#12 – Rhythm, Part 1

Cassandra tapped a finger on a steel post as she waited impatiently for her turn. She felt like cattle as she waited in a lane marked by a velvet rope and steel poles much like the one she tapped on, staring at a sign which read ‘Wait here for next teller’. She was next, but it would apparently be a long wait – the man ahead of her asked for something beyond the abilities of the average bank teller, meaning the manager had to be called.

She began to feel a little conspicuous as she stood in line in her black long-sleeved shirt and blue jeans. Everyone else in the bank, the customer in front of her included, wore dark suits and formal wear. Sighing to herself, she wondered why Bruce sent her to the bank – it was just…strange for her to be standing there, thousands of dollars in cash to be deposited encased in a small leather pouch dangling almost carelessly from her left hand.

If anything, she guessed, it was an excersize in trust. Bruce simply handed her the pouch without hesitation, and sent her to the bank – totally secure in the knowledge that she would indeed be able to take it there with almost no risk to herself or the cash. He knew that no one would be able to successfully take it from her by force.

As she leaned against the steel pole, using her foot against the base for leverage, she felt both confident and bored. Bruce gave her an easy task, one that would take no effort to complete – once the man in front of her left – but she also felt that she had been given a task which fell short of her abilities.

Cassandra suddenly felt the heat of anger fill her as she watched a man in jeans and a dark jacket walk right past her, cutting ahead of her in line. She was just about to protest…but something didn’t feel right. He was much too focused as he approached the counter, not bored as she was. It seemed like he had a specific task in mind. She was a little surprised when she realized that none of the bank’s employees seemed to notice.

The man in the jacket walked straight up to the counter, whispering something to the teller softly as he hovered his hand over one of the jacket pockets. The teller turned pale, and the customer she worked with took a couple of steps back. It was a robbery.

Cassandra knew that something was seriously wrong by now – but she decided to remain casual, and pretend to be ignorant of what was happening. She continued leaning back against the pole as she eyed the pocket the man indicated to a moment earlier – it seemed weighted, as if there were something heavy in there…possibly a gun.

The customer wearing the suit was slinking toward the exit – a bad move when someone was attempting to rob the bank. The teller made the mistake of raising her eyes to look at the man as she loaded the cash from her drawer into a bag the robber brought with him. The robber quickly drew his gun, pointing it at the man trying to make a slow but sure exit.

He ran for the door once he saw the gun, another stupid move. Cassandra flinched as the ear-shattering sound of the robber’s gun firing echoed through the mostly silent bank. He missed – glass shards began crashing to the floor from one of the large outside windows as it collapsed from the impact of the bullet.

The suited man almost made it. He could have raced to his car, driven far away, and forgot about the robbery – and the robber would never have hit him with such horrible aim. But instead, he panicked as he watched the glass shatter next to him, and slowly shuffled back into the bank, hands raised.

“On your knees”, the robber ordered. He looked at Cassandra, who simply gave him a hollow look. He turned away from her, thinking her not to be any threat to his plans. He snatched the bag of cash, and turned toward the exit, suddenly pausing as he noticed Cassandra now standing in front of him silently.

“Out of my way”, he growled.

Cassandra smiled softly as she took two slow steps back. As the robber approached her, prepared to shove her aside, he found his feet tangled on one of her sneakers – and promptly fell flat on his face, dropping the gun to the floor next to him.

He rose quickly, anger rising within him as he heard the teller and suit-wearing customer snickering. He reached for his gun…but it was gone – and standing several feet away was the young woman who tripped him, casually holding the gun at her side. “Give me that, kid.”

Cassandra’s condescending laugh only made things worse. The man stood on his feet, and started walking toward her quickly.

“I’m going to take that gun, and then I’m going to shoot you.”

As he started walking toward her more quickly, she began backing away until she reached the glass wall of the bank. There was nowhere else to go. She slowly raised the gun, pointing it toward him as a warning. She really didn’t want to fight him, and risk giving herself away.

