Summary: This was only the start.
Warning: mentions of murder, obviously. Nothing too graphic, I hope. Some language.
Thanks to: DarkPhoenixIncarnate, for helping me out a lot (and I do mean a whole fucking lot), for being my BETA (for content, style) and always encouraging me. Sorry for the delay, love! And to CodenameEternity, for BETA'ing for grammar.
I also really want to thank everyone so far who has taken to time to comment, fave and/or alert, because I really do appreciate that! Thank you so much for your kind words everyone.
Note: since I had quite a few comments asking me why Wally isn't a suspect, I thought I should fix that. I don't really know too much about Barry, but he seems like a father-figure kind of person to Wally and I thought I couldn't really mess him up in ... five sentences or something. If I did, though, please do tell me XD
It is perfectly possible Wally's alibi does not make any sense whatsoever and a better one could easily be thought of. I tried, let's hope it pays off.
Also, don't we all just love thematic naming of chapters?
Chapter Five: Illuminating Possibilities
Wally was greeted by the clock in the kitchen of his flat showing an absolutely furious 3 am in bright red digital numbers. He didn't bother flicking on the lights, knew the way by heart and he was only passing through. He bumped into the corner of the table and made a face as the bruise started to form, knowing it would be gone by the time the sun would come up again. Tiredly, he made his way to the living room, dwelling in the doorway for a couple of moments while he debated whether to get some sleep or go over the facts again.
Knowing the first option would be useless, he decided to go with the second. Every second could mean the difference. The big difference, the one that deserved a capital letter D. The Difference between life and death.
He tried desperately not to think of Batman's words, still repeating over and over in his mind, like a messed up mantra.
Once in the living room, he flicked on the lights and cursed against the sharp pain flashing through his head as his pupils adjusted to the sudden contrast. He made a lazy leap across the room and ended up in his couch, face first, buried in a single pillow pushed against the arm rest.
For a few moments, he remained absolutely motionless, trying to still his mind, to bring it to a full stop, to think of nothing at all, not of Batman's words, not of sliced wrists, not of bloodstained floors, just nothing at all.
He thought of Lynn's desperate eyes, blood dripping from her lips and he shot up again, grabbing for the papers on his coffee table. So far, all he had was notes he scribbled down himself. He shot another look at the clock, almost feeling cheated when only a few minutes seemed to have passed. He wondered how badly he would annoy Batman by stopping by now. Not that he was likely to sleep at this hour, perhaps he was still patrolling. The bag in which he stored the fibre and the picture of the footprint were laying on the coffee table as well. Perhaps it was better to wait four more hours, have breakfast and pretend to go to work early and run the DNA test at work.
Then again. Gotham was just a few minutes running away and having to wait four more hours seemed like the plot of the kind of horror film Wally really shouldn't watch anymore. He tapped his fingers on the coffee table to a non-existing beat as he tried to come up with a decision.
A last glance at the clock and Wally decided that even if Batman was still awake, he really shouldn't be and Alfred might not appreciate him stealing the few hours of sleep 'Master Bruce' had left by barging in. Not that he'd ever admit it, much too polite and kind for that.
Wally frowned at the window, as if the empty streets were the cause of the tightness in his chest. The street lamps were still on, illuminating the pavement, abandoned. His eyes felt like burning and he vaguely realised he was really tired and he shouldn't be awake anymore either and the rational part of his brain told him that going over the notes he had in this state would be absolutely useless.
He really should get some sleep. Or at least try to.
He leaned back in the couch, eyes on the piece of paper he was holding, but not seeing anything. He got up again, as a wave of rage came over him, overwhelming in power and intensity. He walked to the kitchen, to try and divert his thoughts, shake of the feeling, restless, deciding flicking on the lights was worth it and opened the fridge, frowning at how ridiculously empty it was. There was a half-full bottle of milk left and he knew there was some cereal in the cupboard. He took the bottle and placed it on the table, opened the cupboard, put it on the table, grabbed a bowl, put it on the table, became incredibly annoyed at the routine by the time he got the spoon and closed the fridge by hitting it with his hip.
