"So what happened?"
"I saw her, but did not let her know who I was. I merely told her that her father had sent me to rescue her."
"She said that she didn't have a father, that if she had had a father, she wouldn't be where she was," he answered.
Talia al Ghul looked at him.
"Then she asked what I was supposed to rescue her from. She held up her champagne glass, and asked 'From this?'"
Ra's al Ghul looked upset.
"Then she finished her champagne and looked me in the eye and said, 'In any case, if you want to rescue me, you will have to get in line.'"
The figure stood in the dark on the balcony, enjoying the cold November evening. All Saints Day was coming to an end -- a pleasant sequel to Halloween Night.
He tried to make sense of the events of the previous night, but something didn't add up. In fact, none of it added up. Was this the beginning of a mob war in Gotham City? That was the most likely answer, but it still didn't make sense. The figure had seen mob wars in Gotham -- this was different.
He paused. Although his eyes were looking out at Gotham City, he was "seeing" something behind him.
"This time last night, I would have thrown the cuffs on you and hauled you into jail on a list of charges," he said authoritatively, then turned. The tall figure stood in the shadows silently on the balcony, as Lt. Jim Gordon of the Gotham Police Department looked him in the eyes. "Now, I'm kind of glad you got away."
"Sorry to bother you at home, Lt. Gordon." The figure's voice was a low, raspy whisper -- confident, yet somehow friendly and even polite.
"You bothering me at home is kind of like you getting away last night -- I think in the long run, I'll be happy you did." Gordon studied the figure: he was tall, 6' 6" or maybe a little more. He couldn't see much of the figure's face behind the mask, but he studied what he could see, including the eyes. "Would you mind telling me what this is about?"
"Falcone's men in the Gotham Bureau of Investigation have been using GBI resources to spy on Gotham City, in an operation called 'Belladonna'. At first, they were looking at politicians and government officials, trying to find things they could exploit -- character flaws and mistakes, things that might leave their targets vulnerable to blackmail. They were also looking at Falcone's operations, both legitimate and criminal, to make sure no one was deceiving Falcone, and that everything was going as it should have been. And they were keeping an eye on Falcone's competition, giving Falcone an advantage in his businesses, both legal and illegal, over all his competitors. Falcone was then directing elements in the Gotham Police Department to go after rival criminal operations, and was directing his own criminal thugs to shake down the legitimate competitors of his legal operations. He was also directing harassment of his legitimate competitors via tax audits, building safety inspections, and so on. He was using these corrupt GBI agents, and their Belladonna operation, as his own criminal and industrial intelligence agency."
Lieutenant Gordon looked at the figure, listening closely.
"While listening in on rival criminal groups who were involved in heroin trafficking, they came across information about a new crime boss, Aladdin, who was in fact one of Falcone's new suppliers of high-quality heroin. They spied on Aladdin's organization to make sure Falcone wasn't being double-crossed. While listening in, they heard about the plans of Aladdin's organization. Aladdin had attacked the Gotham Towers once, placing a bomb in the parking garage, but it was an amateurish attempt, and yielded no significant results. Aladdin was determined to destroy the Gotham Towers, so he was planning another attack, this time a catastrophic fire."
The figure paused, letting the information sink in.
"When Falcone's men in the GBI heard about the new attack on the Gotham Towers, they reported it to Falcone. Falcone could have stopped the attack, but instead, he ordered his men in law enforcement to keep the authorities from piecing together intelligence about the new attack. He had decided to use Aladdin's new attack as cover for a bigger operation of his own. Aladdin had acquired blue prints of the Gotham Towers, and presumably knew his arson attack would not bring the towers down. It would take explosives. Falcone knew this, too." The figure paused. "It is possible Aladdin contracted out to get the demolitions experts he needed to bring the towers down." He paused again. "It is also possible Falcone arranged the destruction of the towers, and Aladdin was surprised at the outcome. Either way, under cover of the attack, Falcone's men ran stock trades through the computers in the Gotham Towers, taking advantage of the panic to launder billions of dollars' worth of dirty money. On top of that, since Falcone had known from months previously that there was going to be an attack, and even knew approximately when it would occur, he had long before been directing strategic stock trades that would capitalize on the attack and turn incredible profits, in addition to the money laundering that occurred during the attack -- but, these profits were long-term, and often made by Falcone's proxies, so they were not so obvious, nor could they be so easily tied to Falcone."
