The Avalon Hill patrol is the most coveted on the BHPD beat. As Bludhaven's sole upscale area, Avalon Hill is almost a vacation for rookie officer Dick Grayson and his partner, Sgt. Amy Rohrbach. Their usual daily run-ins with drug dealers, prostitutes, and drunks were replaced by a more sophisticated type of street crime, like muggings and shootings.
This reality gave Dick his first gritty, realistic impression of Bludhaven as a whole. What's considered 'upscale' in Bludhaven barely passes for inhabitable in other cities.
Still, patrolling The Hill meant much less work, as the frequency of crimes requiring police attention drops from one every seven minutes to about one every half hour. Many officers get this particular patrol as a reward for good deeds (or services rendered, as the case may be). For Dick Grayson, it had been much easier. Drawing the Hill patrol was as simple as having a partner that the Duty Commander is hopelessly in love with.
"You know, we can probably keep this patrol if you marry him," Dick said matter-of-factly.
"Shut up, rookie," Amy replied, perturbed. He hadn't let up since they left the squad.
"I think a nice slap on the butt'll get us a week, easy."
"Can it, Grayson."
"Maybe a couple days at a time if you just let him tell people you're dating," he said, choking on a grin.
Amy sighed. She always preferred the days when her partner came in late looking as though he hadn't slept. At least then he stayed quiet in the car, concentrating only on staying awake so he wouldn't spill coffee on his uniform.
"If I can get him to give us a month for a French kiss, will you do it," he asked.
Dick chuckled to himself, a crooked smile playing on his lips as he looked out the window. Then his expression suddenly changed.
"Amy, stop the car."
She pulled over, recognizing the rare, serious tone in his voice. "What is it?"
"That guy that just ducked into the alley…he was wearing a trenchcoat. It's awfully hot out for a trenchcoat," Dick replied as he exited the vehicle, walking quickly in the direction of the alley.
Amy cut the engine, removed the keys, and followed after him. Her gut told her to call him to a stop to wait for her. But as much as he sometimes irritated her to no end, he had excellent street instincts. Still an inexperienced patrolman, her partner had demonstrated some very advanced skills. 'Just enough to earn him the benefit of the doubt,' she thought.
She caught up to him just as he rounded the corner. The man was gone. Dick wanted to run to the opposite end to see if he could catch up and follow him for a while, but this was a cop patrol, not a Nightwing patrol. "Too late. Might've been nothing. Mind stopping in the hotel to take a look, just in case," he asked with a shrug.
"Lead on, rookie," she answered, rolling her eyes.
The hotel wasn't one of the area's nicest by any stretch of the imagination. Because it was located on the outskirts of the Hill, just outside Thrawn Park, the Fulton Hotel had to fight for its share of visitors, and the drab, unkempt exterior proved it was a losing battle. The inside isn't much better.
They strolled into the lobby just as a scream erupted from above them. Dick and Amy both broke into a run up the stairs to the third floor, following the echoes of repeated shrieks. They drew their weapons cautiously as they stepped onto the third floor landing. Dick spotted the screaming woman cowering against the wall, directly across from an open door.
Dick moved quickly past the door, pulling the woman away with him. Amy took her position on the opposite side of the door and they both brought their weapons up, preparing to enter. She locked eyes with Dick and nodded three times. On the third, they turned to enter the room. Amy swept into the room at a crouch, as Dick did the opposite, standing straight, covering the high ground.
"Dead guy," Amy said, nodding her head in the direction of the prone body lying on the floor with several gunshot wounds.
"Ya think," Dick asked as he quickly checked the bathroom and closet of the hotel room. He gave her the all-clear signal indicating that they were indeed alone, and they both holstered their weapons.
Amy gestured for Dick to tend to the woman while she spoke into her radio, "This is Five-Lincoln-Fifty-Six. We need a meatwagon and DT support at the Fulton Hotel, intersection of Ninth and Crenshaw, over."
"The lady says she didn't see anyone. Just found the body when she came out of her room, Sarge," Dick said.
"We'll stick with her until the snoops show up," she replied, pulling rubber gloves over her hands. Privately amused, Dick followed suit, knowing full well the BHPD detectives and crime lab would most likely goof up any actual evidence anyway. That being as it was, he decided to take a look around. He surveyed the room without moving, taking in all of the visual clues he could without arousing Amy's suspicion.
About ten minutes later, Detective Stuart Sexton arrived on the scene, shooing Amy and Dick outside so he could conduct his "investigation." Sexton was known to be a mean drunk and arguably the Hill's worst detective. He was also the type of cop that took great pride in bragging about his meager detection skills. After less than fifteen minutes in the hotel room, Sexton emerged, a scowl on his face.
