by Starsky Hutch 76
Rachel Levine watched anxiously as the cab started up and then moved down the driveway, exiting Wayne Manor without her. She lifted her suitcase and walked slowly to the door of the old estate. She would have liked for her father (or at least the man she had always thought of as her father) to be there with her, but business had kept him in town. Logically, it was probably better that she makes this first step by herself, anyway.
She rang the doorbell, and the familiar, pleasant face of Alfred Beagle answered the door. “Miss Levine! Welcome to Wayne Manor. Master Richard will be delighted when I tell him you have arrived.”
“Is he not here?” Rachel asked, concerned.
“I am afraid matters have taken him into town for a couple of hours,” Alfred said.
“Oh,” Rachel said, downcast.
“He did instruct that I see to it that you are comfortable. If you would like, I may show you to your room now,” Alfred said, taking her bag.
“Thank you,” she said. “That would be nice.”
Rachel followed the older, dapper gentleman’s gentleman as he moved along the entranceway. She was surprised to see how easily he handled the weight of her bag as if it were nothing. The cab driver had struggled greatly moving it in and out of the trunk and had even asked her, jokingly, if she had put weights in it. In fact, she had packed training dumb bells. Not that it seemed to faze Alfred.
“These antiques must have cost a fortune,” Rachel commented as her eyes scanned her surroundings.
“It would be hard to put a price on many of the furnishings you see around you,” Alfred said. “Much of it has been with the Wayne family for generations.”
Rachel was struck with how different Wayne Manor was from the place she had grown up in, where everything was bright and contemporary. She couldn’t imagine having been brought up in such dark and old surroundings.
When Alfred brought her to the room where she would be staying, she was relieved to see that at least it was not as dark and Victorian as many of the surroundings of the large mansion. In fact, it had a decidedly feminine touch.
“This is one of the many rooms that Miss Helena had a hand in decorating,” Alfred said. “I thought that you might feel more comfortable in here.”
“Thank you, Alfred,” Rachel said smiling. “It’s very nice.”
“I am glad it suits you,” Alfred said. “Do you require my services to help you unpack?”
“No, thank you,” Rachel said. “You’ve already been a great help.”
“That is what I am here for,” Alfred said. “If you should require anything while you are here, I shall be at your beck and call.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that. But I’ll try not to be too much trouble while I am here,” Rachel said.
“Oh, no trouble at all,” Alfred assured her.
“Do you know when Mr. Grayson will be back?” Rachel asked.
“It — it’s hard to say,” Alfred said. “When he gets these sudden business calls from his investors, it can keep him away for either a short period of time or a long one, depending on the crisis he is dealing with.”
“Oh,” Rachel said, sounding a little disappointed. “There are two others living here, too, aren’t there? Karen, his fiancée, and Jason, his ward?”
“They are away for the afternoon as well, I’m afraid.”
“That’s a shame. I would have liked the chance to get to know them a little,” Rachel said. The truth was, she found Karen’s manner a little intimidating. It was Jason she wanted to meet. Though he was much younger than she was, he at least seemed like the one person in the house she might have something in common with. At least, he seemed to be from the pictures she’d seen of him with his arty, punkish persona.
“There are still many ways you might occupy yourself here until they return,” Alfred offered. “There is the billiard room, where Master Dick has had several video arcade games installed for Master Jason and his friends. There are the tennis courts and horse stables, the gardens, the swimming pools, both indoor and out. The–”
“All that sounds like a lot of fun,” Rachel said, stopping him, “but I really just want to relax. My main purpose for being here is to get to know my father. The last time I was here, we spent some time in his study. I got the feeling that was where he spent a great deal of his time. Maybe I could spend some time there, too.”
Alfred raised his eyebrows in apparent surprise that a young woman would want to spend the day in a stuffy old study. “Why, certainly. I am sure Master Richard won’t mind one bit.”
“I guess I could finish unpacking later,” Rachel said, looking at her suitcase. “Could I go there now?”
“Certainly, Miss,” Alfred said. “Allow me to show you the way.”
Rachel followed the older man down the hallway, back down the stairs, and then to the corner of the house where Dick Grayson’s study lay.
Once there, Rachel situated herself into one of the large, plush leather chairs. The room smelled of leather and old paper. There was also the faint leftover aroma of fine cigars.
“What time would you like to take lunch, Miss Levine?”
“Maybe in a couple of hours,” she answered. “For now, I’d just like to sit for a while.”
