by Sheryl Chaisson
"Where exactly do you plan on going? I mean, do you even have some money?"
"Calm down. I have plenty of money. I won't be gone long, just a few days. I have to, I don't know, get away. There's been a lot of tension between me and Bruce. I'm gonna take a vacation from this 'Robin' thing for a little while." Dick was having second thoughts about telling Barbara he was leaving town. He knew she'd get worried, but he had to tell somebody. Alfred would flip out and Bruce was the reason he was leaving. Bruce had begun to become more and more attached to his alter ego. It was like he never took off the cowl. Dick had been planning his future. It was a critical time in which he needed advice and not fighting tips.
"So, you sure you're going to be fine?" asked Barbara apprehensively.
"I'm sure. I'll be back soon. I promise," said Dick as he strapped on his motorcycle helmet. "You'll be the first one I tell when I come back home."
"Okay, but I might tell Bruce. He deserves to know."
"Fine. Do whatever you want. I'm gone. Bye, Babs." Barbara watched as Dick rode west.
"Bye, Dick. Be careful!" She shouted, hoping that he'd hear her over the roar of his bike.
"Do you need some help?" Dick pulled his bike off to the shoulder of the rode next to the man trying to fix his car.
"Nah, I should be fine. She breaks down every so often. I'm getting used to it."
"Oh, okay. Just wanted to-" Dick paused as a thud came from the trunk of the car. "What was that?"
"What was what? I didn't hear anything." The stranger stared up at Dick with his eyes that matched the full moon. Then, Dick took his last look at the New Jersey license plate that read TCF 902 and rethought his departure.
"Yet another crime, Master Wayne?" Alfred watched his employer as he prepared for his night life.
"Surprised?" Batman got into the Batmobile.
"What should I tell Master Dick if he shows up?"
"He's been eighteen for over two months. Let him be, Alfred. I better be going." The engine roared, and the caped crusader was off.
Batman crept into the house through a back window. He saw Commissioner Gordon standing in the next room with Bullock next to him. Bullock was always displeased with the presence of the Bat. His contempt was never concealed either. This time was definitely no exception.
"Break-in? Robbery?" Batman had enough experience to know which crimes led to which scenes.
"And murder. Strange case, though. It was like the criminal got in but never left. Anyway, the owner of the house had some recovered artifacts from an old ship. It sank in the Atlantic on its way to England for an exhibit of Indian clay pottery. They were in the attic, and apparently the criminal was after them. He only got away with one. The others were broken when he knocked them off the shelf." Gordon never kept his lips tight with Batman. "Was the owner murdered?"
"No. Someone walking by heard the struggle in the house and tried to help out. At least, that's what Salinger says. He's the owner. There was a gunshot and the criminal got away. Salinger got out of the house and called 9-1-1 at a neighbor's." Gordon looked down. He had a habit of getting personal with his cases. The silence was broken by the coroners entering the house with a body bag.
"The body's upstairs, and you better be careful. That's a crime scene. It's bad enough we already have some outside interference," said Bullock, eyeing Batman hiding in the shadows.
"It turns out that the criminal shot-" Gordon looked around. Batman had already made his way upstairs. He made sure to keep out of sight just enough to get a glance at the victim. The full moon's light shone across the floor. The body's identity could be seen. Richard John Grayson.
"How are you holding up?" James Gordon had noticed how introverted Bruce Wayne was being at the funeral of Dick Grayson. Rightfully so, Jim knew. He sighed. "Barbara's taking it hard, too. She was the last person who talked to him that night. Maybe you two should get together after the cemetery. It might be best for both of you. If you need anything, you know how to find me. We're working hard on the case. I know I should be impartial, but it's my main concern. Uh, I think Lucius just walked in. I'll leave you two alone." Jim patted Bruce on the back and walked away to go comfort his adopted daughter.
"You want to talk?" Lucius wasn't skilled at the comforting scene, but he did want to help.
"No. I have some business to take care of. I'm about to be on my way. Thanks for coming, Lucius. After Alfred pays his respects, I'll be leaving."
The third night of the full moon consisted of bittersweet good-byes. The burial was in the afternoon, and many attended, with the exception of Bruce Wayne and his butler Alfred. After the ceremony was over, the crowd left. The sun set in the West and other visitors of those buried in the graveyard vacated. Later that night, the grave of Richard John Grayson was visited again, but not by friends.
"I say, isn't that evidence?" questioned Alfred as he watched Batman investigate the broken pottery.
"They have another that they can investigate. I'm not going to wait for the Law. If it makes you feel any better, I'll give it back when I'm-" He noticed something. "There's dust on this. The Scarecrow! It's probably some of his fear dust, some kind of illusion. None of this is real."
"If I might have some input, Master Wayne? I most certainly feel like this is real. I'm sure the rest of Gotham would agree with you. Now, I am by no means trying to anger you, but I don't think that you have looked far enough into it. I mean, it looks like regular dust to me. It was in the gentleman's attic after all."
Alfred was being the voice of reason and Batman knew it. Normally, he would've already been forcing out testimonies. The case would be harder to solve with his mind out of focus. Hoping that some sleep would clear it up, he changed out of his suit and went upstairs.
"Would you like anything for supper, Master Wayne?" asked Alfred as he and Bruce walked up the stairs to Wayne Manor.