"Not much to go on in there," he said to them, obviously meaning to begin an investigation lesson. "See, it's obvious the perp kicked in the door and started shooting before the guy could make any noise," he began.
Dick nodded, thinking silently to himself, 'Yeah, except there's no footprint or indentation on the door itself. What actually happened, Detective Lobotomy, was the perp knocked and waited for the vic to answer. If you'd taken the time to notice the GSW through the victim's right hand, you'd know he was shot through the door as he was releasing the chain.'
"So there wasn't a struggle of any kind. Guy got shot twice in the chest and once in the head, point blank. Most likely a pissed off girlfriend or business partner, or maybe just a robbery gone wrong."
Dick looked at Sexton wide-eyed. "Wow, you can tell all that just by looking around for a few minutes," he asked, feigning astonishment. 'You missed the large bruise on the victim's throat, genius. His first instinct had been to defend himself, not cry out for help. That gave the shooter time to give him a punch or chop to the throat to keep him quiet. Didn't shoot him point blank, either; no contact burns or obvious residue, and if he'd been closer than a few feet away, there would be more exit wounds than just the one on his hand. The nice gold watch on his left wrist also pretty much rules out a robbery, and a smart girlfriend wouldn't ice him in a hotel, where it'd be easy to surmise that he'd bought it during a rendezvous.'
"When ya been doing this long as I have, kid, you can figger these things out just by looking around," Sexton answered, smug pride written all over his face.
"Cool. Could you get anything about the gun?"
"Nah, it's gonna take ballistics a while to get any info on the cannon the perp used. No real clues as to what kinda gun in there."
"Aw, that's too bad," Dick said, hanging his head, trying to stifle a laugh. 'There's a blasted bullet on the floor by the window! And the entry wounds alone should tell you it's a .22, hardly a cannon. The spin markings on the bullet make it pretty easy to narrow down the list of possible murder weapons. Only two real possibilities, in fact. Most likely a Smith & Wesson 22S…semiautomatic, 11-shot capacity, 5.5" bull barrel, single action, internal hammer, .312" target trigger, partridge front sight, adjustable rear, weighs about 48 ounces. Could be a Ruger SP101, too, but the Ruger takes a lot of modification for a silencer. This floor's pretty crowded and no one reported hearing shots of any kind, so a silencer was definitely used.'
"Don't worry it, kid. I'll get it sorted. These kindsa amateur shoots're pretty easy. You guys can take off," Sexton said as he walked back into the room, reaching inside his jacket for his flask.
Dick and Amy walked down the stairs beside one another. Dick spoke as they reached the ground floor, safely out of Sexton's earshot, "Professional mob hit, right?"
"Yup. Good eyes, rookie," she replied.
"Now now, Sarge. Don't start flirting with me. Save it for the duty commander."
"Shut UP, Grayson," she exclaimed.
Dick sat at his desk in front of his home computer, reading through his pilfered copy of the coroner's report. The victim's name was John Westcott, a small-time numbers runner and street thug. His rap sheet revealed his status as a world class scumbag, listing everything from armed robbery to credit card fraud. What kept him out of prison was twofold; mob connections and his listing as a certified informant for the BHPD. He'd been supplying the force with information on the Infantino mob family for nearly two years. The DA was putting together a case, and whether Westcott knew it or not, he was going to be their star witness.
Dick came to the obvious conclusion that a few hundred dollars donated to a BHPD file clerk had supplied the Infantinos with Westcott's file and location, and the rest was history. 'So who's pulling triggers for Tino nowadays,' Dick silently asked himself. The Infantinos had been keeping things pretty low-key of late, no doubt because of the impending indictment and trial.
So it'd be easier, Dick figured, to track the gun. Most professional hitters use a weapon once, then ditch it. Finding it now would be nearly impossible, but finding the guy that sold it to the shooter wasn't. Infantino's boys were pretty exclusive when it came to buying firearms. Dick activated his video connection to Oracle and was greeted by her smiling face within seconds.
"Evening, FBW. If you need info, my price has doubled," Barbara Gordon said in jest.
Dick smiled brightly, waggling his eyebrows. "Extra-long striptease or double the whipped cream?"
"Mmmmmm, you pick. What's up?"
"I need a location and background on Benny Lassiter, arms dealer for Tommy Infantino's boys."
"No sweat. Give me a minute," she replied as she began typing.
