Batman: Ornamental | Issue 7 – The Rabbit Hole by Drew Van Dyke

Image source: Richard Luong, of the United States. (His work can be found at tentaclesandteeth.com.)


“Have you figured it out yet?” your villain whispers, deep-caught in the dark. “Have you guessed the lie? 

“Who should our heroes fear, now? And will it matter? 

“Will they find it out in time…?”

*     *     *

{GOTHAM POLICE DEPARTMENT. THREE DAYS AGO.}

It never smells like the dead where it should, anymore…we’ve given to hiding it too well.

            I wait. Nothing.

When I trained in deep Asia, there were some places you just didn’t go. Places you were told not to go. Places where the air got harder and the dirt and the stone only echoed. No one spoke in these places. There were only your movements and ghostly vibrations.

I pry out, kick down the grate of this overhead vent.

In Gotham: No more “sacred” places.

It rattles like gypsy tambourine magic off the linoleum floor. I wait.  

We just walk right in…

Nothing. I fall through, silent as shadows. Wait.

…or fly in, rather.

Heh.

Nothing.

In this sterile, shining morgue, doors lead to doors lead to doors. I library for bodies.

For his body.

*     *     *

{GOTHAM SKYLINE. NOW.}

Her curves sometimes catch in our beauteous moon – a spike of gin in the dark – and I am lightweight. I am gone; drunk on her flashes.

            We soar above the downtown on foot and line – whips clapping metal, our footfalls, and the silent puffs of my grapple gun; the release, the return. Sometimes, my cape will throw out and carry me a breadth above her head. At times, we run, both by each other’s side. 

She always has us go on foot. Never once has she seen the inside of my car. I doubt she ever will. 

“You know Lysander isn’t a zookeeper, right?” she says; throws her arm back, mid-stride; is reflected in a nearby window pane; lets the black line fly.

Trillian Lysander: Owner of the “Diprosopus Creatures” exhibit recently on display at the Gotham Zoo…

Still two steps behind, I take the gap of an entire alleyway in single bound. 

…until Selina nabbed his prized bell-cow: a rare, two-faced Janus cat named Frank and Louie. She now calls him “Alfred.” Tells me he likes raw cheese brats.

A grin.

The real Alfred would be mortified.

            Lysander, I have found, has been laying low of late, employment-wise (which, in Gotham terms, is to say he has holed up in a caravan of parked circus wagons in the middle of Gotham Central Park), since the theft; one of the last times Harvey Dent – a scarred Harvey Dent – was seen before his mysterious death. 

That is, until I chased Two-Face, himself, down over the rooftops of this city, following the discovery of the missing Gotham Janes earlier this week.

            I nod. “Sounded better at the time…”

            “No need cry over spilled milk, darling,” she purrs.

            After my recent findings at the Gotham Morgue, however, I did some digging. I asked a few of my friends some questions.

Penguin pointed me to the sewers. 

I thought maybe he meant Waylon at first, but Killer Croc is being housed in a specialty max-holding cell under Arkham at the moment, so that ruled him out. Then I remembered a small detail from Harleen Quinzel’s official statement to police. Mad Hatter had asked her if she wanted to be a “Grundy Girl.” I looked into the data she had transferred with her distress signal the night of the escape. Sure enough, Solomon Grundy’s name was listed amongst the incoming suitors for a mind-controlled…product…of the now-defunct Project Understudy. 

The move, cross-referenced with investigation logs I’ve had Jason regularly updating on the Bat-computer – ongoing net worth estimates for all of Gotham’s major criminal players – showed our immortal friend had recently come into a rather large sum of money; or, at least, he would have needed such in order to afford their services…

“No,” I say. “Suppose not.”

Quick cash, then?

Bank robbery isn’t Grundy’s normal methodology, and nothing in my findings matched with recent news reports to confirm this being the source of his newfound wealth. Nor is espionage, and he doesn’t have a line of work to speak of, aside from lackery and moonlighting as the occasional accidental battering ram. 

That never pays. 

See, he’s always the one getting caught. 

