Chapter 1: Meeting a Stranger
Meeting a Stranger
Andrea Hadley breathed deeply of the crisp night air as she began to make her way to her small apartment building four blocks from the Chinese restaurant she’d just eaten at.
She’d only been in Gotham for two weeks, and this was the first time she’d been out after dark. Her new co-workers had told her it really wasn’t safe for anyone to be out too late because the city was filled with crime, and she wouldn’t have been, but for the fact, she’d been starving and had forgotten to buy groceries earlier in the day. All she’d had in the apartment was one slice of bread and some moldy cheese.
It was her day off, and she’d planned to shop that morning, but the boxes in the corner of her living room were annoying her. So, by the time she’d finished sorting those out, it had been late, and she’d been starving. Hence the reason for her late evening stroll.
Andrea had moved here to begin working at a large law firm, tired of living in her hometown under her father’s thumb. Now, she loved her father, she did, but he had been a judge for as far back in her twenty-eight years as she could remember, and there was no giving in with him. He tried to rule her life the same way he judged the ones coming before him in the courtroom, with an iron fist.
When she’d become a lawyer, he’d been thrilled, talking about how she was following in his footsteps. When she’d informed him, she had no plans to become a judge, and he’d quickly told her how disappointed that made him. Then he’d begun to push for her to do it anyway.
Andrea had finally gotten tired of his pushing and decided it was time for her to leave home. So, when she’d heard that one of the law firms in Gotham was hiring, she’d put in her resume. She’d gotten the job one week and had been packed and ready to leave home the next.
Father had not been happy at all that she was basically moving to crime central, but she didn’t care. She was now a free woman and planned to make the best of it.
Andrea was pulled from her musings by a muffled groan. Glancing around, she tried to figure out where the sound had come from or if she’d imagined it. Hearing another moan, she realized she was almost to an alley.
Carefully stepping up to the break between the tall buildings, she poked her head around the corner of the building and squinted into the gloom. She didn’t say anything because whoever it was might be dangerous.
A slight movement drew her eyes to the other side of the alley. There, a man was trying to sit up with one hand holding his head as if it hurt. He was wearing a white dress shirt which was severely torn and filthy from lying in the alley, along with a pair of dark-colored dress pants. He also seemed to be missing his shoes.
Andrea, deciding he was genuinely in need of help, stepped into the alleyway and called out, “Sir, do you need help?”
His head came up, causing him to groan again as he stared at her. Then, in a gruff voice, he asked, “Who are you?”
Andrea stepped closer, moving slow. That was when she realized he had blood running down his face along with what looked like scratches. Whatever had happened, he’d put up a good fight before he went down. Clearing her throat, she said, “My name is Andrea, and I was just on my way home when I heard you groaning. I have my phone, is there someone I can call for you? Someone who can come and help you get home?”
He leaned his head back against the building, still cradling it in one of his hands while the other hand lay limp in his lap. He answered, “I don’t know. I-I don’t seem to know where I am or how I got to be here.”
“Oh,” she murmured as she stepped closer. “Well, if you tell me your name, maybe I can…”
He looked up at her, his brows furrowed over dark eyes as he murmured, “I don’t know who I am. My head hurts so badly I can’t seem to remember my name.”
Andrea stared at the man silently. Him not knowing who he is was bad, really bad. If he doesn’t know who he is, I can’t even call him a taxi to take him home.
So, she asked, “I don’t suppose you have a wallet on you?” She thumped a hand on her forehead at the sheer stupidity of her question. “No, probably not because you look as if you were mugged, and that is one of the first things they would have taken.” Moving closer, she bent down and said, “Let me help you up. Maybe we can call a taxi and at least take you to the hospital.”
He grunted as he allowed her to help him stand as he argued, “No, no hospital. Nothing is broken. I just have a killer headache.”
“But your head is bleeding!” Andrea exclaimed as she gripped him around his waist, trying to keep him upright. He wasn’t an extremely tall man, maybe five-ten or eleven, but he had the build of someone who went to the gym weekly.
“It can be cleaned,” he gruffly informed her. “I just need to remember who I am so I can make my way home.”
Andrea decided he was a man used to getting his way. So, since it was late and dangerous for them to be out, she gave in to his stubbornness and began to tug him from the alley. “I think this killer headache will have to go away before that happens. You probably have a concussion, but I’m no doctor, so I can’t say for sure.”
He grunted as if agreeing with her but said nothing.
“Okay, we’re only about a block from my apartment. I know you’re barefooted, but do you think you can make it that far?”
“Yes, I believe I can,” he murmured so softly. If Andrea hadn’t been so close, she wouldn’t have heard him. “I appreciate your help. Gotham isn’t exactly the safest of places to help strangers.”
“Mm, so I’ve heard,” Andrea agreed as they staggered along. “I’ve also heard they have their vigilante living here to help put the undesirables in their places. I wonder where he was when you were being mugged?”
“What vigilante?” He asked, lifting his head slightly to look at her.
Andrea laughed as she led him up the steps of her apartment building. “You know, Batman.”
“Batman?” He muttered. “Why would someone call themselves Batman?”
Andrea laughed again as they slowly made their way up the steps to her second-floor apartment. “I don’t know because I haven’t met him yet to ask. However, I have heard a lot about him, so I think it would be pretty cool to meet him.”
The man yawned as they paused to unlock her door before entering.
Andrea placed him on her second-hand couch and stepped back.
“Maybe you’ll get the chance,” the man told her, his eyes drooping sleepily.
“Maybe so, but for now, let me get a rag and clean that head wound. I need to see where the damage is exactly.”
He gave her a nod and closed his eyes as he lay his head back against the couch.
Andrea quickly made her way to the bathroom and grabbed a rag. After wetting it with warm water, she made her way back to him. Sitting down next to him, she carefully began to wipe away the blood and dirt. Once she had the wound clean, she scrutinized it. Finally, she told him, “It isn’t so bad, doesn’t appear to need stitches.”
He nodded carefully but said nothing.
Andrea lifted his head to feel around the back, cringing when she felt a goose-egg-sized knot. “I found the reason for your headache.”
“Yes, I think I can feel it almost pulsing as it shoots pain through my head. My wrist isn’t feeling so good either,” he said.
Andrea lifted his hand after laying the rag aside.
The man hissed, scrunching up his eyes at the pain, but he didn’t make another sound.
“It’s swollen and turning purple,” Andrea told him. “I think it might be sprained, so I’ll wrap it, and we’ll hope for the best for now.”
Andrea stood and made her way to her bedroom to grab the ace bandage from a medical kit she kept under her bed. Returning to the living room, she quickly bandaged the man’s hand.