A series of high pitched screams follow Zsasz's cold voice. Hurried mumbles reach Jim’s ears but he can’t make out what the victim is trying to say. The next moment, a shot rings out through the room and Zsasz is opening the door Jim stands guarding.
Blood has splattered across the left side of his face, some thicker drops creating small rivulets down his throat. They disappear below his Mandarin collar.
Jim swallows the disgust down and pushes away any thoughts of quitting this investigation. With Oswald being watched by Trish once more, he and Victor are on their search for the kidnappers.
“Did he say anything?” The detective asks, hoping the murder he just allowed was worthwhile.
“Yep. There’s a gang down in the Narrows who knew the kidnappers. We should pay them a visit.”
“What about the body?”
“Leave it. The cops will blame it on a turf fight or something.” Jim frowns, and Victor chuckles at the stern expression. “Well, the other cops. Let's go.”
Without another word, Victor is heading down the stairs and towards his car. They agreed that any evidence of Jim’s involvement should be avoided, therefore he was forced to leave his badge behind.
Jim follows obediently. Arguing with Victor proved fruitless when the hitman clearly had no intention of letting Jim run the investigation. For now, he'll let Zsasz take point just because his reputation. The criminals are more afraid of Zsasz than Gordon.
The drive to the Narrows is pretty quick. Victor knows all the shortcuts and his driving is rather reckless and way above the speed limit. Jim doesn’t even bother to ask him to drive slower. He’s just as bad, according to Harvey.
Speaking of Harvey, the senior detective hasn’t sent a single text or call. He won’t apologise, Jim thinks solemnly.
The anger has dissipated in the last two hours but his own bitter words still sting his memory. He shouldn’t have said those things to Harvey, but in the moment it had felt good and liberating. Harvey is always saying those things about Penguin, but so does Jim. He’s just a giant hypocrite.
“We’re here. Once we're in, let me talk. I’ve worked closely with Falcone’s gangs.” Victor informs, cutting the engine after parking the car behind a pile of metal junk in a way that allows them to drive away quickly if things go south. His face is clear and clean, but still a few smears stain his neck.
“Alright. You’re in charge here.”
“I can’t believe you’re doing this with me.”
“I want revenge too.” Victor gives him an odd look, but shrugs off the strange statement. He isn’t used to the detective admitting such things.
“Glad you’re on my side.”
The derelict slum doesn’t appear to be heavily fortified. Two older men stand at the entrance, each armed with a pistol but no protection. They reach for their weapons as soon as Zsasz steps into sight.
“The fuck do you want, Zsasz?” One asks in a typical, gruff voice. He eyes Gordon with disdain too.
“It’s always a pleasure, Maxwell. Don’t worry, this doesn’t concern you. I just want a little chat with your boss.” Victor purrs in that cold, menacing tone he only uses when he needs co-operation.
The goon scoffs and holsters his gun, stepping aside to open the door. “Fine.”
“Thank you. Oh, and give my love to your daughter. I’m very proud of her graduation speech.” The assassin adds with a toothy grin and predatory gaze as he steps past the fuming man and waits for Jim to follow.
A large paw of a hand pushes firmly against the detective’s chest to keep him from entering.
“Not you,” Maxwell huffs.
“He’s cool. Don’t worry about him.” Victor interjects, noting the hostility growing within the group.
“Don’t care. He stays here with us.”
Zsasz turns to Jim, apologetically, and shrugs. He disappears into the building without another word, leaving Jim chuckling nervously at the two men moving forward threateningly.
Five men have gathered around a table, throwing down cards and swears as they argue and cheer. Rap blares from the stolen stereo system, muting Zsasz's footsteps down into the messy, crowded hideout.
He waits in the shadows for a moment, looking for any weapons or more men. But there’s only two rooms down here: the main one and a small bathroom. Once he’s scoped out the room, he steps out into the light.
A scurry of chairs and raised weapons follow his greeting and Victor is faced with three guns, a switchblade and a crowbar. Nothing he can’t handle on his own.
“Now, now. I come in peace.”
“What do you want?!” The leader spits, keeping the barrel of his S&W pistol trained on Zsasz.
The hitman scoffs and steps forwards fearlessly. He glides past each member and takes a seat on top of the table, planting his boots on the seat and backrest of a chair, tipping it forwards and backwards.
“Well, you see, I need some information. Yesterday, a handful of very unfortunate people decided to shoot up my boss’s house. Now that itself isn’t too bad. My boys took care of the shooters and that was that.
“My problem is that somebody decided it would be a good idea to kidnap the Penguin and THINK that they could possibly get away with that!”
