Gotham City, late evening…
"This is an amazing car! I can't imagine what half of the gadgets are for." Superman remarks.
"Don't touch anything." Batman warns.
"I won't…oh, what does this activate?"
Superman quickly pulls back his hand. "Really…?"
The briefest smile appears on Batman's face. "Nah, it's the seat warmer."
"I have to wonder, this car is so distinctive with all of the bat emblems and bat shaped wings, aren't there times when that's a drawback?"
"All of the bat gear retracts while in stealth mode. Then the batmobile looks like an ordinary black sedan. We're getting close to our first stop."
"There are a lot of impressive estates in this area."
"We are on the very fringe of north Gotham, considered the city's most exclusive neighborhood for over a hundred years."
"And Janos Scalari lives around here?"
"He moved in about a decade ago. Scalari was born in Trieste in 1900 and came to America after the first world war. He began as an ordinary construction worker during the building boom of the 20's, but he was ambitious. He went to college at night and slowly worked his way up the ladder in his company, Burke Construction. By the time the second 'great' war started, Scalari was already a company vice-president and had married the boss's daughter."
"That would be Sarah's mother?"
"Correct. Mrs. Scalari died in childbirth and Janos was left raising Old Man Burke's only granddaughter all alone."
"You seem remarkably well informed about these people."
Batman shrugs. "I'm a lifelong Gothamite, and they are prominent people in the city's high society. During the war Janos took over the running of Burke Construction and made the company very profitable. The elder Burke's son Fred, a pre-war playboy, flew bombers over Europe and returned a decorated hero and a much more mature man. Just as the war ended, the old man died and left half of his estate to his son and half to his son-in-law."
"Fred Burke and Scalari have been at each other's throats for years. The way Burke saw it, Scalari stole half of what was rightfully his. Scalari saw it as his due for having made the company enormously successful. They split the company between them and have dedicated their lives to driving the other guy out of business. Their bitter rivalry over large construction contracts is legendary."
Before Superman can respond, the car radio calls: "Batcave to Batman."
"Batman, with a passenger, here."
The man with the English accent answers, "Understood, sir. The bat computer has analyzed your data…"
Superman can't help but ask, "Bat computer…?"
"My own design – no more over-heating vacuum tubes, and it is far faster than current Univac models. Go ahead, batcave."
"The one link between Mayor Bill Browne, his son William Junior, Sarah Scalari and Clark Kent is a young man named Liam Burke."
Superman comments, "I know that name. Liam Burke tried to escape the Metropolis city jail and I stopped him."
" Kent's involvement?"
"Clark was doing a story on jail conditions when he…overheard about the planned jailbreak. Clark told me and got an exclusive story out of it."
"I see. Liam Burke is Fred Burke's son, and I heard he got into trouble in Metropolis. And over there is the Scalari estate…"
The batmobile screeches to a halt in front of a large, old mansion. The two heroes exit the car and pause to take in the impressive abode…
"How do you want to do this?" Superman asks.
"What do you mean?"
"Normally I fly through an open window, or through the wall if it's an emergency."
"Maybe we'll just ring the bell."
After a short wait, a distinguished looking butler opens the front door slightly. "May I help you…gentlemen?"
"Batman and Superman to see Janos Scalari on urgent business." Batman says as he hands the butler a calling card with a bat emblem on it.
"I will see if Mr. Scalari is receiving, sir." The butler says as he closes the door.
Superman comments, "I think I like my way better."
"Can you see Scalari with your x-ray vision?"
Superman shakes his head. "A house this old must have over a dozen layers of lead based paint on its' walls."
"All of the homes in this area pre-date the Civil War. Gotham City was strongly anti-slavery, and some of these houses were stops on the underground railway. Rumor is, many of the old places still have tunnels, hidden doors and secret rooms."
"Uh yes, there are reports of those too."
"I hear the butler returning. Scalari gave us permission to enter."
The massive front door opens all the way this time and the butler beckons them to follow. As they cross the foyer, they can't help but notice the shrine to the late daughter of the house – a large photograph of Sarah Scalari surrounded by candles and flowers. The butler leads them into the den and there he pauses… Janos Scalari sits in a chair staring at the flames in the fireplace. Although now 59 Scalari, with his rough hands, sun burned face and muscular physique, looks like he could still put in a full day's work at one of his own construction sites. But Scalari also looks like a broken man who has given up. He glances at his visitors, but his expression doesn't change.
