Disclaimer: I own nothing, it all belongs to DC and Bob Kane and all the wonderful comic writers who make these characters come to life.
A/N: It's been so long since I posted anything...gotta finish Thrice Charmed...
The early morning traffic of downtown Gotham was just as brutal and unforgiving as any other major city in the continental U.S., perhaps even worse than some of the busy foreign cities of South America and Europe. Bumper to bumper the cars idled, the engines of some beginning to overheat while others stalled out completely. Horns were being honked, as if the drivers had some sort of power over the flow of traffic. The noises echoed off the tall buildings made out of cement, steel and glass, reverberating throughout the city. A few pigeons twittered here and there, clucking in disapproval over man's tendency to commute to work at the same time as everyone else in the goddamn city, never mind the parents taking their kiddies to school.
The high-end business executives and the lowly office grunts sat there on the main road, waiting impatiently to get to work, to clock in and start earning their salaries to get them through the next two weeks. Big truck drivers bringing in a new shipment for the grocery stores or the fashion district sat there and scratched their crotches and protruding stomachs, wanting to get the job done with so they could head back west for the next load to the next location. Bus drivers tried to stay awake with their mugs of caffeine, depicting sly phrases or witty pieces of poetry meant to impress whoever was nosy enough to actually read the print. The select few who had lived in Gotham long enough to memorize which side streets could take them to their destination without introducing them back into main traffic did what they could to get to work on time before they were fired and replaced.
It was the same every weekday, sometimes even on weekends, depending on the business. Police Officers had it the worse; crime never slept in Gotham. In fact, if one wanted to be specific, it would be more accurate to say that crime enjoyed opening up twenty-four hour service shops, just to keep everyone busy and on their toes.
Gotham: the Dark City, the one place on earth where crime was more rampant, more horrendous and more feared than any other location on the globe. Some might contend other places to have a higher rate of criminal activity and while that fine detail might be true, no one, not Chicago, not the Red Hook District, not Blüdhaven, not Los Angeles nor Miami experienced the brutality and absolute evil Gotham did every moment of the day and night.
Being a cop in Gotham meant putting one's life on the line every minute on the clock; traffic violations and disturbances of the peace were considered a reprieve from the norm, possibly even a rarity and definitely a relief to deal with. Holidays and vacations were few and far in between and even then, one might be called in to help deal with the chaotic aftermath of one of the Joker's latest schemes, or something the Riddler had cooked up last minute. Someone had spotted Scarecrow making his way toward Gotham's water processing plant, again, or a little girl swore up, down and sideways she had seen the Batman swinging around rooftops. Never a moment's rest for the good men and women working down at the Gotham Central Police Department.
Sonny Costello took a few moments to take in all the hustle and bustle of the main street before the car made a quick turn to the right and down a side street which looked like it didn't see too much in the way of visitors. The houses on either side of the road were old, dating back to the early fifties, but all were in fairly good shape. The people who lived here were most likely older couples living off of retirement funds, even though they weren't retired. There were no kids playing in the fairly spacious front yards, no little dogs barking on the end of their leashes, no squirrels vying for the best nuts fallen from the old oak trees. One house looked like the drainpipe should be secured to the edge of the roof, while another was in desperate need of a repainting.
Sonny had never been inside one of these houses, but he knew if he were to peek in the window he would see the same thing in each one: old lace, antique porcelain figures and mismatched floral print furniture. He was roughly reminded of his grandmother's home and frowned. Turning to his twin brother, who was driving, he made a face and jerked his head toward the picturesque houses they were driving past.
"How come th' boss wants ta come t' a place like this? It ain't really his style, y'know?"
Matthew, slightly older than Sonny by four minutes, shrugged and slowed the Cadillac down to a crawl, wasting time while they waited for their employer to finish up whatever business he had at the end of the street.
"Why you always gotta question it? Let 'im do what he wants. He pays us good money and that's all we need to know."
