The sweltering heat of mid-June passed as the sun dipped below the horizon of the city, leaving a comfortable warmth in the night sky. From what Bruce could tell, nothing had been done in preparation of the impending chaos that was sure to come. Parked across the street from the six story red brick apartment building was a plain silver Ford. With bare, black hubs and not a single scratch or marking of any kind on the car, it was a little too plain to be anything other than an undercover policeman on watch. His tip had been noted and it seemed that the GCPD was cautious not to make any moves to scare away their prey, including actually warning the apartment and initiating a full evacuation. Bruce glowered, realizing this would only make his job that much harder. Drifting his scope away from the car over to the apartment building, he glazed over the front sign set beside the door of the lobby. Father Ferguson’s Halfway House was an old, run down single building that seemed anonymously stuck between to other largely similar buildings along the street. A mere block diagonal from the complex, the steeple of Gotham Cathedral pierced the clear night sky with the westward expanse of the vaulted chamber spanning the rest of the block. As Bruce waited, squatting low precariously on the apse of the grand building among a pair of grim, stone gargoyles, Alfred chimed in his ear.
“What about Harkin, Bradley? Arson, involuntary manslaughter, served twenty years in Stonegate Penitentiary,” he offered as a fifth suggestion.
“No,” Bruce rejected plainly.
“That’s fine, we still have another seventy-three profile results of residents at Father Fergusons within your twenty year search parameter,” Alfred quipped. “Such as this chap, Daye, Kennison, charged with petty theft, larceny, child abandonment, DUI, Drug possession.” Bruce shook his head as he lowered the scope from his eye.
“No,” he repeated automatically. Instantly Bruce tensed as he heard the distinct thud of rotors. He looked up into the sky directly above him. low over the sloping roof of the church, the nose of a white and blue helicopter peaked into view. The gust of the propeller tossed his black cape about. A bright beam of intense light struck where he stood from under the nose of the helicopter. Bruce brought his cape up over his face as a shroud from the blinding white light. He peeked up through the light, spotting the silhouette of a figure leaning out of the side door of the helicopter. He could barely discern in the glare something in the officer’s hands and wasn’t about to wait to find out what it was. Drawing a batarang from the dispenser on his belt, he cast it, aiming for the spotlight projector installed beneath the nose. The bulb shattered and the light fizzled out, casting the safety of the shadows around the black figure once again. The helicopter soared overhead, hovering out further away from the church and turning around for a better view. Bruce wasted no time at all, drawing his grapnel gun and firing a line to the steeple of the cathedral.
From the side of the helicopter the officer inside fumbled with the onboard spotlight.
“Negative, we lost visual of the target,” the pilot reported into his radio.” The officer fired a second beam of light to the spot where he had seen the Batman standing like one of the demonic gargoyles perched along the roof of the rear of the cathedral. The light projected on the shadowy rooftop but the space between the two gargoyles was empty.
“He’s gone!” he called out over the pound of rotors.
Bruce hung against the side of the steeple as if he was rappelling its steep downgrade as he peered over his shoulder at Father Ferguson’s. The air howled with the distant sounds of sirens. Far down the road, he spotted the flash of red and blue lights lick the walls of the buildings along the street. He grit his teeth irritably.
“Sir, I’m scanning police frequencies. You have less than three minutes before a platoon of police officers reach your location,” Alfred warned with worry straining his voice. He like every other resident of Gotham City was well aware of the Gotham City Police Department’s campaign to arrest the vigilante Batman.
“Idiots,” Bruce growled. “If they scare Calendar Killer, there’s no telling what he’ll do,” he observed out loud. “I’ve got to find him, now!” Ejecting the cable from the firing mechanism of the gun, he kicked off of the steeple and twisted around in midair before activating the rigid gliding frame of his cape. The wind caught and he soared through the air, aiming for the roof of the apartment building.
The howling siren blared in Gordon’s ears as he clenched the edge of the open passenger’s side window. In the other hand he held the microphone close to his mouth his thumb poised over the talk button.
“Visual contact reestablished,” the voice of the helicopter pilot blurted through the speaker grille. “Target has landed on the roof of Ferguson’s.” Gordon pressed the button and spoke clearly into the microphone.
“I want all units to form a perimeter around the block and searchlights established around each corner,” he barked. With his attention still focused on driving, the uniformed officer beside him frowned.