"That will be all, Jenkins." (The butler withdraws and Scalari asks…) "What do you two want?"
Superman asks, "Mr. Scalari, have you heard the news about Bill Browne's escape?"
"Escape?" Scalari gasps, clearly shocked.
"Yes sir, it seems he managed to get away with the help of a reporter from Metropolis. Two police officers were killed during the escape."
"How horrible, and I hadn't heard. I've lost interest in the news of the world since…the wedding. What are you men doing here? Go find that murdering bastard!"
Batman says, "It would help in our search if we understood Browne's motive. Sir, why did he kill your daughter?"
Scalari gives a short, bitter laugh. "I've been obsessively pondering that question for a month. I met 'Bill' at the rehearsal dinner and he seemed genuinely happy that his son was marrying my Sarah. Less than twelve hours later, he shot my daughter in front of all of us and then escaped. I couldn't believe my own eyes. When you find that horrible man, ask him for me why he did it."
Batman pauses as Scalari wipes away a few tears. "How did Sarah and Browne Jr. meet?"
"Sarah attended college at Metropolis University and was a summer intern at city hall during Browne's last year as mayor. 'His Honor' introduced Sarah to his son. The day they graduated, William proposed."
"I understand Sarah's cousin got into some trouble around that time?"
Scalari nods. "Poor Liam, following in his father's footsteps. You see my old business rival Fred Burke has a reputation for shading dealings. I had higher hopes for Liam, but blood will tell. Liam was caught burglarizing the mayor's safe where contract bids were kept for the new Metropolis stadium."
Superman says, "As I remember it, Liam was caught in the act by your daughter, who called the police."
"What are you saying? Are you suggesting Fred arranged my daughter's murder as an act of revenge? That's nonsense. As much as I despise the man, Fred has his limits. Besides, we all saw Bill Browne shoot Sarah. How could Fred have arranged that?"
Batman replies, "We now believe an impostor took Browne's place and killed your daughter. Apparently there is a hitman out there who has some second rate skills as a disguise artist."
"Second rate? Second rate…! There are a hundred witnesses who swear it was Bill Browne who pulled the trigger. How is that second rate? If there is such a man, then he must be a master at his craft."
"Of course, you're right. He must indeed be a master disguise artist. Well, I suppose we need to move on, Signore Scalari. Oh, by the way, how do you say in Italian: You're under arrest?"
Scalari looks back and forth between the grim faced heroes and heavily sighs. In a completely different voice he says, "Oh crap…"
X X X X X
Meanwhile in the wine cellar, the real Janos Scalari awakens, blinks a few times and looks around. He is a prisoner chained to the wall, but he is not alone. To his dismay, Janos recognizes his fellow prisoner...
"Browne, you murdering monster! You killed my beautiful Sarah. WHY?"
"Janos, I swear I didn't..."
"Liar! I saw you do it."
"No, no, it was an impostor. Someone who looked like me."
"Do you take me for a fool? Even if such an impostor could deceive me, could he also trick your own son? That poor boy, we share the loss of Sarah, but he has the added horror of watching his own father murder the woman he loved. What kind of a man are you?"
Mayor Browne hesitates, hearing Scalari's pain. "Janos, I am so sorry for your loss, but believe that I am not making up some stupid story. Look at our situation - both of us prisoners. Don't you see we are victims of a mutual enemy? Someone has gone through a lot of trouble, using a master of disguise, to gain revenge."
"Revenge? I do have a longstanding enemy, but he is not some sort of madman. He would never go this far to make me miserable. This must be about one of your political enemies."
"I have plenty of those, including members of organized crime, but what links them to you? Plus, there is a Metropolis reporter named Kent who is also being framed..."
A voice calls out, "Good, you're both awake."
Scalari and Browne see a man entering by a previously unnoticed concealed door. The newcomer is around fifty, a little overweight with thinning hair, and he is obviously quite mad...
Scalari calls out, "Fred Burke...so it really is you behind all of this. Good Lord man, what has happened to you? Have you lost your mind?"
Burke snickers at the accusation. "No, I've never thought so clearly, but yes, I am guilty of the various crimes committed against you."
"You did all of this - killed my Sarah, framed Browne and this Kent person, all to get back at me? But why? Over some stupid business rivalry?"