Nobody pays the guy who gets caught.

I hit the button on my line – launch the hook up into a nearby modillion. Heave myself around the next corner – a sweeping arc of loud, clapping black thunder – as Selina, below, cackles with glee. A deeper dive into the financing of Project Understudy showed that Grundy was merely the namesake of a company that had only just recently begun to seek out henchmen from the villainous racquet. The bank funds for the transactions were laundered through multiple fiscal entities, with the final holding account being the only actual link to the big grey guy in the first place. In essence, Solomon Grundy, was serving as CEO for a shell corporation. Understudy just never looked past its regular payments. 

That’s my job, though.

Upon tracking a shipment from one of the shell’s mother accounts, however, I was able to weed out the beneficiary… 

*     *     *

{GOTHAM CITY PORT. EARLIER TODAY.}

Pamela Isley.

I feel her shadow approach the dock through a fog of olive and pine.

You’re mine.

            Stealthy.

            Strong.

Floating.

Floating…?

It isn’t until my limbs freeze in their crouch that I know my trap has become her own.

Careless, Bruce!

“I left a perfectly good lunch date for this, Dark Knight,” Poison Ivy says. As the fog dissipates, a tangled ball of vine and leaf falls free from itself, like an unwound knot of breeding snakes. The pieces become blown, as dust, into the oscillating salt spray of the harbor below. A single vine waves to me playfully as it goes, and is gone. “Make it worth my while.”

I attempt to move my muscles – any one of them – but each twinge is but that: a simple twinge. The nerve endings seem to bulge and fill my deadweight body.

“Pamela,” I say. “Neurotoxins again, I see? Airborne?”

Clostridium botulinum,” she says, non-chalant. Proud of herself. “Most potent toxin known to humankind, natural or synthetic.”

“Botulism?” I manage to mumble through gritted teeth, which no longer choose to move. It’s what I get for smiling. “You gave me…botulism?”

“Oh, calm yourself. The lethal dose is 1.3-2.1 nanograms per kilogram,” she says; walks around the columns of heavy, water-smoothed wood and plank. “Guessed your weight, by the way. Hope you don’t mind.”

“Naw…a’tall.” 

Her skin first breaks my darting vision – pale as feathered dandelion or milk cut from the stem; fingers grazing my shoulder, growing her elbows, growing her body to a green-safe modesty – sundress, this time, less the standard floral negligee, radiating off her Mercurial, tied back mane. She walks by, does not turn. Leans up on a nearby post, and seems to ignore our instance for some time as she watches waves come in and waves go out. The falling light brightens the world, then comes to blind out the sea.

Ivy sighs. “Understudy, right?” she says at last. Folds her arms. Stays in her place.

“Uh,” I confirm, quite literally tied by my dead tongue.

“When I heard of the warehouse escape the other night, I wondered when I’d hear from you. I’m sorta relieved, you know? Girl power.” She raises a quick fist, then hugs herself again.

“Uh,” I say.

“Don’t really care how you found out. Maybe I wanted you to…And poor old Grundy needs a visitor every now and again.”

“Uh-uh uh,” I say. “Uh-uh?”

“Well, of course I participated in the program!” she says. Turns and points directly into my heavy eyes, enraged. “Hard to find good help in this city, now, as you proved by tracking my shipment. Nobody actively wants to work for us when they know of the possibility of…you.” Ivy says the last word with utter disgust, circles my face with her flattened nails from afar, then grins. “When I found I could have my own sidekick – my very own pre-trained…Rosebud Robin—”

“Uh!” I say.

She chuckles. “—of course I jumped. I had other people’s cash to spend. And vines will only get a girl so far…”

I’m glaring at her. But why…?

“You probably wanna know why I used the Grundy sham, then, huh?” she says.

“U-…-uh,” I say.

She turns back away from me. Looks down at her bare feet. I expect her answer to come promptly, but she doesn’t give it in as eager a fashion. Just lets the sun keep falling; my freeze to keep coming; the waves to keep biting off the man-made things, bit by bit.

