I've been home for about 48 hours. So far, so good. Apart from the fact that I may be living down the street from the Riddler. It's kind of bizarre, just blending back into my ordinary, everyday life. To act like I didn't experience what was either something totally unexplainable, or the world's biggest, most realistic acid trip.
But I know it was real. None of the bruises, cuts or marks I got in Arkham City were there when I woke up. Except one. One tiny, circular scar, in the middle of my chest. Visible when I wear shirts with a low-ish neckline, though no one has mentioned it yet. Hell, I got shot and died two days ago, and all anyone's said to me is 'Have you finished your English paper?' Seriously.
Thankfully, it's Friday. Practically the weekend. And boy, do I have some plans. I'm going to find out what the heck Riddler is up to, if it's even him. I grab my backpack and head downstairs to say good bye to my Mom.
"Okay, I'll see you tonight. I'm working late remember, so you'll have to sort out dinner for yourself."
"Yeah, I know." I reply. Mom's a nurse at the nearby hospital. She works seriously long shifts and goes to night school on top of that to 'further her education.' She wants to specialise in children's health.
I grab a slice of toast, pat my puppy, Jake, on the head and leave. At the door, I'm faced with a problem. I can take the long way to school, following the roads, which takes about half an hour. Or, I can take a short cut down our street and through the park, which will only take half the time. Only problem is, the shortcut goes past the house that may or may not be housing a DC villain. I check my watch. Looks like time has made my decision for me. If I want to get to school remotely on time, I'll have to cut through the park. A couple of deep, calming breaths and I'm on my way.
As I near the house, I kick my pace up a notch. I keep my eyes glued forward, not daring to look at the house, in case my fears are confirmed. What would that even mean? Riddler, here, in the real world. Not freaking possible. But he might be. And no matter how you look at it, it's bad news for me. We didn't exactly part on the best of terms.
I make it to school almost on time, and slide into my desk in Homeroom, just in time to be excused for my first class. I grab my books and head for science. Taking my usual seat up the back, I pull out my homework, that I know is all wrong. Crazy to think just a few days ago I was helping Batman, and now I'm worried that I don't understand organic molecules as well as I should. The teacher comes around and I hand him my homework, and proceed to daydream as he starts the lesson. By about 15 minutes in I know exactly how to figure out if it's really Riddler in that house or not.
I'm going to break in.
It's crazy, I know. But I know what I'm doing. The house used to belong to a crazy old lady, and she let me use her kick ass heated pool in the backyard. Actually, it wasn't so much 'let me use' as it was 'didn't know I was jumping the fence and taking midnight swims.' But whatever.
The point is, I never got caught. All I have to do is get in the backyard, creep up to the house and peep in the window. Then I'll be able to tell if it's really him or just some random guy who looks creepy like one of the Gotham Rouges. Simple.
The best time to do it would be tonight. My Mom will be working, so I won't have to come up with some half-assed excuse to get out of the house at a ridiculously late time.
For the rest of the day all I do is plan my brilliant stake out. By the time three o'clock rolls around, I'm totally prepared to do this. I get home and dump my bag on the kitchen floor and say hello to Jake. I run up the stairs two at a time and head straight for my sock drawer and dig around in the back before triumphantly pulling out the lock pick kit I got off eBay for $9.99. Score. I grab it and my flashlight and head back downstairs.
Time drags on. I watch TV. I make a snack. Watch more TV. Think about doing my homework. Keep watching TV. Finally, finally, midnight rolls round. I am literally a bundle of nerves. I get dressed quickly into a pair of dark green camo pants and black long sleeved tee shirt. I figure I've got an hour and a half, maybe two hours before my Mom comes home. But that shouldn't be a problem, seeing as I'm only going in, checking whether or not it's Riddler, and getting out.
I slap on my sneakers, grab the flashlight and lock pick kit (just in case) and duck out the back door. The house is only four houses down from mine, so I grab the fence and hoist myself up. I drop into my neighbour's yard and dart across the lawn and repeated the process at the next fence. At last, I drop into Riddler's yard. All the windows are dark except for one. I skirt the pool and creep up to the window, poking my head up to see inside. It looks to be a study, lit dimly by a lamp. It has a bookshelf, a chair, a desk, and one serious looking computer.
"Okay…" I whisper to myself, frowning. "That definitely looks like something Riddler would have in his house." I hear footsteps echoing in the house and drop to the ground. The chair squeaks and I chance a look up. There's a man sitting at the desk now. Tall, slender, with brown hair. Very familiar. I stop glaring at the back of the man's head long enough to notice what's on the computer screen. It's a video feed of a room. Holy crap, I know that room! It's my Homeroom at school, I'm almost positive. The man taps a couple of keys and a new image appears. My English classroom. Then my Science room. Then my Maths, Geography and History rooms. This creep had all of my classrooms on camera! If there was any doubt whether this is Riddler or not, there isn't now. Who else would be watching me?
"Son of a bitch!" I say, just a little too loudly. I catch a glimpse of Riddler swivelling around before I drop to the ground. I lay face down, breathing heavily into the dirt for a moment.
"Well, this is a surprise." Crap. I'm busted. I get up as gracefully as I can and brush some of the dirt off myself. There he is, standing casually in front of me. Brilliant.
"Riddler." I say, trying to keep my voice steady. "What the hell are you doing here?" Well, so much for the steady voice.
"I couldn't just let you go, Belle." He replies. "Not after that fascinating story you told me. And imagine my surprise to find out it's all true."
"Great to know. Now leave." I retort.
"Oh I don't think so. Why don't you come inside?" He grins.
"Oh I don't think so." I mock. "This is my world. I live with my mother. I go to school. Here people are going to notice if you lock me in your spare room." I smile sweetly. I've got him. My disappearance isn't going to go unnoticed here like it did in Arkham City. His smile turns to something more sinister, more unhinged.
"Fine. But don't think you're safe just because you're surrounded by people. Batman's not here to save you this time." He says, the smile dropping from his face completely. "Leave. Before I change my mind." I don't need to be told twice.
I hightail it out of there, jumping from one back yard to the other until I reach home. I walk inside, trying to catch my breath when I hear a car door slam. Mom's home! I bolt upstairs and dive into bed, under the covers and try to breath evenly. Mom sticks her head in moments later before, satisfied that I'm asleep, going to bed herself.
I let out a long breath. That was close. I need to figure out a way to get Riddler out of my street, out of my world and out of my life. When this is all over, I'm shoving all my Batman stuff in the attic and never looking at it again. Living it is more than enough.