The bottle cap of the milk refused to open and Wally's hand slipped on it, bruising slightly and -
Screw this, Wally thought.
Suddenly fed up with the whole world he grabbed the bottle, gritted his teeth and smashed it across the room. He watched it fly towards the open door, then suddenly realised just what he did and what a mess it would bring, made a dash for it, and intercepted it before it would hit the frame and breaking apart, milk spilling on the wood and the floor all the same, glass shards flying through the air.
"Fuck, fuck," he cursed and the sound of his voice, strangely broken and full of weird hitches made it all worse and he cursed again, and again, until he was too tired to do even that, slumping against the door frame and sinking to his knees, until he sat on the ground, the bottle of milk between his legs. Forcing himself to look at his hand, he confirmed that there was nothing actually wrong and he was being obnoxiously childish about this. All of it. Childish and useless.
He got on his knees, grabbing the bowl and the cereal, using the box to swipe the spoon of the table.
His stomach felt like it was on fire and it wasn't because of the lack of food in it. He shook the box and concentrated on the way the cereal fell into the bowl, then on the way the milk poured from the bottle after successfully removing the cap, the sound the cereal made between his teeth, trying to calm down, just calm down. He would get nothing done by being a mess. Lynn wouldn't get better because he was smashing bottles towards the wall, or cursing the world. Hell, he wouldn't feel any better.
He just needed to calm down.
Inhale. Exhale. Deep breaths. The way his Uncle Barry told him to do when he would loose control, remembering the way he would say it will be alright, gentle and calm and unfazed, as if he never forgot just how exactly breathing was done, as if the world never turned too slowly, as if he'd never lost a single battle in his life.
It had been so many years, but Wally still wished he could be like that.
. . .
The annoyingly loud and constant beeping of his alarm clock shook him out of his reverie. He pushed himself off the floor and put the bowl in the sink, his movements entirely automatic. He tried not to think too hard of how once more he didn't sleep at all, tried not to think too hard of anything, focusing on his actions, focusing on putting the milk in the fridge, focusing on the way the door opened and closed. Thoughtlessly, Wally changed into clothes that weren't all wrinkled and threw a quick look at himself in the mirror, instantly regretting it.
There was something unnerving about looking in the mirror, about looking at his own reflection and seeing red-rimmed eyes, green like he remembered them to be. Still his, as well, but he couldn't quite place the look anchored in them. Couldn't quite recognise himself and he decided he didn't want to go down there, didn't want to follow that train of thoughts, for the railways would bring it into dark places and Wally never really liked those.
He averted his eyes again, splashing cold water in his face to get rid of the sleepy look, combed his hair just for the sake of it, grabbed his keys, managed to get his shoes on without a single thought and then slowly walked to the coffee table. He felt a strange wave of sickness rushing over him again as he bend over and took the plastic bag containing the fibre, folded it neatly and put in his briefcase (which looked so sophisticated he simply had to buy it out of sheer irony) and -
Lynn's eyes were huge and hazy, staring at a point in the distance where something had happened, a point in time she couldn't undo, couldn't erase, staring right through him, staring right past him and -
There were three knocks and one "Central City Police, open the door please," before Wally realised someone was actually at his door and he frowned deeply, as if the air would tell him why the police was at his door. He felt a slight moment of hope at the thought they finally put someone on the case, then a wry taste as it dawned on him that this wouldn't exactly be a visit to tell him that.
"Just a second," he screamed, while he thought, great, just what I needed.
He quickly checked if his smile was polite enough in the mirror (a little lopsided and tired around the edges, but sure, it would suffice) and opened the door.
"Sorry," he apologised, then forcing his lips to spread a little wider. In the door opening stood a woman, tanned skin, brown eyes, brown hair in a low ponytail, and he recognised her as Liz Turner. She was a pleasant woman, easy with her smiles and kind advice. Next to her stood a man he didn't recognise, but whose glare could rival that of another blue-eyed, dark-haired person he knew. Well, not really, but it was still scary. Wally hadn't seen him around yet, which told him he was either very new or not even ranked high enough to deliver the evidence.
