Chapter 62 Moments of Truth
Batman and Catwoman have just touched down after their dramatic Bat-Glider ride, off the warehouse building:
- ( Catwoman ) Gee, Batman, that sure was fun ! ... We should make a habit of this. .. I reckon we could make a truly formidable team.
- You really are prepared to go legit like this ?
- Why, I've never been so serious.
- I'll certainly consider it.
- What ?... Is that all that you can say, you'll ... consider it ?
- I said I'll CERTAINLY consider it.
- And what do I do in the meantime ? How do I contact you ? I don't know who you are .. behind the mask. Contacting you is a real mystery. It's not as if you're Bruce Wayne, Everybody knows HIM. These masks sure do come in handy, but they do make romance a bit difficult.
- Ah, .. who said anything about romance ?
- But I thought, ... the way you held me and everything, .. that there was a real bit of chemistry goin' on between us.
- Sorry, Miss. Not at my end.
- Don't you find me attractive, .. ( Slipping her hands along her sides.) .. sexy ?
- Look, it was good working with you, Catwoman. I enjoyed it too. .. Yes you are attractive, and yes, you are sexy, but ...
- There's someone else. .. I knew it. ... Not you as well.. .. Not again.
- I'm real sorry, Miss. But I have to go. My chariot awaits. Goodbye, Catwoman.
- I wish it was my chariot ! ... Damn ! ... Why did I have to go and mention the 'R' word ? .. Everything was going so well, and I blew it. I really blew it.
Meanwhile, down the drain !
- ( Dent ) It's okay, Mr. Joker, Sir. .. We're nearly there.
- I don't want you calling me that either. ... Just Joker will suffice.
- Okay, .. Joker it is, then.
- You're going to have to find out who the Bat is. ... I want him dead.
- Yes, Joker.
- And the Catwoman chick as well. ... I want her dead, too.
- You can kill the broad. I want to kill Batman myself.
Suddenly they notice a strange figure, standing in their way:
- ( A strange, gruff voice.) What are you doing here ? ... This is my domain.
- ( Dent ) My friend is hurt. We were escaping from a fire. .. Anyway, we could ask you the same question. What are YOU doing here ?
- I live here. ... sometimes.
- Could you help me with my friend ? ... He is badly burned. ... He needs a doctor.
- Sorry, I cannot help you, but neither will I stand in your way.
And with that, he is gone.
Dent and the Joker continue on a short while, until they reach a set of ladders they recognize. The iron cover above is right next to a safe-house. Eventually, they make it to the door. Dent knocks. Someone opens the door.
- ( Dent ) Ah, Perkins. Thank goodness, it's you.
Then, somewhere across town, two young women are celebrating in a hotel room with champagne:
- Well, I think that went rather well, don't you ?
- Like a dream.
- We got him ! ... Finally we got him !
- A rather unique form of justice.
- The very disease that afflicted us, that can only be cured by Poison Ivy, poetic justice if ever there was it
Meanwhile, back at Wayne Manor:
- It was most peculiar, Alfred. When i got to the Tumbler, I could have sworn that someone had been tampering with it. I had only left it there one night.
- Perhaps a down-and-out gentleman, sheltering for the night.
- Maybe, I don't know. ... I think I might still be the worse for wear, after two hand grenades exploded next to us.
- To US, Master Bruce ?
- Oh, yes, Alfred, .. ( Still puzzling over the mystery.) .. yes. ... I actually teamed up with Catwoman, tonight. ... She was waiting for me. We managed to incapacitate a number of the Joker's men, pretty nearly caught Dent and the Joker, too, .. but the guys we left for the Police will prove a useful source of information to the them, when it comes to tracking those two down.
- One might take it that your evening was successful, then, Sir.
- Not quite, Alfred. Salina Kyle might have had a thing for Bruce Wayne, only to turn against him. Tonight she showed that she had a thing for Batman, only to turn against HIM, too. .. It is a pity. We were a good team tonight. ... She is a tremendous asset, ... and certainly puts the fear of God into our adversaries. ... There definitely is a kindred spirit between us, Alfred. Salina Kyle – Catwoman, Bruce Wayne – Batman, she is practically a mirror image. .. And I do love her, Alfred, I really do.
- But you love Miss Eisley more, Master Bruce. .. That is perfectly plain.
