Chapter 1: The Bat
Given any day of the week, month, or year, the Strider Mansion remained under a constant line of guard. All of it had been placed under the will of Bro during his lifetime, and even Dave himself did not have the courage nor the knowledge to dismantle it. However it was certainly not a bad security system, yet even before the boy had decided to dawn the cowl there had never come a time where Dave could see its true functionality.
Of course, Rose had warned him. Ever since the death of Bro, the entire city of Gotham learned about his young brother's sudden inheritance to the mansion. There would be without a doubt attacks on the property, and not to mention Dave himself. Yet various of his brother's connections had already gone through the trouble of assortment precautionary measures, the majority of them long prepared for Bro's eventual departure. Even in the afterlife, Dave's brother was always at least five steps ahead of him – exactly what Gotham would have expected from a Strider.
Rose had been accustomed to the prestige, but Dave unexpectedly was not. The girl had been sent over from a nearby community, equally as rich and prodigious as the Strider household and Gotham itself. The caretakers had been particular quiet about the blonde haired girl's arrival, however Dave had come to the conclusion that she too was part of his brother's plan. Of course he wouldn't leave him alone, Dave's never been alone his entire life. Wherever he would look, there would be Bro pulling some blind ninja moves, or one of his shockingly inappropriate puppets, ass facing the heavens and all.
His caretakers had informed him that the girl equal to his age would be not only his newly chosen roommate, but also personal tutor and so-called assistant. The day of her arrival, she told him in the most monotone of voices that his safety as a Strider was the least of his concerns.
It was no surprise. Even Dave had had his suspicions despite the still new novelty of his disguise.
"A bat," Rose told him, "I wouldn't imagine you to deliberately choose such a precarious vermin."
The two sat in the upstairs piano room, Dave leaning his chin on his elbow as Rose idly scanned over the sheets of music. She bundled them together, slipping back into their respective case, and opened the curtains. An orange glow lit up the tiled floor, and gave the walls a warmer feel than usual. The sunset flashed over Dave's sunglasses, concealing whatever expression he yielded at the moment.
Rose continued, "However if this is the manner you wish to go and pay your respects to your elder brother, I see no faults in your actions." She reached for the dark glass across the table, before suddenly turning to face the younger Strider. Her black lips her pulled into a thin line, and her eyes remained focused on the other. "Yet I fear you may be oblivious to the consequences of your decisions. Violent antics such as the one your brother had the unfortunate of expecting are already a regular case in Gotham."
The girl glanced down at her drink, and said, "Perhaps I'm not as capable as your caretakers may have previously presumed, but I fear I am more than able to see the impetuous current pattern of choices you have been making."
Upon the first time wearing the mask, Dave had felt absolute no connection to it whatsoever. He had expected it, being one of his brother's personal belongings. However as unorthodox as he had initially found it to be, shifting through his brother's wares and items had been a less frightening experience than he believed it would be. However it had taken him several days to garner to courage to even go as far as to venture in his brother's room, not to mention even to monumental amount of balls it took to even crack his closet open. He had no clue to whom the cowl may have had previously belonged to - all he knew was that it was there, and now it was all his own.
Dave leaned against the piano, feeling the edges of the ivory keys poke at his back. The long sleeved shirts he had worn had begun to become less than comfortable, however he refused to wear the luxurious clothing the managers of the Strider estate offered him. Dave sharply replied, "You know that what he would have wanted me to do. Make some poor pathetic five-to-nine worker a little less depressed; swing in pretty black tights making sure I found out who was naughty and was nice in the dark."
"It's the most ridiculous thing I have ever done. But I'm more than set to keep on doing it as long as it takes."
Rose crossed her legs, and curiously raised her brows. "And why do you find yourself in such a principle to endow yourself with whatever fantasy your brother had imagined? The Police Department are much more capable than a thirteen year old in a bat shaped mask galloping in the most uncanny of bounds and -" she paused and gave a less than amused expression.
"What do you call it?"
Dave coughed, "A Batsuit."
"Combined with whatever treacheries and heresies Gotham has prepared for you," Rose continued "I am more than positive in the possibility of experiencing the most fateful of descends, twenty stories in the sky."
The girl bit her lip as Dave looked over at her, seemingly more preoccupied with other matters not currently present. He adjusted the sunglasses against the bridge of his noise in a single swift gesture, and turned around to face the piano. His fingers only briskly touched the keys, before giving the one furthest from him a strong press. The wooden floor rumbled, and Dave could feel the fine build of the instrument vibrate with sound.
"I have no plans to break my neck. You have much less to be concerned with than whatever it is you already are." Dave stated. He idly skimmed over the smooth surface of the piano sitting up, and making his way towards Rose with a grin. "In fact, you should have nothing to worry about tonight. I heard the circus is in town."
Rose smiled, and paused before she replied, "Then perhaps we shall better discuss matters there."
Chapter 2: Flying Circus
Dave and Rose decide to carry their matters on at the Skaia Flying Circus, however Gotham's unexpectedness knows no borders.
Dave had had the honor of attending various kinds of public gatherings with his brother in the past. The nature of them however, was less than what could be considered normally appealing. Nonetheless he appreciated the brief moments of Bro's grins, the festive carnival lights flashing over his sunglasses, a seemingly prefect image of a Strider.
The overcoat, and soft white dress shirt gave Dave none of that elegance, none of that essence of superiority. The Lalonde girl had fitted herself a keen black blouse and a flower decorated headband. Yet Dave himself had never felt any inclination towards the favors of decor fashion, Rose had taken the measures to compliment him on his appearance.
"A night time circus of all occasions," she started. "It's true you Striders have a bizarre taste in entertainment."
Dave replied, "You should had seen what my brother used to do for a living."
"I'm sure it would have been a fascinating experience," Rose said.
The clown puppets had been secured in a disclosed location for all Dave was knowledgeable of. In fact his brother could have had buried somewhere off the continent and not a single individual other than himself would have the slightest of clues.
Dave peered at the illuminated wooden gate, and the cheaply painted signed held up by black metallic poles. The orange and red lights of the circus stretched out the entirety of the field as the bright figures of the tents and decorated buildings seemed endless. Crowds of citizens circled the tent, feverishly pressed against one another under the summer heat.
Sliding through the folds of the main tent, a fine dressed man led the two teenagers up into a row of preserved seats. They were placed directly facing the center ring, reasonably elevated to a degree where it was possible to not only receive a clear view of the performers, but the audience itself.
Towering above the ring of bleachers however was the main performance. Although half dimmed away by the darkness at the crown of the tent, a pair of poles sat across one another from one end of the ring to the other. A neatly made set of what appeared to be acrobatic equipment lied on their circular shaped platform. However as Dave continued to observe the floor of the tent, it came to his attention that there appeared to not a single safety net.
He nudged Rose, his expression fully covered by his glasses. "A gimmick?" he asked.
Rose planted her hands on to her lap, and appeared to be focusing elsewhere. The figures of audience remained to be unsettled, however she quickly passed it on the humidity outdoors. "The Skaia Flying Circus does have a reputation for their more considerable stunts than the majority of outdoor festivities related to Gotham," she replied.
Suddenly the tent glowed, flashing in white only a single moment before all attention was drawn towards the center ring. The line illuminating the bleachers had disappear, and slowly begun to focus on the single ring in the middle of the ground. The announcer was a poor looking man by Dave's own judgment, however had a voice that could easily be heard from the distance they were at.
The performances were at best mediocre, and had even gained Rose's own vocal feelings of disdain by the second to last ring. Not at all like the performances Bro would mimic, and especially nothing like the puppet shows he would perform for the most prestigious of invited guest. Except Dave never once ever felt he had the guts to attend a single one.
He anxiously pulled up his wrist, glancing down at his record shaped watch, and returned his attention back to the center ring. The excitement the audience had initially given off had slowly began to vanish as the series of performances continued, back to back in the stiff weather. Dave seriously began to feel a bit absurd still sitting in his seat.
The lights split in half, aiming at both of the poles opposite of one another. A low hush overcame the audience, as two figures - one noticeably smaller than the other emerged on the platforms. Their balance was perfect, and appeared utterly unfazed by the fact they stood only a single foot slip away from a fatal fall.
Rose idly opened up a pamphlet and began to read it off to Dave, "I believe these are the trapeze artists. Their talent is apparently the highest point of the Skaia Flying Circus line." However Dave didn't seem to be remotely interested in the facts, his attention undivided on the platform on the opposite end of the pit.
He appeared to be about his and Rose's age. Two oddly shaped teeth popped out of his mouth, and as awkwardly placed as it could be was a pair of square framed glasses pushed against his face. Dave almost felt embarrassed for the kid, he seemed almost too scrawny to even think of leaping from one unreasonable height to another.
"The Flying Egberts," Rose said. "Well - I'll give them the strange last name, that's for sure."
The black haired boy carefully paced around the platform, almost as if he was making sure it wouldn't suddenly drop beneath is feet. He rose up on his toes, stretching his arms overhead before suddenly making a swift dash towards the handlebar hanging before him. Dave watched with intrigue as he grabbed it both of his small hands, gliding across through the air with a single swing. As he let of one of his hands, he leaned towards, and then without hesitant released his other grip.
Dave remained silent as the people besides him gave away into a small series of gasps. However the trick was quickly finished as another figure swept down and caught the glasses wearing boy with a single movement. The boy looked as if he was floating, with nothing but the air separating him from the solid tent floor and his demise. But he kept with the same cool as he did as he leaped off the tower, everything was routine, he absolutely had no reason to be concerned.
Bro had the exact same expression during his work. Except Dave was pretty sure the kid acrobatic wasn't expression less for months on end. In fact, Dave was convinced his brother's stoic face was the only one he could manage to pull off. It might have run in the family, maybe something to do with the sunglasses, Dave could never tell.
"I suppose it's impressive for someone like him. Someone our age." Dave said under his breath.
The glasses wearing boy dangled for a moment, before being swung on to the platform of the tower. The man whom had caught is disappeared on the one opposite of him as the spotlight expanded over the two balconies. The spotlight, the attention of the entire audience was direct now at one spot. The boy in the sky blue outfit couldn't help to great out into a grin as the tent was suddenly flooded with applause. Dave laughed to himself, and gave Rose an assuring look at the spotlight changed position as the pair prepared for their second move.
