Bob presents – Beware the Bat UPDATED!

Gotham City wasn’t built to let in the light. Even on the sunniest days, it remained dim and even dark on the crowded sidewalks, because Gotham has a thing for tall buildings standing side by side, on both sides of the blvds, avenues and streets.  Towering over the downtown  populace like Sentinels.

Keeping some feeling safe, and some feeling trapped.

Keeping the Light out.

And the dark in.

PROLOGUE

Gotham City November 1st 1935

Gotham City Center is rarely quiet. Theatre crowds are either coming or going, tipplers and party dolls search each other out in the posh supper clubs and lowliest dives, and the occasional scream or gunshot rips the night air apart, reminding all within earshot that crime never sleeps.

…and death can hide in the shadows waiting its turn to strike at the first sign of a misstep, the culmination of a heated argument, or someone simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

3 miles away from the bustle of 37th and Broadview, where the neon lights of City Centre are just a dim glow in the distance, the solitude and silence of the night gives way to the roar of a high powered automobile being pushed to its limits. As the din grows louder, twin beams of light begin to pierce the dark and ground fog, growing brighter as the car races toward the wide boulevards of the downtown core.

A sleek, black car, an exotic European model, hurtles past a couple walking their dog in the chilly air on this early November night. The dog, a terrier mix, has just enough time to let out a single yelp as the car speeds past he and his masters, lifting damp leaves out of the gutters that slowly turn in the diminishing red glow of the cars’ tail lights like fragile music box ballerinas, then flutter back down to the ground in its wake.

The sound of a siren begins to fill the air, and the dog stiffens its legs and assumes a protective stance and begins to howl as the siren grows louder until a police cruiser barrels past the couple as the sedan stirs up yet more leaves, and sprays the couple with a puddle of recently fallen rain, soaking both and cutting off the dog in mid howl. The pup has just enough time to start shaking off the water, much to the chagrin of his owners, before more sirens pierce the still night air, followed by one, two, three, then more squad cars careening down the wide residential street, lights flashing and sirens blaring, obviously in pursuit of the exotic number as well. Each car in turn. drenching the couple over and over in water from the earlier storm, until both they and their dog are hopping mad and wringing wet. All in the name of Justice, almost drowned by a parade of men who are sworn to serve and protect, pursuing a man who isn’t, and remain momentarily visible in the circles of light cast by the sparse street lamps, as they disappear from view, like stones skipping across a pond.

As this dangerous conga line of glass and metal nears Gotham City Centre, it begins to increase its speed. Screeching tires, sirens, and horns, becoming an operatic din, sending more and more cars and pedestrians racing out of harms way, some vehicles not as lucky as others, but so far, those on foot have been nimble enough to dart out of the way of the Grim Reaper’s occasional mechanical henchmen. Mindless and docile on their own, motor vehicles are potentially deadly and unpredictable, depending on who is behind the wheel when they are not dormant.

Like guns, cars are harmless unless they are in the wrong hands.

Bat-Logo - smal

The front page headline in the Gotham City Times the following morning read:

POLICE CHASE BECOMES A CARNIVAL OF CITY CENTRE CHAOS

Commissioner Gordon’s police force thugs put citizens and property at risk

The picture that accompanies the detailed, well written article, is that of the miraculously undamaged stolen car that triggered the previous nights’ series of Rube Goldberg and Busby Berkeley choreography. A DeSalle Ferrano Whippet Speedster, one of only 5 built to order for long-time customers of the French – Italian  Automobile maker.

In part, the lurid prose of the story stated, “Metal and glass, brick, and mortar exploding into deadly life threatening shrapnel. Out of control vehicles, pedestrians, at least two hot dog stands, a 3 Card Monty collapsible suitcase table, and several fire hydrants, sandwich boards, and a street lamp and multiple stop signs and lights, all flying through the air like circus performers looking for a trapeze that isn’t there, while people scrambled out of the way desperately trying to avoid broken limbs, cuts and bruises, and worse.

Some were treated for cuts and abrasions, and broken limbs, but most escaped unscathed physically if not emotionally.

