APRIL 19th, 2000 | Gotham City
Terror filled Helena Bertinelli’s body as she watched her father struggle against the masked man who had just hurt her mom… her mom who was quiet and unmoving on the bedroom floor. Her mom who’s blood still stained Helena’s Sunday dress. Her father told her to run, and run she did, finding solace in the corner of her papa’s closet, legs curled and cheeks stained with tears.
She flinched, a scream escaping her throat, as a bang echoed through the small room. She saw through the slats of the closet door as her father collapsed, first slumping to his knees and then falling into his chest. She saw the bloodstain of his shirt and leak through as it pooled on the wooden floor, forever staining it. The masked man turned toward the closet, gunhand raised, and then the window shattered.
A rain of glass shards struck the gunman, and he was forced to protect his face with both hands, but the moment he did so a fist crashed into his sternum, lifting him off his feet and throwing him into the wall behind him. Helena’s savior turned to her, stepping closer, and speaking, but she heard none of it. Her parents were dead. She was alone.
JULY 23rd, 2016
Sixteen years ago, she lost everything. She likely would’ve died too that night had The Batman not inadvertently saved her. She never did get the chance to speak to him because it was so early on in the life of Batman that police initially in Gotham was ordered to bring him in. Helena had been put into child protective services when the police found her in that closet, traumatized beyond belief, she was later taken to live with her uncle’s nephew, Salvatore Asaro, in the old country of Sicily, Italy. For the next several years, her mind tirelessly worked to find out who exactly the gunman was when it came out he was released from prison. He had to have connections.
Even when people told her to stop that Batman would find them, she didn’t listen. It wasn’t about finding out the guy and putting a stop to him, not yet at least, it was about finding out exactly why he killed her mother and father, if The Batman got involved, she would handle it. Beyond just her investigation, she learned about martial arts and weaponry from watching her uncle and cousin fight, and when the day came she asked cousin Salvatore to teach her.
The nightmares persisted as she grew, when one night her cousin told her that to end the nightmares, ‘blood cries for blood.’ is what he told her. It was during her time at university amid her investigations that her family were, in fact, part of the notorious mafia family, that her family was killed no doubt by a member of another within the mafia family.
But during her time, she needed to visit someone.
She stood in front of a door, gently knocking on it and waiting for her to answer it.
Roughly a minute or two had past when the door’s lock clicked before it opened up, revealing a wheelchair-bound Vietnamese woman.
“Can I help you?” the fifty-three-year-old Vietnamese, Paula Crock, asked.
Helena took a deep breath as she responded, "Yes, I want to ask you something, I’m currently doing an investigation, it’s reaching a point where I’m getting involved, " she then finally asked, “I want to revive The Huntress.”
Paula’s eyes widened and moved to close the door, but Helena stopped her, placing her feet between the door, “No,” Paula spoke, her tone being acidic as the memories of the time being Huntress, along with all that pain or brought to her and her family, “There is no more Huntress. That name is dead and buried.”
Helena was persistent, “I know, I know that moniker, what it did to you,” she gestures to Paula’s wheelchair-bound state, “But I want to make it mean something beyond a criminal, it can change, it can be a hero.”
Paula frowned, she didn’t want to pass revive that title just to be misused again, she didn’t even know this woman!
Paula wheeled herself away from the door, “Who are you anyway?” she asked.
Helena responded, “My name is Helena. Helena Bertinelli.”
Paula’s frowned deepened, she heard of the last name, “The old Mafia Family of Gotham, I thought that family was killed sixteen years ago.”
Helena frowned, the echoing sound of shooting and glass shattering ringing in her head, “They almost was, the only reason I’m alive today was because of Batman.”
Paula looked at her, lips pressed into a thin line, before parting them and asking, “If I agree to let you carry my title, just what is your intention.”
Helena knew this was coming, she had one shot to explain this, she readied herself, "My family died sixteen years, ever since I turned ten, I was tirelessly looking into why that happened, then I learned what my family was…who ordered the hit, a mafia leader known as Steven Mandragora, " she subconsciously titled down, she had inadvertently met the man before her parents died, even at the age of eight, the young Bertinelli shudder in disgust at the display the man would leer at mere food.