“No SWAT?” Merkel asked with a frown.
“For as long as we can afford,” Jim answered grimly. There was nothing to suggest that simply calling out to the vigilante with a megaphone would actually persuade him to surrender, but Jim was determined to try everything and anything else before calling in Officer Howard Brandon and his reckless squad of trigger happy cowboys.
Bruce worked quickly, sliding the bladed edge of a batarang between the crack of the window sill, flipping the catch of the lock with a soft click. He slid the window open, forcing it up the worn track along the frame. He ducked inside, one leg at a time, entering the dank, shadowy bedroom. The bed was empty with old, stained sheets tossed lazily on the mattress. In the next room, the glow of the TV lit the bulging gut of a middle aged man lounging fast asleep in an armchair. On the dingy carpet, a bottle lay on its side with its contents leaving a damp stain from a recent spill. Bruce slipped across the floor, past the snoring resident straight to the door. Softly opening and closing it as he made his way to the hallway. The corridor was just as poor and run down as the apartment. The paint peeled off the walls and the floor sills were discolored. The lighting of the corridor was poor, eerily flickering on and off from faulty wiring. Bruce stood silently in the middle of the corridor with his cape draped around him as he searched with his eyes.
“Alfred, I need something,” he pleaded as he looked up and down the twenty door corridor.
“Just a moment, Sir, I may have something,” Alfred replied in his ear. “I’m cross referencing each of the bombing locations with the list of residents within your twenty years parameter,” his words trailed off as he hummed and mumbled in thought. “There!” he exclaimed. “The only result to come up is that Kennison Daye fellow, a former munitions specialist in the US Army National Guard. Medical discharge, later charged with petty theft,” Alfred read from the computer screen.
“Munitions expert means he has experience with explosives,” Bruce reasoned out loud. “What room number?” he demanded.
“302,” Alfred answered briskly. Bruce charged down the hall way to the far end where the stairs of the top floor descended to the floors below. He vaulted over the rickety, wooden banister, plunging down through the square spiral of the staircase. Reaching the third floor, he caught the ledge with his fingertips. Grunting, he pulled his dangling form up, climbing over the banister, standing at the end of the third floor corridor. Crouched low, Bruce found the worn apartment number and approached the door quietly, careful not to touch it in anyway. He crouched low, rooting around his utility belt for his PDA and the fiber optic camera cable, plugging the cable into the port. Bruce stuck the head of the cable under the crack of the doorsill, watching the screen on his PDA. The black and white image came through clearly but was difficult to discern in the shadows. Bruce watched intently, waiting for something to happen. A shape drifted about in the pitch darkness, someone was definitely inside. Bruce retracted the cable and coiled it back into one of the pouches. “Sir,” Alfred called out again. “I’m sending you Mr. Daye’s booking photograph from GCPD records.” Bruce looked back down at the PDA, spotting the flashing icon on the menu panel of the touchscreen. Tapping the icon, the twenty four year old mugshot of a man in his late twenties. His high forehead was topped by thin brown hair. His face was full, a rigid jaw lost in the folds of skin on his thick neck. Bruce had no way of knowing whether the person inside was Kennison, but he now had an idea of what to look for. Stepping back, Bruce kicked hard at the door, crashing wide open. Bruce slid inside, standing like a statue in the shadows with the dim lighting of the hallway behind him. The room was quiet and still except for the figure that spun hastily on his heels, startled by the crashing door. From his peripherals, Bruce spotted a stirring figure, mumbling with terrified alarm through the gag across his mouth, struggling against the ropes binding his arms and legs. At the feet of the man standing before him, a small red light flashed on a complicated device. Wires entwined a circuit board feeding around a bundle of pipes all bound tightly together by black electrical tape. It was a simple pipe bomb with a remote relay that doubtless, Daye had clenched in his hands. Despite the shroud of heavy shadows, Bruce could see the panic in his cold eyes, felt his heaving breath of anxiety.
“It’s over, Daye,” he growled as he drew another batarang from the dispenser on his belt beneath the cover of his enclosing, black cape.
