Grave Matters

Summary:
September 13, 2014: Keith and Bethany both independently come to visit the grave of a dead girl… Who has been more active of late than most dead people generally are.

Gotham Cemetery

Massive, oppressive, rife with tombstones, statues, monuments, and fog.


Characters

NPCs
None


Mood Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLq9DnkZHfU


Don't come to Gotham without the Bat-Blessing. That's something every member of the Titans knows as one of the rules of vigilantism, Gotham and its villains belong to the Bats.

Ghosts, on the other hand? That's a horse of a different color. Or at least it is in Keith O'Neil's books.

Even though it is not quite the end of Summer yet, Gotham welcomes the Fall eagerly, with tendrils of morning mist clinging to the green. Ancient headstones and mausoleums appear outlined in the mist, covered in moss and ivy. There are stone angels that droop mournfully over the departed, their arms and fingers spread in supplication of eternal peace. There are romanesque statues draped over marble blocks, languishing in mournful attitudes that manage to be both beautiful and heartbreaking at once. There were some master sculptors, back in the day.

Gotham cemetery has abundant greenery and trees, but everything in Gotham seems to revel in decay to some degree, and it is even more acute in the Necropolis: The trees are never quite as vigorous or as straight, the grass never quite manages a pure emerald tone.

Marilyn's grave is one of a few on this particular path. Killed twelve years ago, Keith muses. "I wonder if it'll have an angel."

He has not come in his guise as Vorpal, the Cheshire Cat— that would get him too much attention. Instead, he is here as his human self- red hair, green eyes, and way too many freckles for his taste. His hands are thrust in the pockets of his black leather jacket, fingers on one hand toying with his rather ancient phone. Of course, he's a little anxious… he's never really done this sort of investigation before, but it seemed too… strange not to look into things.

-

Henry Daschel is one of the officers who was recently frightened into confessing to covering up the hit-and-run killing of fourteen-years old Marilyn Charleston, twelve-years ago. He had a little discussion with someone who visited him in his holding cell about what exactly prompted him to confess, and that someone is now here in Gotham Cemetery, looking for the grave of the girl who was slain. But it's not just him that is here in the early morning. Keith came looking for a ghost. And after searching in the fog for several minutes, he eventually locates one.

Marilyn was a sleepwalker. She had a history of going wandering around at night, and having no recollection of such when she woke up. That night, when she died, she actually got up, unlocked the front door, and left the house, wandering out into the neighborhood, and then into the street. She never even knew what happened. In that regard, and because of the poor lighting, it was not really Judge Swanson's fault that he hit her. There was no way he could have seen her in time. She wasn't even supposed to be there.

It was the fact he never took responsibility for what he did, didn't even TRY to get help for her, let alone stick around to make a statement. For twelve years, Marilyn's parents were left not knowing what happened to their daughter. They didn't even know she was killed. She just vanished — though it seemed as though she had sleepwalked out of the house, they had no way of knowing for sure. And the fact she never turned up or came back made it even worse.

She could have been kidnapped or worse, and they just plain didn't know.

Now they knew.

Now the ones responsible had been brought to justice — or would be, when they went to trial. The one who killed Marilyn and then drove off was still in the hospital, under guard. He hadn't woken up still. But Marilyn's spirit had been avenged.

So why, exactly, was Bethany Durant still seeing her? The countless ghosts who plagued her had thus far vanished when their murderers were confronted and punished appropriately — whether that meant scaring them into a nervous breakdown and then calling the cops to pick them up or scaring them into confessing to their crimes and letting the justice system handle them.

But the broken-necked teenage girl, long black hair draping around her head and face, was still standing there next to her as the similarly ebon-tressed but significantly older woman crouched at Marilyn's grave. Bethany is wearing a black long coat over a black sweater, with pale blue jeans on her legs and stable, flat-soled boots on her feet. The cold creeps right through the jeans, making her wish she had chosen warmer pants, but that isn't her focus.

Her focus is Marilyn… And the hundreds of other ghosts that flit in and out of existence around her. They are blurry images — wraiths forming and dispersing into the mist. She is concentrating on the problems of one ghost right now, and that keeps the others on the peripheral of her senses and her awareness. She is more concerned with ghosts than living people, and thus Keith's approach is undetected. Bethany has a lot on her mind right now, after all.

