Don't Go Out On Friday Night
Notes: The characters from The Batman cartoon are not mine. The other characters and the story are mine. It picks up in my timeline after Kaleidoscope, but that does not have to be read to understand this. It is good, however, to know that it takes place following the episode Riddler's Revenge, and that it's partially inspired by the comic book series The Long Halloween (even though it will be very different). And I've decided Riddler wears black eyeshadow because when his eyes are closed, all you see through the white of the mask is black. (And hey, we already know he wears lipstick. Why not eyeshadow too?) Many thanks to Kaze for plot help!
A frustrated, worried sigh escaped Commissioner Gordon's lips as he slumped back in his office chair. Laying open on his desk was the report he had been staring at for the last hour. Another unfortunate soul had been murdered, pulled from Gotham Bay the past night. The crime matched the modus operandi of two previous murders in the past three weeks. And what was especially troubling was that the pattern was far too similar to the Friday Night killer, a serial murderer who only killed people on the weekends. The bodies were discovered Friday night or Saturday morning.
But was it the original Friday Night killer, or a copycat? The first one had vanished from all knowledge three years before. Now, suddenly murders were being committed again, and as usual, the victims did not seem to have any common link between them other than that they had been out on Friday night. They were not found only in the water, but in the road, laying in fields, and once, even hanging from the ceiling in a warehouse. Other than the days on which they were killed, the only indications that the seemingly random murders were committed by the same person were that torn pieces of Friday's newspapers were always found on the victims or attached to their clothing.
Gordon laced his fingers, staring blankly at a picture in a second file open on his desk. There was only one person he knew of who had any possible connections with the original Friday Night killer. But that man was a criminal himself, a disturbed soul recently returned to Arkham Asylum. Gordon hated the thought of having to rely on that person for any help, but it seemed that there was no other choice. The original Friday Night killer had terrorized Gotham and the surrounding area off and on for months. They could not possibly afford a repeat of such a tragedy. Three people were already dead. If the pattern kept up, a fourth would die in six days.
And if Gordon could help it, he would not let that happen.
Even if that meant going to another criminal for help.
Edward Nygma was sitting up in bed at the Arkham infirmary. In his hand he held a small pocket mirror, studying his reflection as he applied the dark green lipstick that had become almost synonymous with his alter ego. His raven hair fell around his shoulders, unnoticed since it was not getting in his way. But though he seemed completely absorbed in what he was doing, he was actually quite attentive. As soon as there was a knock at the door, he looked up.
"What is it?" he asked.
The door was pushed open, revealing the nurse who had been by his side when he had awakened from the coma. "There's someone to see you," she announced.
Nygma leaned back. "Hmm," he mused. "Who could it be--the psychiatrist? I thought I'd already spoken to her today." Edward had not been able to curb the urge to speak in riddles during the session, but he did not particularly care. Knowing where the desire came from did not make him eager to get it to stop. He wanted to discover who he was, to see if he could move beyond being the Riddler, but he did not know that he wanted to entirely abandon that side of himself, either. What he really wanted was to discover the perfect balance between the two aspects of his personality.
The nurse hesitated at his query. "No," she said slowly, "it isn't the psychiatrist. Here, I'll let him speak for himself. I'm not sure what he wants." She backed out of the doorway, allowing a tall, serious man to enter the room.
Nygma blinked, but quickly masked his surprise. "Commissioner," he greeted. "What a surprise. I wasn't expecting visitors." He gestured around the bright, sparsely furnished room. "The accommodations are a bit lacking in decor, but I'm sure we can manage."
Gordon stopped near the bed, frowning down at the lanky man's appearance. "You seem to be making yourself right at home, Riddler," he commented, eying the green lipstick and black eyeshadow in disbelief. Completely aside from his lack of comprehension as to why the younger man wanted to wear makeup, he was astonished that it was even allowed here.