The heat had had no effect on Dave, in fact he was completely as ease compared to the anxious rows of people. He pulled down his sunglasses as the spotlights wildly turned, awing the audience only a moment. Suddenly the buck toothed boy climbed back on edge of the platform, swinging from in another effortless movement. Dave's brother and him would mess around on the playgrounds like this, carelessly and without the smallest concern for danger. He knew Bro could never get hurt, anything he had to hide from Dave was blocked out by those sharp triangular shaped glasses. Absolutely nothing could pierce them, it had a resistance to pain and everything he never wanted Dave to know he felt.
That's when Dave felt his throat tighten up into a knot. The spotlight twisted to the side as the rustling audience finally settled. Rose made a soft noise, suddenly turning away from the center ring and glanced towards the hallway leading out the tent.
There wasn't a safety net, and Dave already knew what was going to happen. The rope swung limply above the center ring, now ripped into half as the spotlight froze over it as if it were an exhibit. The glasses wearing boy cringed, halting his momentum and simply hung midair. He dangled with only his grip on the wooden handlebars, a vile helpless creeping up his spine as the man before him continued to fall below his feet.
"Dave," Rose suddenly stated. She grabbed his wrist, pulling his attention away from the incident.
A buzzing noise emitted from the crowd, voices suddenly overlapping one another, some more frantic than others. Dave swiftly got on to his feet, his brows knitted together and back straight. The girl besides him held her breath as he bolted back the panicked rows of peoples, shoving his way to lower ground. Rose's voice wavered, pursuing the other as she slipped through the moving wave of bodies.
Rose said louder, "Dave - "
The boy pulled up his sunglasses, and grabbed the wooden guard separating the balconies from the stage. He glanced over at his assistant, before swinging himself over it and landing with a heavy thud.
The lights were blinding. A rush of shapes moved past Dave, climbing over one another towards the center ring or outside. Although a select few quietly watched, the adrenaline running through him kept Dave scanning at the sight. The boy with the glasses made his way back to the platform, his mouth open as if to shout but just didn't have enough willpower to do so.
Rose came down besides him, cautiously dropping off the steps as her and Dave waited for the crowd to settle down. Whatever it was Dave had planned to manage with this visit was obviously out of the question. In fact, there were more than a dozen plausible outcomes she could had considered for how this trip would end.
The circus never came to town where she had previously lived. However the massive tents and glaring lights absolutely had no effect. Instead, the center ring had been the least of her interests.
"Someone ran out that hallway, Dave," she said.
"Yeah, I saw," Dave stated. "You stay."
"Stay?" Rose replied immediately. "Not under these circumstances."
Dave began making his way down the edge of the circle and towards the hall hidden away from the exit. Rose attempted to pace behind him, before he paused and explained, "Just make sure things don't get crazier than they already are."
The stage lights dimmed, as if to divert the attention away from the scene. Across the center of the ring, Rose could make out the shape of the man sprawled in an almost unnatural posture on the ground. She felt like she needed to ignore it just like everyone else silently passing behind her. Yet not far off, the boy with black hair held his hand up to mouth, attempting to cover his face as he descended from the tower. He didn't bother to approach the man, nor the small circle that had surrounded him. His simple expression was gone, and instead seemed shyer, not the cheerful ease displayed under the spotlight.
There was something Rose felt she was compelled to say. Try to comfort the kid, wasn't your fault kid, these things happen. She planted her feet into the ground, simply watching as the other appeared to quietly reside into a world of his own.
Second part of the Skaia Flying Circus arc! I'll be trying to keep these parts around 2k ~ 4K words by breaking up a single large chapter into more serial suited parts. The Flying Egberts does have a funny ring to it, doesn't it?
Chapter 3: John
After the startling incident during the Flying Egbert's performance, Dave attempts to track down the footsteps of whoever was its cause. However the acrobatic named John seems less than compelled to join his efforts.
The sweat was already clinging to his neck, and his hair had already began to be just a little more messy than it usually was. Appearance had never been an issue for Dave, in fact it was the last thing Bro had even bothered to teach him about. Bro told him about a lot of things – wicked shades, video games, music, not exactly he needed to be conceived as an acceptable member of society by the general public. It never mattered what your image was as long as you did it ironically.
Except Dave wasn't running down clueless civilians under pastel rainbow circus tents, sweating his ass off just for the hell of it. He anxiously pried his collar, adjusting his sunglasses as they bounced against his the bridge of his nose.
The black figure running ahead of him made its way through the crowds, swerving away and making sharp turns. Outdoors the buzz of laughter continued, oblivious to scene within the main tent. Dave slipped through a line, dashing his way around a table as the man he chased vanished beneath a strip of gaudy orange lights.
He was lead to a carriage, an old fashion built structure with the paint peeling off the face and the wheels rusted and aged. Dave paused, stepping back into the shadows of the nearby facilities as the circus lights continued to bounce overhead. A rustling sound emerged under the buzz of the crowds, from the shameless cheering of performance audience to the occasional shift in voices of the guests. The circus continued to be a lot of things – a place to quietly fester thoughts about the nature of mysterious men whom may or may not be related to your next case wasn't one of them.
A strip of light slithered out on the ground, stretching out over the dew grass and out into the reaches of the booths. Dave held his breath and pressed himself against the wooden structure besides him, slipping quick glances as the door of the carriage slowly opened.
As the figure vanished into the carriage, Dave managed to catch a glimpse of his profound mustached and what appeared to be a tan explorer's cap. The interior if the carriage appeared to be lined with rifles, and what else the teen could have only presumed to be frogs. He had to give the man credit – making such efforts to even make his own quarters in theme with the circus grounds.
Dave waited a few moments, listening for any more footsteps or men to arrive. However he was met again with the dull buzzing of the circus and the occasional high pitched scream and odd sounding jingle from one of the stages. A muffled shout emitted from the walls of the carriage, catching his attention again for a brief moment. But it disappeared as soon as it arrived, and the vehicle remained still continued as the circus thrived, oblivious to any of the happenings around it.
"John, is it?" Rose asked.
The black haired boy continued his silence, sitting with his back against the tower he and his father had performed from. The crowd surrounding the ring had dispersed as time eventually passed over. Although the outside appeared somewhat unaware of the incident, less individuals began to emerge out of curiosity. A few more bodies drifted by Rose, followed by Dave's assistants reassuring their presence scattered away from her. The girl reached out to the others shoulder, giving him a comforting squeeze. John held his breath, watching the shadows of the audience stream out from the bleachers wordlessly like ghosts. Rose exhaled, and looked over his shoulder as the medical team idly circled the ring, attempting to lift the fallen man to their best efforts.
"Yeah," John replied.
Another figure emerged from the back entrance, seeming to slip past the newly added guards without a sound. The quick moving shape disappeared from Rose's sight, making her turn away from the other teen and scan the surrounding ring. The majority of the audience had already been asked to leave, the possibilities of any kind of loitering was less than plausible.
John glanced up at her curiously, and gave the girl a forced smile. The medical unit in the distance continued their work, carrying the boy's partner away to the back entrance the swift figure had arrived from. A solemn quietness came over the tent, interrupting only by the occasionally echoed sound made from the high bleachers, or the thriving noise of the guests outdoors.
Dave pulled his sunglasses back over his eyes, adjusting the collar of his shirt as Rose shortly greeted him. As he walked up behind the girl, John immediately noticed him. As of was caught in some sort of indecent act, his face began to burn and he flustered coming up on to his feet. Rose watched him with a bit of intrigue as Dave casually approached the performer.
"Saw what happened up there," Dave said.
John was speechless, however his brows were knitted and seemed incapable of any coherent communication at the moment.
The two paused, and Dave cleared his throat and shot Rose a cautionary glance as he continued, "A big shame that was."
"That's all you have to say?" John suddenly replied back. "I mean -"
Dave answered, "Look I know, like I said, it was real unfortunate for something like that to occur. Wasn't even planned I bet." He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his slacks, and could feel his skin beginning to crawl under the layers of clothing. Any fashion decisions he would make in the future would most definitely not come from any more precautionary teenage girls.
The medical team appeared to be completely gone from the scene now, leaving the three and the occasional cluster of guards and onlookers by the center ring. However John ignored them, and stared down at his feet.
Rose looked at the black haired boy, despite appearing to be her age, he certainly displayed a noticeable level of self consciousness. Dave had spoken to her about observing your targets in the past, and despite her initial dismissals of the others so-called crime tactics, it had already done her some reasonable good.
"Come on, kid" Dave said. "This is terrible, right?"
John opened his mouth to say something, but stopped.
Dave continued, "Bet you just loved the circus, didn't you?"
John silently nodded.
"Won't be all that great without the big guy there for you now, huh?" Dave added.
Suddenly the discussion came to another pause, as John walked up to the sunglasses wearing teenager. Rose stepped back, watching as he approached Dave while the other gave almost no reaction.
"You're not being sincere at all about this," John started. "but I guess I don't like it. In fact I'm not really sure what I'm suppose to tell you people. How am I suppose to know how to feel after just -"
He attempted to say his next word, but found that his mouth had suddenly become dry. John rubbed his throat, and bit his bottom lip with his two recognizably large buck teeth poking out. Dave felt the need to snicker at the sight, but struggled to withhold his laughter.
John's face burned up again, and gave the sunglasses wearing individual a stern glare. "You honestly believe this whole situation is hilarious?" He drew in some air, which made the Strider want cackle even more under his breath. "You really think so? You think I'm funny, right? Because I dress up in these blue tights and flip around all day."
Dave sharply interrupted, "Hell, what I'm trying to say is you got nothing else here now that the big man's kicked the bucket. Fell off the empire state building of acrobatic sky-high hula-hoop double reacharounds and right on his carny triangle nose." He reached for his shades and fixed them again. "You have so much bad luck, might as well run away from this joint."
A painful knot formed in John's chest, causing him to reach for his stomach and stare down at feet. Dave's expression remained as stoic as it normally was, neither sarcastically cool or noticeable upset. The heat of the outdoors brushed around the walls of the tent as Dave realized he had started to sweat again.
He wiped his palm against the leg of his pants, and called the attention of John. The boy quickly responded, sharing a quick look from Rose as he awaited whatever the other would tell him.
"It's your choice, really. You can stay around and roll in cotton candy and pasty clown makeup all you want. But they'll probably just replace whoever the hell it was they had you working with. In fact, you might as well join a troupe now, the other half of your duo is pretty nonexistent if I say so myself." Dave explained to John.
John rubbed his wrists and replied, "And you think that's all true? They'll try to replace me?"
