The Broken Clock, The Windy Vale, The Woman in White

February 23, 2017:

Spoiler sends Tim Drake a timely text which allows him to follow another of the signs he has paid for. Tim gets some beat-the-crap-out-of-monsters therapy.

Gotham City, NJ

There are probably worse places to live. Probably.

Characters

NPCs: Various, emitted by Jessica Jones.

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, John Constantine

Mood Music: [*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79DijItQXMM You're Welcome! ]


Fade In…

It took Spoiler 38 hours to text Red Robin after he left her last. Admittedly, she had been slightly preoccupied with her own issues, but what she found was too important to wait for her to force an opening in her schedule so she could drive out to New York or Metropolis or Canada or whatever he was scowling up to brood this week.

#Ain'tNobodyGotTime4That

The text was simple. A Google Streetview picture of an intersection, and a caption: Intersection of Broken Clock and Windy Vale Drives.

The next text was a link with a warning: Wear headphones — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79DijItQXMM PS: Not a Rick Roll.

—-

It's now been six days since the last time Tim Drake slept. Nine days since the disappearance of Zatanna Zatara and John Constantine. Almost a day since they discovered just where the two had disappeared to.

At his penthouse residence in New York City, the blinds are fully draw, shutting out the outside world while computers whirr and beep. One of the three screens still shows the live feed from outside the Abyss, just in case; another is a rundown on New York gangs, 'borrowed' from the NYPD and currently being searched by a computer far more advanced than anything the police have in their arsenal. The third monitor shows the results of another search, a picture of an emaciated, wild-eyed Haitian man, along with a list of charges to his name.

'John Doe. Alias: The Obeah Man,' it reads, and below that: 'Currently imprisoned in a state-run medical facility in Haiti.'

So that's one possibility eliminated, at least.

Tim himself sits on the floor in the bathroom, stripped to the waist and surrounded by shards of broken mirror, the bloodied knuckles of his right hand clear evidence of just what happened. He glares at the ceiling, furious, helpless, considering what other things he might destroy.

His phone rings. It's his work phone, not his personal one, and he debates destroying that, too. He could just crack it in half, throw it away. It would do about as much good like that.

Instead he slowly, laboriously gets to his feet, moving out to where the study and bedroom sit on the mezzanine overlooking the rest of the penthouse loft, and he checks his phone. A message from Spoiler. He frowns faintly at the message, feeling his heart lurch as he studies the picture, the names.

When he clicks on the link in the second text, despite himself his mouth quirks in a faint smile.

Dammit, Stephanie.

SO

The trip from New York to Gotham is surprisingly fast when you're equipped with a high-tech supercar and an extreme disregard for your own safety. The Redbird, sleek black with its metallic red wraparound windows in the shape of a bird in flight, comes to a silent stop not far from the listed intersection. Red Robin emerges from the car, a grapple line tugging him up onto the tallest nearby building, and once on the roof he's crouching, scanning. He doesn't need to doublecheck against the image Spoiler sent, because of course he has it memorised in his head, but it's around the intersection that he looks, his focus intent, almost inhuman. The woman in white was the clue that went with these two. So…

—-

The house at the intersection of Windy Vale Street and Broken Clock Drive is a run-down Victorian that the historical commission kind of forgot. It was once painted a garish shade of purple; time and pollution have turned it into something that looks like a bruise. For a moment there is nothing about 1224 Windy Vale that hints at women in white.

That is, until the window breaks.

The window has broken primarily because a woman of about 40 has been flung bodily through it. She's wearing white jeans and a white turtleneck under a white sweater, with white sneakers. It doesn't look terribly pristine though, as she's bleeding profusely from cuts. She screams as she flies and hits the front lawn, shouting, "Collin!" and flinging out her hand, trying to get up with a mother's perseverance to run back into the house.

Every window shatters as something screams inside, eerie, otherworldly, high-pitched screams. There sound like there are three of them in total.