Captivated by the whispered words of the mysterious figure that had suddenly appeared on his balcony, Lieutenant Gordon was soaking up their significance.
"When Aladdin claimed responsibility for the attack, the success of which may have surprised him, the mayor declared a War on Crime. Falcone's men in the Gotham Police Department and the Gotham Bureau of Investigation were in a strategic position to steer the impact of that war onto Aladdin's organization, specifically those parts that were expendable to Falcone and to Aladdin. They also steered the wrath of Gotham City onto other enemies of Falcone's empire, and no one complained, since the targets were all alleged to be connected to Aladdin, who was now Public Enemy Number One."
The figure looked at Gordon.
"Falcone has key allies in the mayor's office, and on the city council. He has also infiltrated the staffs of many officials who are against him, just as he has infiltrated the Gotham Police Department. He pays them off, and they steer things in a way favorable to Falcone. Falcone's rivals in the heroin trade get declared enemies in the War on Crime, and people cheer when they are brought down, not realizing that Gotham's law enforcement personnel are actually helping one faction secure its grip on Gotham City."
"Are you suggesting that the War on Crime is a proxy war for control of the heroin trade?" Lt. Gordon asked.
"In part, yes. In part, Falcone is just settling scores with other rival syndicates over other issues, as well. And, in part, Falcone and his friends are also profiteering from supplying police and fire equipment, providing contract security services and other operations. If the War on Crime ever ends, so does all this. It would be a fairly simple matter for Gotham's law enforcement to round up Aladdin and his Mujahideen and bring them in, but Falcone doesn't want that to happen -- it would be bad for business."
"So Falcone is dirty, and there's more to the attack on the Gotham Trade Center than we've been told," Gordon commented. "So what?"
"Working behind the scenes, one object of Falcone's manipulation has been Gotham's regulatory agencies and high-tech businesses. Falcone has arranged for the sale of seemingly innocent components and technology, but this is in fact critical nuclear weapons technology. The sales are made with false end-user certificates, which provide cover for these components and technology. More of it is simply stolen outright. Investigations into activity that gets reported to the GBI are derailed by Falcone's men. The nuclear weapons technology ultimately winds up in the wrong hands, including Aladdin's. This is convenient for Falcone -- even Falcone's enemies in City Hall feel they must prioritize Aladdin over Falcone, because of the threat that Aladdin might attack Gotham again. They keep the threat of nuclear weapons in Aladdin's hands just below the surface, so it is known about, but not publicly acknowledged. With that, Gotham's authorities have carte blanche to go after Aladdin, without causing a panic. This suits Falcone very well, as even more desperate measures are accepted by Gotham's residents in view of the desperate circumstances in the War on Crime, and Falcone knows that he can channel those desperate measures against his enemies."
The figure paused for emphasis.
"But, what isn't known, is that Aladdin plans to destroy Gotham City -- using nuclear weapons that were supplied, in part, by Gotham City."
A chill ran down Gordon's back as he heard from the mysterious figure about the nuclear threat to Gotham.
"But wait, this doesn't make a lot of sense. You are telling me that Falcone is some big manipulator of Gotham City, that he has everything under control, on both sides of the law. How come he doesn't know the truth about Aladdin? Why doesn't he stop Aladdin from destroying Gotham? After all, Falcone lives here, too -- ultimately, it is Falcone's empire that Aladdin wants to destroy."
"Two reasons. First, Falcone and Aladdin are in the same business. Falcone controls most of the distribution of heroin in Gotham City, and Aladdin is a big player in heroin production. Falcone has reasons to suspect any reports he hears about Aladdin, and there are business ties that bind the two together."
The figure paused again. "What Falcone doesn't understand is that Aladdin is psychotic. Falcone would not use a nuclear weapon, because it would not be profitable; only the threat of a nuclear attack is useful to him. But Aladdin is less concerned with profits; Aladdin is serious about his threats to destroy Gotham City, unless Gotham submits to his will."
Lt. Gordon thought for a moment, looking out at Gotham City, then looked back at the figure. "You said there were two reasons why Falcone doesn't stop Aladdin. That's only one."