Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Counterconspiracy: Witness

Detective Sergeant O'Hara walked into the building and looked around.

O'Hara's eyes scanned the interior of the restaurant. There was a hole in the ceiling where the skylight had been; the place had obviously had a fire, but it looked as if the fire had been quickly extinguished. His eyes running farther back in the dining area, he noticed a big hole in the wall leading in from the kitchen and, stepping to one side and looking through the hole, he saw a similar hole in the outer wall leading into the kitchen from the alleyway out back. The equipment in the kitchen had been knocked out of the way, making a path from the alleyway out back all the way into the dining room.

"Looks like somebody wanted drive-through service," O'Hara commented. "So what happened?"

"Several armed, masked men entered via the back door," one officer answered, his notebook open, "and they told everyone to keep quiet and not to move. They then immobilized the people with heavy tape," the officer explained, pointing to tape on the arm of a chair. "Witnesses said that at first it looked like an armed robbery, but then the intruders placed several cans of gasoline around the dining room, and started spilling gas around the whole building."

O'Hara looked at the officer closely, who led O'Hara through the hole in the dining room wall and into the kitchen.

"It was at that point that a large, black vehicle crashed through the back wall from the alleyway into the kitchen, then drove through the kitchen, then crashed through this wall into the dining room and stopped."

Studying the gaping hole in the wall, O'Hara asked the officer, "What did this vehicle look like?"

"It was a large, black vehicle, a very unusual but sporty design, with appendages on the back."

"The Batmobile?" O'Hara looked up.

The officer nodded. "The assailants were apparently surprised by this, and a panic ensued. They started firing at the Batmobile, and their shots ignited the gasoline, and the fire began to spread rapidly." The officer looked at O'Hara. "The good news is that the perps hadn't yet had time to really douse the place down."

O'Hara looked at the fire damage, then his eyes wandered back to the broken skylight.

"What happened then?"

"At that point, a large figure dressed in flowing black crashed down through the skylight, landing behind the assailants," the officer explained, referring to his notes, and proceeding rather matter-of-factly.

"Batman," O'Hara said quietly.

The officer looked up from his notes. "He surprised them. The witnesses disagree on how many were right there when Batman hit the floor, but it was at least four, with another couple back in the kitchen area." Looking up, the officer became a little animated. "Batman cleaned their clocks, Detective; I mean, he really took these guys apart, and fast." Looking back down, he continued. "Meanwhile, a big fire extinguisher in the front of the Batmobile was putting out the fire...."

"If Batman was here fighting the assailants, who was driving the Batmobile?" O'Hara interrupted.

"It appeared to be empty. Witnesses later got a look inside it, and there appeared to have been nobody inside until Batman got in the vehicle with one of the victims."

O'Hara looked at the officer. "Please continue with your narrative," he said, shaking his head.

"Batman grabbed a butter knife off one of the tables, and cut the tape, releasing a couple of the victims. He told them to release the others, exit out front, and call 9-1-1. He pulled a canister out of his belt, and sprayed it on the assailants; it was some kind of foam of some sort, it hardened and dried fast, and left the men immobilized. Then he hurried in the backroom. By this time, it seems the remaining assailants were leaving the scene, as the witnesses recalled hearing several vehicles' wheels squealing in the alleyway."

As the narrative progressed, the officer led O'Hara toward the back of the restaurant.

"One witness said that Batman came out carrying a woman, another said she was walking on her own." Looking up, the officer added, "Both commented on how beautiful she was."

At this, O'Hara looked hard at the officer who was narrating this; the officer looked back and shrugged.

"The Batmobile's top opened, and Batman strapped the woman into the passenger's seat, then himself got into the driver's seat, and was strapping himself in as the top came back down; the vehicle then backed out into the alleyway."

With these words, the officer led O'Hara through the hole in the wall and out into the alleyway.

O'Hara looked around. Off to the right, about fifty feet away, a vehicle was completely destroyed, and about ten or twelve firefighters, ambulance workers and police officers were surrounding the vehicle. Back to the left, several officers were combing the alleyway looking for evidence.

Inspector Gordon stepped out of the elevator, and began to walk across the parking garage to his unmarked police cruiser.

It was late, after ten, and he had been hoping to be asleep already, but watching the coverage on Gotham's television of the financial meltdown in Gotham City had his interest – and, it had him thinking.

The phone rang – it was Detective O'Hara. He was on the scene of an incident at a restaurant, and he had asked Gordon to come down and look the scene over. No details had been discussed over the phone; in fact very little had been said, but Gordon knew: it was a fire, and Batman was involved.

