The city of Gotham is a cesspool of crime, suffering, and injustice. The good people are terrified and the few honest cops left are powerless, until a Dark Knight comes to their rescue... These are...
Aaaaaaaaanyway, the tale we have for you tonight is the first part in a series of short stories which shall be called "Batman: Moonlight", and will feature Batman kicking criminal ass, taking names, saving random people, and generally being the l33t ninja that he is. Each act will feature one or more people getting saved by the Dark Knight from all kinds of peril, from bank robberies to hostage situations to all of the other stuff that criminals do. You might even see some familiar faces down the road, if I feel so inclined as to put them in.
Oh yeah, and here's the disclaimer: I don't own Gotham or Batman or the Batmobile or any of the other neato stuff from Batman Begins. All I own are the plots of each story and the original characters I make up for them.
Now let's get this party started up in here! :D
It was the cold she remembered the most from that night.
It was the kind of sharp, biting cold that could slice through the air and shock one's skin like a battery to the tongue, not merely in the physical sense, but in an abstract way as well-violating, terrifying-at least to her. Of course, to her a simple cold breeze on an autumn night wasn't simply that anymore-it was those icy fingers touching her skin, those chilly, clammy hands grazing and squeezing her thighs, that icicle-that knife-cutting into her skin all over again, every time the cold hit her. It made her shudder every time she thought about it.
In retrospect, the girl supposed she should've seen it coming. She shouldn't have sat at that bus stop all alone, should've taken the train, should've asked Marcie to drive her home, shouldn't have offered to work the evening shift in the first damn place. This was Gotham, after all. But, in her naivetÃ©, the girl thought that the bright lights of the Shell station she worked at would protect her from the demons lurking in the grit, the filth, and the darkness. Plus, the overtime was overwhelmingly tempting. So, at midnight that night, the girl found herself changing places with the poor fool stuck working the graveyard shift and walking out to the bus stop, right out of the gas station's protective bubble of light.
It was the cold that hit the girl first. It was as if the icy breeze had been waiting to pounce the whole time. It certainly felt that way to her. She shivered, cursing her stupidity for wearing a black skirt instead of her slacks as she wrapped her jacket tighter around her small frame. The moonlight came next, but it would only come in short, silver bursts, illuminating the cold concrete and the fluttering trash and the puddles of water on the street. Soft beams of silver light shone through the plumes of steam emanating from the sewers, fading away and coming back when clouds covered the moon. The girl sat down on an old, rickety bench right next to the bus sign, idly regarding the sight in front of her and hoping that the bus would-
As if from nowhere, someone snatched the girl up from behind, one hand covering her mouth, the other yanking her onto her feet by her blonde hair. The girl tried to scream, tried to bite the hand covering her mouth as she was dragged onto the street, but it was no use, the man was too strong. It was all a blur-she heard a deep, rough cry, and in an instant was gasping for breath when something smashed itself into her stomach. The girl was flung by her hair right into someone. It was another man, and this one punched the girl in the face, sending her sprawling out into the street. She whimpered, putting a hand to her face as she struggled to pick herself up. One of the men stomped on the girl's back, causing her to cry out, and a swift kick to her side made her double over in pain. Soon, it was nothing but kicks, nothing but those men and their boots kicking and smashing into her ribs, her back, her legs, stomach, and knees, and the girl could do nothing but writhe and gasp and try to scream whenever she could catch her breath.
Eventually, the brutal beating stopped. The girl's breathing was pained and shallow, as if a knife was stabbing itself into her lungs every time she tried to breathe, and after a failed attempt at screaming she grabbed her side as a sharp, jagged pain jabbed her chest. One of the men grabbed her neck and pulled the girl to her feet, squeezing her throat and bringing her up face-to-face with him.
