by Syl Francis
It wasn't their fault! But who'd believe them now?
Mahoney and his gang shot a guard and hijacked the launch. Twitchy and Jack were unloading the daily supplies when it happened. Somehow they wound up in the boat cowering under a tarpaulin while being shot at by dozens of Blackgate guards.
Mahoney gunned the high-powered launch, evading the Harbor Police. His men fired wildly at the chase boat with weapons they'd taken from the prison guards. To Twitchy and Jack's relief, they made it to a hidden inlet in the Gotham River.
The entire time Twitchy and Jack tried not to get killed by staying hidden under the hot canvas cover. They hugged each other tightly as the sounds of gunfire continued over their heads.
"Mama!" Twitchy whimpered. Jack gave him a hard elbow to the ribs.
"Shhhh!" he hissed. Mahoney was crazy. If he found them here, he'd kill them.
"Okay, boys!" Mahoney called, bringing the police launch to a stop. The other gang members jumped out and tied it to a rock outcropping. "Stay low for the next twenty-four hours. We'll meet at the old place tomorrow night at this time. Got it?"
"Got it, boss!"
"Yeah, boss, we got it!"
"The old place tomorrow night at this time. Got it!"
"Good!" Mahoney said. "In that case, take off!"
Twitchy and Jack could hear the sounds of an engine starting and moving out. It soon disappeared in the distance. After a few minutes, they didn't hear anything else.
Jack swallowed and looked at his brother, who was tightly holding onto him, his face buried in Jack's shoulder. Jack grimaced and slapped him on the back of his head, bringing him to sudden awareness.
"Come on, Twitchy!" he grumbled. "We've gotta get outta here!"
Twitchy nodded, rubbing his head. "What'll happen to Ma?" he asked fearfully.
"Ma's fine," Jack said. "She has her Canasta group every Monday night."
"Yeah," Twitchy said smiling. "And she's still got it, too. Dealing seconds from the bottom. Keeping the Ace up her sleeve."
"Yeah," Jack said affectionately. "Ma's still the best." He sighed. "Well, we'd better get going, too, before the cops find us."
"But, Jack," Twitchy protested. "It wasn't our fault. We didn't do nothing!"
"And who's gonna believe us?" Jack asked. "The Warden? The Magistrate? The Batman?"
"The Batman?" Twitchy whispered, instantly ducking under the tarpaulin again. Jack rolled his eyes in disgust and kicked his brother in his prominently protruding bottom.
"Ouch!" Twitchy cried out. His head came out from under the canvas, his eyes looking hurt. "You promised Ma, Jack. Remember? No more hitting."
Jack pinched his lips tightly, gritting his teeth. Twitchy watched, worried, as his brother's blood pressure climbed, his color changing dramatically.
"Jack--your blood pressure," Twitchy warned gently. Jack's eyes became wild. He looked around for something to throw. Not finding anything readily handy, he kicked the bulkhead, instantly hurting his foot.
"Ow-ow-ow-ow--!" he cried, hopping around on one foot.
Twitchy sadly shook his head, tsking under his breath. "Ma always says what goes around comes around," he murmured.
"Where are we going?" Twitchy asked for the fifth time in five minutes.
Jack ignored him, limping ahead of him. They were cutting through a dark stand of trees. The ground cover was treacherous, overlaid with heavy underbrush and large rocks. Of course, Twitchy stumbled and instantly fell forward on Jack, pushing them both down a small incline.
They rolled over a couple of times, slamming into rocks, roots and other debris, finally coming to rest at the bottom of a small gully. Twitchy fell on top of Jack, who'd landed in a merrily running brook. Jack pushed Twitchy off him. He was soaked to the skin.
Jack's hand made a slow fist of its own accord. He wanted to hit something. He had to hit something. Twitchy's reminder echoed in his head.
"You promised Ma, Jack...No more hitting."
Jack fell back in the water, letting it wash away his frustrations.
"Why me?" he asked no one in particular. With a resigned sigh, he stood up and then fell down again. "Ow!" he cried out, in real pain. "My ankle. I think I twisted it," he gasped.
Twitchy was next to him in a blink. "Lemme see, Jack," he said. "Does this hurt?" he asked innocently, yanking the injured ankle in a direction it was not meant to go.
"Argharghargh!" Jack screamed, seeing a white, blinding light in the back of his head. "What are you trying to do--kill me?"
"I'm sorry, Jack," Twitchy said desperately. "Lemme help, please."
