Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.
Archive: Fine, but if you want it, please ask first.
Feedback: Hell, yes. Baeden2020
Note: I'm not a doctor nor do I play one on TV. Any and all medical mistakes are mine and mine alone; which is good reason to be grateful that I don't practice medicine.
He raised the gun, target in sight. It was an easy shot, anyone could make it from this distance. Fish in a barrel, that's what it was.
No big deal; just another assignment. Easy-peasy, no muss, no fuss. In and out, finished and done then have dinner and a beer.
That was what it was supposed to be. That was what it should be. Just another day at the office for which he was well paid. And that's what it was until push came to shove, then it wasn't as SOP as it had sounded when he'd been given the job.
The whole key to how he made a living was to stay detached, not think, get it done. If you didn't do that then you'd take work home with you and that was the end of your livelihood. You stop, you pause and you were done.
But this time he did pause, something he'd never done before, not on a job. The target had walked out of the back entrance, avoiding the press and a bunch of young girls; fans, no doubt, waiting for a picture or autograph. In the secure lot he pulled on a custom leather jacket and helmet, adjusting the fit, shrugging and flexing his shoulders like they were sore.
He was well-built, not that it would help, and he looked slightly older than his assumed eighteen years. Probably good-looking, from what he could see and, in all likelihood a nice kid from a nice family.
It didn't matter.
Raising the rifle he started to take aim, then pulled back as a man appeared from behind one of the parked cars, walked over and started talking with the target. Helmet pulled off, placed on the bike's seat, they seemed to settle in for a chat, laughing at something he couldn't hear, trading jokes from the look of things. Or maybe they were just BS-ing about the day's work. Could be.
Who cared, they were screwing up his schedule but then, in his business waiting was part of the game.
He settled back again, patient. The new arrival was blocking the shot, just standing too close and large enough to make a clean shot a problem.
How long could they talk? The both probably had places to go, places to be, things to do—didn't they? He sipped the cardboard coffee container, now gone luke-warm. He could wait and if today didn't work, then tomorrow was soon enough. Impatience pushed into the background, he waited.
He sipped some more now cold coffee, wishing that he had more and that it was hot. The sun was getting low and the rooftop was windy, it was unpleasant to be there, unmoving and he could feel his fingers begin to cramp. His legs were getting sore, too, from inactivity; he'd been here almost three hours, waiting.
Turning his head slightly he watched a flock of birds—geese?—flying low between buildings. If they banked left and went far enough they'd be in the flight path of Goodwin International Airport. Maybe they'd get sucked into an engine, at least that would give him something to look at. All right, he chastised himself, he didn't want anyone to get hurt, he was just bored.
That made him smile to himself. He didn't want anyone to get hurt, that was rich. But the truth was that he didn't, he didn't wish anyone ill, didn't want anyone to get hurt, wanted sick children and puppies to get better and really wished that someone would actually find a cure for cancer and everything else.
He didn't even have anything against the kid down there killing time jawing with that off-duty cop. He didn't. It was just a job, just another assignment. The kid hadn't ever done anything to him.
It wasn't personal.
It surprised him how many people didn't understand that, though (he admitted to himself) perhaps it shouldn't.
At last the cop, the man talking to the kid turned his head, someone was calling him back into the building. With a smile and a nod, he went back inside, left the boy alone.
Shouldering the rifle again he sighted as the helmet was replaced on the boy's head, supposed to be giving protection. A simple motorcycle helmet wouldn't even slow down the caliber he was using. It wouldn't make any difference.
He sighted on his target.
Taking a deep breath, mentally settling himself, he centered on the boy's chest where he judged the heart was beating then gently squeezed the trigger.
The boy was thrown violently backwards by the impact, his body spun around and forcing him to fall over the motorcycle onto the pavement on the far side of the bike.
Not wasting time to make sure he'd accomplished his assignment—he knew he had—the man disassembled the rifle in seconds, replacing the pieces back in the Velcro secured pockets of his 'working' jacket, which he turned inside out so that the blue side was out, the tan side acting as a lining and left his hiding place. Removing the wig he'd been wearing, he stuffed it into a pocket leaving nothing to suggest he'd changed his appearance before attempting his escape. The roof access stairway was out of sight line of the police parking lot and he was down to street level and calmly walking away from the rear of the building unseen less than thirty seconds later.
He could just hear the noise and chaos starting, resulting from what he'd just done. Shouts, squealing wheels and, a moment later, sirens in the distance from an ambulance. He continued his sedate walk away from the scene, stopping into a small bodega for a bottle of cold water, turning like any tourist would to watch the emergency vehicles squeal past.
