The large figure placed two new photographs and a drawing on the wall next to Aladdin's photo.
One was a photo of Gotham businessman and reputed organized crime boss Carmine "The Roman" Falcone. The photo had appeared in Gotham's newspapers on November 1st in a story about an incident that had occurred on Halloween night at a restaurant named Roma, Falcone's favorite place to entertain while conducting business.
The other photograph was a blurred image taken by the camera in the cowl of the Batsuit during the incident at Roma. The drawing went next to it, and was an artist's depiction of a man the figure had known in Asia.
Approaching silently from behind, a smaller figure watched as the large figure sat back down on the stool facing the pictures.
"Dr. Frankenstein, I presume?" The larger figure asked, without turning around, a faint smile crossing his face.
"Falcone I recognize, but who is in the drawing? And who is in the blurry photo?"
Dr. Sandra Villanova looked over the newspaper articles from the past three days. Something didn't add up. Halloween night, she had been unable to sleep, so she had turned on the television and surfed a couple of channels. Suddenly she saw live Gotham news about an incident that was unfolding, and quickly realized it was worth recording.
Thinking about it all now, she walked over to her computer, and replayed part of the broadcast she had recorded Halloween night.
"...And here you see the vehicle firing off these pyrotechnics -- What would you call them? -- Flash bombs, something like that." It was the newscaster for Gotham's Witness News on Halloween night. "The story we're hearing -- Can we pause that? -- The story we're hearing is that these flashes of light temporarily blinded the GPD units that were chasing the vehicle. Okay, roll it again, and, There! Pause it. Here you can just see the smoke cloud that the vehicle emitted. Now, notice that the vehicle at this point has no lights on.... What we are being told is that the flashes impaired the Gotham Police officers' vision, they had to slow down and even stop their vehicles for safety -- Roll the video again, please -- and it took several minutes for them to be able to resume the chase. Meanwhile, the vehicle disappeared at high speed behind this smoke screen that it had emitted. The only unit that had an unobstructed line-of-sight to the vehicle at this point was the police helicopter, but the dark vehicle had no lights on, and, as you can see in the video, it was almost impossible to see, even when passing under street lights. By the time GPD units on the ground resumed the chase, the vehicle was gone."
"Thank you Adam, I'm now being told that we are ready to go live to our correspondent Amy Sutton outside the Roma. Amy, what are we hearing now?"
"Yes, Stan, Gotham Police's SWAT team has cleared the building now, and firefighters are now being allowed inside. I hasten to point out that we have no indications of a fire at this time, but smoke has been reported inside and we can see it leaking out those broken windows on the second floor, it's not very thick -- can you see it?"
"Yes, Amy, we can see the smoke. So there is no fire at the Roma, is that correct?"
"That's correct, but there is smoke, and we're getting reports that there was tear gas inside as well."
"Did the SWAT team use tear gas, Amy?"
"No, Stan, that's what's so bizarre -- wait a minute -- okay, we now have official confirmation that tear gas was present in the building, but Gotham Police are denying that they were the ones to use it. The Gotham Bureau of Investigation is also on the scene now, and as you can see off to my left, the GBI Hostage Rescue Team has just arrived as well, but again, there are no reports of hostages or a fire, this is all purely a precaution we are being told, but no one can explain the smoke or the tear gas, Stan."
"Amy, is there any update on how many people got hurt?"
"As you can see off to my right, Gotham Fire Department personnel are treating people for mild injuries, almost all of them among Falcone's bodyguards and Roma security personnel, the smoke and tear gas caused some of it, and we have also seen a few people carried out on stretchers, but all of them conscious, nothing that looked life-threatening, and no reports of any serious injuries."
"Do we have an idea how many people are being treated, Amy?"
"It looks like about two dozen, Stan, but again, let me emphasize, despite the gunfire that we heard about from eyewitnesses, no serious injuries have been reported."
