"The citizens of Gotham City can rest easy, knowing that tonight, we put to rest one of Gotham's most heinous and relentless killers – Julian Gregory Day."
The commissioner's voice rang out over the courtyard in front of Gotham City's Blackgate Prison, reporters huddled in front of the podium set up on the prison's steps hanging on to every word spoken. Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb, a smug expression on his face, looked triumphantly into the gathered cameras, relishing in the spotlight. The capture of Day, dubbed 'The Calendar Man' by Gotham's media, was a major success for the GCPD, and as the city's police commissioner, Loeb was the main focus for both the credit for the capture, and the public's fervent gratitude. Surrounded by loyal officers and sycophantic supporters, the commissioner felt like he was king of the world.
At least, until the reporters started asking questions.
"Commissioner Loeb! Commissioner Loeb - any comments on the rumor that it wasn't actually the police who captured Mr. Day? That the credit belongs to the vigilante Bat-Man?"
Sneering, the commissioner turned his back on the podium and began walking towards the prison doors. He wasn't in the mood for ridiculous questions, especially on the eve of one of the greatest achievements in his career. Costumed freak or not, Day was a dead man; it was only a matter of getting that psycho in the chamber, and Loeb would be free to bask in the gratitude of Gotham's citizenry, and maybe make it to his sister's Christmas party later that night. Before the massive steel doors of Blackgate Penitentiary shut behind him, the commissioner heard Captain James Gordon take up the podium to address the eager crowd.
"There is no such thing as a 'Bat-Man'."
It would be the last friendly voice Gillian B. Loeb ever heard
Some days, Laura Anderson really hated her job.
Not to say she hated it all the time. On the contrary, Laura quite enjoyed working in the Homicide Division of the New Gotham Precinct, despite the numerous challenges involved; the other officers, even those under her command, rarely took her seriously. As one of the few in the precinct not on Sionis or Cobblepot's payroll, she had very little real power within the department, and they knew it. Despite the difficulties it caused, she had a job to do, and no one was going to keep her from doing it, Sionis and Cobblepot be damned.
Even so, freezing to death outside Blackgate Penitentiary wasn't exactly how Laura imagined she'd be spending her Christmas Eve.
"It's like fucking Antarctica out here. I swear, it's like someone's hoping we'll freeze."
Laura snorted as she looked up, surprised to see a steaming cup of coffee held out towards her. Her eyes followed the outstretched arm to the smiling face of Ben McKenzie, looking at her expectantly. Shooting him a grateful smile, she took the cup.
Detective Benjamin McKenzie was new to the GCPD, having recently transferred from New York, and was as idealistic as they came. Determined to clean up Gotham, the man hadn't done himself any favors by openly denouncing Roman Sionis and making no secret of his disgust of the GCPD's rampant corruption. He refused to give in to pressure, challenged those who threatened him, and did his best to put criminals behind bars despite the hurdles his higher-ups put in his way. The man was painting a target on his back, and if he didn't watch it, he'd end up dead before Easter.
Needless to say, he was Laura's favorite employee.
"You might be onto something there." She joked, taking a sip out of the Styrofoam cup. She hated coffee, but it was too cold a night to turn down a hot drink.
McKenzie shook his head, leaning against the side of the nearby police cruiser. "Me? Maybe. But Loeb couldn't get rid of you if he tried. Not with that stunt you pulled last year."
Laura rolled her eyes. "That again? Really? It wasn't that big of a deal."
"So, that Vicki Vale article was nothing, then? 'Hero Cop Saves Mayor's Daughter'?"
"That was the most exaggerated news article I've ever read in my life," Laura scoffed. "Vale should stick to covering Bruce Wayne's love life. And yes, it was nothing special. I walked in, shot the guy, and walked out, just like anyone else would have. The only reason it even made the news was because it was Hill's kid."
McKenzie just shook his head, taking a sip of his own coffee with a disbelieving 'Uh-huh'. Letting it go, Laura leaned up against the door of the cruiser, staring up at Blackgate's massive steel doors.
"How long does it take to die by gas chamber anyways?"
McKenzie shrugged. "Two, three minutes. Why?"
Frowning, Laura glanced at her watch. "Because Loeb left for the chamber half an hour ago. Someone should have been back to prep the cruisers by now."
McKenzie straightened up, hand unconsciously reaching for his sidearm. "You think something went wrong?"
"Only one way to find out."
Laura scrolled through the contacts on her phone, hurriedly tapping the one labeled 'Gordon'. Bringing the phone up to her ear, Laura chewed on her lip as she listened to it ring.
"You've reached James Gordon. Leave a message at the tone."
"Gordon's not picking up." Laura grimaced, hand on her own gun and heading towards the entrance.
