Blood dripped once, twice onto the banister as it bit into soft skin; pale hands tightened their grasp, silken dressing gown brushing against delicate ankles. Far below, up above, all around, the lights of Gotham glowed, even at three in the morning. The sounds of a car backfiring drifted up to mingle with choked sobs, and blinking traffic lights reflected in tear tracks. Heels lifted off the ground, blonde waves brushed against a golden wedding band, and sky-blue eyes widened as balance was lost, a scream echoing along the valley of apartments as twenty-three stories to the ground passed in a blur.
The Spider Man theme song brought Rachel roughly out of her dreams and she flung one hand out to grab at her phone, the other wiping at her eyes as she tried to open them. Her clock read three-thirty in the morning; she'd had an hour and a half of sleep. No wonder she couldn't keep her eyes open. She gave up and flipped the phone open.
"Harleen Quinzel is dead."
That made her eyes fly open and she jolted up onto one elbow, automatically reaching for someone who wasn't there. She gritted her teeth through the sting and sat up fully.
"According to him, they had a fight and she ran out to the balcony in tears. Next thing he hears is a scream as she falls."
"Uhm." The District Attorney slid out of bed, thankful she'd talked her landlord into letting her carpet the bedroom as her bare feet hit soothing plushness, flicked her bedside lamp on and squinted in the sudden brightness as she headed to her bureau. "Where is he?"
"Gordon's got him in a special cell at the police department. He called 911 as soon as he realised she'd fallen." There was disgust, mistrust, and probably several other -ust words colouring Bruce's tone. Rachel ignored it as she hopped up and down, slipping into panties before pulling her Bluetooth out and fixing it in her ear.
"Uh-huh. He went with the police willingly?" She set her phone down, now able to get dressed without dropping it or getting a crick in her neck.
"He's been very helpful." Sarcasm dripped from him.
"Knock it off, Bruce," Rachel snapped as she flung her closet open and reached for the first pair of slacks hanging up. "It's been ten years."
"It's disgusting that he didn't get the death penalty, and letting him out of Arkham was insane!" her friend exploded. "He's probably been planning this whole damn thing ---"
"Do not yell at me, Bruce!" Rachel snarled. A sensible white button-down shirt and knee-high pantihose were donned as she fumed at him. "For the last eight years he hasn't done a damned thing wrong, and you know the last incident was clearly self-defence! He can't do a damned thing without permission --- no bank account, no driver's license, no car, nothing. He has nothing, and now his wife's dead. Go back to flying around the city; thank you for telling me, and I'll see you in the morning."
She hung up before Bruce could say another word, sweeping her purse and keys up before flying out the door. She ran the brush she kept in her purse through her hair on the elevator ride to the parking garage, and in less than five minutes was on her way to the Gotham police department.
"Rachel, what are you doing here?"
Despite his words, Gordon didn't look anything but relieved at her presence and Rachel smiled at him as she slipped her lipstick into her purse. He held his hand out and she shook it firmly, then he slid it to her elbow to carry her through the press that had mobbed the police department.
"Bruce called me. What've we got so far?" They slipped into the building and he kept his hold on her, guiding her through the halls. "Bruce just said that apparently they had a fight, she ran out onto the balcony, and he heard her scream as she fell."
"That's the story he's sticking to. None of the neighbours heard anything until Dr. Quinzel screamed; there's no record of domestic violence for them, and the neighbours recall hearing them yell at each other once or twice, but can't remember exact dates. From all points, it looks like Dr. Quinzel did simply lose her balance and fall."
"Their balcony railing was that low?"
Gordon sighed. "That's the only thing he's being evasive about. Here, he's being questioned --- he refused a lawyer. Dr. Quinzel's lip was cut open; the coroner said it looks at first glance like it was bitten through."
They stepped into the observation room and Rachel's throat constricted at the sight of him, slumped in his chair and looking off to the side. He was wearing bedclothes, ordinary bedclothes, and the shirt wasn't buttoned evenly. His hair hadn't been brushed, but it was clean, and he clasped his hands in front of him as he turned his wedding band around and around on his ring finger, his scars pulled into a frown and she swore his lower lip was trembling as he shook his head at the interrogator's latest question. That sight, and the look of shocked grief on his face, made Rachel's heart go out to him. Gone was the mass-murdering psychopath that had terrorized her, taken her world from her, almost, a decade ago, and in his place was a man who had just lost his wife, and was the prime suspect in her death.
"He's doing it wrong," she murmured.
Gordon leaned toward her. "Hm?"
"The detective. He's treating him like he's guilty. May I . . . ?" She jerked her head at the man, and Gordon watched her for a long moment before sighing.
"Are you sure?"
