A/N: The following one-shot is a story meant as 'Issue #46' in the fan-fiction line of Detective Comics on anothe site I'm a member of, the DC2. If some things don't make sense - where all the other members of the 'Bat' family are, for example - it's because, in that continuity, Bruce has been gone for a year after faking his own death to secretly investigate a serious crime that would've been impossible to attempt had he been 'alive'. During that year, Dick Grayson assumed the mantle of the Bat. That's about all the backstory you need to know - apart from the history references (oh, Bullock had his throat slit recently, too), it's a complete standalone story!

Enjoy!

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Officer Frank Curtis of the GCPD took a sip of his coffee from the polystyrene cup steaming away in his hands, gritting his teeth as he wished-- for the sixth time in as many seconds-- he could have slipped in some Jack D. Anything to calm his nerves as he tries valiantly to keep his gaze on the crime-scene without reuniting with his wife's meatloaf (It was bad enough going down).

The grizzled detective stared at him from across the scene, his cold eyes illuminated as he lit-up a cheap cigar, cupping the flame of his match with his free hand against the encroaching evening's bitter wind. "First night on the graveyard shift?" he enquired between growling breaths, his voice low and rasping.

Curtis fought back the rising bile before answering. "How… how could you tell?"

"You mean, 'sides from the fact you look as white as a ghost?" the detective laughed, coughed hoarsely and muttered a dark curse, rubbing the skin of his neck. "Why else you think they call it the 'graveyard-shift', kid? Sure as hell ain't to do with tombstone thefts…"

"Give the man a break, Harv," chided one of the burly commanders' detectives . "We were all green once, remember?"

"Speak fer yourself, Montoya," groused Harvey Bullock, crouching behind the fresh corpse they were all gathered around and taking a puff of his cigar. "Me, I always been able to handle a stiff-- even one as messed-up as this guy."

"Sure, Harv, whatever you say," Detective Montoya mimed droning on silently, rolling her eyes. "I'll be glad when Cris is back off from his sick leave, heh."

Bullock ignored the latter comment. "I'm not speaking crap, woman," snapped Bullock, not shifting from his position. It was like he had eyes in the back of his head, mused Montoya solemnly. But, then again, such paranoid attention to one's surroundings can only come natural to someone who'd been through the traumatising experience he had. "All I'm sayin'," he went on darkly, "is that you'd think a trip to a damn Body Farm would help us circumvent all this #^$..."

"Well, then," the second detective sighed, placing her hands on her hips as she stared intently at the body before them. "Why don't you show the officer how a man of experience works rather than wasting time belly-aching?"

"Okay, alright… pay attention, kid," Bullock tucked the cigar up into the corner of his mouth, shifting in his crouch, arms crossed over his lap, "yer may just learn something… You takin' notes, Montoya?"

She nodded, and the detectives proceeded to analyze the crime scene. It was lying face-down on the ground in a large pool of blood that splashed outwards, the paving slabs around the body cracked or shattered completely, signifying a heavy impact. It was dressed in a smart black suit and shoes, with the collar of a white silk shirt just visible at the neck, spattered in blood. There was more…

"Can you identify the body, Harvey?" asked Montoya, although she already knew the answer.

"You're kiddin' me, right?" muttered her acting-partner bitterly, sweeping his pocket-flashlight up to the head of the corpse. Like some macabre horror-movie ghoul, the face of the man had been removed completely, wide, vacant hazel eyes staring out from a mask of sinewy flesh and cartilage. "'Less his name's Mr. F. Krueger, I've got nothing… Hang on," the beam of light followed the cream strap of a lanyard around the body's neck, coming to rest on an ID card at the end. It was face down in a puddle of blood, but when Harvey Bullock flipped it over with the tip of his pen, he let out a tired growl. "Better get Jim down here, Montoya. Things just got serious…"

"Serious?" Detective Montoya turned towards their car, pausing halfway. "As in… You-Know-Who serious…?"

