Oversung Hero, part 4

by Chicago

Disclaimers and other information in "part 0"

Crystal slumped onto the couch and turned on the TV to flip numbly through the channels. She had gotten home from her third shift in just enough time to see Stephanie out the door for school, and she really should sleep, but the weight of work still tensed through her frame and she just needed to relax.

She held the remote in her left hand, resting on the couch beside her as she moved only enough to press the channel button. She missed cable; even in a city the size of Gotham, there weren't enough free channel to cycle through during commercial breaks. Then there was the issue of what she wanted to look at: seizure-inducing cartoons or too perky "news" anchors. And infomercials, of course. There always seemed to be at least two channels that only ever showed weight-loss gimmicks or get rich quick schemes. She found herself staring at a some juice making gizmo in glassy eyed exhaustion for almost five minutes before she shook herself and managed to reengage her channel flipping finger.

She should watch the news, she decided, opting for the locally produced morning show rather than the nauseating sameness of the national shows. At least the local crew sounded like people she knew and would be subject to the same weather conditions. New York City wasn't that far away, but she hated seeing the sun shining on Sunrise, America! when it was foggy and dank in Gotham.

She rested her head back against the couch, letting the morning news chatter lull her deeper into a stupor. She was in danger of falling asleep where she sat, but she knew what would happen if she went upstairs and lay down. Then her mind would start whirling in the silence; what should she do about Stephanie?

"... this hour, the manhunt for billionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne's attacker..."

Crystal's head snapped up, and she increased the volume.

"... comes to an end. Former lieutenant governor Cary Marcus denies allegations that he forced employees to solicit campaign funds on state time, and Gotham Zoo's own Willow the bear is expecting twins. Details after the break."

Crystal stared at the television as the screen cut to a view of downtown before fading to commercial, and she lowered the volume a little as a coffee ad percolated in front of her. The manhunt had come to an end? Had they caught the guy? Where? When? Would Stephanie be forced to make an ID? Her heart was racing as she waited through ads for luxury cars and breakfast cereal.

Finally the news came back, and an appropriately somber-faced anchor explained: "The badly fish-eaten body of a John Doe found in the Gotham Estuary early this morning is believed to be the remains of an unidentified man who attacked billionaire Bruce Wayne last Friday. Authorities made their determination from clothes and the knife strapped to the belt of the corpse. WGTM's own Serena Polanco is live outside the medical examiner's office with more details. Serena?"

"Thanks, Roque. The police still do not have a name to attach to the body they fished out of the estuary this morning, but Commissioner Akins expressed 98% confidence that whoever he else is, he is definitely the man who stabbed Bruce Wayne last week..."

Crystal brought a hand to her chest and drew a couple of deep breaths. 98% certain. That was a CYA figure - the commissioner knew who he had. She was almost angry they hadn't called and told her, relieved the nagging worry that had plagued her ever since she had claimed her daughter from police headquarters that Wayne's assailant would come after Steph. A more rational corner of her mind remembered how the police had been reassuring and present, and that they were probably dealing with breaking news, and she still wasn't sure Steph had turned the ringer back on on the phone. They might even have called and talked to Steph, although surely Stephanie would have said something.

Or maybe not.

They didn't talk enough. Crystal had been trying to do better, trying to find more time since Steph had gotten pregnant. And it had been better for a while. But then there had been the quake and Arthur had gotten out of jail and the Cluemaster had been back in business and there were all the fights about the costume. And then Arthur had died. Been killed. Whatever. He was gone.

Crystal didn't want her daughter to die the same way.

She thought back to the conversation with Bruce Wayne. He hadn't been at all what she had expected. Well, in some ways he had been exactly what she had expected, but what he said about raising kids made sense. He was right, the harder she tried to control Stephanie, the sneakier she became in her defiance and her disobedience. And even though Steph had been contrite almost to the point of being a different child since the incident as Spoiler, Crystal knew better than to believe in new leaves. She'd turned over enough herself, enough to know that vowing to quit anything didn't mean a damned thing unless it was something a person was genuinely doing for herself.

Stephanie might not have wanted to go against her mother's wishes, but when she saw Bruce Wayne in danger, she was compelled. That wouldn't change.

Crystal turned off the television and pushed herself onto her feet. She headed upstairs, but not to bed. No, she needed to get a business card that she had tossed on her nightstand two days ago, thinking she would never call.

It was time to find out what Bruce Wayne was talking about when he suggested internships.

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