Well this was a pain to get out there. The truth is this story was never supposed to reach nine chapters, but the shear weight of reviews and support demanded more than the quick pat ending I originally had planned. I needed time to explore just what I could do with the premise. Now, finally I think I've got a way to expand the story without resorting to fluff and nonsense to pad it out.
Clark dashed into the Watchtower, secretly a little disappointed Chloe didn't jump when he came to a sudden stop. After a moment she looked around and then reacted. 'Clark! What you doing back?'
'We've got a problem Chloe…' He told her carefully.
'You got that right Clark.' She looked up. 'I don't think the Batman is responsible for what happened to Dent, or those officers.'
Clark was speechless for a second. 'Wha… How do you know?'
'Lois rang, she's been following up some leads on her own.' She blinked. 'What do you mean, how did I know? What do you know?'
'The meeting with Gordon, he… well if you can tell me what you've found I might fill in the gaps.'
Chloe gave him a very sceptical look. 'Not much really. On it's own nothing really makes sense, but it together I have real doubts. First; there's no record of Dent's actions after the hospital he was staying at blew up. He was there, then his body was found in a warehouse. Nothing between. No evacuation orders, no police escort, not even a prescription charge. It's as if he vanished off the face of the planet for almost twelve hours. I've looked into ambulance records, taxi cabs, hire cars, everything.'
'The Batman could…'
Chloe shook her head hard. 'Have kidnaped him? I thought about that, and it doesn't fit. Whenever this Dracula want-to-be shows up he takes people down right there. Either ambushing them, or straight out attacking. In fact there's only one Gotham psychopath that does have the MO to kidnap their victims.' She tapped on her keyboard and a screen came up, showing what looked like a twisted clown with deep scars running up the sides of his mouth.
'The Joker.' Clark recognised the madman.
'He was the one that blew up the hospital that Dent was staying in.' Chloe told him. 'That means he had the opportunity and a motive. If anyone is responsible for Dent's disappearance it's him. Thing is, that's not the end.'
She flicked her fingers on the table top and four pictures appeared on the screens around the room. 'Four deaths, all attributed to the Batman. Thing is at least two of them couldn't be him. I mean not unless he could be in two places at once. Not even you are fast enough to do that speedy.'
'Yep, thing is these deaths have no one to blame. Not even our Ronald McDonald psychopath who was too busy playing domestic terrorist. So I went looking for a common denominator.' Chloe was in her element, even when not a reporter she was still the best researcher Clark would ever know. 'Now I couldn't find anything at first, but when I got into their bank details it all fit together.'
'The cops were on the take?' Clark asked, 'And you can prove it?'
'Well it's not exactly a smoking gun, but both Ramirez and Wuertz, the two cops killed, were in deep financial trouble. Wuertz was a gambler that forgot the house always wins and Ramirez had to pay some exorbitant medical bills for her mother.'
'Exorbitant?' Clark looked at her.
Chloe grimaced, she'd dug something up she didn't like. He could tell. 'Oh yes the same guy that rigged Wuertz pulled some strings with Ramirez's mother. He engineered the whole thing and I'll give you three guesses.'
'The Mob boss, the one that got killed.'
'What?' Clark shouted, jumping to his feet. 'How, I mean how did he…?'
'Know how to do that, let's just say my new hobby is going to be to find out everything I can about our wild-card inspired villain.'
Clark took a moment. 'Its true, it's all true.' he said to himself.
'Chloe, that meeting Oliver and I had with the Commissioner? Well it wasn't just the three of us. The Batman turned up too.' He told her.
'What?' Chloe exploded incredulously as only she could. 'How'd he know about…'
'The Commissioner invited him. They've been working together since the beginning and they told us everything you've just told me. The Joker being behind it all, how he did it. Everything'
'Then why did you have me check up on all this, why let me ramble on about bank accounts…'
Clark grabbed her by the shoulders, stopping her mid-rant. 'Chloe, I couldn't trust them and needed you and your research magic to find some proof, some evidence that they were telling the truth.'
'It was Dent that killed those police officers and kidnapped Gordon's family.' Clark took a breath. 'Whatever the Joker did to him drove Dent insane. Grief, pain, anger. After killing the officers he tried to kill Gordon's son and the Batman got in the way. Just one problem…'
'If Dent was crazy every criminal he ever put away would pick up a get out of jail free card with complimentary crime spree.' Chloe put the pieces together. 'So they covered it up, Batman took the blame and those criminals stay in jail.' She let out a long whistle.