"Just get the Commissioner down here," sighed Bullock as he lifted his tired eyes skywards, the jagged, pale-white scar etched savagely across his neck revealed like a sinister grin. "We'll let him decide whether to call in the cavalry…"

The Batcave was plunged into darkness, giving it the illusion of being an almost limitless void. It was only Bruce Wayne's long-term familiarity of the cavern's every dimension, and his penchant for strict rationality, that saved him from feeling lost in this gloomy abyss.

He sat before his state of the art supercomputer, its multitude of monitors and LEDs bathing him in bright, flickering blues, greens and reds. He wore a fresh batsuit, the cowl draped over the back of his chair as he leaned forward, hands clasped together in silent contemplation. A police scanner hissed and spat in the background; he was ready to spring into action at a word's notice, to get back out to his city and continue the mission. All he needed now was a reason, a purpose.

'And since when did the Dark Knight require a reason to go out on patrol…?"

"What are you trying to say, Alfred?" snapped Bruce, swivelling in his chair to shoot his butler a sharp glare. But his disapproving gaze met only empty darkness, his mouth going slack as he slowly, reluctantly, remembered that Alfred was gone, abroad on some business or another, and that he was truly all alone. Why, then, were his inner-demons suddenly taking on the voices of his family, those closest to him?

'Because it's the only way you'll listen to reason," claimed the voice of Timothy Drake. 'Admit it, Bruce-- for the World's Greatest Detective, you sure do suck at self-analysis sometimes. Maybe, this way, you'll shut up and listen."

"You're wrong," Bruce grimaced, scarcely believing he was going along with this irrational lunacy but, subconsciously at some level, helpless to quell the voices. "I've got nothing to be self-analytical about. I did what needed to be done to achieve the mission; it's what I always do-- what I always will do. Everyone knows that, and they have come to accept it."

'Ahhh,' interjected the older, wiser tones of Dick Grayson, "and therein lies the problem, doesn't it, Bruce? The problem you're afraid to confront, but that eats away at you even now. The same problem you've constantly pushed to the back of your mind every time your mission has come before your friends, your family…the one thing that will haunt your sense of rationality for as long as you refuse to seriously confront it.'

'You know what he's talking about, right?' asked Tim, and Bruce could almost feel the encouraging smile, invisibly urging him on to the right answer. 'C'mon, Bruce…it's about time you face-up to reality, don't you think?'

"I know what you want me to say," growled Bruce, "and don't think I haven't given it more thought than you're giving me credit for. Of course I wonder if one day I'll put the mission before friendship one too many times, if I ever ask too much of those who have always put their trust in me. I'd be just as heartless as the criminals I hunt down if I didn't…"

'Then where are your friends, your 'family', now?' they all seemed to ask as one.

"Tim's with Young Justice, Dick returned to New York, Barbara's in Las Vegas with the Outsiders, Alfred's on leave, and Gordon…" his voice trailed off then; Jim Gordon was the one person still around, and yet also the one person with whom Bruce felt he probably had the most work ahead when it came to building bridges. The Commissioner had known for a long time that Dick had been a new Batman trying to pass off as the first, and it had taken him a long time to come to fully trust this new Dark Knight. To throw the original back in his face would probably be stretching their sometimes brittle relationship to levels of all new tension and mistrust. Bruce wasn't looking forward to it particularly, but he realised it was a necessary evil. "They have their own lives," Bruce continued adamantly, "they can't be expected to tie themselves down to me forever."

'Be that as it may, Master Bruce…are you sure that's the only reason none of us are here, now…?'

"Absolutely," he growled, though deep inside he could tell he wasn't so sure.

'Then maybe you don't know us as well as you think,' Dick's voice leered. 'Maybe-- just maybe-- we all couldn't wait to get as far away from you as possible. Maybe you went too far this time: couldn't you have just have entrusted us with the secret?'

"I couldn't…"

'You mean, you just didn't want to.'

