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20 January 2007 @ 10:10 am
Flash by Northwest (6/14)  
***
Flash By Northwest (6/14)
a Justice League story
by dotfic and mtgat
Copyright 2007
TV-14 (DSLV)
***

Disclaimer: DC Comics and Warner Brothers own the characters and situations. No infringement on their property is intended or should be inferred.

Continuity/Spoilers: Takes place after JLU "Destroyer" and the events of the flashback in "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker"

Thanks to amilyn for her beta on this work. Special thanks also to xffan_2000 and billa1 for editing above and beyond the call of duty on the final draft. All mistakes that may still be found herein are ours alone.

Pairings: Lots. If it was canon, if it was implied in canon --- heck, if we just thought it was amusing at the time --- it's in there.

Summary: The Big Seven (plus one) are trapped inside a fantasy world created by a magical artifact. As the body count rises, familiar faces hide deadly secrets and it's up to Flash to save them.


***
Chapter Six
***

Bruce arrived at the diner first. He'd taken a cab, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, and as an added precaution, combed his hair differently and wore glasses.

It wasn't much of a disguise but hey, if it worked for Kent all those years, it was worth a try.

At home Bruce Wayne was a familiar face in Gotham, and he could go out without being approached, except by the more rabid breed of reporters. Some people who benefitted from his charities ---neighborhood people --- might wave or greet him but kept the respectful distance people had for a man they thought was busy and important. There was a diner he liked to go to occasionally for pancakes; sometimes he went alone and sometimes Dick, Babs, and Tim were with him. The waitresses knew him by name and the cook knew he liked his bacon practically charred.

But here, it might be different. It seemed he was as well known as a Louie B. Mayer or a David O. Selznick, and Bruce wasn't looking forward to eager young starlets following him or trying to do an on-the-spot audition.

He sat in a booth, ordered coffee, and stared out through the windows. The early morning sun was just beginning to burn away the morning fog and the dampness of the night as the city came to life. A few cars went by, harbingers of the thicker traffic to come. It seemed strange to see palm trees. This city, like Gotham, had dark shadows but when it was bright, it was brighter than Gotham, and he felt out of place. Everything in Los Diablos seemed to be for show; even the architecture of the most run-down neighborhoods had arches, scalloped roofs, patios, grace notes. Gotham just was. A front stoop, a grocery store, an office building; it didn't feel like a movie set. Los Diablos and Gotham, however, had other things in common. Poverty nestled up next to luxury with casual neglect, and no one seemed to take notice.

The waitress, a redhead, brought him his coffee. Her hair was neatly combed and her uniform starched. He noted the diamond ring on her finger, the smoothness of her hands. This was something new to her.

"Thank you, Veronica," he said.

She assumed he'd read her name tag, and smiled without it reaching her eyes, then walked off to help another customer.

If all this was out of his head, he wondered why his mind would want to see Ronnie Vreeland down on her luck. Maybe because some part of him always saw her as the nice girl next door, wanted to see her away from the society parties and the glamour and distractions, figure out what she was like when she had to just be.

The coffee was hot, good, and fresh. He didn't add sugar or milk to it and barely wondered how the movie mogul usually took his. Possibly with a shot of something hard added to start the day.

The bell over the diner door jangled, the blinds covering the door window rattled, and Diana entered, Wally behind her. She was dressed in a simple skirt and jacket, shoes with moderate heels, her hair caught at the base of her neck in a snood. Spotting him, she lifted her hand in greeting, then yawned and used the hand to delicately cover her mouth.

Wally sat down next to Diana in the booth and grabbed a menu from the holder. "Ooooh, hey, buttermilk pancakes with fresh blueberries."

"How did things go with the police?"

"We told them what we saw at the club. It started to go kind of badly. I think they thought we killed Ollie." Wally's stomach growled. "But then someone you might be familiar with stepped in. Harvey Dent. Seems like he's a good guy here." The waitress came over. "I'll have the number four special, with two sides of hash browns," Wally said, while Ronnie jotted it down on her pad.

"Anything for you?"

"Toast and coffee please," Diana said.

Ronnie left them.

