"And when I got back, the first thing I noticed was... was how it was all just so quiet
The man in the three-piece suit looked down at his hands, noticing for the first time that they were trembling. He looked like he'd been up all night, with his hair unkempt and bags forming under his eyes, despite the incident having only taken place an hour prior. A lit cigarette dangled from his mouth weightlessly, swiping at the air infront of him while it rolled from one side of his lips to the other. He finally had to remove it after a few moments of subduing an intense panic, allowing it to drop to the floor so that he could stub it out. A flash of light from a CSI technician's camera momentarily made him flinch, which made the presiding detective start to wonder if he was fit to give testimony at all. But given that he'd made the call to the GCPD in the first place, Councilman Eric Yorke was the key to the only tangible lead that they had to go on. A breaking and entering to his home and a possible kidnapping without ransom generally relied on forensic evidence to track the culprit, but this time was different. This time, while there were no prints to go off of, something had been left behind. What it was exactly, nobody knew yet. And in Gotham City, that didn't necessarily mean there weren't a ready list of suspects.
James Gordon knew this better than most, quietly surveying the crime scene. His only partner in the MCU following his demotion from Commissioner had been Detective Ellen Yindell, who was in the midst of conducting the Councilman's on-site statement. Gordon had been impressed enough by her tenacity to approve of the choice, despite not getting to have a say. Yindell was fairly new to Gotham, but she'd acclimated quickly to the regular sense of dread that followed these types of scenes. That unspoken idea that any crime perpetrated in the city, no matter how small or trivial, could always lead down a darker path. Which made the more brazen incidents like these seem all the worse - there was never a truly way to tell how they'd shake out.
"The speech at Gotham Square had gone well. I... I think I garnered some points for re-election, I'm not... I can't be sure. It's irrelevant. The point is that when I got off stage, I was in a celebratory mood. I decided to call our groundskeeper and give him the... the night off. Oh, god
Yindell paused, noting that Yorke had been staring off into space."Councilor, if you need a moment to collect yourself, I'm sure that..."
"No. No, I... I think it was around eleven thirty when I arrived back. I had texted Veronica beforehand, you know, telling her that I'd picked up a case of champagne. We had actually talked about... about letting Heather try some for the first time. I mean, she's going away to college next week, right? We didn't... there was no harm in that."
Yindell cleared her throat."You said eleven thirty?"
"Y-Yes. And when I got home, I... noticed that the front gate was open. I thought that maybe it was a simple accident, really. The damn gate had been giving us trouble for the last few months. We'd meant to replace it, but... but..."
With tears forming in his eyes, Yorke looked directly at the detective.
"What are the odds that my wife and daughter are alive?"
Yindell tried to smile, but she knew it was a useless gesture. The Councilman had already begun to focus on the worst-case scenario. Whatever she said next would fall on deaf ears, so all the detective could offer was the truth."I'm sorry, sir, but we don't have that answer. We likely won't know anything until tomorrow morning, and even then, I can't make any guarantees."
Yorke sighed heavily, leaning forward on the edge of his bed.
"I... yes, I understand.""You said that you noticed the front gate was unlocked."
Gordon approached, his tone immediately commanding attention from both the detective and Yorke."What happened next?"
"I, well, I drove past it and continued up the path towards the garage. It was raining a bit, so I had my brights on. That was when I noticed that something was wrong with... god, our front door. That it had been tampered with. Practically ripped off it's hinge. Broken glass was everywhere on the steps. I immediately stopped and ran out, calling Ronnie and Heather's names. My heart was in my chest, I didn't know what... and then I got inside. And I saw... I saw a mess. Just a clear, delineated line towards the stairs, up the stairs, leading me...""Here, councilor?"
Yorke slowly nodded, finally giving into his emotions as he buried his head in his hands. Yindell looked out towards the scene, starting with the bedroom's entrance. There had been splintered wood all over the floor, evidently from a struggle involving an antique chair. But the trajectory of the wood didn't make sense. It was strewn about, Lieutenant Gordon had noted, like it was intentionally placed there after being broken. The jewelry of Yorke's wife had also been tampered with, ripped from the dresser drawer on her nightstand and placed in half a circle on the carpet. At the foot of the Councilman's bed was some of Yorke's own clothes, taken from the walk-in closet. Wrapped in a ball and dampened with blood. The forensics team had already discovered that inside was the family dog, bludgeoned to death.
Lieutenant Gordon, meanwhile, was looking toward the ceiling. He'd had a hunch since entering the room, but wasn't able to succinctly put anything concrete together. Detective Yindell noticed this, curious as to what he was getting at. Equally curious was the fact that Gordon was holding one of Mrs. Yorke's handheld mirrors. But Gordon knew that something about this was deliberate, planned to the last detail. And he had a sinking feeling at the pit of his stomach..."Yindell. Do me a favor and hold this up there."
Handing her the mirror, Gordon noted the detective's quizzical expression."Just humor me for a moment."
