15299/A Little Cheating

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A Little Cheating
Date of Scene: 05 July 2023
Location: The Narrows, Burnley
Synopsis: Trying to solve a crime with no logical answer, Batwoman turns to the only good source for puzzling out the illogical: the Princess of Prestidigitation herself, Zatanna Zatara! In casual momjeans mode!
Cast of Characters: Batwoman, Zatanna Zatara

Batwoman has posed:
When you're a well-connected heiress of one of the wealthiest families in existence, certain things aren't hard to come by.

When you're a vigilante operating in the circles of Gotham's sometimes-questionable and always-ludicrously-well-prepared protectors, those things become that much easier to get access to. Right now? Right now, Kate Kane needs an occultist.

And thank god Gotham is just weird enough to have a ready pipeline towards one of the most remarkable of them.

(or so she's been told)

It's through standard - private - channels that Batwoman gets ahold of Zatanna Zatara, magician extraordinaire. The request is a simple one: a crime scene investigation with no obvious leads that she needs a magical pair of eyes on because of, in her words, a "gut feeling."

"I'll owe you one," had been Batwoman's sales pitch.

"You can decide how big or little of one after you get a good look."

It's a dilapidated building in the narrows, off the fringes of Arkham Asylum, that Zatanna will be provided directions to. The entire building's been declared off-limits, but judging by the way caution tape's already flapping limp and useless and torn around the hinge-rusted front doors, it's probably safe to say that the restriction hasn't been especially well-enforced.

The crime scene in question is the second room on the left, second floor. Aged, molding wood floors and other scents fill this musky place with a foul stench: the room itself is nothing remarkable, but it's clear from a generally minimum amount of dust, this place had been seeing a decent amount of traffic.

The room itself looks like some sort of an office space. There's several bloodstain patterns spattered across aged wood floors, dark with a few days' age, that indicate two or three people were probably in this room at -some- point. There's a desk. Two chairs. An opened safe.

But from the contents of the safe to the drawers of the desk to the empty rectangular space on the wall clean of relative grime where some kind of painting might have resided, everything else is gone.

Batwoman stands in the middle of the room, silent and waiting, bright scarlet hair spilling over one shoulder as she looks over the crime scene again with lensed eyes and a small frown on strikingly red lips.

She doesn't necessarily like the idea of owing favors, but, well...

It's never a bad thing to expand your contacts, is it?

-Especially- when it comes to occult weirdness.
Zatanna Zatara has posed:
Zatanna Zatara was a voice on the phone. Her voice is the same as the specials, but she's not being that person. She listened to the pitch. And then, she said: "I'll be there."


Zatanna arrived without using sorcery. She isn't even wearing fishnets! What a rip-off. Well, it's possible she's wearing fishnets under the jeans. It's a rather boring everyday outfit, and unless you got a good clear shot at the face *and* were a fan, you'd think 'Italian MILF' more than 'Zatanna Zatara, mistress of magic'! The sunglasses helped, but they weren't really necessary... at night.

"Ygggh," says Zatanna at the sight of the bloodstains.

It's quiet, and brief, and might have even been an attempt to lighten the mood.

"Do you know anything about the victims?" Zatanna asks, folding her hands behind her back and looking around. The rabbit remains firmly in the metaphorical hat, for now; if it weren't for her reputation, and the firmness of her pose, it might be easy to take her as a random civilian or perhaps an Eager and Alert Citizen.

And hey, she is one, isn't she?

"I say victims just looking, but it could be one, if... energetic," Zatanna continues, squinting into the gloom.
Batwoman has posed:

One corner of ruby red lips quirk up, made all the more visible by unfathomably pale skin.


At rest, Batwoman's long black cape rustles as she pivots smoothly to face Zatanna, flashing brief glimpses of the bright red coloring the inside. She takes the overwhelming disappointment that is the lack of fishnets in remarkable stride, considering Zatanna with a cocked head and - one will just have to imagine - the unmistakable feeling of a brow lifting.

"Don't you usually end up tangling with things out of a Cronenberg movie?"

The amused little smirk remains dancing on vividly-painted lips for the time being; it only starts a natural process of dimming towards neutrality once Zatanna asks after the victim, or--

"Victims," Batwoman confirms simply. A red, gloved hand emerges from the drape of the vigilante's coat, holding three photographs of each of the victims.

"Three, in fact. Artem Kravchenko..." One photo is flicked, landing on the surface of the desk.

"Vasyl Melnyk..." The second, lands on the floor five feet off from the desk.

"... and Danylo Lyashenko." And the third, lands just at the toes of Zatanna's feet.

"All three are members of the Whisper Gang; they make their living controlling smuggling on Gotham's railways and extorting passengers at subway stations in their territory. This is one of their waystations, where they collect and redistribute their earnings. There's a few similar buildings around the Narrows they like to cycle through."

Arms folding over her chest, Batwoman lapses into silence for a moment, as if debating -- and then, she dips her head, quietly gesturing towards the photo at Zatanna's feet.