Wally fidgeted with the spoon in the sugar bowl, while Bruce indulged himself with the idea of a whole Harvey on the side of justice. "Now tell me what you saw."

"Here." Diana reached into her pocket and pulled out several sheets of paper folded together.

Bruce looked through the papers, which were pages of lists interpersed with full paragraphs. He skimmed some of the text, which turned out to be theories based on the list of facts. There was also a list of suspects, with their own names at the top of the list.

"You'll find a detailed report of our findings at the club on page three," said Wally. He grimaced. "Please don't make me tell it again."

"You two put this together?"

"We've been working on it since yesterday morning, and we added The Emerald Parrot stuff early this morning." The spoon clicked against the edge of the sugar bowl.

"Nice work," Bruce said, folding the pages and handed it back to them.

"Don't you want to keep them?" Wally looked across at him in surprise.

"No, they're yours."

The expression on Wally's face reminded Bruce achingly of Tim or Dick, when they'd done something well on one of those rare occasions when he felt they could handle praise.

Diana, as he'd expected, genuinely seemed not to have noticed anything out of the ordinary. She was accustomed to praise, though not from him.

Ronnie returned with Wally's pancakes and Diana's toast and coffee.

Wally poured maple syrup all over the pancakes. "We don't really have any theories yet about who killed Ollie," Wally said with his mouth full. "It looks like it was a surprise attack, but it could have been someone he knew. Any number of people in Los Diablos would want him dead. He is the top mob boss."

"Or it could have been a political opponent," Diana said, spreading butter evenly on her toast, neatly including the corners. "The politics in Los Diablos are deeply corrupt. Our next step is to compile a list of politicians who might have their eye on the mayor's office, or who would have reason to want Oliver Queen out and someone else in."

"Guess who the Deputy Mayor is?" Wally grinned.

Bruce sighed. "Yes. I know. Luthor."

"Can I tell Clark? Please? Can I, huh?"

"I'm sure he's figured it out already, Wally. He is a reporter."

"Oh. Yeah. Anyway Lex seems like he has a low profile here. Maybe in Los Diablos he's not a bad guy."

"Uh-oh," Wally said, and put down his fork.

"What?" Diana's eyes widened.

Wally reached into his pocket and pulled out the necklace. "What with all the interrogating, we forgot to show this to the police."

"Kind of a large clue to forget about," Bruce said, hearing the rebuke creep into his own voice.

"Like I said, they were interrogating us, and Bullock got kind of rough and then Dent showed up and ... "

"Either one of us should have remembered," Diana said.

"Never mind. Somehow I don't have much faith in the LDPD to solve this anyway. Keep the necklace somewhere safe. I'll try to find out the whereabouts of this world's Edward Nygma."

***

Lois was already hard at work when Clark arrived back from breakfast. He'd had trouble finding an open café, so it'd taken longer than he'd expected.

"Morning, Lois," he said, as he threw his jacket over his chair.

"About time you got here," she said, still typing. "Where were you last night?"

"Out." It was the safest answer. If he'd told her he'd been here all night, she'd ask him why.

"Perry's madder than a wet hen." Her fingers clacked on the keys. "The Mayor got whacked last night."

"What?!"

She let out a disgusted sigh, pulled out her sheet of paper, and shoved it at him, then scrolled a new page into the typewriter.

Clark read:

"MAYOR QUEEN MURDERED!!!!

"Article by Clark Kent, Daily Devil staff reporter

"Late last night, local police discovered a terrible sight: Mayor Oliver Queen was shot dead inside the Emerald Parrot nightclub. Queen, formerly known as mobster "Ollie the Arrow," was found beside the body of his bodyguard James Jesse, both riddled with bullets. Local has-been private eye Wally West and his secretary were arrested at the scene for the crime."


"Uh oh," Clark said to himself.

"After hours of intense interrogation, the suspects were set free on their own recognizance, according to bleeding-heart District Attorney Harvey Dent. Meanwhile, as Queen's body lay cooling in a pool of his own red blood, the inept LDPD scored the scene for clues."

"You misspelled 'scoured.'"

"Thanks."

There was more, though Lois had clearly used her imagination and her thesaurus. "Why do you keep signing my name to your work?" He wasn't sure if it bothered him more getting the credit for her work, or that the work was so bad.

