The Press of Business

April 26, 2017:

In the middle of the Berlin case, Zatanna Zatara and Red Robin catch up on the press of other business waiting for them at home back in the States.

Red Robin's Penthouse - Berlin - Germany

A swanky penthouse flat in Berlin.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: John Constantine, Bucky Barnes, Jessica Jones, Dr. Jane Foster, Giovanni Zatara, Mammon, Batman, Superboy,, Wonder Girl, Impulse

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The penthouse affords a lovely view of Berlin.

Though the German capital exudes the sense of age and continuity that most European cities do, the truth is that little of her structures are more than eighty years old; the end of the Second World War, the same war that created the likes of Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, saw the city levelled. Rebuilt separately under the provenance of the West and the USSR, it was a city divided, though Germany was reunified before the younger members of this expedition were even born; nowadays, Germany is an economic powerhouse, a world leader, and Berlin is a city of lights and gardens.

It's not a forest of towering skyscrapers in glass and chrome like New York, but there's still plenty of sights to behold out the penthouse's windows, or from the balconies, or the rooftop.

Red Robin, of course, is paying attention to none of them. Red Robin is working.

The study has been commandeered for a sort of operations center, with a communications hub that functions as a central node for the two-way earpieces the vigilante has provided everyone, its home-brewed encryption as bleeding edge as he could make it. Computers whir and hum, holographic monitors projected to show scrolls of information - having 'borrowed' some Waynetech satellites, he's able to bounce information back and forth from the Nest's computer with minimal delay - as various searches are processed, combing through vast amounts of information. More screens show views from around Berlin, the stealthed drones learning their surroundings, ready to observe wherever necessary.

He isn't actually in the command center, though.

Instead, he sits on the floor in the living room, the coffee table covered in wires and circuit boards and scraps of electronics, and the black casing of one of those drones. His hair, dyed that nearly-brown blond, is tied back out of his face while his eyes, their regular colour masked to a grey-blue, focus on what he's doing. His feet are bare, toes wiggling as he concentrates on his work, the black fabric of his track pants making a quiet /whisk/ sound against the carpet whenever he moves his leg; his t-shirt is blue, with white writing on the front claiming MY OTHER RIDE IS A beside a picture of an old blue British police box.

"High-quality printed circuit board my ass," he mutters to himself. "That's the last time I order from them, gonna just make my own next time…"

For once, he might not even notice someone approaching him.


"Well, you know what they say whenever you want something done right."

Unlike her best friend, Zatanna is not immune to the charms of Berlin, unable to keep herself from enjoying the sights of the city even if she tried. They are tasked with something dangerous, but given her usual bon vivance, to deny the raven-haired magician this kind of enjoyment would be like asking her not to breathe. With the rest out with their list of tasks for the day, the young woman has returned to the penthouse, bringing a warm paper bag full of German street food. In the land of beer and sausage, there had been some real concerns that there'd be nothing for her to eat here but potatoes and sauerkraut. To her pleasant surprise, it took a day in Berlin to realize that there are more options for her dietary needs than initially expected.

She has brought him bottled water and bratwurst stuffed in hand-twisted German pretzel buns, laden with sauerkraut and the necessary condiments. For herself, she has managed to discover a stand that served fischbrotchen piping hot from the cart. She takes her roll and takes care to offer his away from the sensitive electronic parts that have been scattered around the large living room, in this swanky penthouse that she knows Tim owns, because 'rental' doesn't seem to be in his vocabulary. They make good investments, he told her once.

"Take a break so I can give you more work," she tells him with a teasing grin. "Besides, I hear the bratwurst is amazing, but you're going to have to test it for me. You know I can't eat it, I'll have to live vicariously through you."

She wanders away from the center of the digital age chaos so she could take a seat on the settee situated in front of one of the large windows overlooking the city, bottled water and fischbrotchen in hand.

"How long has it been since you've been here?" she wonders, unwrapping her roll and taking a bite. "Daddy and I passed through her a couple of years ago, one of his limited engagements, but long enough that I've forgotten how the city feels like. Despite the wars, old magic is still here, in the air and the stones, as if it hadn't been bombed to Hell in Bucky's time. Did I tell you Germany's fae country? Population's not as dense as in Ireland, but…"


Technically speaking, the penthouse is owned by a holding company, a subsidiary of another corporation operating out of Switzerland, which is owneed by another completely different company, which… Well, you get the idea.

Much like the private jet that they took on the way over, and indeed like his penthouse in New York City, there's nothing to connect any of it to Timothy Jackson Drake, at least not on a financial level. Layer upon layer upon later of obfuscation and legal fictions, creating a fiscal shell game that vanishes somewhere inside those banks so popular with the very wealthy, the kind with enough power behind them that even national governments can't find out whose money is inside, or how much.

