M A Y 2 N D, 2 0 1 3 ♦ A R K H A M A S Y L U M ♦ G O T H A M C I T Y, N J
The cell door opened, and Batman stepped inside.
Edward Nashton’s cell was immaculate. What possessions he was allowed to keep (books; an enormous amount of them) were stacked neatly, according to size, on the desk to the left. His bedsheets were tucked beneath each side of his bed, straightened, without a wrinkle to be seen; the only ones present were those that formed beneath his weight. Everything in his cell spoke of severe obsessive compulsion: the books, the bedsheets – the clock, set to the nearest millisecond.
The Riddler reclined on his bed with the back of his head resting in his hands, legs spread outwards. Hearing the cell door clang shut, he looked up, his lips curling into a smirk as his eyes settled on Batman.
“What’s tall, bat-like and my intellectual inferior?”
His eyes twinkled with amusement and hatred in equal parts.
Straight to the riddles, as always.“Your material’s getting sloppy, Riddler,”
Nashton scoffed. “My writer is of questionable talent.”
He paused, examining a fingernail as he sat up. “What can I do for you, Batman? I don’t assume you’ve come to admit mine being the better mind, so why don’t you hurry up and stop wasting my time? I was quite happy staring at the ceiling.”“Three men were murdered tonight in the Narrows. Whoever did it is a professional,”
said Batman. “Dutch Hancock, Happy Ackerman, and Koby Hillam. Do those names ring a bell?”
“Should they?” Riddler raised an eyebrow.“They worked for you.”
“And, what? You came here to ask me who would have it out for the sycophants
I employ? In this
city?” He paused, holding a hand over his heart. “Oh, my dear, dumb, Dark Knight. Just about everyone
That much was true. In the thirteen years since whispers of the Batman reached the ears of Gotham’s criminal element, the vigilante had made many enemies, and had seen them make enemies of each other. It was no exaggeration to say that nearly everyone would want the Riddler and his men dead. A man like Nashton was not easy to get along with, and his fanatic narcissism was polarising at best. For the men competing for control over the city – men like Oswald Cobblepot – it was easy to hate him, and even easier to want him and his operations gone. But for all of the potential suspects, something didn’t add up.“An owl’s face was drawn with your men’s blood at the scene,”
said Batman. “Do you have any idea what it could mean, who that symbol could belong to?”
“Actually, I don – ” Nashton’s smirk disappeared, his mouth hanging agape, eyes wide. “Oh, no… no, it can’t be…”
He ran a hand through his hair. “No, no, no… not them…”
He looked at Batman. “The Court of Owls.
Nashton chuckled, and the Dark Knight turned away, knocking on the cell door so the guard on the other side would open it. If the Riddler was going to waste his time, as was his nature, Batman was better off following up on what little clues he could uncover at the crime scene.
“Batman,” Alfred said through the comm-link, “If you’re done, sir, there appears to be a robbery in progress at Gotham National Bank. I thought you might like to pop in and grunt ‘hello.’”“Thank you, Pennywise,”
he answered, walking out of the cell as its door swung open. “I’m on my way.”
M A Y 2 N D, 2 0 1 3 ♦ G O T H A M N A T I O N A L B A N K ♦ G O T H A M C I T Y, N J
With the press of a button, Batman cut off all electricity to the building. Anything that could hint at him being there – security cameras, alarms – was shut down, deprived of power.
He was perched on the balcony of the bank manager’s office. Below him, two men stood guard, balaclavas covering their faces, shotguns at the ready – twelve gauge by looks of them, cheap in materials and make. They were scared, agitated, looking erratically over their shoulders in the direction of their accomplices, who were gathering money from the bank’s vault. That the building was empty, but for them, was a relief. The lack of professionalism the two men displayed, their inability to keep their cool, would only heighten the chance of an innocent being killed. Batman couldn’t allow that. This way, he could take care of the criminals before they knew what hit them.
“Hey, T,” whispered the thug on the left, “How much longer d– ”
Batman dropped from his perch, plummeting down onto the crook, his cape slowing his decent just enough to prevent the man’s death. The thug crumpled beneath his weight, losing consciousness on impact. His gun fell to the floor beside him, and Batman picked it up, discarding the shells.
“What the f– ” began T, aiming his shotgun at the wraith before him.
He was met with a shotgun butt to the chin, falling down with crunch.
Batman dropped the first thug’s firearm, stepping behind one of the balcony’s pillars. Alfred had told him that there were up to five robbers in the building, and with two down, that meant three were left inside the vault. On the other side of the pillar was the hallway leading to it. He could hear the tap-tap
of uncertain steps clicking on the tiled floor. A gruff voice called out.
“T? Ax?” It got no answer. “Yo, stop messing around. We heard some noise. You’re our getaway, remember?”
Batman scowled. Not only was this crew unprofessional, they were stupid, too.
,” exclaimed another voice, unsettled by the silence. “It’s the Bat. He’s here. Dammit, Buchinsky, I didn’t sign up for– ”
, you idiot,” interrupted a third voice, Russian in its accent: Buchinsky. “Take point. If it’s black and has horns, shoot it.”
Buchinsky’s identity was no mystery to Batman. Calling himself Electrocutioner, Lester Buchinsky was likely the reason this crew was so incompetent. With an ego as inflated as his, there was no doubt that he thought he could pull off this job the way he did – with his getaways acting as lookouts, and his crew too nervous to work coherently. No, when you were Lester Buchinsky, you didn’t need a good plan or a professional team. You just needed your glorified tasers.
Buchinsky’s point man exited the hallway, shotgun resting on his shoulder, each step bringing him closer to Batman.
“All clear,” he called out, stepping past the pillar the vigilante hid behind.
Batman grabbed the barrel of his gun, pushing it away from himself, simultaneously striking the man across the face, wrapping his punching arm around the thug’s neck in a reverse chokehold. He struggled, weakening with every passing second, his muffled cries waning along with him. Within three, he was out cold. Batman emptied his gun and moved back into the shadows.
Buchinsky and his remaining man stepped out of the hall. The gunman walked in front, protecting Electrocutioner, his breaths heavy – scared. Batman ducked low, waiting for him to walk past the pillar, sweeping his leg across the floor – catching the gunman on his shins, kicking his legs out from under him. The gunman fell forwards, chin hitting the tiled floor with a loud thud. He was out of the equation, for now. Batman emptied his gun, and leapt towards Buchinsky.
The crook didn’t even have time to taunt the Dark Knight. His gauntlets – the glorified tasers – crackled with electricity, and yet he couldn’t bring them up fast enough to defend himself. His surprised yelp was cut short, Batman’s fist crunching into his nose. He hit the ground hard.Ka-chk.What –?
Batman ducked to his right, his instincts taking over –
The shot barely missed him, pellets shooting past his head. Hand reaching for his belt, he grabbed a Batarang, turning to look over his shoulder and throwing it at his would-be shooter.
The projectile embedded itself in the gunman’s hand – the one he’d tripped – and he dropped the gun, cursing, blood trickling down his hand.
Batman brought his fist up beneath his chin, and the gunman dropped like a brick.
The vigilante had to hold back a curse of his own as he realised his mistake. He’d emptied every gun of ammunition – every gun but one. He’d neglected the second lookout’s firearm… the one called ‘T’.Stupid.
He grappled up to the balcony, making his way towards the air vent through which he’d entered the building.
He didn’t notice the figure that hid in the shadows. After he was gone, it smiled to itself.“Getting sloppy, Bruce.”