"How can I help you, Agent Turner, Agent ...," he said politely and trailed off so the man could fill in his own name.
"Foster," he said sharply.
"Wally," Liz smiled fondly. "Actually, we were hoping you could answer some questions for us."
"At the station," Foster clarified, a small smile around the corner of his lips.
Wally tried to smile politely. "Of course, let me just call my boss I'll be a little late."
"That won't be necessary," Foster interjected again. "He won't be expecting you today."
"Partner..." Liz trailed off, frowning slightly. "Perhaps this isn't the best time..."
Wally threw a look at Foster and didn't even care if it was still polite, feeling a suspicion dawning.
"We'll tell you in the car," Liz tried, smiling a little, but it was off and Wally felt the feeling set in stronger.
Fuck, he thought again, this was going to be one of those awful, awful days that always seemed to last forever. The smile on Foster's face didn't ease that feeling at all.
. . .
Wally held a staring contest with the wall in front of him, scowling. He was getting rather professional in this whole wall gazing thing. His scowl deepened as he remembered the gloating sparkle in Foster's eyes as he told Wally he'd been suspended on ground of suspicion of the disappearances at the orphanage.
They had made him hand in his badge and clearance card and all the while that asshole had smiled like he had done something heroically awesome and Wally had gritted his teeth and reminded himself punching an officer in the eye wasn't going to help his case.
Didn't mean he couldn't think about it though.
It wasn't like he didn't get the suspension, of course, they wouldn't let a prime suspect anywhere near evidence. But that fact, like everything else, didn't make it any less annoying.
After that, they had taken him down the station. A quick glance at his watch told him he had been here for already 47 minutes and 28 seconds exactly. Something had 'come up'.
He knew the tricks.
He knew they would make him wait almost an hour, Liz would perhaps apologise, Foster wouldn't bother at all, just to make him feel useless and captured, just to show he could and there was nothing Wally could do about it. Getting the suspect on edge so he'd spat out things in his anger, in his annoyance, not think as clear. It was all a show, these interrogations, intimidation and power.
Wally knew all of this and was still annoyed at it. This was just a waste of time, time he needed. Every second lost made the chance of finding Molly smaller, of finding any of his girls back. He should be working, non-stop, annoying the hell out of Batman, rivalling his obsession levels and he should be racing around town, and he should be doing something.
Instead, he waited. Waited. Waited.
From the corner of his eyes, Wally could see the door fly open, and even though he'd seen the moment from miles away, he pretended to jump in his chair when the door hit the wall hard. Foster, satisfied with the result, walked around Wally, standing his full height and Wally followed him with his eyes, pretending to be impressed.
It kept him from outwardly being annoyed.
"Sorry to keep you waiting," Liz smiled fondly and closed the door, sitting down.
Second time being right today, he was on a roll.
Foster slammed down his file, flipping it open. Wally pretended to jump again, just slightly, fidget in his chair.
"Eight girls," he stated. "Eight orphans."
He slid the pictures harshly in Wally's direction. Wally swallowed, preparing to see the familiar faces. When he did, his heart trashed against his ribcage painfully and he felt something cold settling in his stomach, something like ice, something clawing and biting.
"All gone missing."
He shifted again, trying to get the pressure building in his chest away, fidgeting slightly. The air was getting harder to breathe, his muscles ached from being still so long, he wanted to run, he wanted to move, he needed air. God. He needed air. The walls seemed to be pressing closer and all of sudden he became aware of how small the room was, how close he was to the walls, how close the concrete was to him, how airtight the door seemed to be locked. He stared at the double glass window, trying to see through it.
His eyes ghosted over the pictures of the smiling faces of those children he loved so much and would probably never see again, his eyes straining in the bad light.
(Wally liked to pretend it was the only reason his eyes felt like burning.)
"And then there's this girl. Number nine."