- Yes, Alfred. I do.
- A few days later, the Joker, still at the home of his trusted sidekick, Perkins, has a visit from his plastic surgeon. He is giving Napier a thorough examination. Jonathan Crane and Harvey Dent are also in attendance:
- ( Joker absolutely furious. ) What about these burglaries ? That's three in the last four days ! Top quality, advanced computers stolen, with very sensitive information, 60,000 dollars stolen from our cash boxes, and some of the best hackers in America assaulting our computer network. Then there was that crazy demolition of the Hawke's Tower. ... Either it's Ghul, with his gangster approach to dealing with me, or it's these Undertakers, but which is it ? .. Any ideas Two-Face ?
- If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say it was Ghul. .. If I was in his position, it's what I would do.
- It just seems that we're getting as good as we're giving, at the moment. .. Now for a businessman like myself, those aren't good returns. ( To the surgeon ) How bad is it Doc ? ... Can you fix it ?
- ( Doc ) It is still way too early to tell, Joker. There has been excessive damage to the entire facial epidermis. It will take a long time to heal.
- But why is my face turning white ?
- The standard reaction to hydrogen peroxide, I'm afraid.
- Will it pass ?
- Hard to tell. It looks like it was a high concentrate. ... It could be like that for years.
- Can you fix that ?
- The only thing I can fix is this scar here, the one that's giving you that awkward smile. As for the ones around your eyes, they'll have to heal first, before I can know one way or the other.
- ( Crane ) Relax, Joker. ... It could have been worse. Your appearance isn't at all important to the public. They never see you, anyway. You're like Batman. They don't know who you are.
- ( That strikes a chord with the Joker.) But what about the men, the crime bosses I control. My appearance is going to shake their confidence.
- Leave them to me, Joker. I'll keep them in line.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, at an undisclosed location somewhere in Finland, Doktor Viktor Fries is talking to his close friend, Lieutenant Kolonel Dimitri Kharkov:
- ( Kharkov ) It never ceases to amaze me the lengths some families are prepared to go to, when looking for a cure for a loved one.
- Yes, whole families have been prepared to join our frozen community, and have their blood transformed, so that a child, a mother or a father might survive an otherwise fatal degenerative disease, and the family bond remain unaltered. But the temporary, less invasive cooling program has saved hundreds of lives.
- Has there been any progress on the sealing temperature limit available to us ?
- Actually, yes. .. And it came from the father of one of the children cured by that program. He is a University Professor of Human Biology. He actually took part of the theory I spuriously had sold to Gunther Grintz, and, looking at how animals in arctic countries regulate and redirect body heat, to survive the harshest winters, has managed to produce a treatment that will now allow us to survive in temperatures of -5 degrees centigrade.
- Will that be ready for our visit to Washington ?
- It most certainly will. .. Thanks to the tip-off from our mysterious computer genius friend,
Mr. Kensington Payne is going to receive a most unwelcome surprise visit.
Back in Gotham, in his office at the Gotham News Network, Warner Bross receives a phone call:
- ( In a mock female telephone operator-type voice.) Hello, Mr. Bross, this is your friendly neighborhood Joker speaking.
He sits up, startled.
- Yes, ah, .. Mr. Joker, Sir.
- I've got a little story I'd like you to run with.
- I've told you before. There is no way I can let anyone dictate to me what my news team is going to read to the public.
- Gee, I'm real sorry to hear that, .. and you don't sound all that happy yourself. .. Maybe I can, .. you know, .. lighten the mood a little. ... A guy gets shot up in a drive-by shooting, and when he comes to in hospital, the nurse tells him, 'I've got some good news and some bad news'. 'Tell me the bad news first', he says. 'I'm afraid you're going to have to lose your legs'. 'And the good news?' 'The guy in the bed beside you wants to buy your sneakers.'
- And the point you are making is.
- It'd be a real shame if you had to lose your legs, Mr. Bross.
- Sorry, no. The answer is no. You can threaten me all you like, but I'm not going to compromise on the principles of News Broadcasting.
- How very brave ! ... How very noble ! ... I know where your mother's hanging out, .. with Bruce Wayne. .. He's on my hit-list. His life is in great danger. It'd be such a shame, if she got killed, too.
- ( Bross ) But you can't pick your own stories and tell a newsroom what to report.
