Something's in him, Pavolv-deep in his subconscious – he's up in a second, faster than bone-deep bruises and exhaustion should permit. It's Rachel's ringtone.
"Are you alright?" His voice is too harsh, much too harsh for her.
"What? Bruce? Yes. I'm all right. But Harvey…"
Silence, and he's bolt upright, adrenaline zapping. "Where is he?" Danger. Danger, he's been found, after hours in the cupboard – a good right hook, he had, bruised the Batman when he finally got back to let him out…
"In the bathroom." She's whispering now, rich with worry. "He's scared, Bruce, he needs some answers…"
"You know I can't give them." The growl is there, unprovoked, no Kevlar in his nostrils.
"Batman can." A shaky breath. "Please, you should see him…"
Her voice trembles, and his mind's flashing through Rachel falling and screaming, bruises around Dent's neck like a collar, Joker's hands on her, the closet door rattling screaming, I know they're dead let me out goddamnit where am I let me out…
"It' not possible, Rachel, think. How did you find Batman?"
"I'll tell him I called Gordon."
"And when he stops by to thank Gordon tomorrow?"
"Fine, you called me, and it was untraceable. Please, Bruce, he's coming,"
"Don't use my name." Dent could walk right in, think god-knows-what. Bad decision, this was a bad, bad choice but maybe Dent deserved it and she was so desperate and maybe he wanted to. "Tell him to meet me at the docks. Outside the Come Rite In. An hour."
Click and the call was done, before she could say thank you, before she could say anything, before he could think the better of this. Answers, Dent deserved answers and maybe if he knew – not everything, no, but enough, enough to trust him, enough to fight the Joker, enough to keep that shake out of Rachel's voice, the force out of his poster-perfect smile… A bad plan, but maybe a necessary one.
This was starting to seem like a bad idea.
Harvey would have expected more trouble, slinking around this neighborhood in the dark – of course, Batman wouldn't have to worry about that. Maybe Batman was to thank for his safe passage, come to think of it, but the mob had been gunning for him long enough to trust the little prickle of fear running across his shoulder blades. He was being followed, that much he was sure of.
One block left… He took the time to peer at the street in front of him. Two dumpsters, big enough to hide at least four people between them, but no blind spots, thank god. No alleys. He held his breath. No rustling, nothing moving behind him, unless… JESUS. No, just a rat. Oh yeah. This was a bad idea.
Footfalls sounded too loud, bringing his tail closer, closer. Break the rhythm of the walk, make it harder for them to follow you without tipping off their location. A few steps more and there it was, half the lights in the neon sign were out, the rest fizzling unpleasantly, dull through a thick grey coating. "om t nn: C NCY." Classy digs, Batman. As if he lived here.
And now the worst part. The waiting. Rachel had been sure, sure that it was him – and hadn't she talked to him, wouldn't she know, she would never if she weren't sure – but after this, after tonight all bets were off. Elaborate, yes, but it didn't seem like this new guy, to lure him out to a neighborhood where he'd be just another scream. Not public, not showy. Unless this Joker was planning something special…
Whoosh! A heavy weight in front of him, his hand on his gun, a hard glove covering it. Ohgodohgodohgod. Calm, Harvey. It's him. A deep breath. "About time."
"You've been followed." A click and Batman's fist is full of cash. "We can't talk out here. Get room 313. All night." Jesus, this place must rent by the hour… Rough hands on him, suddenly, pushing his hat down, the zipper of his coat climbing all the way up until the fleece covers his mouth, kisses the bottom of his nose. And then he's gone, eyeblink fast, silent for all his bulk.
Better not to stand here, think about whether this is a crime in progress, whether he's obliged to stop it, who's following him, why… Calm down, Dent. You've already come this far. Go just a little farther.
And there he is, inside, staring down at paisley carpet that was probably red once. A jittery clerk, too skinny, track-marks down his arm, stares. Too interested? Of course he stands out here. Not just because he's come alone. An idea, a vocal disguise, he tries on the Batman's growl. "Room 313 please. All night."
"Please?" the clerk snicker-wheezes, rifling through a rack of keys. "Awright, buddy, you did say the magic word." Harvey stares at the desk, hoping the guy can't see more than his beat up old baseball cap. Plunk. A key, 313 scrawled on the plastic tag in Sharpie. "That'll be one-oh-four plus tax."
No way in hell this pace charges that much, but the clerk, the open door, all these mirrors… Guilt lodges in the pit of his stomach as he turn his back, counts out Batman's cash. God knows if the man can afford it. Someday when they meet again – they'll meet again, yes they will, they're on the same team, he has to make Batman see that, he will – he'll pay him back. Half, at least.
He casually pulls one hand inside a pocket, stretching the fleece so the clerk will clearly see the outline of his gun. Just in case – place like this, you know he'd be looking to rob. Right on the money – the man's grin droops, eyes on the bulge at his side as he pushes the register across the counter. Funny, that they bother with the legal formalities at a place like this. Might mean something – a high class ring running out of here, maybe money laundering. Something more than street-corner tricks. He'll have to come back here someday. Someday, when he's got the time, he'll poke around.
The names on the stained legal paper make him snort. Ima Onatop. Hugh Hefner. M.M. Biggerstaff. He takes the pen – thank god it was cold enough for gloves, who knows if this guy has a camera, buddies who can do hand identification – and scrawls H. Dawes. He wants to laugh at himself – no answer, she said, here's his answer and no wonder she's got her doubts – but the sound might come out a little too honest, laugh familiar to a tv-junkie of a crook.
Time to go – Batman's fast, don't want to keep him waiting. Better take the stairs, too, god knows about the elevator maintenance in a place like this. "Hey pal," the clerk hollers after him. "You expecting company?"
"Maybe," Harvey growls, liking the way this false, deeper voice purrs in his throat.
"Maybe?" The clerk giggles, wheezy, unhealthy. "You're a coy sonuvabitch, mister."
Harvey ignores him and begins the long climb up unsteady stairs.