Jim Gordon flips on the signal and waits, the way he
always does when things get too rough. It happens too
He usually has to wait alone, but tonight's a little
different. Sergeant Bullock has never liked dealing
with Batman, and he's never going to turn the signal
on himself. But this is his case -- twelve missing
girls, all pretty, blonde, and adolescent -- and when
Jim insists on getting in the big guns, he drags
himself up to the roof, donut in one hand and rookie
partner trailing along behind.
"When he shows," Bullock says to his partner in what
he probably thinks is a stage whisper, "don't let him
smell fear. He gets off on it."
She snorts, and Jim feels a little better about
sending her out with a hardcase like Bullock. "The
Batman's saved my life," Montoya says. "I know Gotham,
and I know what he's about. I'm not afraid of him."
"You ain't met him yet," Bullock says.
Jim shakes his head and turns on the signal. He's
never sure who's going to show up anymore -- Batgirl
hasn't been around much, Robin has only been in the
tabloids a couple times in the last months -- but at
the end of the day, all they need is Batman. "I'm sure
you've heard enough rumors," he says to Montoya.
She straightens up a little, getting consciously
on-duty again. "Yes, sir. But I'm not --"
Batman's standing right in front of her. She says,
"*Dios mio*," under her breath, so soft Jim almost
doesn't catch it.
"It's Tetch," Batman says.
Bullock bristles. "We knew that. Fits the pattern --
the girls, and everything. But where's he hiding?
What's he going to hit next?"
"The state chess championship is tomorrow night,"
Batman says. "The reigning champion -- and his eleven
year old daughter -- are staying at the Hilton."
It fits. Jim clenches one hand into a fist at the
thought of the danger the girl is in.
"What's chess got to do with it?" Bullock asks. He's
getting red in the face.
"Why didn't I see that?" Montoya says, putting her
head in her hand.
"What? He's into hats!"
"Room 738, Officer Montoya," Batman says.
She's already got a notepad out, and she says,
"Thanks," quick and brisk, like she's already
forgotten it's Batman.
He's gone, anyway.
Jim switches off the signal, leaving them all blinking
a little. "I still don't get it about the chess,"
"You should've done your background reading on Tetch,"
Jim says -- even though he hasn't actually reread any
Lewis Carroll since he read it to Barbara. "You were
almost there, Montoya."
"Next time, sir," she says. "Next time we won't need
to ask for help."
"I hope so," Jim says. "I really do."
There's a boy standing next to Batman with his hands
on his hips and his legs bare, his hair curling over
his forehead. He's way too young to be on the streets
fighting crime, all of fourteen if he's even that old.
Jim really ought to call the Department of Family
Services. It can't be impossible to find out who
Batman is and stop him from endangering a minor.
Which leads to the question of why the Police
Commissioner didn't say anything the first time Batman
was endangering a minor, and however much he wants to
say something now, it's too late by too many years.
Jim regrets, not for the first time or the last, that
he's given up his pipe. It would, at least, give him
something to do with his hands while Batman's standing
there waiting to be told what the PD knows about Ivy's
latest horror. He counts his blessings that he's doing
this meeting alone. He gets through the details on
autopilot -- smashed greenhouse, three units down for
the count with itching hives, probably related to some
nearly extinct lichens found in a vacant lot that's
being built up or some damn thing.
The boy is fidgeting with his belt of tricks and
tugging a little at his costume. If Jim didn't already
know -- and he knows damn well -- it would give him
Before he's entirely done and it's time for them to
evaporate, Jim raises an eyebrow at Batman. "We need
"Robin, meet me at R point forty-seven."
"Forty-seven," the kid repeats -- another giveaway, in
case he needed it. "Gotcha." He jumps off the building
with no grace, no style, no flair -- no, it's not that
he's not graceful, and now he's on the next building
Jim shakes his head. "Tell me the boy's all right."
Batman frowns. "Robin is fine."
"Look," Jim says, frowning right back, "I may not
dress up in a fancy costume, but I'm not blind. That
kid's eight inches shorter than the last guy you had
with you, and about twice as wide in the shoulder.
Where's the real one?"
"With the Teen Titans," Batman says, grudgingly.
Jim folds his arms. "You know I have to take that on
faith -- and --" he shakes his head again. "But he's
"The last I knew, yes."
He lets out a breath he wasn't sure he was holding.
"Good. And -- you just called the talent agency for a
"Ivy's at large," Batman says.
Jim glowers at him. "I trusted -- the first -- Robin
because I knew he was capable, but -- dammit, he had
to have been at least eighteen. How can you go back to
working with someone so vulnerable? Is he a hotshot
detective or something?" Batman doesn't answer. Jim
runs a hand through his hair. "Dammit. All right. Just
tell me you put him through basic training."
He's talking to the air. Batman's gone.
