29 January 2016

Hyphen Nation - Episode #4: There Will Be No Sportball Talk Within

Hyphen Nation - Episode #4: There Will Be No Sportball Talk Within

I take a break with the NFL and leave the predictions in my other pants pocket. In the first regular episode of Hyphen Nation, I spend time talking about how terrible I am at dealing with change, how I'm trying to use Snapchat more but Android's version won't let me be great, how I finally get Seinfeld after 32 years, and I discuss where the real problem with Frozen lies.

Because I watch Frozen all... the.. time.

28 January 2016

Life In Morgantown: Winter Storm Jonas

Life In Morgantown: Winter Storm Jonas

I’m not a fan of snow. I don’t think I ever have been since around 8th grade. It was my first year playing organized basketball in Hampshire County and snow canceled one of my basketball games (it wasn’t the last). Since then, snow and I have had a very hate/hate relationship.

22 January 2016

Hyphen Nation - Episode #3: Predicting The 2015 NFL Playoffs:Championship Round

hn-03

We’re down to the final four teams in the hunt for Super Bowl 50 and I recap what happened in the Divisional Round (I went 4-0, making me 5-3 this postseason) and pick the two teams that’ll be headed to San Francisco in February.

I also spend a lot of time getting distracted by all the people flying into the Kroger parking lot in search of bread and milk in preparation for Winter Storm Jonas. Considering this was the second time I recorded this episode after a headphone/microphone jack mix up the other day, it’s only right I get to watch the crazies fly in and out of the parking lot while the show rolls on.

Manning v. Brady. Cam v. Palmer. On v. On. Bye v. Bye. Kathy Bates. TV networks must hate me. The not-quite Hyphen Nation podcast. All of these things are discussed in this action packed third episode.

Did I mention I actually recorded this episode once? I was once told everything happens for a reason, so this reality’s Episode 3 must be better than the other Episode 3 you were going to end up with. Let’s go with that one.

Only one more sportball episode to go after this one non-sports fan listeners!

#Thoro Podcast - Ep 9: Got To Have It

#Thoro Podcast - Ep 9: Got To Have It

This is what your radio should sound like.

21 January 2016

Robin (Vol. 3) #2 - "It Never Gets Better"

Robin (Vol. 3) #2 - "It Never Gets Better"

Earlier

"Don't sample the product," Burke hissed to himself as he mocked his father. "He's always talking down to me." He fingered the bag of pills in his jacket pocket. "And Sublime is the gayest name I've ever heard."

"Hey!" a tattooed youth yelled a few feet ahead of him. "You gotta problem with Sublime?"

"Do I have a...how do you even know about Sublime?" Burke responded as he stepped closed to the younger man. His free hand brushed against the gun that was tucked between his waist and his jeans.

"Man, ‘Santeria' is my favorite song ever! How are you gonna talk about a dead man's band like that?" His moved so his nose was just below Burke's.

"Oh," Burke laughed. "That Sublime. I love Sublime too man, it's just my dad wants to name this idea of his Sublime is all."

"Oh shit, that is lame!" The youth said as he stepped away. He extended his hand to Burke. "Sorry about the mix-up holmes, you go tell your dad there's only one Sublime and that's that!"

Burke dapped the young man and moved his hand away from his gun. "Yeah, I'll do that." He continued along the street until he reached a busy intersection. The street lights had begun buzzing to life and the evening traffic was picking up. "Stupid walk lights never work!" Burke yelled as no cars gave him an opportunity to cross. He punched the nearest pole out of frustration. "Ow!" He fell to a sitting position on the sidewalk and cradled his wounded hand.

"Life got you down Burke?" a voice asked from above. Burke scrambled to his feet and took a few steps back. The voice belonged to a smiling man, who looked like he had just stepped out of a business meeting. His tie was loosened and he had his jacket draped over his shoulder in one hand.

"Do I know you?" Burke asked.

"No," the man replied as he extended his hand. "I'm Thomas Jacobs. Nice to meet you." Burke shook his hand but still kept his distance. I know you because you are your father's drug errand boy."

"Hey! Do you think you can keep it down? I'm not trying to go to jail here!"

"Sorry Burke, sometimes the words come out before I think about what I'm saying. What I'm saying to you now is, your days of running errands are over."

"What are you talking about?" Burke asked as he sat on a nearby brick wall and lit a cigarette.

"Word on the street is, you have the newest designer drug in your pocket."

"How do..." Thomas raised a finger.

"I just know. See, for years your father has been thinking small time. Nickel here, dime there." He sat down next to Burke. "That's why he never has any money. He never breaks even. Aren't you tired of that?"

"Yeah," Burke replied.

"How about this? I'll give you one hundred thousand dollars right now for the baggy. I'll let you keep enough to still make your club run tonight and bring daddy home a few dollars. And from now on, whatever of this dandy little pill your dad hands you, you sell to me for top dollar. Soon, you won't have to be daddy's errand boy anymore."

"Now that is business I can relate to! You got yourself a deal, Mr. Jacobs."

Thomas pulled out his check book and quickly filled one out. "You can cash this at your leisure my boy." He handed Burke the check and was passed the baggy in return. "And please, call me Thomas." He stood up and began walking down the street away from Burke.

"Wait," Burke called after him. "How do I contact you?"

"I'll contact you my boy, I'll contact you!" he yelled. He turned the corner and was gone.

Burke stood up and smiled to himself. "This calls for a celebration!" He reached into his pocket, grabbed one of his remaining Sublime tablets, and popped it into his mouth. He looked at the intersection that had betrayed him earlier, only to find a break in the traffic. "Yes!" Once he was safely across, he raised his arms in triumph. The movement caused his muscles to naturally flex and his muscles tore through his jacket. Burke's eyes grew to the size of fifty cent pieces as he looked at his newly swelled arms.

"Wow..."




"What do you mean we can't get in?" Jasmine yelled. "It's been half an hour!"

"We're almost at capacity," a large man in glasses replied. "You either wait or leave."

"Capacity?" Ariana cried. "There's barely fifty people in there!" The bouncer turned to face the two women.

"Look," he bellowed as he folded his arms across his chest. "This establishment is very grateful for the fact that you put on your tight dresses, your high heels and your thongs and brought yourself here to celebrate you first night as college students." He pulled his glasses down briefly to give them a closer look. "And I," he licked his lips, "especially appreciate it. But I'm telling you right now, I don't care if you have gold between your legs, I cannot let you in right now. Are we clear?"

Ari put a stupid grin on her face and scooted back in line. Jasmine decided to be bold and placed her hand on the bouncer's bicep. "Maybe we could work something..."

"Are. We. Clear?" his voice boomed in Jasmine's ear. She covered her ear in pain and nodded her way back in line next to Ariana.

"What a loser," Jasmine sighed as she leaned her head against the wall. "You know, we always could go to Lucky Nights. I've heard good things."

"No way," Ariana replied. I want Club Hell and that's what I'm gonna get!"

"I'll give your fine ass hell all night baby!" a man spoke from behind her. Ariana turned and was greeted with a blast of whiskey soaked breath. "Damn!" the man continued. "I thought you was fine from behind but the total package is off the chain! My name is Sam and I am all the man you need."

"And she, is not interested and leaving!" Jasmine shouted as she pulled Ari back towards her. "Come on girl, you don't want this one, he still has some growing to do!"

"You can't ignore the gift God is giving you girl!" Sam continued. "Why don't I give you a little sample of what I got?" He raised his hand above his head and swung it full force against Ari's rear end.

"Oh hell no!" Jasmine screamed. "You don't disrespect a lady like that! You don't treat a lady like that! Who the hell do you think you are?!" Ari grabbed her arm.

"I can handle myself J," Ariana said. She turned around and faced Sam.

"Yeah baby! That's what I'm talking about! I knew you'd come around!" Ari smiled and stepped closer to him.

"Is this what you want?" Ari asked as she gestured towards her body. Sam nodded enthusiastically. "Okay," Ari said as she leaned closer to his face. Suddenly, her left hand shot up, grabbed Sam by his face, and slammed his head into the brick wall behind him. Before he could recover, her right hand met his jaw, dropping the stunned drunk to his knees.

"Oh shit!" Jasmine shouted.

"Didn't you mother ever tell you," Ariana said as she tried to shake the pain out of her hand. "Not to mess with a Russian?" Another man came running up to help his fallen friend.

"I am so sorry," he apologized. "He did a little too much pre-gaming before we got here and he tends to get a little full of himself." He held his still dazed friend with one arm.

"A little?" Jasmine chimed in.

"That's okay," Ari said. She leaned towards Sam's face again. "But do not let it happen again, Sam!" She poked him in the chest to drive home her point.

"Don't worry, I'm taking him home," the friend responded as he pulled himself and Sam out of line. They were out of sight within seconds.

"Where did you learn to hit like that A?" Jasmine asked with a huge grin.

"When you live in Gotham City, you either let the city keep hitting you, or you fight back."

"Excuse me ladies," the bouncer interrupted. "But you can go in now."

Ariana took Jasmine by the hand and brushed by the bouncer. "Thank you very much."

"I think he's just afraid you'll hit him," Jasmine joked as they headed up the steps that led inside of Club Hell.




"How much?" a young man with a Dodgers hat on asked. A puff of smoke blew into his face.

"Twenty," Burke answered. He towered over the other man, his white t-shirt barely able to contain his newly formed muscles. The buyer produced a wad of five dollar bills and pushed them into Burke's hand. Burke dropped one tablet of Sublime into the youth's waiting hand.

Burke unfolded the bills as the youth walked away hurriedly. "Hey!" Burke called as he moved to catch up. He waved three fives in the air. "Are you trying to fuck me?"

"Fuck you, muscle head!" the smaller man yelled as he broke into a run. He barely had gotten his third step when he was lifted off of his feet. Burke reached over and tore the pocket off his prey's jeans, sending the pill flying into the nearest sewer grate.

"Obviously, you're not ready for that high grade material you just tried to rip me off for," Burke sneered into the younger man's face. "All of this for a lousy five dollars." His free hand sliced through the air and was greeted with the sound of ribs being crushed. A tailbone joined the bone symphony as it hit the ground with a sickening crack.

"You son of a bitch," the buyer hissed through his teeth. "I think you punctured a lung."

"Well, I think, you should go see a doctor," Burke laughed as he tucked the fifteen dollars into his own pocket. He exited the alleyway where he had led the youth a few minutes earlier and slipped into the over eighteen line for Club Hell.




Now

"The convulsions have stopped but he's not breathing now," Tim said as he put his ear to Burke's mouth. "Tell them to turn the music off!"

As the DJ cut the power on his turntables, the lights came on, causing an already on edge crowd to jump once more. Kayla watched as Tim pushed his jacket underneath Burke's head.

"Tim, look at him," she said. "He looks overdeveloped."

