Hop-Stetters Ahoy

June 31, 2017:

Batman catches Gotham's newest paranormal detective doing her thing.



NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Gotham! City of a thousand crimes. Er, neighborhoods. (Crimes.)

The thread today has followed a rash of lower-income kidnappings, several of which were released without apparent motive or purpose after a short period of time, though the victims - black-bagged and given cheap gaseous anesthetics - can't remember anything much about who grabbed them, other than older cars on the street.

Not all of the victims were released. One of them had a cell phone which was smashed but not actually destroyed. An electronic thread leading up to a fourth-floor apartment with boarded windows and boards for a floor. It is bare inside, but inside of one of the rooms there are a couple of chairs… a toolbox…

And a stink. It's like a stink of rotted blood in the drains of an abatoir but it doesn't seem to be coming from anywhere in particular.

Fortunately it's cooled off, since the sun has set, although there isn't any light in the fourth floor other than what leaks from the street.

On the outside of the building, Aura Anderson, wearing modish jeans and a blouse beneath a purple hoodie so as not to stick out so much in this neighborhood, is climbing the fire escape and pausing at each landing to peek in a window. Right NOW she just reached the third floor, which would give other interested parties the first crack.

Nobody, of course, has called the police yet.


Batman had slipped inside the apartment with his usual silent celerity. A brief few moments when the sun was setting and blinding people to his approach was long enough to zipline across the roofs, scurry down a rainpipe, and slip into the fourth story window.

Waiting patiently for sun to set, the Bat remains huddled in a corner of the room until the night claims the exterior of the apartment complex. Once there's no chance of someone seeing him moving through the windows, he begins a slow sweep of the apartment. The lenses of his eyemask luminesce for a brief moment as it switches to an ultraviolet view; he digs out a flashlight from his utility belt and turns it on. No light is visible to the naked eye, but Batman can see clear as day.

More than most people, even; UV light picks up on bloodstains and the remnants of human presence scattered around the crudely furnished apartment.

The smell, though, requires no special tools to detect. It's a charnal house; blood, that iron tang in the air. So much of it that it soaks into the very walls, it seems. Even fresh paint wouldn't conceal it, not that anyone bothered to try.

Batman stoops and passes his fingers over a murky patch of the cheap carpet, examining the area with a small frown of puzzlement. He reaches towards his belt again—

—and then sound on the fire escape twists his cowl around. He stares at the window, and then eases slowly back into the shadows near a narrow hallway closet as it is opened and someone starts creeping inside the room.


The ultraviolet view presents highlighted details of passage. People have sat in those seats recently. The floor has been heavily scuffed. There are hints of blood on the flooring, and when he crouches to look at the cheap carpet, there's something in it - a twisted few strands of —


Outside, Aura is completely ignorant of anyone being in the place, although there is a sudden rattling at the boards on the windows. They've been well placed but they're scrap lumber, but the window facing the fire-escape gets systematically affected, as if someone's striking a xylophone with no apparent force. The fourth from the top seems to be thin enough and cracks without much hassle, at which point a slim hand in a leather glove comes down to start feeling around inside.

Two more of the boards pop off with less drama and are carefully set down.

A figure in a purple hooded sweatshirt slips inside and after careful entrance, stands there, lingering, unmoving, for about six seconds.

Then out comes, from inside the sweatshirt, a small, broad-barrelled— LED flashlight, which is clicked on, although the production might be enough to draw a reaction.

If not, though, it gets turned around seemingly at random, coming to rest finally on the chairs, on that /exact/ point of dirty carpet that Batman had just been inspection, up towards the ceiling…


Batman almost does a doubletake. Not at the flashlight— but at the purple hood.

Unbidden, strong memories of one of his earlier interactions with Spoiler come to mind. But almost instantly that fabulous analytical mind ticks into overdrive, missing very little. She's not quite the right height; shoulder angle is slightly different. A more pronounced anterior pelvic tilt and she misses a subtle reminder of a knee injury Spoiler had endured long ago.

But the cowled detective is silent, at least for the moment. Nestled into the shadows of the shallow broom closet quite expertly, he has a good view of her but is barely visible from the living room itself. Even as the flashlight pans his way, he turns his head slightly to profile and conceals his mouth under his cloak until the light passes.

He observes her with a wary interest; eyes narrowed and tracking this newcomer's every move, taking the time to examine her in detail before moving to speak.


The woman steps forwards, rustling. She turns the light around several times and then reaches up with a sigh to pull back the hoodie with a toss of the head, revealing simultaneously that!

