The Anger and Pain
Renee Montoya woke up at twenty minutes after nine the following morning. The events of the past night seemed hazy, almost surreal. But a glance at the newspaper outside her door convinced her. It had not been a dream. Batman-Bruce Wayne-she'd better get used to that idea, was in custody. And it was her fault. Akins had been practically beaming, telling her she'd probably get a promotion out of this. Right. I Miranda-ized a wounded man, while he was in severe shock and probably had no clue what I was asking him. At least I made damned sure that detail was in my report. If he does say anything incriminating, I only hope his lawyers can make use of that bit of info.
Maggie Sawyer, head of Major Crimes, and her direct superior, had understood her feelings, thankfully. She'd even offered her some time off-unpaid, of course-if she wanted it. Renee had demurred, asking instead if she could be assigned to the detail charged with keeping Batman in police custody.
"Somehow, I don't think you're worried about him getting away," Sawyer had said.
"No," Renee had admitted. "I'm worried about him."
Maggie had sighed. "I'll get your name on the approved personnel list. You want to spend your off-duty hours in that room… it's up to you, but you won't get overtime for it. We've got enough good officers pulled for that particular assignment, as it is. Between you and me? Once Akins gives that press conference tomorrow, what happened last summer is going to look like a camp colour war."
Damn. She hadn't thought of that. And she should have. She'd been new to the force when Bane had come to Gotham. The night he'd dumped Batman in Robinson Square, the city had erupted in violence. It had been forty-eight hours of hell, before the Dark Knight had been back in action. By taking him into custody, had she just handed Black Mask the final victory he needed?
Apparently, Sawyer had read her thoughts. "Whatever happens tomorrow will NOT be your fault. As long as you're out there, doing your job and helping to keep a lid on things." She had frowned. "You were first on the scene last night?"
"It's in the report," Montoya had answered. "Riddler'd left a calling card at Connie's Conundrums about five minutes away. We'd just finished checking it out, when the 9-1-1 came in. We were closest. It was on our direct route back to the precinct…"
"See, that's what I like about you, Renee," Maggie had said. "You're more concerned with getting the job done than worrying about whose job it is in the first place. Go home. Get some sleep. And, if you're sure about spending your time off at the hospital, I'm putting you down for 1 to 5 tomorrow."
She had obeyed, automatically. For the life of her, she couldn't remember leaving the precinct, driving back to her apartment, or going to sleep. But here she was, awake in her own bed, so she must have done so.
The press conference was scheduled for eleven a.m., sharp. She wasn't going to watch. She was going to get on her track suit and head for her usual jog in Robinson Park, after which she would trot home, shower, throw together a lunch… make that a lunch and supper… and try to figure out how in heck she was going to reach…Robin… Nightwing… Batgirl…was there anyone else? She tried to remember who Batman's allies had been during the No Man's Land. Huntress? Azrael was dead, wasn't he? Was Oracle a person or a computer? First things first. Start out by contacting the ones you know HOW to reach. Picking up her receiver, she dialled the area code for Metropolis, followed by 555-1212. She answered the recorded questions firmly. Metropolis. Gordon, James. Yes, she did want a residential number. A moment later, she had her answer. Two minutes after that, she was speaking with former Commissioner Gordon, doing her best not to fall apart on the line. He didn't ask many questions, and she was grateful for that. He was only interested in facts, not inferences. After what seemed an eternity, she heard:
"Barbara and I will be on the next available flight."
"Barbara?" He was bringing his daughter in?
"There are reasons."
And they were none of her business. "Yes, Commis—I mean… Sir."
"How is he?"
There was a pause. "How are you?"
Her voice faltered. "Not… good."
"Detective," and suddenly the old authority was back in his voice, "First off, I'm assuming by now, somebody has told you not to blame yourself. If they haven't, consider yourself told. If they have, believe them. Second, I'm counting on you to do everything in your power to keep the situation stable. Hold down the fort, until we get there. And, third, Renee… this isn't No Man's Land. And Akins isn't Jordan Rich, understand? Don't even think about losing the book on this one."
Montoya nearly dropped the receiver. "You… knew about that?"
"Toss the rules, and toss any credibility you've built with Akins." Gordon ignored the question. "He doesn't know what kind of worm-can he's about to open. Once he realizes, there won't be many people he'll feel safe relying on. Be one of them. See you, shortly, Renee."
