The Triple Duos
In the dark of night, the city seemed to sleep, seem being the operative word because few people in Gotham ever actually spent their nights sleeping. Anymore a lot of the residents lay awake in fear for their lives, because despite the effort of the Caped Crusaders in putting away the worst criminals that existed, they always found a way to break out from their barred cells and padded rooms and return to their businesses. On one particular night, the sky was as dark as midnight though it was only 9 o' clock, the blackness of the sky made for a perfect contrast of the bright round light that filled the night air, in the center, the figure of a bat.
Batman and Robin had been on their toes all week with trying to locate the recently prison broken Joker and Penguin, who somehow had been managing to pull of a number of incredible bank heists all through the town, and get away without being caught, and when the police followed, they were met with an unexplainable explosion that blocked off the getaway path for the longest time. Once the smoke finally cleared and the road was safe to pass on, there was no sign of the criminal masterminds, their henchmen, or the automobile used in the getaway, not even so much as a tire mark on the road.
The Caped Crusaders had investigated every road used in these getaways, from the banks that had been held up to the very point where the explosions occurred, finding absolutely nothing that would give them any idea what had happened or where they had gone. After that they searched beyond the explosion lines and searched in every direction by land and air hoping to find something – anything, that might help them ensue in capturing the Joker and Penguin, but no matter how far and how hard they searched, they found nothing. To pull off such events and leave not so much as a trace of evidence, was such an enigma to the average and beyond average minds, that Batman questioned whether or not they had also pulled the Riddler, who had also escaped during a Gotham prison break, into this as well.
The very idea of the three criminal masterminds working together was enough to make even him cringe. One working alone was trouble enough, two teamed up was good reason for a public panic, three working together could only result in mass destruction and chaos, the very things that kept these figures of criminal scum, going. Neither Batman nor Robin said a word amongst themselves or to each other as they headed to the police, both dreaded what they might hear when they arrived tonight.
The Batmobile reached Gotham City Police Headquarters and they went and were soon met by Commissioner Gordon, who reluctantly explained that there was yet another case involving the criminal duo.
"I hate to be the one to tell you this but there's been another crime committed by the Penguin and Joker," he said.
"Another bank?" Batman asked.
"No, this is involving the bank robbery they committed yesterday morning near the edge of town," he explained.
That particular branch of Gotham's banking system, it was reported in yesterdays' news broadcast, had been held up and cleaned out of a cool half million, with a getaway identical to those clever ruses of the previous heists. Batman and Robin had met a severely dead end on a hard dirt road at the explosion mark to that one, several miles away from civilization where the road ended was as good as the edge of a cliff, with a gap of near eight feet in width between it and the hard ground across from it, the gap being at least a 1000 foot drop. They had crossed the gap only to find nothing, which made this case no different from all the rest.
"Whoever they had for cellmates in prison clearly taught them a few new tricks," Batman commented.
"Unfortunately tonight," Commissioner Gordon continued, more regret weighing in with every word he said, "It seems that the bank robbery is the least of our worries."
"How do you figure that?" Robin inquired.
"We fear that they may have taken hostages during this last heist," he answered.
"Who?" Batman asked.
"Two teenagers, Tammy and Danny Mason," Commissioner Gordon explained as he headed over to his desk, "Here are their pictures."
He handed two photographs to the Dynamic Duo to look over. In the pictures they saw a young boy and a girl, both near the same height and build, both with short blonde hair and blue eyes and both wearing white T-shirts, blue jeans and white sneakers.
"Holy DNA," Robin remarked, "Twins."
"Yes, daughter and son of David Mason and his wife Nora Mason," Gordon explained, "Their mother reported them missing this morning."
"When were they taken hostage?" Batman asked as he put the pictures down, "And why weren't we informed of this earlier?"
"Well at the moment we have no actual proof that the Penguin and Joker are responsible for their disappearances, but speaking in terms of circumstantial evidence, they seem to be the prime suspects.
"Nora Mason explains that they had driven off to school that morning, at approximately the same time that the bank robbery took place. What happened immediately after, we don't know, but the day went by and when it was night, the children hadn't returned home. Mrs. Mason called the high school only to find they had never come in during the day, and their car had not been seen by anybody in the whole morning and afternoon. By legal standards, a 24 hour period wait is required before reporting a missing person, so she estimated the time of disappearance before 8 A.M., 24 hours following, she contacted us."
"We covered every piece of ground from their home to the school, but Mrs. Mason informed us her kids took an off-route to get to the school…following that route, we discovered their car, completely smashed up, abandoned and in a thicket, at the same dead end that the getaway car from the bank robbery passed through…not 10 feet away from the gap between the edges."
"Holy hijinks!" Robin exclaimed, "So they must have taken them hostage."
But something to the story troubled Batman, "Robin and I searched every inch of ground surrounded where the getaway car disappeared and found nothing, and we would have seen another car that close to the explosion mark."
