Strolling up to the front door of the bank, she had a pleasant smile on her face. Making her way directly to the front desk to the awaiting teller, eyes drifted her way, how could they not. Her form was fit, athletic and rounded in all the right places yet it was her hair that briefly stole their attention. Her feathered hair was stark white, in contrast with her black trench coat tied about her waist. She wasn’t at the teller’s for long, making a simple transfer of funds, yet still, lingering eyes of the other customers and bank employees still found their way back to her, including the lone security guard.
“Is that all for you Ma’am?” the generous voiced teller asked. The woman checked her watch around her slim wrist.
“Oh shoot, I’m running late,” she said in dismay, still retaining her flirtatious smile. With a flutter of her fingers, she waved goodbye and made her way back to the door. As she reached the doorway, she opened her purse and fumbled for something inside. With a simple toss over her head, the plain, white bag fell to the floor of the bank. All eyes were wide and open, now focused curiously on the abandoned purse. Five black, palm sized cylinders rolled from the mouth of the purse across the floor. Screams were instantly blotted out by five consecutive, concussive explosions. The flashes filled the room with bright white light and the sound shattered the eardrums of everyone in the room. The front doors burst open and two hefty figured men fanned on the flanks of the woman, her trench coat limp on the floor at the feet of her white shoes, matching her all white vinyl suit. Slung across her shoulder, she carried a VZ 61 Scorpion. The men at her sides were identically dressed, both in dark blue overalls. Their mandibles were covered by bandanas and heads adorned with flat caps, both alternating between the colors of yellow and red. In their meaty hands, they hefted black steel AK-12s. The woman in white skipped across the floor, past the dazed group of customers as she scooped white bag from the floor.
“Fill’er up, handsome,” she demanded, tossing the bag into the teller’s arms with a smirk and point of her gun. Frantically, the teller opened the registers and piled loose bills into the bag. The two men in overalls ushered the blind, dazed customers into the center of the bank. Approaching the security guard, the robber with a red hat and yellow bandana whacked him in the back with the butt of his rifle. The robber with a yellow hat and red bandana threw a large black bag down in front of the crowd.
“Fill it,” he ordered with a grim voice. The woman in white fired her Scorpion above the teller’s head.
“Hurry up, no time to dawdle,” she said. Looming over the huddled group of customers, the robber with the yellow hat and red scarf jabbed the muzzled of his AK-12.
“Let’s go hurry up!” he barked. The second robber rounded behind him, vigilantly watching the room with his back to the large side window, completely unaware of the shadow soaring closer and closer. The glass shattered and the robber wheeled around before feeling a pair of boots ram into his chest. The robber in the yellow hat spun round to find a black, demonic figure low on his hands and knees, ready to pounce. His finger squeezed the trigger of the AK-12, firing a stream of bullets. Bruce glowered behind his cowl as he rolled aside then pounced tackling the robber to the ground. The robber with the red hat shook his head clear and rose to his feet, grabbing his own AK-12. Bruce dealt another blow to the robber before leaping aside to avoid the second hail of automatic fire. The crowd of suddenly alert customers cried out as they ducked low to the floor to avoid the lethal rain of bullets now coming from the woman in white as well. Bruce bared his teeth, drawing a batarang from one of the dispensers and casting it. The blade stuck into the robber’s shoulder. He yelped in pain, dropping his AK-12 to the floor with a clatter. From the corner of his eye, Bruce saw a glint of metal just in time. He stepped back allowing the star-shaped shuriken to sail just past his chest then stick in the wall. Bruce looked to his right, baffled by what he saw emerge from a dimly lit corner.
A slim figured woman dressed in a deep green shinobi shozoku stood fast and low. The bottom half of her face was covered by a green mask, her thin, eastern eyes squinted intensely as she beckoned to Bruce challengingly. Bruce heard from behind him the sounds of the two heavy set robbers gathering the bag full of money and scramble out the door. The woman in white followed close behind with the bag from the teller now slung over her shoulders. Car tires screeched as doors slammed shut and the vehicle sped away.
Bruce reached into his belt, collecting three small marble sized capsules then threw them to the ground. Bruce knew without a doubt that the expanding radius of smoke would have no effect on the ninja. She pounced through the shroud with twin Sais drawn in hand. Bruce dodged as she lunged with the spike-like blades as her fists. He was on the defensive, drawing upon his training from the furthest reaches of Asia, the point of origin of his opponent. With careful precision he redirected her strikes away from his vital zones with the thin scalloped hooks adorned on the lower arms of his Kevlar suit. As she lunged again, he found an in. He struck her throat with the flat of his open hand then thrust his palm at her chest, knocking her to the ground. Flat on her back, she sprang back, rolling to her feet but Bruce was already gone. She was merely a distraction, a well thought out addition to the roster of this odd gang.
Already around the corner of the bank, he sprinted into the shadows of the alley. Seconds later, a single headlight beam shone through. The rumble of the engine intensified as he gunned the accelerator of the MV Augusta F4, the sleek black sports bike erupted from the darkness onto the street and sped down the road.