"Sumtin's happenin'" The clerk commented without interest.
He nodded with the same apathy. "So it seems." He left the shop, strolling to a subway entrance which would take him to walking distance of his car. He'd be home within an hour.
Sitting in his living room, his wife cooking dinner in the kitchen, he turned on the news. It would probably be the lead story, it would be the big news of the day, maybe the big news for the week.
"Repeating today's top story; Robin was the target of what witnesses are saying was likely an assassination attempt less than ninety minutes ago in the secure parking lot of GPD's 7th precinct. Apparently a single gunman firing what forensic people have detirmined was a .416 caliber bullet from a heavy gauge rifle hit Robin in the chest as he was about to mount his motorcycle. His condition is not being released at this time and speculation is that the wound is life threatening. We're expecting an announcement shortly and will bring it to you live..."
The kid wasn't dead? 'The fuck! Hit square in the chest and he's still breathing? C'mon, not a chance—those bullets were used for killing goddamn polar bears; the kid was dead, the cops were just holding off for now. It wouldn't even had made any difference if he'd been wearing a bulletproof vest; those slugs could go through concrete, let alone Kevlar.
Sure, that's all. The kid had to be dead. No one could survive a direct hit, no one. 'Probably waiting for the usual notification of next of kin or something. Sure, that was it—hadda be.
After the chicken was finished he went down to his workshop out in the garage, fiddling with the lawn mower while he listened to the radio's police band. There was a heavy search going on to find the gunman, to find him but it was obvious that the cops didn't have any idea who they were looking for. Any time they put out the call for the public to please come forth with any information it was a neon sign saying they didn't have a clue. So far he was in the clear.
But...he pulled out his cell phone. "I want my money."
"When we know they job's compete."
"You heard the news, he was shot."
"Shot ain't dead. He dies, you get your money."
"It's gonna start getting hot around here, I need to get away for a while."
There was a quiet laugh on the other end of the line. "Fuckin' idiot, you shoulda thought about that before you took the job. Whaddya think was going to happen? The kid is who he is, he's got the friggin' Justice League and every Tom, Dick and Harry hero guarding his back. What? You thought the cops would pin a medal on you?"
"C'mon, Micky, we've been friends a long time. You gotta help me out here."
A pause. "Okay, tell you what, I'll get at least ten G's to you by morning. Use it and keep track of what's happening on this end. Lay low, you'll be fine."
"I mean it; lay low. Get lost for a while, maybe a long while. Even if the kid lives you know it's not over."
"Yeah." He closed the phone, cut off the call. Yeah, he knew.
Two minutes after the attempt both the Flash and Superman were on the scene to find two cops giving Robin CRP and trying to keep his heart going, trying to keep him breathing. The first ambulance arrived within three minutes after that, threading it's way through the parking area swamped with police, forensics people, detectives.
The injury was bad, very bad. The victim was in shock, unconscious and losing too much blood. An immediate call was made to the closest hospital to expect a wounded police office; no reason to alert the media or the public quite yet that it was a popular and very young member of the hero community. Better to at least call Batman first, let him know before he heard the news somewhere else.
The JLA members used their abilities to scout the area but the shooter was gone, at least for now. There was a spent cartridge on an adjacent rooftop but no DNA was found, at least not yet. The area had been wiped clean. No fingerprints, whoever it was had probably worn gloves. The cartridge was standard, could be purchased in any sporting goods store. There was nothing remarkable about it other than its size; this was designed to kill.
And the killer was either a superior marksman or very lucky—and the odds were on the former.
"Rob was targeted for the hit."
Superman nodded. "Again."
Flash shook his head, "But this time they didn't miss."
"He's tough, he'll be all right."
"Whistling in the dark, Kal? Of course he's tough and he'll have the best doctors on the planet but you saw him as well as I did..."
Superman cut him off, interrupted; a rare lapse. "He's going to be fine." If he said it out loud, it had to be true, right?
Along with the money, an astounding fifty thousand instead of the promised ten, was the name of a plastic surgeon guaranteed to be discrete. He went to the address at the appointed time, was operated on and taken to a safe house, courtesy of the Gotham Mob.
They'd take care of their own; honor among thieves and all of that.
He'd always made sure that wife knew nothing, always thought that he was a traveling salesman, which was the reason he was often 'on the road'. All she knew was that he was gone. Sure, things were a little rocky between them sometimes, but that was any couple, right? At first she didn't even worry; he'd be back, he always came back.