"No," Bruce was whispering now, head hung low, "no, that's…that's not true. If Ra's knew he'd…they'd all have become targets, to get to me. I couldn't… I wouldn't put them through that."

'After all this time,' sighed Timothy, 'after everything we've been through, everything we've done together; you knew any one of us would walk through Hell for you if you would only just let us. But, let's face it, no matter how well you've trained us… you'll never fully trust any of us, will you?'

"That's not true," Bruce straightened up, adamant to banish these unseen ghouls with one last show of conviction. "I trust each and every one of them with my life. They're family, and they've known me long enough to know my stand when it comes to my mission, and to accept it, no matter what. If they haven't," he added, "then maybe it's them who don't know me as well as they think. I did what needed to be done, what none of them could have done, and that's all!"

'Whatever,' sighed the voice of Tim, 'Oh, by the way-- you might want to listen up…'

Before Bruce had a chance to respond, the police scanner growled to life. "*Krrshk*-toya calling Commissioner Gordon, over."

He recognised the voice instantly as that belonging to Detective Renee Montoya, and his eyes narrowed as he detected a sense of urgency and unease in her words.

Soon enough, the brisk reply of her superior came over the frequency, the sound of a car barely audible above the static. "Gordon here, Montoya."

"Jim, you better get down to 13th and Falcon-- we've got a homicide, and it looks serious."

"Show me a homicide that doesn't," sighed Gordon's tired voice, and Bruce could distinctively hear the whine of his car as he pulled it into a U-turn, and the blare of its siren as he switched it on. "I'm five minutes out… anything else you got for me?"

"Victim's face has been completely removed," Montoya replied calmly, "so identity has yet to be one-hundred percent verified. But, Gordon…his ID claims him to be Charles Reeves…"

Bruce had already risen, and begun to place the cowl over his head once Montoya had stated the body's condition, but the name she had just uttered made him freeze, his blood running cold. Charles Reeves…

"Reeves?" echoed Gordon in disbelief. "As in, the CEO of Reeves Pharmaceuticals?"

"One and the same…"

Legs feeling like brittle ice, Bruce sat back down in his seat, the wind momentarily knocked out of him. No Charles, not now, not like this.

Charles Mortimer Reeves was a childhood friend of Bruce's-- one of the few, in fact-- and both men were roughly the same age, coming from similar families. But whereas the Waynes had opted to branch-out their business empire into several different sectors, the Reeves had decided to focus on just one; the advancement of medicine had always been the number-one priority of Gregory Reeves, Charles' father, and Bruce remembered many a long night he had spent, as a child, sitting up on the landing, eavesdropping on Gregory as he tried valiantly to employ his father's medical expertise. Thomas Wayne had politely declined each and every time, offering his advice from time to time, but never wishing to leave his own business.

About seven years ago, Gregory Reeves had passed away due to a heart attack, leaving his entire business and subsequent revenues to his son. Charles had been the CEO of Reeves Pharmaceuticals ever since.

But, now he was dead, after all these years. Was it coincidence, a cruel twist of fate that yet another person Bruce had once called 'brother' had been snatched from him? Or was there something more to Charles' demise, a far more sinister power at work? Bruce had to find out. No, not Bruce…

…Batman.

Minutes later, and Commissioner James Gordon was at the scene of the crime. He was just in the process of questioning Officer Curtis when the police scanner blared once more.

"*Krrshk*-allin all units, calling all units. We have a Code Purple" 'Code Purple' meant heavy gang activity-- just what they needed. "I repeat, we have a Code Purple in Harlow Park-- possibly the Jokerz."

Officer Curtis looked from the scanner to the Commissioner with an uneasy look on his face, evidently torn between two duties. Gordon smiled tightly, and turned over a new page in his notebook. "Go on and answer that, Frank," he nodded, "but I want a full statement on my desk before you clock-out, all right?"

As Officer Curtis pulled away in his squad car, its headlights washed over the crime scene one last time. This time it revealed a new addition to the group of detectives assembled, this newcomer hanging back in the shadows.