"The way it seems to have played out was that Lyashenko over there barged into the office and gunned down Kravchenko. Five shots, hit his chest, shoulder, neck, forehead, and one stray. Melnyk and Lyashenko seem to have fatally wounded each other in the ensuing shootout. There's enough evidence to point to the fact that only their weapons were used, and they were the only ones who used them. Everything they had here was swiped after the fact." Which is where one might see where the problem starts.

"If they were in the same gang, why did Lyashenko attack the other two? And more to the point... if they were the only perpetrators -and- the victims..."

Regardless of anything else--

"Who stole the stash?"
Zatanna Zatara has posed:
Zatanna's lips thin to a firm line, concealing her lips for a moment. "It's one thing when it's the Armblessed Y'n'g'h't and each of his seven spires is adorned by the left arm of his latest kill," she says, "because that's just... a facet of something else."

"These were people from here on Earth. Everyday kinds of people," Zatanna concludes. "It hits differently."

Zatanna sees the pictures. Well, she sees two of them, because Vasyl is hidden from her view. Zatanna slides her foot out of her sensible flat shoe and then thinks better of it, crouching down to pick the photo up instead as it's indicated. Her foot does not remain exposed to all of this crime for long.

"This sounds like a job for the GCPD," Zatanna says, looking upwards from her crouch towards the Batwoman. "I'm just going to be difficult and say the obvious motive is - Kravchenko took down his business partners, or just people who he knew about, and made a big score. Probably all the way to Dubai by now."

She straightens up.

"But there's more to it than that, isn't there?" Zatanna confides. Then her eyes widen and she takes a deep breath.

"Roirp setunim ruof ot kcolc eht nrut dna, eri dehcterw fo wodahs eht wohs!" Zatanna says, and it certainly sounds weird and portentious and there is also a feeling like a great passage has come into the air, especially when it's accented with a sweeping hand and a step back away from the exact center of the grim location itself.
Batwoman has posed:
These were just everyday people. Batwoman makes a soft sound from her throat, looking down at one of the pictures she cast out in the places bodies once occupied.

"The everyday evil we do," she utters.

"That's why I need to put a bow on this now. Before whatever this is can spread out any further than it has."

She looks back Zatanna's way, and offers the curve of a smile.

"So I'm going to cheat a little."

Really -- normally this -would- be a job for the GCPD. Normally, at worst, she'd handle this on her own; it's what Kate would like to do. But as excruciatingly meticulous as all her training has made her, there's one thing she's learned by heart: trust your gut.

And right now, her gut is telling her nothing about this is everyday.

"That's the little nagging thought in the back of my head," is her response to Zatanna, before the magician takes her breath. The mystic - the supernatural - is something Kate's experienced before. But to watch magic - real magic - take place -right in front of her-, well--

Green eyes widen behind concealing white lenses as every syllable of backwards talk makes her feel like something is dragging on her like a powerful air current. Red boot heels drag smoothly across moldy old floors as Batwoman steps back beside Zatanna, and watches as everything begins to... unwind.

Like the room was made of wet clay, aspects of the environment seem to remold and shift to fit a new, old context. Dried blood becomes fresh, becomes peeled off wood -- the safe shuts, the blank space on the wall becomes filled with the presence of Murashko's "Girl in a Red Hat"...

... and two men who were once dead fill spots that were once empty.

It's like watching a silent film. Kravchenko, a large, middle-aged man slightly out of weight, with slightly-receding hair, sits at the desk and thumbs through bills of the Whisper Gang's most recent take. Beside him stands Melnyk, muscle -- taller, younger, more wiry, armed with a pair handguns tucked into shoulder holsters.

They seem to be talking, but about what is unclear. Kravchenko looks agitated; Melnyk looks amused. The count continues.

It's only when it's finished, and they begin to move the money to the safe for keeping until pick up, that the doors open. A large, bald man enters, dressed decently well in a cheap suit and button up... and a large, iron mask strapped to his mouth that is distinctly signature to new recruits of the Whisper Gang. Lyashenko. He stands at the entrance, unmoving.

There's something wrong with his eyes. They look vacant. Blank. Kravchenko and Melnyk question him but he shows no reaction or any sign of responding at all. He just stares, straight forward. Melnyk grows more emphatic, gesturing, approaching. He shove Lyashenko --

And the bald man responds by slamming the thinner man in the face with his fist so hard it bowls Melnyk over completely.

What happens next, like many unexpected events, happens in a matter of seconds. Lyashenko pulls out his gun; before Kravchenko can get his, Lyashenko has already unloaded on him five times, leaving the bloodied, bullet-ridden man to fall lifelessly against his chair. Melnyk, on the ground, fires on Lyashenko -- and he doesn't even seem to register it at first beyond the physical force of the first shot to his shoulder snapping him backwards. He looks sluggishly Melnyk's way. He's suffering from a gut wound thanks to Melnyk by the time he raises his gun one last time --

The silent rapport of gunfire and muzzle flashes fills that mystical space before they both slump lifelessly against the ground. Lyashenko barely even seems to notice the world around him even to his last breath. Nothing happens for a good fifteen seconds...