Dave said, "I saw who damaged the ropes. Rose saw them too. If you get out of here, we can get him and make him pay."
For a moment John exhaled, and remained completely still. Rose gave him a slim smile, as the noise outdoors began to die away in the background. However John appeared to the ignore the gesture all together, and kept his eyes on Dave's expressionless face.
"You know? You mean - you were able to see?" John's voice cracked as he pressed Dave.
"We saw them leave. I went out and reached and came back through the back. John," Dave started. "If you want revenge you can't be lying around here. Who knows what else they might have in mind. Staying here will dig your own grave."
John kicked the dirt beneath his feet. The circus felt incredibly close. Never once was there a need to consider the matters outside of the tents. They couldn't apply to him, John didn't live in that world. Politics, wars, the economy, they left grey spaces in the boy's minds, and much less sense could even be made out of Gotham. The boy standing across him wore his sunglasses, hiding his expression with a clever tongue, acting away in front of him. It was too much like the performers he'd pass by each morning, too much in common to be Gotham.
"So I leave?" John held on to his words. "I leave with you?"
Rose replied, "If that is what the matter calls for. Then I am sure -"
She glanced over at Dave. The teen nodded back at her, and she continued. "Then I am sure Mr. Strider will find proliferate pleasure in finding place for you."
The summer heat began to become unbearable, and the three quickly found themselves noticing each other's discomfort. Dave removed his dress coat, and swung it over his shoulder. John remained in place noticing how Rose and Dave appeared to be so casual to one another. Tension almost seemed nonexistence between the two; however he found it difficult to differentiate it from a collective sense of ease, or just Dave's own lack of regard.
"Rose, take him to the mansion." Dave told the girl.
She replied, "They'll be looking for whoever killed the performer. As to my knowledge security isn't allowing any of the guests to leave. Our best efforts will to be ensure that our companion here will be able to make a suitable hiding place."
Dave attempted to speak, but was interrupted by John's cracking voice. "I can manage. I mean, it wouldn't be too hard. They let me go around on breaks, there's a bit of a forest lying around the outskirts." He paused and gave Dave a grin that was filled with a sense of self gratification. "I want to see."
"See what, exactly?" Dave asked reluctantly.
"Who killed my dad. I want to see him gone, people like that shouldn't -" John started.
Dave said, "Go outside with Rose then. Stay hidden until we come back from the mansion. Any trouble you get into will mostly be the last."
Before John could managed a reply, the sunglasses wearing teen turned away, and was followed by a line of his assistants. He pushed the square frames against his nose silently, and felt Rose lightly touch his arm. John put his hand down, and followed her as they trailed behind Dave towards the back entrance.
John Egbert - the funny faced boy acrobatic! Honestly the character's speech patterns has me liking him more than I do writing Rose's own form of dialogue. Seems like things are boiling up between Dave and John. There's going to be some serious action coming up. Cool kid and boy wonder shenanigans, am I right?
Chapter 4: Rescue
Dave strikes again as a bat and makes his way to assist John.
Bro Strider had lived by a philosophy with the inclusion of only two rules. Be cool, and you never needed risk. Dave had made sure him and Rose were able to bypass the security surrounding the Skaia Flying Circus, making their swift escape out by one of the designated Strider drivers. It was quick, it was efficient, and Dave didn’t have to ask more about it than he felt he compromised to.
The mansion was noticeably ambient, the towering windows gaping open to the sight of the dusk as the entire floor took on a pleasant orange tint. Dave passed by Rose as she closed the door behind them, following the boy as he quickly rushed up the marble stairway. Their designators awaited outside the front steps as the driver was designed to stand by.
Dave fumbled with the door knob to the studio, reaching for his pockets anxiously searching for the keys. Rose easily drifted by him, and slipped a small wallet size object out of her coat. The card fitted perfectly between the door and lock, emitting a satisfying clicking sound.
The closet slid open without much effort as Dave reached into and felt for a switch. The wall inside the closet’s wooden frame opened, allowing entry to a small passage way. Rose followed him as he sneaked through the rectangular opening, leading into a smaller room with a single window.
Several features of the Strider mansion remained unknown to even its own occupants. It wasn’t until Bro had taken Dave by his own accord, touring him on the various sequences of hidden rooms and hallways did he become aware of them. Rose’s initial surprise had made Dave somewhat weary, not quite sure if informing the girl about what else existed in the mansion would be considered beneficial. He had set it aside for another day – there were too many things that already needed time to sink in.
“Is this where you keep it?” Rose asked.
Dave walked up to the wall directly facing them in the room, reaching up towards its black plated surface. The remaining three walls were a simple, plain white, lacking in any distinguishing contrast from any other wall, and in his own opinion suited the wooden floors quite nicely. But they weren’t the ones that Bro had installed a built in deposit into.
The black metallic plate slide opened, two folds shifting to the left and right. A series of shelves was revealed, one side containing various monitors Rose could be unable to guess the purpose of, and the other displaying some sort of equipment set. Dave unlocked a thin box at the bottom of the right shelf, sliding open a compartment that drew out for a solid foot or two.
“The cowl?” Dave answered.
Rose idly circled the boy as his entire arm reached into the drawer.
“Whatever it seems you are attempting to fish out of your conundrum of storage,” she replied.
A silver flash of light flickered between the two for a brief moment, causing the girl to take a step back. Dave’s sunglasses reflected back at her, hiding the excitement she could easily see on the grin on his face.
Dave said, “Bro’s sword.” He lowered the blade, tilting the tip carefully over the surface of the floor. The black and metal hilt was tightly gripped in his right hand, noticeably untouched and clean compared to sets Rose had spotted in the boy’s own room.
“Okay, it’s one of his swords.” Dave continued.
“Impressive. I wish to assert that it was neither stated nor supported that you take the measures to ever seek and act on impulses that may inquire the actual use of such weaponry.” Rose replied.
Dave said, “I know that,” He slid the katana back into its sheath, and swung its shoulder strap around him. The hilt of sword barely brushed against his back, standing out besides his shoulders. If under any other circumstances, Rose would have complimented the boy’s stature.
The remaing stacks of compartments were opened as Dave reached into the closet again. With his newly attained sword swinging behind him, he reached towards the top hanger with a few swipes of his hands. Whatever he attempted to find dropped on to the surface of the drawers, and slid down to his feet.
"And that is?" Rose inquired, pointing to the object.
Picking up what appeared to be a coat with a black cover over it, Dave gave the girl a steady look. He didn't bother to answer her question, and instead slipped the cover off the object.
Dave had initially found the suit with the mask in his brother's corridors. Who knew where it came from exactly, but all he had to be concerned with was that it made one hell of a disguise. And with a good enough mask, the Strider felt pretty confident with the extents of what he could get away with. Even if Rose may have had her own distaste in his personal choice in judicial actions.
Rose started, "The batsuit, isn't it? That stupendous piece of article is by bar the most concerning thing this in this mansion."
"Sure," Dave replied, "And I'll be wearing it to the circus tonight - coming along?"
The girl's expression seemed dishearten, and she stared at Dave. "I hope you do not honestly intend on convicting whoever committed that act regarding the Egberts. "
Dave said, "I'm positive you're not getting the exact point of what I'm trying to say. I am going back to the circus to help John, and I'm pretty sure I'll be wearing this thing while doing it."
"The police department are very capable of handling these situations on their own," Rose replied. "I doubt they would react nicely to a teenage, caped vigilante upsetting their own business."
Dave had taken a black hood out of the hidden compartment, and swiftly slipped over his face. It was complimenting fit, and it did give him quite the demeaning appearance. He sat his sunglasses into the closet and pressed a trigger as the compartment silently closed.
The two didn't speak to one another as Rose observed the teen in front of her. Of course she had read and seen the reports about the mysterious figure making rounds around Gotham. It wasn't very difficult to track the stories down - it was a strange piece of news. However the caped crusader was only at arm's length away, and seemed more than ready to continue his line of work.
Rose turned towards the hidden room's exit, and politely waved. "I feel you may be taking this role beyond what is needed. But I will also be the last to interfere with the Striders if I happen to do so." The girl paused and glanced at Dave as he adjusted the sword's shoulder trap.
"Perhaps much more mobile weapons should be more readily available," Rose stated.
Dave smirked, and replied, "Sounds like a plan. Maybe this doesn't sound all that crazy to you, then."
"No, it is still a extremely bizarre concept. But I have agreed to an agreement that makes sure I do agree. If it will be to your benefit," She paused and studied the pointed ears of Dave's mask. "and the public - I see no standing issues as long as you conduct no harm."
Dave held up the batsuit, as if judging whether or not to wear it. The material was solid and thick, and somewhat worn from his previous campaigns. He had only gone out with the entire costume once, and could already feel something in his throat. Rose closed the door behind her wordlessly, leaving him with the cape and suit.
If he could do it once he could do it again. His brother wouldn't be the one to yes or no. He had the ability to save Gotham - if it was just a single ridiculous buck-toothed boy.
The Skaia Flying Circus had occupied Gotham for several years, becoming something of a tradition. Despite being active once dusk turned, the circus had called forth a large quantity of Gotham's citizens. At the head of these events were no other than the front-man of the Harley family himself.
In fact, Dave knew the man personally. The fat mustached man with an affinity for hunting guns had invited Bro on various occasions for business matters. However Dave had found his almost excessively enthusiastic posture suspicious. But the first rule Bro had taught him about strangers were that they had less to do with than you thought. And that was more than true. The head of the Harley had less to do with Dave than he did with John.
Slipping past the security was a ridiculous easy task as Dave leaped from a lower rooftop to a series of iron guards. His grip loosened around the metal bars, pushing himself upwards one step at a time until he was a reasonable distance over the fence beneath. The boy pried himself off the guard, and landed on to the dirt with a audible thud.
Immediately he hid from sight, cautious of whatever attention he might had brought upon himself. Although the circus was a considerable distance from the strip of wilderness surrounding it, Dave was more than convinced his risks should be limited.
Deciding the coast was clear, Dave rushed towards the single cluster of trees in the field. With the rest of the empty land occupied by cheap booths and tents, it would be the most reasonable location for another individual to hide.
"John," Dave called out as he approached the thicket. His call was replied with the occasional rustle of the leaves and insect cries. He attempted to call the others name again, but with the same results and no avail.