“They…sent me a child the last time,” she whispers. When she looks back, there are tears in her eyes. “They didn’t tell me they were using children…” She stamps her foot, and a wave cascades up through the slats – an angry wave. A batch of sea algae congeals from the spray and crawls up to her ankle; sits there, like a brown-green puppy dog. I watch it rub up against her locked leg, a gesture of comfort. She hurriedly wipes her face melts back some; continues.

“There are some lines even I won’t cross, Batman,” she says, softly. “When I brought it up with…” She hesitates, then mimes a sock puppet with one of her hands, “…management…they blackballed me from their listings. Pretty long-time customer, here, and they just shut me out. The only way for me to get back in was through a…pardon the pun…dummy.”

She turns and walks back to where I am, stalled in atrophy. Crouches down, so that she is on my level.

“You didn’t happen to notice what my shipment was, did you?” she says. “The one you tracked to get me here, I mean.”

My eyes bore into her own.

Brugmansia sua—

Brugmansia suavolens,” she says. “The ‘Angel’s Trumpet.’”

In my mind, I see a fragile, crumpled wing.

She goes on: “Highly problematic if you don’t know how to use it. But in the hands of a skilled bio-chemist,” she pauses; lifts both eyebrows, “it can be synthesized into two rather potent compounds: scopolamine, which can be used to re-wire the effects of a disturbed mind; and hyoscyamine, which helps in the healing of neuropathic pains…pains which could be incurred by, say…the removal of an implanted micro-chip from the neck of a small child?”

I think to say, “uh,” but nothing comes through my lips but that smile.

Perhaps, though, that is most fitting.

Ivy reaches into the pocket of her sundress, and carefully places a small syringe on the plank directly between us, the needle facing up. Inside, the liquid is a phosphorescent hue of tangelo orange.

“Likely no cure for botulism in that belt of yours, huh?” she says. Looks up at me, then scrunches her nose and adjusts the needle’s placement by an inch. She pats my face, smiling, then stands as though to walk away.

“You want what I know, I assume?” she says. Sighs again. “Why else would you be staking me out, trying to catch me by surprise?” Then she pauses, her dandelion palm rested on my shoulder. I feel it flutter.

That’s…new…

“The man you’re looking for,” she says – quickly; quietly (A secret.), “is Trillian Lysander.”

I…like secrets.

Her algae pet, which has followed her from that spot on the docks by her ankle, disintegrates through the smooth brown slats, falling away below. My heavy eyes come back to the needle on the ground.

We must never overlook the littlest things, Bruce…

Her grip grows back, tight on my arm. Her voice returns, too – this time, with great force. Again she is quiet. Then, again, she is not.

“Remember, Batman,” she says. “I could have just killed you.”

And as she steps away, her gentle push teeters my chest for that piercing, silvery steel.

*     *     *

{WAYNE MANOR. EARLIER TODAY.}

Like the young often do, Jason Todd took to looking in places he was not, overtly, obliged.

            The inky caves underlying the Bat-computer’s forever support beams? Check.

            That cookie jar shaped like a cow on the second shelf to the left of the kitchen stove? Check.

            The Bat-armory? Of course. First day.

Alfred’s quarters? Check, check, Penny-One. Oooooh…and what’s in this magazine…?

In Jason’s former life on the streets, he had learned early on that if you didn’t know how to pick a lock, you (and anyone else you could find nearby) would likely freeze to death in some wet ditch near the train yards when night fell. That was just a fact.

One that became ever-more apparent when Victor Fries came into his moniker, he thinks, grinning through stuck-out tongue. The guy has a thing for citywide ice-pocalypses…

As happenstance would be, the only place he had yet been unable to access, of late, was the private study of his (and he used this term very loosely) “caretaker,” Bruce Wayne.

As happenstance would also be, he had just lost the end of his second favorite lockpick in the third deadbolt of the heavy, red-stain oak door.

