Gotham City, Dini Plaza
The Loeb Building
12:05 AM"He's late again."
Roman Sionis looked over in silent contempt as the newly returned Salvatore Maroni, leader of Capo Italiana and the most recent victim of an assault by The Batman, voiced his clear disgust at the lack of his direct opposition's presence. Since enacting a very fragile truce with the other major crime families in Gotham in the early 1990's, Carmine "The Roman" Falcone had enjoyed the spoils of everything from territorial disputes to all-out gang wars that had threatened to rip the city apart. And out of fear of retaliation from Falcone's many loyalists, from highly respected mafia dons of the old guard to the newest and more ruthless grunts looking to cut their teeth in the circles that not-so-secretly ran the city from the ground up, most had remained silent in the face of Falcone's growing contempt for the other heads of what eventually became The Five Families. As long as the old man had The Syndicate, he made no secret that he considered the rest of the other organizations little more than expendable. "Just pointin' out the obvious, Sionis. No need to give me the side-eye over it."
And this fact had drawn it's share of detractors to Falcone's place as head of the serpent, as it were. None moreso than Sal Maroni, who'd started off working with a younger Carmine pulling small-time jobs as a teenager. That was nearly forty years ago, now, and Maroni had long since stabbed The Roman in the back for a cut of his own piece of the pie. Capo Italiana now ran a considerable portion of Gotham on it's own, rivaling The Syndicate in every conceivable fashion. What really put Maroni in a position of power, however, was his leverage on the GCPD. This fact was made all the more clear by the highly loyal members of Maroni's organization sitting to both sides of him. Commissioner Gillian Loeb to the left, Captain Arnold Flass to the right. "I'd advise you to keep your shirt on, Sally. You never know when another masked lunatic might come in and shoot you in your other kneecap."
Several members of the table chuckled to themselves at Mayor Thorne's jab, particularly those under The Syndicate's allegiance. While Maroni did stake a claim on practically all of the police force in it's entirely, the Mayor's office was firmly in Falcone's grasp, still giving The Roman majority control over what transpired throughout Gotham. And this fact was backed up by the presence of those who remained seated next to the Mayor. Not only did Sionis take second chair only to the big boss himself, after years of hard work and powerful deals had secured him a seat in Falcone's inner-circle, but there were also those to contend with in the event that something ever happened to the old man.
This included Alberto and Mario, his sons and rightful heirs to the metaphorical throne. Sofia Gigante, his daughter by marriage and the overseeing eye of his operations. Johnny Vitti, his nephew and professional hitman. And his many on-call agents with their own specialities, including the sleazy-but-cunning family lawyer Warren White, aswell as the relatively silent book-keeper Julian Day, who had earned the nickname of The Calendar Man for his photographic memory. And perhaps most fearsomely of all, the leering Arnold Wesker. For decades, Falcone had enlisted Wesker to ensure that potential trouble sources ended up disappearing without so much as a trace or a word. Vanished into the night. Some even claimed that Wesker could be heard talking to himself in another voice whenever he was on assignment, adding fuel to the idea that he was a perennial boogeyman under Falcone's payroll. "Oh piss off, Rupert. Like you and your's haven't been feelin' the heat that the Bat's brought down on every single one of us. Frankly, I got away relatively unscathed compared to the losses that the old man has suffered in sheer productivity thanks to that fuckin' freak."
Sionis leaned forward, his usually cool demeanor giving way to a venomous tone."And yet none of us had to limp into this room on crutches, did they?"
Maroni furrowed his brow as Sionis sat back up straight in his chair, adjusting his Armani suit accordingly. "The boss gets here when he gets here. You and every damn member of this table knew that from day one. The real question at hand is where certain other parties are, given this wasn't exactly an optional gathering. We're one organization down.""What, the Siberian?"
, Commissioner Loeb inquired. "Frankly, I'd prefer if 'The Penguin' sat this and any future gatherings out. I know that he's technically bought his way into the fold, but that doesn't change the fact that my department has had to pull alot of strings just to cover for his shitshow acting out of turn over the last few months. They've all but gone rogue, and I think it's high time that we cut our losses."
