There is No Hunting Like the Hunting of Man

December 08, 2016:

One kill away from receiving what he has been promised by the demon he worships, Michael Kazinsky ends up taking the wrong girl and attracting the attention of the wrong vigilante.

Red Hook - Gotham

An abandoned tannery in the seedier parts of Gotham City.


NPCs: Michael Kazinsky, Mammon the Demon

Mentions: Nightwing, Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Batman, Giovanni Zatara


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Michael Kazinsky had a type.

He liked them young; between the ages of eighteen to twenty-five, slender, dark-haired and fun. The independent, extroverted sorts who were just as comfortable spending time by themselves as they did with groups of people. Girls who dressed well and who didn't have any qualms striking up a conversation with random strangers. He long considered himself the shy type, a fact exacerbated by his mediocre job at the local photography studio and his average looks - absolutely nothing about him stands out. For his purposes, approaching a friendly girl was less strenuous than forcing his company on a young lady who clearly didn't want to be bothered.

This one caught his eye almost the moment he entered the nightclub - she can't be more than her very early twenties, with darker-than-black hair pulled loosely in a tousled knot, tresses pulled out to frame her face. Dressed in a short, black dress and strappy black heels, she danced freely with a group of girls she had just met, laughing with them as if they were her closest friends in the world.

It was fascinating to watch her, how she could so easily ingratiate herself to a bunch of strangers, and be just as free and fun-loving when she's by herself. There were times in the night when she danced alone, attracting enough male attention that he was almost afraid that he would lose the chance to make her acquaintance entirely, but she never stayed in the company of one man for too long, always gravitating to the same group of girls whenever she got the impression that one of them was getting too clingy for her company.

It was clear to him that she was well-versed with the volatile social push-and-pulls of a night out, already resolving to utilize his most effective approach when it was time to talk to her. When the window finally came, he pushes off his seat, moseying over to the young woman and letting the pulsing rush of the crowd push him into her side, jolting her hand before she could take a sip of her drink.

"Whoa." His hand reaches out to steady her glass before it upends entirely, giving her a small smile. "Sorry about that, it's crowded tonight."

She smiles at him with red lips and for a moment, he is caught by how pale her blue eyes are. "Don't worry about it," she says, taking her drink back when he offers it to her. "People are going to bump into each other a lot in a night like tonight."

"I know it." Michael extends his hand towards her. "I'm Mike."

Glancing down at his hand, the girl takes it. Judging by her impeccable manicure, this one takes her appearance seriously. "Zee," she replies.

So far so good, he thinks, watching his new acquaintance as she takes a sip of her drink.

Already, it promises to be a productive evening.


When she wakes up, it is frightfully, unnaturally cold; her misty breath is the first thing she notices as she groggily moves from the hard ground, feeling her head pulse and throb as she lurches upright. Her throat feels like sandpaper, scratchy and painfully dry - it was hard to swallow, much less speak.

What the hell? Where was she?

The fact that she has probably been roofied causes her to frown, shifting on her seat; her addled mind registers that her hands are zip-tied behind her back, hard plastic binding her ankles. She groans, slumping back against the wall, turning her eyes to the dark ceiling as she takes a breath and attempts to collect her thoughts.

Drowsy as she is, it's child's play to slip out of her bonds, even without the use of her voice. Looping her bound arms underneath her, she pushes her heels into the ground to fit her backside through, shimmying slightly and bending her body almost double, pushing the limits of her flexibility as she slips her arms towards her ankles, kicking her shoes off to complete the task. With her bound wrists in front of her, she grinds her incisors on the plastic, letting it snap apart. After that, it was a simple matter to remove the plastic binding her legs.

It's only then that she realizes what she's in, her dark brows furrowing.

What the hell was she doing in a freezer?

It was large as well, the kind one would expect in slaughterhouses, extending right into the darkness reaching from the back, all the more foreboding with how intermittent power surges cause the single light inside of it to flicker. Groaning softly, she squints, shaking her head in a futile attempt to clear her vision. Catching sight of another dark-haired head bundled up in a ratty blanket a few feet away from her, she realizes she isn't alone.

Crawling on her hands and knees towards the other person, she reaches out. "Are you…." Her hoarse voice struggles through the cotton left there by the drug, clearing her throat forcibly again. "Are you alri—"

The heavy figure drops into her arms, sightless green eyes staring up at her from a limp head. Whoever she was, she had been stripped bare, her nudity spilling out from the burlap, though they don't hold a candle to the way her rent-open ribcage spills what remains of her innards onto the ground.

Or how she espies other like bundles stashed in the other end of the industrial-sized freezer she is locked in.

A scream bubbles from the back of her throat, Zatanna's hands coming up immediately to clap around her mouth before it could completely escape it, scrambling backwards as quickly as she can and forcing the corpse of the other woman to roll off her lap in a heavy thud. Pressing her body up against the wall, she stares wide-eyed at the macabre tableau in front of her, her heart pounding wildly in her chest, the urge to flee warring with the urge to wretch.

She has seen all kinds of monstrosities, has dealt with her fair share of supernatural threats; as the only daughter of a world-renowned mystical defender, these tended to follow her and her father on the road. But she has yet to grow calluses against the dark depravities a fellow human being could visit on another - and in this case, plenty of others. Her eyes tell her that there are at least a dozen other bodies in her with her.

She reaches out to grab her shoes, forcing herself on her feet - the drug hits her in full force and she can't help but stumble and almost slip, her knees locking together as she grabs onto the handle of the locked door to steady herself.

Out, she thinks, her blurry eyes focusing at the frozen metal hinges. She needs to get out of here.


Michael wipes beads of sweat from his forehead as he crouches next to the generator, setting down a pair of pliers as he keeps a careful eye on the power gauge. From what he knows from his research, the building was once a leather factory back in the forties, where the animals were skinned on site, the carcasses stored in the room-wide freezer at the back to keep the meat from rotting before the local butchers picked it up. The presence of the old freezer had been ultimately one of the deciding factors in choosing the building as the site for his extracurricular activities; after that, it was a simple matter of wiring in a portable generator and stealing power from the nearest grid.

Cleaning his hands with a rag, he rises to his feet, moving away from his power station so he could finalize his preparations. Picking up a large roll of thick plastic sheeting, he proceeds to toss it over the main skinning table in the middle of the room. On the adjacent surface, his instruments lie in wait, gleaming under the dim candlelight from the multitude of candles he has lit around the room.