- But I've already done it . All the other main channels in Gotham are leading with the story tomorrow. .. (Quite gently ) All I'm suggesting is that yours does the same. ( Very forcefully ) Now is that to much to ask ?
- Asking ? ... You're telling me.
- I only pointed out to you the danger that your mother might be in, as a responsible citizen.
- Anyway. What I have to say is absolutely true. I was there, I swear.
There is a bit of an awkward pause
- ( Bross ) I'm listening.
And, bang on time at Wayne Manor, the young Dick Grayson arrives to begin his task of cataloguing the library.
- ( Alfred ) Ah, you would be the young Mr. Grayson.
- Yes, .. I have come to catalogue the Manor Library.
- Indeed. ... Allow me to show you the way.
They go some thirty yards down one hallway, up a flight of stairs, twenty yards along another hallway, right for another fifteen. And they are there !
- My goodness, this sure is a big house, and this sure is a big library.
- Quite. ... Perhaps the young Mr. Grayson would like to browse around for a period, before one shows him the ropes, so to speak.
- Yes, .. mm ... What is it I should call you ? ... Sorry, Mr. Wayne never told me your name.
- Ah, somewhat remiss of him, no doubt. ... Alfred. ... My name is Alfred.
- I know I've only had a quick look round the library, Alfred, but all these books: ''British Royalty 1066 to 2000'', twenty volumes; ''British Military History 1601 to 1992'', twenty-five volumes; ''The Campaigns and Tactics of the S.A.S.''.and ''A Botanical Encyclopedia of the English Counties'', thirty volumes. There are very few books about America here.
- Yes, Mr. Wayne is quite an Anglophile.
- Sorry, an Anglo what ?
- Anglophile. One who loves all things English.
Dick picks up one book in particular:
- ''How to be the Perfect Butler'' ?
- Master Bruce does have a devilish sense of humor.
He picks out another:
- ( Dick ) Now that's interesting, ( Curiously ) ''The World of Bats''.
- Why so, young Sir ? .. Is the young gentleman somewhat fascinated by Chiroptera ?
- By what ?
- By bats, Mr. Grayson, .. by bats.
- Oh, .. you know. .. I'm interested in Batman, .. like a lot of guys my age, I guess.
- Ah yes, ... the Caped Crusader for law and justice.
- And someone who rescues people, when they're in trouble. Don't forget about that.
- One stands corrected. .. Yes, .. Mr. Wayne has been interested in our little friends since he was a boy.
Across town, in his luxury mansion, Press Gutter, the great, aging Gotham Newspaper magnate, gets a phone call, while sitting down for a brandy, and puffing on one of his favorite Cuban cigars.
- ( Jonathan Crane ) Good afternoon, Mr. Gutter. .. This is the Tax Collector speaking. .. I'm calling to remind you, that your next monthly payment is some four days overdue.
- Who is this ? .. You're not the Joker.
- I'm your worst nightmare !
- ( Gruffly ) And what the hell is that supposed to mean ?
- Permit me to introduce myself, .. Jonathan Crane. .. I work for the Joker.
- Get out of here ! What can you do to hurt me ? You're just a convicted shrink, and rumor has it that your boss is somewhat indisposed.
- Sorry to disappoint you, but it's very much business as usual on that score, and, for your information, I murdered all my patients.
Gutter gulps back an extra big mouthful of brandy, sits up, and sets down his cigar !
- But I can't possibly pay that amount of money. ... I need at least a week.
- You have three days. ... Is that clear ?
- ( Very tamely ) Yes, Mr. Crane, very clear, very clear indeed.
- And the story that's to run in your dailies, that's all taken care of ?
- Yes, Mr. Crane.
- I'll send someone over to collect the requisite sum.
Meanwhile, in Wayne Manor:
- ( Bruce ) How has young Dick been doing ? ... Today must have been his second day here ?
- ( Alfred ) His third, in fact. ... In truth, the boy is most impressive. ... Indeed, in some respects, one was reminded of another young man of his years, working his way through school, and preparing for a life in business.
- ( Mischievously ) Really, Alfred ? .. You think he's that brilliant ?
- Very droll, Master Bruce, .. how very droll. ... Ever the joker. ... On a more serious note, one can well appreciate the faith you have placed in the boy.