If she can't make the ghosts vanish by bringing their killers to justice anymore, what does she do now? Is she doomed to be haunted by them forever? Was there someone else involved she missed? Something more she had to do?

The broken-necked girl with the bloody nightgown and crushed torso has no answers for her.

-

Keith stops when he sees someone crouching at the grave. Sister? The newspapers didn't mention any siblings. Mother? Unlikely, far too young. He leans against a nearby tree and crosses his arms. Friend of the family, perhaps? Schoolteacher?

The feeling in the area is oppressive- he's never liked the Gotham Cemetery. It's lonely in a way that has nothing to do with how empty it usually is. It sets off disturbing thoughts of his mother, his father, everybody he has ever lost. It reminds him of his loneliness.

He waits to be noticed, but then grows impatient and says, "Sorry, didn't know anyone was here."

-

Bethany turns when she hears a voice, rising quickly to a standing position and peering at Keith. She is not an unfriendly person, ordinarily, though something of a workaholic. However, ever since discovering her 'gift' (aka curse), she has been on-edge and less than charitable towards those who aggravate her. Even over minor things. Blue eyes still squinting at Keith through the fog, she says frostily, "Now you know." And knowing is half the battle to being left alone.

Though… Being left alone mostly amounts to going back to worrying about being haunted for the rest of her life, and trying to figure out how to solve the mystery of the deaths of thousands of people, one-by-one, when the method she's been using so far seems not to work anymore. She has been spending so much time around the dead, or the terrified living, that it's starting to choke her thoughts with darkness and death — almost making her believe she actually IS an avenging ghost instead of a special-effects artist caught up in the affairs of the departed and those who rendered them as such.

She actually feels distant from other people. Alien. She's sharing the same planet, the same air, and this is the same Gotham City as before her accident, and she even has a normal civilian existence when she's not solving murder mysteries… And yet for some reason, she feels like she's surrounded by strangers in some foreign country.

She realizes why, of course. It's because nobody else knows. They haven't seen what she has seen. They keep going about their regular lives, even if those lives for some are extroardinary, not seeing the death that drips and crawls and weeps on every street corner. They don't have the vivid imagery of the final moments of thousands of people trying to claw its way out of their skulls practically every waking (and sleeping) moment. Even those who have seen death can put it out of their minds.

Bethany can't. That's why she's Cemetery. Because this entire cemetery, and more, is stuffed inside of her and she can't get it out. But it's making her someone else in the process of clearing her mental vault. And she doesn't like that. What if she gets rid of all these ghosts and can't go back to a normal life afterwards? What if she becomes so emotionally detached from other people that she stops using non-lethal methods, and takes matters into her own hands? What if adding to the ghosts that haunt Gotham City stops being repugnant to her?

All of this goes through her mind, along with the clamor of the phantoms in the fog around her that only she can see, and she decides she is not quite ready to stop being human, and not ready to seperate from the rest of the living. Her expression softens, and she relaxes somewhat. Her shoulders, hunched defensively, lower. She says, "Sorry. I've just had a taxing few… Months, really. I'll get out of your way." Maybe Keith is a friend of the family or a relative or something. Though as she starts to depart, something occurs to her. She isn't free of Marilyn yet. There must still be something left to do. She pauses in the process of starting to walk towards and past the red-haired young man, and looks at him.

«What if this guy is involved somehow?»

"Sorry to ask this, but… Did you know Marilyn?"

-

"Never met her," the redhead says as the woman stops to address him. "But recent circumstances have brought her to my attention, you might say." He pushes off from the gnarled tree and walks towards the grave, his boots dragging a bit on the ground as he approaches it. Did she disturb the grave? Was she doing something over it? Maybe a ritual?

He should have brought Raven with him. Of all the magic users in the Titans, Raven would be the most likely to know about ghosts and apparitions, whereas the Zataras and Wiccan were more adept at changing the world than seeing what was in it.
"I poke my nose into things. Sometimes I find things out. Then we deal with them." He looks at Bethany over his shoulder. "And you?" he asks. Her question gives him the lattitude to be nosy about her. And cats love being nosy.

