Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Chapter Thirty-One: Mud and Rain

Chapter Thirty-One: Mud and Rain

The bowl smashed into pieces as it hit the floor. Robin jumped, a natural reaction. Wintergreen looked over and nodded for Robin to clean it up – just as he had been expecting. He got down on his knees and began to collect what he would have used for his breakfast bowl. Surprisingly, he had received an awful lot of freedom, though at the same time, he never got to go outside in the three weeks that he had been there. At least, he thought it had been three weeks. For some reason, he thought that Slade might have been messing with his concept of time, as he was positive that none of the clocks held the same time.

No matter. He had stayed long enough and he didn't care if there was nothing around for miles. He would run as long as he had to. The only thing that made him feel slightly bad about this, the whole escape plan, was that Ms. Kane wouldn't be going with him. But at the same time, he knew that he would have a better chance at helping her get that information when he was back in Gotham or Jump. Robin would take the chance that he had.

"So where's Slade?" He asked casually, as he hid a particularly large shard in his pocket.

"He left early this morning," Wintergreen told him, without looking up.

"Huh?" Robin asked, he hadn't been expecting that.

"He does this often," the butler answered, "It isn't unusual."

"Oh..." Robin said.

This was going to be better than he had expected, though he wasn't going to bet that Wintergreen was telling the truth. He picked up the remaining shards and threw them in the trash before getting a new bowl and pouring himself some cereal. Grabbing the milk from the fridge, Robin sat down and pushed his cereal around until he reached what had already been drenched in milk. Wintergreen finished the dishes and pulled out the bag of trash that had been filled by the recent broken bowl fragments.

"Take this out to the garage when you're done," Wintergreen said and with that, he left the room.

Robin swallowed what was in his mouth and looked at the bag. It was his ticket out of here, so to speak. Though the only reason that he'd need to take a shower after this little escape was, he hoped, going to come from his own sweat. He picked up the bowl and drank the remnants of the milk before wiping his mouth and grabbing the thin coat on the side of the door. He tied up the bag and opened the door to the garage.

Normal enough, except for the four cars placed in the garage, though the cool temperature that penetrated the room was more distracting than the vehicles. It was a surprisingly neat garage. Slade hadn't let him actually go outside and this meant that when Slade or Wintergreen said 'take out the trash', they meant put it in the garage and someone else would take care of it later. Robin though, on his many trips into the garage figured out one thing. The security here was perhaps the most vulnerable in comparison to the rest of the house. There were two cameras and four large doors to allow the cars in and out. The doors themselves had dual-protection: one was that they were massively heavy and the other was that they had extremely acute sensors.

So his issues? Lifting the doors and getting rid of the sensors. It hadn't been until this morning that he had figured out how to solve these problems. The fact that Slade wasn't here (or rather shouldn't be; Robin would still be acting as though he was) was even better. Robin walked over to where he normally placed the trash, though not before he tore a large piece of the plastic off of the bag's end. That's when he jumped.

Catching the camera above him, he stretched the plastic over it until it stayed without having to be held both because of pressure and because of how he shaped it. He dropped to the ground and ran over to the other camera and preceded to do the same. Then he ran back to the corner and proceeded to kick the door of the driver's seat open. He slipped inside and underneath to where the wires connected. He wasn't Cyborg, but he knew a thing or two about how to start a car without a key.

The engine revved and Robin smiled. Abruptly, he sat in the driver's seat and proceeded to move the car so that the exhaust pipe was angled as close as possible to the sensor box, near the right wheel. As soon as it was close enough, Robin turned off the car - otherwise he risked being killed by carbon dioxide. Jumping out, Robin slid to the back of the car and saw that there was but a few centimeters difference between the exhaust pipe and sensor. Once again grateful for the long hours of working out, Robin slid the car over carefully. Now was the time that he slipped out the shards of the bowl from his sleeve. As soon as he was done shoving them into the pipe, Robin went back into driver's seat and ignited the engine.

He heard the flying glass spit out of the pipe and instantly, the dying sound of electricity was heard. Robin looked up and saw the sensor- destroyed. He smiled. Popping the trunk of the car, he searched for anything that he could use for a lever for the door. A hammer... he grabbed it and began to hit the trunk door as hard as he could. It came off within thirty seconds. Pulling it off, he slid it under the garage door. He pulled a spare tire from the side, picked it up and dropped it hard. Just as he had thought, the door inched up, but was still too small to squeeze through. One more thing... Robin grabbed the trash and dropped it on top of the tire. Just enough if he took off the jacket. So he did.

