Stepford Bat, part 1.

August 21, 2016:

Jason Todd has vanished from New York, rather unexpectedly and under strange circumstances. The peerless investigative skills of the BatFam have led them to the small town of Quaker Range, Connecticut, a lifetime away— only to find that the Red Hood is being very un-Hood like, and the strange goings-on in the town might have something to do with his sudden, radical personality shift. They'll need to infiltrate the community and find a way to return Red Hood to something approximating normality… before he's completely subverted.

Southampton, MA

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\#http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZpmSnow_Z8 None.]


Fade In…

The alarm beeps a few times, and Jason Theodore Smith is summoned from bed. It's another beautiful day in Southhampton Massachusetts— at 7:30 AM, the sun's only been up for a half an hour, so there's that lovely intermingling of dew and grass and warm air coming in from the distant coast.

His wife has a meal of eggs in a basket set out waiting for him, and gives his brow an affectionate kiss after he's seated, smiling at her husband. "Hello dear! I hope you slept well. Don't forget, Stephanie has gymnastics practice and Bruce needs a ride home from Young Detectives class after school." She bustles off, a vision of domesticity in kitten heels and a simple, plain yellow sundress— her hair's a curly mess of blonde that she's never happy with, and she hums to herself happily as she sets about handling the affairs of the house while he eats. The grandfather clock clicks over to 7:40, chiming softly, and a bluebird and a robin scold each other right outside the window, before darting off into the sky.

The house looks like something right out of a model home, all sleek and modern furnishings with a cleanliness that defies belief. But of course, that's because his wife Barbara is just such a spectacularly efficient housewife.

Across the street, through the bay window, he can see Brandon Wyatt, the lantern-jawed local judge, mowing his lawn, and the big fellow with black hair and blue eyes turns to wave at Jason, spotting the fellow with that uncanny knowledge of what's always happening in their little section of the homeowner's association.

Because on Evermore Terrace, they like things to stay just the way they are.

Jason didn't sleep as well as he would like. He still looks a little sleepy as he shuffles down to the kitchen in his bathrobe and slippers. A hand scrubs through his hair, mussing it some more and pulling back his 'power streak' of white — he's too young for greying, but it must be from the stress of his job. After all, he has to provide for the family!

A hand then reaches out to ruffle the heads of the children sitting at the table before he moves to steal a kiss from Barbara, "I had that dream last night. I don't know what I ate but for some reason it gave me those weird dreams. I didn't wake you up, did I?" He then lifts a hand to wave cheerfully at the neighbor as they catch each other's attention.

He then sits down at his seat at the head of the table to dig into the fancy breakfast set out. "What are your plans for the day?" If he's picking up the kids and all.

"You are your silly dreams!" his wife says, clucking her tongue. "Oh, I'm just going to clean house and make dinner," Barbara says, sunnily. "And then, I might go over to Darlene's and exchange some cookie recipes over tea! I know how you love your sweets."

She gives him another kiss on the brow, humming, and floats along. The kids smile at him but are oddly quiet, digging into their meals.

"Oh! Honey, you're going to be late!" she says, as the clock dings 8 AM. "Get dressed, I'll tell Judge Wyatt you'll be there in a moment for your carpool." She dashes across the street through the open door, presumably to prepare the older fellow for the morning ride.

"Daddy, you need your briefcase," his daughter says, pointing at the container near the door. "For your work at the law offices." It's an oddly erudite statement, but she's quite correct, yes? Because, Jason would suddenly remember— he's a lawyer, despite his peculiar dreams.

Silly dreams. Right. There's a buzzing of a cell phone that is in his robe pocket and he pulls it out to look at the text message there. Yes, silly dreams. Even Jason laughs a little vacuously at his own concerns, the dreams forgotten as he shoves food into his face before rushing to get dressed. At his daughter's reminder, he stops to give her a kiss on the forehead, "Thanks, sweetie! I don't want to forget that. Learn something good at school, ok?"

Is it school time?

Jason rushes upstairs and mindlessly gets dressed in a suit and tie, slicking his hair back so he looks like the professional he is.

Rushing back downstairs, he grabs the briefcase and pauses, looking at it for a moment as if confused as to why he's holding the thing. There's another glance at the children sitting at the table, eating breakfast, but then there -is- that reminder; he's a lawyer. Time to go defend the Law!

The judge rolls up in his old Rolls Royce, leaning over to open the door for Jason to hop into the vehicle once he's at the curbside. "Running a little late, Jason?" Mr. Wyatt says, good humor in his tone. "Barbara's cooking smells teriffic. I guess I'd be a bit late, too," he says, chuckling wryly. Jason abruptly remembers that Brandon Wyatt is a widower.