He has long since lost the fear that he would be discovered; he has heard of others like him, and in the end, the thing that always traps them is greed - the burning need to take more, and more and more. He tempers these impulses, knowing with fervent certainty that he is in control of them, and not the other way around, and that this is more than just simply the desire to feel beauty and life come apart in his hands, only allowing himself one a month as an homage to his god.

This would be his thirteenth sacrifice. And because it is such a beautiful and sacred number, everything has to be perfect.


In a city like Gotham, a careful serial killer can go far.

It was, after all, a place plagued by more theatrical, more over-the-top sorts of criminals, whose themed sprees caught the eye of the media and the police where a missing girl or two now and again might slip through the cracks. Nobody's going to notice something like that, not when there's insane clowns to worry about, or a madman with riddle-themed death traps, or even some weirdo who flies around on a kite.

Or, well… Almost nobody.

Noticing the pattern had been difficult, buried in the background noise of other violent crime as it was. The profile of the victims was at once specific and vague, but it was clear that they were being targeted at least in part because of their appearance as well as their personality; the sign of a killer with a fixation, perhaps an unresolved fascination from earlier in life. But how, exactly, does one guard every dark-haired, extroverted young woman in Gotham City? It was a pure impossibility - even if you were able to convince someone to act as bait, even if you set them up in the usual haunts from which the girls had gone missing before, the odds of getting a bite were astronomically low. No, the only way to catch someone like that is to be aggressive, rather than defensive. To sift through every possible clue, to find that one thing every criminal leaves behind, no matter how clever they might be. Even without some ridiculous theme to their criminality, they always leave a calling card behind. Whether it's intentional… Or a mistake.

Sometimes, it isn't even some grievous error like leaving DNA on the body of a victim, or something that can be traced where one of the targets disappeared, no. Really, more often than not, it's something incredibly mundane. It's not greed that gives those killers away, it's hubris and obliviousness. It's buying a ton of candles, or a generator and a large roll of plastic sheeting at a hardware store.

Michael Kazinsky wasn't the only name investigated, as the number of victims grew. Other leads generated nothing, or drew attention towards some unrelated crime. It was long, painstaking work to find the abandoned tannery, a co-worker having mentioned the strange smell that had hung around 'Mike' at the studio of late. Wiring the place with cameras and audio pickups to let him betray himself.

Above, in the bare metal girders that served as rafters in the old factory, a shadow detached from the others and shifted slightly to the side, white eyes following Kazinsky unerringly in the candlelight, the featureless gaze seeing everything as clear as in the light of day, even as the earpiece under the black cowl whispered everything the audio pickups heard. The shuffling of the plastic sheeting, of the man's feet as he surveyed the tools of his art. No sign of disgust or anger twists the mouth visible where the black cowl opens, as though the observer were something inhuman, something untouched by the macabre sights below.

"Michael Kazinsky," says a lightly modulated voice from overhead, the shadowy figure standing up on the metal beam, walking along them on silent feet to follow his prey as the killer went about his preparations. Let the hunter know he is hunted. Let the stalker know he is stalked. "You have ruined lives. Instilled terror. Tonight, that ends. You're going to jail for your crimes, but you have one choice left."

He waits a moment. Deadly silent. Draw it out, let Kazinsky stew in it.

"In a cop car, or an ambulance?"


Perhaps that was indeed what he was counting on.

Gotham City was a cesspool; some would say it was the worst place on Earth, where even the change of seasons deprives it of color, leaving it drab and gray until the black of night creeps in and lingers for hours until the sun dares shine upon it again. There was enough happening here at a regular basis that a person like him would slip past unnoticed - he was, after all, no one as flashy as the Joker, or as connected as the Penguin. He wasn't even sexy like Catwoman, making a lucrative living as one of the finest thieves in the world; just a regular, average and unremarkable person, albeit one with an unnatural religion - everyone needs to have something to believe in, after all.

But as eyecatching and as bombastic as the bigger demons of the city are, it is the littlest things that give Evil traction; a promise unfulfilled, ignoring a homeless person on the street, a slap from one spouse to another. In Michael's case, it was that he was never good enough - not good enough to be valedictorian in high school, not good enough to enter a decent college, not good enough to even make it as a photographer, and his parents let him know that, every single day.

Nevermind that he was trying to do something about it, even now. After tonight, he was going to be special. After tonight, he was going to have the power to make his dreams come true…except the last thing he expected to happen has happened.

Someone finally noticed him.

He would have been happier, if this moment was not so crucial. Spinning around, his eyes wide, his dark stare searches the surrounding shadows, slowly turning up to the thing in the dark observing him from above the rafters, its voice - was it even human? - rumbling strangely in the quiet room. He takes a step back, his body nudging the table behind him, jostling the impressive array of sharp objects laden upon it, fingers closing over a blade.

"No," he breathes, panic welling up inside him. "No! No, no, NO NO NO! Not tonight! I've come too far, done too much— you're not taking this away from me, you hear me?! YOU'RE NOT!"

His hand abandons the blade, slipping lower, feeling under the table for /it/. Ripping the firearm out from underneath, he swings the gun towards where the interloper is standing and fires a shot.

It echoes in a deafening crack, filling the candlelit space around him.

And another, and another, slugs pinging and ricocheting off metal frames and embedding in thick, concrete walls. To a consummate professional like Red Robin, his attempts are wild, erratic…desperate, in both the best and worst of ways.

"Get out!" he shrieks. "GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT!!!!"


The spray of gunfire heralds the near-inhuman shriek of a different voice, somewhere within her ominous environs. She has only managed to open the door when she hears it, and while she experiences some difficulty using her voice, she has found other ways to extricate herself from her predicament, letting the heavy metal appendage fall shut as she stumbles further into the dark.

The sounds make her stop short, her heart in her dried-out throat, the drug in her senses twisting the space around her, fragmenting half-illuminated shapes and changing her world into a sprawling geometric puzzle that wouldn't be out of place in Escher's artwork. The resulting vertigo has her reeling, slowly, sluggishly turning her body to venture /away/ from the audible cacophony. She may be addled, she may be hampered, but she isn't stupid. Her father had been particularly insistent that she learn other ways of surviving, when the use of her magic almost or completely failed her.

