Single Father

Sarah Demens

4/20/20245 min read

The rain was still raging on outside when Kasper walked through the front door of the mangy apartment complex he had the misfortune of being stuck at. His mind was discombobulated from the event that took place that night. He never thought his next brush with death would be averted by Batman of all people. But here he was... still alive... thanks to him.
Even so, he did not feel safe until he reached his apartment. Honestly... not even that seemed like enough. The serious thought crossed his mind of making the risky decision to relocate. With Joker out for his head, there really did not seem to be a fair chance of him surviving Gotham. His daughter would put up a fuss... but one of two things would happen... either Joker would use her as leverage or quite simply end her out of spite against Cleetus. Or she would be waiting a long time for Daddy to come home... and he wouldn't. Neither of the two things sounded reason enough for Kasper to risk losing his baby girl.
Each step up those stairs was like crawling up a mountain with chains. Cleetus was dragging himself. He once again reflected on the irony of Batman saving him... taking account for the fact that the injuries he still suffered from and had to visit the doctor on a regular basis for were a direct result of Batman annihilating him on a fateful past encounter. Thrown on his back, which slightly fractured the lower part of his spine... dislocated left arm... cracked ribs... broken jaw... and a tooth that barely hung in place from the blow he received via the impacted jaw. Bats did a number on him whilst under the employ of Mista J. It quite frankly terrified him that Batman now knew who he was, and what fowl plan Joker had in store for him.
He winced as he moved towards his apartment door. He didn't have a key to pull... it was something he never risked, in the event someone he knew got a hold of him... all he could rely on was his daughter. If she didn't answer upon his arrival... well, there'd be no point in anything anymore. Needless to say... it would be best for everyone for her to be there to answer it.
Kasper leaned against the wall next to the door, resting his sweaty head against his propped up arm. With his free hand, he knocked. First 2 times on the left, then 2 times on the right, then finishing with a rhythmic rattle that carried all over the bottom half part of the door. His knuckle ached from the secret knock, but all of it was made worth it when he heard distant pitter patter come from beyond, then a thump, before every single one of the 13 locks were disarmed. Kasper waited patiently, staring at the wall, listening to the rattles and clinks of metal sliding, dropping and turning. He perked up upon the last one. The door was opened. His daughter stood in front of him.
"Daddy!" She exclaimed, rushing toward him. The empty space of his outstretched arms were soon filled as the child was pulled up into a tight embrace. He held her even tighter than she held him, navigating slowly around the door and closing it quickly, as not to let anyone unsavory enough time to follow.
"How's my baby girl?" He soothed into her tiny ear, as he locked everything back up with his open hand.
"Fine. The new episode of my show came on today."
"Really?" He asked, half-paying attention, moving into the living room. "What was it about?"
"Ratcatcher this time. I've been waiting for him. Otis isn't as popular, I don't think."
"No, I don't suppose he is." Kasper sat down, leaning his back against the somewhat uncomfortable tattered material. His daughter let go of his neck and adjusted herself to sit on his lap.
"I'm waiting for one about Professor Pyg! He's a newcomer. Really sick in the head!"
Kasper had to keep from shuddering. He remembered the arrival of Pyg very vividly. Everyone was disturbed about him... even Joker thought he was a freak. Cleetus' first dealing with Pyg's criminal entrance was when two of Joker's men were hanging from a wall, left dead for 48 hours. It made his skin crawl to think that one of the men was only there cause he took Kasper's shift that one night. It was his daughter's birthday... that would have been him otherwise.
"How about we skip that one... until you're old enough."
"Aw, Dad... there are worse crooks than Pyg out there that I know alllll about."
She played with his shirt for a moment, searching for the right words to say as she flattened the material out with both of her small hands.
"Why did they do one of Batman, Daddy? He isn't a bad man."
"You mean he's Batman, not Badman?"
His daughter pursed her lips.
"Stop telling jokes, please."
He chuckled, which hurt his ribs, but oh well.
"I don't know, baby... some people don't like him."
Her head cocked. "Why?" He only shrugged.
"Some people think he's not really a hero. Just a criminal fighting other criminals."
"That's silly... he's not like Catwoman at all!"
Kasper chuckled again.
"Have they done one about me yet?"
"Oh, Daddy, don't be silly. They don't do episodes about the henchmen. You know that."
"Ah, but you'll find that I was ACTUALLY a devious, cunning mastermind, pretending to be a lackey of Joker as part of my genius disguise! The media just doesn't know it yet!"
His daughter did not respond to this, despite the efforts Kasper put in to making her laugh. He sagged, when her eyes finally met with his.
"You're working for Joker again, aren't you?"
His fists clenched.
"Of course not. You know I'm completely done with that life, don't you?"
She shook her head in confusion.
"Then why are you hurt?"
He looked down at himself, breathing with displeasure.
"Daddy just had a bad run with some bad men. It's over now, I promise."
She gasped.
"Did Batman save you?!"
His pride couldn't win.
"Yes... he did... but we won't talk about that."
"What if Batman comes here??"
"He won't."
"I wanna meet him, though."
"Not over the reason he would be here, sweetie. Now, just drop it." He started to move her so he could stand. "I gotta find that extra 300 in the hiding spot."
"It's gone."
"You used it."
"Two days ago. For my medicine. Don't you remember?"
Kasper swallowed. He held his head with one hand, his eyes drilling into the stained carpet below. He mentally cussed to spare his daughter's ears.
"Why do you need it, Daddy?"
He was snapped out of his trance. He didn't want to worry her with the fact that they had no money for groceries.
"Because Mommy didn't send child support... that's all."
"She never does."
Kasper fell silent a moment. "...Go brush your teeth, then hop to bed."
"I can't. We're out."
"Out of what?"
He clenched his teeth. "Then just use water for now. Then go to bed. We need to talk when I get there..."
"Did something bad happen, Daddy? You seem scared."
"I am." He answered, honestly. She fell just as silent as he was.
"Now go, hon."
She obeyed without another word. Once she was out of sight, he leaned against the chair once more and ran his hands through his damp hair. His world was crashing down around him... there was no way he could get himself out of this one. Not like he used to. Everyone stood on a podium and preached to everyone about not doing crime and doing the right thing the right way and all, but they didn't actually realize how hard it actually was. How physically taxing it was to go straight and true and care about others, putting them over yourself. Especially when you're an ex-con like him...
His senses were enlightened when he heard footsteps approach him, that shouldn't have been approaching. His eyes landed on the one responsible; his daughter stood before him. Her face was fiercely stern.
"Honey, you need to brush your teeth, right now."
"I can't."
"Why not?"
She licked her lips.
"Because Batman's standing in the bathroom."