December 16, 2008
They say the night is darkest just before the dawn. But what if dawn never comes? What if the night stretches on and on without hope of another glimpse of light? What if everything a man has ever hoped for is out of reach, lost forever?
Batman was tired. Tired of life, tired of death, tired of the darkness he had helped to create. He couldn't do this anymore.
Jim Gordon woke with a start because his phone was ringing. Slowly regaining consciousness, he reached in the direction of his phone that was usually buried under a massive stack of files on his desk (obviously he had fallen asleep in his office again) when he realized that the ringing came from behind him. Not many people had the number of his new cell phone since his promotion to Police Commissioner three days ago, so his first thought was of Barbara and the kids. He frantically turned around and dug the cell out of his coat hanging over the back of his chair.
"Gordon?" he yelled into the little phone without checking the caller ID first.
"Commissioner Gordon, I'm so sorry to call you at this hour," a calm voice with a pleasant British accent replied. "But I need your help."
Suddenly wide awake, Jim glanced around his dark office lit only by his half buried desk lamp. The clock on the wall said two in the morning. The city outside his window was sleeping.
"Why don't we start with who you are?" he answered, carefully getting up from his chair and checking the adjacent rooms he could see through the window in his office door. They were empty. "And how did you get my number?" he added, anger creeping into his voice.
Jim didn't like surprises. Well, that wasn't entirely true, but there was only one person in this city who was allowed to surprise him on a regular basis. Batman obviously wasn't here tonight, or he would have shown himself. That was probably for the best because a building filled with cops wasn't the safest place for Gotham's #1 vigilante these days.
The person on the other end of the line drew a deep breath as if summoning strength for a difficult task and finally answered, "My name is Alfred Pennyworth. How I got your number is a little difficult to explain but, eh, well, we have a mutual friend who needs our help tonight."
That got Jim's full attention and his mind started reeling. He knew this man's name, from long ago. Did he really mean what Jim thought he meant by their mutual friend? It surely would explain how Mr. Pennyworth had gotten his number. But if so, why didn't the Bat call himself? Unless he was hurt.
Before he allowed his thoughts to drift any further, the voice continued.
"Please, I don't want to talk about this on the phone. We need your help."
So it was we now? Jim grabbed his coat, switched off the lamp, and made his way to the door in the dark.
"Where do we meet?" he asked.
He would think about the risks afterwards.