Clark took a deep breath and looked out of the window over the city. 'That's what they told me, yes.'
'So what you going to do about it?'
Lois scratched the tip of her nose with her free hand 'Look Thistleweight, I'll tell you this one last time. then I'll hunt you down and then tattoo it to the inside of your eyeballs; We have told you everything. Everything. you need to know.'
She could almost hear him spluttering on the other end. 'No. No you haven't even come close. How did you get these interviews?' he barked.
'You don't need to know.'
'Interviews with the Mayor and Commissioner Gordon, those are exclusives Lane. Now I don't know how a pair of two bit copy writers pulled that off but I won't let it stand.'
'No Lane. You promised to share, then you stab me in the back. I should have been at those interviews. I don't care what pull you think you've got, you try and burn me and I'll make sure the best contribution you'll ever make to journalism is refilling the copy machine.'
Lois had enough of this guy. 'Yeah, you just go ahead and try. I'm the one that got those exclusive interviews, you couldn't get a quote from a back street wino. You want to push this? May the best woman win.' With that she hung up on the spluttering moron and threw the phone away.
Picking up the files again Lois tried to read her own notes. How Clark made sense of them she didn't know. Going through the files and the records there was a massive problem. Batman couldn't have killed those people. Ignoring the fact it when completely against his MO he'd have to be in two places at once. That meant either he was as fast as the blur, or one of his copies that were running around at the time framed him.
She had only met him once but Commissioner Gordon was so like her father that Lois felt like she knew him. Professional, dedicated, driven. He wasn't the sort of person to support a vigilante without some serious trust, the sort of trust a lie so transparent wouldn't break. She looked at the copy of the report and saw it was signed by Gordon himself.
It was a cover,. the question was why. Who was Gordon covering for? The real criminal? Batman? Was Batman involved in the whole thing or was he just a patsy for Gordon's political games? A heck of a lot of questions, and from what lois could tell she was the only person asking them.
She needed help, as much as she didn't want to admit it she need Clark. Before she could pick up the phone there was a knock on the window. Remembering the last time someone tried that door she grabbed a weapon. The only thing she could find was her laptop. The window slid open and she was about to bring the computer down on the intruders head when she saw who it was.
'Whoa!' the Green Arrow half drew his pistol sized crossbow. 'Lois! You want to lay off the hardware?'
'I don't know, you want to holster that bow?' It took him a moment to get all the way in the room and Lois waited.
Eventually he looked around the room and grinned. 'Still the same old Lois, wouldn't know what tidy was if you looked it up in the dictionary.'
'Yet somehow I wasn't the one that got my butt kicked by a Dracula knockoff.' She reminded him.
'But he did drug you and toss the room. You'd think the maid service would have been round by now.' He grinned that boyish grin of his and it was all Lois could do to scowl back.
Eventually she gave up. 'What are you doing here Oli, shouldn't you be out there trying to catch that guy?'
After an uncomfortable moment where he just seemed to stop Lois's ex pulled down his hood, folded up the sunglasses and even, thankfully, switched off the gravelly voice thing. 'Do you ever wonder? That, that the Blur and I. That we're doing the right thing?'
'Of course you are! That lunatic…'
'No. This whole take back the night thing. What makes us different from him. I shoot at people with high tech arrows and the Blur. Well he's just the Blur.' He sat down on the corner of her bed
'People need you, both of you.' Lois told him. 'People need heroes, something or someone to look up to. Both of you fight for what you know is right, the world is a better place with you than without you.'
'Maybe, but what gives us the right? Why do we get to say what's right and whats wrong and where do we draw that line?'
'I don't understand?' Lois admitted.
'I'm breaking the law, right. Not one of the big ones sure but swinging around with a compound bow in the dead of night? I'm a criminal Lois. I've hurt people, even killed.'
'I hardly think Lex counts as people. Besides you did what you had to.'
Oliver shook his head. 'What I thought I had to. The Blur. He tried to stop us, to stop me. There's a point Lois, a point where we have to draw a line. I don't know where that is anymore.'
Lois sat next to him. 'That's why I'm here. I'm here for you and the Blur. I'll be you're Jimmy Cricket, you big dumbo.' She punched him in the shoulder and got a smile.
