My brother is a jerk, a dreg, a twip-faced loser who can't even make dinner once a month.
And the way kids at school still talk about him, like he was some God of Teen Rebellion when in truth he was barely awake through high school! But no – beat up a few jerks, save a few kids and stop Mad Stan from blowing up the school and suddenly you're a hero – that and getting the principal and countless counsellors fired. He's like some uber-legend and I swear the next time some twip asks me what's its like being 'Terry McGinnis' brother I am going to deck the dreg and maybe, just maybe, tell them the truth. That Terry McGinnis is a jerk, who barely has the balls to pick up the phone on your birthday and wish you happy 16th. That's my brother – absent Jerk Number 1 in my life. And it's not even like he was cool at school – bet you all his classmates still think he's a loser dreg, gang-wannabe. It's only the twips that I am stuck with who think he's the schwayest thing ever! Gag!
So what if his precious, all consuming job helps Mom out with the bills. So what if working for Wayne is like signing your soul over to Satan and becoming a minion of mindless paperwork and pointless errands. He's a jerk! I don't care if he sent me a schway classic Honda motorcycle that sent Mom into conniptions for the birthday he forgot – that just makes him a rich jerk! With excellent taste – can't fault him for that. Cool girlfriend in high school, a rep so schway it makes me sick and he drives this mega-schway convertible now… jerk.
Jerk, jerk, jerk, jerk, jerk……
Matt sighed and slowly deleted his essay. As he watched the last 'jerk' disappear, he sighed again. It wasn't so much the fact that he had to write an essay on his 'feelings' for the twip counsellor who thought he had anger issues, although it was that in part. What bugged him, what really made him mad was that he knew exactly why he was angry. There was no underlying issues – no subconscious dreg to work through. He was angry because his Dad was dead, because his Mom worked all hours to save up for college and because Terry was a jerk.
Jerk. It was such a nice word, so full of the contempt he felt. Dreg was good too, and twip, but somehow jerk just summed it all up. Jerk, Jerk, Jerk!
The soft alert of an incoming call interrupted his litany and he keyed up the vidphone. The casual 'Yeah' died on his lips when he saw who was calling. Instead Mr Wayne was greeted with a curt, "Terry's not here."
Wayne's wizened old face barely registered the greeting, and he said, "Have you spoken to him tonight?"
Matt snorted, "My twip brother hasn't spoken to me in months. Goodbye, Mr Wayne."
He ended the call, not wanting to know why Wayne was calling or why he wanted to know about Terry calling. So what if the vidphone had registered a call from Terry that cut off before Matt could answer. So what if he had been a little slow in keying it up – the twip hadn't bothered leaving a message or trying again, or waiting a little longer.
An incoming call registered on the vidphone, with no caller id. Probably, Mr 'I'm so scary I eat kids' Wayne, again. Ignoring the insistent beeping, Matt rolled off the couch and walked into the kitchen. The monitor there was also trying to get his attention, but with his Mom working a late shift, Matt was the only one home. "And if I don't want to talk to Mr Wayne, I don't have to," Matt muttered to himself.
"Actually, you do."
Startled to hear the gravely voice, Matt spun around and stared at the vidphone. "How.."
Mr Wayne frowned, which made his grey face even more grim and he growled, "I know Terry tried to call you this evening – did you speak to him?"
"What's it to you?"
Even through the vidphone, Matt could feel Wayne's glare intensify and he couldn't help the small flinch when Wayne practically shouted, "McGinnis! Did he call you?"
Trying to act nonchalant, he shrugged, "Yeah, he tried, hung up before I could answer."
Wayne's silent glare made him uneasy, as if the old dreg knew he had ignored the call, knew he hadn't even tried to answer. "What time?"
Again the fake shrug, "Don't know, maybe half an hour ago."
This time, Wayne hung up, the vidscreen going dark. Matt blew out a sign of relief. As much as he disliked Mr Wayne, the old guy had lost none of his ability to scare the pants off him. For the umpteenth time he wondered how Terry could work for such a dreg.
He wandered back into the living room, refusing to wonder why Wayne was looking for Terry. Surely he kept his pet lapdog on a tight leash? Terry barely had time for anything non-work related, probably had a bug up his ass and everything – could follow his every movement….
Wayne's grim face was still on the vidscreen and he looked even less happy than before – if that was possible.
"You got your licence last week. Get over here now, I need you to help me find Terry."
Stunned, Matt just stared at Wayne – find Terry? Terry was missing? It seemed that Matt's attitude could operate autonomously, because he heard himself say, "I don't work for you, Wayne. If you've lost the twip, send one of your lackeys to find him. Heaven forbid he actually have any free time…"
Wayne was gone, the vidscreen blank. For a long time, Matt just stared at the vidphone. Terry was missing? Why call him, why not the cops or some nameless bodyguard, why him? Did Wayne have some sort of fetish for McGinnis's doing his dirty work?
What the hell, Terry?
The last place he expected to find himself was outside Wayne Manor, but here he was. The old place was just plain grim. Opulent as sin, but grim. As if something dark and brooding sucked the life out of the surroundings.
He looked up to see Mr Wayne walking towards the large stable of garages and he had to run to catch up. "Look here, Mr Wayne – I don't come running when you whistle, I'm not Terry."
"And yet you are here."
And he was – he had rode his bike all the way out here and yes, he was coming when called – but he be damned if he did it without knowing what was going on.
"What's going on, Wayne? Where's Terry?"
Wayne tossed him a set of keys and walked towards a nondescript car, growling over his shoulder, "That's what we're going to find out. Get in."
In the end Matt decided that silence suited him just fine. It was better than having his questions ignored or getting 'that' glare. Instead he tried not to think about his brother and what he was involved in. Obviously pet lapdog meant more than just paperwork.