It was plausible the boy had decided to drop his end of the deal with the Strider. Considering the fact that the two had just met, it seemed perfectly understandable. Although John appeared convinced with what Dave had relayed to him, Dave couldn't bother not to consider the other side of what it may had meant to the acrobat.
Except he wasn't going to take any risks. He couldn't afford to take any risks on this job, any mistakes he made would be impossible to fix,
The carriage appeared unoccupied from afar. Dave cautiously made his way around the perimeter of the circus, slipping behind whatever booths and other placed obstacles he could use to his defenses. He didn't need to be caught for trespassing, and he most certainly didn't need to caught doing in it dressed as a bat.
The main strip was considerably emptier than Dave had last seen it. The incident and sudden influx of security had probably done the number on the amount of guests. As Dave loomed under the orange lights, it had come to his realization that there appeared to a utter lack of visitors occupying their usual positions.
An evacuation more than likely. The police department couldn't risk the chance of ruining the case, or the evidence if it came to that. However as the music still operated and the displayed still flickered with their excessively bright colors, there still remained an eerie shadow of a pleasantly oblivious circus.
Dave made it to the opposite side of the circus, locating the lone carriage among the other lot of trailers and storage trucks. The windows appeared to be illuminated, and a strip of light ran out from the beneath the front door. It would be his only option, but Dave was positive there would no other place for the glasses wearing boy to disappear to.
His approach would have to be flawless. In fact, it would be nothing like any of his training sessions. Nothing was known about the man other than the fact he ran a circus that ended up killing an innocent acrobat. But that was enough to measure with in Dave's opinion; if he did have John he would need to find a solution to rescuing him either way.
The first option would be barraging the carriage head on with prospects of not getting his ass handed back to him. Except Dave didn’t have the slightest clue how to barge a down a door. Obviously years of stealth antics with Bro would have done enough good, however his best concealed secrets had never been quite passed down to Dave. The only remaining option would be to wait until the front door opened and make his move.
The wait wasn’t as long as he had expected it to last. Footsteps could be hear tapping against the hollow floor, and was followed by the window suddenly blacking out. Dave held his breath, as the sound suddenly stopped. The grass rustled around the carriage, and he could spot a pair of figures trailing around the area.
They had to be the men Rose saw at the ring. Unless they had decided to escape, it would be safer to stay in the hands of the circus heads than wander and be questioned by officials. Dave adjusted the cape’s collar around his neck, and rested a hand on the hilt of his katana. He could strike them right when they arrived, and hopefully cause enough commotion to drive whoever was in the carriage out to do the same.
However by the time the figures became clearer, Dave felt his grip loosen and his breath hitch in his chest. Attacking now would be reckless if they were simply unassociated workers passing by. The summer heat made his skin crawl and he could feel the thick material of the mask starting to press against his face. Dave steadied his hand over his sword, slightly sliding it out as he leaned forward towards the field.
Dave staggered towards them, lashing out his blade as he bolted to the carriage. He felt two bodies brush against his shoulders, immediately reacting to his actions. The boy ducked as an arm swung down, somersaulting into the field and holding his sword out to his side. The men were conceiving larger than him, and appear noticeably more built than he had initially observed.
His cape swung brushed behind his legs as he leaped up, pointing his sword towards incoming pair of individuals. A less direct confrontation may have done him good. Except now he had two possibly life threatening attackers coming towards him, and Dave figured he didn’t have the time to consider any alternates.
As he dodged another move, Dave felt a sting against the nape of his neck. He hissed and dropped the katana on to the ground. Dave felt his ear being pressed into the dirt as a cold object scraped his back again. Something warm was clinging to his upper back, and a burning sensation pierced the teen when he attempted to get back up.
The scent of blood was almost too much. The training Bro had occupied with him had never ended in bloodshed, and he certainly never got the point where standing became difficult. This was the exact opposite of what a Strider could prove. They didn’t end up face down with a mouthful of dirt in the back lot of a filthy circus. Dave held his breath as he anxiously awaited the next blow, curling his fist and preparing himself.
A loud creaking noise emitted from the carriage as the front door violently swung open. The voice was immediately recognizable, and quickly caught Dave’s attention as he looked up. Pain seared down his spine, and made the boy grit his teeth as he spotted John wander off the exit of the carriage. A large man was ahead of him, geared with a tan hide expedition hat and a noticeably sized hunting rifle.
Once the gunshot was fired, all movement seized to a pause. Dave groaned, pushing himself on to his knees, feeling for the hilt of his sword nearby. His mouth shot open as he felt the bottom of a shoe crush the top of his hand. The teen shouted, and in a single movement launched himself upwards and grabbed the man over him.
John paced back, making his way behind the face of the carriage as the head of the Harley family fired his gun again. The two thugs stopped in their tracks as Dave cautiously rubbed at his wounded shoulders. The metal blade of the katana flashed as he brought it back to his side, nervously swinging it as he found his balance once again.
“What the hell is that?” one of the voiced muttered.
Dave fixed the cowl over his face, and glanced at John hidden away by the carriage. That’s right; he made sure not to get involved. It was probably the safest option, but also meant he’d have to make his way through two thugs with a crowbar and a ringleader with a gun. He never exactly told Rose the job would be safe.
Ignoring the sensation in his shoulder, Dave turned around and made it way around one of the men. The other stepped back, attempting to grab him by the arm as Dave swung his blade overhead. Dave pressed down on the hilt as it seeped into the thug’s shoulder, drawing it out in a swift slash. His victim gave a wild cry, toppling away to the side as the boy brought the blade back to his side.
The other individual wouldn't have to be of any of his concerns. Dave, still keeping his sword ready for sudden combat, darted towards the end of the carriage, speeding past the Harley. He didn't bother with a second glance after the third gunshot fired into the sky, making his way closer to the back of the wooden vehicle.
John's face was tinged with red and his cheeks were brushed with sweat. He swallowed anxiously, scanning the cowl wearing teen standing over him with the edge of his weapon smeared with blood.
"You just got Spades. You got Spades, Dave." John panted.
Dave hurriedly replied, "Who did I get?"
The boy grabbed the other by the wrist, pulling Dave behind him. "Slick. Oh man Dave," John said. "we need to go."
Sliding his katana back into its sheath, Dave answered, "I thought you agreed we'll get back. Rose and me knew who we saw. That Spades fellow - that's who nicked the ropes, John."
"I don't care Dave. You can't handle him. You're already bleeding, the last thing you need to do is get hurt."
Dave pushed his cape over his shoulder, leaning over the side of the carriage to catch a glimpse of what remained of the scene. Harley held his rifle with both of his thick hands, speaking with the two black shaped men. Even from a distance, Dave could easily make out of his gruff voice. John bit his bottom lip, anxiously reaching out to Dave as if to bring him back.
"Dave!" John whispered.
The masked teenager shot him a glance, and turned back to watch the garish scene. Whatever it was Harley was attempting to convey was being downright rejected by the pair of thugs. Dave observed their motions, one threatening to raise his crowbar at the larger individual before him.
A breeze picked up, and the orange street lights were caught in a flurry of movement. The colors flashed over the main strip as the wind turned towards the field. Harley shifted his gun over his shoulder, continuing his loud voiced lecture as his hat suddenly flipped away.
"Oh crap," Dave said under his breath.
As he turned away, he realized John had disappeared. Checking his surrounding, Dave was positive the boy's scrawny exterior couldn't had carried him far off. Facing the stretch of grass on the opposite side of the carriage, he spotted the glasses wearing boy thrown on to the ground. John clumsily rose back to his feet, continuing his dash across the field.
Dave pressed his fingers against the bridge of nose and whispered, "God damn it, John."
Sure, Dave had expected to make getaways. All part of the job, nothing strange about it. They were strange and mysterious as the night itself; silent and elegant and most importantly cool. Chasing the single person he had attempted to keep safe simply did not fall in category. Another gun shot fired as Dave sprinted across the outskirts, his cape swept up in the winds and lashing out against his forehead.
By the time he had caught up with John, the boy had fallen back down to catch his breath. His hand was placed over his chest as it rose and fell, almost gasping. Dave wiped the sweat off his neck, wincing as he touched the surface of a bruise. John opened his mouth to speak, but was immediately silenced with the others stare.
"Egbert, I am rescuing you." Dave stated. "You get that?"
John tried to speak up again, but was interrupted once more.
"No, you don't get it because you act like a jumpy little kid. I'm the one needing to do the running. You stand in place and don't get kidnapped by Harley again." Dave said.
"What about Spades?" John questioned.
Dave hesitated before answering the boy, and reached for the hilt of his katana. The empty stalls and loose decorative lights loomed around the two, leading the way to a desert main room. As the end stood the familiar front gates, now labeled with caution tape and flashing red and blue. John peered down at the scene, pressing his back against the wooden snack booth.
"It's fine," Dave sighed. "You already ran off anyways. I should have known better. Rose is going to gnaw my head off if you had the slightest clue what you did though."
John grinned and replied, "That costume is ridiculous, you know. You look like one of the performers, actually. But I could tell it was you."
If he had invested in a disguise, the one he currently had apparently wasn't making the cut. Dave pointed to the cowl, and dramatically flipped his cape over his shoulder. He hissed, feeling his wounds but kept a stern face for John.
"You mean this - the batsuit." Dave said.
John asked, "A batsuit? A bat then - you think you're a bat?"
"Best I can do right now." Dave replied. He glanced at the front gates, standing over it a excessively excited illustration of a clown painted on a weather canvas. In bold red letters were: The Skaia Flying Circus, presented by the family Harley and Spades! A none stop promise of whimsy and merriment for the entire family to enjoy, etc. etc.
"They'll catch up soon," Dave said. "unless you suddenly decide you have some ulterior motives."
John sat up and brushed at his jumpsuit. Dave silently passed by him, making his way through the stalls and towards the series of fences. John wasn't sure exactly what to make of the boy. The acrobatic performances were safe for all he knew, and the entire circus was his own. Gotham never needed him, he just came and went where he was called. People wouldn't ask for a kid who was just good as pretending to fly, because the audience already knew it was impossible.
He tried though, he honestly tried to stand up to expectations. And then Dave wore his mask and dropped out of the sky with his sword and cape. Obviously he thought he was some kind of hero, and John had believed it. Whatever it was Dave believed he was, he decided that was who he was.
Standing still wouldn't change anything. John ran towards Dave, trailing next to him as the cape wearing teen began to climb up the iron guard. John watched in awe as Dave slipped between the complex sets of bars, stalking up on to the top of the fences. The winds lifted his cape up into the air as he reached his hand out towards John.
