It was now after sunrise. The master was walking slowly around the village.
Although the fortune-teller had led him to understand that no gift was anticipated in return for having told him what was going on in Gotham City this morning, the master still had a very strong desire to express his gratitude.
He finally convinced the fortune-teller to accept an invitation to breakfast in the market. The master convinced her to bring her mother and her daughter along with. She agreed, but explained they would need some time to get ready. So much the better, as the market was only just opening, agreed the master. He would leave and then return to pick them up. He glanced at the sun – another fifteen or twenty minutes.
He thought back to one of the last lessons he had given to young Mr. Wayne before the latter left on his trip to Russia with Talia.
"The warrior who confronts his enemy for great periods of time, struggling amidst destruction to achieve victory, yet who makes no effort to learn of his enemy's situation, is not skilled. The skilled warrior will wage his campaign based on foreknowledge of the enemy situation."
Mr. Wayne had looked at the master, wondering where the master's words were leading.
Special Agent Nicholas Kyle of the Gotham Bureau of Investigation was home.
It was late at night, about midnight.
His wife, Selena, had gotten a new job with an important company in Gotham City – she was now a security officer with Wayne Enterprises Corporate Security, and had been assigned to the Executive Security detail. She was very happy, and enjoyed her work greatly, although it meant that she was now often away from home at odd hours, and tonight was one of those occasions; she was expecting to get off work some time after midnight, but had left a message on the answering machine a little earlier that she might be delayed tonight.
Nick Kyle poured himself a second glass of Scotch, and stepped outside onto his patio. It was chilly outside, but refreshing and, since he had only gotten home an hour ago himself, he still was not fully undressed. In fact, he had taken off his coat and his shoes, and loosened his tie, but was otherwise still fully clothed, right down to the holster under his left arm with his pistol in it.
Soon it would be Halloween. Selena enjoyed decorating the house for Halloween, and she enjoyed giving out candy to the neighborhood children.
Cleaning the house one weekend about a month ago, Nick had found a vinyl cat-costume and asked her about it. She looked a little upset, then finally explained that it was supposed to be a surprise for Halloween; she was looking forward to dressing up in it to hand out the candy this year, and she was hoping to surprise him when he came home from work that night.
Looking around his back yard, he smiled at the thought of his wife in skin-tight vinyl.
It was kind of chilly, he thought; he set his drink down on the table on the patio, and turned to go back inside. He would go get his coat and maybe slip on his shoes again, he thought.
Reaching for the door, he froze: in the reflection on the glass, he could see a large figure standing behind him.
"Foreknowledge," continued the master, "does not come from inquiring of spirits or from other occult practices, nor from analogy with past events; it is obtained from those who know the enemy intimately."
Wayne pondered the meaning of the master's words.
"There are different kinds of people who have such knowledge; they include doubled agents, inside agents, expendable agents, and living agents. When working together, this network of agents is the skilled warrior's 'Divine Skein', and is key to an overwhelming victory, and to the utter collapse of the enemy."
Slowly, he turned back around.
The giant figure, dressed in flowing black, towered several inches over him.
"I'm tired of this," he sighed to the figure. "I've already got my pistol, and haven't reached for it. Do you mind if I get my coat and shoes? It's kind of chilly out here."
"It was especially chilly for the girls down at the warehouse the other night, as they were waiting for the party to start."
Opening his door, he reached inside and grabbed his coat, which was on a chair near the patio door. He then reached down, and picked up a pair of shoes that he liked to wear outside when he was working in the backyard, and dropped them on the patio. He then slid the door closed again, as he slipped his feet into his shoes and put his coat on.
"I had nothing to do with that," Nick said to the tall figure.
"You help the cartel that traffics them – you had something to do with it," the figure answered.
"Yeah, I suppose you're right," Nick said, reaching down for his drink again.
He took a sip, then looked at the figure.
"Where did it go wrong?" he asked. "I always wanted to be a hero. Now you're the hero, and how many times have I tried to kill you?"
"You've made some mistakes, just like we all do," the figure answered. "As long as you're alive, it's never too late to change."
Nick finished his drink. "I don't suppose I could offer you a Scotch?"
The figure looked at him.
"I suppose that's probably part of what's going wrong in my life," he confessed, looking at his empty glass.
"Why did you join the GBI?"
Inspector Gordon hadn't had a great deal of time. He had promised Detective Sergeant O'Hara he would be at the crime scene shortly, but here he already had had to make a detour – all the way to Wayne Manor – with his passenger.
Now he was racing down the Gotham Expressway.
In the short time they had shared as they rode out to Wayne Manor, Vasilissa had already been a treasure of information. She confirmed much of what Batman had told him, and had insights into much of the documentation that Batman had provided him.
Vasilissa had given him names; it seemed Donovan was a key man in Falcone's organization, keeping tabs on the Gotham Police Department, and DiViglio was another key man, keeping tabs on the Gotham Bureau of Investigation. Each of them helped recruit new people to work for Falcone, and each of them helped shore up Falcone's men when they started getting cold feet about what was going on.
And, there was much, much more.
Gordon knew that Vasilissa would be safe at Wayne Manor. Gordon had known Bruce Wayne ever since the night young Bruce's parents had been killed; Patrolman Jim Gordon was the first on the scene, and they had been friends ever since.