Zatanna's remark draws a sound from the vigilante, a quiet click of his tongue. She's not wrong, of course; he might need to invest in some more 3D printing equipment, so he can manufacture more on his own.

He lifts his gaze to the magician, the smell of the food cutting through the acrid scent of the soldering iron lightly smoking on the table. The food comes with a teasing grin, with a remark about giving him more work, and he knows she isn't teasing him with that part.

"Are you trying to bribe me with food?" he wonders, his brows lifting. That, at least, is a joke: For all his comments in the past about her high opinion of her influence over him, it isn't as though he's denied her much of anything she's asked of him. Including things that make more work for him.

He sets the mostly disassembled drone aside, rising up to his feet and retrieving the bratwurst and water, following the goth girl over towards the window. He probably does need a break, anyway… Who knows how long he's spent buried in what he'd been doing, given his tendency to fixate.

"Oh… I was here last year, actually. Work trip, you know. Chasing down a lead. I had to travel around a little bit, ended up in Belgium. Gun runners, they'd been smuggling knockoff ordinance into Gotham, cheap automatic weapons so Two-Face's boys and Black Mask's could shoot each other up faster."

A regular day in the office, by the way he says it. Psychotic murderers, armed gangs, international smuggling rings… You know, the usual.

Whatever skepticism he might've retained from his fairly limited pre-Zatanna exposure to the arcane has apparently been worn away by the past few months, he doesn't even give her a dubious look when she mentions faerie creatures. Really, after everything else, wouldn't that just fit?

"It's not going to be like that story about the cobbler, is it? Because if I wake up tomorrow and some pixies have secretly fixed up the rest of the drones, you guys can handle the rest of this yourselves, I'm leaving."

He does start on the bratwurst, though; he hasn't eaten for hours, a fact he only recalls once he's actually started putting food in his mouth.


Are you trying to bribe me with food?

"What?" Zatanna looks up from her roll, ice-blue eyes alive with mirth. "Is it working?"

She has been given the very brief primer of how that corporate shell game works, though it's up in the air as to how much the young magician has actually retained. Legalese is simply one of the things with which she relies on Tim, who was infinitely more knowledgeable with the loops of money and paperwork that bind the not-so-ordinary world together. But with the two of them settled on the settee, she quietly listens to his very brief recounting of his business trip, which involves what is usual for him. She recalls having, at some point in their friendship, joked about how his life can inspire an entire franchise of action movies, like Fast and Furious.

This latest anecdote probably doesn't help that.

"I haven't been to Belgium in a while, either. I spent most of my life in Europe, but definitely more around the Mediterranean," she tells him, following that up with a sheepish smile. "I need more sun." For all that she's so pale. "And it's wine country. Plus the food is superior." Of course she would say that, given her extreme biases for Italy and Spain.

His quip about pixies earns him a laugh. "Believe me," she drawls, picking up her water bottle and taking a sip from it. "The real ones aren't all that helpful."

Draining half her bottle, she turns it around her hands. "So hey, did you hear about the weird thing that happened in the Radio City Music Hall a couple of weeks back?" she wonders, looking up at Tim. "Jess got involved and she roped me and John into it because we heard from DHK that demons were involved. Apparently they were summoned by that new iDol app going around. We pursued a lead into the offices of this app developer called Auspex, I think they were trying to do something with how the app was collecting user information? I don't know, I'm not really tech savvy. Red…we found stuff in there that…"

Zatanna frowns.

"I think it's connected to the Brujeria stuff I mentioned to you a while back."


"I can neither confirm nor deny whether your attempts to sway me with food are effective, Miss Zatara," he retorts.

Though his facility with the law and finance was among the many, many, many skills he refined once he was accepted as the Boy Wonder, a young Tim Drake had actually started learning about it beforehand; it was expected that he'd take over his parents' interests in Drake Industries eventually, after all, and if his father had been more concerned with what their business ventures let him do in the way of finding obscure archaeological dig sites, his mother had been a businesswoman through and through.

Even if she hadn't been around much, she'd had certain expectations of her only son, and combined with the way his childhood loneliness and isolation had manifested in a voracious appetite for learning…

Well, even the Bat was impressed by what his then-fourteen year old new sidekick already knew.

"The Sun, I remember that," he says, facetiously. "It's that big yellow glowy thing in the sky, right? I used to see it a lot." He's at least less pale than Zatanna, but she has a certain gothic appearance to maintain; she probably uses some kind of anti-tan spell, or something. He's seen her Youtube videos after all… Bikini or no bikini, she was still alabaster pale on the beach.

"So you've spent most of your life in Europe, but legally you're an American citizen because of your father? Where were you actually born, though? Over here?" He remembers some talk of her as a child in Gotham, but other than that as far as he knows she'd only been Stateside once she returned for school, after being separated from her father.

Of course, as usual, he tries to collect information wherever it crops up.

He grins at her laughter, before shaking his head at what she says about faeries not being very helpful; he's pretty sure he's never met an actual one, strange though the residents of Limbo Town might've been.

