Chapter Notes: I have been rereading several Batman comic books and have seen how different artists treat James Gordon. That is one haggard man LOL! You always feel like someone needs to give him a hug! No wonder there is so much slash out there!

I am finding the original interest in this story and I plan on riding it out for the four or more readers I still have for it. Ah hell, for me! I just want to see how this ends!

So hang tight things are about to get bumpy!

Batman and Jim belong to DC created by Bob Kane blaaa blaaa blaaaaaaaa!

Bart


Vigilante

Chapter 4

Around The Corners

Bruce sat quietly in the half dark of the cave, his eyes watching images on the screen. In one of his monitors, Alfred was descending with a determined look on his face and a tray of food. So, he lit the path for the man and went back to his contemplation.

"Master Bruce," came the quiet admonition as the elder man placed the tray beside him on the large console.

Wayne gave him a nod to indicate that he knew what he was required to do with the edibles.

Alfred's forehead wrinkled but the man turned with his customary grace and began walking away.

"Alfred."

"Yes Master Bruce?' the butler asked, subconsciously standing at attention.

"I need some advice." Bruce replied as he swiveled in the high back chair.

He indicated another chair, which he had made in case Alfred wanted to visit. His most faithful friend and mentor settled in with a concerned glance. Bruce was not in the habit of asking him his advice, yet another reason he offered it so readily.

Bruce had already discussed the Gordon situation with Alfred, and Alfred had agreed with his assessment to leave Gordon missing presumed dead until he could determine the corruption. Bruce launched right into his query.

He indicated a bank of monitors showing the Mummy's activities, and a few more monitors showing Commissioner Gordon in action. "I have studied the two men for hours, Alfred, I know that Gordon is still in there somewhere, but Henry Rice walks differently, his stance is unique, and the way he moves is different from Gordon. I've always known that Gordon has never truly reconciled that I am a vigilante, he is the most by the book man I know, and yet as a vigilante, he seems to be a natural."

Bruce indicated all the medical texts he could find in Wayne Manor's cavernous library, and the monitors that were displaying other texts that he had been consulting. "The nature of retrograde amnesia, which was the hospital's diagnosis, is that you are returned to a former state of development. It is like years are washed away from your persona, years that developed you into whom you are, but according to the texts there will always be a base personality that rings true from the original to the one that is created to cope."

"And?" Alfred encouraged.

Bruce shrugged. "What if the thing Gordon and I have always shared is that deep down in his own way he is a vigilante?"

Alfred leaned forward his eyes twinkling with mirth. "Then again, maybe the link between you could possibly be that you are both deep down…police officers."

Bruce leaned back with a smile. "Good point."

Alfred leaned back similarly. "I know."

Alfred's eyes watched the screen. They grew curious. "You know, Master Bruce, he moves very much like you, his use of shadow and brutality is very familiar."

Bruce nodded as if the thought had already occurred. "It could be that I define what it means to be vigilante in the recesses of his mind, so he is using my methods. He is quick and decisive, he doesn't take chances and he does not use more force that he has to."

Alfred stood. "He remembers your work, Master Bruce; the real question is why does he choose to not remember his own?"

Bruce nodded, and his mentor began his ascent to the mansion above.

Bruce grabbed a roast beef sandwich and the bowl of Au Jus and went back to work as he munched. Alfred had a way of saying the right thing to spur his charges thought processes. The man was a resource which Bruce had thanked his father and mother for thousands of times over the years.

The real question is why does he choose not to remember his own?

Bruce went back to the larger question. What was happening in Gotham?

He was seeing two distinct patterns over lapping. There was an increase in violent crime, at the same time Internal Affairs crackdowns were handcuffing the Gotham PD from properly executing their jobs. The new Commissioner was really pushing the Batman taskforce so much that Bruce could not even stop a mugger without a half city chase.

It was a two front war, one ugly and venal, the other sophisticated and ironic. In a way, it was as if Ras Al Gul and the Joker had joined forces. The execution of these two conjoined manipulations was too subtle for the Joker, and too blatant for Ras. Bruce felt in his bones that this was someone new, someone who was combining the better elements of both, and adding his own flair for duplicity.

I could really use your mind on this one, Jim. He silently lamented as he stared at footage of his friend giving a press conference just days before his disappearance, a haggard man who must have felt the hostile forces surrounding him. That piece of information Gordan was carrying to Batman that night was the key, and locked up in his mind somewhere. If Alfred was correct, and Bruce had to admit the elder man often was, then James Gordan was using Henry Rice as a healing cocoon, a larval stage to grow strong, and to be, at least for a little while, the man he deep down wished he could be, rather than the one he was forced to become.

It was a Gordian knot indeed!

Suddenly the motion sensors that Batman kept on the roof of MCU in case Gordon needed a conversation triggered. He checked the as of late rarely used camera for the roof top and was surprised to see the three officers in Gordon's inner circle having a quiet impromptu meeting. He grabbed the digital headset and triggered the mike.

"If we get caught up here, Rene, it's our careers."

"I know, Stephens, don't you think I know that by now? I've been in Commissioner Bartlett's office more than his secretary getting his coffee here lately!'

"We all have, that's the problem, something ain't right, and that man ain't the Commish."

"I know Harv."

"You think he's still alive?"

Batman triggered the two-way. They needed an answer; he was going to give them one.

"He's alive, hold on," he said in the raspy voice he used as Batman. The hidden mic was part of his secret, Gordon wondered more than once how he could disappear so quickly, the answer was that he was never on the rooftop to begin with. He showed only when he felt Gordon needed to see him to keep his connection.

