May 15, 2112 -- 9:45 p.m.
"That's him? I figured he'd be taller."
"Shut up, man," Clarence Moore hissed at his fellow guard, Mark Wallace, "he'll kick both our asses."
Down the hallway, the Batman did not appear to walk so much as to glide towards the iron gate guarded by the two men.
"I'm here. Grayson's cleared me," the Dark Knight said when he finally closed in on the two men.
"Um, yes sir," Wallace said, throwing the switch that opened the gate. Metal creaked, the man in black passed, and Wallace let out a nervous chuckle. "I betcha I could take 'im."
Moore shook his head. "Take him where? To the bathroom? Man, five seconds longer, and you'd'a wet your damn pants!"
March 13, 2112 -- 10:15 p.m.
Tim Drake felt a sweat bead rolling down his nose. "Shut up, Alfred."
"One thousand nine hundred ninety-eight..."
"It's really quite urgent."
"One thousand nine hundred ninety-nine..."
"Master Bruce always had time to listen..."
"I doubt that," Tim muttered, completing his last sit-up. "Two thousand." He snatched the towel, blotted out the sweat. "Now, what in Bludhaven is it?"
1213 Miller Drive
Tim Drake parked his hover behind the police units with their flashing lights. He was dressed in a dark suit, and walked calmly through the crowd of uniforms like he belonged there.
Then Mark Grayson was in his way, blocking his progress. "Hold on a second, Rich man. I'm not insured for a civilian getting shot."
"Jonathan Weiss used to work for me," Tim replied coolly. "I might be able to talk him out of here."
Jon Isaacs sneered. "Yeah, boss. It ain't like Mister Drake here canned his ass or anything."
Tim looked at the second cop. Great, he hates me out of uniform, too. "I gave him a decent severence pay, helped him find a new job..."
"Yada, yada, yada," Isaacs replied. "Hey, Commissioner, I say we let him go in. Start the revolution a little bit early, you know?"
"Quiet, wiseguy." Grayson looked back to Drake. "He's been a bit snippy since we switched him to the decaf dog biscuits." Grayson looked over the Rich man. "What size vest do you wear?"
Tim Drake walked into the house, hands in the air, his business coat traded for a Kevlar vest -- not much protection against a blaster, but he'd take his chances.
"Jonathan, it's me, Tim... are you okay?"
"Get the hell out of here, Drake -- this doesn't concern you," came the reply from down the hall and to the left.
"I'm unarmed," Tim said, walking slowly in that direction. "I just want to talk to you and see that you're okay."
He rounded the corner, saw the living room. Lights were turned off... the only illumination came from flashing lights outside and from a kicked-over lamp in the hallway. Jonathan Weiss stood in the center of the room, dressed in jeans and an old-man sleeveless T-shirt, an old-fashioned revolver in his hand.
At his feet Gloria Weiss held a sleeping child, a boy, in her arms. The boy's face was red from crying; so was his mother's. She had a black eye, and blood trailed from her right nostril in a thin stream, mostly dry now. If she were any more pregnant, her eyes would be bulging.
"Gloria, are you okay?" Tim asked, eyes locked on her husband's.
"We're fine," she said. "Just leave... let us settle it."
Tim shook his head. "Someone here cared enough to call the police. That means someone was scared. I'm assuming it was you?"
Jonathan Weiss spoke up. "I called the police."
Weiss nodded. "Yeah. Told 'em there were about to be multiple homicides and a self-inflicted death."
Tim's mind boggled. What would Bruce Wayne have done...? He almost surprised himself by saying, "It sounds to me like you wanted to be stopped."
And then, further, as he took a step forward. "Hand me the gun, Jonathan, and we'll talk about it."
Weiss pointed the gun straight at Tim's head. "Not another step, Drake. You canned my ass. And I appreciate your helping me find another job, but, come on, you yanked my project. That doesn't look good on my resume."
Damn. This ain't as easy as I'd thought it might be. Tim nodded. "I was going to call you tomorrow," he lied, "tell you I wanted you back. Discontinuing your solar project was a big mistake, Jonathan."
"Seriously?" Weiss let the gun drop for a second, and Tim lunged.
"Shots fired!" Grayson yelled. "Move in! Move in!"
The police burst through the door, guns drawn, and charged into the living room, Jon Isaacs in the lead. He didn't see quite what he'd expected.
Jonathan Weiss on the floor, sprawled. Gloria Weiss with a crying kid in her arms. And Tim Drake slumped down, hands over his ears, blood gushing from his left temple.
"I clocked him," Drake mumbled when Grayson touched his arm. He blinked, the bright light of the gun playing havoc with his sight still. "I clocked him."
March 14, 2112 -- 4:15 p.m.
"Welcome home, Master Tim."
"Not so loud, Alfred."
