The silence was maddening. Without the familiar drunken snoring and slurred mumbling of his father, Eddie never realized how empty his childhood home actually was. The only noise he could hear now was the muffled sound of screaming coming from his basement.
Eddie stood in the kitchen, leaning on the ugly granite countertop, the muscles in his hands as tense as his body would allow. In his mind, he believed, truly believed he did the right thing last night, but it left him with a predicament.
Why not have some fun with him? Nygma whispered in Eddie’s mind. Oh, the lessons we could teach him.
Eddie did his best to ignore the voice in his head, but it made a fine point. He sighed as he grabbed his cane from nearby. He looked it over, and set it down. Eddie managed to walk without it quite well now, however it felt odd not having it close by. He was able to use it, and his mind could not help but think of other ways that he could. Eddie smiled and in silence, walked through the kitchen, the living room and the hallway, opening the door to his basement, and slowly walking down each step as he descended down into the deliberate darkness.
“You crazy ass—”
“Now, now, Mr. Hastings.” Eddie said in his normal voice. “Such remarks will not be tolerated with me.”
“That voice…” Jim whispered in the dark.
“Yes?” Eddie said, smiling with his finger on the light switch. Jim was silent, but Eddie could tell that he was trying to figure it out.
“Nashton?” Jim asked out of nowhere. Eddie smiled flipped the lights on. However, they were not the usual basement lights. Eddie had rigged up something special for Jim—powerful lamps found in construction sites, set up to look like an interrogation. “What the hell, Nashton?!”
“I think you know full well what this is about.” Eddie said as he took a step or two toward Jim.
Jim shook his head. “Can’t say I do.”
“Well, there was an event, followed by your humiliation, followed by a second event which occurred last night, which has brought you here.” Eddie answered with a smile. He leaned in. “Want to guess what those events were?” Jim just stared. “I’ll give you a hint.” His face turned serious. “It involves my ex-girlfriend.”
Jim actually started to laugh. “Are you serious? I didn’t do anything!”
“And my dad called me a liar.” Eddie chuckled before throwing a punch into Jim’s jaw. “Who do you think found all the evidence that got you arrested?!” He smiled, showing a certain derangement in his eyes. “Who delivered you on silver platter to Sergeant Gordon and Gotham PD?”
Jim continued to stare. “You’re E. Nygma? Seriously?” Eddie looked surprised at his reaction. “You really are a freak, Nashton. You really have nothing better to do with your life than play stupid pranks on a college campus and set up an innocent guy to get arrested?”
“You’re NOT INNOCENT!” Eddie shouted before leaning in closer. “The time stamp on the video puts the date at three years ago. The statute of limitations on that crime? Five years, Jim.” The color washed out of Jim’s face. “Yeah. Five. You were bailed out by daddy, but you weren’t getting away with it.”
“But—” He grunted when Eddie’s fist went into his jaw again.
“You didn’t learn a lesson, but the worst the courts will do is send you to Blackgate Penitentiary, maybe even Arkham Asylum.” Eddie answered, shaking his head. “Not enough for me.”
“So Nygma is gonna act like a big boy and teach me a lesson himself?” Jim asked. He scoffed. “I’d like to see a little punk like you even try.”
Eddie threw a third punch. “I don’t need to try.” He smiled. “I’m smart enough to do what I want, when I want, how I want.” He chuckled. “I’m a genius, Jim. You know what you are?” He shook his head. “A dumb jock.” He held out his arms and smiled. “A dumb jock duct taped to a chair. I already beat you.” He turned around and walked to the stairs, flicking the lights off.
“Where are you going?” Jim asked.
“Unlike you, I have class.” Eddie smiled. He waved, even though he knew that Jim could not see him do it.
══ After School ══
“Hey, Eddie.” Nina called out from down the hall. Eddie turned around and smiled. “Glad to see you don’t have the cane anymore.”
“Yeah. Kind of miss it though.” Eddie answered with a smile. “How have you been?”
“I’m well. Diedre is giving me a ride home with my car still in the shop.” Nina answered.
