A Night at the Busted Flush
"A normal human can't rip a heart out of a man's chest with his bare hands," the Riddler said, shaking his head.
"I'm not ruling it out," the Penguin said, shaking his head. "Everything in the movie was supposed to be possible if not actually true."
"What do you think?" the Riddler asked Xander, as he delivered a round of beers to the table where a group of Batman's less homicidal villains were arguing over a martial arts movie that was getting a lot of press lately.
Xander frowned. "Barring drugs or insanity, which I think we can all agree can boost someone's strength beyond the human norm, it actually is possible for a normal human to rip someone's heart out of their chest with their bare hands, however the scene from the movie was crap as it takes several specific moves to do it."
"Seriously?" Catwoman asked.
Xander nodded. "The first blow is on the level of the heart but the center of one side of the chest, preferably the one most convenient to your dominant hand. This makes it easier for right handed people than left because the heart is usually slightly off center to the left side of a human's chest."
"You've done it," the Scarecrow said suddenly, reading Xander's body language.
"Yeah, kinda," Xander admitted. "Let me finish explaining the traditional way first."
"This I have to hear," a villain Xander didn't recognize said, joining the table in an outfit similar to Catwoman's, so Xander mentally dubbed him Catman.
"The first blow has to break, not shatter mind you, but break, those two ribs in the center. Now you are advised to have medium length sharpened nails on your dominant hand, but that's mostly to help your confidence, because using a rigid hand you have to pierce the chest between those two broken ribs."
"Is that even possible?" Catwoman asked in shock.
Xander nodded. "I never said it was easy, but it is possible. There are martial arts techniques that can be used to strengthen your fingers enough to accomplish this. Anyway, you have to curl your fingers inside the wound and pull the target towards you while pushing your other hand in as well. Now you have to pull apart the flesh which is a lot easier as the simple break in the center of those two ribs will allow the wound to spread like... let's just say a hole."
"Thanks," Catwoman said dryly, trying to pretend she wasn't turning green.
"The person I learned it from was not in any way politically correct. Anyway, the hole should be big enough to plunge your hand into and you'll need a bit of space to draw back so you can pierce the lungs and travel the six to seven inches needed to grab the heart," Xander explained.
"The target would have died from shock at that point," Catman said.
"Nah," Xander shook his head. "You have to do all the steps mentioned so quick they won't have time. Now if you've shattered the ribs, it's harder to open their chest and you'll likely have both, more trouble pulling your fist out, and cut yourself on the bone. Those edges are sharp, but if done properly then remember to twist and pull and you will have maybe two seconds before lack of blood flow shuts down the target's brain."
"So you can show it to him before he dies," Penguin said.
Xander nodded. "Brain death takes a couple of minutes, but consciousness is gone seconds after blood flow is stopped."
"And you've done this?" Scarecrow asked.
"Not exactly," Xander said. "I've attempted, and I guess it is a pretty funny story."
"How can ripping out someone's heart be funny?" Catwoman asked.
Xander shook his head ruefully. "The events surrounding it are pretty gruesome, but the event itself actually was pretty amusing."
"Really?" Scarecrow asked. "Please go on."
"Ok, well my home town is a bit darker than you get around here," Xander admitted, causing some stares. "We had a door to hell in the center of town that you could never fully close, so our town attracted... people you guys wouldn't wanna associate with."
"This group?" Catwoman snorted.
"These guys raise a little Cain and play havoc with the insurance rates, but I'm pretty sure none of them ever earned a medical degree for the sole purpose of keeping a twelve year old girl alive as long as possible while you sliced off and ate bits of her."
Muttered curses and looks of disgust swept the room.
"Yeah," Xander agreed. "Now there are two additional pieces of information you need to know."
"It gets worse?" Riddler asked in horror.
"Not quite," Xander shook his head. "See, the guy I tried to rip the heart out of would do this and sacrifice the girl on her thirteenth birthday, so if you could get there a couple of days before her birthday, she would be completely unharmed."
"Why would someone do such a thing?" the villain Xander dubbed Catman demanded.
"Because he was straight up evil, a real demon," Xander replied. "See, he devoured a 'heart full of wrath' at least once a month because he believed it kept him strong."
"How would a little girl be considered full of wrath?" Penguin demanded, upset.
"She wasn't," Xander shook his head. "See, he had an ability that allowed him to screw with minds so he made someone else believe it was their younger sister."
Scarecrow nodded in understanding. "He made you believe it was your younger sister."
