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Mighty Fine Predicament

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Barry walked to work each day. Everyone knew it, and he'd never made an effort to hide it. He always waved at the uniformed officers who hang out around back on his way in. They assumed he got off the bus a few blocks back. What they didn’t know, of course, was that he actually ran to work each day. He’d stop in an alley about five blocks out and round the corner to swing into Jitters, and then weave through another street and back alley to take him to the road across from the precinct. He normally dodged around traffic to make it in on time from there.

He never really thought of his routine as too predictable. As it was, there was no reason to worry about it, and no one was watching when he stopped in the alley and slowed down, resuming the speed of a normal person by the time he was within eyesight of anyone else. He never really thought of any danger between Jitters and the precinct. Sure, one time someone had tried to mug him outside Jitters, but that had been more fun than anything else, not that he was that careless about revealing his speed anymore. And stuff like that could happen anywhere, he reasoned. How often was someone going to be that bold on a sunny morning near such busy streets?

But he was confronted rather suddenly with the fact that he’d maybe been a little too blasé about his whole way of doing things when, without notice on a Thursday morning, coffee in hand and whistling too himself, he was grabbed from behind.

A lot of things registered at once. First, he’d already entered the speedforce, and things were slowed down to nothing; second, his coffee was about to spill everywhere, including on him; third, the hand over his mouth was gloved and the guy who owned it had to be big; four, the guy wasn’t alone, as his peripheral vision could now trace three more figures (a quick glance that way confirmed this), and they were staring right at him and coming his way, all in balaclava; fifth, and possibly most damning, they’d all come out of a parked black van he hadn’t paid much attention to at all as he whistled his way past.

He let time resume. Too many witnesses looking right at him to use his speed, especially with the balaclavas. They meant business with this heist, for whatever reason. He cheated a little with his coffee, used his speed to tip it so it spilled away from him instead of on, but otherwise let it happen—let the guy behind him grab him by the mouth and arm, gave a half-hearted shout he didn’t really mean, since he didn’t want to endanger anyone by bringing them running. He let the other guys catch up to him, muscle him to the ground after giving a token fight.

He did genuinely snarl though, that part was real enough, when they started to ziptie his hands at his back.

“What the hell—let me go—mmffff—” Okay now they’d gagged him. This was escalating quickly. Definitely not a mugging.

He had a hood over his head a second later. It was dark and uncomfortable and his heartrate was speeding up, a little healthy bit of panic worming its way in because—what the hell? Did they know he was the Flash? Was this something else? Organ theft? Murder? Ransom kidnapping? His kicking was a authentic (if speedless) when they started dragging him toward their van, and he let some of his actual skill show, definitely getting one of them in the face and checking another one to the ground.

He’d waited too long. He shouldn’t have let them tie him up because now he couldn’t break the hold of the guy at his back and another had latched onto his legs. He could use his powers but it was riskier than ever, and he felt himself tossed into the back of the van a moment later, the hard tinny slamming of the door behind him. At least two or maybe more of the guys were in the back with him, he could feel them still and hear them breathing, quiet swearing from one of them, and there was a double thud against the side before the van was peeling out.

Under the hood, Barry winced. It was too thick a fabric to make out anything, and that with the gag was making breathing uncomfortable. He focused on that for a second, trying to calm his heartrate and count the route they were taking. Right out of the alley. Left after that, which meant Lyton street. Traffic, some honking. Another right—an alley? Straight through for a while then a right. Straight for a while, too long to know how long, a left.

He lost track after that, too many turns to keep track of them all, and one of the guys had started talking.

“Little shit got your nose good.”

“Where’d he learn to kick like that?”

“Panic, man. You ever seen a trapped rabbit? Fuckers’ legs can snap your arm. Never leave the legs.”

“Coulda’ used that advice before his boot was in my face.”

“Yeah yeah, live ‘n learn.”

Barry tried to sit up and got slammed down onto his front again, not especially pleasantly.

“You stay there.”

He tried again and this time his head slammed into the floor the van when the guy lifted and slammed him again by his zip-tied arms. 

“I said down, boy, if you know what’s good for you. Boss wants you in one piece, but didn’t say anything about how bruised up that piece c’n be.”

Boss? He digested that, then struggled again when he felt a hand groping at his pockets. It was one of the other men though because someone was still holding him down.

“Wallet and phone.”

“Standard. The bag?”

He heard someone unzip his messenger bag.

“Lunch, papers…. Clean underwear?”

Barry scrunched his eyes shut inside the hood. He was naked except for underwear when he wore the Flash suit, and had learned that his underwear were the opposite of impervious to sweat. He’d started keeping a clean pair on him for when he’d inevitably have to change back into his regular outfit on days he skipped out of the office for Flash work.

“Weird. Anything interesting?”

“Laptop.”

“Alright. Turn off his phone and drop it all back in there, we’ll leave it with the boss.”

Waiting was the worst. He had to lay there and count the seconds by and try not to impatiently speed out of his bonds and this situation. He grit his teeth, muscles frustrated by the time the van ground to a stop.

He was dragged out and barely got his feet under him. He was outside, that much he could tell, and then tripping over wide stairs, just a set of three, then a bit more, then another set of three, the guys on each side holding him up as he stumbled on them. Then he was being walked into—somewhere. It echoed a little under their feet, his own shoes making a squeak against the floor.

“In here, gentlemen.” It was left and a second later he was being dragged in that direction, and through a door. It didn’t sound at all like an office building or that type of place. The ambient sounds were less… business, less institutional.

He was seated on a chair. That was a stomach-swooping experience considering he couldn’t see it coming until he was being pushed down onto it.

“Can he see in that hood?”

“No sir, too thick.”

