Oliver had an arrow notched and bow-string taught within a fraction of a second, only then did he let himself wonder just what the hell was going on. The Batman was working with Gotham's chief of police. Or as it the other way around, he didn't know. There had been some sort of connection before, but that was supposed to be long gone. The Commissioner had made a big show of shattering the spotlight that cast the Batman's symbol into the night sky. Now Oliver wondered just how much of that was an act.
As fast as Oliver had been Clark was still quicker. Almost the instant the Batman landed Metropolis's Blur had hold of him by the neck. Oliver switched target to Gordon. The policeman wasn't even fazed, just calmly puffing away on his pipe. 'You going to tell us what's going on?' The Green Arrow pressed.
A hundred and one other questions screamed for answers too. What were they up to? What did this have to do with Dent? How long had they been working together? How did Gordon know who he and Clark were? Did Batman know their identities too, or was that an ace he was keeping over his partner? It all depended on how he answered the first one.
'You going to release him?' Gordon asked with a flick of an eyebrow.
'Depends on what you've got to convince me.' Clark growled. Oliver had only seen him like this a couple of times. The idea that the vigilante had attacked Lois had made this whole thing a thousand times worse. In a bad mood Clark could level mountains without pause, right now the Batman was looking like a small hill.
It was then Oliver had to re-evaluate the mad man again, taking Clark's wrist with a twist Batman rolled backwards and pulled. Clark wasn't ready for it and fell, ending up caught in a classic judo throw. Half way through the move Batman improvised, he got both feet on Clark's chest and used his leverage to sent the Kryptonian into a half collapsed wall.
Oliver blinked, this was so much worse than he thought. While Clark was both super strong and super fast he still had the same joints and a human. Which was the only way that could have worked. There was more than a hint of ti-chi in the move as well as raw power. Blending the two styles wasn't exactly original, but the only way to get it right was training. Even off balance Clark should have been able to do something, if he was given half a chance. Batman hadn't given any. He was League of Shadows, he had to be. That made things about a thousand times worse. Where there was one there was always more.
Clark was no slouch and a brick wall wouldn't even slow him down on his worst day. Even so Batman was standing first, his cloak dropping either side making him look like nothing more than a column of darkness.
Clark saw this too and was back on his feet in a blur of motion, this time he went for the vigilante's chest piece lifting him a good two foot from the ground at arm's length. Clark might have made mistakes like a human, but he only made them once. There was no way the Bat could get out of his powerful grip.
He tried of course, but he'd have better luck wrestling a tank. 'Impressive.' the masked man growled in his voice that sounded like he smoked a cigarette factory every day.
'You should see his balloon animals.' Oliver quipped as he felt the bow string biting into his gloved hand. 'You try anything I'll put an arrow through your skull, we clear?'
There was a long pause where he gauged his options. Oliver knew he had none. Strangely Gordon still hadn't drawn his gun, just put out his pipe. He tapped the ash out on to the ground. 'This isn't getting us anywhere Mr Queen. Now are you ready to listen or do you really intend to commit homicide?'
'Oh, I'm still waiting for an answer to my question.'
'What's going on? Why it's quite simple. You don't know the full story, it's time you found out.'
Lois was pouring through information. Everything she had on Dent, Batman, the Joker and Commissioner Gordon. She couldn't understand why she hadn't seen any of it before. Why nobody ever had.
Either the whole world had been struck blind, or they just weren't looking hard enough. The problem was the timelines didn't match, unless Batman could be in two places at once he can't have both killed the officers, the mobster and taken out the Joker's henchmen. It had to be a double. The problem was the Batman wasn't supposed to be superhuman. Even if he was there just couldn't be two of them running around. She'd dealt with enough meteor freaks and super powered humans to know even they had limits. Even if he could it would still mean…
Suddenly Lois's phone went off. Jolting her from her thoughts, she glanced at the screen but didn't recognise the number. 'Hello?' she answered
'Lane, where are you?' It was Thistleweight, her unwanted shadow, barking orders like he was her boss
Rolling her eyes she resisted the urge to sigh. 'In my hotel room, doing some research.'
'With what, the useless notes Kent sent me?'
'Useless?' Lois echoed. They weren't useless, they might not tell you what you want to know but the trick of a good reporter was taking what you had for a story, not what waned.