"As did we," Commissioner Gordon explained, "Which leads us to believe that it was put there after they were taken hostage, probably by the Joker or the Penguin themselves."
"But why?" Robin asked, "With their car at the scene of the disappearance, after a thorough crime search by both the Gotham police and ourselves, would only draw suspicion to them."
"Maybe," Batman thought, "That's what they want."
"To draw us into a trap?" Robin asked.
"Somebody, not necessarily us, but somebody who would be willing to search the vicinity for them after an official investigation found nothing."
"Kidnapping," the very mention of the word made Robin cringe with disgust, "So they are up to their old games again."
Commissioner Gordon picked up another photograph, "We inspected every inch of the car hoping to find something but came up as empty in that search as we have in all the rest."
Batman and Robin looked over the photograph and the image of the smashed royal blue convertible, and a thought came to them. They tried to imagine the car in full detail, without the smashes and dents, then they tried to visualize it being of different color and slightly different build, more of a Lincoln Futura. Neither one said anything but both knew that with the right work done to it, it from an exterior view, could pass as the Batmobile, and for a minute they wondered if the initial capture had been instead intended for them.
Their thoughts were broken up by the sound of a woman yelling.
"That's Mrs. Mason," Commissioner Gordon explained, "She's been like that all day since we found out. The police are trying to get her to calm down to get some answers from her but with no luck so far."
"I can't figure it out," Robin said, "What would the Joker and the Penguin want with the two of them?"
"Maybe it's not about the two of them," Batman thought, "Maybe somebody else," he turned to the Commissioner, "What did you say their father's name was?"
"David Mason," a light bulb went on over his head, "Not the David Mason, millionaire entrepreneur."
"The very one," the Commissioner answered.
"Maybe the abduction of his children was just a clever ruse to get to him, simultaneously directly and indirectly," Batman thought.
"I think I get it now," Robin said, "If they just threatened him, he might not give it a thought, but with his kids in their hands, he'd have to listen to their reasoning then."
Batman turned to the room where the screaming was coming from, "I think I'd like to ask Mrs. Mason a few questions."
"Good luck," Commissioner Gordon said, "You'll need it."
That in mind, Batman and Robin cautiously approached the next room, where they found the woman they presumed to be Nora Mason, a tall woman with red hair and a dark red dress covered for the most part by a mink fur coat, screaming at Chief O'Hara, who was at his desk, pounding on it with her fists.
"Now Miss, please calm down," Chief O'Hara said.
"I will not calm down!" she replied as she battered the desk, "My children are gone and maybe in the clutches of that bird and that fool, and you're going to tell me to calm down? Well I won't!" she roared with fury, "I want these two caught and I want my children back!"
During all this, she had paid no attention to anything going on behind her and hadn't noticed that the two men had entered the room. Batman reached out and put a hand on her shoulder, "Mrs. Mason…"
In the blink of an eye she spun around with a scornful face that if looks could kill, he'd be buried right now. "Who are you!?" she demanded to know. A second later reality kicked in and she calmed down a bit, "Oh Batman, I'm sorry, I…" she looked at him first, then turned to look at Robin, and back to Batman, "My children…have they found my children yet?"
"Not yet, but we're going to do all we can to bring them back safely," Batman explained, "But first I think it would help if we could ask you some questions."
"What about?" she asked.
"Well first of all we'd like to say we're terribly sorry about what happened," Batman began.
"That's all fine and well but while you're apologizing, who knows what those two chowderheads are doing with my children?"
"Right now we're trying to determine a possible motive for the Penguin and the Joker wanting to kidnap your children," Batman explained, "Your husband is quite a public figure, isn't he?"
"Well…I wouldn't say public figure, he's pretty popular and he'd pretty wealthy you know…millionaire entrepreneur they call him. Although—" she trailed off.
"Although what?" Robin asked.
"Well, he's not nearly as successful, or as popular, as that man, Bruce Wayne…why they didn't take him instead, I'd like to know."
Fighting the blush he could feel rising in his face, Batman continued, "Mrs. Mason, is it possible your husband might have known the Joker or the Penguin from past acquaintances?"
"Well," she said as she thought about it for a moment, "I don't think so, he certainly never introduced me to anybody who looked like those two. So what're you saying, that they want something from my husband?"
"We can't be sure of anything yet, but we are trying to figure any and all possibilities logical at the moment," Batman explained.
"Logical?" she repeated and laughed, "You have a midget bird and an amazon court jester, and you want to talk logic?"
"You're overestimating the Joker," Robin commented.
She ignored his comment and shook her head, "I just feel terrible about it all…I love my children very much, I never thought they would ever run into somebody like Gotham's criminal masterminds…I'm worried to death about them, but at the same time…I guess I feel relieved that if they were going to kidnap anybody, it was them."
"Why do you say that?" Robin asked.
"Well, suppose instead of my children they kidnapped a five year old? Or a baby? Or somebody who was completely unable to defend themselves? At least with my children, they're 16, that's old enough to resist, they would fight them if they had to."