- Why, Alfred, .. could it possibly be that you've taken quite a shining to Dick Grayson ?
- Perhaps a shining is too strong a word.
- Has one considered when one is going to tell him who one really is ?
- Not for some time yet. I want him to get to know us first, and to get him well started along the road as someone I can leave the business to, should ...
- Should anything untoward happen to one.
- And also the role of Batman, one might assume.
- One might. ... He is still very young.
At the heart of the city, in Gotham General Hospital, Jake Scribbs is lying in bed, watching TV. He has calmed down considerably after his ordeal at the Courthouse, relieved that he seems to have suffered no ill effects after his encounter with Poison Ivy. Then, all of a sudden, he starts scratching his arm,... then his leg, ... then his back, ... and finally his face. He gets up from his bed, to look at the mirror, only to find the beginnings of horrible-looking scabs forming all over his body:
- Oh, my God ! .. Oh, my God. ... Nurse ! ... Nurse ! ... Help me please ! It's Poison Ivy. She has poisoned me ! I'm turning into a plant !
The nurse on duty arrives to see what's wrong, and quickly calls for assistance. Soon, there is a team of nurses there, subduing him. Finally, they have to sedate him.
( One nurse ) My God they look terrible. In all my thirty years of nursing, I have never seen anything like it.
Back in the home of his trusted sidekick, Perkins, the Joker is pondering his fate, while tinkering with his laptop computer:
- What a calamity. .. You never know what life has in store for you. .. Curse Batman, .. leaving me to suffer, .. leaving me to die like that. I'll make him pay. ( Noticing a favorite automatic pop up on the screen.) Ah, the latest Brain Teaser Challenge. I love it. .. Now, let me see:
' A man is burying his sister, and is rather taken by a beautiful woman who comes to the funeral. He talks to her, and they hit it off, but he is distracted by a well-wisher, and the next moment she is gone.
A few days later, he kills his other sister, ... Why ? ' ( No. of correct answers 0 )
- What ? ... No one has got the answer right ? ... Why, it's simple. He wanted to see the woman again.
He types in his answer, and, lo and behold, it comes up 'correct !'
- Yes !
The next day, in Wayne Manor:
- ( Dick Grayson ) Gee hi, Mr. Wayne. It's good to see you again. Thanks very much for allowing me to work in your library. The Manor is amazing.
- ( Bruce ) You've been getting to know Alfred, I gather.
- I never knew you were so interested in England and the British.
- Sorry ?
- Your library, all the books about Britain.
- Oh, ... yes. .. One of my best friends was brought up there. ... He got me interested in all things British.
- I guess that makes you an Anglophobe.
- I think you mean an Anglophile.
- Is there a difference ?
- Yes, Robin ... there is.
- Sorry, ... what did you just call me ?
- Dick, ... I called you Dick, didn't I ? ... That is your name, isn't it ?
- You called me Robin. ... Why did you do that ?
- Ah, ... right. ... Sorry. ... I didn't mean it to happen like this
- Did somebody tell you I was called Robin ?
Bruce thinks for a moment, ... then comes to a decision:
- Dick, there's something I'd like to show you.
- What is it, Mr. Wayne ? ... I don't understand.
He brings Dick down one flight of stairs, along a corridor, and into a darkened room. He switches on the lighting system. Dick is dumbfounded to see a mock-up of a Gotham City scene. Bruce pushes a few buttons on a panel.
All of a sudden, very realistic-looking dummy thugs appear from behind some vantage-points.
Bruce throws the required number of Bat-Flashes to dazzle them, before performing the most agile maneuvers to outflank them, and knock them out !
- ( Dick ) Oh, my God, ... You ... You're Batman !
- Yes, Robin. ... I'm Batman.
- But ... I ... I don't understand. ... How can you possibly be him ? ... You're a billionaire !
- A multi-billionaire actually. ... But, look, .. I know you must have loads of questions, but, before I answer any of them, there's something else I want you to see.
Bruce takes Dick into the study. Alfred is dusting the desk.
- ( Bruce ) Alfred, I believe you know Dick Grayson, but I don't believe you have met Robin.
- Ah, ... one understands. ... May one welcome you aboard, so to speak, young Sir. It will indeed be a pleasure working with you. Of that one is sure.
