Chapter Six: The Alliance

The Joker’s reign of terror lasted for months. One of the longest crime sprees in Gotham’s history. A crime spree that left city officials, GCPD officers, mobsters, thugs, and countless civilians dead. A climatic showdown between Gotham’s vigilante Batman and the Clown Prince of Crime brought the story to an end… though many call it only a respite.

In the wake of the Joker there has been a wave of costumed criminals. A short fat man with a bird fetish, a twisted fear-monger in a burlap sack, a woman who make’s Adam and Eve’s wardrobe seem modest, an bald man with a date obsession, a man who asked too many questions, and a weird little man lost in a Lewis Carol delusion.

While all of these foes have done battle with the Batman they are always left to the corrupt GCPD to deal with. Blackgate Prison, already overcrowded, simply wasn’t prepared for such special needs criminals. The justice system corrupt on every level turned a blind eye to mundane criminals. The mob getting wave after wave of their people back. Organized crime doubling, and redoubling, its stranglehold on Gotham City.

Then Bruce Wayne stepped forward to save the city.

Wayne launched political campaigns, wholly funded by Wayne money, for Police Commissioner, District Attorney, Blackgate Warden, numerous judges, and a handful of other legal offices. The trifecta of Bruce Wayne, James Gordon, and Harvey Dent began appearing on every talk show, newspaper stand, and magazine in Gotham City. A new day was donning… A glimmer of hope returning to Gotham City.

“But Mr. Wayne…”, Vicki Vale begins asking, “It seems that you’re only shifting who’s pocket the police, politicians, and correctional officers are in. While once they were owned by criminals now they are owned by you? How can we possibly trust that you’ll put the best interest of Gotham City ahead of your own?”

Bruce smiles. A million dollar smile. “Because I can be held accountable, Ms. Vale. Before now it was an unspoken truth that everyone in this city was bought and paid for. But do you know who owns Gillian Loeb? Or Wilson Klass? You have an idea… but now you’ll have a face. I’m putting more than just my parent’s money on the line here. I’m putting the Wayne family reputation.”

Bruce reaches into his jacket and pulls out a business card, sliding it across the desk to the reporter. “That’s the line for the Attorney General of New York state. I encourage you to call it should you feel I ever overstep my bounds.”

Vicki picks up the card with a half smile, “And how do we know you haven’t bought our state’s Attorney General?”

“Reach out to the Supreme Court then. Maybe I have a few of those in my pocket too though. Then you’ll have to call the president and hope my reach doesn’t extend that far. There will always be a question of how far a person’s influence stretches.”

Bruce hesitates for a second… then pulls an envelope from his jacket. “Mr. Dent and I drafted this up earlier this week.” Bruce’s smile slips. “If all of my chosen political appointments are met we have outlined a two-year plan to save the city. Should crime rates not have a significant reduction – exact numbers are outlined in the proposal – I’ve agreed to turn the entirety of my fortune and estate over to various charitable causes.”

For a moment Vicki Vale is left without words, Bruce fills the silence. “If I can’t do my part to save this city then I don’t belong here. Everything I own will go to the most worthy of causes. Even my home will be renovated and turned into a no-cost hospice. I am betting, literally, everything on this Ms. Vale. Just give us two years.”

Part One: Igantious Gallow

I sit uneasily in the back of the limo. Across from me is Lana Tryx–waitress turned accountant. She dressed in a smart suit and a manila folder is open on her lap. I didn’t like this but when a potential business partner sends a car it is rude to refuse. She continues with her report as I light a smoke. “We’ve lost Dr Markov. He fled to South America when the Joker started gassing residential neighborhoods. With our recent acquisitions that leaves us with only two doctors.”

I roll down the window and tap ash out. “He’ll be back. He can’t stay away from his precious Arkham for long.”

Lana makes a note. “We lost two warehouses and all production staff during the scuffle down at the docs. But we’ve picked up several new locations in the central business district.” She turns a page. “Man power wise we’ve lost the least out of any of the crews.”

