Previous parts are archived here
Multiple crossover; DC Movieverse / NCIS / West Wing / possibly more to come. See the first chapter for disclaimers etc.
by Marcus L. Rowland
Washington, Monday 3.45 PM EST
“What have you got for me, Ducky?” asked Gibbs.
“It’s most curious,” said Dr. Mallard. “According to X-ray examination he appears to have had wide-ranging plastic surgery, facial reconstruction, skin grafts, even bone extensions. I emphasise the word ‘appears.’”
“But in reality there has been virtually no work. Several surgical screws have been inserted into his skull at the points where major reconstruction would require them, but they do nothing. Thin pieces of dense plastic have been embedded below the muscles, again giving the impression that the bone has been artificially built up, especially around the cheeks and the nose, but all that they would really do is add a little temporary puffiness, and leave a misleading X-ray shadow.”
“Some scarring to the fingertips, consistent with skin grafts, but again superficial; a naïve observer might think that his fingerprints have been changed, but the subcutaneous damage isn’t nearly extensive enough. I would say that someone cut around the fingertips, put in a few stitches to simulate a full graft, and didn’t do a particularly good job of after-care, so that some scarring formed, possibly deliberately.”
“What about his death?”
“Almost certainly self-inflicted, given everything I’ve found. A wretchedly poor attempt at suicide, it must have been slow and agonising. There is no reason to believe that he was restrained in any way, incidentally; he did it to himself deliberately, and there would have been a window of several minutes in which he could have saved himself.”
“Is he Luthor?”
“Now that’s a very good question. A superficial examination would say yes, but a thorough examination would reveal the implants and traces of surgery, and on that basis the competent physician would say no. But when we strip away the misdirection, I’m afraid that I end up with what I can only describe as a tentative ‘maybe.’ Perhaps dear Abigail can tell us more.”
“Anything else I should know?”
“Did I mention the possible long term damage to the bones?”
“As well as the more obvious modifications I’ve mentioned, there are faint signs that he has been restrained for an extended period, perhaps eight to ten months ago… incidentally, that would be around the same time as the other operations I’ve mentioned. There’s wear to the bones of his wrists and ankles consistent with an extended period in manacles.”
“When you say an extended period?”
“At least three weeks, probably longer. I’ll know more when the Jeffersonian Institute gets back to me; they’re working on the bones now.”
“He was in Arkham for nearly eight months… so someone holds him captive for a couple of weeks, maybe after the operations, maybe at the same time, then strips him naked, maybe gets him drunk, and dumps him on the streets of Gotham City?”
“It’s as good a theory as any. Proving it would be difficult, to say the least.”
“What have you got for me, Abby?”
“Fingerprints don’t match Luthor; they’re not on the database at all.”
“I sense a ‘but’ there.”
“Most people, you check their fingerprints and you have to eliminate a few false positives, records that come close enough for the automatic recognition program to think that they’re the same. It takes a human eye to spot that it isn’t a match.”
“I know what a false positive is, Abby.”
“This time there aren’t any; there’s nothing particularly unusual about the corpse’s fingerprints, but I’m getting nada. I thought at first there was something hinky about the records, but now I’m wondering if someone interfered with the search routine.”
“You think someone’s hacked IAFIS?”
“Luthor’s rich – he could hire a really good hacker to mess with the system. Doesn’t necessarily mean our man is Luthor; it might mean that the real Luthor is hiding somewhere and wants us to think dead guy was Luthor but concealing his identity.”
“Let me guess – McGee’s working on the software?”
“His brain chemistry is hinky. Adrenalin, much more than there should be, and traces of a weird cocktail of hallucinogenic and psychotropic drugs. Drugs like that would normally break down after he died, but there’s still some there. He must have had a massive dose. No, a lot of massive doses; probably spread out over a lengthy period, up to and including just before his death.”
“What would something like that do to him?”
“He’d be terrified; constant, mind-numbing fear.”
“The first thing I was told about this guy was that he was terrified of Superman and Supergirl. Could it be that specific?”
“Maybe, if the drugs were combined with some sort of conditioning. Let me check the literature, I have a feeling that I’ve read about something like this, but it isn’t coming to me, not yet.”
“Well, keep on it. Anything else?”
“One or two small things. A good few thousand small things, actually.”
“A good few thousand what?”
“Tiny time capsules. Like you get in a cold tablet, but more of them and really really small.”