"No thank you, Alfred. You should probably get some rest yourself. Good night, Alfred."
"Good night, Master Wayne."
The full moon sat in the night sky and could be seen through the window in Bruce's room. Its glow hit Bruce as his thoughts became unwound in his mind through his dreams. He was suddenly standing in a hallway filled with an infinite number of doors. He approached the first door on his right. He opened it. Out fell Dick's body, shot, just like he had seen it two days ago. He then opened the door to his left, Dick's body fell out once more. This one, however, had been stabbed. The third door he approached contained a brutally beaten Grayson body. The fourth body was labeled "POISONED." This continued as he went further and further down the hallway. Each body suffered a different death. Bruce found himself shouting repeatedly after he opened each door: "This didn't really happen! It's not Dick!"
"You're right." Bruce found a hand touching him on his shoulder. He turned around to find Dick standing there. He glanced back at the corpses that lay outside the doors. Then, he woke up.
"I'm missing something, Alfred. There has to be-" Batman's sentence was finished by his butler who was trying to reassemble the broken pottery.
"A missing piece."
"Exactly! I'm not seeing all the clues."
"That's not what I meant, Master Wayne. I mean that there is a missing piece or extra piece, rather. The one you left with the police must be missing a piece because there is one that just does not fit."
"Let me see that." Alfred handed Batman the piece.
"There's not even a design on it. It doesn't look like normal pottery. It actually looks more recent," said Batman in his examination of the clay piece.
"Well, how 'recent' exactly?"
"About two-or-three-days-ago recent, Alfred."
"I beg your pardon. Why would anyone leave a piece of clay behind?"
"If they were made of it..."
"What was that, Sir?"
"Commissioner Gordon told me that it looked like the criminal never left. If he was the victim himself, of course he didn't leave. He left when the coroners came and got him." After sharing how he was thinking, a rarity, Batman made his way over to the computer. He pulled up the newspaper article reporting the crime. The pots were recovered from the ship El Rey del Agua. Batman then typed in a search for other articles about El Rey del Agua. He found an article dated ten years earlier. He read a piece of the article: "An amateur scuba diver Matthew Hagen recovered Native American artifacts that never made it to their destination of London, England in 1972 on the sunken ship El Rey del Agua."
"Clayface! It was Matt Hagen."
"So, are you saying that Master Dick is still alive?" asked Alfred, hope gleaming in his eyes.
"There's a chance. I have to go. I'll be back."
In the other part of town, at the morgue, Dr. Delgan began to lock up. He dropped his keys as he turned around to see Batman coming up from behind him.
"You saw the Grayson body."
"What do you think you're doing? Where I come from breaking in is illegal. Personally, I don't think you're going to be pardoned. You're not above the law, whoever-"
Batman grabbed Delgan and pushed him against the wall. "Was he dead?"
"Wh-wh-what are you talking about? Of course he was dead. You can't fake something like that," replied Delgan.
"I disagree. Do you know anything about Matt Hagen?"
"Matt who? Listen, this is absurd! I demand you put me down right now!"
"You mean to tell me you know nothing about Matt Hagen? Nothing about Clayface?" Batman pressed Delgan against the wall harder.
"No. Now put me down, you, well, you!"
"Okay, let me ask you another question. If I were to go and dig up the grave of Richard Grayson, there would be a body in a coffin?"
"How am I supposed to know?"
"I don't care, but I know you know. Tell me the truth. I have some tools in my belt to help me. They're a lot prettier than the ones you play with during work." His grasp on Delgan got tighter.
"Uh ... Well... You see...There wouldn't be a body!" Delgan gasped for breath as Batman dropped him.
"Why wouldn't there be one, Delgan?"
"It was Clayface. I don't know where he saw the kid, but he took his body shape. He knew he would get away with it. I don't know where he is now. He paid me off. I-" Delgan looked up. The Batman had left.
Batman suddenly stopped the Batmobile as he drove through the streets of Gotham City late at night. A young girl had run in front of the vehicle. He got out of the Batmobile and approached the child. "You thought you could get away with it, Hagen?"
Suddenly, the young girl was transformed into a huge brown monster. Clayface turned toward Batman. With what seemed like a grimace, he transformed his body into a mere puddle and vanished from the vigilante's sight.
Within minutes, Clayface had taken shape once again and was choking Batman. Batman grabbed a Batarang from his belt. He threw it and it hit an outside A.C. unit, knocking it on the back of Clayface. As he recuperated, Batman ran to the Batmobile.
"I brought this especially for you, Hagen." Batman aimed a freeze gun he had kept as a souvenir at Clayface, freezing his particles solid.
Batman left the frozen criminal behind after notifying Commissioner Gordon. He had business to attend to.
Bruce Wayne walked into a diner just outside of Gotham City. He sat down at the first booth to his right. "I hear Hudson's a good school."
"Really?" asked Dick, leaning in to drink.
All characters are © DC Comics
This piece is © 2002 by Sheryl Chaisson
Fanzing is not associated with DC Comics.
All DC Comics characters, trademarks and images (where used) are DC Comics, Inc.
DC characters are used here in fan art and fiction in accordance with their generous "fair use" policies.
Fanzing site version 7.4