'Worthless, I'm not trying to do some puff piece on Gotham police or a take down of their Mayor. We're here, Lane, to report on this Blur freak dealing with that other local bat-freak. That's all.' Thistleweight snarled
Lois had a chance to flick through some of his articles. The guy was a blind pit-bull, more interested in printing his opinion than letting the facts speak for themselves. It wasn't surprising he wasn't getting what he wanted.
Sure she wasn't above emphasising some parts of a story over others, no journalist was, but you had to tell the truth. That's all that separated newspapers like the Planet from some half baked conspiracy theorist with a blog. 'So what have you found out so far?' She pressed.
'Listen Lane, you work for me…'
'Wrong! I work for the Daily Planet and on a bad day I might, might answer to Tess Mercer, but not to you!' She was on her feet now. 'We agreed to partners, so partners it is. What have you found?'
'I don't answer to some upstart copy-girl from the basement. One call from me and Tess Mercer will have you and you're partner pulled back to your dungeon so fast you'll think it was the Blur's doing. Got me!'
'Just try it, chuckles.' Lois didn't like threats, she really didn't like empty blustering and she couldn't stand Thistleweight.
'Pack your bags lane, you're gone.' He snarled. 'And when you get back clear out your desk. I'm going to see to it you won't even be proof reading the obituaries column.' He hung up.
'Jack-ass.' Lois muttered. He was probably calling Tess right now, whining like a four year old to the school principal. It was just one more annoyance if she was going to trump him she needed leverage. Looking down Lois grinned as she saw the research she'd gathered. If Thistleweight was worth his press pass he'd have the same, especially after leaching off their interviews.
She needed leverage to keep on the story, she had it right in front of her.
Clark could feel the urge to smash the Batman through a wall and then super-speed over to the jail, dumping both him and the Commissioner into a cell and welding them inside.
Carefully he put the black clad ninja down, but didn't take his eyes off him. 'Alright talk. Tell me how you didn't kill Dent.'
'I did.' The Batman admitted. 'But that's only half the story.'
'You know what happened here?' The Police Commissioner asked. 'Before Dent? It was a trap by the Joker. He had two corrupt cops, my own, kidnap Dent and his fiancee…'
'Rachael Dawes.' The Batman interrupted.
'… Dent in a warehouse across the other side of the city. Dawes here.' Gordon continued.
'I beat the truth out of him, but with the Joker things are never as simple as that.' The Batman told them. 'It was a trick to pull everyone out of the Station, leaving him to kill a star witness and escape.'
'More than that, he wanted to hurt Dent. One way or another. Batman was quick enough to save Dent, but Dawes. were too slow.' He gestured at the burnt building around them.'
'She was in here when it blew?' Oliver gasped, 'Holy…'
Batman didn't let Oliver finish. 'The fire bomb didn't leave much left. There was another one where they'd hid Dent. It burnt half his face off before I could get him clear.'
Clark couldn't hide the wince.
'I saw him, after.' Gordon sat down on some rubble. 'He… He'd refused pain medication. You could see, see the burnt bone. He was in agony. It drove him crazy. He blamed everyone for what happened, The Joker, himself, the two of us, the mob. Everyone. We'd pinned all our hopes on him and after Dawes he lost it.'
'What are you trying to say?' Clark asked
'Dent went out for vengeance, not caring what the consequences would be.' the Batman said. 'He killed the officers, a mob boss and then turned on Gordon's family. Brought them here.'
'He had a gun.' Gordon picked up the story. 'He held it to my son's head and was going to kill him on the toss of a coin. I've never been so scared. Dent was manic, irrational. There was only one way to stop him.'
'You expect us to believe you?'
'Frankly Mr Kent, no. I don't.' The Police Commissioner admitted. "I was hoping you might, but it does't really matter on way or another. The fact is you take in the Batman all this will come out. My involvement, Dent's actions, all of it. The press will hear of it then what will happen?'
Clark looked at him, wondering if the older man was bluffing. 'You'll be arrested, along with the Batman. What else?'
'Dent.' Oliver said aloud. 'If the lawyers get one whiff that Dent wasn't on the level every two bit robber, punk or pusher he helped put away walks free.'
'That's more than there quarters of the prison, as well as a good number from the maximum security wing.' The commissioner told them.
'Blackmail.' Clark whispered. 'You're going to tell us to back off or you blow the whistle. Holding Gotham itself hostage.'
'As well as our identities.' Oliver suggested.
'There's that too.' Gordon smirked.
