Shivering slightly despite her FBI jacket, Veronica Mars waited for her partner to finish taking the crime scene photos. They weren't normally based in Gotham City, but they were working with the local police department to try and find a serial killer that they had been tracking back in LA. Unfortunately, it looked like they were too late yet again.
Swallowing the rising bile in her throat, she walked over to the window to get what little fresh air this city offered. It was always the bastards that went after kids that made her want to throw up. She could handle everything else, but seeing their tiny, broken bodies always threatened to push her over the edge.
"You two might want to clear out," she heard the commissioner say from behind her. Her mouth tightened as she turned around.
"I don't think so, Commissioner Gordon," she told him. "We're not done here."
"It would be a really good idea for you two to leave," he repeated, glancing at the window Veronica had just been looking out of. She had only heard good things about this man from her fellow FBI agents, but this behavior was starting to make her suspicious. Her partner looked between the two of them, not sure who to follow. Veronica didn't normally work with him, but he was one of the best profilers LA had, so they had sent him along. He finally grabbed his camera and left the room, leaving Veronica and the commissioner alone in the room.
"What are you trying to hide, Gordon?" she asked in a low voice, trying to make herself look taller than her five feet two inches. They continued to stare at each other before Gordon finally looked away.
"Suit yourself, but don't say I didn't try to warn you," she heard him mutter.
"About what?" she challenged him, not moving an inch.
"Me," growled a voice from behind her. Whirling around, she bit back a gasp at the sight of a cowled man standing by the window.
"Batman, huh?" she replied, instantly putting two and two together. "Now only catching this scumbag would make this visit complete."
Veronica watched the Batman circle the room, going over all of the evidence markers that had been left by the crime scene people with a level of attention that she'd seen from veteran investigators. She did her best not to show how unnerved she was by the entire situation and focus on what was going on in front of her.
"What do you have for me, Gordon?" he asked the commissioner, ignoring Veronica.
"If you have any questions, you talk to me," she snapped at him. His face turned towards hers and she met his glare with one of her own. "And aren't you supposed to be arresting him?" she asked Gordon.
"We have an... understanding, Agent Mars," Batman answered in a gravely voice. Veronica tried not to look surprised that he knew her name and crossed her arms.
"So you two are friends on facebook, that's great," Veronica snapped back. "I, on the other hand, am not, and since this is under FBI jurisdiction, this is my case." There was something oddly amusing about the petite blonde woman with her hair in a ponytail facing down a notorious masked vigilante, but Veronica was used to the universe's sense of humor when it came to her.
"I have no jurisdiction," he growled at her, causing her to roll her eyes.
"No, you're just a vigilante who runs around dressed like a bat," Veronica replied in a biting tone. "And you have yet to give me any good reason other than that he trusts you for me not to arrest you."
"I can help you find this man and bring him to justice," Batman told her bluntly. "I have resources you don't and I'm not hampered by the same red tape you are." Veronica's mouth tightened as she thought the offer over. She'd heard of this guy's track record, and she had to admit, it was pretty impressive. It didn't mean, however, that she necessarily trusted him. Glancing over at Gordon, she saw that he was just standing there with his hands in his pockets and an amused look in his eye. Her father had always told her to trust her hunches, and right now, she had one that was screaming at her to let Batman into the case.
"Fine," she bit out. "I'll accept your help. But botch this up in any way, give me evidence that won't stand up in court, do anything that will lose me the chance to see this sick bastard behind bars for the rest of his life, and I will track you down, Batman. I'll track you down and find out who's under that mask. Do we now have an 'understanding'?"
Batman nodded. "We do, Agent Mars."
Veronica blinked, and with a flutter of cloth, Batman was gone as suddenly as he had arrived.
Ignoring the activities of the bustling Gotham Major Crimes Unit squad room, Veronica focused on the file in front of her. She had it practically memorized, but it had become a compulsion at this point. She had been one of the original agents assigned to investigate the disappearance of Joel Whitman, and had remained on the task force despite moves to get her off. She'd been one of the first to see the young boy's mutilated corpse and the subsequent bodies that followed, and she was determined to have it end here.
"You're Agent Mars, aren't you?" A young female voice snapped her out of her daze. Looking around, she spied the source: a petite red-headed teen with intelligent green eyes and a bag slung over her shoulder. "Barbara Gordon," the girl introduced herself. "My dad's the commissioner and he was talking about you."
"Any of it good?" Veronica asked wryly.
"Well, considering he actually used your name instead of 'that agent' is a good start," Barbara answered, sitting down at the desk opposite Veronica's. "He only uses names around me if he doesn't think the person is a total waste of space."
"I can see that," Veronica said, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "My dad was the same way. He was a sheriff back in California," Veronica added hastily.
"Yeah, I read your file," Barbara replied, crossing her arms and leaning forward. "Don't tell my dad, though. He's not too keen on me being interested in law enforcement and wants me to become a librarian or a computer scientist or a gymnast or something like that, but he doesn't get that all I really want to do is become a detective."
