by Blackwolf247, Bejammin2000 and Starsky Hutch 76
“So the plan is simple. We move in fast and dirty, taking out everyone there — Grayson, the butler, anyone who gets in our way are dead — then we trash the place and grab what we can, but we gotta be in and out in under thirty, got it?”
The leader of this motley band of hoods looked at his assembled cronies. Counting him, there was ten in all, members of Gotham City’s own Jones Street Raiders, a less-than-savory white street gang mostly noted for dealing drugs, for minor crimes, and for clashes with other street gangs.
Tyson, their leader, had chosen only the most dedicated, hardcore members of the older branch of the brotherhood for this mission, as he had been directed by his new employer who he only knew as Red because of the mask the man wore. One hundred thousand had convinced him this masked man was serious.
The money this caper alone could bring in would enable him and his closest buddies to clear out of Gotham and leave the streets to the younger members of the brotherhood while he and his crew, now in their early twenties, could make the scene in Mexico or somewhere else. After all, it was hard to be a thug in a city noted for its costumed interlopers, who could break in at any moment and kick butt for the sake of kicking butt. Not to mention there was always the problem of the occasional costumed thug who would show up, beat up some of the boys, and take their loot.
Mexico, he was sure, would be safe for him and his closest pals. Already he was thinking of golden beaches, slender and sexy senoritas, and tequilas, not to mention the cheaper drugs.
Someone nearby who was not a part of this gang of hoodlums listened closely, debating whether to interfere now or wait until they actually did something illegal beyond criminal conspiracy. No, he decided that if he waited, someone innocent might get hurt or even killed, and Grayson was just a middle-aged lawyer, not a crime-fighter.
Checking to make sure he was fully ready, the masked man tossed a smoke bomb into the room. As people reacted, he shot out the lights, then swept in with fists and feet flying.
It took only moments, but the whole lot was out without even knowing what hit them. He made sure that all were tied up and their weapons were stacked where they couldn’t get at them, and only then he decided it would be time to call the police.
The hero, clad in red and blue with some white trim, reflected on his actions and decided they were good. Not too long ago, he had set out to be the new Crimson Avenger, then thought about calling himself Mister Justice before deciding on a new name he liked. (*) Thus he altered his costume slightly.
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Comes a Hero.]
Terry Lee Travis, now back at his hotel room, was glad he had decided to visit an old friend in Gotham City and even more glad he had overheard a conversation about plans to raid the old Wayne place.
Meanwhile, the police puzzled over a note that said, “Courtesy of the U.S. Male.”
“Whoever this U.S. Male is, he sure worked a number on O’Riley and his boys,” one uniformed officer said to another, indicating the stack of weapons, drugs, and money. “Reminds me of being a rookie and finding the remains of Red Robin’s work on a street gang.”
The other officer nodded. “Sometimes it makes a man glad these costumed guys are around.”
“But, ‘Lena, honey, me and Sonia were gonna watch The Rockford Files.”
“Bartholomew Lash, I let you sleep on my couch, eat my food, watch my TV, and reside under my roof,” Helena Wayne said angrily. “And you’re saying that you can’t do this one favor for me?”
Little Sonia Alcana thought she saw Bat visibly shrink.
“You’re right. When you’re right, you’re right. I’ll go follow her — again,” Bat said, getting up and grabbing his hat and jacket. “The things I do for love,” he mumbled under his breath as he left the abode.
It didn’t take him long to find Miss Rachel Levine. She was still taking in the city, almost like a wide-eyed tourist. If he didn’t know better, he’d say she’d make a perfect mark. But he did know better.
He followed her everywhere, even to that bar with her friends. He was drinking his ginger ale when the barkeep came over with a cosmopolitan.
“What’s this?” Bat asked.
“Lady in the corner ordered it for you,” the barkeep said, pointing to Rachel Levine. Bat felt his heart drop. There were two reasons for this. Either she found him attractive (unlikely) or she spotted him (more likely). With a sigh, Bat picked up the cosmo and gulped it down (even though he didn’t drink), then flashed a smile toward Rachel.
Hopefully, she didn’t know he was following him and just thought he was good looking. Hopefully.
Upon hearing that Tyson and his Jones Street Raiders had been taken out by a costumed interloper — and not one identifable to his observers — the mastermind behind the plot to take out Grayson fumed.
William Lodgkins Defoe hated Richard Grayson with a burning hatred that could melt lead if its energy could be focused. It went back to high school when he had been a transfer student coming in with a background of accomplishment and success and finding that, despite all he could and did achieve, people preferred Grayson to him.
After high school was college, and he and Grayson ended up in many of the same classes, where again Grayson was the shining star to many. As lawyers, was it not Grayson who achieved all the sucess and glory — and even eventually an ambassador’s post?
“And look at him today!” Defoe growled to no one but himself as he sat in his luxurious uptown office. “Grayson looks half my age! With no signs of visable plastic surgery — and he’s almost got himself a trophy wife as well!”
Defoe snarled as he crumpled the pages of the Gotham Gazette and shouted, “Life is not fair!”
Now, to an independent observer, many of Defoe’s belief’s about Grayson were not based on reality but only in his interpretations of events. But then again, no independent observer was here — just one sad, lonely, anger-filled man.
Defoe, who was certainly trying to live up to his last name, had one more plan in the works.