He slammed the picture down this time, his hands obscuring what was shown, then lifted it and Wally bit his lip. He'd seen the image a thousand times, but it still made him sick and there was something about the rationality, the methodical way of picturing only Lynn's open wrists and sliced tongue that hit him like a punch in the gut. As if all she had been reduced to was this, blood and open wounds, evidence and pieces and nothing else. As if she wasn't Lynn Sullivan at all, not a girl he taught how to ride a bike, not a girl who liked drawing butterflies more than princesses and loved The Little Mermaid most of all the Disney films.
Just evidence in another horrible police case, just a picture in a file.
"Now, would you care to tell us what exactly happened that night, Friday the 17th, between midnight and one am? And don't even bother telling us you weren't there. We have witnesses enough."
Wally tried to control the sickness he felt and blinked against the burning behind his eyes, and he must've looked a lot more pained that he realised, because Liz smiled fondly, softly. "It's alright, Wally, just tell us your side of the story."
Wally nodded, keeping his eyes off the pictures, looking at Liz's face instead.
"I'd stayed at the orphanage, for Lynn's nightmares. She'd been having them for a while now," he started, trying to keep his voice on the same level. "She woke up and went to the bathroom, a little after midnight. I waited for her, for what must've been fifteen, twenty minutes? Something like that, I suppose. I thought she might have taken the chance to get herself some milk or something from the kitchen so I went out to check on her. That's when," he swallowed, gesturing at the picture without looking, "that's when I found her like that. I treated her wounds as good as I could and then took off to the hospital. Half way through, I saw Flash running around, on patrol or coming back from something, or whatever, and I called out to him and he took over from there."
"Well, that's convenient," Rick replied, unimpressed, raising an eyebrow. "He just happened to be there? Walking around, right place, right time?"
"Luckily, he was, yes," Wally snapped, a little harsher than he meant to, swallowing back his anger. "With all due respect, but if Flash hadn't shown up, Lynn might've not made it. I wouldn't call that convenience. I'd call that luck."
"So, if I get this straight," Foster summarised, dismissing Lynn's saved life like it was of no importance. "You were around at the time of the attempted murder, you were the last person to see this girl and you didn't notice a little girl being brutally attacked? Is that correct?"
Wally clenched his fists so tightly he felt his nails digging in his skin, feeling the blood leave his face as the muscles tensed underneath his skin, the way he did before he'd land a punch. The walls were coming in closer still and he had a strange moment where he realised the words I understand in response to Shayera's claustrophobic attacks wouldn't be out of pure politeness anymore. The air was like fog, like there wasn't enough oxygen for three people in this tiny, tiny room and he felt something like acid spreading in his veins, forgot how to speak all together at the insinuation.
(Slowly now, slowly. Inhale, exhale. Losing control will do no good. Inhale, exhale. Stay calm, stay controlled. He was only doing his job, only covering grounds. He didn't mean anything. He was innocent. He couldn't help it. She made no sound, she made no sound. How was he supposed to know if there was nothing but silence, how was he supposed to know?)
"It's alright Wally, we're not saying you did it, but you have to understand, that story is a little ... suspicious," Liz interjected calmly, laying a hand on his shoulder.
"Sometimes the truth is, Liz," Wally replied, making sure to look straight in her brown eyes, digging up old memories. "How about the Fields case? If that wasn't a suspicious truth, I don't know what is. But it was the truth, wasn't it? We proved that. You did some good thinking and I brought you the evidence. We proved that, we managed to pull it off. I'm sure stranger things have happened."
"Yes, of course," Liz said soothingly.
"You can ask Katie, I told her when I left," Wally said. "I told her I would stay with Lynn, for the nightmares. I just -" he covered his eyes with his hands, dragging out the process blinking, dragging out the process of breathing, dragging out the moment, trying to find a little strength and energy. "I just wanted her to stop having nightmares."
"Drop the act," Foster gritted out as he slammed his fist down the table again, leaning over it until Wally could smell his breath, notice a small scar running over his cheekbone. "You think we're falling for it? I'll tell you what I think! I think you're a sick fuck who likes those kids a little too much. Spending so much time at that orphanage, taking really good care of those kids, I can imagine. I think you like the little girls, getting off on the way they scream! Tell me, is it the sound she makes, or the face when you -"
"Rick!" Liz interjected. "Partner."