Lois looked at him with an expression of deepest distaste but didn't answer at first. When she saw the honest confusion on his face (he hoped) she sighed. "Been drinking again, Kent? You always get your crusader panties in a twist after a few shots of Johnnie Walker."

"Let's go with a 'yes' on that."

"Don't tell Perry. He'll explode. You can go sleep it off after we check out the nightclub." She finished the article, made the spelling correction in red, and then ran it down to Typesetting. Clark waited until she came back, and together, they drove towards the club.

"'Crusader panties?'" he asked as he drove.

"You heard me. A couple of drinks, and you're all 'Dames should have equal rights' and 'No more separate drinking fountains.' Sometimes I swear you'd put on a pair of red, white and blue briefs and go try to save the world. Then you sober up." She looked out the window away from him.

"You like me when I've been drinking."

"Don't get schmaltzy, Kent. I don't like you, period. You're just less of a creep when you're drunk."

Police surrounded the club, flurrying in and out like bees and giving the appearance of being just as busy. The line was set up halfway across the street, and no one was allowed inside without a badge.

"Get a shot of the exterior," Lois said, giving up. "It's something."

Clark obediently took his camera over to the far side of the street for a better angle, while Lois tried charming the cops. As he set up the shot, he got a good look around the street. A few restaurants, a jewelry store, and a bank huddled around the club. In his own world, the bank would have had a convenient security camera spying outside. But video cameras were expensive, and ATMs wouldn't come along for decades.

He clicked a few photographs, and then with a glance to make sure Lois was still busy hunting down quotes, he went into the bank. The guard on-duty looked just like Rudy Jones, and Clark gave a mental shrug as he went over to him. "Excuse me?"

"Yeah?"

"Did your bank have a guard on duty last night?"

"That was me. You don't look like a cop. They already asked me questions, and now I gotta stay the rest of the day because Sam called in sick. That ain't fair."

"No, it's not. So I suppose you didn't see or hear anything?"

"Naw. I was in the back." He didn't say he was sleeping. He didn't have to. Clark was having a bad day, and needled him anyway.

"I'm surprised a keen man like yourself didn't hear gunfire."

"Yeah. Well." Rudy rubbed the back of his neck. "My hearing's never been so good." He wouldn't meet Clark's eyes. Asleep for sure. Or else ...

"What's your salary, Rudy?"

"None of your beeswax, mister. And how did you know my name?"

"I asked the cops outside." It was a bad lie, but Rudy had never been very bright. He started looking uncomfortable. Clark took him by the arm and walked him towards the wall, and Rudy went. "Look, Rudy, I'm not with the police, and more importantly for your sake, I'm not with the mob either. I'm just trying to figure out who did this. Now if someone happened to hand you a little extra cash in exchange for your not hearing anything, I just want his name."

"I don't know nothin'."

Clark sighed deeply. "Then I'm afraid I'll have to tell my friends who also have an interest in this case that you're not being forthcoming. I'm sure they can find something that will jog your memory."

Rudy's eyes had gotten bigger as Clark had spoken. Clark hated this. It was something Bruce would do: convince the witness he knew more and that he'd consider not breaking any legs if he got the information he requested.

"I don't know nothin'!" he repeated in a hoarse whisper. "I never got a name. Just a note and some cash. My sister's been sick. We need the dough. All I did was walk around the block for ten minutes when the note said to, I swear."

"Can you give me the note?" If they could get fingerprints, handwriting identity, anything, they'd be in business.

Rudy shot that down fast. "You kiddin'? Hang onto a piece of paper that said I'd be goofing off at work? I'd get fired."

Drat. "Rudy, if Queen's people find out you helped get him killed, getting fired will sound like a trip to the zoo in comparison with what they'll do to you."

Rudy shivered. Clark almost felt sorry for him. Parasite was a two-bit crook in his soul, who'd accidentally managed to find a million dollar superpower. In this world, he'd stay petty and die poor.

"Go visit your sister, Rudy. Pack her up and take her someplace warm. Mexico's nice this time of year." Rudy nodded.