"Sir? About contacting some of his people? Any idea how to reach them?"
"If Akins honours you with a private office… try leaving the window open late at night."
Renee let loose a startled chuckle. "And for now?"
"Odds are, they'll find you." The line went dead.
Renee replaced the receiver, still smiling. She'd forgotten that about Gordon: somehow, even when the situation appeared to be at its bleakest, he never gave up. Even his retirement had been more a natural next step than a surrender to the inevitable. …There won't be many people he'll feel safe relying on. Be one of them. She hadn't told Gordon, but after last night, she was seriously considering resigning from the force. Had he guessed? She shook her head. If she was going to take that jog, she had to get moving.
Barbara Gordon was finally getting around to the business of settling in. She'd rented the Metropolis apartment months ago, after she'd decided to leave Gotham. Dad had immediately stated that if she left, he would follow. He didn't have much family left, as it was. So, rather than tell her father that she was currently planning to live aboard a state-of-the-art Citation X aircraft, she had rented the apartment already furnished, given that address to her father, and then, she had blithely moved aboard the Citation X as planned.
Although Zinda had been good about piloting the craft into Metropolis every week or so, so that she could join her father for dinner, Barbara had realized that sooner or later, she'd be expected to invite him over. Or he might decide to drop by. And since she'd hardly been the out-of-doors type in Gotham since Joker had stuck her in her chair, it would be difficult to explain why she was suddenly never home when he called.
So, here she was, months later, taking a few weeks to set up a home office, as she euphemistically called her computer "womb", and to at least familiarize herself with her surroundings… the grocery store, the computer supply outlet, the contents of her kitchen cabinets… She'd informed those who needed to know that Oracle would be off-line for the next seventy-two hours for scheduled maintenance, read re-installing and rebooting her systems. See, Helena. I'm not like HIM. I can trust the world to get along fine without me for a little while, okay? Actually, if everything went well with the installation, she might be up again in a little over forty hou-
Her intercom sounded. Turning on her brand-new security camera, she saw her father frowning up. "Dad?"
"Let me in, Barbara," he ordered in a tone that would brook no refusal. She buzzed him up.
As she opened the front door to him, he strode in so quickly that Barbara was forced to wheel backwards to allow him entry. "Dad, what's happened?"
"I had a call from Montoya, a half hour ago. Bruce Wayne was arrested last night. There's a taxi waiting outside. Pack what you need for a few days-if you need more-"
"Wait. Bruce Wayne was arrested? For what? And what has that got to do with us?"
Gordon's eyes narrowed. "You haven't heard?"
She hadn't turned on her computers yet. Hadn't gone down to the store to buy a newspaper this morning. And the radio was too much of a distraction when she was trying to assemble circuitry. I shut myself off for twenty-four hours and the world goes to hell in a zip attachment. "No," she admitted. "I haven't. What's going on?"
He sighed. "You're probably better off finding out about it this way, then. Barbara, Alfred Pennyworth… died last night." He saw his daughter's hand fly to her mouth in shock but continued. "Montoya found his body in an alley. Batman was on the scene, in no condition to resist arrest."
Barbara gasped. "That's…" Wait one minute… "Dad? Y-you said Bruce Wayne was arrested-"
Gordon cut her off. "That's right, Oracle, I did."
"What did you just call me?"
"Would you prefer 'Batgirl'? I understand that girl Cain trained is currently wearing that costume, but if you'd rather-"
I am not hearing this. I am NOT having this conversation with my father… Alfred CAN'T be-Batman wasn't… "How do you know these things?"
Gordon leaned forward, placing his hands over her own. "Because, Barbara, I am not stupid. And neither are you. And this is too important for us to dance circles around each other pretending we don't know what's been staring us in the face all along. He needs us. We're going. It's that simple. Now pack."
Numbly, Barbara opened a closet and hefted out a suitcase. With her current on-the-go life, at any given time, she had a week's worth of clothes at the ready. "Done," she said, forcing a smile. "There are… some others who would have to be contacted. Batgirl, Robin…"
"Nightwing," Gordon supplied. "Just because you two broke up-"
"G-d, do you know everything?"
"I was a detective for a couple of decades before they shoved me behind a desk. I didn't leave my deductive reasoning in the glove compartment of my last patrol car. In other words, when after months of hearing you talk about how much you're looking forward to Dick joining you for dinner, his name suddenly seems to drop out of your vocabulary, again, I'm not dumb. Call him."