John adjusted the rim of his glasses, and glanced over at the shadow of the Skaia Flying Circus. The bright orange lights were simple illuminated speckles, and the once striped patterned giant tents appeared like the small structures they were. Quietly playing off somewhere, the cheery music looped on the strip and continued faintly. John grabbed Dave's gloved hand, clinging on to the guard and joining the other.
It wasn't difficult. A circus boy could get used to the complexities of a civil life. His prospects had come to end in the circus, and now all there left was Dave. All there left was a teenager who wore a bat costume and who almost got himself killed. If the strange could find place in Gotham, so could he.
So the final part of the Flying Egberts arc. I feel like the dynamics between Dave and John, especially working together as duo will prove to be entertaining. At least if one of them doesn't the bite the others head off our of frustration. Or perhaps that just a little bit on the extreme side.
Chapter 5: Hood
Dave and Rose must decide what to do with John as a dangerous figure suddenly emerges in the city.
Dave hissed as he felt the bandage tighten around his shoulder. The main foyer had been somewhat cleared as he sat on the side of one of the seats, Rose standing behind him with a medical kit. John rubbed the cotton placed over his cheek, watching as Rose sternly spoke to the other.
“That was beyond comprehensible – and was unnecessary.” Rose said.
The sunglasses wearing teen winced as he felt the alcohol sink into his wound. The escape back to the Strider mansion had been a much easier task than he had imagined. However avoiding the cautious looks of his assistants as John and him made their way back home had been less than simple. Rose had immediately spotted the two from the two floor’s balcony, requesting for the others to excuse themselves and clear the foyer.
Dave replied, “You and me have already set an agreement,” he leaned on his elbow and glanced at the girl behind him in the corner of his eye. “We came back alive now, didn’t we?”
John shifted uneasily on the cushions, and held a pillow on his lap. Rose shot him a brief look, and then leaned over Dave’s shoulder. The Strider and her shared a momentarily gaze, before she reached for his sunglasses and promptly lifted them over his brows. A pair of dark crimson eyes stared back at her, somewhat enthralled and confused.
“Your back is utterly ruined,” Rose told to him. “You’re more than lucky it didn’t receive any bruises worse than the ones it got.”
Dave reached for his sun glasses and pulled them back down without bothering to reply. Rose quietly laughed, and continued to tend the teen’s wounds. His upper back was spotted with black and blue marks and three or more scuffs where the crowbar had struck. As the bandage was tightened against his shoulders, Dave shot up and made a sharp noise.
Rose said, “Now don’t do it again.”
John snickered, and fixed his glasses. One of the frames had been snapped and had been quickly repaired, giving the teen a somewhat ridiculous appearance. However he was much more fascinated with Dave than the damages he had taken out of the circus.
“Wasn’t like you actually tried to stop me,” Dave said. “You knew it was for the best.”
Rose finished bandaging the Strider’s back and began working on his shoulders. She reached over to the medical kit and got a bottle of some clear substance. Dave gritted his teeth as she started tending to his wounds again.
“You’ll need stitches,” Rose said. “A consider amount of them, anyways. For the remaining of the week I doubt you'll be in a position where you need stopping.”
The three were silent as the girl finished with Dave. Rose closed up the tin box, and placed it aside on the table. The Strider stood still, and glanced at John. The glasses wearing boy looked in the opposite direction, avoiding the others stare.
Dave had made his way up to his dormitory without a word after Rose had called for additional medical support. John watched as the private doctors climbed up to the mansion’s second floor, making their way to the Strider’s room. They seemed to have taken only a moment, leaving almost immediately as they appeared.
As Rose turned away to close one of the cabinet, John cautiously touched the gauge on his cheek. She smiled and glanced up at the balcony overhead as the team made their way down the stairs. After escorting them to another room, she returned to the main foyer and took a seat besides John.
“I apologize for Dave’s actions,” she placed both of her hands on her lap and continued, “He had put you in a completely unnecessary danger. Things could have been much worse than they were.”
The mansion was uncomfortably quiet, except for the occasional sound from the distant roads and the rustling of the nearby trees. The sunlight in the window gleamed and gave the room a strange glow. John sighed and leaned back into the cushion.
“I think he did fine,” John said. “No one got hurt except,” He paused and bit his bottom lip.
“Well I plan that Dave will make a quick recovery,” Rose replied. “He doesn’t like waiting.”
John asked, “He isn’t that hurt, then?”
Rose answered, "Nothing compared to what he has already committed in the past. The night he came back from his first patrol, I wasn't quite sure if had understood what he had done."
The suit, the mask, the mask were all too foreign. Nothing else like them could hide someone's expression and make them seem so stoic. John couldn't imagine being under the cowl, and the person in the sunglasses confused him even more. Dave made his way silently, and appeared to understand each and every outcome before he struck. He was so much like the city and yet kept his identity hidden away like the circus, performing by his own right.
"What about me, then?" John continued. "I'm here too."
Rose crossed her legs and replied, "Yes, you are."
"Am I suppose to say here - with you and Dave?" John said.
Bringing the boy back to the mansion wasn't the most reasonable of actions Dave had committed; nor was breaking him out of a circus. However the boy lacked any future there, and most of all seemed utterly unprepared for what Gotham truly was.
"It had never come to conversation, but by temporary means I believe you may occupy one of our guests rooms overnight." Rose told him.
John grinned and fumbled with his broken glasses. One of the lenses had been cracked and his face was nicked with scratches. Leaving him would be unorthodox, not to mean most likely against the Strider's will. As a personal assistant, Rose quickly decided to learn how to agree, no matter the given situation. She led the boy up the stairs, passing by the door to Dave's room without a pause.
A shiver ran down Dave's spine as he walked into the kitchen. The small windows let the morning sunlight peek through over the room and occasionally the sound of running water would be heard. The kettle whistled and pierced the silence as Rose continued her work on the counter.
Dave slipped into a seat and watched the girl work for a few moments. He leaned on his elbow and asked her, "Is he staying?"
A plate landed in front of him as Rose eased past the table. Dave stared down at the slice of toast as the other appeared occupied with the oven. Rose replied, "It is your decision as inheritance of the Strider household. I'm in no position to influence your family related choices."
"No," Dave said, "You're in every position to say what you want. I need your opinion."
He winced as he moved his arm, feeling a sharp pain shoot down his shoulder. Dave paused and picked up his arm off the table ignoring the sensation at his upper back.
Rose answered, "I feel he will be in no better care off the estate. Nor would he be in any better under your own personal care." She looked down at Dave as he fixed his sunglasses. "Placing him in foster care may also not be the best option."
"The kid's our age," Dave said. "There has to be something about that. We can't just throw him out there."
The girl folded her arms and checked on the tea. A thick cloud of steam suddenly emitted from the kettle as it released down high pitched howl. Rushing over to it, Rose lifted it off the oven and began to let it cool. She replied, "Unless to wish to give him permanent residence, I doubt his stay would be particularly welcomed by your other assistants."
"Then keep him here," Dave said. "He doesn't have anywhere else, anyways."
The tea was poured into a pair of cups and brought to the table. Rose placed Dave's next to him as she took a seat across from him. She propped a hand on her knee and idly began to stir her cup and said, "I hope you do not have any plans to involve him in your work, however."
Dave stiffened and looked up at the girl on the other side of table, replying, "John isn't ready for that kind of stuff. He was practically useless getting out of the circus - the last thing I want him to do is start jumping rooftops."
Rose laughed at the teen's expressionless face. The amount of concern Dave had shown in the other days had quickly been brought to her attention. However it wasn't all that particular for her not to find some sense of humor in the situation. The Strider continuously strained to uphold his own detachment that the few moments he had failed to do so were much more amusing than alarming.
"It is your decision, but I am glad you wish to ensure his well-being."
The entire room was filled with suits, and the table they sat at seemed to extend forever. Dave adjusted his tie, and watched the scene unravel before him. A personal assistant of his rose in front of group with a display, and began to explain it briefly.
Outside of his scheduled tutoring and dead-of-night crusades, the majority of Dave's day was spent in the office. How his brother had dealt with such an expansive collection of hard faced men and weak proposals still remained an unsolvable mystery. Dave leaned into the leather seat as the council surrounding him quickly came to a judgment.
Dave’s assistant was wordlessly brushed to the side as another scrawny suit came up to the display. The teen grimaced, and looked down at the documents filed before him. They had been neatly placed in an envelope and sealed only for his interests. However Dave didn’t find it the least fascinating, but those working along him continued to notify him of the document’s existence.
Skimming over the notes, Dave concluded that the contents of the notes were the apparent interests his partners had on developing parts of Strider land. The envelope had only been delivered this morning; however the paper itself was marked with a date from a week ago. Dave slipped the document back and continued to watch the scene unravel.
“A processing factory,” one of the men stated. “One that would be the most efficient towards not only the Strider’s interests but those in arms with them.”
Dave called over the man who had just presented the display. Under his breath he said, “Convey the message to our partners that the deal’s benefits do not meet our own likes.”
His assistant appeared somewhat in awe, and paused before replying to the other. “Mr. Strider, that decision is not one I will ignore for my own personal wishes – but sir,” He started.
Dave pressed his arms into his seat and pushed himself away from the table. The man besides him took a few steps back as the teen fixed his sunglasses. The Strider quietly spoke to him again, his tone stronger and much more assertive. “Tell them this now, and then if the situation calls for it we can clean it up later. As far as I’m concern my brother had no interests in selling the remaining land we own.”
As he sat back down, a heavy voice began to fill up the meeting up. Dave swallowed, and gave his assistant a sharp glance as the man across the table continued his speech. “It has come to my attention that our facilities have been suffering at the hands of vandalism.”
“What kind?” Dave asked.
The man in the suit could have most likely been the oldest in the room. However for his appearance was far too pale and his head was most noticeably bald. His dress also highlighted his odd appearance, being composed of a standing green colored suit and classic bow tie. He replied to Dave, “The man in red and his face is simply nonexistent. He wears a helmet of some sort.”
Dave pressed, “Robbery? Fraud? Is he an employee of yours?”
“No, not precisely.” The table was silent, and was completely attentive. Their focus was signaled only at the Strider and the man. The two picked their words with cautiously as the eyes of the group saw their every move. “A criminal. He has been disrupting business at our chemical processing facilities. I can only presume this is one of the reasons you find no interest in our offers.”