Outside, Lois fumed at him. "I finally get a quote from the Commissioner, I go to look for you, and you're where, exactly?"

"Following a lead."

"You better tell me you caught the killer red-handed."

"Sorry." But now he knew Ollie's murder had been planned in advance. It might not be useful information, but he filed it away for later.

***

"Will you need anything else, Mr. Jones?" The clerk at the attorney's office was young and eager to please, and J'onn recognized him as a young man he'd encountered in Pennsylvania during his journey to find his place in the world.

"No. Thank you, Thomas," he said, and then, "Although perhaps if you had a spare desk where I could sit?"

"Sure, Mr. Jones." Thomas led him back to an empty desk in the office. "If there's anything else you need, just give a shout."

"My thanks again." The youth walked away.

J'onn turned back to his stack of papers. He'd managed to see some of Vixen's less important documents yesterday, but the attorney was the only one who knew the combination for the safe where the truly vital papers were kept, and he had been away on business until late last night. Although Vixen's will had been his first priority this morning, he was allowing J'onn to take a look, as a favor to Mr. Stewart.

Last Will and Testament of Mari Jiwe Macabe.

J'onn wasn't a lawyer, nor an accountant for that matter, and had to translate the strange legal language into plain English, and then into Martian. A few items were named as separate from the estate: a few pieces of jewelry (Diana would inherit a brooch), the rights to the residuals from two of her movies (her agent would inherit one, Batman the other), a small sum to her agent and to J'onn, and a sizeable donation to a children's home. J'onn made careful notes of each of these; for all he knew, someone had murdered her for a pair of diamond earrings.

The rest of the estate went to her husband, and to any children the two might have, although to J'onn's knowledge, there were none. She had included a codicil that stated, should her husband have any offspring by another woman, his inheritance would be voided, and the bulk of her estate would be given to Vixen's own offspring if any, and otherwise the children's home.

This put the burden of suspicion back on Green Lantern. J'onn muttered a swear word in his own language even as he wrote everything down.

"Sorry?" said Thomas, walking by.

"Nothing." J'onn also took note of the date on which the will had last been updated. If he was clear on the current date, this version was less than two months old, though he had no idea what had been changed from the previous one.

The bell rang up front, just as J'onn was about to hand the papers back to the clerk. Thomas dashed up front to answer it.

J'onn looked at the will again, and then placed it back inside its folder. He would return it to the safe himself. As he set the folder back in place, he was overtaken by curiosity, and he peered through the other files until he found a familiar name. While Thomas was occupied, he opened the folder and glanced at the will inside. The format was the same, with different names attached, which told him this attorney doubtless had a standard will drawn up for most of his clients. Also recent. J'onn made another note.

He placed the file back into the folder, and waved good-bye to Thomas as he left.

***

"Sir, Mr. Jones has arrived to see you. He says it is most urgent."

"Show him in," Bruce said, closing his book. His library included dozens of pulp detective novels, and he'd decided to skim them to see if he could glean anything useful from the medium itself. Thus far, they were as helpful as Flash.

Alfred shut the study door behind J'onn, who looked agitated.

"What did you find out?"

"Vixen changed her will recently. I cannot say for certain what the addition was, but I did notice a codicil wherein John Stewart would lose his inheritance should he have a child with another woman."

"So she probably knew about his affair." Bruce sat forward, thinking. "But she didn't write him out of her will. Interesting."

"Perhaps they had reconciled. We believe he was unfaithful to her, but we cannot assume he'd not gone back to her."

"And she forgave him, but added a note to keep him on the straight and narrow," said Bruce.

"I also saw your will. You have the same attorney. A Mr. Fox?"

"Go on."

"In this world, Richard Grayson is your half-brother." Bruce's mouth quirked. That was a good description of Dick, really. "Timothy Drake is your illegitimate son."

Bruce went cold. "Tim's here?"

"Flash and Diana encountered him yesterday," J'onn admitted. "He is ... whole. We thought perhaps you shouldn't ..."

"Tell me where he is."

"Batman," J'onn said. "This is not your Tim. This is a simulacrum out of your own mind." He placed a hand on Bruce's arm. "Considering your recent trauma, I don't think it's a good idea that you see him."