"Thank you, Amy. For our viewers who are just joining us, Amy Sutton is reporting to us live from Gotham's famous Roma Restaurant and Night Club, a traditional gathering place for Gotham's elite on Halloween night, but this Halloween, something went terribly wrong. Some time before eleven o'clock there was a power outage, then several minutes later, multiple gunshots were reported from the executive offices of the club. The fire alarm went off, and people began evacuating the facility in the dark as emergency lighting came on, and more gunshots were heard as security personnel responded.... What's that? We go live now to Adam Domiguez in Gotham's Witness Eye in the Sky. Adam, what can you see from the helicopter? What's happening now?"
"Gotham Police are surrounding a vehicle that matches the description of the vehicle that was seen zooming off from the Roma in the wake of the incident earlier, and there we have it on camera,... but I'm now being told this is a false alarm, Stan, I'm hearing this is not the guy they are looking for."
"Adam, can you please tell us again for our viewers who may be just joining us, what is the description of the man they are looking for?"
"Well actually there are two, Stan. One man dressed in a black costume, reportedly dressed as a vampire or something like that, who sped away from the Roma in a dark grey sports car and led Gotham Police on a high-speed chase through the streets of Gotham some twenty minutes ago, he is described as a white male, between 6'4" and 6'8", wearing a mask and a cape, he is considered armed and extremely dangerous, the other man is a male, possibly Hispanic or Asian, about 6'1" or 6'2", dressed in a black ninja costume, complete with swords that he reportedly is very adept with, it is unclear how he left the scene. Again, both of these men are considered armed and extremely dangerous, and anyone seeing them should please call the Gotham Police Department immediately."
"Yes, Amy. Adam, Amy needs to break in here, hold on for a moment. Go ahead, Amy."
"Here at Roma we are now hearing that GPD is looking for a third suspect, a female, Caucasian or Hispanic, 5'4" to 5'6", dressed in a black vinyl costume, wearing high heels and carrying a whip. They have been calling her 'catwoman' and unofficially we are hearing that she was involved, again, officially she is wanted only for questioning, but word we're getting unofficially is that she is a suspect as well."
"Is she armed, Amy?"
"No, Stan -- wait a minute, one of the Gotham Police officers standing nearby just nodded to me, apparently she, too, is considered armed and dangerous."
"Okay, Amy, so we have two males, one white, about six and a half feet tall, wearing a cape, another male, Hispanic or Asian and just over six feet and dressed as a ninja, and a white female -- why are they calling her 'catwoman', any word on that, Amy?"
"Her costume resembles a cat costume, and she was heard by many guests making purring and meowing noises during the party prior to the incident. Let me point out, she is possibly white, possibly Hispanic, about 5'4" to 5'6"."
"Okay, and all three are considered armed and dangerous."
"That's the word we're getting, Stan."
"Thank you, Amy, thank you, Adam. Recapping, tonight's Halloween party at Roma Restaurant and Night Club was disrupted by armed intruders. Reports at this time are conflicting, but it appears a man dressed as some kind of a vampire overcame several security personnel and attacked a Gotham businessman by the name of Carmine Falcone. Other reports indicate that a man dressed as a ninja tried to kill Mr. Falcone, and that a man dressed as a vampire saved him from the sword-wielding attacker. Power was lost within the Roma for nearly an hour, and smoke and now tear gas have been reported inside. Recent reports now place a woman dressed in a cat costume as being somehow involved. Several exchanges of gunfire were heard, although there have been no serious injuries reported. Gotham Police have closed off the streets for several blocks around the Roma and are looking for two suspects in the area, one Hispanic or Asian male just over six feet tall, dressed in a black ninja costume, and one Hispanic or Caucasian female about 5'4" to 5'6" dressed in a black cat costume. Meanwhile, a third suspect, described as a tall Caucasian male dressed as a vampire and driving a dark grey sports car, led Gotham Police on a high-speed chase through the streets of Gotham, causing at least four police cars to crash before finally escaping pursuit from over a dozen more police cruisers and one police helicopter, the vehicle using flash bombs and a smoke screen to disrupt police officers' vision and shake their pursuit. Again, all three suspects are considered armed and extremely dangerous."
Dr. Villanova paused the recording.
"Boss, I was standing closer to him than I am to you now," the man explained. "I hit him in the stomach with buckshot from my twelve-gauge."
Nick looked up at the man. "Tell the boss what happened. Tell Mr. Falcone what you told me."
