The second chapter of the DC Mayhem mini series starring Renee Montoya. You can catch the first chapter here! Remember that this is a direct spin off of the Riddle Me This series, so be sure to read that as well!
Ten years ago...
Cheers and applause erupted throughout the stands of the high school football field. There was nothing quite like a homecoming game to excite the crowd. It did help when the home team was up by twenty points going into the final quarter, of course. Benny Montoya stood near the edge of the sidelines, in front of the stands but behind where the players stood. He had always loved football, and wanted to get as close a view as possible.
“Can you believe this, man?” said one of his friends, standing nearby. “We're totally wrecking them!”
“Yeah, no kidding,” he replied, grinning. “Just fifteen minutes to go, too.”
“Say, where's that sister of yours?” his other friend asked. “Thought she was a fan?”
Benny shrugged. “I saw her earlier, but I think she left early or something. Seemed to be in a hurry.”
“Ah, sucks, was hoping to see her.”
“Yeah, man, your sister's totally hot.”
Benny groaned, rolling his eyes a little. This was far from the first time he had to hear his friends commenting on how hot his sister was. He remained quiet, though, allowing the subject to drop; it was hardly something he wanted to talk about. As the fourth quarter began on the field, however, a low grumble bellowed in his stomach.
“Ugh, hey I'm gonna grab a burger at the snack shack,” he said, pushing his way back through the others gathered near the field. “Be right back.”
Making his way through the crowd, Benny headed towards the small snack shack, just a short walk a way from the stands. As he did, however, he caught sight of someone familiar running around out of view behind the stands. With a quick turn of the head, he recognized it as his sister, Renee, before she disappeared.
I thought she left...
Suddenly, the grumbling in his stomach was forgotten, overwhelmed by a growing curiosity. He took one brief look back at the field, then hurried back around the stands, actually ending up in the heavily shadowed area beneath them. Since the stands were built right up against a sheer embankment, there was no open space behind them, just a natural, earthy wall.
At first glance, he didn't see anything there beneath the bleachers, not until he neared the far end. There, he saw what looked like two figures closely embraced, faces pressed close together.
His first instinct was to quickly make his retreat before being noticed; after all, what kind of brother would he be if he interrupted his sister and what could only be a new boyfriend? It was hardly any of his business. She was eighteen, a senior, and perfectly capable of making her own decisions.
But then, he gave the scene a closer look... and when he realized who she was kissing, his heart thumped up into his throat. “Renee!”
Renee recoiled, pulling back and turning behind her. When she did, the person embracing her pulled away, as well: Bethany Smith, Renee's 'best friend'.
“Benny!” she proclaimed. “What are you doing?”
“What am I doing? What are you doing?!” He gave Bethany a quick look before turning his attention back on his sister and continuing in Spanish. “<You're kissing a girl!>”
Renee faltered, eyes flickering as if she were trying to think up an excuse. “<This isn't... it's not what it looks like!>”
“<Then what the hell is it>?” Benny may have only been fifteen, but he wasn't stupid. It was pretty clear what this was. “<Renee... are you gay?>”
“<N-No! I'm not- >”
“<Because mom and dad say that gay people-- You know how they feel about-->”
“<Benny, I'm not gay>!” Renee snapped. “<I'm just... this is just...>”
He folded his arms over his chest, glaring. “<You're just what?>”
“<I'm just... practicing,>” she said. <“You know... for boys. Since I've never kissed a boy before, Beth was just... showing me how. You know? It's not like we were... I mean it's just practice. Just... a phase.>”
Benny lifted an eyebrow, looking back and forth between the two girls. “Just... practice?”
“Uh... well, yeah,” Bethany assured, with a little laugh. “I mean, what did you think, that we were-- ha, no... no, we're not, no.”
“That's... boys don't do that,” Benny muttered.
Renee cleared her throat and shifted her weight uneasily. “It's a girl thing, Benny. You wouldn't understand. But, you know... don't tell Mom and Pop either way, alright? They wouldn't understand, either. You know how they get...”
“Uh huh,” he said, nodding slowly. “Yeah, they... they'd totally freak.” He paused a moment, then looked back the way he came and started walking away. “Sorry, Renee, I just... you know it looked like... and I'm just gonna go.”
“Uh... yeah, later.” When he was gone, Renee bowed her head and huffed out a relieved breath. Whether he just didn't want to believe that she was gay, or if he was actually that naïve, he bought it.
“That was close,” Bethany said. “Really, really close.”
“Yeah... and you know what this means, now.”
Renee sighed, rolling her eyes. “I'm gonna have to get a fake boyfriend.”
“Renee, what the hell is going on?!” Benny shouted. He ignored the stares from the passersby. Right now, he focused only on his sister standing across from him, and the girl hanging off her arm.
“Benny, this isn't--”
“Don't tell me it's not what it looks like! I'm not fifteen anymore!” A few more people passing them on the sidewalk gave awkward stares, then quickly hurried past them. Benny still didn't care. “You going to tell me it's just another 'phase'? You really expect me to believe that again?”
