Disclaimer: I don't own anything of Justice League. I'm just a harmless fan who has nothing better to do in life than dream about these amazing characters.
Apart from the dull lampposts and a sliver of the moon, the parking lot was flooded in darkness. It was the perfect meeting place for criminal minds to convene. For as long as anyone can remember, drug dealers, potheads, knife-wielders, and greedy businessmen christened this eastern side of Gotham as their rendezvous. Money was quickly exchanged. On the site of their cash cow, contracts and conspiratorial glances were as fleeting as smoke. Flanked on both sides by abandoned warehouses, the misdeeds of these evil men were absorbed by the shadows. Not one shred of evidence could have escaped the parking lot's exit. Not even a whisper could be heard.
He squinted into the darkness. Glanced at his phone. No missed calls were received.
"He's late," Mr. Charleston muttered. He eyed the briefcase sitting next to him, touched it. He took a sip of his champagne to calm his nerves. He was usually a patient man but this place somehow unnerved him.
His "client", the man who was selling the flash drive to Charleston, suggested this location. It was supposedly the cops' blind spot. At that time, Charleston never gave it much thought. All he wanted were the photos and proof of embezzled funds that would implicate him if it broke into the media. He could not risk his reputation now that his campaign for senator was a few weeks away. He had to get the flash drive no matter what, at whatever cost. Even if it meant doing business with a man who he'd never seen or met before.
But this man—calling himself Killer Whale (what a joke)—was aggravating him by the minute. He cursed under his breath and dialed his client's number.
Suddenly, a knock startled Charleston, causing him to shriek and drop his phone. A hooded man was standing outside his car, his face covered by shadows.
Charleston saw a flash of white and identified it as the client's cocky smirk. He rolled down the window.
"You're late," Charleston said, trying to sound tough but his sweat-filmed face gave his fear away.
"Yeah, well, had to get rid of a tail," he whispered. He glanced from side to side and then nudged Charleston to open the car door. "Mind scooting over so I can come in?"
"You… you want to come into my car?" Charleston was caught off guard by such a direct request. It was rare for people—even with those of equal social and financial standing as him—to order him around. More so talking to him in a cool, raspy, fidgety manner. It was disgusting.
"Hey, did that money-hoarding brain of yours make you forget the rules I laid down once you step onto this soil?" he hissed, leveling his voice. "Either we do the trade, no questions asked, or we do your business in a concealed area that is your car. Take your pick, Senator."
Charleston reddened at the comment and then conceded defeat. He opened the door for the man. Even as the man slipped into the car, his face was masked in darkness. In one second as the man closed the door, Charleston could have sworn he saw a green glint that were the man's eyes.
"So, the flash drive?" Charleston said, planting the suitcase on his lap. As he was saying this, he surreptitiously inched as far as he could from the man.
"No need to be afraid, Senator. I'm just here doing business." The man, known as Killer Whale, dug the data out of his pocket. "You can double check if you want. I am in no hurry."
Charleston grabbed it, took out his iPad, and inserted the device into the socket.
As he was studying each file, Killer Whale asked, "Champagne?"
"Knock yourself out," Charleston practically forced it out of his teeth. After tonight, this nightmare would be nothing but a distant memory. Meant to be forgotten.
When a few minutes passed, Charleston closed his laptop and breathed a sigh of relief. He handed the briefcase with 5M in it to his hooded client.
Killer Whale didn't even open the briefcase to count his money.
"Nice doing business with you, Senator," he said, stepping out of the car.
Suddenly, a thought occurred to the aspiring politician. "Wait, you mentioned having to get rid of a tail…"
"Ah, yes. Thought you'd never ask." He leaned in closer. "This place may be out of the police's radar, but it ain't for the Batman."
And with that one word, Charleston's world seemed to implode around him. His face was the color of wax paper. He watched as the man called Killer Whale sauntered off into the night, quickly enveloped by the shadows. He stuttered, yelled at the driver to floor it.
When the car lurched forward, Charleston heard a beeping sound coming from his laptop. He opened it and a blank screen replaced his desktop wallpaper. In red letters, his death note was delivered.
"It's been fun," Charleston could hear Killer Whale's voice echoing those exact words in his head.
Those words were Charleston's last before the car exploded, leaving behind wild fumes, shattered metal and roasted meat pulsing with fiery zeal in that lonely parking lot.
"The bomb wasn't planted on the car," Robin inspected the charred remains of the late CEO, Robert Charleston. "Judging by the trajectory of the explosion, the car was imploded from the inside." He knelt down to study the debris from a closer angle.
"I knew I shouldn't have ordered that Chicken BBQ sandwich. Who would think that burnt flesh smelled like grilled chicken?" Kid Flash hugged his stomach, tasted vomit at the sight of their victim's roasted face.
Artemis gave him a disgusted look.