"I saw that, but right now I need to get him breathing!" He pinched Burke's nose closed and breathed quick breaths into his open mouth. "I need more room people," he said as he began pushing on the victim's chest. 1, 2, 3... He pinched his nose closed again. More breaths. "Come on dammit!" 1, 2, 3, 4... He pinched Burke's nose again. Burke responded by turning his head and coughing.

"You did it!" Kayla said. The crowd erupted in applause as the paramedics pushed through to Burke. In a matter of seconds, Burke was on the stretcher and heading out of the club's rear doors to the waiting ambulance.

"I'm going to follow them to the hospital," Kayla said. "A reporter's job is never done."

"Yeah," Tim replied absent mindedly. "I think I'm going home. My night's kinda been ruined." Kayla kissed him on the cheek.

"You saved his life Tim," Kayla said as she walked away. "I wouldn't say that's a ruined night."

Tim watched her go and then looked at his watch. "The night is still young," he smiled to himself.




"Why are there two Tiffanys now?" Ives asked as he stumbled forward. He never imagined doing a keg stand, let alone three in one night. And after that fourth tequila shot, he probably should have stopped, but he just had to have a few cups of jungle juice. It's no small miracle he was still conscious.

"Ives, I need to get you home," Tiffany laughed as she stopped him from running into a wall. She put her hand to her head. "But maybe I should just call us a cab."

"We could always walk," Ives suggested as she led him out the door. "It's a beautiful night."

"And exactly how many pairs of stars are you seeing up there?" Tiff joked. She pulled her car keys from her purse and pressed the unlock button on her key chain. "You can't even hold yourself up." She leaned him against the car as she dug in her purse for her phone. "Shit."

"What's wrong?" Ives asked through half-closed eyelids.

"I dropped my phone somewhere," she answered as she opened the driver's side door. "Sit here until I get back, it should only take a minute." Ives slid into the seat.

"Okay Tiff," Ives slurred. He barely noticed the door slamming closed inches from his nose.

Tiffany turned back towards the house and walked briskly to the door. I think it's safe to say there is such a thing as too much Sex on the Beach. She stopped at the steps in an effort to collect her bearings, then she ambled up the stairs and back into the house.




"Ha, ha! That's right homie; I just sold a pound of that sticky icky!"

"Jerome, you're full of it. You didn't have that much on you."

Jerome reached in his pocket and pulled out a small chain with a Saint Christopher medallion attached to it. "I didn't until I ran into dude, Tyrone"

"Dude who?" Tyrone asked as he inhaled the contents of a tightly rolled joint. He sat on the hood of an almost new Mercedes.

"That fool that calls himself Heisman." Jerome replied as he took a nearby seat. "The one that said he was running our neighborhood? I snuffed him."

"You killed him? Dog, you know you're on probation..." Tyrone began.

"No stupid," he growled as he snatched the joint away. "I saw him around the corner. Talking as usual. So I pistol whipped him and robbed him. Then I sold what he was holding on him."

"Wow! That is so dope! I bet he won't be talking anymore!" Tyrone said as he began clapping his hands in appreciation.

"Yeah," Jerome coughed. "I think I saw him crying a little bit too."

Suddenly, the joint was blown out of Jerome's mouth and rolled away.

"You dropped the joint Jerome."

"Uh, yeah," Jerome answered. "I told you I liked blunts better anyway." He reached down to pick the joint up when he felt a gust of wind behind him. "What the hell Tyrone?" he asked. When he turned around, Tyrone was gone. Confused, he stood and pulled out his gun. "Ty? Where are you?" He spun around with his arm extended. "I don't know who you are, but I don't like the games you're playing!"

"No one is playing games Jerome."

"Who said that? I'll kill you!"

"I don't think so," Robin said as he appeared behind Jerome. He pulled him by the shoulder, turned him around and grabbed his wrist. The firearm clanged to the pavement and slid away.

"Aren't you on the wrong coast punk?" Jerome asked as he tried to free himself from the Boy Wonder's grip. "Or are you on summer vacation?"

Robin slammed his knee into the hood's back and moved his arm around his neck. "I only have a few questions and I'll know if you're lying." Jerome's hands tried to pry Robin's arm from his neck to no avail.

"I ain't no snitch, man! Why don't you let me go and make this a fair fight?" Robin turned his arm and allowed his gauntlets to slightly press against Jerome's neck.

"You're not in a position to make demands Jerome," Robin reminded him. "Now, what do you know about Venom?"

"Venom? The comic book character?"

"No, the drug," Robin growled as he tightened his grip. "Apparently, it's hit the streets. I need names."

"Names?" Jerome whispered. "I only deal with weed man."

"Not what I'm looking for Jerome," Robin replied. He squeezed harder.

"Don't kill me!" Jerome was barely audible now. "It was only some sticky man, only some..." Robin released his sleeper hold and pulled the limp body next to Tyrone's on the nearest set of steps.

He's not lying. After seeing that guy in the club tonight, there was no doubt in mind he had taken Venom, but apparently whoever has the hook-up is keeping the info to himself. It hadn't taken him long to run into Jerome beating another dealer senseless once he had left Club Hell and he had hoped following him would lead to something. Tonight is a bust, he thought as recalled his last words with Kayla.

The sound of sirens filled the air. Robin had alerted the police about the drug deal and had timed their arrival perfectly with his interrogation. He faded into the shadows as the first cruiser pulled in front of Tyrone and Jerome.




"You go ahead and go in first Josh."

"Are you sure, Will? You did slip that little something in that last cup she had." The two of them stood in front of a bedroom door at the house party.

"No, that's okay. I know you've had a thing for her for a while now. I'm gonna make sure the rest of the house is clear." He started to walk away. "Have fun buddy."

Josh opened the bedroom door and closed it behind him. He walked over to the twin size bed, where Tiffany's prone form lay and began sliding his hand up her thigh. "Oh, yeah. Fun is definitely on the menu tonight. Right Tiff?"




Outside, Ives had found his way out of Tiffany's car and onto the nearby grass. He was on all fours and had been vomiting in the same spot for the last ten minutes. "Oh god," he heaved. "I think that's everything." He moved into a sitting position and tried to gather his breath. "Yuck," he said in disgust. "My hands are filthy." He managed to stand and headed back towards the house.

He had just stepped back inside when he ran into Will. "What are you doing, man?"

Ives held up his hands. "I made a bit of a mess on myself. Can I use your bathroom?"

Will covered his nose and mouth with one hand and pointed with the other. "Down the hall to the left," he mumbled.

"Thanks," Ives said as he shuffled away. He closed the bathroom door, washed the vomit off of his hands and realized how underrated peeing had been in his life until now. After another hand scrubbing with anti-bacterial soap, he searched for something to dry his hands off with.

Then he heard a low voice.




"I'll do you a favor here Tiff and I'll take off my own clothes," Josh joked as he stepped out of his pants. He crawled onto the bed over Tiffany's near lifeless body. "Don't worry baby, this won't hurt at all."

The door opened behind them. "Too late Will, you had your chance to go first. So get out." When he didn't get a response, Josh whirled around, ready to berate whoever had intruded.

He was greeted by a baseball bat. The blow met perfectly with his forehead and he fell on top of Tiffany in a heap. Tiffany stirred from his landing and spied her savior over Josh's shoulder.

"Ives." Her voice was weak. "Did you get that cab yet?" Ives pulled her from under Josh and helped her to her feet.

"No time," Ives replied as he shifted his weight to support her better. "Can you walk?"

"I think so," she answered. She wrapped her inside arm around Ives' neck as he led her out of the bedroom. "What happened? I came in here for my phone and next thing I know, this guy is begging me to have one more drink with him."

"I don't know, but we have bigger problems," Ives concluded as he led the way back outside. "I'm sorta sober and I can drive, but I don't have the slightest clue which way will get me or you home." He took them past Tiff's car and almost into the road.

Tiffany pushed her cell phone into his hand. "Call Kane's Cab. Pick a direction, look for street signs and give them one of those." Ives did as he was told and headed to the right. "And Ives?"

"Yeah Tiff?"

"Don't let go of me..." Her body went limp in his arms.




"Nurse?" Kayla asked. "Is there any change in his condition?" She had been asking the night nurse the same question since she had gotten here shortly after Burke.

The nurse looked up from her coffee and rolled her eyes. "For the hundredth time miss, I can't give you any information unless you're family. And working for a college newspaper doesn't count as press." She picked up her tabloid and began flipping through the pages. "You can find out like the rest of us when the information is released to the real press.

"Fine," Kayla sighed as she hit her hand on the counter. She walked back towards her seat in the emergency room waiting area and picked up her purse. "Nothing like leaving with an empty notepad."

"You have a good night too young lady," the nurse said sarcastically. It was Kayla's turn to roll her eyes as she pushed her way out of the E.R.'s double doors.




Down the hall from the nurse's station, Burke was in critical condition. The Sublime had worn off and he had returned to his normal size, but he hadn't fully regained consciousness since Tim had revived him.

"Look at him. He's so peaceful," Thomas Jacobs commented from his bedside.

"He never listens to me. I tell him not to take the damn pill and he does the opposite," Burke's father said from the other side of the bed.

"Sons will be sons I suppose," Thomas replied. He got up and walked over to Burke's jeans, where he removed the one hundred thousand dollar check he had written him earlier. He produced a lighter and watched as the check burned to nothing.

"I do have to say he knows when to take a good deal," Burke's father commented as he stood as well.

"He should have guessed I would cut out the middle man and go straight to the source," Thomas said as he gazed out the window into the L.A. night. "Anyone with common sense would have skipped town and found a way to cash that check, but not your boy."

"You better not be lying to me, Jacobs," Burke's father warned.

"I already paid you for your supplier's contact information, in cash mind you. You get the rest once you secure the amount of pills we agreed upon."

"Right, right," the father said as he started for the door. "I'll be in touch."

"Wait," Thomas said rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "You do it."

"Do it? You want me to kill my own son?"

"Just to make sure you're not going to go back on our deal."

"Go back on our deal? I just sold out my own flesh and blood!" Thomas walked over to Burke's father and grabbed his collar.

"Kill him. Now." Thomas released the shirt, smiled, and walked out of the room. The father walked over to his son's bedside again, this time with a look of remorse.

"I'm so sorry I failed you, Burke. I've never been the father I knew you deserved. Always had to look out for myself first." He leaned closer to Burke's ear. "Some things never change." He grabbed the nearest pillow and pressed it against his son's face.

Burke's body fought the sudden lack of oxygen but he was still physically unable to fight back. A few minutes later he had successfully taken the life out of his son's body. He began crying as he picked his hat off of a nearby chair and placed it on his head.

"I love you Burke," he said as he opened the door to leave. "I always have."




"Excuse me, Nurse?"

"Look, if you're another news hound, you can go the same direction I sent that other one," the nurse answered as she looked up from her magazine.

"You'll have to forgive me if I don't dress the part," Robin said. The nurse jumped out her seat at the sight of a vigilante shrouded in a black and gold cape, especially at four a.m. "I need information about the overdose that came in here earlier."