"I think you fucked up somehow, I think she fought a little too much, made a little too much noise and they were going to find you out," he continued his tirade, walking around Wally again, leaning down until his mouth was right next to Wally's ear. "I think I'm going to enjoy putting you behind bars, asshole."
Wally dug his nails in his jeans, blinking and dragging out the progress, as if he never wanted to open his eyes again. He felt something burning in the back of his throat, burning like acid, burning like all the words he would like to say, all the things he wanted to do and couldn't.
He forced himself to breathe despite the burning, turning his head slowly until he was looking straight into agent Foster's eyes.
"I think you should get some serious evidence to back that up, Agent Foster."
"Oh, I will," he spit back, straightening up again.
"Wally, we'll solve this case, promise," Liz took over again, her soft, gentle voice terribly out of place. "We will find some justice for these girls, whoever did it, alright?" She stood up, as if nothing had happened, walking to the door and opened it. "If you remember anything at all, let us know."
"Of course," Wally spoke tensely. "Good day, Agent Foster, Agent Turner."
He walked away, ignoring the stares of colleagues and the whispers around his back, his head held high, every step seeming to take an eternity. The twenty metres of distance between the room he had just exited and the door seemed like a distance he would never be able to cross, a race that would take his life by the time he reached the finished line.
His hand on the doorknob felt like liberation and he barely made sure to be out of sight of any curious onlookers before he changed in super speed and ran.
. . .
The world at super speed had a certain eerily beautiful quality about it. Since his first experimental run nearing the speed of sound, Wally had loved the stillness off the world around him, the way everything seemed so clear and calm. In motion, everything seemed brighter, colours more vivid, moments caught before they could fled. Even though his speed caused the images his brain received to be slightly disturbed, he had long since learnt to compensate for this.
He accelerated slightly when his feet hit the Pacific Ocean. He seemed to cross half of it in a few strides, as his sense of distance always was blown out of proportion at such speeds. Running on water was always harder and he usually didn't much enjoy the sensation, but he found himself concentrating on the way the water felt underneath his feet, if only to concentrate on nothing else, concentrated on the way tiny droplets of water splashed around his legs as he ever so briefly made contact with the surface. He tried not to think of anything else, just movement, clear his mind the only way he really knew how to, wanted to run faster than the words in his head.
He would never. He would never. The mere thought of the possibility made him want to throw up things he ate in second grade.
He saved a girl from getting hit by a car in Tokyo. Disarmed two muggers in Seoul. Caught a series of fragile vases in Beijing. A fire in Samarkand and he found the boy huddled in the corner, dizzy from the smoke, placed him into the arms of a distraught looking man, who had the same eyes. Rescued a little cat in a tree in Baku.
Istanbul. Naples. Madrid. Lisbon. He ran through them all, and by the time he stopped suddenly, only to realise he's in Gotham City, his heart stopped doing this painful twist and he lost count of the accidents he'd prevented. He tried to remind himself this is what usually made a good day.
He can't quite bring himself to smile.
. . .
Once he calmed down enough to think clear again, he sped back to Central City. It took him five hours to collect all of the security tapes of the pharmacies, of which there were considerably more than he ever thought possible. It would've been sooner, but it seemed everywhere he went, people wanted to kill each other, intentionally or not. And that wasn't even counting how long it took to convince some of the owners to let him borrow the tapes. Of course, he got why they weren't too keen on giving away the tapes to everyone who asked, but he got them easily enough for police investigations and he was Flash.
He smiled friendly and thanked the young girl behind the counter who handed him the last tape as he walked out, putting it with the others. To be sure, he ran through the city again to check if he had passed every single pharmacy. Satisfied with the fact he had, he turned around again, speeding towards Gotham City once more. When he neared the entrance to the Cave, he accelerated, becoming so fast, he knew no one would possibly be able to perceive him, even if they were looking for him.
He came to a sudden halt in the Cave. He limited the effects of his sudden stop, but a load of papers still flutter up and swirl down towards the ground. He frowned and realised he must've been a lot more tired than he thought he was.