—-

It might be a coincidence.

It doesn't really matter, of course; it doesn't change what Red Robin would do next, that he's already moving off of the roof at the fact that someone just go thrown out of a window. His booted feet find the edge of the rooftop, and he hurls himself off bodily, grabbing the sides of his cape as a current runs through it, the memory material fabric going from an easy drape to a rigid glider instantly. It's enough to carry him over there, at least, the shadow of a bat overhead, the distinctive figure of one of Gotham's quasi-mythical vigilantes landing in the yard, straightening up as the other windows shatter.

"Ma'am," Red Robin says in that electronic growl. "Stay down, I'll handle this. What's going inside the house?" No point in going in without a plan. That would be stupid, and he saves all his stupid for interpersonal relationships.

—-

"Monsters! And my baby is in there! Chanting at them!"

Yep, that's what she said.

But she scrambles to the edge of the lawn, then gets und her car. Red Robin is here. She's a Gothamite. She knows he's going to fix it. She puts her hands over her head and pants as they come hurtling out of the window onto the lawn.

They are bone white, as white as the clothes she wears. Their skin is slick and sickly. They have huge wings, two pairs, jutting out of misshapen backs. Four arms ending in long, blood-tipped claws. Their knees are bent at an unnatural angle, one that lets them hop like grasshoppers. Their faces seem mostly to be row after row of teeth stretched into a circular, leech-like configuration. Beady eyes, glowing in an unnatural shade of green, peer out above them.

A boy comes running out on the front porch. He looks about 15 and has black, emo hair. He's dressed all in black, and he's pimple-faced. He's holding a battered old notebook with a cloth cover, and he flings his hand out, chanting words in Latin. Badly. He's chanting words in Latin badly. His pronunciation is garbled, and the creatures are not attacking him, but they're not obeying him either.

—-

Monsters, she says.

Chanting, she says.

"Hh," Red Robin growls, as the woman scrambles to get under the only cover available, her sensible family car. Her timing is pretty good: It's only a bare heartbeat after that the monsters she mentioned come crashing out of the house themselves, the caped and cowled figure standing on the lawn before them unmoved by the mayhem. Whatever these things are, the mention that her child was chanting at them tells him that they probably aren't from around here, as it were. As though he needed any more evidence than just the sight of them.

And then there's the boy, with a book. Some kind of summoning, he assumes, though this isn't exactly his area of expertise. The boy's Latin isn't very good.

And has he really started thinking of someone only four years his junior as 'boy'? When he was that kid's age…

"Collin," he calls towards the youth. He doesn't want to interrupt him, really. Who knows what would happen if he stopped chanting? "You need to get rid of these things. You can't control them, Collin. You need to send them back to where they came from."

Under his cape, of course, he's already palming weapons from his utility belt. They probably don't count for the 'no kill' rule, if it comes down to it.

—-

"I don't know how!" Collin cries. "I wasn't trying to get these things at all! I was trying to get Satan to help me get into Georgia Russel's pants!" His voice cracks as he looks wildly at Red Robin.

Meanwhile, one of the creatures just takes to the air and comes swooping hard for Red Robin, aiming to pick him up in his monstrous claws. The others come bounding across the lawn towards him. He looks crunchy and good with ketchup, or some such. They're definitely not interested in a rational parlay here. If he wants to use one of his weapons…

Well. Now would probably be the time.

You know what they say about swooping.

—-

Honestly, one of the creatures trying to kill him comes as a relief for Red Robin.

Kids today, man.

The black cape swipes backwards, as his left hand swings back, extending his collapsible battle staff with a single smooth motion, and his right hand arcs forwards, unleashing a pair of golden discs at the swooping monster. Of course, the vigilante is already moving after the throw, having no intention of sticking around in one place when dealing with potentially lethal, extradimensional monsters.

