The Unholy Deal by John Lavernoich

Inspired by the story "The Eye Of The Beholder" by Andy Helfer, Chris Sprouse & Steve Mitchell from Batman Annual#14 (1990)

Batman created by Bob Kane

Over a decade ago: Dr. Rudolph Klemper had outsmarted the law – and won.

Nobody really knew why a respected physician became a serial killer who preyed on a select number of Gotham City's senior citizens – not even the city's police department. But then, serial killers were already commonplace in Gotham ever since its founding over a century before – that, plus the fact that the city was already saddled with a tarnished reputation, which was no surprise to anybody. Of course, corruption within Gotham's city government and police department did little to improve said reputation.

When Dr. Klemper was brought to justice by not only police captain James W. Gordon, but also Gotham's resident crime-fighter The Batman, it was initially hoped that the respected physician might get his comeuppance in a court of law, thus insuring that his murder victims could finally rest in peace – one of them who not only believed that Dr. Klemper would be found guilty, but was also working towards that particular goal, was district attorney Harvey Dent.

But after a murder trial that lasted six months, but which felt like six years in the opinion of some – Dr. Klemper was found not guilty, due to lack of admissible evidence. Naturally, the public's response to this was one of sheer outrage – yet, Dr. Klemper didn't care, as he ended up acquitted of his crimes. He had made a mockery out of both justice and the legal system – one that included telling Dent the secret of how he managed to outsmart both the law and the courts, which did little to soothe the district attorney's already-tortured psyche. But as Dr. Klemper relished his victory, he was unaware that he would soon be sealing his own fate.

9:45p.m. The following evening: Dr. Klemper, dressed in a black tie and tuxedo, had just come home from dinner with some of his friends to celebrate his acquittal in court the day before -- of course, the physician's friends had no idea that he was as guilty as sin. But then, Dr. Klemper's friends just didn't really know him that much.

As Dr. Klemper's friends soon departed from his stately mansion on the outskirts of Gotham City, the physician started to head upstairs to his bedroom to get ready to go to sleep. Dr. Klemper was determined to renew his double life in the days and weeks to come -- confident in the belief that no one would cause him any more trouble, including Harvey Dent.

Once upstairs, Dr. Klemper opened the door to his darkened bedroom, and was about to turn on the lights. "Greetings," said a mysterious voice known only to Dr. Klemper, "You can turn on the lights if you wish."

"Oh," said Dr. Klemper, as he turned on his bedroom lights, "It's you." Seated in a sofa chair next to Dr. Klemper's bed was the mysterious figure known only as the Powerbroker -- his facial features hidden by the shadows; not even Dr. Klemper knew whom he looked like.

"I understand that Dent fell for the bull that you told him after you were acquitted in court yesterday," said the Powerbroker, "You know -- your so-called Jekyll-and-Hyde personality."

"How did you …?", asked Dr. Klemper, "Never mind -- I don't even want to know."

"Poor ass -- I'd wonder how Dent would feel if he learned that your split personality was the result of not a lifetime of psychosis, but the advanced wonders of modern technology and science, which certainly helped you even fool the police's lie detector tests."

"Yes -- I freely admit it."

"Of course, those asses don't even know the real reason why you murdered those stupid seniors -- namely, to get your hands on all their life savings -- including bank accounts, Social Security checks, etc. -- all of it going directly into my various bank accounts all over the world, all existing to suit one purpose."

"Yes -- to fund your various enterprises, all of them illegal."

"Luckily, it pays to have a variety of aliases -- if anything else, to confound certain individuals who might otherwise get suspicious. Anyway, it wouldn't do them any good -- only seconds after they found out, these dumb asses would end up dead anyway."

"Speaking of profits -- I want my share this very instant!"

"You what ...?!"

"You heard me, Powerbroker. I've spent the last year murdering senior citizens just to finance your criminal operations -- while staying several steps ahead of the law! I'm entitled to my piece of your criminal pie!"

"You tend to forget, Dr. Klemper -- you wouldn't be where you are today without me! Of course, if all of Gotham learned of your past -- your real past, and not the fabricated life story that the public knows well -- you'd be in even bigger trouble!"

"It'll never happen, Powerbroker."

"It might -- and considering the way you're acting now, the odds of your hidden past becoming public knowledge are better than average. And should you press your luck too much, your greatest fear will become a reality -- which wouldn't be a bad thing."

"You're right. It wouldn't be a bad thing -- for you, that is."

"True -- or as the saying goes, I made you, and I'll break you. Of course, you wouldn't be the first to challenge both my power and prestige -- but you might be the last."

"You're really sure of that, aren't you?" While the Powerbroker wasn't looking, Dr. Klemper pushed a button on his digital wristwatch -- the moment he did, a hidden wall panel behind the sofa chair that the Powerbroker was sitting in slid back, as a bald-headed and very-muscular man who was six-and-a-half feet tall and dressed in a butler's outfit emerged from a passageway hidden by the wall panel; the passageway was one of many that were hidden throughout Dr. Klemper's mansion. Seconds later, Dr. Klemper pushed yet another button on his wristwatch, as the sofa chair that the Powerbroker was sitting in turned around to face the physician's muscular henchman.