The nurse seemed to regain her composure as she looked him up and down. "I'll give you what you want if you'll do something for me."

"What's that?"

She shoved a pen and her tabloid at the Boy Wonder. "Can you sign this please? For my boys?" Robin managed a smile and took the pen.

"What are their names?" he asked as he hunched over the paper.

"Chad and Jordan." Robin carefully wrote the autograph and handed it back. "Thank you so much! They'll never believe this! Is Batman with you?"

"I don't mean to be rude, but I'd really like to get that information."

"Sorry," the nurse said as she turned to her computer. "The one from Club Hell right?"

"That's the one."

"He flatlined about a half an hour ago. We think he choked on his own fluids. Was it a bad guy?"

"I'm not sure who he was," Robin replied. The nurse punched a few more keys.

"They don't even know what he overdosed on in the first place..." The nurse looked up from the computer, but Robin was gone.




Next Issue: The trail has gone cold for Robin! What happened with Ives, Tiffany, Ariana and Jasmine? Plus, it's campus tour day!

Robin (Vol. 3) #1 - "Big Man On Campus"

Robin (Vol. 3) #1 - "Big Man On Campus"

"This is the last one," Tim Drake said as he put the last box into the empty room. He and his father stood within Tim's spacious dorm room on the campus of UCLA. "Felt like I had a hundred boxes to bring with me."

"I lost count around thirty-seven," his father Jack Drake replied. "Now Tim, I really don't have to tell you how to behave, because I'm sure you're responsible enough to know the difference between right and wrong." Tim rolled his eyes. "But what I do want to tell you," Jack continued. "Is Dana and I are both very proud of you and your mother would have been extremely proud. Don't ever forget that." Tim smiled as he father patted him on the shoulder.

"Thanks Dad," Tim replied. He swallowed the lump in his throat and followed his father out of his dorm room. "Ives should be along soon," Tim said as he locked the door. "I just feel bad his parents decided to drive him across the country."

"I'm sure Ives will survive. I'm just glad you both decided to attend UCLA so you would have someone familiar to room with." He checked his watch. "My flight leaves in an hour and forty-five minutes, so I better get back on the road if I want to make it on time."

"Yeah," Tim agreed. He gave his dad a brief hug and watched him go down the front steps of his building.

"Call Dana!" his father yelled as he exited the front gate. "You know she's dying to hear from you!"

"Take care of my car!" Tim answered playfully. He had decided to leave the Redbird back at home since Los Angeles was abundant with public transportation. Plus gas is a bitch, he thought. His father's wave was the only reply he received.

Tim walked back into the building. Once he had decided on UCLA and found out Ives was interested in being his roommate, he and Bruce had come to a difficult decision.




"You have to tell him you're Robin," Bruce said. He stood from his chair in his study and walked to the window.

"Are you crazy?" Tim asked. "I don't want to put Ives in that position."

"You're already putting him in a position by having him as a roommate. If your identity becomes compromised in anyway, Ives will be one of the first targets."

"Dammit Bruce," Tim sighed as he put his head in his hands. "With all the things I've learned, I can keep the secret from Ives."

"Not without it hurting you and Ives' friendship," Bruce retorted. "Imagine if I tried to hide my identity from Alfred. That would cause not only a headache but a definite lack of trust that I just can't have. Ives deserves to know."

"Alright, I'll tell him as soon as he gets there," Tim said. "But I don't have to like it.




Tim unlocked his door and pushed it open.

"Hey there," a voice called. Tim whirled to see two lovely young girls walking down the hallway. They wore those impossibly small shorts that were in style and their shirts did nothing to hide their chests.

"Hi," Tim smiled in reply. Tim lived in a boys' dormitory, but since today was move-in day, anyone could walk through. He watched the girls turn the corner and then entered his room. He shut the door and slid down it into a sitting position. "I am definitely going to like it here," he sighed. He kicked the nearest box. "But I am going to HATE unpacking."




Outside of Tim's dorm, a young woman leaned against a nearby tree. She wore a tank top, sweatpants, and running shoes. She brought her bottle of water to her lips and swallowed the rest of it. She wiped her lips with the back of her hand and continued looking at the dorm. A couple, likely in their late thirties, smiled at her as they walked by. She returned the smile and then tossed her water into a nearby trashcan.

"This couldn't be more perfect," she said to herself. And with that, she jogged away.




One hour later.

"I can't believe you're making me do this Ives!" Tim yelled from the bathroom.

"I have to believe it to see it," Ives replied. His voice still echoed through the now semi-decorated room. He pulled off his jacket and tossed it on one of his many suitcases. "This better be good Drake," he said as he paced around the room and stretched. A forty-one hour drive in a mini-van across country is not good for the bones, he decided.

"Are the blinds closed and the door locked?" Tim asked through the door.

"Yes!" Ives answered. "Just come out so I can see your cheap costume already."

Tim pushed the bathroom door open and strode into Ives' line of sight. The mask was in place, the "R" shone in what little sunlight was coming through the windows, gold gleamed on the inside of the cape while black draped over the shoulders. Red could be seen on the arms and the legs and in one of the black gloved hands was the trademark "R" shaped batarang. Tim Drake wasn't standing in his dorm room any longer. Only Robin remained.

Ives mouth was hanging wide open.

"Well?" Tim asked.

"I mean," Ives stammered. "I thought you were kidding, that you were playing a joke. But just looking at you now...nothing says Tim Drake to me at all. Wow."

"Good," Tim said as he tucked away his R-rang. "Because you have a right to know this as my roommate and I want to give you a warning about what I deal with on a daily basis. In all likelihood, my activities as Robin will not endanger you in anyway, but if you are in danger, I'll defend you with my life." He pulled the mask off. "Also, if you want to get a new room assignment, that is also understandable. But as my friend, I feel this is a secret I can entrust you with, no matter your decision." Tim sat down on the floor and started to unlace his boots.

Ives began to pull his clothing out of his suitcases. "You, my friend, are way too dramatic," Ives said. "I'm glad you felt you could share this part of your life with me. But we can go over all the details later. Right now, I want to unpack, take a shower, and explore campus. Does that sound too difficult?"

Tim smiled at his old friend. "Not at all, because that was going to my next statement."




Across campus, in one of the girls' dormitories, parents and relatives were scattered all over as they dropped off their daughters, nieces, and cousins.

One of these women hung up the last of her curtains, all while leaning off of her bed and supporting a cell phone on her shoulder. "Yes uncle," she responded. "I will. I won't. No uncle. I will. I will. I love you too. Goodbye." She flipped her phone closed and hooked the curtain rod back in place.

"Wow Ariana," her roommate, Jasmine Alexander, said. "I've never seen anyone multi-task so well with a worried parent yelling in their ear."

Ari collapsed on her bed and laughed. "When you've lived in a house with an uncle like mine, you have to learn to multi-task." She opened up a bag of nearby Skittles and poured some into her hand. "You don't get scholarship offers from UCLA if you don't."

Jasmine sat beside her and stuck her hand out. "So how does it feel to have freedom for the first time, ever?" she asked. Ariana handed her the bag and stood up.

"I feel like putting on my little black dress I had to carefully hide from my aunt, heading out, and seeing what cute boys feel like buying me a drink."

Jasmine finished the rest of the Skittles and flicked on the nearby radio. "The only drinks you'll be seeing," she began as she took her hair down. "Are the ones I'm handing you from all the men I'll have to beat off with a stick."

"We'll just see about that!" Ari said as she began pulling clothes out of her closet.




"What do you mean you don't want to go?" Ives moaned. He and Tim were had only been walking around campus for an hour and they already had received four offers to go to different events. This was the first one to catch Ives' attention.

"I don't think the first thing we need to be doing is going to a keg party," Tim replied. He took a sip of his water. "Not only are we underage, but chances are the party will be broken up by the police."

"But it's sponsored by a fraternity! Those parties don't get broken up."

"Notice," Tim said pointing at the flyer. "That this party is located off campus and not at the fraternity house." He could feel Ives glaring at him. "The police will show and shut it down."

"I'm going," Ives said folding his arms.

"Then go. I'm not your keeper, but don't say I didn't warn you."

"What are you going to do? Go out and protect the night?" Ives giggled. The look Tim gave him stifled him.

"For your information, I was planning on going to a night club. One of the eighteen and up ones. I figure, it'll be a great way to possibly meet women my own age, maybe have a drink, and not have to worry about my good time being ruined."

"You're probably also going to do some detective work," Ives said as Tim raised an eyebrow. "You act like I haven't been watching movies my whole life. Any good hero wants to get to know his new surroundings as quickly as possible. You're going to a night club to work!"

Tim took another drink of water and stood up. "You're right, what can I say. But I would really like if you came with me."

"No way! This is one of the few nights I'll be able to cut loose without having to worry about what classes I have in the morning or anything else for that matter. I'm going to the keg party."

"Just be careful then."

"I will," Ives said as he hopped up. "I'm going to run back to the room and grab some money and then I'm off. Don't wait up for me!"

"I have the feeling I'll be cleaning up after you!" Tim called after him. His comm-link beeped. He pulled out his cell phone and added a special adapter to the plug he normally charged the phone with. "This line's secure, go ahead."

"How are you, Master Timothy?" Alfred Pennyworth asked. Even though he was miles away, he wasn't surprised Alfred was the first one he heard from.

"Just fine, Alfred," Tim answered as he started walking again. "How are things there?"

"Well, it is ten ‘o clock on our side of the states, so you know where Master Bruce is."

"I forgot all about the time zones! I better keep that in mind for when I call home. I'm sure anytime I call you will be fine though."

"As long as you don't interrupt my soap operas," Alfred retorted. "Do you have need of anything Tim?"

Tim scratched his head as he looked at a redhead with her arms wrapped around a man twice his size. A football player no doubt. "Not as of right now. Bruce and I were discussing equipment, but he wanted to hold off on that until the semester was a few weeks in."

"Very well then. You take care, young man, and I will speak to you soon."

"Of course. Thanks for calling Alfred." He hung up his phone and dug into his pocket with his other hand, pulling out a quarter and a dime. He fed the change into local newspaper machine and pulled out his purchase. After a quick scan, he saw a few clubs within walking distance that piqued his interest. No better place to start than here.

"Excuse me?" a voice inquired. Tim looked up and saw that same redhead from before looking at him. "I just wanted to hand you this flyer for The Daily Bruin, our school newspaper. Our first issue comes out Monday."

"Thanks," Tim said as he looked at the flyer. The redhead smiled and began to walk away.

"No, thank you for reading! Maybe I'll see you around." Then she was gone.

Tim put the flyer in his back pocket. "Maybe."




Across town, two men met at the pool of a low budget motel.

"Are you listening to me?" one of the men asked as he removed his glasses. The sun was setting on the Los Angeles and he no longer had need for him. The other man's back was to him.

