Whatever Happened to the Agent of the Bat?
A Short Story Fan Fiction by BZPower.com member X-Ray
Detective Harvey Bullock chomped on his cigar, as he navigated the halls of the Kane County Medical Examiner’s Office. He had been called to this location in order to examine a body that had been found on the streets following the zombie attack that some were calling the “Blackest Night.” A costumed body. His partner, Detective Josie Mac, walked beside him. As members of the GCPD Major Crimes Unit, it was their job to investigate cases involving the local freaks.
Wonder who this one was, thought the detective. Couldn’t make heads or tails of who it was over the phone, so we had to come all the way down here to make the ID. Let’s hope we have an easy time of it without having to call in the Bat.
“Hello, detectives,” said a woman in a white lab coat who came to greet them. “How may I assist you?”
“Hello, Ms. Fields,” said Josie. She eyed the woman’s plastic left hand. The Joker had shot it off a few years ago around Christmas. Before that, her husband, Detective Charlie Fields, had been killed by Mr. Freeze. But through it all, Nora Fields had endured. She was currently one of the top supervisors at the Medical Examiner’s office, working with Mortimer Gunt on the toughest forensic cases.
“You must be Detective Bullock,” said Fields, extending her hand to shake Bullock’s. “Marcus has told me so much about you.”
“You’re a friend of Driver’s?” said Bullock, taking out his cigar. “Any friend of Marcus’ is a friend of mine, ma’am. Anyhow, we’re here to see a stiff. One of the costumed ones recovered after the zombie attack.”
“Yes, of course,” said Fields, leading the way down the hall. They came to the morgue, entering the dank, cold repository of human bodies. “Over here,” she said, leading the way to one of the body vaults. She took the keys and unlocked it, taking out the slab on which the body rested. “Well, what do you think?”
“Hmm… let’s see,” said Bullock, examining the blackened, skeletonized corpse. It had the symbol of the Black Lantern Corps emblazoned on its chest, and wore a hooded cape. The cape was torn and shredded, tied roughly around the corpse’s neck. A filthy Black Lantern Corps ring still remained rooted onto the body’s finger. But what Bullock noticed the most were the pair of gauntlets that the corpse wore. Gauntlets that had metal blades sticking out of them.
“Josie,” said Bullock. “Get some pictures of this stiff. We’re going to need them when we get back to Central so we can have something to compare it to.”
“What are we comparing it to?” said Josie. “Do you think you recognize something?”
“I’m not a betting man,” said Bullock, continuing to chomp on his cigar, “but I have hunch that we just found the body of Azrael.”
“But Azrael is still alive,” said Josie, frowning. “You and I just closed a case pinning him for the murder of an undercover guy a few months ago.”
“No, not that Azrael,” said Bullock. “I mean the old Azrael.” He turned to Fields, and said to her, “Have you been able to identify who the stiff was?”
“Dental records indicate that the deceased is Jean-Paul Valley,” said Fields. “Do you think that he was Azrael?”
“I don’t know,” said Bullock, turning to leave the morgue. “But I’m gonna find out. Let’s get back to Central, Josie.”
* * *
“You’re absolutely sure?”
“Yes, Batman,” said Commissioner Gordon. He paced the roof, matching Batman’s own striding. The nearby bat-signal illuminated the shadowed night, projecting the image of a bat into the sky above them. “From what we’ve been able to understand, Jean-Paul Valley was a grad student turned drifter, briefly employed as a security guard at Wayne Enterprises.” Gordon stopped, and stared at Batman. “But you already knew that, didn’t you?”
Batman replied, “Yes, I did. Jean-Paul was a colleague of mine, and a friend. He made his share of mistakes when he took over as Batman, but he spent the rest of his life trying to atone for those mistakes. Now that we have a body, he deserves a proper burial. Also, he was hardly a ‘drifter.’ Traveler maybe, but not a drifter.”
Gordon took out his pipe, and breathed out a puff of smoke. “Wayne knew him, right?”
“Right. Your point, Jim?”
“Oh, nothing,” said Gordon, going to turn off the bat-signal. “I suppose I’ll have the body delivered into Wayne’s custody. He appears to be the only relation the guy had.” Gordon turned around, seeing Batman standing silently behind him. As he shut off the bat-signal, he said to him, “Say hi to the kid for me.”
“I will,” said Batman. With that, he turned, fired his grapnel gun, got a latch, and swung off into the night.
Gordon watched as the superhero swung away. He’s a different man now, he thought. Ever since he came back… He walked back to the roof access. Ah, what do I know, the Commissioner thought. Just as well that he’s here at all.