'No. We'll keep them secret, there's no need to bring others into this.' Batman disagreed.
That got Gordon to his feet. 'They're already in this, if it wasn't for them we'd never be in this situation.'
'The Mayor invited them, they had to do something. The question is what are they going to do now?'
Chloe stared blankly at the web of companies, looking for a eureka moment. Some little thing she missed the first dozen times that might just be what she needed when her phone went off.
'Hi cous, how's metropolis?' her cousin asked.
She looked out of the watchtower's window and over the city. 'Quiet really, there was a nasty car cash on fourth and the latest gossip has two model's cat fighting over that new pop star, what's his name. No super-villains either.'
'The Blur still in town?' Lois asked on the other end all the way in Gotham.
'I guess he sped through earlier, there's some reports of him helping with the crash.' With Clark's speed it didn't matter if he was in Gotham, Metropolis or New Zealand. If there was trouble he'd be there to help.
'He told me he was looking into the whole Gotham thing.'
'Well he is fast, who knows maybe he can be in two places at once.' Chloe joked.
'He's not the only one.'
'Nothing. Chloe, I need a favour.'
Chloe laughed. 'I got the feeling this wasn't just a social call, what do you need.'
'Your super research skills, and to keep this on the QT.'
'You got both, go for it.'
'Harvey Dent's medical file.' That brought her up short.
Chloe waited for lois to elaborate. 'What?'
'This whole thing stinks Clo. I can't find anything about Dent for like two days before his death. It's like as soon as he went into that hospital he vanished off the face of the planet.'
'And reappeared dead.' Chloe pulled up the police and hospital records. 'Tried looking into that, where they found him in?'
Lois barked out a laugh. 'Tried and failed, there's nothing but news reports of "a second explosion". I found the address but there's nothing, Just some warehouse near the docks. Company went bankrupt. No insurance.'
Chloe had a cold shiver. Burnt out warehouse, insurance non existent. It sounded like the same place the boys were, but she couldn't tell Lois that. 'Alright I got his charts, took some creative research but I have them. I'll e-mail them too you now.'
'Thanks.' Lois took a deep breath. 'Listen Chloe, what I'm on to here. It might be the biggest story the year. Of the decade. I need you to keep it quiet.'
'You got it.' Chloe agreed quickly.
'I mean it Clo. Not even Clark, if this is as big as I think it is I don't know if I can publish it.'
Chloe stopped. There was nothing that was that big, except something as big as Clarks secret. if Lois was onto something that big there was no telling where she might end up. 'What are you on to?'
'You know I love you Cous.' Lois said carefully. 'But I don't think your ready for for this. I know I'm not.' With that she hung up.
Chloe could take a lot of things, and she had long since given up on her journalistic dreams, but it would be a cold day in hell when she gave up on a story. Bringing up a new browser window she got to work.
Clark sat down on the top of the suspension bridge. He was right, from here he could look out over Gotham. Almost, but not quite the same as Watchtower. 'Clark, yo boy scout, you there?' said a voice in his ear.
'What is it Oliver?' Clark answered, tapping his radio.
'What is it? How the hell can you ask that?' The archer cursed. 'You blurred out of there as soon as they finished their story. Where'd you go?'
'Some bridge.' he shrugged. 'I just had to get out of there.'
'Some bridge, that really narrows things down. There only about a thousand of them in Gotham.' Oliver sighed. 'I left the bat and the commissioner back there and ran too. How much of that story you buy?'
'How much was the truth?' Clark asked back. 'All of it? None? I don't know.' He looked out over the river. Gotham was so unlike Metropolis, back home he understood the fight. Good was good and bad was bad. Sure, it could get a bit murky but Clark could always find his way though. Chloe and even Lana always agreed it was his greatest strength. His sense of justice, the fact he could always see the good in people and knew what was right and wrong.
Gotham wasn't back or white. It was shadows, deep dark shadows where everything was grey. Clark couldn't see the good or the bad. Not here and not now, here in this city he was lost directionless. It was like someone had smashed his compass and left him adrift. He needed help, help Oliver couldn't give him. 'Look Oliver, I'll get back to you. Okay.'
'Sure big guy, I was going to say the same thing. Catch you later.'
Lois grinned, 'Got you! Got you, you lying… no good…' She trailed off. It did make sense now all of it. She could see it, how it had played out. The sort of deal the two of them would have made and why 'Oh god!'
Her phone rang.
End Chapter 8