He laughed at the sight of her raising the gun, lunging at her for his own amusement. “What are you going to do, shoot me?”

As Cassandra watched the man’s amused expression, she imagined him reaching out to grab her by the throat, and shake her. She felt so small, so fragile as he yelled at her with enough alcohol on his bad smelling breath to intoxicate her. He shook her, and shook her…then carried her to her room to seal her in, as if it were a vault, for what would seem like days. Alone.

No more.

The sound of a gun firing once again filled the near silent bank. In front of Cassandra stood a man devoid of his formerly jovial mood. Blood streamed from the center of his chest, tricking down like a thick, red waterfall to the floor. His eyes registered surprise at being beaten by her…then fear as he felt the pain of his life slipping away.

He suddenly collapsed to the floor as silence once again filled the bank. Then a loud clack as the gun slipped from Cassandra’s hand to a spot next to the man’s head, followed by the leather pouch she held in her other hand. She looked at the teller and the customer who was in the bank – they both stared at her in shock.

“Oh my God”, Cassandra whispered softly. She had the strongest urge to run from the bank…to run away, never to be seen again by anyone. But she couldn’t – part of her new life was a new level of responsibility. It was something she hated, but she could no longer escape. She would face her fears, and be a better person for it…or so she hoped.
“What do you think?”

Barbara Gordon dismissed the question from Tim as she sat in her wheelchair in the doorway of what was once an entrance between a hallway and a room in someone’s home. Cassandra’s home, to be exact, before a fire reduced all of the walls and floors to ash.

The room was empty, covered in soot. But the one thing that made it unique was the window, which Tim, as Robin, broke while helping Batman rescue Cassandra from the fire.

The house had been boarded up and placed on the market for sale long ago. Its interior remained a time capsule, a window into a moment in time which remained a mystery to all but its sole survivor…Cassandra.

“I think this place could use a coat of paint.” Barbara smiled as she noticed Tim frown in response. She could tell he was trained by Bruce – always dead serious when investigating something.

“No, I meant–”

Ignoring Tim again, Barbara began tracing small lines etched into the darkened ceiling above. She remembered that the lines were layers of soot deposited by the flames, and would lead to their source. It would be an excellent way to estimate where the original fire was set.

She suddenly paused as the etch marks ran down a wall inside another bedroom. They all seemed to point to one corner…where a hole had burned through the carpeting and the underlying hardwood floorboards. She glanced around the room, noticing a bathroom off of the back corner. This was the master bedroom.

Barbara closed her eyes, trying to imagine a queen sized bed under the blinds-covered window opposite the door, and furniture lining the walls. The only source of light was from an alarm clock next to the left side of the bed.

A young woman stepped through the doorway, her path lit by flame. In her hand, a home-made torch of wood, cloth, and gasoline. Her angry frown lit from below by an orange-red flickering glow, and her eyes show pain from years of either abuse or neglect…as well as a certain sadness. Her life as she knows it was about to come to an end…and she was willing, if only to put an end to theirs as well.

The young woman eyed the bed, making sure that the two adults peacefully sleeping didn’t see her. There would be no escape once the fire began spreading. She dropped the torch to the floor, right next to the doorway, walking backwards slowly as she watched the flames spread. Burn. Burn, and never harm anyone again.

Barbara cringed as she opened her eyes suddenly. It was helpful to try and think like the suspect, but it was sometimes frightening as well. She looked down at her hands as she tried to calm herself – they were shaking. She could still feel the young woman’s anger.

“You okay, Barbara?”

“I was just daydreaming.” She smiled and nodded at Tim as she backed her wheelchair into the hallway and headed back toward Cassandra’s former bedroom. “Once the fire was set, she ran this way. This carpet started to burn quickly, so she probably barely made it to her room…and slammed the door shut behind her.”

