In Need Of . . .

By AJ

. . . A Father

Part 5

Last Night 7:00 PM:

"Master Richard, dinner is served," Alfred announced, but no acknowledgement came. Alfred walked upstairs to Dick's room, but didn't find him. He noticed all the items on the floor, but didn't really pay much attention. All he was aware of was that Dick Grayson wasn't in his room.

'Perhaps he is in the bat cave,' he thought. Alfred went down stairs and took the service elevator to the cave.

"Master Richard?" Alfred called, but there was no answer there as well.

Where could he be? Alfred swiftly checked every room in the Manor, knocking on bathroom doors just in case Richard Grayson was indisposed. He rechecked Dick's private bathroom, but the boy was nowhere to be found. Then he checked the bat cave one more time, this time going through each of the areas, the medical bay, the trophy room, the science lab, and back in the main communications room, nothing. Alfred searched for two hours, even searching the grounds, but there was no sign of Dick Grayson. Using his skills as a trained operative, Alfred checked for any signs that a car had come and picked up the child, but there were no fresh tire tracks. He went back into the house then checked Dick's room again. He checked Dick's desk and noticed on his calendar there were two dates circled right next to each other. They obviously had some significance in Dick's life, but he wasn't certain. He noticed the colorful acrobatic clothing lying out on the floor next to the box he received from the Haly Circus, and then it hit him, the significance of one of those dates. He then noticed that Dick's backpack was missing. He wouldn't go there, especially on his own, or would he?

'I must find out,' Alfred said to himself. Alfred went down stairs and grabbed his chauffeur's hat and coat. He went to the garage and took the smaller Bentley and headed to Newtown. Alfred kept an eye out along the road, but saw nothing. It was just too dark. Within 30 minutes, he arrived on the edge of Newtown. He remembered where the Grayson's were buried and headed straight for the cemetery, but the gates were shut. He then thought that if the lad was still on foot, he might still catch him along the road going back to the Manor. No such luck. Arriving back at the Manor, Alfred returned the car to the garage. Not knowing what else to do, he waited. He should have called the police, but he didn't want to alert any reporters that the ward of Bruce Wayne was missing. Heartsick, he did the only thing he could do, make some tea, and wait for the Master to return home.

"Alfred? Have you been up all night?" Bruce gently woke his faithful butler after finding him sitting in one of the winged back chairs asleep.

"Master Bruce, you're finally home. And you are soaked."

"Yeah, it's raining cats and dogs out there. Sorry Alfred. I would have been home sooner, but you know, playing the part of a playboy has its quirks. And I forgot my umbrella," Bruce yawned. "Were you waiting up for me? There's no need."

"I'm afraid there is, Sir."

"What could be so urgent that you had to wait up for me? If it was urgent you should have called."

"You did not leave a number where you could be reached."

"Point taken," Bruce said, "So, what's the problem?"

"It's Master Dick, Sir. He's gone. I've looked everywhere."

The sudden news of Dick Grayson's disappearance woke Bruce from his complacency. "Tell me what happened."

"I was making dinner," Alfred explained. "It was ready at 7:00, when I called him. He did not answer. I went to his room. He wasn't there. I went to the bat cave. He wasn't there either. I checked everywhere, Master Bruce, even outside. He is nowhere to be found. I went back to his room to see if there were any clues that might help me to find him. Two dates on his calendar were circled."

"Two dates?" Bruce asked

"Yes, I realized what the first date was and I went looking for Master Dick, but I did not find him."

"Alfred, what are the two dates? You haven't told me."

"I do not know what the second date means, but I think the first date is when his parents were . . ."

Without letting Alfred finish, Bruce raced up the stairs to Dick's room. He saw the open box and all the items on the floor. His scrutinized the room, not missing a thing. He went over to the desk and saw the two dates that were marked. Today was the first date. He then looked at the items on the floor and recognized the costume that he was wearing on that fateful day. He also saw an open photo album. He picked it up and started flipping through it. The first page caught his eye and he realized what the second date meant. Poor kid, to have them die just before an all-important date like that, but where would Dick Grayson go? Then it hit him.

"Alfred, did Dick head to Newtown, to the cemetery?"

"Yes, I went there, but I didn't see him. Of course it was very late, and the gates were locked. And I did not see him along the road."

"That's because Dick wouldn't dare walk along the road," Bruce said. "He wouldn't want to be seen. Someone might pick him up."

The phone rang at that moment. Bruce raced downstairs to get the phone.

"Hello."

"Mr. Wayne?"

"This is Mr. Wayne."

"I think you may have lost something, very careless of you," the voice said.

"Who is this?"

"My name is not important. What I have is," the man said. "Your Ward."

"Who is this?" Bruce asked again.

"I told you my name is not important. You want your ward back? Then you need to do exactly as I say. You will hear from me later."

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Bruce replaced the receiver in its cradle. Without another word, he raced to the bat cave, changed into Batman, climbed into the batmobile, and head out the cave. He would be in Newtown in less than 20 minutes. He got there, just as a hearse was leaving. He knew exactly where he was going. He parked the batmobile and climbed out and walked to the headstone that belonged to Mary and John Grayson despite the rain. He was careful not to step in front, but sat on the side. He looked closely at the grass and could barely make out where someone had been sitting. The rain had almost obliterated all the evidence. He examined the stone surface and could see flakes of skin still clinging to the surface even though the rain threatened to wash it away. Dick must have pounded his fist against the stone. What happened after that?

Batman looked around and he spotted something under the two trees that were near by. It was Dick's backpack. Contained inside were his flashlight and his compass, a computer card, and not much else. Dick had come to the cemetery to visit his parents' grave site. Batman examined the ground where he found the backpack and discovered that Dick must have laid down to sleep. There was no evidence of a struggle. So, whoever took Dick must have taken him when he was asleep, but who had him and why?

Continues with Part 6