But this time he didn't. All that happened was that deposits were made into their savings account and she knew it was to pay the bills. There were no notes, no letters, no phone calls, no e-mails, no Skype, no contact.
In fact she did know. She's known for years but never said anything. She knew better than to ask or question and the bargain with the devil was one she lived with. She'd known what he'd done to make him run and she understood that it wasn't because he didn't love her or because there was another woman. But she did feel badly for the boy.
Robin was rushed into emergency surgery, Superman's (as well as Robin's) reputation ensuring that the best doctors and specialists available were immediately attending.
Batman was called but, of course, already knew. He asked to be kept informed. Every available member of both the JLA and the Titans entered the manhunt.
The surgery, the first one, lasted seven hours before the boy was moved up to an ICU with two police officers guarding his room.
The victim's identity leaked within hours, containment was impossible, too many people knew who'd been brought in, was rushed into surgery, was under guard.
The hospital was surrounded by press and well-wishers. Updates on his condition were issued hourly, special news bulletins were broadcast for days, the social media sites were swamped with comments, outrage, fear and concern. All anyone would say was that surgery had been successful and the doctors were hopeful for recovery; no one would venture to say whether or not they were hoping for full recovery or simply survival.
As usual, Batman had no comment, refusing all requests for interviews or statements.
The mound of flowers, candles, stuffed animals and candles in front of the hospital grew hourly.
A day went by, two, three. A week. The generic comments about hope for recovery were repeated, sometimes with a hint of more hope than just having Robin continue to breathe.
Eleven days after the shooting the head of the Thomas Wayne General Hospital called a press conference to announce that Robin had been termed healed enough to be released, which had happened around three o'clock the previous morning to avoid a crush of reporters and well-wishers. He'd been removed to a quiet location where he could heal in peace, He'd been taken away in a private ambulance in the underground garage to avoid any kind of crush or the possibility of being followed. No, there would be no further statements though that didn't stop the questions being asked and, as several months went by, the clamor became louder rather than fading away.
Finally, with little choice, Commissioner Gordon made the reluctant announcement that, "despite the best and unceasing efforts of both the GCPD and the combined abilities of virtually every hero currently active, no arrests had been made, though the case will remain open and active and we will apprehend the person or persons responsible—and no, I have no update on Robin's condition or recovery. That's a private matter for his friends and family."
Jim Gordon wished like hell he knew what was happening with the boy, though.
"How can this happen?" Batman was staring at his computer monitor, sitting in the JLA satellite. "This is..." he stopped, at a loss. It had been six weeks since the shooting and the perpetrator was still at large, All they knew was that it was a mob hit, likely instigated in retaliation against a large bust Robin had made two months earlier collaring twelve highly placed leaders of the East Coast organized crime syndicate. It was obvious that the hit-man was being hidden, protected by his or her employers.
Honor among thieves.
"Everyone is still searching, Bruce. You know that—no one is giving up and we won't until we solve this."
He shook his head. "This isn't just another case, this is Dick we're talking about. Not solving is unacceptable." And the more time which passed, the smaller the odds of finding the assassin.
Diana nodded, yes, it was and the case would be solved, one way or another. It would be. "How is he doing now? I haven't heard an update since..."
"No change." It was a bat-answer, curt, bordering on rude. And final, brooking no appeal. She still didn't know how the boy was doing, whether he'd recover or not, whether he'd even survive long term. Shaking her head she privately wondered if this might be the best thing for Dick, to get him out of this life and away from, well, away from what he'd been living with since he'd partnered with Batman.
The shooter simply disappeared. Despite the best and ongoing efforts of the police, CIA, FBI, Interpol, JLA, Teen Titan and every other enforcement power on Earth, the person responsible remained elusive.
In fact, he was simply wearing a different face, a different set of fingerprints and living in a different country hiding in plain sight.
Finally the Titans demanded answers from Batman concerning the status of their friend. Reluctantly but forced to admit that they had a right to know he spoke bluntly; "Though it won't be officially released to the news media, Robin isn't dead; that's the good news. Physically he's likely to make a reasonable recovery, especially considering the extent of the damage. Psychologically, mentally and emotionally, well, time would help but there would be no guarantees.
"The best doctors in the world are doing the best they can, that's all they can do. Beyond that, it was up to Dick."
The Titans exchanged looks; it was something, not much, but something. At least he was still alive and being cared for by the best who could be found. Donna spoke up, "When can we see him?"
"I'll let you know."
Not good enough for Roy. "And who's deciding, you or Dick?"
"Dick and his doctors."
Another exchange of looks, thoughts exchanged with glances. "Where is he?"