Barbara rolled into the room and spun around to face Tim. “She was in here, scared…as smoke started to pour in around the doorway. She was next to the window because–”

“–Her bed was here”, Tim interrupted. I remember. It was right next to the window, and it was starting to burn. It flared up when I broke the window.”

“Hmm.” Barbara rolled over to the window to look at the window frame. It had nails in it. “It looks like she couldn’t get out. Her parents must have nailed all of the windows shut…which is why they didn’t escape, either.”

“Or maybe she did.”

“No.” Barbara shook her head as she spun around again. “She didn’t plan this. It doesn’t fit. This was a spur of the moment thing, probably right after she’d been punished somehow…”

“–yes, punished, young lady!” A tall man towered over a young, dark haired teenager. She looked at the floor, carefully avoiding his gaze.

Minutes earlier, the police had come knocking at the door. They were pulling the teen closely behind them in handcuffs. They calmly explained that she had been caught inside the a fenced-in garden at the park. She didn’t resist when they attempted to remove her…which is why they took her home instead of arresting her.

“But…I just went in to take some litter that–”

“I don’t want to hear your whiny excuses, Cassandra!” The tall man snatched a handful of her hair, pulling her down the hallway toward her bedroom. She could smell the alcohol on his breath…again…as he kicked open the door and threw her clear across the room, face first onto the bed.

She looked up to see a wild, crazed look in his eyes as he began shaking his index finger at her, his entire body trembling with anger. He reached for a heavy book sitting on a chest next to the doorway – a large bible – and threw it at her as hard as he could. She ducked, and cringed as it hit the top of her head faster then she could avoid it.

“You must repent, Cassandra! You must pray now, before your sins doom this entire family to the fires of hell!” He walked closer to Cassandra, angrily yanking the bible off of her bed and opening it to a bookmarked page. “You will be consumed in the eternal flames, Cassandra! Is that what you want? Huh?”

“Yes.” Cassandra gave her father a devilish smile as she slowly rose to her feet atop the bed. She watched him switch from anger to horror as she took the bible from his hands and threw it into the hallway.

As he began backing toward the door, she stared at him steadily, keeping her smile as she walked toward him. “I want the fires. I want them to burn us all.”


“…And then he must have slapped her or something. Or maybe locked her in the room…I can’t be sure. All I know is, there was a burned out bible still lying in the hallway.”

Bruce rubbed his chin slowly as he sat in his office chair, watching Barbara Gordon lean against one arm of her wheelchair as he considered the scenario that she came up with. Tim sat backwards in one of the office’s guest chairs, looking from Bruce to Barbara and then back, but remaining silent.

“I find it hard to understand how she can kill her parents simply because they weren’t caring enough.” Bruce stood and paced around the room once before finally leaning against his desk. “There has to be another ingredient in this.”

“There is.” Barbara rolled closer to Bruce’s desk, prompting Tim to lean in closer as well. “I don’t think she tried to kill them. I think she just wanted to scare them.”

Bruce nodded. “Go on.”

“You see, Cassandra has this fascination for danger, and dangerous things. She plays with fire, defies gravity, and takes on deadly criminals without much thought.”

“And she’s good at it, too”, Tim interrupted. He shrugged and placed his chin on the back of the chair when Bruce and Barbara stared at him.

“Tim has a point”, Barbara continued, “She is good at it. And that gives her power over those who fear the danger she toys with. I think she meant to scare her parents with a little fire and brimstone of her own…but it got out of control.”

“So she’s seriously disturbed”, Tim interrupted again, “But only dangerous to people who fear her?”

Barbara smiled and looked at Bruce. Just as she guessed, he seemed entertained by that idea – it made her just a little more like him. “In a way, yes. But she also needs to learn that the dangers she toys with can hurt her, as well. I don’t want to wait until tragety strikes for her to understand that.”

“She has already injured herself on several occasions.” Bruce returned to his desk chair and leaned back. “Yet it doesn’t even slow her down. She’s still extremely reckless. It’s putting both of us in danger.”