Dave sighed, “Now that this had come to my attention, it might as well be. Why has it suddenly come to you to bring me this information? If I know anything,” Dave idly leaned back in his seat. “the Striders have no direct correspondence with the police department.”
The bald man laughed and straightened his back. The men surrounding the table remained stoic for the exclusion of the occasional stare or anxious glance. “It is an only a tidbit of information I believe you could make use of, not in any particular interest of the Strider's business.”
“Alright then,” Dave said as he motioned to one of his advisers.
As the rest of the room remained silent, he quickly spoke into the others ear.
His assistant nodded and made his way to the front of the desk. He made a brief announcement and soon the meeting came to a conclusion.
The men in suits slowly rose out their seats as the individual in the bow tie joined them. Dave adjusted his tie and shot a look at him as he made his way out of the conference room.
“Declining the offer, mister Strider,” Dave’s assistant told him. “Unfortunately I couldn’t bring such a decision as a final statement. Please understand, I believe you are not fully capable of managing Strider businesses as of yet. It is my duty as your advocate to inform you on perhaps what you may not know.”
The room was completely empty save for the occasional whisper overhead from the front door. Dave quickly got out his seat and joined his assistant towards the exit. The window trailing one side of the wall to another gave the two an complete view of the city skyline, however was more than often ignored during meetings themselves. Dave reached for the doorknob and quietly slipped through the doorway, and made his way towards the elevator.
The sheer scale of the Strider mansion had been enough to impress John. It wasn’t the delicate tiling on the floor, nor the expensive looking glass work that fascinated him the most. Behind the main foyer was a hallway trailing into the dining hall, leading into the library. However John's interests weren’t pertaining to the bookshelves, rather the fact that such a place existed in an odd household.
“Master Egbert,” Rose said to him as she entered the room.
John flinched hearing the girl’s voice and turned around. He tried to smiled, and glanced at the small four walled space around him. Rose approached him, and placed a small plate on one of the nearby desks.
“You don’t need to, um –“ John paused.
Rose replied, “Rose Lalonde, personal assistant called upon for Dave. However I feel with your current state it may be much conversational to call me Rose.”
John rubbed his wrist and turned back to facing the shelves. “Yeah, okay.” He said. “That works. You can just call me John then! None of that fancy Egbert stuff, right?”
The other suddenly appeared next to him, admiring the collection of leather bound titles and foreign looking antiques. Among the assortment of classic documents were noticeably new rap music records and baseball caps. Their purchase had still remained a mystery, however Dave had long ago decided in keeping them for other reasons. Rose nodded and told John, “It is unfortunate not a single one of these have been touched. However to my own disdain, my business with you is not to tour you on the wonders of the Strider mansion.”
“Dave has returned from a meeting and wishes to speak with you,” Rose continued. “The matters are not urgent, but I strongly believe you should respond.”
John replied, “What – of course. I’m staying here now, aren’t I? I suppose I have some sort of obligation to this weird stuff.”
“I have known him for just a bit longer as you have,” Rose said. “But I can assure you he commits with all seriousness. He is waiting in the den.”
When the two had arrived, Rose lead John to a small section of the deb distant from the entrance. The television was turned on, playing the evening news as the voices of the broadcasters filled in the silence. John approached the Dave, carefully taking a seat beside him as Rose quietly stood at arm’s reach.
Before John could muster up any words, the Strider pointed to the screen in front of him. John watched as Dave showed no current interest in conversation. The video feed displayed the Gotham Chemical Plant, a massive industrial structure built during Bro’s time. The facility was almost iconic, however had been the heart of controversy for the last few years regarding environmental safety. Nonetheless its assisting corporations continued to provide the needs for its survival.
Trailing at the bottom of the screen were simple headlines: Mysterious Hooded Man Strikes Again
“That’s it,” Dave stated. “There’s our next case.”
John asked sharply, “The chemical plant? That’s too dangerous!”
Dave shifted in his seat and continued to watch the feed. “That’s the entire point. I’ll be looking in it tonight.” He paused as the broadcast suddenly switched to an interview. The video displayed two individuals with an odd gray tone to their skin and most noticeably orange horns.
“Trolls?” John asked again.
“Yeah. I’m not surprised – you’d probably seen a few already. They’re not that rare in Gotham.” Dave replied.
The feed shifted to a pair of the strange colored beings, both wearing the uniform of the local police department. Dave peered at the screen as the two were briefly interviewed and pried for information. One of the trolls wore a distinct pair of glasses, and whenever asked to speak their shark like teeth became impossible to ignore. The other had a strong lisp, and appeared to have two sets of horn compared to just one.
“Any information on the mysterious hood?” the interviewer asked The camera shifted back to the view of the two trolls as the sharp toothed one replied.
“From our conclusions the chain of crimes have all taken place during the nighttime.” she glanced at the other officer beside her and continued, “But you can say the figure has been reported similarly by witness to witness. Everything else is coincidental.”
Dave smirked and got up from the couch. His decision had been made and any attempts to intervene it would lead to no results. Rose followed the Strider out as John hurried behind him. The mansion has remained mostly quiet for the day with the majority of assistants out on business matters. The entire building would be theirs for tonight.
“We're actually doing this?” John asked.
Dave turned around and looked at the boy behind him. John was practically the same height as him, perhaps with longer arms and a much more scrawny frame. It also seemed nonsensical to bring him about this business.
“What I do,” Dave dully replied. “What you saw at the circus wasn't a one time thing. I do this.”
John continued, “You fight crime? You mean – you actually seek out the bad guys?”
“As long as you actually plan on living here, yes.” Dave said. “You're not allowed to take part in any of it. At least, not right now.”
Before John could reply, Dave had turned his attention away as Rose continued down the hall way. They came to a stop in front of a wall, and to John's own surprise watched as Dave opened up a surprisingly hidden door. The room was fairly sized, however appeared to lead into another compartment. Rose had spoken to him before about the mansion, more specifically how much she knew she didn't truly know about it.
“Stay here with Rose – without any trouble if you can.” Dave finally replied.
Rose glanced at the black haired boy and fixed the collar of her blouse. As Dave disappeared, he shot her a curious look. He could believe what the Strider did. If anything, he appeared to be the kind to take ridiculous risks like that. Yet John couldn't find the exact thing that made him weary.
“He'll be fine,” Rose touched him on his shoulder as she passed by John. “He saved you, didn't he?”
John replied, “But it's dangerous, but is sort of – neat.”
Rose laughed and began to make her way down the stairs, “That's Dave for you, mister Egbert.”
Apologies for the hiatus, the winter got me pretty sick for a while. This chapter is more so build up for upcoming events, however the trolls finally get introduction. We'll definitely see more of them, not to mention Dave's strange business posse.
Chapter 6: Investigation
The Red Hood Strikes again, this time gaining some new attention
Jumping from rooftops wasn't exactly one of Dave's talents. He could land sick beats and sport a pair of sunglasses in the middle of night and still pull it off. Except for jumping distances when you were hell knows how many feet off the ground. It wasn't impossible - just not the wanted situation.
Gotham was eerily silent during the night. Dave couldn't put a finger on it, but the city had retained all sense of a typical sleepless business hot spot. The window lights glowed like specs in the distances and the buildings still appeared like fearsome black giants. The howling of the streets below was completely audible, however the last thing Dave wanted to do was look down. As the winds blew around him, the teen pulled his cape over his shoulder and stared at the skyline before him.
The leap wasn't as difficult as Dave had imagined. He pulled at his cowl and tossed himself up the ledge of a balcony. Another gust of wind blew by, lifting up his cape in front of his face. He would have to consult Rose on modifying the batsuit in the future. Scaling the side of the edge of the rooftop, Dave climbed over the edge and got back on his feet.
At a distance the stretch of deserted fields and shadow of the chemical facility was easily visible. The massive building's outline was traced against the black sky and loomed over the deserted land like a beast. Dave held his breath and knelt against the side of the roof, making a single jump.
His landing was efficient, but definitely needed work. Winding up from the hill towards the facility was a brick red bridge, leading through a narrow path to the actual plant. The sky was still covered in patches of fog and the bleak weather made the sweat cling to Dave's neck. However the distance he would need to cover remained quite considerable.
The first gunshots were heard at a quarter to midnight. According to the day's earlier report on The Hood, this would all fit into the given time frame. Dave scaled the edges of a nearby warehouse, making his way on to the top as the sound shattered the stiff quietness and echoed through the buildings.
Striking now would be a mistake. Dave clenched his cape over his shoulder as another breeze whirled over him. A cluster of leaves tossed themselves overhead as he dashed towards the end of the bridge. The tube shaped structures surrounding the area towered over Dave, looming over with him a constant, ominous presence. Dave shuddered, and took coverage by the side of the buildings.
A small commotion was already being formed in the main building. A group of late night workers had already begun to collect themselves under the blaring factory lighting outdoors. Dave immediately slid back behind the face of a tower away from sight. The workers began to break away, some wandering off to make phone calls while others configured assistance.
No good - too many people and the criminal was loose. Dave circled the opposite end of the tower with his hand ready at his utility belt. Given last night's less than stellar performance, he had opted Rose for the sudden equipment of weaponry. His older brother's sword wouldn't suit his occupation in the slightest, and most definitely lacked the neatness of batarangs. At least that was the name Dave decided to give them – it sounded decent enough.
Any further information the Lalonde would have on the operation would be contained only to himself. In completely honestly, giving John insight on such matters was a concern. An addition to an already strenuousness line of work was the last thing Dave Strider needed. A sidekick would be interesting, but currently the risks would outweigh the benfits.
Dave slid on to one of his knees, peering into one of the conversations currently being held by a worker. Despite the man's obvious accent, the Strider would able to understand most of what was being said. The Gotham Police Department would be here any moment. The Hood was more than likely already gone from the premise, but definitely not far off. Further upsetting the workers were the least of his priorities, however Dave decided he needed to make a choice.
Dave stepped back and fixed his cape. The tower began emit a heavy, low hum that vibrated right into the ground. Dave stared at the crimson structure, several stories taller than him as it broke out into another fit of rumbling from its pits.
"Everything all right over there?" The voice belonged to a female, but had an obvious scratch to it that lacked traditional features.
The other replying to it seemed to have some difficult with pronunciation and carried a lisp. "The systems are up and working."