"That's classified, sorry."
"Still no ID on the shooter?"
"No name yet."
Kid Flash shook his head. "But Uncle Barry said that everyone thinks it was a mob hit-man and that's who they're all looking for, that the cops and everyone thinks that whoever it was is probably hiding out of the US in Europe or Asia or someplace. Is that true?"
"I'm not going to comment on that."
"But..." Seriously? The Bat was clamming up with the Teen Titans and refusing to answer questions about their leader? This was to much even for Aqualad. "Aquaman says that's the accepted thought, yes. He also told me that you're even stonewalling the JLA and that..."
Batman had listened to enough for one afternoon, "If you'll excuse me..." He turned and walked away, the meeting was over, they were dismissed and knew there was no point in arguing. With little choice, they simply left but would ask the rest of the JLA for further information. They might even get lucky and be given some real answers.
Left alone in the Batcave Batman stripped to the waist and began hitting the punching bag, letting his own thoughts go over the questions he knew everyone had and which he couldn't—or wouldn't answer: 'On the plus side, he's young, strong and motivated. On the other side of the coin he's too smart and aware not to understand that this could happen again at any time without warning. No one could promise that the next attempt wouldn't succeed. No one could ensure that he'd live to see his twentieth birthday, or his eighteenth, let alone his sixtieth. For most of the recognized members of the heroes community (as well as their families, at least one ones who knew about their relatives activities) this was the bargain they'd made, but most of the recognized heroes hadn't started on that career path when they were nine years old.'
He switched from the punching bag to weigh lifting, pulling the handles to lift two hundred pounds with each arm.
'This could be the time and cause for reflection, adjustments and reconsideration. He was still in his teens, hardly too late for a course change.'
He stopped, let the cables fall. "The hell with it. An announcement can wait until decisions are made."
Robin was still in the induced coma six weeks after the shooting. The damage to his heart had been catastrophic and beyond repair but the transplant had been successful. It had been simple luck that an acceptable donor match had come into Metropolis General within twenty-four hours of the boy being placed on the heart machine, keeping his blood pumping and his organs functioning. The healthy heart (it's destination arranged for and delivered by Superman) was given by the family of a high school student killed while texting and driving; fortunately for Robin the victim's body was intact, death caused by severe head injuries.
Finally, after close to two months, the drugs in his system were reduced, allowing him to slowly come back to consciousness. It was a slow process, allowed to progress at a pace to not force the boy's traumatized body into any more stress.
After two days of being weaned off the medication he opened his eyes, squinting in the semi-darkened room, confused but calm. Offered a n ice chip he almost nodded, then looked at the nurse, silently asking for a few more. His throat, tongue and mouth now moistened he managed to whisper "Where?"
"Wayne General, the long term care ward."
Long term. "How long?" It was barely audible.
The woman's voice was soft, soothing as she spoke. "It was six weeks, three days ago. You were shot
by a high caliber bullet which cause severe damage to your heart and several arteries, you received a transplant..." She paused at the alarmed look in Robin's eyes then continued. "A heart transplant, you were put into an induced coma for the last five and a half weeks or so to allow you body the best chance to heal and you're doing very well." He looked so frightened. "The doctors decided to let you wake up, they're happy with the progress you've made; you're doing very well, you really are."
"But...?" He trailed off, either not up to conversation or afraid of the answer.
"We don't know yet how much improvement will happen, it's too soon to know what you'll be capable of—physically-at the end of this. You'll need physical therapy and a lot of it but the harder you work at that the better..." She saw the look on his face. "I know you'll work hard, you should be able to start very soon, maybe even this week."
"You'll have to be on meds to help suppress your immune system to guard against your body rejecting your new heart. That's for the rest of your life." The boy's eyes closed, whether in frustration, shock or simply because he didn't want to hear anymore. A long moment passed in silence. "I'll be back in a while, if you need anything just press the red button next to you."
"Excuse me, have any of my friends been here, is anyone here now?" The voice was still weak but getting stronger with some use.
The nurse stopped, his eyes were opened now, looking at her. "Why yes, several people have been here a number of times, they brought all of those (she gestured to the flower laden windowsill). I can check if anyone is here now and send them in for you." There was no response as he seemed to be trying to read the labels on the IV bags.
The search for the assumed hit-man continued without success. It was now apparent that whoever had shot Robin was a professional,not that was ever in any real doubt, It was also clear the man (?) had gone underground, was being protected by his employers or whomever and that the more time passed, the harder it wold be to find the attempted killer. There was precious little evidence, a spent cartridge, a bodega owner who said an anonymous looking man had come in shortly after the shooting had occurred, exchanged some small talk and left. That was as close as they had to a possible suspect. His description? Average height, average looks, generic middle-aged, no distinguishing features.
