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21 January 2007 @ 08:49 am
Flash by Northwest (7/14)  
***
Flash By Northwest (7/14)
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 Seven
***

Bruce checked the address as he looked up at the building. "Tenement" would be a better word, and "semi-permanent building code violation" would be just about dead on in description. He walked up the stairs as Matches would, the cocky yet shambling walk that told the world to leave him alone. Broken toys and trash littered the sides of the dark stairway. He recognized the smells of ground-in cigarette smoke and poor sanitation, with an overlay of bacon grease, and almost on cue as he thought one should, a baby began crying from somewhere out of sight. Another child joined in, and was silenced with a shout.

Selina and Tim lived on the third floor. He rapped on their door, his speech prepared.

No one answered. He waited for about a minute, then knocked louder.

"I'm coming! Hold your horses!" Selina.

Sure enough, the door creaked open, and Selina was there, wearing a nightgown and yawning. She looked him up and down, and then said, "Nobody before noon."

"Is your son home?"

"TIM!" she yelled. No answer. "He's out. Out shining shoes like a good boy already."

Bruce had his doubts. "Name's Malone. I got a job for him. Money up front, easy work for a good boy."

Her eyes narrowed. "You ain't some perv, are ya? My boy ain't into that. You'll want the Todd kid downstairs."

Bruce was never going to ask where that particular detail had come from, because he knew he would never want to know the answer. "Nothing like that, ma'am. I need him to carry some things for me."

"What kinds of things?" She stood back, appraising him, and he affected to slump his shoulders a little more. "Wait, do I know you? Ain't you that guy from Warriors?"

"I been there once or twice," he hedged.

"Anyway," said Selina, "he's gonna be busy the next couple of days. He worked for the Mayor, my Timmy did, and he's got to see if he's still got a job now that Queen got whacked."

Tim worked for the Ollie? "Y'know," said Bruce. "I heard the Mayor was into some shady stuff."

Selina looked at him strangely, then barked a laugh at him that turned into a cough. "You ain't so bright, are you, Malone?"

Bruce let himself grin. "No one ever blamed me for bein' too smart, nope."

"But you're kinda cute," she said, a slow smile spreading over her face. "And you did give me a good laugh. Tell you what, you come on in and show me some of that money you want to give my boy, and I'll give you a good time." On her, he smelled last night's perfume and a lot of old liquor.

He held up his hands. "Not right now, lady. Business."

"I got my own business to run," she sniffed. "You sure you don't wanna go see the Todd kid after all? He gives me a dollar every time I send him a john, and I give him one when he sends 'em to me."

"Really can't. But maybe I'll call next week."

She laughed again, as he hurried from her door. "Good one, mister." She slammed the door.

As he walked down the stairs, Bruce wondered how Tim had come to be, if he really was their child in this strange world. Had this Bruce Wayne rented Selina's company for an evening? If so, he'd hardly take her word for it that the kid was his. But he'd mentioned the boy in his will.

At the outside door, a small form barreled into him, knocking the wind out of him.

"Hey! Watch where yer goin!" said the form, and it was Tim. Of course it was Tim.

"Sorry. Hey, are you Tim Drake?"

"Who wants to know?" Tim had puffed himself up with pride and aggressiveness. Bruce's heart ached.

"Malone. Call me Matches." Bruce knew this role, had played this game any number of times, but his mouth was dry. "I got a job for you. Pays good." He flashed a little cash. Tim's eyes got big and greedy.

"I'm listenin'."

"I got some items I need carried across town. You carry them, I give you a little scratch."

"Who you workin' for?"

"Just myself. Independent agent."

"No such thing," Tim said. "Not in L.D. What, you got guys gonna jump me at the end? I ain't talkin' about Mister Grayson's business for anybody."

Bruce handed Tim ten dollars. "Is Mister Grayson your boss?"

"He gets me jobs, yeah. Never you mind what."

"I ain't askin'."

"I just shine shoes, mister. Timmy the Shoeshine Boy, that's me."

