The gentle roar of the airliner constantly filled the ears of each of the two-hundred fifteen passengers. The sudden ping of the intercom was a welcomed relief a sign that the almost fourteen hour flight from Beijing was nearly at an end. Few eyes lifted to the ceiling panel above as the passengers awaited the pilot’s voice.
“Good evening folks the time is about six twenty and right now we are making our final approach over Gotham City. In fact if you look out your windows, you’ll be able to see our ‘Empire Jewel.’ Curiosity and anticipation urged the passengers to press their faces up against the cold ovular pane of the port windows.
Already, the sun had surrendered to the misty night that swallowed the city below like a vapor. It was only by the lights of the towers that outlined every high rise like a ‘connect the dots’ puzzle that the airline passengers could define the grand metropolis. Gotham City was a mountain of urban development over hundreds of years. In the heart was the peak, a congestion of high rises that gradually sloped as buildings much older and less royal spread out to the edge of the encircling, black ocean. It was a city that threatened to become a world all its own. Gotham sat on a peninsula, distancing itself from the world of the mainland, a geographic definition of snobbery. Yet still it lingered a mere ferry ride northeast of the coastal city, Bludhaven.
The pilot continued to speak over the intercom, relaying the frigid January temperature and even giving instruction to prepare for their landing. The plane descended further through the clouds till finally the wheels touched down on the slick black tarmac of Gotham International Airport. Twenty minutes later, the eager, jetlagged passengers struggled to keep their legs under them, letting the blood flow through again as they stretched out for the first time in fourteen hours. A mother suddenly stopped and stooped as her infant’s tiny knit hat dropped to the floor of the tunnel leading into the terminal. As she stood back up with the hat pinched between the fingers of her free hand like chopsticks, she glanced over her shoulder at a man forced to halt behind her. He was large and rather broad, dressed plainly in dark jeans a dark windbreaker. His brown hair was long, reaching past his shoulders, contributing to the scruffy visage created by the thin, dark beard that concealed his square jawline.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she courteously said with a forced laugh as she brushed a strand of her blonde hair from her eyes. With a subtle grin, the man nodded as he stepped past her.
“You’re fine,” he replied gently. The man departed, yet her gaze lingered after him, mesmerized by the striking blue eyes that had briefly for a millisecond met her own hazel gaze.
In the man’s hands, he carried a small duffle bag through the airport, not bothering to stop at baggage claim and instead moving straight to the outer doors to stand out on the curb and claim a seat in a taxi. Stepping off the plane into the terminal, he hadn’t felt it, not until stepping the doors of the airport to the chilly night Gotham air did he feel the familiarity. He was home but unfortunately, ten years did little to change the city.
Checking his watch, the time read seven forty nine, the post office was without a doubt closed but that worked to his advantage. The yellow taxi pulled to a stop in front of the building, still lit and available even at night, but completely dead. Extracting the fare from his pocket, the man paid the driver then climbed out of the taxi with his duffle still in his hand. The taxi pulled away down the grey street as the man casually made his way inside. The door inside leading away to the right of the facility was locked for the night but the entire back and side wall of the lobby was filled head to toe with brass doors of various sizes, the smallest at the top grew into four different sizes before reaching the bottom row. The man reached into his pocket and drew a set of keys, selecting a small brass one. He crouched down to the second to last row, to a PO Box with the largest size selection. With ease the door opened and a single brown parcel sat in cave like darkness of the box. The labels were all hand written with stamps writing in Chinese characters. The return address was located in Beijing, China and was addressed to David Gray. Gray didn’t open the package there, too open to any eyes open wide enough to see him through the post office’s windows. He left the building, turning the corner sharply into the narrow alley. Tearing the package open, Gray lifted a single, black duffle bag, slightly bigger than the one he carried with him out of the brown parcel. Stuffing the smaller bag inside the black duffle, Gray slung it over his shoulder and continued his walk down the cold, dark street.
Gray was in the Narrows, a district outside of the grandiose high-rises in the heart of Gotham, named for the cramped, shambles of old brick buildings that resembled the same sophistication of a South American favela. For some time, Gray continued down the sidewalk, passing all manner of old, rickety buildings with dark alleys occupied with discarded refuse both inanimate and not. Any one of these buildings would serve just fine for his uses, but still he kept walking. Gray watched from the corners of his eyes, observing, taking note, absorbing every detail. This was phase one.
Finally he stopped, coming to a four story apartment building, long condemned. No building ever seemed to get torn down in districts that have decayed as far as the Narrows, it was as if no one cared about pruning the lower branches of a magnificent tree, only ever concerned with the crown at the top. Then again, not many, even wrecking crews, would ever wish to be in a place such as this. Gray easily pried the nailed board from the bottom floor window and ducked inside the shadows. He needed no flashlight, as he navigated the old apartment. No one lived there any longer, only the occasional homeless person struggling to escape the chilly night. Gray climbed the stairs that creaked with age under his rather heavy frame. Climbing to the top floor, Gray cautiously felt for a knob on the last door at the end of the corridor. The door hung ajar which he pushed open, the hinges creaked eerily. The room was cold with a draft blowing through the wide open window which offered the most minimal light from the street outside. A couch torn and stained remained in what was once a front room. After having checked each room within the apartment one by one, he threw the duffle down on the couch and unzipped it open, holding a black mask up to see. For a moment, Gray observed it, then turned to the open window. Looking out over the shingled rooftops of the Narrows, far in the distance, the towers glowed in the night like a world apart.