He ducks out of the way of the grasping claws, lunging towards the second beast even while the discs he hurled at the first reveal their true purpose, demolition charges going off as soon as they make contact with the beast. His staff moves in a blur, whirling to try and knock aside the second creature's clawed hands, all four of them, before he moves to slam one heavy bootheel with savage strength into the weakest point of the thing's reverse-articulated knee.

—-

The charges stagger the first one, and it's definitely bleeding from multiple points when they go off. One wing is gone by the time the flash clears.

It's also still up.

The one that Red engages in melee with does go down as he takes out the weak point on his knee, crashing to the ground with a roar of frustration. Of course, that leaves an opening for the third, which launches itself at Red's back with superhuman speed. Row after row of teeth seek to clamp down on the space where shoulder meets neck. Red is well armored, but should those teeth hit he'll swiftly learn that they crunch through metal pretty gosh darn good. Pale, sickly, maggot-like arms seek to wrap around him from behind, to trap him within their grasp, to crush him like a tin can.

—-

Collin is desperately trying to help, really he is, but something changes. He stops and lets out a wavering adolescent scream as the one with the blown up wing turns its baleful gaze on him.

"Oh no, my mana source!"

He fishes a medallion out of his shirt and stares at it. Or…well, it's what's left of a medallion. It's swiftly being burned away by green fire; in a few seconds it will be useless, gone, spent.

—-

The roar is exactly what he was hoping for: Priming another charge disc, Red Robin tosses it into the thing's gaping maw.

There's no time for 'fighting fair', whatever that means when you're in a life or death struggle with three horrific monsters from Somewhere Else. He doesn't play nice with human opponents, and those he's compelled to refrain from intentional lethality with. These things?

Whatever they are, they don't belong in the world as he understands it.

But he miscalculates. It happens, from time to time. He miscalculates, and he feels the heavy weight of the third monster crash into his back, feels sharp horrible pain as its hideous mouth clamps down on his shoulder, the sharp teeth clearing the first layer of armor easily enough, but the ballistic weave has enough resistance to at least keep it from tearing his entire shoulder apart in a single go.

Those arms start wrapping around him, applying crushing force, and he can feel a rib crack under the pressure. Then another.

'Oh no, my mana source!'

Behind those white lenses, dark blue eyes turn towards Collin, towards where the first, maimed beast turns to look at the boy as well. Red Robin's powerful mind calculates, thinks ahead. Five steps, ten, a hundred. He can already see a thousand possible ways this goes extremely badly, leaving him a maimed corpse, leaving Collin dead, and these things run off to do… Whatever.

The permutations that go well are a lot fewer in number.

"Hh," the vigilante rasps, but he manages to move one of his arms enough to reach the emblem in the middle of his chest. He presses it, just so.

A massive electrical charge courses through the memory material, and into the thing currently touching it - specifically, the horrific monster trying to murder Red Robin. The battery that powers the cape virtually empties itself in a split-second, like a taser on really angry steroids, and then the cape releases from his costume, assuming a different stored 'shape', as it tries to curl up, to wrap up the thing behind him, to give him at least enough space to get away.

It's going to hurt, of course. Quite a lot.

With enough room to maneuver, he starts dropping towards the grass, clenching his left fist. A blue light appears over that arm, a projected haptic-hologram interface; quickly, he types. Quickly.

And then the Redbird comes hauling ass from across the intersection, a few tons of armored metal hurtling at nearly 300kph towards the maimed beast.

—-

One less! The disk in the mouth does the trick. The thing explodes.

Red gets a special treat. He gets to be showered in black, ichorous blood. It's really nasty. It's not acidic, so that's something. But it reeks of old fungus and disease.

Indeed, the medallion burns away to nothing. Even the hemp string it was hanging from gets consumed, singing Collin's fingers. He turns to race back in the house. "I have another!"