- ( Tentative, a little awkward.) Why thanks, Alfred.
Bruce presses the button on the statue of William Shakespeare ! The hidden door opens !
Dick's gaze is absolutely transfixed.
He notices a pole behind the door ! Bruce tells him:
- Okay, Dick, .. down you go.
Dick obliges. Then Bruce follows.
Dick is staggered to see Batman costumes and equipment all around him in the cellar !
As he slides down to join him, Bruce looks up from whence he came:
- We're goin' to have to get another pole.
- Is this what you wanted me to see ?
- Actually, there's more. ... Follow me.
They both squeeze their way through the passageway under Wayne Manor. Bruce throws on the lights. They come on in segmented sequence. Nothing, absolutely nothing could look more impressive to a sixteen year old boy ! ... For, there is the Batmobile. There is the Bat Computer. There is the Tumbler and a range of hydraulic lifts and cranes !
- Welcome to the Bat Cave, Robin !
Meanwhile, the Joker is in the process of looking to manipulate Harvey Dent Machiavellian-style into falling more deeply under his spell:
- Harvey. I've just come by some information that is sure to interest you.
- And what might that be, Joker ?
- Oh, just the names and locations of the guys who killed the men who were your business associates, while you were Assistant Commissioner.
- But aren't they your men ? Surely you rely on guys like that in our outfit. They were, after all, hand-picked by your good self.
- ( With a mock upper class English accent.) My dear boy, even if I lost all my men and all my money, I'd still have good old KP to fall back on. ... It is, after all, in his interests to keep America's number one city as unstable as possible, in his efforts to manipulate the populace into granting more power to the elements in government he controls. Emergencies in the nation serve to feed his machine again and again and again. He can't afford to let me go under.
- Okay, so who are they, and where can I find them ?
Back at Wayne Manor, Dick Grayson is just left speechless, and if truth be told, is in a state of shock, however pleasant that shock may be ! He doesn't ask Bruce any questions at all. Bruce quite understands, but is a little disappointed that he can't engage in a totally honest conversation with his young friend, something he had long been looking forward to. Their tour of Batman World continues, as Bruce drives him down to meet Lucius Fox at Wayne Tower:
On seeing Dick with Bruce, Lucius stands up, a little surprised.
- ( Bruce ) It's okay, Lucius, he knows. I thought you might like to give him the guided tour.
Dick is really surprised that his boss at Wayne Enterprises is also part of the Batman machine !
- ( Lucius ) I see. Well then, .. Robin, ... let me show you the side of this building that no one ever sees.
Lucius shows Dick the service shute !
- You press these buttons for the code.
- ( Bruce ) It's MEATLOAF.
- ( Dick, cracking a smile.) Bat Out of Hell, right ?
- ( Lucius ) Yes, Mr. Grayson.
Dick can't believe it, as he is catapulted to the top of Wayne Tower ! There beside him is another Batman assembly unit, and, out through a sliding door, something that looks like a shelter of some sort. ... He is quickly joined by Lucius, then Bruce.
- ( Lucius ) You neglected to bring this remote control unit with you, Mr. Grayson. It was attached to the wall by the door. He presses a button on the unit:
- Voila !
Again, Dick is amazed to see another sliding door open in the 'shelter', to reveal a Bat Glider unit and a whole range of equipment, now all too familiar to the boy. Bruce and Dick then descend down the shute to the ground floor, and a special panel that opens in the wall.
They both step outside.
- ( Dick ) I don't know what to say.
- ( Bruce ) Now you know everything, Dick. .. What do you think ?
- Gee, .. Batman. ... I guess I'm a little confused. .. I never expected anything like this. .. But, this means that you wanted me to work in Wayne Enterprises, because I'm Robin, and in your library, .. not because I was smart enough, or able enough to do it, but because I'm Robin.
- No, Dick. ... That's not it. You've got it wrong !
- No, Mr. Wayne, .. I always thought you employed people in your companies on the basis of talent, not 'who you know'. I love what you have at the Manor, and here in the Tower, but all this has been a little too much for me. .. I just don't know what to think any more. ... ( Leaving ) I'm sorry, Mr. Wayne.
- Bruce is shocked and deflated.
A little later, Jonathan Crane is returning from an early evening date with Honey Moon, an exotic dancer girlfriend of his. They are driving back through Gotham's surrounding countryside, when suddenly their car is rammed from behind ! The girl screams.