"I hear you, goddammit," his companion hissed as he blew out smoke. He tucked his hair behind his ears and yanked on his jacket collar.

"You better, Burke, because you can not fuck this up. Look at me!" A nearby parent quickly ushered her children back inside the motel after the outburst. Burke turned around on the lounge chair and faced the older man. "This," he continued as he produced a small baggy that held tablets that looked like ecstasy, "is sublime. That's what I call it anyway. This is our new cash cow."

"Sublime? Why not just call it ex?" Burke inquired.

"Because you idiot, it's not ex! This is a brand new designer drug that a lot of people died for to make sure I got it." He wiped the sweat from his brow. "You know what venom is, Burke?"

"You mean that comic book guy?"

"Wrong. Venom is a super steroid. That guy Bane, the one that claims he took out the Batman, he used to be hooked on it. These pills," he said as he held up the bag, "have venom in them. They give the user a rush like no other. Not to mention a brief time with super-strength." Burke was definitely listening now.

"I'll take it around the clubs tonight," Burke said as he took the baggy. "Tonight is the first night in town for a lot of UCLA kids." He stood.

"Burke," the old man said as he grabbed his young associate's arm. "Do not sample the product."

"Yeah, yeah," Burke replied as he yanked his arm away. "I got it." He pushed open the pool's gate and started to hail a cab.

The old man sighed and stood up from his own chair. What kind of man sends his own son to his death? He picked up his belongings and walked towards the motel, not waiting for any type of response.




Night has enveloped the city of Los Angeles as Ives made his way to the address specified on the flyer. "This looks like the place," he mumbled to himself. It was a normal two-story house, with sounds of music coming from within. Ives started walking up the steps when he was stopped a large man.

"Where's your invitation?" he demanded. He wore a white t-shirt that he looked ready to tear through at any moment, blue jeans, and sneakers.

"Um," Ives mumbled as he held up his flyer. "I was given this."

"That ain't no invitation," the man scoffed. "Get out of here before I have to move you myself."

"Jeff!" a female voice called. A tall skinny blonde came out of the house and walked up behind him. "I gave him the flyer."

"You gave him the flyer, Tiffany?" Jeff asked.

"Yes," she said as she moved around Jeff and draped an arm around Ives. "You were a freshman once too...before the ‘roids kicked in." Jeff's face scrunched in anger.

"Whatever Tiff," he said, even though it looked like that wasn't what he really wanted to say. "Take your little freshman and get out of my sight."

Tiff grabbed Ives by the hand and led him inside. After shutting the door, she took him through the quaint d├ęcor of the house and to a screen door which led to the backyard. The yard was lit with Christmas lights and torches and several dozen students swarmed all over.

"You ever been to a party like this...what was your name?" she asked.

"Ives." His voice barely came out. "And no, I haven't."

"Well tonight is your lucky night," Tiff smiled. She pulled him through the crowd to the front of the keg line. "You stick with me and you'll have the best time of your life."




It hadn't taken Tim five minutes to get inside Club Heat, despite the long line for the under twenty one crowd. He patted his fake I.D. inside his jacket pocket. I never said the rules were always right. He still grimaced a bit when he took a drink of his coke, just to sell the idea that he was actually drinking.

Club Heat was in the middle of its grand opening celebration so everyone was trying to get in and see what the new club had to offer. Tim was impressed; a large dance floor, four bars, and a DJ booth suspended above the floor so the DJ could see the floor and have his privacy. Another large room was connected to the dance floor, but the door leading to it had a large security guard and a velvet rope to match. V.I.P., Tim thought. That's probably where a lot of the illegal stuff goes down.

The dance floor was filling up quickly, but Tim still had plenty of personal space. Whoever designed this place knew what they were doing. He spied a few of the girls he had seen in his dorm earlier and they waved and smiled when they saw him. A few moments later, Tim saw the redhead, who gave him a come hither look. At least I think that's what it was. He declined her silent offer and continued looking around.

"Playing hard to get?" the redhead asked as she slid up beside him. She wore a low cut red dress and her perfume mesmerized Tim's nostrils.

"No," he replied as he set down his half-full drink on a nearby table. "I'm not much for dancing."

"I thought freshmen were typically too young for those," she said as she nodded at his drink.

"How did you know I was a freshman?"

"I saw you and your father earlier when I was handing out flyers. Plus, I'm a journalist."

"A good journalist always gets names and introduces herself properly."

The redhead put a finger to her lips thoughtfully. "Very observant of you." She extended her hand. "I'm Kayla Jones."

Tim returned the grip. "I'm Tim Drake."

"Can you spell that for me?" she asked playfully. She glanced back at the dance floor. "Why don't you leave your friend for a second and come try to dance."

"Why not?" Tim agreed. He started to follow her into the crowd when a commotion towards the front door caught his eye. "Hold on, Kayla," he said, but Kayla had already changed direction and was pushing her way to the disturbance.

"Oh my god!"

"Help him!"

By the time Tim and Kayla got to the front of the crowd, they saw what was causing the fuss. A young man was clutching at his chest and his eyes were full of fear. He lost his footing and hit the ground hard. Before security could get to him, he started going into violent convulsions.

"Call 911!" the lead security guard bellowed as the music stopped. "This guy isn't our problem."

"Wait!" Tim yelled as he leaped next to stricken man. "We've got to help him now!"

"I didn't know you were studying medicine Tim," Kayla commented from behind him.

"There are a lot of things you don't know about me," Tim replied grimly as he removed his jacket.




Next Issue: Tim Drake vs. the mysterious illness! Can Tim help this stranger through his ordeal? And how did Ives fare at his party? Plus, Robin takes L.A. by storm!

Robin (Vol. 2) #1 - "Confusion"

Robin (Vol. 2) #1 - "Confusion"

"This is the last one," Tim Drake said as he put the last box into the back of his father's SUV. "Felt like I had a hundred boxes to bring home."

"I lost count around thirty-seven," his father Jack Drake replied. "Come on and get in here. Dana will have dinner waiting for us." Tim laughed and climbed into the passenger seat. They had about forty-five minutes until they arrived back in Gotham from Brentwood Academy where Tim attended private high school.

"Dana and I have been thinking and we don't think having you at Brentwood is such a good idea anymore. You're grades aren't bad...but you haven't been excelling either."

Tim swallowed at the mention of grades, knowing full well that his activities as Robin kept him in bed more than in class. He had passed many classes by the skin of his teeth.

"Well, Dad, you know how it is...a new school, new surroundings, it took me awhile to adjust." He shifted in his seat. "Next year will be a totally different story."

"I agree," Jack replied as he turned onto the Gotham City exit. "You're not going back to Brentwood this fall. I've already enrolled you at Gotham Heights."

"Really?" Tim smiled. "Thank goodness!"

"This doesn't mean that you're off the hook Timothy. I expect results. You're mother would've never stood to see you fall to a 3.1 grade point average," Jack stated. "But Dana and I have plenty of faith in you."

"I know Dad, I know," Tim's voice trailed off at the mention of his mother. Jack reached up and messed up his son's hair.

"Go back to sleep, Tim. Go back to sleep..."




"Again!" King Snake barked. No sooner did the words leave his lips, a figure leaped into his midst and attacked. King Snake blocked the first chop at his neck, but barely deflected the kick aimed for his midsection. Just as another blow came flying at his nose, Sir Edmund managed to duck and execute a sweep that sent his attacker to the cold concrete.

"Get up, you piece of shit!" he screamed. "You wanted training, so train!" The words had barely escaped his lips as tug at his leg sent him to the floor as well. He tried to counter but before he knew it he had a foot at his throat. And this, surprisingly, brought a smile to his lips. "Good. You're learning to focus your anger. That's enough for today."

The foot was removed and both men gathered themselves. A small bow was exchanged and the figure exited the room. Edmund wiped the sweat from his brow and leaned against the rail of the large dance studio. He had purchased it from a dance instructor several months earlier when he could no longer afford the rent. He's good, he thought. Almost too good. I need to start watching him more carefully...I've never even seen his face.

"Ladies?" he called out. On cue, two beautiful ladies walked into the room and stood in front of him. "Will you two please be dears and lead me back to my office?"

"Of course, Sir Edmund," they smiled in unison. They each took an arm and led the blind martial arts master away.




In a cramped corner of the building, another individual was going through a workout of his own.

"Stupid numbers!" Thomas Jacobs yelled as he knocked everything off his desk in an aggravated gesture. "I need an account, Thomas! I need a glass of water, Thomas! I need my feet rubbed, Thomas!" he growled as he mocked his employer. "Stupid blind bastard! One day I'll show you! I'll show all of you! Thomas Jacobs isn't anyone's keeper!" He was interrupted by his telephone. "Yes?" he asked as he picked up.

"Thomas could you bring me some extra towels so the ladies and I can enjoy the hot tub? It seems we're out on my end," King Snake's voice bellowed into his ear.

"Right away, Mr. Dorrance," Jacobs answered. He hung up and shuffled out of his office grumbling.




In Gotham Heights, Tim was pulling the last piece of clothing out of his last suitcase and hanging it in the closet. The familiar red and green costume shone brightly under his bedroom lighting as he carried it to his secret compartment he had built into the back of his closet.

"Hello there, old friend," he grinned. He pressed his thumb to the electronic pad Bruce had outfitted for him, and seconds later the false back wall opened, revealing his mini arsenal designed to be used in his never ending fight against crime and evil. He careful hung it on a hanger and placed his thumb back on the pad, causing it to close and lock back into place. A knock at his door brought him out of his reverie. "Come in," he answered.

Jack stepped halfway through the door. "You have a phone call," he said as he held the portable phone towards him. "Remind me to get you added to our cell phone plan; I can't have you gossiping your life away."

Tim laughed as he took the phone. "Thanks, Dad." His father leaned back out and closed the door behind him. "Hello?" Tim said into the receiver.

"Hey!" a young woman's voice said on the other end. "I heard you were coming back into town!"

"Ariana!" Tim smiled. Ariana Dzerchenko and Tim had dated for a little more than a year right before the Gotham earthquake had turned the city into a no man's land. Unfortunately, when Ari's uncle caught them in an unexplainable awkward position, they had broken up. "Yeah, I'm back in town, actually for good. No more Brentwood."

"That's great Tim. So how have you been?"

"Good, good," Tim said as he sat on his bed. "Just doing the school thing, but it's good to be back in the city. How is everyone?"

"Um," Ari hesitated. "There's not really much of 'everyone' left. Ives moved to New York with his family, and a lot of people never came back after they reopened Gotham."

"I guess that makes sense," Tim said. "I wish I could've said goodbye to him. I'll have to Google him."

"Good luck," Ari giggled. "But I was wondering what you were doing tonight. I thought we could go grab something to eat and catch up."

Tim gulped. As much he would love to spend time with Ariana again, he knew he still had to see Stephanie Brown sometime. "I can't tonight Ari, but I'd love to get a rain check."

"Okay," she replied, her disappointment evident. "Well, you have my number now, so give me a call sometime before school starts."