“I wouldn’t say that.” Tim sat up and stared coldly at Bruce. He took Bruce’s comments a little personally. “Cassandra did everything she could to protect me on that last mission, Bruce. She wanted me to return home safely. She made sure I would. Cassandra only puts herself in danger.”

“Then tell me, Tim”, Bruce said in a low voice, without even reacting to Tim’s stare, “Why did she go back into a burning building?”

“Because she wanted to make sure you were all right, Bruce.” Tim stood and shoved the chair aside, stepping forward to lean on Bruce’s desk. “She cares about you, like it or not. She doesn’t want you or anyone else hurt.”

“Explain to me then, Tim–” Bruce leaned forward on his desk, his eyes glossing over with his cold, Batman persona. “How our compassionate Cassandra beat a man to death with her bare hands.”

Tim angrily tore a small halogen lamp off of Bruce’s desk, and hurled it across the room hard enough for it to smash against the wood-paneled wall. He stormed all the way to the door, hand perched on its edge, prepared to slam it shut behind him. “Cassandra killed to protect me! Or maybe you would prefer if I was dead…so you can be right once again!”

Barbara cringed at the sound of the office door slamming hard enough to pressurize the air in the room for a moment. She gave Bruce a look of pity as he sighed and leaned back in his chair again. She knew that he prized control over all else – something that he was losing rapidly. But control was always an illusion – her wheelchair was a daily reminder of that.

“Bruce…you have to admit, the two of them made an excellent team. They improvised, and made it through that last mission without a single scratch.”

Barbara rolled closer to Bruce’s desk, noting that he seemed a little sad. It meant that she was getting through to him. “And it was a rough mission. You and I both know that. They went in blind, and came out intact.”

“I know that, Barbara…And I do appreciate it.” Bruce took a deep breath and rubbed his eyes. His office was getting darker, it was almost time to go to the Bat Cave. “I just worry about Cassandra. She’s not Supergirl…she can’t afford to be so protective.”

“When I first hit the streets, Bruce, I didn’t know my limits. So I was always cautious. And you know what?” Barbara quickly lifted herself out of her wheelchair with her arms and slid onto Bruce’s desk. She looked a little sad as she leaned across the desk to face Bruce. “It took confinement to a wheelchair for me to learn my limits.”

“I want Cassandra to learn her limits on her own”, Barbara continued as she turned away from Bruce. Her eyes were beginning to tear. “So she’ll never end up…like me.”
Cassandra silently closed the door to Bruce’s office as she watched him hand a tissue to Barbara. Not another word was spoken in the office, even as Cassandra turned and headed back toward her room. She would have left her listening spot behind the office’s door on her own eventually…but as she watched Bruce quietly hand Barbara that tissue, it suddenly didn’t seem appropriate to spy on the conversation any longer.

She paused suddenly along the way back to her room as she spotted Tim, sitting on a bench, leaned forward and staring out of one of the giant hallway windows at the pouring rain outside. He didn’t look happy, either.

“Hey.” Cassandra sat sideways on the bench, facing Tim. He didn’t respond. “I love rain.”

“Cassandra…do you enjoy killing?”

She laughed at first, thinking that Tim was joking. But then she frowned as she realized from his steady stare that he was absolutely serious. “N-No.”

“Frankly–” Tim turned away from her again, bowing his head as he looked out the window. “After what happened on that last mission…I watched you beat a man to death, Cassandra. It was one of the most painful things I’ve seen in my life. I’m…a little afraid of you, of what you’re becoming. But I’m also afraid for you. I can see Bruce killing, but for you…it just seems…wrong.”

“I’m sorry.” Cassandra continued looking straight at Tim as she spoke, exhibiting confidence…yet her eyes betrayed the feelings trapped behind them as her memory rushed back to the image of blood covering her gloved hands and costume. She visibly cringed as she remembered the feeling of panic when she saw the man’s body grow still in her hands. “I…I’m afraid too.”

