
Dick could only internally give his head a shake. This Harvey Dent's psychosis was obviously out of control if he would go to such lengths to see the double meanings he was coming up with.
But Two-Face had apparently lost interest in showing off his prowess at coming up with two reasons for everything he did. "Enough about this. We need to get back to the main reason we brought dear little Kate in here."
He motioned to one of the pairs he had been huddled with earlier, when Dick had tried to reassure Kate. "You know what to do."
With that, the man and woman moved over to where Dick and Kate had been forced to kneel. They each pulled out a gun from beneath their clothing and placed their weapons against Dick and Kate's heads, to the terrified gasp of Kate's mother and father.
Two-Face seemed to take the couple's shocked appearances in stride. Again flipping his coin in a maddeningly fashion, he moved over to stand beside his older counterpart and leaned down to confront him.
"See, Harvey. You get the choice. Do we kill your daughter, or this young interloper who's trying to wreck our little reunion here?" As the older Harvey only looked at him silently, with a combination of horror and condemnation in his eyes, Two-Face suavely continued, "It can't be that hard to decide, can it?"
But even as Harvey Kent only oscillated his horrified gaze between Kate, Dick and his deranged doppelganger, Two-Face's tone lost it's air of brotherly confidantes and gained an air of almost alluring menace. "But maybe the choice is too hard. It makes you think too much, doesn't it. The coin however Using the coin would make it so much easier, wouldn't it, Harvey? You don't have to make the decisions. It wouldn't be your choice at all. It would be the coin's."
Two-Face motioned over to another pair of his hench-people. Indicating Harvey Kent, he commanded, "Untie him, but hold him still." As the duo undertook their task, Two-Face grabbed one of Harvey's hands as soon as it was free. Even as the man actively fought him as much as he could, he continued to comment, "See, I'll show you how easy it is." With that, he pressed the golden circle of the coin into the man's free hand. "Good side, the girl lives and our pseudo-Nightwing is toast. Bad side Well, I think we know what will happen when the bad side comes up."
With that, Two-Face forcibly threw the man's hand up, causing the shining disc to rise into the air, and sloppily spin head-over-heels. Though the older Harvey fought him every step of the way, Two-Face was able to move the other man's hand, placing it to where the falling coin would land. As it touched down in Harvey's shaking palm, Two-Face nodded to one of the men holding Harvey to twist his forearm, causing the hand holding the coin to flip and fall on the back of Two-Face's own outstretch hand.
As his crony pulled the older Harvey's hand back, Two-Face lifted his head, a triumphant grin stretched across both the good and the twisted sides of his face .
"Heads!! WE WIN!!!"
to be continued
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This piece is © 2001 by Marilee Stephens.
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