"What are you doing here?" Gordon snapped bitterly as he approached the Bat. "I don't recall signalling you…"

"I don't only come when you summon me, Commissioner," Batman retorted darkly, opting not to refer to first names just yet. "You should know that."

"To be honest, I don't know what to make of you anymore," sighed Gordon, "any of you."

That little snide addition reminded Bruce that the Commissioner knew all too well it had been Dick wearing the mantle of the Batman for the last year, and that he wanted him to know he hadn't been fooled, and that he didn't know who to trust.

"It's me, Jim," Batman assured him quietly, "it's really me."

"Is it?" Gordon was sceptical, "Or has your latest successor simply nailed your creepy voice down to a tee? I don't know…"

"What have we got?" asked Batman, changing the subject although he practically already knew all the answers.

"I've got a murder victim," the Commissioner retorted, flipping back through his notepad for the crime's details, "middle-aged man, Caucasian, skin of face completely removed, ID claims him to be-- "

"Charles Mortimer Reeves," finished Batman, "CEO of Reeves Pharmaceuticals, and third richest man in Gotham." He paused to observe the body one more time, before adding, "The ID is correct-- it's him."

"Oh? And how can you be so sure?"

"Four years ago, Charles Reeves lost his left index finger down to the second knuckle in a boating incident. Not only does this body have a matching missing finger, but his ring-finger also carries a large ring with the Reeves family crest," Batman explained patiently. "Now, either someone's gone to meticulous lengths to fake Mr. Reeves' death, or we're looking at the real thing."

Commissioner Gordon just stood there for a few moments, dumbstruck, until he finally managed to regain his composure. "How the Hell did you know that?"

"I did my research on the way here," lied the Dark Knight, when really Bruce had been on that very boat on the day of the incident, and it had only been thanks to Alfred that Charles had not suffered serious blood-loss or infection from his injury. "It's all in the Gotham Gazette's archives…"

"Hmmm," Gordon noted down this new information, reluctantly stepping aside to allow the caped detective immediate access to the body. "Go ahead, for all the good it will do you—the body is clean for prints."

"Thank you, Jim," Batman replied sincerely.

"Yeah, well, just prove to me it really is you, and catch this sick son of a bitch, will you?"

"I'll try…"

"You better," Gordon hung back as Batman crouched beside the body, retrieving the small Batlight from his utility belt and shining it on the body's hands. A strange shadow caught his eye and, carefully, he pulled up the sleeve to reveal an odd, inflamed ring of skin around the wrist. Stepping around the body, he checked the other arm and found the same markings there, too. "What you got there?" asked Gordon curiously.

"Bands around the victim's wrists," mused Batman darkly, before concluding, "Jim, were there any handcuffs, ropes or anything else that could constitute for bonds found near the scene?"

Commissioner Gordon looked to Bullock and Montoya, silently observing the Bat the entire time, who then looked at each other before shaking their heads. "Doesn't seem like it," he answered finally. "Why? You think our vic was tied-up?"

"Quite possibly, but it doesn't really add-up," Bruce frowned under the cowl's impassiveness. "There's no other signs of a struggle: no other visible bruises, no blood and nothing under his fingernails. It's almost as if he let the suspect put the bonds on without a struggle… which leads me to assume they were placed on him after his face was removed. Which still doesn't explain how someone could cut someone's face off with little to no resistance…"

"Sure as Hell got us stumped," Bullock admitted gruffly, only to have Montoya elbow him sharply in the ribs. "What?! It does…one of the sickest things I've ever seen," he added, pointing to his scarred throat, "and I've seen some pretty sick $#%& up close."

"Jim, with your permission…?" Batman hesitated, his hand clasping several evidence bags from his belt.

