Title: Do Unto Others…: April Showers
Author: DC Luder
Summary: Gotham City's protectors must defend it against a new predator.
Rating: M for language, violence and adult themes
Author's Note: All recognizable characters belong to DC Comics, not DC Luder.
A/N 2: This chapter has been modified from its original version.
"Society's had their chance. I'm going hunting. Hunting for humans."
James Oliver Huberty
Sugarloaf Apartments, May 2nd, 12:02 AM
She had never brought anyone home after just meeting them.
She'd never had a one night stand or been intimate with any man she hadn't dated for less than a month.
In fact, her last boyfriend had waited a little over four weeks before he had been granted permission to take her to the bedroom. Amy had been in love with Cory long before that night, which is why she had made him wait so long. He was exactly who she dreamed of as the perfect boyfriend, far surpassing those she had endured in high school. As a college girl at the state university, she felt she was ready for a more mature partner, someone she could possibly spend the rest of her life with.
Just over six feet tall with wavy brown hair and caramel colored eyes, Cory was one of the more popular students in her Junior class. Although a transfer from across the river at Hudson, he had quickly become a famous face on campus on the intramural lacrosse team as well a star student in the sports management program. He was the king of parties and yet still volunteered weekends at a youth center.
And for some reason, he liked her.
Seeing how Amy was general business major with a minor in accounting, they shared only three classes in his first semester at Gotham State. Amidst the more outgoing and stylish female classmates, Amy had never expected him to notice her. But he had, going as far as inviting her to a big party the weekend before March break started. There, he had been a sweetheart, getting her drinks, dancing to all of her favorite songs and gently kissing her when no one was looking. She had explained to him at the end of the night that she wanted to wait on being intimate and he had readily agreed, saying that there had been no pressure.
It was supposed to be the start of a perfect relationship.
In return, Amy had done anything and everything to make Cory happy, from playing video games to going to scary movies at the dollar theatre. It was the least she could have done to give him a reason to stay with her while she left him hanging out to dry in the intimacy department. She spent four weeks going to the university gym to shed a few pounds and had used the tanning beds to cover her pale skin in a warm glow. Amy had also spent nearly two-hundred dollars of her hard earned tutoring money into getting her hair and nails trimmed and groomed, doing anything she could to make their first night memorable.
And despite all of her efforts, her hopes and dreams, that first night with Cory had been nothing more than a few sweaty minutes of him lying on top of her, thrusting sporadically, biting her nipple roughly and pulling out just in time to spill semen over her tanned, flat abdomen.
He had made no mention of the results of her hard work, just as he had made no effort to bring her to climax. Instead, he had rolled over, exhaled loudly and said, "I'm going to get another beer, you want one?"
She had broken up with him the next morning.
For the rest of the month of March, she had focused only on herself and her friends. Cory had ignored her during their classes together which made Amy wonder if she had hurt him by ending things so abruptly after he had been so kind to her. The worry had been quelled when she saw him on the quad one afternoon making out with one of the perfect, blond cheerleaders…
Well, if he could move on, so could she.
"Nice place," the man said as he toured the living area.
Moving off campus had been another big step for her, one she was able to convince herself of after leaving Cory. A semi-private community offered surveillance, Laundromat, a swimming pool and access to gym facilities. It was a cozy, two-bedroom flat with an open living area and recently remodeled kitchen and bathroom. The white tiles drew her in, looking so neat and clean. Having only been a resident for two weeks, she had yet to find a roommate to cover expenses but thankfully her mom had chipped in to cover what she had lacked.
With his dark green eyes surveying her modestly furnished room, Amy took the opportunity to look him over once more. He was nearly six feet tall with broad shoulders and sculpted muscles that begged to be touched. At the bar she had asked if he worked out and he had smirked, "I jog mostly. About all I have time for."
"Oh, what do you do?" she had asked, teasing her straw over her lips.
"I run security for City Hall."
