Raven stopped before one faded wooden door and knocked softly. She heard a halting step from within. Maddy’s limping. I may only assume this is because someone hurt her. Raven waited as the woman opened the door slightly.
Maddy Astin stood at the door, shocked to see the young woman standing there. “Raven? What do you want? This isn’t a good time for visiting. Kerry’s coming home, and he don’t like me to have guests.”
Raven looked into her fearful eyes with her own expressive ones. “Maddy, if you will allow me to come inside for a minute, I will explain why I had to come.”
Maddy reluctantly opened the door and stepped aside. Raven entered and saw rooms with faded and patched furniture. Maddy clearly tried hard to keep her home tidy, but a student’s financial aid could only do so much.
Raven touched her friend’s arm. “Azar! Your injuries are worse than I knew!”
Maddy gasped as her pain was drawn out of her body into the slender form of her friend. “You healed me? How’d you do it?” she said.
Raven placed one elegant hand against her own brow. “It is my gift and my curse to carry the pains of others. It is not your role to suffer silently while your husband harms you.”
“Kerry loves me,” Maddy insisted. “He just gets mad when I don’t do what a wife should do. He wants me to quit college and be a better cook and housekeeper. He gets mad. He drinks some. Still, he’s so sorry afterward. Its my fault, too.”
Raven leaned against the wall to recover her own strength. “Maddy, Kerry has pain, but he has no right to inflict such agony upon you. Nothing you have done or perceive to be a failure on your part entitles him to hurt you. He simply has no justification! I know of people who can help him as well. Let me take you to a shelter.”
Raven cried out in pain as something crashed against her head from behind. She crumpled forward in a haze of pain and surprise.
“Maddy, this woman is one of the New Titans!” shouted a man in a long coat who had slipped inside just moments before. “Why is she here? You’re trying to turn me in to the cops! You should know better. I’ll make you learn to obey me!”
“Kerry, please! Raven is in my class,” pleaded Maddy as she bent over Raven’s stunned form. “I know she dresses oddly, but I never connected her to heroes. I wouldn’t have talked to her if I had known she was one of them. You don’t like me to watch the news, so I didn’t know who she was!”
Kerry Astin slammed the door behind him. “Well, she will be the late Raven when I’m done with her!”
At that moment, Batman crashed in through the apartment window. Maddy screamed as the Caped Crusader broke in and stood protectively over Raven’s fallen form. He noticed the slow rise and fall of her chest, realizing she was still alive. “I don’t know what brought Raven to your home, Astin, but your crime spree is over!” declared Batman.
Kerry cursed and pushed Maddy out of the way. He flipped up an orange mask and hood, shedding his coat to reveal an orange costume. “Not while I can do this!” he cried, holding up a jewel on a thick cord.
Maddy shuddered as a grinning clown suddenly loomed up out of the shadows to giggle madly. “The Joker!” she cried.
Batman shook his head. “No. Just a remarkable illusion created by your husband’s gemstone. Mirage, your hypnotic powers have little effect on me. You should remember that from last time. A bit of sheer willpower and earplugs to block the audio frequency used to project realistic illusions stop your tricks!” He ignored the illusion of the Joker and moved relentlessly forward.
“I do tip my cowl to you, Mirage,” he said. “Using your powers so subtly was clever. You made the bank staff see an illusion of total normalcy while you strolled in and followed various staff into the safe when their duties led them to retrieve cash for business. That little hoax tricked the cameras, too, and was a neat twist on the monsters you customarily like to project, but the hum your weapon creates in order to work upon your victims’ auditory senses gave you away! That enabled me to deduce you were behind the unseen robberies!”
He gripped the thin man in his hands as they struggled across the room. Mirage was a notoriously poor fighter. The flickering image of the Joker faded away as Batman shook the beaten villain. “Stop! Stop, or I’ll shoot you!” cried Maddy as she brought a gun out of a cabinet drawer.
Batman frowned. “Mrs. Astin, those bruises on your arms came from Astin’s angry fits. I’d suggest you put the gun down before you become more than a victim.”
Maddy trembled and waved the gun toward Batman. “Just let him get away. That’s all I want!” she said.
Raven woke up slowly and saw all that occurred. She remained prone but suddenly lifted one leg in a swift kick that sent the gun flying out of Maddy’s hands. The gun fired and narrowly missed Batman, who nimbly rolled aside. “I am sorry, but I could not let you harm Batman,” Raven said as she jumped to her feet.
Batman frowned as Mirage suddenly vanished from sight. Mirage had made good use of his wife’s efforts to distract the hero. He also realized that the sudden movement had damaged his earplugs. He now felt the power of Mirage’s hypnotic illusions. It was still easy to ignore the images of fake monsters, but even the Darknight Detective had to pause when the effect was one of concealment. Can’t find him. His power makes him look invisible, he thought.
“Kerry Astin, I still feel your pain,” called Raven. “The anger and hurt within you makes you all too visible to me. Had I not been concentrating on persuading Maddy to leave you before, you would never had been able to attack me from behind.”
She moved gracefully, and her soul-self enveloped what appeared to be empty space. Moments later, she drew the mystical form back within her body as Mirage fell into sight. “I also allowed him to feel exactly what pain he had been inflicting upon his wife all these many years,” announced Raven as she stepped over Mirage’s trembling form to comfort Maddy.
Batman removed Mirage’s gemstone of power and said, “Thank you, Raven. I’d say this was one instance in which his abusive behavior brought about a bit of justice.”
Raven held the sobbing Maddy and replied, “He may have deserved to feel the emotional pain he had created, but I see nothing but the faintest glimmer of any justice yet to come.”