[I always thought it was kind of weird to crush on a fictional character, which is why I’m in denial about the fact that I probably definitely have a crush on this character.]
This isn’t unexpected. It’s typical, really, and not just in an ‘I’m mad that you keep doing this’ way. These things happen.
It does still sting a little to be stood up on Valentine’s Day, though.
I poke at my half-eaten spaghetti and muse that if I’d known I was going to be eating alone, I’d have gotten seafood instead of Italian. I probably should have just assumed. Superheroes don’t get holidays; psychopaths just love to go on themed crime sprees and someone has to clean it up.
A sympathetic-looking waiter brings over the check.
“Stood up, Miss?”
“Not recently, no.”
The waiter blanches. Crap, I am in a bad mood.
“Sorry, morbid joke. Thank you.”
I need to go crash a black market site or publish a gangster’s bank account number or something. I roll myself out of the restaurant. Gotham is freezing in February, of course. Not wearing a coat was another miscalculation on my part. Once I shift myself into the van, I get out my phone and give him a call.
“Hi, you’ve reached Dick Grayson. Looks like I can’t answer at the moment. Leave a message and I’ll call you back.”
Not surprising in any case.
“Hey, Dick. Just finished dinner. The food was good but the company left a little to be desired. A case is a case, but maybe give me a little warning next time, wiseguy.”
Come to think of it, I haven’t heard from him at all since we made plans a couple days ago.
“And send me a text or something to let me know you’re alright, will you?”
I hang up and head home.
Two hours later and still no word. Maybe I should fire up his suit tracer just to be sure. A voice in the back of my head that sounds suspiciously like Dinah tells me I’m getting “that Big Brother look” again. I’m being paranoid, of course, but if something has happened to Dick and I don’t do anything about it, I’m going to be beating myself up.
I’ve always thought the best way to deal with paranoia was to make it useful in any case.
I wheel into my control center.
“Clocktower, get me a location on Nightwing.”
“Error: Not available,” the computerized voice drones.
“Clocktower, get me his last known location.”
A holographic monitor pops up in front of me, showing him still in Blüdhaven, in a back alley early this morning. Odd. I’d expect him to be at home, or maybe already on his way into Gotham at this point.
“Clocktower, get me locations for Bike Number Forty and Car Number Ninety-Six.”
More readouts appear, showing Dick’s car parked near his apartment and his motorcycle concealed near the alley where he’d been this morning. Interesting. Seems like he wound up in this alley and then disappeared. It takes me a few minutes to pull up deeds for all of the nearby buildings. One, an apartment building that was getting old twenty years ago, is condemned. Curiously, a trip into the electric company’s system revealed it was still drawing power. Either a lot of people left their heaters on or that building isn’t as abandoned as the public records say.
I run a cell scan of the vicinity, but I come up with nothing inside the apartment. Let’s not send anyone in just yet. It could be empty, or something could be jamming wireless signals. That would also explain why I’m not picking up Nightwing’s location, assuming he’s still in there. But an old building like that? Probably has landlines. With the right resources, you could, for example, ring them one at a time until somebody picks up.
And what do you know? My little fishing expedition pays off and I get a bite.
“Who is this?” says a woman’s voice, cloying and cutesy, like a lousy Marilyn Monroe impression.
Well, if we’re doing fake voices, I should probably switch on my modulator. At least, I hope she doesn’t sound like that naturally.
“I’m more interested in who you are.”
“Tee hee. You can call me Cupid.”
‘Tee hee?’ Seriously? I start searching my files.
“I could call you that. I think I’ll call you Lieutenant Cutter instead. How does that sound? You’re a long way from Star City. If I didn’t know any better, I might even say you’ve found a new… obsession.”
“You mean… cheat on my true love?”
She sounds genuinely hurt. Have to be careful not to provoke her, which isn’t the easiest when I’m also trying to scare the crap out of her.
“I’d never,” she continues, “I’m just… trying to make him jealous. Honest! We didn’t really do anything.”
“‘We,’ huh? That’s the part I’m interested in. See, I’m worried that you might’ve hurt a very good friend of mine. If he hasn’t been harmed, you have a prime chance to get on my good side by proving that to me in, oh, the next thirty seconds or so.”
“Why should I care?”
“I found you and reached you, didn’t I? Let’s not find out what else I can do.”
There’s quiet and some shuffling.
“I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that’s you, Oracle.”
He’s alive. Thank god.
“Are you hurt?”
“Only my pride for the moment,” he says, “But given how persuasive the invitation was, I just had to stay for dinner. I gotta say, the food in this place is actually pretty good, but the company leaves a lot to be desired.”
I suppress a snort.
“Look, just sit tight a second. I’ll see what I can do about this.”
“Not like I can do much else. Work your magic.”
There’s some more shuffling.
“See? He’s fine. We’re having a good time.”
“Right. You know, that jammer you’re using to keep me out is pretty nice. Probably expensive. I wonder how you paid for it.”
“You’ll never know,” she says.
“I guess not. I can only speculate. For example, right now I’m speculating that the money came from this foreign bank account you opened under a pseudonym three months ago.”
“And- Oh, my, that’s very generous of you.”
“I mean, donating all of your money to various disaster relief efforts around the world? Maybe I had you pegged all wrong, Carrie. Can I call you Carrie?”
“Stop it or I will hurt him! Don’t make me!”
“Look. Your background. Experimented on by a shady government project? That’s messed up. Sympathetic, even. But Carrie, if you don’t let my friend go, maybe I start talking to them. I could expose some of the creeps, you know. Or maybe they deal with you for me. Or you could just let him go.”
“W-why should I trust you?”
“I don’t think you understand, Carrie. I’m not promising not to hurt you. I’m threatening to hurt you worse. Trust that.”
Come on, break, you crackpot.
“You’re just- just jealous of us!”
“I don’t recall my motives entering into this. There’s just you, and how you want this to end.”
I hear some clattering on the other end, and then silence. I hold my breath. A minute passes. Gripping my chair’s armrests this tight probably isn’t good for them. Two minutes. Is it just me or does the clock outside sound louder than usual? Three minutes.
My Bat-Communicator beeps.
“It’s me,” I reply, a bit more breathlessly than I mean to.
“By the by, happy Valentine’s Day,” Dick says, annoyingly casually.
That ton of bricks on my shoulders finally shifts off.
“You missed dinner, you jerk.”
“We’ll have to see about making that up tomorrow. By the way, my date tried to make a getaway after she cut me loose.”
“She’s tied up inside. I called BPD to pick her up.”
“How are you so calm about all this?”
“You and I have both dealt with much worse than Cupid. I knew I could count on you.”
[Bluh, I don’t like how this came out. I was trying to do too many different things with it. Needed to be longer, just romance, or just action.]