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Who Are We?

By Andrew Marsh

Action / Drama

Who Are We? [Drawing Of the Masks III]

Part One

Batman landed on the roof of Arkham Asylum with ease. He could spot the lone figure there waiting for him patiently. Commissioner Gordon.

This couldn't be good news.

There were no other police cars around. Batman knew why. His popularity with the Gotham police continually waned after Harvey Dent's death. Gordon seemed to be the only one not affected. Then again, he was also the only one who knew the lie.

His boots met the gravel roof and he retracted his grapple from the edge. Gordon was already walking over to him.

"Thank you for coming. I...didn't know if you would show."

Batman's guttural voice uttered, "If I hadn't, our private alert system would be for nothing."

"Right. First time I had to use it. I had to wait until my squad left before I could. Wanted to make sure we avoided their presence. You're not too popular with the force right now."

"Which was the point."

"Still, I'm sorry it has to be this way."

"It's all right. What's going on?"

Gordon made a gesturing motion and said, "Better to show you. Follow me."

Batman followed Gordon down the roof's exit to the top floor of Arkham and into the corridors. They went down a flight to the fourth floor. Along the way, Arkham guards stopped what they were doing to stare at the awkward scene of the Batman casually walking through Arkham Asylum with Commissioner Gordon. Batman scanned their faces and none seemed to be angry or filled with rage. They were proud and seemed full of relief.

By the time Gordon reached a certain cell, Batman knew what this was about. The most famous cell in Arkham. His alter-ego made this same path seemingly by accident over a year ago. Gordon tore off the yellow police tape strewn across the cell door and opened it with a audible creak.

Immediately, Batman could feel the draft of the cold October air pass over him. The first half of the cell was normal. Only the bed was left. The opposite wall had been completely blasted away leaving a gaping hole.

"What happened exactly?" asked Batman.

Gordon answered, "Shortly after curfew, the guards heard a huge blast. By the time they got here, they watched the Joker fly away harnessed to a helicopter."

Batman thought to himself that the method was similar to how he captured Lau in China. Skyhook. Batman asked, "Any unscheduled flights at Gotham's heliport or airport?"

"Nothing official."

"So you don't know where he went."

Gordon cringed embarrassingly. "Not at the moment. I've got a very quiet manhunt for him now. The media doesn't know this yet, so I called the manhunt a training exercise. Don't know how long that will last. That's why I called you."

Batman went to the absent far wall and inspected the edges of the hole. "The mortar and the metal frames are bent outward. Charges were placed from the outside. C4."

"Looks like it. There would have been no way the Joker could have gotten any in here. Not without anyone knowing."

"Meaning he had help. Tell me, is anyone on the Arkham staff missing?"

Gordon raised his eyebrows in surprise and replied, "Yes. Dr Harleen Quinzell. The one doctor who's been with him the most. He probably took her as a hostage. How did you–"

"She's not a hostage," Batman stated.

"What makes you so sure?"

"Dr. Quinzell has developed a relationship with her patient since she started studying him."

Gordon didn't have to have it spelled out for him. "Wonderful. Another traitor. Typical Gotham."

As Batman scanned the rest of the area, he asked, "Has your men been through here already?"

"They did a once over. Nothing found except Joker's fingerprints. And those have never been found on file. Only thing he left were those." He gestured at the drawings of Batman on the right wall. Gordon inspected them. "Not a great likeness of you but not bad."

"Maybe we can send them to the Louvre. "

Gordon chuckled and stated, "Joker certainly has you on his mind."

"I've already seen those drawings."

"I'm not going to ask how. It's not like we can use these to find out where he's going."

"Don't be too sure." He stared at one of the pictures on the wall for a moment. One that depicted The Batman coming out of a building. Or a mansion. He looked closer. "There's something metal stuck here."

Gordon looked as well. "Looks like a penny. What could that mean?"

Batman pondered the question in his head for a moment. He took the penny off the paper, which was only taped on. Underneath was written a phrase in the Joker's wild handwriting.

Worth your thoughts!

Batman thought on it. No. It couldn't be that simple. "I know where he's going."

"You know that just from a penny and a message?"

"Trust me."

"Well, where is it? I can meet you there."

"No. If you go too it'll give him what he wants - an audience. This has to be between him and I. Besides, I work better alone."

"I don't like it."

"You don't have to."

Gordon nodded but said, "All right. But let me tell you that this better not be about vengeance for what Joker did to Harvey Dent."

"No. I'm ending Joker's vengeance for what I did to him."

Gordon spoke as he turned away for a few moments. "That's all well and good. But what if Joker wants that too? You could be walking into another one of his traps." Gordon turned around to find an empty hole in the wall before him. "And, of course, he's off." He went back to look at the drawings.

Batman was weaving in and out of traffic in downtown Gotham. His speed was such that the drivers hardly knew he was passing by them. Even if they did catch a small glimpse of the Batman, they chose to ignore him. To the average citizen of Gotham these days, catching the Batman was the job for the Gotham police. Batman didn't care. Ignorance was bliss for innocents who were getting out of harm's way. There were only a few whom he did care for. His parents. Rachel. And a last one who was still among the living. He wasn't about to lose another.

He clicked on the communicator in his ear. "Alfred! Alfred!" No answer. He tried the main number in case Alfred wasn't near a phone. He reached its voicemail. He left a cryptic message. "The bandit is coming for his ruby!" He reached the Wayne penthouse and parked the cycle in a hidden alley. He entered the elevator but didn't press a button. He opened the top hatch and climbed into the elevator shaft. Batman never arrives in a traditional manner. He continued to grapple upward until he reached the top floor.

Bruce Wayne's floor.

He opened the outer doors and entered the penthouse.

It was dark. Too dark. The place had been ransacked. Tables and chairs knocked over. Drawers pulled out of cabinets and emptied. Papers scattered on the floor. There was no pattern to the search. They weren't looking for anything. They wanted to make it look like they were searching for something.

He fought the urge to call out Alfred by name. That's what Bruce Wayne would do. He eased over the floor checking out the damages. He spotted something sitting on the long oak dining table. He approached it and saw an MP3 player sitting next to a large note. Scribbled on the paper was more of Joker's insane handwriting. "Press play!" He did so and out of the speakers came a recording of a line from a very famous movie. Dorothy Gale repeated over and over, "There's no place like home."

Home.

Somewhere that neither Bruce Wayne nor Batman could define. But it all added up. The hint on the drawing in Joker's cell. The recording at BruceWayne's penthouse. Batman knew where the Joker took Alfred. All because of Wayne's meeting with Joker. What was worse was that the Joker knew how to get to Wayne personally. He knew something like this may happen after he gave Joker a hint of his true identity. His thinking then was that no one would believe him save for a personal therapist who became much more personal. He didn't expect the Joker to escape. That may be the oversight considering the contacts Joker still had on the outside.

Dr. Quinzell tested him when he came to Arkham. She tried to bait him into revealing what was under his mask. He only gave her Bruce Wayne. She was satisfied albeit rather frustrated. The Joker wasn't going to quit as easily. It didn't matter. Batman would make him pay for his actions. He had to end this. He had to end the Joker. He could do it. Batman could take it, in Alfred's words. Joker wanted a showdown between the two of them. He would have it. He will go back to where Wayne's true identity was born and show the Joker a man who had purged his fear.

There was just something he needed to bring first.

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Chapters
1. Who Are We? [Drawing Of the Masks III]
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