"Mister Grayson likes his shiny shoes?"

"Shiniest ones in town," said Tim. "Hey, you say you got cash?"

Bruce flicked a glance around his perimeter to make sure Tim wasn't setting him up for a robbery. "Enough."

Tim cracked a grin. "My ma's right upstairs. I can wake her up. You'd like her. All the guys do."

This isn't Tim. This isn't Selina. "Maybe next time, kid. You in or out?"

"Tell me what you want carried and I'll think about it."

Or you'll go tell Dick about the new guy in town. "Ain't nothin' you need to worry about for a c-note, kid." Again the greed shone on his face. "There's a pancake place not far from here. Be there tonight around seven. I'll even buy you dinner." Bruce pulled out another ten. "To help you decide."

Tim snatched it from his hand. "Okay. Maybe I'll be there. But no funny stuff." He paused. "You know, there's this Todd guy who lives on the second floor ... "

"Not my type," Bruce said. "Seven o'clock, kid." Then he walked out even though he wanted to stay and grab the boy and hug him and tell him he was sorry, but that would be out of character for any of him.

***

Against his better judgement, John was going through the closet, searching for anything unusual. Maybe Mari had kept a diary, or had hidden old love letters, or something. He'd searched the attics already, found a lot of old clothes slowly decaying, and a ton of happy, fat moths.

The best part about having been up in the attic had been avoiding the staff. Too strange, seeing those faces waiting for orders from him for meals and directions. This place was getting to him: too big and too empty of any other real people. It was like living with ghosts.

"Mr. Stewart?"

John glanced around. "What?"

Mason said, "The police called." That was another thing. He wasn't supposed to answer his own telephone, or his own door. Bad enough that when he and Mari went anywhere public, she had a driver to take them there. Here, the people who looked like Mace and Sapphire and Kat waited on him until he yelled at them to go away. Next thing he knew, they'd be wiping his mouth for him, or worse.

"Tell me they've found something."

"In a way, sir. They found Mr. Jones. I'm afraid he's dead, sir." Mace said it in a detached voice, like he was relaying a stock quote. Insane Situations on the rise today, Martians dropping sharply.

"What? That can't be right."

"I'm very sorry, sir. They said it was a car accident. He crashed into a tree. Would you like me to order some flowers to be sent to the widow?"

"Sure," said John, mouth on autopilot. Pretend flowers for a pretend wife in a pretend story. If Zatanna was right, J'onn would be "reset" along with the rest of them if they made it through the plot to the end. She hadn't said anything about what would happen if they all died in the story, but John had a bad feeling. "Do you know if they called anyone else?"

"The officer on the phone said they'd tried to contact his wife, but couldn't locate her. That's why they called here. They'd like you to do the official identification of the body."

John nodded. "Just tell me where to go." He paused. "And I need you to call some people for me to tell them. Bruce Wayne. Clark Kent. Diana -- " What was her last name again?

"Miss Prince?"

"That's her. And Wally West, too. Do you have their numbers?"

"I can find them."

"Good. Tell them to meet me. Where am I going?"

"They'd like you at the accident site. It's not far from Mr. Wayne's residence. I've given the directions to Guy already."

"Right. Have them meet me there. But first, call Miss Hol. Tell her I'll be at her house in five minutes to pick her up." He ignored the expression that crossed Mason's face; he'd seen that look when they'd gone on leave together a few times, and never mind the fact that John had usually been the one dragging Rex's butt home later.

She was standing outside her house waiting as they pulled up. Guy got out to open the door for her, and then she was in the back with John, radiating worry.

"He's not really ... "

John held up his finger to his lips and tilted his head towards Guy. Shayera nodded, and looked out the window.

"I can't believe he's gone," she said carefully.

"Me, either."

"Did they tell you anything?"

He shrugged. "An accident, they think. Keep an eye out, though. I'm betting someone tries to call it suicide, and blame the other deaths on him."

"J'onn wouldn't kill himself."

"You and I know that. We'll see if someone tries to fake a note."