Pushing open the door, Laura stepped into Blackgate's main foyer, McKenzie falling into step behind her. Upon taking in the state of the room, she immediately unholstered her weapon.
Blackgate's western entrance was in shambles. The doorway looked like it had been ripped apart, exposed wires now draped across the ground, sparking wildly, while the sign that once hung overhead was now knocked askew, blocking part of the doorway. The twisted remnants of the door itself was warped out of shape, bent inwards as if some massive force had forced it in on itself. Bruce Wayne took very little notice of this, instead focused on maneuvering his way through the debris and into the prison.
The inside of the building was no better, concrete walls smashed, metal gates ripped apart, and every now and again, massive claw marks gouged into the walls. Bodies of guards and prisoners alike littered the halls, some crushed beneath debris, others partially flattened as if smashed against the walls, and still others bleeding out onto the floor, nearly ripped apart by an unknown assailant.
What the hell could have done this? Bruce wondered, taking in the sight. It couldn't have been human. Shaking his head, he continued on, ducking under some debris and moving towards some voices up ahead. He'd find out soon enough, of that he was sure.
"He said he'd leave my family alone if I did what he asked!"
"I hope he keeps his word. Thing is, you ain't gonna live to find out. Sorry, Warden, Black Mask can't leave no loose ends lyin' around."
Bruce watched as Warden Joseph backed away from the masked assailant before him, hands outstretched and pleading.
The masked man was unmoved, taking a swing at the warden with his baseball bat and knocking him to the ground.
"Oh, I'll kill ya all right. But by the time I do, that eye won't be the only thing you're missin'."
Bruce stepped out of the shadows, moving towards the two men. Warden Joseph spotted him, an expression of terror forming on his face, and began to scurry backwards, forcing himself up against the wall.
"What is that?! Behind you!"
"Oh, come on! 'spect me to fall for that? I mean, try somethin' original you-"
The man's head snapped up, taking notice of the bat-shaped shadow on the wall before him, quickly turning around and taking a swing with the bat. Bruce quickly caught it, wrenching the weapon out of the man's grasp before rendering him unconscious. Turning back to the warden, Bruce was forced to block an incoming blow from a metal pipe and subdued the man before he could do any real damage. The warden quickly scuttled backwards, trying to put as much space as possible between himself and the masked vigilante.
"I'd heard the rumors, but…you…you're not supposed to be real!"
"Who tore this place apart?" Bruce demanded, ignoring the warden's incredulous gaping.
Before he could answer, an inhuman roar sounded from deeper inside the prison, echoing through Blackgate's halls. Turning back towards Warden Joseph, the man quickly shook his head.
"I don't know what it is – it's huge."
"Where is Black Mask?"
"I-I don't know." He stuttered. "He's here for Commissioner Loeb. Maybe one of his men knows where he's headed."
Turning his back on the cowering man, Bruce headed towards the massive steel door, determined to confront whoever, or whatever, was tearing Blackgate apart.
He just hoped he'd get to Loeb before it did.
"What the hell was that?"
Laura turned to McKenzie, seeing his gaze focused down the hall, towards the origin of the massive roar.
"No idea." Laura admitted, "But it didn't sound human."
Turning back towards the computer, Laura focused once again on the screen before her. The two had stumbled onto a security office about mid-way to the execution chamber, and rather than go in guns blazing, had decided to wait a moment and try and figure out what was going on. A task that was proving rather difficult.
"Any luck with the security cameras?"
"No," Laura answered, flicking through dead security feed after dead feed. "Most of the cameras near the chamber seem to have been destroyed. I've still got a few more, but don't hold your breath. Anyone coming?"
"Not yet," McKenzie answered, eyes focused on the hall, "But this is one of the only ways out. We won't be alone for long."
Suddenly, the screen changed from its constant static, finally able to connect to a still-intact camera.
Turning towards the screen, the two watched as a crowd of inmates surrounded a man in a white suit with a grinning skull mask worn over his face. A security officer was thrown into the circle by the cheering inmates, the man quickly scrambling to get on his feet. The crowd parted, and a massive, reptilian-looking man walked onto the screen, pointed teeth bared in a grotesque version of a smile. Laura quickly turned up the volume on the computer.
"They say crime doesn't pay," Black Mask's voice filtered in. "-But someone oughtta check the good police commissioner's pockets,"
The reptile-man seized the security officer by the throat, slamming him down onto the steel floor of the holding chamber, surely breaking his spine, if not killing him. Out of her peripherals, Laura saw McKenzie flinch.
"'cause they're LINED with MY money." Black Mask turned to face Loeb, who was squirming in the reptile-man's grip. "And what have I got to show for it? My own men in the slammer? Not no more. No. Tonight – we're making some changes! Some big changes."