Sonny rolled his eyes and went back to looking out the window, wondering how much longer this rendezvous was going to take. It had been close to forty minutes already, but if he knew his boss he understood he'd be waiting around for close to an hour and a half before getting the hell out of that neighborhood. Unlike his brother, Sonny was impetuous, impatient and always trying to keep busy. He hated being made to wait, hated being left outside to pal around while the big guns got to go inside and be a part of the action.
"I need somethin' t' do," he complained, slumping down in the seat like a bored kid forced into participating in a cross-country road trip.
"Why don'tcha keep a fucking eye out for cops, like you was told t' do? Jesus Christ, Sonny, I gotta remind you every time?"
Matthew shook his head exasperatedly and circled another block, venturing into a slightly older section of the neighborhood where the houses were in dire need of repair and the occupants looked like they could use a fixer-upper themselves. Sonny shivered as they passed by some kids sitting on the edge of the street, smoking blunts and dead, expressionless masks in place of their faces. He didn't care what anyone told him, Gotham was cursed; it did something to people, made them crazy and turned them into monsters. He would know, too, he had been only twelve when he had committed his first murder, under the supervision of his uncle. Had he stayed in Las Vegas with his grandmother, he probably would have been finishing up university or something, not busting heads and making collections.
"Hurry up," he mumbled when one of the younger kids saluted him with a middle finger straight up in the air, tempting him to go rip it off.
Matthew saw the gesture and chuckled, accelerating a fraction, just enough to get them to the next four-way stop. A hooker stood curled around the stop sign like a snake, flicking her tongue seductively and narrowing her eyes in a 'come hither' gaze. Matthew scanned her briefly, raising a dark eyebrow before continuing on.
"She was cute," he said lowly, more to himself than Sonny.
"If you like that sort of girl, yeah."
"What d'you mean, 'that sort of girl'?"
"Y'know, them…those girls with the…the…" Sonny made a motion with his hands to his chest, indicating a heavier chest and Matthew laughed out loud.
"I forget you like them small-titted girls. Fine by me, bro. The bustier th' better."
Sonny shivered as if in disgust and laughed along with his brother, feeling only slightly better now that they had rounded the corner and were heading back toward the end of the street their boss was at. Another ten minutes passed by before they got the sign that it was time for the pick-up, three quick beeps on the two way radio Sonny kept clipped to his belt. Matthew sped up and reached the house just as the door was beginning to open.
It was a much larger house than anything else they had passed, a monstrous two-story house with too many windows and a huge patio on the second floor. Sonny thought it looked amazing but Matthew thought it to be too much for the dingy little neighborhood, as if the cops didn't have a clue who lived here and how they got to be so well off. Drug dealers were his guess, maybe even members of the Mafia. It was a nice house though, with the light blue paint and the white framed windows, the solid oak door shined to a dark polish and the garden lining the pathway to the sidewalk most likely a woman's touch. Those Mafia wives, no one told them 'no' when it came to homemaking; they knew how to take care of their shit, that was for sure.
"Damn, where is he?" Matthew mumbled when he saw a couple no-names come out the front door, looking over their shoulders nervously, as if they expected to be caught. "He ain't out first he's gonna be raisin' hell….."
Sonny grimaced, not wanting to be on the receiving end of his boss's wrath.
"Maybe he's still talkin'?"
"Hell no, y'know he hates that. 'Sides, he already buzzed us."
"Maybe he went t' take a leak."
Matthew gave his brother a look and punched him none too gently in the arm.
"You dumb fuck."
Matthew pulled back his jacket to pat his guns, making sure they were there and easily reachable if he needed to go for them. Sonny rolled his eyes theatrically.
"Man, just calm th' hell down. He'll come out soon, right? He's got Klauss an' that Jones guy with 'im."