"I'll be in touch soon, I promise. Bye, Ari." He hung up the phone and fell back onto his bed. I can't wait to see Ariana again. It's been so long. But Stephanie and I still have to discuss things since she found out my secret identity from Bruce. He closed his eyes and contemplated a few more hours of sleep, but something was still nagging at him. He stood up and headed out his room. "Dad?" he called.

"He just stepped out, Tim," Dana Drake, his stepmother replied. "What do you need?"

"I just wanted to let someone know I was heading to see Bruce and Alfred for awhile," he said as he walked downstairs into the kitchen.

"Do you have to tonight?" Dana asked as she wiped her hands on a towel. Even though she was ten years younger than Jack, Dana was still a stunning sight to see, even in sweatpants and a t-shirt. "I was gonna make you a welcome home dinner."

"I'll be back for dinner," Tim insisted as he kissed her on the cheek.

"Okay, but do not spoil your dinner on any of the food Bruce never seems to eat."

Tim laughed as he grabbed his house key and went out the front door. "I won't!" He began to walk down the street and realized he could get there quicker as Robin, but thought it better to talk to Bruce before the Boy Wonder made his grand reappearance in Gotham. I guess it's the bus for me. He got to the bus stop and sat down, immediately noticing a squishy noise under him. He stood up and saw a string of freshly discarded gum running from the seat to his jeans. "Dammit. I bet you Superman has never sat in gum. Never." Then he noticed the elderly woman looking at him strangely. "Sorry," he smiled as he sat back down. "But he's still a boy scout," he grumbled.




On another bus, Stephanie Brown was nervously fiddling with the piece of paper she had scrawled on earlier. The address was for Jack and Dana Drake in Gotham Heights, the fourth Drake she had visited today. Since Batman had told her boyfriend Robin was really Tim Drake, she had been constantly thinking of how to approach him as Tim. She figured the direct approach was her best option.

There are five Drakes in Gotham Heights, and this is the last one. This has to be him. As the bus came to a stop, she stood up and adjusted her baseball hat and made her way up front. She stepped off and looked around, finding herself surrounded by beautifully designed houses, a stark change to her apartment she shared with her mother in the heart of Gotham.

"Excuse me," a young man quickly said as he brushed against Steph's shoulder. She turned expecting to see him looking at her but instead saw his back as he boarded the waiting bus.

"That's okay," Steph replied softly. What a distinguished gentlemen he was. She looked at the address again and decided to start searching to the left of the bus stop. I sure do hope Mr. or Mrs. Drake are home. I'd look foolish leaving a note.




"Edmund," the girl whined. "Can't we rub your back again, please?"

"No, my dears," King Snake retorted. "I have a very important client coming to see me. I need you two to leave."

"Edmund," the other girl whispered in his ear. "Please don't make us leave..."

The three were interrupted by someone else in the room clearing their throat. As the two women went shrieking out of the room, King Snake pulled himself to a sitting position.

"I see you've let yourself in, Lotus," he began. "If you'll give me a moment I can properly attire myself for this meeting."

"That is not necessary, Mr. Dorrance," the female responded. "But enough chatter. What did you request this meeting for?"

"From what I've heard, you and your Shaolin Clan ninjas are among the top assassins in the world. I'd like to hire your squad for a minor annoyance that keeps rearing its ugly little head." Lotus walked closer to Edmund, her shoulder-length hair and emerald eyes becoming visible as the room's little bit of sunlight touched her.

"Who is it? The Batman?" she asked. "You realize that would be a very steep price for such a high ranking member of the superhero society."

"No," King Snake waved his hand. "Robin."

Lotus covered her mouth to stifle her laugh. "A boy? You want to send professional killers after a mere child?"

"You don't know this child," he replied as his pupil-less eyes turned into slits. "He's as dangerous as the Bat can ever be."

Lotus put her hand on her hip and glanced out the window. "Fine. One hundred fifty thousand, cash."

"After confirmation," Dorrance hissed.

Lotus smiled and put a finger to her lips. "Seventy-five thousand, now."

King Snake sat for a moment before extending his hand. "Deal." Lotus took his hand and shook it firmly. Edmund stretched to his right and pressed a button near his bed. "Thomas? I need you to bring in that cash we were discussing earlier..."




"Would you like anything to eat, Master Timothy?" Alfred Pennyworth asked. Tim had barely gotten through the door and Alfred was trying to feed him.

"No thanks, Alfred," Tim replied as he headed for the grandfather clock in Bruce's study. "When's the last time he came up for air?" he asked referring to Bruce.

"You know our boy," Alfred said as he watched Tim turn the hands on the clock face. "He hasn't come out since he met with Lucius yesterday afternoon."

The grandfather clock pulled away from the wall, revealing one of the many entrances to the Batcave. Tim and Alfred descended down the many stairs into the heart of Wayne Manor as bats swirled above their heads. The true habitant of the Cave sat looking at one of the massive computer screens.

"Bruce," Tim said as he approached his friend and mentor. "Don't you think a bath may be in order?"

"I'm only portraying the state that my city is constantly in," Bruce said as he turned in his chair to face his partner.

"Sorry," Tim said as he sat down. "Dad took me out of Brentwood. I'm enrolled at Gotham Heights for next semester."

"Interesting," Bruce said as he folded his hands. "I've been trying to decide how to expand your role. This may be a great opportunity to do that."

"How so?" Tim asked with a raised eyebrow.

"I wanted you to work more independently. Of course, we'd still be partners but this could give you a chance to operate within your own parameters."

"Sounds good. Just let me know what's going on," Tim said as he looked at the floor. "When do you want me to start active patrol again?"

"Tonight. You'll be on your own though, I have some other things to attend to."

"Of course." Tim stood up and began to walk to the steps. "Sorry I can't stay longer, but Dana is cooking a welcome home dinner, so I have to be back." He started up the stairs.

"Tim." He turned to look at Bruce. "It's good to have you back in the city," Bruce smiled and tossed him the keys to the Redbird.

"It's good to be back," Tim replied. He waved goodbye to Alfred and bounded out of the Cave.




Stephanie took her hat off and wiped the sweat from her brow. "This is ridiculous," she panted. She had been walking around the street for at least an hour and could not find the address she needed. Now she was almost back to the bus stop where she started.

Frustrated, she let herself fall into the closest yard available, if only to rest for a little bit. That's it. I'm carrying myself back to Gotham, getting some sleep, and then I need to get to the Batcave so I can continue training with Batman. It would not look good to be late.

"Excuse me," a male voice said from above. "What are you doing on my lawn?"

Stephanie leaped from the grass. "I'm so sorry! I've been looking for this address and I've had the worst luck ever. I just need a break." The man smiled and handed Stephanie her hat.

"That's quite alright young lady. I just don't need pretty girls laying on my lawn and distracting my son. I'm Jack Drake," he offered his hand.

"Jack?" she asked. "Is Dana your wife?"

"Yes I am," Dana answered as she walked out to join them. "And what is all the commotion about?"

"That's what I was trying to figure out," Jack said. "And how did you know my wife's name?'

"Tim," she replied. "I know Tim. He told me about you guys and I was just trying to stop by and see him."

"Oh," Dana grinned. "Are you Tim's girlfriend?"

"Yes, well, maybe, kinda, no...I don't know," Steph laughed. "I just know he's supposed to be back in town and I wanted to see him."

"Well, he should be upstairs..." Jack began.

"No, he went to see Bruce," Dana interjected. "He'll be back before dinner."

"Can you just tell him I was here then?" Steph asked.

"I sure will...what was your name?" Jack asked.

"Stephanie," she replied as she headed back to the bus stop. "Stephanie Brown."




"I hate my job," Thomas sighed over his drink. A few minutes away from King Snake's, this bar was the only place Thomas could find sanctuary from his boss' constant...needs.

"Another rough day Thomas?" the waitress asked.

"You don't know the half of it," Thomas said. "Give me another, please." The last swallow of his first drink was barely down when he picked up some strange conversation beside him.

"Tonight is the only time he'll be alone in there. During the day he has his errand boy, and those chicks, and gangsters, everything under the sun. But tonight my friend, Sir Edmund Dorrance will be no more!"

"I can toast to that!" another voice responded. They're going to kill King Snake! Thomas could barely contain his joy. No more of his bullshit! No more..., he stopped. "Dammit." He quickly got rid of his second drink and dropped some money on the counter. "Keep the change." He then rushed out of the bar.




"I can't eat another bite!" Tim said as he leaned back in his chair. After sitting down to a meal of steak, mashed potatoes, stuffing, biscuits, and chocolate cake, it was all Tim could do not to fall asleep at the dinner table.

"I have to agree honey," Jack said. "You really outdid yourself."

"It was nothing," Dana replied as she began to clear the table. "Do you think you could help out with the dishes though, dear," she said as Jack groaned.

"I think Tim would rather do it."

"No way!" Tim shouted. "I'm heading upstairs to my nice warm bed, probably for the night." He stood up and headed for the stairs.

"Slacker!" Jack called after him as Dana pulled him by the arm.

Tim entered his room and checked the clock. Seven o' clock; I guess I could lay down for awhile before I go out tonight. He laid down on his bed and was fast asleep within a matter of minutes.




"Find her," Lotus barked. "Find her, and then you call for me."

"But master," one of the ninjas objected. "How is this going to lead us to our quarry?"

"You dare question me?" she asked. She walked forward as the large group of ninjas parted like the Red Sea. She was breathing in the insubordinate ninja's face in moments.

"N-No..." the ninja started, but Lotus lashed out before any other words escaped his lips. The blow snapped the ninja's neck and left him on the ground.

"Now!" Lotus screamed. "If I was able to do that to my own brother, just imagine what I would do to anyone else who dares ask questions!"

The throng of ninjas were silent.

"As I was saying," she continued. "Find the Spoiler and she will lead us directly to the Boy Wonder. Only break your mission if I tell you otherwise!"

The ninjas still responded with silence.

"Now get out of my sight!"

The ninjas disappeared without a sound.




The moon was full for the first time in a month as midnight fell upon Gotham City. To the naked eye, it seemed like another peaceful night was in store. Until the sound of a grappling hook gun broke the silence.

Robin swung up above the rooftops, Gotham Cathedral a few swings away. He landed soundlessly on the next rooftop, his eyes darting back and forth to avoid prying eyes. Assured, he fired another line that brought him to the top of city hall.

Guess who's back, Gotham, Robin thought proudly as he looked over the rooftop. "No matter how much I may bitch or complain, there's nothing like Gotham City on a warm spring night." He started to launch another line when he heard screams. "And leave it to some overzealous goons to ruin it," he sighed.

He darted across the roof towards the screams. As he ran, he pushed a small button located on his belt and his night vision lenses snapped into place. He jumped the gap between buildings and heard the screams just ahead. Taking a few more steps, he leaped off the buildings edge. Within a matter of seconds, he withdrew his bo-staff and extended it to its full size.