Renee swallowed, jaw tightening. This was not what she needed right now. She was a little more than buzzed, and if they kept shouting at each other she was bound to do or say something she regretted.
“Uh, h-hey,” Stacy uttered, turning to Renee. She was trying her hardest not to shrink behind the older woman and hide, as nervous as she was. “What's going... I mean, who's--”
“You stay out of this!” Benny snapped, pointing a finger at her.
Renee shot forward, shoving his finger away. “Hey! You don't talk to her like that!”
Pulling his hand back, Benny glared at his sister again. “<Just admit what this is, Renee!>”
<Just say it!>”
“<Fine!>” she declared, throwing her hands up. “<I'm gay, alright?! I like women! You happy?>”
He went quiet, jaw quivering as if to say something. He said nothing, though, not at first, instead pulling back and rubbing his fingers against the bridge of his nose. His date, Rebecca, took a step towards him but he held a hand up, forcing her back.
“<I... didn't believe it back then because I didn't want to...>” he said finally, sighing. “<But I was always afraid it might still be true. Goddamn it... why the hell would you do this, Renee? Why would you choose this?>”
“<Choose it? Who the hell says I chose anything?>” Renee folded her arms. “<This is just how I am, how I've always been.>”
“<You chose to pursue it! You could have just... just let it go, but here you are tonguing another woman, anyway! If mom and dad ever found out, you know what that would do to them?>” He suddenly paused, eyes going wide. “<Wait, they... they don't know, do they?>”
Renee groaned, holding her head in her hand. “<No, no they don't know. And you can't tell them.>”
“<I'm not going to tell them, Renee,>” he said, with a sharp breath. “<And neither should you. You'll destroy them if you do.>”
“<I'm not going to tell them...>” she uttered, turning her gaze away. She wrapped her arms around herself, a seemingly desperate attempt to gain a little warmth in the chilly night air. In reality, she just needed the embrace, even if it was her own.
Standing off to the side now, Stacy looked back and forth between the two siblings, not understanding a word of what they were saying and still not really sure what was going on. With a tiny sigh, she glanced over to the equally confused Rebecca. “So, uh... nice night, huh?”
“Oh, uh... yeah,” Rebecca said, looking away uneasily. “Nice night...”
Benny gave another disappointed breath and shook his head, then turned from Renee and put his arm around Rebecca's waist, leading her away. “<If you know what's good for you, and for your family, you'll stop this. See you around.>”
Once they were gone, Stacy moved next to Renee. “Hey... what was all that about?”
Taking in a deep breath, Renee swallowed a tight knot, doing everything she could to keep on a straight, strong face for Stacy. God, she couldn't start crying now, not over this. “That was just... that was my brother, and...”
She didn't need to finish the sentence, Stacy understood. “Oh.... oh. I'm sorry, I didn't... I mean, I-”
“It's fine,” she said, shaking her head. Putting an arm around the girl's shoulders, Renee led them back down the sidewalk. “Let's just... go back to your place. I need some sleep.”
Two days later...
Renee walked up to the door of the apartment with her gaze pointed at the floor, hands stuffed in her pockets, and mind lost in another place. She should have been by to check on Nigma sooner, probably, but she honestly hadn't been in the mood to put up with him. If not for a call from Gordon, she likely wouldn't have left her apartment today at all. But now here she was, standing outside of the home of the new 'reformed' Edward Nigma, formerly The Riddler.
“It's open,” a voice came from inside, as she knocked on the door.
With a small sigh, she turned the knob and pushed her way into the apartment. The place was still a wreck, at least by normal standards. Her own apartment was nothing special, but this particular one was the epitome of run down. And it still cost $800 a month?
Walking past a couple of old take out containers left haphazardly on the coffee table, she made her way over to the kitchen table, where Edward sat hunched over his laptop and typing away like a madman. He looked... tired, exhausted even, and he kept muttering to himself under his breath incoherently, his words stringing together in a way that almost didn't make sense.
It wasn't until she sat down across from him that he finally glanced up for a moment to say, “Ah, Miss Montoya, how good of you to show up at last.”
“What are you doing?”
Bringing his attention back to his computer, he replied, “Trying to figure out who thinks they can out-riddle the great Detective Nigma.”
Renee lifted an eyebrow. “Um... what?”
“Not long ago, I received a very mysterious message sent to me on my laptop,” he explained. “But not just sent—hacked. Whoever sent it is covering his tracks pretty well, but we'll see just how well soon enough.”
“That's... great,” Renee muttered, leaning back in her seat. She tapped her fingers idly against the table, gaze drifting aimlessly around the room.
“So, aren't you supposed to be asking how I'm doing, seeing if I'm staying out of trouble, all that? I know you're nothing more than a glorified babysitter right now, but I'd think even you would show some kind of enthusiasm for your work.”
She rolled her eyes, arms crossing over her chest. “Not now, alright, Nigma? Not in the mood. Gordon wanted me here today, so I'm here. That's it.”