It would be a lie to claim he wasn't curious, but some forms of curiousity are more dangerous than others.

Besides, Zatanna has one hell of a story to tell him.

As she does, his brow furrows while he eats his bratwurst, watching her throughout. Watching for the little nuances that speak as loudly as her actual words, the way her expression shifts as she says this, or that.

"So," he says, when she confesses that she believes there's a connection to the Brujeria. "You think that primordial evil magic-users who want to end existence as we know it are manifesting demons and collecting people's personal information with… A social media app?"

He stares down at the food, the half-eaten roll and the sausage within.

"I guess it's a wurst-case scenario."


The facetious comments about the sun has her laughing, nudging Tim with an elbow. "You're worse than I am when it comes to seeking out daylight," she tells him with a hint of a grin. "I don't know what it is about Gotham, but it feels like night is longer there. Though I found out recently it might not be a coincidence? Did you know the city was built over the body of a dead warlock?" What, really?

When asked about her birthplace, she nods. "Yup," Zatanna confirms. "I was born in Italy, it was easier to naturalize me as an American citizen when Daddy returned to live stateside for a while."

Tim always had a knack for very concise summaries; the way he puts this one makes it sound ridiculous, but it is all factual and the raven-haired magician finds absolutely nothing to criticize. There's a hint of a sheepish grin at that. "Pretty much," she tells him unabashedly. "Weird, huh? If they really are the Brujeria, they're old as dirt. Though I guess it makes a little bit of sense knowing that about them - maybe this is their way of catching up to the present times? All I know is one of the Auspex co-founders got taken by one of them to her office and…"

She pauses.

"…I shouldn't talk about this while we're eating but we have strong stomachs anyway," she says, with another demonstrative bite of her fischbotchen.

The story unfolds easily enough - Jessica disguised herself as an FCC inspector, with Zatanna as an assistant. Along with the Devil of Hell's Kitchen, they were let into the offices of Auspex where a few things didn't make sense, namely that 1) the fabric of reality was so shattered that it was actually sucking out the stored magic from Zatanna's obelisk and 2) there was a scorch mark on the wall, which after using a flashback spell revealed was an Auspex employee that somehow got incinerated. There was also the leavings of a demonic presence, but given how damaged the fabric was in the space, she couldn't quite make out what happened there. The three of them later heard noises that DHK identified, correctly, as a printer, and when they investigated…

"It was one of Auspex's co-founders," she tells him. "Mounted on the wall and butterflied. Red, he was wired into the printer, and it was just spitting out counterfeit money. I thought it didn't make any sense to look for demon-summoners and ending up in some weird counterfeiting operation. I thought the man was dead, too, but when I poked him with my obelisk, he suddenly came to life. We found a few things out from him but he was leaking Primordial Darkness…there was no way to save him."

Her lips press into a thin line at that. "He mentioned something about his app history and how he posted about money all the time, so he ended up…spewing money, so it might touch onto just how iDol works. Anyway he also mentioned that 'some hobo' took his partner to the next office and he described the hobo and…it was like one of those figures through the portal that I saw. The ones who knew my name. So even if they left, at some point, they were actually in New York, Red. And when we went to check out the other office, it was even weirder."


If anything, the lack of acknowledgement of his deliberately terrible pun leaves Tim feeling a little put out.

He doesn't even want to think of the possibility that Gotham's weirdness has to do with it having been built over the grave of some long-dead evil sorceror, right now; it's bad enough knowing that Mammon was up to things in the City of Yesterday without ascribing more of the city's troubles to the unquiet dead, or the taint of some warlock's activities in life having seeped into the very fabric of the world over which America's largest city was built.

He's always known that his home city was like a kind of spiritual abcess, the way it kept throwing up the worst that humanity had to offer… But of course, it was his inclination to look at human causes, human evils.

Dealing with those evils did indeed leave the vigilante with a strong stomach, to the point where he keeps eating his bratwurst throughout Zatanna's story, and seems largely unfazed. What she tells him about the supernatural side of things doesn't leave him as bewildered as it would've months ago; it was one reason he'd asked to learn anything from Zatanna in the first place, after all, because if he couldn't understand anything from the spooky side of the street, couldn't get some kind of a handle on it, he couldn't plan for it, couldn't interpret it, couldn't solve it. It would be an unconscionable blind spot, especially now that he's so embroiled in these sorts of matters.

"Like an ironic punishment type thing?" he wonders, at what she describes of the co-founder's horrific fate. "The app lets them… Learn what people want most, and then they get it in the worst way possible?"

Though he kept up on social media trends - it's important to know - he hadn't used iDol himself. He'd considered it, in case it might draw him undue attention to be in his late teens and not using the hottest social media fad, but he'd never gotten around to it.

Now, he's kind of glad he didn't.