“Embedded about five to ten millimetres deep in the skin, all over his scalp.”
“Let me guess; they’re not a cold cure.”
“Correct, for two points. Want to try for three and tell me what they are?”
Gibbs thought for a second. “Hair restorer?”
“It might be. I’m still running tests, but it seems to be FCE 28260, which is a dihydrotestosterone inhibitor, it zaps the hormone that affects hair follicle growth in male pattern baldness. FCE 28260 is still experimental; nobody should be using it for treatment yet.”
“How would you embed something like that in his skin? Hypo?”
“Very good question, Gibbs. My best guess is something like a tattooing gun, injecting a slurry of the capsules in sterile saline. Head tattoos are really painful and bleed a lot; his whole head would have been raw and covered in little sores. There’s nothing like that in the Arkham medical records, so he must have recovered before he was admitted.”
“Okay… keep on it. I’m going to make a couple of calls.”
USS Seahawk, off Iran
“Yes,” said DiNozzo, “there’s a hard copy of the BOLO on file here. I think it went out to every ship in the Navy, just in case Luthor turned up overseas.”
“It’s all there?” Gibbs voice crackled over the scrambled radio connection, “including fingerprints?”
“Get it scanned and send a copy to McGee, stat, and get the actual file sent here by courier as soon as you can.”
“What’s wrong with the prints that are on file with IAFIS?
“IAFIS may be compromised.”
“Well, what are you waiting for?”
FBI Headquarters, Washington, Tuesday 8.45 AM
“Okay,” said Gibbs. “In my left hand I have a printout of the record IAFIS gives us if we request Lex Luthor’s fingerprints. In my right hand I have a scan of the BOLO you sent out on Luthor just after he tried to kill Superman. Notice anything odd?”
Tobias C. Fornell looked at the records, did a double-take, then got a magnifying glass out of his desk drawer and examined them more carefully. Eventually he said “Okay, one of these has to be wrong. Which do you think it is?”
“The IAFIS record is as phoney as a three dollar bill.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“First, the prints on the IAFIS record happen to be identical to those of a guy by the name of John Dillinger.”
“I’ve got a corpse with fingerprints the same as the BOLO, and IAFIS can’t find me a match.”
“How in hell did you know the prints were Dillinger?”
“I didn’t. I tried Al Capone first then Clyde Barrow, Dillinger was my fifth guess. They’re all records that are on display in the FBI museum.”
“Someone’s laughing at us.”
“I’ve got McGee and a pack of geeks from Cybercrimes ready to tear into IAFIS as soon as you give the go-ahead. If we hit hard and fast we might just find out who screwed with the records before it’s too late.”
Fornell considered for a moment, rubbed his eyes, and said “Do it.”
Wayne Manor, Outside Gotham City, 10 AM
“I’ll be honest,” said Bruce Wayne, looking up from his breakfast as Kara landed on the terrace, “I was expecting your cousin. He must have been the one that actually recognised me.”
“He’s more patient than I am,” said Kara. “He’s still waiting to see what you want. I thought it would be easier to ask than to wait.”
“Would you like to join me for breakfast? If you’re still running on West Coast time it’s only seven.”
“Explanations first, please.”
“It’s not complicated. With two of you on the scene it was obvious that sooner or later you’d turn your attention to Gotham, and maybe start looking for Batman. I decided to save you the trouble. If you need me, you know where to find me.”
“And if you need us, the reverse applies. And I’d imagine that somewhere in there is the threat that you’ll reveal our identities if we don’t cooperate.”
“Not at all,” said Wayne, “in fact I’ve gone to quite a lot of trouble to ensure that if I’m ever exposed there won’t be any sort of trail leading to anyone in your family. Speaking of which, standing on my terrace in those clothes isn’t exactly inconspicuous; we’re not being watched at the moment, but it isn’t a good habit to get into. Why don’t you change to Linda and join me? I’d like to try to convince you that we should all be friends.”
“And if you don’t,” said an unexpected third voice, “he’ll have to eat all this food, and spend the next week exercising twice as hard as usual.” Kara looked up to see a grey-haired man carrying a large tray with several covered dishes, and smelled eggs, toast, coffee, and other foods she couldn’t identify, and remembered that she hadn’t actually eaten breakfast. “I’m Alfred. I’m either his butler or his keeper, depending on how you look at it.”
There was a swirl of super-speed and Kara was wearing Linda’s comfortable casual clothing, jeans and a T-shirt and stylish yet affordable sandals.