He had spent years building a fortune, often defending criminals of the white-collar type. After all, common street thugs couldn’t afford an agency like his. But he did have underworld connections, some very deep and dangerous. One had contacted Tyson for him. Now he made another call from a phone carefully prepared to be untraceable. A message was left on an answering machine. This message would be received, transcribed into another code, and sent to another location, where in turn it would be given to the intended recipient.
Defoe had wanted common thugs first and foremost, since they would be the least likely to be traced to him. Now that he had put Plan B into motion, this time Grayson and company would find themselves facing the guns of skilled mercenaries who would kill indiscriminately and without mercy.
If for some reason Grayson survived this attack, there was always Plan C, but that one even Defoe was hesitant to think about; super-villains could be so unreliable. But then Defoe chuckled. There was no way Grayson’s people stood a chance against Los Muertos. So Plan C would stay in the locked box for now.
Elsewhere in Gotham City, Terry Lee Travis debated contacting this Grayson fellow and telling him about the plot on his life. But he considered that Grayson, for all his good looks and wealth, not to mention upper-crust society contacts, most likely had no understanding of what was involved with dealing with the criminal element and might just be freaked out by having a costumed hero show up at his door.
But a Travis? Now that might work. After all, the Travis family was well-to-do itself and had a strong reputation on the East Coast. And although Terry Lee had chosen to make his own way in the world without relying on family money, he could still make use of a family connection to wrangle a letter of introduction. That just might work.
Bat Lash took the drink offered to him as the bartender gestured to the young woman across the main room of the trendy uptown Gotham City bar. He held it up and nodded his thanks to Rachel Levine, flashing his winning smile as she rose from her chair and moved toward him.
Oh, boy, here it comes, Bat Lash thought nervously as she approached. “Hello, beautiful,” he said, pouring on the charm.
“Hello, beautiful?” Rachel said, smiling. “What would Helena Wayne say about that kind of greeting to another woman?”
“Wha–? You know I’m seeing Helena Wayne?” he said, startled.
“You’re dating an heiress,” Rachel said with a smirk. “You didn’t realize you might make the society page?”
“I — I don’t really follow that much,” Bat Lash said. He had always made a point of trying to stay out of the public eye, despite his penchant for flashy attire, so the idea that some paparazzi had managed to snag a picture of him didn’t sit well with him.
“So, did Miss Wayne ask you to watch me? Or was it my newfound father?” Rachel asked.
Bat’s first instinct was to come up with a convenient lie, but he had spent his career sizing people up, and his instincts told him to deal straight with her.
“It was Helena. But to be fair, you gotta understand that Dick is like a big brother to her. And family looks out for each other.”
“Oh, I understand that,” Rachel said, thinking of her own family back home. She had never had siblings of her own, but she had cousins she felt that close to. “So,” she said, “What is it about Mr. Grayson that merits that kind of devotion?”
“He really is a pretty decent guy when you get to know him. You should give him a chance.”
“Have you?” Rachel asked curiously. “Gotten to know him, I mean?”
“Well, I don’t know him that well, to be honest, but sizing people up is a part of my job, and I think I do it pretty well. Dick Grayson is the real deal — an honest, decent guy.”
“So I keep hearing,” Rachel said. “I suppose I should think of a reason to get by there so I can get to know him better.”
“Sugar, I’m pretty sure you don’t need a reason,” Bat Lash said. “He’ll just be happy to see you.”
“I hope you’re right,” Rachel said. “I don’t think I came off too well when we first met.”
“Funny. Dick made the same comment to Helena,” Bat Lash said, smiling.
“Well, I guess I’d better get back to my friends,” Rachel said, gesturing back to her table. “You’re welcome to join us. No sense in you sitting here by yourself. That is, unless you need to go back and report in.”
Bat Lash gave a wry smirk. “I’d love to join you,” he said, lifting up his drink to follow her.
Later that night, when Bat Lash quietly entered the apartment of Helena Wayne, he found her there, waiting on him in her bathrobe and nightgown. “You’re not on patrol?” he asked.
“Already finished. What took you so long?”
“I got spotted.”
Helena sighed. “I’m not surprised, considering your idea of keeping a low profile,” she said, pointing to his attire. Even though he wasn’t in his usual riverboat gambler period outfit, he still wore a very expensive and stylish silk suit, shirt, and his trademark bolo tie, which was, fortunately, currently in style. “You look like a page out of GQ.”
“Well, thank you, darlin’,” Bat Lash said grinning.
“I wasn’t trying to pay you a compliment.”
“Well, I couldn’t exactly go into that trendy yuppie bar in a sweatshirt and jeans, could I? Then I’d really stick out.”
“After what you’ve told me about her, I’m surprised you’re still in one piece if she noticed you were following her.”
“Actually,” said Bat, “we kinda hit it off. With her and her dancer friends, too.”
“Oh?” Helena said, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah,” said Bat, grinning. “It was actually a whole lot more fun than I expected. They may be a bunch of spoiled rich kids, but they’re kind of an arty, Bohemian crowd. Real interesting folks. And Rachel, well, she’s one sharp gal. Smart, likeable, and even funny at times, which really surprised me.”
“I see she really made quite an impression on you,” Helena said. What was that in her tone? Jealousy?
“Sure did,” Bat Lash added. “And you know what I liked best about her?”
“What?” Helena said coolly.
“Just how much all that made her remind me of you, the one I really wanted to be spending my evening with.”
Helena couldn’t help but break into a smile. “Always the smooth talker, aren’t you?”
“I guess you just bring out the best in me,” he said, pulling her toward him for a kiss.