I smile. That was because we have been fighting back. “How many of the Malones are left?”

Lana looks a little annoyed by the question but flips ahead. “Not many. No one has seen Jimmy in a while. Word is the Night Judge got him, but he could just be hiding. Matches is out of town as usual. The rest are accounted for.” I nod. “Our numbers have swollen after the releases from Blackgate. Many are looking to us in the Roman’s silence.”

I exhale smoke. Falcone had something planned. He was playing it close to the chest and leaving the rest of us to our own devices. “Good. We will need all the help we can get to push these freaks back into their holes.” I let the cigarette butt slip out he window. “Speaking of, tell me about the freak we are about to meet.”

Lana gives me a little smile. “I wouldn’t call Mr. Cobblepot that to his face.” She hands me the folder. “He currently control seventy-five percent of all imports into the city. His casino, though new, is doing well. Oh, and he has survived at least two conflicts with Batman.”

I eye Lana. She knew my feelings on the bat-men. If she she said Batman, she meant the big guy. The one who put Franky in a coma. “What does the Cat have to say about him?”

Lana wrinkled her nose. “I believe her exact words were ‘He’s an easy mark because he’s overconfident.’ I don’t see why we need her. We were doing just fine before.”

“She’s a mercenary. She’s playing both sides. And she’s one of the freaks. That makes her uniquely useful… for now. It also means I know where she stands, and that would be with whatever side favors her getting what she wants.” I close the folder. “I know she is helping the bat-men. And I know that she has hit the other crews. As long as she stays true to our agreement, I can ignore her. But” I crack my knuckles. “When she turns, there will be more than one way to skin a cat.”

The limo stops outside of a large casino. The driver rushes around and opens the door. I let Lana slide out first. She is still shorter than me in four inch heels. I slide my arm around her waist as we walk, that way her body against mine covers the bulge of the gun under my coat. At the doors a smartly dressed man is waiting for us. “Please follow me Mr. Gallow. Mr. Cobblepot has been expecting you.” I give a hangman’s smile and nod.

Part Two: Nate Briggs

The statement “I’m lucky the Joker came to Gotham” isn’t one that I’ve ever known anyone but me to use. It’s also one I’ve only ever thought. I never said those words to anyone. I knew too many people who lost something. Hell, I lost something. Namely, I lost friends to that maniac. It wasn’t the last time, but there was nothing like that initial bodycount, the sheer terror that flooded the city, the seeming helplessness of anyone to deal with what was happening. Even the Batman seemed to struggle, until he finally had the Joker caught. I guess it’s finally turned out that the Bat won’t kill. He didn’t kill Joker, anyway, and if anyone deserves a bullet to the head, it’s that psychopath. I said I was lucky. That’s only because, like I said, I’d been leaving a trail. Killing people with a noxious gas. Then along comes this guy, who does it too, but with far more flair. Sure, different gas, different effects, but it took some heat off of me, I think.

In the wake of that and the arrival of more criminals in costume though, mobsters were getting outta Blackgate left and right. That bit wasn’t so good for me, personally. Joker’s arrival and that of the rest may have saved me from some scrutiny, but I paid for it in the relative ease I’d come to enjoy with more and more thugs off the street, and the mob’s attention elsewhere. With an increase in manpower came an increase in oversight. And in orders. Suddenly I was back in, picking guys up, being told to whack this or that guy. Some were legitimate problems for our outfit. Others were prison grudges. There were a number of them, overall, which meant that there was, again, a trail, leading back to me. Finally, I said something about it. That just meant, ultimately, that there were more murder-cabs like mine that got outfitted. Not what I’d wanted. Rumors spread. You take a certain cab in Gotham, you don’t ever get where you’re going. Cops find you in an alley somewhere. That both helped and hindered me. It hindered me because people started being more on-edge about getting into a taxi, at least in certain parts of town. The idiots didn’t realize that we all drove all over Gotham. My garage might be close to Crime Alley. That didn’t mean my cab never went by Wayne Tower or the Iceberg Lounge. The rumors about the cabs helped me too though. When I took a guy out, on my own, someone on “my” side that was giving me trouble, it was attributed to some other operation. Surely they’d all heard the rumors about what was happening. They were smart enough to capitalize on it too, or so the thought went. That meant there would be retaliatory strikes as well. And with all the craziness still running around the city, that meant tensions were running high and that they just sat there. I was helping to kick off a new stage of the turf wars and I did it sort of by accident.