She continued, her grip tightening on her bag, “For years, I wanted nothing more than to kill them for what they did…” she admitted, "But when I learned who my family was. What they did. I couldn’t stoop to their level, " she looked up to Paula, her eyes harden in the determination she had in herself, “I want to repent for what my family had done, what The Mafia had done,”
She looked at Paula as she placed her bag down, “I learned about you by accident, when I dug deeper, you wanted to change, set yourself straight from everything you did, not just for yourself, but for your daughters. I want to atone for everything my family did,” She opened the zipline of her bag, pulling out a purple helmet mask, “And I want to start by making The Huntress a hero.”
Paula was surprised by her speech and dedication to wanting to be a better person, and she wanted to start by going after the Mafia, which held ties to her own family. She was strongly considering handing her the title, she placed her hands on her lap, “To bear that name of The Huntress, you need to start by excising the demons in you. Actions speak louder than words in this world if you intend to go through with atonement take down the source of it.”
Helena nodded, a ghost of a smile gracing her lips, “Thank you.”
She looked back at Paula before turning and exiting the house to head back to her apartment.
The drive back to her home was rather sluggish, Helena had taken moments of stops to look at her bag that contained the costume she designed. Initially, it was a full body and face-concealing outfit, she never saw herself as a hero. It was the actions of the original Huntress that inspired her.
If someone who had drenched themselves in blood could change after enduring so much grief and pain, then so could she, she hadn’t known about what her family had committed in their Mafia-run, but she had lived a life of privilege and high living off the blood and extortion of innocents.
Helena finally reached her apartment complex, entering inside and heading to her room, she had to rest for tonight.
JULY 24th: 12:04 AM.
The illumination of the moonlight lit her room up as she sat on the edge of the bed, she was wearing her costume besides her mask, which held in her hands, staring intently at it.
Her equipment had a utility belt, containing some medical aid that could help her clean potential wounds. A retractable staff strapped to her back and a small-sized crossbow mounted to the right forearm.
She took a deep shuddering breath as she turned it over so she could see the backside of it, slowly raising it up and over her and slowly placed it on her head.
It was time for The Huntress to be reborn.
Steven Mandragora settled in his meeting with the respective branches of The Mafia since he took over with the removal of the Bertinelli family. The expansion within Gotham City had diminished with the presence of Batman and the GCPD cracking down on them; now there was another masked vigilante that had been causing some hassle for them for the past two weeks. Some of The Mafia had considered taking him out, citing his gluttony had made the family reckless in overconfidence, but Mandragora’s right-hand man remained fiercely loyal for everything he provided for the assassination of The Bertinelli Family, even willing to pay a substantial untraceable payment to bail him out.
So for now, they had to indulge in Mandragora’s consumption of a delicate balance.
On the above floor, as the meeting continued, about a dozen or so guards had been assigned to make, armed with blunt-based weapons and only a few carrying guns to lower the risk of friendly fire from occurring. Some were doing downtime playing cards at one of the desks that were in the center of the room.
Suddenly, the windows shattered with arrows breaking through, cutting through the glass like paper, piercing two of the gun-wielding goons’ hands before anyone could have a chance to react, a motorcycle broke down the doorway, crashing itself into the remaining gun-wielding guards, though they did manage to shred it a bit with shrapnel before it hit them.
Helena had jumped off the cycle when it crashed, activating her staff and going into a battle pose in the center of the room. The goons charged at her. Attempting to gut her with their weapons as the two remaining guards were trying to remove the arrows that had pierced them to the walls.
A swift kick to the jaw, leveling one of the goons to the ceiling and crashing headfirst into a light and a right hook with the staff to another, no doubt knocking some teeth out when she saw red come out of his mouth.
A goon managed to remove the arrow embedded in the center of his hand, blood spurting out as he raised his gun and began firing at her.
Quickly retracting her staff, Helena moved to cover, riddling her opponents with arrows before kicking the table into the legs of one trying to rush her. She rinsed and repeated, hiding and returning fire.