Thomas Blake, known on the streets as 'El Gato' and the current figurehead of the Moxon Family, placed his hands together in a contemplative gesture. "Not that I disagree with that assessment, Commissioner, but I don't think the rest of us are willing to incite an open war against Cobblepot anytime soon. And with good reason. If the rumors are to be believed, The Penguin is busy amassing an army of his own. And not just the usual run-of-the-mill thugs that the rest of us have come to rely on, we're talking about true blue freaks of nature. Metahuman types. My sources even indicate that one of them can change his face at will, just by thinking it."
Maroni laughed at that assertion, heartily. "Oh, Tommy. You've always been as gullible as a ten-dollar whore working Park Row. There's no way that the Commie freak has amassed someone of that kinda power, because if he had, why the hell wouldn't he have used it against us by now? Against all of us, for that matter?"
Mayor Thorne cleared his throat. "The point being, Maroni, that we don't entirely know what Mr. Cobblepot's operations truly are any more. He was supposed to be a simple weapons smuggler. That was the deal whenever he staked out Grissom's old stomping grounds. But I don't seem to recall any of us, including your organization, receiving so much as a crate within the last two weeks. Even you can't deny that the buzzard's up to something.""Sure, sure. But I'm not gonna sit here and pretend as if I'm pissin' myself over what a Russian piece of shit has in store for a town that he barely even knows. Have you seen his fuckin' nightclub? The place is a dumpster fire of cheap booze and idiot accountants that he's hopin' to help line his pockets. All that's telling me is that he's desperate, not dangerous. I say we keep the little bastard onboard. He amuses me, unlike the rest of you stiffs."
Sionis sneered. "Frankly, Cobblepot's not the one we should start considering for excommunication..."
Maroni stood up, slamming his palms against the table. "You got something to say to me, kid? Say it to my fucking face instead of hiding behind an old man who passed his prime a long time ago. We all know that you'd sooner lick Carmine's boot to get ahead than lay down your own blood, sweat, and tears to get the job done."
Sionis stood aswell, directing an accusatory finger."Is that so? Because I'm looking at someone else a little past his prime. And I don't think Thorne's earlier comment went unnoticed. You've gotten soft, Maroni. Real fucking soft. And if some idiot in a goddamn costume can take out your men and put a bullet in you himself, we've got a real problem on our hands. The Bat may be hitting us all pretty hard, but you're the only one he's actually gotten to. Did that even begin to cross your mind whenever you decided to grow the balls to come here?"
Maroni smirked. "Listen to this. Me, gettin' a lecture on how to handle my business from a two-bit makeup peddler turned lapdog for the biggest fraud that Gotham's ever seen. You want to talk about startin' another Roman Holiday, kid? Is that what you want to say? Because if we're all bein' honest, I think Carmine lost any of the gumption that his daddy had a long time ago. He holds the idea of another massacre over us like it's some kinda threat to keep us all in line, but we've all gotten wise to that shit. There ain't no way The Roman has got the stones to carry out somethin' of that magnitude now."
The rest of the table fell silent. Though Maroni's skepticism was clearly noted, even those within his own camp nervously looked away at the mention of the fateful massacre that Falcone's father, in the thralls of the ganglords that ran Gotham back in 1939, set off in the form of a series of brutal assassinations that ended with only him and those who had sworn allegiance left standing. That was how the Falcone family had earned their spot at the top, through rivers of blood that had never truly washed out of the cracks of the city's streets.
Eventually, it was Commisioner Loeb that broke the silence by placing a hand on Maroni's shoulder."I think it'd be wise to keep your thoughts on such matters to yourself, Sal."
Maroni angrily looked back at his friend, ripping his arm away. "Who's fuckin' side are you on with this, Gill?""The side that doesn't want to see another war break out just because you lost your temper. I'm sure that Mr. Sionis didn't mean to offend by his insinuation."
Grabbing Loeb by the jacket, Maroni barked directly into his trusted associate's face."Didn't mean to offend?! He just used the word 'excommunication'! The kid wants us out of the take, all of us! And that includes your little squad of mall cops, or did you forget?!"
Sionis raised his hand in protest. "Maroni, lower your tone. This is meant to be a civil discussion. I admit that I may have spoken out of turn, but that's no excuse for...""Oh, fuck you! You and your decrepit handler, you little shit! If he wants to defend himself, he should be in this room right now! But where the hell is he?! Taking his sweet ass time, like usual! It's blatant disrespect, and I'm getting tired of it!"CRACK!
