This was an idea that came to me while co-writing something else with Robinrocks. (I should have been concentrating on the project, but my attention span is lacking…) After sharing the inspiration with Robinrocks, we agreed to co-write it, and premier it around Christmas. That was several months ago, and when we realized how close were to missing our "due date" it was Robinrocks who saved this ficlet from impending doom.
Yes, the bulk of this first chapter is written by her. Though this was originally my idea, I only contributed minor edits and an American perspective. (More on that at the bottom) Robinrocks really should get most of the credit for this chapter!
For anyone curious who came here after our desperate plug campaigns in Remember the Titans and Small Print, we are taking on a slightly different edge. As before in both plugs, this fic does focus a lot on Detective Bullock from Batman: TAS. And again, as before, please forget all comic-relief functions he has – we're not using him as an overweight, rude, donut-munching screwball, as he is often seen in Batman: TAS. If you have seen episodes such as Over the Edge and Vendetta (where Bullock is framed for murder by Killer Croc in revenge for being the one to have sent him to jail years before), keep that version of Bullock in mind; a serious, capable, determined detective. This story isn't a comedy – it's perhaps not as dark as Small Print (what the hell is?), but it's about a string of serial killings targeting young superheroes.
In context, this fic has undergone a number of transformations and title changes. It was originally supposed to be a rewrite of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, entitled Ten Little Titans. Then we discovered that someone had beaten us to it. If you search on the Teen Titans section right now, you'll find a fic called Ten Little Titans. We didn't want to do the same thing as someone else, so our fic almost went out the window. Then we revamped it and thought it would be cool if we included a detective who was searching for the killer as the murders are happening, keeping a case file (a feature which will appear next chapter). The title was changed to And Then There Was One, which is the alternate title of Ten Little Indians. We discarded Batman after we decided we wanted this detective to be working inside the law. Then we briefly dabbled with the idea of an OC detective. Eventually we came to either Gordon or Bullock. Personally, I prefer Bullock – I am not sure of Narroch's opinion on that. Regardless, Bullock was our final choice.
And here is the final result.
With a new title, Red Rum, which is from The Shining.
It is, of course, "murder" backwards.
Merry Christmas, and enjoy!
Ten – Fall
Leaning back in his leather chair, Detective Harvey Bullock (scowling, overweight, crass and notorious of the GCPD), lit himself up a cigarette.
The silver ashtray on his desk was already overflowing.
And Bullock didn't give a damn.
Outside, across the hall from his office, a telephone was ringing.
And Bullock didn't give a damn.
Out in the street, beyond the shuttered window, snow was falling; flakes dancing on the cold air as they fluttered to the street below. Already, since last night, Gotham City was covered in an exquisite white blanket – frosting on a cake.
With its gothic architecture, looking like a typical scene on a Victorian-style Christmas card.
A picture of 1800s London.
And Bullock didn't give a damn.
It was Christmas Eve, getting dark, and Bullock wanted to go home.
He wanted to go home, to his apartment, and he wanted to get out of his shirt and tie; he wanted to get himself a beer and watch TV. Probably It's A Wonderful Life would be on again, which he hated; so he watched it every year, out of spite, just to curse at it.
Still, it was better than watching the news.
Because no doubt Batman would be on there again.
Bullock wasn't a very big fan of Batman. Or his sidekick. But mostly Batman.
He set his cigarette down, letting the smoke of it twirl upwards in the same pattern in which the snow fell downwards. He had put scotch tape over the smoke detector above his desk. He picked up his cup of coffee, swilling it around; and then took a sip, pulling a disgusted face when he realized that it was stone cold.
Tasted lousy, anyway.
It was dark out.
He watched the clock; ticking down the minutes. He was not working Christmas Eve – he had managed to trade off with Montoya. Her boyfriend was out of town, so she didn't have plans.
Not that he did either.
In return, he was working Christmas Day. All day. He had cursed and grumbled when he had seen the rota, but he didn't really mind; such was Harvey Bullock's way. Montoya was visiting family – he wasn't.
It seemed only fair.
He had some reports to catch up on, anyway. Some paperwork he had been putting off for over a week now. He suspected tomorrow would be simply paperwork, since the crime level was always low on Christmas Day. Sure, the odd year you'd get some wacko like the Joker breaking out of Arkham to show Gotham a "festive" time, and perhaps the odd bout of domestic violence, but for the most part, it was quiet. Even lowlife crooks went to visit their mama on Christmas Day; or stayed home with their girlfriends, wives, kids. The shelters gave away free food; "Christmas dinners" worth $2.