Robin slid his way under the garage door, pulled his coat under, and was off. He didn't know what sort of defenses he'd run into now that he was out, but he didn't care. He was this close. He was out of the Estate. He was going home... wherever home was now. Wayne Manor, Titans Tower, anywhere. Just not the Estate or anywhere that Slade had easy access to.

Immediately, he headed east, as he figured by the sun's rays through the trees and thin overcast of clouds. East was probably going to get him to the shore or a road the fastest which would lead to civilization or a public area. The entire forest seemed to be frozen over, though by no means was it a winter wonderland. It was deserted, it was so cold. If he hadn't been running, Robin would have guessed that he wouldn't be feeling his fingers right now. The wind hit the Boy Wonder and he pulled his jacket over him. It wasn't much, but every bit helped. As he climbed over fallen tree trunks and dodged, he wondered how far away he was from Gotham anyway...

His eyes softened. It felt odd to run there, when he had previously run elsewhere. It wasn't even home anymore, now that he thought about it... He took in a deep breath of cold air. So what? It was better than here and from there, he could reach the Titans, who he should have never pushed away. Sad how that had been a mistake that he had constantly repeated. With his friends, Bruce... He had to make it right with his friends. It wasn't like he could do it with Bruce now. It was his job to live up to what he was taught to do... especially after everything... his mind drifted in the cold air...

"You think I don't care about your well being?" Bruce whispered and looked down at him.

And ever defiantly...


Robin was shocked back into reality and at the jarring sound, immediately hid behind a tree. What was...?


Gun shots? What? That meant someone else was out here. Someone else... Could they help him? Or... Robin gulped back the thought that came to mind. Either way, his methodical mind began to process his situation. Could they even see him? He looked like just another tree practically, he was pretty thin. The boy wonder made a mental note to never tell anyone about that thought. They'd never let him live it down. But onto his primary concern... was he in the line of fire? The chances... He looked around, but saw no signs of movement. It did little to ease his fears as hunters didn't move much intentionally... His best chance was to make himself a hard target and keep moving...

He breathed in quickly and let it out, crystal clear, as the puffs of smoke that had escaped him earlier were long since gone. He set out again, making his way through the woods. He heard nothing, saw nothing, but swerved just in case. It was all he...


Robin turned his head towards the echoing sound when suddenly, his foot snagged a tree's exposed root while his forward momentum continued. By the time he reacted and spun his head around, it was too late and he fell face first into the snow. The sensation startled him as his whole front shuddered with cold. His whole face hurt and he couldn't breathe. It was then that he realized that he had fallen into a pit of cold muck He lifted his head up and got to his knees, coughing out as the pieces of mud clung to his face and jacket, even the legs of his pants. His hands were freezing. The boy wonder felt himself unintentionally shiver. He was wet, cold, and had no idea where he was; how long...

He heard the song of metal pieces hit against themselves as they landed in front of him. Robin looked up to see a man towering over him, a large male deer lying dead over his shoulders, the gun by his side. He was covered in winter gear, but his face was exposed. Robin gulped. Slade looked at him oddly, passively, but without much concern. After a moment, Slade broke the silence.

"Well get up," He said.

Robin nodded and began to push himself up as Slade picked up the gun. The boy wonder felt his shoes fill with the sloshing mud as he stood up, but he didn't have much time to dwell on the fact as Slade gripped his upper arm tightly. The numbing sensation was gone as he walked along side Slade back to the Estate. All of the cold seeped in as the long minutes slowly ticked away. He wondered how long he had been running for. His entire focus had been on other things. Had he really been caught that quickly? It felt hopeless...

The overcast weather remained and deepened in its gray color. He thought that he heard thunder somewhere, but then again, maybe it was just another gun shot. Neither spoke to the other. Slade's pace didn't change. It was smooth, easy. His posture changed only once – to re-adjust the deer on his shoulders. Robin shivered again. It was a slightly creepy thing to see, the deer lying limp like a mere doll. Sooner than he had expected, the Estate came back into view. Back. He closed his eyes and he trudged his way forward to keep up with Slade.