The worst carnage, (at least the most visually disturbing) was caused by a hapless police cruiser that became airborne and crashed through the display window of Macy’s, decapitating 5 female mannequins resplendent in winter coats, fox neck furs, and fur muffs, and two faux penguins and a snowman, all standing ankle deep in real looking asbestos snow.

Had this happened just 24 hours earlier, it would have been Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, a Damsel in Distress, and 3 Villagers with faux torches and pitchforks who would have lost their heads.

The very real possibility of multiple deaths, injuries, fires, and more, was avoided by the very quick thinking, newly appointed detective (the youngest in the history of the force) appointed by the wrongly loathed Commissioner of Police, James Sandro Gordon. A crusty but honest and hard working cop who had worked his way up from walking a beat in Little Ireland and Crime Alley neighborhoods back when the city was even more crime ridden than it was now, and you risked slipping in horse manure in the pursuit of a miscreant or pack of young hooligans.

The young detective, of similar, but limited, experience walking a beat, had landed the detective shield by earning it the hard way. Three homicides solved while he still wore blue, several robberies averted, and domestic violence dealt with using both diplomacy and his fists, the 30 year old was an old soul and grew up in a family of policemen and hard working blue collar immigrants.

Nicky Morgan Faraday

A name decided upon by his father and he when he decided he wanted to be a cop.

A name honouring his paternal grandfather, his uncle, and his Godfather. Otherwise, he would just be a target for trouble from city hall and the political party in charge who wanted no part of a small group of Gotham-ites who want desperately to raise the city up out of the corruption and crime that has kept it America’s Most Dangerous City since 1922. Nicky knew if his secret were exposed, it would cause problems for others as well, and hamper their plans to bring Gotham City out of the dark and into the daylight.

Among those working behind closed doors to bring change to Gotham were newly appointed DA Harvey Dent, Philip Hines, publisher of the Gotham News, Francine ‘Boopsie’ Rosenthal, Director of the Rosenthal Foundation, Dr. Thomas Wayne, President of Wayne Industries, who, along with his wife, had been tragically gunned down during a robbery just months ago in April, and Detective Nicky Faraday’s father …Police Commissioner James Gordon.

Detective Faraday could hear the rumble of destruction, screams, and sirens drifting toward him from dozens of blocks away. It was too late to join in the chase, but not too late to make sure it ended here with him, if not sooner.

The Gotham City police were one of the few cities to have embraced the newly released technology allowing 2 way communication between every squad car and police station in the city.

Faraday hastily consulted a map of downtown he kept in the glove compartment of his unmarked car, and pulled the handset of his police radio out from under the dashboard and pressed the talk button.

Giving details to the first officer he reached, he then laid out further orders and soon had every cruiser not in pursuit set up where he wanted them.

His plan was simple.

To lure and lead the stolen car and its pursuers away from Gotham City Centre to where he stood in the quiet garment district, a section of the city devoid of pedestrians and traffic every day after 5pm, and especially on Fridays, when even the occupants of the tenements and apartment buildings either stay in or go out dancing downtown. There were no stores or eateries in the neighborhood, just warehouses, clothing manufacturers, and cheap apartments. This Friday was no different, and better still, provided the perfect mousetrap for the speeding mouse.

He was standing in wait when the Police van pulled up and disgorged a dozen heavily armed policemen whom he waved down the wide delivery drive way on his left. He could hear the ruckus, now laced with an occasional gunshot probably (he imagined) trying to flatten the stolen car’s tires and bring it to a halt.

Good luck, Boys, he thought, but even if you fail, he won’t get past me.

By the sound of screeching tires, Faraday concluded they were just a few blocks away. So far, so good.

Faraday signaled the squad, now positioned as far down the driveway as they could be, to stand their ground and raise their rifles and .38 police specials and stay alert. Then standing to the right of the entrance way, the only possible route left by his car and the police van parked in the street blocking any further egress to the open city streets, Faraday looked up to check on the heavy iron door that he would drop down across the entrance as soon as the stolen car skidded into the dead-end alley. An alley that the thief couldn’t possibly know didn’t go all the way through to Belson Street and freedom.

Using the butt of his gun, he broke the lock on the metal faceplate that concealed the green up button and red down button for the heavy iron gate just as the car sped into view. Only one thing left to do.

The detective strode into the middle of the street in front of the oncoming car, and with the van and his unmarked car behind him, covered his eyes and said a quick but sincere prayer.