Strips of plastic swung at her in dizzying, diagonal slashes. Zatanna holds her hand out, pushing past them while the other protects her face, unsure whether the boundary was actually there, or if it was something imaginary and placed there by her pharmaceutical delirium. Unsteady feet continue forward, until metal rams painfully into her bare knees, causing her to tilt and stumble, to sprawl on something soft and ultimately roll off it, landing hard on the concrete ground on the other side of the…

…bed? Was someone living here?

Pushing her hair from her eyes and stifling a groan, she picks herself up, her blurry eyes looking up towards the wall facing her. Scents - something earthy and fragrant - hits her nose, light and shadow made to dance by flickering candles standing nearby.

Her hand knocks over something as she attempts to move. Unconsciously, her hand follows it, dragging the earthen clay bowl towards her and righting it up. It was stupid, she thinks. Why does she care if she's making a mess?

Something within the bowl catches her attention. She slowly cups it with both hands; the smell hits her first, though its insides were empty save for the black symbols she sees etched within. She was already cold, her pale flesh mottled with goosebumps from the time she had spent in the freezer - the uneasonable chill of a very early Winter has not helped this, but what she sees inscribed on the clay stops her heart.

"…no…" she whispers, her vision finally clearing up enough so she could see the effigy painted on the wall, the unmistakeable stench of coagulated blood driven sharply into her fuzzy senses.


The first time Tim Drake had a gun pointed at him, he was fourteen years old.

A lot had been done to try and prepare him for it, but of course nothing really CAN prepare you. He still remembers it, the first time he saw a muzzle swing towards him. He remembers the first time he was shot at, the first time he felt a bullet barely miss him, close enough that he could feel the heat of its passage through the air. Since then, it's happened more times than he'd care to count, but he knows how to deal with it. Not with an absence of fear, but at least without stark visceral terror squeezing his heart and stilling his limbs. Something he can control. Something he can use.

Naturally, by the second bullet, he's not even /there/ anymore, lurking somewhere else in the shadows of the rafters.

"You're right, you have done too much," Red Robin confirms, a whistle in the air as small glittering discs hurtle through it towards Kazinsky's gun-bearing hand, hurled with a force that was likely to make him drop the weapon, and possibly break a few nones in his hand in the process.

He keeps moving, naturally.

There is almost no sound as the caped and cowled figure lands on the floor behind Kazinsky, whose reckless gunfire has definitely not done much for his own hearing; the candlelight highlights and outlines the vigilante as he rises up to his full height - risers in his costume's rugged boots adding to his height, an important part of keeping his identity secret. But of course, who he is without the mask on doesn't really matter, right now. Right now, what matters is what Red Robin can do.

There's a short series of clicking noises, almost as quiet as the sound of his landing, and now the masked young man is armed as well, a metal staff as long as he is tall whistling faintly, briefly as he swings one end at the back of Kazinsky's knee, looking to make a quick takedown. The sooner this is dealt with, the better.

"Where's the girl, Michael?" he wonders in that low, strangely modulated voice, a device in the neck of his costume lending him an unnatural sound. To hide the truth. To be more frightening. Kazinsky had given other people terror, but now terror was here for him. "You've lost, your game is over. Give up the girl and you might find some kind of leniency."

Though he doubts it.


What can an ordinary, average, unremarkable man do against one of Gotham's caped vigilantes? He has had no training, no physical conditioning to speak of, save for the occasional bouts in the gym to maintain some measure of strength in the event that he had to subdue his victims physically. Compared to the likes of Batman, or Red Robin, he was nothing, an ant to be squashed by the boot of superior combat training and investigative know-how. Even his shots woefully miss the mark - the masked vigilante, one of many of Gotham's current crop, moving like living night, leaving his bullets spent harmlessly on the walls or pinging off metal rafters, shell casings leaving an impotent mess on the ground underneath his feet.

He doesn't even have the reflexes to avoid the metallic disc as it slams painfully into his wrist, forcing him to relinquish his grip on the gun, clutching it with his other hand as he attempts to back away. Michael is only human, and perhaps unlike most of the ones Red Robin has dealt with tonight, he /believes/ him when he claims that his work this evening is over - he would not be able to continue, if he is caught here now.

Perhaps /He/ would forgive him, if he tries again another night.

He doesn't even have the space to flee - like an outgrowth of the very shadows surrounding his sacrificial chamber, Red Robin emerges from behind him, the staff whirling out of nowhere and sending him down hard on one knee. He scrambles away from the looming, broad-shouldered figure as he advances a step, his backside dragging across the floor.

"Sh-she's already dead!" he exclaims…lies. "I just finished cleaning up, you're too late!"

With one desperate lunge, his uninjured hand swipes the small blade he had dropped, snatching it from the floor and pressing his thumb into the blade. Hunching over, his back turned to his uninvited guest, he turtles into himself.

"I did what you asked…I'm so close…." he pleads into the darkness. "…if you want me to finish, /help me/." He palms the blade, keeps it pressed between his hands, kneeling as if in prayer, his whispers gutteral and low as he lowers his head.


Unsteady fingers knock away a few items off the makeshift dresser next to the bed, Zatanna's half-blurry vision scanning the items in the first drawer, and another. Someone seems to have been living here, but with luck, with luck…

She finds a Sharpie half-hidden underneath a collection of mundane objects; pieces of paper, spare staples, a half-finished package of gum. She grabs it as she falls back on her knees, practically pressing her face close to the interior of the bowl as she identifies the symbols - the passage itself is old, traditional…but twisted, characters inserted here and there to pervert its purpose. It was crude work, the sort she would associate with casual practitioners and hedge magicians.

She feels sick, nausea hampering her very urgent need to focus. She turns her face, dry heaving onto the floor.

Why aren't the effects lessening? She was out for a while, and it feels late…

Uncapping the marker, she goes through the bowl's inner circumference, symbol by symbol, line by line, replacing the changes with her instrument and attempting to fix what has been distorted.

The hairs at the back of her neck rise slowly - the change in her environment is subtle, but she can smell the hint of sulfur, the taste of something evil mingling with the sourness of bile lingering at the back of her throat.


Red Robin would sense the change before he sees it.

Michael suddenly lurches off his feet, swinging around in inhuman speeds; a fist cocking back, he attempts to plow it right into Red Robin's center mass.

His body follows the rest of the movement effortlessly, almost bonelessly, finding both of his feet with his lanky shoulders still hunched. Craning his neck, Kazinsky looks over at him, a single visible eye staring at the vigilante as a hand lifts to wipe the trickle of saliva dripping from the corner of his mouth. A single eye that appears strange. Upon closer inspection he would see it, another encroaching, green iris, pushing up from underneath Mike's darker one. It hadn't been there before, and it would be impossible for someone as observant as Tim not to have noticed it.