Gordon looked at him with a heavy scowl, and Bruce could tell he really wanted to refuse any help with this case, that he was just too proud to allow this Batman to step back into the limelight, but that he also knew they stood a better chance at catching this psychopath before he killed again with the vigilante's help. In the end, his common sense won out, and he sighed heavily. "Sure, whatever… just save enough for the CSI's, will you?"

The Commissioner turned back to Bullock and Montoya, closing his notebook and putting it away. "Looks like you two can go, if you want," he told them, judging by the looks on their anxious faces that they, too, weren't quite ready to fully welcome the real Batman back yet. "I'll stay here until the CSI's and coroners turn up." They nodded, relieved, and he watched them get into their car and drive away. Sighing he turned back to the body. "You about done… here…?"

Batman was already gone.

The Batcave, the following day…

Bruce had been up all night, examining the evidence and cross-checking it with everything he had on file. In time that he had been allowed, he had gathered samples of the mysterious bruising around Reeves' wrists, as well as a blood-sample from the man's desecrated face.

The latter showed minute traces of Tetrodotoxin, which explained a lot; extracted from the liver of a Caribbean Puffer Fish, this natural chemical paralyzes any living thing that gets it into their bloodstream, whilst leaving all the neurological functions working perfectly. Once he's been exposed to it, poor Charles would have been completely helpless against his sadistic murderer, and yet able to feel every last thrust of the knife as it sliced his face off.

As for the bruising, the results came close to matching those of allergic reactions to wool. Though very rare, Bruce did recall Charles often joking that you'd never see him in a wool suit, or that he wouldn't touch sheep with a ten-foot bargepole… could it be that he really had been allergic to wool? Cases of that were extremely rare, but not implausible. But how, then, had he come into such direct and limited contact with the material? Each answered seemed to raise another question…

Sighing, Bruce stood up from his forensics workstation and made for the long, winding stone staircase that led back into Wayne Manor. Had Alfred been here, he would have undoubtedly delivered Bruce's breakfast in person, but he wasn't, so Bruce would have to make the journey to the kitchen himself.

Minutes later he was in the kitchen, pouring a glass of orange juice and pushing slices of white bread into the toaster. Not being able to bear the heavy silence a moment longer, he switched on the TV set into the far wall. It came on to show a News Channel, reporting the murder of the previous night.

"…Reeves of Reeves Pharmaceuticals was found dead last night in mysterious circumstances. Currently, the GCPD are in a full investigation, but statements are limited, although sources claim the former-CEO's face has been removed and is currently missing."

Bruce gripped his cold glass of orange juice tightly, glowering at the emotionless reporter-- where these people got their accurate sources he'd never know, but it didn't do anyone any good aside from make this case a media circus! One of these days he'd put time into finding any leaks within the police force, and then he'd see just how well the news fared…

"…In related news; Samuel Reeves, younger brother of the recently deceased, has reluctantly accepted to take on the company as their new CEO. He promises that he will not let this tragedy affect the process of any of the company's current projects, and…"

The glass in Bruce's hand shattered at this time, any further reports falling on deaf ears as the enraged millionaire instinctively put all the pieces to this macabre puzzle in place. Samuel Reeves, he seethed, It's so obvious now!

Snatching the toast from the slots, Bruce hurried back to the Batcave, threw on a new batsuit and paused before the Computer. He had one last task to do here, and then he'd put a stop to this before Samuel had a chance to insult Charles' memory any longer…

Reeves Pharmaceuticals, CEO's office, 4:57PM

The curtains to the large office had been drawn, delving the entire room into pitch blackness save for a single table lamp that shone on the CEO's desk, its pool of light showing the back of a broad leather chair. Batman didn't need to activate his night-vision to know that Samuel was seated there, his back to the desk, but he switched it on anyway, to check for any signs of traps between him and the suspect.

Somehow, beyond the Dark Knight's understanding, Samuel must have heard this, and spoke up, his voice brisk, taunting and yet muffled. "I must admit, I only thought bats came out at night."

"I'm not here to joke around," growled Batman, stepping cautiously closer. "I know what you did-- and I know who you are."