He was older, mid-thirties she guessed but with a real career and a house in the suburbs with a garden that he had described in detail. She had hung on to his every word, not that she was that interested in flowers and shrubbery or weeding and mulching. His voice had been hypnotic with an even baritone that reminded her of George Clooney, her first TV crush. Unlike Cory, who had pretended to be likable and worthy of her attention, this man was a true gentleman, offering to buy her a drink, only if she promised not to drive herself home.
After talking for nearly two hours at the bar, she had suggested they head back to her apartment, not six blocks away. He had seemed uncomfortable, instantly causing Amy to doubt her bold move. She had decided to continue being brash, leaning in to kiss his cheek, "Don't worry, I won't bite."
They walked back in the cool night air side by side. In the glow of the streetlamps, she had been able to make out the more defined features of his face, quickly deciding his eyes and his smile were tied for being her favorite. The anxiety in him had seemed to grow and she had done her best to ease his concern, holding his hand gently and telling him that she just wanted to get away from the crowded bar so they could talk.
"Talk… something my species isn't known for," he had mused.
"There is always the exception to the rule," Amy had joked back.
Arriving at her apartment door, she had trouble putting the key into the lock but managed to get it on the second try. She had only had a few martinis, but given how little she had eaten that day, the alcohol had headed straight to her blood. Amy gave him a brief tour of the place before, studying him as he studied his surroundings. Not wanting to get caught staring at him, she asked if she could get him something to drink.
He nodded, "Water would be fine. Think I had a bit too much at the bar."
Amy laughed out loud for no reason other than being tipsy herself, "Sure thing."
While she was in the kitchen pouring two glasses of water, Amy paused for a moment to undo the top two buttons on her blouse. She had been raised to be a good girl, to follow the rules, be polite and above all else, act like a lady. Doing just that had put in her a relationship with Cory, and others before him, that hadn't appreciated or even cared about her. She had only known the man in her living room for mere hours and he knew she did yoga, loved going to the flea markets outside of town and secretly watched Cake Boss while eating cake.
If that had not been enough, the chemistry was unbelievable and every time they had made physical contact at the bar, she could feel the electricity shoot through her. Every other girl on campus dressed like a hooker, flirted nonstop and opened their legs to anyone willing to lie between them. They didn't follow the rules and yet they were happy and having the time of their lives.
It may have not been the perfect way to start a relationship, but if it made her happy…
When she returned to the living room, Amy realized that the overhead light had been turned off. She giggled to herself, thinking how he was already setting the mood. Setting the glasses back down on the kitchen counter, she proceeded to navigate the dark living area before making her way down the short hallway.
"Where'd you go?" she called out, a grin taking hold of her lips.
"In here, Amy," he replied calmly.
God, he sounded exactly like-.
The door to her bedroom was open and she noticed that the lamps on either of the bedside tables were set to low light. Rather than enter the room, she leaned against the doorframe and finished unbuttoning her blouse. She had diligently maintained her gym and tanning routine and she hoped that he, unlike stupid Cory, would notice.
"Ready when you are," she sighed, her eyes closed.
Her eyes opened when a strong forearm wrapped around her throat as another hand shoved a towel into her wide-open mouth. The man she had admired for most of the evening shoved her down on the perfume scented comforter with such a force that her breath gave out. A flea market gem, the right-hand lamp suddenly vanished with the sound of shattering glass. The strong arms released her in order to flip her onto her back, bring her face to face with him.
The face Amy had kissed twice that night was tight with anger, lips pulled back in a sneer, "You can't hurt him now, whore. I won't let you…"
Amy opened her mouth to ask what he was doing but only wet sobs passed through her lips. He struck her with the back of his hand before reaching down to grip her throat in his vice-like grip. As she felt something sharp and slick stab into her side repeatedly, she wished she could call for help. She wished that she hadn't had so much to drink.
She wished that Cory was there.
GCPD Headquarters, May 2nd, 2:34 a.m.
"So much for April showers," Gordon sighed.