The supposed murder gun wasn't found, at least not yet.
The search continued.
"I'll be okay, don't worry about me and thanks. Thank you for everything."
The nurse helped him into a wheelchair so that he could be transported down to the exit and was saying his goodbyes. The boy was leaving today to go someplace, they weren't sure quite where but they'd been assured that he'd be getting the PT and medical help he needed to come back as far as he could.
Once the fuzzy painkillers had worn off he'd proven to be really a sweet thing, cooperative, pleasant, non-demanding and easy to get along with. The staff hadn't made a big deal over him and he seemed happy about that, no fuss, no muss. His friends came by to see for themselves how he was, cheer him up and hang out and also made no demands, were quiet, well behaved and no trouble.
The only question was how far he'd be able to come back. The injury was almost fatal; it was touch and go for longer than anyone liked and he was still recovering, still dealing with the meds and possible rejection. Even if he did make what was considered a full recovery it was unlikely that he'd be able to achieve the level of athleticism he'd enjoyed before.
Mentally he was almost back to where he was, though still sometimes fuzzy from the drugs; that side of him should be fine. His forensics abilities, his detective skills were unimpaired. He was, or had been, a world class athlete.
Whether he realized it or not, that part of his life was probably over.
There was no reason why he couldn't still solve crimes and work with both the various police agencies as well as the hero community, he'd been irrevocably physically compromised.
Two months after Robin's release from the hospital he was back at Wayne Manor, working with a personal trainer/physical therapist who'd been told his injuries were the result of a hunting accident. "You're making good progress, amazing when you consider the extent of your damage, you have to be patient. It'll get better, you have to give it time."
Alfred watched from the doorway, tray of snacks in hand, thinking "'exactly the wrong thing to say to a teenager".
Dick, tired, sore and frustrated pressed his lips together to suppress the retort begging to be released, took several deep breaths, refocused and bend back to the task at hand.
Later that night after dinner Alfred decided that it was time to have a talk with the master. Letting himself into the study, fire burning low in the large stone fireplace, he silently shut the door behind him.
Bruce looked up from writing checks at his grandfather's antique mahogany desk. "Yes?"
"Have you kept yourself appraised about the young master's progress?"
"Of course." Why?
"I'm...concerned." Bruce waited for him to continue. "He doesn't seem to be coping as well as we might have hoped, I suspect that he's close to giving up."
"Impossible, this is Dick we're talking about. He's just going through a rough patch; he'll come out of it."
"Perhaps, but at the moment..." He paused. "At the moment I remain concerned both for his physical and emotional recovery."
"Dick always lands on his feet, you know that' it's one of his main strengths, always will be."
"I fear perhaps not this time, sir. Have you spoken to him recently?"
Bruce was slightly taken aback, this wasn't like Alfred. Okay, he'd been away the last few weeks flying the Wayne corporate flag in Europe and Asia but he was hardly ignoring the boy and he seems fine, a little down now and then but that was hardly surprising under the circumstances. "Tell me."
"He walked out of today's PT session, as he's done at least twice a week for the past month and it's becoming harder to get him to focus on either his workouts or his school work. Two days ago his Titan friends stopped by yo pay a visit and he refused to leave his room to receive them. When Master Roy and Miss Donna went up to see him, he refused to open his door for them. He had me send them away, with apologies."
"He's off his feed, I know he's not sleeping and this morning I accidentally saw his personal journal. I'm deeply concerned."
Alfred read Dick's journal? Alfred? That got Bruce's attention; this was an unprecedented breech of everything Alfred believed in.
"What did you see?" The question was softly spoken, completely focused..
"Without going into unnecessary detail, he seems to feel that this may may be beyond his ability to overcome. That without his former level of athleticism he's been unduly, I'm tempted to say fatally compromised and that while he can still fulfill the intellectual side of his vocation, seems to believe that's not enough." Bruce listened, waited for Alfred to go on. "The one comment I seem unable to put aside is that he wrote that he feels 'less than half of what he was'. I fear for him, Bruce."
The fact that Alfred had used his christian name alone was enough to raise red flags.
But... "I'm not sure how to broach this without him knowing that his privacy has been, you know..."
"Invaded, quite. If I may suggest, perhaps I might be able to speak with him indirectly about the situation." The master's relief was visible. "I'll see what might be done, sir."