“Oh, well that was nice of her to drive out here for you.” Eddie replied.
“It’s not too far out of her way. She’s a student here too.” Nina answered.
That caught Eddie’s attention.
The bartender is a student here? That’s interesting. Nygma said in Eddie’s head.
Eddie shook it off and smiled. “Well, I’m headed home from here.” He continued to smile before, “Maybe, if you have time, we can grab a bite or—” He was interrupted by Nina’s phone going off.
“Sorry, it’s my boyfriend.” Nina answered as she checked her new message. And there went Eddie’s hope. “He’s been out of state for a little while and just got back home a couple of hours ago.” She put her phone back in her pocket. “I’m so happy to see him.” She put her hand on Eddie’s shoulder. “We’ll catch up another time, cool?”
Eddie nodded in silence, watching Nina walk down the hall and disappear down a flight of stairs.
So much for that idea. Nygma said. Eddie groaned. But knowing that Diedre is a student here too…it’s curious. Eddie walked down the hall, finding one small spot where he could sit down and rubbed his head. The voice in his head was giving him a headache. I wonder…
“I wonder…” Eddie whispered. His headache persisted, but he was focused on something else. He sprang up from his spot and walked.
In no time at all, Eddie was in his computer lab, his favorite—the one where he launched the videos after taking Jim the first time and where he programmed the photos of the Professor so that he could get the card to Pandora’s Box. The reason it was always his favorite was very few people used that lab. Eddie sat down smack in the center of the lab and logged on to GreenLight. His inbox showed no new messages, but a post was put up six hours ago.
Despite a place where men are paying to be dominated, it’s good to know that there are people who are not afraid to stand up to those who dominate simply because they can. One good man helped me when I needed it, even though I would not have said so at the time. Thank you.
Oh, how I love being right. Nygma said in Eddie’s head.
“Diedre is Query?” Eddie whispered to himself. He smiled, an idea forming in his mind. “Query…” he relaxed in his chair. “…time to meet Nygma.”
══ Later That Night ══
Eddie swiped his card through the reader and dropped off a small envelope on Johnny K’s desk as he headed down to the service elevator, and rode it down to Pandora’s Box. He walked its halls in silence, simply nodding to the receptionist, Lady Strife as he made the turn to the small lounge area. There was no one else in the lounge, not even Diedre, but he could hear some movement in the back, so he simply sat at the bar and grabbed a napkin and a pen from his pocket.
“Oh. Hello.” Diedre answered as she stepped out of the back. “Can I get you anything while you wait?” Eddie shook his head, just looked down and scribbled on his napkin. Diedre stayed silent for the brief moment they had, and grabbed some dirty glasses and began to wipe them down. Eddie pushed the napkin to her, smiling. In silence, Diedre took the napkin, her face turning to one of surprise.
It was a pleasure to help you out…Query
She looked up at Eddie, who sat there with a smile on his face without a word to say. She kept moving her gaze from Eddie, to the napkin and back. “How—”
“I am very good at what I do, Query.” Eddie whispered, still smiling. “I’ve begun to discover that the masses aren’t the ones who appreciate what I try to do for them.” Diedre leaned onto the counter, listening intently. “And it’s rare for an individual to appreciate my actions as well.” His smile left him.
“So, what drives you now?” Diedre asked, genuinely curious.
“Myself…and anyone else I feel deserves it.” Eddie answered. “Like our mutual friend Nina, who was my ex’s roommate in Gotham U.” He smiled again. “And you, a kindred spirit.”
Diedre did not know what to say, but she smiled back at him. “Which makes me wonder what you’ve done with the guy from the other night.”
“He’s tied up in duct tape in a chair in my basement.” Eddie answered without hesitation.
“What will you do with him?” Diedre asked, very amused by it.
“Not sure yet.” Eddie answered, as he stood up. “We’ll have to have a long conversation, he and I, and it will be soon.” He set some money on the table. “Well, I have work to do. I’ll be in touch.” He waved good-bye, knowing that Diedre watched him walk away.