It even saddened the harsh Harvey Bullock at times; but heck, he was a detective. A cop. He was doing all he could to help the city. He had dedicated his life to it. He couldn't do anything more.
What did they want him to do; dress up in a bat costume?
There was a report on his desk right now, half-finished, poking out from inside a brown leather file. He opened his desk drawer and put it in unceremoniously.
Bullock was a procrastinator.
Unless he really wanted something done. Unless he really cared about something.
Then he was immovable.
Batman was witness to this. Once – more than once – Bullock had launched a tirade against him. Chased him inexhaustibly, like a hound chasing a fox. Blamed every and any slight weirdness on him. That nonsense with the "Mask of the Phantasm".
Bullock just didn't like him.
The second hand hit "12". It was 5 o' clock.
Enough about Batman.
Bullock put out his cigarette and emptied the contents of his overflowing ashtray into his wastepaper basket. He rose and left his desk, making for the door. He grabbed his coat from the hook on the door and pulled it on – the familiar long gray trench. He put on his hat (the uniform brown fedora) too, flipping out the light with his other hand.
And he left.
Merry Christmas. Ho-ho-fucking-ho.
A few people greeted him on his way down through the precinct; officers, cleaners, people employed to answer the phone. All decked out in tinsel – red and green, remind him of that kid. Batman's tagalong. Mistletoe hung over thresholds, which Bullock ignored.
Not his favorite time of year.
He grunted his replies to the calls of "Merry Christmas" as he made his departure. Nodded to Commissioner Gordon in return.
Same as every year.
His car was in the shop – how stinkin' typical. He probably wouldn't see it for over a week now, not when it was Christmas. Mechanics had to sit down and eat turkey and visit family and open presents too.
So Bullock had, this morning, walked from his apartment to the GCPD precinct.
And now, treading through fresh crisp snow, he walked back.
He stopped at the deli on the corner to get himself a six-pack of doughnuts. He bought a six-pack of beer too. He probably wouldn't drink it all – he wasn't that into drinking. Eating and smoking – those were Harvey Bullock's vices.
But still, it was Christmas.
Like he didn't know.
Stepping out of the deli, he started off down the street again. He passed a group of kids – the oldest at no more than ten years old – carol-singing, and dropped his deli change ($1.50, at the most) into their box.
It was Christmas.
Just a few blocks to go. Bullock knew a shortcut through one of the back allies. Back allies didn't threaten him the way they did most people because he carried a gun on him.
Hell, he was a freakin' cop.
He took the shortcut, which was deserted. Well, it was cold, dark, late and Christmas Eve.
Stepping out into another deserted street, the white blanket of snow glittering, untouched, he was simply looking forward to getting in out of the cold. He was tired from a non-stop week; and hungry.
He was always hungry, but whatever. It wasn't like—
Bullock stopped dead.
He dropped his doughnuts. He dropped his beer.
Sprawled on the pavement, surrounded by a crimson pool of blood that was slowly freezing, becoming a part of the snow, was a figure.
Bullock pulled out his gun as he warily approached the form.
Perhaps a homicide, in which case the perp could still be nearby. The detective's eyes darted this way and that, taking in the entire silent street. He heard a car honking in the distance, the sound drawn out on the icy night air by the speed of the vehicle.
Still gripping his gun tightly, Bullock crouched down beside the body.
He could tell the poor sucker was dead just by the angle in which the body was lying. Perhaps rigor mortis – perhaps the cold.
The slight, slender (broken) form informed him right away that the victim was female. Young. Late teenage – early twenties, at the oldest. He put his hand under her and rolled her over.
He had seen her before. She had been all over the news lately. Gordon had been ranting non-stop about her, saying that he wanted her off the streets.
A new young vigilante who called herself simply "Batgirl".
By the feel of it, every bone in her poor body was broken; her arms gave under the slight pressure he applied when turning her over, bringing to mind choice verbs like puree and liquefy. She was soaked in blood that had drained out subsequent to the fall, and in one hand was clutched a jump cable.
Or half of one, anyway.
Bullock looked at it intently.
It hadn't snapped.
It had been cut.
Batgirl had fallen to her death mid-leap, that much was certain.
But it had been no accident.
Batgirl had been murdered.
"Well, Merry-fucking-Christmas to ya too!" Bullock exploded.