Wayne was studying a small handheld computer that seemed to be tracking something. Maybe the bug idea wasn't so far off. Matt decided to try one more time, "If Terry has a tracker on him, why call me?"
"Because the tracer on Terry isn't working and I had to use your vidphone to triangulate the position of his call."
"Oh. What's he doing that he needs a tracker or you…"
The glare was back and silence fell over the car.
"Turn left here."
Silently Matt steered the surprisingly powerful car through Gotham's narrow streets, turning when told to. They were headed towards the warehouse district near the docks, an area so overrun by Jokerz and crooks that businesses had to use the fancier storage facilities nearly a mile up river.
"Stop. From here we walk."
Matt slowed the car down and stopped. As he got out, he couldn't stop the shiver that ran up his spine. This place was the dregs – what was Terry doing down here? Old abandoned warehouses, filled with shadows and the dusty remnants of a time long past, loomed over them. There was no sound of the usual bustle and traffic of Gotham down here, just the silence of decay and neglect.
"This way." Wayne was walking down a narrow alley as if he did this every other day, as if he was well used to neighbourhoods where you would be lucky to escape with your life, let alone with all of your skin.
As much as he was bursting with a thousand questions about why they were here, and why the tracer wasn't working and why, oh why, Terry was down here, Matt kept quiet. It seemed very important to be quiet. For an old man, Wayne moved silently, with barely any sound save the occasional cane tap on the ground. Matt however, felt as if every time he tripped over unseen trash or stumbled into something, that he drew the attention of a thousand eyes. Wayne continued on regardless and Matt struggled to keep up.
The whole area was a maze of buildings either in ruins or in the process of falling apart. Try as he could, Matt couldn't keep track of where they were and he began to doubt that he would be able to find the car again.
The command was a harsh whisper but Matt immediately froze. Heart pounding, he scanned the area, trying to see what had made Wayne stop.
Soft voices, with the odd giggle thrown in, floated down the alley. Matt watched in frozen silence as a trio of Jokerz walked past their shadowed alley. He was certain that they would be seen – that the Jokerz couldn't but help hear his pounding heart. But the trio ambled past without a backward glance. Wayne waited what Matt thought was far too short a time before continuing.
Everything seemed subdued, almost dead. Even the Jokez had felt it and were not as loud as they usually were – what was this place? The further they went, the colder the air became until Matt began to see his warm breath condense in the frigid air. Still he couldn't give voice to the questions that nagged him – it was too important to be quiet.
"Here." Wayne's growl was soft and Matt looked up at the warehouse they were in front of. Realising Wayne had not waited for him he scurried inside and soon spotted the stooped figure making its way towards the back of the structure.
Matt, whose heart was pounding from the brisk walk to catch up to Wayne and well – with the whole situation, gasped, "What?" He looked up at where Wayne was pointing. The warehouse must have once had a second floor but the majority of it had collapsed. Only a small portion remained and it looked inaccessible.
"Terry's up there? How? I don't see…"
Wayne thrust a small black device into his hands and said, "Aim for the beam exposed there on the right and press down hard."
"Do it, McGinnis!" The glare was accompanied by a growl that had him aiming and pressing on reflex. He nearly dropped the thing when a line shot out of it and embedded itself in the beam overhead. "What the…?"
"Press down again and it'll reel you up. When you reach the second floor, swing yourself over the edge – don't land on it or it'll break."
Matt stared at Wayne. He could barely see the old man it was so dark in the warehouse. The light from a solitary streetlight outside the warehouse was the sole source of light and he barely see the edge of the second floor, let alone swing and jump where?
He opened his mouth to protest again, when Wayne was suddenly in his space and he had no idea the old guy could get any scarier but boy, could he! A low visceral voice growled, "Get up there now!"
Once again the button was pressed on reflex and Matt had to bite his tongue not to scream as the 'thing' zipped him through the air and he was soon swinging near the second floor. He tried to build some momentum to get a good arch over the edge but his arms were already taking strain and burning from the effort.
´Should have paid more attention in gym.'
He chickened out the first time he thought he had enough swing to reach the edge and he would have chickened out on the second, but somehow Wayne's urgent low growl reached him and he leapt. For a heartstopping moment he thought he had misjudged it and tried to fling himself further mid air onto the second floor. All he ended up doing was twisting enough to land awkwardly on his knee with a resounding thud.
Groaning, he tried to crawl further from the edge and ended up flat on his back, panting like mad. He might have lain there forever if he had his way, but another harsh growl from Wayne standing below, got him moving. Wondering how in the world the old guy could whisper so loud, Matt stood and tested out his knee. It seemed ok, considering, and he began to search the second floor.
He still had no idea how Terry could be up here and he was beginning to think that maybe Wayne had finally lost it and had him up here searching for nothing when in fact Terry was sound asleep in his apartment. Maybe the old twip was delusional – and that made Matt a right twip for going along with this.
Angry at that thought, he tried to turn suddenly to go back to Wayne and tell him where to get off, when his leg spasmed and he had steady himself against some boxes. Once the pain subsided, he realised the box was sticky and as he pulled away, his hands came away red.
"Terry?" Matt's voice was soft and there was no answering movement. He was nearly at the wall of the warehouse – not much more space to check.
It only took two more steps to find him. He nearly didn't see him, there in the shadows, but the dark pool of blood gave him away.
The black suit was unmistakable, even without the distinctive cowl and red emblem on his chest. He had seen him before – had been rescued by him before. He was … untouchable. He wasn't supposed to bleed, wasn't supposed to need help. And there was so much blood. Everywhere.
Matt felt sick, sick to the stomach. My brother is a jerk … and Batman.