Barbara hesitated. "We… haven't spoken since right after I left Gotham. I wouldn't know where to find him."
Barbara hadn't seen that expression directed at her since the day he'd found out that she'd knowingly kept Janie Wharton's eating disorder to herself. That decision had nearly cost Janie her life. When James Gordon had learned of his daughter's involvement, he had been more disappointed than angry. She had let him down. And knowing how saddened he was by her lack of judgment had shamed her more than any dressing-down could have.
"You know where to start looking, Barbara. Stop making excuses, and start doing what you have to."
What. Happened. Last. Night?" A harsh voice gritted from the shadows. Montoya jumped. Get a grip, Renee. There aren't very many people who would be asking you THAT question in THAT tone…
She squared her shoulders and stepped back one pace. "I suppose it would be asking too much for you to come out where I can see you."
Silence. Renee waited, feeling a slight twinge of apprehension. After a moment, a tall figure in blue and black somersaulted lightly down from an overhead perch.
"You were the arresting officer," he said flatly.
"I heard Akins' press conference. They're trying to paint you as a hero."
Montoya turned the words over, looking for some hint of outrage or bitterness in his tone. She didn't find one. He was simply stating an opinion.
The figure dropped his menacing posture. At rest, Montoya was struck by how young he suddenly seemed. "Funny thing is, you're not acting like one. See, if I were in your position, and I'd just made the collar of the century, I'd either be off to have a few drinks with my buddies, or whistling as I walked back to my car. You, on the other hand…"
"What do you want from me, Nightwing?" She snapped. "He was wounded. There was no way that he was going to get away from the scene of the explosion on his own. He wasn't even trying. You think I wanted to find him there like that? You think I'm looking for a ticker-tape pa-you know something? Forget it. Just… forget it. I don't even know why I'm bothering telling you this. Assuming you didn't show up to deliver some sort of-of payback for last night…" She broke off, seeing the look of horror on his face.
"No!" He exclaimed. "I'd never-" he sighed. "But coming up to you that way gave you every reason to think so. Detective Montoya, I'm sorry. All I can say in my defence is that as bad as today must have been for you, it was worse for me."
That, she could believe. "Why did you want to talk to me?"
"Because I don't think I'm going to be able to talk to him. And I really want to know what happened after you took him into custody."
Montoya considered for a moment. "My apartment. Forty-five minutes?"
How many officers did it take to guard one man chained to a stretcher? Montoya wondered disbelievingly. It looked like half the night shift had turned out for this. They'd practically had to fight their way through a crowd of reporters and photographers to navigate the ten feet or so from the ambulance to the emergency room. Hospital security-bless them-intervened at that point, and for an instant, Montoya hoped the worst was over. Then they'd been directed to one of the examination rooms, and a veritable sea of blue uniforms had surrounded them.
One officer, a lieutenant Montoya had never before laid eyes on, approached the head of the stretcher. "Let's get this over with," he said reaching toward Batman's cowl.
That action provoked a greater reaction from the prisoner than anything Montoya had said or done that evening. Batman tried to twist away from the officer's outstretched hand, but his manoeuvrability was decidedly limited.
"Come on," he said with annoyance, swatting away the vigilante's hands.
"No." Batman's voice was barely a whisper.
"Batman," Renee said, "you know we have to do this,"
Batman shook his head frantically. "Booby-trapped," he managed to say as the hapless lieutenant took a firm hold of the mask. Electricity crackled, and the man let out a shriek. A half-dozen service revolvers suddenly pointed at the costumed vigilante.
"He was trying to warn us! Idiots!" Montoya hissed. "Put those away. Honestly, stop acting like a bunch of amateurs or clear out." She waited for the guns to lower, before turning back to the injured man.
"I'm sorry. You can do it," she said quietly. "Or tell one of us how. But the cowl has to come off."
At first, she thought he hadn't heard. But then his hands slowly moved to his face, and his fingers hooked under the edge of the Kevlar cowl…
"And the first thing that went through my mind was 'no wonder he was able to escape police custody and remain at large for the next six months a couple years ago'," Montoya finished wearily. Oddly, seeing the face below the cowl hadn't come as a shock to her. Like finding a missing piece to a jigsaw puzzle, it was less a revelation than a completion. Bruce Wayne was Batman. It all fit. It all made sense.