To the shock of everyone, Maroni was suddenly struck hard across the face, effectively silencing his tirade. Not by a fist, to the surprise of those in the room, but by the slice of a thick leather bullwhip from across the room. Salvatore reached up to his face in pained agony, drawing blood from where he'd been stricken. Immediately turning to face his attacker, he found the glass ashtray holding his cigar smashed into pieces by the same whip that had cut him off. Maroni, along with half the room, produced some loaded piece on their person in the direction of where it had come from - but were immediately forced to sheathe them, with most of the room turning white as a sheet upon seeing who they had pointed their weapons at. "Respect, as I've come to learn in this business, is something that is generally earned, Salvatore."
Holding the whip in his hands was none other than Gotham's top mobster himself. Carmine 'The Roman' Falcone, standing at the entrance to the room with every bit of confidence that one would associate with the man who ruled the city with an iron fist. Sionis, White, Wesker, Day and the Falcone children all stood, in respect to their leader. Falcone nodded to them, indicating that they could sit back down as he slowly approached the head chair of the table. "And lately, I've been disappointed to learn that respect is also something that one can easily lose. You'd do well to remember that, Salvatore, if you want to remain apart of this arrangement."
Taking his seat, Falcone glared at Maroni, who himself felt a chill run down his spine as he held his hand to the open wound on his face. Despite all of his tough talk, Maroni never would have spoken in that tone directly to the man's face. And now that he was here, Salvatore was willing to remain more reserved. "Now sit down. You're embarrassing yourself."
Looking ahead at the room of assembled mobsters, Falcone looked upon them with a sense of judgement. It was clear that he hadn't been pleased with the more recent events in Gotham, but no one knew who exactly he was blaming for the Five Families' slew of new problems."Ladies and gentlemen, it's become apparent as of late that we all share a mutual problem. Admittedly, a problem that I once assumed would go away with a certain amount of time. These types of individuals have risen and fallen many times in the past, when opposing us, and I figured this one would be no different."
Signaling to his Alberto, Falcone watched as his meek son walked over to him and silently handed him a copy of the latest issue of The Gotham Globe. Taking it, Carmine immediately tossed it onto the center of the table. The headline? Mysterious Batman Under Investigation For Role In Dent Attack.
Every member of the table looked uncomfortably away from it, sheepishly trying in vain to ignore the massive elephant in the room. "Now, I am no friend to the District Attorney. Dent's an idealistic young fool who refuses to co-operate with us, any of us, and thinks that he actually stands a chance of gaining leverage against our respective organizations. But if this 'Batman' is truly beginning to target civil servants, perhaps it would be best to re-assess just how we all approach any further encounters with such an individual. Namely, how we can kill him."
Blake was the first to lean forward. "With all due respect, Roman, it isn't as if our men haven't been trying. The vigilante possesses a degree of skill that none of us simply could have ever accounted for. He's not just taking down run-of-the-mill pushers and petty thieves, at least not anymore. He's attacked entire squadrons of some of our best men. Some of your's aswell, if my intel is correct. And he's survived. That isn't the capability of a simple nuisance. We're talking about a legitimate threat to all of us, yourself included."
Sionis was quick to interject at that. "Your intel is a little off, Blake. We haven't suffered nearly as badly as someone like Maroni would have you believe. A few shipments here and there, but..."
Falcone slammed a close fist against the table, glaring at Roman."When did I say that you were to speak for me?"
Sionis opened his mouth, but no words came out. He knew better than to defy his employer."My apologies, Carmine."
Falcone nodded. Even if he was strict with the young mobster, there was still a soft-spot for Sionis in The Roman's heart. He had practically raised him as a second son, after Roman's late father and the owner of Janus Cosmetics showed his cowardice by committing suicide following a series of threats made by The Syndicate when Roman was just a boy.