Veronica studied the girl in front of her. There was eagerness in her eyes, but also the shadow of something else, something that had happened to her that showed her the brutal realities that her father dealt with every night here in Gotham. She wasn't blinded by the glamour; she knew what she wanted to get into. Veronica briefly remembered a mention of something involving Harvey Dent and the commissioner's family, but it was nothing more than a brief note in the overall file.
"Well, sometimes your father doesn't always need to know what you're up to," Veronica finally answered. "Take it from one cop's daughter to another: there are ways to get what you want, even if your dad thinks he knows best. You'll find your own way and it may take a while, but you'll get there eventually."
Barbara smiled and leaned in a little closer. "Thanks for the advice, Agent Mars," she said before glancing around and asking: "So, is it true you got to meet Batman?"
Veronica stared out across the Gotham City skyline, wishing she had brought an extra layer with her. The sooner she got away from this damp, chill weather, the happier she would be.
"So, do you have any idea how long he's going to be?" she asked Gordon, rubbing her hands together. There had been a note in Gordon's office earlier that evening from Batman, telling them to meet on the roof of Gordon's house later that night. The fact that Batman was able to sneak into the police headquarters without being seen or getting caught worried her and made her wonder how good Gotham PD's security system was.
"He's normally pretty prompt," Gordon answered, looking like this was an everyday thing for him. Actually, as far as Veronica was concerned, this type of thing was normal for him. Making a slight face at the thought, she turned back around and looked out at the city. It looks so peaceful up here, she thought. You can't see all the crime and the dirt, only the city lights.
"Commissioner Gordon, Agent Mars," a gruff voice said from behind them. Veronica, resisting the urge to jump, turned around to face Batman.
"Do you have anything for me?" Veronica asked, going straight to the point. She really didn't want to find out that the time she'd spent freezing her ass off was for nothing.
A file appeared in Batman's hands. Trying not to think of where he might have placed it when getting here, Veronica walked forward and took it from him. He waited silently as she flipped it opened and skimmed through the enclosed material. Some of it was material she already knew, thanks to FBI profilers, but towards the back, there was something new. Turning a sheet of paper, Veronica stared at the security photograph in her hand, the one that her and her partner had been positive existed. It clearly showed a man entering the squalid apartment where this monster had kept the boy before killing him.
It was from one of the shadier clubs in town, owned by one Oswald Cobblepot, who swore that he didn't have any such evidence. He had turned over tapes, but Veronica was positive they were expertly looped. This photograph proved her right.
"How did you get this?" she asked, looking up to find that Batman had disappeared while she had been examining the image. Shaking her head, she closed the folder with a snap.
"Let's go," she told Gordon, tucking the folder under her arm. "I think we finally have something we can use to catch this bastard."
Leaning against the bar, Veronica took a slow sip of her celebratory drink. She had just come from booking a certain Ryan Milton, whose face matched the photograph to a t. He had come quietly, thank God, and the interrogation had gone off rather anti-climactically given the events leading up to his capture and arrest. After seeing him locked in a holding cell, Gordon had given her a pat on the shoulder and told her to go enjoy a night off before they started the deportation process.
"I hate to see a pretty lady drinking by herself," came a smooth, cultured voice from behind her. Chiding herself on lowering her guard, Veronica glanced over her shoulder and felt her eyes widening in surprise. Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy, was standing there looking like he had just walked out of a GQ ad.
"Thanks for the offer, but I'm fine," Veronica told him, turning back to her drink.
"You would really reject me out of hand like that?" his amused voice asked. Taking another quick sip, Veronica shifted on her seat so that she was facing him. He was hot, she wasn't going to argue that, but from what she'd heard about his antics, she doubted that there was substance underneath.
"Yes," she answered simply. "Unless you're anything other than the playboy you appear to be."
"And if I said no?" he replied with a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth that seemed oddly familiar for some reason. "What then?"
"I think I'd have to see it to believe it," she told him, finishing her drink. She debated the merits of ordering another one, only to have her decision made for her when Wayne signaled for the bartender and gestured at her glass. Frowning slightly, she waited while her drink was refilled.
"Thanks," she said somewhat dryly. "But I think you might have more success with one of those women out there on the dance floor than with me."
"I like a challenge,"' he told her. "And I was hoping that drink would get me your name."
Veronica seriously thought about it before replying. "Veronica," she answered. "Veronica Mars."
"Nice to meet you, Veronica," he said. Before he could say anything else, however, she quickly finished her drink and stood up.
"It was nice to meet you too," she answered, grabbing her purse from the bar. "Goodnight." Ignoring his protests, Veronica fished her coat check stub out of her bag and walked towards the entrance.
A few minutes later while waiting for a cab, Veronica ran the conversation through her head. She didn't know why Bruce Wayne had singled her out, or why he had been so flirty with her. There was also... something about him that reminded her of someone, but she just couldn't place it. As a cab finally pulled up, Veronica shook her head. It was probably just the alcohol making her see connections that weren't really there. Why else would Batman keep coming to mind?