Just as a knife was about to penetrate the screaming woman's throat, Robin dropped between her and her assailant, his cape draping over him.

"Back away now," Robin growled.

"Ooo, the Boy Blunder. I'm so scared," the attacker laughed. He dropped his knife and pulled out an uzi. "Try this on for size!"

Robin leaned out of the way of the first bullets, rolled under the next volley, and leaped to his left to cause the next to miss. He executed a kick that sent the gun flying. "What else you got?" he taunted.

The thug lunged at the Boy Wonder, but Robin easily grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back.

"Okay, okay!" the thug yelled. "Enough!"

Robin released his grip and slammed his boot into the man's back, sending him face first into a puddle. Robin ran back to the woman and helped her up. "Go, I got it from here."

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" the woman shouted with joy as she ran out of the alley towards the streetlights.

Meanwhile, the thug smiled to himself as his fingers curled around the knife he dropped. "You need to learn to finish the job!" he shouted as he hurled the knife in Robin's direction.

A thought wasn't even needed for Robin to react. Reaching in his belt, he withdrew it, armed, and threw three batarangs. He stepped to the side to avoid the knife and as it passed by, he snatched it out of the air by the handle.

While his attacker tried to process what he had seen take place in less than three seconds, he didn't even see the batarangs. The first struck him in his knee, the second glanced across his forehead and the third nailed him in his right hand.

"You son of a bitch!" he screamed. Even though the dark concealed the aftermath, Robin's lenses displayed a deep cut across the forehead, another cut across his knee, and one batarang lodged in his hand.

Robin smirked as he approached him. "You need to keep your mouth shut," he said. He lashed out with his left fist and barely tapped the thug, who slumped to the ground immediately.

"Oracle," Robin spoke into his communicator. "Send the police to 14th and Fromme. I got a would be rapist here to see what prison is really like."

"You got it," Oracle replied.

Seconds later, Robin was back above the streets. That felt great! My reflexes have never been better it seems! He dropped to another rooftop in the center of downtown Gotham. "It feels like nothing can stop me," he smiled to himself. It was then he heard the sounds of battle below him.

Removing his night vision lenses, he looked down to see the combatants. In the middle was a purple and back clad woman fighting what seemed to be an endless amount of ninjas. She was winning for the most part as ninja after ninja fell from her blows. She may have even won the battle if not for the flat side of a katana slamming against the back of her skull. The blow sent the girl sprawling and the ninjas piled on, but just as quickly the scattered away from her. Before her a female ninja appeared, a katana raised high to deliver a fatal blow.

Before he realized, Robin was off the rooftop and dropping into the ninja's midst. "Get away from her!"

Robin (Vol. 1) #16 - "For The Love Of Money, Part Four: Truths Revealed"

Robin (Vol. 1) #16 - "For The Love Of Money, Part Four: Truths Revealed"

 

Dana Drake had dreaded this from the moment she told him he could still do it. Still run around at all hours of the night in a crazy outfit beating up the bad guys. What kind of parent am I?

It was six thirty a.m. Her stepson, Tim a.k.a. Robin the Boy Wonder, had not returned home from his rounds in Gotham City the night before. Tim where are you? Her worst fear had come true: her stepson had to be laying somewhere in an alley. Dead.




As the first rays of sunlight came through his window, Thomas Jacobs stirred from his drunken rest. God...fucking liquor. He pulled himself to a sitting position and his hands went to his head, which was thumping with pain. As he reopened his eyes from the pain, he accessed his online bank account.

His Expo foray had paid huge dividends as his bank account tripled as he had anticipated. He had no sooner stood and lit a cigar when his office door flung open.

Expo entered the room, and Thomas could tell by the way his adrenaline glands were working he was still pumped about his thrashing of Robin. He blew smoke across the room as his new franchise player sat a DVD containing video of his battle on his boss' desk and took a seat.

"Okay, Thomas," he began. "You said you would fill in the gaps, let's hear it."

Jacobs sat in his chair and popped two aspirin into his mouth. "Fair enough," he replied.




Even as the rest of Gotham refused to wake from their sleep, the Gotham Gazette never allowed herself the pleasure.

Lydia sat in silence in her editor Mike's office, a smug look protruding from her soft features as he looked over the device she had found on her couch after Robin had left her apartment last night*. The story of the century is so coming out of my printer right now.

*See last issue-Yes I still write this title KC.

"What is this garbage?" Mike finally asked as he tossed the item on his desk. "I said something from his mouth and you give me this toy? No story, Lydia."

"Mike!" Lydia yelled in shock. "This is a very high tech device used for..." She picked up the device. "...I don't know exactly but I'm about to find out! She pushed the top red button.




Dana was awakened from her light sleep as the Redbird roared to life outside of the house. She leaped from her seat and ran out of the door, hoping that Tim was finally home, even though she didn't recall him taking the car. Instead, she saw the driverless vehicle reverse out of the driveway and down the road into Gotham City.

"Tim, I pray to God that you just did that," she whispered as she closed the front door.




"Like I said," Mike sighed. "No story."

"Come on Mike!" Lydia pleaded. "What did you expect, a building to blow up? Robin or Batman to come through your window?" She pulled out a tape recorder. "Besides, that was only my first trick." She put the recorder on the desk and pushed play, with her and Robin's conversation soon filling the room.

After it finished, she folded her arms and looked at Mike. "Well?"

"What kind of shit are you trying to pull Lydia? Do you need this story that bad? I'll just send you to the corner and you'll find some real news in five minutes!" He sat down and took a sip of his coffee. "No. Story. Let it go."

Lydia had had enough. She stood and slung her purse over her shoulder. "Fine. You can let it go then. I quit." She then turned on her heel and was gone.




Dana was pacing the kitchen frantically, racking her brain for what she should do next. I don't even know who to call. I mean I know Tim runs around with that Batman character but he's not exactly in the book. I can't just go driving around looking for him, who knows if he's even out as Robin still. I could call Ives' house but he would've at least called me by now. I don't know what to do! I have to figure something out!

"Where's Tim?" Jack Drake asked as he descended the stairs. "I checked his room but there's no sign of him." He took his wife in his arms and kissed her.

"He went to Ives' early to help him study for a big test," she lied. "Nothing to worry about."

"Ah, I see," he replied. "But speaking of missing persons, how come you weren't beside me for most of the night?"

"Oh, I was just up sick," she answered as Jack's eyes went wide. "I'm sorry, honey."

"No big deal..." Jack said as his words trailed off. He let go of her and went to the coffee pot.




In Jacobs' office, things were being cleared up for the first time.

"It was about a month ago Expo when I put the ad in the paper for one of those drug test subjects. Of course you being Terrance Harrington, sophomore in college, you called up not ten minutes after you saw the opportunity. I had my people meet you at a business office where we quickly subdued you with a black market sleeping gas. Once I had the chance to examine you I knew you would be perfect. Your football career as an offensive lineman had served you well, providing you with the right mass, yet also the strength to undertake my daunting task. I sealed you in a room and released a toxic gas, a gas that had changed me years before. As the gas was lethal, your system tried to react negatively by shutting down your brain functions. I stabilized your brain patterns and managed to enhance both your strength and your size with the help of the gas. But I also knew that these radical changes would be too much for your system and if you were screaming in agony for the rest of your life, you would be no good to me. So I blacked out your memories of the process and than unleashed you into the world. My Expose for any and all who may ever doubt me." Jacobs' took a swig of his bottled water and propped his feet up on his desk.

Expo nodded his head as he began to fully comprehend what was done to him. "So basically, I'm your unwilling muscle?" he asked.

Thomas put his cigar out in the ashtray. I really hope for his sake he doesn't try to get cute. "I wouldn't say unwilling..."

Expo smiled. "Neither would I. But even though that answers my questions about myself, what about you? What is it about the gas that made me made you who you are?"

Thomas smiled as he stood and walked over to Expo, placing a hand on his broad shoulder. "Do you have a lifetime to listen my friend?"




Across town, a bus pulled up under the canopy of the ritzy Gotham Hotel. Several passengers filed out, some looked downtrodden, others with their spirits on the up and up. But one particular passenger paused for a moment and inhaled the Gotham air, almost choking from doing so as the bus pulled away and sprayed exhaust in her face.

"It's good to be back home," she said as she tossed her blonde hair out of her face and carried her luggage inside. After checking in, she soon emerged out of the elevator on the thirty-ninth floor. She opened her room door with her key card and threw her bags on the bed. She then flicked on the TV and flopped herself onto the bed, where she lit a cigarette and inhaled the toxins deeply.

Stephanie Brown didn't know why she had picked up smoking in St. Louis, but she did know it somehow calmed her nerves. "I wonder what Tim would think of me now..." she said to no one in particular. "God I've missed that boy."




"Ow," was the only word he could muster as he awoke from the land of the unconscious. He pulled himself very slowly up the wall until he achieved a sitting position, and although nothing was broken, his head was ringing like a four alarm blaze at the local fire station. "But I'm alive," Robin muttered. "Lord only knows why."

No sooner did the words leave his mouth he was lifted off the ground in a quick and efficient manner and placed onto a much softer surface than the unforgiving concrete he had been laying on. My vision is blurred, which means I have seriously messed up my head this time. But more importantly, who has it in for me now?

"He's awful lucky to be alive. By the looks of his face, he should be dead right now."

"If that's his face when he's alive, imagine what it would've been if he had been killed."

"Bruce! Alfred! I'm so glad it's you two!" Tim said as his mask was pulled off his face.

"Take it easy, Master Timothy," Alfred answered as he put an ice pack on his head. "By the dilation of your eyes I can tell you have a minor concussion at the least, so no need to get excited."

"It took Oracle all night to track your comm-link signal after you passed out again, I'm just glad that you're alive," Bruce said as he sat across from his partner in his newly modified limo. "But you do look like hell, so maybe a few dabs of makeup wouldn't hurt for when you get home."

Dana! "What time is it?"

"Eight thirty," Bruce replied.

Tim slapped a gloved hand to his forehead as his vision started to refocus. "I gotta call Dana! She's probably worried sick!"




Back in her apartment, Lydia stared blankly as she flipped through the television channels.

I can't believe you, Mike! I gave you the concrete evidence you ask for and you still turn me down! And there's no way I can run the Robin story anywhere else cause you were the only editor with the balls to hire me. And with that said, how am I going to get a job now? It's not like a have a Pulitzer or two sitting around here.

As an advertisement for BPP Heath & Fitness flashed across the screen, she knew sitting at home wasn't doing her any good. She went into her closet and grabbed her coat.

"Hopefully a long walk will clear my head some," she sighed as she exited her apartment and locked the door behind her. "There has to be something out there..."




In the Drake home, Dana was disturbed from her ninth cup of coffee by the home phone ringing. When she sprung from her chair she knocked over the coffee and almost tripped over the table leg as she snatched it from the receiver.

"Hello?"