After the serial killer blinks, that strange anomaly is gone, the rest of him shuffling back around to face him.

"I admire your tenacity," he hisses; Mike's voice has changed, lower, darker. "I've turned a blind eye to the attempts of you and your compatriots to stem the flow of greed in your beautiful city simply because your very attempts to do so are, if anything, highly entertaining. Like the movies. But tonight is different."

He takes a step forward, his weight shifting to the balls of his feet.

"This time, you deigned to get in my way /directly/, Timothy Drake. This can't go unpunished."

With that, he lunges, his body blurring as he zig-zags across the floor, eating up the distance between him and his unwanted guest. He leaps, springs with unnatural agility and speed, aiming to take Red Robin by the throat and hurl him clear across the room.

A distance of, easily, a few dozen feet.


'You're too late!' Kazinsky insists.

The masked figure hardly reacts to the lie, though with the cowl and all it would be difficult to tell anyway. There's no sudden rage, no despair at the possibility that he'd failed, and that the thirteenth victim was, indeed, already dead. Instead, there is the faintest shift from the vigilante, his head tilting slightly to one side in an way that's suggestive of rueful disappointment, almost.

"You're a terrible liar, Michael," that lightly fuzzed voice replies, stepping closer as the killer lunges for his knife, a faint whistling in the air as Red Robin's metal staff whirls, ready to knock away the blade if Kazinsky decides to take his chances with a stabbing. Admittedly, he's not /too/ worried about that, either; he's pretty sure his armor could take a knife that small without him even really feeling it. But that's not what the serial killer does. Instead, he turtles on himself.

"There's nobody here but you and me and the girl," Red Robin - ever practical - reminds Kazinsky as he starts muttering to probably nobody. He wouldn't be the first killer to concoct a higher power to deflect blame for his crimes onto. 'The devil made me do it' is an excuse as old as humanity itself, with a thousand thousand different evils taking the blame for the actions of those who could not or would not accept responsibility for their own crimes.

The problem, one supposes, is that sometimes there are actual devils.

The first strike almost catches him by surprise, the masked man shifting backwards just ahead of the killer's suddenly much faster than normal fist, not enough to avoid the hit but enough to blunt most of the impact, his costume's armor soaking up most of the rest. Teeth grit, booted feet skid against the filthy floor of the old tannery, and he watches the strange way Kazinsky - or, at least, Kazinsky's body - moves, almost like a marionette on strings.

"Hn," Red Robin mutters to himself as the killer starts talking in a different voice, and worst of all, calls him by name. "So much for that theory."

Whatever it is, it's too fast for him to easily avoid getting grabbed and subsequently thrown, but that doesn't mean he has to just let it happen - and the time it would take him to fly dozens of feet through the air is plenty of time to come up with an alternative to just slamming into a wall and probably breaking some bones. Just stopping his own momentum is no good, though he supposes a broken arm is better than a broken back, but even less damage would be better.

One arm thrusts out to the side as he hurtles back, a single smooth motion that terminates in his firing a grappling hook at one of the work floor's supports. No, he can't just stop his own momentum, but he can /redirect/ it, turning his flight backwards into an arc to the side, then around, then back towards Not Kazinsky, feet first.

Not as forcefully as he'd been hurled at first, certainly. But still with enough power behind the impact that most people, even metahumans, would think twice about getting back up afterwards.

Notably, he doesn't actually engage in further conversation with Kazinsky - or who, or whatever it is now - but in fairness, he does have other things to worry about.


And just like that, Red Robin proves that his brilliance isn't just lip service; not just for the way he chooses to deal with the attacks levied against him, but also the choice not to verbally engage the entity in the body he's fighting. There is a saying, after all, that the more you talk to the Devil, the more you let him inside you, and at the moment, inviting that sort of encroachment was probably not the best idea.

Certainly not corporeally, some of the old rules still apply, and a tacit invitation into the vigilante's body is something the entity currently lacks, but the nature of demons are such that they unerringly home in and latch on a human being's emotional and psychological weaknesses even more quickly than their physical ones. However, it knows - how could it not? God, literally, is the only one who knows how long this one has preyed upon mortals on this Earth.

But that was just fine with it - whoever it was, the thing lurking inside of Michael Kazinsky's body. It is just as content to kill without any words exchanged. The sooner the boy was dispatched, the quicker the disciple could return to his work.

Kazinsky's narrowed eyes follow the wake of Red Robin's shadow as he flies backwards, though he is never content to let things lie when he can do something about it. It was never his way, and while not as stellar an acrobat as his 'older brother,' he makes the maneuver look effortless all the same. But much like him, instead of simply waiting, the man charges forward, to meet the strike towards him head on by grabbing the end of the butcher's table he has set up for himself, inhuman strength enabling him to rip the thing off the rusted bolts keeping it to the ground, the wrenching, grating, tearing sound of twisting metal ringing loudly in his ears as he swings it around like a bat, in an effort to treat the caped and cowled vigilante much like a fastball, the impact threatening, at the very least, bone-jarring force.

The killer doesn't stop there - he closes the distance fast, in what could be interpreted as a quickness borne out of desperation and the special brand of insanity associated with other depraved murderers. But Red Robin knows it isn't /just/ that, even while he leaps towards the red-clad youth.


She was getting sicker and sicker.

While not a stranger to ritualistic spellwork, Zatanna has never once given her own blood to fuel it; in all of her life, she never had to, though she has never really given much thought as to the strangeness of it - why even the likes of Virginia Townsend and her father would expend bits of themselves to amplify their conjurings while she hasn't shed a single drop. But she knows the kind of power blood can bring to the arcane arts, and in this building, there has been plenty expended - sacrificed to the entity whose symbol has been painted on the wall before her.

Her marker finishes 'correcting' the spell bowl in her hands, the thing set back on the floor as she takes several deep breaths in an attempt to focus. It's cold - her blood feels cold, she can barely feel the effects of the adrenaline surge in her body once she has realized what she was dealing with, the fuzzy edges in her vision remaining as she works her tongue between her lips and attempts to speak. It is still difficult to talk, but she tries, enclosing her fingers around the clay object as she speaks.

