©March 2002
SPOILERS FOR BATMAN #600... who really killed Vesper Fairchild? And aren't we a little tired of the Bat-family's dependence on suddenly-brilliant Oracle, with her instant law degree from Harvard? Can they just get back to being real detectives again? Spoof on the "Bruce Wayne: Murderer," "Bruce Wayne: Fugitive," and "Joker's Last Laugh" crossover marketing ploys. Spoof on Nightwing fanfiction in general.
"Damn-Fine" refers to Nightwing's comely behind.
Characters belong to DC Comics/AOL-Time Warner. I realize no profit from the stories I write using those characters. Do not archive without permission of SKH.
Characters: Bat-Family, Oracle, Titans


Bruce Wayne: Murderized

By SKH


The Bat-squad huddled in Oracle's Lair(TM), mulling over the catastrophic events from earlier in the evening. Oracle(TM) pored over her bank of a dozen flat-screens, searching valiantly through the facts surrounding Vesper Fairchild's murder. She had to solve this crime. She had to prove that Bruce Wayne was innocent, if only to try to mend the shattered heart, soul and ego of her lover, the scarred Dark Squire of Gotham, the scourge of Blüdhaven, Nightwing (—even though she *really* suspected that Bruce was guilty, the schizoid-psycho-Bat. Wayne-ward Dick Grayson would be nothing but emotional pudding until Bruce re-emerged to pat him on the head and tell him he wasn't a failure, and Babs wanted her happy-go-lucky, bubble-headed, studly Hunk-Wonder back again — especially by bedtime *wink*).

Robin wrung the tears out of Nightwing's domino mask for the fourth time as he tried to lend support to his surrogate older brother.

"It's going to be okay, Dick. I have a great idea. Let's quit this bullshit cape-and-cowl racket and buy a Hooter's franchise in South Beach! Beer, babes and bikinis, dude! Whaddaya say?"

Dick looked up from the fetal position he was curled in, his large, blue eyes rimmed red and overflowing with bitter tears. "Buh—buh—"

"Beer! Yeah, bro! That's it, you've got the picture! Beer and bikinis, Dick!" Robin smiled encouragingly and patted the trembling, overwrought Titan on the shoulder.

"Buh—Buh-ruuuuuuuuuuuuuce!!!"

The unmasked Dick Grayson dissolved into howls of sobbing and buried his head in his hands, once again gutted and hung out to dry by the man he'd idolized all his life. He curled tighter into a helpless ball, paralyzed with grief.

"Give it up," said Batgirl, as she dropped a box of Kleenex near Nightwing's head. Hooking her arm in Robin's, she pulled him away from the emotionally devastated young hero.

"I say we go to Hollywood. Be stunt-guys in George Lucas movies. Live in sunshine and train movie stars to fake-fight!" The black and blue Cassandra Cain, battered from her fight to the death with the assassin Shiva, grinned widely — displaying a missing bicuspid — as she proposed her idea for the future.

Robin scratched his chin, considering her sparse but wise words. Hand-to-hand combat with Brittney Spears. He could go for that.

"Well, maybe, Batgirl. I mean, anywhere but Gotham City, right? I'm pretty tired of dark, cold, concrete canyons and if I see another effing gargoyle, I think I'll throw up. Hey, you really took a beating from Shiva! I can sympathize with you there. We'd better get some ice on that bruise!"

Nightwing paused his weeping and gasped. "Did you say 'Bruce'?"

Robin shook his head. "Naw, I said 'bruise,' man, BRUISE."

Nightwing breath caught in hiccups as he wiped the snot from his nose with one of his mighty gauntlets. His chin trembled and his face twisted into a rictus of agony again.

"Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuce!!" Nightwing bawled, and he started banging his head on the floor.

"Can you make him shut up?" Babs cried, fighting to keep her concentration on the twenty flat-screens in her display. Streams of ones and zeros flowed across the 50 screens in a complex computer code incomprehensible to anyone but the amazing Oracle(TM). Her photographic memory processed the gazigabytes of data at a phenomenal rate.

At the same time, inquiries from cerebrally challenged, steroid-stoked superheroes streamed into her wireless headset. The information maven to the super-spandex set assembled clues from the Fairchild murder and simultaneously barked out ingenious solutions to her super-cyber clients.

"No, take a LEFT at Fifth and Concord, Flash! Aquaman, the bomb is in the second canyon to the right at the northern tip of the Marianas Trench! Light bulbs twist right, Dinah, right! Wonder Woman, you have to separate the eggs first! Clark, your jockstrap is in my top-left dresser drawer. No, Kyle, use the ultra-fine-tip Sharpee marker, not the fine-tip! Yes, there's a difference!"