* * *
Batman steadily parked the Batmobile in the usual spot in the Bat bunker under Wayne Tower. “Car door,” he said. The door opened, and he stepped out. Taking off his mask, he went over to the Batcomputer, and sat down. As he began his work, Alfred came up to him, carrying a tray. “Care for dinner, Master Dick? It’s chili.”
“Sure, Alfred,” said Dick Grayson. He pulled up the file on Jean-Paul Valley, studying it intently.
As Alfred looked over Dick’s shoulder, the faithful butler said, “Why the sudden interest in the late Jean-Paul Valley?”
“His body was found by the police,” said Dick, scrolling down to the bottom of the file. “When Jean-Paul died, no body was found, and we were caught up in the midst of the Hush fiasco when it happened. I intend to make sure that he gets a proper burial.”
“A noble proposition, Master Dick,” said Alfred, setting down the tray. “Who will attend?”
“All the usual suspects,” said Dick, arriving at the “Known Associates” section of the file. “Tim, Barbara, Cass if you can find her, Leslie. There’s also this one guy… Brian Bryan. I think he’s still working out of this homeless shelter in the East End. And Helena and Selina too.”
“What about Stephanie and Damian?” said Alfred. “I believe their attendance would serve to enrich them in the history of the Bat-family.”
“Yeah, they’d better come too,” said Dick, closing the file. He turned in his swivel chair, scooting it over to where the chili was. “You’re right, Alfie. It will be good for them.”
* * *
A few days later, the Bat-family had met in the Wayne Manor graveyard. In attendance were Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain, Alfred Pennyworth, Damian Wayne, Stephanie Brown, Helena Bertinelli, Selina Kyle, Leslie Thompkins, and Brian Bryan.
Dick went up to the front of the group, and said, “Welcome, everybody. We are gathered here today to put to rest Jean-Paul Valley, better known to most of you as the first Azrael. His body was found in the midst of the Blackest Night, and now we can have a proper burial for him.” He scanned the crowd, trying his best to read their faces. He knew that some of them, namely Selina, Stephanie, and Damian, had little to no history with Jean-Paul. The others, on the other hand, had known Jean-Paul for nearly his whole time as an active member of the Bat-family, fighting alongside him through No Man’s Land and beyond.
“We didn’t always give him the credit he deserved,” said Dick, “but he always tried to do the right thing, no matter what.” Dick paused, and then said, “Is there anyone who would like to say something?”
A silence washed over the group, as they pondered Dick’s question. Finally, Cassandra came forward, saying, “I would speak.”
Dick relinquished his spot in front of the group to Cassandra, joining the rest of the group. She cleared her throat, and began to speak, saying, “Jean-Paul and I met each other during No Man’s Land. He befriended me, and I him, during the winter months of that period. He used to talk a lot, though I at the time spoke little. He saved my life on one occasion. Jean-Paul was many things. He was a warrior, a scholar, and a hero. But above all, Jean-Paul was a good friend. That’s how I would like him to be remembered.”
A single tear fell down Cassandra’s face as she rejoined the group. Others came up to speak, first Brian, then Tim, then Barbara, and finally, Dick. After they had all spoken, Dick directed the waiting undertakers to lower the coffin into the grave. It’s a full coffin now, he thought ruefully. He noted that Barbara, Brian, and Leslie were also crying. He thought, Jean-Paul, you weren’t able to touch many lives when you were alive, but those that you did, you touched heavily.
He went over to Cassandra Cain, patted her on the shoulder, and said to her, “That was a good speech back there.”
“Thanks, Dick,” said Cassandra, looking over her shoulder. “You were right, you know. Jean-Paul did deserve more credit. I wish I’d been there for him when he died.”
“If you’d been there for him,” said Dick, “I have no doubt that he would have survived. You could take down the B-listers that killed him, easy money.” Dick hugged Cassandra, and said, “But you weren’t there. What’s done is done.”
Cassandra nodded, wiping away her tears with her hand. Then she said, “So, what’s this I hear about a new Azrael in town?”
“Michael Lane? The guy’s a total whackjob. But it’s not his fault though. He needs help from us.”
“Kind of like Jean-Paul?”
“Yes. Kind of like Jean-Paul.”
[font="'trebuchet ms', helvetica, sans-serif;"][color=#008080;]Yeah, so I'm a fan of Jean-Paul Valley's Azrael. I love that guy. Comments and criticism appreciated.[/color][/font]
[font="'trebuchet ms', helvetica, sans-serif;"][color=#008080;] X-Ray [/color][/font]