  • Definitely not Spoiler if any doubt remained
  • Probably identifiable - may have even been very briefly met at some charity function, long ago
  • is now saying, "Well, you might as well come out."

She's not facing the closet, though.

Matters degrade swiftly when something speaks from beneath the carpet, beneath the floorboard. At first it sounds like the peeping of frogs in a swamp on a sultry summer day, but the words resolve themselves soon enough. Monotonous and rather uninflected, they are intelligible English even so.

'what's it to you if i come out? i haven't done you any harm. i'm not coming out. you can't make me.'

Aura steps towards where that piping had come from, which also puts her back directly to the broom closet, and squats down to lean forwards.

"Oh yeah?"


"How sure are you of that?"

'i don't understand'

"I got the feeling…"


Batman furrows his brow when Aura starts talking to… nothing. His brain goes into overdrive, trying to match that face to a name. It doesn't take him long— "Aura" Andersen, a strange name for a wealthy heiress with a bit of notoriety on Gotham's charity beat. The face is striking enough, albeit it's jarring to see a socialite in the middle of a bloody crime scene.

Talking to the floor.

Then he can /hear/ it, even though the voice starts playing havok with his audio-acoustics in his cowl. Screaming feedback forces him to disable the earpiece, and then the voices are garbled and warped— but audible.

Spirits. Has to be spirits.

Batman steps out of the closet, avoiding every creaking floorboard until he's just outside of Aura's effectivee striking range, standing behind her on the apartment's worn old carpeting.

"What are you doing in here?" he demands in a raspy growl of a voice, a bit over-loud and precisely modulated to scrape against her fear reaction like a key against piano wire.


"So are you going to cooperate?" Aura asks the floor.

The floor makes a sound that's about halfway frog and halfway discordant violin note.

Aura frowns, though even the Bat can't see it. Then he speaks directly behind her and a bunch of things happen in close succession.

The first is that Aura leaps to her feet, actually managing in the process to clear the ground with an audible exclamation of "yiiaagh!" in surprise, landing on her feet and whirling around to come face-to-chest, and shortly thereafter, face to face with - "Oh my God, YOU'RE here?"

'what? who!' comes the floorboards.

"It's the Batman," Aura half-breathes. Her eyes are wide. She seems to be on the verge of a smile.

The creature under the floorboards answers this by producing a series of short, rapid thumps moving towards the interior of the building. It appears to be moving at about five inches per 'thump' based on how they're moving, but the thumps are pretty swift. Hasty action may be needed.

Aura isn't providing it, though she does blink and look back towards where the whatever-it-is is located now. "I can't grab it," she says tersely. "But it's real."


Batman scowls heavily at Aura. The faint smile is not expected, and the weird, moving 'thumpf' of… something… playing frogger under the floorboards grabs his attention for a moment, despite himself. It's difficult to resist the urge to look in the direction of a strange noise, particularly when one /should/ be able to see it.

"This is a crime scene," Batman gravels at Aura. Wrapped in his cowl, he's barely identifiable as human, a twisted mass of dark, light-absorbing cloth that leaves only the grim slash of his mouth and chin visible to her. /Something/ about him fills the room; a palpable sense, a presence that is decidedly less than human. Inhuman, even. As if something /else/ from the darkling shadows has reached across reality to get Aura's attention.

It's difficult to suppress the sudden notion that the rumors about Batman's demonic powers might be real.

"And you're not Gotham PD. You're not anyone. Why are you here? And /what/ is talking to you?" he demands, floating a half-step closer to the prone woman with an eerily spectral stride, as if he moves on wheels instead of feet.


A baleful presence, an aura (so to speak) of menace. Black, forceful, filling the air and the room itself. Something beyond or below the realms of humanity.

Aura seems OK with that. She puts a hand on her hip; her eyes are wide, the smile a little forced, but it is there.

"I /am/ someone," she answers, pertly. "I'm here because someone is hurting people and I think I'm related, so I have some responsibility to do something about it." thump thump thump

Her eyes turn momentarily to the side. "I think it's a hop-stetter," Aura says, which makes no sense. "They eat leavings." That may make more sense.

thump thump thump, the little thing is getting near the wall. The carpet is threadbare and the floorboards weak, but there is the good question of just what in the name of God (or otherwise) a hop-stetter is. "Wow!" Aura says, even as some invisible force starts to peel back part of the rotted carpet, making it rip in a plume of dust, "/Batman/, this is crazy." She seems to be speaking to herself, more than calling the attention of the detective to whatever is happening there.


