|First Published:||June 12, 2013|
|Previous Issue:||Batgirl #20|
|Next Issue:||Batgirl #22|
When Nightwing returns to Gotham City, one of his first calls is to Barbara Gordon, having heard about how her brother James had been killed. Barbara isn't inclined to talk about it much, because she feels responsible for his death, which, in her books, means she is no longer worthy to wear the bat-emblem that she had only just taken up again. As he engages in helping the police deal with the Hangman gang, Dick warns Barbara that she shouldn't shut her loved ones out of her life. After he lost a brother in Damian, Dick doesn't think he could take losing her as well. Still, Barbara insists that she isn't worthy to wear the bat, and that no one - not even he - can help her.
After getting off of the phone with him, Barbara returns her attention to the ongoing hostage situation she has been following since the Ventriloquist kidnapped a celebrity judge from a TV talent show, after her act was rejected. Unfortunately, Barbara is the only one who has any idea of where she might have been taken. She hacks into the police database on her father's account, despite his routine of changing his access codes. When she had followed the kidnapper into a parking garage, she had captured a mental image of every license plate there, thanks to her eidetic memory, and with luck, she might find a link between one of those cars and the Ventriloquist on the police database. Preparing to go out, Barbara lies about her night's plans to her room-mate Alysia, and leaves her watching horror movies on their couch.
From the files, Barbara learned that the Ventriloquist is Shauna Belzer, who, at only 18 years old, has developed a record of crimes that the police could never gather enough evidence to charge her for - including the disappearance and likely murder of her own parents.
Meanwhile, Barbara's father Jim is sad to see that his ex-wife Barbara is leaving again, when he only just got her back into his life. While he tries to convince her to stay by appealing first to her maternal responsibility to Barbara, and then her psychological well-being, in truth, he is concerned about his own feelings. Despite having watched their son die, Barbara explains that she had lived her life without a son for a long time. Jim responds that he can at least find the one who killed James, Jr., unaware that Barbara knows who killed him; their daughter. Unsure of how to respond, Barbara kisses him, but warns that the fairy-tale ending he wants will never come to pass, so long as he remains attached to Gotham City.
Later that night, Shauna Belzer uses her uncanny ability to impersonate voices to belay the order to send units to her home in Cherry Hill with the GCPD dispatcher. She knows, however, that it will only buy her time, thanks to the celebrity of her guest. Xavia, the singer, is distraught, having been tied up at a dinner table with the corpses of Shauna's parents, and the salaciously inclined ventriloquist dummy whom Shauna has dubbed Ferdie. Shauna becomes suspicious that the dummy finds Xavia more attractive than her, and demands that he remove the woman's eyes in order to prove otherwise. As he approaches her face with his wooden palms raised to shove their protruding drills into her eye-sockets, a sound from nearby catches their attention, and Xavia is given a reprieve.
Batgirl has already made her way inside Shauna's house, and is nearly knocked back by the stench. The light switches don't work, and as she fumbles through the filthy kitchen in the dark, she hears screams, and stumbles to find the source. Foolishly, Batgirl calls out reassurance, realizing too late that she has given away her position. Even so, her path out into the living room is unobstructed, and she soon discovers the Belzers' corpses, but no one else. Shining a light onto the wall, Barbara sees that Shauna is a fan of murder, having kept news clippings of some of Gotham's grisliest murders going back for years.
To her horror, though, Barbara is suddenly shoved into the wall by the Belzers' corpses themselves, and she can't imagine how they've been made to move and shout at her. Struggling, to get out from under them, Barbara dodges one of Shauna's mother's swipes, just in time to see her accidentally slice off her late husband's head. Though she disables the woman, Barbara can't help but throw up, knowing these disgusting images will not easily leave her mind. Despite having watched one of the corpses lose its head, Barbara is concerned that they will rise again again, and handcuffs them both to a table leg.
Upstairs, Ferdie is excited to have the chance to tussle with Batgirl again, piquing Shauna's jealousy again, as she warns him to kill her - and nothing else.
Aware by now that Shauna has some kind of power, Barbara rightly refuses to believe any of the cries for help that she hears. Searching the house in the darkness, she is surprised - and disappointed - to find herself trapped in front of a stage, where she is the audience. Ferdie leaps from the stage onto her, and she is surprised by how much stronger the dummy is than she is. She is therefore unable to prevent him from drilling through her suit into one of her shoulders. Fortunately, the wound is not able to get too deep before she kicks him away, deciding it would be best to switch to long-range weapons. Before the dummy can rush her again, she flings a Batarang that lodges itself in his wooden head. While he mocks her attempts to knock out a wooden dummy, he is unaware that it happens to be explosive, and soon he is blown to a smouldering mess on the floor.
Angered by the damage done to Ferdie, Shauna comes out of hiding, and rushes toward Batgirl, only to take a fist in the mouth - which proves to be quite satisfying for Barbara, who feels she needs a win tonight. Shauna collapses on the floor, unconscious, freeing a very thankful Xavia to embrace her saviour. Awkwardly, Batgirl warns that she can't stay with her until the cops arrive, and doesn't know who she should say saved her instead.
Later that evening, Barbara returns to her apartment, and - though clumsily - she bakes some Snickerdoodles for she and Alysia. As it happens, it's the one thing she knows how to make. Barbara asks her friend how she got along with her family, and Alysia claims that her relationship with them was quite good. Barbara explains that she met someone recently who had good parents and mistreated them, and admits that she sometimes feels as though she would be happier if her parents were back together and close by. Barbara believes that despite her parents having been apart for so long, they may not be able to be truly happy until they are together again. She blames herself for the rift in her family.
The pair are surprised by the sound of the doorbell at that late hour, and Barbara suddenly remembers a commitment she had forgotten that she'd made. Still covered in flour and sugar from baking, Barbara struggles to clean herself up as Alysia lets her date inside. Barbara had been so caught up in the Ventriloquist case that she had completely forgotten her date with Ricky.
- The Ventriloquist (Shauna Belzer)
- James Gordon
- Barbara Eileen Gordon
- Ricky Gutierrez
- Gotham City