“Very well,” said Alfred, nodding. “Then, for now, I will leave you to your thoughts.” With that, he exited and left Rachel sitting in the quiet room. The only sound breaking the silence was the ticking of a grandfather clock.
Once again, Rachel was struck by how very old the estate was in comparison to the house where she had been raised. She tried to picture herself growing up there instead of the bright and sunny Levine home in California, and she couldn’t. Then she pictured a lonely and frightened little boy who had just lost his parents before coming here to live, and she suddenly felt very sad for the man she now knew to be her father.
She was suddenly jarred out of her thoughts by the sound of a throat clearing, and she turned to see Alfred announcing his entrance. He carried in a silver tray with a steaming teapot, a cup, and several English crumpets. “I took the liberty of fixing you a spot of tea, Miss,” he said, “to tide you over.”
“Thank you, Alfred,” Rachel smiled. Obviously, doing nothing for her went against his gentleman’s gentleman sense of propriety. “That was very thoughtful of you.”
“If you should need anything, anything at all, simply pull that cord there,” he said, pointing to a bell cord in the corner, “and I shall be at your service.” With that, he exited once more.
Rachel smiled, shaking her head. He was very charming, but very different from Lupita, her bright and boisterous maid back in California.
Once again, she found herself cloaked in near silence. She almost wished she had asked Alfred to stay. He probably could have told her plenty of tales about the history of Wayne Manor.
She rose out of her chair and began to pace around the room. The principal feature of the study seemed to be the large shelves of books taking up most of the walls of the room. Her eyes gazed over the rows of books. They were the typical titles you would expect to find among a classically educated gentleman. Most of them, of course, just appeared to be collecting dust. Her eyes suddenly settled on one book: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. That book actually did appear to have been handled recently. It had the worn look of recent use, in fact. Why would a book like that have special meaning to Dick Grayson?
Rachel reached for the book and lifted it from the shelf. When she did, there was the sound of shifting gears, and the shelf turned as if on hinges to reveal a hidden stairway, causing Rachel to emit a startled gasp.
Tentatively, Rachel stepped forward into the stairway. Dare she proceed down the hidden passageway? She had seen enough old horror movies to give her pause. Her curiosity got the better of her, though, and she proceeded down the dark, stone stairway. The path grew darker as she moved along, so she continued ahead, guiding herself with her hands. Finally, she seemed to be coming to the end of the stairway. As she stepped forward, a dark, squeaking, flapping form flew by, causing her to scream.
Her eyes slowly began to refocus toward the distant faint lights beyond the doorway, so she continued to step forward into what she realized was a large cave, judging from the stalactites hanging from the ceiling. She let out a gasp when she saw what stood in the center of the large room. It was a large glass display case, and inside stood the uniform of the Batman.
Her first thought was, My God — my father was Batman! but then she quickly realized that was impossible. Dick Grayson was too young. She walked up to the display case and read the plaque mounted at its base. “In memory of Bruce Wayne, Batman. Gotham’s Guardian Angel. There will never be another like him.”
She realized, then, that her father had been Batman’s sidekick, Robin, and was now the hero known as Red Robin. That made sense, she realized, because the one automobile missing from the Batcave was the Red Racer, the blood-red speedster that now patrolled the streets of Gotham in place of the Batmobile. She now had a good idea of the sort of business that had taken Richard Grayson into town.
Her eyes passed over the many different souvenirs that decorated the cave: mementos from a lifetime of adventures — three lifetimes, to be precise, including Robin/Red Robin and Huntress. It amazed her to think that this was the legacy she might have been born into.
In addition to the many souvenirs, there was a training facility that appeared to have been well used. The same could be said for the fully functioning crime lab. Obviously, her earlier estimation of her biological father as a dilettante was way off.
The item that finally caught her eye was a work counter. On it sat what appeared to be a series of leather-bound journals. One of them appeared to have been clamped shut, as if its contents were meant to be permanently sealed away. However, this clamp had recently been pried off with a screwdriver that now rested by the journal, which lay open. She thought it odd that the journal would not simply have been destroyed if the contents were supposed to be hidden. Whatever was inside was meant to remain a secret, but the owner of the journal could not bring himself to destroy it.
What Rachel saw inside the journal made her jaw drop. She had been expecting to read a case file of Batman and Robin. Instead, what she found had far more personal significance to her.
The journal entry was dated to the summer of 1958. Dick Grayson and Rachel Murry, her mother, had just graduated law school and had decided to celebrate with a spontaneous trip to Mexico.