-

So, he's like a detective or private investigator or something. Maybe a reporter. Seems a bit young for that, but she doesn't know what kind of age limits there are on that. Maybe he's even just some kid who fancies himself something he isn't. But something he says draws her attention. Possibly a slip of the tongue. Instead of answering the question posed to her, she latches onto it, her sharp mind seeking out information like a cursed knife working its way towards the heart of its victim. Steam streams from her lips in the cold as she inquires, "'We'? So there are others working with you? You're not poking into this by yourself?" She seems calm still, but there's definitely a certain sense of intensity to her questioning. Like she has a stake in the answer.

-

Now that seemed to have gotten her attention. Interesting. He notices how intense she seems and takes note. His other hand is wrapped around his hand mirror, in case he needs to orchestrate a hasty transformation… just in case she is more than meets the eye.

"Of course not. You can't look into things proper all by yourself, now, can you?"

Keith tilts his head. There wasn't much reason to hide his affiliation- after all, it wasn't as if he had a secret identity. He barely had much of a life outside of the 'cape' and his job, so to speak. It was that he just simply didn't bother to make it public. "I'm with the Titans."

-

Hm. Not quite what she was expecting to hear. Beth kind of expected an excuse or a lie. But that… Actually seems plausible. And she isn't seeing any signs of lying in Keith's body language. Already seemingly relaxed, she still eases off a bit as she says. "Sorry for prying. Still, you never know. Some people have no choice but to go it alone. Marilyn's parents sure didn't get any help when they tried to find out what happened to their daughter." She doesn't feel obligated to share personal information about herself, but she at least can be somewhat forthcoming and honest. Nothing like honesty to dissuade suspicion. It's what Keither just used to throw her off, after all.

Yeah, she noticed.

"I'm just poking around as well. My interest is more than curiosity, but I didn't know her personally." She turns around to face the grave again, hands in her coat pockets. The life leeches from her eyes, making them seem to go dull and non-reflective as she stares emotionlessly at the headstone with the cherubim blowing their trumpets on either side. "She wasn't even buried here, you know," Beth says suddenly. "One of the police officers that covered up her death admitted to dumping Marilyn's body elsewhere in the cemetery. Used a grave that wasn't filled yet, and put her in the soil at the bottom. Said he saw it done on an episode of 'The X-Files'. They're digging up two bodies today, so that they can put Marilyn to rest in her own grave."

She breathes out slowly, more steam pouring from her lips. "I suppose I was hoping to find something that could give me some answers. Help me find closure of my own. My faith in the justice system has taken some major hits with… All this." She gestures vaguely around. Law enforcement covering up an accidental killing for a judge. "I needed something more, and I guess I feel Marilyn needs something more too. But I'm not sure what." She turns her gaze towards Keith and offers him a lop-sided, thin-lipped, humorless smile. "After all, apparently Gotham City has ghosts, if you believe the news."

-

"I wouldn't be surprised if it did," Keith answers, walking back to the grave and putting a hand on the headstone. Disgusted, that is how he feels hearing the story of the body. But what could you expect? This was Gotham. Despite the fact that the Batman put the fear of god in everybody who crossed his path, there were people stupid enough to keep trying.

"I'm willing to believe in ghosts. After all, I have firsthand experience with death."

Somewhat of a wicked grin comes accross his face then, as a thought occurs to him. "It is truly horrible. But perhaps a little bird can tell another little bird, who then can tell a big Bat to put in a personal visit to these individuals in jail. If just to make sure that anyone who gets this kind of idea in the future will remember that the Bat doesn't put up with corruption. In the fullness of time, all guilts come to the surface one way or another."
Yes. Perhaps he should give Nightwing another call and let him know.

"You feel she needs something more?" Keith tilts his head. "… because of the news? But there haven't been any further sightings of her. Not since that officer confessed."

Why was she so involved with this girl? It couldn't just be an emotional reaction to a random bit of news… but then again, maybe it could. Gotham was full of loonies.

-

"Super hero business seems pretty wild enough for it," she says in acknowledgement.