The National Weather Service had offered an optimistic forecast of a thirty percent chance of light rain. Instead, Gotham had seen off and on torrential downpours that had waned by midnight, only to return unexpectedly in the early morning hours. Needless to say, it had made patrols long, damp and miserable.
I watched as Commissioner Jim Gordon stood next to the Bat-signal, shivering in his trench coat and soaked rain hat. He tried to light his pipe, but the precipitation had prevented him from any sort of success. Not wanting to torture him any further, I landed soundlessly from my perch twelve feet above and spoke, "Wonderful weather we're having, Jim."
As Gordon's heart rate doubled he cursed under his breath, "Might as well get inside, out of this," he motioned to the cloudy sky.
He shut the signal off and proceeded to make his way towards the emergency exit and back into the building. I advanced in an alternate manner, jumping off the edge of the roof and landing on the stone ledge of his window. Within seconds, I passed through the and took to standing near the rear corner of the room. While I waited for him, I looked about the room, intrigued that the office had hardly changed in his years in Gotham. New furniture, but still arranged as it had always been, in a chaotic, exhaustive order.
After closing the door behind him, Gordon removed his soaked outerwear and hung them up on an old coat rack next to his filing cabinet. Even though he was mere inches away, he was unable to see me.
He began, "I've got a bit of bad news for you."
Gordon sat at his desk and picked up a fairly thin folder, "Another girl was found. Condominium complex near GSU." As he wiped off his glasses, Gordon missed my sudden frown.
I spoke quietly and deeply, "Third one in three months."
Gordon shifted in his chair, "So far no witnesses, but Special Crimes is calling all the clubs over on that side of town, see if any of them saw her or have her on camera leaving with anybody."
I remained silent as I skimmed the initial incident report in the manila folder, finding details I had already memorized from the previous two victims. Preliminary incident report listed off details of the victim, both of the life she once lived and how she had died. Severe stab wounds were marked on a investigation sheet, red lines on a outline of a body. Brief descriptions of how the body had been found sprawled on the bed, no obvious signs of forced entry, no apparent murder weapon or witnesses…
Several photographs brought the words to life, a nude woman, dark haired and fairly pretty, sprawled on a bed, her once youthful form reduced to gore.
The previous victims had been two young women, found dead, one in their car the other in her apartment. Each were characteristically marked with vicious bruises to the throat and visceral stab wounds in addition to evident sexual assault. Their ages had been eighteen, twenty-three and the latest was apparently just twenty-one. All had been enrolled in separate schools in Gotham, one still in high school while the others had been in college. Each had been of average intelligence and had no previous history with trouble, coming from good families with no reason to be on a morgue gurney at such a young age and for such a brutal reason…
He proceeded, "Neighbor reported to the building manager that she heard 'disturbing sounds' a little before two. Neighbor's an old lady, has complained numerous times about the girl's bedroom Olympics that broadcast through the walls. But she was persistent and after an hour of calls, the manager got up, went in and found her…"
Wiping his face of fatigue, he then added, "Had special crimes inform the parents… No known enemies, no roommate, ex-boyfriend has an alibi, not into drugs although the tox screen will tell us more… Just another young girl working her way through school."
"Time of death?" I inquired closing the file and hiding it under my cape.
"Medical Examiner didn't leave me any hardcopy, he guessed around midnight or so… said he was going to do the autopsy right away…. Forensics have been combing her apartment, nothing yet… give them a few hours and you can take a look yourself."
Without a word, I moved to the window and turned to face Gordon with a sudden urge to say something, possibly offer reassurance. Instead, I shot a line to the adjacent building and slipped out unnoticed.
"Get out of this rain," Gordon said to thin air.
Sugarloaf Apartments, May 2nd, 4:32 a.m.
Before I had responded to the signal, I had already been in a foul mood.
Robin had handled eleven armed robberies in the Theatre District, Batgirl had infiltrated several attempted burglaries and other property crimes along the northern end of the city, leaving me to tackle a month long effort in catching a certain corporate executive with his hands dirty. Bruce Wayne had been given a proposition by Albert Bartram to illegally invest in a fighting ring in the Bowery. While Bruce had garnered information before declining, Batman had put it to use.