"Well, that sucked!" Beast Boy announced loudly, throwing his arms into the air and sliding off the couch in an exaggerated manner, as the credits started to roll up the huge TV screen in the Christmas decoration-decked Operations Center of Titans Tower.
Robin shot a brief scathing glance in his direction.
"It's a cinematic classic," he said coolly.
"Yeah, B," Cyborg added. "Ain't you ever watched It's A Wonderful Life at Christmas before?"
"No, and I can see why," Beast Boy replied. "I mean, jeez… Some guy has a few mishaps, so he wishes he was never born, and poof, some angel appears to him and shows him what life would have been like if he hadn't ever been born, and his brother drowns or something, and then he sees the error of his ways and everything goes back to normal…"
The shape-shifter groaned.
"And there's that other thing with the bell and the angel wings or whatever, and to top it all off, it wasn't even in color!"
On the couch, next the space Beast Boy had slid out of, Terra giggled.
"I dunno, BB," she said with a grin, "I thought I saw you getting a little teary-eyed at one point."
"Oh yes!" Starfire agreed, clapping her hands together. "I found it most heartwarming!" The alien girl turned to Raven, who was sitting curled up in the corner of the couch, still watching the credits. "Raven, what are your thoughts?"
"While much of it was pointless," she deadpanned, "I felt that the final lesson learned was a good one."
"Which was?" Beast Boy demanded. "Every time a bells rings, an angel gets its wing?"
"No." Raven rolled her eyes. "That every life is precious and should be appreciated."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever." Beast Boy leapt up again, rubbing his hands together gleefully. "How about we get down to some appreciating?"
"Of…?" Robin prompted, turning off the TV.
"Duh!" Beast Boy yelled in reply. "Presents, of course!"
"But Beast Boy," Starfire piped up, "it is only the Eve of the Christmas. Is it not customary for you to do the giving of the presents on the Morning of the Christmas?"
"But I wanna open presents now!" Beast Boy whined. "I deserve it after that movie of Robin's nearly rotted my eyeballs…"
"Bruce loves that movie," Robin said stiffly.
"Yeah, well, I'm not Bruce," Beast Boy replied; he threw himself down on his knees with his hands clasped, again playing the drama queen, in front of the Boy Wonder. "Puleeeze, Robin? Please, please, please?"
"Well…" Robin debated saying no just to get back at him for being so dismissive of It's A Wonderful Life, but that would be punishing everyone else too. Cyborg, Starfire and Terra all looked eager to open presents as well.
Raven, of course, was deadpan about the whole matter. He consulted her with a single glance over the heads of the others and she simply offered a mild little shrug in reply.
"Okay," he said finally. "How about one each? The first one you pick up. And we'll leave the rest for tomorrow morning."
"Deal!" Beast Boy leapt up and grabbed hold of Terra's arm, hauling her up off the couch and dragging her over to the Christmas tree over in the corner of the large room.
Starfire laughed gleefully and flew after them; while Cyborg waited for Robin and Raven to rise from the couch.
"Ah, you're too kind to us, man," Cyborg mused dryly, shooting a grin in the Boy Wonder's direction.
"Cyborg, Beast Boy has been borderline ADD all week," Robin replied with a sigh. "He's like a five year old when it comes to Christmas."
He nodded in the direction of the Christmas tree, under which the shape-shifter was burrowing through the pile of brightly-wrapped and ribboned presents to find his one from Terra.
"So much for the "first one you pick up", huh?" Cyborg went on.
"At this point, Cy, anything for a quiet life," Robin sighed.
"Ah, you'd get bored if our lives were quiet."
Robin grinned guiltily.
"Well, yeah," he admitted. "But even so, I wouldn't mind a nice quiet Christmas to ourselves, you know?"
"Yeah, I hear ya. It's been crazy lately…What with Mad Mod raiding all the toy factories at the peak shopping season, just to get back at kids. He really didn't have anything to gain from it but he did it anyways, just out of spite. The real life Scrooge."
Robin simply nodded in reply as he, Cyborg and Raven joined the other three around the Christmas tree.
Beast Boy surfaced, a triumphant grin on his face and a small rectangular package wrapped in red and gold in his hand.
"I'm opening this one!" He declared, throwing himself down next to Terra and beginning to tear the paper off.
"How thrilling," Raven replied coolly, selecting one for herself from the pile; small, slim and wrapped in midnight blue.
"Ah, that's from me," Robin observed.
Raven smiled serenely.
"Then I'm sure it's an excellent choice."