"Sorry, sir." Alfred tuned the volume down a bit. "'Feels a bit like a hangover,' I believe you told the reporters?"
"Yeah, and it still does." He slumped down in chair. "Bring me, oh, a suitcase full of morphine or something." Tim gingerly touched the bandage over his temple. At least they say it won't scar.
"Mr. Hobbs and Mr. Gardner both left messages for you. Would you like to see them now?"
"Yeah. Mute. Closed-captioned."
"Yes, Master Tim." If Tim hadn't known better, he would have sworn that last one was an attempt at the classic Igor voice from the early TwenCen Frankenstein movies. Wait, he did know better -- it was. "Very funny, Alfred."
Ennis Hobbs' face popped up on the screen. "You want me to WHAT?" read the words at the bottom of the screen. He was pissed, that was obvious from the vein bulging on his forehead.
"Alfred, send him a reply. Tell him I've NOT lost my senses, and I DO want to rehire Jonathan Weiss."
"Why on earth, sir?"
"It's like Don Corleone once said -- 'Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.'"
"Shall I tell him to make him an offer he can't refuse?"
Tim groaned. "Next message."
Guy Gardner's smiling face popped up onscreen. "Damn, Tim, your little stunt made the news up here in New York. You ever thought of putting on a pair of tights yerself?"
"Nah, you're better off doin' what you do. Take care of yerself, and don't chase too many nurses, alright?" Guy signed off.
Tim felt his muscles relax. One of these days, he's going to figure it out. Unless he already has and he's just jerkin' my chain.
In the dream, he was a child. Dressed up like the son of a pampered home, complete with butlers and maids and all the like. Playing in the yard, away from his nanny's sight.
The ground gave way. Tim felt himself (or whoever he was) falling, falling, falling, through soft, musty dirt, through black air, until he tumbled to a stop on a rocky floor. His palms split open, and blood gushed forth. This wasn't a normal scrape.
He watched in horror as the blood kept running, and suddenly it was up to his neck. He looked up, looking for higher ground, and then he saw it. A man clad in black, a yellow oval on his chest with a bat inside, reaching for him.
Tim grabbed the Batman's hand, and felt himself rise out of the torrent of blood. He was taller now, the height of a man. He looked at Bruce Wayne and asked the one word on his lips: "Why?"
The Batman pointed back, behind Tim. "To save the drowning," he said. He patted Tim on the shoulder, and crumbled into dust.
Tim's eyes snapped open. It was night. "Yes, Alfred?"
"There's another message for you. From Mr. Hobbs."
"On screen." At least his ears weren't hurting... How long had he been out?
"...didn't show up for work today, and all the Weiss kids missed school," Hobbs was saying. He never waits for the beep. "The police are on their way to his house."
Tim was already on his way to the cave.
March 15, 2112 -- 9:27 a.m.
1213 Miller Drive
The Batman walked past the plainclothes officers, towards the first ambulance. Jon Isaacs stepped in front of him; Batman shoved him away.
He pulled back the sheets one-by-one. A teenage girl, stabbed multiple times in the chest through her Mister Terrific nightshirt. Her face frozen in time, eyes and mouth wide open. Her twin sister, in a Guardian nightshirt, no blemish on her, suffocated by a pillow.
A boy, on the cusp of adolescence, naked, still wet from where he was shot in the face as he showered. Or maybe it was the bathtub.
Another girl, about nine years old, in Sailor Moon attire -- a TwenCen anime Tim had liked as a kid. A Barbie doll in her hand.
Yet another girl, this one seven or so. Hourman and Velocity on her pajamas. As dead as her heroine.
"You're not supposed to be here."
He turned to look at Grayson. "You're right," the Batman said. "I'm supposed to be finding this son of a bitch. There's still one kid left. Two, depending on your religion."
Little Stockton (A bad part of town)
"Bones" Williams felt something give as the Batman slammed him against a dumpster.
"Listen, 'Bones,'" The Batman hissed, "rumor has it you know Johann Weiss. I need to talk to him, and you're standing in my way. Unless you just really want to have to get a new nickname, you're going to tell me where to find Mister Weiss."
"Bones" shook his head. "I dunno, man, I swear..."
The Batman slammed him against the wall again. "Don't jerk me around, you two-bit piece of trash."
"His old lady lives above Mazzuchelli's!"
"What's Mazzuchelli's?" He had to prowl around some more.
"Pizza joint over on Third and Kane."
The Batman dropped him, fired a grappling hook up, and was gone.
The Batman walked into the pizza place, and all conversation stopped. Half a dozen people decided they had better places to be, and off they went.
"Ruby Weiss." The Batman looked around the place. "I need to talk to Ruby Weiss."
A large, tattooed woman stepped out from behind the bar at the back of the room. "You found her. Come into my office, you're scaring the customers."
"Your husband Johann Weiss. Are he and his brother close?" the Batman asked.