A smirk graced the painted lips. "A reward for good behavior," answered the one known as the Riddler. "But they haven't let me have my cane back yet." He drew his knees up, leaning forward as he laid an arm across them. "I know you didn't come here for a friendly chat," he said now, his accented voice suddenly growing hardened and serious. "What is it you want?"
Gordon made a mental note to speak with the head psychiatrist and find out how she had been handling Riddler's case. But for now he looked back, steel-faced. "I'm going to get right to the point," he said. "Several years ago, Gotham was being terrorized by a man only known as the Friday Night killer."
Riddler's expression flickered but remained impassive. "And he was never captured," he said. "Am I correct?"
Gordon nodded. "He stopped killing and disappeared. But now the murders are starting up again, with the same M.O. and the same seeming lack of connection between the victims."
"Ooh. And you're telling me this, why?" The Riddler smirked again. "I won't be going out next Friday night, so I won't be in danger."
Gordon's expression remained stern. "The Nygma family suffered a tragedy at the hands of the original Friday Night killer," he said, "as you well know."
"My uncle." Edward sat up straight. "And just because of that, you think I can help you now?"
"No," Gordon retorted. "Because you went after the killer looking for vengeance."
"And didn't catch him, unfortunately," Nygma lamented.
"But you still got closer to him than anyone else," Gordon said.
"True," was the response. "I learned quite a bit about his patterns and habits. I even found one of his hideouts. But why would I share this information with you?" he said. "After all, I wanted to bring him down myself. If he really has returned, then my feelings haven't changed. I don't want to share my prize with anyone else."
Gordon was losing patience. "This isn't just about your own personal quest!" he said. "Innocent people will die. Three already have."
"What makes you think I care about them, Commissioner?" Edward asked, bringing the tips of his index fingers together. "I've certainly endangered the population of Gotham more than once."
Both of them froze at the third voice. As they turned to look to the door, the dark-cloaked figure of the Batman was entering. He stopped in front of the Riddler, his eyes hidden behind the ever-present mask. It had been several years since he had seen the Riddler not wearing a mask, but he was not a great deal surprised by the other's appearance. He had not changed a great deal; the dark green eyes were watching Batman with intensity. The Riddler seemed highly pleased that his favorite opponent had appeared.
"The only time a large number of the city's population played a part in one of your schemes, the 'physical threat' was an inconvenience but not a danger," Batman said. "The 'bombs' you'd placed at key locations were filled with dessert gelatin."
Riddler smirked. "You remember one of our first meetings," he said. "That's so touching."
"The times when you've actually tried to physically harm someone, it's usually because you've got a personal vendetta against them," Batman went on, "or if you're trying to use someone to force someone else's hand."
"And you're saying that's justified?" Riddler purred.
The eyes narrowed. "No," Batman said coldly. "I'm saying that letting random people die isn't something you do."
"Trying to stop it isn't my style, either," replied the Riddler. "I'm not a do-gooder like you, Batman."
Batman half-glanced at Gordon. His silent message said that this would work better if they were alone. He had been observing the past conversation through a one-way glass, and it was obvious that the Riddler was doing everything in his power to be difficult. He wanted something out of this deal before he would agree to it. And he wanted to speak to Batman about it without anyone else there.
Gordon gave a silent nod in return. He walked past, heading for the door. Without a word he left, shutting it behind him.
Nygma began to relax. "Now," he said, watching Batman expectantly, "this is more like it. I've always found three to be such a crowd. Don't you?"
Batman ignored the comment. "What is it you want, Riddler?" he asked. "I know you're interested in this deal."
The raven-haired man held up his forefinger. "Correction--I'm interested in taking down the killer myself, not watching from the sidelines." His eyes narrowed. "My uncle was the only member of my family who ever believed in me. I still despise and loathe the Friday Night killer for taking his life."
"Getting revenge isn't going to bring him back." Batman's voice was cold, but there was something else at the back of it--an emotion that most would not be able to place.
But Edward Nygma could.
"You understand the urge, though, don't you, Batman?" he said. "You know the anger and the pain that drives those feelings."