Just when it seemed too late, Nicky heard the squeal of brakes and tires and felt the light leave his face. Opening his eyes just in time to see the sleek little foreign car make it around the corner of the building and head into the trap. Barely missed by the front police car that was hot on the heels of the thief, he raced back to the sidewalk and slammed the palm of his hand against the red button.

The gate dropped suddenly, just missing the rear bumper of the squad car, now trapped with the car thief in an inescapable box, a dozen guns pointed at the stolen car.

Instead of crunching metal and broken glass, there was an eerie silence. Whoever was driving those cars were skilled enough to bring the brakes to bear and avoid colliding with one another.

A voice wafted out from behind the gate, which was solid metal for the bottom 6 feet, and slatted for the top 4 feet. If he stood on his toes he could see the figures at the end of the dead end, but not very well, but what could one thief do but give up.

“Get out of the vehicle and raise your arms above your head so we can see them.”, said one of the silhouettes.

No response.

“I said, get out of the vehicle and raise your arms above your head so we can see them.”, repeated the silhouette, this time a little louder and angry.

Again, no response.

The officer now shouting the orders behind the gate was Sgt. Pat Plumb, a large barrel-chested and beer gutted cop who was more familiar with the desk he normally rode at headquarters than he was with being in the trenches with a gun in his hand instead of a pint of Ireland’s best or a donut from Bayer’s Bakery.

“Get out of the Goddamn CAR!”, shouted Plumb, just as Faraday felt a tap on his shoulder.

Turning to see who it was he was surprised to see Lt. Givens beet red face staring at him like an angry bull.

Before Faraday could say anything, Givens quietly hissed through clenched teeth, “Open that fucking gate, Farraday, before I shoot you.”

Nicky stood his ground.

“Relax Lt. …there’s a full complement of officers in there and we have this …”

“OPEN THE GODDAMN GATE!!!”

The gate ascended a lot slower than it came down, but Givens ducked under it at first opportunity. Chasing after him, Faraday was about to ask what the hell was going on, he and Givens reached the men he had sent in. Standing between two of them was a lug in a cap and a turtleneck and heavy coat, wearing handcuffs and looking relieved. Just then, he noticed Givens aim his gun at the police cruiser and yell, “”Get out of the vehicle and raise your arms above your head so we can see them.”, his face now crimson red, white specks of froth collecting in the corners of his mouth.

Faraday again spoke to Givens and told him the thief was standing less than a foot behind him already in handcuffs, when Givens literally screamed the orders again, GET OUT GODDAMN IT, OR WE’RE ALL GOING TO START SHOOTING!”

Nicky turned toward the squad car when he heard the click and rattle of the door being opened. There was dead silence in the dark, shadowy driveway.

“GET OUT OF THE CAR!”

An angry, stern, voice, yet sounding high and odd, came from the open car door.

“I am out of the car”.

How curious, seeing as how there is no one there that anyone can see, just a disembodied voice drifting out of the dark.

“Put your hands where I can see them and step away from the car”, Faraday offered in a more diplomatic tone …and slowly two hands followed by two skinny arms cleared the door and rose into view where the window used to be.

Stepping out from behind the door was a 10 year old boy.

Bruce Thomas Wayne.

Wayne Manor

That night, alone in his bedroom, the boy sits in the darkness, trying to understand the dark rage that has been building in him for months.

The lack of action on the part of the police in solving his parents murder, the ever increasing newspaper and radio stories of crime, unrest, war, and greed that were pushing the rest of the news off the front page and into the gutter. The ordeal of the Great depression and lack of hope had, on the surface, been addressed and was leading to a better life for all, but then there also seemed to be a growing threat of those who had embraced the darkness, had profited from the misery of others, and who saw an opportunity to gain unfair advantage, take what they want, do as they please, keep the good down and out and elevate evil to an art. All the while hiding behind masks of benevolence and charity, of trust and fellowship.

Bruce contemplated the events of Friday night. Of being dismissed by the copper who refused to believe the boy and chase after the stolen car. Who decided to take him to Juvenile detention as a homeless hooligan, a charge that would land him in and out of the Detention facility many times in the years to come.

But not tonight.

