The campus of Gotham University was always a scene of activity. Every day the students moved from class to class, and from noon to three, the cafeteria was filled to the brim for lunch. Today was different—today campus security had sealed the doors to the cafeteria and stood by the doors, with a large green question mark spray painted between them. All the curious students had gathered by the doors, whispering their theories amongst themselves.
One student, however, could not but smile and snicker while he watched everyone try to figure out what was happening. His entertainment had ended when he saw a familiar feminine face approach. “Hey, Amara!” He said with a smile.
“Enjoying the scene, Eddie?” she asked before kissing him on the cheek.
“E. Nygma struck again.” Eddie answered with a smile. “Apparently, he decided to cut all the power to the kitchens last night.
“Why?” Amara asked.
“Here’s a riddle: Calendars have three hundred sixty-five of me. Food has one, and couples have me all the time.” Eddie smiled. “What am I?”
“A date?” Amara asked.
“Very good.” Eddie replied. “All the food supplies were almost two months passed their use by dates, and the kitchen staff kept using them to save money.”
“And how did E. Nygma find out?” Amara asked, eyeing her boyfriend.
Eddie shrugged his shoulders. “How does E. Nygma find out anything?” He smiled at Amara.
“Eddie Nashton, I swear, one day all your pranks will catch up with you.” Amara said, shaking her head. She looped her arm around his. “Now, come on. You have the privilege of walking me to Chem.”
“Miss Espinoza, it would be my pleasure.” Eddie said as they walked together.
Eddie and Amara laughed as they walked up to the second floor.
“Yo, Nashton!” a young man shouted.
Eddie and Amara stopped laughing when they saw a well-built man in a football letter jacket. “Hey, Jim!” Eddie said back as they passed him. Eddie noticed that Amara was dead silent, and her eyes looked down to the floor. Eddie looked to Jim, who had a sly smile on as he headed for the stairwell. Eddie looked to Amara. “Everything all right?”
“I’m okay.” Amara answered quietly.
“Why didn’t you say hi?” Eddie asked.
“Because I didn’t.” Amara replied, beginning to sound very defensive.
“Amara, what’s wrong?” Eddie asked, concerned.
“Eddie, just drop it!” Amara nearly shouted as she let go of him and ran ahead to her class.
“Amara?!” Eddie said, taking a couple of steps. Something in the back of his mind stopped him. He did not know why, but he just knew something was wrong, and he needed to know what. Without hesitation, Eddie ran downstairs, hiding behind corners and watching, following Jim go about his day. It was obvious to Eddie that Jim was at the core of Amara’s attitude, and Eddie needed to know. He followed Jim to the Student Union Building where he met some of his teammates on the Gotham Knights.
“Hey, so guess who I saw today.” Jim said to a few other members of the football team. They all spoke over themselves. “Amara Espinoza.”
“Aw, no way!” One team member said. “How she looking?”
“Still hot as ever!” Jim answered. “I can’t believe it’s only been two years since that wonderful November night freshman year.”
“Wonderful night, freshman year? What the…” Eddie whispered to himself. He had no clue what to make of the conversation as he listened, but that nagging, repetitive urge to know kept bugging him. He walked away from the football team’s conversation and left the Student Union Building.
Eddie entered the computer lab, gently shutting the door behind him. He made himself comfortable in one of Gotham U’s many computer labs. He checked the clock on the wall. He sighed—it was nearly eleven o’clock at night. Thankfully for Eddie, the labs were open to students twenty-four hours a day.
“Okay.” Eddie whispered to himself. He stuck a flash drive into one of the computer’s USB ports and typed on the computer. “The program I wrote should get me into campus security’s server.” He smiled at the sight of the window opening to the security hub. “And let’s just put this lab’s footage on a loop.” He snickered. “Don’t need anyone seeing what ol’ Nygma’s up to.” He sighed, content with his countermeasures before clicking the month of November and started scrolling through the recorded footage of campus security cameras.
“That’s half of November down.” Eddie whispered to himself. He sighed. “November 17th.” He scrolled through hours and hours of security footage as they played rapidly across the screen. His eyes widened as one camera angle caught his attention. He typed on the keyboard and watched with a high level of intensity. “What the hell?!” He slammed his fist onto the keyboard. “Oh my God!” He typed for several more minutes before shutting down the computer and ran out of the computer lab.
Eddie paced back and forth outside the building. “How could he just—oh.” He realized what was going through his mind. It was Jim Hastings, son of Keith Hastings, Dean of Students. “No wonder he gets away with everything.” Something in his mind clicked, and a devious smile grew on his face. “Well, not this time.” He ran off.
══ The Next Day ══
Gotham University was bustling with activity. Everyone was talking about the first football game of the season, and how the Gotham Knights were going all the way to the State Championships. Amara was sitting out in the quad, studying for her next test, when she overheard a few girls.