My mention of the Iceberg Lounge wasn’t an accident. The guy who came to own the place was one of the new collection of weirdos in the city. Cobblepot. What a fuckin’ name. Guys called him the Penguin. He embraced the title. Encouraged it, even. He had the temper of a guy four times his height. Still, he was a “businessman.” Like my bosses. Some joker (no, not THAT one) let slip to this guy that I was a capable driver. He started offering me work on the side. “Offer” was a.. generous term. The guy paid me, but he had me over a barrel. He knew I was one of THE cabs. And he didn’t owe me shit. The outfit, at least this was their idea. They couldn’t very well turn me in without implicating themselves, and now a chunk of their workforce to boot. Penguin didn’t have that problem. He had me doing drops and pickups on the side. He hadn’t had me doing any gas work. Not then. It was innocent, at least in that I wasn’t killing anybody. No new nightmare fuel from that guy, which may have been the closest I got to a compliment in those days.

I could say the same for Wayne. He didn’t give me nightmares either. I didn’t know the guy, so there was that, but he also seemed like he actually wanted to help. That stunt with Dent on Vale’s show was wild. Had a lotta guys laughing their asses off. We talked about it in the garage. Some of the guys in situations like mine were really hoping he made good on his promise. Sure, we’d probably get locked up too. Gas chamber for us maybe. Fitting. But it’d end the nightmare. Wayne’s money looked cleaner than Maroni’s, or Falcone’s, or Cobblepot’s. And he’d thrown in with Gordon, which was a decent enough sign. I wondered if he’d reached out to the Batman somehow. Bats was pretty heavily rumored to be working with Gordon, especially after the Joker ordeal. Those two and Dent, all together? It seemed like it’d be a dream come true.

Part Two: Marcus Toure

At the morgue, Gordon’s there to meet me.

He tells me there’s no need to identify the body. I tell him I want to see her one last time.

He says, “No, you don’t.”

I just look at him. His red mustache and hair already have sprinkles of grey. It’s only been months.

He looked right into my eyes. “Trust me, son,” he said. “You don’t want to see her. What’s under that sheet isn’t her. Whatever was her is gone now. What’s left is…” he stopped. Closed his eyes. “Don’t,” he said. “Just walk away. Get the hell out of here.”

I do walk. Right by him. Right up to where she’s covered up by that white sheet. I pull it away.

And I see her face.

Her face.

I don’t remember leaving the building. I don’t remember running out into the rain. I don’t remember falling in the middle of the street. I don’t remember Gordon pulling me out of the way of the car. I don’t remember crying into his wet coat.

Next thing I remember is sitting in the police station, soaking wet. A blanket over my shoulders, cup of cop station coffee in my hands. Cold. I must have been there for an hour before I blinked.

A Latina detective sat next to me. I don’t remember her name. I’m good with names.

“She was a good cop,” she told me.

I blinked a few times. Sniffed. I was going to catch a cold.

“She talked about you all the time,” she said. “She was proud of you. The work you’re doing.” She paused. “She called you ‘brave.’ All the time.”

She sat there for a moment, just quiet. Then, she said, “Anything I can do for you. You name it.”

I blinked. Looked at her.

“I want a gun,” I told her.

Credits

Chapters written by Rob Justice
Igantious Gallow written by Steven A Skidmore
Nate Briggs written by Zachary Alan Gourley
Marcus Toure written by John Wick

Posted in A City Without Hope.

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