'That's why were lucky, but this Batman. He doesn't have you, I don't think he as anyone.'
Lois took a breath. 'Yeah, about that…'
'You… you know.' Oliver almost jumped to his feet. 'How?'
Lois waved at the research. 'Gordon lied. I know he did, I just can't prove it. What I don't know is why, but I'm guessing you do.'
'It's bad Lois.' Oliver looked out the window. 'It's bad and just too big for me. It's like there's no right answer and the only way out is to cross that line again, but if I do… If I cross now I might never find my way back.'
'What do you mean?' Lois asked. 'How bad is it?' She had a good idea but the way he was talking she wasn't sure if she was right.
Oliver's shoulders seemed to slump. 'It could mean Batman's life. If they catch him there's not a jury in the world that wouldn't convict. Convict him for a crime he didn't commit.'
'What if he won't get caught, the police will kill him if they have to. He knows that and still he accepted the blame.'
'Wait, wait!' Lois was standing too. 'He's not being played, he agreed to this witch hunt?'
'It was the only way to save Gotham.' Oliver told her. 'If the truth comes out everything, everything will fall apart. That's the line, is the life of one good man worth a city? If one, why not too or three. Is the right thing worth the price of justice, the right of the victims families to know the truth?'
'My god, Dent! Dent killed those people!' Lois gasped the implications hitting home.
'Every part of me is screaming to let this go, that it's too big, that it's the right thing.' Oliver said and Lois nodded mutely. 'But I know, I know that if I do that today tomorrow I might justify something else the same way. Something horrible, something unforgivable, and I'd be able to live with myself because of the greater good I might have done. How can one be right and the other so very wrong? Help me Lois, what do I do?'
Bruce's elbow connected with the robbers nose, shattering it on point of impact and flooring the man. His rapist colleague drew a revolver. Bruce was only a few feet away and could see the half empty chambers, their spent casings blocking the light behind. He could smell the cordite from the round already fired in the cramped alley and he knew that there was still two live rounds ready to fire.
The thug didn't care, he was scared but the gleam in his eye was insane. The irony was he'd probably be conratgualted by both the mobs and the police. Pulling a short metal rod from its sheath Bruce flung it at the gun. It was an educated risk, for weeks he'd been practicing. At worse the sharpened point would deflect his hand.
His luck was with him and the short rod stuck in the barrel of the gun. The thug tried to fire and his gun exploded. Now nothing more than an useless lump of metal. Bruce brought his hand down sharply on the thugs wrist, the armoured glove adding enough force to brake bone. Driving the palm of his other hand into the man's chest Bruce left him gasping for air while cradling his arm.
Looking down he saw the young woman he'd just saved. She would have been pretty, if it wasn't for the look of shear horror on her face. The was terrified, traumatised even, but not from the two men. No she was more scared of him. It was a reaction Bruce had gotten used to. Before they might have been wary, but still thankful. Now he was the bigger monster. He had wanted to galvanise the people, give them a banner to fight under. He'd become the boogyman to villain and innocent alike.
Holding back a sigh Bruce drew his grappling launcher and swung off into the shadows. He had a job to do.
Gordon played with is pipe. The morning sun was rising and in an hour he was supposed to at his desk. Instead he was on his dozenth cup of coffee. It was all well and good having a deal, but these were kids. Kent and Queen didn't have the experience, didn't know when to compromise.
That was the problem with the idealistic, they thought right and wrong was black and white. That there was a clear line between them. Life was grey, and Gotham was greyer than most. There were some battles you just couldn't win. That didn't stop you fighting, just meant you had to know how.
These kids had everything, the truth, Batman, Gordon's actions to cover it up. What did he have, a couple of names and a scrap of proof. If they decided to blow the whistle, that what was just and right was more important than the safety and future of Gotham, that was it. He'd be arrested, drummed out the department. Batman would probably find a way out, but the city…
There just wouldn't be a Gotham anymore. The few good people still trying to make the city a good place again would lose all hope. The white knight District attorney's reputation would be shredded, the criminals he put away would go free and then everything would hit the fan.
Riots, panic, chaos. There wouldn't be anything the police could do, not against a city gone mad. Without hope, without the chance things would improve that's exactly what would happen. Gordon couldn't allow it. He needed a back up plan, if they did push, he needed to push back harder. Up until now he'd been willing to trust his partner in all this, but there was just too much at stake right now.
End Chapter 9