Unable to say more, they descended into silence. Was Guy used to picking Shayera up at her place? Maybe not; she did have that car. He glanced over to her, taking in the dress she wore and the scarf over her hair. Despite not knowing anything about this time period, she looked a natural fit.

"How's your back?" he asked her after a few miles.

"I'm getting used to it. Haven't been thinking much about them. It, I mean."

He smirked. "That little house of yours must be pretty distracting if you're not thinking about it."

"Can we not talk right now?"

John saw the flashing lights as they neared Bruce's place, and Guy parked not far from the police cars. John and Shayera got out before he could reach either door to open it for them, which gave John a certain spiteful pleasure.

Bruce's car arrived just as they reached the cops. "Hello, Mr. Stewart," said one of the cops in greeting.

"Officer Jordan," said John, nodding to him. "Someone called me."

"Yes. We just extracted the body, finally, but his license was in the flap." Jordan produced a small card with J'onn's name spelled "Jean Jones," issued by the city.

He heard Shayera gasp, and then saw what she'd seen behind Jordan: the car had hit a large oak tree dead-on, wrapping the front end around it like two arms embracing the bent trunk. John's mouth went dry.

"You say you just extracted him?" asked Bruce.

"This way." The body was under a sheet. "The lady might want to look away."

Shayera said, "The lady does not."

Jordan twitched the sheet, and yes, John knew that face, though only as of late. "That's him."

Shayera swore softly as Bruce sighed. He bent down to the body and closed the staring eyes. Blood dribbled from the back of his head onto the stretcher, and there were glass shards and cuts all over his skin and clothing. Bruce pulled the sheet back over J'onn's body.

Jordan said, "We've tried calling the widow."

"She's out of town," Bruce said.

"How would you know that?"

"He was at my house earlier today, and mentioned it."

"Really?" asked Jordan, and now the question edged into interrogation territory. "So you're saying that he died right after leaving your house?"

Bruce paused. "He might have." A beat. "That poor man."

"We'll want to ask you a few questions. Step over here for a moment, please." Jordan nodded to John. "Thanks for your time, Mr. Stewart."

John took Shayera's arm and pulled her out of the circle of police cars. More cars were pulling up on the other side of the accident scene, and Clark, Wally and Diana soon joined them.

"Is it really him?" Clark asked.

"Yeah," said John. "They're asking Bruce some questions since he was the last one to see J'onn alive."

Diana closed her eyes. "How bad?"

"Pretty messy," Shayera said. "It looks like the car came down the hill too fast and he didn't turn at the bottom."

Wally walked as close as he dared to the wreck, then winced. "Okay, whose job was it to show J'onn how to drive?"

"Mine," said Clark, and whatever chance Wally'd had for a joke fell flat.

John looked at Shayera. "When we looked at him, did you notice what I noticed?"

She nodded. "I think Bruce did, too."

Wally said, "You're killing us with suspense here, guys."

John said, "He was cut up in the accident pretty badly, but the worst of it was on the back of his head."

"But it was a front collision," Clark said. He pulled out a pad of paper and began scribbling something down. "Sorry. I need to cover this story. So he had injuries to the back of his head?"

"Yeah," said Shayera.

"Which means," John said quietly, "odds are pretty good that someone killed him and then tried to make it look like an accident."

Bruce walked over from the police cars, hands in his pockets.

"That was quick," Diana said.

"I didn't know anything. I know when he left, and that was maybe an hour before the car was found."

Clark asked, "Did you see anything strange about his injuries?"

"You mean, other than the blunt trauma to the back of the head and the post-mortem lacerations from the glass?"

Wally nodded, as if he'd understood. "They'll notice that in an autopsy."

"No, they won't," said Bruce. "They'll call it an accident. Bullock already wants to call it suicide."

"Told you," John said to Shayera. She ignored him.

"What's next?" she asked. "We know he's not really dead, not if we fix this. How do we fix it?"

Diana said, "First we discover who would have a motive for killing J'onn. Then we backtrack to see if anyone matches with a motive for killing Vixen and Arrow. That'll be our killer."