No more gambling on street thugs fighting to the death.
After making the trek to headquarters, I should have rested, doctored a few bothersome wounds before proceeding to corner and interrogate the usual lot of snitches and lowlifes. Instead, I had the computer track dispatch going into and out of the crime, hoping they would take a break before the sun came up. Worst case scenario, I had a GCPD forensic tech disguise in the Mobile, but I wouldn't be able to work the way I wanted to: alone.
As for the last three months, visiting probationary convicts, known sex offenders and persons of interest had proved futile. Aside from bloodying my knuckles and wasting half of a tank of fuel traversing the city, I had gained nothing. Gotham was a haven to worst kinds of criminals, ranging from the delusional psychopaths to organized crime and everything in between. After nearly two decades, Gotham had finally found a balance, going nearly an entire year without an inmate escaping or some unforeseen natural disaster.
And then the body of a mutilated nineteen year old female turned up in an alley on the seventeenth of February…
With dawn twenty minutes away, I was greeted with a notification flag on the display panel. Normal at that hour, it was Oracle signing off for the night but she had been out of town for the weekend attending a wedding. She had informed me two weeks in advance and yet I still had forgotten about it. She had left earlier that afternoon, sighing at me through her cell phone, "If you need anything, J'onn is on monitor duty at the Watchtower."
"I won't need him."
She had replied, "If, if you need him… Other than that, Dick and I will be back Sunday nigh-."
"Yes, for the thirteenth time this week, Dick is going with me. To Florida. For my college roommate's wedding. To her fiancé Derek."
I had hung up after saying, "Fine."
Arriving home from Wayne Enterprises later, I had complained to Alfred about discovering the last minute details of Barbara's weekend away. Naturally, he had quipped that I was capable of memorizing every minute detail of a crime scene and yet when it came to personal matters, I needed a date book. He had then suggested, "Or is it the fact that your ward is gallivanting with your protégé at a matrimonial event… enjoying themselves while you-."
"Enough, Alfred, I'll be downstairs."
"But of course, sir…"
The team of six forensic technicians were calling it quits, planning to take an hour personal break before regrouping at their lab to start cataloguing evidence before returning for a second go-through. There would be officers on guard, detectives finishing interviews of all residents in the community and patrolman touring the neighboring six blocks.
I would have to manage.
Sugarloaf Apartments was settled on a three-acre plot of arbor filled land with safe, quiet trails for joggers and dog-walkers alike. The residents were neighborly and comprised of the industrious commuters of Gotham coming home to two to three bedroom, one-car garage and two and a half kid homes as well as the more well off students enrolled at Gotham State University.
So much for normalcy.
As I carefully navigated into the area, using radar to find a course that avoided patrol cars, I contacted Robin and Batgirl. Both were quick to reply that they had already completed their rounds for the night and were headed home, Tim to Bristol and Cassandra to the Clocktower. Rather than update them on my current focus, I bid them good night.
Cutting the ignition, I sighed quietly in the Mobile, parked towards the rear of the secluded lot across from the apartment complex. Three-quarters was strictly private parking while the remaining forty-five spaces were municipal. Using the computer, I located a roster of those who paid for the safety of having their own parking space and only eight individuals were flagged with criminal records, namely possession charges and DUI arrests.
Looking out over the barely lit lot, I found the patrol car stationed at the main entrance of the condo complex. No security booth, just a key card swipe away from entering the community. The lot was a nice, dark, quiet place for any sort of monster to lurk and await its prey, with a perfect view of the entrance. As I sat and stared out through the bullet-proof windshield, I tried to picture him… parked in a unremarkable vehicle, watching as people came home from work, from dinner, from a night of partying. Did he pick her because she was stumbling drunk? Because of her curvaceous form?
Or had he already known her?