"Exactly!" Xander agreed. "A corrupted champion was his bread and butter, but instead of my friend - a well-known champion - he got me. I was so pissed at someone trying to harm my little sister that I swore I would rip his heart out of his ribcage with my bare hands and show it to him before he died."
"And you actually studied how to do it while trying to rescue your sister?" Catwoman asked in surprise.
"I was raised to keep my word," Xander replied, not wanting to get into how the oath provided a weakness in the demon's magical protection.
"I don't think even Superman takes it quite that far," the Riddler noted.
Xander shrugged. "I studied the traditional ways and realized I didn't have enough time to learn them if I wanted to save my sister, so I cheated a little."
"How so?" Scarecrow asked intently.
"I said I would rip it out of his chest with my bare hands, not that I would make a hole in his chest with my bare hands," Xander said with a grin.
"So you deliberately set out to kill him?" Catman asked.
"Him and his twelve friends," Xander replied cheerfully. "They'd done this once a month for well over a decade and this was to be their one hundred and sixty ninth sacrifice. They'd passed the point of 'needed killing' long ago."
"A hundred and sixty eight victims," the Riddler said with a sigh.
"Three hundred and thirty six," Catman corrected. "They killed pairs."
"Actually it was a lot more than that," Xander shook his head. "They also killed for fun, believing that as long as they killed and devoured the pair on schedule, they were blessed and untouchable. A dozen deaths a week would be a conservative estimate for the group."
"And no one had caught them?" the Scarecrow asked.
"They mainly killed drifters and the homeless while moving from city to city," Xander explained. "The few people who had caught on just became additional victims."
"Please tell me you killed them all," Penguin said.
"Me and my friends tracked them down and killed them," Xander assured him. "I used a weighted glove with a set of sharpened brass knuckles to make a hole in his side before reaching in and pulling his heart out."
"And where's the humor in it?" Catwoman asked dryly.
Xander grinned. "I reached straight in, grabbed his heart, and pulled it straight out."
"You forgot to twist," Catman said in understanding.
Xander bust out laughing. "Exactly. Has anyone here ever used a slingshot?" The assorted villains, who were hanging on his every word, nodded. "Since I forgot to twist it, all the veins and arteries were still connected and it was slippery. So I yank it out and he's staring at it in horror when it slips from my grasp and vanishes back into his chest with a sort of splat noise." Some of the regulars snickered at the cartoonish imagery Xander had brought to mind.
"Then what did you do?" Catwoman asked.
"I pulled a wooden stake out of my belt and shoved it through his heart," Xander said. "While my friends took care of the dozen cultists and untied my friend's little sister. We went out for ice cream and went to bed early because we had school in the morning and it was already two am."
"You hunted serial killers while in high school?" the Scarecrow asked.
Xander nodded. "It kept us busy and beat the hell out of the other school clubs."
"Bah," the Toy Maker said, from a table halfway across the bar. "Sounds like a tall tale to me."
Xander's hand vanished up a sleeve and reappeared a second later as he flung a wooden stake across the room where it sank point-first into the dart board just below the bull's-eye, making everyone jump.
Xander jumped and rubbed his butt from where the bartender had snapped him with a towel. "Don't scare the customers," she ordered, before returning behind the bar, muttering about finding the only person who could scare off her customers.
"How many people have you killed?" Catman asked.
"That's a tricky question," Xander replied, heading to the bar to pick up more drinks. "People implies a lot of things that don't necessarily fit."
"Like what?" the Scarecrow asked.
"Well, people isn't exactly an objective term. I've heard pet owners claim their pets were people."
"How about humans, meta or otherwise?" Catman asked.
"Probably a couple," Xander admitted, "but the majority of what we dealt with wasn't human, even if they were wearing a human body."
"How could you be sure?" Catman asked.
"Sometimes you couldn't'," Xander admitted. "But a handful of school kids and a British librarian were all that stood between the Earth and the forces of hell, so our moral justification was a lot better than you'd think."
"Why aren't you guarding it now?" Riddler asked nervously.
"Got magically banished somehow," Xander replied. "Imagine you got a door to Heaven as well as Hell... like an elevator. You guys live on the tenth floor. We lived on the second, if not the first."
"So your world is closer to Hell than it is to here," the Riddler said.
Xander nodded. "Fun fact, opening a portal to my world is technically opening a portal to a hell dimension."
"Suddenly I appreciate Gotham a lot more," Catwoman said. "To Gotham!" she toasted.
"To Gotham!" the bar chorused, almost to a man.
"It may not be much, but at least it's not his home town!"
AN: Ordieth on the keyboard!