Batman growls low under his breath. "You're no one /authorized/ to be here," he tells her again. "And you're trampling—"

At that moment, the hopstetter rips up the carpet, and Batman shifts just a little so he can keep both Aura and the invisible creature's actions in his line of sight.

"—forensic evidence," he adds, finally, as the dust settles. His lips compress into thin lines of irritation. "There may have been fiber clues or bloodstain spatter on that carpet," he tells Aura, with a tone of withering condescencion. "Tell your 'friend' to stop destroying the evidence until I've had a chance to catalogue it."

A hand emerges from his cloak and a little quaddrone deploys from a folded package with a *whirr* of propellers. A cluster of camera lenses aim in all directions, documenting the entirety of the scene at once in 360 view.

"What is … /it/… doing?"


The hopstetter remains unseen but the carpet pull seems to have made it make a bad decision. There's a meatier THUMP as it hits what is probably a wall stud or other support beam and then a moment of pause.

"I won't touch anything else, I swear," Aura says, holding up her hands.

"Oh, it's not my friend," she then says as the little hoppy thumps start up again at a different angle, moving to pass underneath one of the barren doorways of this empty apartment. The drone deploys and Aura is comprehensively imaged, which makes her let out a little puffy-cheeked sigh.

"Do you have a knife or something? I can catch it," Aura says, "but it's going to look strange."


Batman just stares at Aura in response to her question, then walks elsewhere in the apartment and follows the thumping guide of the strange beastie under the floorboards. His flashlight comes out again, invisible to the naked eye, and on eerily silent boots he steps into the kitchen following the odd little noises coming from the floor.

Batman stops and brushes his fingers against a suspicious dark spot on the wall, the brings his gloves to his nose and takes a sniff. Seemingly randomly, barely visible save for the floodlight of Aura's flashlight, he touches dark stains and blemishes on the walls, even sampling one into a small plastic evidence phial and hiding it under his belt. Whatever he's seeing or observing, he doesn't tell Aura about it; it seems information is a one-way street with the Batman.

He seems to have … /dismissed/ the socialite, even.


Some of the stains on the wall seem, well, typical; old grease stain or water damage from the windows being open. But one or two are fresher. One is a streak of a cheap plastic - the sort that you would use as part of a frame for a cot or other piece of cheap modern furniture. Details may require Bat-analysis. Another one seems to be human sweat.

Aura lets out a little sigh as she's turned away from.

The thumping continues for a while, disappearing into another room - the Hopstetter seemed to be moving away from the Batman, /a sure indication of crime/.

Around the time that the sweat is getting collected there is a snap of wood and a noise that is half croak and half punted violin. "Ha!" Aura says.

She steps from the other direction, holding up -

It's squirming too much to make out clearly in the dark, but it's about the size of a rabbit.

"They eat leavings," Aura explains, "but only from the living."


Batman turns to look at the wee, strange beastie, clearly a little stunned at Aura's blaise handling of the bizarre beast. He aims his flashlight at it, for what good it does Aura's vision, and walks close enough to her to examine the little monster in detail.

"A… hopstetter," he gravels, in a tone of supreme doubt. Batman's enough of a skpetic to make even Scully happy, but… there's little denying evidence in front of one's own eyes. And the strange beast defies any taxonomy Batman can apply.

"I don't recognize it," he admits, finally. "But I'm not familiar with all manifestations of demons. Did you summon this one? Or are you chasing it through this scene?" he asks, looking back at Aura's face.


The little bastard is, mostly, a frog - probably where the hop comes from. Nonetheless there are aspects resembling a pitcher plant, loathesomely doll-like blue eyes, and a big mouth that seems to have an idiot smile, even hanging like this. It also has two vestigal legs in the middle. Hung like this it does not do more than wiggle, though it starts to emit some kind of camphor-like smell.

This visibly disgusts Aura. She doesn't elaborate.

"They're pretty pathetic things. They're like vultures, I guess, or cockroaches. But they eat organic matter." The two legs Aura was holding get shifted to one hand as she reaches down to grip its idiot-smile mouth from the edges and squeeze, which gets some screeches of complaint.

She is focused downwards and so an oblique look at her face can easily be got. She seems focused, serious. "They don't digest it, though, they just pack it down and when it gets dense enough they cough it -"

"Bleaaagh!!!" says the hopstetter.