"Problem," Wally said. "That makes me the chief suspect."

"Then you'd better come up with an alibi," Bruce said. "I've got an early meeting tonight with someone, but then I can look over his notes to see if I can find anything to help us." He pulled a small notebook from his jacket that John thought he recognized.

"You picked his pocket while you were examining his corpse?" hissed Shayera incredulously

"There are few better opportunities." Bruce started looking through the notebook, and frowned.

Diana asked, "What's wrong?"

Instead of answering, Bruce showed them the notebook. It was written in a spindly script John couldn't read, and then his brain kicked in with recognition. "He wrote everything down in Martian?"

Bruce looked back and forth between Clark and Shayera. "Tell me one of you can read this." They both stared at him blankly.

"Dammit," said Wally.

"New plan," Bruce said, stowing the notebook away. "After my meeting tonight, I'll go by J'onn's house and see if I can recreate his notes from the documents he's already looked through."

No one asked him how he was getting inside. No one had to.

"Wally, Diana, I want the two of you to follow the police back to the morgue. See if you can get a copy of the coroner's report. Better, see if you can sit in on the autopsy. If anyone asks, I've hired you to investigate the circumstances of Vixen's murder, and you're on the lookout for signs that J'onn was the killer, who then killed himself in remorse. See if you can get a closer look at his head wounds and try to figure out what he was killed with."

"Got it," said Wally. Diana merely nodded, looking a little green. John had figured she'd have seen plenty of corpses, but then again, nobody ever died on Themyscira.

"Clark, keep looking in the back issues of the paper. There's got to be something there to help us."

"I've already found a few things," Clark said. "I apparently wrote an article right after Ollie was elected Mayor, claiming the results were suspicious."

"Not a surprise," Diana said. "He was a crime boss."

Clark shrugged. "I made a veiled reference to an 'incident' from a few years back, but I haven't found what it was yet."

"Learn to write better," said Shayera.

"I think Lois wrote it," he replied, but then he changed the subject. "It's getting harder to go down to archives. Perry's been after me to follow up on the murders."

"I'll help you look," John said. "There's nothing useful at my place." He didn't want to mention how much being cooped up there was getting to him, or how helpless he was beginning to feel searching the house with nothing to show.

"You'll be conspicuous," Bruce said.

"I'll be in Clark's building. It'll be fine."

"Fine. Shayera?"

"I'll stay behind here and reconnoiter the accident scene when they've left, see if I can find anything."

"No. You'll go back to your house and wait until one of us contacts you."

"Excuse me?"

"You're still the primary murder suspect. You need to stay out of trouble and out of sight."

"Whether or not I killed Mari, I didn't kill Arrow or J'onn. You know that."

"The police don't," said Bruce.

Clark said, "You've got links to both of them, too. One of the articles I found mentioned you."

She folded her arms. "This should be good."

"You were apparently a spy for the other side during the war." The color drained from her face. "A lot of people were calling for you to be put on trial, but you had influential friends, and the charges were dropped. The cover story was that you'd been a double agent for the Allies, but in the article, I indicated that I didn't believe it. There were some other things. Don't worry about it."

"Was Arrow one of my 'friends?'" She sounded tired all of a sudden.

Clark nodded. "Bruce too."

"Figures. Fine. I'll stay out of trouble."

"All right," said Bruce. "We'll meet up tomorrow. Twos and threes only, if we can help it, and pass along what you know." Without another word he turned back towards his car.

"Come on, Princess," Wally said. "Let's go watch cleanup. You keep an eye on where they take J'onn, I'll look over the accident scene."

John looked at Clark. "Wait up a minute." To Shayera he said, "Tell Guy to take you home."

"Sure. Whatever." He watched her walk back to where Guy waited, and watched her let Guy open the door for her.

"She's going to be yelling later," Clark predicted, leading the way around to his own car. As they reached it, he pulled out a camera and stood back, snapping a picture of the crash scene.

"Maybe." That hadn't been anger on her face or in her voice. Only defeat. "I'm driving."