"I prefer to think of it as a feud, Hatfield and McCoy style. Sadly, it became generational. You hurt me Janos, more than I thought possible."
"Because of your son? You blame me for his arrest?"
"No, I blame myself for dragging Liam into our stupid feud. God, how I wish I had dropped the whole thing when I came back from the war. But no, you kept picking at me and I kept responding. But Liam, he never wanted any part of our feud or the family business."
Browne says, "Your son is Liam Burke? He was the intern who was caught stealing from my safe."
"Stealing? No, not that. He was there to do my bidding because I tricked him into it. Poor Liam...I ruined his life. All the boy wanted was to get a law degree and eventually go into politics. Isn't it ironic Mayor, the man he most admired was you?"
"If your son was so honest, what was he doing breaking into my safe?"
"Liam was there to examine the bids for the new stadium and to make sure my company had the lowest one. I told him if he were watchful, he would see the combination being worked. I taught him how to remove and then replace the seals on the bids so no one would know they were opened."
Janos snarls, "Sounds like your boy is as big of a crook as you, Fred."
"No, I told you, it's my fault! I begged Liam to help me. I gave him some cock and bull story about the company going under if we didn't win that contract. The boy only wanted to help his father. That's why he was there, to gain me one more victory in our feud. I never thought he would get caught. It was such a quick, in-and-out job, what could go wrong? Then your daughter showed up."
Janos cries, "So that's it? All of this misery because Sarah did the right thing? You had her killed for that?"
"No, I had her killed because she was a hypocrite! Do you think I don't know why Sarah was there so late at night? How she just happen to enter the mayor's closed office? She was there to do the same thing Liam was doing, only he got there first. Sarah had her own cousin arrested when she was, in her heart, just as guilty. Hypocrite!"
"No, it's not true. Sarah was just a hard worker and that's why she was there at that hour."
In response, Fred Burke removes a pistol from under his jacket and places the muzzle against Scalari's forehead...
"Tell me one more lie and I swear..."
Scalari shrugs. "What difference does it make now? Of course she was there for the same reason. My Sarah was loyal to her father and I didn't have to trick her into anything. She volunteered to make sure I had the winning bid, because she knew my enemy was her enemy!"
Burke nods and pulls back the gun. "I knew it all along. I am justified in what I've done."
Browne protests, "You two are both insane. Your stupid feud has caused you both so much pain, and still you're at it. And what about me? I've been framed for murder and lost the love of my son. How is that justified?"
Burke stares hard at Browne, but then smiles. "Because mayor, you played politics with my son's life. Bill Browne, the eternal crusader against corruption, pressured the prosecutor to push for the maximum. Normally for a first offense, Liam would have gotten five years - out in three for good behavior. But because of you Mayor, he got fifteen years!"
"I didn't interfere with your son's case. He got the maximum because he wouldn't co-operate. If he had named names..."
"Turn against his own father? No, Liam would never do that, but I couldn't leave my son behind bars for so long. I arranged an escape from the city jail before he could be transferred to state prison. Clothes, money and a master key were smuggled into Liam, but somehow that nosy reporter Kent heard about it and told Superman. Liam got another five years for trying to escape and he is denied any chance of a future parole. My son is behind bars for the next twenty years, and I'll never live long enough to see him a free man."
"So you decided to have us experience your misery." Browne states.
Burke chuckles. "You get it. You see the justice of my plan. Both of you now know what it is like to lose a child. There's no way I could harm Superman, other than the loss of his friend. Kent, who foiled my son's escape, is now wanted for breaking you out of jail. No doubt the trigger happy cops will gun down Clark Kent."
Browne asks, "What about us?"
Scalari mutters, "He will kill us."
Burke laughs wildly. "True, but it will look like you killed each other. The 'Mad Mayor' will have broken into Janos' house and in the ensuing gun battle, you both died. How sad."
Scalari asks, "How do you plan to get us back to my house unnoticed? Since you're going to kill us anyway, I intend to do a lot of yelling."
"There is a secret tunnel that runs between your house and mine. I've known about it since I was a kid, and once you moved in across the street, I started using it to spy on your paperwork. That's how I beat you so many times in contract bids. Now, I will use it to end you - in fact, I hear my confederate approaching..."