- What the hell ?
He tries to drive faster, to outrun the offending driver behind him, but to no avail. Bang ! Again the girl screams.
- ( Crane) This is serious ! ... That guy's trying to kill us.
- ( Honey ) Take the car off the road, for god's sake !
- What the hell are you doing ?
She grabs the wheel and turns it, making the car swerve off the road and veer into a farmer's corn field ! It finally comes to a dead stop.
- ( Crane ) My God, he's still coming after us. Quick, out of the car. We'll have to run for it !
They get out of the car, join hands and run. Their assailant runs in hot pursuit ! .. Crane says:
- Quick, lie down in the corn.
This they both do. ... They hear the guy coming. He stops to get his bearings. He has a gun. He shouts:
- Come out wherever you are Crane. The girl can go free. It's you I want, not her !
Honey goes to get up. Crane holds her down and covers her mouth with his hand.
- You don't remember me, do ya ? ... I brought my wife to see you, after our baby was born. .. She had problems, Crane, and you killed her. ... Now it's your turn !
He is using a flashlight, and pans it around. It almost shines on Crane and the girl. But soon he moves on through the field, away from them.
Not wishing to take any chances, the pair run in the opposite direction, only for them to be stopped in their tracks by a strange figure in the field.
It is Crane's turn, first to be frightened, as he gazes into the figure's face ! Then the girl screams.
They have run straight into a scarecrow ! Crane is initially numbed to the core by the sight, but as they race their way through the field, his mind also starts racing at the thought of what has just occurred, for here is a seminal moment in his life, a moment when HE, a one time eminent psychiatrist has been genuinely scared ... by a scarecrow !
They manage to find the farmer's house, and seek refuge there, concocting a story about their car breaking down. Eventually, one of the Joker's men comes to collect them, but, needless to say, having heard what the guy chasing them said, Honey is determined never to see Crane again !
That evening, the Riddler checks his emails. He has one message, 'There was only one correct answer to your conundrum, from ...
- Gotcha, Joker. .. I thought there was only one person in Gotham, that would give me that answer !
The next morning, Victoria Bross has joined Bruce for breakfast. Bruce lifts the newspaper and is obviously shocked.
- ( Victoria ) What is it, Bruce ? .. You look as if you've just seen a ghost.
- ( Under his breath.) Maybe I have.
- Excuse me, what was that you said ? .. Is there something in the paper that has upset you ?
Turn the TV on, Alfred.
- And now for the latest from GNN on the controversy about Batman. Has the Caped Crusader changed his tune ? Let him die. .. According to one anonymous source, Batman had the opportunity to save the Joker, when he was dying, to arrest him, and bring him to justice. .. Instead, he did nothing to help him at all. .. It was only some moments later that an as yet unidentified associate of the Joker came to his aid, and helped him to escape. We asked several people on the street what they thought about Batman's apparent actions:
- I think it's a disgrace. The people of Gotham thought that Batman was above wanting people to die for their crimes. I for one am against the death penalty, and I thought that he was, too. Now, it seems I was wrong.
- It's ridiculous. Batman should have saved him, and had him arrested. That way we would have him in jail now. Instead, he's still loose. I think he wants to become Mayor of this city, and he's prepared to do anything to get there.
- I don't know, I reckon Batman did the right thing. Let these guys die, when they are shot or wounded. If Batman has begun to see sense, then I for one am one hundred per cent behind him, and I know I'm not alone in thinking that, here in Gotham.
- Start killing them, Batman ! You can do it. It's about time we stopped pussy-footing around. Let them all fry. That's what I say !
- ( Victoria ) My God, they can't be serious ! .. And that's on GNN. That's my son's news channel. I thought he was on Batman's side. I've met the guy. I know he'd never do what they are saying he did.
- ( Bruce ) It's what he didn't do, or supposed not to have done, that is the issue here, Victoria.
Victoria takes the paper, and reads the front page:
BATMAN HAPPY TO LET JOKER DIE SHOCK !
A number of significant people are glued to their screens watching the coverage;
- (The Joker ) Ha ha, hee hee. It couldn't have worked out any better. Batman is being discredited. Public confidence has gone. .. A virgin defiled, .. and different opinions, too. Divide and rule. ... Divide and rule.
