Notes: Thanks so much to everyone who's been following this fic! It's been one wild ride to write. I'm eager to write more in The Batman universe, and I hope everyone will stick with me for the next ventures!
The reign of the Friday Night killer had ended.
Commissioner Gordon had marked the casefile closed upon arriving at the office later on Friday morning, but it was a bittersweet victory.
The Chessmaster was locked away in the Arkham Asylum infirmary. He was recovering from being hit by his own electricity beams, but the shock had done something to what was left of his mind. All he wanted was to talk about chess. No one who spoke to him could get a sensible statement from him.
The rest of his chess pieces had been taken into custody. The police were still trying to sort out which ones had committed what murders. So far, three had been charged with counts of murder and attempted murder--the red-headed king's bishop among them.
Gorman was recovering from the attack on the laboratory and the beating he had received courtesy of the knight. He was back to his usual self, complaining about the hospital and wanting to get out. The staff was just as eager to be rid of him.
And Yin had found a weak pulse when she had checked Julie for lifesigns--something the Riddler must have missed. It had taken Yin a while to find it herself. Julie was in critical condition from the two bullets she had taken, but she was expected to heal. Yin bitterly wondered if Julie would care when she was told about Edward Nygma's death. Yin was considering being the one to break the news to her.
She herself was far more affected by his death than she had ever thought she could be. When she had finally returned to her apartment the previous night, she had barely slept. Instead she had lain awake, staring at the ceiling as the images had flashed in front of her eyes again and again. It was always the sight of him sprawled on the floor, dead, that got to her. At last she had rolled onto her side, gazing off at a point between the wall and the floor until at last she had fallen asleep. Today she felt like a zombie.
And Bruce Wayne had been even more reserved today than usual. Both Dick and Alfred were worried about him.
"He's been really upset that things turned out the way they did," Dick said as they watched Bruce head out the door for work.
Alfred nodded, his eyes narrowed in concern. "This case has weighed heavily on Master Bruce's mind," he said, "both now and in the past. I can only imagine how he felt to discover that Mr. Nygma had departed from this life."
Dick frowned, watching the limousine drive away. "Do you think he'll be okay, Alfred?"
Alfred hesitated. "Yes," he said then, "in time." But he was not sure how much time would be needed.
That night, the Bat-signal illuminated the night sky. Commissioner Gordon was summoning Batman, deeply concerned over something that had happened that past day. When Batman arrived on the roof, he found both the commissioner and Detective Yin waiting.
"What happened?" Batman asked. His voice was more abrupt than usual.
"The Riddler's body was stolen from the morgue late last night," Gordon told him. "The pathologist discovered it gone this morning, but she didn't report it until later. She couldn't imagine who would have taken it."
A deep frown came over Batman's features. "Was anything else taken?" he asked.
"Only the man's clothes and that cane of his," Gordon said.
Yin looked at Batman. "Do you think the Riddlemen broke in to steal his body?"
"I don't know." Batman was still deeply frowning. This was not something he had expected. Hardly anyone even knew of the Riddler's involvement in the case--or so he had thought. With the information leaking left and right, maybe the Riddlemen had learned of it too, and then had also found out about the Riddler's death. But what reason would they have for taking the body? To bury it themselves? Maybe they had not wanted it to be turned over to the state. The Riddler could have even told them in the past that if he died, they should take his body.
"One other thing," Gordon said. "This sheet of paper was left in the freezer compartment where his body was."
Batman took the paper, his eyes narrowing further at what was printed on it.
"When you don't know what I am, I am something. When you know what I am, I am nothing. What am I?"
"I am a riddle," Batman murmured.
"That was the first riddle he gave us," Yin said, "that night at city hall." She crossed her arms.
Batman nodded. He remembered very well. This note had not been idly written.
"What do you make of it?" Gordon asked.
"I don't know." Batman frowned, studying the paper.
"It almost sounds like he left this there himself," Yin said. "But that's impossible, isn't it?"
After everything he had already seen in the past few years, Batman was not sure he agreed. Among other things, he had encountered a psychotic clown, a substance that enabled its victims to shapeshift into any possible form, a plant-controlling eco-terrorist, and the legendary Dracula. Was the Riddler returning from the dead any more strange and unlikely than any of those things?
"Maybe it's not impossible," he said now.
Gordon and Yin looked at him in surprise.
Batman was facing towards the lights of the city. His cape blew out in the slight breeze that was picking up, silhouetted against the full moon.
"Maybe," he said, still holding the note, "we haven't seen the last of the Riddler."