No amount of training, he thinks, no amount of study and preparation can steel you for this.
As Bruce launched himself from the edge of the rooftop and to the adjacent building, he felt his insides quiver in excitement and wondered if he would always feel this way. Children ride roller-coasters and board seemingly death-defying rides for the pure pleasure of the adrenaline rush. Was that what he was doing? He didn’t think so.
No, he knew that it wasn’t that that spurred him on. In his quiet moments, it wasn’t the draw of the potential thrills that urged him to don the cape and cowl. It was the vision of the gun barrel and his two parents laying dead on the sidewalk. That was why he had committed himself to this.
Bruce looked at the street below him and, even though things were bustling and busy even at this hour, it seemed quiet to him. No screams, no gunshots. Nothing that really attracted his attention.
In his past year as Batman, Bruce had seen things that he had never thought possible, things that had many times sickened as well as depressed him. Though there weren’t many costumed villains in the beginning, their number was starting to increase at a rate that made Bruce far less than comfortable. If things continued at this rate unchecked, Gotham would be the Joker’s town sooner or later. Bruce vowed to do everything that he could to keep that from happening.
Suddenly, from around the corner at street-level, there was a flash of green light and the sound of tires screeching. Almost automatically, Bruce leapt down from the rooftop, using some conveniently placed canopies to reach the street in seconds…just in time, in fact, to see a blue sedan careening around the corner. A yellow car followed close behind it, a man hanging out the back window and firing a gun at the first car. As he watched, the first car lost control and slammed into a light pole, the yellow car coming to halt behind it.
Bruce was about to move to intervene when he heard a sound that made him weak in the knees. From inside the blue car came the sound of a child crying.
“Oh, God,” he whispered even as he was forcing his legs to move, “no….”
Bruce vaulted over the cars that had stopped on the street and pulled the door on the blue car open, the existence of the yellow car forgotten for the moment. Inside, a man lay slumped against the steering wheel. Blood ran down his face from a cut that was near his hairline. A nice bruise on his forehead was already beginning to appear. His injuries were serious, but not life threatening
At first, Bruce didn’t see anyone else in the car and was starting to believe that the child’s cry he thought he had heard was his imagination, but then a dark shape moved in the rear floorboard and Bruce saw that it was a little girl, battered but seemingly unhurt. She had been laying underneath a pair of large suitcases that had obviously slid on top of her during the crash.
She was sobbing so hard that she could barely speak. “Please…. Please don’t hurt us.”
Before he could answer, Bruce felt the man behind him before he heard or saw him. This was, to him, a testament that his years of training hadn’t been in vain. Once he saw that the little girl was safe then his training and conditioning kicked back in.
The man from the yellow car was about to utter something appropriately menacing (something cliché, probably, like “Don’t move,’ which no one ever listened to, or maybe “Don’t try anything funny”) when he found, much to his surprise, that there was a foot in his face, forcefully attempting to shove his nose to the back of his skull. All he said then was “Ooooof!” while dropping the gun and falling backwards to the pavement.
Batman leapt from that gunman to the one who had been standing directly behind him before the second man could even blink an eye, so stunned was the gunman by his compatriot’s sudden defeat. Before Batman could cross the few feet that lay between them, the second man _did_ manage to fire off a shot, but he was distracted by the large billowing cape of the Batman and the shot went wide, whizzing past him.
Batman chopped the gun out of the man’s hand, punched him twice in the stomach, and crouched over him when he fell to the ground.
He lowered his face until their noses almost touched and said one word. “Why?”
From behind him there was the pop of a breech being released. Batman whirled to look down the barrel of a particularly nasty looking machine gun. The man holding it sneered and said, “’Cause we could… freak.”
His finger started to pull back on the trigger and Bruce braced himself. He expected that the gunman would pull the stream of bullets to the left (which inexperienced shooters almost always did) and thought that, if leapt in the opposite direction, he might be able to avoid being splattered all over the sidewalk.
And then something totally unexpected happened.
Before the gunman could fire the machine gun, a hand came from around the corner. A large green hand that was followed by a stream of green light. As Bruce watched, it stuck an index finger in the barrel of the gun and lifted it out of the astonished thug’s grip. Bruce, though he was as shocked as the gunman, did not waste the opportunity. He drew a bat-shaped boomerang out of the belt around his waist and knocked the man unconscious with it, catching it as it flew back towards him. He kept the batarang at the ready as he watched for the source of the green hand, which was crumpling the machine gun in its massive fist.
A few seconds later, a man wreathed in the same emerald green light came floating around the corner and the green hand disappeared. Bruce recognized the figure instantly: he was the hero known as Sentinel, who until recently had been known as the Green Lantern. The man flew slowly towards Bruce, landing on his feet about ten feet in front of him and crossing his arms on his chest said, “And just who are you?”
Bruce scanned what was visible of the man’s face, hardly believing that he could be as old as he was supposed to be. “I’m the Batman,” he said finally.