Yindell had been working with Jim Gordon for less than six months, at this point. She'd seen him do alot of weird stuff on the scene, but it was always within reason. Always with a purpose that would be eventually vindicated. Whether anyone liked it or not, Gordon had developed the sort of expertise with these types of unorthodox crimes that would put even the most seasoned criminologist to shame. So when he made this specific request, she only questioned it for a moment before complying. As they both looked into the reflection of the mirror, scanning over the room with it, Yindell's eyes suddenly widened. It had just become very clear what perpetrator had wanted to leave them."Jim, is that what I think it...""Son of a bitch..."
With his theory confirmed, Gordon rushed out of the room and leaned over the balcony."DON'T TOUCH THAT BOX!"
The officers and technicians below him jumped, having examined nearly every piece of mail and decor that was strewn about the Yorkes' living room except for one. A large and rustic octagonal box that had been seen on the table next to the family photos. Since the Councilman hadn't mentioned it, it was assumed that it belonged to the family. Now Gordon realized that it didn't, and that the only reason it wasn't brought up before now was because of the fact that Yorke was so traumatized by his missing wife and daughter that it's presence hadn't registered. With Gordon's warning practically still reverberating off the walls, the officers all took a step back and the technicians looked at eachother, unsure of how to proceed."Jim? Should we get a tactical team in here? Bomb squad?"
Yorke looked up, eyes widened.
"A bomb? What are you... what do you mean
Gordon re-entered the room, holding up his hand to downplay the Councilor's growing fears. "Not until I'm given a reason to believe so. An explosive wouldn't fit his M.O. for this. Usually when he takes someone, there's a specific protocol that's followed. That's how I knew the box was his."
Yorke stood up straight.
"Who are you talking about? Do you know who did this?! Do you know
who has my family?!"
Gordon sighed."Councilman, I need you to remain calm. You're not going to like what I'm about to say."
know. Oh, god. Oh my god, it's one of them
, isn't it? One of those freaks from...""When we held the mirror up, the mess in here... it gave us his calling card. Your dog, the jewelry and the broken chair.""They all made up a third of a question mark."
Yorke's face went white as a sheet.
"No...""I'm afraid so. The Riddler's claiming responsibility."
As Yorke slipped back into a sitting position on the bed, horrified, Gordon turned back towards his partner."What time is it?"
Yindell raised an eyebrow, looking down at her phone's lock screen. "Ten till one."
Immediately, Gordon looked over to Yorke and reached out with his hand."Eric, I'm going to need your phone."
"What? Why do you need that?""Nigma's going to call you at any time now, especially if he knows we're here. And I have reason to believe that he does, so every move we make is crucial. Your wife and daughter's lives may depend on you following my exact instructions. Do you understand?"
Reluctantly, Yorke reached into his jacket pocket and produced his cellphone. Within a few seconds, just as he was about to hand it over, the phone's screen lit up and it began to vibrate. Gordon took a hurried step forward and snatched it away, recognizing the unlisted number that flashed across the Caller ID. Pressing the button, Gordon held the Councilman's phone to his ear and listened intently as a mechanized voice began to speak on the other side of the line."W... H... A... T."
"H... A... S."
"O... N... E."
"E... Y... E."
"B... U... T."
"C... A... N... T."
"S... E... E?"
Gordon looked over at Yorke, who was already visibly on edge."Does your wife ever knit? Maybe crochet as a hobby?"
Yorke stared blankly. "Huh?""Answer the question!"
"Y-Yes. She's gotten into it recently. Her kit's downstairs."
Gordon immediately turned back towards the phone."A needle."
There was a click.
Gordon sighed in relief. He'd answered correctly."Yindell, tell forensics to get that kit into the lab immediately. We need to find out what's on one of the needles. It'll be some sort of residue, something specific."
The detective nodded, heading out of the room. "Lieutenant."
Yorke stared down at the bundle of clothes covered in blood. He'd loved that dog and owned it for close to eleven years. It seemed so needlessly cruel to leave her like this, but he knew that he couldn't touch anything out of fear of tampering with evidence.
"Jesus Christ, he did this? The man in... that guy in that stupid question mark suit?""Not him specifically. He wasn't here at your house tonight. Riddler uses proxies to carry out the parts of his crimes that he's too squeamish to do himself. Usually, blackmailed politicians or ex-cons..."
Yorke stared back. The Lieutenant shrugged."I know. It's bizarre to think that he only used to rob banks. But there was a turn, at some point. His crimes have only become more sadistic with age. However, I think we can use that to our advantage. I don't think he's truly harmed your wife and daughter."
"How do you know?"
Gordon removed his glasses and began polishing them off, already frustrated with this. He knew that it was the start of Nigma's next sadistic game rather than a simple one-off. While he didn't say it, he already knew a few things to expect. Namely that despite the kidnapping, Councilman Yorke wasn't the actual target of any of this. His family was simply a pawn in a larger riddle. One that would unfortunately only unfold with time."God help me... because I know him."
"Wait. The detective. Earlier, she said your name was Gordon."
Gordon looked up as Yorke came to a realization.
"As in Commissioner Gordon?"
The Lieutenant nodded. "Up until recently."
the one that...""Councilor?"
Yorke placed his hands together, his eyes telling the tragic tale of a man already past the point of torture. Gordon raised an eyebrow, unsure of what was about to be asked of him.
"Please... for the love of God
, call Batman."