"Ecalp…" She squeezes her eyes shut, shaking her head in an effort to clear the dizziness threatening to overwhelm her senses. "…siht ni nomed eht rof tirw ecrovid a si siht…"

It was difficult enough to say incantations backwards in English. Her current physical state was making it downright impossible, but from the loud noises she can hear from the bowels of the factory, she has to try.

But she has to name it. Her foggy, ice-blue eyes take in the sigil branded in blood on the chipped, peeling plaster, her throat working up the necessary syllables. "…B…bubez…"


'Their true names,' Ginny's voice, unbidden, surfaces from her already murky thoughts. 'What, did you think your father went around calling himself John because Giovanni was hard to pronounce?'

No…it wasn't Beelzebub. It was a stage name, a pseudonym that ancient sorcerors used to write about him while circumventing the risk of calling his attention. Before then, he was known by a much older name…

What was it?

She knew this, once upon a time. She had to remember it now.


This is fun, Tim thinks to himself.

It isn't, really.

His swinging kick is intercepted by an extremely heavy metal table that there's no way Kazinsky ought to be able to lift; some hidden metahuman abilities, he figures, not wanting to countenance the idea of real demons or magic. Though that leaves the question of how 'Kazinsky' knew his name. Red Robin is hardly the kind of quasi-mythological figure the Batman is, nor as well known as the Robin guise he used to wear. In a way, it's an advantage - the underworld doesn't know who he is, so they can't easily plan for his interference. It's not without its problems too, though, as the mere whisper of his presence can't paralyse lesser criminals with dread.

Even Nightwing can manage that. But, all in good time.

The bone-jarring impact makes his legs very nearly go numb, but it gives him something to push off of, a small pellet tracing a sharp arc up and then back down again as he leaps away. The instant it hits the ground, it ruptures open and dark smoke rushes out to fill the space around it, hopefully giving him time to work. He can't compete on even terms with that strength and speed, but if there's any lesson he learned, above any and all others, in his time working with Batman, it's that you should avoid a fair fight whenever possible. Besides, there are considerations about strength, even superhuman strength, that the very strong often never bother to investigate.

Not-Kazinsky was leaping at him, fast, which left Red Robin with a shortened list of options… And the one he chose was to rush forward as well, dropping into a slide /underneath/ the deranged killer, hands working as he moved to catch Not-Kazinsky by the ankle with a length of the same strong cord he used to swing around on; as Red Robin well knew, there weren't an awful lot of things you could do while you were in midair, barring the actual ability to fly. You tended to be committed to moving in a given direction, and even more relevantly to the current situation, however strong you were didn't matter if there was nothing for you to act against.

Especially because superhuman strength seldom came with a commensurate increase in mass.

The cord suddenly shot upwards with a quiet puff of compressed air, another grapple launched at the overhead beams, a quick calculation of height and distance and necessary slack ensuring that - if all went according to plan - the killer would be left dangling upside down by his ankle, about two or three feet above the ground.


There's a roar - inhuman and frustrated, when Red Robin refuses to stay down, or show any signs of surrender. While there's a glint of satisfaction from Kazinsky's eyes when the table finds purchase against the younger man's body, but the joy he realizes after the hit is ultimately short-lived when he flips away and it suddenly becomes terribly difficult to see. Admittedly, visibility is already low - his improvised sacrificial chamber has nothing but candlelight to provide illumination, but the added smokescreen makes things all the more difficult. Wildly, the man throws the heavy table in the direction where he /thinks/ Red Robin has disappeared to.

In mid-leap, it's too late for him to change direction, there's really only no way but down, and while he manages to twist when he feels the snare go around his ankle, he doesn't manage to detangle himself quickly enough before the compressed air pumps out and he's catapulted towards the ceiling by a length of lightweight, but ridiculously strong cord. It hauls the man's lanky body up as more noises pour from his throat.

Dangling by the ankle and swinging at the wake of Red Robin's gamble, Kazinsky laughs, a low, gutteral, rasping sound. "Clever, boy," he spits. "But if you think this'll hold me for long, you're sorely mistaken."

Abdominal muscles contract as the man folds himself up, his hands reaching to grab into the length of cord extending from his ankle. With a grunt, he attempts to rip the cord from where it has managed to brace itself; the sound of aggravated metal squeals over human senses like nails over a chalkboard.


Zatanna turns her head again, the urge to vomit causing her stomach to constrict and her head to spin, flickering firelight multiplying into after images of two or three. Even now, she tries to think, taking another deep breath as she attempts to finish her work, her marker poised over the bowl she has just upended after slowly, finally, finishing the incantation.

All that was left is the name.

Beelzebub was a Prince of Hell, governing wealth and greed and corruption. From what her father told her before, he had brokers all over the world, human beings who pledged themselves to his service and were rewarded handsomely, usually in the most opulent of cities, modern-day Sodoms and Gomorrahs where the need for more trumped humanity's more benevolent traits.

Beads of sweat trickle down her cold, clammy skin, lashes kissing her pale cheeks as she closes her eyes again to think, to try and ignore the drug's effects so she could…

It was an old name, nothing derived from English. But it wasn't always a name. It started as a concept, a noun.

Her eyes fly open, her marker flying across clay in trembling fingers:

Sinomead nemon tse Nommam

Mnemonic Incantation was difficult enough backwards in English. In her present state, almost impossible. In /Latin/, it was bordering ridiculous - but words have always been the basis of her power, which is why she has resolved to learn as many words as she can, in a variety of languages.

The upturned bowl shakes within her grasp; she leans over, pressing both palms on it to keep it still with the additional leverage of her weight. The words she inscribed shed bright, green-white light, pouring from between her fingers.

"…oh god, oh god…" she wheezes.

Let it work. Let it work. Let it wor—

An invisible shockwave explodes from the bowl, sending her body flying, bouncing off the bed and crumpling somewhere on the other side of it. The ripples wash over the factory, through the walls, its floors, extending further out until she was sure it covers the entire factory.


The cord pulls free; Kazinsky crashes onto the ground - his landing is no graceful thing, his face and body toppling with enough force to leave cracks on the cold concrete floors. He's still laughing in that same, gurgling rasp…until he feels it. His body freezes as ephemeral tethers blow through him, muscles seizing up uncontrollably as his head tilts back, eyes wide as saliva dribbles from the corners of his mouth. "No…NO!" Tightly curled fingers reach out for nothing. "You bastard! You…how did you—!"