***

Carter's car was parked outside her bungalow. As she opened the door, he rushed through the kitchen towards her. "Shayera! Where have you been?" He looked past her to see the Rolls pulling away, and frowned. "Oh."

"J'onn J'onzz was killed a few hours ago. Accident. John had to identify the body and I went with him."

"Jones is dead?"

She nodded. He wasn't really dead, she knew. He wouldn't be dead. As soon as they cracked this, he'd be fine. That didn't stop the heaviness in her chest, or the too-familiar sense of loss. She believed in J'onn's death more than she'd believed in Mari's. Or maybe you're not celebrating this one, nagged that voice in her head she hated.

Carter went to embrace her, but she pulled back from him. "Don't." She pushed past him and sat down on her couch. "I hate feeling useless in all of this. I want to help."

He sat down beside her and started rubbing her shoulders. "There's nothing you can do to help. He's gone."

Carter didn't know. He couldn't. He wasn't real. "I need to do something."

"You're in shock, darling. Macabe's dead and now Jones. I'm not happy they're gone, but think of it as our chance to make a clean break with this place."

"I'm not leaving." She sighed. "But you need to. I want to be alone right now, Carter. Joe," she corrected quickly as he froze.

His voice changed, and in those tones she heard echoes of the Shadow Thief. "Tell me who Carter is."

"He's ... no one. In shock, remember?"

"Is that your pet name for Stewart? Or maybe you were paying your rent with Jones the same way you paid it with Stewart. Is Carter some little nickname?"

She restrained the urge to punch him. "Carter was the name of a guy I knew once. Handsome, charming, and dumber than a sack of bricks." Shayera stood up. "Go home, Joe."

"This isn't over, Shayera."

She rolled her eyes. "You say that every millennium. Out." She didn't watch him go, instead walking out to her back porch to see the ocean. Her backyard dropped off sharply about ten feet out, almost vertically for a good two hundred feet, then sloping out at the bottom into beach. If she'd had her wings, it'd be a great spot to jump off and glide over the coastal thermals. If she jumped off right now, she'd be as dead as Mari and J'onn.

"To hell with this," she muttered, and then grabbed what were probably her car keys from the counter. She got into her car and looked around. She could pilot a Javelin in her sleep. This couldn't be that hard, right?

***

Perry was already screaming when Clark came through the door: "You'd better have pictures!"

"Right here, Chief," he said, and Jimmy snatched the camera out of his hands.

"I want those developed ten minutes ago, Olsen."

"On it, Chief."

"And who the hell is this?" Perry asked, pointing at John.

John smiled thinly. "John Stewart. Nice to meet you." He extended a hand.

Perry stared at the hand and then at John. He turned away, grousing at Clark, "I don't have time for this."

After Perry's door slammed shut again, Clark turned to John, saying in a low voice, "I'd apologize for him, but he's a jerk and not worth it."

"No kidding," said Lois, two desks away.

"Yeah," John said.

"The real Perry's a better man."

John shrugged. "Whatever you say. They're out of your head, not mine." Lois raised her head and stared at them. Clark took John's arm and led him back to where they kept the old papers.

"Here's my notes. I made it back to February. I have to write this up," and now he was apologetic. The last thing he wanted to do right now was try to sauce up the description of J'onn's death.

"I'll do what I can here. If you get any leads on the murders -- "

"You'll be with me."

Clark went back to his desk, and John got to work.

***

Bruce slipped into the booth at ten till seven and ordered coffee. At quarter past, Tim sauntered into the café and sat down across from him.

"You're late."

"I hadta case the joint, make sure I wasn't bein' set up. You still say you're legit?"

"Naw," said Bruce in Matches' patois. "I'm just sayin' I ain't gonna set you up." Tim grinned.

The waitress came by and took their orders. When Tim asked for coffee too, Bruce said, "Give the kid a glass of milk. And when you see our plates get empty, just keep bringing the pancakes, sugar."