Starfire, meanwhile, was tearing into a gold-wrapped present from Terra, Cyborg found himself an oddly-shaped one in black paper, decorated with silver snowflakes, from Raven, Terra was shredding the paper from a badly-wrapped present from Beast Boy, and Robin had just picked up an emerald-wrapped gift from Cyborg when it was torn out of his hands by Starfire.
"No, Robin!" She cried, replacing it with a vibrantly-wrapped gift; paper that shone all colors of the rainbow. "You must please open mine!"
"Um…" He shot her a nervous little glance. "Okay…"
She beamed at him before returning her attention to her own gift.
Beast Boy got his open first and whooped, leaping to his feet and holding it aloft.
"Cy, Cy!" He squealed, waving it around. "Look what Terra got me!"
"What?" Cyborg asked, grudgingly looking up from the leather-cased "Car Interior Care Kit" he had just unwrapped and was ogling in utter delight – everything he would ever need to keep his "baby" as beautiful on the inside as he did on the outside.
Beast Boy thrust the gift in his face; a slim rectangular box, recognizably that of a Gamestation game.
"Mega Monkeys 5: Ultimate Supreme Primate Slamdown!" The changeling hollered. "This game is like, sold-out!"
Terra beamed behind him.
"Yeah, it was kinda difficult to get hold of," she admitted.
Beast Boy turned and descended upon the blonde, throwing his arms around her so hard he near squeezed the breath out of her.
"Thankyou thankyou thankyou!" He shrieked.
"You're… welcome…" Terra gasped out.
Beast Boy was suddenly drowned out by a higher, louder delighted squeal from Starfire, also courtesy of the geomancer. She had just opened up a beauty case, full to bursting with clips and pins and bands and lipsticks and eyeshadows and blushers and mascaras and nail polishes, as many colors as her wrapping paper on Robin's present.
"Oh, Terra, it is simply wonderful!" She cried, gazing at it in utter adoration. "Think of all the fun we will be able to have with it! I can make us all up and we shall look simply glorious!"
Raven, clutching at a leather-bound collection of Short Stories of the Macabre: Edgar Allan Poe and Others, which she had received from Robin, quietly and discreetly edged away from the alien princess.
Starfire put the case carefully aside and joined Beast Boy in dog-piling the earthmover.
On the contrary, Raven offered Robin a warm smile and a quiet "Thankyou"; he could tell she was appreciative of the gift, despite the fact that she had not leapt on him.
Cyborg caught her eye and grinned, also showcasing his delight in the gift she had given to him.
"What did Star get you?" Cyborg asked, turning to the Boy Wonder.
"Dunno yet…" He tore the last of the paper off to discover a simple white box. Taking off the lid, he found himself staring at what looked like…
…a piece of modern art, at best.
Very sharp modern art, wrought out of a shining metal that was unlike any he had ever seen before; it seemed to glitter, almost glow. The shape of it was not unlike the holster of his grappling hook, but there was a long, curved, razor sharp blade at the forefront of it, roughly at about the position where the grapple sat. The back of it was twisted, almost exquisitely so, and a plumage of different colored thin silk ribbons cascaded down from it, almost four times the length of the entire… thing itself.
"So… what did she get you?" Cyborg asked again, leaning over the box.
"Dunno," Robin repeated, carefully lifting it from the box and tilting it this way and that.
Starfire, having noticed that the Boy Wonder had finally opened his present, sprang off Terra and flew over; leaving the earthmover wrestling with Beast Boy, who was becoming rather enthusiastic about his Thankyou. Ignoring them, Starfire landed next to Robin and Cyborg (Raven had taken her book and gone back to the couch…).
She was positively beaming.
"You like it, yes?" She implored, leaning right into Robin.
"Uh… y-yeah…" He backed up a little from her, mainly because being so close to her made his heart feel like it was about to give out. "Yeah, it's… really awesome." He fidgeted with the ribbons.
Starfire's expression flattened, seeing through him.
"You do not know what it is, do you?"
"Um… no," he admitted. "I'm sorry," he added quickly. "It's really cool, and thankyou very much, Star, but I've never seen…"
Starfire's smile came back.
"Yes, my apologies, Robin. Of course I could not expect you to recognize what it is."
"It's Tamaranean?" Cyborg asked.
"Actually, it is a weapon of combat used by the warlords of Okaara," Starfire explained. "I myself am skilled with such a weapon. It was my belief that Robin too might learn to use it, given his interest in various fighting techniques and instruments."
