Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Dark Knight, Part 1 of 5

"It was the night of June 26th. I remember it very clearly. I was coming back from my trip to Asia, and had taken a short vacation in Russia with Talia. We had just been to St. Petersburg to see the White Nights, and were spending a few days in Moscow. From there, we were going to leave for Europe. We had no particular plans, other than to go to Venice, and compare it to St. Petersburg. We were on the bank of a river near Moscow – I don't recall if it was the Moscow River or not – and I had fallen asleep. That was the first time it happened."

"What, Bruce?"

"I used to have frequent nightmares about my parents' death," he explained, recalling how they were killed in a mugging attempt in front of him. "But, this was the first night that I had the new dream."

Bruce Wayne paused. Obviously, this was difficult for him to discuss.

She looked at him closely, trying not to be obvious... was that a tear in his eye? She had always known that this had had a tremendous impact on him, but she had always known an angry Bruce Wayne, not a vulnerable one.

She reached over gently, and held his hand.

"It's okay, Bruce."

Wiping his eye, he swallowed, then, summoning his strength, continued to speak.

"I used to have a recurring dream, where I watched my parents get shot, then fall in slow motion to the pavement. My mother was dead when she hit the street, but my father was still alive," he explained, then paused again.

He picked up his water glass, and took a sip of his water.

"In this recurring dream, I saw them die, again and again. It was always the same. I would have it once every several months. But, this night it was different. My parents died when I was eight. They were killed at 10:47 PM on June 26th. So, there I was in Moscow with Talia, on the night of June 26th, the anniversary of my parents' death, with Talia..." he paused, wondering if he should tell her this.

"With Talia, I had almost forgotten about my parents' death – for the first time ever, especially on the anniversary of their deaths, and then, the dream came back... but, this time...."

He stopped, and drank some more water.

"This time, it started out as my parents that were falling, but suddenly... suddenly, it was these two tall buildings. They were tall, squarish, two nearly-identical buildings, and the smoke, instead of being the smoke from a revolver, was the smoke from a fire in these buildings. Then one fell, hitting the pavement below, then the other fell."

He stopped his narrative, thinking. Reliving this dream, and the events it depicted, was having an enormous impact on him. She reached over with her other hand, both hands now grasping his left hand, as his right hand reached again for his water, and he took another long sip.

"It scared me, and when I woke up, frightened, Talia sensed something was wrong. I looked at my watch, and it was 10:47 PM, the very time when my parents had been killed so many years ago." He stopped, staring off into space, and, for what seemed like an eternity, it was as if he were reliving those horrifying moments. Then, he looked at her. "That very night, I called Alfred, and began packing. My vacation with Talia was over, and I was on my way back to Gotham City. For months, I had no idea what it all meant, all I knew was that it disturbed me. Then, that Tuesday morning in September, it was a beautiful late-summer day, the sky was blue, and I saw how two fires had started in the Gotham Trade Center, high up in the Gotham Towers, and it happened, just like I saw in my dream – first one, then the other, the buildings collapsed, falling to the pavement below." He stopped again.

He swallowed hard, gripping her hands.

"Aladdin's warning... it was as if he were saying, 'See ya 'round,' just like Joe Chill did when he pointed the gun at my head after shooting Mom and Dad."

Rachel Dawes looked at her childhood friend, Bruce Wayne. Many times she had looked at him, and thought of him as a little boy – an angry, hurt little boy – but for the first time, ever, tonight she looked at him, and felt almost like he was her son. All the times she had argued with him, disapproving of his anger, his lust for revenge... now, years later, she saw that anger had mellowed, and the lust for revenge was gone, replaced by an understanding of what justice truly was... but instead of happy, she felt sad, because now, for the first time ever, she understood his anger and his lust for revenge, and, even if she didn't agree with it, she felt it was justified, and perhaps even missed it, realizing now how it had helped him survive something that no one should have to experience, how his anger had been a defense, and now, with it gone, Bruce Wayne was left defenseless and vulnerable.

"It's okay, Bruce," she repeated, not knowing what else to say.

Bruce Wayne looked at her, and managed an insincere smile – the kind of smile that covers up other emotions, the kind of smile that substitutes for loneliness and sadness.

No way, he thought, could he tell her the rest of the story – how, that night, the dream came back again, only it didn't end with the collapse of the Gotham Towers.

He recalled the dream.

"The danger is not past, Bruce," his mother's voice said behind him.