And then the creature that Red had kicked down rights itself, unfurling powerful wings, staring at the boy with pure, murderous intent…

As Red manages to electrocute the one who so unwisely grabbed him. Charred monster smells worst than burnt hair, but not worse than the blood. It smells as though someone had left molding stew on the stove to burn down to nothing at all, in a meth head's home.

Robin's cape neatly wraps around it, turning it into a disgusting burrito of burnt crap. He…might want to burn that one. That smell is never coming out.

And the Redbird mows it down before it gets very far. It launches into the air, soaring, sailing, hitting the concrete with a crunch. It twitches and keens, then goes still.

Collin just sits down hard on the front porch with a small whimper. "Is it over?"

Collin's Mother comes out from under the car, shrieking, "Collin Albert Abernathy!" She's gone from terrified to pissed, as Moms do.

—-

And just like that, it's over.

Like most battles, it feels like it takes much longer than it really does. Hours instead of minutes. Even so, Red Robin breathes raggedly, not the least because of his injured ribs, taking a quick stock of his own condition. Messy, but that's sadly nothing new. Fortunately he closed his mouth when the thing exploded. The compression underlayer of his suit is keeping the bleeding down at his shoulder, and keeping his ribs roughly where they're supposed to be.

He's not dead, so back to work.

His battle staff is collapsed and stowed, and Red Robin starts moving towards the porch as well, wiping at the bared part of his face with the back of one gauntleted hand. So now, the question becomes: Was this the sign he was supposed to look for? What does this have to do with rescuing Zatanna?

"Collin," the Red Robin says. "I need to ask you a few questions about what happened here, and where you learned to do that."

—-

"And you answer every one!" Mrs. Abernathy snaps, plucking a long shard of glass out of her arm without much complaint. She tosses it aside, and the shattering of bloody glass punctuates her fury. She'll probably need stitches, but…she's not in danger of bleeding out. And like many mothers, reprimanding the wayward child takes precedence.

Collin shoves his hands in his pockets and grumbles, "I taught myself. There's all sorts of bookstores all over town. I figured out pretty quick the good stuff's at the back. You have to ask for it. I got a job at one of them, that's where I got most of them. I also got some from Alison; she went and turned holy roller and didn't want hers anymore."

"By the time I'm done with you you're going to be begging for Jesus yourself." Mom snaps, and Collin pales just a little bit.

Collin rubs his arms and says, "They're just…they're like recipes. You have to follow them really exactly. I guess I didn't. It was seriously supposed to be a love spell. Exact ingredients and a power source. The power sources are the really hard ones. I only have one left…"

"You have zero left," Mrs. Abernathy says firmly. She turns to Red Robin. "Would you care to search his room and take anything out of there he shouldn't have? I don't care if it's Satanism or weed. Young man, your father is rolling in his grave right now. Probably literally! And you probably did it to him!"

—-

Perhaps it just goes to show that for all the fearsome imagery those who follow in the footsteps of the Batman use, there's nothing more terrifying than one's own mother.

"I need a location," Red Robin says to Collin. "What's this store that you're working at?" He would hope that whoever the kid was working for didn't intentionally let him do this, both because of the obvious danger of the spell going wrong like it did, and the inherent grossness of something like a love spell.

He also figures it will probably be a past tense job, now. No way Collin's mother would let him go back, which should be to the good.

"Thank you, ma'am," he says respectfully to Mrs. Abernathy, nodding. "I'll need anything Collin has on him as well, like that book," the vigilante adds, already starting to head inside.

Carefully.

You know, just in case.

—-

"The Bleeding Eye," Collin sighs, slumping and kicking at the ground. "The store's called The Bleeding Eye."

An icky store for an icky bunch of books.

The house is, as one might expect, a complete wreck. Furniture is in broken piles on the floor, and Mom had apparently been washing dishes, because the water is running and a small flood has erupted over the kitchen floor. The boy's room isn't hard to find, though. It's the one down the hall with the huge "Keep Out" poster on the front door. Inside, dark curtains block almost all light and the boy has seriously spray painted a Satanic symbol onto the floor, a circle to either hold power or his own stupidity, one of the two.