“I used to do quick-change on the London stage,” said Alfred, pulling back a chair for her, “that would have been a very useful trick. Tea or coffee?”
“Coffee please,” said Kara, taking the seat, and added. “You might as well join us; I’m sure that this concerns you as well as Mister Wayne, it’ll save you having to eavesdrop.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Alfred. He stood waiting, and Kara shrugged and turned to her own food.
“After we’ve eaten,” said Bruce, “I’ll show you what I’ve got on Luthor, and we’ll see if you spot anything I’ve missed. And perhaps mister Kent would like to join us too, I’m sure it must be boring watching us from the stratosphere…”
“Do you really think he would do that?”
“You’re right, of course,” said Clark, appearing even more abruptly than Kara, and already in civilian clothing.
“Help yourself to coffee,” said Bruce. “I don’t think Alfred made enough food for three, but I think you’re an early bird. You’ve probably had breakfast.”
“You obviously expected us… what I don’t quite get is why you invited us so flamboyantly.”
“First, I wanted to apologise. I should have found Luthor. If someone hid him in Arkham I want to know why, and I suspect that for that I’ll need your help.”
“You must have a theory,” said Kara.
“I have several. The thing that worries me is the decline in kryptonite smuggling around the time that Luthor entered Arkham.”
“The decline worries you?”
“Starting in the month after your return to Earth, and continuing for the following four months, customs and the FBI intercepted an average of twenty-two grams of kryptonite a month, all of it small shards believed to have been machined from meteoric crystals. There’s good reason to believe that they are left-over pieces from the kryptonite Luthor used in his missile when he built his continent.”
“What happened after four months?” asked Clark.
“Once Luthor was admitted to Arkham, seizures fell to under a gram a month. The black market price has risen sharply, and the same bidders are active now as when you first returned. There’s a shortage, and buyers aren’t getting what they want.”
“So what’s the problem? I’m happy for there to be a shortage.”
“I think that Luthor may have been behind the original black market, selling it off to finance his escape. It may be that he’d run out of kryptonite, but I think that he would have kept some for use if you got too close. What worries me is the possibility that it’s now in the hands of whoever put Luthor into Arkham, and that whoever it is might be a good deal more intelligent than Luthor, and stockpiling it for eventual use.”
“Do you have any suspects?” asked Kara.
“Not exactly. I know how Luthor was driven insane, and who developed the procedure, but beyond that…”
Washington, Tuesday 4.45 PM EST
“It’s called ‘fear toxin,’” said Abby, “developed by an insane psychopharmacologist called Jonathan Crane, AKA ‘Scarecrow.’ He used to work at Arkham Asylum, but he was moonlighting for the mob.”
“So where is he now?” asked Gibbs.
“Back when Batman first went into business Crane was developing the stuff as a terrorist weapon. He used it on most of the inmates, tried to use it on Batman, and came close to getting it into the city water supply. There was also some sort of foreign terrorist group involved, so when the dust settled he was shipped off to the maximum security penitentiary at Lewisburg. As far as I know he’s still there.”
Gibbs checked. “He is.”
“Well, the stuff isn’t much of a secret these days; it’s on the watch list for law enforcement agencies and Homeland Security. The trouble is that anyone with the right sort of skills and access to a good lab can make it. We’re really not talking much here, a few milligrams a day would be enough to keep Luthor permanently frightened.”
“Were there any traces of it in Luthor’s cell?”
“I found some in saliva and urine traces, but very low concentrations.”
“So it wasn’t in his food or water? If it was that would be stronger than the concentration in his blood?”
“Very good, Gibbs!”
“Say he was given it the same way as the hair restorer, inside some sort of time capsule that slowly dissolved. How big a capsule would we be looking for?”
“Too big to be concealed in his body easily. It would probably show up on X-rays.”
Gibbs got out his cell phone. “Ducky… I want you to check all of those implants you removed from Luthor’s body. Could any of them have concealed… Abby, what would it be, a liquid or a solid?”
“Most likely a reservoir of liquid, designed to feed very slowly into his brain. Check the implants on his skull first.”
“Did you get that, Ducky?” Gibbs listened for a second; “Okay, if you find anything get back to me.”
To Be Continued.
IAFIS - Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, the FBI national automated fingerprint identification system.
FCE 28260 really is an experimental drug as described.
BOLO – Be On the Look-Out.
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