She looked at the figure, his head now bowed as he shook it again, and nodded. "Just . . . don't tell Bruce." She rolled her eyes as Gordon nodded his permission and clicked the intercom. "Hanson, come on out." The detective scowled and marched out of the room, and before Rachel left the observation room, Gordon stopped her. "We're keeping him here tonight; we've gotten a few death threats."
"Oh, Lord . . . Does he know?"
"All right." She left and paused outside the interrogation room door, taking a few deep breaths to calm herself. Then she pushed the door open and he didn't even look up, not when she closed it, not when the clicking of her heels announced her gender, not when she stopped in front of him. She swallowed. "My apologies for Detective Hanson."
His head snapped up as he drew in a ragged breath, dark brown eyes wide and mouth a slightly crooked 'o' of surprise. Rachel offered a small smile and gestured at the chair across from him.
"May I sit?"
He stared for a moment, then clicked his jaw shut and half-stood, reaching his hands out in a "please" sort of gesture. "Of, of course, Ms. Dawes. I didn't think they'd call the D.A. in just to question me." He sat only after she did, a bit of courtesy that was touching and eerie, considering his past.
"Mr. . . . Napier, you haven't been charged with anything. We just need to figure out what happened to make your wife fall. There are a few points you've been evasive on; the sooner we can clear this up ---"
"I didn't push her." He shifted in his seat as he spoke, head lowered again and looking up at Rachel through his bangs. His eyes, now that she was closer, were red. He sighed and rubbed his forehead before resting it in the palm of his hand. "I . . . I just . . ."
Rachel poured him some water and he took it blindly. "I'm not here for vengeance, Mr. Napier," she said softly. "Please, tell me everything ---"
"We were having sex, all right?!" He jerked his head up again and his tongue flashed across his lips, then worried at the corner of his scars like it was a nervous habit. "I know I'm not allowed to, but we'd had a few drinks, then we were . . . we . . . I didn't mean to, I just bit her too hard when I . . . and Harleen got scared, and she ran out, and then she fell and now she's dead and everyone thinks I killed her, don't they?" Rachel jumped as he slammed his fists on the table, face screwed up in anger and agony. He was forcing his words out through sobs, snarling at himself. "And I did, didn't I? I didn't mean to, but I killed Harleen."
Rachel glanced at the mirror and shook her head. Woozy from alcohol, sex and fright would have been enough to impair Dr. Quinzel's judgment, maybe enough that she didn't realise she was so close to tipping over. Gordon would be requesting that the coroner verify that the woman had had sex recently, as well as her blood alcohol levels. Right now, though, Jack Napier was cradling his head in his hands, shoulders shaking with silent tears.
"I tried to stop her," he muttered before Rachel could ask him to continue, "I tried to apologise, but she grabbed her dressing gown and ran out to the balcony. I was just coming out of the room when she screamed." His voice dropped to an aching whisper. "I watched her fall," he groaned. "I watched her fall, I saw her hit the ground . . . and I couldn't do a damn thing to stop it from happening. The one time in my life I wanted to stop someone from dying, and I couldn't . . ."
The intercom clicked as Rachel stared at the man in front of her, a silent request that she leave. She swallowed tears for him and stood. "You're not being charged with anything at the moment, Mr. Napier," she assured him again, "but we've received several threats on your life." A muffled 'Let them kill me' greeted that, but Rachel went on. "You'll be staying here for the time being."
"Hope it's a better cell than last time," he muttered, raising tear-filled eyes to watch Rachel. "I'm sorry. That was in bad taste." He wiped at his face and sighed. "Does it feel good? Seeing me like this?"
The intercom clicked again, and Rachel looked at the mirror as she answered.
"No, Mr. Napier. It doesn't. An officer will be in presently to escort you to your cell. I advise you accept a lawyer; it won't hurt you, and it might help," she finished over his protests. She looked back at him as she unlocked the door, and he had returned his gaze to the table as she left.
There was a gigantic, unhappy bat in the observation room. Rachel sighed and leaned her head back against the wall as she rolled her eyes.
"You weren't supposed to come down here," he rasped at her. Rachel wondered if it was a voice box he used --- it had to be, otherwise he'd have ruined his voice by this time.
"I'd have come down in the morning anyway," she told him curtly.
Gordon was studiously watching the two guards escort Napier from the room, ignoring the bickering crusader and D.A. behind him.
"You don't know that he's innocent ---"
"According to the law you flap around to uphold," Rachel snapped, "he is. Until we find evidence that he drugged her or pushed her, he is innocent. The man's just lost his wife, for Chrissakes! Have a little compassion!"
He advanced on her and she stood her ground. "Are you forgetting he almost blew you up? Are you forgetting Harvey?"