“The Knights’ quarterback is gone!” one girl said.
“Jim just disappeared last night.” Another girl said.
Amara was confused. She looked up when she heard a squeal on the PA system.
“Testing, one, two, three.” A deep filtered voice said. “The day before halftime, gone your quarterback most sublime. Retrieving him for the game, you must be willing to play mine just the same. I discovered a mystery that was given a blind eye, ‘hall’ to be revealed when both arms reach for blue skies.”
Eddie laughed as he swiveled in his chair, watching people run around campus, including the security team. He sighed as he typed on his keyboard. “Let’s see what everyone is saying.” He logged into a few social media sites to see what was happening online, but his fun was interrupted by the sound of sirens. He left the computer lab to see a group of Gotham City police officers led by someone he had seen in the news quite often—Sergeant Jim Gordon with Major Crimes. He stepped out of the lab, slowly approaching the group of cops, listening.
“The voice all but confessed to kidnapping my son!” A man shouted to Sergeant Gordon. Eddie recognized the balding bureaucratic middle-aged man as the Dean of Students. “You need to find him!”
“We will, Dean Hastings.” Gordon answered. “It’s just…the way the kidnapper spoke. What was it supposed to be, a riddle?” He looked to his officers. “Why ‘hall to be revealed’?”
“Maybe it was a slipup by the kidnapper.” An officer answered.
“Then why say ‘when both arms reach for blue skies’?” Gordon asked.
“Uh…maybe it has something to do with—” Eddie was cut off by Gordon, who gave him a fierce look. “Uh…”
“Go on, son.” Gordon answered.
“I think it is a riddle. Both arms reach for blue skies? Blue skies means daytime.” Eddie said.
“Both arms…clock. Noon today?” Gordon asked himself. He looked to Dean Hastings. “Anything happening on campus at noon?”
Dean Hastings nodded. “The reopening of Wayne Hall after the remodeling. There’s a whole ribbon cutting ceremony starting at noon.”
Gordon looked to his officers. “Okay, I want the whole unit over at Wayne Hall in twenty. Ceremony starts in thirty minutes.” Gordon said as he checked his watch. “We need eyes everywhere.”
“Yes sir!” Several officers shouted as they took off into campus.
Gordon looked back to Eddie. “What’s your name, son?”
“Uh, Eddie Nashton, sir. Forensic Sciences major.” Eddie answered.
“You did good, kid.” Gordon said just before leaving.
“Thanks!” Eddie called out. He smiled that sly smile he had the night before. He took out a smart phone from his pocket, looking down. “And soon, E. Nygma will have even more for you to discover, Sergeant Gordon.” He ran back into the office he came from.
Noon came quickly. Sergeant Gordon stood with Dean Hastings, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious. Dean Hastings checked his watched and sighed. “I have to do the ribbon cutting, Sergeant. It’s almost noon.”
“All right. We have eyes all over the event.” Sergeant Gordon said.
“Well, I suppose we better get inside, the crowd’s already here.” Dean Hastings said. Gordon nodded and followed him inside. The Dean approached the podium and adjusted the microphone.
Sergeant Gordon and Dean Hastings looked around, seeing the larger television screens that were set up for the event playing recorded video of the Dean’s son Jim waiting in a hallway on campus. It was a standard security recording with no audio; and was in the video with Amara, who was watching herself from the crowd at the reopening.
“What the hell?” Amara whispered to herself. She watched the video play. Jim was right up in her face, his hand moving closer to her. Amara watched herself on video push Jim away from her, only to get in closer to her. “Oh my God.” She whispered to herself.
Dean Hastings’ jaw dropped at the sight of his son trying to grab the girl. He gasped when he saw his son get slapped across the face, then grab the girl and push her against the wall of the hallway.
“So, this is what was to be revealed?” Sergeant Gordon asked Dean Hastings. “Your son trying to assault a young woman?”
“That…that has to be doctored.” Dean Hastings said.
The PA system went off again. “Ignorance must be bliss, for the police have never heard of this. Your white Knight is really a black king, only in his warriors’ den will his heart…finally sing.” That same deep, filtered voice played over the PA.
“Police never heard of this?” Gordon asked Dean Hastings. “What does that mean?”
“I have no clue.” Dean Hastings answered.
Eddie hummed to himself as he spun a roll of duct tape on his finger, looking down on a blindfolded Jim Hastings. “You know, I’m not really sorry. Showing the world what it has missed is sort of what I do.” His voice was somewhat deeper and filtered to disguise his voice. “After all, E. Nygma can’t leave a riddle unsolved.” He smiled. “See you later, Jimmy boy.” Eddie went to leave, but stopped, looking back at Jim. He smiled and pulled a black marker from his pocket. After writing, he capped the marker and put it back in his pocket before leaving the football team’s locker room.
