Chapter Two: Hero, Villain, Monster

Gotham Weekly was the first to break the story. A ten-foot tall half-man, half-bat creature attacking street toughs. It wasn’t until last night’s dinner party did any of the reputable papers start reporting anything.

GCPD Commissioner Gillian Loeb has yet to comment on the incident. Which didn’t stop the Gotham Chronicle from running a story this morning that the dinner party included Carmine “The Roman” Falcone, head of the infamous Falcone Crime Family. The Chronicle claims this masked figure is a vigilante here to save the city.

Always contrary to their rivals, the Gotham Gazette has taken the stance that since this masked figure chose to assault Mayor Wilson Klass’s house he is a menace to the city. The Gazette has been calling for the GCPD to assemble a task force to arrest this dangerous criminal.

As unlikely as it seems, the Gotham Weekly is claiming to have spoken with an attendee. According to the source a figure burst through the window, landed on the table, and said “Ladies. Gentlemen. You have eaten well. You’ve eaten Gotham’s wealth. Its spirit. Your feast is nearly over. From this moment on…none of you are safe.” Before thrashing anyone he could get his hands on.

No one is certain of what to make of figure the Weekly called the Bat-man. Hero? Villain? Monster? Time will tell but for now gossip runs rampant.

Part One: Isabella Fuente

I was among the first on the scene, called to tend to the wounded. From the urgency of the call and the address, I expected to arrive to a massacre.

Instead I saw broken glass, bruises, and a few broken bones. All in all, it didn’t seem like it was anything to write in the papers about, except for the exclusive guest list.

Then they started talking about the bat-thing, and I thought that they were probably all drunk off their asses.

First of all, bat-monsters don’t exist, Whoever did this was human, or guided by a human. Attack animals maybe, but that didn’t fit with what the victims said.

Second, there had to have been multiple assailants. At least two, but from the number of injuries and their severity, probably three. Unless we’re talking a special forces badass here, this wasn’t done by one man, regardless of what the claims are.

Third, this doesn’t warrant competing stories in the paper. Nobody died. We took some people to the hospital, but that was only because of the size of their bank accounts, not because they were in any danger of death. Nobody died. I’ve worked scenes that barely got a mention on the news crawl that were ten times bloodier.

If the quote in the paper is accurate, it’s true. These people have grown fat and spoiled by sucking Gotham dry. Maybe some fractured ribs will set some of them straight, but I doubt it. It’s going to take more.

Part Two: Marcus Toure

BAT-MAN EXPOSES CORRUPTION AT HIGHEST LEVELS by Marcus Toure.

When I saw my name under the byline, I couldn’t believe it. Something’s gotten under Jeff Ritter’s skin if he’s printing my stories. I turned it in to the desk expecting to have it thrown right into the trash. That didn’t happen. Headline. My first.

Ritter invited me into the office. I thanked him for giving my story the headline.

“First headline?” he asked me.

I nodded. “Yeah.”

He lit a cigar and smiled. “Be careful, kid,” he said. “Might be your last.”

We talked for two hours after that. He told me about when he was my age, writing stories like the one on the headline of his paper. He said I had balls. Said I had a great voice. Said he was sorry I was wasting it.

“Something’s changing in the city, Marcus,” he told me. “I can’t tell you what it is, but…” he lingered on that for a long time, the cigar smoke wafting in the air. Then, he said, “This place used to have hope. But even then, there was something awful crawling under the surface. Hiding in the shadows. Like it was afraid of the light.”

He almost laughed. “It ain’t afraid of the light anymore,” he said. Then, he picked up the paper and pointed at my headline. “But maybe… it’s afraid of what’s in the dark.”

I went home feeling good. Like we were moving in the right direction. I got off the train, made the walk to my tenement. Before I got to the door, two men in long coats stopped me. Big men. One of them held me while the other plowed his fists into my belly and chest. Knocked my jaw loose. When I could barely see, the other one pulled out a gun. Put it against my head.

“This is what happens to smart ass ni—” he started. He didn’t get any further.

Something moved. Something heavy. It took the man with the gun off his feet, lifted him in the air. Then, something sharp went by my head and stuck in the first guy’s face. He fell to the ground, screaming and twitching. Then, he stopped.

I was on the cement, bleeding. Trying to get up. But a voice spoke to me. A voice like the guy you hire to talk over your movie trailer.

“Don’t move,” it said. “The ambulance is on its way.”

I couldn’t see anything. My eyes were bloody and dim. I couldn’t speak. My jaw was broken. I wanted to say something.

I reached out with my hand, fingers broken. A black glove took it. Held it, for just a second.

I gave it the most gentle squeeze.

Then, the voice said, “Keep writing.”

Sirens, then. And it was gone.