The slap that echoed made Gordon turn in shock, and Bruce was silent as a white palm print started fading to red. Rachel shook her hand at her side, trying to ease the sting out of it.
"Do not talk to me about Harvey," she growled at him. "I remember full well what the Joker did, and I do not need you to remind me. Don't you dare bring Harvey up to me, ever again, do you understand me?"
He stared at her for a few more moments, the turned and stalked out.
"And I hate that stupid outfit!" she snarled after the door had shut, before remembering the other man in the room. "God, Gordon, I'm so sorry that just happened ---"
"It's all right," he told her. Then he sighed. "Technically, we could throw him back into jail for drinking, but . . ."
"He's here already, and . . ." Rachel sighed. "It's hard to bust a man who's just lost his wife."
"Do you think he's telling the truth?"
Rachel leaned against the glass and rubbed her throat idly. "If it were anyone else, yes. Him, though . . . I don't know, Gordon. He seems so sincere. So attached to Dr. Quinzel . . . I mean, I heard the rumours when they got engaged, but she'd made so much progress with him . . ."
"But rehabilitated doesn't mean cured," Gordon reminded her, and she nodded. "I'll need to read up on his conditions, but I'm not sure he's prohibited from drinking in his own home, with his wife."
"Alcohol, sex, the shock of him biting her so hard . . ." Rachel nodded and approximated the distance from a balcony to an apartment, then moved a chair into that space and turned it so the back was to the door. "Look, she's a little tipsy, right?" Gordon nodded as Rachel stood by the door. "She's been having sex ---"
"The neighbours said it was usually . . . ah . . . enthusiastic," the commissioner offered.
Rachel nodded. "Tipsy, amazing sex, then wham! He bites into her lip and it's harder than he intended, and now she's bleeding and suddenly afraid. Make sense?" Another nod. "Now, she pushes him away, jumps up and runs out." She ran slow-mo to the chair, grabbing it with both hands as her 'speed' brought her right up against the back. "Running a bit too fast, head starts spinning, and whoosh, over she goes." She leaned over in example, one foot kicking up behind her as she raised an eyebrow at Gordon. "Yes?"
"Makes sense." He hesitated. "Now . . . what if he did push her?"
Rachel pursed her lips with a frown and thought. She wasn't as defensive with Gordon because Gordon was clear-headed in regards to Napier and his past as the Joker. If Bruce even thought the Joker was being brought up, angry pigheaded stubbornness surfaced and he was impossible to talk to.
"If he did . . . No signs of a struggle?" Gordon shook his head. "Then maybe he bites her, she struggles a bit and gets out of his grasp --- if they were having sex, the bedding would be messed up anyway --- runs to the balcony to . . . what, scream for help? He comes up behind her and shoves? That doesn't make sense. Why not just run out the front door?"
"She was wearing a dressing gown," Gordon pointed out. "What if he was chasing her, and the balcony was her only chance to get away? Close it on him and start screaming?"
"She'd have to open it to get out, then close it, and that would have taken a lot of time," Rachel countered. "Unless it was already open?"
"They were very private; kept it closed and the blinds drawn most of the time."
"Makes sense, but then that doesn't match up." She sat in the balcony/chair, chewing on her lower lip. "Remember when that burglar broke in last March?" Gordon sat across from her and nodded. "I threw things at him, I screamed, and I ran out the front door. I didn't think to go straight for the balcony, and my neighbours hear me yelling in the apartment. The guy wasn't even armed. If he had been, I'd have been screaming my head off." She sighed. "We'll need the coroner's report, of course, and the CSI team needs to finish up, but just thinking about the situation, murder seems highly unlikely. Besides, he's got more to lose than gain, you know?"
Gordon ran his hands through his hair. "So it seems, but his motives were always his own and never sensible to us, remember? Maybe he just got . . . bored."
"Rehabilitated doesn't mean cured," Rachel repeated softly. Then she yawned and Gordon stood up.
"Thank you for coming down, Rachel. Go back home; if anything drastic happens I'll call you."
He was urging her up and Rachel let him, the adrenaline that had been singing through her veins since Bruce's first words slowly draining out of her.
"Thank you, James." Rachel smiled at him. "I think I know a lawyer who can represent him. He just moved to town; doesn't have quite so much baggage as the rest of us."
Gordon's eyes crinkled at the corners as he walked her to her car. "But you'll deal with that after you've slept, right?"
"Of course," she promised, looking up at him as she slid into her seat. They shared a long look before she smiled. "You get some sleep too, James."
"I'll try. Be safe."
"Always." He shut the car door and stood back, watching until Rachel had driven out of sight before turning back to the police department and the sudden mess he was in.