"Be that as it may," Batman said, "I don't know you have much to worry about in that regard. The Penguin is not a reputably violent criminal, rather an intelligent eccentric."
"He's a kook plain and simple," Nora Mason replied, "Don't act like you haven't noticed. And what about that bumbling boob companion of his, the Joker? He's demented enough he very well might hurt my children."
"That is a possibility but at the moment not a large one, the Joker's more recent offenses haven't included much violence towards victims," Batman informed her.
"Really?" she asked, "He's slipping…clearly though, for being a criminal mastermind I don't think he's too bright."
"Why do you say that?" Batman asked.
"Well it's simply that I've never known anybody to kidnap somebody who would fight them, and I think my children would…Tammy especially."
"Why's that?" Robin asked.
"She has a real temper," Nora explained, "It's hereditary you know. Anybody gets her mad, watch out…are you familiar with that boy, Jason Givens?"
"I recall hearing of him, vaguely," Batman said.
"Well, he attends the same school as my kids, last month he asked Tammy out on a date and she threw a brick at him and broke his arm."
"That's a little severe for declining the proposal," Batman remarked.
"Yes," Nora replied proudly, "But that's the mold she and her brother come from so it's to be expected. Now," her tone turned to a more serious one, "Let me make something clear right now. As far as the police know, those two quacks have my children, I don't know what they plan to do with them but I don't care, all I want is for you two to find my children, and bring them back to me."
"Will do, Mrs. Mason, we're out to investigate where their car was found right now," Batman said, "We'll keep in contact with the Gotham police through the phone in the Batmobile. What you should do right now is go home and try to relax."
"Relax? You clearly have never met my husband, he can be a bigger wreck than I," she said, "But I suppose I ought to go and give the policemen's nerves a break."
After a minute she calmly walked out the door and left the police station.
"We better get going and see what we can find," Batman said.
"Agreed, but I still can't help but wonder just what the Penguin and the Joker would want with those two kids."
"Neither can I, but if what Mrs. Mason said is true, I think they're in for an unexpected surprise," Batman replied.
As they themselves turned to leave, they were met again by Commissioner Gordon, "Is there anything further we can do to assist you?"
"You said the car was found in a thicket 10 feet away from where the two stretches of land separate, correct?" Batman asked.
"We'll go out and inspect the area ourselves, we'll contact you if we find anything, all we ask is that you let us know if you find out anything from this end," he said.
"Come, Robin," Batman said, "To the Batmobile."
They rushed out and left and headed back out towards the dirt road where this mess had started.
"I've got to say, Batman, I have a horrible feeling about this one," Robin said, "So many possibilities as to just why the Mason kids were taken." Another horrible thought occurred to him, "What do you think the Joker and the Penguin will do to them?"
"I don't know," he replied, "I only pray we're not too late. I didn't want to upset Nora Mason anymore than she had been, but with two of Gotham's most notorious criminals behind this, there is valid reason to worry."
"Then you think they might actually hurt them?" Robin asked.
"With those two running this scheme, anything unfortunately, is possible," Batman replied.
Robin nodded dreadfully in agreement. They approached the cutoff point between the land and they stopped and got out to investigate. They found the thickets where the car was found and shone a light on it to see if they could find anything. The police had had the car taken away after finding nothing, but if the Joker and Penguin were willing to put the car into plain view to be seen after the fact, they might try again with something else. After a half hour search, they came to the dreaded conclusion that there was nothing there to be found.
"We better check the whole area incase they left something somewhere else," Robin said.
"Good thinking, Robin."
Batman searched the ground several feet back from where the road ended; searching for footprints, tire tracks, anything that might give an indication somebody had been here recently. At night this was no easy task, though to be honest he didn't think doing it in daylight would be that much better.
"It just doesn't make any sense, Batman, how could they just disappear without a trace?" Robin asked as they continued to search the grounds.
"It's something I've wondered myself…I still haven't ruled out the possibility that they've got the Riddler assisting a hand in this. For to pull of such a disappearing act would indeed be a riddle of the greatest sort."
"Yes but the Riddler's tricks always come with a clue disguised as a worded riddle, and here we've been without anything to go on," Robin reminded him.
"This is true but it doesn't rule out the idea that he may have learned a few new tricks in the Gotham City Prison," Batman replied.
"This is true."
As Batman continued to search for a clue, any clue that might explain what happened; he couldn't help but think how terrified the Mason children must have been when they were kidnapped. He could almost hear them scream in terror and try to resist, but the Joker and the Penguin got the last laugh when they made a getaway with them as their captives.
Meanwhile, curiosity got the better of Robin and he wandered over to where the land ended, trying to figure out if something might be over on the other piece of land directly ahead that hadn't been there earlier. But as he was wondering, he heard the ground beneath him start to crack, he tried to back up but it was too late, he fell over the edge screaming.
"Robin!" Batman yelled in terror as he rushed to the edge to try and save his partner and friend before it was too late.