"Ah." He understood now and looked at it with new interest. It still looked rather lethal to him, but if Starfire showed him how to use it…
Well, that meant a little time for them to spend alone together, if nothing else…
"So you like your Okaaran Grebshnik?" The alien girl intoned.
"Yes. Thanks, Star."
She clapped her hands together gleefully.
"So what now?" Beast Boy asked as he and Terra joined them; the geomancer clutching the CD compilation of Ultimate Rock Power Ballads Beast Boy had bought her (another of his weak jokes that she, for some odd reason, appreciated).
"It's Christmas Eve," he went on, "we've already watched one sucky movie and opened presents…"
"Well," Cyborg replied, his voice comically grave, "there's only one thing for it then."
"And what's that?"
By one in the afternoon on Christmas Day, the front room was a mess; strewn with pieces of torn wrapping paper and boxes and packaging.
Cyborg had barricaded himself into the kitchen to cook the Christmas dinner, and no-one dared even go in there for a glass of water. The hip-hop CD Robin had given him could be heard blaring through the walls, occasionally accompanied by his strong voice.
Beast Boy was glued to the Gamestation; he had received three new games in all, one from Robin and one from Cyborg in addition to the one Terra had bought him. Beast Boy did not seem at all miffed by their lack of originality.
Terra sat at one end of the couch, watching him play while listening to her new CD on the personal CD player Cyborg had given her. Her toenails were painted a vibrant pearly pink, and her fingernails were multi-colored, courtesy of Starfire and her new make-up kit.
Raven was curled up behind the couch, her back to it, her nose in the book Robin had given her. Under her cloak, in place of her leotard, she wore a deep purple and black lacy top Starfire had bought her, even though it was not a winter garment. She had been pleasantly surprised by it; having dreaded opening the gift since feeling that it was soft and floppy, indicating an item of clothing – and honestly expecting a pink fluffy sweater. Her toenails and fingernails were deep purple to match.
Cyborg had leaned out of the kitchen ten minutes ago and hollered over his CD in request that someone lay up the dining room table. When no-one had moved, Robin and Starfire, who had been playing a rather lonely game of Clue (a special edition version given to the Boy Wonder by Beast Boy) by themselves on the worktop, had reluctantly put the game away and gone to do it.
In the dining room now, Robin put out the silverwear while Starfire opened a box of British Christmas crackers confiscated from Mad Mod's failed attempt to invade the toy factories, and put one of the colored tubes at each place. She had made herself up with her make-up from Terra – bright pink lip-gloss, purple eyeshadow, lashes thickened by mascara, her fingernails painted every color of the rainbow.
Robin didn't like it on her, to be honest, but he didn't like to say because he knew the delight she found in make-up – they did not have it on Tamaran and so it was exotic to her. Making it look natural was not an issue to her – she simply put on whatever she liked, not caring that none of it matched.
Beast Boy had bought her a jokey T-shirt – bright pink, with "You Wish" across the front, which she was wearing.
It clashed with her lips. It clashed with her hair. Starfire was a "You Wish" kind of girl, but it looked all wrong on her.
Raven's present was more demure – a purple-jeweled bracelet, which glittered on her wrist.
Cyborg had bought her a Puffy AmiYumi CD, which she had played right up until Cyborg himself had hijacked the portable CD player to take into the kitchen.
Robin's present she had not left lying around – she had taken it upstairs straight away to put on her desk. A pink leather-bound diary, with a silver lock on it, and a matching silver fountain pen. She had squealed with delight, hugged him until he went blue in the face from a lack of air, and then dashed upstairs with it.
Cyborg had muttered "Score" to Beast Boy, which Robin caught and scowled over; although secretly he was pleased that she had liked his present so much.
His own presents had gelled well; they had all admired the additional gift he had received – a leather jacket from Bruce, well-cut and clearly insanely expensive. Beast Boy had begged to be allowed to try it on; and had then paraded around in it for over half an hour, doing bad Grease impressions. Terra had been in stitches, Raven had rolled her eyes, and Robin had been too busy opening his other presents to take any notice of him.
He too was wearing a new T-shirt in place of his red-shirt-and-cape combo; black, with the word "Immortal" written across the chest in Japanese, crimson in color – a gift from Cyborg.
He had a candy cane (or half of one) sticking out of his mouth.
"We are done, yes?" Starfire asked, placing the last cracker down.
"Looks like it." Robin took his candy cane out of his mouth, stealing a glance at her.
She clasped her hands together and sighed.