Batman listened to everything that went on in Oracle's Lair(TM), via one of the fifty-seven-million Bat-bugs he had scattered throughout the city. He leaned back in his Lazy-Boy recliner and propped his booted feet up on the console of his remote Bat-computer as he downed his third boilermaker. Belching, he unwrapped another Twinkie and popped it into his mouth. He was going to make the most of his vacation, holed up in the ironclad bunker deep in the hidden recesses of one of Gotham's darkest corners. As he chuckled at the antics of his Bat-squad, he switched the channel of his satellite-fed television, tuning in "Queer As Folk." "Mmmmmmm," he grunted, cowl-slits narrowing, as he slid another sweet, cream-filled cylinder past his lips into his wickedly waiting mouth.

"Got it!" Oracle(TM) shouted, the gazigabytes of binary code suddenly clarifying into the answer to the murderous mystery. Babs leaned forward, eyes-wide, gleaning the crime-solving answer from the seventy-five flat screens floating through her cyber-lair.

"It's... it's... Holy Crap! You gotta be kidding me!" Babs sat up straight, her nose wrinkled adorably in her disbelief.

"That's right," Alfred Pennyworth announced crisply as he entered Oracle's Lair(TM).

Robin's jaw dropped open. "The BUTLER did it??" he gasped.

"MAJOR-DOMO, bloody major-domo, you adolescent nincompoop. Valet at the very least!" Alfred corrected haughtily, removing his derby hat to brush a speck of dust off it. "I was well aware, Timothy, that your father was losing his shirt in the Market. Serves him right for investing so heavily in Enron, bloody obvious, that one was. I decided to return to Master Br—"

"NO!!!!" shouted Batgirl, Robin and Babs as they frantically waved their hands and pointed at the still-blubbering-but-damn-fine hero on the floor.

"Oh, er, I meant Master *ahem-gurgle-mumble*," Alfred coughed into his hand, sympathetically eyeing his tragic young lad with grandfatherly sentimentality. "I intended to reclaim my position at Stately *ahem-cough* Manor, when that low-class journalist tart threatened to expose the whole bloody business. I drew from my vest pocket the pistol I had picked up to clean on my way in from the garage, and fired. She promptly exsanguinated on the Persian rug on the second floor landing. I despised that hideous, moth-eaten rag, anyway. A gift from that nasty Talia al Ghul."

Alfred finished his account of the crime and turned his attention to the fetal Nightwing. He bent down and plucked two tissues from the box on the floor.

"There-there, Dicky, my lad. Old Alfred's here now. Sit up like a good fellow."

Dick looked up at his surrogate grandfather; sapphire eyes still brimming, lower lip still trembling.

"A-Alfred?" he whispered as he got to his knees and sat back on them, his feet curled cutely under his spandex-clad damn-fine.

"That's right, lad, now blow for old Alfie," the elder man affectionately coaxed. He pressed the tissues to the red, tear-swollen nose and was rewarded with a noisy and productive blast.

Barbara Gordon observed the dapper Brit's tender ministrations with puzzlement and concern. "But Alfred, this is just as bad as if Bruce had killed Vesper!"

Dick's eyes widened at the sound of his beloved mentor's name. "Bruuuuuuuce..." he wailed softly; the waterworks began again.

"Hush, lad, it's going to be all right. Master Bruce is just on a little vacation, that's all. He'll be back, I promise, very soon," Alfred cooed to the only light that had ever shone on the gloom of Wayne Manor.

"Bruce is coming back?" Dick hiccupped hopefully.

"Aye, lad, he's coming back soon. Just as soon as you *RESIGN FROM THE BLÜDHAVEN POLICE*."

The last five words resonated low and ominously from the major-domo's chest.

"But I LIKE Dick in that cop uniform," Babs growled. "He lets me wear the badge and put the handcuffs on him!"

All eyes in the room turned to Babs, and then to Nightwing, whose face blushed handsomely.

Alfred continued his words of advice to his favorite boy in the whole world. "And he wants you to leave Blüdhaven and move back to the Manor. We'll be a family, just like when you first came to live with us. We'll have picnics on the south lawn, and go to baseball games (as long as we sit in the sky-box), and wear Argyle sweater-vests again."

"P-promise?" Nightwing asked, his heart quickening in his chest.

"Of course I promise. Now, who's Alfred's brightest boy? Who's the World's Second-Greatest-Detective? Who's going to drink hot cocoa and help me make chocolate-chip cookies and sing Gilbert & Sullivan?"