"I'm on my way," he said, then hung up and began to change.

Now he was hurrying across the parking garage beneath the apartment building where he lived.

As he approached his car, his eyes caught something in the back corner of the garage. Gordon stopped, as the unusual-looking vehicle approached silently.

Its top opened, and a large figure dressed in flowing black climbed out, then helped a woman out of the vehicle. Despite himself, Gordon did a double-take – she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, and she looked a little familiar.

"Inspector Jim Gordon, this is Nyssa Raatko."

Gordon smiled a half-smile. "How do you do?"

"Nyssa has, until tonight, been in the employ of one Mr. Carmine Falcone," the figure explained.

"Vasilissa," Gordon interrupted. That's where he knew her from. He had seen pictures of her at Falcone's parties.

Nyssa nodded.

"Tonight, Falcone tried to kill her. His plan was to torch an entire restaurant full of innocent people in order to cover up his assassination of Vasilissa."

Gordon thought about that for a moment. That was undoubtedly the crime scene he was being called to. But, why was Vasilissa so important?

"She is ready to provide evidence to the prosecution that will break up Falcone's empire, and put a great many people behind bars. And, her testimony is just the tip of the iceberg. She will give you more names of people who will testify, and there are others I know of who are also willing to come forward."

"If I can keep her alive," Gordon commented.

"A recent client of mine, a man by the name of Malone, had a suggestion as to where I could stay," Vasilissa interjected.

Gordon nodded; Gordon had an idea, too.

The dark figure produced a small device, and handed it to Inspector Gordon.

"What's this?"

"It's called a 'Batsignal'," Vasilissa smiled. "Press the green button for a routine meeting; press the red button if you are in immediate, life-threatening danger. Once the button is pressed, Batman is summoned, and there is no way to cancel the meeting," she explained.

"Perhaps you need this more than I do," Gordon suggested, offering the Batsignal to Vasilissa.

"She already has one," the dark figure said, as Vasilissa held up a similar device.

"By the way, Batman," Gordon turned to the figure, "this financial crisis that has developed in Gotham City over the past few days...."

"It could have been prevented by the regulatory commission, all of whose members were appointed by the current mayor."

"So the mayor is pulling the strings on this?" Gordon asked.

"At one level, yes. But, the mayor is just a front man, and is being manipulated, as well."

Gordon thought about that comment, and remembered the figure's words from a previous meeting, where Batman had described the relationship among the mayor, Falcone, Aladdin, and an organization known as "The Demon".

"My father is Ra's al Ghul," Vasilissa added. "I don't know much about him, hardly anything at all, but I will tell you everything I know."

"And just who is Ra's al Ghul?" Inspector Gordon asked.

"'The Head of the Demon' – that's how his name translates," the dark figure answered.

Gordon looked at Vasilissa. Clicking the button on the keyless entry system to his unmarked police cruiser, he motioned to Vasilissa. "If you'll please get in my car, we need to get you to some place safe," he said, turning toward his car.

Stopping, he turned around. "One more thing, Batman," he began, but it was too late; the dark figure was inside the dark vehicle, and the top was already coming down.

"As these cars were attempting to make their escape, their occupants fired automatic weapons at the Batmobile. It seems the Batmobile fired a missile, and the missile destroyed that car there," the officer pointed to the right, "then the Batmobile somehow pivoted and faced in that direction," the officer pointed to the left, "and took off after one of the other cars, which Batman apparently caught on the Gotham Expressway about two miles from here. I heard they counted over one hundred bullet holes in that vehicle."

"'Pivoted?'" O'Hara repeated, looking at the alleyway; there was not enough room for a vehicle to turn around behind the restaurant.

"As in 'on a dime', Detective – those were the exact words of one witness."

O'Hara looked at the officer, as he finished his report. "At this point, we have four dead and seven hospitalized, three of them in intensive care – all perpetrators. None of the victims received significant injuries."

Sasha looked at Alfred, who was on the phone.

"Yes, sir. All is ready." Alfred paused. "I shall tell him, sir. Have a good evening, sir."

Alfred looked at Sasha. "My dear, would you be so kind as to go to the gatehouse? We have a guest who will be arriving. Please escort her to the main house. It is important that we take especially good care of her," Alfred explained.

Sasha nodded. "Bruce told me we might be expecting someone."

"And where is Master Bruce?" Alfred inquired.

"He said he had one more stop to make tonight."

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