"J'onn, if you stand in my way from seeing him, I swear I will test the theory that none of us can really die here."

J'onn raised an eyebrow and dropped his hand. "When we have found the killer and left this place, I would like to see you for a chat."

"Not likely," Bruce said, but he gave a tight smile anyway. His mind was racing, and yes, his heart too. Whole, J'onn had said. Not quivering in his room under sedation, for fear that if he started laughing he'd never stop. Not wincing at every trace of the colors purple and green, until Bruce and Alfred had gone through the entire Manor and taken down anything with those colors, throwing out plants and covering pictures, and ensuring corn and carrots were the only vegetables ever served at the table.

Just a few minutes. All he wanted was a few minutes of the old Tim, smiling without a rictus, alive without wounds that went too deep for Leslie to patch.

J'onn couldn't read his mind, but maybe he didn't have to. He wrote down an address. "He lives with his mother."

"Talia, Selina or Andrea?"

J'onn smirked. "Selina."

"J'onn?" Bruce said, as J'onn opened the study door. Alfred stood right outside, waiting to escort him out.

"Yes?"

"Thank you."

J'onn nodded. "Afterwards. Chat."

***

His batsuit wasn't here, and half the materials he used in it hadn't even been invented yet, so he wasn't eager to try to construct another one, although he could if he had to.

As in the real world, Bruce Wayne was a liability, a hindrance. There were places he couldn't go, people who wouldn't talk to him. He stood out. Bruce glanced at the white tuxedo on the bed, waiting for Alfred to gather it up, to clean it, steam it, put away. That was a uniform as much as the other.

But there was more than one way to do what needed to be done. Unlike with the batsuit, the materials he needed were readily available in this world.

Bruce looked at himself in the tall, gilt-edged mirror, at the dark suit and tie that was of good quality but not too good, expensive rather than well-made. He'd applied the putty to his face to change the shape of his nose and line of his jaw, and oil to his hair to change the way it parted, and then he'd affixed the mustache to his upper lip. A face both familiar and unfamiliar looked back at him from the mirror. He relaxed his shoulders, standing the way this other man would stand, then rotated his jaw a few times, remembering the way this other voice would feel on his tongue.

There were places Matches could go Bruce Wayne couldn't, people who would talk to him when they wouldn't talk to someone like Bruce Wayne.

One of them was Bruce's son.

***

J'onn sat in his vehicle for several minutes afterwards, looking over his notes. The case was coming together, though he didn't like the shape it made. None of them were responsible for Queen's murder, he felt certain. Occam's Razor suggested there was only one murderer, rather than two, so that exonerated the seven of them, although only to themselves.

Unfortunately, the paperwork trail he'd been able to discern thus far led back to them more strongly than ever. Lantern stood to inherit a fortune, so long as he never had a child with Shayera. That was surely an outgrowth of the information from the future, which Lantern had shared with both women not long ago. J'onn himself would inherit a tidy amount, on top of the money he had stolen from her, as did Bruce and her agent.

J'onn made a note to investigate the agent. Better, he would tell Flash to do so. Flash was the one who had to solve the case, after all.

He sighed and put his notes away, then once again attempted to drive this strange vehicle. He was getting better, but it was not like the automobiles he'd learned on, and he had no knowing mind from which to draw the necessary information.

A mile down the road, there was another car across the road, doors open and headlights on. J'onn slowed and stopped, then got out of his vehicle in order to see if something was wrong with the driver.

He felt the blow to his head, heard a deafening crunch, and he fell to his knees, stunned. His assailant loomed over him, and J'onn's eyes widened in recognition just before the final, killing strike.


To be continued...

 
 
 
The Kinky FailMedic: the questionvictoria_wayne on January 20th, 2007 03:30 pm (UTC)
Cliffhanger much? XD

I love the addition of Matches. Very cool.
Merlin Missy: Big Scary Freakmtgat on January 20th, 2007 05:14 pm (UTC)
Matches rocks the known world. :)
getting the chocolate in the peanut butterdotfic on January 21st, 2007 08:18 pm (UTC)
Hooray for Matches! (We kinda like Matches).