It was perhaps that exact uncertainty that bothered me the most. There was no face to this killer, nothing at all. There was no viable evidence, no fingerprints or discernable fibers. All I knew about him was that he was over six feet, right handed and his semen was not listed in any database. For years, I had developed my deductive intellect to be able to reason and dissect the minds of criminals in order to bring them to justice. Even the most twisted minds were readily unraveled once I began investigating them… but there was nothing to unravel.
After activating the night lenses of the cowl, I stepped out of the Mobile and made my way towards the southern fence of the parking area, opting for the concealment of the large oak trees. Clearing the fence, I opened up the radio scanner and put in a fake request for assistance a block away. I watched through focused lenses as the driver of the patrol car on guard duty lifted the receiver, "This is Unit 412... 10-23 on that request for assistance… Over."
I proceeded to respond to his uncertainty as I began making my way towards the low hedges and brick wall acting as a meager barrier to the outside world, "This is Unit 621, request for assistance, 1235 Terrace Road… 10-42A… possible witnesses for 187 at Sugarloaf apartments. Over."
"621, we copy… we'll send Unit 336 to assist, over."
Once on the other side, I smirked at how I had only needed to distract them with a radio call, not even a fake disturbance that would have forced them off post. Then I frowned for the same reason.
"412, copy that. Over."
After studying the layout of the facility briefly, it was already clear that there were going to be no witnesses. Each of the apartment buildings housed ten condominiums and were all the same shape, size and hue of beige stucco. If he had selected her specifically, he must have studied her in detail, learning where she lived and the quickest way in and out.
The address in the preliminary report had put Amy Bennett's former residence in the "Ivy" building, Apartment 21. No security cameras, save for those overlooking the carports and private garages, meant would provide no image of the man who had slain her. Entering the building was nearly as simple as making my way into the residential community. It merely involved a line up to the second floor window terrace and then unlocking and opening the glass door. Again, no sign of forced entry, if she had known him, it was possible she had let him in…
There was no alarm or security pad at the back entrance and I doubted there was one at the front door. For a single woman living by herself, she had no apparent sense of personal security, not even a dog to bark at unwanted visitors. I stepped quietly, opting to use night vision instead of risking a flashlight. The second bedroom was practically barren, hard wood floor glossy and completely visible save for several cardboard boxes had been stacked neatly in the corner.
Curvy handwriting in black permanent marker declared them to contain "Amy's Stuff".
As I moved into the hall, I looked in both directions before deciding to investigate the kitchen and living room before moving on to the focus of the visit. Everything was in perfect order, plush carpet meticulously vacuumed and stain-free, an over-stuffed sofa and couch set the color of pine trees was decorated with silk pillows of varying shades of green and tan. A coffee stand held several magazines, featuring various methods of weight loss and men baiting on the covers. Evidence tags marked the couch cushions, a few smudgy fingerprints on the coffee table but none were associated to the chaos of foot prints on the carpet. Obviously they had been left by forensics…
I thought to myself that there was a video game console, a large tower of games and DVDs as well as a Bose stereo and surround sound system. And yet, no computer or laptop, no school books, no doubt this was her haven while her studies remained in the confines of her bedroom...
I entered a small yet comfortable kitchen area, my boots clicking on the tiled floor. There were even fewer evidence tags, marked fingerprints on the refrigerator door handle, another marking a footprint on the white floor. High heels, obviously not the killers footwear. The refrigerator reflected that she lived alone. Juice, bottle of white sparkling wine, fresh vegetables, a loaf of wheat bread as well as a small cheese cake with only one slice missing.
On the other side of the room, the table was barely four foot square and yet it was elevated to nearly four feet tall, offering three matching high stools for seating. A few more tags marked the table and I looked to see a pile of that day's mail was the reason. I skimmed the envelopes and magazines, finding nothing worthy of being labeled evidence numbers sixty-seven through eighty.