“Hrm,” he muttered, glancing up from the screen. “Irritable, defensive, yes, passiveaggressiveanduncaring-”
His words melded together again, making no sense to Renee. She ignored him, though, instead getting up from her seat and walking over to the couch. After a short few moments of searching she found the remote for the tiny television in front of her and turned it on... only to be met with a screen of static.
“Damn it!” she said, dropping her head back against the couch. She couldn't even watch TV while stuck in this place!
“If I didn't know any better, I'd say something was bothering you,” Edward said.
“Gee, what gave it away?”
“Hmm.” He uttered a small breath and frowned at the computer screen, pausing his fingers. A moment later, he started typing again. “So what's wrong? Someone discover your penchant for the fairer sex?”
Renee's head lifted abruptly from the couch, as she turned to stare at the man, eyebrows lifted. “You-- how did you--”
“Please, Miss Montoya,” he said, with a flippant wave of the hand. “You're not the only detective in the room. Besides, it's not like you were hiding it very well to begin with.”
Finding herself at a loss for words, she lowered her head into her hands and huffed out a tired groan.
“You know, the closet is a pretty lonely place, from what I've seen. You really should just come out, make it easier on yourself.”
“I can't do that,” she muttered, looking away. “My parents...”
“Ah, the parents.” Edward again looked up from his computer, this time stopping his fingers and leaning forward to look at her. “Let me guess, devoutly Catholic, ignorant, hateful, always wondering why you never have a boyfriend?”
Renee frowned, feeling her heart climbing higher into her throat. “That's... one way to put it, yeah.”
“Hmm, yes, I see... the plot thickens.”
A long silence passed between the pair, the only sound being the continued clack-clack-clacking of Edward's keyboard. Renee leaned forward on the couch, elbows resting against her knees. She stared at the old floorboards until her vision began to blur, then finally closed her eyes and hung her head.
“I just... hate having this secret,” she said. “A secret I can't tell to anyone.”
“In my own experience, secrets cause nothing but problems,” Edward said, absently licking his top lip as he drew his face closer to the screen. “If you ask my opinion--”
“--it's best to put it all out there.”
Renee turned her head, sighing again. “And what would that accomplish, huh? The only thing it would do is kill my parents. That's just what I need, them wondering how they failed as parents... or telling me I'm going to Hell when I die.”
“Well, for what it's worth I couldn't care less about your personal preferences.” Leaning on one arm, he puffed out a tired breath and rubbed his eyes. In a small whisper, he muttered, “Oh yes, you're good... but I'll find you.”
Unable to think of a response, Renee stood up from the couch and shoved her hands back into her jean pockets. She stood there for a bit, just staring at the static on the television screen, then finally started pacing around the small apartment, examining things. Nothing really caught her interest until she happened by the waste bin near the table. Looking down into it, she noticed that it was empty save for a needle and syringe at the bottom.
“Speaking of secrets...” she said, bending down to pick up the syringe, “you're supposed to be getting clean, Nigma. What, two days on the job and you're giving up already?” Her tone soured, as she grabbed the needle and straightened herself. “Super villain, junkie, you're all the-” She stopped, however, when she realized that the syringe was still full; it hadn't been used. “...same.”
“Noticed that I didn't use it?” Edward asked, glancing up from his screen again. “I've been trying to kick the stuff... succeeding for the most part. But it's not, well...”
“It's not easy... I know.”
Tilting his head to the side, Edward raised his eyebrows. “Why Miss Montoya, I didn't take you for a druggie.”
“Alcohol,” she muttered, dropping the needle back into the basket. “I was... I drank a lot some years back. Was in a bad place, depressed. Fortunately, I had some people help me out that rut.. I manage my drinking a lot better now.” She stared at the syringe for a few moments, then lifted her gaze back to the man at the table. “Give it to me.”
“Please, don't insult me,” Edward said, with an amused chortle. “You really think I'd keep a stash here, at my apartment? I use a dead drop, naturally.”
Renee said nothing, but held her hands to her hips and stared him down. Her expression, nor her posture, budged an inch. Somewhere in the back of her head, Gordon's words echoed: If there's anyone he can't BS, it's you.
Finally, Edward released a tired breath and bowed his head. He rubbed his eyes for a moment, then slid off his seat and walked over to one of the cupboards in the kitchen. Opening it, he pulled out a rolled up paper bag and then stuffed it into Renee's awaiting hands. “Actually, I think this might be for the best... I am serious, you know. About getting things right this time.”
“Yeah... we'll see.” Unrolling the paper bag, Renee leaned back over the waste bin and grabbed the needle, then dropped it inside. “I'm going to dispose of this... I suppose I'll be back.”
“As you say, Miss Montoya,” he replied, sitting back in front of his laptop.
As she reached the front door, she stopped, hand on the knob. Exhaling a long breath, she looked back over her shoulder and said, “For the record... it's just Renee.”
Edward flicked his eyes up at her, head lifting ever so slightly. “Of course... Renee. And, likewise, it's Eddie.”
Renee opened the door, hesitating before going through it. With a small nod, she finally turned and left. “Eddie.”