Sonny didn't answer but bit his lip between two rows of perfectly white teeth, worrying and wondering if he should go in there; if he did, though, and nothing was wrong, he was liable to get fired or shot. On the other hand, if he didn't go in and the boss had needed him, he would get shot for sure. He was damned if he did, damned if he didn't, but such was the price for working with such a duplicitous man. He cursed lowly, even as Sonny kept a hand on the sleeve of his jacket, keeping him in the car. It was for the best, though, for within a few minutes he could see the trademark black and white of his boss's jacket making its way through the small gaggle of men standing outside. The moment they were able to see his face their hearts dropped into their stomachs.
"Aw, shit," Sonny whispered, recognizing that frown and knowing it meant there was going to be hell to pay later on. Matthew just swallowed and tightened his hold on the steering wheel, praying the boss would at least wait until they had gotten him home before he started up. Jones and Klauss were right on the man's heels, sharing worried glances with one another and making the cut throat gesture to the brothers in the car, trying to warn them to keep their mouths shut. The Costello's didn't need to be told twice and Sonny quickly hopped out the car to open the backseat door for the boss, trying not to look him in the face. He knew it would only give away his apprehension; that and the boss didn't like it when people stared at him.
Sonny felt a slight breeze as the man got into the back of the Cadillac, pulling a cigar out of his breast pocket and chopping the end off. The cigar was never a good sign; it meant he was very displeased with what had taken place in that house and he needed to try and calm down. A cigar never really did the trick, though, and neither did cigarettes. Sometimes it seemed the only way for the boss to calm down was to beat the hell out of someone, but it was way too early in the morning for him to go out and find a scapegoat. No, routine dictated he would wait for them to take him back home before picking one specific member to play the part of sacrificial lamb. Sonny had gotten it last time and his lower back still ached when he tried to turn around too fast.
Jones and Klauss went to their own car, a small Ford which they would be safe in for the time being and Matthew couldn't help but feel jealous of them. They probably had a good idea of what kind of mood the boss was feeling right now, maybe even an inkling of how badly he was going to blow up later on, but he had to play it safe, had to put his balls on the line and take a guess. Swallowing silently he started the car up and turned back to address his boss, who had a cigar clamped between his teeth and was trying to light it.
"Where to, Boss?" he asked, trying to keep the tremor out of his voice and failing; the car jilted as Sonny clambered back in the front seat, his face white and his eyes wide with fear. In the darkened back seat of the car, with the windows tinted so black you could barely see out of them let alone in, he could make out the sharp red of the lit end of the cigar as his employer inhaled. A few tiny embers fell and a cloud of smoke materialized out of nowhere, pinpointing the man's location.
"Boss?" Matthew asked when he got no reply after three more puffs of smoke. His skin started to crawl and he was vaguely aware of Sonny trying to get his attention, trying to tell him to shut the hell up and just drive, but he ignored him. He waited for another four puffs before his boss answered and when he did Matthew wished he had shut his trap and just drove.
"Where do you think, dumbass? Take me home."
The gravelly tone indicated his boss was….in another frame of mind, so to speak. It was as bad a sign as the cigar, probably even worse, all things considered. Matthew licked his lips and pulled the car into drive, taking off down the street; Klauss and Jones followed in their little beat up Ford, looking as inconspicuous as could be and the more safer for it. Both Sonny and Matthew would have given everything to have traded places with the other two men at that point in time. Despite routine, they never knew if their boss would keep with it; he had been known to blow up in the middle of traffic, which was probably the reason why Matthew had started to prematurely grey around his temples.
They kept the speed limit, avoided known speed traps and cop stops, obeying the law of the road until they finally reached the Industrial District of Gotham. Here the buildings were in even more disarray than those from the neighborhood they had left; tall structures too close together, cast in red brick and ornate gothic sculptures, some of them looking as if they might have been condemned, others looking like they should have been demolished years ago. The streets were bare of life except for the few sparse weeds breaking free through the cracks in the sidewalks. What few trees still existed alongside the roads and in the park were all dead and bare of leaves. They stood there like skeletons warning visitors of the fate that awaited them should they choose to remain. But few people lived out here and those who did were usually running from something…or someone; more often than not they were criminals hiding from the law. No children existed in this decrepit neighborhood, no animals, no cops.