It will actually take a search of the room to find everything, and there is a lot of weed, in addition to some pills that seem more than a little recreational. There's porn and a lot of it, though nothing strictly illegal. Mostly the kind of stuff a wayward 15 year old boy might get his hands on.

There are also 7 thick volumes, some looking older than others, of books that look like hedge spells. Robin finds one more medallion like the one Collin had been holding; even to his equipment it just seems like a medallion with a bleeding eye worked into it. Still, it's apparently got mana trapped within.

—-

The Bleeding Eye.

As he walks into the house, through the destruction, Red Robin is already looking up the name, multitasking out of pure necessity. He needs to know everything he can, find every possible clue. He'll chase every thread if he has to, sleepless and driven. He will not stop, no matter what.

He can't allow himself to.

"Hnh," the cowled vigilante mutters to himself when he enters Collin's room, lifting his custom-built work phone to take a picture of the symbol painted on the floor, before starting a more thorough search. He's methodical, of course. Putting things in neat, organised piles rather than simply tossing the place, which produces two things of note. The stack of seven volumes of hedge magic, with that medallion resting on top… And all of Collin's drugs and porn, arranged on the bed. The medallion he pockets, hiding it in his utility belt, and he picks up the stack of books before turning to head outside.

"Mrs. Abernathy, you should check on the bed in your son's room," he tells the woman in white, once he reemerges onto the porch. "Collin, I need straight answers from you, because there are people whose lives are in danger right now. I found the other medallion, and these books. Is there anything else?"

—-

It's a store in one of the seediest areas of Gotham, far from Gerry Craft's shop. It merely has a citation in Google Maps; no photos, no reviews, no website. It exists. That's about all that can be said for it. To find out more would require a visit in person.

Mrs. Abernathy nods her head as Red Robin says that, and she stalks up to do just that.

"Man," Collin sighs. "I am so boned…"

Then he turns his attention to Red Robin and looks at the corpses of the monsters still just sort of stinking up his front lawn. He rubs the back of his neck, having the grace to look maybe a little ashamed finally, and he sighs. "No, that's it. That stuff is really expensive. It took me months to get it all put together. Though Razor— that's my boss, probably my ex-boss now— gave me the first one for free."

Because that's what pushers do.

—-

"You are," the vigilante agrees with Collin's sentiment about his immediate future.

Still, the youth is better off than a lot of people are. Red Robin himself would've given quite a lot to have his mother be alive to have tanned his hide over regular teenaged misbehaviours like drugs and a hidden porn stash. Not so much the evil sorcery. Of course, Collin isn't without his losses, too. No father.

"Listen… I understand what it's like. Wanting to try and project some kind of control onto the world around you… But this stuff isn't the answer, and your former employer knows that. It sounds to me like he was banking on you getting into it, on you doing something stupid. Magic costs, Collin. No matter how minor what you're doing might seem… And as you can see, there are consequences for even a slight mistake."

He exhales slowly through his nose, looking over the ruin of the yard. He'll have to make sure all of this is dealt with, too. He doubts the Abernathys' homeowner insurance covers demons.

"This time, you lucked out. If I hadn't been here, what would've happened to you? To your mother? You might've gotten the chance to meet Satan a lot sooner than you might prefer… And I don't think you'd find him very enjoyable company." Two people he knows, in Hell right at that very moment. For more than a week, now. Fending off who knows what… But he knows that Zatanna is alive, at least. That's something. It has to be something. "This is your chance to make some kind of fresh start, Collin. Nobody died today. Get a normal job, brush your hair. Try just talking to this Georgia Russel. Going out for coffee is a good start."

He moves for the Redbird, the car's canopy opening. He has another stop he needs to make.

"And Collin?" he calls back over his shoulder. "I /will/ be keeping an eye on you."

