Pairings/Characters: Jarod Sullivan, Danny Sullivan, Alfred, Bruce/Dick
Genres: Challenge, Horror
Warnings: Major character death, violence
Summary: The abandoned mansion on the outskirts of Gotham holds secrets that very few dare to investigate.
Date Of Completion: September 9, 2008
Date Of Posting: October 30, 2008
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1663
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Written for the 2008 DCU Fic/Art Halloween Challenge. Prompts used: Colors: Gold, Red. Traditional Elements: Fall Foliage/Trees, Moon/Moonlight, Haunted House(s), Ghosts/Spirits. Setting: Gotham City.
Moonlight shimmered on the lawn as two figures climbed up and over the brick walk, a creak from the rusty front gates startling the boys as they dropped to the ground, the wind rustling through the trees. The ancient oaks and maples groaned as their limbs swept down, leaves flying madly around.
The boys crept down the weed-choked circular driveway, the dark mansion looming high against the starlit sky. The sound of the nearby ocean was loud in the quiet night.
“This is crazy,” whispered the younger boy.
“Shut up!” hissed the older one.
Jarod Sullivan was twelve years old, his younger brother Danny nine. Both were dressed in jeans and dark sweatshirts, sneakers keeping their footsteps quiet.
Jarod nervously ran a hand through his sandy hair. Stupid Mariucci brothers. Stupid dare. Stupid him for taking it!
More weeds grew through the cracks of the cement portico, winding around the peeling columns. The brass knocker gleamed dully in the moonlight.
“Won’t the door be locked?” Danny whispered.
“Probably,” Jarod whispered back. “If it is, there’s bound to be a cracked window that’ll let us in. I mean, people have been stealin’ stuff from here for years.”
Jarod conveniently left out the fact that some people left without a single goodie. Because they were too busy screaming.
But any lifelong Gothamite knew that, Danny’s hazel eyes wide as they reached the front door.
Jarod studied the oak door. It was definitely in the rotting stages.
He wasn’t surprised at the estate’s neglect. After the…Incident…it had been kept up by the inheritor, but after he’d died, his inheritors had wanted nothing to do with it and had donated the house and grounds to Gotham City.
Gotham hadn’t wanted it, either.
The city had the place on the books but let it slowly decay. The mayor had enough worries without spending time on ‘a white elephant’.
Jarod pushed the door, but rotting or not, it was still solid. The rusty lock still worked, too.
“We’ll have to go around back and check for a smashed window.”
“This window is broken!” Danny pointed to a window a few feet way.
“Yeah.” Jarod checked it out. “Excellent!”
Jarod couldn’t disagree, but they’d come this far. “Come on.” He started through the window and turned his head. “Unless you’d like to stay here.”
Jarod grinned as he dropped inside, helping his brother down.
The foyer held touches of old grandeur, the enormous chandelier festooned with cobwebs and missing some crystals, the parquet floor cracked in places. The curving balustrade of the staircase was dull, and the small alcoves were empty, the statues long since pilfered. Faded squares on the peeling wallpaper showed where paintings had once hung, and the round table that would have been set in the middle of the foyer was lying on its side by a wall, the legs broken off.
“What are we supposed to take to prove we’ve been here?” Danny looked around nervously.
“I dunno. Paulie Mariucci said it had to be something that looked rich.”
Danny snorted and Jarod grinned. Silently he gestured to the right.
They entered the kitchen, signs of neglect everywhere in fading and peeling wallpaper, dust inches thick on the furniture and canisters, broken shards of a cookie jar scattered across the counter.
An old calendar hung crookedly on a nail on the wall. The date read exactly fifty years ago, faded handwriting in the squares. Jarod trained his flashlight on it and read:
October 6th—Make special trip for dinner party groceries.
October 7th—Dinner party—Jim and Barbara Gordon, Clark Kent and Lois Lane.--7:00
October 12th—Dick’s dentist appt.—10:00
October 16th—Bruce—business trip to Metropolis
October 20th—Lunch with Leslie—12:00—Edgewood’s
October 26th—Call for furnace cleaning
Jarod shivered as he saw the notation for the 31st.
Why did he agree to take this dare on Halloween night, on the 50th anniversary of…?
He jumped as Danny tugged on his sleeve. “There was a noise!”
“What noise?” Jarod scoffed but kept his voice in a whisper.
“Out there somewhere.”
“Hmph. C’mon, let’s see if we can find the library. Old fancy houses like this always have one.”
Cautiously they left the library and crept through the foyer and down the hall, passing the living room and formal dining room. The next room looked like a den or study.