"No!" Jack cried. "Don't touch me! You're just trying to get even with me for all those times I hit you. When I'm down and can't defend myself!"
"Jack..." Twitchy said, sounding hurt. "I'd never--I mean, you're my brother--"
Jack stared at him, disbelievingly. Finally, he nodded. "Okay," he relented. "But touch the ankle, and I'll break your legs."
Twitchy beamed at the trust his brother had just bestowed on him.
"Where are we?" Jack moaned. He'd passed out almost as soon as Twitchy's gentle ministrations made the agony too much to bear.
"A cave I found," Twitchy said excitedly.
"How long was I passed out?" Jack asked, not really caring.
Twitchy looked at him blankly. "Uh, you was passed out?"
"Never mind." Jack looked around the dark, frightening caverns. He heard the distinctive sounds of bats flying overhead. "B-Bats?" he whispered.
"Yeah," Twitchy said happily. "I call it 'the Batcave'! Funny, huh? 'The Batcave'!"
"Hysterical," Jack mumbled, feeling the darkness ready to consume him again. His eyes jerked open. "What am I lying on?" he asked suddenly.
"A nice soft bed I found in here," Twitchy said proudly. "There's all kinds of neat stuff. I haven't explored the entire thing yet, but I figured that hundreds of years ago, Spanish explorers must've been here and buried their treasure--"
"Twitchy--" Jack interrupted.
"SHUTUP!" Jack said. "Spanish explorers...of all the idiotic--! Ma must've been on a nine-month binge when she was pregnant with you--"
"Jack--" Twitchy gasped, shocked. "You shouldn't oughta talk like that about Ma. You know she's sensitive about her 'condition.'"
"Fetal alcohol syndrome," Jack muttered, shaking his head.
"Jack, now I'm warning you," Twitchy said. "You'd best keep a respectful tone when talking about our Ma, or I'm gonna have to tell her what you said the next time we get sent to Blackgate."
Jack closed his eyes.
"Awright, awright!" He sighed. "Batman gets Robin for a sidekick. I get Twitchy. Someone up there hates me." He opened his eyes and glared at his brother who was studying him with mild concern.
"Twitchy, did it possibly occur to you that maybe, just maybe, this cave was someone's hideout? I mean--a bed!? With--" He grabbed the sheet with which Twitchy had considerately covered him and sniffed. "--clean sheets?"
"Did I do something bad, Jack?" Twitchy asked sadly disappointed. "You was hurt and I wanted to help you. I asked you if this place was okay, and when you grunted, I thought you was saying 'yes.' I'm sorry." He dropped his head in shame.
Jack looked away. He couldn't stand it when he hurt his brother's feelings. Which was at least 60 times at any given hour. He sighed, looking everywhere except at his brother. His eyes had become accustomed to the dark by then.
He thought he saw some strangely shaped objects that didn't look at all like stalactites or stalagmites. Although, for the life of him, he couldn't remember which was which. Was that a dinosaur? He panicked momentarily, then calmed down. Couldn't be.
He sighed and turned back to Twitchy who still stood with his head hanging low.
"Hey, bro," Jack said softly. Twitchy looked up, hopefully.
"C'mere," Jack said, opening his arms invitingly. Twitchy instantly entered into a brother hug. Jack pounded his brother affectionately a few times. Twitchy didn't even cry out once although he thought one of his ribs might've been bruised.
They smiled at each other. After a moment, Jack had a sudden horrifying thought. Twitchy saw the worry in his brother's eyes instantly.
"What is it?" he asked, concerned.
"Twitchy, what if this is the hideout that Mahoney and his gang will be returning to?" Jack asked. "Remember what he said? That they were going to meet at the old place?"
Twitchy's eyes widened in fright. "I don't like them, Jack," he said fearfully. "They ain't like Ma and Papa's old gang used to be. Papa only killed that one bank guard--remember? By accident. It wasn't Papa's fault the ladder fell and then knocked over that display case on the guard."
"Yeah," Jack said, ironically. "You'da thought the bank woulda had better safety regulations than to leave a ladder right there, so close to that display case. I mean, they shoulda taken into consideration the distinct possibility that a bank robber might just happen along and shove a guard into the ladder like that."
"Uh-huh," Twitchy agreed. Jack rolled his eyes.
"Fetal alcohol syndrome," he mouthed.
"Like I said, I don't like that Mahoney guy," Twitchy said. "He likes to kill people. Do you think he killed that prison guard?"