"Seriously, dude, how can you look at the guy that way and not feel like you just had him for dinner?" Kid Flash cringed when Robin was in kissing range with the dead man. "What are you doing?" Wally felt his face turn green.
Robin used his tweezers to pluck a piece metal from the Senator's cheek. "This doesn't seem to be a stray car part." He bagged it before putting it in his utility belt's pocket. "Think we're done here."
Miss Martian waved her arms in the air to unlock the plane's latch.
"So our mission is to expect a dead candidate's body? That's it?" Wally asked, feeling nauseous.
"Yeah, a dead man who apparently smells like cooked chicken." Artemis was the first to disappear into their ride.
"She—she never stops taunting me. I swear, Rob," Kid Flash started.
Robin patted him on the shoulder. "I think you're loving the attention."
"Oh yeah? Well, right now, all I need is some lovin' attention from a certain someone," Wally winked in Miss Martian's direction.
Miss Martian feigned looking the other way.
"Oh yeah, she digs me," he grinned.
Superboy surreptitiously rolled his eyes.
"I bet Aqualad is having more fun with Aquaman right now. I'd save sperm whales from reaching the Japanese digestive system any day." Kid Flash sighed.
"Was that what Kaldur told you?" Robin asked.
"Yeah. Something about saving whales from getting canned. Literally," Wally said.
"That's odd." Robin stopped in his tracks.
"What is?" Kid Flash asked, puzzled.
"He told me that he had to settle a score with an old friend…" Robin trailed off.
"Well, considering that the guy can communicate with sea animals, I wouldn't be surprised if his best friend turned out to be a shrimp."
"You mean crab?" Robin pointed out.
"Crab, shrimp, they're all the same." Kid Flash shrugged his shoulders.
"Don't tell me you haven't watched Little Mermaid." Robin said with one brow raised.
"Of course I have. Besides breaking the sound barrier, I'm your insider man in entertainment," Kid Flash boasted. "You're talking about the shrimp, right? Sebastian, was it?"
Robin simply stared at his companion, his jaw hanging slightly open.
As soon as they reached home, Aqualad, along with his mentor, was waiting for them.
Kid Flash rushed to their team leader.
"How are the whales?" he asked.
Kaldur nodded his head. "They are safe at the moment. But mankind has an obstinate nature to destroy the most harmless species." Aqualad glanced at his mentor for assent before continuing, "It turns out that your current investigation has strong ties with what Aquaman and I are involved in."
"You mean we get to go scuba diving in the Atlantic?" Kid Flash grew excited.
"Don't you mean the Pacific Ocean, Columbus?" Artemis retorted.
Kid Flash glared at her. She quickly returned it.
"Does it have something to do with you settling a score with an old friend?" Robin asked, ignoring the glaring contest between his two teammates.
"That is correct." Aqualad turned around to display the facts on the overhead computer screens.
Images of a dark-haired youth with angry emerald eyes stared back at them. His complexion was fair but he had a similar physique as Kaldur. The markings on his body and his webbed hands and feet could only mean that either he was a distant relative of Aqualad or he too was taken under Aquaman's wing.
"His name is Vanghor," Aquaman took the liberty to fill them in. "Like Kaldur, he was one of my most promising pupils. He was accepted into the school of magical arts and was even trained by me, along with Kaldur. But because I can only take on one student, the competition was fierce between Kaldur and Vanghor. In the end, Kaldur proved himself to be a worthier student. Not only was Kaldur great in combat; he also possessed outstanding leadership qualities." Aquaman looked at Kaldur with pride. "Vanghor is an incredible martial artist, however. He is also very cold and calculating."
"Vanghor has caused the extinction of many sea animals over the years," Aquaman continued. A look of disappointment crossed his features for a second.
"Is it an act of vengeance?" Miss Martian asked.
"Yes. He is our sworn enemy. Well, it is directed more at me, actually, Aqualad said.
"So how does this tie in with today's campfire session?" Flash asked.
Artemis scolded him. "Really, Wally. The man was just murdered."
"Exactly. Trying to add a little humor in the situation. Which you obviously do not understand." Kid Flash turned away from her.
Aqualad ignored their bickering and answered Kid Flash's question. "We believe that Vanghor is responsible for Mr. Charleston's death. While Aquaman and I distract him by foiling his most obvious plots, the rest of the team will investigate the mystery behind Mr. Charleston's murder." Aqualad pointed at a window that just popped up on the screen. "Hours prior to Mr. Charleston's death, he withdrew 5M in cash from a separate business account. If there is a connection, Vanghor is scheming something much bigger than luring sperm whales into Japanese borders." He paused, looked at his teammates. "So, what do you say?"
"That means we're not scuba diving?" Wally said.
Instead of falling into a quarreling loop with Wally, Artemis stepped forward and spoke for the team. "We're on it."
Aqualad nodded. "Thank you."
To be continued…
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