If Ronnie saw any resemblance between Matches Malone and the man Bruce had been this morning, not a trace of it showed on her face, and he wasn't about to ask her how long her shift must be to keep her there all day and into the night.

"Tell me abut yourself, kid."

"Ain't much to tell." Tim sat back with the self-possession of a teenager who'd seen more in the world than anyone else would believe.

"Is it just you and your ma?"

"What's that supposed to mean?" He glared angrily over the mug of milk that was placed in front of him.

"Nothin'. Just tryin' to make chit chat."

"My dad's dead," Tim said, pushing against the table and leaning back. "Before I was born."

"Sorry, kid."

"Don't be. Ma says he was a jerkhole."

"You love your ma, don't you?"

"You want me to do a job, Mr. Malone, or do you wanna ask me about my mom? I already asked you if you wanted a date with her."

"Like I said, just makin' small talk. I hate making deals on an empty stomach, so I don't. I eat. Then I deal."

"I don't need a deal from you," Tim said sullenly. "I got connections."

"Mr. Grayson."

"Yeah."

"He feed you? Pay you?" Two large stacks of pancakes were placed in front of them. Tim fell on his like a starving man.

"Enough," he said with his mouth stuffed full.

Bruce poured his syrup and cut into his stack, but there was no way he could keep up with Tim unless he had a hollow leg and two hollow arms. Selina had lied to Tim about his father, or maybe she was lying to Bruce. Again, that Tim would be named in his will said what Bruce needed to know about how much his counterpart believed her.

Bruce tried a new tactic. "You hear anything about the Vixen getting whacked?"

Tim scowled. "No. I'd a done it myself, though." He stabbed a pancake and shoved it into his mouth.

"Not a fan, huh?"

"Hah. Her livin' high and mighty, everyone's star, while Ma's walkin' the streets. That oughta be us livin' there." Bruce said nothing, sipped his coffee, let the silence unwind the tale instead. "Ma was a star once, you know? Back when the talkies first started comin' out. She was gonna be a big name. Mr. Wayne," Tim leaned over and spat on the ground, "was gonna put her in a big movie. Know what movie that was?" Bruce shook his head. "A HERO'S WELCOME. Do you believe that? My mother shoulda been Katherine. Instead, Wayne," he spat again, "cast that Macabe bitch, and now look at her."

"She's dead."

"Well. Yeah. But she's rich dead, and Ma's street trash. She won't last much longer. I hear her coughin'. But Mr. Grayson, he says he'll take care of me. I do him favors now, and he'll take care of me good."

Tim's plate of pancakes was gone, and another took its place. Tim devoured it as savagely as the first. Bruce took a few bites of his second plateful, then tipped the rest onto Tim's.

"Go ahead. I ain't hungry."

Tim didn't bother with a thanks. Sullen and lost in old grudges, he chewed his food, dropping crumbs as he kept talking. "Ma says we ought to be livin' like kings 'stead of her."

"Why didn't your Ma just get another movie?"

Tim grinned hugely and mirthlessly, pancakes stuffed in his mouth. Very muffled, he said, "Me."

I covered it up, Bruce thought. I must have paid Selina off and told her to keep quiet, and I gave Vixen the role that launched her career instead. And I knew it, because I put it in my will to take care of him after I die. Too bad I couldn't be bothered while I was alive. Am alive.

"I'm sorry," Bruce said, and he meant it for every night they'd searched for Tim, and most of all for the night they'd found him.

"Whatever, mister," Tim said, and glugged his milk. J'onn had called him "whole" this morning, but J'onn hadn't been able to use his powers. The child in front of him was as scarred from being abandoned by Bruce as was the child back at the real Wayne Manor. He couldn't undo the damage he'd inflicted on either one. Maybe that was the point, or maybe the point was that he had to go forward with them both anyway.

"So, kid."

"Call me Timmy the Shoeshine Boy. Everyone does."

"So, Timmy the Shoeshine Boy. While we're still chattin', why don't you tell me about your day?"