"Oh, really?" the voice of Samuel seemed excited by this statement. "Do tell, Batman, please…do."

"Your real name is Anthony Kimble, aged thirty-six, single, and fired employee of this very company six years ago," Batman answered firmly, stepping even closer. He was halfway across the office now. "You are not Samuel Reeves, who actually died aged seven from meningitis. But you made sure a detailed and precise database-hack of the company's records would let you pass yourself off as him, whilst erasing any documentation of you for who you really were."

"Oh, bravo, Batman!" jeered Kimble, clapping his hands slowly, "Bra-vo! And I used to think 'The World's Greatest Detective' was just an exaggerated media-label. Very impressive, I must say…"

"I don't want your approval," growled Batman, fists clenched.

"Oh, too bad…" The chair whirled around to reveal a horrifying visage that caused Batman to stagger in his approach, sickening him to the pit of his stomach. Anthony was wearing the face of Charles Reeves like a mask, the skin mottled and pale, dried blood tracing lines from every gaping orifice. The sick killer gave a wide, manic grin, pointing to his prize. "I take it you want this instead, then?"

"Take…it…off!"

"No, no, I don't think so. I like this mask, Batman-- so much better than those wretched rubber ones…" In the blink of an eye, a tube was to his lips--Charles' lips-- and, with a quick puff, a dart lanced through the air, striking Batman in the chest.

Gasping for breath, Batman fell to his knees, shaking feebly from the dart's effects. Crowing, Anthony leapt to his feet and strode over to the fallen vigilante. "No doubt you know what that is, coursing through your veins right now, hmm?" he asked, bending down to smile leering into Batman's eyes. "Of course you do-- Charlie didn't. Scared him witless, did my Tetrodotoxin-tipped darts! Oh, you should have seen his face-- not now, I mean," he added, once again pointing to his sickening 'mask'. "No, back when I held the blade up to his face, when I told him just what I was going to do to him whilst he sat there, helpless. Haha, my, did the tears fall then! He tried screaming, of course. They all do, but it does them no good. Oh-- what's that? Didn't you know there were others?" he looked triumphant now, his grin growing broader. "I eluded the Bat! Of course there were others, Detective, I had to perfect my craft before having my revenge…"

But Batman had heard enough, and knew the time for pretence was over. Snapping his hands to grasp the killer's legs, he wrenched with all his strength, sweeping Anthony off his feet. As the madman crashed to the floor, Batman rolled back up to his feet, pulling the dart from his chest. The Kevlar weave of his body-armour had stopped it from touching his skin.

"Oooh, Batman! You were playing possum all along!" cried Anthony in delight, "Now we move on to the customary roughhousing, I presume! Yes, let's!"

"You're sick," growled Batman, reaching down to grab him by the lapels. With his free hand, he ripped off the 'mask' (Forgive me, Charles…). "But there's more to this, isn't there…?"

"Ahhh, more guess-work!" the wide-eyed grin of the real Anthony Kimble stared up at him, half in awe, half…infatuated? "I'm positively salivating with anticipation, Batman! Please, indulge me…"

"You have an unhealthy obsession with masks, that much is clear. Not only that, but you made a reference to rubber masks," Batman snarled, hardly believing the conclusion he was coming to could be true. "And you obviously love the thought of receiving pain, and not just inflicting it… please, tell me I'm wrong."

"Guilty as charged, I'm afraid! I believe my psychiatrist called is sadomasochism-- S&M to the general rabble, you know." Anthony It started many years ago, back when I was working here as an IT specialist. Then he found out what I was doing, that I was embezzling company revenue to fund my…special movies, shall we say? And he fired me, just like that…"

"So you killed him…no," Batman was quick to correct himself, "that was six years ago."