Rather than leave him to his fate, however, Falcone took Sionis in whenever the child took a switchblade to his own mother's throat to keep her from going to the police. He'd never held any love for his biological parents, but Sionis had shown loyalty to a man who clearly held all the cards needed to get ahead in a city like Gotham. "Now, to address your concerns, Thomas. I began with a full admission that Batman has become a problem for us all. No one in this room is denying that. However, what I'm looking for are solutions to the problem, not statements of the obvious. Nor do I wish to hear excuses as to why not a single one of your men have managed to put a bullet between the freak's eye in six months. I know why my men haven't, and it's because I've been having to loan them out to the rest of you to cover the slack. With such distraction, they've been rendered ineffectual. And that doesn't sit well with me."
Despite whether or not any of what Falcone claimed was true, none challenged the assertion. Rather, there were a few that began to whisper among themselves, trying desperately to appease the man that could easily have them removed from their position with a simple word. "I think I speak for everyone else in the room when I say that the answer is obvious."
All eyes turned towards the entrance of the room, as a young woman entered, dressed in black and sporting a fierce haircut that almost commanded immediate respect by itself. Despite the number of powerful men sitting in the room, she remained unphased. And particularly unintimidated, even in the midst of her own father."Pool your resources together. Concentrate all of your efforts."
"If The Bat really is attacking your territories, man up and put aside your differences just long enough to ensure that he's removed from the equation. Then whenever he's dealt with, you boys can go back to hating eachother, as usual."
Falcone smiled. "My daughter. Always the forward thinker. And what resources would you have your father spare in a time like this? It isn't as though we can afford to leave ourselves vulnerable to our enemies."
Selina raised an eyebrow."What enemies? The out-of-towners, or Cobblepot? Or did you mean a certain someone in present company..."
All eyes fell on Maroni, who nervously looked back. "What? I ain't arguing with the broad. If you want me to lend you some of my guys, Carmine, consider them yours. It'll be worth it to get the fuckin' Bat out of our hair once and for all."
Selina smirked as she walked past the wounded mobster."Way to immediately tuck in your tail, Sally."
Maroni shot her an immediate glare, but didn't hold it long enough for Falcone to notice. Loeb was quick to speak up, having remained silent on the issue for far too long."Gentlemen, if I may make a suggestion. All of this effort may be a bit frivolous, considering that I just signed the authorization papers this morning for our esteemed colleague, Agent Nashton, to assemble his proposed task force in bringing down The Batman. With the full force of the Gotham City Police Department on his trail, it won't be long before we have that masked idiot in our crosshairs."
Falcone place his hand to his chin, mulling it over."Perhaps so, Commissioner, but I'd rather not take any chances. If this man believes himself to be a savior to the city, I suggest we turn the city against him on every front, not just the front governed by the police. My daughter is right. It's time that we all put aside old grievances in the effort to make an example of this man. He's been allowed to breathe air for far too long."
Holding up his hand for an expected kiss, Sionis was immediately rebuffed as Selina took her place at her father's side. For a long time, now, Roman had sought the affections of Ms. Kyle in a bid to claim legitimacy among the family beyond simply acting as their loyal agent. He didn't actually care for the woman herself, but the idea of getting into The Roman's good graces through his daughter wasn't exactly an unappealing prospect."While I think we're in unanimous agreement on this, The Bat is far from our only concern, Mr. Falcone. If Cobblepot truly isn't living up to his end of the deal, we're about to be in short supply of munitions. And my business associates won't be terribly happy with that."
Falcone smirked, placing his hands together."That, Thomas, is a problem we can remedy with a bit more expedience. You see, I never fully cashed all of my chips in with the Siberian, no matter what kind of company he's beginning to keep. So I've been making arrangements for the past few months to gain the majority shareholdings in a company that will be more than well equipped to service our needs."
Sionis smiled, looking to the rest of the room. "How does Waynetech military ordinance sound to everyone here?"
The reaction spoke for itself. Most were intrigued, though some were still skeptical. "Roman, here, has been nominated for the position of CEO, given that the obliviously moronic young man who currently acts as the sole representative of the Wayne family decided that it was in his best interest to skip town for a couple of years rather than take full control of one of the biggest military suppliers in the country. His loss is to be our gain. And the best part is, my daughter has ensured that he remains entirely clueless to any and all movements we've been making on his family's legacy."
Selina crossed her arms, giving off an expression of self-pride."The idiot all but telegraphed to me that he doesn't suspect a thing. He'd rather fawn over his friend in the D.A.'s office taking a bad spill than take a legitimate interest in that company."