Part Three: Christopher Ramsay

I had my boots up on the desk, the evening edition of The Chronicle in my lap. On it’s front cover was an artist’s rendition of this bat thing that was, according to the local rags, either a crime-fighting vigilante or some kind of blood-sucking mutant bent on destruction. Gotham had seen it’s share of Weirdos-of-the-Week (I’m looking at you, Crazy Quilt), but something struck me about this one. This one was different.

I looked at my watch, a few minutes before four. It would be dawn soon. Setting the paper down I decided to start my rounds early.

As usual, my evening had been uneventful. Nearly finished my rounds, I only needed to swing through one of the Concept Labs before heading back to my station. Swiping my ID card over a lock, the door to Advanced Research & Development opened with a quiet hiss and I stepped in.

The door shut, and a breath of fresh air hit my cheek. I turned to see that a window was open. I muttered something and reached for my radio. I remember hearing a quick ‘snick’ as something passed through the cord that ran from the handheld microphone.

“You’re early,” a resonant voice said from behind me. “I thought I had three more minutes. No matter, I’ve got what I need.”

Another sound, this one not unlike a silenced pistol, made me flinch. Something big and dark passed by me and out the window. Swearing, I ran to the opening and looked out. Beneath me, gliding through the air, the wide wings of a giant bat spread over the city below.

The next night, I made sure I started my rounds on time.

Part Four: Arnold Harmon

I was at Al’s dinner having breakfast and my morning cup o’ Joe when Lucky my waitress slid over the Chronicle, she knew I always liked to check out the competition. I spat out my coffee when I read the headline. When I got to the office I found out Jimmy Malone had written our piece in the Gazette. Of course Roberts our editor had given him the piece, must be nice being the bosses son in law. Buzz on the street the whole day was about this man bat thing. Later at home I was burning the midnight oil, literally, my clock was striking midnight as I pinned the scrap of paper with the word bat and a question mark to my corkboard. I’d started doing work on my big stories at home last year after Malone had scooped me on the Albright murders, I was sure he’d broken into my office to get the story, and his piece was sloppy but it got published. Something I had trouble with as of late. Sure the stories had some holes a couple of questions but they were solid. No story ever had all the details, this one though was going to be solid. No way the boss could reject it. That’s when I saw it. Falcone had a cousin named Malone. Could it be that my stories had been rejected not because of the holes but because my boss was on the take? My clocks bells tolled for the twelfth time as there was a knock on my door… had the reaper come calling?

Part Five: Nate Briggs

I was driving off-route, but my boss didn’t say anything about it. Some fancy guy with an Italian last name had bought our outfit years ago. Maroni, I think. They weren’t having me pick up a “special” tonight, thank Christ. I wasn’t sure how long I could keep doing this, picking up enemies of the mob and gassing them to death in an alley. Tonight, I was just supposed to pick up two guys from some tenement after they did a thing. Thing is, they never showed up. I got out, smoked, waited ten minutes, nothing. I decided to leave, and saw something, a shape, silhouetted against the moon. Big. Real fuckin’ big. The Gazette’s a rag, but there’d been some monster story posed as “news.” Couldn’t be true. Weird stuff happens here, but man-bats? That was before I saw.. whatever that was. Maybe the Chronicle is right, some vigilante out there. Something has had a few of my rides spooked. Yeah. Vigilante. Definitely not a bat-monster.

Right?

Part Six: Igantious Gallow

I flick the butt of my third cigarette in a hour out the window savoring the last exhalation of smoke. “What do you make of this?” Frank asks me. He was holding a copy of the Chronicle in one massive hand. The guys called him Franky the Fist.

“It’s a bunch of bull.” I shoot back taking the paper from him. “Ain’t no vigilante going to go up against the Roman. Somebody’s making a power play, and its going to go bad. And guys like you and me are going to spend a lot hours sitting around waiting to make a point.” I toss the paper in the backseat. “Besides you’re supposed to be helping watch for this reporter not reading the paper.”

“I don’t get the big deal. I didn’t think it was that bad.” Franky said rolling his shoulders. “It was solid writing. And wasn’t like he didn’t do his leg work. I can respect that.”

I was about to give a harsh retort when my partner pointed. “I think that’s him.” I checked the guy against the photo I had sitting on the dash. Looked right. I opened my door and stepped out in a smooth motion, my coat flapping in the wind. We’d done this dozens of times. Isolate the target. Make a point. Get out of there. Someone else would pick up the car. We’d take a cab home. Franky cracked his knuckles. Respect or no respect, the man was a professional.

Credits

Chapters written by Rob Justice
Arnold Harmon written by Artemis Knight
Christopher Ramsay written by Robert Wakefield
Igantious Gallow written by Steven A Skidmore
Isabella Fuente written by Michael Curry
Marcus Toure written by John Wick
Nate Briggs written by Zachary Alan Gourley

Posted in A City Without Hope.

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