“There are still eight minutes and twenty-one seconds before the day is up,” a sharp cold voice answered. The man lifted a remote over his head threateningly. “But I am more than willing to end it now if you take a single step more,” he hissed. Bruce moved faster than a flash of lightning, bursting open his cape as he cast the batarang. The bladed edges spun in the air, stabbing the man’s wrist. He howled in pain, letting the device fall to the carpet. Again Bruce moved, launching across the floor and tackling the man before he could even clench his bleeding wound. The two crashed hard but Bruce recovered, dragging the man to his feet. In close proximity, Bruce could make out his face more clearly.
“You’re not Kennison Daye, who are you?” he demanded with a shake, jarring the man’s circular frame spectacles from his face. Though relatively similar, the faces did not match. He seemed nearly the same exact age as the face depicted in the picture Alfred had sent him, a picture that was twenty four years old. The man’s dark, wiry thin hair hung low to his shoulders from the horseshoeing roots around his balding head. His thick face was struck by an expression of terror, the whites of his eyes glowing dully around the heavily darkened circles around the sockets. “I said, who are you?” Bruce growled with bared teeth as he pulled the man closer to him.
“Kennison Daye was the name of the man I was forced to call ’father,” he answered venomously.
“You’ve been setting off the bombs, why?” Bruce demanded menacingly. Daye just stared back, the terror gone from his dull eyes.
“To erase the bad days,” he said with a sick grin. “So that I never again have to relive the night in that restaurant where she that should’ve been my wife rejected me. No loss, all those people were horrid parents, leaving their children at home for a night of indulgence.” Bruce glowered at him, utterly sickened as he listened to Daye’s every word. “Dear old Dad would never have become the bitter monster that he was had he never been forced out of the Army,” he continued. “My misery might’ve actually ended far sooner had that stranger never stopped me from jumping off the bridge and of course, as you’ve figured out this was once Dad’s place,” he sneered with darting eyes around the room. Still reeks of vodka, had plenty of fond childhood memories in this festering pit,” he added spitefully. Bruce glowered, looking into Daye’s eyes, not a single hint of remorse. He held no reservations whatsoever to destroying the apartment even with himself and everyone else in it.
“You’re deranged,” Bruce muttered.
“I prefer determined, motivated. Finally able to take control of the years I have left, one day at a time,” Daye grunted. Coming from outside Bruce heard the approaching wail of sirens from the fleet of police vehicles.
“Sir, the police are setting a perimeter,” Alfred reported into his ear. Suddenly a blinding light shot from the outside, beaming in through the window. Bruce squinted slightly, his masked face illuminated by the beam. He glowered down at Daye.
“The police are here, now you can count away your days in Stonegate.” Reaching back his balled fist, he threw one solid punch. Daye was no fighter and was out instantly. His body went limp in Bruce’s grip. He dropped him to the floor then flopped him onto his large stomach, pulling his arms back and securing his wrists with flex-cuffs. Sure that the maniac was secured, Bruce stood up, moving briskly to the explosive device in the middle of the room. The red light still blinked as he crouched down beside it to inspect its functions. It was a simple design, easily rigged by someone without very much demolitions expertise. From a compartment in his belt, Bruce produced an advanced multi tool, knowing that the wire cutters would come in handy on this night’s outing. He followed the wire working on the device and deduced the correct wire for detonator. With a squeeze of his gloved hand around the tool, the wire severed in two. Bruce took a breath as he watched the flashing red light go out.
“Sir, there is chatter on the police band, you are running out of time,” Alfred reported again with strained patience. Bruce caught a glimpse of the improvised remote detonator laying on the floor, an old cellular phone, clearly tampered with, being held together by black electrical tape identical to the bomb. He picked it up, looking it over briefly before grasping it in both hands and breaking it in half. Gazing about the room he caught a glimpse of the hostage still tied up on the floor. He began to move in his direction when Alfred barked in his ear again. “Master Bruce, leave him for the police.” Bruce paused, staring into the man’s terror stricken eyes in the darkness. After a brief moment of thought, Bruce quietly turned away, back to the door. Standing in the doorway facing the hall, a small beep sounded from behind him. Bruce’s blood froze in his veins as he glanced back over his shoulder, fixing his focus on the device still in the middle of the front room. In the illumination of the spotlight, Bruce noticed the blink of the red light as another beep chimed over the sounds of the outside world. Another blink and beep followed, then another. A weary cackle seeped into Bruce’s ears from across the room.
“11:58:47, Batman,” Daye groaned, still on his stomach. He lifted his head and fixed Bruce with a crazed stare. “The day’s not yet over, and some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb.”
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