Behind the mask, the eyes narrowed further. Riddler was about to make some kind of a point. This was not an idle comment or observation.
The lanky man's voice dropped to a near-whisper. "I know who you are," he said.
Now Batman stared, his lips parting slightly in shock. For a moment, all thoughts had fled his mind. The Riddler had always been obsessed with learning his identity. Was it possible that he actually had discerned the truth?
Nygma smirked more, pleased with the reaction he was getting. "It really wasn't so difficult to figure out," he said, tapping his right temple with his forefinger, "not when I began to seriously think about it while I was in that coma. I'd been doing a lot of demographics research before that, narrowing down the results of who could be the Batman based on approximate age, height, weight, background information, that sort of thing. But I didn't finish with that, because it's so much more fun to actually involve you in my plans." He leaned back. "However, that wasn't working out, and while I was knocked senseless I managed to put the rest of the pieces together."
Batman frowned, gathering his composure. Riddler had not actually said who he believed the Batman was. That was just as well, when someone could be listening on the other side of the one-way window. And maybe Riddler had made a wrong deduction anyway.
"And what are you planning to do with this knowledge?" he asked. "A riddle that everyone knows the answer to isn't fun anymore."
"Of course." Riddler smiled. "I'll just hang it over your head for a while."
"Let's get back to the point." Batman fixed the other with a hard look.
Riddler nodded. "Alright, Batman." He looked back, his expression completely serious. "I know that there's certain cases where a criminal is granted immunity if they help on a case. That is what I want. The psychiatrists have already determined that I'm sane. I just have . . . certain impulses I have to learn to control. And I can do that."
The eyes narrowed. "Only the police could decide whether to give you immunity," Batman said.
"But you have some sway with the commissioner, don't you?" Riddler said.
"I don't trust you, Riddler. I can't tell the commissioner I think you should be let out."
A shrug. "You said yourself, you don't think I would let random people die," Riddler said. "And with Julie and Gorman in prison, I don't have anyone to take revenge on except the Friday Night killer. I would stay focused on that goal and not be sidetracked."
"The killer is supposed to be brought in alive." Batman continued to give the other a stern look. "Is being given immunity the only way you'll agree to help?"
"It would really be more profitable for you and the police, too," Riddler said with another shrug. "What I can do in here is limited. I don't have access to all the research I did. And it's stored where only I am allowed to get inside."
That was not surprising, but it half-sounded like another riddle. "I'll give the commissioner your message," Batman said. "But I won't say I'm supporting it."
"It all depends on how determined you are to stop this madman," Riddler said. "Apparently the commissioner doesn't think it can be done without my help."
Batman headed for the door, not wanting to speak for Gordon--nor to feed the Riddler's ego. ". . . Even if you're given immunity, it would just be a one-time thing," he said. "The instant you'd start committing crimes again, it would all be void."
"Of course," Riddler said. "But it all depends on what constitutes a crime, doesn't it."
Batman was not in the mood for this discussion. "It's not that difficult a riddle to figure out," he said.
He could sense the Riddler shrugging. "No, I suppose not," was the reply. "But right now I want justice, Batman, the same as you do. It's just that my idea of what would be justice is different than yours."
Batman pulled open the door. "I know," he said, stepping into the hall. The door closed behind him.
Gordon was waiting for him in the corridor. Before Batman could say a word, the commissioner spoke.
"I heard," he said. "He wants total immunity." The older man looked tired and resigned.
"Are you going to let him have it?" Batman asked.
"I'd rather not," Gordon frowned. "The sad fact is that I don't know where else to turn. Gotham P.D. was able to get some good clues to the original Friday Night killer, but they didn't come as close to the truth as the Riddler did. The man was obsessed. He studied every inch of the case and the murders religiously."
"It's the fact that he is obsessed that bothers me the most," Batman said. "Once he reaches his breaking point, he's capable of going into a frenzy. No one is safe from him when he's in that frame of mind."