"Hang on a second," he says. The bratwurst is now gone.

Moving away from the window, he goes to where he was working before, and picks up a laptop with a slim profile. The case is red, the exact same shade of red as his costume, and on the top where a computer would usually have the manufacturer's logo, there is instead Red Robin's emblem.

But, as Zatanna no doubt understands by now, branding is very important in the Bat-Family.

He returns to where the witch is sitting, and eases himself down onto the floor beside her, his back against the window as he opens up the laptop and boots it up, already starting a few cursory searches about Auspex and iDol, though he's sure the others had already done the typical search engine legwork. It never hurts to look, though.

"Okay," he says. "So one of these things was actually in New York at some point, what happened in the other office?"


Why would she call attention to something she was going exact horrible revenge on you later for, Tim Drake? That pun will not go unanswered.

Zatanna finishes her food, which leaves her water bottle in her grip. Tim's immediate theory - ironic punishment - is one she hadn't considered, as new and green as she is with all of this detective's business. Despite being close in ages, the vigilante has years of experience on that front now, and after a moment of contemplative silence, she nods. "You know what? It might be," she murmurs. "John and I haven't talked about what happened in the music hall much, we were busy preparing to come here, but he was the first occultist in the scene. He couldn't come with us to Auspex so he gave me a brief summary of what happened and asked if I could go in his stead. I tried taking pictures…"

She offers up her smartphone to Tim. "And Jess took some too. Crime scene photographs. But there was so much interference that the images are blurry. I don't know if you can do anything about that with your fancy tech and software. Jess did most of the street-level legwork while she was there, futzing around with the computer in the male co-founder's office. But the office had a server room, too. Makes sense, right? Since it's an app development outfit. So I had DHK grab hard drives from the server room. I was hoping you could take a look at them and walk me through what you find." She seems pretty proud of having thought of it, regardless of the fact that it's pretty basic. But Jess hadn't brought it up, so she will happily consider this an excellent application of the things she's learned by being around them.

"I mean…that was a pretty good idea, right?"

The young magician pauses when Tim rises to go get his laptop, and once he's resettled and starts looking up Auspex and iDol, he'd find what he would expect, and the old Auspex website would still be there. However, there are no updates since a few weeks ago. The developers' outfit appears to be small, co-founded by two people: Trey Bryant and Emily Montrose, the former being the butterflied body attached to the printer, and was still somehow alive despite his chest cavity having been replaced by a mess of wires, and regurgitating Primordial Darkness ink.

When the teenaged detective asks about the other office, Emily Montrose's, by process of elimination, she hesitates for a beat or two before continuing: "There was blood everywhere," she tells him. "Like someone just…" She pantomimes an explosion with her fingers, cheeks puffing out as she approximates the sound of it with her lips. "Inside. But that's the weird part. We found Emily Montrose. She wasn't moving…and I don't really know if she's dead."


"I tried bringing her back the same way as I did Trey Brant, but my obelisk reacted differently this time. She was warded to hell and back. Someone didn't want anyone bringing her back to answer questions. And if she was dead, she wasn't decomposing. I'd have examined her more but I was wary about using too much magic in a place where reality is so shattered it's sucking up everything I expend." And considering how endless her magical reservoir is, it's probably a wise decision. "And Trey…well. He started leaking more Darkness and we had to leave before we got erased. But not before…well. We took the body. We put it in the cell I used to occupy in John's flat. Chas isn't very happy about it. We managed to get her out before the building disappeared."

She chews on her bottom lip as she tries to think of other things.

"I bagged the boots I used in that trip," she says. "I was stepping on a lot of blood. I don't know…do you have that kind of CSI equipment to determine whether the blood all over the floors and walls is Emily Montroses' blood also?" There's a pause and her expression flattens. "This is going to be the part where you tell me you have an entire crime lab in the Nest, isn't it?"


"It was a very good idea," Red Robin assures Zatanna, and whether it was something basic or not, he doesn't hide the notes of pride in his voice that she thought of it under the circumstances. It's one thing to know something, and another thing entirely to remember it when it matters, especially in what were probably fairly difficult circumstances, so he's proud of her; besides, it's not like the learning has been one way. Even while he learns more about the world that Zatanna operates in, she learns more about the world he does.

"We'll make a wizard detective out of you yet, Zatanna Zatara," he adds, syncing her phone to his laptop to get the relevant photographs. He might be able to clean them up a bit, or at least check them for anything that might be useful. "You could have a whole series of trashy urban fantasy novels about your adventures, solving crimes with a mix of magic and old fashioned gumshoe work."

He jokes, because sometimes you have to. Even in the face of something horrific.

But he asks questions, he listens to the gothic witch even as he keeps his visual attention firmly on the laptop screen, long deft fingers dancing over the keyboard. The website seems normal enough, but of course he has to look at the source coding of the site itself, just in case there's any weird stuff lurking in the markup about hailing Satan or anything like that. Even the bloody office doesn't get him to look up from the screen.