Cliffhanger? Oops! *looks innocent*
Matt Zimmermattzimmer on January 20th, 2007 11:42 pm (UTC)
J'onn's dead? Yikes! I hope Wally solves the mystery soon. I can't wait for the next chapter!
getting the chocolate in the peanut butter: Flash: hero in progressdotfic on January 21st, 2007 08:20 pm (UTC)
Oh, J'onn. It had to be done. :/
Merlin Missy: Little Green OTPmtgat on January 22nd, 2007 06:26 pm (UTC)
*moment of silence for Dead Martian*
dariclone on January 21st, 2007 01:27 am (UTC)
Ooh, what a place to leave us, I'm really loving this fic!
getting the chocolate in the peanut butterdotfic on January 21st, 2007 08:21 pm (UTC)
We're glad you're enjoying this, thanks! :)
Merlin Missy: Bat and His Monkeymtgat on January 22nd, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC)
Hooray! And we have now given you more. :)
chameleongirl79 on January 21st, 2007 02:51 am (UTC)
Nooooooooo!!!!!
getting the chocolate in the peanut butter: Flash: hero in progressdotfic on January 21st, 2007 08:21 pm (UTC)
Erm...sorry?
chameleongirl79 on January 21st, 2007 11:07 pm (UTC)
No you're not. You're enjoying every moment of torturous suspense that you inflict upon us :D
Merlin Missy: Big Scary Freakmtgat on January 22nd, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC)
Yes. Yes we are.
getting the chocolate in the peanut butterdotfic on January 22nd, 2007 10:35 pm (UTC)
Who, US?? *looks all innocent*
sunless_deathsunless_death on January 21st, 2007 02:56 am (UTC)
Aw, J'onn :(
And Damn, Timmy-I didn't realize this universe included the Joker-Timmy thing.
Soo, did I miss it or is Dick not dead? And possibly more loyal to Bruce than Ollie? Crutches did it! ;P
I like the random people they run into. I look forward to the rest! ^_^
getting the chocolate in the peanut butter: Flash: hero in progressdotfic on January 21st, 2007 08:27 pm (UTC)
Keep in mind Dick is not the "real" Dick (he wasn't pulled into the book like the founding seven and Mari), so anything's possible.

Thanks, we're glad you liking this!
Merlin Missy: Pancakesmtgat on January 22nd, 2007 06:28 pm (UTC)
*pets our poor Dick woobie*
Akino Ameakino_ame on January 21st, 2007 03:15 am (UTC)
Ooh, nice. Very suspenseful--you start to solve the mystery, you get knocked off. And killing one of the Seven this early--gutsy. I'm really intrigued, to say the least.
getting the chocolate in the peanut butterdotfic on January 21st, 2007 08:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much! :D
Merlin Missy: Little Green OTPmtgat on January 22nd, 2007 06:29 pm (UTC)
you start to solve the mystery, you get knocked off.

Yep. This mystery stuff is hazardous to your health!
allaine77: pic#49107002allaine77 on January 22nd, 2007 01:45 pm (UTC)
Interesting. Clark's not entirely a creep. Just a sell-out and a cynic. (Is it just me, or is anyone else frequently reminded of L.A. Confidential by this story?)

A hero who's all "flash" and no substance probably wouldn't get much more than a grunt from Batman for putting together those pages, so obviously Flash doesn't realize the extent to which Bruce respects him. Not that Bruce probably gives him much reason to think that.

Oh, J'onn. I think we can officially rule out the Big Seven. No way is one of them his killer.

Sincerely, Allaine

P.S. Pammy says this is one more reason she's glad the bastard is dead. Making some poor kid scared of plants? A--hole.
Merlin Missy: Little Green OTPmtgat on January 22nd, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC)
I think we can officially rule out the Big Seven. No way is one of them his killer.

Probably not. Except that a few of them have a motive ...
getting the chocolate in the peanut butterdotfic on January 22nd, 2007 10:35 pm (UTC)
Ooh, an LA Confidential comparison? That's great, no, really, we wanted "noir." :)

Actually a grunt from Batman probably would be a compliment. In this case, he was practically effusive and Wally doesn't quite get that.