"Oh, truly, I much enjoy this festive holiday," she said. "It is a most joyous time of year indeed, and so rich in traditions."
"Yup." Robin looked at the ceiling, not sure what else to do—
And saw, to his mingled amusement, disgust and horror, a sprig of mistletoe.
He looked back at her; her attention was turned away from him as she rattled off everything she loved about Christmas.
"…And the carols and songs are most joyful, and the turkey and pumpkin pie and the cake of the Christmas, and the wondrous black and white movies, and the tree of the Christmas, and the giving of gifts, and the peace and goodwill on Earth, and the kissing under the mistletoe, and the—"
"Oh, hey, look!" Robin interrupted as she got to that part, spying a single lone cracker left in the box. "There's one left over. It says on the box it needs two people to pull it apart." He snatched it up and held it out. "Shall we?"
"Mm hmm!" Starfire nodded vigorously and took the other end of it.
She was, of course, and as a rule (being an alien), stronger than she looked; and one sharp tug from her sent the contents flying.
"Oh, Robin, I am sorry!"
He neglected the paper hat and the joke that emerged from the tube, and picked up the gift.
A silver metal ring with a green plastic "emerald" set into it. It was actually quite nice considering it had come out of a cracker.
"Hey, Star, look…" He held it up, the "jewel" glinting in the light. "A ring."
She smiled; and then flushed slightly pink.
"You got the bigger half of the cracker… Congratulations on winning, Robin. What are you going to do with it?"
"What do you think I'm going to do with it?" He asked, coming back over to her.
She gave a little shrug, but looked rather hopeful.
He smiled and picked up her right hand, slipping it onto her finger. She gazed at in utter adoration, as though it was the best present she had received all day.
And then she subtly pointed upwards; and he realized that she had known the mistletoe was there all along.
She leaned down towards him; and, scared stiff, he found it within him to be distracted by that lurid pink lipstick. He snatched up a napkin and sharply rubbed it off. She straightened up again, alarmed.
"What are you doing?"
"Do you mind?"
"You do not like it?" She sounded hurt.
I hate it. You look much nicer without it.
He didn't voice his true thoughts.
"It just tastes so gross, you know?"
"Oh." She wiped the rest off herself on her fingers. "This satisfies you?"
Well, the taste was true too.
"Then…" Starfire leaned down towards him again. "…Merry Christmas, Robin…"
He stretched up a little to reach her and could almost taste her as their mouths—
The dining room door banged open and the pair of them leapt apart; Cyborg leaned in, the phone in one hand.
Y-yeah, Cy?" Robin asked, not looking at Starfire; who was blushing as pink as her new shirt.
Cyborg held out the phone.
"It's for you."
"Bruce?" Robin mouthed; Bruce always called on Christmas Day so that he and Alfred could wish him and the Titans Merry Christmas.
But Cyborg, to the Boy Wonder's surprise, shook his head.
"No, it's some guy from the Gotham City Police Department. Some detective."
Robin blinked, taking the phone.
"O-oh. Okay. Thanks, Cy…"
What had happened? Had Bruce been hurt? Killed? What if…?
"That Robin?" A sharp voice asked on the other side of the line.
Robin frowned, recognizing the voice; recalling the strong, clipped Bronx twang.
The detective gave a bitter little chuckle.
"Hey, whaddaya know? Bird Boy remembers me."
Ugh, Robin had forgotten how obnoxious Bullock was.
"I doubt you've called me up to wish me Merry Christmas," he said sourly, "so what can I do for you?"
"My usual complaint, kid."
"Batman." It wasn't a question on Robin's part. "Is he… is he okay?"
"Couldn't tell ya."
"What do you mean?" Robin snapped.
"That wack has disappeared," Bullock replied shortly. "Can't find him anywhere. Don't suppose you'd know where he is, kid?"
"No. I take it you've tried the emergency line?"
"Tried it all. Bat-signal, phone line… Can't get hold of him."
"Why do you need to? Is there a problem? The Titans and I can—"
"There's nothin' going on here the GCPD can't handle!" Bullock snapped rudely. "We wanna question him."
Robin's heart thumped in his chest.
"Why? What has he done?"
"Nothin', as such. At least, I wouldn't say he's on our Prime Suspect list…"
Starfire, who was still in the room, listening intently to Robin's side of the conversation, blinked as he raised his voice, near panicking – stressed by Bullock's vagueness.
"I take it ya were aware Bats had another sidekick?" Bullock answered. "A "replacement" for ya ever since ya left Gotham?"
