Disclaimer: This is fanfiction just for fun. I have no claims.
Clark Kent looks up from his menu and smiles as he spots his old friend Inspector Bill Henderson. Clark and the Inspector are in the habit of occasionally meeting for lunch, and today they are meeting at a favorite spot, the Metropolis Press Club. Clark stands and shakes hands with his old friend.
"Welcome back, Bill. How was your trip?"
As they sit, Henderson replies, "Lousy."
"Really? I thought you always enjoyed the annual police convention."
"Normally I do. It's a chance to share ideas, procedures and experiences with detectives from all over the country. It has always been an interesting and useful experience…"
The appearance of the waiter interrupts. He is a short, bald man with a red moustache and thick glasses. "Good day gentlemen, sorry for the delay. As you can see, we are swamped this afternoon. May I take your drink orders while you look at the menu?"
Henderson replies, "No need. I know what I want. I'll have a tuna melt, clam chowder and iced tea."
Clark adds, "Iced tea sounds good, but I'll have a hamburger and the chili—extra spicy."
"Are you sure, sir? Our chili is already known as the hottest in the city."
Clark smiles. "I'm sure. I'm one of those lucky people who is not bothered by hot spices. In fact, bring a bottle of hot sauce too."
The waiter walks away softly mumbling, "You're the block…"
Henderson comments, "Clark, you must have a cast iron stomach."
"Like I said, just lucky. But Bill, tell me why this latest police convention was so disappointing."
"Because it was held in Gotham City. I swear, the cops in that town have lost their minds."
"Is this because of the new crimefighter, the Batman?"
"Crimefighter? Masked vigilante is more like it."
"I don't know, Bill. I've heard some good reports about this Batman fellow."
"To give the devil his due, so have I. But that doesn't change the fact that he is a man in a costume doing the work of the police."
Henderson shakes his head. "That's different."
"Well, he's…super. Superman has powers and abilities far beyond those of normal people, and he uses those powers for the common good. Besides, Superman doesn't wear a mask."
Clark smiles and adjusts his glasses. "True, but Superman is bullet proof. This Batman fellow needs a way to keep himself safe when he isn't in costume. After all, he is racking up an impressive list of enemies."
"I'm aware that in just over a year he has brought down three major crime bosses, so I guess I can understand about the mask."
"Plus, I hear that Gotham's street crime rate has gone down by a third since the appearance of the Batman."
"A third? That's almost as much of a decline as Metropolis experienced after Superman arrived in the city. Okay, I guess I can understand why the Gotham cops have abandoned trying to arrest this Batman. If I were them I might have done the same. Might have. But, it's this latest development that has me so annoyed."
"And that is…?"
"The new police commissioner, Gordon, has installed a searchlight on the roof of police headquarters, and it has this weird bat emblem in the center. I actually saw them using it one night to summon the Batman!"
"It sounds like a quick way to call for Batman's help."
"It's humiliating. Have the Gotham cops no pride at all? Every time they use this 'bat signal' they are announcing to the world they can't do their jobs. It's one thing to accept that this Batman, acting on his own, is out fighting crime but to publicly seek his help?"
"Maybe this Commissioner Gordon realizes there are rare, extreme cases when Batman's expertise can come in handy. I've heard that Gotham City gets a high number of bizarre but brillant criminals, and apparently Batman is especially skilled at capturing them."
Henderson shakes his head. "I still don't get why standard police methods can't track down crooks like this Jester…"
"Okay, 'Joker'. But I bet if he started operating in Metropolis, we'd catch him and put him away for good. The bleeding-heart courts in Gotham keep sending him to some insane asylum that seems as secure as a wet paper bag. Only in Gotham could this Joker character get away with his shenanigans."
"That's hard to say, Bill. Other than Lex Luthor, Metropolis has never faced a crook as brilliant as the Joker."
"I realize that. With Superman in town, only the dumbest crooks try for a life of crime here."
Clark pauses, considering Henderson's words. "I…never thought of that. By basing his operations in Metropolis, Superman may be driving the smartest and most dangerous crooks to other cities, thus making crime there worse."
Before Henderson can reply, the waiter returns carrying a tray…
"Tuna melt, clam chowder and iced tea for you, sir. A burger, extra spicy chili and tea for you. And, here is your hot sauce, sir."
Clark and Henderson nod their thanks, and as the waiter walks away, Clark reaches for the bottle of hot sauce. At superspeed, he loosens the bottle's cap and 'accidently' tips over the hot sauce which lands in Henderson's clam chowder.
"Oh, sorry Bill. My hot sauce has ruined your chowder. I'll have the waiter bring you another. Uh…waiter!" Clark calls out with a sweeping hand gesture, knocking over his iced tea.
"Again? Clark, I've never seen you this clumsy."
"I guess it's not my day." Clark replies as he stands.
The waiter approaches. "Problem, gentlemen?"
"Yes, my friend needs another bowl of clam chowder, on my tab. And, I'll need to borrow your towel to mop up the iced tea I spilled on the floor."
The waiter glares. "You spoiled the soup?"
Clark grabs the waiter's towel, revealing a snub-nosed revolver. Clark backs away…
"Bill, he's got a g-gun."
Clark 'slips' on the wet floor—his legs go flying out from under him and his foot hits the waiter's hand sending the gun sailing across the room. Instantly, Henderson is on the short waiter and after a brief struggle, the man is handcuffed. Henderson remarks…
"Now I recognize you. 'Shorty' Moran—I sent you up for armed robbery ten years ago."
Moran snarls, "I just got out, and like I promised, the first thing I did was to come after you, Henderson. I would have gotten you with the poisoned soup if it weren't for this…stumble bum!"
Now standing, Clark suppresses a smile. Moran's use of the old prison slang, 'the block' caught Clark's attention. It was a term used to describe the toughest convict on a prison cell block. X-ray vision revealed the hidden revolver and microscopic vision showed the poison in the soup.
"Clark, that means you saved my life twice in only a minute. Looks like we have a new hero in town. Now all we have to do is put a big 'S' on your chest."
"An 'S'?" Clark nervously asks.
"Yeah, for 'Stumbleman'."
Clark laughs and breathes a sigh of relief.