She pulled some smoke bombs from her belt and threw them to the floor, releasing a cloud that hindered the goon’s vision of her.
Footsteps began trending closer and he fired, only for the smoke to spread out and reveal nothing in front of him, sweat beads began to roll down the sides of his face, his heart pulsing when an exhale came from behind his neck. He never had a chance when Helena’s staff wrapped around his throat and pulled further into the smoke.
Beneath all this, The Mandragora Mafia was hearing the chaos unfold. Mandragora nodded towards his right-hand, he pulled out a Thompson and began shooting the ceiling.
Helena, still keeping her staff around the goon’s neck, flipped him over as the bullets burst through the floor, she had narrowly avoided the bullets, though it did graze parts of her costume and scar the flesh.
Helena adjusted her position and flipped the goon over her head and, with the floor weakened due to the bullets, smashed him through, giving way to some of the wood boards and a cloud of dust and crashing him onto the Mafia’s desk.
Helena jumped down, landing in front of the head members of the Mafia branches, some looked concerned, others twitching and wanting to reach for their weapons.
Steven Mandragora, however, remained undeterred as he was continuing slurping down some oysters. He smiled, “Charmed,” he slurred out, making a leer toward her figure, “My dear, your entrance was most impressive.”
“Police are already on their way,” Helena scowled at his leering gaze.
Mandragora gave a lecherous grin, slowly standing up as the rest rose with him, his right-hand making a step forward to act as a second barrier between Helena and the desk that sprawled between them.
The rest of Mafia headed to follow Mandragora out of the room, one even raising their hat in some mocking gesture of ‘good day’, as The Right-Hand stood alone with Helena.
Fast than anyone could respond, Helena fired an arrow that was making a beeline to one of Mandragora’s legs, but the Right-Hand caught it, slipping it between his fingers, his eyes never once breaking contact with her.
“Years back,” he said as the leaders left the room, “I was once put behind bars, I swore to never go back to that, and our generous leader made sure I got my due, I trained and bled to reach this chance.” He snapped the arrow and pulled out a pistol, “I will end the last of The Bertinelli Bloodline,”
Helena’s eyes widened that the right-hand figured her out, he answered her unspoken question, “I never forget a face, the eyes once so innocent now bathed in the blood of her family.”
Her gaze hardened, rage pulsing through her blood; her cousin’s words echoing in her head.
Blood cries for Blood.
No. No, she would not face that temptation, she’d do this right. She would not give into it.
Her mind clouded with conflict gave the Right-Hand the opening to launch a flurry of an onslaught onto her. He landed a punch to the right side of her cheek, releasing some blood as her teeth bit down inadvertently.
He landed his knee into her sternum, pushing her a bit in the air. For a man in his mid-forties he still could go.
Helena collapsed to her knees, hacking some blood out as she felt soreness in her chest. The Right-Hand quickly pulled out a gun, intent on ending the last of the family.
Helena reacted quickly, firing an arrow into the shin of his leg, the likelihood of breaking his tibia present as he stumbled a bit and dropped the gun.
He landed a kick to her head, more blood coming out of her mouth and nose, “You ■■■■■…” he snarled, picking her by the collar of her costume and raising her so she could see the face of her would-be killer, “Just die already.”
She spat a glob of blood to his face, the blood pooling down from his forehead to his upper lip, “Still got fight huh,” he spoke mockingly before tossing her into the desk and crashing her into the plates and drinks, the glass shattering and falling as she skidded over them.
He pulled something out of his pocket, something Helena could recognize a mile away, her mother’s necklace cross, a pure twenty-four-carat gold craft. Huntress stood shakily, raising her fists as the Right-Hand kissed the cross in mockery of her family.
“Give it back,” Helena growled, ready for round two.
The Right-Hand looked at her, putting the cross back in his pocket, “Come get it.”
A right hook smashed across his face, staggering back he reacted quickly socking her at her shoulder before they knew anything, they were trading blows with the visceral instinct that their bodies became numb to the feeling.