Thorne smiled around the freshly lit cigar that rested between his lips. "Thus assuring that not only are we never going to see any interference in the distribution of the product, but that the weapons themselves will be of a considerably higher quality than anything that The Penguin would've been willing to offer us."
Blake seemed satisfied with that answer, as did the rest of those in attendance. "Precisely."
Pouring a glass of his own personal stock of bourbon, Falcone raised his glass to the rest of the table. Everyone, including Maroni, raised theirs in response. "To new and exciting opportunities, my friends. And to dead rodents."Gotham City, Gotham General Hospital
"Where would you like to be driven, counselor?""The airport, officer. A couple of days out of town might do me a world of good, right about now."
Harvey Dent held his coat to the side of his face as the door to the waiting police cruiser was opened for him. Feeling the the draft coming in from the East Harbor as he stepped inside, Dent only took it as a sense of relief in feeling the air on his skin again. The last three days had treated him to nothing but an infuriatingly monotonous series of nurses and doctors seeing to his head-wound, the stench of a hospital room pilferating his senses, and a heavy security prescence that had been sent on his behalf. Feeling at the large bandage covering his left temple, Dent sighed to himself, knowing that the bullet would likely leave a considerable scar. His head surgeon had suggested plastic surgery to fix this, but Harvey remained adamant that he be allowed to keep whatever trace of the attack in full view of the public. The voters loved a good war story, after all.
On the plus side, he'd recieved word in the morning hours that Mayor Thorne had fully authorized the task force to capture the man responsible for the attempt on his life. And in Dent's mind, there was no doubt in the validity of that copy of the police report left waiting in his room whenever he awoke from surgery - it had come straight from Precinct 27, the only honest group of cops left in Gotham. Despite his seemingly noble intent, The Batman had gone rogue, and wanted silence any dissention that would threaten to oppose his campaign of vigilantism. Half of Dent's mind was put at ease that the cowled maniac had shown his true colors, while the other half couldn't help but be disappointed. Under another set of circumstances, the two could've been allies.
But that was the truth of Gotham, in itself. It was rarely ever what it appeared to be on the surface. A certain darkness had always been lurking underneath, and Dent had felt it ever since he was a boy. To think that there were some out there who still considered this 'Dark Knight' a hero only bolstered the sentiment that there truly wasn't any hope left for the city. Of course, he wasn't willing to give up on her just yet. He just needed a day or two to get his head clear and work the painkillers out of his system so that he could get back to work. VRRR. VRRR.
Pulling his vibrating phone out of his pocket, Dent looked at the caller ID and immediately chose to answer as the cruiser left the hospital parking lot, heading on the road that led directly to the South Central Airport. Harvey smirked as he leaned back in the seat, picking up a pad and pen that held the empty police report that he was supposed to file with the GCPD."I thought I told you to get a good night's sleep. You need your beauty rest.""And I thought I told you to call before you even thought about skipping town."
, the female voice on the other end sternly replied. "Before you ask, Janice told me you were leaving."
Dent raised an eyebrow."Did she, now? Well, I guess I'll just have to fire her for a breach of confidentiality.""Be serious, Harvey. I'm worried about you. Three days isn't enough time to get over being shot in the head. And you've never wanted to run from these sorts of attacks before. What's changed your mind about this one?"
Harvey placed the pad on his lap. "Maybe I'm just wisening up in my old age. As much as I'd love to get a crack at the freak that did this to me and sock him in the head, it's not as simple as it used to be. I'm not used to having attachments to be put in the crossfire, as it were, just on the off chance that I felt like pulling a publicity stunt."
There was a pause. "So you really are doing this because of me."
Harvey smiled. "That's a bit presumptuous, Ms. Walters. I do have other people that I care about, you know. Just none that are nearly as lovely as you."
Jennifer Walters tried her best to hide the small laugh that brought out of her, in spite of the situation. This was more serious than Harvey was letting on, and yet he was stonewalling her. As a fellow student of law, she knew that Dent would eventually realize that it was hardly going to work. And he knew it, too. "Look, as flattered as I am by the gesture, you're delegating alot of responsibility onto Janice's shoulders by taking this little unplanned excursion to... wherever you plan to go. The press is already lining the block with questions, the police want to speak with you, and if I hear the word 'Batman' one more time in the span of another hour, I'm going to hurl your office television out the window."