"Heh, if you call shtupping the same woman close, then, yeah," Ruby snorted. She blew smoke in the dark knight's general direction.
"What do you mean?"
"Let's just say that there has been some dispute as to whose name goes down on the birth certificate next month," Ruby said. "Oh, and he's my ex-husband. For about five years now. Think you could talk to Johann about my alimony?"
"Where does he live?" Batman asked.
3496 O'Neal Turnpike
Jon Isaacs and the detectives burst into Johann Weiss' apartment after no answer to the door. They found a toppled lamp, a shredded mattress, and a note on the refrigerator door:
Visit the Shoemaker junkyard. Never know what kind of trash you might find."
At the bottom was a scrawled bat. "Move out!" Isaacs yelled.
Jonathan Weiss was easy to find. The Batman just followed the trail of unconscious dogs. He'll knife and shoot his kids, but won't kill a dog, the Batman thought. Damn, that's sick.
He walked as quietly as possible, not wanting to alert Weiss to his presence. Didn't know how little it would take to push Weiss into killing his wife, his kid, his brother -- if he already hadn't.
Rounding a corner, he saw them. Jonathan Weiss behind the wheel of a crane with a magnet at the end. A car held in the air by the magnet. And Gloria Weiss screaming from inside the car.
"Weiss! Stop this!" the Batman yelled.
The scientist looked at him. "Did you come to see my brother? He's not working today," Weiss said. "He's taking a drive." He laughed, a sick, sick laugh.
"Look, I know you and Gloria have troubles..." He looked at the car. Suspended over a crusher, it was lowering.
Weiss pulled a gun on Batman. Batman walked towards him. "This suit's bulletproof, Weiss. The only person you're gonna hurt is yourself if the shot ricochets."
Jonathan Weiss backed up, lay his hand on the lever that would cut off current to the electromagnet and drop the car. "Not another step, you freak. Go away. Let me attend to my business. Did Tim Drake send you?"
"Why? You wanna talk to Tim Drake?"
"Heh, I would have killed him, too," Weiss said. "But things happened too fast. It's the ides of March -- the day Julius Caesar died. It's just too fitting."
"Why don't you forget about this killing and just wait for Saint Patrick's Day to roll around," Batman asked. "Then you can just drink some green beer and forget your sorrows."
"Maybe," Weiss said, letting the gun drop for a moment. Then Tim saw the flicker of the man's eyes, looking toward the lever. He lunged forward as Weiss sprang for the switch, and grabbed the man's ankle.
Weiss kicked the taller man in the head, staggering him, and threw the switch.
Metal screeched as the car detached from the magnet and fell, landing sideways atop the crusher. The Batman stood up, backhanded Weiss, and ran towards the killing machine.
The crusher was already starting to close in on the car as Batman sprang to the top. The car had toppled in, standing on its rear. The Batman used a boot to smash the front windshield in, and he reached down for Gloria Weiss, Johann, and the boy.
"Lift the kid up!" he shouted. Johann Weiss obliged, and Batman lifted him out of the car very easily. Just as he was setting the boy down on the ground, he felt a blow on the back of his head. He turned to see Jonathan Weiss with a crowbar. The second blow landed on his collarbone.
He shot a foot out, and it connected with the crazed man's pelvis. He felt bone give way, but Weiss took another swing nonetheless, landing it on Batman's head again.
Batman slammed a fist into Weiss' chin, grabbed an arm and bent it backward, snapping bone. Weiss head-butted him, startling the dark knight, then picked up the crowbar and beat Batman over the head again.
Then it all went black.
When he came to, he saw flickering lights. Thought they were his imagination, but then he realized they were coming from police hovers. Looked up, saw Weiss holding his revolver to the kid's head. "I'll shoot him, I swear to God I'll shoot him," Weiss was saying. "Leave or I'll shoot him."
The Batman stood up, legs wobbly. He nearly blacked out, but he leaned back against the crusher...
The crusher. Dear God. How long had he been out? He looked over... Cold, jagged steel jutted out the top of the machine. Blood streaked it. He squeezed them until they popped... That son of a...
The Batman turned, grappling hook at the ready, fired it at Weiss. It hit him in the back, sharp point first, then butterflied open. Weiss jerked around like a marionette, squeezing the trigger, hitting nothing but air as his wound began to bleed profusely.
Batman lunged toward the madman, fists swinging. A blow to the abdomen. An elbow to the chin. The arm injured earlier now a compound fracture. The cracking of ribs, of the breastbone. Fists pounding and pounding and pounding and pounding, the sound of a butcher tenderizing meat.
Then Grayson was there. Pulling the Batman backward, before he killed the suspect. He turned to his men. "Any of you breathe a word about this, and you'll be dead faster than Grover Bowles." No one even replied.
March 19, 2112 -- 11:00 p.m.