What resembles a child's parody of an owl pellet falls out and lands on the carpet, reeking of camphor. On one end are a range of tightly-kinked strips of hair, which immediately start to uncoil now that they're no longer lodged in Satan's pet toad.

"- up, and it's got eggs in it," Aura sighs.

'i cooperated, let me go,' the hopstetter says. "I was going to get answers out of it, because they don't come to Earth on their own," Aura explains. 'i cooperated, let me go' "It would've gone to a swamp and gone back, and look, look at all that forensic stuff, right there." 'i cooperated, let me go'


"I would remember seeing one," Batman agrees, examining the beast. He gives it a squeeze with his leather glove, all scientific curiousity— ignoring the squawks and outcries of the strange toad-like beast, commiting it to memory in case his little forensic drone malfunctions (which happens a lot around eldritch beasts).

"Leavings," he mutters, stooping to a low crouch. He reaches to his belt and once more produces a little kit, this one a surprisingly well assembled and very, very tiny forensic analysis setup. He gathers up some scraps of hair and bile, doing the best he can to disentangle them, and starts examining them with what looks like a heavily modified jeweler's loupe.

"Leavings," he muses, and looks back at the toad.

"You leave when the lady is ready to release you," Batman growls, in a tone baleful enough to give even a demon pause. "Do they eat only leavings?" he asks Aura, looking at her again. "Or will they consume corpses?"


The creature is loathesome to the touch, although really not much more loathesome than things like sea-soaked corpses that were in the water long enough for the shrimps to get at 'em.

'i cooperated, let me go,' it says again, before it shuts up.

The examination of that lump of frog-vomit reveals a range of things that are hard to explain, although the presence of a penny that can be dated from 1913 may raise disturbing implications. But maybe it just found it in the floorboards. All the hair is recent - it has that camphor-like crap on it, but it does not seem to be acidic, particularly.

"They don't have teeth… someone could cut the corpse up, do it that way," Aura muses. "But I don't see much sign of that, though, I mean, I'm not the expert, I just see what you see here. Probably not as good. Were you alone?"

'only one here,' the hopstetter croaks.

"Do you know what they were doing?"

The hopstetter considers, and then answers, perhaps honestly: 'nope'


"Probably not," Batman agrees. No insult is intended; just being brutally honest. He pokes at the hair, sniffs it even, disregarding the lurid stench of camphor and rot attached to it.

He finally finishes, putting the hair sample into a small container and making it disappear under his cloak again. "The hopstetter's bile is fairly strong but I'm getting a whiff of parabens. Hair dye— /cheap/ hair dye. And conditioners used to straighten hair. There's rotting flesh near the fringe of the hair, which means it came off a still-warm body. Not just hair loss or from a barber. And it's African-American."

He pokes the frog. "Did you find this next to a body?" he asks the beast, tersely.


'nope,' says the hopstetter.

"Elaborate," Aura tells it.

'dunno elaborate'

"Talk more about it," Aura says, with more of an edge.

'got fed it. screams. screams was before got fed,' the hopstetter says. One of those doll eyes - they move independently - swivels towards Batman, speculatively.

"I think he likes you," Aura says, with flat affect and mild sarcasm. "Maybe they were shaving her head? I can think of reasons for someone who's /summoning little shits,/" and at this Aura gives the hopstetter a shake that makes it produce an alarmed sound and more camphor-smell, "to be doing THAT."


"Army ants," Batman says. He glances at Aura. "Ecitoninae. Murderers in the Amazon rain basin will put bodies near anthills. Inside of twenty-four hours, the bones are completely stripped. They'll even chew open the bones to get to the marrow inside. It leaves almost nothing behind," he says, in that low gravel.

"If the foragers are here eating scraps of skin and hair, then I wonder if the body actually /left/ the building," Batman remarks, looking around. A hand rests on his left forearm, touching invisible buttons under the smooth plastic. "Which would explain the smell. High iron content in the feces in the wall."

Moments later, a drone hovers outside the window. Batman moves to it and retrieves a suitcased-sized package, which looks like a larger version of his forensics kit, and extracts a spray bottle. It's primed with a few pumping actions and he moves to several nearby walls and starts spraying them with the substance.

He doesn't explain what he's doing to Aura, however.


"Wow, that's horrible," Aura says, brows lifting.

"Are you serious?"

The hop-stetter has no opinion on this, and by the time Batman has summoned his drone to return the kit, Aura has stuffed it into a plastic bag, which does not seem to discomfit it much. Or if it does, Aura doesn't care. The scan reveals some blood stains on the wall - there are a couple small ones which may represent ancient injuries from the former inhabitants, over towards one side. Kids who cut their hand and bumped the wall.