He stops, his eyes turning to look past Red Robin and further into the dark. The spell feels familiar, even as it attempts to claw his influence from Mike's body as his human shell jerks and writhes on the floor.

Familiar…and yet not.

What those inhuman eyes see is something Tim Drake never could, the near overwhelming burst of light, akin to a supernova beckoning at him from further inside the factory, the irresistible taste of power and potential…of a soul ten times bigger than that of any ordinary human being.

No, this wasn't his old enemy. This wasn't Zatara.

This was…

He throws his head back and laughs wildly, his tongue lolling out, his eyes wide and crazed. "Oh Mikey," he rasps. "Mikey, Mikey, /Mikey/! Do you have /any/ idea what you just /brought me/?!"

He suddenly pulls up from the ground and dashes forward, heading straight for Red Robin, though his instincts would be enough to tell him that he doesn't intend to stop. He'll run over him, if he has to, with the power of a speeding train behind him.

But the ephemeral chains yank it back. With a shriek, they tear the entity forcibly from its host body, sending it back and /out/ of the factory….leaving Michael with nothing but his own decidedly non-augmented faculties.

Heading straight for a man who outclasses him physically in every single way.


Stringing the killer up like that usually works pretty well; even with a particularly strong opponent, it neutralises the advantages of their strength, and /most/ things will start to get dizzy pretty quickly as the blood rushes to their brain. Upside-down is just not a position humans were meant to be in, though there are always those who are adapted to it, through natural inclination or through training - Tim himself had to learn how to do all sorts of things while upside down for extended periods, and escaping from bonds in that position was only the beginning.

In this case though no, it won't hold him forever.

Of course, it doesn't have to.

Catching Kazinsky was a priority on this mission, but it wasn't the /only/ priority, or even the highest. Catching criminals and putting them in Blackgate or in Arkham is a big part of the job, but part and parcel of the code to avoid killing comes a commitment to /save lives/. Stopping Kazinsky's rampage wasn't about the satisfaction of putting a serial killer behind bars where he belongs, it was about keeping him from killing anyone else. If, through whatever means, the killer wasn't something he could immediately subdue, then the only alternative was clear.

He had to be keeping the girl in the meat locker, it was the only place that he hadn't been able to check as yet. The caped and cowled vigilante didn't sit around waiting to see how Not Kazinsky would deal with the cord binding him, but rather immediately beelined towards the freezer door. There probably wouldn't be time to fiddle with the lock, so he pulled something out of one of his bandolier compartments, palming it. Once they were out, probably Kaminsky would go to ground, but now that they had his identity they could find him again. Priorities. Priorities.

Unfortunately, the killer was faster in freeing himself than Red Robin had thought. He didn't make it to the freezer before he heard Kaminsky's body drop to the filthy floor with a brutal-sounding thud, which meant it was time to come up with a plan B, extremely quickly. There was angry screaming, but it probably didn't matter. He had to—

Turning, those featureless white eyes see Kazinsky's form racing towards him, clearly intent on running clear over him to get to the freezer. He doesn't have the time to think of anything really clever, already extending his staff with his other hand in the hopes that he can use all that power and momentum /against/ the killer, but not entirely sure it will work… But then there's a change, a shriek, a clear awareness that things had suddenly gone very wrong for Michael Kazinsky in the past few moments as his patron was torn away from him.

Tim didn't really know about any of that, but he still used his staff to sweep Michael's legs out from under him as he tried to rush past, letting him crash facefirst into the pavement again.

"Looks like you've been brought back down to normal," that electronically blurred voice notes, the cowled man stooping to bind the serial killer by his ankles and wrists, and if he strained his ears just enough…

"Sirens. Good," Red Robin said, confiding in the now-captured Michael. "I was worried they wouldn't follow up on that anonymous tip. You sit tight," he rumbled, patting Michael on the shoulder before he continued towards the freezer door, producing the item he'd been holding earlier once again: A spray bottle full of gel.

The gel made a nice little Red Robin logo over the lock before the vigilante stepped away and set it off, the small detonation enough to tear the lock to shreds, making the door eminently openable before he proceeded inside. The heat of the only still-living body inside of the freezer shouldn't be hard to track with his lenses, which left Tim feeling a moment of rising panic. What if he'd been wrong? What if he really had arrived too late, and somehow Kazinsky had killed the girl without his cameras noticing?

No, he couldn't think like that. It didn't make any sense.

Instead, he searched thoroughly, and noticed warm tracks on the floor of the freezer, too small for Kazinsky's feet; following them, searching carefully, he's led to the sleeping area which had been set up in the back of the factory, with its ritual implements and its strange symbols, but there was something else he needed to worry about, first. Finding the crumpled figure of Zatanna on the floor. Alive, but certainly at least dazed.

"Hn," he muttered. Heck of a coincidence.

Scooping the goth girl up in a gentle bridal carry, Red Robin toted her out of the back of the tannery, past the blasted-open door of the meat locker, and the hogtied Michael Kazinsky. Not exactly by the numbers, but it could've all gone worse.

"Miss," he said in that low, distorted voice, certainly nothing recogniseable as one of Zatanna's classmates. "Can you hear me? Are you all right?" He doubts she would be, after what she'd been through, but there are of course different grades of all right. "You're safe now, the police and ambulance are on their way, and the man who attacked you is going to jail."


As Red Robin investigates the meat locker, he would find the others - twelve other girls, one having fallen out of the burlap that she was wrapped in; with such a glaring indicator of what could be in the rest, he could only assume the worst. Within the freezer, there were absolutely no survivors.

Except one.

He would find a pair of expensive heels left behind before he starts following the tracks - out in the shadows and deeper into the other side of the factory, the rest of the prints have faded, evaporated in open air, but flickering light ahead suggests another room.

Meanwhile, the black-haired girl groans, pushing herself up on her elbows and her body freezing when she hears the small charge explode somewhere inside of the factory. Just because she had been successful against the one thing that couldn't be knifed or shot does not mean that she is out of the woods. Resisting once again the urge to wretch, she reaches out underneath the bed for something, anything. Her fingers close around a slat of loose wood, but that wouldn't be enough against a deranged, demon-worshipping serial killer. Pushing past the fog in her brain, her lips move, mumbling a quiet word.

"…rab…rabworc…" she forces through clenched teeth.