He groans, tossing the broken sliver of metal down the hallway. Remembering that Alfred would have to retrieve it, though, he gets up and does so, himself, dropping it in a nearby plant; then he balances on one leg and fishes for another jim he has wedged into the sole of his beaten, yellowing sneaker. 

Jason refused to throw them away, despite constant reassurances that he could have any new shoe he so desired. He took them up on those offers, of course, but never threw these away. In his former life on the streets, a good pair of shoes could save your toes. You didn’t just throw away things that saved your toes.

“Holy,” he grumbles, pinching his nails together to pry free the pick, “HAIRPINS… Batman.”

The locks above him click in synchronicity, and the door moves in its long-established hinges. Jason sees dust settle, and drops his foot. His breath catches.

He waits. Nothing.

He drops the just-freed pick, and reaches up to touch the knob.

Waits.

Nothing.

When he turns the knob, the tilt of the old house pulls the heavy door inward, and the dark mustiness opens up to him.

Really, Bruce? He rolls his eyes. A ‘holy’ joke?

He grins.

Jason doesn’t hesitate stepping into the room. In his former life on the streets, he learned that hesitating got you hit by a bus. It made you miss out on meals and show up one man short in the shelter line.

A lamp in the far corner lights as his motion hits on some other unknown sensor. The sudden red glow grows to a dull yellow, and the room around him is…underwhelming.

There is a desk and a stack of books, but he had expected that. The carpet is tall and thick, but not that tall, or that thick. The books pile up in towers from floor to overhead, and take the place of a second person on the window nook, where the thick curtains are, of course, pulled wide shut.

No T.V. Shoulda expected that.

No pictures. Shoulda expected that more.

The fireplace along the far wall is hidden away by shadow and scroll. A hollow, echoing whistle does, now and then, careen down the brick innards and sing to him a deadened song of somewhere yon.

He scratches his head.

“Holy MINI-FRIDGE, Batman!” he says, to the hand-carved wooden drop ceiling.

He waits.

Nothing.

Guy’s a billionaire, and not even a damn mini-fridge? He shrugs. 

Should have known that the most

  Jason rolls into a bored cartwheel, up to the swivel chair out front of him – lets his momentum push the rolling castors across the floor, and suddenly, it is a sailboat, and he, the captain, seeking on these high seas of Berber and crumb some sort of treasure – any sort – with which to pay for his lost lover’s bounty.

            “Avast, ye…er—!” he removes another pick from his shoe, and holds the small metal shiv before him, a rapier by extension, alone, “—bad guys!” He reaches his foot down to the floor and pushes again with reckless abandon, his hands centering him on the wooden armrests.

            The chair flies…until it bounces off a pile of books and spins Captain Jason, toppling them all over into another stack, a tsunami coming up around his ship, which dominoes more books onto the desk and fells a before-unseen decanter of dark-stain liquid. As the opening claps on the muted papers and wood with a low noise, the pitch begins its quick leak across.

            The sea is gone. Jason throws the books from his body and comes with haste to the desk, righting the container in its closest original position and dabbing on the running blotch with the most unimportant-looking documents.

            “No!” he whispers. “No! Nononono…”

            In his former life on the streets, Jason had learned that leaving evidence is how you lose your bed. If you leave your hat in the unlocked, unwatched lobby, they’ll have proof of your trespass. If you leave the gate ajar, you’ll find it locked behind you.

            With white carpet below, the liquid continues to run for the edge of the desk, and, attempting to stop its flow, Jason, scrambling for thought, pulls open the topmost drawer.

            Expecting a collection of pens and rulers, he finds only a small, folded piece of some once-crumpled waxy paper. His mind leaves the spill and he picks up the object with reverence, knowing it before he even needs it open. He sits on the floor with it, his legs crossed – a sudden thump – and his body forgets to work. He knows just to stare at it – the mountains and valleys in its once-wadded lines – and to peel it back, layer by layer, until it reveals itself. A perfect square. A wrapper.

The wrapper.

His eyes are quickly wet, like they have not been in many, many years, and he finds it hard to make the air worth his breath.