“This is the library,” Jarod said as they reached the next room. “Whoa, that must be the ballroom.”
A few feet away, the enormous room gleamed eerily in the moonlight. The three great chandeliers were broken, as was one wall-length mirror, its shards glittering in the silvery light on the dull floor. Gold-colored velvet drapes were askew, one set missing.
Jarod remembered the stories of people swearing they’d seen ghostly figures dancing in this ballroom to the strains of haunting music. Swallowing, he directed Danny to the library.
Like every other room, the library was layered in dust. Books were tossed on the floor or on their sides on the shelves. It looked as if people had been searching for something.
The top of the desk was almost empty, its contents long stolen.
Two paintings caught Jarod’s attention. The first showed a pretty dark-haired woman seated in a dark-blue chair, pearls accentuating her wine-red dress. A handsome, well-dressed man stood by the chair, his arm draped on the back, and a young boy about seven or eight years old stood on the other side of the chair in a dark-blue sweater and pants, the woman’s arm around his shoulders. He had dark hair like the man and woman, and all three were smiling.
The next painting showed a handsome man in the same chair, dressed in suit and vest. Jarod squinted. His flashlight really needed new batteries. Was it the same man?
He looked from painting-to-painting.
No, the boy grown up.
A dignified, older man in a butler’s outfit was standing on one side of the chair, his hand resting on the younger man’s shoulder.
A young boy was standing on the other side of the chair, dressed in dark-green pants, red sweater and yellow shirt. The other two’s smiles were pleased, but this boy’s was practically dazzling.
A third painting over the marble fireplace (he was surprised the mantel wasn’t stolen, too) showed the boy grown up, still smiling, and the older man also smiling, his arm around the younger man. Both were dressed casually, and Jarod had to admit the boy had grown up to be extremely handsome, matching the older man in good looks.
Jarod frowned and he leaned in closer.
Were those slashes in the canvas?
The frightened hiss whirled Jarod around. “What?!”
Danny pointed with a trembling finger to the carpet.
Jarod hurried to his brother’s side. Danny’s flashlight beam was shaking. Jarod added his beam.
The carpet was light-blue, and there were several splashes of…blood?!
The grandfather clock began to chime.
Jarod’s mind flashed back to the old stories whispered in Gotham, and the newspaper and magazine accounts he had researched.
When he had asked his teacher if he could do a report on ‘The Incident’, she had sternly rebuffed him, so he had ferreted things out himself.
Fifty years ago, Gotham had been delighted with her Prince until he and his former ward had come out when the younger man had started college.
Outrage had greeted the announcement, whispers about what had happened before the ward come of age, and despite some support, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson had faced hostility.
And, early on Halloween night, an intruder (or maybe more than one) had invaded the Manor.
The butler, Alfred Pennyworth, had come home to find the bodies in the library…sliced to ribbons.
Epithets had been written on the wall in blood. Jarod snapped his head around, flashing his light on the wall.
GOD HATES FAGS!
HOMOS = AIDS
The double murders had heaped scorn on Gotham, and a spike in violence had been expected, but Batman and Robin still protected the city, the criminals insisting that both ‘weren’t human’, drifting in and out of shadows, the crooks unable to lay a finger on them.
Their successors were still on the job half a century later.
A loud thump made Jarod swing the light away, shivering as Danny whispered, “Jarod! Tonight’s the 50th anniversary!”
Both boys began to shake as they heard moans and screams suddenly reverberate around the walls, mixed in with maniacal laughter.
Jarod scrambled out of the window by the front door, cursing as a jagged piece of glass cut his arm. He helped Danny out as carefully as he could, heart racing.
Once Danny was clear of the window, the two boys pounded down the driveway, adrenaline helping them leap up to the top of the wall and scramble over, panting with fear as they bolted down the road.
Inside the Manor, two figures stood in the library, blood glistening on shreds of clothes. An unbearable sadness reflected on both scarred faces, and the taller figure took the younger man’s hand and urged him out of the library.
They went into the ballroom, whirling around as the haunting strains of a waltz began to play. Moonbeams sparkled around them as they danced around and up-and-down, a smile on the younger man’s face, grace in every movement.
There was joy in their movements despite the tragedy clinging to them, happiness in their hearts as they danced amidst decay, flickering shadows in cracked mirrors.
They broke apart in silvery sparkles, motes of moonlight drifting in the ballroom, suddenly re-forming into the Dark Knight and his bright Robin.
Ethereal and wispy, they floated through the tall French windows out onto the moonlit grounds, heading towards Gotham City.