"I don't know, Twitchy," Jack said. "I hope not, 'cause we'll be up for a murder rap, too."
"Jack, we've gotta go back and give ourselves up," Twitchy said.
"What? Are you crazy?"
"It's the only way," Twitchy insisted. "If we get sent up the river on a murder rap, then who'll take care of Ma? She's getting on in years, and one day her card skills aren't gonna be as sharp as they are now. Those ladies she plays with are pretty hardened. We've gotta be there to protect her in case she ever slips."
Jack nodded, surprised at the wisdom of his brother's words. Family--Jack commiserated. Why couldn't he have been an orphan?
"I guess you're right, bro," Jack said.
"I--I am?" Twitchy said.
"He is?" another voice asked.
"Yeah, you--" Jack stopped. He looked at Twitchy. Twitchy looked at him. "Who said that?" Jack mouthed. Twitchy's eyes were popped out, three times their normal size. He shook his head.
Before either brother could react further, Twitchy was trussed up with a heavy nylon rope whipping around him at lightning speed.
"Hey!" he cried, falling down, struggling uselessly against the bonds.
Jack sat up, his ankle still throbbing painfully. He climbed down off the bed, landing on his bad foot.
"Argharghargharghargh!!!" he cried, falling down.
"Jack!" Twitchy called out worriedly. "Look, whoever you are! I don't care what you do to me, but please take care of my brother. He's hurt bad!"
There was no answering response from their mysterious attacker.
"Please!" Twitchy cried. "I promise we won't try nothing."
"Twitchy--" Jack protested, painfully.
"No, Jack," Twitchy insisted. "You're hurt. Promise 'em we won't do nothing, bro. That ankle could be broke. It could get infected. What would I say to Ma then, huh? That I was more worried about being caught than about you being hurt? You know I couldn't do that."
"You mean that, Twitchy?" Jack asked, touched. Twitchy nodded. "Okay," Jack agreed. "Hey!" he called into the dark. "Whoever you are. I promise--we promise--no funny stuff. We give up."
"Okay," the mystery voice answered. "Can you get back on the bed without help?"
Jack nodded. "I think so." He climbed painfully onto his uninjured foot and was soon lying down again on the bed. Before he could say anything further, someone in the dark had restrained him to the bed.
He looked around but couldn't see anyone.
"Hey!" Jack called. "Where are you? Who are you? The Invisible Man?"
A high giggle met his question, sending a chill down his spine. What had they gotten themselves into?
"I don't like this, Jack," Twitchy said fearfully.
"Don't worry," the amused voice said reassuringly. Neither brother felt in the least bit reassured. "The Mahoney gang was caught earlier and they claimed they didn't know anything about you two. If you tell the authorities what happened, I think they'll believe you."
"Wh-wh-why should we believe you?" Jack demanded, although the slight squeak in his voice took away from the force of the question.
The Invisible Man giggled again.
"'Cause you don't have any choice, do you?" The next instant Jack felt a cool mist being sprayed on his face. "Happy dreams," the voice whispered next to his ear, sounding suddenly very young.
As Jack was being loaded carefully onto the Police launch for his return trip to Blackgate, the barest hint of oddly bright colors on a nearby warehouse roof caught his eye. He stared for what seemed an eternity seeing nothing. He was about to chalk it off to a drug-induced hallucination--
(He was still upset at the Invisible Man--Kid?--for using knockout drugs. What if he'd been allergic? He still couldn't drink milk without breaking out in hives.)
--when he saw a small, masked figure in the moonlight, dressed in red, green, and gold, smiling down at him and waving.
Jack stared, mouth agape. "Twitchy! Look! Up on the roof! It-it's Robin--!" he was interrupted by the roar of the Police launch taking off across Gotham Harbor. He was still waving and pointing excitedly when the Police medical technician injected him with a hypodermic.
"Sure, it is, Jack," Twitchy said with affectionate understanding. "And Batman, and Superman...the whole Justice League of America is up there, too." As Jack felt the world slowly fade to black, he heard his brother speaking to the cops.
"Jack never could tolerate any alcohol or drugs on account of he's one of those fetal alcohol syndrome babies." His voice dropped. "Ma used to drink, you see..."
Syl Francis --who totally ignores current canon in her Batman/Nightwing fanfiction -- teaches by day, feeds her cats by night, and on occasion enters into an intelligent conversation with her husband.
Twitchy and Jack are © 2002 by Syl Francis
All other characters are DC Comics
This piece is © 2002 by Syl Francis .
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