"While you're at it, punch me up some flowers to be delivered to Larry Doherty, duty commander at my station house. Think of something sweet and sign it 'Amy.'"
Babs laughed as she typed. "You got it, short pants. Pimping your partner for a primo patrol, huh?"
Dick nodded his assent. "You know it. Nightwing's working a case in Avalon Hill, and it may come in handy for Officer FBW to stay on that beat for a couple days…"
"Yeah, and it'll drive Amy absolutely nuts."
"Well, then there's that," he replied.
"Okay, here we go. Benny Lassiter, 1427 Crestside Avenue, penthouse. He should be an easy pinch, but I doubt he's a rat," Babs said, getting down to business.
"Hrmmm, anything to work him on?"
"Let's see… He's been seeing an Elisa Sanchez for a few months now. She owns an S&M club in the Zee Moores. She's taken a couple collars for indecent exposure; apparently likes her evening escapades kinky and public," she replied with a smirk.
"I see what you're getting at. Caught twice, huh? I guess some people just aren't as sneaky as we are, gorgeous."
Babs laughed, her face blushing. "If that's all, I'd better go. I've got this sudden urge to go to confession…"
Benny Lassiter arrived home a tad past midnight. The message he'd gotten from Elisa through his service was extremely inviting, so he stopped for some champagne. As he entered the apartment, he saw rose petals on the floor, spread into a trail leading him down the hallway.
"Hot damn," he said, setting the champagne down. He followed eagerly.
The trail led him up the stairs to his rooftop balcony. As he swung the heavy door outward, a fist connected solidly with his nose, sending him flying down the first flight of steps, landing in an unconscious heap.
The pungent stench emanating from a capsule broken under his nose brought Benny out of his forced slumber. Looking down, he noticed with trepidation that he was being held in a standing position, leaning way back over the ledge of his 14-story apartment building. Looking forward, he was faced with the man holding him there, masked and muscled, looking none too pleased.
"Have a nice nap, Benny," Nightwing asked, using The Voice.
"D-d-don't drop me, man. W-whaddaya want?"
Nightwing leaned him back a bit further over the ledge. "I won't ask twice. You sold a Smith 22 handgun to someone connected to Tommy Infantino. Who was it?"
Benny looked down again, suddenly losing control of his bladder. This man was holding him with one arm, and the prospect of sudden death began to loom in Benny's mind. "I-I dunno! I swear!" He grabbed Nightwing's wrist with both hands, as hard as he could muster. "Y-you drop me, a-and y-you're coming with me."
Nightwing shrugged, the stoic features of his face unchanged. "I'm Nightwing, Benny. A superhero…Batman, Titans, and all that. I can fly."
"D-d-dammit, man. H-he'll kill me!"
"Newsflash, Lassiter. He killed a guy already. You tell me what I need to know and I'll make sure he's locked away. You don't tell me and you're a suicide waiting to happen. First step's a BITCH," he growled, loosening his grip on the cowering man.
"NO! N-no. His name's H-Hadley. Simon Hadley. Th-they call him The Silencer."
"How appropriate," Nightwing said, pulling Lassiter back to the safety of the rooftop. "Where can I find him?"
Lassiter quickly rifled through his wallet and pulled out a card. "Here's the address I took the gun to, just don't touch me no more."
Nightwing took the card and smiled. "Thanks, Benny. You're all heart." With that, he leapt from the rooftop.
"J-Jesus! He CAN fly."
Dick Grayson found himself again in front of his PC, working his way through files on Simon Hadley, though background info was proving scarce. 53-years-old, long rap sheet, no hard convictions. His longest stretch inside was four years in Blackgate on a weapons charge that violated his parole. Word on the street has him being a mob hitter for the last twenty-five years.
There was no doubt that he punched Westcott's ticket, and the reason no one spotted him on the street after the shooting? He was staying in the hotel right behind the Fulton. 'There's something very sinister about a killer so confident he won't get caught that he hangs his hat no more than a hundred yards from the crime scene,' Dick thought.
He had enough evidence to bring Hadley in for Westcott's murder, but the chances were that the BHPD cops that brought him in would use the evidence to recycle him; use their leverage as blackmail to make Hadley work for them. Dick had run across similar situations far too often in Bludhaven, and he'd be damned if Hadley would prosper from a murder on his beat.