This part of the city of considered a wasteland, unfit for human survival and was thus sectioned off as private property. At least, that's what the signs bordering the streets and the buildings said: 'Private Property, No Trespassing,' 'Private Property, Keep Out,' 'Area Condemned by the City of Gotham' and the list went on and on.
Sonny and the others knew better, though. The Boss owned this chunk of land, this section of the city. It was a huge piece of property, stretching about twenty city blocks and encompassing a park and several old casinos. Before the mayor found sufficient reason to evacuate the entire district, Industrial had been a hotbed for criminal activity, gambling, stripper joints and brothels. Perhaps that was why it had been cut off from the rest of the city, to protect the citizens from the ever expanding illegal activity. It had been bought in chunks here and there, starting with the center, the heart of Industrial and working outward. Within four years it had been fully paid for.
Matthew shivered unconsciously as he drove down the old main street, wondering not for the first time how powerful the boss had to be in order to buy off a piece of Gotham and keep it to himself. That took a sort of tenacity rarely seen nowadays, not to mention strings to pull and people to influence. But the boss had always been good at influencing others. He had made a living out of it once, as a lawyer or something. The only people who remembered what had happened ten years ago either lived through the catastrophe or were a part of it. Most of those who had been a part of it were dead now.
Matthew turned a corner and stopped the car, inhaling deeply as if to brace himself for the pounding he knew was coming; behind them the Ford pulled to a stop as well, Jones and Klauss getting out to lean against the hood.
"Sonny," the voice from the back seat rasped after taking another puff of the cigar; it was a stub now, almost not even worth finishing up.
"Sonny, get the hell out."
Sonny got out, looking happier for it; he wasn't the one having to pay for whatever had gone on in that house and though he knew he should have been sorry for his brother, he was glad it wasn't him receiving a beat down; the boss had a nasty right hook. He went to join Klauss and Jones at the rear of the Cadillac, accepting a cigarette from the German and lighting it to calm his shaking nerves.
"What happened?" he asked once he felt the nicotine beginning to do its job. Klauss shrugged, his own cigarette trapped between two fingers and leaking smoke into the air.
"It was bad," he said gruffly, his accent tainting his English just enough to identify him as a foreigner. "They didn't take the bait and it was bad…..for them."
Sonny gave Jones a look and the tall blonde man gave a rugged smile.
"So what happened?"
"He got mad, like always. You know him, though. He just got quiet and gave them an ultimatum: pay up or end up with a war on their hands. They laughed at him and he walked out."
It took a moment for Sonny to realize what the German was saying, since the man's Ws all sounded like Vs, but he understood why the boss was pissed; he hated it when things didn't go according to planned, more so when the plan in question had been four months in the making. None of the guys knew what it was yet, since the boss abhorred letting his lackeys know anything until the last possible moment, but it had to be good, if he was really mad. It had to be good if it had to be planned at all, for the man usually took off without a moment's notice, dragging them all down with him as he went on a spree of sorts. The last time that had happened they had lost a man and replaced him with Jones. The Cadillac rocked for a moment, causing all three men to stop their musing and shake their heads in sympathy.
"Matt's probably catching hell," Jones said, speaking up for the first time that evening.
"Probably," Sonny agreed stoically. The Cadillac rocked some more and the three men all grimaced as they heard the telltale sound of someone's head hitting a window. The boss was in some mood alright.
"You think he'll waste 'em?"
"The Russians, numbnuts, that's who he was meetin' with."
"Oh….I dunno. Maybe. He's been getting' restless lately, so maybe."
"He's been talkin' about hookin' up, y'know? To, like, one of the others like him."
"What do y'mean, 'like him'?"
"Y'know, a freak."