Books in the car, then Red Robin himself; the thing seals up, backs out of the yard nearly silently before he can get it on the road. Now he just needs to visit the Bleeding Eye.

—-

The Bleeding Eye is a run down old place. It looks like an old pawn shop perhaps, in that part of town where it's all Payday Loan operations, liquor stores, and run down old buildings. It squats like an old frog, radiating both malevolence and mystery. The symbol on the door is a bleeding eye, hand painted in a way that fits right into the seedy exterior. A neon sign in the window declares the following offerings:

Palmistry
Tarot
Mystic Volumes
Inquire Within.

—-

By the time Red Robin emerges from his vehicle, he doesn't look at all like he was recently mangled in a fight with horrible monsters summoned from Somewhere Else. Replacing the cape (of course he has spares) certainly helped, but he also swapped out the cowl and shoulders, leaving the damaged set in the back of the car. He'll try to repair them later.

The Redbird seals itself with a quiet beep when he steps away from it, a light electrical charge waiting for anybody who might decide to mess with the vehicle - though it's Gotham, and they probably know better - and he moves up to the Bleeding Eye, frowning faintly.

Definitely not a quality establishment. Well, that's fine.

He opens the door, briefly leaving himself silhouetted against the neon lights from outside, his hidden eyes looking around the interior of the sketchy place of magical business, before he heads inside properly.

"Hello," he says, in that electronically modified growl. "I'm looking for Razor."

—-

A woman stands behind the counter. Her skin is pale. Half her head is shaved, and the other half twists and rolls down her shoulder, down half of her face, which has been tattoo'd in various occult symbols, all quite dark. One ice blue eye gleams out of the other side of her face. She doesn't flinch when one of Gotham's phantoms comes to call. She instead lights a cigarette and takes a long, deep inhale. It's flavored tobacco; the scent of cherries fills the air, overlaid with the tobacco.

Her voice is…pleasant. Soothing. Like the very touch of her voice can help to seal up inner wounds, meet longings that are only half acknowledged.

She wears jeans and a tight black tank top, as well as a spiked wrist band. Her age is indeterminate.

"You have found her," she says. "I hope you aren't here to make trouble. Actually…"

She stumps out the cigarette.

"Maybe I kind of hope the opposite."

But she waits to see if trouble is what's on his mind tonight.

—-

He lets the door shut behind himself, lets his cape settle, until it's draped around him, turning Red Robin into a tall, lean shadow in the middle of the room, like part of the night decided to just walk around in the shape of a human being.

Under the cape, he palms something from his belt; that's one of the advantages to the cape, really, it makes it a lot easier to get things from the utility belt without being noticed. Certainly without giving away /what they are/.

"You've got me mistaken," he says. "I make trouble go away. At the moment, what I'm here for is information." He doesn't really know what information, which is the problem. But then if the clues he'd gotten from Wong's reading weren't vague, then his life would just be entirely too easy, wouldn't it? "Your young friend Collin, for example. It seems like some of the books you provided him were a bit outside of his reading level, He accidentally summoned up some nasty creatures… Or was it accidentally, Razor?"

—-

"I don't sell any summoning books. People get stupid with them. That said, Collin only listens with half an ear, and his Latin really sucks." She seems patently unintimidated, but also uncaring, willing to give information so long as it doesn't bother her, personally, to do so. If he's not attacking, she has no need to defend. She doesn't carry herself like some poor hedge though. This one might be the real deal…she'd almost have to be, if she's making mana sources to hand out to stupid kids.

"I told him if he didn't get the Latin right he'd fuck everything up. I walked him through the pronunciation half a dozen times. I also told him to stop casting while high. With that said…abusus non tollit usum. If you're looking for spells, I'm selling. The only poison in them is what the caster brings to them."

Her Latin is flawless.

—-

If she is the real deal, or even close enough to it, he wouldn't expect her to be intimidated. Red Robin has learned over the past few months that you should never underestimate the arrogance of the magically inclined… But you should always be ready to exploit it.