The room falls silent after Zsasz's outburst and some of the men share nervous glances.
“Of course,” Victor continues, “I’m certain that you delightful people aren’t to blame for that little idea. I’ll make you a deal, cough up the name of the kidnappers and all of you can keep your lives. Pretty fair, huh?” He grins and cocks his head, waiting for an answer.
A murmur breaks out amongst the members and even the leader seems to weigh the deal. Eventually his scratchy voice breaks the noise.
“We don’t know anything.”
“No? You sure about that? You only get one more chance...”
“We don’t know. Now leave, Zsasz.”
“Okie dokie.” The hitman slides down off the table and straightens his jacket with another shark-like grin. The group part to let him walk back to the staircase.
“Hey, Zsasz, give our love to Penguin!”
Someone calls out from within the room, their tone light and joking. It’s followed by the shuffle of cloth and a pained ‘ow’.
“Why would you say that, idiot?” Another whispers, praying that Zsasz will ignore the comment and just leave.
Victor can feel their eyes trained on his back, and he can’t help the chuckle that escapes his lips. His hand slips across his chest slowly and grips one of his handguns.
“You know what? I will certainly pass it on.”
And with that, Zsasz spins and fires two rounds into the nearest gunners. The third panics and the hitman takes the moment of indecision to slam his elbow down on the man’s wrist. He drops his gun in pain and doesn’t manage to dodge the incoming fist.
The man stumbles, groaning and cupping his bleeding nose. The back of his head splatters across the nearest wall and Victor takes a moment to smirk before firing another round into the crowbar-man.
Jim paces slowly, observing the guards and general environment. The junk yard is filled with destroyed and rusted cars. He’s used to visiting the Narrows for unpleasant business but it still makes his skin crawl.
Multiple shots fill the air. The detective has his gun in hand faster than the two other men.
Maxwell steps in front of the door, keeping through to see what’s going on downstairs. Whilst he’s distracted, Jim springs up on the other guard.
He smashes the man’s nose with his free fist, making the guard double over. Using the momentum, Jim pushes down on his shoulders as his knee meets the man’s face. Another punch to the head and the guard falls unconscious.
Maxwell takes notice of the grunting over the gunfire and turns to shoot Jim, only to have his arm twisted and broken by a quick pull in the wrong direction.
The goon's gun falls to the floor but Maxwell uses his weight to slam Jim back into a wall. The plaster crumbles under the force.
Jim groans in pain, and snakes a hand to grip the broken joint tightly. A sharp cry hurts his ears but Maxwell moves away, allowing Jim to breathe and stumble away from the wall.
The older man dives down to retrieve his gun but Jim is faster, landing two bullets in Maxwell’s chest. He slumps dead in the mud, fingers inches away from the grip. Jim gathers the muddy gun and checks on the unconsciousness man. He’s still down and doesn’t look ready to wake up anytime soon.
Jim jogs down the stairs, his eyes immediately spotting Victor in his murderous glory. The hitman is distracted by his opponents, shooting with deadly accuracy and twisting his torso to catch the next.
One man creeps up behind Victor, knife raised and ready to kill the hitman. Jim shoots him without hesitation, and the attacker chokes on his own blood. Confusion blossoms over his face as he feels the holes in his throat, before he collapses to his knees and face-plants the dusty floor.
Victor spins around, wondering who could have fired, and he grins madly at the sight of the body beside him. His eyes flick up to Jim’s in gratitude.
“Did you get any info?” Jim asks as he leads the way back upstairs, promptly ignoring the fact that Zsasz is absolutely buzzing with energy and that the psychotic grin isn’t going anywhere.
“Ah, crap... I guess I got carried away.”
“Don’t worry. One of the guards is still alive.”
“Maxwell? Please say it’s Maxwell.”
“It’s the other guy.”
“Goddamnit. Hey, umm, thanks for having my back. Didn’t notice the little fucker.” Jim smiles tightly but takes the compliment. Harvey’s words ring in his head, and maybe this was another chance to get rid of Zsasz for good.
A warm hand clasps his shoulder just as Jim reaches the landing. He looks back and is met by an honest smile. “I mean it.”
His knowledge of appropriate behaviour when dealing with an assassin is rather limited. His brain didn’t quite know how to deal with the kind words nor the fact that Zsasz trusts him. So he just nods and smiles back. And heads outside without thinking too much about the heat from Victor’s palm and how he can still feel the weight of the touch after it’s gone.
“What do you want with me? I’m just a nobody.”
“We just want to ask some questions, that’s all.” Jim smiles, leaning back in his chair.