-( Commissioner Gordon ) Dear God, no. ... That's all I need. ... Surely it can't be true, could it ? ... Is Batman going rogue ?
Ra's al Ghul is pleasantly surprised by the headlines, saying to himself:
- Either Batman is finally seeing sense, or the support of some sections of the Gotham public might encourage him to reconsider his softly softly approach to law enforcement. This is playing right into my hands. .. If he wants the support of people again, then it's the eye-for-an-eye minded people he'll have to appeal to. This couldn't have come at a more opportune moment.
Dick Grayson watches in disbelief and disappointment, as he prepares to go to school. Suddenly his world has been turned upside-down in the course of 24 hours. His fascination for Batman and Bruce Wayne has taken a real beating:
- What's happening here ? .. Why let someone die, even if it was the Joker ? ... He's changed, and not for the better. ... I'll go it alone. ... I'll think of a new name. ... I'll make a stand for decency. I don't think Bruce Wayne can do that for me anymore.
Salina Kyle can't believe her ears as she watches the broadcast with her butler:
- ( Salina ) Unbelievable. .. How can GNN do this to Batman ? ... I was there, Lazlo. Batman was dazed. He was exhausted. He couldn't physically move after fighting with the Joker. He didn't leave him to die.
Bruce has an emergency conference with Alfred:
This is incredible, Alfred.
- Obviously this Joker character has been able to manipulate the media, Sir, and to his considerable advantage.
- What are we going to do, Alfred ? ... My image has been severely tarnished. .. I thought it was bad enough the way Dick reacted to what happened yesterday, .. and now this.
- Concerning the matter of the press and news reports, Public Relations consultants have always maintained that there is no such thing as bad publicity.
- Do you believe that, Alfred ?
- Perhaps, Master Bruce, as strange as it may seem.
- Why, Alfred ?
- It gives Batman the opportunity to fight back, to give his side of the story, and present these reports as part of the battle raging in Gotham, between the right-thinking people of the city and those who have been trying to corrupt it. .. Prove to the people that nothing has changed, that Batman is the same as he always has been, and take the fight to the enemy. .. I think the public will thank you for it !
- Alfred, you are a genius ! ... I could kiss you ! .. In fact I will.
And he kisses him on the forehead !
- ( Exasperated ) Why, Master Bruce !
The next day, relatively early in the morning, while it is still dark, Press Gutter shows up at work as usual, always the first to arrive in the administrative headquarters of his newspaper empire, next to the security staff, who let him in. He takes the elevator up to his darkened office. He tries to switch the light on, but no joy. The light won't come on.
Suddenly he is pushed from behind, and falls to the floor of his office. As dazed as he is, the first thing he notices as he fumbles in the dark, is a strange smell. He starts to cough a little, then he notices a shadowy figure in the corner. It begins to move towards him, with the strangest way of walking. And strange things start to go on in his mind, a warped sense of reality around him. As he tries to get up off his knees, he finds himself gazing into the most horrifying face he has ever seen in his life. It is the face of a scarecrow, angled at about 45 degrees to its neck !
It starts speaking to him with a distorted quality to its voice:
- I've come for the money, Mister Proprietor, Sir. ... Where's the money ?
Gutter is absolutely terrified. He stumbles to his feet, stumbles first to the sink, and takes some tablets with some water. Then he stumbles to his desk, and opens a drawer, piling money in neat sets of twenty-dollar bills on the table.
- ( Gutter totally desperate ) It's all there. ... You can count it if you want. ... Just don't hurt me. .. Please don't hurt me !
- Why, thank you, Mister Gutter, Sir. ... Just remember to be nicer to Mr. Crane in future, and, oh yes, have your money ready on time from now on.
- Yes, Mr. Scarecrow. ... Absolutely, Mr. Scarecrow. ... Anything you say, Mr. Scarecrow.
And with that he is gone.
That morning, the Joker is looking through Twitter on his computer;
- Ha ha, ... lots of tweets about Batman. ... Only bad press ! ... But what's this ? .. ( He reads something that has caught his attention.) ... 'Way you go, Joker !' .. ( He clicks on it, to read more of the message.) ... 'I don't care about Batman. You're the man ! America hasn't seen a guy like you, since the days of Al Capone !' ... ( He says to himself ) I love it. .. I absolutely love it !