The trip was even more fun and romantic than they had dared hope. Their days were spent on beautiful sandy beaches and their nights in rollicking, music-filled cantinas where they danced the night away, fueled by exquisite food and tangy margaritas.
Young and in love, they couldn’t help but be swept up in the atmosphere. Early one morning, two days into their trip, while still feeling the effects of the night before, they found themselves in a small local church before a justice of the peace. The rest of the trip was filled with laughter and lovemaking as the newlyweds sequestered themselves in their hotel room for the final day of their unexpected honeymoon.
When they returned and informed Bruce and Selina Wayne of what they had done, Dick’s guardian was, at first, alarmed. That was, until Selina reminded him that not only were they adults, they had both recently become attorneys. So they weren’t exactly naïve kids going into the world unprepared. Bruce then laughed at himself for acting like an overprotective parent and congratulated the couple. He did, however, make them promise to have another ceremony for friends and family now that they were home. Once they promised, Selina went into full planning mode, excited at the prospect of holding the society event of the year.
As the two women went off to make plans, Bruce took Dick aside and asked the younger man if he had informed Rachel of their secret lives. Dick told him that he had not because felt he owed it to Bruce to discuss it with him first.
“I appreciate that,” Bruce told him, “but your main responsibility is now to that young lady in there that you made your wife. You need to tell her tonight.”
That night, Bruce and Selina made arrangements to be out of the house so Dick could be alone to talk with Rachel, using the excuse of a prior social engagement. They asked that they peek in on baby Helena from time to time, but since she was still at the age where she mostly slept, they would remain mostly undisturbed. As they left, Selina apologized to Rachel and promised to take them out the next evening to celebrate.
After they left, Rachel turned toward Dick with a sly grin, thinking that he had arranged for them to be alone for a romantic evening. The expression on his face quickly convinced her otherwise.
“There’s… something I need to tell you about myself. About this family you’re marrying into…”
“What… what is it?” she said in alarm, picturing some horrible Fall of the House of Usher-style family secret.
“Maybe it’s better that I show you,” he replied. He led her down the hallway to where a large grandfather clock stood.
“It’s stopped,” Rachel commented.
Dick reached up and opened the glass door to the clock face and moved the big hand and little hand to 10:15. “The hour and minute when Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed by Joe Chill and the paths of both his and my life were set.”
Rachel started to ask him what he meant when there was a click and the grandfather clock swung outward on hidden hinges, revealing a hidden passageway. He took her hand and led her into the entrance, down the dark pathway, and into the Batcave.
Rachel Murry’s jaw dropped in shock as she took in the surroundings of the Batcave. “My God. You — you’re Robin! Bruce is Batman — and you’re Robin.”
“Yes,” Dick said.
“You let me marry you, knowing you were hiding something like this from me?!” she exclaimed.
“It wasn’t just my secret to reveal,” Dick said.
“That doesn’t justify what happened here!” Rachel said.
“I know,” Dick said.
“You know I lost my family in a car crash,” Rachel said.
“No one knows how that kind of loss feels better than me, Rachel,” Dick said.
“That’s probably one of the things that brought us together,” Rachel said, “which is why I can’t believe you wouldn’t understand how I would feel about something like this!”
“Knowing that you go out and risk your life on a regular basis?” she continued hotly. “Losing them nearly killed me. What do you think it would do to me to lose you, too? Did you even think about that when you let me marry you with this kind of secret?”
“Well, like you, I was caught up in the moment,” Dick said.
“So the truth comes out now,” Rachel said. “Marrying me was against your better judgment.”
“No!” Dick exclaimed. “It may have been a wild and impetuous moment, but it was a great one. One of those unexpected things that can change your life for the better. Every guy I know in this life — that’s how it happened. We could have a great life together.”
“Not while you’re still doing this,” Rachel said.
“Don’t ask that of me,” Dick said. “Ask me anything but that.”
“That’s all that matters,” Rachel said.
“I made a vow, same as Bruce, so that other kids wouldn’t have to go through what I went through.”
“You made a vow to me when you put that ring on my finger!”
“Don’t ask this of me, Rachel. It’s too much.”
They continued to argue back and forth, neither side willing to bend. When it started getting late, they agreed to put the argument aside for another time so they could get some rest.
