There's something funny about the kid.
Renee's a good detective, a good cop, and she's got a whole book in her head made up of better ways to describe the kid, more specific than "something funny." When she sits down to write her report, she'll pick one of them. But for now, her gut is just telling her that something's off here, not quite right, funny. And since trusting her gut is part of what makes her good at her job, she pays attention.
"So," she says, sitting down across from him, placing the heavy barrier of the table between them. This is a witness interview, not a suspect interrogation. She could pull her chair around to the side if she wanted, make open space between them. Hell, she could do the interview out at her desk; they don't need to be in the interrogation room at all. But there's something funny about this kid and she's been thinking it since before they got back to the station. So she chose the room-- it's quieter, she told him-- and she puts the table between them. That way she can see him if he moves.
Right now he's sitting quietly, hands folded on the table, a slight smile on his face like he just can't wait to answer every question she's got and then some. It's never that easy. Him looking like it's that easy is...even more funny. Her gut really doesn't like this kid.
"Your full name?" she asks finally, picking up her pen and flipping to a clean page in her notebook. Might as well get started; like him or not, he's her only witness to Red Hood's latest murder.
"Todd," he says, still smiling, rocking his chair back on two legs. He's wearing a black leather jacket zipped almost all the way up, but she can see the collar of his t-shirt beneath, and part of the shoulder. The bright primary colors are enough to suggest that it's one of the cheap Superman-logo tees available anywhere in Metropolis for two bucks. Here in Gotham, they might run a whole five. Kid's not exactly rolling in cash, then, though the jacket's nice. "Todd...Grayson."
That's so obviously a lie, she almost doesn't bother to write it down. But he's a witness, not a suspect, and she's required to give him every benefit of the doubt until (unless) he incriminates himself. So she writes it, along with his almost-definitely-bogus contact information. And then she looks at him. And he looks at her. And he's still fucking smiling.
Forget funny. There's something scary about this kid. Like this whole thing's a joke, and Renee isn't going to like the punch line one bit.
But she's a good cop. And she doesn't back down from any kid who dresses in superhero knockoffs. So she draws a line across her page and asks her first real question. "Why were you in that alley tonight?"
He gives her about five pages worth of probably-bullshit, a story about hiding behind a dumpster while Red Hood sliced up a couple of dealers. She keeps her face blank and her notes tidy, marking off the things that line up with past witnesses and circling the things that are new and need to be verified.
Check marks for the description of the style of Red Hood's attack: fast, fierce, violent, ruthless but just on this side of excessive. Knock 'em down, take 'em out, kill 'em dead, be done with it. And the knife: sinuous-curved, blue-tinted, sharp enough that there's a note in the file saying it might be meta. General physical description: height and weight, leather jacket, cargo pants, boots. And the hood, of course. The hood's a given.
Circles for oddly specific details of fighting technique. Circles for observations about body armor, about boot treads, about the proper name for that damn knife. Circles around notes in the margin about how he tells her this like most young guys tell stories about the last basketball game they watched or played. Passionate. Into it. Painting in all the gaudy details to win every bit of admiration out of the listener.
He doesn't get that from Renee. She's a cop, not a girl he's trying to pick up. She stonewalls him from the beginning of his little story to the end, and by then it's pretty clear that it's really pissing him off. Maybe not to a casual observer, maybe not even to some of the other boys out there in the squad room, wandering in and out of the other half of the interrogation room and peering through the two-way glass and bitching back and forth about if Montoya's going to lock this one down or fumble the play. But Renee can see it, in the set of his jaw and the twitch in his left temple. The way his eyes cut down and to the right, that's the kid trying to keep his temper. Maybe he'll make it, maybe he won't. She thinks she'll get more out of him if he doesn't. If he breaks. And they all break in the end; heat up from the inside, and crack around the edges, and crack wide open to spill all the cream filling.
Except with Todd Grayson, it's not going quite that way. Her stomach twists a little as she watches him, her hand still automatically scratching notes on her pad, her face blank. The longer this goes on, the more she pisses him off, the colder he seems to get. Her gut says keep at him, but maybe not for too much longer. Stay light on your feet, Renee. Roll with it.
"…and you know, he's the one cleaning up the streets. How long has…have you people been out here, and the superheroes--" Her eyebrows go up at that, at the way he spits that word, and she draws a box around the note. "And all the dealers and the thugs, they're still there, right? It hasn't done anything, because he…because you don't go all the way. You don't commit. Red Hood's committed, you know? He does what has to be done to make the point. Make them know. Take 'em out." He rocks his chair back, balancing it on the back legs. It should be a precarious movement, but it's not, and her hand writes the words before she thinks them: like an acrobat.
He's looking at her expectantly, eagerly, blue eyes bright in a pale face, a too-young face. He's waiting for something from her. Approval, maybe. Endorsement. He must be crazy if he thinks he's going to get it; she's a cop and this is Gotham City, and everybody here with a badge will happily eat their guns before they give vigilantism a pass even in theory.