"Hi Dana," Tim said weakly as he held the icepack to his head from the confines of the Batcave. "I'm okay."

"Where the hell have you been all night?!" Dana screamed. "You know how worried I've been? You better have a damn good..."

"I'm okay, Dana," Tim repeated. "I ran into some trouble last night and I couldn't... make it home. But I'm okay."

"Tim, this isn't the reason I let you continue to do this..." Dana began.

"I know and I'm sorry. But I didn't want to keep you up worrying about me."

"You did that any way," she replied curtly.

"I'll be home in awhile, Ives already rode the bus to school. I'll see you then."

"I'll be waiting," she answered. She hung up the phone questioning Tim even more.




No sooner did Tim hang up the receiver, he heard a familiar beep of his just replaced comm-link.

"I got something Tim," Oracle began. "All this trouble you've been having this week, it's stemming from a betting ring."

"Gambling?" Tim asked. "I'm getting my ass kicked over gambling. And they say it's not a drug!"

"No lie," Oracle agreed. "It seems this betting ring is based on metahumans. With TV news always focused firmly on us, some sicko has been planning this for awhile. There are a few of these betters who've made a bundle off of Bruce and Clark alone. But at the heart of it all, the one who seems to have bet on you, is Thomas Jacobs. Also known as the founder of the betting ring. But personally, let Bruce or Cassie handle this Tim, you've had enough for one week."

"You have no idea."

"You'd be surprised. Go home, I have to check on Dick. Oracle out."

"What do you think of that Alfred?" Tim asked as his friend took the icepack off of his forehead.

"I think you need to listen to Miss Barbara and stay. At. Home," Alfred implied. "Some clothes are over there on that chair." Alfred then headed back upstairs to the manor.

Tim rose from his seat, every muscle, bruise, and scrape screaming in pain with him. Sonuvabitch. There's no way I'm staying home and letting someone else finish this case. Jacobs singled me out and I'm gonna bring the fight right to him. But first, Expo goes down.

He finished buttoning his shirt and slid his watch on his wrist. "God, how do I explain this to..." He paused while he searched around his utility belt for his remote for the Redbird. "Where in the...Lydia." All he could do was smack himself in the forehead.




Back in Thomas' office, Expo sat and listened like he was in kindergarten. "It was the 2000 election. I was on Lex's election committee...okay you may want to say one of his staunch supporters. Luthor signed my checks, but I never actually met the man. The campaign was going great and little by little I could see Lex winning over the general populous. As Election Day drew nearer I found myself being accepted within Lex's inner circle."

"I made a few friends and next thing I know myself and three of Lex's closest advisors were at the bar just having a few drinks. Then Lex walks in and comes and sits down at the bar with us. I'm the furthest away and I really didn't want to bother the man but one of his associates leans over and says how Lex hasn't been paying any of us the way he should. Eventually all three of my 'friends' started bitching and moaning about it but none would open their mouth about it. Finally, I had had enough and I let the liquor take control of me. I stood up, marched up to Lex and demanded to know why he wasn't paying us."

"Lex just looked at me momentarily and smiled. Then he got up and left. Didn't say a word. Just brushed me off like I was nothing. I wanted that type of power. I wanted the whole 'I don't give a fuck, I'm so and so' power. I just had no clue how to get it."

"I got my answer later that night as I tried to go to sleep in my hotel room. I was ambushed, blindfolded, and pushed into the back of a trunk. No sooner was the blindfold raised than my 'friends' pushed me into a room no bigger than refrigerator. As I scrambled to my feet to assess my surroundings, I noticed I was left alone with this strange barrel marked toxic which had been leaking a green gas."

"It wasn't long before the toxin asphyxiated me and I succumbed to the darkness. But instead of killing me, the gas had an unexpected side effect. I awoke several hours later in that same room, in a sort of haze. Realizing the barrel had emptied itself, I approached the door looking for some type of way to pry it open. I knew the situation had become hopeless so I pounded on the door. Unexpectedly, the door swung open and I made my escape."

"The same gas that Lexcorp was seeing as a waste was the same gas that gave me my gifts. I found that I could control anyone's brain functions aside from speech and movement. I can increase adrenaline, stop breathing, and even shutdown the brain entirely. I finally had the means to get that power I so desired."

"I quickly moved myself up the corporate ranks with my powers. A partnership here, a dead body in the swimming pool there, a signature here, a friend dead from an unlucky chicken bone there, and so on... And I was taking every single dime of their money."

"Finally, I had to make the moves that proved my power. I propositioned Antonio Williams first with the betting ring. He refused and you can only imagine what became of him* . I was going to talk to Roland Desmond but we both know what happened to him** , so I put the first steps in motion by sending Cluemaster after his daughter Stephanie when she was running around as Robin*** . And in an attempt to get Lex to notice that I wasn't playing games, I alone organized the assault on the JLA's Watchtower headquarters**** ."

*The Brave & The Bold #14
*Nightwing #12
*Robin #8-9
*JLA #9-10 - You thought I couldn't bring it all together but I did so ha ha ha KC.


Expo stood from his chair after Thomas finished. "Wow," he said. "You did all that?"

"And I've only just begun," his boss smiled as he lit a cigar.




Lydia had wandered around Gotham in a daze for the past hour or so, not finding any better way to prove to Mike her Robin story was true. I could never take the story somewhere else either cause Mike would have me blackballed from here to Metropolis. Sighing, she leaned against a nearby building as Gotham's pedestrian traffic kept milling by. She was surprised to see a bright red sports car parked perfectly in front of her.

Lydia turned around and saw she had walked straight to the Gotham Gazette and, ironically enough this car had turned up right in front of her former place of employment.

"This has to have something to do with Robin's remote," she guessed. She approached the car and was shocked when the passenger door opened, a response generated by proximity to the remote. Maybe I can find some concrete evidence to prove to Mike I'm not lying inside and if not, maybe the car can do it! She sat down in the car and started to look around. No sooner did she turn around and look in the back, the door slammed shut and the engine roared to life. The vehicle backed itself out of its parking space and took off down the busy streets.

As the Redbird dipped in and out of traffic, Lydia barely managed to buckle her seat belt. "Oh shit..."




"Thanks Alfred," Tim waved as the limo rolled up its window and headed back towards Wayne Manor. It had just disappeared from sight when Dana flung the front door open.

"That's it, Tim! No more," she yelled as she stomped across the front lawn. "You're not...doing..." Her words trailed off as she reached her stepson and embraced him.

"I'm okay Dana," Tim replied. "Just a few bumps."

"You scared me to death young man," she said as she broke the hug. "I don't know what your father thinks at this point, I've been a nervous wreck all night."

"You didn't..." Tim asked as his eyes questioned hers.

"No. But I almost did and should have. Tim, I don't know..." Tim put a finger to his lips.

"I know, Dana. Please just let me go to sleep for now, and we'll talk when I get up."

Dana nodded as Tim went upstairs, knowing she couldn't take Tim's second life anymore.




The Redbird was exiting downtown Gotham and heading to the more suburban Gotham Heights and gaining speed.

"What am I gonna do?" Lydia yelled in panic. "This thing could be on the way to blowing up!" Or it could be leading you to Robin. Lydia barely noticed the small notion that she could be on to something and knew she had one chance of escape. "Here goes nothing..." She unbuckled herself and lifted a small black handle on the door. To her shock and delight the door flung open and she tumbled onto an empty road just outside of the Gotham Heights district. The Redbird closed its door instantly and continued its journey. Lydia pulled herself off of the asphalt, scraped, bruised, but alive.

As she gingerly walked to the side of the road, Lydia reached in her purse and saw her cell phone was undamaged.

"I need some answers. Real ones." The phone only rang twice before another female came onto the line.

"How may I direct your call?"

"Sir Edmund Dorrance," Lydia said.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Dorrance is in a meeting," the secretary replied. "Would you like his personal voice mail?"

"King Snake," Lydia practically hissed.

"I'll put you right through."




The Redbird braked perfectly into its reserved spot in front of the Drake residence and altered its appearance from combat vehicle to normal sports car. Inside, Tim Drake was doing some work of his own.

"How can this guy be clean, Barbara?" Tim asked as he lay in bed with his eyes barely open.

"Actually that's what I need to tell you. In person, at the Clocktower," Oracle answered.

"I'll be there in a few minutes, sans Robin," Tim agreed as he closed the comm-link. He grabbed his jacket and headed down the steps.

"Tim, where are you going?" Dana asked when she saw him.

"The Redbird is back and I'm going to Ariana's. To apologize," he lied. "I'll be back in a bit."

Before Dana could say anything else, the phone rang. "Hello?"

"Hey Mrs. Drake, it's Ives. I picked up all of Tim's homework for him since was sick. Just so he knows."

"Bring it on over Ives. I'm sure he'll appreciate the thought. See you in awhile."




Stephanie wasn't waiting longer than a minute and a half before a cab stopped in front her hotel. "Take me to City Hall," she demanded as she sat down and closed the door.




Jacobs put out his cigar as his blinds closed behind him. "Robin will come for you tonight. Kill him."

Expo nodded. "Not a problem."

"Good," Thomas sneered. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have a meeting to attend.




As Sir Edmund's limo made it's way back into Gotham City, Lydia sipped on bottled water while she listened intently to King Snake.

"So you see, Ms. Smith, Jacobs has been behind all of this weeks past events. The betting ring should be your real story now, not Robin." King Snake had recovered from his encounter with Riddler and looked larger and more fit than ever*.

*See Robin #2-KC

Lydia jotted a few notes on a napkin and pushed it into her purse. "Sir Edmund," she began. "We...you and I...we're done right? No more late night calls and errands?"

"That's right, Lydia. Consider your debt paid." Edmund took a sip of his own water. "I do believe this is your stop."

"Yes, it is. Thank you so much." Lydia threw her purse over her shoulder and headed back into her apartment building.

King Snake allowed himself a small chuckle as his limo pulled away.




Across town, Tim had silently entered the Clocktower and was twenty feet away from Barbara Gordon, who was busy looking through information.

"Don't even try it, Tim," Barbara ordered without turning in her seat. "Batman's the only one who my systems can't pick up when he enters this room. You and Dick are lightweights when it comes to that man."

"Yeah, you know our boy Bruce," Tim agreed. "So what's the deal with Thomas Jacobs?"

"In a nutshell, Jacobs picked you as his power player and you're the only player he had at all. He placed half of his money on you and then he lost money when you got attacked on Monday*. He wasn't too thrilled from what I heard. So he took his bet off of you and onto a new player, Expo, also known as suspect number one for your attacker last night."

*Robin #13-14-the Monday of this story arc in case you didn't notice KC

Tim clenched his fists in anger. "The bet's still on Expo and Thomas wants to finish me tonight. That much is obvious."

"It seems Cluemaster was enlisted by Jacobs to attack Stephanie when she was Robin, too. So it runs pretty deep."

"Where can I find him?" Tim asked.