'So I need a good cop to come through on this bust. A Bludhaven detective not on the take. Hmmmmm… You know, it's the rotten two hundred that spoil it for the other six…"
Captain Phillip Aswal Addad lives in Thrawn Park near the river, just west of Avalon Hill. The river runs between Island Point and Mealtide, emptying into the Narrows. His proximity to the Bludhaven waterfront always provides his apartment with the fresh smell of diluted sewage, which is why he stops for scented candles three times a week on his way home from the precinct. As he entered his humble abode, he heard proof that his neighbor had already arrived home. The telltale blare of 'The Dead Lizard Cult' emanating through his wall made him sigh resignedly.
He ferociously pounded on the wall four times, and the music stopped moments later. The 'little talk' he had with his neighbor about 'probable cause' for a 'search warrant' resulting in the discovery of 'herbal narcotics' had its intended effect, it seemed.
Addad walked into his kitchen and opened the large refrigerator door.
"Yesterday's Chinese or another night of macaroni and cheese," he asked himself.
"I'd go with the Chinese. Trust me, you won't want it tomorrow."
Addad slammed the refrigerator shut and drew his sidearm. The masked man standing behind him had his hands up in mock surrender. "Up against the wall and spread 'em!"
"We barely even know each other, Philly! Is it okay if I call you Philly?" Nightwing stood motionless, then suddenly reached out and seized Addad's gun in a quick, fluid motion that left the detective speechless. Nightwing removed the ammo magazine and cycled the bolt, ejecting the chambered round, then handed it back to Addad.
"What do you want?"
"I'm not here to fight, Detective. I have information for you on the Westcott murder. Just wanted to make sure it ended up in the hands of a cop that'd actually do the right thing," Nightwing said in a calm voice, offering a floppy disk to Addad.
He warily took it from the masked crimefighter. "And what makes you think I'm that cop?"
Nightwing shrugged. "On the list of honest detectives in your precinct, there's you and a bunch of dead guys. It was a tough choice, but seeing as how I hate going to the cemetery at night…"
Addad dismissed the comment and moved to his computer, placing the disk in the floppy drive. A couple of mouse clicks later, he was perusing the information Nightwing had gathered on the case.
"It's all there, Captain. Hadley pulled the trigger, Lassiter supplied the gun, Infantino gave the order. Hadley's location is verified, but I don't know how long he's sticking around. Might be best to move on it soon."
"And I'm just supposed to trust you," he asked, anger and doubt evident in his expression.
"Trust me or don't, just check it out. If it's on the level, you get the collar and another murderer is off the streets. If it's not, then what have you lost?"
Addad considered Nightwing's words for a moment. "Get out of my home."
Nightwing exited through a nearby window and headed home, confident that Addad would give his information the attention it deserved. 'And who knows? Maybe it'll be the start of a partnership of sorts between us. I could sure use the help,' Nightwing thought as he made his way back to his apartment.
The following day, Officer Dick Grayson paid close attention to the police scanner as he enjoyed another day cruising Avalon Hill with Amy. Addad had indeed followed up on his information, but the ensuing raid on Hadley's hotel room was ill timed, thanks to a bad tip from the hotel manager. Hadley wasn't there, and word was sure to get back to him that the police had been there. Finding him would now prove much more difficult.
The good news was that Hadley hadn't yet checked out, and the evidence they found in his room was substantial.
After his shift, dinner, and the sunset, Nightwing was again a fixture on Bludhaven's skyline. Heading out early, he stopped by Addad's office to do a little spying. He lowered himself from the roof to Addad's window, hanging upside down to peek inside. Seeing Addad inside, talking on the phone, Nightwing activated his audio amplifier and listened in.
As luck would have it, Addad was discussing the Westcott murder…
"Yeah, we're looking into that. I know, sir, but this thing has just gone multi-jurisdictional on us. The notebook we found lists names and dates of 48 murders, only a handful of which I recognize…Yes…No, sir…I've got the list right here, hang on," Addad said into the receiver as he picked up a small notebook.
"That's right, Philly…just a little more to your left. Lemme get a look at that list," Nightwing said, activating the magnifying lenses in his mask.
Looking over Addad's shoulder, Nightwing could only make out the first eleven names on the list and began committing them to memory:
05/27/72 – Roger Maitland
08/14/72 – Charlene Edwards
01/26/73 – Freddie Baxter
06/17/73 – Amanda Smith
10/08/73 – Thomas Wayne
10/08/73 – Martha Wayne
02/04/74 – Josh Hill
08/30/74 – Orlando Quintaro
01/06/75 – Henry Forsythe
06/18/75 – Logan Roberts
12/21/75 – Michael Osborne
"…no…," Nightwing whispered in disbelief. And then something occurred that had never happened to him before.
For no physical reason, Nightwing lost his hold on his line and fell.