"Then we'll have to make sure that doesn't happen," Gordon said, wearily massaging his forehead.
"And if it does, then he'll have to be stopped along with the killer," Batman said.
". . . That's the chance we'll have to take," Gordon decided.
Batman turned to go. "Then you've already made up your mind," he observed.
Gordon watched him head for the stairwell. "Batman," he said then.
Batman paused, waiting, but did not turn around.
"Riddler said he knows your true identity. What are you going to do?"
". . . Even if he really does, he won't tell anyone," Batman said, continuing his journey to the door. Opening it, he disappeared into the stairwell.
Gordon sighed as the door closed. "I hope you're right," he said to himself.
Edward Nygma frowned as he gazed at the closed door of his room. What Batman had said was staying with him, whether he wanted it to or not. It was true, what Batman had mentioned about the Riddler not going about killing random people. There were other villains in Gotham who did that, and he preferred to not associate with them when possible. But he also felt that it was true that he himself would not go out of his way to stop such crimes from happening.
If it was not the Friday Night killer involved in this, would he be interested at all? Or would he outright refuse any assistance he could lend? Probably he would have posed the idea of the immunity bargain in any case. He did not want to stay in Arkham.
For one thing, he did not trust the doctor. She had replaced Hugo Strange as the head psychiatrist after his own insanity had been discovered. And honestly, she was almost as strange as him. What seemed to drive her the most was uncovering the dark matters of the mind and figuring out just how human the criminals still were, if they were at all. She had allowed him to have his makeup because she had wanted to see if he would again fully turn to his Riddler alter ego. He had the feeling that she hoped he would.
One reason why he almost always answered her in riddles was because he did not want it to be perfectly clear what he was saying. The more she knew about the true him, the better chance she would have at manipulating him someday. He would not let her have that chance. And without actual proof or even mere evidence that she was out of sorts, he could not present his suspicions to anyone.
He was quite a selfish person; he knew that very well. Yet when he did actually open his heart and his trust to someone, he did all in his power to make sure that they were happy. He had tried to do that for Julie. She had responded by betraying him and blackening his name, and in a heartbroken frenzy he had attacked her. He was still very bitter towards her, but he was grateful to the Batman for doing what he could to stop the rampage. Now that he finally knew the truth, and had had a chance to reflect, he felt tired and angry and hurt but did not want to harm her.
On the other hand, he doubted he would ever be grateful if he was finally going to enact his revenge on the Friday Night killer and then was suddenly stopped. He hated whoever was behind those murders. He hated the monster for killing his uncle without a second thought, probably laughing or sneering in glee as it was done, and then shoving the body in front of a passing car while the driver cried out in alarm. For years he had waited for the opportunity to repay what had been done, his hatred smouldering in his heart. Now, unless this was a copycat, he had the chance.
The door opened. He came to attention again, looking to Gordon in the doorway. The older man looked exhausted.
"Batman told me what you wanted," he said. "I can't promise anything, but I'm going to see what I can do."
"Very good, Commissioner." The Riddler leaned back. "You must be feeling desperate."
"I feel that it's this important to stop the madman," Gordon returned. "But if you violate any laws, you'll either be coming back here or going to jail. Is that clear?"
"Perfectly." Dark green eyes studied him. "And now you should best be getting along, Commissioner. You have so much to do and you look so worn out."
"I'll decide when I will leave, Riddler," Gordon said.
"I'm just offering a little advice," Riddler shrugged.
Gordon sighed to himself, already regretting this decision. But it was, unfortunately, the lesser of two evils. It was a concern to have the Riddler at large, but the Friday Night killer was far more deadly.
"I'll let you know as soon as I know something definite," he said at last, and departed.
Edward leaned back into the pillow, turning to stare at the velvet night through the window. The stars reflected in his deep eyes, but he was barely looking at them. Instead he gazed off at a point beyond the twinkling lights, a dark smirk gracing his features.
What he was thinking was anyone's guess.