The only sign there had been life in the apartment that night had been the sight of two glasses filled halfway with water. They sat inconspicuously on the counter, tepid after being neglected. Forensics had also taken note, leaving yellow cards as well as fingerprint dust. No saliva marks were present, not even a smudge of lipstick, the prints most likely matched that of the victim… playing proper hostess, offering a her guest a glass of water… had she invited him in? Had he actually known this one, beyond the seemingly chance encounters he had with the first two? Or had he instigated the connection, forcing his way into her life in order to take it from her?
My mind still toiled even as I left the kitchen and headed towards the bedroom.
With the bedroom's only window facing the adjacent building and out of the patrol car's line of sight, I felt safe enough to turn the light on. I switched the night lenses off and proceeded to take a deep breath before stepping in and flicking the switch. As with the rest of the house, the bedroom was well decorated and maintained, unlike most college residences. I recalled visiting Dick's dormitory once to find the room in shambles, nearly causing Alfred to faint with distress…
The bed's sheets and blankets had been removed as evidence and only the blood soaked mattress remained. Spatters of rouge flecked the wall above the headboard and could be seen on the right bedside table. My eyes diverted from the bed and moved to the floor, where nearly invisible dots of blood could be seen on the dark carpet. Despite all of the spatter and macabre, they had yet to find fingerprints or foot prints left behind that did not belong to the victim. And I doubted that their second run through in the morning would yield any.
The master bathroom was done in white and black tiles, lots of glossy surfaces and counters to leave a mark on. I mused that this one was careful, very controlled, unlike a majority of the murderers I encountered. The only thing that seemed out of order was that there was only one hand towel on a rack meant for two, but the initial report stated a used, bloodied towel was found next to the bed.
With sunlight beginning to creep over the city, I decided to retreat and wait to see what forensics had already retrieved. I returned to the Mobile without having to distract the patrol car. Another car had pulled up and the officers were musing over an early breakfast of coffee and bagel sandwiches. The rain had slowed to a mist, casting a concealing fog over the parking lot. quickly, shaking off the water before getting in.
The ride home, I operated the vehicle while looking once more at the data compiled by the computer. Amy Marie Bennett, daughter of Jon and Margie Bennett. Had a founder's scholarship to GSU, 3.4 GPA, third year major in general business. No arrest record, not even a parking ticket. She flagged three news articles in the last decade, two for her work on the Natoli Committee for her high school and the third for her participation in the GSU's Earth Day the previous year.
No obvious relation to the others. Different ages, different schools, different everything, not even physical resemblances save for being young, healthy and mildly attractive.
As the freeway led me out of the city, I reminded myself that there had to be a common factor, he had a method of choosing them…
The ride to Bristol was a haze and I wasn't sure if it was a result of my mind working overtime or the fact that I was physically spent. As I entered the Cave's entrance twenty to six, I wanted nothing but a shower, anti-inflammatory and sleep. Late nights that had turned to early mornings, Alfred hid his concern by force-feeding me breakfast and coffee. I knew that the older man was uneasy until the Batman had returned in one piece.
Finding the Cave dark and empty, I thought that even Alfred had his limits.
After a quick shower, few butterfly stitches and change into clean sweatpants, I bypassed the computer bay and made my way to the granite steps. With the autopsy still not complete and forensics just starting to log evidence, there was nothing left for me to do but waste what little energy I had left sitting at the computer. Being Saturday, I was able to devote the entire day to working on the latest case without pesky interruptions.
Upon entering the third floor bedroom, I noticed a small white piece of paper on the bedside table. Even before looking at the perfect penmanship, I could tell from the closed black out drapes and turned down bed that it was from Alfred.
Given that you had forgotten about Master Dick and Ms. Barbara venturing away from the city, it is safe for one to assume that you have also forgotten about my trip to Buxton with Dr. Thompkins for the Habitat for Humanity project. I shall return Sunday midday and hope to find the Manor still standing. There are prepared meals in the refrigerator with re-heating instructions but when in doubt, order out.
Do try to avoid any dire situations while we are away.
I had forgotten all about it.
Collapsing onto the bed, I closed my eyes. I would have prayed to find sleep free of gory crime scenes and haunting faces.
Had I deserved it.