"Batgirl," Robin answered tightly. "What about her?"
"I hate to break it to ya, kid, but she's bitten the big one."
"What?" Robin asked, horrified. "When? Wh-what happened?"
"Just last night. Found her myself."
"How did she…? Who—?"
"Fell. Grappling line cut." Bullock sighed on the other side of the line. "And we don't know who did it. That's why we wanna question Bats."
"You… you can't possibly think that Batman—"
"It's not somethin' we've ruled out, but for now, we just wanna ask him a few things. Like where she was goin', what she doin', roughly what time he last saw her."
"I see." Robin felt faint. "I don't know where he is."
"Yeah, ya said that already." Bullock sounded pissed.
"Well, if it helps… I have a number for his portable communication system. It's how we used to keep in contact while on patrol. I could… I could give you that, but I don't know if…"
"Anything ya got we'll take."
"Okay." Robin rattled off the number he knew by heart; his own heart heavy. All of his Christmas cheer had been sapped from him.
Batgirl. Barbara. Brilliant, beautiful, talented. She had had her whole life ahead of her…
"Alright, thanks, kid."
"Okay." Robin paused, unsure of what to say to Bullock now. "Um… bye, then, I guess…"
"Uh-huh. Merry Christmas."
By the time Robin had whispered his reply to that, Bullock had hung up.
He turned the phone off, lowering his hand.
"Robin…?" Starfire asked timidly.
"Yeah?" He replied, not turning to her.
"You are… alright?"
"Not… not sure…"
Robin suddenly lifted the phone again and punched in the number of Wayne Manor. He pressed it to his ear as it rang.
"Good afternoon, Wayne Manor. How may I help you?"
"Alfred!" Robin breathed.
"Ah, Master Dick!" Alfred sounded both pleased to hear from him, and… worried? "A very Merry Christmas to you."
"Merry Christmas, Alfred. Listen, where's Bruce? I really need to talk to him."
"Oh." Alfred sounded very disheartened. "I am unsure myself, I am afraid. He did not return home from patrol last night, as far as I know."
"He… he didn't?" Robin whispered.
"No. Of course, this is not unusual, but with poor Ms Gordon's death all over the news…"
"It's on the news?"
"Yes, quite. It is my belief that Master Bruce is searching for her killer."
"Oh. I see."
"I am sorry I cannot be of more help to you, Master Dick."
"It's okay, Alfred. It's just…"
"Nothing, nothing." Robin sighed. "Okay, well, Merry Christmas, Alfred."
"Merry Christmas, lad."
Robin hung up, pulling at his jet hair in despair.
"Robin?" Starfire asked again in a small voice. "What is it that troubles you?"
Ignoring her, Robin dialed Bruce's communicator.
It was turned off.
Robin threw the phone at the wall in frustration; it clattered to the floor, the battery being knocked loose.
"Robin, please…" Starfire sounded very distressed as she put her hand on his shoulder. "What is wrong? Why is it so important that you locate Batman?"
"Because Batgirl has been murdered and he's disappeared." Robin pulled away from her, the romantic mood between them crushed by Bullock's news.
Talk about your Christmas cheer.
"Who is this Batgirl?" Starfire wanted to know; Robin detected a hint of jealousy in her tone and it pissed him off. He didn't need Starfire's rivalry issues when his close friend had just been killed.
"Would you just drop it, please?"
Starfire heard the anger in his voice and backed off.
"Very well, I will not interrogate you," she said coolly. "I will also take it that you do not desire to finish what we started here before Cyborg interrupted us."
She came close to him again, as if to prove her point; and he knew he was playing a dangerous game by rebuking her – running the risk of her giving him the cold shoulder for a week, if not longer.
But he shrugged her away, the killing had also killed the mood.
"Not now, Star. Please." The final word was intoned as a plead.
She pulled back, Antarctica manifesting itself in her green eyes.
"Very well," she said again, her voice stiff. She stalked past him towards the door.
"Star, please, you don't understand…"
His protests were weak. He wanted her to walk out. He wanted her to leave him alone. He needed to sit down and make some sense of this.
He needed to find Bruce.
She didn't stop; simply shooting him another icy look over her shoulder, giving a very loud "Hmph!" and storming out.
With a heavy sigh, Robin flopped into a chair, putting his head in his hands; thinking of poor Babs and Bruce's disappearance and his almost-first-kiss with Starfire…
Just one more in a whole long line of Christmases that never seemed to go right.