Later that afternoon, Bruce has to go to the six-monthly meeting of his major shareholders, a day well-documented in the life of the city. Bruce is driven down to Wayne Tower from the Manor by Alfred, accompanied by their 'bodyguard', Yang Sun Yu.
Dick Grayson is already in the Tower. He has decided this shall be his last day, and he will hand in his notice of resignation. As the Wayne Rolls approaches the Tower building, Bruce notices a plethora of news reporters gathered outside, waiting for him to arrive. This is not at all unusual, since the media always likes to report on the Wayne success story. There is, after all, a great respect for Wayne Enterprises, given that its bank is seen as the bank for the little guy, and not part of Corporate America.
Bruce's arrival is even going to be broadcast live. It's a slow news day ! Most offices in Wayne Tower have their TVs on, and Dick takes a few moments to watch. As Bruce exits the car he is accompanied by Yu, but they don't get far. After a few questions about the monetary success of the business, one reporter asks Bruce about Batman, due to his already well-publicized antipathy for the hero. He replies:
- Even though I have it on good authority that Batman is mounting an impressive campaign to deny the reports made yesterday, I nonetheless feel that he has had his day, and should retire. ( This creates great commotion among the reporters, who throng around him, badgering him for more such comments !) Thank you, .. thank you. .. I have a meeting to attend.
Needless to say, Dick is disgusted by Bruce's remarks ! He is about to go back to work.
Alfred waits for the crowd to move on, before moving off, but as he does so, a van roars out directly in his path, forcing him to stop, and hooded men, dressed similarly to the Joker's men pile out, armed with shotguns and revolvers ! Suddenly shots ring out. Many in the crowd dive for cover, but one brave cameraman remains standing, capturing everything for the live broadcast. Yu looks to pull Bruce away, as if to protect him from those attacking the Wayne Rolls.
Alfred starts to do what the old Alfred did best. He reverses the car at record speed, sufficiently distant from his attackers, stops, and produces the Heckler and Koch Mk 5 Kurz from under his overcoat. The attackers give chase on foot, some following in the van. He does what every S.A.S. man is trained to do when ambushed, go on the attack. At first he dives to the ground beside his open front door. Tap-tap on the trigger - one guy falls wounded to the ground ! .. Tap-tap again – another falls wounded !
Horrified at what he is witnessing, Dick heads for one of the service shutes, and while no one is looking he gets in, keys in MEATLOAF, and descends at great speed to the ground floor, and the secret exit out onto the street. As he prepares to go out, he notices a Robin costume hanging on the wall. He is touched by the gesture made. He puts enough of it on, to hide his identity, and rushes outside.
Meanwhile, Alfred has changed position, again an S.A.S. tactic, behind the car door, and opens fire again, tap-tap, wounding a third. The van approaches at speed. Alfred drives the Rolls straight at it, crashes into it, and renders all the occupants unconscious !
Bruce feels Yu holding him back, but he shakes him off and heads towards the Rolls.
Again, Alfred changes position and exits his vehicle moves to behind it, and adopts another firing position, tap-tap, wounding yet another guy ! One, however has a clear shot at him, and is about to open fire, when Bruce leaps on top of him, apprehending the guy.
- Why, thank you, Master Bruce !
The rest of the attackers begin to have second thoughts, and begin to withdraw, but one is determined to get the better of Alfred, and do his master's bidding. With a shotgun in his hands, he is going to kill Alfred !
Then a Bat Flash goes off, blinding the guy, and Robin charges at him, knocking him to the ground. At this point, Bruce comes running up and says:
- Well done, Robin.
Dick nods in some form of acknowledgement. In an effort quickly to avoid the throng of reporters heading towards them, he slips away. Then he makes his own way home, in a very stealthy manner.
Then Bruce grabs the man, and subdues him until more police arrive to take him away. But, before they do, Bruce takes his mask off. ... It is clearly one of Ghul's men !
They go to all the guys lying wounded. They are all Ghul's men. Bruce looks around for Yu, but he is nowhere to be seen. He meets up again with Alfred:
- Are you okay ?
- Of course, ... one is perfectly fine, Master Bruce.
- As far as I'm concerned, the meeting's cancelled. .. Let's go home.