"Jones, you better shut the hell up right now. Boss hates it when people call him 'freak'. He hears you, he's gonna have your balls."
"He can't hear me, he's in the damn car."
"Just shut up, man!"
Jones fell silent with a roll of his eyes. Their boss was a freak, end of story.
Inside the Cadillac Matthew groaned and tried to pull away from the boss, receiving another punch to the jaw for his cowardice.
"You know what I hate about people?" The voice hissed at him, raw and scratchy, like someone had gargled with rusty nails.
"No….," he quickly gasped, feeling blood in his mouth.
"Too damn soft. Don't got the…the balls to do the job. They just wanna sit around and have everything handed to them on a silver platter."
Another smack across the face and Matthew felt his teeth rattle in his head.
"Did I give you permission to speak?!"
Matthew shook his head 'no' and listened intently while keeping his mouth firmly shut. He wasn't going to live through another one of the boss's mood swings at this rate. He was slammed against the door of the car a few more times before being kicked out onto the road and he heard the boss laughing uproariously when he landed on his face. From behind the car, Klaus gave a low whistle while Jones suppressed a snicker. Sonny looked ill but didn't move forward to help his brother; if he did, he'd be in line for the same beating, maybe worse.
The moment the boss stepped out of the car they all stood to attention, trying to look as if they hadn't just been gossiping like old fisherman's wives. Their boss was tall, over six feet, and he looked like he might have played football in college. From the angle they saw him at he looked like any clean cut business man, dressed smartly in a black suit, his blonde hair well groomed and his eye blue and full of life. The moment he turned to them that illusion was irreparably shattered.
The scars on the left side of his face had robbed him of any semblance of humanity, melting away the flesh and some of the muscle, leaving him looking like a corpse with his foot half in the grave. His right eye was naked, rolling and without the benefit of an eyelid and his teeth were bared in a parody of a snarl. Sonny swore he could see the man's jawbone, but he had never been able to look his boss in the face for more than a few seconds at a time. Any longer than that and he would be endangering his own life.
The boss took one last puff on his cigar and tossed it at Matthew, who lay on the ground, writhing and trying to get up; the stub bounced off the top of his head and went spiraling off into the street. Every man held his breath as Two-Face took out his coin, that infamous coin which had ended the lives of many and spared the lives of others. The dollar piece went flipping through the air as it was tossed, glinting in the morning light before arcing and falling back down. Two-Face expertly caught the coin and flipped again, settling into a rhythm as he observed his other lackeys.
"Well?" he growled impatiently when it looked like no one was going to give him an explanation.
"W-what's up boss?" Sonny bravely ventured.
"Why the hell are you morons standin' around? We've got work to do!"
Just like cockroaches scattering to avoid a light, Sonny, Jones and Klauss all split up in different directions to go and do the work they had laid for them late last night, should the deal fall through. Sonny paused only to give his brother another sympathetic look and then he was gone, striding back down the street to go see a man about some explosives. Matthew struggled to his feet when he heard Two-Face giving the dismissal, not wanting to be stuck for a moment longer with the madman he worked for; one beating a week was almost too much for him to bear as it was.
"Costello," he heard the boss growl just before he made to run off. His shoulders drooped dismally as he turned around, fully expecting a punch to the face or a full out tackle to the ground. Two-Face just gave him a look, raising his eyebrow and smirking good-naturedly.
"I have a special errand for you, Matthew. I want you to go down to Crime Alley and find the clown. I got somethin' he might be interested in."
Matthew felt the blood drain out of his face at the mention of 'clown'. No one who lived in Gotham took 'clown' to mean anything other than the Joker, especially when their boss was well known a crime lord. He certainly wasn't looking for party favors. Matthew started to hobble off toward his own car, glad that Sonny had opted to walk instead of drive; the walk might have robbed him of what little strength he had left. The boss wasn't exactly merciful with his beatings.
Thank you for taking a look! Please Read and Review if you thought there's anything I could work on, or if you liked it and had some thoughts.