Burke goes to the brick wall and pushes a hidden switch that causes a part of the wall to slide open. Burke's expression changes when he sees who is emerging from the tunnel: Superman! Burke staggers back and hastily empties his revolver at the smiling Man of Steel. Batman follows, shoving the batcuffed impostor onto the floor. The impostor still looks like Scalari. Burke, in a desperate act, uses his empty gun like a club, but Batman ends his resistance with one punch.
Browne calls out, "Superman, thank God you're here. Quickly, you must save Clark Kent..."
X X X X X
The rest of the night proceeds routinely. The police are summoned to arrest Fred Burke and the still unnamed impostor. Superman reassures Mayor Browne that the police know the truth about Clark, and they only continue to look for him to let him know he has been exonerated. After hearing that news, Browne's first priority became calling his son and explaining his innocence. Scalari promised to help.
With the excitement all settled, Batman and Superman find themselves alone next to the batmobile...
"Batman, it was an honor working with you." Superman says, extending his hand.
Batman ignores the gesture. "Yeah, it was...interesting. I suppose now you'll go find your friend Kent."
"Oh yes, poor Clark, he has never been a particularly brave man and this experience must have terrified him. I'll fly over the riverfront area and search with my x-ray vision until I find whatever hole he has been hiding in."
Batman chuckles and shakes his head with disbelief. "You actually fool people in Metropolis with this act?"
"What do you mean?"
"Your secret identity is Clark Kent."
(For a moment Superman considers a denial, but no, not with this man...)
"I knew you were already in Gotham City being 'heroic' disguised as me. By the way, stop doing that. Your whole routine: 'I came as soon as I heard Clark was in trouble' was bogus. Then, when Gordon mentioned that his cops were so angry they might shoot Kent on sight, you weren't the least bit concerned for your friend. Obviously that is because you are Kent."
Superman smiles. "My, I have been careless, and I promise to get rid of the Batman outfit. It...doesn't suit my style. I'll leave being Batman solely to you...Mr. Bruce Wayne."
Batman grimaces. "How?"
"When you got that call on your radio my super hearing picked up a slight echo effect. That could only happen if the speaker was nearby. It didn't take long to spot the large cave under the mansion of well known millionaire playboy, Bruce Wayne. No wonder you knew this area and the people so well. This is your neighborhood."
"It looks like we have to...trust each other with our secrets."
X X X X X
With midnight approaching, Commissoner Gordon waits at the side entrance of police headquarters and smiles when he sees a familiar vehicle. The batmobile comes to a halt, windows down, and Gordon sees Batman's promised passenger, Clark Kent.
"Get out." Batman gruffly orders.
Hastily a dirty and disheveled Clark exits the car. He cowers with fear and Gordon sympathizes. He too was scared witless the first time he met Batman, and he was a cop with a gun.
Batman calls out, "Explain it to him, Commissoner. Kent was too scared to understand."
The batmobile zooms away and Clark breathes a sigh of relief. "That man..."
"Yes Mr. Kent, Batman has that effect on a lot of people. Are you okay? You look like you've been through hell."
"Oh, I have. What a miserable night - being chased over and over by everyone! I became exhausted from fear alone."
"Where did Batman find you?"
"Hiding at the bottom of a dumpster. Your men looked inside a couple of times, but I covered myself with trash. Commissoner, I'm sorry for running away. It was a stupid thing to do."
"You're damn right it was. You could have been killed. Still, under the circumstances, I guess I can understand."
"Then...it's true? I'm in the clear?"
"Yes, it turns out an impostor staged today's jailbreak - some master of disguise."
"And he looks like me?"
"He looks like anyone he wants to. The man's real face is so bland, so ordinary, you forget what he looks like five minutes after you leave him."
"Who is he?"
"He won't say, and his fingerprints have been burned off with acid. He freely admits his crimes, even boasts about them, but he insists over and over he's a nobody. In fact, instead of listing him as a John Doe, we have him booked as 'Nobody'."
"He sounds insane."
Gordon sighs. "Unfortunately our consulting psychiatrist agrees. Another candidate for Arkham Asylum, and the security there is a joke. The villains Batman locks up in the place are out faster than a spin through a revolving door."
"Then we may be hearing from Nobody again. What a fascinating story he would make."
"Too bad you missed any chance to file a story today. I guess your boss will be plenty mad at you."
"Oh, I have a story, one that will make Perry White very happy because it is an exclusive. I plan to write about what it's like to be falsely accused of a crime and to find yourself on the wrong end of a manhunt. I plan to call it: 'The Fugitive'."