He was like a tank-well over six feet tall, his whole body covered with thick muscle. Even his neck seemed to bulge. He flashed a crooked, dirty smile as he started to snigger, the smell of alcohol blasting from his throat and into the girl's face with every chortle. The girl weakly turned her head away and saw more men surrounding her, approaching her, each one as hairy, slimy, and dirty as the one choking her now. Her eyes darted to her left and right-there were seven men in all now, and they, like their apparent leader, were snickering and gloating, some of them catcalling and grabbing themselves over their ragged blue jeans. A couple of men had piercings on their lips, nose and eyebrows; others were covered with the most obscene tattoos-blood, barbed wire, laughing skulls. A fat man with a Mohawk had a tattoo of a naked, screaming woman showing through his beer-stained tank top. A wave of disgust shuddered through the girl's stomach.
Her purse had been emptied, of course. The leader dragged the girl across the street and pinned her against the side of a building as one of the other men, a short, big nosed blonde with a goatee and a dirty red baseball cap gleefully ripped open her wallet, spilling her money all over the black pavement. The two pierced men stooped down and grabbed up whatever they could, counting the girl's hard-earned money in their grubby hands. Next was her jacket-the leader took it upon himself to force the girl out of it, first trying to pull off one sleeve and then slamming his victim against the wall when she resisted. Another blast of pain, and the girl submitted, letting the leader toss her jacket to the fat man, who emptied out the pockets, taking her change and bus pass, and then threw the jacket into a pile of broken trash cans and leaking trash bags.
This was it, right? These men-they had her money, her bus pass, everything. They had what they wanted, right? They were going to let her go now, weren't they? But instead of being let go, the girl was helpless as she was carried off further into the alley with the other men coming in closer and closer, reaching out and touching her as they walked. A wave of terror flashed through the girl's mind as each of them put their hands on her shoulders, her arms, and her breasts, their eyes clouded by a lusty haze, a couple of them licking their lips. At that moment, the cold, dizzying realization of what those men truly wanted began to settle in.
Adrenaline surged through the girl's body, and she began her struggle to be free anew. She kicked and clawed and gasped as the leader squeezed her neck harder. One of her white sneakers fell off in the struggle. As the girl was being dragged off into the darkness, all she could see or hear or feel was the blood pumping in her ears and those hands and the spots forming in her eyes and the cold-the chilling, terrifying cold that settled into her stomach and froze her insides to the bone.
The alleyway opened up to a dark parking lot surrounded by crumbling, dilapidated buildings and littered with beer bottles and trash. The moon was cowering behind dark clouds now, leaving the parking lot in total darkness, except for one lone streetlight bathing the ground beneath it in dim, orange light. An old, white, beaten-up station wagon sat underneath the streetlight's glow, and this is where the group was headed, dragging with them their kicking, squirming, annoyingly persistent victim. The girl, who was now being dragged along by her arms by the two pierced men, struggled desperately to get away despite her pain. A moment later, she was slammed down on the station wagon's front hood, her limbs held down by the two pierced men, tears streaming down her pale cheeks. With every painful breath, the girl still tried to struggle and kick as the two men sniggered and jeered, lewdly grabbing her thighs in their attempts to hold her down. Their hands felt like ice, robbing every patch of the girl's skin they touched of heat as they enjoyed their little game of cat-and-mouse with the girl. After a few moments, the leader walked up.
The leader approached the girl until he was right at the edge of the car, between the girl's legs. The girl's eyes widened in horror as the leader flashed a toothy grin.
'Oh no,' she thought. 'This is it...'
The leader pulled a knife out of his back pocket--a small, ingenious little tool that made the leader's grin grow wider, and he bent over the girl until his face was mere millimeters away from touching hers. The girl whimpered and tried to turn her head away, but she was forcefully grabbed by the jaw and turned back to face him. The thick, acidic stench of his alcohol breath blew into the girl's face in full force, causing her to cough, and bringing with it a jarring stab of pain that shot through her chest. The leader held his knife to the girl's face and pressed the blade against her skin, dragging it downwards, watching as a trail of blood dripped down her cheek and joined her tears.