Bullock slammed down the phone, cursing under his breath.
That damn Bat's communicator wasn't even on.
Dragging on his cigarette, Bullock massaged his forehead with his fingertips.
This looked like it was going to be a tough one.
And of course, it was already plastered all over the news; the TV, all the newspapers.
"BATGIRL PLUMMETS TO HER DEATH ON CHRISTMAS EVE". "CHRISTMAS CRIME: BATGIRL DEAD".
Oh no, the media didn't rest. Not on Christmas, not ever.
It didn't help; journalists queuing at the doors, hoping to grab an interview, a statement. Bullock had practically been ambushed more than once today.
Peace on Earth indeed.
"Peace on Earth my butt," Bullock griped to no-one in particular.
He couldn't do anything now until the CSI team got back to him; until the forensics had examined the girl's body; until she had been identified.
Was it possible that Batman had been murdered too? Perhaps some nutjob with a vendetta against Bats? Bullock could think of plenty of those…
But there had been no Arkham break-outs recently.
And what about freakin' Bird Boy? He had sounded shocked, but maybe he had already known. Perhaps he did know where Batman was, and had lied.
That was part of the reason Bullock hated superheroes – you couldn't tell with them at all. They spent their lives deceiving, pretending to be something else. They wore masks to conceal who they really were. Bullock admitted he wasn't the most honest guy in the world, but heck, at least he didn't wear a freakin' mask—
There was a knock at the door.
"What?" Bullock snapped.
The door opened and a fair-haired, bespectacled fellow in a lab coat ventured in.
"Detective Bullock?" He asked.
"Yeah? Whaddaya want?" Bullock flicked some ash onto the floor.
The guy held out some sheets, paper-clipped together.
"The identification report," he explained, approaching the desk and handing them over to the detective. "The CSI team are still working. The area is still cordoned off."
Bullock nodded and the man scurried out again, closing the door behind him.
Putting out his cigarette, Bullock went to the window to get better light to read the report by.
His heart thunked unpleasantly as he read the last line; the identified name of the victim.
Looking over the snow-crested city, Bullock gave a grim little smile.
The search for Batman was really on now.
And if Commissioner Gordon and Detective Harvey Bullock himself had anything to say about the matter, Bats had a lot to answer to.
WHEW! We both hope you liked the first chapter. It is just going to get crazier after this.
When we co-write, usually there are no cultural differences large enough to disrupt our writing flow. I have to correct the occasional "soddin" or "sceptical" from my British friend, but for the most part, our styles and cultures blend seamlessly.
But with this story…you all should have seen the first draft she sent me. I was so terribly confused. What's a cracker and why are they pulling them? When's boxing day? Why are you spelling color with a 'u' in it?!?
Robinrocks was amused.
We decided to leave the crackers part in because for one, it was too much of a hassle to rewrite when it already gelled so well,
And secondly, it is a good way to educate us Americans on some of the traditions of our British neighbors.
Nyes, Christmas crackers… what are they indeed?
Frankly, people, I am astounded that you guys don't have them in the States! Really and truly! I put in that RobinxStarfire piece with the ring and Narroch writes me back all like "Well, it rocks, but what the hell is a cracker?". I can't believe you don't have them! I mean, they are originally a British thing, invented in the Victorian times, but I thought you Yanks would have hijacked them by now…
Pretty much, they're a cardboard tube thing covered in shiny paper and ribbons and the like, tied like a sweet wrapper… Agh, you know, I can't really explain this very well – here is a link to a very short Wikipedia explanation. Just take out the spaces. It's not very long, and will explain properly what it is.
http//en .wikipedia. org/ wiki/ Christmascracker
Similarly you could just go to Wikipedia, if that link doesn't work, and type in "christmas cracker".
But yeah, we didn't want to take that bit out, so we blamed it on Mad Mod; that crazy Brit. Okay, so realistically, the Titans wouldn't play about with anything confiscated from Mad Mod, but cut us some slack. It was either this or take out the cracker thing altogether – because if you don't have crackers in the States, then the Titans wouldn't have them, would they? This was our only way of getting around it…
Clue is called Cluedo over here, BTW...
Sooooooooo… anyway, this is our slightly-dark Christmas special. Hope you like it!
Next chapter: Detective Harvey Bullock sinks his teeth into this case in an attempt to track down the killer, but not before there's a second murder…
Merry Christmas from us, Narroch and RobinRocks
P.S: Any Small Print fans… please don't kill us for the cliff-hanger… O.o