No, it takes the revelation about Emily Montrose to do that.

He looks dubiously at Zatanna as she tells him about the warded possible-corpse that has yet to decompose, and the disturbing thought of a place that was so messed up on a fundamental, cosmological level that it simply absorbed whatever mystic energy Zatanna poured out. His understanding of that aspect of the Princess of Prestidigitation is tenuous still - he knows the theory, as she explained it to him, about what should happen when someone uses magic, the prices they pay; he knows from his own conjecture that those don't seem to apply to Zatanna herself. And he knows from firsthand experience the terrifying torrent of power that courses through her, having nearly been torn asunder by it once himself.

So he knows enough to know that what she's telling him is a Bad Thing.

"The building… Disappeared," he repeats, halfway between a question and a statement. That Primordial Darkness, he assumes. That's still messed up, though.

He exhales slowly through his teeth, scratching at the side of his neck with one hand: Somehow, he's even lightened his facial hair, a day's growth of dark blond stubble visible on his jaw. He doesn't believe in coincidence as a general rule, he doesn't believe in things 'just happening' when something powerful is involved. Whatever happened to Emily Montrose was done on purpose, as surely as Trey Brant's fate.

He's already looking up background on them, too. It could be important.

There's a surge of pride from the detective again when Zatanna mentions bagging her boots, preserving them just in case there was something to be gleaned from the blood that had covered the room. The goth witch pauses, and he sees her expression change, and he already knows what she's doing to to ask him.

In response to the question about the crime lab, he winks at her.

"I'd like to examine the body as well, maybe I can find something you can't. The Batcave has more complete facilities, but that's not really on the table right now… The Nest's lab should be plenty. But if she's dead, why keep her from decomposing? Maybe she's in some kind of stasis. Or maybe they need her body intact for something, like there's something in it? Maybe she was exsanguinated to replace her blood with something else."

It says something about life as a Gotham vigilante that these sorts of things occur to Red Robin so readily, magic or no magic.


There are a few photographs, largely of Emily Montrose's office as the lobby and the rest had been taken care of by Jessica. As stated by the teenaged witch, they are blurry, but he can distinctly see vague shapes of office furniture and a lot of dark, garish red. His reassurance that she did good, however, does have Zatanna smiling brilliantly at him, relaxing around the shoulders and a hint of her own pride seeping over those pale, delicate features. Were she some kind of puppy, she would be wagging her tail. She looks very pleased with herself, and flashes him another one of those million-megawatt grins when he tells her that he'll make her a wizard detective yet.

His dubious remark about the building has her nodding. "There's no stopping it once it's out," she tells him quietly. "I can only delay it and even then it doesn't take long to break free again. You have to use light…bright light. I use biblical words and I carry a penlight with me all the time these days - normally they wouldn't be enough, but my magic amplifies the strength of the beam. I bet you that you could put together a miniaturized spotlight, though. I think…especially since this thing's everywhere it might not be a bad idea for you to carry one for yourself. Just in case. It'll give you time…because the moment it touches you, you only have a few seconds before you're just…"


She knows this well, having seen just how her magic just vanishes, no matter how many layers of protection she has, upon contact with the anti-Everything.

They're backgrounds are accessible enough, easy to pull up for the likes of Tim Drake.

"Yeah, we can do that. Maybe you and John could, and I'll see if I can grab the hard drives from DHK so I can give them to you to look over, too. All of the shit we collected so far is stored in New York to tackle when we get back. Because I think once we're done here, we're going to be focusing on this possible apocalypse before it happens before we can do anything about it. I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to welcome the end of the world just yet."

The idea about the body being exsanguinated has her pausing. "…holy shit, maybe you have something there," she murmurs. "If we can verify that it was really her blood that was all over, that would definitely at least give your theory some credence. Thankfully we told Chas not to touch it and to keep it in the cell before we left, the cell would contain any magical backlash, it's really well-built. If it's some kind of booby trap, I don't think John's going to forgive himself if he put it within Chas' range. Though…" There's a faintly resigned look on her face. "Chas is special, too. In a way."

She rubs her hands on her thighs. "Anyway, that's all I have. Hopefully we've got enough to go on to at least peel back what's going on with this." Inclining her head a little bit at Tim, she shifts the topic away from the Auspex investigation to something more relevant.

"So…any theories as to why Steinschneider's after his son's journal?"

He's been coming up with some very good scenarios despite operating on a street level.


Being able to turn his attention to the computer is a blessing, when Zatanna starts looking so incredibly pleased with his praise. Even if it's slightly blurry pictures of gore spattered all over an office like an extremely chaotic paint job, at least it doesn't leave him with awkward, convoluted feelings, laden with guilt and embarrassment.

