Gotham Tales: Always Hold Your Mother's Hand
By C.W. Blaine (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DISCLAIMER: Batman™ and all other characters contained herein are copyright © 2001 by DC Comics Inc. and are used without permission for fan fiction, non-profit entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended. This story is not endorsed by DC Comics Inc. This original work of fiction is copyright © 2001 by C.W. Blaine and may not be archived without the express permission of the author. This disclaimer and the e-mail address above must appear with the story unless permission is first received by the author. Comments and questions should be directed to the e-mail address above.
The rooftop gave the Batman the perfect view of the dark street below. Setting his cowl lenses to starlight mode, the Caped Crusader made a quick visual sweep of the area, determining if his presence was needed here any longer. For weeks, there had been a series of muggings and the police, already overworked by the wave of criminals that made Gotham City their home, had not been able to spare enough patrols to maintain a constant vigil over the area.
Gotham City had been rebuilt, but it took no time at all for some of the newer neighborhoods to fall into disarray. Slumlords took advantage of the cheap property prices to establish small "fiefdoms", where those people not fortunate enough to have steady incomes were forced to live. It wasn't the tenants that were the problem, it was the predators that fed upon their misfortune. They would take pleasure in destroying that which had been rebuilt, as if it were a statement to the society that had seemed to excommunicate them.
Batman had some of his allies watching the area, but for all of their efforts, they had not been able to stem the tide of lawlessness that threatened to overwhelm this area. Even Richard, his best friend and companion, the Bludhaven hero known as Nightwing, had spent a few nights here, despite the many problems he faced in his own city. Batman had finally decided that it was time for the "Bat" to mark his territory.
The sound a voice, using simple language, reached the enhanced audio equipment in his cowl and he immediately looked over in the direction from where it came. A woman, no more than twenty he guessed and quite pretty, was walking the dark street with a child. The youngster was small and frail, but she seemed, from what he could tell in the green light of his lenses, to have some of her mother's features. It was unfortunate that Bruce Wayne, the identity the Batman used to mingle among the average person, did not possess the financial resources to ensure that all of the citizens of Gotham City had adequate housing. He had learned a long time ago, though, that money wasn't always what was needed to solve the problems of the world.
The woman was carrying a plastic bag with milk in it and the child seemed to be asking for a variety of treats, which the mother would answer "no" to. Batman grinned slightly, remembering his own childhood and how he would constantly pester Alfred for such things. Alfred would not simply say "no", he would go into a speech about tooth decay and obesity and acne…as if a six year old child would even care!
"Trish, stop jumping around so much," the woman said to the child in a stern voice.
"I want some cookies, momma!" the child exclaimed.
"Honey," the woman said reaching out for the child, "you know better! Always hold your mother's hand!"
In an instant, the words reached deep into the Batman's mind, grasping at a memory that burned his brain when he closed his eyes. It was that night…there was no need for any other description, for it was the only night that mattered to the Batman. It was the sum of his life, the birth of his creation.
They had just come from the movies, from seeing "The Mark of Zorro", a special showing at the theater. It was a dark and cold night, and yet, Thomas Wayne wanted to walk, catch some air after being trapped in the movie. His wife had complained, she was afraid their son would catch cold, but the distinguished Gotham City physician waved it off. His wife relented and took young Bruce's hand in hers. He could still remember the warmth of it even today. "Bruce, always hold your mother's hand. I want you to be safe and that's the only way I know how in this situation."
Thomas Wayne smiled and they set off to find a cab a couple of blocks away. Bruce remembered struggling against his mother's grasp, trying to get free so he could reenact the scenes from the movies with the dashing Mexican hero.
Then, he remembered the gun and his mother squeezing his hand, as if by exerting pressure on the limb, she could project a magical force field around them. Then there was the shot, the sound of his father moaning, the clang of the casing on the sidewalk and then his mother's scream. The only thought that was going through his young mind was to hold onto the hand.
Then another shot, the smell of gunpowder, the shudder of his mother's body and then she started to fall. He didn't let go. Even as the gunman pointed the weapon at him, he wouldn't let go. His mother, dead or dying, still had her hand firmly around his. As long as he didn't let go, he would be safe.
The gunman couldn't shoot him.
His mother had been right.
Before he could pursue the memory further, another voice could be heard. Batman instantly homed in on it and saw a man holding a gun on the woman and her child. "Give me your money, whore! Now!"
The woman pleaded. "Please! I don't have very much! I need it…her father doesn't pay child support…"
The gunman roared in anger and brought the weapon up, pulled back the slide and locked a round in the chamber. "Give me the damn money!"
He was behind the man instantly, lowered down on his nylon cord. A gauntleted hand grabbed the gun arm and pushed it up, while a fist struck the man just below the armpit. The man cried out and tried to whirl around, but his wrist went back and snapped. The gun tumbled to the ground. "Watch out for the wall, punk," the Batman said as he shoved the criminal into the side of a building.
Holding his broken wrist, the man looked up in time to see the cape envelope him. Fear caused him to pass out.
The man turned and picked up the weapon. He ejected the clip and then ratcheted the chamber to allow the unfired bullet to fly out, which he caught in his hand. He looked over to see the child, teary eyed and shaking, firmly holding her mother's hand.
He stood up straight, his cape covering his body so that he looked like a dark nightmare. "Are you okay?"
"You're not going to hurt us, are you?" the woman asked, pulling the child even closer to her.
"No." The Batman looked at the child and tried to put on a smile. "I see you listened to your mother. You held her hand and you're okay."
The child only nodded. He knew that to her, he must seem like either an angel or a devil. Perhaps both. "Always listen to your mother."
The woman stepped forward. "Thank you. I don't know how I can repay you…"
He turned and tied the criminal up. Then he pulled him up and put him over his shoulder with little effort. "Keep raising your daughter to respect her parents and that will be thanks enough for me."
The woman nodded and hurried on her way, while the Batman activated his cowl's communications unit. "Oracle."
"I'm here, ever since you opened the digital video link. The woman has a prior record for prostitution, but she's been good for about two years, after they threatened to take her child away. Oh, I've contacted the police…a cruiser should be waiting for you at the next block."
"Good. Find out who the father is."
"Already done…he's three years behind in child support. He's living in Bludhaven now."
Batman thought for a second. "Tell Nightwing to inform him that he has a bill to pay here in Gotham."
Oracle acknowledged the command and signed off. Batman began to carry his prisoner down the street. He began to think of the risks he took every night and how lucky he had been, considering all of the things he had been through in the past decade. With enemies like the Joker or Tw-Face, it was a wonder he was still alive.
"I suppose," he said silently, looking up into the night sky, "I'm still holding you hand, mother."