“You’re afraid you’ll kill someone?”

A slow nod from Cassandra caused Tim to place one hand on her shoulder. She bowed her head and looked away from him, as if she were confessing to him a crime of weakness. Bruce disliked weaknesses – she assumed that his protegee would be the same way.

But she guessed wrong. Tim reached out and placed his other hand under her chin, turning her head to face him. His eyes looked serious as she stared into them. “I am too, Cassandra. It’s not unusual to be afraid of killing someone in this line of work. Even cops are afraid of that.”

“No. It’s…different.” Cassandra slid to the other end of the bench, away from Tim and took a deep breath as she looked away again. “I…lost control. I was angry, I just kept hitting him. He begged, but I didn’t hear.”

Tim opened his mouth for a moment to say something – but he couldn’t put together the words to respond. His eyes registered surprise as his memory recalled what he had seen in the lobby. The foreign assassin did indeed beg for his life. And Cassandra did keep hitting him…until he died.

“The good news, Cassandra–“, Tim said slowly, “Is that you know what happened. If you understand what happened, you can fix it.”

Cassandra was giving Tim only half her attention. The rest was focused on the fact that the sun had set, and darkness was about to descend on Gotham City. She nodded once to acknowledge that she heard what Tim said, and stood up slowly, offering a hand to Tim. “It’s time.”
“Excuse me?” A woman sitting on a bench in a Gotham City park looked up from her book momentarily to see who stood in front of her. She gasped out loud as she realized who it was – pasty white face, green hair, and purple jacket…

“I asked you, madam, if you had the time.” Joker leaned closer to the woman, hands behind his back. “You see, my watch seems to have come unwound.”

To punctuate his words, Joker’s watch suddenly blew apart, sending random metallic springs in the woman’s direction. She screamed and dropped her book before falling off of the bench, and then running as fast as she could across the park. Joker laughed to himself and shook his head. “I don’t understand. Who can resist a spring through the park?”

Joker began laughing out loud, as two men in purple jump suits approached him from behind, doing their best to humor him with laughs of their own as they carried two large steel boxes by their top-mounted handles to spots next to the bench. They quickly opened the boxes, and began removing metal and plastic parts.

“What’s this, boss?” One of the two finally had the courage to pipe up. Considering that Joker had just hired them off the streets an hour earlier, it was a brave gesture. “Looks like a satellite dish. We watching TV?”

The second man cringed as the crack of a gun going off broke the silence in the park. The first man collapsed, a red stain forming on his purple jump suit. A hole was left through both the front and back of his clothing…and Joker began laughing.

“Ask a stupid question.” Joker laughed as he blew on the smoke trail drifting out of the revolver he held in his hand.

“You…You killed him”, the second man stuttered.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Joker leveled the gun at the second man’s head, laughter quickly breaking through the mock sympathy in his voice, the man began to tremble in fear. “You two were a matching pair, weren’t you?”

The words ‘Please, no!’ drifted skyward into the darkness, just before another loud crack tore through the park. As the second man lay on the ground, his head shattered into several pieces by the overly-powerful ammunition Joker insisted on using, Joker simply left the boxes behind and began walking down the street, humming a happy tune to himself.
“Working late?” The lobby security guard at the headquarters of Wayne Enterprises nodded at a man in a suit, hat, gloves, and overcoat. He didn’t recognize the man, but since he wore an expensive suit, and was leaving the building, he couldn’t be much trouble. Though it did bother him a little that he couldn’t see the man’s face – his collar was turned up. “Sign out, please.”

The man approached the desk in the lobby, snatching the pen almost angrily from the guard’s hand and scribbling something in the log book. Without a word, he dropped the pen onto the desk, turning to leave quickly.

“Robert, huh? Mind telling me where you work?”

He turned around slowly and dug in the pocket of his overcoat for a moment, pulling out a shiny silver colored object, shoving it in the security guard’s face. “I’m a police officer. I’m looking for a young woman named Cassandra. She came here with Bruce Wayne a few times. Where does she live?”