Bruce Wayne had a reputation as a shallow playboy, and it was true that he could be distant at times, but there was much, much more to him than met the eye.
It was heartening to know that Vasilissa felt comfortable at Wayne Manor; it seems she and Wayne's security officer, a young lady named Sasha, had known each other previously, and liked each other. In the car on the way over to Wayne Manor, Vasilissa had offered Gordon the names of two people that she felt could be trusted: Rachel Dawes in the DA's office, and Dr. Sandra Villanova, a professor at Gotham University. Gordon appreciated that, because he was working with Dawes already – in fact, she was his contact on the case they were supposed to be putting together against Batman – and Gordon felt he could trust her boss, Harvey Dent, too. Dr. Villanova was a relatively new acquaintance of Inspector Gordon, but he knew she was close to Bruce Wayne, and she, too, was a treasure of information.
Gordon smiled. He now had evidence, he now had witnesses, he now had experts helping him analyze the case, and he now had honest prosecutors who would file charges and prosecute the case.
Falcone's Roman Empire was in his hands.
The smile disappeared as he thought of one major problem.
"Because I wanted to be a hero," came the answer. "Somehow, I found myself working for Falcone, when I always imagined myself working against the criminals."
"But what about the Nicholas Kyle that dreamed about joining the GBI to fight the bad guys? Is that Nicholas Kyle still around?"
Nick thought about that long and hard.
The figure watched him as he turned to the door, opened it and entered his house, leaving the door open, and walked over to his bar. He poured himself another Scotch, then came back outside, closing the door behind himself again.
"Falcone floods our streets with drugs and crime. He takes young women from their homes, and forces them into prostitution, getting them hooked on drugs and having them raped so they'll be compliant. It could just as easily have been your wife that he did that to. Even now, Falcone is manipulating Gotham City's finances, wiping out the retirement plans of tens of thousands of families, while he benefits from the tax dollars being pumped into Gotham's financial institutions to relieve the crisis. You have investments, you pay taxes; Falcone is stealing from you, stealing the future you plan to have with your wife."
There was a pause as Nick sipped his Scotch, considering the whispered words from the dark figure.
"Aladdin has nuclear weapons in place here in Gotham City; just as he destroyed the Gotham Towers, he plans to destroy all of Gotham City. Falcone has such a tight stranglehold on Gotham, the authorities are unable to deal with Aladdin and his Mujahideen."
There was another pause, as Nick turned and looked at the bushes he and Selena had planted in their backyard.
"We all make mistakes – all of us, even Special Agents with the Gotham Bureau of Investigation. But you can still be a hero – you can still make a difference. You can still redeem yourself from your mistake."
"It is important to know who the enemy agents are that are among you. You must care for them. This is how they may be recruited and used by you. In turn, such doubled agents can help you recruit agents among the enemy; such are inside agents. Then there are those of your own agents who have been doubled; these are given false information, and take it back to mislead the enemy. This is how to use doubled agents who are in fact not doubled, or who may be tripled; such agents are expendable."
The master recalled the look Mr. Wayne had given him.
"Finally, there are those agents who are sent into the enemy camp to spy the enemy out, and who return with useful information. These are living agents."
"Why do I need to know about the use of spies and agents?"
To this question, the master had merely smiled.
"Tell what you know to the authorities, so they can bring Falcone down."
Nick laughed out loud. "Falcone would kill me – even assuming I could find an honest cop to talk to, Falcone would kill me – and Selena."
The figure stepped closer. "Falcone has already killed the two of you. Think about it. Is your life together the way you wanted it to be?" The figure paused, while Nick looked at him. "Only by turning on him can you live again – you and your wife, even if it is only for a short time. And, there are others ready to come forward. You can lead the way. You can be a hero. You can bring down the bad guys, and save Gotham City. The GBI can get its man once again, and Gotham City will have a chance."
Nick took another sip of his Scotch, thinking it over.
"I know that the Nick Kyle who joined the Gotham Police, then joined the Gotham Bureau of Investigation, graduating from both academies with honors – I know he is in there, ready to make up for his mistakes, ready to be a hero once again."
There was another pause, then the figure added, "Please, Nick – will you help save Gotham City?"
Nick gazed again at the bushes, then downed his whiskey quickly. Turning back to the dark figure, he whispered, "Okay, Mr. Batman, I'll help. What do I have to do? Who do I talk to?"
Inspector Gordon thought more about the situation.
There needed to be the political will in Gotham City for this to move forward, and he knew the mayor was deep in Falcone's pocket. So were the two teams of candidates running to replace the mayor. On one team, there were Salama and Lidden, who were ahead in the polls – Salama was implicated with one organized crime faction, and with a tycoon who wanted to legalize narcotics, while Lidden had for years been on the payroll of another organized crime faction tied in to the heroin trade. Then there was McMullen, whom the current mayor had endorsed; he was deep in the pockets of the same faction that Lidden was in.
Signaling for the off-ramp from the Gotham Expressway, Gordon sighed – they needed an honest mayor. With an honest mayor, Gordon could clean up Gotham, but an honest mayor seemed so far away.
And, Gordon was worried about the glance that he saw Vasilissa give to the other young lady on Bruce Wayne's security detail – what was her name? Selena Lyon. Why did that name ring a bell?