"Don't let this one get hurt, either," Jim says under
his breath. "Dammit -- dammit." Going back inside
makes him feel like he's given up. The stairs are
always so dark after the light of the signal, and now
he's got the image of that kid -- really a kid, this
one -- in his mind.
Where do you get a new Robin, anyway? He'd seen the
first one fight, sometimes -- kid moved like a ballet
dancer who'd learned martial arts, amazing and deadly.
This new one had just stood there. Didn't ask
Jim doesn't ask enough questions, either, and the ones
he does ask don't get good enough answers. Times like
this, he worries about the morality of trusting a
If there was any other way to keep his city safe, he'd
He's almost positive about that.
Ivy hit the local professional wrestlers' night with
her coercion kisses, so when the police get to the
corner of Grant Park where the last known *Acianthus
gothamen* was spotted, three years ago and find the
aftermath of Batman's work, there are a whole lot of
burly guys lying around unconscious or woozy.
"Damn," Sergeant Bullock says under his breath,
pausing by a pool of blood. It's too easy to identify
its owner, who's passed out. There are three teeth in
the puddle. Montoya looks so determined she's got to
be queasy and just hiding it as hard as she can.
"Just get them restrained in case the chemicals
haven't worn off," Jim says wearily, but he agrees
with Harvey. There's more blood than normal for
Batman. Maybe Ivy's victims were especially loopy --
or maybe it's the kid.
He's not sure which it is until he sees the new Robin
fight three days later -- Penguin's goons, this time
-- and he can catalogue every blow and how much damage
it's doing. Unnecessary damage, because they're just
perps. Not even mind-controlled perps, and if the kid
gave them a chance, they'd get the hell out.
Two of them have broken hands. One of them isn't going
to walk until his foot bones are reset, and maybe he
won't be able to run after that.
Jim tries to bring it up with Batman, but when he
says, "Got a minute?" Batman disappears.
"You need to rent a goddamn mailbox," Jim says to the
The Police Benevolent Association's Blue Ball is not
Jim's favorite night of the year. He feels like he's
playing dressup in the tux and it's hard to breathe.
More than that, he has to gladhand way too many
people. The rich, the famous, the morons -- all of
them want to shake hands with Commissioner Gordon.
Some of the rich and famous are so familiar they
practically count as friends by now. Take Bruce Wayne,
for example -- he's been to enough of these things
that Barbara's on flirting terms with his kid. He's a
nice enough kid -- kind of young for Barbara, but she
can take care of herself, and she could do worse than
Wayne's kid. He's a good boy.
Who, actually, isn't there. "Jim!" Bruce says with the
overinflection of money. He's smiling and pushing some
teenager forward. "Jason, this is Commissioner Gordon.
He's really done a lot for the city."
Jason pushes a hand through his hair and offers his
hand to shake reluctantly. There's something in his
stance that's off -- not comfortable in a suit, not
comfortable where he is, and not comfortable talking
"Nice to meet you, Commissioner," the kid says, and he
It's more of a smirk around the corners, and not
smooth enough. It makes Jim think of the pushers who
yell 'pig' at him and sneer, the ones hard enough to
key a black-and-white.
Everything about him sets Jim's teeth on edge. "How
d'you do, Jason." He raises an eyebrow at Bruce over
the kid's head, but Bruce misses it completely.
"I've heard a lot about you," Jason says. His accent
is definitely Gotham-hard.
"I wish I could say the same," Jim says drily.
Bruce laughs. "Maybe another time. We're still making
the rounds." He puts his hand on Jason's shoulder.
"See you later," he says to Jim.
"Sure, Bruce." Jim shakes his head a little and goes
to look for Barbara. While he scans the crowd for her
shimmering blue dress, he works on how to explain to
Bruce that his new ward -- son? -- isn't the same kind
of kid as the last one. Jason has the stance and grin
of a hustler, trying every angle.
Jim wants to not think this way about the boy, who's
all of fourteen, if that, but he's seen the type
enough times to know.
Barbara's talking to Detective Bard, a wineglass in
her hand, but she looks up when Jim comes over and
smiles. Sometimes he forgets how grown up she is and
it hits him all over again, leaving him proud and a
little scared. She's not his baby girl anymore. She
asks, "How's the handshaking going, Dad?"
Jim nods to Bard. "Not bad. I was wondering if you've
seen Wayne's kid around, actually, Barbara."
She blinks, then smiles crookedly. She doesn't look
entirely happy about the revelation either. "You mean
the new one?" Maybe she's picking up on the same vibe
"No, the one that always makes puppy dog eyes at you."
Barbara waves off the tease and puts her arm through
Bard's. "Oh, Dad, he does not."
"You can't fool your old dad that easy." Jim taps the
side of his nose, and Bard chuckles nervously. "I can
spot 'em a mile off. But you haven't seen him?"
"I don't think he's in town anymore." Barbara shrugs.