The security guard narrowed his eyes. He was starting to become a little suspicious. “Police officer? Let me see some I.D.”

Robert slipped a business card out of the pocket of his overcoat and handed it to the security guard. It said ‘Det. Robert James.’ “Call my supervisor. He knows who I am.”

“At this time of the night? No one will be there.” The security guard sat down and looked at the log book again. “Look…this Cassandra you’re looking for is a close personal friend of Mr. Wayne’s. You can’t just walk in here and ask where she lives.”

The security guard suddenly screamed in pain as Robert grabbed a handful of his hair and slammed his head against the desk twice. “You will tell me…or you will die. Do you understand? You have a family, right?”

The security guard nodded quickly as Robert produced an automatic pistol and jammed it under his nose. He closed his eyes and began sobbing, and begging incoherently for his life. “Please…I–”

“That’s not the answer I was looking for!” Robert slammed the guard’s head against the edge of the solid wood desk again, causing his forehead to split open and begin spilling blood down his face.

“She lives at Wayne Manor! Really! Please, don’t kill me!”

“I won’t kill you. I promise.” Robert turned the gun around in his gloved hands, squeezing the handle into one of the security guard’s hand’s tightly. He turned the barrel of the gun toward the guard’s nose. “But I won’t stop you from killing yourself.”

He began laughing as he turned quickly and walked toward the doors of the lobby. The security guard wanted so badly to shoot him in the back, to do anything to stop him…but he couldn’t. He was simply paralyzed with fear.

The gun fell to the ground as the security guard began sobbing. Since his first day as a security guard with Wayne Enterprises, he thought he had a nice, quiet job with a pension. He would never get that pension…the next morning, he would turn in his resignation.
“I could never even think about quitting.” Tim, already fully in costume, leaned against the left fender of the Batmobile as he and Cassandra quietly waited for Bruce to finish looking up some information on his computer. Cassandra wore most of her costume, with the exception of the mask. She was lying on the hood of the car, staring up at the cave ceiling above, admiring the many ridges and features formed of solid rock.

“I know Dick sort of quit”, Tim rambled on, “But he didn’t really. He’s still doing this too, just with another name and costume.”


Tim turned around to face Cassandra, the soft sound she made convincing him that she wasn’t paying attention to anything he just said. He frowned as he noticed her lying on the extremely steep hood of the Batmobile. “How do you do that without sliding off?”

Cassandra shrugged, smiling in response to Tim’s question. She didn’t take her eyes off of the ceiling. The patterns in the rock were just mesmerizing. Some rocks were cut, some left natural. But the patterns the process of creating the Bat Cave left behind were accidental artwork in their own right.

She guessed that the cave was originally filled with water, hundreds of years ago – a relentless force which relentlessly chipped away and smoothed the rocks for decades until a cavern formed. She wondered if the water might return one day, only to eat away at all of Bruce’s valuable property and equipment.

“Let’s go.”

Watching Batman walk past her quickly toward the driver’s side of the car, Cassandra carefully rolled of off of the hood of the car and climbed into the back through the passenger side. Cramped as it was, the poor excuse for a back seat was where she liked to be. While she sat back there, she went virtually unnoticed by either Batman or Robin. She even remembered taking a short nap or two.

But not today. Their destination was only minutes away, and a rather unusual location – they stopped in the alley behind a hospital. Cassandra quickly put on her mask and tapped Robin’s shoulder, turning her palms up to silently ask him what was going on. He just shrugged.

“Robin, you’re with me. Batgirl, get to the roof…keep an eye out. And stay out of sight.”

Batgirl silently fumed about being left as a lookout as she watched Batman and Robin slip through a side entrance into the hospital. Now she would never know what was going on. But as she used a cable launcher to ascend quickly up the side of the building, and felt the cool rain on her face, she knew that she had the better part of the deal.