The sound of the humming towers was momentarily broken by the risen chatter of workers. A siren bellowed out in the distance by the bridge while a small team of police closed it. Still hidden away, Dave caught a glimpse of the red and blue flashing. Compared to the industrial solemn of the facility, even the most obstructive of lighting had some favorable qualities.
Dave heard the shuffling and feet and decided to take another glance at his surroundings. The amounts of workers than be declined, the majority leaded off by the police department. However the initial pair of cops still remained, along with a small number of workers willing to inform them. The rest of the area had been decorated with warning tape, closing off any surrounding entries for curious onlookers.
Search lights began to emerge and Dave could begin to feel the knot forming in his stomach. He wasn't necessarily trapped, he told himself, just in a very unfavorable situation. Nothing aroused suspicion more than when you were dressed up like a goddamn bat either.
The sound of footsteps became more apparent, and was soon obvious that it was closer. Dave felt his shoulders stiffened and his joints all lock into place. Reaching for his belt, he felt for his grappling hook and took aim at the tower across. He would only have one shot, and being caught in the process was the last thing necessary.
Dave fired the device, the mechanical hook blasting out of it like a bullet. The end was wound up tightly in the protective bars at the crown of the tower. Quickly, Dave ran further away from the other building and began to scale the side of the target. The grappling wire gnawed against his palms as he hastily began to climb.
Eventually he managed to creep behind the face of the tower. Carefully Dave made his way to the guard rails, grabbing on to them as he untangled the metal hook. As it dropped down to his side, he immediately crouched and peered at the scene below him.
Despite the lack of light, the two member of the police unit were unmistakably familiar. Their voices were unclear at a distance, however Dave could easily make out their more distinct features. At the top of their heads were pairs of orange horns, one of the two somehow established with a twin set. Their skin was an unnatural color, much more darker and foreign compared to the civilians.
Trolls, Dave thought. He removed a flat device from his utility belt and began to dial. The connection rung for a bit, and was met with a sudden influx of static before a voice emerged. Dave swallowed and looked down at the group investigating the premise as his call was answered.
"The Gotham Police Department is already here." Dave said. "I was too far off from the gunshots. Couldn't really catch a glimpse of anything."
Rose replied, "Have you interfered yet?"
"No," The flashlights below suddenly pointed upwards at the towers. Dave held his breath and lowered himself even further. He should see the shadows of light swallow the entire face of the building and wrap around the back. Straightening his back he continued, "They haven't seen me yet."
Before he could listen to what Rose had to say, a loud muffling emitted from the speaker. Dave pulled the communication device away until another voice began to call. At first John sounded concerned, and abruptly started spinning a series of never ending questions at the Strider.
"Dave - the police are already there, right? And a gunshot? Did you see him - whoever you're looking for?" John asked.
Dave rolled his eyes and replied, "Not right now. This isn't your business. Give the phone back to Rose, we need to figure something out. The trolls we saw from the report are here. I suspect they've been investigating this crime for a while now."
There was another shuffling sound and Rose continued the conversation. "There aren't many trolls working for our police department. I can receive their identities for you if would find it beneficial." Dave could hear her sigh over the speaker. The sky was already a pitch black and even he didn't have an idea how long he'd been out.
The illumination caused by the flashlight began to wane as the inspectors went off. Dave lowered the device and quickly replied, "Do that. Call me back with the information when you get it. First thing I gotta do is find a way out."
"A little bit of publicity isn't always a bad thing, Mr. Strider." Rose answered.
Dave said, "Not when people are out for suspects."
He immediately turned off the phone and slipped it back into his belt. With a bit of hesitation he began to edge around the tower towards the face. The group of workers had already completely dispersed, leaving just the two trolls in the vicinity. All he would need to do now was make a perfect aim with his grappling hook and leave the area from the back. A stretch of flat land was located in the distant right, and could easily be accessed for escape.
Just as he crept to the top of the tower, he picked up his grappling hook and attempted to target the roof of another tower. The device suddenly felt like it was weighing down in his arm, somehow heavier to lift than it was before. Dave groaned and picked it up against, trying to keep it steady to shoot.
Then he saw his shadow extend in front of him and a blinding silver light casted itself from behind. Dave winced and lowered the hook against his leg. He lifted his elbow up against his face and glanced over his shoulder at the source. It unexpectedly came from below, this time from one of the two officers. Dave caught a glimpse of a sharp pair of scarlet glasses flashing back at him.
A voice abruptly blared over what seemed like a megaphone. However Dave could already feel his chest tighten as he scrambled for his grapple hook again. He aimed it at the tower diagonal from him, gripping it with an underarm. However his aim was interrupted again at the light suddenly switched position.
Dave steadied his grip, and attempted to ignore the officer's calls. The communication device began to rumble against his side, signaling an incoming call. Dave gritted his teeth and peered at the top of the distance building. He could heard the noise begin to grow down below as more and more attention was drawn to him. The grappling hook shook in his hands, causing him to step back as the hook darted out several yards.
Tugging at the wire, Dave confirmed the shot's success. The entire base of the tower was surrounded by now and the nearby officers continued their cries. Rose was going to get a kick out of this, he thought as he prepared his stance. Picking up momentum, Dave launched himself off the top of the building, swinging towards his target. For a moment the crowd was silent, and then abruptly broken by the wailing of sirens.
Causing a scene was the least of his priorities. The patrol's success was debatable, Dave told himself as he scaled the next tower. The trail winded up the far side of the bridge, leaving a considerable amount of distance from the blockade. Dave felt the grappling hook strike his hip as he ran, dashing over the plain towards the fence. Before his tracks could even be found, the teen disappeared into the streets and vanished into the alleys.
"This isn't getting any easier, Terezi." The troll with a twin pair of horns leaned into his seat. A single file was on his lap, behind him a desk filled with documents, newspaper clippings, and amateur photographs. Despite his best effort to conjure evidence, what officer Captor often ended up with was less than satisfactory.
The closed door read in a strong print: Commissioner Pyrope. Below it was the official symbol of the Gotham Police Department. Besides the door frame was a metallic label engraved with braille in a bold red color. The room itself was painted with a dull crimson, and decorated with plain furniture save for the occasional plant. Terezi pressed her elbows into her desk, one hand on top of a white dragon and the other on a open file. The dragon's eyes lit up and made a sharp, cartoonish noise when it was squeezed.
Sollux settled into one of the wooden seats placed in front of the commissioner's desk with. His leg was bent over his knee as he considered to flip through the documents, skimming over each page with a flick of his thumb.
"We don't have that much proof that a Red Hood even exists," He started. "There's no solid evidence, and anything else brought to us just isn't reliable."
The officer was given a shark toothed grin as Terezi glanced up at him. She squeezed the dragon again, emitting another high pitched squeal from it. The toy had been a great stress reliever, however Sollux found the thing becoming a nuisance quite easily. He sighed and closed up the file, bringing up to Terezi.
She replied, "I know," The troll straightened her back and make a gesture. "The thing's red."
"Of course you'd know."
Terezi snickered and leaned over her desk. The night had been particularly interesting compared to the rest they've best on the case. Despite the fact it's interest was fairly new in the office, the pair had already conjured a considerable investigation team. At first it was the broadcasting channel, then businessmen related to the facility. Then of course the civilians themselves would comply without hesitation.
But officer Captor was correct. None of it was the evidence particularly useful. The notion that the figure itself resembled anything of a red color might as well be utterly fictional. But it was just the right amount of creativity that made Terezi persistent.
"Right then, Officer," Terezi said. She glared down her tinted, pointed glasses. The document that was in Sollux's hand was now hastily spread out across her desk. The troll idly picked up by the corner, swinging it and then dropped it back down. "Our motive isn't about the Hood at all this time."
Sollux paused and fixed his glasses. "I wasn't all that sure what it was we saw, either."
"Exactly," Terezi laughed. "But we did see something. That's more evidence than we have about the criminal himself. Unless whoever we saw actually was the Hood."
"That is a possibility." Sollux stood up and walked over to the commissioner's desk. He picked up the document for a moment, flipping through it and then placing it back down on new page. Leaning a hand against the desk, he glanced at it while Terezi stared up at him.
"I'm blind, Captor."
Sollux picked up the file and continued, "Precisely. So it's more like I saw whoever it was up on the towers. No we in that at all - sorry commissioner."
Terezi began to reach for the miniature dragon as Sollux suddenly began to read the file.
"Height is about five feet and eight inches, covered in a black cowl. Wears a cape and is apparently armed with a heavy mechanical device. Moves easily and remarkably agile." Sollux closed the folder with a swift, single movement and slid it back on to Terezi's desk. He removed his hand from it and began to pace towards the seat up in front.
"A cowl - a hood. Ears were pointed like a bat. This description is pretty accurate to what I saw this night." Sollux stared at Terezi's triangle shaped glasses, noticeably odd and contrasting with her usual uniform. Comparing them with the rest of the department would be useless; they were trolls and as far as the two knew they had nothing in common with the humans. But their morals could be similar - at least to the point where they found some mutable agreement. This agreement was safely met with aspirations dedicated to the crimes of Gotham. However there still remain something distinct out of place with their involvement Sollux couldn't put a finger on.
"Our killer was right in front of us." Sollux said.
Terezi shook her head and picked up the description. Despite the fact that any attempts to read it would be impractical, she held it up and then waved it at Sollux. "You make conclusion too fast."
Sollux quickly replied, "They're just the facts. I won't say I don't have my suspicions. We've been on this case for two weeks and I'd hate to keep leaving it open. The quicker we catch whoever is up to the murders the quicker we can move on to business."
"That's right, the murder." Terezi groaned and leaned into her desk. The two remained silent and Terezi pondered to herself. She couldn't honestly seen any possible harm a side investigation could do. It wouldn't be completely in the others favor as a separate case, but would definitely benefit as a whole.
"You've spoken to the families?" Terezi asked.
Sollux replied, "Sent out the rest of the team to handle the civil duties."
"I guess that leaves it then." Terezi got up from her seat and circled her desk. Reaching for her walking cane, she picked up the folder from her desk and handed it to Sollux. The other troll watch her curious as she made her way towards the door. The blinds in the room were firmly slightly open, leaving a view of Gotham's dotted skyline.
"Still the middle of the night," Terezi told Sollux. "I'll inform the rest of the unit. Prepare a meeting for the morning. If it's the bat you want," She snickered and tapped her walking stick against the hallway tile. "Guess we better start hunting for your own sakes, eh?"