"With his kind of money, he's probably off at
Princeton or Yale or something."
"Yeah," Jim says. "Probably."
If Barbara could have gone that far away for college,
if they'd had the money, maybe she'd have stayed out
of Gotham. He loves the city, but it's not safe, and
no matter how hard he tries, it never will be. Bruce
Wayne can afford to get his kid out of town for good.
He's one of the lucky ones.
Barbara even wanted to be a cop for a while. The
thought still makes his skin crawl. At least taking
after Wayne wouldn't put the kid's life in danger.
Jim spots the Mayor in the crowd. "I guess I have to
go." He winks at Bard. "Take care of the prettiest
girl in the room."
"Yes, sir." Bard grins back at him.
"Oh, Dad." Barbara laughs and offers him her cheek to
kiss. "Remember -- shake hands, kiss babies. Not the
other way around."
"Got it." He tosses her a mock salute, nods to Bard
again, and goes to suffer through the obligatory dance
with the Mayor's wife.
There should be more people who question the setup,
but there aren't enough who know what's going on. The
Batman liaison stuff is as quiet as they can make it,
even while it's as obvious as shining a giant light
into the sky. Only a couple people even know that
there's a new Robin -- Bullock, Montoya,
officially-unofficially, and most of MCU in a winking
sort of way -- and they're not saying anything.
Or anyway they don't until Jim takes them out for a
drink after Fries goes back to Arkham, again, and it's
hot rum toddies for everyone. Montoya makes a face at
hers and Bullock punches her in the arm. "What's the
matter, you wanna margarita?"
Montoya rolls her eyes. "Not at all."
Jim gives Harvey a kick under the table. "You make me
think I should go with Internal Affairs'
recommendation for diversity training, Bullock."
"I know from diversity, Commish," Bullock says,
"*Claro*," Montoya says. "You're a prick to
"Exactly." Bullock grins. "It ain't bigoted if it's
And it's not a problem, really, if it's not getting
under his partner's skin, so Jim lets it go. "Good
thing you're not the Commissioner, Bullock."
"I'll drink to that."
"And everything else," Montoya says. "But the
Commissioner didn't just ask us here to watch your
brain cells die, Harvey."
"No," Jim admits, "I didn't. Montoya, you -- well, you
weren't on the force for very long when Robin
She shakes her head. "I'd seen him around -- I mean, I
grew up here -- but never up real close."
"Whoever that kid is," Bullock says, waving one thick
finger, "he ain't Robin."
Jim drinks to have a second more to think. "Except he
"He's a damn streetfighter, Commish." Bullock shakes
his head. "I seen how beat-up Robin left guys -- and
how bad off they are now. He ain't Robin."
"But if Batman says he is," Montoya says, shrugging.
"We can't just say he's wrong. He'd know better than
"Maybe," Jim says.
Bullock shakes his head. "Not about this. I heard that
kid talk. He could be one of them guys he leaves for
dead, if he was dressed a little different. I don't
see how we can trust him."
"Batman trusts him," Renee says. "And we trust Batman.
"Do we have a choice?" Jim asks.
They both look at him like he's supposed to know the
Montoya comes halfway into his office with her notepad
in her hand. "Sorry to bother you, sir, but I'm trying
to figure something out." She jerks her chin toward
"Close the door," Jim says. "What is it?"
"It's been three weeks since I've seen Robin. Is this
kind of hiatus, well, normal?"
Jim shakes his head. "The last time -- well, it was
before this Robin showed up."
Montoya frowns. "So you think maybe he's training a
"I don't know. I just hope this one's all right." Jim
tries to imagine himself asking Batman, flat out, and
what he would have to do if he got a real answer.
"Maybe he went to work with the old one."
"Maybe." Jim taps his fingers. "Have the Teen Titans
Renee makes a note. "I'll check, but I don't really
pay attention to that kind of thing."
"Have you checked into the casualties at crime scenes
where we had Batman's assistance?" Jim asks. "When
this kid came, the grievous bodily harm spiked."
"Yes," Montoya says, and he remembers why she's on his
shortlist, as young as she is. "There hasn't been any
variance, statistically speaking, in the last seven
Jim lets out a breath. "Then maybe we just haven't
seen the kid around."
Montoya gives him a look that he can interpret, even
though he'd rather not -- she knows why he wants to
know, and how much he doesn't want to know. "That's a
"You'll keep an eye on things? Tell me if the
She takes it as the dismissal it is and nods. "Yes,
It's more than a year before there's a Robin on the
roof next to Batman -- a year of trying to figure out
how to ask without compromising everything, and a year
of not asking.
Jim still can't take confirmation of what he knows,
not and accept this new kid without trying to get a
DNA sample so he can find the kid's parents and save
This one's even shorter than the last one. Jim prays
it's not a correlation to his life expectancy.
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