"The blast knocked this Batman up against the wall. He staggered for a moment, then he smiled at me, and then he threw me through the window," the man explained. "If there hadn't been a fire escape out that window, I'd've hit the pavement."
Nick looked at the men, then looked at the boss. "That's what I've been trying to tell you. He did the same thing to us that night."
"We think he just walked in the front door, but nobody knows how he got out of here," Johnny commented. "Our men were shooting at every shadow they saw for almost half an hour."
Nick shook his head. "That's what he did to me in my house a month ago. I was having a drink and this guy came in, he left his calling card on my bar, and he left again. I never even saw him, just some suspicious shadows in the bushes." Nick paused, then added, "I'm telling you, this guy ain't human."
"What do you make of this, sergeant?"
"It was a mob hit that went bad. These guys were professionals," came the answer. "Falcone and his men are not on the level with us. They say they don't know who these guys are, but I overheard a couple of them making some comments... they've had at least one run-in before with this one guy. They have a name for him -- they call him Batman."
"What about the other guy?"
"The ninja? No indication that they know who he is." Detective Sergeant O'Hara looked at Lt. Gordon. "Professionals, experts... I think we're looking at the beginning of a mob war. What do you think?"
Lieutenant Jim Gordon looked around, then looked at O'Hara and smiled. Gordon knew a few pieces of the puzzle that O'Hara didn't know. O'Hara may have suspected that Falcone was manipulating Gotham City, but did O'Hara know that it didn't end there?
"The ninja guy was here to kill, but this Batman got in the way." Gordon paused. "This ninja guy is a professional and an expert, alright, but this was personal. Any pro, when he saw how things were unfolding, would have gotten out of Dodge and come back some other day to try again. Not this guy... he was determined to kill Falcone, and he was determined that no one else would get to Falcone first."
"What about the other guy, Lieutenant?" O'Hara looked at Gordon.
"Yes," the figure answered, "and here is a drawing of the man I think that is. His name is Henri Ducard, and he works for a man named Ra's al Ghul."
Sasha stepped forward and studied the blurry photo and the drawing more closely.
"So, who is this Ra's al Ghul?"
"He runs an international crime syndicate," began the figure, hopping down from the stool and looking intently at the pictures. "It is actually several organizations known by different names, and has evolved over the years, but there is an umbrella organization that they are all associated with, and Ra's al Ghul is the leader of that organization."
"What's the name of that organization?" Sasha asked, looking intently at the photos and at the figure explaining them.
She thought about the stories she had heard in graduate school. She recalled research that had been done about an organization that included current and past political leaders, businessmen and organized crime figures; they cooperated for common interests, mainly heroin trafficking, but smuggling other contraband as well -- weapons, technology, slaves.... The organization was known as the Asian Deep State, but she recalled a paper from a professor of hers that the professor had written back when he himself had been a graduate student. The paper alleged that the Asian Deep State and other similar organizations were tied to another criminal organization, very old.
Dr. Villanova walked into her study, and began leafing through piles of papers in drawers and file cabinets. After several minutes, she found the copy of the paper the professor had given her years ago. It was entitled The Demon.
"What's that?" Sasha asked, pointing to a statue of a bat on the wall above the computer console.
"It was a gift given to me while I was in Asia. The man who gave it to me was a martial arts master that I had the privilege to study with for a time. He was kind of a mystic, too. He had a way of knowing things, doing things...." His voice trailed off. "He said the statue had been made for me, long before I was born."
Intrigued, Sasha studied it closely. "What does the inscription say?"
His eyes closed, his mind elsewhere, Bruce Wayne answered from far away. "It says, 'In a world darkened by the overcast of evil, one man will emerge, a warrior, and in defense of justice, he will work magic.'"
Lt. Gordon looked at Sgt. O'Hara. "Batman?" Gorden asked. "He's not a professional... no, professionals do this for money, but not this guy Batman." Gordon paused. "Batman does this because he enjoys it."
A psycho, O'Hara thought.
"And Batman is not an expert, either," Gordon continued, then paused, looking around, thinking. "Batman..." he said slowly, looking out at Gotham City, "...is a sorcerer."