One of the few things the Striders had prided themselves with was their exclusive collection of records. A number once had belonged to classical upper citizens and been traded away for various other trinkets. Other had been directly bought from their own time period, and had fallen through the hands of many to Bro's. Before his death, the collection had been clearly stated to be in the ownership of his younger brother.
The vinyl was kept in gold colored painted frames, carefully labeled with a black metallic plate. A handful of them were platinum an occupied a completely opposite side of the office. Dave rubbed his shoulder, still numb from the previous nights exploits. There was a sizable bruise his grappling hook had left on his thigh, however it barely lacked any type of attention.
When he had came back, Rose almost appeared to ignore his existence. The Strider drifted up the stairs without a word, and while John boredly watched from the foyer he removed his cape and cowl. He had caught the astonishment on the glasses wearing teen's face. Idly moving down the hallway, he opened up the hidden compartment, only taking a few moments to enter and leave it.
"Perhaps we should invest in a much more spacious place to keep your crusading goods." Rose said as Dave descended from the second floor. He adjusted the bridge of his sunglasses and shot a glance as John, whom had apparently lost his interest in the others return. A small net book was place on his lap as the teen quietly tapped at the keys with the screen's reflecting off his lenses.
"Where'd he get that?" Dave asked.
Rose replied, "He asked for something to do some work on. I felt it would be the best option."
The Strider left the room, leaving Rose with just the sound of the tapping of the keyboard. John leaned into his seat with his focus only on the monitor of the device. Rose put down a tray on the wooden coffee table, removing the lid off the steaming kettle. It had already become apparent that the boy had no interest whatsoever in tea, but Rose continued to do it out of practice.
A small aroma filled up the foyer so Rose took a seat besides the other teen. With the tea cup pressed against her lips, she curiously glanced over at the screen. Dave had been quiet efficient with computers, and Rose wouldn't be the last to admit she had talent herself. However the speed at which the other appeared to work did leave something of an impression.
"You're quite the worker, Mr. Egbert." Rose told him. She stared away at the chandelier looming overhead. Compared with the rest of the mansion, the main foyer appeared to have been given the most elaborated of furnishing. Although the rest of the household still gave a very strong essence of prestige.
John's typing slowed down and he glanced at Rose out of the corner of his eye. Rose leaned back into the sofa as she heard Dave enter the room. He held a thin bag next to his, quickly opening it at he took a seat in one of the opposite direction. A black folder was removed from it, along with a thin, narrow rectangular metal box, and plastic bag. With caution, he placed them besides the tray with the tea in order from smallest to largest.
He got up and stood in front of the table, briefly observing the items and then looking back up at the other two. John stopped his work, quietly closing the net book and placing it to his side. The sun glasses wearing teen stood as if he was about to give a speech, however didn't appear to want to say much.
Before he had to opportunity to speak, Rose stated, "I was able to receive the information you requested." Placing her cup on the side of the table, she reached for a small USB. She waved it at Dave and then placed back to her side. "However I suddenly feel you have a much more concerning matter in hand at the moment."
"No, it's good. Tell me right now." Dave said.
Taking the net book off John's lap, Rose opened it and inserted the USB. It took a moment to load as a program started run, and began to display a series of spreadsheet pages. In each column was a name of a member of the Gotham Police Department, however other two of the rows were highlighted. It was plain and simple, taken directly from the archives with little to none effort. However Dave never felt the need to consider the fact that such documentation was even readily available to them. His older brother's relationships expanded across the city, it would more alarming if such information wasn't within reach.
Turning the screen towards Dave, Rose skimmed down the list of names and began reading off a select few. "Officer Sollux Captor and apparently a commissioner was down at the plant last night as well. Terezi Pyrope - says here she's actually blind. That's quite impressive given her occupation."
John asked enthusiastically, "Don't trolls have their own department?"
"Not precisely," Dave replied and shook his head. "Their line of work is on the same level."
Rose continued to breeze through the document, reading off bit she found interest. Occasionally John or Dave would make a small comment as she began on the two trolls again. "The Hood case has been of interest for about the last tow weeks. However major media coverage just began to broadcast. The Gotham Chemical had requested an investigation not to long ago. It appears that the local residents have also made reports before the officials came up to department themselves."
Dave replied, "Some guy at our meeting brought it up, actually."
"Is that so?" Rose sounded interested. "Perhaps calling him that isn't the most courteous of you."
"I doubt he'd be any benefit to the case." Dave mumbled. He knelt down to pick up one of the objects spread across the table. There was some noticeably weathered about them, as if they had been miraculously hauled through a wild storm or carelessly thrown about. Things like this were too delicate to just be handed out; he'd really would have expected more from whoever left it in the office.
"There was a folder on top of the desk when I got up." Dave said without any tone in his voice. "I already went through the contents. There's just a box and some kind of power in the bag. The folder is empty save for just this card." As if out it came out of thin air, Dave showed the two a small ID. The print was difficult read and the emblem incorporated in the design was uncanny to the Gotham Police Department.
"Yes, like I said. One of our associates." Rose happily said.
John lifted himself from his seat and darted towards Dave. The sunglasses wearing teen took a step back while the other approached him. He smirked and handed John the card for a moment.
"Gosh Dave," John told him, "You guys really are big."
"It was dropped off a little after you retired. However I'm disappointed to say it was delivered by regular method. I presume it's from those who were interested in your brother's remaining land."
Examining the card, John noted that the cornered were bent and the entire card seemed as if it had been creased and folded. The ink was beginning to wear away at certain spots, and the back was noticeably rougher. He handed it back to Dave as the other picked up the rectangular metal box.
It made a satisfying click as the lid was removed, revealing a black cloth lined interior. Inside was rod shaped object with an exceedingly narrow shape. Most noticeably was what appeared to be a mirror attached to a circular lenses at the top. Dave cautiously picked it up, dangling it over the box as he inspected it. John watched the lenses flare only for a second, before it continued to reflect its surroundings.
"Guess what these are?" Dave said.
Rose replied, "You really should have properly checked them. And no, I suppose I'm incapable of making any accurate guesses at the moment."
Dave rolled the rod in his hand; its craftsmanship was impressive, however had been relentlessly tarnished and worn over time. Portions of the rod's design already begun to wear away, leaving jagged textured blotches in their place. The frame around the lenses was still in tact, protecting the oddly placed mirror quite well.
"Take a look Dave," John said, "There's no name." He handed the card back to Dave. He swiped it up, skimming over the faded text. A line where the name would mostly likely be placed was faded out, however the patches around the text left the paper spotted. He lifted the card further up, angling it in the light and slightly titled it.
"Someone dropped this in water or something," He said. Dave lowered it away from the chandelier over head and placed down. Closing the lid on the metal box, he walked over to Rose and handed her the rod.
Reluctantly, Rose scanned the object and then swiftly handed it back to Dave. She brushed her hands against her blouse and gave him a bored look. "The manufacturer label is missing." She told him.
Dave attempted to find something to reply with, but stared down at rod and rotated it. Peering into the mirror at the end, he caught a glimpse of the reflection of his shades. Something about it caught his interest, but from what he could make from the mirror was nothing suspicious.
"What about the bag?" Rose asked.
"I checked, it's just white facial powder." Dave replied.
The ringing of the phone abruptly cut their conversation as John darted for it. Hover his hand over the speaker, he glanced at the two in the foyer room and hastily brought it over. Dave took it from it and listened into the receiver.
"This the Strider household?"
Dave eyed Rose and replied, "Repeat yourself - you have a lisp."
There was an audible pause followed by a bit of static. John sat back down and leaned over Rose's shoulder towards the monitor. Dave waited for a reply, about to speak up before he was interrupted.
"One of our clients feel we must inform you about our current findings."
Dave asked, "Inform me about what?"
"The Hood, Mr. Strider. I'm positive you've heard about the recent incidents. They have been causing an assortment of trouble for your associates business."
"Right then. Thank you for the offer, me and my assistant will be there soon." Dave ended the call and tossed the phone to John. The glasses wearing teen caught it clumsily, watching the other walk over the front door.
Rose laughed to herself and closed the net book. "You're quite popular now, aren't you?"
John got up and followed Dave to door, reaching for coat. However the Strider side stepped him and nudged the other away. He came back again, this time waiting for Dave to get dress and said, "You're really invested in this stuff, aren't you?"
"You're not coming." Dave told him.
"And why's that?" John persisted. "You're obviously not keeping it a secret from me. Whatever it is you do - crime fighting or what you want to call it. I mean, you dress up like a bat and ran into the police!"
Rose replied, "One of Mr. Strider's house keepers will attend to you while we're gone." She followed Dave as he silently opened the door. “Business matters are strictly disclosed, I'm afraid.”
A chill ran through the door frame into the foyer, making John's skin crawl. Outdoors it was still considerably bleak, and the humidity present only a few days ago seemed completely absent. Not far off John could spot a lavish vehicle in the drive way, and the iron gates were still firmly shut.
She closed the door behind them, briefly waving at John before joining Dave. He watched the two drift out of the drive way, and quietly vanish down the rose. John pulled the curtains back together and glanced over at the folder on the desk. It was neatly shut, discreetly hiding anything information is may hold.
John walked over to it, picked up and opening it up in his arms. The cover weighed a bit in hands despite the fact that its interior was utterly empty. Any form it interest it may have had for the other two obviously couldn't come from its content. However wedged between a pocket in the cover was the edge of the white card, practically hidden from sight.
Removing it, John read over the washed out lines of text. Whatever damage it might have gone through obviously diminished the possibilities of finding any address or phone number. Carefully he put the folder down, keeping the card in his hand.
The texture was too rough for it to be water damaged. Around the edges the card had a slight singe, and portions with the faded ink were surprisingly jagged. It must've been burned, John thought, it looks like nothing that got caught up in a rain storm.
Suddenly the teen looked over his shoulder at the table. The kettle had stop steaming and the tea had already gone cold. John walked over to the net book, quickly opening it up. The document Rose had opened was still up and continued to display the complete roster of the police department.
Of course these situations were always the most uncanny ones, he thought skimming through the list of unfamiliar names. A bit of investigation wouldn't hurt - the sidekick always had to do the dirty work anyways.
The sixth part already? I feel like Dave wouldn't be the most precise Batman, just not yet anyways. He still needs to learn the skills his brother never taught him. Terezi and Sollux are already finding some kind of interest in Dave - I wonder where this could possibly lead to. It must be difficult being just known as 'those two trolls' at work.