After checking in on Helena to give her a diaper change and nightly feeding, they turned in for the evening. The distance between them in the large bed seemed like a mile. Dick thought he heard the faint sound of crying. He wanted to comfort her, but how could he? He was the cause of her sadness, and he couldn’t make the promise she desired.
The next morning, Rachel was gone. He was hardly surprised. That didn’t make it hurt any less, however.
Over the next days, then weeks, he became increasingly despondent. Bruce and Selina became alarmed by the change in him. Nothing seemed to matter to him anymore now that Rachel was gone. At one time, he had been pursuing possible leads with some of the most prestigious law firms in the country. His plan had been to take a job with one of those elite firms and set up shop as that city’s hero. Bruce’s graduation gift to him was going to be funding his own version of a Robin-themed version of the Batcave. He’d been tossing around names like Robin’s Roost and Robin’s Lair. Now, he had failed to follow up, and those positions had been filled. He was also letting Bruce go on patrol by himself. Both careers were being neglected.
It seemed like the loss of Rachel had left him completely unable to function. Those who loved and cared for him worried that if he continued on the same path, he might eventually go insane or take his own life.
Bruce Wayne sat down and had a long talk with his ward about what he was going through. Dick told him that he felt that he had thrown away his one chance at true happiness and a normal life. He had let the most wonderful woman he had ever known walk out of his life, and he would never have a chance like that again.
“Why on earth not?” Bruce asked, pointing out that the two of them were considered to be the greatest detectives alive. If the two of them couldn’t find her, who could?
That was when Dick showed him the note that Rachel had left behind. In it, she specifically told him not to try to find her. Rachel made it abundantly clear that their relationship was over. If she had stayed, she would always feel she was second choice to his true calling. She wasn’t willing to remain and have him resent her if he quit being Robin for her. She also wasn’t willing to stay and watch him die if he continued to be Robin.
Dick told him that he wished that he could just forget the entire wedding and go on with his life. The memory of his loss was too painful to overcome.
A light suddenly came into Dick Grayson’s eyes for the first time in weeks. “Do you think our old friend, Professor Nichols could help me to… forget?”
Bruce looked absolutely horrified at the suggestion. “Absolutely not! The greatest weapon you and I have in our war on crime is our minds. You just can’t go tampering with it, editing out the parts you don’t like.”
Dick slumped back into his chair, the dead look returning into his eyes. “I guess you’re right. I just thought…” He sighed deeply. “Never mind what I thought.”
An alarmed look came onto Bruce Wayne’s face at the sight of his ward. “I’ll speak with him.”
At first, Professor Carter Nichols was just as set against such actions as Bruce Wayne had been. That was, until he saw the condition Dick Grayson was in. After speaking with the young man, he realized that he had been completely incapacitated emotionally by what had happened. It was most likely a combination of the shock of losing Rachel coupled with lingering trauma from the earlier loss of his parents. He agreed that helping Dick to forget the marriage could allow him to carry on. He warned that eventually, at some point in the future, something could trigger the memories to resurface. In the meantime, this would give him the time he needed to heal.
The last paragraph was in a different handwriting. It was Bruce Wayne’s. He was giving an account of events should Dick ever regain these memories and want to look back. He stated simply that once the hypnotist had finished, Dick no longer remembered the trip to Mexico with Rachel or their marriage. Instead, he believed that Rachel’s reason for leaving was that he would not marry her. He was still sad, but it was no longer the crippling sadness that he had once felt. He began going on nightly patrols with Bruce again and eventually took a job with a local law firm. All in all, he seemed to be getting his life back, though he rarely dated after that, let alone found someone with whom he could experience the sort of passion he had felt with Rachel Murry. Bruce hoped that one day, Dick could get past the subconscious pain that was obviously holding him back from trying to experience love again. He wanted, more than anything, for the young man who was like a son to him to be able to experience the same sort of joy and happiness that he had come to know with Selina. He felt strongly that someday, somehow, Dick would finally get past this and find that special someone who would finally be able to bring him that joy he so richly deserved.
Rachel Levine raised her head up from the journal with tear-filled eyes. A tear rolled down her cheek and landed on the page to join other tear spatters that had recently been created on the page by the last person to read the journal.
As she looked at the splotches that had been formed in the ink on the page, she remembered the part where Professor Nichols had warned that events could trigger his mind to remember. What had finally done it? Had it been their last conversation? And what was Richard Grayson going through, now that he remembered? Rachel brought her hands up to her eyes and again found herself weeping for the father she was only beginning to know.