As they reached the Estate's edge, they came up to a spring well, surrounded by rocks, an old style. Slade forced Robin to his knees next to it. The boy refused to look at him, the red color in his cheeks coming from not just the cold. Ever the dignified child... Slade thought.

"Stay here," He told Robin before leaving for the house.

The Boy Wonder didn't even try to escape. It was no use now. He was in no condition to attempt an escape now. He would die of hypothermia before making it to a road, any path to civilization. He couldn't believe it. Of all of the things. He was caught even when Slade wasn't looking for him. Was the world out to get him? The logical side of him reminded him that Slade might have found out and really was looking for him, and he wasn't tempted to believe it. He half wondered what Slade would do to him when he saw the shape of the Mustang...

He heard the crunching of snow and looked over to see Slade walking back towards him, the deer and gun gone. The elder stopped at the well and began winding the handle, bringing up the bucket. They both could hear the water sloshing around inside of it. Robin's face remained tight. He was both furious as well as frustrated. There was even a bit of disbelief in there as well. Slade saw it. It wasn't like he missed these things. You learn those sorts of things as an assassin for hire. Wintergreen had called him and told him that Robin hadn't been seen on the cameras for a while. He hadn't been too worried, though he would keep an eye out for him. Perhaps save time. If he hadn't found him, he could have tracked him with the chip in Robin's coat pocket.

Funny how coincidences worked out for him. He might have normally severely punished the boy, however, he could see the defeat in Robin's face, even through the mask. He might as well make the most out of this. As the bucket reached the top of the well, he took off his gloves (to keep them from getting ruined by the well's water) and pulled the bucket over to sit on the side. Though the air was cold around them, the water was still fairly warm as it came from a silent, secure spring. Scooping some into his hands, Slade brought it over to Robin's head and carefully poured it over the boy's mud ridden hair. He wouldn't let it trail into the Estate.

"I'm impressed," He said, going back to the bucket, "You actually made an attempt."

He repeated the process and Robin tensed, "You must be thinking how unfortunate it is that your skills are only mediocre. Otherwise, you might have had more luck."

"I don't bet on luck," Robin spat.

"Yes, well, none of us do," Slade commented, "A shame that none of your attempts are ever good enough..."

He dumped the rest of the water on top of Robin's head and threw the bucket back down the well, "For yourself or anyone else it seems."

Robin said nothing as Slade pulled the bucket back up, "Or am I making a false assumption again?"

"I was good enough to get your attention, it seems," Robin said bitterly as more muddy water ran down on him.

"Yes you were," Slade admitted, "But you miss the mark in your comparison. The ability to get my attention came from your outstanding potential. Expectations only focus on achievement."

Slade dropped the bucket again as Robin barely looked up at him. Their eyes met briefly and he closed the connection, "I don't do things only to meet people's expectations."

Slade smirked, "Oh, I'm sure..."

He found the bucket again, "Every time you stayed up late losing sleep to work on stopping Jump's criminal element, it wasn't to show that you were a capable leader to the Titans, was it? And every time you went out in Gotham and knocked the bad guys senseless, it wasn't to impress Batman. Or was it?"

Robin turned to look up at Slade, "I did things like that because they're my friends, Slade."

"And because Batman was your mentor, right?" Slade finished, "For a mentor, if he expected so much, he should have taught you how to succeed at such a high mark. Unless of course, he just wanted you to lag, so that he could use you like a pawn, like he did everyone else."

"Batman didn't do that to people," Robin argued... "He didn't do that to me."

"You were always second," Slade said, "Always at the end of 'Batman and...'."

"So why would you believe that he or anyone else wouldn't, Robin?" Slade asked, picking up the bucket.

He dumped the rest of the cold water on Robin's head, most of the mud gone now. Robin felt the cold burning into him and sucking out the heat from him. And with it, went his sense of grounding. Slade dropped the bucket for a final time and faced him.

"Come on," He said.

Robin saw Slade heading inside and got up to follow. However, instead of what he had thought would feel like a defeated return, Robin found himself shrouded by his own thoughts and contemplations. Slade opened the door and let Robin come inside before code locking the door again. It was about time the boy came inside; his lips had been turning almost a dark purple-ish blue. He led Robin to the hallway that connected Robin's room to his bathroom and left him to himself for the rest of the day. He had already given the boy enough to think about as it was.