She may not be able to conjure yet, but she can at least transfigure objects. She can do that much, even if she doesn't risk teleporation with her current state of mind. Rolling slowly on her back, she pushes her heels against the floor, up until she feels her shoulders press against the wall. With that additional leverage, she manages to push herself up on her feet. The world lurches violently before her eyes and it is all she could do /not/ to get embarrassingly sick.

This is how the cowled vigilante eventually finds her; in her fragmented vision, he looks all the more frightening - red and black, hooded with pupiless eyes staring at her, he looked the very picture of an executioner out to send her to the gallows. He'd see the fear there easily - for a moment, before those startling, but foggy blue eyes narrow and she grips her crowbar tight in her fingers. "…don't….stay back…" Her words sound slow and sluggish, rolling stubbornly off her tongue with all the give of molasses. "I know how to use—"

She can't. Her body sags against the wall, the crowbar dropping from limp fingers and clanging loudly on the ground. When Red Robin finally reaches her, he manages to catch her and scoop her up before she hits the ground.

"…oh god I think I'm going to be sick…" she mumbles, while he adjusts his grip, her head lolling sideways as her eyes close. "….wait…I might puke on you, just…"

Something was pressing against her face. She pulls her heavy head back to stare at it, seeing double as the insignia in the middle of his chest makes a very good impression of a kaleidoscope, swirling in nonsense patterns in her addled mind. No matter the speed, it looks like a bird. Birds, and bats and capes and cowls…

"…oh, hey…Robin," she murmurs, her hand reaching out to touch the symbol; cold metal bites her fingers. "…red and black, huh…? Did you finally upgrade the costume…? That's good…I've seen the pictures…green wasn't your color…"

Her body folds almost double, as if her head weighed three times more than her body. The center of her forehead finds the rough weave of carbonfiber, her numb synapses barely registering the touch as her bare feet dangle off Red Robin's arm.

"…gave me something…I don't know what it is…oh god, I might die after all. I don't feel well…" The words seem to remind her of something, however, her head tilting back to meet those disconcerting white lenses. "The ones in the freezer…they're not…not all of them…?"


It wouldn't be the first time someone he was rescuing took a swing at him, either.

That was one of the hazards of the costumed vigilante lifestyle. They weren't public, visible heroes like you might find elsewhere in the world. They weren't Superman, or the Avengers; they were figures meant to provoke fear and terror among the criminals that used fear and terror to prey on the citizens of Gotham, more urban legend than mortal flesh, and that could make them just as frightening to the civilians they sought to protect. Especially if they were drugged out of their minds on whatever Kazinsky had used to subdue his victims.

"It's fine," he tells her, when she notes that she might throw up on him. It was obvious she was in no condition to crack his skull open anyway, even before she dropped the crowbar and subsequently started to fall towards the ground. It wouldn't be the first time someone had puked on his costume, either.

That's another thing they're made to resist.

Despite the fearsomeness of his mein, the cowled man holds Zatanna surprisingly gently, keeping her secure as he carries her towards the fresher air outside of the tannery. She was hardly in any condition to be kept in a literal charnel house any longer than she needed to be. Robin, she called him, and there was a time when she wouldn't have been wrong, but…

"Wrong guy," that lightly distorted voice assures Zatanna. "Robin is somebody else. Call me Red Robin."

It's completely different.


The drugged girl is obviously concerned that she might still die from whatever she was dosed with, but the masked man doesn't seem particularly concerned about that. It wouldn't fit the profile, anyway - Kazinsky wouldn't risk a lethal dose of something killing his prey before he'd played with them, especially if he saw it as some kind of religious sacrifice. Likely she won't have a very fun couple of days, but once the EMTs get to her she should be well on her way to being out of any theoretical woods. What concerns him more is her question, as her addled mind swings from the possibility of her own death to the certainty of the deaths of others.

"I'm sorry," he tells her. "Kazinsky was… Thorough. No human could've survived what he did." And few enough metahumans, really, unless they had the ability to survive without a heart, or blood. "It's better if you don't dwell on it, Miss. This sort of thing can stick in your head. Better to focus on the fact that you're alive, and that he won't be hurting anyone else."


Wrong guy, he says. Wrong guy, but with a similar name.

The cold air hits her when Red Robin totes her body out of the factory and back to the outside world, her hazy vision anchoring onto the myriad of lights in the distance, Gotham's cityscape beckoning at her from where she is huddled. The chill returns immediately, her fading adrenaline rush not enough to ward off the winter, especially when she's dressed in just a short black, sleeveless dress. The breeze nipping at her toes only reminds her that she has lost her shoes, and Kazinsky hadn't even demonstrated the courtesy of bringing her coat with her when he took her.

Men. Honestly.

"…are you two related then?" she wonders groggily. "Same last name and all…" It's a quip, though not much of one, some effort levied to give herself the focus necessary to prevent herself from getting sick all over her rescuer. "How did you know this was…nevermind. Tricks of the trade, yeah…?"

She turtles further into the figure holding her, shamelessly leeching off his warmth, what little emanates from a costume that is specifically made to resist the elements on top of everything else. Her breath leaves her in white labored puffs, her ice blue eyes wandering away from the half-hidden face as he confirms for her what she already knows and dreads. But it was her all over, the man underneath the costume knows that she isn't the sort not to hope until reality takes it away from her.

"…yeah…" she says quietly, her eyes closing as her temple finds the side of his chest, her arms folding around herself for warmth. "…this isn't anything new for me, but I'm glad it…always feels like it is. Did you…even know what you were…dealing with…in there…?"

Her words slur on every other syllable; now that she is assured that the vigilante was there to help and not hurt her, she finally sags bonelessly in his grip, her earlier tension finally giving up the ghost of resistance.

"…forget it…" she says quietly. "You wouldn't believe me, anyway…ugh…I should go back in there and…put a couple of good kicks in on the ribs. Drug me, will he…that…cheeky sonuvabitch…"


"Heh," is the faint sound of amusement that escapes Red Robin when she calls it 'the same last name'. Boy, if only she knew.

With Zatanna referring to tricks of the trade and the presumable secrets that come with them, it gives him an opportunity to not actually answer her question about how he'd known, further cultivating an air of mystique and of knowledge beyond the ken of ordinary men, as opposed to the reality of spotting patterns that other people had overlooked, and doing investigation that nobody else had bothered to do. Speaking as little as possible fit with the whole costumed vigilante gig anyway, and the less he says the less chance he might accidentally give himself away.