"You see anything else, Mr. Grayson?" she asks, sketching a lopsided cube at the bottom of the page.
That ought to be the straw that breaks him, that makes him mad enough to start spilling blood on the floor. Instead his chair rocks forward and hits the linoleum flat, and his chin comes up so he's looking at her with cold, blank eyes.
"Where do you think Batman is in all of this, Detective Montoya?"
"I don't speak for Batman," she replies carefully, looking just past him, over his shoulder. Eye contact's for when he earns it.
He laughs softly. "Yeah. Course not. Nobody does." He doesn't take his eyes off her, staring intensely like he can see through her skin. "Cops are all about partners, right?"
"Course you are. Everybody knows that. Never run out on your partner. Always have their back. Right up till the bitter, bitter end." He laughs again, at some joke she doesn't hear. "Bitter."
"Are you trying to tell me that Red Hood has a partner, Todd?"
He blinks, losing his intensity for an instant, for just that long, fragile and young. "What?"
"You're talking to me about partners." She taps her pen against the edge of the notepad, and his eyes flick to the motion, staring at it like he's hypnotized.
"Partners," he says. "Yeah." Renee's a cop, and she's seen a lot and it takes even more to rattle her anymore, but a shiver runs up her spine at how suddenly that kid flips over from a little young to very, very old.
"You ever wonder about Batman's partner, Detective Montoya?"
This is so far out in left field, she ought to end this here and now and send him back to the street. Or come up with some charge so they can hold him. Either way, she needs to take control back, needs to break this rhythm and spell he seems to be weaving. Every instinct she has says so.
But she always was too damn curious for her own good, way down deeper than her job runs. So she swallows and shrugs. "You mean the Robins?"
"What makes you think there's more than one?" He shifts in his seat, rocking a little, and she notes that too, scribbling across her page about the motion of a kid looking for comfort.
"Changes in body type. Changes in fighting style. Gaps where there isn't one at all." She hesitates a split second, wondering if she should play her ace, but she's already off her game plan and why not, anyway? "And for a while, it was a girl."
His head jerks up like he's been shocked, his mouth open and his eyes wide. There's a long moment where they stare at each other and breathe, and then he shakes himself all over and looks down at the table top.
"So he just rolls through them," he says softly, his eyes twitching left to right like he's reading the grain of the wood. "The best, the most special, the elite, and he just…one right after another, picks up a new one and runs them through the Cave and spits out a brand-new…wonder if Dickie was the best or the worst or just middle of the goddamn road…"
"Mr. Grayson." She shouldn't have heard that. His little monologue wasn't supposed to come outside of his head at all, but that breaking she was going for, those hairline cracks, has gone down in spades. Maybe the cracks were there before they even started this.
He looks up again, staring right through her. "What would you think of a cop who just swapped one partner for another, like interchangeable fucking parts?"
She sets her teeth and thinks for a minute, searching for how the hell to answer that. "Wouldn't be anybody I'd want at my back out on the street," she says finally.
He nods, the barest hint of a movement, his eyes still fixed on something long ago and far away. "That's about what I'm thinking."
She looks down at her notes. Probably worthless; probably this whole interview is just going to end up notes at the back of a file that never closes. A whole damn lot of cases end up that way, in Gotham. And yet she can't quite call this a wasted day. "You want a soda, Mr. Grayson?"
He glances at her and suddenly he smiles, bright and wide and weirdly sweet. "Yeah, Detective. That would be great."
She tucks her pen in her pocket, checks her gun at her hip, and leaves the room to get some air and hit the Coke machine. She drops her notepad on her desk, reties her ponytail, and heads back to the interrogation room.
She's been Gotham PD long enough to not be quite surprised when the door opens to reveal an empty room. The table's been pushed over under the air vent, the bolts holding the vent cover in place are sheared through like they were made of wax, and the witness alias Todd Grayson is long gone, the notes of questionable accuracy on her desk the only trace he's left behind.
"Knew there was something funny about that kid," she mutters, running her thumb over the sliced-off end of one of the bolts. "Knew he knew a little too much about the Hood."
And how much did he know about Robin?
She stills at that thought, pressing down a little harder on the bolt until a sharp flash of pain brings her back. "No way, Renee," she mutters, heading back to her desk to start filling out the paperwork that'll last her till the next quake. "Don't go down that road. That way lies madness and dressing up like a flying squirrel, or something."
Part of her is tempted to go up on the roof and hit the signal, bring the big man in and show him those notes, see if she can get a reaction. But it's not worth it, and it's not her job. The regular criminals are her job, the ones that can be taken down with flesh and blood and leg work.
She has a hunch that before too long, Red Hood will walk right off that list of the mundane. And whoever Todd Grayson really is, Robin or metahuman or dumbass kid, he's never been on it at all.