No, the idea of people so horribly destroyed by horrific things that predate the world as he understands it elicits something much easier to deal with: Anger, a low smouldering spark of it in the pit of his stomach.

He'd already had to confront the idea of the absolute destructive power of the Primordial Darkness, pure anti-existence, the idea that he personally might have to encounter it hadn't really settled in. Not until Zatanna makes that suggestion.

"How bright does it need to be? Or should I just aim as high as I can manage?" It's a serious question, though maybe having a specific range to work in is too much to hope for; from what he's seen and learned, while magic is extremely specific in some places, it's maddeningly vague in others, with symbol and meaning mattering as much as specific calculations. It might not be as much about the actual amount of light itself as it was what the light represented… Of course, that didn't mean he was going to lowball it.

His life might suck beyond the telling of it at times, but it's still preferable to 'not existing'.

"Agreed. I kind of like the world… I mean, it's got rollercoasters, and kittens, and you're here. So we get this all sorted out, and then we go stop the world from ending." He's honestly not sure what he can do about it, but that doesn't mean he's going to sit back and do nothing. Batman taught him better than that. He doesn't need to be a wizard, or a space alien with incredible powers, or a living god. He just needs a plan, and some time.

Though having the phone numbers of wizards, space aliens with incredible powers, and living gods doesn't hurt any.

"A trap is definitely possible," he muses. "Insurgents sometimes rig bodies with explosives… Gangs in Gotham have done it too, though usually they go off as soon as there's any tampering. Take out whoever gets too close. But these things might have a longer game in mind if it is a trap. Assuming they knew you or Constantine would come poking around…"

He doubts a trap would be meant for any mundane investigators. The Brujeria knew Zatanna, by whatever means they had available to them, and it seemed like anyone with an interest in the arcane knew about Constantine. They'd make prime targets for anyone looking to dismantle attempts to stop whatever was going on.

"I'll need to take a look at that program while I'm at it. Maybe there's something in the iDol code itself. Probably have to take it apart." He does hand Zatanna back her phone, though, having gotten the pictures; a young woman's phone is sacred, after all, and it wouldn't do to keep it from her any longer than necessary. Especially when she has vast magical powers.

She turns the topic of conversation back to the more immediate case, wondering about the journal. The others didn't seem particularly interested in it, but he definitely wanted to try and track it down, the sooner the better. Even if he had to do it himself.

"Could be a lot of things. Depending on how long his initial resurrection took, there might be some information in there he hasn't been able to get by other means. Maybe his son did or saw something that isn't recorded anywhere else… I mean, he was probably clairvoyant as well, right? There's a lot of unknowns… The time frame of the journal, Steinschneider's exact motives in general. But if he thought Gerry Craft could supply him with the journal, it must be something occult, right? It's not going to be 'dear diary, today my father, a Nazi, was murdered by other Nazis'."


"Jess asked me the other day if I was doing okay with all of this because of what he tried to do to me," Zatanna confides, turning her eyes down to the water bottle. "I told her I'd be content if the rest just elected to forget about him and stayed in New York. But John's determined to close the loop on this - he's always told me leaving loose ends like this could be dangerous and in a way, I think…I know he's doing this to protect me. But there's no way I could forget about this either, if I tried, even though I feel one way about it. My interest has more to do with the Cult's connection with him, because I want to know what the hell another Giovanni Zatara is doing being in league with them. So if they're going through all of this trouble trying to…I don't know…get him, I want to find out why, because it might be connected to that, somehow."

Turning to look at him askance, she gives him a small smile. "So hopefully we kill two birds with one stone while we're here."

His agreement about wanting the world to keep on spinning has her laughing. "So you're more a cat person than a dog person?" she wonders. "I'll keep that in mind next time. I'm not surprised about the rollercoasters either, you seem to really like heights and dropping off of them in irresponsible speeds. I'm surprised you haven't figured out how to fly yet in that costume of yours. I mean, gliding isn't the same as flying, right?"

His remarks about rigging bodies with booby traps has her frowning, giving him a small nod. "Yeah, I suppose that's true, too," she murmurs, reminded of the mundane world analogue that has her frowning slightly. An absent hand reaches out to take her phone once surrendered back to her, disappearing somewhere in her person. "I'll have John call Chas and tell him to be extra careful around the body. Though Chas has done this long enough with John that he probably already knows."

She falls quiet, electing instead to finally finish her bottled water when Tim runs through the possibilities inside of his head regarding Armand Steinschneider's journal. "I think so," she tells him. "Gerry's pretty well known in the community for being an historian and an archivist. That's what he specialized in back in the day, obtaining rare documents and books. He wasn't in the front lines like Daddy, but he really knows his stuff, especially when it comes to the written stuff. So I wouldn't be surprised at all that he thought Gerry knew where it could be, or if he could track it down."