"No way, Tim. You have a concussion and you have no business taking on Expo again. I'll send Dinah out to handle it." Tim put his hand on top of Oracle's.

"No." Tim eyes narrowed. "I'm on it.

Barbara started to object but stopped herself. That look in his eyes...its so much like Bruce's... "Fine, Tim. But I'm gonna be monitoring you the whole time so your wearing this." She handed him a small box. "Just keep that in your belt and make sure the red light is on."

Tim nodded. "Thanks Babs," he said as he faded back into the shadows.

Barbara leaned back in her seat. "Bruce will have my head for this," she sighed.




Ives didn't even get to knock on the door before Dana flung it open.

"Oh Ives, it's you," she said rather flatly.

"Yeah, it's me," he agreed. "How is Tim?"

"Oh, he's feeling better, I actually just sent him to the store for a few things so you can take his homework up to his room."

"Okay Mrs. Drake," Ives answered as he went upstairs.

Dana propped herself on a wall and wiped her forehead. "Where are you, Tim?" she mumbled. Tim! Oh no! What if he had something out in his room? Dana ran up the steps and was just reaching Tim's doorway.

Ives sat the homework on Tim's dresser and started to walk out. "Tell Tim he lives like a pig," he joked as his eyes fell to something shiny on the floor. "What's that?" he asked.




Inside the mayor's office in City Hall, Stephanie paced back and forth nervously.

"Calm down girl," Jacobs replied as he stood from his seat. No one knows we're here. Let's just settle this."

"Okay," Steph agreed as she sat down.

"As requested, your mother will be provided and cared for by her own personal servants and one million dollars I delivered into her bank account. She will find all of this out tomorrow at 11 am. Also, your father Arthur Brown is dead; you witnessed it and also shot him in the head. He was laid to rest two weeks ago across the Atlantic Ocean."

"That's what I wanted to hear," Stephanie smiled as she stood back up. "We have a deal Thomas." She extended her hand.

"Great Ms. Brown, just great. I expect your sequence to go down tomorrow night." He handed her a duffel bag and sat back. "The best of luck."

"I don't need luck, Jacobs," Steph replied as she left the office. "That boy is already in my pocket."




Lydia's fingers were feverously typing up the betting story based on King Snake's info and a few looks around recent news. I may need to actually go in to get the full story though. She was interrupted when her cell phone rang. "Hello?"

"Lydia. How are you?" Robin asked.

"Robin?" she asked, unsure. "How did you get this number?"

"You're in the book," he replied. "Did I leave behind a small device about the size of a wallet?"

"Yeah, you did drop something like that."

"Destroy it for me, please." And then the line went dead.




Tim had just entered the house when Ives pointed an accusing finger.

"Tim! I know...I know...something. That you don't want to tell me," he yelled.

"Ives, I don't know what you're talking about," Tim started. "Yes you do! You're hiding something Tim cause even Dana is hiding it. And I don't know what it is but when I do...!" He ran past Tim and out the front door.

"What did he see?" Tim asked as he and Dana headed upstairs.

"Nothing, but he saw a glint of something. I think it was one of those bat-shaped things you have," Dana explained. "I just closed the door and tried to usher him out. Good thing your father is out."

"Yeah," Tim agreed. "I haven't seen him all day."

"He only said he was going out," Dana shrugged. She looked up and saw Tim was in his closet.

Tim stepped out and started pulling on the top of his costume. "Don't wait up Dana," he said firmly. As he fastened on the cape, the bedroom door was pushed open.

"And how are my favorite wife and son doing?" Jack Drake asked as he entered the room.




Lydia saved the sixteenth version of her article and pulled her hair out of its ponytail. She picked her leather jacket off of the chair and was headed for any nearby bar that participated in the betting ring.

"Time to go the extra yard," she said as she put a trucker hat on her head and headed into the Gotham evening.




Dana Drake couldn't form a rational thought as she turned to look at her husband. No! Jack can't find out about Tim. Not like this!

Jack's expression still wore the same smile he had when he entered. "You okay, Tim?"

Tim clutched his black robe tightly around him. "Yeah Dad, I've just been sick all day. I was actually about to lay down for the night."

Dana nodded her head and rubbed Tim on his shoulder

"Oh, okay, I'll let you get to sleep son," Jack said. He then turned and left without another word.

Dana stood in front of Tim as he refastened his cape and put on his mask. She walked up to him and paused for a moment.

She's going to hit me. I can tell.

Instead, Dana kissed Tim on his forehead. He smiled warmly at her then was gone out the window.




Lydia had no trouble with the bouncers or making it to the bar. She had just sat down and already a bartender was in front of her.

"What can I get you?"

Didn't ask for I.D. "Just a beer," Lydia answered.

No sooner was the cold beverage put into her hand, Lydia felt eyes watching her. She turned to see a fairly fit Asian woman glaring at her.

"Can I help you?" she asked as she took a swig of her beer.

"Why are you toying with him?" she demanded.

"With who?" Lydia asked with wide eyes.

"Don't play with me, girl. The adventurer."

"Robin?" she whispered. "I'm not doing that story any more!"

There was no response as the female had vanished.

Lydia blinked her eyes once, twice. I'll chalk that one up to no sleep.




Robin peered silently through his binoculars at the scene below. It had been two hours with no sign of Expo. I just know Jacobs has been tracking my movements and Lord knows what else. I'll give it another hour.

Ten minutes passed before Expo entered the construction site and stared up the structure.

"He knows I'm up here! I'll have to go by the element of surprise," Robin decided as he packed away his binoculars and moved down towards Expo.

"Come on out, boy," Expo yelled. "It'll be quick and easy."

"Not this time," Robin said.

Expo looked around but couldn't find the Boy Wonder. "Quit delaying!"

"Why would I want to delay?" Robin asked as he sprung from left of Expo and slammed his bo-staff into his kidney.

It was enough to make Expo's right arm fall to his side. "What a cheap shot," he commented.

"Oh, you like that? Try this one!" Robin shouted as he hurled a batarang from above his foe. The projectile connected with Expo's face and opened a mean gash across his forehead. The shock of the blow made Expo grab at his face and send him falling three stories from the structure.

And let's see what we got. Robin released his line and landed ten feet away from where Expo had landed. He's huge! I wasn't able to see all of him because it was dark when we fought last night. But now that he's down how do I keep him that way?

Expo pulled himself off of the ground and wiped the blood from his head. "You know you can't win, right?"

Robin readied himself for the real fight. "Depends on how you define win."

Expo tried to nail Robin in the head with his right, but was two seconds too late. Robin had already unleashed with a left that bloodied the older man's nose. As Expo staggered, Robin slammed his staff into his enemy's stomach. He stood back to watch the results.

Expo grunted in pain for a moment than stood up. "Okay, that was a really nice attempt, but not good enough." He charged Robin, rammed him with his shoulder and sent the Boy Wonder onto his back.

Expo grabbed Robin by his shirt and lifted him easily. He tossed the dazed hero towards a nearby girder that his back met with a sickening thud.

Before Robin could regain his balance, Expo swung his arm like a club, knocking his head into the girder.

"As much fun as I'm having, you're only the smallest tip of the iceberg," Expo hissed as he wiped the blood that poured from his cut and nose. He lifted the Boy Wonder again and nailed him in the face with his free hand, then dropped him.

Robin wiped the blood that now came from his upper lip. I've got to get away. He began crawling, where to he wasn't sure as he was quite dazed, only to have his leg grabbed by Expo.

Expo lifted the youth up until they were eye to eye. He then spit in the boy's face and dropped him again. The light was fading from Robin's world again for the second time in as many days. Got to stay conscious...can't go down this time. He reached into his utility belt.

"You know what boy?" Expo began as he reached for the Boy Wonder. "I don't know why Mr. Jacobs has it in for you anyway. You got a lot of potential."

"Thanks," Robin coughed as he threw down three light bombs. The intense light flashed into Expo's eyes and forced him a step back. Once the light had faded, Robin was nowhere to be found.

"Robin!" Expo hollered. "Don't make this any harder than what it has to be! Don't call in the Bat either. I'm prepared!"

Behind a nearby barrel, Robin threw his cape on the ground. Got to think of something to put this guy down. My fists won't do...but that will. He picked up his staff and stood from behind the barrel.

"Let's finish this then."

The Boy Wonder charged Expo, who didn't budge an inch. His staff sliced through the air with the speed from the fight's beginning, but lacked its aim. Expo warded off the blows with his forearms as he tried to retaliate. Robin then spun around his opponent and nailed him the back with his staff. As Expo tried to turn to face him, he was met with another blow to his bleeding head.

Expo paused, dazed as Robin moved back in front of him. Another precise blow to the stomach sent the behemoth back a few more steps. Move dammit! Robin kicked at Expo's left knee as the villain attempted to grab him but failed.

"One more should do it," he whispered as he swung his staff once more...only to have Expo grab it and break it in two.

"So much for that advantage," Expo grinned as he grabbed the boy again. "This time you won't get up."

Robin had grabbed a batarang a moment before Expo grabbed him. He has my arm pinned, this is gonna have to come from the wrist. Knowing he had only a few seconds before he met the cold earth again, he launched the batarang as accurately as he could.

Expo hurled the youth to the ground, where he slid to a stop a few feet away. Robin's shoulder was screaming in pain. Dammit...dammit...this has to work now, my shoulder's out for the night.

"Was that enough to break you child? Or do I need to...what the fuck?" Expo's taunts had turned from authoritative to shouts of surprise. Concrete was pouring onto him from the truck behind him. "This won't stop me, or did you forget how strong I am?"

"No I didn't," Robin replied, still unable to gather himself. "Just watch."

"Yeah, watch how I step on your head, now!" Expo started towards the boy but found his progress severely slowed and eventually, stopped. "So what? I can break this," he grunted. "What's...a...little...concrete?"

Robin shakily brought himself to his feet. "Don't wear yourself out, E. You have enough concrete to hold you until the jackhammer says so." He picked up his cape and draped it back over his shoulders. "Tell Jacobs I'm coming for his ass tomorrow. He has until tomorrow night to get out of Gotham. I'm no one's sure bet."

"Mr. Jacobs will tear you limb from limb! He's even more powerful than me!" Expo yelled as he continued to struggle against his "prison".

"Is that so?" Robin asked. He pulled another batarang and flung it through the air, where it nailed Expo in the mouth. "I don't care. I'm not just the Batman's sidekick anymore."

As Expo spit out teeth behind him, Tim activated his comm-link. "Oracle, call the cops and tell them Expo is at the construction site up on 22nd and Harrison. I busted my shoulder up but he's not going anywhere. Tell Batman and I'm going the hell to bed. Robin out."

"Good job Tim, you deserve a good night's sleep."




NEXT ISSUE: For The Love Of Money continues on! What is Stephanie planning for her reunion with Tim? And who did Lydia run into in the bar? FTLOM part 5 is coming and it won't take me a year to write it!