Especially if you happen to be holding an anti-magic ward.

"I think he may have learned his lesson," the vigilante says, the electronic modification of his voice hiding his annoyance at the woman's callousness. "I also don't believe he'll be coming back to work here. But no, not spells. Though I'm curious if you know of any individuals who work a lot of vodou," he asks, his pronunciation very particular, and very correct when it comes to that particular esoteric religion. "The real thing. Probably some kind of power player…"

—-

"There isn't much of a vodou community here in Gotham," Razor says, shaking her head from side to side. "Mostly up in New York, if you're going to find them outside of Louisiana or Haiti at all. And they're insular. Very insular. I've never mixed with their ilk. Nor do I want to. Fuck with them and you're not just fucking with them. You're fucking with the loa too. Some of them have such good relationships with those spirits that they can basically draw on an endless well of potential, all for the low low price of scurrying to meet their every whim."

She pulls out another slim cigarette and lights it with a snap of her fingers, taking a long, slow drag. "Worse than fucking around with demonologists, as the loa actually do like 'em back a lot of the time."

She eyes Red appraisingly. "You," she says, "Have the look of a desperate man in over his head. You've got magic all over you, like fingerprints, but none at all of your own. Headblind sidekicks like yourself don't usually do so hot, if you don't mind me saying so. A lot of times they end up thrown straight to the wolves, torn apart by things they don't understand. You want to help. Whatever wizards you're wrapped up in will take that help. And take it. And take it. They'll keep taking until you have nothing left to give, until you're forced to cut deals and evolve to salvage what's left, or until you're dead. You might want to stick to the crazies, Red Robin. Leave the mystic world to the people who have no choice but to live within it."

—-

Unfortunately, it's about the response he'd expected.

Whether he'd expected it honestly, or expected her to lie to him and tell him that she didn't know anything, well… Either or. He could see rationales for either. Her not caring enough to lie to him… Her lying to him simply for something to do, even if she didn't have a vested interest in any of what was going on.

She goes on to give him what is in its way probably very good advice, if he were in any position to take it. A cynical read of the people involved, maybe… But Razor seems like someone who's lived the kind of life that makes one cynical about the motivations of others. The thing is…

"No," the cowled young man replies.

"Right now, Razor, there are two people who have been banished, physically, into Hell, by someone using vodou. Some evil lunatic who would condemn people to horror. You act like it's so different, just because it's magic… But it's not. It's all the same, Razor. Arrogant men and women who think that a bit of power, and maybe a bad experience or two, gives them the license to act however they want. I'm told that magic has costs and consequences, that whatever you do makes ripples, and sooner or later what goes around comes around."

"Right now, I /am/ what's coming around."

—-

"Sucks to be them," Razor says, lifting a shoulder, looking bored. "Well, ride to their rescue if you wish, as best as you can." She blows a slow stream of smoke.

"Just remember…whatever protections you have? They burn. Sometimes faster than you think they do. So. I guess as you prepare to step into the role of Karma…prepare to adopt her mantle upon yourself…you have to ask yourself. You wanna save whatever protection you're carrying for little old me, to trash up a shop that's mostly just catering to the stupid or the bold, folks who are going to find their way to this stuff sooner or later and who will make their own moral choices on what to do with it…"

She takes another long drag. "Or you gonna save it for whichever Houngan or Mambo is a high enough weight class to send people to the down below in the flesh?"

—-

Red Robin knows full well how brief those sorts of protections are.

He'd been given one before, after all, the Pinch that John Constantine had made for him in thanks for his part in restoring Zatanna's soul… And he'd used it not long after, in Lernaea, or rather made Zatanna use it. It had lasted a few seconds, at best, under the onslaught of all those drone weapons. If the gothic magician had been a bit slower in pushing through to return them to the real world, he knows he'd be dead… But quite possibly the shield would've collapsed, and she would've died as well.