Dick smiled tentatively at Alfred. "I'm called Little Buttercup... dear Little Buttercup..." he warbled in an emotionally shaky tenor.

Batgirl leaned closer to Robin. Bringing her hand up to shield her mouth, she whispered, "Who is Gilbert? Who is Sullivan?"

Tim Drake removed his mask and rubbed his face nervously. "Screw that — who's Buttercup?" he muttered incredulously.

"There's my stalwart lad, my circus star!" Alfred praised adoringly, brushing a stray ebony lock from Dick's forehead.

"Hey! Keep your Limey paws off his stray locks, old man!" Barbara shouted venomously. "Those belong to ME! If Dick moves out of Blüdhaven I lose my Grayson-cams! If he goes back to Wayne Manor he won't be consulting me as often for my exclusively brilliant, sage cyber-wisdom! HE'LL GO BACK TO THE BAT-COMPUTER!" Babs raged, swinging her wheelchair around to roll toward her favorite Boy Wonder. "Grayson stays in Blüdhaven, at the B.P.D., or you rot in jail, Pennyworth! I have the evidence here in my inimitably-designed supercomputer! Dick's mine, I tell you, MINE!" Babs screeched hysterically.

Dick looked at Alfred, his eyes widening in confusion and glistening with new tears. "What do I do, Alfred? Where's Bruce?"

"Where's a trash can? I'm going to hurl!" Tim whispered to Batgirl, watching his dreams of bimbo-boob-bar ownership flying out the window.

"Hollywoooood..." Cassandra crooned in Tim's ear as she slid her hand over his right butt cheek.

Tim's eyes rounded in surprise and he turned to the diminutive former assassin and grinned.

Alfred Pennyworth rose regally and brushed the sleeves of his coat. He immediately lunged in a fencer's pose, swinging his cane up to point threateningly at Barbara. Arching his left eyebrow jauntily, he squeezed the bulbous head of his cane and a puff of green smoke hit Babs squarely in the face. He recoiled and stood upright, pulled a constable's whistle from his pocket and blew loudly.

Oracle's Lair(TM) was suddenly showered in broken glass as the remaining four of the core-five Titans crashed through the Clock Tower's face. Barbara began to laugh maniacally, her face blanching chalk-white, as she was rapidly bound with a golden lasso.

Barbara's insane gaze landed on Nightwing as her lips curled back in a Smilex death-grin. "YOU'RE MINE! I'LL GET YOU, MY PRETTY, AND YOUR LITTLE DOG, TOO!!! BWAA-HA-HA-HA-HA—-"

Thunk-thunk-thunk!

Three arrows struck Barbara neatly in the chest, halting her maniacal cackling. She slumped forward in her chair, over her keyboard, arm and mouse dropping to the floor.

"Nightwing doesn't have a dog," said Cassandra, in apparent confusion.

"Self-righteous, know-it-all bitch!" Arsenal growled. "Treats my pal Dinah like she was born blonde, running her all over the goddammed planet and leaving her stuck in a crowd of murderous terrorists while you and she get it on like porn stars, Short Pants!"

Nightwing shook his head and unsteadily got to his feet. He took a step toward his dead, Jokerized lover and stopped, placing his hands on his hips.

"What the hell was THAT about?" he demanded angrily. "You didn't have to kill Babs!"

"I'm afraid we did, Master Dick," Alfred explained. "It was all according to Master Bruce's plan to bring you back to your senses."

"Bruce?" Dick repeated, childlike.

"Yes. He discovered that Miss Gordon was sending you subliminal messages in her electronic communications. She was implanting a sense of helplessness and dependency in you, making you rely solely upon her for all your deductive processes. Master Bruce began to suspect something was amiss when you hadn't resolved the problem that originally sent you to that disgusting township after six months. Unfortunately, the earthquake interrupted his plans to bring you back to your senses. In fact, every crime-fighter on Earth who relied on Oracle(TM) for information was suffering the same effects."

"Except only you were her personal boy-toy, Robbie," said the Flash.

"But what about Batman?" Tim queried. "He consulted Oracle(TM), too."

Alfred looked reproachfully at Tim. "But he's bloody *Batman*, boy. He's always got to do things *HIS* way!"

"Kory suspected something was wrong, too, Dick," Troia added. "But Oracle(TM) arranged for the interstellar war that threatened Kory's remaining people and sent her back to fight it."

Dick ran his hand through his hair(TM) and stared at the lifeless computer hacker. "But why? Why would Babs do that?" he asked.