More of interest are marks near the windows. Unfortunately Aura disrupted one of them but there were several splatters, as if a bleeding injury threw off droplets due to swift motion, landing on the boards that seal them up from daylight.

Aura observes the revelation of the blood in the spray, but one thing that doesn't occur to her but definitely does to Batman is: There isn't enough blood here for someone to die from it.

Maybe it's in the floor. But the carpet would be in the way, wouldn't it?


Batman frames the world with his hands, gesturing vaguely and in ways that are mystifyingly arcane even to Aura's senses. It's hard to tell /what/ he's doing— particularly because she lacks the powerful Augmented Reality software in Batman's cowl.

To the Bat, he's moving dummies and models in the air, even taking on the role of an attacker in a strange dance. It takes him a few minutes of work, and he finally nods and grunts in contemplation.

"Blunt force trauma to the skull. They took the weapon with them. This suggests pre-meditation," Batman remarks, though he seems to be more talking to himself than her. "And would explain the hair fragments. It tore off a chuck of the victim's scalp. There's some blood, but not enough to kill her through exsanguination. Void in the spatter suggests the victim was five-foot-four, the attacker, five foot eleven. Right handed, and from the arcs, she was struck at least three times. That suggests either hesitation on the attacker's part or their first blow failed to connect hard enough."

"It's possible she's alive," Batman says, pursing his lips contemplatively— and he takes a second pass through the little apartment, looking for any remaining clues in the bathroom, kitchen, or bedroom.


"You can really…? Of course you can," Aura says, with a sigh. "That's good, though."

The hop-stetter has no opinion.

The additional examination of the rooms in the empty space reveals:

  • Nothing in the bathroom. Toilet is dry. Water's been off for aeons.
  • Kitchen has some recent linoleum scuffs.
  • The place is small enough that that was the bedroom; or at least, was used as a bedroom. A sort of common room has some footsteps and marks as if a person - no, two people - brought things in and moved around a lot. There are no crushmark indentations in the old carpet from long storage of objects, and there are also no traces of Aura's footprints. There is a turned-up patch of carpet in one corner, presumably where she caught the horrible thing. But there's no footprints going to or away from it.

Aura is sitting halfway leaned out the window and has lit a cigarette by the time Batman swings back by. She's looking upwards, as if to try to spot the drone. One of the hoodie's pockets twitches occasionally: the demon frog.

"I can try to tell you what I'd figured out about whoever did this, if you want," Aura says. "But you might've already gotten it."


Batman regards Aura with an unreadable expression, once again folded up into his cloak. He is largely silent, contemplating her— then, finally, makes a small gesture in the tilt of his head. It's a subtle one, but seems to indicate that Aura should speak her mind and lay out her case for the Dark Knight.

He drifts near the window, quiet as a shadow, and still moving with that eerie sense of gliding on ball bearings instead of walking. The streetlights find precious little access in the apartment— between worn old drapes, shutters, and boarded windows, the only handy source of light is pale yellow beams slanting into the room and the light of her little LED lamp in her hand.


Aura's eyes rest on the Dark Knight as he moves. How does he do that? She's seen it done, of course, but not by him.

Taking a lingering drag, she says, "Alright…"

Aura leans out of the window to exhale. That's polite for the crime scene, at least. "I don't know about the height, but the hop-stetters aren't widely advertised. So whoever this is either had access to some really obscure books, by just random chance, OR, more likely, I feel, is being tutored by someone."

"They only got one of these little buddies, so they were doing this deliberately. It wasn't… I mean, it wasn't a botched attack or something: They were deliberately trying to scalp the woman, or cut off her hair. There's a kind of creature I know - very envious - they hate hair, on people's heads. Which also suggests that your, what's the word, your perp? The human one? Is probably also bald, or recently shaved their head."

Aura pauses as if uncertain. "The one downside is, it was probably a chance encounter. The kind of creature I'm thinking of… you can attract them but you can't call them. Not like most demons."


Batman makes a low sound of contemplation, deep in his chest. It sounds like a grunt— or a growl. It's hard to say. "Hair is an expression of vanity in most cultures. Women in particular, hair is tied to maturity or sensual awareness. This… hair demon," he grunts, looking at Aura with those all-white eyes. "Does it envy human vanity, or does it hate human sexuality? Knowing the demon's modus operandi will help identify the summoner's as well— and give us a better perspective on the potential perp."