Dent looked at his watch. He wondered just feasible it was to get a flight out of the city as soon as possible. "Speaking of which, do you have any suggestions for travel destinations? I know you have a cousin that works out of New Mexico. Or did, anyway. Think I could crash at his place? Might be a good chance to work on my tan.""He's out of the country at the moment, so I don't think that's in your best interest. Better to steer clear of him, anyway. He can be a bit... disagreeable."
, she warned. "And besides. I'm in the midst of trying to talk you out of going, so it seems counterintuitive to help you on your way out."
Dent playfully laughed."Well, you could look at it that way. Or you could always just drop everything and come with me. I don't think we've ever properly spent a weekend alone since this started between us.""Harvey. Either you stay or I cover for you. That's how this works. You're not in Brentwood studying up on your degree, anymore. You're the D.A. This isn't the type of job where you can call in sick. Unless you planned to get shot just to get some time off, in which case...""That is giving me far too much credit, Jen. And besides, I think Gotham will still be left standing if I go ahead and finish my recuperation elsewhere, especially with a target on my head that's still left to be resolv---"BLAM!"JESUS!"
Dent immediately jumped back in his seat as the passenger side window shattered under the force of the blast. His phone had been destroyed with a precision shot, immediately ending the call before he could so much as catch his breath. The sound was the same as the same sniper rifle that Harvey had heard the night of the rally, just before everything went dark. Scanning the rooftops outside the window for a possible sign of his assailant, Dent flew back as the car's driver immediately sped up, turning on the siren and illuminating the area in a vivid red and blue."ALL UNITS! ALL UNITS! THIS IS CAR NINETEEN! CODE THREE-SIX-ZERO! APOLLO IS UNDER ATTACK! I REPEAT, DENT IS UNDER ATTACK! WE NEED BACK-UP IMMEDIATELY!"Gotham City, The Rooftops
12:25 AM"That's right. Keep on driving, officer..."
Deadshot reloaded the rifle as he saw the police cruiser peel onto 45th street at top speed. The truth is, he'd fired a warning shot in order to get Dent out into the clearing. Had he wanted to put the District Attorney down at that particular moment, he would've had to settle for a vantage point that could've compromised a clean kill. And after having Ivy in his head for the last few days, Lawton wasn't about to mess this up twice. He was going to prove that in control of his own actions, he was still an unbeatable shot. The fact that his daughter's life was threatened just made this task all the more imperative to finish, before the plant witch got impatient. If she knew that he had a daughter to begin with, it wasn't a stretch that Poison Ivy knew where Zoe and her mother lived.
Which meant that Dent was a dead man by dawn. Lining up his shot once again, focusing on the back of the panicking District Attorney's head as the car accelerated, Floyd smiled under his mask as the crosshairs locked onto it's intended target with no room for error. "Heh. Easiest job I've ever pulled. Say goodnight.""Goodnight."
Deadshot's eyes widened as the sniper rifle was immediately struck from his hands by a blunt, bat-shaped projectile. Rolling to the right, he immediately turned back and aimed both arms to the opposite end of the rooftop, readying his gauntlets to pump his attacker full of holes. He knew the voice of who had just spoken to him, and he wasn't about to let a second interference by the cape and cowled nuisance cost him the life of his daughter.
But to Floyd's surprise, there was no-one there. His eyes scanning the shadows carefully for even a trace of Batman, Deadshot turned back to the now distant figure of the police cruiser. If he didn't take the shot now, Dent would probably make it to the airport in less than five minutes. He had to get this done quick."Come on, you goth fucker! You wanna do this? Let's get it done right here, right now!"
, Deadshot angrily retorted. "You weren't facing me on my best day the last time we tangled, and I still got away! What the hell makes you think you stand a chance this time?!""Because I already told you once, Lawton..."
Deadshot felt a hard boot collide with the back of his head, sending him crashing onto the gravel of the roof beneath his feet. By the time that Floyd turned around to retaliate, his enemy was right on him, staring him down with the clear intent to ensure that he'd never be able to hold a weapon again, much less kill Harvey Dent in the allotted time. "This is my city."