Loeb was shoved forward by the massive man towards one of the prison's large mechanical doors, out of the room and out of the camera's sight. With a jolt, the sergeant realized where that hallway led.
The execution chamber.
Turning away from the computer, Laura glanced at her partner.
"We need to get to the execution chamber. Now."
McKenzie looked at her like she'd grown a second head. "And do what? We're outnumbered, have no backup, and if you didn't notice, they have an eight foot tall crocodile man. What the hell are we supposed to do? Rambo our way out of there?"
"We can't just do nothing!" Laura snapped, heading towards the door. "Loeb's an asshole, but we can't just let him die. Gordon and his men are probably already on their way to the chamber. More like than not, we'll meet them there, hopefully before Black Mask does."
Sighing, McKenzie started down the hallway behind her. "I really hope you know what you're doing, boss."
Too focused on the task ahead, he didn't hear her mutter under her breath.
"You and me both."
"Any inmates with information on the whereabouts of Commissioner Loeb or Black Mask, please come forward immediately. I've received confirmation from Warden Joseph that you WILL be rewarded for information that leads to an arrest."
"Don't tell me ya think that'll actually work?"
Captain James Gordon turned away from the prison's intercom system and towards to his partner, feeling the beginnings of a migraine forming.
"Probably not, but it's worth a try."
Harvey Bullock just snorted, turning to watch the GCPD officers and prison security guards scuttle in and out of the makeshift command room.
Sighing, Gordon leaned forward to rest his head in his hands. It'd been a long night, even before Loeb got captured, and now it was turning into an absolute nightmare. Half the inmates at Blackgate were on the loose, and it'd be even worse if any of them managed to get out of the building. With the snowstorm outside worsening by the minute, any efforts to recapture the criminals before they could do any real damage would be hindered, giving them ample time to hide in the many nooks and crannies of Gotham City.
Feeling something shift in his pocket, Gordon reached in and pulled out his work phone. Frowning, he flipped it open, seeing the display light up with three missed calls. Two were from Barbara, who, according to the voicemails, was still safe in his office at the New Gotham Precinct. The third, however, was from one of his officers, Laura Anderson.
Frowning, he quickly dialed the number and waited for the sergeant to pick up.
"Gordon! Jesus, I was starting to think something happened."
"I'm fine. Anderson, where the hell are you?"
"In the South Wing, with McKenzie. We figured something went wrong when no one came back to prep the cruisers. Where are you?"
"Warden Joseph's office," Gordon replied. "We haven't found Loeb yet, but we set up a temporary HQ here. The two of you, make your way over here immediately."
There was a pause on the other end before Anderson finally answered. "Gordon, we were able to get a hold of one of the security feeds. Black Mask's got Loeb. They're heading to the execution chamber."
"Damn it!" He snarled, running a hand over his face. "Fine, you and McKenzie make your way to the chamber. We'll meet you there. Try and stop Sionis if you can, but don't do anything stupid. We've lost enough people tonight."
"Will do." He heard her reply. "But be careful, Gordon. Black Mask's got a new guy with him, some big bruiser. An eight foot tall crocodile man."
In the midst of checking his weapon, Gordon paused, sure he'd misheard the sergeant.
"When you say 'crocodile man'…"
"I mean he's green, scaly, and got teeth the size of my fingers."
"Part of me wants to just flip that switch. But it is Christmas Eve…and he is the Calendar Man…and that's just too perfect to ignore."
Crawling through Blackgate's air vents, Bruce heard Black Mask's voice filtering up from below. Sliding down one final shaft, he landed in the observation room, looking out onto the scene before him. Loeb was sprawled on the floor, looking up at Black Mask, while Julian Day was making his way out of the chamber, a smile on his face. The reptile monster was hovering just behind the group, simultaneously blocking any escape attempt Loeb might make and getting the best view for the execution that was about to come.
"What's all this about Sionis?" Loeb asked, giving diplomacy one last-ditch attempt. "Haven't I always come through for you?"
"You may have Gillian," Black Mask replied as the lizard-man hauled the commissioner to his feet, "But things have…changed. We're starting with a clean slate – and you're not on it."
Loeb's face twisted, more in anger than fear. "What are you talking about? I'm not on it? After all I've done for you…!"
Bruce pounded against the glass in vain as two of Sionis' goons dragged Loeb into the gas chamber, sealing him in. Loeb threw himself against the chamber's door as the poison gas began to filter in.
"You can't do this! I'm the police commissioner, dammit!"
Sionis turned his back on the dying commissioner as he began to cough and sputter.
"Show's over, boys. Let's go."