She quickly attached the cable launcher to her belt and gripped the edge of the roof with her gloved hands. Cable still attached, she pulled herself onto the slick gravel and tar roof, unwinding the cable from a small steel vent and reeling it back into the launcher.

As soon as she paused for a moment, she noticed a maintenance worker on the roof pointing a flashlight down a large vent at the other end of the roof. She didn’t even breathe for several seconds, until she was sure that he didn’t spot her. She felt relieved when she realized that he not only didn’t see her, but that the vent contained a rather loud air conditioning compressor. He wouldn’t hear her even if she stomped across the roof.

A quick dash toward a small shed and a carefully executed standing slide across part of the rain-slicked roof gave Batgirl some shelter, just in case the maintenance man decided to take a look around the roof. She slipped into the shed and closed the door behind her quickly, using a grated vent at the top of the shed to keep an eye on the man. She wondered when he would leave – but he just stood there, looking at that compressor.

She sighed and sat down on a discarded stool, leaning back against the shed’s steel wall as she began listening to the soothing sound of the raindrops hitting the steel roof above her head. The sound made her feel happy, contented. She was on her own once again, free to enjoy the environment around her. And most important, the fact that it was raining harder meant the maintenance guy would probably retreat back into the building, leaving the roof to her.

Or would he?

Batgirl sat up suddenly as she heard a faint sound just outside the shed. She silently rose from the stool, moving as far into a dark corner as she could. Another sound, still faint, but this time closer. Her heart began beating quickly as she reached down and picked up the stool, holding is as a shield, or maybe a weapon, in from of her.

The door to the shed creaked, and began opening slowly. As soon as it partially opened, a shadow of a man moved partway inside. Batgirl slammed the stool into the shadow, hearing the breath rush out of the man’s lungs from the impact. She spun around quickly, landing her boot on the side of his head, knocking him to the ground.

She raced out of the shed, intent on putting as much distance as possible between her and the man she had just knocked down. But her plans were cut short as she slammed into…Batman?

Batgirl turned her head quickly as she watched Robin stumble out of the shed, holding onto the side of his head and groaning softly. She rushed over to his side, propping one arm across her shoulders. “I’m so sorry”, she whispered. Robin just waved her apology away, and smiled at her.

As soon as the trio returned to the Bat Cave, Cassandra removed her mask and raced to a small freezer to fetch an ice pack. She offered it to Robin – he refused it at first, but relented when she became insistent. Neither one of them noticed when Bruce returned out of costume and stood imposingly in front of them. He didn’t look happy.

“Cassandra, you need to improve your recognition skills. And Tim…she wouldn’t have even heard you coming if you hadn’t made so much noise.”

Cassandra suddenly remembered why, while hearing the sounds from the shed, she assumed it was the maintenance man – she noticed, while the man looked at that air conditioning compressor, that he was fairly large. The sound she heard was a faint creaking caused by rubber boots rubbing against a rain-slicked tar roof – boots worn by someone big.

She smiled and shook her head at Bruce. “He’s lighter. I heard you.”

Tim wanted to gloat, to point out that Cassandra was right. But an icy glare from Bruce put an end to any such thoughts.

“I’m glad you’ve all returned.” Alfred walked into the Bat Cave carrying a small package wrapped in thin paper. They were some sort of flowers – tulips, to be exact. “A package was delivered while you were gone.”

“Looks like you have a secret admirer, Bruce.” Tim smiled and nudged him. He responded with a sly smile of his own.

“No, Master Tim. This package was addressed to…Cassandra.”

“Cassandra?” Tim and Bruce both spoke her name at once, as they turned to stare at her in confusion. She barely even left the house except with one of the two, or Barbara. A mysterious stranger sending her flowers was inconceivable.

As she gently took the package of white tulips from Alfred, she searched them quickly, only to find that no card or return address was attached. They were just flowers, from someone she didn’t know…

…And that thought terrified her.



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