Beth's temperament immediately sours at the mention of 'The Bat'. "Batman didn't catch these people. They went a dozen years without being caught. He had no clue and never would have caught on. Whatever or whoever brought them to justice, if it was a ghost or their guilt or WHATEVER, it wasn't some giant bat." There's definite bitterness in her tone, though she squelches it quickly. "I've never run into Batman, but I don't think he can be everywhere at once, and stuff slips through the cracks. Whether it's him, or Batgirl, or Batboy, or Batgrandpa, or whoever else, I just don't believe they can do it all. I mean… Look around you." She turns around in a circle, gazing upon the entirety of Gotham City cemetery. "Just about everyone in Gotham has lost someone, and a whole lot of those people are buried right here. But there's lots more who aren't, and never will be. Can't trust the police, can't trust the courts, and certainly can't trust the people to not screw each other over."

Bethany shakes her head. "I want to go back to having faith in the systems in place. I want to have faith that, by whatever means, these tragedies will be resolved, and those left behind will have justice. That's what I'm hoping for, I guess. That maybe the ghost of that little girl will show up and tell me, 'I got my justice. Everything is going to be okay now.' It might seem to strange to put my hope in a dead girl showing up, but at this point it seems more plausible than someone in a cape solving the deaths of those who were killed over a decade ago."

She shrugs. "This might not be the most clear-headed view of things or the most logical course of action, and I'm sorry for talking your ear off. Like I said, I've had a rough few months. I'm just feeling shitty and was hoping to clear my head by confronting things instead of stewing in my thoughts at home."

-

"Nobody can catch everybody. Nobody is infallible. He just wants most crooks to think he is. As you said, you can't be there all of the time. But you do what you can, when you can- and the result is that fewer people get screwed than if you weren't there at all. The rest?" He young man shrugs. "Chaos, unfortunately. The universe is neither kind nor merciful, it simply is. But you can trust some people. Don't have faith- it's better to know something rather than believing against evidence. There's crooked people everywhere."

He runs his hand along the headstone. "There's also good people everywhere, too, and it'd be a shame to cast them into the same pit just because some people choose to be simply awful."

He looks at the woman. The mention of her ghost comes up again.

"Have you seen this little girl?"

-

Bethany sighs, and nods. What this kid (he's nearly two decades younger than her, she estimates. That makes him a kid, even if she doesn't even look to be in her 30s yet), is saying makes sense of course. She just… Doesn't agree. Batman deals with different things. He doesn't open up cold case files and try to find leads on murders or missing persons or whatever. Sure, she's assuming a lot, but there's a whole lot of ghosts here who aren't getting anything from Batman. He simply CAN'T do what Cemetery does — what Bethany does.

Because he doesn't see them, and doesn't know what they know.

"What, would it surprise you if I had? I thought you had experience with death." she says with a soft smile and a sarcastic arch of an eyebrow as she turns to leave. "You don't need to be a super hero to see ghosts in Gotham City," she calls back over her shoulder. "You just need to hang around long enough to realize the whole city is haunted." After that, she walks away into the fog, without ever really answering the question.

-

Keith stays with his mouth open as Bethany leaves, as she doesn't give him the chance to reply.
"… I could help?" He says, to nobody at all. Well, that was a waste. For a moment he considers transforming and following her, invisible…

But that wouldn't be a good thing to do. He puts his hands back into his pockets with a heavy sigh. "Gotham: 2, Vorpal: 0." He was really beginning to hate this city, where even conversations had to be conducted with half-veiled eyelids. It did things to you. No wonder every Bat-person seemed to be a raging neurotic. Even the ghosts, apparently.

As he turns back, a lightbulb goes off in his head. "Unfinished business?…" what if the girl had left something unsaid? Something important?

Finding out where her parents lived was easy. And it would be easy breaking into the house. But what were the odds that they kept her stuff around?

He thinks about the few things he has stashed in a treasure box, safe in Garfield logan's dorm room. The odds were rather high.

Maybe she kept a diary. It was a start, anyways. As for the strange woman…

"Well, if she really can see them, I suppose we'll end up running into each other."

He continues walking towards the exit.


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