"What about this 'Batman'?"
Dr. Sandra Villanova repeated Bruce Wayne's question, then looked around thoughtfully.
"I..." she began, then stopped.
"I was about to begin by saying that I don't condone vigilantism, but, damn it, I will not begin by apologizing for how I feel."
She smiled and looked at Rachel and Lucius, then continued.
"His most recent exploit disrupted a major operation. Gotham's elite was giving arms, cocaine and money to Aladdin's Mujahideen, and apparently receiving heroin and sex slaves for forced prostitution in return. Batman broke that up, destroying the drugs, money and guns, and releasing the women." She looked straight at Bruce Wayne. "I think it's great! If Gotham's authorities can't – or won't – stop this type of activity, then someone has to, and I think what Batman did is great!"
Rachel Dawes keyed in on Dr. Villanova's words, questioning whether Gotham's authorities might be able to do more than they are doing.
That was strange, she thought, shuddering as she recalled what had transpired that morning.
Dawes had been outside the mayor's office, talking to one of the mayor's staff. The staff member stepped away, as Inspector Gordon went in to speak to the mayor. It was quiet enough where she was sitting that she could just overhear most of the conversation.
"That's not the way I read it at all, Mr. Mayor."
Inspector Gordon looked at the mayor, then walked across the mayor's office to look out the window at Gotham City.
"How do you read it, then, Inspector?"
"He torches a warehouse full of heroin belonging to Aladdin. Then he torches a cathouse, releasing the hookers who, it turns out, were being held there against their will, many of them addicted to heroin – he even gives them the money from the place which, after all, they had been forced to earn. Next, he torches the cars of two underworld hitmen, then a few hours later, he broke into the backroom of a club frequented by the staffers of Gotham's politicians; by the time we got there, the shady types running the place had been roughed up, left in the alley with their drugs and guns, and the place was on fire. Finally he breaks up a drug deal, destroying another warehouse full of heroin, cocaine, synthetic drugs, arms and money."
Inspector Gordon paused, his back to the mayor.
"That's my point. This 'Batman' is a loose cannon, and now he's gone pyro. He's a menace to everyone, regardless of which side of the law they're on. And he needs to be stopped."
"Like I said, that's not the way I read it, Mr. Mayor." Gordon turned around. "He's not a loose cannon."
"Then what's the connection?" The mayor looked at Gordon.
"In each case, except for the hitmen, heroin was found on the scene, often times with other drugs – cocaine, designer drugs – but always hard narcotics, good-quality heroin – the kind Aladdin is known to supply to finance his operations." Gordon paused. "Those two hitmen, of course, didn't have any heroin on them, but they've been known to do work for narcotics-traffickers."
Gordon studied the ceiling thoughtfully. "In each case, the guys he was fighting were roughed up, then left there for the police, except for the last case, where many of them were killed or very seriously injured. In each case, police-grade weapons were found – weapons that had been illegally procured."
Gordon's gaze lowered from the ceiling to the wall above the mayor.
"In the first two cases, important papers were brought out of the buildings and left near the guys he had fought, in a place where the cops would find them. In the last case, instead of papers connecting different parts of Gotham's underworld, it was corpses – the dead men found at the scene came from two different organized crime factions, which, thanks to Batman, we now know are working together."
Gordon paused. "Whether papers or corpses, the ties they show are between these operations on the one hand, and, on the other, businesses that are somehow connected to Mr. Carmine Falcone."
Inspector Gordon enunciated Falcone's name slowly and carefully, and at mention of his name, the mayor froze – it was almost imperceptible, but Gordon caught it in his peripheral vision.
"In each case, more evidence was found connecting the operations to front organizations, including to political action committees – including political action committees that have donated money to Councilman McMullen, the man you have endorsed to replace you, and to the running mate of Councilman McMullen's opposite number."
"Lidden? As in 'Salama and Lidden'?" the mayor asked, attempting to feign disinterest.
"Yep," Gordon answered.
"I don't like Lidden's politics, or Salama's for that matter, but I have worked with Lidden for years now."
"Well, it appears that for years now, both Lidden and McMullen have been endorsed by the same organization – an organization that held its meetings in that nightclub that Batman torched. The organization is run by a former alderman, now a lobbyist." Gordon paused, then added, "And on the wall there were pictures of him with McMullen, of him with Lidden – and of him with you and your vice-mayor."
The mayor smiled. "Inspector Gordon, I don't know what your political agenda is this election cycle, but you have a job to do..." the mayor began.
"And I'm doing it," Gordon interrupted. "I was placed in charge of this interagency task force to bring in Batman, and I've been at the crime scenes, examining the evidence, trying to get inside him, trying to figure out where he's coming from, and where he's going."
"I'll tell you where he's coming from. He's a pyro." The mayor leaned forward and looked at Gordon. "And I want him behind bars."
"Not so much a pyro as a vigilante, Mr. Mayor." Gordon's eyes were still surveying the wall above the mayor's head. "Maybe even a detective," Gordon added thoughtfully. "I think Batman is painting a picture for us... I think he's showing us what this 'War on Crime' is really about. There's a trail that begins with Aladdin and the heroin he produces to fund his crime spree, and that trail leads through all the vices of Gotham City – guns, drugs, prostitutes – and it leads through Gotham's political and business elites, who themselves are dipped in smut and vice and the money that comes with it... it's a trail that leads from Aladdin on one end – " and here Inspector Gordon lowered his eyes, and looked right into the mayor's eyes " – and right through city hall to this office on the other end. It's a trail that leads to you and to the men running in this election cycle, one of whom hopes to take your place in January."
The silence was short, but deafening.
"You have quite an imagination, Jim," the mayor smiled.
"I hope I do, Mr. Mayor," Gordon answered, standing up. "But we'll see where the evidence leads," Gordon smiled. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a pyro to catch."
Rachel snapped back to the present, and looked at Bruce Wayne, sitting on her right.
Wayne took a sip of his wine, then looked at the wine bottle, staring at its label.
"Batman killed over two dozen people. Another dozen or so remain hospitalized. Some of them may still die. The remainder will be horribly scarred and disfigured for the rest of their lives," Bruce Wayne said quietly.
"I saw the video. I watched it several times. I read the reports. Those men were in the process of committing multiple felonies – arms-, narcotics- and human-trafficking. Batman interrupted them in the very act. They were about to commit more felonies, including rape and kidnapping. Those drugs would have hit Gotham's streets and destroyed the lives of countless addicts, fueling street crime as the addicts resorted to robberies and thefts to get money to buy their fixes. Many of the heroin addicts die from the unexpected high quality of Aladdin's heroin, heroin which Batman kept off the streets the other night," Sandra added. "And, who knows what Aladdin would have done with the weapons he had bought?"
Sandra paused, and looked at Bruce.
"And, the men that got killed were trying to kill Batman."