The leader brought the blade underneath the collar of the girl's maroon shirt, and cut slowly down her right sleeve, ripping the fabric until the sleeve was cut through. The blade had nicked the girl's arm, and she could feel the blood trail down her skin. The leader saw the cut and grinned, and again brought the knife to the girl's collar, sniggering at the girl's terrified whimpers as he cut her shirt downward. Inch by inch, second by painful second, he sliced through the fabric until he reached the girl's waistline, and the shirt was cut in half. He peeled the two sides away, exposing the girl's bra and bare stomach.
It was the cold that hit the girl first--an abstract, violating, terrifying cold that permeated her skin and traveled through her bloodstream, chilling her insides.
And it was cold--oh, it was so very cold--when the leader put his hands on the girl's stomach, grazing her skin with his dirty fingernails, moving upwards and grabbing her breasts through her bra. His hands were like icicles, stabbing into her sides with every unwanted touch and pinch. His hands traveled downward, and he took up the knife again, this time to the hemline of her skirt, and he moved the knife upwards, slicing through the delicate fabric. The girl's mind began to fog over, her heart thundered in her chest, and the other four men started to line up behind their leader, one of them unzipping his pants--
There was a flash, a shower of sparks, and the light went out.
For a moment, everyone was confused. The men who lined up started looking around, trying to see in the dark. The two pierced men looked upward, not letting go of their victim. The leader, growing angry, grabbed the girl's thigh and turned around, shaking his fist at his cohorts.
"Goddamnit, Mike, what the hell is going on here?!" the leader shouted angrily. "Mike?! Mike! Answer me, goddamnit!"
But Mike was not there.
Mike--the man with the baseball cap--was absent from his place in the back of the line. The other three squinted in the darkness, trying to seek out their lost cohort--a soft rustle, and the fat man disappeared. The other two men looked at each other, their eyes wide, and backed away from their leader, their eyes darting left and right. One of the men pulled a butterfly knife out of his back pocket and started stabbing it at every silhouette that moved in the darkness. Suddenly, a shadow rushed by and swallowed him up.
The last man backed into the leader, who shoved him aside. The two men holding the girl down, eyes fixated upwards, let up on their hold, inadvertantly allowing the girl a chance to escape... She weakly tried to break loose, and managed to free her arms when the leader noticed what she was doing and forcefully shoved her back onto the hood of the car. The two pierced men backed away, the girl whimpered, and the leader grabbed the girl by her neck, raising his knife to strike--
A shadow flipped down from above and kicked the knife out of the leader's hand.
The next few minutes were nothing but a blur. The shadow kicked the leader in the head, knocking him to the side, and the other three men went on the offensive. Then it was nothing but a whir of punches, kicks, and blood. The last man from the line jumped on the shadow's back, but was soon thrown off and slammed face-first into the concrete. One of the pierced men was next-he was kicked in the stomach, punched in the head and thrown into his brother-in-kind, causing them both to fall to the ground in a sprawling mess. The leader put up a better fight-he swung his fist at the shadow, but cried out as his arm was caught and twisted. The leader tried to kick back, and the two pierced men picked themselves up and charged, sending the shadow to the ground. The leader fell down with the figure, intending to get on top of him and beat him, but the shadow put his foot on the leader's stomach in mid-fall and rolled back, sending the leader flying into the darkness. The shadow kicked one of the pierced men in the back of the knee and jumped back onto his feet, finishing him off with a knee to the face. The other pierced man charged, and was elbowed in the face, punched in the jaw and sent sprawling to the ground.
For long moments, there was nothing but silence in that cold, dark parking lot-silence broken by a soft, pained whimper from the other side of the station wagon.
The girl's head was spinning. She was curled up, leaning against the side of the station wagon, trying to hold her shirt together, trying to stay conscious, trying to hide. She had managed to crawl here in the midst of the confusion and fighting, but she didn't know if those men were still out there, looking for her. By all means, they more than likely were, and if she tried to get away they'd get her, oh they'd get her. A wave of terror flashed through the girl's mind at the very thought of it... she saw something move in the shadows and she gave a terrified whimper, covering her face with her hands.