Gotham General Hospital, Pennyworth Memorial Wing
"Should you even be out of bed?" Grayson asked the dark knight.
"My doctor threw a fit already," Batman said, "so just spare me. What's the latest development? Why was the signal sent from here? And who's he?" he asked, pointing at the stranger in the room.
The tall, dark-haired man stepped forward. He wore a black suit, a patch over his left eye. "Andrew Burke," he said. "I'm representing Solomon Weiss, the survivor."
"Why's the kid need an attorney?" Batman asked. "He's done nothing wrong..."
"To represent his interests and coach him in testifying," Grayson said.
Batman turned and looked at him. "Wait a minute, I think I'm still having problems with that concussion. Did you say something about the kid having to testify?"
The lawyer nodded. "Jonathan Weiss buttoned his lip the minute his rights were read to him. He won't confess, so it has to go to trial."
"Oh, he'll confess," Batman said. "Give me five minutes alone with him, and he'll be belting out more tunes than the Elvis."
Mark Grayson looked at Andrew Burke. "I don't know, we're very concerned with not violating Mister Weiss' precious civil liberties..."
"I'm more concerned with the kid's mental health," Andrew said. "I mean, testifying is just going to make him relive it..."
They looked around. No Batman. An empty spot on Grayson's desk where the secured wing to the holding pens were situated.
"Want coffee?" Grayson asked.
The Batman walked through the holding cells, and the hoots and catcalls of the ailing and wounded thugs and whores and shysters died down. They could tell from his demeanor that he had murder on his mind... it was like a cold northern wind blowing through.
He glided to a stop in front of the cell holding only one man. The man with the hospital equipment in his cell, the IV running into an arm. He unlocked the cell, walked in, locked the door.
"Jonathan Weiss." The Batman slammed a clipboard down on the man's chest, with an ink pen. "Write it down. Every single word. Every single despicable act, every thrust of the knife, all those seconds holding the pillow over a young girl's face, every twitch, every bit of filth."
"Under one condition," Weiss said.
Batman leaned forward, steel in his voice. "You're in no position to bargain, Weiss. I could finish the job of snapping your spine."
"You'll come to my execution," Weiss said, "you'll slip me something to ease the pain from the chair. I know how it works. They go for the pain now, not for the comfort."
Batman shook his head in disbelief. "Are you actually serious? Why the hell would I care if you suffer?"
"Because you don't want precious Solomon to suffer," Weiss said. "You want my brother's bastard son to grow up with no more bumps on the road."
"You did this all out of jealousy?"
"I didn't do anything until you make an agreement," Weiss said. "You agree to come to me and give me a last rite, and I'll confess to the crucifixion, if you want me to."
"Alright," Batman said. "I'll do it. I'll do it."
May 12, 2112 -- 10:00 p.m.
Batman stopped in front of Grayson. "Where is he?"
"Next room over."
Batman turned to go. Grayson stopped him. "Let me have the utility belt," he said.
"Warden's orders," Grayson said. "He wouldn't want you slipping Weiss any contraband, you know."
"I made a deal..." Batman said.
"I didn't." Grayson's gaze was resolute. He passed the Batman a tablet. "Placebo. Doesn't slow down his death like a tranq would."
"Thanks a heap." Batman turned, walked into the room.
Weiss knew something was wrong when the first jolt of current hit him. He was supposed to feel nothing, but this... it was like fire running through his veins. He opened his mouth to scream the most ungodly noise any of those in attendance had ever heard.
"Oh, dear," Isaacs muttered. "That appears to have been a stimulant instead of a sugar tablet. My mistake."
Batman looked at him. "If we weren't in a house full of cops, Isaacs, I'd be giving you something else to limp about."
May 30, 2112 -- Noon
The Gotham Zoo
Andrew Burke and Tim Drake watched Solomon Weiss sitting on the back of a baby elephant, a zookeeper holding on to his hand to steady the boy.
"So how's he doing?" Tim asked. "I don't mean this like some stuffy philanthropist going for a tax exemption. I mean it like someone who actually gives a rat's ass. Is the kid going to be okay?"
The lawyer shrugged. "He seems to be holding up as well as you could expect. I mean, Mr. Drake, he saw stuff that no one should ever, ever have to see. And he's only two years old. He doesn't even have words for the emotions boiling inside him."
"Do any of us?" Tim asked.
The lawyer couldn't answer that.
"Where will he live?" Tim asked, finally, sick of the silence between them.
"There's a foster home waiting for him," Burke said, "but the system is a mess. I'm sure I don't need to tell you the horror stories. Hopefully someone will adopt him. He's a white kid who doesn't drool, so there's a decent chance."
The child came to the attorney. Tim ruffled his hair, gave the boy some cotton candy. And sat in the zoo until dark listening to the chatter of the animals -- and the zoo's residents, for that matter.