They putter down the short ride into town, the radio playing a tinny bit of the Beatles. "So Jason, you're going to be done with the Public Defender's office soon," Brandon remarks, at a red light. "Any thoughts about private practice? Or are you going to stay with us at the civil defense force?" he inquires, glancing sideways at the young lawyer.

"Taking the Rolls out for a spin?" Jason asks pleasantly as he gets into the fancy car, his briefcase at his feet. He looks over it for a moment, his brows drawing down as there's something familiar about the car. Because he's ridden in it, of course. "Sorry about that, Wyatt. You should come by sometime for dinner. You know you're always welcome."

As the conversation continues, he looks over at the older Judge, "I've had thoughts, but defending those who can't defend themselves…" his voice trails off as something just feels off. Did he just say that? What a strange sense of Deja vu.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"I said, 'you've got time'," Brandon tells his young assistant, chuckling. "It's all right. It's a big decision," he says, parking the long, sleek Rolls and stepping from it. He retrieves his own suitcase from the back seat and locks the doors, leading Jason into the public defender's building. "We've got a full docket today, though. Let's get to it."

The coastal town is a pleasant enough one, and the crimes on the docket are relatively benign. Petty theft, assault, one case of vandalism. Judge Wyatt sits on the bench, listening to the cases as the prosecuting attorney— Tim Wyatt, the judge's son— presents articulate reasons why each of the criminals deserves punishment, leaving Jason to offer a defense for each of them, pleading for mercy or innocence.

Wyatt's a fair enough man, though, and just as often sides with Jason as he does with Tim. And he does tend to err on the side of a more forgiving sentence.

But that leaves Jason, a time or two, stuck in the unenviable position of having to defend someone who he knows for a fact committed a crime.

Even as Jason is defending the petty crimes, there's the sensation that something is wrong. Blue eyes look to Tim Wyatt and there's a strange sensation in the young lawyer, something akin to jealousy. It surprises the benign man enough to focus back on the work at hand. It's not his best defense, but he didn't have as much to work with.

He does his best though, but he doesn't seem too worried if someone he knows is guilty ends up being imprisoned or otherwise punished for the crimes. At least they'll be off the streets, right? It makes it safer for his children.

Once they break for lunch, he exits the courthouse in order to get some fresh air and clear his head. It's like he's walking around in a dream today.

Maybe he just needs more sleep without those disturbing dreams.

Someone slams into Jason's shoulder, and screams incoherently, gripping his shirt. His vision is filled with slavering teeth and wide eyes, the dishevelled stranger shaking him violently.

"HELP! YOU GOTTA HELP!" he screams. "This ain't my home— ain't my kids, where's my kids, man, I gotta find my kids!" he screams. He looks like he slept in the gutter last night, ruining the lines of his otherwise trim suit. He's not someone Jason recognizes.

Which is weird, because it's a town of barely a thousand people. Jason /should/ recognize almost everyone, right?

There's the sounds of shouts and blowing whistles nearby, the cops apparently trying to find the man.

Jason Todd stumbles forward and reaches to his side for…what? His cell phone? There's nothing there as the phone is in his suit pocket. Whirling around as the scruffy man grabs and shakes him, "What?"

But he's a lawyer, right? He's suppose to be helpful. "Just calm down, sir…what happened to your kids? Look, the police will be able to help you if you calm down." He's trying to keep a calm demeanor, "Let's get you some coffee…" at the police station maybe?

"No! Listen! It's not real, NONE of it's real!" the fellow screams, his eyes wide with terror— but not madness. He /believes/ it, down to his soul, and Jason, in a flash of insight, knows this about him as an incontrovertable fact.

"You gotta get out, man, you gotta WAKE UP. The kids, they ain't ours, the wives, the houses, we STOLE SOMEONE'S LIFE, man!"

The cops round the corner, and he looks over his shoulder in terror. "The pictures! Look at the pictures!" He starts running, then breaks into a sprint, disappearing into the brush with two of the city's finest hot on his tail. They're fast and strong, for cops— and move with an almost predatory grace, surprisingly fast and silent, angry scowls on their faces.

And then the whole thing is over, in just a few seconds, leaving Jason standing there, befuddled.

Jason Todd is most certainly befuddled and that totally didn't help him clear his mind. His hands reach up to straighten his suit before he checks his phone…and opens the gallery to look at the pictures.

Surely, the phone would be full of pictures of his kids and wife, right? As for other pictures, he's at work…but when he gets home, they must have pictures on the wall and in albums.

But the thought of stealing someone's life…can that be? Can he remember meeting his wife at college and marrying soon after? Can he remember the birth of his two kids?

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