"TT" grunted Damian as he landed in dark alley number seven-hundred and twenty-three. He hadn't memorized all of the alleyways in Gotham in the months since his arrival, but he had charted well over a thousand now. Dark alley seven hundred and twenty three was behind the Laughing Fish - boarded up - and a block away from Gotham Harbor. During the day it smelled of fish - little wonder - and stale garbage. Tonight it smelled of blood and the rain.
Rain was tricky. Rain meant slick stone that could trick even the super-friction soles of his "action converse." Rain meant that Ace had been too scared to come out on patrol tonight. Rain meant Pennyworth was going to insist on drawing him a bloody bath when he returned tonight. He grimaced and sunk deeper into his black hood.
"Boy Wonder," Mister Zazz began, peering from under ruined sunglasses - the last remnant of his underground nightclub. He discarded body of a heavy man in flannel as if he were nothing and as he did, lean sinewy muscle disappeared under meticulously scarred flesh. He was smiling and naked from the waist up. His pants were the tattered remains of what had once been stylish red slacks. "I just want you to know that this is exactly what it looks like," he said, slicing a tally onto the side of his precisely shaved and carved head. He wiped the blood away with a palm and then stretched it out towards Damian. "Sorry," he smiled, "have to keep count. Now what can I do for -"
Damian rolled his eyes and kicked the maniac in the knee. It came with a satisfying pop if not also a screech of pain. The bald, stringy serial killer crumpled to the ground, his legs no longer able to support his weight. It was one effective way of dealing with a CIP like Zazz, Damian mused. Unable to feel pain, Zazz was convinced the disorder applied to his own immortal soul as well. His obsession with cutting tallies into his flesh with each morbid misdeed he perpetrated had been linked to a pathological fear of forgetting a sin. Damian found this rubbish, but if you went for Dr. Arkham for psychoanalysis, you got what your trouble bought you. Somewhere along the multiple trips in and out of Arkham Asylum, Zazz had picked up a meta-personality disorder reminiscent of the - Damian shuttered and tried not to think of crowbars, a locked room, black nail polish, and kaleidoscopic frenzy. At any rate, Grayson didn't know why, but Zazz seemed to snap back into his formal, polite breed of businessman mania when in the presence of Damian. It made him at least seventy-three percent easier to manage unless he had acquired a vast criminal empire again - which he hadn't. He'd tried explaining this to Father, but Father could be… inflexible when his son was involved. Sabotaging the Batmobile and making a straight rooftop shot had allowed Damian to beat his father and take out the more comically affected Zazz. It had not, he realized, been fast enough to prevent Zazz from killing whoever was lying dead at his feet.
Damian turned over the body with his shoe. It was a white man, overweight, bearded, middle-aged, grey ski cap. Most of his outfit could have been bought at Wal-Mart aside from his heavy rubber goulashes. A fisherman. He was covered in blood and - his eyes opened. Damian shuddered at the thought of smelling the fish-stained pig's last words but Grayson and Father's disapproving looks rattled around the back of his mind. He sighed and took a knee.
"I'll call for help..." Damian began. "Sir." he added and didn't touch the man. This wasn't how he liked to get a uniform bloody.
"Where is..." the man gasped, coughing up something too red to be dribble. Damian flinched but stayed next to him. His breath was as bad as he had feared.
"Where is what?" Damian, asked, hearing Father touch down on the building at the alley's mouth. His footsteps were silent for all intents and purposes, but they still sounded cross.
"Where is Wally West?" the man spat as if it were the last thing left in his lungs. He was still. Damian stood, turned, turned again, squatted back down, and closed his eyes. Beside him, Zazz writhed on the ground, scraping himself against the wet cobblestones - a quaint feature of the old Harbor area that never failed to make the night feel gothic and horrifying. Damian had termed this the "Gotham Effect". Kitch became horror quite easily. Anywhere can be the worst place in the world, snarled a deep, sniveling voice in the back of his head.
"He was mortally wounded before I got here." Damian said without turning to father. He was disappointed Father had caught up to him so quickly. He had planned to take a batarang to some of Zazz's tallies once he was gone - really mess with the pristine cuts and rows. If Gotham wasn't above deep psychological scars, Damian wasn't going to fail to meet them on their own playing field. But really, there was no wait. He'd be Batman soon enough.
"I could see," Father said with a deep voice that wasn't even a little bit raised. Damian could hear his father's cape billowing around him in the cold, rainy, night wind.
"Zazz is incapacitated," he continued, pointedly not bringing up his light sabotage. Wasn't the greater good what Father and Grayson were all about?
"He said something," Damian said and turned to his father. "Where is Wally West?" he cocked his head. "Who's Wally West?"
"I don't know," said Batman, and frowned. Damian looked down at the fallen man, the writhing killer, and shivered into his hood.
Behind his father, lightning crackled and flashed over Gotham Harbor. Damian's eyes widened, but he checked himself. It had been a frantic night. He was tired. A man had died and a madman lied gasping in ecstasy at his feet.
The lightning hadn't been red. Probably.