***

On a mission to a particularly violent forest moon, Shayera had once spent two days in the same position, as she and the other survivors of their squad waited for the Gordanians in the next clearing to discover them and finish the job. Here she had to wait less than three hours, but she was out of practice, and the stink of something gone terribly wrong with her car was strong in her nose, though she'd parked and hidden the smoking, jerking thing a mile back. She was restless, and the minute the last police car drove away, she ached to jump up.

Caution just barely kept her still, until finally, she was certain no one was left. Her night-vision was in, and her ears alert for any sound, but only the normal noises of a slightly wooded area came to her: insects singing to one another, the rustle of nocturnal animals creeping out to find food. The mosquitoes had tasted her and then left her alone; that at least was a blessing.

Now she had to pretend to be a detective again, and recall the hurried training she'd received before her assignment.

Broken glass glittered in the hint of moonlight available. Bits of the automobile, broken off in the crash, still littered the base of the tree. No skid marks, nor had she suspected any. She'd seen how deep the tree had gone into the car, but without knowing what material the car was made from, she couldn't accurately judge the velocity on impact.

She looked up at the top of the hill, barely outlined in the gloom against the sky. Steep slope, and headed towards J'onn's home. Whoever'd killed him must have been following him, and ambushed him.

Shayera stood a moment, tapping her hands on her legs. He could have been killed before or after he'd reached the hill, and the killer could have driven him back here to crash the car. Her gut said "before." She started walking.

Two miles down the road, she was ready to give up. She'd gone the wrong way, or else whoever it was had an accomplice who'd driven them away from the scene.

The moon slipped through the trees, casting weird patterns on the road.

Shayera ignored the pace of her heart. There was no way she was frightened of the dark. She had plenty of legitimate things to be afraid of, thank you, and if she'd been herself, she'd have been happy to say the most dangerous thing in a dark woods at night was her. So when she jumped at a close skitter of small feet, she felt doubly stupid. Besides, she'd brought a knife, sheathed in a leather glove she'd found in her house, and shoved through her belt.

This was pointless. She'd never find anything in the dark. She'd just ...

A car's engine hummed nearby, and she fled into the bushes. From her hiding spot, she noticed a cloud of insects boiling up from the road, captured in the car's headlights as they escaped up or splattered on the windshield, and then the auto was past.

When she was sure it was gone, she stepped out onto the road and examined the spot from which the bugs had flown. She expected a puddle in a pothole, but found instead a dark stain, not large. No one would have noticed it driving by, and she'd have missed it in the dark without the car.

A shiver ran through her. J'onn had been murdered here.

The road yielded no footprints or other spoor. Her nose wasn't half what it ought to be, and at any rate, enough cars had driven by since to fill the air with their thick fumes. She searched the brush to either side of the road, on the off-chance the murder weapon had been tossed carelessly away. No such luck.

About ten meters back, she found tire tracks on the hardpack shoulder, as if a car had pulled off to the side. Could have happened at any time, but Shayera didn't believe in coincidence.

She looked around the area to take note of where she was, realizing as she did so that long stretches of coastal highway all resembled each other.

A likely-looking palm tree stood near the road. Shayera pulled out her knife and etched a rune (joshi, "here") into the side where she'd see it when she came back in the daylight, preferably with Wally and a way of copying a tire track.

***

The sound of the phone ringing pulled Bruce from sleep. Far away he heard the noise. Down in the front hall, near the entrance, jingling as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

Night out. He didn't often sleep at night, not at home, but here all the rules were different. He heard Alfred pick up the phone, could not make out more than the sound of the man's tired voice.

Bruce lay back. Clark? Diana? He heard Alfred's tread on the stairs, on the hallway outside. He watched in the darkness as the doorknob turned.

And he knew, as he saw Alfred's somber face lined in shadow from the hall lamp.

"Who's dead?"

"It's your brother. I'm sorry, sir." Brother? And then J'onn's words came back to him.

Dick.