Robin found himself a clean set of clothes before leaving himself to his room for the rest of the day. He was slightly cheered by the fact that he didn't have to go to dinner with Ms. Kane and Slade as Slade had decided to eat by himself that night. He went to bed early that night as time seemed to pass quickly for him. Taking off the mask, Dick laid down under the covers of his bed and switched off the light, letting the darkness engulf him and lull him to sleep. As his eyes drifted slowly downwards over his eyes, he wondered how likely it was that Slade had actually been correct in his statements.

Yes, he had always wanted to impress Batman. And yes... he had seen Batman use people, though never by saying anything to them... he wondered if that was the same as using them though... But yes, he wanted to seem capable to his friends, who all had superpowers of some sort or another... But Bruce wouldn't have ever used him... No. Because Bruce... The memory from before returned as did his answer to Bruce's question.


In short, 'no, he didn't think Bruce cared.' Dick shut his eyes and shook his head. He hadn't meant it. He hadn't really believed that... He hadn't... Bruce had cared. That's why he would have never used him... But... Doubt seeped into his mind and Dick recognized it immediately. He shut his eyes tightly, silently in his mind refusing to let it in. It couldn't... It should... never... He suddenly yawned.

He was too tired to be thinking straight; he had to realize that... Dick shut his eyes, hoping that sleep would blissfully take him somewhere else, because he knew that he couldn't deal with anything here.


The time for snow had long since passed in Gotham. Instead, ice chilling rain had decided to terrorize the city, forcing everyone inside to stay warm. Well... almost everyone. Red X was currently trying to find such a place that could provide him with some shelter as the hotel that he had been staying at had long since kicked him out. He couldn't believe that Robin hadn't contacted him in a month. He wasn't about to do anymore favors for that guy for a while.

Right about then, he hit black ice and found himself lying on the ground after hitting the side of the building's fence. It continued to rain. Tonight was not one of his nights. He watched for a moment as rain drops splattered on his mask when he saw light coming from the distance. Sitting up and spinning around, he saw the Bat-Signal shining into the clouds from a building nearby. It couldn't be...

Red X got up and jumped across to the next building, careful to make sure that he wasn't about to hit more black ice. Running around the side, he saw a man with an umbrella on the next roof over standing next to the origin of the lighted bat in the sky. The man flicked off the switch and Red X realized that he must be looking at the famous Commissioner James Gordon. As his eyes had long since adjusted to the lack of lighting, he watched as Gordon left the roof and went down a few flights. On a side note, X couldn't believe how many windows the Police Department actually had.

Gordon walked into a room filled with three others, where the window was open just slightly. Intrigued, Red X jumped down the fire escape he had been next to and across to a ledge of the Police Department on the same level Gordon and the others were on. X crept over to the window and held onto a drain line, listening to the conversation, thankful that he had some shelter from the rain from where he was standing.

"A little stuffy in here, isn't it?" Gordon asked.

"Better than it is outside," the other man noted.

"Nice come back, Harvey," a woman stated sarcastically.

"Can we please just get on with this," He saw a dark haired woman say; she sounded tired.

"Very well, Yin," Gordon said, "I assume everyone brought what they found. Sawyer?"

The other woman, Sawyer, spoke up, "Well, out of the... long list that you gave us sir, I can't say that any of these people had any shady backgrounds."

"None of them had a record," Harvey chimed in, "Well, Wreith did for stealing from a candy stand at the age of twelve, but nothing else."

Gordon shook his head, "It would figure."

"Sir, if I might add, I don't think they were all killed for the same reason," Yin stated, "If we look at each case individually instead of collectively..."

As she trailed off, Gordon passed his eyes over each of them, "Let's go over this then. We've got, in order, Max Wreith, Efrem Austin, Bard, Clara Thompson, Edwin Beagle, Bennett, Bruce Wayne, Earle, and Kane."

"Well, Bard probably knew something," Sawyer said, "It's not like he was just anyone in our department. And who knows what Bennett saw..."

"Wayne and Earle might have been funding something," Harvey offered.

"Well,  what about the others? Wreith, Austin, and Beagle were retired," Yin stated, "And who knows what Thompson had to do with anything."

"Beats me," Harvey said, "Though I think Austin might have been a name once. Don't really remember."

"Look into their previous jobs," Gordon said, almost in an off tone like he wasn't really paying any attention.

"Huh?" Harvey asked.

"It might reveal something," Gordon said.

"What about Kane?" Sawyer stated, "She took in Wayne's kid, right?"