Moments passed, and the girl sat there, trying not to move an inch, as terrified as a little mouse caught in a trap. By degrees, the moon ventured a peek from behind its curtain of clouds, its silver light brightening up the parking lot a little, and soon the girl stopped covering her face and looked up. There was nothing, just the cracked concrete and the shadows just beyond her vision and the cold, both physical and abstract, brushing past her bloody, tattered clothes and freezing her skin. The girl put a hand on the hood of the car and turned slowly, her vision swirling with her movement. Her body ached terribly as she put her other hand on the hood and braced herself, and she felt every kick and every punch all over again as she tried to push herself upwards. She was standing-but for only a moment, because she wobbled, and her spinning head grew hazy. Her knees buckled, and she tried to hold onto the car to catch herself-
But something caught her.
It was one of those men-it had to be. Icy terror flashed through the girl's mind, and despite her pain she tried to struggle, tried to break free of her assailant's grasp, but his hold on her was too strong. It was those men again, the girl was sure of it, she had foolishly come out of hiding and they had got her again-
"Calm down, calm down. I'm not trying to hurt you. Calm down, calm down..."
That deep, raspy whisper made the girl pause. It was different-different than the other men who attacked her... the girl looked up at whatever was holding her, and it was like looking into the void. A tall, dark silhouette loomed over her, stoic and wraithlike, its hands covering her shoulders in shadow. The only clear thing she could make out was the whites of its eyes. The shadow's very presence seemed overwhelming, overpowering, and below it the girl felt so small, so small...
"Your attackers will not harm you again," the shadow said. It nodded to the right. "Look over there."
It was the cold that hit the girl first. It held her in place, chilled her mind, wouldn't allow her to do a thing. Next was her own terror, her terror at the hands of this shadow, this phantom that held her in its grip, terror that begged her to cry, to scream, to run, to faint, to do something but don't just stand there. By degrees, the girl's head slowly turned, seemingly of its own accord, and she got a big surprise. She gasped, and the moon, now curious, came out in full and started looking as well...
...And illuminated all seven of the men, unconscious, and tied up.
The girl held a hand to her side and started to shiver. Her mind was swimming. She turned to face the shadow, but in the moonlight it wasn't a shadow anymore, it was a masked man, covered in black from head to toe. The girl looked him over, from the pointed ears on the top of his cowl to the bottom of his dark, billowing cape, and when her eyes rested on the symbol on his chest-the symbol of a bat-recognition started to settle in.
She didn't even realize it when she lost consciousness.
The girl didn't remember much after that. She didn't remember Batman keeping her from falling. She didn't remember him racing across the parking lot and down the alleyway with her in his arms. She didn't remember the bright lights of the Shell station, or the flabbergasted look on the graveyard shift worker's face as he saw Batman set her down in the middle of the station and then disappear into the darkness. She didn't remember how the worker spat coffee all over the cash register, or the frantic 9-1-1 call he made, or the ambulance and the police and the rush to the hospital. She didn't remember much of that, in fact, she only found out about some of that stuff in the papers.
The interviews with the police and the counselors and the press were nothing but a blur to her. They wanted to know the details of what happened to her-the finer intricacies, every single detail on the faces of those men who attacked her. They wanted her to point them out in their lineup, which she did. But it was not all that unimportant nonsense that would make the girl shudder in a soft breeze, or make her wake up screaming in the middle of the night. It was not those things that disturbed her dreams and haunted her waking thoughts. No... it was that wraith, that stoic phantom of a man holding her shoulders. It was those icy fingers touching her skin, those chilly, clammy hands grazing and squeezing her thighs. It was that icicle-that knife-cutting into her skin all over again.
And it was the cold she remembered the most.