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Lost Cause

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Gotham City is a cesspool, overrun with monsters at war with one another for control of the criminal underground. Sure, the Batman was always working to keep the city safe, but growing up in Gotham, you were taught not to rely on him. From a young age, you learned not to stay out after dark, not to trust strangers, and to keep your head down. If someone so much as thought you were looking at them funny, it could cost you your life.

And yet here you are, traversing the streets of Gotham alone, ignoring every single rule your mother had taught you. You try to blend in with the shady characters around you as you take a sip of your coffee, snuggling into the collar of your coat for solace from the winter chill as you watch the escorts try to... sell their wares.

It’s hard to watch, knowing this was the life your sister led—

Leads, you correct yourself with a shake of your head. The GCPD may not care about the city’s less reputable population, but you aren’t going to let Lucy just disappear and become another casualty of Gotham City. You know deep down, in that strange way that twins do, that she’s still alive somewhere. She has to be, that hope being the only thing that’s kept you going since you reported her missing.

Taking another sip of the bitter drink, your gaze shifts from the neon lights of the bars and clubs surrounding you to a pair of escorts nearby. You feel skeevy watching them flirt with a sad middle-aged man, like some sort of pervert, but you can’t bring yourself to look away. To find Lucy, you need to understand her, and this is a part of her.

One of the girls laughs, tossing her head back in an exaggerated motion as she puts a hand on the man’s arm. The other smiles, sensually pressing her body against the other girl’s, and you finally tear your gaze away.

It’s hard to watch— not because you’re disgusted, but because you picture your sister walking the streets and selling her body to make ends meet. A wave of guilt washes over you as you think about what you must have done to make her feel like she couldn’t come to you for help when she needed it.

Your eyes begin to burn, and the tears that threaten to spill down your cheeks feel like molten lava.

‘Fuck,’ you think as you rub the tears away with the back of your hand, careful not to smudge your mascara. ‘Not here.’

Bringing the to-go cup to your lips, you try to pretend you weren’t just a moment away from bawling your eyes out in the middle of Gotham City’s red-light district.

“You just come to watch, or are you looking for some company, sweetheart?”

Well, there goes your composure.

You nearly jump at the voice, shoulders tensing as you turn towards the source. A tall blonde woman wearing a ruched cocktail dress and cropped fur coat stands before you, taking a drag off a cigarette. Her lipstick leaves a ring of crimson around the filter, but she doesn’t seem to care.

“Neither,” you answer. “I was actually hoping someone may be able to tell me if they’ve seen this girl,” you tell her as you slip your free hand into your jacket pocket. You pull out a photograph and offer it to the woman.

“You a cop?” She asks, cautiously eyeing your outstretched hand.

“No, I’m just looking for my sister.”

This seems to put the woman at ease, as she decides to take the picture and briefly inspect it. “What makes you think someone here would recognize her?”

“She’s a, uh,” you struggle to find the right words, “a working girl.”

The woman raises a well-groomed brow, and you sigh.

“I just... I figured someone might have seen her.”

“Well, I haven’t,” she says brusquely, handing you back the picture. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m busy.” She brushes past you, heels clicking against the sidewalk as she approaches a mountain of a man dressed in a smart, gray suit with an easy smile.

“Thanks,” you mutter, turning away from the blonde and— what you assumed to be— her John. You turn your attention to the photograph between your fingers, instead.

For identical twins, you and Lucy look nothing alike. She had put a lot of work into changing what she could to make sure she looked different from you without surgery. Looking at the picture, you can still see the similarities, especially in the wide grins you wear and the sparkling of your eyes, perfect mirrors of one another. Your cheeks are flushed from the alcohol you had consumed, and she’s leaning into your side, an arm draped across your shoulders.

The two of you had just turned twenty-one and, though Lucy had been drinking illegally for years, you wanted to celebrate by going out for your first legal drinks together. It was the happiest you had seen her in a long time.

Pocketing the photograph once more, you sigh and tell yourself that you’ll find her— you’ve celebrated every birthday over the past twenty-one years together, you won’t let this be the last.

You take a long sip of your coffee, lukewarm by now, and toss the empty cup in a bin near the sketchy bar you had been standing by. A scruffy-looking man meets your gaze through the dirty window, winking at you before making an obscene hand gesture. Your nose scrunches up in disgust, and you offer him a gesture of your own before turning around and walking away.

A small voice in your head tells you that you’re out of your element. ‘This was a dumb idea,’ it says. You try to ignore it— that voice has never been kind to you— and remind yourself that you are running out of options. You’ve already gone to the GCPD and filed a missing person’s report, but all they’ve done was add Lucy’s face to the sea of lost Gothamites they don’t care enough to find. Taking matters into your own hands seemed like the only real option if you wanted to find your sister.

You cross the street from the bar, wanting to get as far away from Scruffy, in case he decides to do something about his bruised ego, and bump into a tiny figure in your haste.

“Shit, I’m so sorry!” You apologize, catching the girl by the arm before she can fall. “Are you okay?”

A pair of doe-like eyes meet your own before widening slightly. She seems to consider you for a moment, her dark eyes roaming your face, before saying, “I’m alright.”

“I know I just bumped into you like a total jackass, but could I ask you for a favor?”

She purses her lips for a moment, and you realize what she must have thought you meant.

“Oh! No, not like that,” you’re quick to correct yourself, “I was just wondering if maybe you’ve seen my sister around? I have a picture.”

She stares at you for a moment before turning to look behind her, dark curls bobbing slightly with the motion. When she turns back to you, she nods.

You give her the photograph and notice the distinctive scar on her wrist as she reaches for it. You don’t comment on it— you know better— but it almost looks like a brand, and you wonder what could have caused it.

She studies the photo briefly, but it doesn’t take long for a look of recognition to cross her face.

“You’ve seen her.”

It’s not a question. The look on her face tells you all that you need to know.

She swallows thickly and then nods.

For the first time in the last seventy-two hours, you feel real hope bubble up inside. “When was the last time you saw her? Was she with anyone?”

“I haven’t seen her since Thursday, and I don’t know if she was with someone but,” she pauses, glancing behind her once more. “There have been a lot of strange guys around lately.”

“Strange?”

“I—“ She looks conflicted, sinking her teeth into her berry-hued lips. Suddenly she fixes you with a hard look, one you hadn’t expected from this waifish girl. “The city is always listening,” she whispers, “be careful where you start asking questions.”

She takes a step backward, and you reach out for her, gently wrapping your hand around her wrist as you call out for her to wait. You can feel the damaged skin beneath your fingertips, and she tenses under your touch.

“I’m sorry,” you say as you let her go.

“Be careful,” she speaks softly, and you don’t miss how glossy her beautiful brown eyes have become. “Please.”

You blink, and she’s gone, disappearing into the crowd.

Somehow you’ve learned both something and nothing from the interaction. Gotham’s full of strange people— from homicidal psychopaths dressed as clowns to masked vigilantes with a fondness for bats— but you have a feeling she hadn’t meant them. Glancing around the street, you can easily point out dozens of men you would consider strange.

What would an escort consider strange, though?

You don’t know, but her words stick with you, and the longer you stand in the red-light district, the more your paranoia grows. You decide to call it a night before trouble can find you. With your head down, you squeeze through the crowd and make your way to the closest subway station.

The feeling you’re being watched doesn’t go away, though, even as you board the subway. You get this sinking feeling that whatever has happened to your sister is bigger and far more complicated than you thought. When you finally get home and crawl into bed, the endless possibilities plague your dreams, ensuring a night of fitful sleep.