The three officers showed their ability, they were in crouches with guns drawn before his voice had faded.

"That you Bats?" Bullock called.

"He's already gone," Montoya replied for him. Her voice had a note that was not there when they first came to the roof. It was in the pitch and timber of her tone.

Hope.

"I knew it!" Stephens said in a barely restrained voice.

"Tha Commish is too hard assed to die," Bullock stated with his voice thick with pride.

They exchanged a glance and left the roof.

Batman leaned back in his chair with a content smile on his face. It was a small consolation but to a weary group of men, it was life. Now if he could only figure out what was really going on so he could rescue Gordon from his life of vigilantism. The man was wearing down if the previous night was any indication.

For the hundredth time he keyed up a replay of all the data he had so far collected.

---

Henry stood in his tiny shower stall, he was letting yet another stream of hot barely tolerable water beat upon his shoulders. He winced at pain his shoulder; there was no solution for it. He had been putting it off, with a vicious slam against the tile wall, and a small pop his shoulder popped back into joint from its partial dislocation. He stifled the cry of pain. He rested his forehead against the cool surface, and waited until the pain subsided.

Last night's patrol had not gone well.

He was slipping through a familiar block; one that he felt had become reasonably safe in the last month when he heard activity down a narrow alleyway. He took to the fire escape and looked the situation over, there were several gang members, Ace 88's they called themselves, they had a young girl surrounded and were making their intent clear.

In hindsight, Henry should have realized that a girl that young was not going to be out that time of night in that neighborhood unless she was a gang member's girl. She must have taken drama classes somewhere because she was good at playing damsel in distress.

Henry dropped down behind a dumpster and began planning his move when he felt the wrongness of the situation. He figured out the trap just before it closed on him. He picked up a discarded liquor bottle as three of the bangers turned with automatic weapons. With a well-timed throw, he eliminated the one bulb shining leaving the alleyway in darkness, a black that was immediately lit up by muzzle fire. They fired at the place he was, peppering it with spent shells, but he had leaped onto the dumpster and used the fire escape to swing forward, landing to the side. He waded into their flank, ducking several times as they nearly shot their own men in the frenzy to get the Mummy.

He managed to neutralize most of the gun wielders when his "damsel" hit him in the shoulder with a piece of steel rebar, he lashed out with a kick that sent her flying back into a cushion of garbage cans to her expressed disgust.

He knew the shoulder was hurt, and he ended the rest of the conflict as soon as possible. He was perhaps a bit more brutal than he wanted to be, but his odds for success had fallen drastically with his injury, so he had to leave as quickly as possible, he left some broken bones and unconscious men in his haste. His rebar wielding "bait" attempted to slide out of the alley realizing all was lost, she spent the next interim bound in the smelliest dumpster in the alley until the cops arrived.

It was spiteful, but because of her actions, Henry would have to take it easy for the next week, and who knows what would happen to the citizens of the Hollow in that interim.

He turned the water off and grabbed a towel, drying off and winding around his waist. He popped his contacts back in and cleared off the tiny mirror to access the damage.

There were bruises all over his muscular chest under the hair, including three dark round ones trailing across his breastbone from the bullets he took three weeks ago now. It still hurt to breath somewhat, he was lucky it did not snap his collarbone. He rotated his arm in the socket, he winced but it could have been worse, a partial dislocation was certainly not as severe as a broken arm or leg. He reached into the cabinet and pulled out a small vial of Oxycodone that he had lifted from a dealer. He felt a little guilty about it, but he could not get a prescription without questions asked.

He swallowed them with a swig of water from his cupped hand, and rested with his forehead against the misted mirror.

He could feel it in his bones, this shadow life was ending, he looked at his reflection just now and almost knew what his name was. He found that if he was not paying attention he attempted to push glasses up on his nose. Little speech patterns found their way into his voice. Clarence told him he sounded like his cousin from Chicago.

He wondered if he was from Chicago, but every time he walked the streets of this city he knew he was home. The nightmares were frequent; the one with the shadowy half man was large in his mind. Something he had to know, something in the back of his mind that would not come to the fore, but the moment he nearly had it, it vanished.

Two things he knew. He was not a janitor, and he was not Batman.

He stared into the haunted blue eyes just beyond the mirror surface.

"How long you are you going to keep this up, old man?"

His shift at the gym started at 3:00, he had five hours to nap. He crept back out into his apartment, and curled up on the used couch that Clarence had helped him move in.

He hoped the dreams were of the children, he might not know their names but he missed them just the same.

---

The teenager escorted into the presence of the big man. The Ace 88's had put word out that they wanted information on the Bandaged Brawler. The money they were offering was more than his mom made in a month.

The man seated before him, in an old green lounger like a throne was X-Killer, the long time leader and one bad dude. He was old, nearly thirty, he had scars on his face crossing each other on his left cheek that came from the knife fight that won his position. The man leaned forward his dark eyes glittering. "You know who the Mummy is?"

"Janitor at the Ron J, he works out all de time, man, he tight. Took out me and about four of my homies in a fair fight. Never seen nothing like it. Took my teach down to his knees, he ain't no man to trifle with."

X-Killer stared at the young man, his gaze like a knife. "You know if you're wrong, I will come and find you."

"Yeah man, I know, I'm sure he your man!"

X-Killer leaned back with a content smile.

"Pay em, the Mummy dies tonight."


Next Time: The Mummy's last stand!

A legend will be made.

The return of James Worthington Gordon?

If he survives!

Stay tuned!

Bart