All Bruce had was the make and model and the general direction of the bank robbers’ car. He had identified the car as he swung in through the window from across the road and discerned its west bound escape route merely by the direction of the engine’s fade. He gunned the accelerator, leaning in low against the body of the sleek black motorcycle. His cape fluttered freely behind him as he swerved in and out of traffic. As he sped through the eastern end of Burnley, he spotted the car. The dark green Sudan recklessly sped north, swerving to avoid near collisions with panicked drivers. Bruce tried to close the gap between them but continuously had to duck and weave in the wake of panic and hysteria the robber’s left behind.
Up ahead, Flagstone Bridge glowed in the night, stretching across Gotham River, the sliver of water dividing the rest of the city from the majority of the dilapidated district of the Narrows. Draped along the trusses of the bridge were giant banners of Red, White and Blue with a giant Old Glory honorably hung from the tallest, support in the center. At nearly ten at night, only a hand full of drivers were on the bridge, Bruce reasoned he could catch them then. From overhead, a giant spotlight searched the road just on the tail of the Sudan. Bruce looked up, spotting the red strobe of the GCPD helicopter. He had little to no time before a detachment of squad cars would join the chase.
Feet from the entrance to Flagstone Bridge, an explosion rocked erupted from below. No one saw the flash below but the smoke engulfed all around. The rusted girders below the deck screeched with immense tension before giving way, snapping in half like twigs and raining into the river below. The entire deck of the bridge shook uncontrollably as the roadway at the southern end collapsed completely, crashing into the shallow water below. Car tires screeched as their drivers slammed on the brakes, swerving and crashing uncontrollably to avoid toppling over the edge and into the wreckage below. Approaching the junction of merging lanes on the road, Bruce leaned hard on his side, skidding to a stop before righting himself on the saddle of the bike. Overhead, the police helicopter’s spotlight fixed on the sedan, now trapped by the wreckages of Gotham’s late traffic and the crumbling end of the road over the gorge of twisted metal and shattered concrete. In that moment, Bruce nearly forgot about the impending arrival of Gotham Police as he stood and stared at the chaos.
Alfred was quiet, patiently waiting as he stood solemnly watching from behind with the black cape neatly folded and utility belt draped over the shoulder of his dark sweater. The cave was cold, despite the growing heat of June’s early summer. On the large screen of the complex computer system set in the corner of the second landing the news broadcast was on mute. From the view of a helicopter, the crumpled, destroyed mass of ruin clogged the river.
“First thing’s first, Master Bruce,” Alfred said. “The robbery.” With his head still hung low on his chest, Bruce sighed. Though he didn’t feel it then, he would be grateful to his faithful butler later for centering his mind back on the work and away from the grief.
“The woman in white, she was their rabbit, their runner to set up the diversion,” he examined out loud. “Then there was the two men, hired muscle, flunkies armed with Klashnikov Concern’s AK-12s, most likely courtesy of this, Penguin,” he grumbled. “Just bodies for the heavy lifting. Actually they kind of looked like-.”
“Tweedledee and Tweedledum?” Alfred inquired with a raised eyebrow. “The Lewis Carroll characters?”
“Afraid so,” Bruce replied, finding no humor in the circumstance.
“And the fourth one?” Alfred pressed on. Bruce’s frown turned into a harsh scowl as he turned back to his computer.
“She’s called Cheshire, an assassin from Tibet,” he explained.
“Do you know her?” Alfred frowned.
“David Gray does,” Bruce confirmed.
“So we have Cheshire, Tweedledee and Tweedledum and a White Rabbit,” Alfred said in disbelief.
“There’s still one more,” Bruce said. “Someone behind it all. Tweedledee and ’Dum aren’t smart enough, neither is White Rabbit and bank robberies are below Cheshire. Someone else was the mastermind.” Alfred turned away to set down the cape and belt on a nearby silver table.
“What an odd assortment. Someone would have to be insane to orchestrate this.”
“No, not insane,” Bruce said distantly. “Mad.”
“Do you think they’re behind the bombings as well?” Alfred inquired.
“No,” Bruce sighed as he sat down in the chair and stroked his bare chin. “Destroying the bridge cut off their escape and this Wonderland Gang was nowhere near the other two attacks. No Alfred, we’re dealing with a serial killer.” Alfred turned back around with a curious look.
“Sir?” he inquired. Bruce set to work on his computer, his fingers flying across the keyboard. On each of the three conjoined screens he pulled up data gathered from each attack.
“Three bombings, all corresponding to holidays listed on a calendar and each target related in some way to the holiday. Mama Sandra’s on Mother’s Day, The Gotham National Guard Armory on Memorial Day and now Flagstone Bridge on Flag Day,” he listed off. On each screen, Alfred glanced over the video files of the destroyed penthouse restaurant, the old, ceremonial, red-brick building of the armory and now the ruins of twisted metal trusses and crumbled roadways of the bridge. It was sickening, days of celebration turned into chaos and fear.
“Horrendous,” he said as he shook his head. “If this is true, then time is short before the next attack,” he added gravely. Bruce felt his heart sink as his eyes closed. Four days was all he had until Father’s Day.