"As it turns out, Oracle(TM) is actually the daughter of the Joker," said Tempest.

Dick turned to Alfred, his expression panicked. "No! That can't be! Joker shot Babs! He's the one that put her in that chair!" he exclaimed emotionally.

Alfred parentally put his hands on Dick's shoulders. "Sometimes that's the way it is, between fathers and sons, er, daughters."

"Ahh," Dick nodded. "I get your drift. So what do we do now? Bruce is still a murder suspect, and Barbara's dead!"

All fell silent as the fax machine rang, beeped, then churned out several sheets of paper. Tim took the faxed pages out of the machine and read them.

"It's from Batman. He's manipulated all the evidence to link Babs to Vesper's death," he reported. "And it turns out Babs could walk after all; she was just using the wheelchair as a gimmick for her Oracle(TM) gig."

"That's why she turned down so many offers to be healed," Dick said in wonderment.

Tim continued. "This last page from Batman says this information is now being transmitted to the Gotham City P.D., the State Department of Law Enforcement, the F.B.I. and the White House."

The faint sounds of sirens could be heard approaching the Clock Tower.

"Team? It's time we cleaned up," said Tempest, his eyes beginning to glow with violet fire.

"I believe we can exit this way," suggested Alfred, as he motioned toward a hallway. "This leads to an underground tunnel through which we can make a timely escape."

"You guys go ahead, we'll be right behind you," said Arsenal as he bent to pull his arrows out of Barbara's body.

With a sudden lurch, Barbara came back to life, grabbing Arsenal around the neck and squeezing like a vice grip.

"AIEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" she shrieked as the company of heroes looked on in horror.

"Oh, brother," muttered Troia. She walked up behind Barbara, took the red head between her hands and twisted it sharply to the left with a sickening crack. When she let go, the head dropped to the side at an unnatural angle.

"Come on Titans," Troia called out. "Let's do this — *TOGETHER!*"

"All except you, 'Wingster," Wally added, shooing the Bat-family away with a wave of his hand. "We'll catch you later, dude, maybe get some wings and brew."

"Great!" Nightwing replied with a relieved grin. "And I'm going to need some help moving out of my place in the 'Haven, too."

"Hurry along now, Master Dick," Alfred prompted. "There's my boy genius. Let's go home and start on those cookies, shall we?"

"Sounds like a plan, Alfie!" Dick quipped.


By the time Alfred and company emerged, dressed in their civilian garb, from the subterranean tunnel, the Clock Tower was fully engulfed in flames so hot the bricks turned to ashes. Emergency vehicles were forced to stay a safe distance as workers helplessly watched the building burn to the ground.

"Man, that Tempest does a great job with fire!" Tim exclaimed admiringly.

"He's handy at barbeques, too, little 'bro," Dick smiled.

"I'm hungry!" Cassandra announced, reminded by the mention of barbeque.

"Dick, loan us some dough. Dad's broke now, and Cass and I are blowing this pop-stand and headed out to El Lay to break into show biz!"

"The impetuosity of youth, today," Alfred chuckled good-naturedly. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out several wrapped stacks of thousand-dollar bills and handed them to Tim and Cassandra. "Have fun, you two, and don't forget to graduate from High School. Education is important."

Tim and Cass waved goodbye and headed for the subway leading to the airport. Alfred wiped a single tear from his eye. "I shall miss that messy little wretch," he emoted.

Dick put his arm around Alfred and smiled warmly.

"Alfred, let's go home."

The two men, old and young, walked across the street to the awaiting Bentley, whistling the Commodore's song from H.M.S. Pinafore.


Epilogue.

Bruce Wayne was cleared of all charges.

Dick Grayson moved back to Wayne Manor and enrolled at Gotham City University, where he received a Masters in Business Administration in record time. While at the University, Dick ran into Helena Bertinelli, who had gone back to school for post-graduate studies in psychology where she developed a successful seminar course in anger management. Dick and Helena began a steamy affair, married, and had two children. They continue to live in Wayne Manor.

Bruce retired as C.E.O. of Wayne Enterprises, ceding the chair to Dick, who within five years put LexCorp completely out of business. Having learned how business is *really* done while living in Blüdhaven, Dick pumped megabucks into the local and state law enforcement communities, greasing the right palms until Gotham City's criminal element finally gave up and moved to Seattle, under the management of Bill Gates.

Alfred, in his waning years, played happily with his great-grandchildren and was relieved that Batman's nightly crusade was reduced to harshly reprimanding litterbugs. Gotham City became a shining example of peace and prosperity.

The End