Across from him is the guard he knocked unconscious, strapped down securely and flitting his frightened eyes between the detective and the assassin.
“What’s your name?” The detective asks nicely, giving off friendly vibes and no sign that he plans to hurt the guard. Zsasz is close by, hovering patiently in a corner and watching the scene with a blank expression.
“Ok, good start, Andrew. I’m Jim, and I’m sure you know Victor.” The guard swallows nervously when the hitman waves from the shadows with a creepy grin. “Now you’re a lookout, right? You stand watch and keep your bosses safe, don’t you?”
“So surely a guy like yourself overhears things. Little bits of conversation, snippets of addresses and names.”
“We need you to tell us about Penguin’s kidnapping. Anything at all.”
Andrew shuffles in his seat, his hands fidgeting at the zipties fastening him to the metal chair. He scans the room rather obviously, checking over his shoulders in case there’s a third person in the room or a bunch of weapons to torture him with. He also watches the door just opposite him, behind Gordon.
“Andrew. Focus. Did you hear anything?”
“Look, I’m loyal only to Falcone. Not the cops or Penguin or anyone else.”
“Sure you are, but for a price.” Jim flashes a smile, acting innocent and every bit the Golden Boy of Gotham. “How much does your boss pay for your silence? I’m willing to bet it’s not all that much.”
“It’s not about the money. Penguin’s a freak and he doesn’t belong on top. He can’t hold the city together like Falcone can.”
“So your bosses figured they could kidnap Penguin, and then what? Kill him? Teach him a lesson?”
Andrew smirks, parting his lips to say something witty but he holds himself back at the last second. “Dunno. I’m just a lookout.”
“This is taking too long,” Zsasz whines from his corner. He stalks forward, a switchblade blade in his gloved hand. “I’ll make him talk.”
“Victor, don’t. There’s no need for violence. Let’s stick to the plan.” Jim lowers his voice when speaking the last part, standing to join Zsasz.
He puts an arm across the assassin's chest, palm flat over his clavicle. After Victor gets the hint that Jim refuses to budge, he sighs dejectedly and takes a step back.
“We still have the other one, remember? Let’s ask him. You told me yourself he would talk.”
Jim sits back down, peering back to watch Zsasz open the door. Another person is held hostage, a sack over their head.
“Now, Andrew,” Jim starts, noting the guard's sudden worry. “I made a deal with Zsasz. I would let whoever answers my questions live. The other person... Zsasz has asked nicely to play with.”
The assassin trails his blade across the hostage's arm and around their shoulders. He says nothing but a wicked grin splits across his sadistic face. His hands clasp down on their shoulders harshly and loudly.
“So,” Jim regains Andrew's attention. “Here’s what’s going to happen. You can tell us what you know about the kidnapping, every little detail, and you get to live. If not, we'll offer the same deal to that guy. Our friend here is still sleeping but once he wakes up, I’m sure he’ll tell us everything in exchange for his life.
“What’s it going to be, Andrew? Are you really that loyal to Falcone?”
The guard shifts his attention to Zsasz, his eyes widening as he sees the assassin clearly in the process of waking up the other hostage. He turns back to Jim, panicked and desperate.
“Okay, okay! There’s this chick named Sarah White. She’s the one who came up with it. It’s her people who took the freak.”
“That’s great, good job. Now, where can we find her?”
“There’s this place she likes downtown. The Red Card. It’s this really freaky joint but the boss was talking about going there to thank her. That’s all I know, I swear. You gotta believe me,” Andrew pleads, tears gathering in his eyes.
“Alright then. Thanks for your co-operation. Let’s go, Victor.”
The assassin straightens up, sheathing his knife and stuffing it back into his pocket. As he passes the hostage’s side, his hand grips the sack and pulls it off. Underneath is a pale man with a neat bullet wound in his head.
He smirks at Andrew’s swears and yells and joins Jim outside. The detective's gaze is lost in the distance, watching the slow traffic as the sun starts to vanish behind the skyscrapers without any real interest. The cold breeze sends shivers through the two men, bringing a refreshing calmness over both.
“That went better than expected,” Jim mumbles once Victor stands beside him. He turns to face the assassin with a small smile. “Told you we didn’t need violence.”
“What do we do about him?” Victor tilts his head in the direction of the building.
“Leave him. Someone will find him.”
“And what if he talks to this Sarah?”
“I’ve already let you kill a hostage today. He lives and that’s final.” Victor sighs but backs down, reaching inside his trouser pocket for the car keys.
“Shall we go then?”
Jim nods his agreement and they head off towards the glistening car. Behind them, the guard is still screaming every insult known to man and then some.