"So, I suppose that makes you Dick Grayson?"
Nightwing nodded. "Did you want to haul me in, too?" he asked lightly.
"I-I'm off-duty," Montoya stammered.
He laughed, and a moment later she found herself smiling. He sobered. "Thank-you. For being there. I'm pretty sure he appreciated it." He turned toward the window.
"If you're thinking about breaking him out," Montoya called, "forget it. I was at the hospital this afternoon and there's tighter security there than at the UN. He's chained by his good ankle to the bed. With anyone else, I'd call that overkill, what with the cast on his other leg, but maybe for him it's understandable. He's got a room to himself that would normally have three other patients in it. There are two guards just inside the door. Two more at each of the two windows. There are two air vents leading into the room, and there's a guard sitting on a chair facing each of them. Another one's facing the washroom, even though that air duct is only about eight square feet. Across the street from the hospital, GCPD has commandeered the condo unit directly parallel to his room. There's SWAT on the roof, including three snipers. They've sealed off the corridor, and nobody gets through without photo ID, and their name on an approved personnel list. I counted a dozen officers outside his room, today. Get it?"
Nightwing nodded. "Thanks. Any chance you could provide me with a copy of that personnel list, and the hospital blueprints?"
Montoya wasn't sure whether to laugh or blow her top. "Did you not understand what I just told you?"
"Oh, I understood you just fine. And you're right. Getting to him isn't going to be easy. But if I start believing it's impossible, then it will be." He turned back toward the window.
"Wait. If I need to get in touch with you-"
"One of us will find you."
Montoya hesitated. "I-I'm sorry. About… Mr. Pennyworth."
Nightwing bowed his head. "So am I."
It was still his old house, Gordon noted-with the minor addition of the state-of-the-art computer system and crime lab installed in his basement. Officially, he'd sold the place, furnished and sight unseen to a certain 'Brad Westwood'. I suppose that's slightly less obvious than Bruce Thomas, Gordon noted sardonically. Still, it was almost as obvious as if Bruce had told him outright that he'd wanted to buy the house.
When Tim and Cass had arrived from Bludhaven, they'd taken Gordon's knowledge in stride, although he suspected that some time soon, Tim was going to ask just how Gordon had figured the whole thing out. For now, Cass was patrolling Gotham. Barbara was attempting to interface with, and wipe out all the data from the Cray computers from the 'Bat-cave' (richest man in Gotham, and he chose to work out of a cave?) beneath Wayne manor (alright, that explained it), before GCPD went over the grounds with a fine-tooth comb. Currently, as she explained it, she was transmitting the files to various other locations around the city. At the same time, she was attempting to tap into Central Hospital for an update on Bruce's condition, and interface with the DA's office to see what sort of case the People were building versus Batman.
They'd already discussed the matter amongst themselves and come to the reluctant conclusion that no bail would be granted. The wealthiest man in Gotham, and one of the world's premier escape artists, was, quite simply, too great a flight risk. Still, if there was to be a bail hearing, those who could safely be there to vouch for him would be.
Tim was currently yelling at somebody over a secured line. "I told you, Beren, you can name any price. I just need you to go to the morgue, identify the body, and say you're the guy's nephew. No, you won't get into trouble. Because I'll get into trouble if I go myself-everyone knows I'm not a relative. Thirty thousand, Beren. In cash. Tax-free… fine! Fifty it is. ASAP. Tonight if you can. Tonight and I'll make it sixty."
Dick had returned in time to catch the end of the conversation. "Hey, Timbo," he called lightly, "while you're at it, could you raise my allowance?"
Tim shook his head, slamming down the receiver. "Seventy-five thousand out-of-work actors in LA," he groaned, "and I have to go hire the necrophobe. No, he can't go to the morgue," he said, falsetto, "it's all full of dead people!"
"Sorry, Dick. I-"
Dick shook his head, with a sad smile. "You don't have to explain. I used to be the master at dealing with the serious stuff by taking it lightly-"
A gasp from Barbara diverted their attention. "They can't be serious!"
"Barbara?" Gordon asked.
She took a deep breath. "They've scheduled a hearing," she said faintly. "Four days from now."
Dick whistled. "That's short notice, but we can be there. I mean it's probably pointless, anyway, we all agreed the judge isn't likely to set bail-"
Barbara shook her head. "It's not a bail hearing," Dick, she whispered. "It's a competency hearing."