"Oh, but don't think I hadn't considered it! No, no, my reason for killing Charles is a bit more complex than that," Anthony sighed lightly, revelling in the memories. "No, back then I was disgraced, unemployed, and-- worse still-- my pleasures no longer…well, got my engines revving, if you know what I mean. Ah, but I think I've said enough for now…I believe you were about to rough me up? Please…"

"You'd love that, wouldn't you?" snapped Batman, fist raised. Anthony squealed with joy and, disgusted, Batman lowered his arm. "No…you're going to tell me everything, now…"

"And afterwards…?"

"If you give me reason," grimaced Batman.

"Lovely," Anthony's eyes rolled back to the left, recalling where he'd left off. "Where were we…? Oh, yes! As I was saying, I needed something more than your average, you know, specialist business could accommodate. I spent almost everything I had in search of the next level in sadistic pleasures, and just when I'd given up hope I stumbled across the elusive holy grail! Snuff films…"

"You're lying," seethed Batman, tightening his grip on the murderer, shaking him sharply. "You're trying to push me! Snuff films are a myth, a sick legend!"

"You'd like to think so, wouldn't you?" sighed Anthony happily, enjoying the torment written on the Dark Knight's lips. "Bet it would make you sleep easier at night-- or is it mornings for you?-- believing that the sickest criminals in Gotham all parade around in costumed gimmicks instead of in secret, in seedy basements, recording wanton acts of murder for sexual pleasure. Yes…I can see the appeal in believing it a myth. But, too bad for you it's not."

"Shut up!"

"Ah-ah-ahhh! Temper temper! Do you want to hear the rest of my confession or not?" leered Anthony. "Well, long story short, I came to Charles one last time before last night, begging him for a loan to start my own private collection of films. Of course, once he'd cottoned on to what I was asking money for, he outright refused and ordered me to leave the premises. So, I reasoned that if he wouldn't give me the money willingly, I'd simply take it-- all of it. So, I poisoned him on his way home from this office, cut his face off, tied him up as the Tetrodotoxin began to wear off-- wool-lined bondage cuffs, you know. Obviously, back then I didn't know he was allergic to the damn thing-- and threw him off the nearest high-rise! Of course, I could've made it all look like a suicide had I not taken his face but, what can I say? I love masks…just like you."

"I'm nothing like you!" snapped Batman, lifting the psychopath to his feet. "Nothing!!"

"Is that so?" purred Anthony, eyeing him sceptically. "You dress-up, put on a mask and spend your nights stalking the shadows of this city, beating its criminal underworld to a bloody pulp, and taking a beating in return. Now, tell me this…am I really the only sadomasochist in this room?" he laughed long and hard, like a maniacal hyena.

Finally, Batman could put it off no longer and, with a stiff right jab to the face, he knocked Anthony Kimble out and threw him over his shoulder. "I'm nothing like you," he swore.

Commissioner Gordon had received an anonymous tip (and, by anonymous, he meant Batman, off the record) that he would find Charles Reeves' killer outside the headquarters of Reeves Pharmaceuticals, along with all the evidence needed to convict him.

Sure enough, when he reached his destination, there was an unfamiliar figure, strung upside-down from the building's central flagpole, a cellophane bag taped around his chest. Its contents included a tape-recorder, a dart and its pipe, a pair of wool-lined bondage cuffs…and the late Charles Reeves' face.

Fighting down his supper, Gordon took the bag off the unconscious suspect and turned to the officers that had accompanied him on the call. "Cut that man down," he ordered, looking down at the bag's contents once more. "Why do I get the feeling I'm not going to like what's on that recorder…?"

From a perch on an adjacent building, Batman watched the policemen cut down and arrest the unconscious Kimble with cold eyes. It sickened him to think that men like Anthony had been allowed to flourish in his city, that anyone could be a killer like him. But he knew he couldn't be everywhere at once, as much as he strongly wished he could. At least now, with that audio-confession, the GCPD would be aware of the vile sickness taking place on their streets, and would be able to crack down on it.

Until then, he sighed, rising up and aiming his grapnel across the street, We'll just do the best we can with what we've got. That's all we can ever be expected to do.