As eerie as it is to be wholly the subject of Batman's intense speculation, he does seem to be giving Aura his almost undivided attention. For the moment.


"Neither," Aura says. "It…"

She trails off.

"It /is/ envious," she says. "Probably it'd be encouraging whatever person they found." She flicks the cigarette's ash out the window, into the Gotham breeze (is that littering? well, only a little). "Egging them on. It's not a feeding thing, it's like… Habitat. That's where it can comfortably exist."

Looking up at the cowled eyes of the Batman, she says, "If you find the person it's egging on, you might not even see them. They'd just leave. I'd sympathize with the guy, a little."

"But," Aura says after a moment of thought, "I don't know if you can say he's being compelled."


"Hrm." Batman considers all options for a few moments, then focuses back on Aura. "If you /found/ it, could you trap it— or banish it?" he inquires of the woman, a bit pointedly. Batman's not one to ask for help… but he's clearly got a professional regard for a person with expertise that exceeds his own, and doesn't have any compounctions about outsourcing to an expert.


"Sure," Aura says. "I'm bigger than it is. Metaphorically."

That last part was probably important.

"Envy's the hollowest kind. It isn't even longing; it's hating someone else's longing. You could probably bark at it and it'd run. Now the guy who apparently has a knife, and a hostage… I'm not as sure about that one."


"We need to come at this from both angles, then," Batman says, in that low gravel again. "Tracking the demon alone won't give a bead on the man. But if I find the … host, for lack of a better word, the demon will just scamper off and find someone else to infest. Perhaps someone weaker willed and more willing to listen to dark whispers."

"I can scan for fingerprints and track movement records around the apartment, but I need more to go on. If you can track this demon and figure out a rough description of the perp, we can produce motive, means, and opportunity. That's enough for a conviction with the Gotham DA— they don't often accept 'I was possessed' as a strong defense," the Bat says, his tone almost wry.


"It's not impossible," Aura says, finishing off the cigarette and twisting it around. Is she feeding it to the hop-stetter?


"You want to convict him? That's going to be a lot harder than just… stopping him. He's probably cracked completely, or was already, when the envy found him."


"Let's focus on prevention for now, then," Batman suggests. "We can find a way to keep him off the streets after we rescue the victim— and make sure he can't hurt anyone else," Batman advises Aura. He digs under his cloak and comes up with a business card. It is utterly ordinary in every way— plain printer paper with no identifying characteristics whatsoever. An army of intellgence analysts couldn't pry anything useful out of it. Ten digits are printed in heavy block bauhaus font across it.

"When you find something, call me. Don't try to take this one alone," he warns her. "Demons don't mind bringing guns to a knife fight. Even a skilled magi isn't immune to a cheap thug with a blackjack. We'll bring him in, together."


A business card.

"Wow," Aura says, staring at it like an artifact and taking it, sliding it into the top of her hooded sweatshirt with an arch of her eyebrows. "Definitely. I suppose this worked out after all… Sorry about the crime scene. But I don't know what the police could find that you didn't."

Crossing her legs at the knees, she asks, "Want mine? I made them up special. Or is this a one-way street?"


Batman rattles off a ten-digit number. Aura's cell phone. "It's not always about helping the cops do the job. The right evidence in the right place can help find a criminal or nail a conviction down— but it can help us find someone who's otherwise completely off their radar. There are times when the law doesn't go far enough."

"And for those times, there's me." Batman's eyes narrow slightly, and the statement would be otherwise comical were it not for the dead serious gravel of his deep-chested baritone. He walks towards Aura, and stops inches from her.

"You're standing in my doorway," he tells the girl, looking down at her.


Aura's eyes widen a little. (Later analysis will find it was a phone bought with cash on a pay-as-you-go plan. She isn't a complete simp.)

"Oh - well, excuse me," she says, with a little huff, and then —

It's not clear what it is - for a moment there's an after image as if she'd just flattened and flickered out — but either way, she vanishes from sight, and is not in the immediate area.

(The drone can spot her at a bus shelter six blocks down the street.)


Batman looks left, then right when Aura vanishes into thin air. She's gone. He can't even smell her a second later, and does a slow turn in the room, looking to see if she'll apparate behind him.

He holds a hand out to catch the microdrone and pockets it under his cloak, then takes one more look around.

"Hrm," he grunts, deep in his chest— then steps out onto the fire escape, fires a grappling hook skywards, and zips off into the Gotham evening sky.

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