But as he notices her shivering and huddling tighter, he moves an arm just enough to grab a handful of his cape, pulling it over her until she was shrouded from the tips of her dark-painted toenails to the top of her midnight black hair. It made things a bit warmer, at least, while they waited. The sirens weren't far, the flashing lights becoming brighter and clearer as the police and EMTs drew closer. He wouldn't leave her until he could hand her over to the paramedics, and direct the cops to the prize inside the disturbing Crackerjack box behind them. That wasn't good for the mystique, perhaps, but he wasn't going to leave Zatanna to freeze out there.

Did he know what he was dealing with in there? Well, he'd certainly thought it was just another serial killer, but there proved to be more to it. He was hesitant to assign a supernatural cause to anything, but it seemed improbable that Kazinsky was just a regular metahuman, given the knowledge he couldn't possibly have possessed.

'You wouldn't believe me, anyway,' she says.

Even after all of that, it was quite likely that he wouldn't.

"You'd just end up falling over," the detective notes instead, on the subject of 'putting a couple of good kicks in on the ribs' of the man who'd drugged and intended to slaughter her like a lamb for sacrifice. "Not a very dignified way to end the night."


The flap of the cape causes those lashes to lift, but only a little, before they close again, the ebon crescents pressing back against her pale cheeks. Whatever it's made of, though probably not too far removed from the rest of his costume, it manages to trap body heat just fine, warding off most of the cold at the expense of looking like a strange bundle in the arms of Red Robin. A vigilante who has neither confirmed nor denied any relation to the other Robin; the cowl and hood he wears masks his age, and the voice modulator he uses it makes it all the more difficult to even find a ballpark. He appears, however, to be on the young side by the ease in which he carries her, and the lack of persistent stubble on his jaw.

His very sound advice does ellicit a quiet, displeased sound from her. "I think…any facade of dignity on my part has already been ruined," she mutters, still struggling to speak around the drug's effects. "…no jacket, no shoes….warehouse dirt on my feet, bruises…on my knees…if you hadn't come, I would've….had to walk to the next block like this to hail a cab. It was all…an inevitable walk of shame waiting to happen…without actually getting laid."

She seems to be relatively confident that she would have found her way out of her predicament somehow, if he hadn't shown up, though it could also be the cocktail in her system lending her a degree of false bravado. But her survival was at the very least guaranteed with his intervention - shifting her head, using the right side of his chest as a brace, she gives him a small smile….to all three of his faces, his profile illuminated by the dim light of the half moon overhead.

"Thank you," she tells him quietly. "Sorry about…you know. The crowbar…I didn't know there was…someone else in the factory aside from me and Kazinsky."

She falls silent at that, her ears picking up the painful ring of distant sirens moving closer and closer. At worst, they were responding to another call, and at its most optimistic, they were coming for her. The vigilante holding her appears to have everything well in hand, when he has repeatedly assured her that help would be coming soon.

"…so…what usually happens after…something like this?" she wonders. "Do you just fly off again?" That old mischief, muted as it is, returns to her eyes. "Do the other damsels do the entire 'let me make it up to you, wink wink, double entendre, insert innuendo here' routine…?"

She sighs, her cheek returning where it was, her eyes closing once more. "Sorry…defense mechanism. In retrospect, I'm glad…it was me. I don't know…what another girl…would have done or…how she would cope if she were…in my place."


The cape isn't particularly soft or comfortable, but it /does/ trap the warmth pretty effectively, giving Zatanna a kind of dark cocoon within which she can keep from freezing half to death given her lack of a jacket or shoes. He doesn't really have a jacket with him either, so he can't do the gentlemanly thing and give her his… And while he could just detach the cape, and wrap her up in that, he might need the cape later. The cape might conceivably be traced back to him, or to Wayne Enterprises. Less risky to just keep her close until he can give her to the paramedics.

"It's a nice dress, at least," the masked man offers, to help Zatanna save what dignity she still can on top of sparing her that hypothetical walk of shame. It was just too bad about the attention her outfit /did/ get her, instead of the opportunity for a more conventional walk of shame… Or was it really too bad? Tim doesn't realise it, not yet anyway, but perhaps that was the best case scenario. Perhaps if Michael Kazinsky had grabbed some other girl, things would've gone much worse for everyone concerned.

She thanks him, but he doesn't really respond, nor to the apology about the crowbar. Neither are necessary, in his mind, but he's not the type to make some speech about her safety is the only thanks he needs. That's more the sort of thing the Superman crowd would do, while his teacher, well… He'd stick closer to a grim silence, which is what Tim tries.

Until Zatanna wonders 'what usually happens' after 'something like this'. He exhales sharply through his nostrils as the gothette posits what other damsels might do in her position, though he doesn't get to say anything before she apologises for that too, humour being her defense mechanism in situations like this, it seemed.

"Usually I'd just disappear. I don't get a lot of offers to 'make it up to me' like that." Whether he sees this as a good thing or a disappointment, he doesn't really give away. She was glad it was her, Zatanna claims, not knowing how well another girl would've coped in her position. It's easy to write that off as the drugs talking, but there might be something else to her bravado - it might not be entirely wise to completely dismiss her abilities. At the very least, she had a head start at escaping on her own, which was only natural.

Blue and red lights washed over them as cop cars and an ambulance pulled up, the flashing light making Red Robin's shadow dance and flicker behind him, fifty feet tall against the side of the tannery. The promised help arriving, just as he was so sure they would.

Of course, they're wary of the masked man. There's only a few police in Gotham that are at all comfortable with the vigilantes that stalk its shadows, and as far as they can tell this is a new one.

"You'll find the killer inside, tied up," Red Robin tells the police, striding past them towards the paramedics. "Remains of twelve victims, his tools and implements, his hideaway." There are sharp looks - of course, they'd rather do their jobs themselves, not have things handed to them by one of those masked weirdos. But sharp looks are all he gets, and Red Robin ignores them completely.

"She's been drugged," he tells the paramedics, his cape pulling back to reveal Zatanna in a not very well concealed bit of sleight of hand, before handing her over to their care. "Probably rohypnol from her symptoms, but he probably put some other things in there too." There's quite a lot of bustle, naturally, as they put Zatanna onto a stretcher and start checking her pulse and her pupils, but she could see Red Robin still standing there, as though making sure she was being properly taken care of… Until the paramedics had her look up, look into a flashlight for a few seconds.

And when she looked back again, she'd find him gone.

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