Alex had warned her that Gotham was a dangerous place, and Rapunzel had watched the headlines ever since she’d started seeing Alex. Gotham was the kind of place that she liked to move around in and explore; most of the people never really made eye contact with one another, and she didn’t have to work as hard to hide her hair. No one would notice if her hair grew two inches while she spent a half an hour browsing at the news stand or enjoying a cup of coffee in a little greasy spoon.
She had spent a lovely time in the art museum this afternoon while Alex had been off at some meeting or other. They’d had a display of Native American art on loan from an Arizona museum, and she’d been able to linger and admire the stitching and beading on the ceremonial garments. She’d even run into Bruce Wayne very briefly, and though he’d been very polite when she’d said hello, she had the suspicion he didn’t really remember her. She wasn’t offended, as she’d only met him once and he was a prominent community figure (besides the fact that she‘d forgotten to use an accent).
She doubted that Alex would have much interest in the display, so she didn’t mind coming alone; she enjoyed it. Though she loved Milliways, she did occasionally get cabin fever there and missed the crowds and pollution and noises one could only find in a city. She was on her way meet Alex when it happened. She could have taken a taxi, but the day was actually pleasant after the previous day’s rainfall and she decided to walk the few blocks to the PM offices. The sun had just set, but true darkness hadn’t descended.
As she passed the alley between the museum and the building next to it, someone grabbed her arm and pulled her off balance, making her stumble into the alley. It didn’t occur to her right away what was happening, and then she realized: she was being mugged! There was a quick spurt of anger that anyone would dare, and then common sense prevailed. She could hear Alex’s voice in her head telling her to give them what they wanted and run for it.
She was actually relieved when she was pulled against a rather bony feeling body, her back pressed to his chest as he dug something hard and pointy into her ribcage, wrapped an arm around her neck and demanded she hand over her money. She had had a moment of panic thinking that she might be assaulted, but it seemed that this man just wanted money. The part of her brain that wasn’t in shock reasoned that he was probably a drug addict, and would leave her alone as soon as she handed over her purse. She didn’t even consider fighting him.
“Just take my purse; it’s right here on my arm.” She made no move to hand it over--she didn’t want him thinking that she was trying to struggle or try anything else.
“Don’t tell me what to do, bitch!”
In the moment when he growled it into her ear, Rapunzel heard another voice; a long buried memory as it surfaced to the forefront of her mind.
Suddenly she was no longer in a filthy Gotham alley with a strung out junkie, but in a dark forest, being held fast against a putrid-smelling goblin as she struggled in vain to free herself. Would it be a quick death, or would she be humiliated and violated before she was allowed to join her beloved husband and children once more?
She thought the screams echoing through the forest were coming from her own throat before she realized that they were the cries of birds. Crows were flying at her attacker and the other goblins hidden in the woods, cawing loudly as they clawed and pecked at the goblins. She soon realized that other birds were there, as well--birds that would never normally be in flight in the midnight woods. The attacks and the commotion were effective, and the goblin holding Rapunzel let one of her arms loose to swat wildly at the crazed birds. She heard a voice from somewhere in the nearby dark cry out, “Fight, Lady! Fight!”
The words surprised her and spurred her into action. With one arm freed, she struggled with renewed vigor, kicking and scratching at her captor. A fox emerged from the wood to bite at the goblin’s legs, causing it to bellow in annoyance and fury and jerk Rapunzel around like a rag doll. The fox snarled and snapped at the goblin, managing to bite the wrist of the hand that held Rapunzel, and she managed to get free for a moment before she felt herself jerked backward by her long hair.
Nearly pitching all the way backward, she planted her foot and pivoted around to face the goblin; in a last effort to defend herself she moved around the beast and jumped onto its back, using her hair as garrote, and pulling with the last of her strength to cut off the goblin’s air supply. She brought the brute to its knees, and then one of the crows transformed before her eyes and turned into a man. He leaped forward and dispatched the goblin with a blade to its heart. He nodded to Rapunzel with a satisfied expression and said, “Run to the east, my lady. You will find help there.” Before she could say a word, he had transformed again and flown off into the trees.
When Rapunzel came back to herself from the gripping memory, she was sprawled on her back on the ground of the alley, looking up as a large dark shape swooped away into the darkening sky--something larger than a crow…
Her purse and her wallet were on the ground nearby, and the mugger was no where to be seen. She got to her feet and dusted off her abraded hands and started badly when she heard a scream from the street. She snatched her wallet from the ground and shoved it into her purse and hurried back into the dusky light of the sidewalk. Her head hurt as if her hair had been pulled hard at the scalp, and she rubbed it wonderingly, unsure of what had just happened while she'd been in a fugue state. She looked around for who had screamed, and noticed a stir in front of the museum steps.
The man who had mugged her appeared to be unconscious; bound to a light pole by a long length of cord wrapped several times around his body and the post. A confused looking cop was scratching his head, looking at the thug, and Rapunzel saw that the cop was holding a bat-shaped piece of metal in his hand, attached to the cord binding the crook.
She wondered if she should step forward and tell the cops that the man had mugged her, but then there would be questions--most of which she couldn't answer. She also imagined that the police would notice that her hair grew a foot or so while she waited for them to take her statement and investigate…
Turning her back on the strange scene, Rapunzel checked that she still had some cash and, stifling a sob, hailed a cab to take her to where Alex was waiting.