He put a little effort into collecting all the papers before the hit the ground and handed them back over to Batman, smiling apologetically.
"Sorry," he muttered.
Batman took the papers and flipped through them, arranging them again. He didn't even look up from his work as he asked, annoyed: "Do you have to be an idiot?"
"Do you have to be an asshole?" Wally fired back. He really wasn't in the mood to be treated like this. Really, really wasn't.
Batman decided that little comment wasn't worth to be dignified with a response and simply ignored it, as if it never happened at all.
"Do you have the results of the DNA test?" he asked instead, still arranged the papers.
"Nope," Wally answered, between light-hearted and annoyed, then quickly sliding towards the annoyance. "Got suspended, so no more running tests for me."
"You're a suspect," Batman stated, for it was hardly a question.
"Yeah," Wally admitted a little put off, then, trying for the light-hearted approach, he continued: "but it's not like they actually got anything on me, so it doesn't matter."
Batman didn't look like he bought the half-hearted attempt at brushing it off, but didn't comment on it. Wally pretended not to be grateful. Batman gestured at a device to his left. Wally recognised it instantly. It very much looked like a fancier model than the one he used at his work, but still unmistakably the right device. He knew the gesture was permission to use it, so he got the fibre out of the bag he with him, walking towards it.
"Crap," he said suddenly, hesitating with the plastic bag open in his hands.
"Is there a problem?" Batman asked.
"I just thought that this wasn't going to be of much use if we have nothing to compare our DNA to, unless you happen to have Central City's DNA database on your computer."
"Of course, I have it," there was smallest ghost of a smirk.
Wally grinned as he carefully placed the fibre in the machine, as he stated, half in disbelief, half in amusement: "of course, you have it."
Wally carefully placed the fibre in the device, putting it on. He paced through the room, waiting for the test to finish. He couldn't sit still, this could be the first solid lead on the case since they started.
"Come oooooon, come oooon," he encouraged the system nervously, ignoring Batman's glare. "Finally!"
He threw a look at the machine, vaguely impressed and walked back to it, only to stare at it and walk back to Batman. The pacing kept on for a while, as he felt his heart beat faster in anticipation. This could be their very first concrete lead. If the monster was in the database, they could find him, they would have evidence against him, and he could shove it in Agent Foster's filthy face and gloat at him for a little and -
"It's useless," Batman's voice broke Wally's optimism.
He turned around sharply, back at the chair. "What do you mean useless?"
"There wasn't a genetic sample on the fibre," Batman clarified.
"I'll scan it again," Wally informed him, stubbornly, as he went for the machine again and activated it, even without Batman's permission, feeling almost thrown off centre because of Batman's words.
"That's not going to change anything, West." Still. That rational, cold voice of his. Like it didn't matter at all.
"It has to!" Wally snapped back, whipping his head up and glaring harshly. His heart felt cold in his chest, a strange feeling of helplessness creeping up again. "It has to. We need to have some kind of link! We need to have something!"
"West, calm down. Simply because this is a dead end, doesn't mean everything is."
"Don't you -" Wally snapped, looking at the screen, showing a red "Error: No Genetic Trail Was Found" sign at his face and he gritted his teeth. The words seemed so final, so dead, so definitive. Tough luck, here it ended, no genetic trail was found.
He felt another wave of inexplicable anger, the kind of anger that filled him and he couldn't get out of him, just this suffocating feeling. He fidgeted and felt his face go through at least seven different expressions, until he settled for a disturbed frown, and sighed.
"Alright," he said, more to calm himself than anything else. "Alright, this was to be expected."
He dropped his shoulders, fighting something bitter and cold inside him. This was to be expected, he told himself again. Couldn't be helped. He would find another lead, something else. There would be something else.
This was just the start.
. . .
. . .
Sorry for the delay, everyone! But here I present to you, another chapter! I don't have an awful lot to say about this, really, just enjoy it. Other characters will make an appearance, but since it's mostly Bruce and Wally centric, I'll also be writing about them most XD Pretend the others are doing important stuff around the world.
See you at the next update!