“Ah, yes. I’ve heard of you. You’ve not been around too very long, have you?”
“Off and on for about a year.” Bruce hated the fact that he felt intimidated by the older man’s experience and tried not to let it show in his voice. “Who are those men?” he pointed to the unconscious gunmen, trying to change the subject.
“Boss Thorne’s boys, more than likely. Davis there,” Sentinel indicated the blue car,” probably did something to tick him off.”
One of the thugs let out a low moan and Sentinel said, “You might want to tie them up now. Or do you want me to take care of it?”
“Not necessary,” Batman said, taking three pairs of handcuffs from his belt and starting to put them on the thugs. “Who is the girl, though?”
When there was no immediate answer, Bruce looked up to see a puzzled look on Sentinel’s face. “Little girl?”
“Yes. There was a little girl… about nine or ten… in the backseat of the car.”
Both heroes ran over to the car. The passenger’s door on the side of the car opposite them was opened, and Davis still lay where he had before, but there was no sign of the girl. Sentinel leaned in and checked Davis pulse and breathing, both of which seemed normal under the circumstances, and then started trying to revive him.
“Davis,” he said as he gently nudged him, “Davis, who was the little girl you had with you?”
Davis moaned and his eyes fluttered open, though there was still more white than anything else showing. “Anna,” he moaned. “Was m’daughter….”
“Who was chasing you?” Batman asked. “And why?”
“Reginald,” Davis said. “Took some money….” Then he lapsed back into unconsciousness.
“Reginald?” Sentinel asked. “Do you know that name?”
“Yes. He’s a numbers runner in the inner city. If he has the girl then I know where to find him.” Batman was already scouring the skyline for a good place to fire the grapple.
“But she could have just ran away scared,” Sentinel mused. “I’ll look for her. You check out Reginald’s.”
“Sounds good,” Batman said, firing the grapple upwards. “I’ll find you later.”
Damon Reginald leaned back in the padded chair and drank deeply from the glass of bourbon. Damn those fools for letting Davis get away with that cash. In all his years of running numbers for Gotham’s most prestigious underworld rackets, nothing had ever happened like this. Reggie knew that heads would roll over this screw up and he had every intention of making sure that it wasn’t his noggin hitting the floor at the end of the day.
Reginald drained the glass and was getting up to fill it again when the door opened. In walked the largest and ugliest human being that Reggie had on his payroll, The man (whose nickname was Moose, appropriately enough) was holding the arm of a little girl that he dragged into the room with him. She wasn’t making any noise. To Reggie, it looked like she was either too scared or else had run out of energy long before Moose had gotten her there.
“What’s this?” Reggie asked. “What the hell’d you bring her here for?”
Moose gave Reginald a dark look that to the untrained appeared menacing, but Reggie had long since learned that all it meant was that Moose was concentrating really hard. “She knows where the dough is, Mr. Reginald. That’s why I brought her.”
“She knows….” Reggie stopped in mid-sentenced, flabbergasted at what Moose had just inadvertently revealed. “You don’t have the money WITH you??” He tried to regulate to volume of his voice, but it was no use.
“And Davis? Where is he?”
“I dunno, Mr. Reginald. I hadta leave him.”
Reggie could feel the color rising in his face. “Leave him?”
“Yessir. There was a couple’a costumes there and I didn’t want them to follow me here.”
“And this flower,” Reggie said, pointing to the girl. “Where does SHE enter into it?”
Moose’s face spilt in a wide smile. “She was in Davis’ car, boss. I followed her a few blocks to make sure I wasn’t followed and then I brought her to ya. I thought that she might know where the bucks are.”
Reggie was in shock. Moose had made a good decision… and all on his own, too. Would miracles never cease?
Reggie felt as if steam were still rising off of the top of his head, but he tried to put on a pleasant smile as he knelt before the girl. “What’s your name? Hm?”
The little girl glanced up at Moose, who let her arm go at the same time that he pushed her slightly towards Reginald. “Becka,” she answered softly.
“Well, Becka, did you see your father with a lot of money tonight?”
There was a look of confusion on the girl’s face. “No. I didn’t.”
“Did you see him with a large suitcase? Or maybe a big bag?”
“Where were you and your father going, Becka?” Reggie’s tone was growing less and less friendly with each question that the brat forced him to ask. He tried to keep visions of torturing her for the answers out of his mind, but it was getting harder.
“We weren’t g…..”
The girl was interrupted by the sounds of shattering glass and Reginald whirled around to see what looked like a massive winged figure flying through the window. He stepped back involuntarily as the man (who looked like a cross between a man and a bat!) shrugged off the fragments of glass clinging to his cape. “That’s enough,” he said darkly, glancing at the girl to see if she was all right. Reggie could have sworn that a look of confusion (brief though it was) crossed the Batman’s face, as well.