            “He looks at it every night before he goes out, you know,” Alfred says – a sudden blur of penguin stripes from the door, just watching over him – this boy; this broken, lost little boy, who, on that night, knew no one in the whole world, until the Batman found him taking the wheels from his car for scrap parts. The Batman saw him. Bruce saw him. Saw the hunger in his cheekbones. In his wild eyes. In his shaking, mousetrap limbs. Instead of taking him in to the cops, that Batman took the lost boy out for a burger and fries. Watched the skyline. 

He took him home.

            In his former life on the streets, it’s what Jason had to do to survive – that Bruce Wayne saw that…

            Jason tries to wipe his eyes off on the sleeve of his oversized sweater with nonchalance. He tries to wipe them, but the tears will not go away.

            “Stupid…’holy’ jokes,” he says, laughing. Alfred smiles at him, from the door. Jason looks back at the burger wrapper in his hands. Can’t make it leave them – that greasy yellow paper. “Why…why does he still have this, Alfred?”

            The butler sighs – a heavy, old sigh – and he makes his way into the room, stepping over the fallen stack of books. He sits down, cross-leg, beside the boy.

            “Master Bruce,” he says, choosing his words with care, “becomes very afraid, sometimes.” 

            “Afraid?” Jason says. “Of what?”

            Alfred scratches the back of his head. Looks off into the darkest recesses of the room. Looks back at Jason.

            “Of getting…lost,” he says, finally. “You see, at one point, the criminals he fought were just that – criminals. Gents (though I suppose that, itself, is still too kind a term…) with guns, robbing corner liquor stores. He put on a silly hood, and they were afraid of him, for it, and that was that. Then, one day, they realized…they could put on hoods, too.”

            “Hoods, Alfred?” Jason says. “Really? We’re going with ‘hoods’, here?”

            “It’s not polite to interrupt, Master Jason,” he says, with a smile. The boy wipes his nose on his sleeve this time, much to the butler’s dismay. “Suppose I…nevermind.”

            “Yeah.”

            “When the criminals started putting on their…hoods…it changed the whole game for Master Bruce,” he says. “Old tactics didn’t work for him anymore. This whole system that he had trained for, for half of his natural-born life – it didn’t work anymore. And that opens up something of a rabbit hole—”

            “Rabbit holes. Hoods. Got it.”

            “—one that Master Bruce has to walk down very carefully,” Alfred says. “New tactics he must try, to alleviate this god-forsaken curse he’s placed upon himself.” He wraps an arm around the boy’s shoulder. “He’s afraid, sooner or later, of getting lost in that hole, my dear boy. Of what he’ll create when he goes too far down. Does that make sense? He’s afraid of it every night.”

            Jason looks down at the wrapper in his hands. He looks back up at Alfred, who twitches an itch away from his thin mustache.

            “Still doesn’t explain this,” Jason says, holding up the wrapper.

            “Someday it will, I hope,” Alfred says, with a sigh. “But for now, just know that he needs you and me very much, just for that sake, even if he pushes us away.” Jason looks away from him, away from the wrapper – away from the last several days. 

A rustling brings him back. Alfred taps his finger on corner of the wax paper. “Ahoy there,” the butler says. 

Jason groans. “You heard that, huh?”

“Only something about ‘avast-ing ye olde bad guys’, or something,” he says, and winks. Jason groans again. Alfred goes on tapping the wrapper. “You know, he once told me that this is the proudest he’s ever been?”

“Of…the wrapper?” Jason says.

“Of the night he brought it back with him,” he says. He is smiling; but then, it is a sad smile. “I’m all he’s ever had, Master Jason – I and Master Dick…and now, yourself. It’s all he allows to keep nearby… because he is afraid.”

            Jason drops his head.

            “I’m…afraid he’s going, now,” whispers the boy. “He’s drifting away from me like—” He stops. Wipes with the sleeve again. “My mom…she would leave me alone a lot before she… um…you know…?”

            The butler nods.