She glances over at him and gives him a small smile. "So you think it might be kind of like a Nostradamus diary? Predictions and stuff from a clairvoyant? I mean I guess it makes sense….just because it's a family skill doesn't mean they see the same things. Anyway, you're right. It could be important, so I'll go and help you look for it if nobody else wants to."


Sidelong, the vigilante watches Zatanna as she speaks, as she talks about her conversation with Jessica Jones. Observes as she turns her gaze down to her water bottle, the gesture seeming pensive, almost fidgety.

"He's right," Red Robin says. "You can't just leave something like this loose, never knowing when it might come back to bite you in the ass. Anyway, a couple of us are doing this to protect you, right? That's how I got dragged into all of this in the first place." Though Jessica, Barnes and Foster might all have their own separate, personal reasons for wanting to deal with Steinschneider.

"I had a theory that they were using him as a cutout man in their attempt to get at you… They seemed pretty focused on getting your soul, but were also avoiding direct action." And worse, they used him to get at her, that attack on campus what seemed like a lifetime ago now. It certainly didn't help his anger any to think about that, that his apparent weakness, and her defense of him, had nearly destroyed her.

Maybe worse still: If he'd moved faster on the Kazinsky case, would he have been able to stop Mammon from ever taking notice of her to begin with? How much suffering could he have prevented, if he'd been quicker? Better?

"Now, I don't know what to think. But… As far as I'm concerned, it's your call. With the Cult, with the copy of your dad. Just tell me what's what, and I'll back you up."

Steinschneider might be more complicated, with some of the group quite set on his death.

"Cats are easier to take care of, especially when you occasionally have to drop everything and go halfway across the world chasing bad guys. Though I doubt my ability to look after anything more complicated than the fish." The aquarium in his townhouse isn't just for show, but of course a lot of it is automated anyway, so the fish don't end up starving to death just because he doesn't come home for days. "And we can't all have pet talking trees, or pet talking raccoons, or pet guys who really wish they were Han Solo. What's this about an evil gem that eats souls? Kitty seemed pretty focused on it…"

So, he might've made friends with one of Zatanna's unexpected houseguests, while she was gone. Just a little bit. A friendship based on the lie of Tim Drake, Zatanna's Perfectly Normal (millionaire) Classmate, but most of his friendships have a solid bedrock of falsehood out of necessity.

The flying, though, just gets a tight little smile from the vigilante.

"I'm sure he'll be fine… I mean, who would go poking around a weird body?" Red Robin asks, not long after having requested to do exactly that. It's not like he's under any illusions that he's a particularly normal or sensible person, though: If he was normal or sensible, he wouldn't do the things he does. He probably wouldn't be able to do the things he does.

The topic of Armand Steinschneider's journal is a definite puzzle, lacking as they are in much information about what the man they're pursuing actually wants. What motivates an immortal? He'd been sure that Steinschneider had been part of the scheme to get Zatanna's soul, but what if he was just jumping to conclusions?

But that's one of the dangers of operating without context: When things don't make sense, you'll start trying to force them to make sense.

"Like I said on the plane, if Steinschneider wants it, I want to know why. All the better if we can keep it away from him." Though he could do without cryptic hints of guidance towards future events. That he's pretty well soured on, after his recent experience. "So yeah, if it's just the two of us hunting it, then it's just the two of us."


"I can't help but feel a little guilty," Zatanna confesses to Red quietly. "I don't want to burden anybody, so I'm trying to do everything I can to help especially when I could hardly do it the last time. I couldn't move around, I couldn't fight my own battles, really." There's a hint of a smile. "Now I'm going to try and make up for all of that, I think. Now that they can't use the threat of a blood curse to pin me down."

His offer to back her up regarding the Cult has her hand moving, to lace her fingers through his and give it a warm squeeze. "I know you will," she assures him. "Same with you, with the Ulysses thing when we get home. Who says we can't multitask, right? End of the world on one end of the street, crazy psycho fanboys obsessed with you in the other. Plus, you're not Batman…you have friends. You don't gotta do any of that alone."

Her hand gradually slips away, though the mention of Kitty has her blinking in surprise. "Yeah, we pulled Kitty out of the red gem when we were trying to pull Jess out of Steinschneider's mindfuck funhouse in another dimension," she informs him. "It's some kind of magical conduit that Peter found doing…whatever marauding space aliens do, I guess. John and I tried to breach it astrally, but…it got too much for John, so we didn't attempt it again. I had to find another way and the gem had enough magical power in it to send two people physically in. And I guess on the way out when it was time to extract them, they found Kitty imprisoned. I haven't really taken a crack at that, yet, though I know Peter wants me to look at it. One thing at a time, though."

While not a mindreader, her thoughts run in the same lines as Tim does - everything would make more sense, their plans more definite, if they just knew what Steinschneider's motives were, or what the Cult's motives were towards Steinschneider. Hopefully, the next few days will yield some fruit in that.