“Sergeant Gordon, the game is in an hour, and my son has been missing for nearly ten. Is searching my office strictly necessary?” Dean Hastings asked as Gordon supervised several of his officers as they looked through the office.
“Yes.” Gordon answered, eyeing the Dean. “There’s no way you did not hear about this from campus security.”
“Sir!” A police officer said, before handing Gordon a file folder. “Found this.”
“Where?” Gordon asked.
“The drawer here had a false bottom.” The officer said, revealing the secret compartment in the desk
Gordon opened the file. “An incomplete incident report?” Gordon asked. “With Amara Espinoza as the claimant.” He sat down at Dean Hastings’ desk, typing Amara’s name into the computer. “A direct match to the woman in the footage. He looked to Dean Hastings. “What kind of incident was it?”
“How should I know?” Dean Hastings asked, his nervousness growing.
“Does Warriors’ Den mean anything to you, Dean Hastings?” Gordon asked.
Dean Hastings swallowed the lump in his throat. “I’ve heard my son address the football team’s locker room as the warriors’ den. They are the Gotham Knights after all.” He tried to chuckle.
“Let’s check the locker room.” Gordon called out.
The officers burst the door to the football locker room and fanned out. Gordon and Dean Hastings entered last, seeing Jim stripped down to his underwear, tied up with duct tape and blindfolded with his smart phone taped to his chest. Dean Hastings ran to his son and took the blindfold off.
“Son, are you all right?” Dean Hastings asked.
“Dean Hastings, will you please step aside?” Gordon requested. He looked down at Jim, reading the WATCH ME written on the piece of tape covering Jim’s mouth. Gordon looked down to the smart phone. He sighed. “Son, I have to take this off your chest.” He grabbed one end of the tape. “This is going to hurt.” Jim shook his head rapidly, and he screamed through his duct tape. Gordon removed the tape from Jim’s mouth.
“It was Nygma! He kidnapped me!” Jim said. Gordon nodded and turned on the phone. “Don’t watch that! It’s a fake!”
Gordon’s eyes widened and enraged, seeing what he was seeing and hearing the grunting moaning and crying through the phone’s speaker. He looked to Jim. “Jim Hastings, you’re under arrest for the assault of Amara Espinoza.”
“What about E. Nygma?! He kidnapped me!” Jim shouted.
“We’ll be investigating your kidnapping as well, Mr. Hastings. However, right now, worry about the crimes you’ve committed.” Gordon said as one of his officers stood Jim up. “Seeing as how he’s already restrained, just get him out of here.”
“Can you please be discreet?” Dean Hastings asked.
“Dean Hastings, you’re also under arrest for obstruction of justice and failure to report a felony.” Gordon answered. “Get them both out of here.”
Eddie did his best not to smile as he watched Dean Hastings and his son walked around campus in handcuffs and duct tape, hearing Jim shout that it was Nygma repeatedly. He did chuckle a little, but made sure no one heard it.
“I cannot believe you did that.” A voice said.
Eddie turned around to see Amara, looking furious. “Amara, it’s okay. He’s going to jail. They both are.”
“What you did…was humiliating.” Amara said without blinking. “You shouldn’t have done that.”
“I didn’t do anything. E. Nygma did it.” Eddie said.
“You are E. Nygma!” Amara answered. “The whole school saw that! How could you do that to me?!”
“I was trying to help. It was all covered up—that’s not fair to you.” Eddie said.
“What’s not fair is that you did all of that without asking me how I felt about it!” Amara nearly shouted. She grabbed him and pulled him away from the crowd. “What you did was kidnap someone.”
“For you to get the closure you deserve. Did you know he—”
“I don’t want to hear it!” Amara said with hushed ferocity. “It’s unforgivable, what you did. I just wanted it to go away and never think about it again, and you not only brought it back into my life, you made it public, for the whole campus to see.” Amara answered. “We’re done, Eddie. Leave me alone!” Amara said before storming away from him.
“Amara!” Eddie shouted, reaching out for her. He was frozen in his own shock. He really thought he was helping. He sighed. “I love you, Amara.”
Amara did not look back. She turned the corner and put her back against the wall, ready to cry. She grabbed her phone from her purse and dialed a number. “Hey, Harleen? It’s Amara. Can we meet up? I can really use a real friend right now.”
Eddie shut the door to the computer lab and walked to the computer he was using. He typed on the keyboard and watched the files delete before his eyes. He sighed. “No evidence, as always.” He shut the computer down. “E. Nygma finally couldn’t help the way he normally does.” Eddie sighed one more time, settling into his chair. “All my help got me was heartache.”
Eddie got up from the chair and typed one more thing on the keyboard. He pressed the enter button and left the computer lab, shutting off the light as he exited. The only light left in the computer lab was from the computer screens, which all shared an image of a green question mark.