Helena, after one of the blows went below towards her stomach, caught a glimpse of the arrow still embedded into his shin, it gave her the opening she needed. Launching a quick kick, she managed to push the arrow deeper into his shin, he let out a howl of pain as he buckled over as the weight gave out.
She grabbed the sides of his head and launched a stiff knee to the jaw; taking him down.
The Right-Hand of Steven Mandragora was down.
Blood cries for Blood.
Helena reached for the temple of her nose, rubbing as a throbbing headache began forming, the echoes continuing to play in her mind. She wouldn’t succumb to it. She will not kill him, no matter
All that was left was to apprehend Mandragora.
She reached to the thug and removed the cross necklace from his pocket, holding it up as the echoes grew louder when she stared at it. But any further continuation of those thoughts halted when several gunshots went off.
Helena snapped to the exit, the sound came from the far end though there. She pocketed the necklace in her utility belt and raced to the exit.
What she saw when reached the outside of the building wasn’t at all satisfying, there laid Steven Mandragora with blood pouring out as several cars were already departing to get away from everything.
She never would have a chance to catch them in time, but that wasn’t her priority or even her current focus, it was the little boy that was currently holding the former head’s hand as tears ran down his cheeks.
Helena noticed he looked a lot like Mandragora when he was younger. His son. That was his son.
She knew what needed to do.
She walked towards the little boy, who stared back at her fearfully. She pulled out a thick cloth, an alcohol bottle, and some pliers from her belt and got to work, her face stoic due to the irony of it all: Saving the man who had her parents killed.
No one was going to die today.
“…The head of the Mafia and various associates were arrested three hours ago after a vicious brawl occurred by an unknown vigilante trying to make clean work of the activities, aside from a few injuries handed to the associates and Steven Mandragora currently in a critical condition with some wounds, GCPD found him in some stable shape with the son helping hold back any further bleeding when asked for questions, he responded, ‘Huntress saved my daddy.’…”
The TV turned off as Paula set the remote down, turning towards Helena, who spotted some bandages to nurse her wounds, she smiled, “It must’ve not been easy for you.”
Helena smiled back tightly, “Yeah…it wasn’t,” she paused, “Do you…do you ever move past what happened?”
Paula smiled sadly as memories of her estranged husband came to mind, “No, no you don’t, many days I wonder how I could ever live with myself knowing what I did, what my husband did to us.” She looked at the picture of her daughters, “But I’m reminded why I keep moving forward because I have people that depend on me, knowing that is enough for me to make it to the next day.”
“You ever think I’ll find someone like that?” Helena asked driftingly.
Paula responded, nodding her head in affirmation, “Yes, you have a start, Huntress .”
Helena smiled but remembered something, she pulled out the golden cross from her pocket, “Here’s another thing, think of this as a fresh start for you and your family.” she gently grabbed Paula’s hand and placed it in her palms.
Paula was surprised, “But, this is your mother’s.”
Helena nodded, “Yeah, but as I said, everything that my family did, I want to give back any chance I get.”
Helena stood as Paula took it, wrapping her hands around it, “Thank you, see you again sometime?”
Paula nodded, “Of course.”
Helena took her bag and saw herself out.
“You did the right thing,” a gruff voice called out to Helena when she was by the driveway.
Helena stopped, “Batman,” she already could make that guess when she felt someone was following her back to Paula’s house.
Batman jumped down from the tree branch and walked to her. It was still early and the moon still out so no one was up and about yet.
“Trust me, taking this step is a good start for you, I’ve faced with that exact temptation myself whenever I fought crime,” Batman said.
Helena clutched her bag, “Figure I’m not alone with that feeling, what do you want from me?” she asked.
Batman remained stoic as he answered, “An offer, to help with fighting for a common good.”
Helena contemplated this and was just about to answer before a static sound came off.
“Batman! COME IN!” a voice spoke over a radio frequency.
Batman activated it and responded, “Commissioner?”
“No, it’s Harvey, Commissioner Gordan has been kidnapped by The Joker! Barbara’s been shot!”
TO BE CONTINUED IN WAR FOR GOTHAM
The Huntress will Return