Tonight he took the copper down and stole his cruiser, his years of driving around his family’s 100s of acres, taught driving skills by professionals paid for by his father as birthday presents along with other benefits, afforded the son of America’s wealthiest man skill sets not usually found in 10 year old boys.

He relished the excitement of the chase, the miraculous escapes and avoidance of serious harm to himself and others, and, ultimately, the doling out of justice, and in no small way, his success at temporarily getting a criminal off the streets. Punishment be damned.

Then he smiled.

A slow, private, smile, curling the corners of his mouth into a wan sardonic grin of vengeance and revenge, a smile that would turn into a low almost silent laugh.

The laugh becoming audible as he recalled the cop he flagged down at the Tobacconists refusing to chase the stolen car, and when the boy demanded the copper do his job, and he refused again, making fun of the boy and taunting him, daring him to do something about it …and then kicking the copper in the balls as hard as he could and dropping him to the ground like a sack of potatoes, and seeing him still laying in the parking lot, writhing in pain and holding himself as Bruce sped away in the Police cruiser, flipping on the siren and red lights as he went.

In his bedroom, The laugh became loud enough to wake Alfred up when the boy recalled Lt. Givens demanding to know just how a 10 year old boy had stopped a full grown policeman in his tracks and had stolen his car. Lt. Givens. The very same man who had been appointed the lead investigator of the task force charged with bringing those responsible for the Wayne murders to justice six months ago. Six long, fruitless, frustrating, months.

The same Lt. Givens who had been furious because the officer in question had refused to tell him how his police cruiser had been stolen by a small, 10 year old hooligan. He would only say that he had slipped and fallen somehow. That’s when Givens looked down at Bruce and demanded that he show him what transpired, or spend 6 months in Juvenile Detention.

Bruce complied.

His laughter was now bouncing off the high ceiling of his bedroom, tears forming in the corners of his eyes as he remembered depositing Lt. Givens on the wet cobblestoned pavement with a swift kick to the coppers testes, and walking away from him to meet the newly arrived Alfred, who he spotted out of the corner of his eye exiting the cab that had brought him to the scene and then handing Det. Faraday an envelope before striding toward him with purpose.

Alfred had escorted Bruce to the car and, giving him a stern look of disapproval, opened the passenger side door of the sleek little roadster and firmly but with understanding, said, “get in“.

While Alfred was getting settled in the drivers seat of the Whippet, the single squad car Bruce had stolen was being backed out of the driveway. As Alfred turned the key, the angry but subdued British gentleman spoke to the boy.

“I asked you to stay in the car while I attended to my pipe at the tobacconist. A simple request you managed to turn into me having to ask Commissioner Gordon for yet another favour. This nonsense has to stop, Master Bruce”.

The boy looked Alfred in the eye.

“The lug who took the car was about to either rob the tobacconist, or follow the dame who left unescorted when you went in”, Bruce said, his voice cold and firm. I figured if he saw the Whippet unattended, he would chose to take it instead, so I got out when I saw the copper’s car coming down the street”. “The stupid copper thought I was up to something, and I had to act”. Bruce took a breath, “This car belongs to me, anyway”.

“This car belongs to your father. It will not belong to you until you turn 21. Until then, This car is mine, and my responsibility”.

As they backed out of the trap and sped off in the Whippet, Givens was telling the reporter who helped him to his feet that he had slipped on the slick cobblestone pavement.

Bruce stifled the laughter hoping the Wayne family manservant wouldn’t come into his room and spoil his mood.

The door to his bedroom remained closed, and there was nothing to hear except the rain against the windows, the howling of the wind, and the creaks and moans of a grand old house continuing to shift and settle, like a dowager on a brocade settee.

Bruce went to sleep that night with a smile on his face, and the tiniest spark of an idea.

…and down the hall, hearing Bruce’s laughter finally stop echoing through the vents, Alfred smiled a private smile of his own, rolled over on his side, closed his eyes, and went to sleep.

…and miles away, in a warehouse with only one light burning, a man frowned, removed his headset, and picked up the phone on his desk.

BEWARE THE BAT

=0=

Segarini’s regular columns may or may not strike fear into the hearts of criminals …probably not. 

dbawis-button7giphyBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

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