... and then someone peeks their head in through the door.

A man in his late twenties, average build, sporting an undercut. Looks around. He takes in a slow, steadying breath. Around his neck he wears what looks like a simple corded necklace... and a talisman of what looks to be amber containing a single, l
Batwoman has posed:
A man in his late twenties, average build, sporting an undercut. Looks around. He takes in a slow, steadying breath. Around his neck he wears what looks like a simple corded necklace... and a talisman of what looks to be amber containing a single, large feather within. There's something about it that looks off with the rest of the young man's more Gotham gang-oriented attire. Something about -it- that just feels -off-.

He takes stock of the situation before he makes his way in; he's taking everything he can at a hurried pace by the time the vision ends, leaving Batwoman and Zatanna standing there once more.

"..." Batwoman exhales, slowly, digesting what she's seen.

Magic really -is- cheating.
Zatanna Zatara has posed:
It's definitely cheating.

The show unfolds before them. It's not a very dramatic one. Or perhaps it's anti-dramatic. The crime is revealed.

A lage man sitting there. Counting. Melnyk there, armed. Zatanna glances at the photos as if to make sure that she knows who is who. Her expression is grave. They seem to be talking, and not arguing.

Finally, in comes a man. A man in a mask; one that hides his mouth, his nose. And he looks like he's -- on something? That something's going on? And then he throws a fist and Zatanna winces slightly. By the time she's done wincing, the shots have been fired, five bloody roses erupting like the Five of Hearts from the man's torso.

Scuffle, fall, and soon enough it's over. Zatanna is briefly drawn-looking but seems to swallow it down. And then --

The expression turns into something more curdled at the sight of the younger man and his talisman.

"Okay, so," Zatanna says, pointing before the spell completes and the vision ends, "dammit," she mutters, "So I'm guessing that there's your missing figure, right? And he was coming in from over HERE..."

Zatanna moves in that direction. Is that safe?
Batwoman has posed:
That's her missing figure, right?

"That's the one," Batwoman confirms as what has come and gone once more departs, the past drifting away in thick, sorcerous vapors. "My missing piece of the puzzle."

Visual data is recorded by her cowl, relayed back to her computer at the R.H. Kane; odds are the colonel can get a good match, if... mystical imagery... translates well into visual data.

"That thing he was wearing -- it doesn't look like Gotham standard fashion." Zee starts to move. Batwoman tilts her head the other woman's way.

"You have any idea--?"


Condemned buildings are condemned for a reason. As Zatanna moves out to where the man once was, there's nothing there -- but the vague shift of the aging, mold-rotted building gives way, and the wooden flooring of the second floor suddenly gives out beneath Zatanna. She has only a few seconds to get out of the way before that section of the second floor collapses under the strain of its own weight (and Zee's (to a lesser extent)) and collapses to the ground floor --

--a fact that might be made easier by a bright red glove snapping out to try to take her hand and yank her back towards her redheaded companion, and (semi-)sturdier ground.

"Are you okay?" asks Batwoman.

At the least -- there doesn't seem to be anyone else here right now.
Zatanna Zatara has posed:
"I can't be sure, but that amb"


The building begins to rot beneath her and Zatanna looks down with an aghast sort of horror. She's starting to do the right things - lean towards going back where she came from, shifting her weight away from things - but she had been walking with some decisive purpose and that kind of momentum is not easily dissipated. It does mean she is an inch or two nearer to the Batwoman when the floor collapses.

She doesn't scream. She takes in a deep breath as the ground does fully give way and she begins to fall. She's probably going to try a spell if she doesn't ram herself ventrally onto some piece of jagged, lethal condemned residue, or lands in the middle of a meth lab.

But she doesn't have to - because she is caught.

And held; pulled forwards after falling that knee-deep descent means she bangs her slacked legs and ends up sprawling across the crime scene floor. Not really sprawling; more of a lean - and with a wince she hugs one calf.

"Not exactly looking like a champion right now, am I?" Zatanna says, rather tightly. There is muttered words under her breath. If something Happens, it is subtle. Zatanna relaxes afterwards and shifts her hip to the side, sitting down, looking up at Batwoman. She doesn't get up right away.

"Thank you," she says.

And then:

"I can't be absolutely certain from that one glimpse, but I saw a feather embedded in amber. Amber is a surprisingly powerful transmission material in occult terms. You've seen the hints of it in Jurassic Park, but it's also a powerful conductor of static electricity -- and that's before we look into things on the aetheric or astral planes."

Zatanna pushes herself up to her feet after this. "The feather puzzles me. I'd have to sketch it out. Given the context, I'd guess it was some kind of mental domination... maybe it's a Garuda feather? I'd have to read into it, and it's going to be a lot harder to get a second glimpse at that feather."

Zatanna looks over with a faint smile. "How are you at ornithology?"

("And while I'm at it-- the largest collection of amber in the world went missing from Russia during World War II. Maybe now we know where a piece of it went.")