On his way out, the crocodile knocked one of Black Mask's men back into the observation window, cracking it. As the door shut behind the group of criminals, Bruce dove into the window, finally able to break through. Making his way to the chamber's small glass viewing port, the vigilante looked in, hoping to see a trace of life in Gillian Loeb's body. Finding none, he turned to face the group of criminals who'd wandered in, probably hoping to watch the commissioner's execution. Quickly dispatching them, Bruce raced down the hall towards Black Mask and his goons.
Sionis had a lot to answer for, and he would pay for it. Tonight.
"Anderson! The gas chamber's been engaged! How far are you from the execution chamber?"
"Not far," Laura said into her phone, sprinting down the hall. "We'll be there in less than a minute."
A huge crash sounded from the far end of the wing, the vibration causing the two officers to stumble. Shaking it off, they resumed their course for the execution chamber. McKenzie, out in front, paused for a moment outside the room. Laura took no notice, rushing in and heading for the gas chamber. Peering in, she sighed as she spotted the commissioner's lifeless body lying on the chamber's floor.
"Gordon, it's too late. Loeb's dead."
Momentarily turning away from the sound of her superior cursing, Laura noticed McKenzie still out in the hall, staring at the far end of the wing.
"McKenzie, the hell are you looking at?"
"There's someone there." He answered, turning to her. "Before we walked in, there was someone at the end of the hall."
"No idea." McKenzie shrugged, still peering at the end of the wing. "Some guy. Big, muscular, dressed in black. Shot something up at the ceiling and disappeared."
"He shot something at the ceiling and disappeared?" Laura repeated, voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Hey, I know what I saw. I never said it made sense."
"Anderson! Anderson, are you still there?"
Shaking her head, she turned back to the phone. "Yeah, Gordon, sorry. What's wrong?"
"Black Mask and his men are heading towards the roof. They've got a helicopter, and we need to cut them off. Bullock and I will meet you there, but you need to hurry!"
"Well, looks like we might get to meet your mystery man after all." Laura stated, turning to McKenzie. The two made their way towards the end of the hall, sighing as they saw whole sections of the staircase had been destroyed.
"Looks like we're taking the long way."
"What the hell took the two a' ya so long?"
McKenzie turned to Detective Bullock, grimacing.
"The stairs were destroyed on the East Wing. We had to find another way around."
"It doesn't matter," Gordon snapped, turning to the three of them. "We're all here now. Now, help me find a way to get this door open."
The door in question had been sealed shut, likely by Black Mask's men to cover their escape. They panel on the side of the door had been smashed, preventing the access code from being entered, and the door itself was too heavy to be broken down. They were short on time, and even shorter on options.
Laura frowned a moment, pressing herself against the right side of the door.
"You might want to stand back."
Taking out her gun, Laura took aim at the door's hinges, preparing to fire. While the bullets themselves were not enough to break the hinges clean off, they did damage them enough so that with a few well-placed kicks, the hinges broke off and the door fell open onto the prison's roof. Rushing out onto the roof, the four officers looked around for Black Mask and his crew. They were too late for Sionis, the helicopter already disappearing into the distance, but what they did find made them bear their sidearms all the same.
On the far end of the roof, the reptilian man who'd helped kill Loeb was lying unconscious, barely far enough from the edge to keep him from falling into Gotham Bay. Standing over him was a large, muscular man in some sort of armored suit. A black cowl obscured his face, while the attached cape billowed around him in the freezing wind. The large symbol emblazoned on his chest left little doubt as to who this man was.
So THIS is the Bat-Man, Laura mused.
"Freeze!" Bullock shouted, seemingly over his initial shock. Gordon and McKenzie turned the lights on their guns, shining them right at the masked man and blocking any route to the door. He raised an arm to cover his eyes, momentarily blinded by the light.
"Hold it right there!"
The man lowered his arms, backing up towards the roof's edge.
"I'm taking you in," Gordon stated, stepping towards the man.
Backing up further, the Bat-Man simply shook his head. "Not tonight." With that, he took one final step off the roof, and plummeted towards the bay.
Rushing towards the edge, Laura peered down before jumping back in surprise. A small black aircraft rose to the roof's level, the Bat-Man walking along the top. Climbing into the cockpit, the vigilante took one last look at the officers crowded near the roof's edge before rocketing off towards the city limits.
Gun lowered, Bullock turned to his partner.
"No such thing as a Bat-Man, eh?"
Gordon just shook his head, heading back towards the stairs.
Turning to McKenzie, Laura saw him still staring in the direction the plane disappeared, mouth hanging open in awe.
"Well, Ben, looks like you weren't hallucinating after all. Congratulations, you spotted the Bat-Man." She snorted, putting a hand on his shoulder.
She heard Bullock scoff behind her.
"Costumed freaks, prison breaks, fuckin' lizard people…I ain't paid enough for this shit."