"I doubt it'll just be the two of us," she tells him. "We're all in this together, and it makes sense to try and grab something that the man we're looking for wants. If nothing else, it might bait him to come to us and that would make things a little easier, wouldn't it?"

Letting the thought hang, she shakes her head and stands up. "Anyway, it's a nice day out, wanna grab a walk before we go back to work?"


I can't help but feel a little guilty.

"You shouldn't feel guilty. You don't have anything to make up for," Red Robin tells her. He doesn't know that there was anything more than joking behind her admission, months ago in the Nest, that he made her feel self-conscious, even insecure, with his talent for… Well, seemingly everything. That she feels like she owes him anything, for the things he's done over the past several months. "Everybody's weak sometimes, everybody needs help sometimes… And I'm going to be enormously presumptuous here, but we all try to protect you because we want to. Because we care about you. Your magic isn't what makes you special, you know… It's how much you care, and what that draws out of other people."

He means it, of course - he's made a conscious effort to avoid lying to Zatanna, by comission or omission, since he revealed his identity to her; it's one of those things that is simultaneously an incredible relief and a terrible burden. He means it, but there is calculation there, too. He knows that she's afraid, of herself and her power and what it might all mean, intentionally limiting herself with that obelisk instead of wielding her magic directly.

He doesn't want her to overdo it because she thinks she needs to 'make up' for things. He doesn't want her to have to face all that unnecessarily, prematurely.

Her fingers tangle with his - which doesn't do a very good job of projecting the professional distance he tries to show between Red Robin and 'Miss Zatara', since he is definitely not her very close friend Tim Drake, normal person - and he squeezes her fingers right back. The reminder of Ulysses Armstrong brings that bubbling back up, something that's never far from his thoughts, lately.

"At least it's not like there's nobody else in Gotham to try and stop him. I made sure to let the others know about what was going on with Armstrong and the Odessa Mob… Maybe by the time we get back Batman will have it all sorted out. But, if not, I'll be glad for your help." Even if he's better at accepting help than the Dark Knight, it's still not always an easy thing for him. He doesn't slip into a team as effortlessly as Nightwing does, his nature having become increasingly independent and solitary after the period in which Batman left, and then returned with a new Robin.

But, there are certain people who slide past that without even really trying. Conner, Bart, Cassie. Stephanie. And nowadays, Zatanna.

"Oh," is the vigilante's sage response on the story about the gem, his hand moving to close his laptop once the witch's pale digits have slipped away from him. "Yeah I didn't really get any clear information out of them about the gem beyond it being bound to someone's soul, maybe Kitty's… They just wanted to know if I knew anything about magic stuff, while you were… Gone. And they wanted to know about Gotham's costumed crowd. I guess Quill got a job working for Catwoman."

Which, yeah, sure, that's never going to cause anyone any trouble.

"If we're going to bait Steinschneider into a confrontation, we'd better be really sure we're up to it. Not that I'm against the idea of ambushing him… Surprise seems to be the best bet against magical types, don't leave them the opportunity to prepare or counterattack. I guess we'll see who wants to come along for a book hunt, if we can even find it. If Steinschneider hasn't, magical means must be off the table, right? So we'll have to try the old fashioned way…"

Almost, he doesn't hear Zatanna talk about what a nice day it was outside, only really 'tuning in' when she suggests a walk. She'd see it in the way he reacts, blinking as though he only just realised she was talking, as he emerges out of his train of thought.

"Yeah, sure," the vigilante replies, getting to his feet and then offering Zatanna a hand up, for all that he was sitting on the floor and she was just on a settee. "The last time I was in Berlin, it was mostly nighttime car chases, I didn't really get to enjoy any of the scenery."


She knows all of that, really - at least with respect to John and Red. She's certain Jess, Bucky and Jane have their own reasons for being here, as well as herself, more interested in the Cult connection than anything else. But to hear it put so straightforwardly has her fidgeting on the settee, giving Tim a sheepish grin of her own. "Probably not being too presumptuous," she allows. "Anyway if you need any help with your stuff, too, just say the word. Plus it'd be a shame if I didn't get to wear the domino mask you gave me. You put so much work into it, and it looks good."

All in all, she's glad to be able to pull Tim out of the constant turning of the gears in his head, if not just a little bit. She doesn't look at all unrepentant when he blinks at her, just realizing that she had been suggesting a breath of fresh air. Fingers close over his as she stands up with his help, sliding both hands into her pockets and rocking back on her heels.

"Well, no time like the present. Besides, once we actually get a bead on Steinschneider, we'll be running on all cylinders with no time to do any of that, we might as well enjoy the time we have for setting up while we can."

After all, if things go wrong while coming back and they fail in beating back the Darkness, then their time is even more limited than expected. While Zatanna has always lived every day as if it were her last, the things she's embroiled in have made her cling to it all the harder.

"Come on," she says, moving for the door. "Did you know there's a public garden just a block from here…?"

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