"Who -- or …?!", yelled a shocked Powerbroker.

"Powerbroker," said Dr. Klemper, "Meet Larkin, my butler and personal bodyguard -- further proof that you shouldn't underestimate me!" Within seconds, Larkin grabbed the Powerbroker by the front of his dress jacket and lifted him up from the sofa chair, before bringing him over to Dr. Klemper.

"What's going …?!", yelled a furious Powerbroker.

"To put it simply," said Dr. Klemper, as he walked over to the bedroom window, then opened it, "I don't need you anymore. And once I regain the wealth and prominence that's rightfully mine, I plan to challenge your power in more ways than one -- and guess who'll emerge victorious!"

"You realize that you're making a fatal mistake."

"Not unlike denying me my share of your profits, Powerbroker. But rest assured -- I'll still get my pound of flesh from you, even if it means rendering your flesh lifeless! Larkin -- please show our unwelcome guest the way out!"

"Sure thing, boss," said Larkin, as he carried the Powerbroker over to the opened bedroom window -- before throwing the criminal mastermind out of Dr. Klemper's bedroom, and outside onto the front lawn below, as he fell face down on the ground. By the time Dr. Klemper closed his bedroom window and prepared to get ready for bed, the Powerbroker, who was a little bruised but still physically intact, slowly got up from the front lawn of the Klemper mansion. This wasn't the first time that the Powerbroker was double-crossed by one of his subordinates -- and as his hatred of Dr. Klemper increased to near-psychotic proportions, the Powerbroker was already making plans to eliminate the physician.

You won't see me anymore, Dr. Klemper, thought the Powerbroker, But then, in a few days -- you won't be seeing anyone ever again! I'll see to that personally!

2a.m., The following night: Inside his mansion, upstairs in his bedroom, Dr. Klemper was already in bed and sound asleep -- he had spent the entire day trying to get both his life and medical career back on track. Oddly enough, he didn't make any plans to resume secretly murdering senior citizens at night -- partly because it wasn't yet the right time to do it. After all, it had been only several days since the end of Dr. Klemper's murder trial -- and with a few exceptions, all of Gotham still believed that Harvey Dent had done him a terrible injustice.

Though Dr. Klemper was incredibly wealthy as a result of his medical practice, he didn't invest a good deal of his wealth into having both his mansion and property installed with a high-tech security system that would have prevented unwanted intruders -- like criminals -- from illegally breaking into his home, mostly because they might stumble across tangible proof of Dr. Klemper's dark side. It was a serious mistake on Dr. Klemper's part -- and one that would eventually seal his doom, as a mysterious intruder quietly opened Dr. Klemper's bedroom window and entered long enough to carry out his secret mission without waking the physician from his good night's sleep. Minutes later, the mysterious intruder was gone -- his mission a complete success.

2½ hours later: Dr. Klemper's bedroom phone rang loudly -- loud enough to wake him up. Within seconds, Dr. Klemper reached over and picked it up, wondering who would call him at this late hour. "Yes --?", said Dr. Klemper, as he spoke on the phone, "What -- who is it …?"

"I've taken your advice," said a familiar voice on the other line.

"Dent? Is that you? Speak to me …!" These would be the last words that Dr. Klemper would ever speak -- within seconds, a powerful time bomb attached to his bed that was set to go off at this time exploded, not only instantly killing the physician, but also extensive damage to the upper floor of his mansion. Even in the last seconds of his life, Dr. Klemper was unaware that several hours before, Harvey Dent was the mystery intruder who had entered the physician's home and planted the time bomb that would end up killing him.

What Dr. Klemper didn't know was that the Powerbroker secretly supplied Dent with the time bomb that would end the physician's life. The Powerbroker knew that Dent wanted to make Dr. Klemper pay dearly for making a mockery out of both him and the legal profession -- while the Powerbroker simply wanted Dr. Klemper dead because he was starting to become a serious threat to his criminal plans. With Dr. Klemper dead, the world would never learn of his association with the Powerbroker -- or the physician's dark past that was hidden by the façade that he showed to the world. And that was the way the Powerbroker wanted it -- since he believed the familiar cliché that, to a certain point, dead men tell no tales, even those who were pawns of the Powerbroker.

But what the Powerbroker was unaware of was Dent's troubled psyche, the end result of a troubled childhood made even more hellish by an abusive father -- the memories of which would continue to haunt the district attorney right into adulthood. Nobody, not even the Powerbroker, could foresee that Dent's mental anguish would reach the breaking point over a month later, when at mob boss Vincent Maroni's trial, half of Dent's face would end up scarred as a result of Maroni hurling a vial of acid at him; this incident would mark the end of Dent's career as a district attorney -- and the emergence of one of The Batman's deadliest and unpredictable foes: Two-Face.

The characters mentioned in this story are the respective trademarks and properties of DC Comics ©2006