"Yes, she did," Yin stated, "Adeline also headed up the security in Wayne Tower after Wayne's murder, too."

Adeline? Wait, Adeline Kane? Red X leaned in to hear better. Wait. Did that mean...?

"After she disappeared, where did the kid go again?" Harvey asked.

"A man named Grant Wilson was granted guardianship of Grayson, through some process of the law," Gordon filled in, remembering the migraine that had been for him and nearly everyone else, "Apparently, he was a good friend of Kane's."

Grant Wilson? What on earth? And what did they mean Adeline Kane had 'disappeared'? His interest was beginning to peak...

"I doubt that following the lead on Wayne's will will actually do anything," Sawyer stated, "Wouldn't this Wilson guy have gotten sniped at by now if that was part of it?"

"She's got a point there," Harvey said.

"Well, you got any other brilliant leads?" Yin asked, negatively.

"Hey, hey, I'm not the Batman," Harvey stated, pulling his hands up defensively.

"Really, I could have sworn you were," Sawyer stated sarcastically.

"Not like you're Sherlock Holmes either," Harvey said.

"Enough!" Gordon yelled, and Red X heard the man turn the rest of them.

"This department has relied on Batman to save our skins, not to mention everyone else's like it was his job to do so, when in reality, he does it out of his own self-sacrifice," Gordon stated, "As much as I appreciate and hope for his assistance and Robin's, he's not here. So let's actually do what we're paid to do. I believe that we can be just as capable..."

The other three looked at Gordon, shocked into silence. Gordon had always endorsed the Bat, though it was a startling reminder to hear it from him that they should be just as reliable.

Gordon sighed and took off his glasses, rubbing them with a tissue before placing them back on his face, "Look into our four unknowns, Austin, Wreith, Thompson, and Beagle. Something tells me that's our best lead for now. I'm willing to bet that Bennett, Bard, and possibly Kane probably found out something they shouldn't have. As for Wayne and Earle, let's count their murders for business reasons most likely..."

Gordon paused again and Red X waited with baited breath... 'Come on, go back to Kane and Wilson...' He thought.

"Dismissed," He said.

And Red X growled silently.

Inside he heard from Harvey, "What was that?"

Gordon looked up automatically and X knew it was time to dash. Just as he made it around the corner of the building, he heard Gordon fling the window open. Somehow, he knew what they had all been hoping, but there wasn't a trace of either of the dynamic duo anywhere. It was like the hope kept dwindling...

Red X waited to move until he heard Gordon shut the window, when he made his way to the rooftop. He walked over to the Bat-Signal. The metal outline of the bat was battered by the cold rain. He felt like kicking it in frustration. They couldn't keep talking about Kane, could they? But as much as he hated the whole thing, somehow, seeing the signal's sad position out in the cold with him, softened his anger.

He traced the outline of the bat with a gloved finger as he thought. So this whole thing was what Robin was working on. And Batman wasn't here to help for whatever reason... But what on... The thing that baffled him the most was Adeline Kane's involvement, including her 'disappearance' which, despite himself, worried him. Not to mention everything with the will and Ravager...

He sneezed and was brought back to his current situation. He had to get inside. Somewhere. Even his back was soaked in spite of the cape covering him. He jumped to the next roof, leaving the Bat-Signal and the Police Department behind. After a few blocks, he found two men talking outside while waiting for a cab. They had already set their briefcases down. A perfect score. Tossing a pebble at one of them, they fell down the steps from the building. As one of them ran down to get them, he snagged the other's wallet out from his back pocket. Four hundred buck – easy cash. He was good at what he did.

It took him just minutes to reach the nearest hotel. Before he went in, he changed the Red X uniform in favor of street clothes. It didn't change the fact that he was still dripping wet. He handed the man at the desk cash for one night and a dinner and got a key. What a scene that must have been. Heading up to the room, he threw the concealed uniform (that he had hidden in a small bag) to the side and looked out the window. Robin had better have figured out something for this case. He threw off the soaking wet shirt, shoes, and socks. Out of everything to get involved in... He shook his head. None of this made any sense...

It was then, as he collapsed on the bed that he determined that he'd make it make sense, as far as he could at least. He wasn't very skilled in that department, but it was worth a shot... And then he realized he'd have to do research. Like... school work. He groaned. It was official:

This night couldn't get any worse.

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