            “With all the things he keeps seeing lately,” Jason says, “and him not listening to reason, running off, the connections he makes out of the blue – ever since Harvey and the Scarecrow incident at the museum…I’ve just…It’s just like…” In his former life, on the streets. “I’ve wondered if Crane might have—”

            A look of recognition, then one of horror passes over Alfred’s face.

            “My word! The drug…?” He gasps. “The drug! A new strain, perhaps?” Jason nods. “And it could still be—? Then it could all be—? And you’ve told him all of this?”

            “Well, no,” Jason ays. “He won’t listen to reason. I just said that.”

            Alfred gives the boy’s shoulder a squeeze.

            “My boy,” he says, and quickly stands them both up. “Then what kind of Robin are you?”

*     *     *

{GOTHAM POLICE STATION. THREE DAYS AGO.}

Braised in black, I unclip the flashlight from my belt; crouch to nearest invisibility behind it. So much of this job is just that, I realize, in that moment: flashing lights in the dark. I run the line of sight along the list of names in the log. Flip the page. Flip another. The pages are so thin in my hard gauntlet fingers. I am extra careful, for fear of the evidence a ripped page would leave.

Meticulous.

Superstitious?

Cowardly…

I find his date, follow the spaces to a door number with his name. Seeing it in print, the place in my chest fills with sudden ice cold again.

            2B. Well…that can’t be unintentional…

            When I pull the knob, the slab slides smoothly enough on its bearings – is soon like some stone jutting out from the cemetery ground.

            We should have buried you, my friend, I say – my silent prayer. Click. Click. Click.

I am still. Nothing.

But then, I wouldn’t be here…

            When it hits its end, the metal knock echoes deep within the hole where he lay. On the slab is what amounts to a ghost – a plastic bag, all white, and zipped up the front in preservation of the corpse inside. The guardian at the gate holds a tag on string. It’s flipped upward, the angle, awkward. His name – he says it is “Dent.”

            I will find out if you are “Dent.”

Clutching the flashlight in my mouth, I steady the body bag with one fist, and in the other, take the tagged zipper, and I wait. Nothing. Wait. Nothing.

            With the light trained on my hand, I wait for that nothing, hoping nothing will come to stop me soon.

            Cowardly.

            Superstitious.

            Nothing.

            In a great heave, I tear back the cloth, but it catches as I do. I pull the zipper forward, then go again, then let it hang free, the sound of rapiers on velvet.

            Then, I see.

            I see.

            I…see…

*     *     *

{GOTHAM CENTAL PARK. NOW.}

We come to an outcrop in the wooded area just within Gotham-proper’s central hub. The park, surrounded by skyscrapers and, to the east, a large yellow crane – one of several throughout the city – this one, closest, replacing the broken façade of the Maxwell Lord Museum of Art’s Exhibition Wing.

A scene from some stolen past – a makeshift henge – the caravan of beaten wood wagons circle one another, a blunted rainbow in the fallen sun that reminds me of Dick’s family circus, many years prior. LYSANDER’S, one reads, in faded lettering, two bestial painted heads swallowing it whole.

“It was him, wasn’t it?” she whispers, and I only nod when we are peering through the gated overhead of Lysander’s first empty trailer cart.

            A decoy.

            “I’ve sent some DNA back to the cave for analysis, but I…” I stop. “I think I’m losing myself, Selina,” I say, when we reach the second. “My mind. I…we need this. To get him. Lysander keeps showing up everywhere I look. Once is coincidence. Twice, this soon after…well…”

            Second. Empty.

            “I just wish you’d told me sooner,” she purrs, and she strokes my cheek. She leaps for the next cart, then signals me with a claw line across her neck. Also nothing.  

            “Yeah,” I say, behind my rippling cape. “Poor Harvey.”

            “Poor Har—? Oh, screw Harvey!” she says. “Guy was a couple fries short of a value meal. Get a room, you two.” Then, she giggles. “Couple.”

            I grin. Rub my still-aching chest. It doesn’t last.