“Can he breathe in it?”

“Uh—”

“Never mind, just put this on him instead.”

He twitched when he felt hands at the hood, pulling it up to his nose. He could look down and see a carpet under the chair he was on, nice and richly patterned. Then something was being pushed up under the hood and he realized it was a blindfold. Gone again was sight, but so was the hood so he’d take it. At least he could breathe comfortably through his nose again.

“What’s that?”

“Sir?”

“Why is he gagged?”

“Didn’t want him to shout sir.”

There was a noise that made Barry think the boss was less than impressed. The man had a deep-ish voice, the kind that was imposing and used to being listened to. It reminded him vaguely of Captain Singh’s, in the sense of authority it held.

A moment later the gag was out of Barry’s mouth. He cleared his throat. This was shaping up both more interesting and worrisome than he’d expected.

“Barry Allen?”

Oh good, he wasn't a random target. He cleared his throat again. “Don’t supposed you’re going to tell me who you are?”

There was a chuckle. “That would defeat the point of the blindfold. And then I’d have to kill you.”

His eyebrows went up, not that he was sure the other man could see it. “So I get to leave this situation alive?”

“Assuming you do what I want.”

“And what’s that?”

“Did you know, Barry, that you have the highest CSI conversion record in the city?”

He paused. What? “What?”

“The best conversion rate—the most solves, on cases. That you work on. And here I thought you were smart.”

“This is about my job?”

“What else would it be about?”

Right. He didn’t say anything.

"Did you - know, that is?"

"I... am good at my job."

“Good. That's what I wanted to hear. As it turns out, I need someone with your particular skill set. And if you can complete this task, I’ll let you go free.”

He didn't like that he couldn't see the man talking. It made it harder to guard his own expressions, and keep the complete skepticism off his face. He shifted a little. “I… am guessing there’s some catch here. Right? Some reason you can’t just go to the cops to help with whatever…”

“So you aren't as dumb as that haircut implies. The matter is of… personal importance to me. And I would prefer the police stay far, far away from my affairs.”

“Which is why you kidnapped a CSI.”

“Clever is good, Allen. Cheeky is dangerous.”

He waited. The threat hung in the air. Eventually, he ventured, “What’d you need me to do?”

There was a pause, a movement, a sigh. “There’s a murder I’d like you to solve.”

His stomach dropped. Great. “Not—being cheeky here. Why didn’t you kidnap a detective? My job is in the lab. I don’t really solve murders.”

“But you do. That father of yours, West? Seems to have taught you a thing for five, or else there wouldn’t be that kind of hit rate on your cases.”

“But—”

“I’m not done, Allen. You think I ought to pick up a detective? Fine, maybe I’ll pick up your daddy dearest. No chance he’ll recognize my voice or the victim and need one between the eyes when this is over.”

Barry shut up.

“Besides, I’ve got someone to solve it. They just need your… whatever it is you do. Told me they wanted you in one piece and ready to cooperate." Another pause. "So—are you?”

“Ready to cooperate?” Barry sounded skeptical. He winced a little at his own voice, foot tapping gently on the carpeted floor under him. Wood floorboards? “I don’t really have much option, do I?”

“Now you’re getting it. Oh and one more thing, Allen. I don’t get the results I want—I don’t get a return on this investment, I should say—I will find ways to motivate you. Starting with that dad of yours.”

Barry swallowed. He was hauled up by his arms a second later, and halfway tripped over the chair on his way out of the room. He recognized now that he was in some mansion or something, but wasn’t for long because he was back in the van moments later.

“Where are we going?”

“Shut up.”

“Where’s my stuff?”

“I said shut it.” There was a semi-light punch to his arm, a warning.

“Can I at least ask about the murder I’m supposed to solve or—mffff.”

One of the guys gagged him again. His arms were starting to cramp behind his back. His hands were going a little numb and tingly. He was itching to run. He rolled he eyes and went with it. By now he wasn’t just late for work but over an hour into a missing shift. Eventually Joe was going to notice. And then he was going to call him. And then Joe was going to call Cisco when he found out Barry’s phone was off. And then Cisco was going to vibe him and that… that could be interesting or dicey.

If nothing else, he’d stay put till then.

This time they took him to a place that definitely didn’t sound or feel like a house or mansion. Gravel crushed under his feet as he tripped out of the van, and the door that opened sounded metallic and like no one had oiled its hinges in a decade. The hall they walked him through felt narrow and the next door was in just as desperate need of some WD-40, but slid open sideways instead of swinging on a hinge, he was pretty sure from the sound.

“Here you go, a pet CSI. Best in the city, like you requested.”

He was thrown unceremoniously to the floor. It felt like concrete where he caught himself on his knees and shoulder and cheek, wincing hard. That was going to bruise.

“What took you so long?”

The hairs on the back of Barry's neck stood up. That voice—

“Boss wanted to see what we went to all this trouble to collect.”

“A good CSI will be the difference between finding his killer and… not.” It was definitely his voice.

“You mean between your head or someone else’s. C’mon boys, we’ll let these kids play their detective games.” There was the sound of footfalls, and Barry’s heartrate started to pick up speed again. His captor called one last time from the door, “one more thing. Boss wants to remind you not to miss your deadline.”

“Wouldn’t for the world.”

The door slid shut again. Barry breathed heavily into his gag. Someone grabbed him up by his jacket and started pulling him to his feet.

“Now, let’s get a look at you.”

Mmmrt?” The gag was a nuisance.

“Best CSI in the city, I was expecting someone older.” The man moved him quick, a few steps back until his lower back was catching against something, the wood of a table probably.

Then his blindfold was dragged down, and he was looking into the smirking face of Leonard Snart.