Bruce looked. Some men had an object, and they were moving it into place in Gotham City. It was some kind of piece of equipment of some sort, some kind of container.

"Now it is Gotham City's turn to touch the sun," a cold, masculine voice came from behind him.

Bruce looked at the container... inside it was the power of the sun!

"Bruce... don't be afraid." Bruce turned and looked; it was his father, Dr. Thomas Wayne, speaking to him. "This disaster can still be prevented. Just don't be afraid."

"What must I do?" Bruce had asked his father in his dream.

That Tuesday night in September, almost seven years ago, was the night – on that night, after many years in the back of his mind, his alter ego came forward – Batman was born. Batman would defend Gotham City against Aladdin and his henchmen, against the syndicate of which Aladdin's Mujahideen were only a part – a syndicate determined to destroy Gotham City by unleashing on it the power of the sun.

Jim Gordon sat back in his chair and thought about the day's events.

Usually on June 26th, the anniversary of the day when Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered, Jim Gordon called Bruce Wayne to check on him and see how he was doing. Today, however, Bruce Wayne called Jim Gordon, and congratulated him on his promotion to Inspector in the Gotham Police Department.

"Next thing we know, you'll be the Commissioner," joked Wayne.

Gordon was just a patrolman that day that Wayne's parents, Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife Martha, were murdered. As such, Officer Gordon was first on the scene, and to this day, he remembers the look on young Bruce Wayne's face.

Since then, the two developed a special bond. Over the years, Gordon looked in on Bruce Wayne when he could, and, although they didn't spend much time together, Jim Gordon had become kind of like an uncle to Bruce Wayne.

Now an adult, Wayne and Gordon continued to greet each other periodically, often on holidays, but always on June 26th of every year.

It so happens that this June 26th was the first day that Jim Gordon showed up to work with his new job as Inspector of the Gotham Police Department.

Gordon laughed. "I'm just trying to take it one day at a time, Bruce."

"I know the feeling," Wayne answered.

An awkward pause followed, then Gordon asked, "Do you have any plans for tonight?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I plan to pay a visit to some friends tonight."

"Why don't we get together for a cup of coffee?"

"Is tomorrow afternoon okay, Jim?"

"That's fine, Bruce. You have my cell phone number, right?"

"Yes, I do. I'll call you, and we'll set something up."

"It's a deal, Bruce," Gordon answered. Truth was, he knew Wayne might not call him, and it was okay. The main thing is they stayed in touch.

Gordon spun his chair around and looked out the window. Late June, the days were long, and there were still some glimmers of sunlight in the western sky as the sun set over Gotham City. Gordon stood up and walked over to the window.

Somewhere out there, he thought, was that Batman. He looked out the window and wondered what Batman's story was.

"Where is he?" Sasha asked Alfred. "He's not downstairs, he's not working out. As far as I know, he didn't go out – if he did, no one is driving him. Where did he go? And, how am I supposed to look out for him, if I don't know where he is?"

"It's his way, Sasha," Alfred answered reassuringly. "He'll call us if he needs us."

The woman watched from her balcony.

It was night time in Gotham City, the night of June 26th, to be exact. The sun had just set, and Gotham City was beautiful against the night sky.

She had been watching the passers-by on the street below. Under her balcony was an alleyway that ran behind an old theater. In years past, it had been patronized by Gotham City's elite, but in the past twenty years or so, the neighborhood had gone downhill. The theater closed, and reopened as a movie theater; its clientele certainly was not as upscale as it had been before.

She looked down. One man, well-dressed, entered the alleyway. He looked out-of-place, although he seemed like he knew his way around. He was carrying a small, longish box, the kind one might have flowers in.

She looked up at the night sky. The city lights drowned out nearly all the stars, but she could see that the night was clear, and not cloudy.

There was something about the alleyway below, but she couldn't remember what it was.

That's right! Some twenty-five years ago or so, two prominent Gotham citizens, a doctor and his wife, were murdered there in a mugging attempt.

She looked back down. The man was crouched down on the side of the alley, along the curb.

Suddenly he stood up, and walked away. She squinted. It looked as if he had left flowers on the curb. Curious, she watched him walk back down the alley to the street. At the entrance to the alleyway, he paused for a moment, looking down the street toward where the Gotham Towers had stood, in the Gotham Trade Center. Then, he turned and went in the other direction.

She looked back down at the flowers on the curb, then, shaking her head, she looked inside her apartment.

The clock on the wall showed 10:47 PM.

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