***

To Be Continued
 
 
 
Matt Zimmermattzimmer on January 21st, 2007 04:52 pm (UTC)
Wow, people just keep dying in this story, huh? Can't wait for the next chapter!
Merlin Missy: Big Scary Freakmtgat on January 22nd, 2007 05:06 pm (UTC)
A high bodycount makes us happy. ;)
getting the chocolate in the peanut butterdotfic on January 22nd, 2007 10:36 pm (UTC)
We like to keep things moving along at a good pace. *g*
Lady Lark: CI: Lieleilia on January 21st, 2007 05:59 pm (UTC)
Wow, this story just keeps getting better and better I really enjoy the suspense and mood you are creating. I can really see the gritty darkness that pervades film noir and the old murder mysteries of the 1930s & 40s. As much as I love J'onn, I am glad that you weren't afraid to kill off his character.

And of course there is the part of me that is trying to figure out who did it. The fact that J'onn was hit from behind while he looked as someone else indicates two murderers to me. It also means that the murderer is someone J'onn would recognize. My hunch is that it is someone like Barbara Gordon or Jim Gordon. Although you can never rule out Lex Luthor.

I can't wait to see how you are going to continue with this.
Merlin Missy: Little Green OTPmtgat on January 22nd, 2007 05:07 pm (UTC)
*glee* We're so glad you're enjoying it! If you do figure out who offed poor J'onn, don't spoil it for everyone else. ;)
getting the chocolate in the peanut butterdotfic on January 22nd, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you! We're glad you liked the atmosphere!

Hm. Interesting theories.

You can't make me talk.
The owner of a grey catjennielf on January 21st, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC)
Wow. Bruce just enjoys the self-flagellation huh? How hurt does he feel he needs to make himself before he thinks Tim will get "better"?? And including Jason Todd (if only by reference)...phew...
it is an amazing experience watching thsi story unfold, and the fact that these characters are right on the mark...
can't wait to see where it goes from here... :)
Merlin Missy: Timmymtgat on January 22nd, 2007 05:07 pm (UTC)
The Jason Todd reference? Sending us both to the Special Hell. :D
getting the chocolate in the peanut butterdotfic on January 22nd, 2007 10:39 pm (UTC)
Oh, *Bruce.*

Thank you very much! *beams* :D
sunless_deathsunless_death on January 22nd, 2007 04:34 am (UTC)
Nooo! Dammit, he narrowly avoided being offed with Ollie! ;_;
It's sweet that Bruce had his "brother" looking after his "son"
They're dropping like flies -_- My money is on Babs, because she was the only one besides himself that Bruce immediately ruled out. ;P
Can't wait for the reactions to Dick's death- even if he isn't a real dick- er, the real "Dick" ^_~
Merlin Missy: Pancakesmtgat on January 22nd, 2007 05:08 pm (UTC)
Poor Dick. :)
getting the chocolate in the peanut butterdotfic on January 22nd, 2007 10:41 pm (UTC)
We...I can't believe we killed off Dick Grayson :o Even if he's book!Dick.
allaine77: Bridesmaidallaine77 on January 22nd, 2007 01:58 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure I know who it is, based on something I mentioned in a comment earlier, but I'll put it under my fedora for now. If I'm wrong, I'll tell you so.

Oy, Tim. You know you have it rough when your father and your girlfriend are murdered in the comic books . . . and that's a better life you've got than in any other medium.

Well, there's bound to be a gay Robin sooner or later :P

Still very good. I was away from LJ for the weekend, and one of the first things I did when I got to work today was check dotmerlin. Keep it up.

Sincerely, Allaine
Merlin Missy: Timmymtgat on January 22nd, 2007 05:09 pm (UTC)
Well, there's bound to be a gay Robin sooner or later :P

Have you missed the Bruce/Jason being posted? (Well, it was more prominent a few months back.) Glad we're on your To Read list. ;)
getting the chocolate in the peanut butter: Flash: hero in progressdotfic on January 22nd, 2007 10:43 pm (UTC)
More twists on the way so keep taking notes. *g*

Oh, *Tim*.

We're glad this is a must-read, thanks! :)