            “I’m a liability,” I say, flipping backward off the side of the wagon. The grass is wet. Why is the grass wet…? I bend down and test it between my fingers. No smell. Clear. Smooth consistency. I begin to inspect the side windows. There are no animals here. “I didn’t know if I was…didn’t know who to trust.”

            “That’s when you trust me,” she says, and she is suddenly curled around my arm. I never even notice her leave the roof. She squeezes. We walk the circle together, like two lovers on the Saturday downtown square. “Even if I were to put you in a straightjacket, love, I’d still make it worth your while.” She looks up at me, then across the panorama of empty trailer wood. “Besides,” she continues, “I’ve come up a couple times in this investigation. Perhaps it’s been me behind it all.” She scratches at me playfully.

 “Haven’t ruled that out,” I say, my voice trailing off as I look the other direction – crane my neck for anything that doesn’t strike ordinary. 

This feels too easy. 

Then why is it so…hard…

Each wagon is hitched to the next, but there is no sign of movement in any of them. 

Which one belongs to…?

            “Robin to…um…Bruce, over?”

            The boy’s voice in the com startles me – its recent inactivity having lulled me into something of the old, normative silence.

“That you, Jay-bird?” Selina coos, and we separate as I make my way for the final trailer – the heads still jointly feeding at the namesake of Trillian Lysander. She’s grinning ear-to-ear, and mouths the words tell him I said ‘hi’ while waving. I wave her back. Clear my throat, as I step around the front wheel of the wagon, to the opposite side. 

The door is ajar.

Batman, over,” I say. 

“Still a secure line, Bruce,” he responds. “Over.”

I’m cautious as I push the door inward – slowly, at first; then, I crash through it, my fists out front, ready for block or strike.

Wait.

Nothing. I lower my fists. The low creak of old board echoes throughout the chamber. 

“Then why are you the only one on the line using a codename, Chum?”

He laughs. It’s good to hear him laugh.

Innards of the cart are definitely Lysander’s office. Paperwork spread about confirms that.

But where is he…?

I go to the table – pick up a handful of papers, and begin to skim.

Bill. 

Bill. 

Bill.

Cancellation notice.

“There’s…um…something we need to talk about, Batman,” Jay says. “Over.”

Bill.

Insurance claim.

Bill. 

Stub. 

Bill.

Adoption and…transfer forms…?

I stop on that last one – on a batch of them, in fact, because something of them doesn’t strike right. Trillian Lysander is an exhibitor of, exclusively, specialty animals. The odd and the macabre. But these forms are from the Gotham Animal Shelter: cats, dogs, a parakeet named “Hitchcock.” Standard fair.

Odd…

“Can this wait, Robin? Over.”

I set the papers down and begin a sweep of the filing cabinet on the far wall. Find his list of licenses. My clumsy fingers fly through them. Again, the wagon floor groans.

“I don’t think so, no…”

I…see…

“…Over.”

In the back of the cabinet, my eyes catch another item they should not.

“Oh,” I say. “Um…okay, Robin. Over.”

A folder, bearing the logo for Wayne Enterprise

No more sacred places…

I reach for it – grasp it in my heavy palm. It is mine, taken by the shadows.

No more sacred places…

And when I take it, I see the light. Hear the click. Feel my body move. I see fires and collapse all about me.

The man you’re looking for is…

The man you’re looking for is…

Remember, Batman. I could have just killed you.

When I take it, the folder falls to ash. It strikes. The trailer around me ignites…

…and it explodes.

TO BE CONTINUED…

in BATMAN: ORNAMENTAL 

Issue 8 – Echoes


C.D. DyVanc currently lives in the Midwestern United States. He is an award-winning journalist, and, in his free time, enjoys jumping out of airplanes, reading comic books, and being the epitome of the living dad joke with his wife and stepson. His works have appeared or are upcoming in Drunk Monkeys, Rue Scribe, Dream Pop Press, and Five:2:One’s #thesideshow. His chapbook, rhi(n.)oceros, won the 2017 Midwest Chapbook Contest, and is currently available through Greentower Press. You can find his horrible use of GIFs on Twitter (@CDDyVanc), if you’d like. 

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