Birth of the Knight

Part One

            There were days, dark days when Bruce Wayne wanted to shove a pistol down his mouth and blow all of it away. He was tempted to just get up and leave this board meeting, go home and finish it.

            "Our contract with LexCorp will be expiring next month and I think it's important that we make the compromises that Mr. Luthor suggested before Osborn Industries makes their move." An underling on the opposite end of the table informed him, ever so gently.

            Bruce grimaced, not one of them was his friend. Each one smiled falsely and gripped the knives they held behind their backs eagerly. Well, he wouldn't let them, if Bruce was one thing it was stubborn.

            After the meeting ended, he was left in the dark and moody board room alone while the executives filed out in dull precision. Bruce wondered if he should have killed himself now to surprise the others when they returned but like so many things in his life nothing really materialized.

            He walked towards the back of the room and peered out the window down at the city of Gotham with its depressing spires and narrow streets. The city called out to him at times, urged for him to join its cycle of carnage, but Bruce had never answered. If things had been different, Bruce knew he would have been part of the death and misery but fate hadn't dealt him those cards. At least it would have been a direction.

            In the distance he could see searchlights, the faint echo of sirens and men's voices. So Bruce pulled up a chair and watched, waiting for something.

            Police commissioner Gordon stared at the elementary school while his men set up barricades. "Okay, Napier, we're bringing the money." He said through the speakerphone, "How about letting go a few of the hostages as a show of good faith."

            "Don't call me that." A cold, calculating voice replied over the school's P.A. device with the volume turned up so that the police could clearly hear him, "Never call me that!"

            "That's your name isn't it?" Gordon asked trying to keep the hostage taker on the line away from the children. 

            The voice laughed excitedly back at Gordon, terrifying every nerve in his body. "Jack Napier is dead. Your wonderful police force made sure of that with that when you lodged a bullet in my brain."

            "So what should I call you?" Gordon asked watching several snipers take positions on the roof of a building across the street.

            "To be perfectly honest, I would prefer you call me, the Joker!" The madman screamed shortly before breaking down in uncontrollable laughter.

            Gordon sighed and looked at one of the men under his command, "This is going to be a tough one."

            Bruce walked into the parking lot wearily. He wondered why he even went through the motions anymore, work he meant. These days, Wayne was only there in a physical sense.

            He spotted his car, a nice one, Italian, but it was just part of his façade, the image Bruce had sprung up to fit in at the golf clubs or with the boys at work and such, he had always had a utilitarian sort of outlook.

            Entering his car, Bruce gripped the wheel and sighed loudly. Tonight, he'd fall asleep in the study with a drink in his hands as he did every night. It was tiresome and now more than ever, Bruce wished he kept a handgun in the glove compartment.

            "We have your money, Joker, the full amount as you requested." Gordon declared, "He'll drop it in through the window of the first floor like you requested."

            Joker laughed as he watched the officer approach holding a briefcase, "That is wonderful news. You've made a wise choice here, commissioner, we can't have little kiddies dying now can we? Who would want that?"

            The officer moved towards the window carefully and dropped the money in through the open window and quickly backed away from the money.

            "If parents can't expect their kids to be safe at school then where can they be safe?" The Joker continued on, "Do you know the answer?"

            Gordon frowned; he wished that Napier would just pop his head out, if only for a second, so that a sniper could give the bullet in his skull a twin. "No, I don't."

            "The answer is nowhere." The Joker replied, "There is no safe realm from my kind. It really will be a shame to blow all of that money away."

            "What?" Gordon asked dumbfounded by that last short statement.

            "Oh, did you think I really needed the money?" Joker inquired, "No; that was just part of the gag, besides I couldn't pick it up if I wanted to, I'm not inside; just a few of my hapless goons to enforce the peace, I wanted an audience and you've supplied it for me. Thank you, commissioner. Unfortunately, this show doesn't have an encore, bye-bye."

            The school exploded and in a mere instant the entire building seemed to be consumed by flames. Gordon gritted his teeth; over a hundred children had just been burned alive.

            Out on the balcony of his lavish penthouse situated at the very heart of Gotham, Bruce stared at the city and its gothic architecture while listening intently to the police sirens that wailed through the night. In his left hand, he held an edition of the Wall Street Journal and his right a glass full of whiskey.

            "Master Wayne?" Alfred, his butler, called slipping into the study, "Will that be all for tonight, sir?" He asked gently and respectfully as always.

            Bruce grimaced, staring at his old friend, "Sure. Goodnight, Alfred." He replied before returning to the interior of the study through the balcony doors and sitting down on an expensive leather couch to watch the news.

            "Goodnight, sir." The old servant responded and quietly collected his things before leaving the young billionaire alone to his thoughts.

            The news went on moving from one dull subject to another. Bruce was about to call things a night listening to just one final report.

            "At this time, police are still searching for Jack Napier. As you may remember, Napier had been shot in a botched bank robbery, the bullet lodging itself in his brain and causing irreversible damage. His death toll today official reached one hundred and thirty with the destruction of a school."

            Bruce could feel the liquor flushing through his system, he wanted to forget, he wanted to cast aside the nightmares so badly, but his memories would have none of it. As he drifted off to slip they returned to torment him.

Mrs. Wayne screamed while the man in black forced her against a wall while her husband was being beaten to death, the image of blood on the attacker's knuckles remained fresh in his mind. And in the midst of the horror, Bruce cried.