Moose moved from his position beside the girl and charged Batman at full speed. The Batman stood there as if he weren’t going to move and then, at the last second, he pivoted, sending the massive thug hurtling towards the opened window. Reggie noticed for the first time that the Batman held a rope in his hand which he had evidently swung through the window with. This he wrapped around Moose’s ankle and he plummeted out of the window. The line snapped taut and the Moose began to bellow as he dangled four stories above the pavement.
The Batman held his hand out to the girl and she took it, even though she was obviously frightened of him.
“You should have kept your nose out of this,” Reginald snarled. “Whoever you are.” He drew a gun from inside the jacket that he wore and started to level it at the Batman. The Batman, though, was already moving. He had stepped in front of the girl, blocking her from Reggie’s view, and before Reggie could register where he was moving to, the gun was already out of his hand. The Batman held the gun up and ejected the clip and the bullet in the chamber.
“I don’t know what Davis did to anger you,” Batman said through gritted teeth, “and I don’t really care. But the two of you are square now. Understand?”
Reginald drew himself up, mustering all of the bruised dignity that he could find. “Davis _stole_ from me. We’re not square….no matter what you say. If I can’t get what I am owed out of him, then I’ll find that little one,” he said, pointing to the girl, “ and take it out of her. Doesn’t much matter to me.”
The Batman walked very slowly up to Reginald until he was right in his face. “You endangered the lives of dozens of pedestrians in that car chase. You kidnapped a little girl. You took a shot at _me_. All. Over. Money.” These last few words were punctuated by Batman jabbing Reggie in the chest. “If you ever bother Davis again, you will regret it. And if you so much as _look_ at his daughter wrong after I leave this room, I swear to God that I will hunt you down and beat you myself.”
Reginald said nothing, but dropped his gaze to the floor. Batman took out a set of handcuffs and put them on the man. Reggie didn’t resist. “The girl is safe,” he said finally. “I won’t harm her.”
“Of course you won’t,” Batman said, stepping back. “Especially since she isn’t even Davis’ daughter.”
Reggie looked up. “What?”
“This girl,” Batman gestured to the girl still cowering away from them, “is not Davis’ daughter. Your stooge got the wrong girl.”
“You mean this stooge?” a voice said from the window. Sentinel floated into the room in a nimbus of green light, holding Moose by the collar. A gigantic handcuff made out of green light held his arms to his sides. “I took Davis and his daughter to the hospital and then thought I would drop by to see if you needed any help, but it looks like you have things wrapped up.”
“Pretty much,” Batman said. He walked towards Becka, who looked more terrified than ever. Batman stopped where he was and got down on one knee, holding his hands out towards her. “I won’t hurt you. I promise.” The girl didn’t move. “I’m sorry that you got caught up in this, but I want to help you…if you’ll let me. What’s your name?”
“Becka,” the girl whispered.
“Becka, would you let me take you back to your parents? Or would you rather wait for the police? They will take good care of you too.”
The girl looked at him for a few seconds and then pointed silently at his chest. Batman reached out his hand again to her and she took it, rushing forward to hug him tightly around the neck. Bruce closed his eyes for a moment and returned her embrace.
“You go take care of her,” Sentinel said. “I’ll wait here for the authorities.”
Batman picked the little girl up and started to walk away. He stopped at the door and turned back. “Good to meet you, Sentinel.”
“And you, too, Batman. Take care… and good luck with our city.”
Later that night, Sentinel stood in shadows with another man, watching the Batman swing across to a rooftop as he continued his patrol. “There he is,” Sentinel said.
“Moves good,” the second man said.
“Handles himself well, too,” Sentinel said. “You may have only taught him fisticuffs, Ted, but he picked up part of your heroism, too.”
“Hmmmpf,” Wildcat said. “Fisticuffs is for sissies. I taught the boy good old fashioned boxing.”
Sentinel laughed, clapping Ted on the shoulder. “Touche, old friend. But the point is that we can rest assured Gotham is in good hands.”
“Of course she is,” Ted said as they walked away. “We’re still here too, ain’t we?”
Greetings and salutations,
Do you know how freaking pretentious I feel? Do you have ANY idea?
I mean, here I am taking a character who has double (at least) my years of stories and experience…. a character that I virtually grew up loving and following…. and I am taking that character and trying to chronicle his trials and tribulations while learning who in the heck he really is.
Talk about your tall orders…..
Welcome to Batman: Year Two.
In the next year’s worth of stories, we will see some familiar things replayed (hopefully in a slightly different light) and we will see some entirely new things develop in the life of the Dark Knight. When I set down to write these stories, I thought a lot about the things that I could assume had happened in Batman’s first year at bat (Ouch. Sorry for the pun) and that information will be interwoven throughout the upcoming issues.
While I intend to have fun writing this ongoing series of Batman stories, it is very important to me that I know what YOU think, so please direct your comments to the address listed below. Hopefully, we will all have something interesting to discuss in next month’s Belfry. If not, then you get to hear me ramble again. :^)