"I'm not that wasteful, Razor," the vigilante says. "But you never know when someone running a shop like this might take exception to someone asking questions." No, he has no intention of wasting the ward Gerry Craft made until he has to. And if he used it here, he wouldn't have it later, when more lives than just his own would be at stake… "Now that you know I'm not going to be discouraged, is there anything else useful you could tell me? Given what I'm doing, you could call me stupid or bold as you like."

—-

"About people in Hell? Honey, that's above my pay grade. I'm good, but I'm not that good. I'm sure there's crazy assholes who have mapped the place, but I'm not one of them. If I were, I wouldn't be running a shitty shop in Gotham's worst neighborhood, now would I?"

But she sighs, apparently taking some pity on him, whatever little bits she happens to have, and she drums her fingers thoughtfully against the countertop. "All I can say is…it's a weird move. You wanna get rid of someone, the traditional way is to kill them. Then they go where they go, but even then you can sometimes trick them into sending themselves places. So…this is speculation, here, but…I'd say whomever is doing this is fulfilling a deal, or striking one. Delivering someone bodily to Hell. Serving them up to someone down there, maybe, in exchange for more juice or something. Demonic motivations are inscrutible at times, as are their plans. Immortality and all."

She gives a rueful half smile. "Or…your Vodoun really just has the hate on for your friends, and is content to imagine them locked in a place where they can't die, but where they can be eternally tortured. That's a special kind of hate. So you know. Take your pick."

—-

Razor isn't the only one who sighs, right then.

But it seems like she does have some kind of human heart left, even here in a part of Gotham where that kind of thing would be seen as a liability, in a business where it might be even more of one. She can't speak to methods or solutions, but she can give some possibilities of motive.

Most people would see that as pointless information, right about now: Most people aren't detectives. Especially not detectives currently dealing in a business where motives - where intent - might be as important as anything else. The possibility that whoever sent Zatanna and Constantine to Hell was doing it as part of some bargain is chilling enough, knowing as he does about Mammon, and the darker, older things that Zatanna fears… But the idea that whoever did this just did it out of hate and sadism is more worrying.

After all, someone making deals can be understood, and even dealt with on that level. Something capable of that sort of cruelty… Well, they might do almost /anything/.

He knows that sort of madness.

"Thank you, Razor," Red Robin says, quite sincerely - though there's still that electronic modification on his voice, changing it into something inhuman. "For some perspective, if nothing else."

He turns to open the door, meaning to return to his vehicle.

—-

She lets him; spark of humanity or not she's a little bit eager to get the vigilante out of there. And she's not really holding back— he's already gotten all he can get out of her.

Still, he might also have made a…not quite a friend, but a contact. She'll likely remember that he didn't come in and make a mess. He was even pretty polite. That's a currency that can be spent later, perhaps on tips which are far more useful.

And as he finally reaches the door, she says as much at last. "I'll keep my ear to the ground. If I find something, you'll know." She doesn't need a number to send a message. But after that? She drifts back into the shadows of her own shop, firmly ending the conversation even if her words cause him to stop moving to his car.

—-

The offer to keep her ear to the ground earns Razor the vigilante's thanks again, but of course he has places to be.

At least one place, anyway.

"Dial Jessica Jones," he instructs the Redbird's onboard computer once he's back on the road. Another drive back to New York City ahead of him, with… Some kind of information, at least, between the books and the medallion. Maybe. Hopefully. Wasn't that what the reading said, that he'd have to provide what he found to someone else to sift through for something useful? The foster child. Foster… Foster…

…It couldn't be, could it?

"Miss Jones, I'm on my way to your office," Red Robin says into the speakerphone, once either the PI picks up or her answering machine does. It can't be hard to guess who's calling, anyway. How many people does she know that hide their voice the way he does? "I have something that might be useful."

He hopes.

If he believed in anything that might care to answer, he'd pray.

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