The Batman: Downfall Ch. 02byDriftWood75©
Beneath Wayne Manor, Tuesday 04:41 am
The forty minutes Alfred had to wait stretched out before him. He tried to stay pre-occupied but everything that required doing brought his attention back to the fact that Bruce was in trouble. The steel table was clean and sterile as were the surgeon tools on a tray next to it. A bullet was lodged, a lucky shot that had managed to find a chink in the armour, the other great concerns were the arm and the real possibility that he had inhaled toxic fumes that even now could be eating away at his lungs and air passages.
The roar of an engine brought Alfred out of his malaise and he hurried over to the fierce, hulking black form of the Batmobile. The driver door lifted up and a broken and beaten form stumbled out. Bruce opened his mouth to speak then faltered and reached out for Alfred. Alfred half walked half dragged the cloaked figure to the table helping him up the best he could.
Alfred's biggest concern was the slow bleeding wound in Bruce's side. The fabric here was dense but manageable a lucky shot had missed the armour plating and tore into the weaker fabric side. With a sharp knife Alfred cut and worked the fabric open revealing the wound beneath. The skin was mottled and bruised and a sizeable hole oozed blood, "This may hurt," he uttered as he teased the wound open, Bruce gasped loudly his one good arm hammering the cold steel surface once.
Bruce lifted his heavy head from the gurney "How could she Alfred?" he managed to ask before blacking out.
Gotham City, 8:00 am
By the time the sun was rising above the towers of Gotham the fire at the Chemical plant was under control, its crumpled form was still being dowsed with water from surrounding fire trucks, teams in hazmat suits helping those they could while others began to search the rubble that was deemed safe, or atleast appeared safe. Black corpse bags came out on Gurneys from one partially destroyed entrance they would make the haunting image that would greet the public of Gotham everywhere when they woke up and turned their Televisions on.
Poison Ivy was asleep, a troubled sleep but one that was made easier being in the arms of Harley Quinn. Quinn on the other hand lay watching the naked woman pressed against her, her naked green body covered in terrible bruises and cuts, Quinn had seen the news and even she had been shocked by the devastation, but true to form also turned on by such wanton carnage. Across from the bed that they shared beneath crumpled sheets sat a low oak table on which now sat a single vial of clear liquid, the vial glinted with the creeping sun that cut through the chemical smog that hung heavy in the air.
Bruce Wayne had woken up on the operating table in agony, pain killers hardly making an impact on the dull ache of a dislocated arm and the deeper ache of a gunshot wound. Alfred had set up a Morphine drip which had been strongly declined. Bruce now sat tired and groggy in front of the bat computer, his weary eyes flicking from one screen to another gathering the stories of the day while listening to news reports playing on another channel. Bruce froze one image of the chemical plant, a few floors were still standing or just about, girders rose in the air like whale ribs, smoke rising from them still. "How could she Alfred?" Bruce asked again.
Alfred wished he had an answer for him but he closed his mouth without uttering a word. He walked over to the screens and placed a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal close by. "May I suggest eating something Master Bruce?"
Bruce nodded and went to reach for the spoon, wincing has his right arm jerked in the sling that had it strapped firmly to his chest, he cursed under his breath then reached out with his left hand, "This is going to take some getting used to." He muttered before taking a mouthful of the crunchy muesli. His eyes never left the screen as he chewed thoughtfully. "This is beyond anything Ivy has tried in the past," he shook his head absently, "this is real terrorism Alfred, not some plot to wipe out a couple of naughty executives at the top of the food chain."
"Perhaps she is tired of playing that game," Alfred interjected.
"That is what concerns me, that and the fact she was waiting for me." Through it all Bruce kept coming back to that. Ivy had all the time in the world to plant the detonators and stroll straight out of that plant. She had spouted some rubbish about her being the one to kill him but he saw it in her eyes that it was not the whole truth. Why waste all that time just to talk to him, almost twenty minutes worth of waiting... Bruce cleared all the screens, and quickly hacked into the Gotham municipal buildings databanks.
"An idea sir?" Alfred asked stepping closer as the main screen filled with the blue prints of the Chemical plant. Another screen opened with the G.C.P.D server screen, which began to flash red as the computer cycled through its password and encryption software.
"Misdirection Alfred, what if I was not the main target?" Bruce bit his lower lip as he typed clumsily with his left hand, "What if she were after someone else," Bruce was expressing his thoughts out loud and Alfred remained respectfully quiet, for the time being atleast. The G.C.P.D screen blanked then opened on a general screen, successfully hacked. Bruce turned his attention to it and quickly accessed the duty roster. "What if someone on the Swat team was the target?"
Alfred winced a little, he put it down to lack of sleep and overwhelming pain acting together to create such fuzzy logic, "Sir, without sounding rude, but Ivy has a far more direct and personal route to dealing out her revenge." Seducing was an art form with Poison Ivy one she used to deadly ends.
Bruce nodded slowly, Alfred did not have to see his face to know that Bruce was blushing a little with embarrassment. "Did you know they had a research lab in the plant?" Bruce asked suddenly, using the wheel on the mouse to zoom in on the top floor of the chemical plant, another screen popped open and Alfred was surprised to see the Axis Chemical company intranet page. The password was hacked within three seconds and a headache inducing menu page came up with more menu pages linking off of it at the touch of one header or another. "This could take some time."
Alfred looked over at the small television that sat near the work bench where Bruce repaired and readied his arsenal of gadgets and weapons. The bouffant haired woman gave way to the grizzly and tired face of Jim Gordon. A small image appeared in the top right corner, one that made Alfred's blood turn cold, "sir," he said in a cracked voice Bruce paid no attention he was too busy breaking down menus searching for clues. "Sir," the voice was louder and more stern making Bruce turn in his chair, "I believe you may want to see this," Bruce looked over at the tiny television and then quickly spun back opening the feed on the main screen.
Jim Gordon's face filled the screen, the top right corner showed a half decent sketch of Batman that was now half concealed behind a large red circle with a line through it, "...I repeat, Gotham Police department has issued a warrant for the capture and arrest with all due force of the criminal known as The Batman." The milling press exploded into a barrage of shouted questions, Gordon raised his hands trying to quieten the rabble.
"From vigilante to criminal in the blink of an eye," Alfred was astonished by such a turn of events and he worried even more about Bruce, it was bad enough having the criminals of Gotham shooting at him, he now had to worry about the police doing it too.
Bruce had begun to gnaw at the side of his index finger an old habit from his younger years and one that told Alfred that young master Bruce was indeed worried. "It was always a fine line Alfred, sooner or later Gordon had to decide which side I fell on." Bruce knew this was not all of Gordon's doing he was being pushed and very hard to make this statement.
"You knew sir?" Alfred could hear it in the tone of his voice and it was a shock to him.
Bruce nodded, "Last night, he let me go but warned me that next time I would be shot on sight," he could count on a handful of officers to ignore this game changer, sadly they were outnumbered by the gung-ho, the sloppy, the dangerous and the paid off elements of the police force.
Gotham P.D. headquarters 9:03am
"Is this connected to last night's attack on the Chemical plant?" A female journalist screamed high above the mixed cacophony of other voices, surprising all around her.
Gordon shook his head, "It is not, last night's fire is being investigated as we speak and any and all perpetrators will be caught and put to trial." His headache was back with a vengeance, if he did not have a stroke by midday he would count himself lucky. "With regards that, the Department has offered its sincere condolences to the families of the six officers who died while inside the building, their fellow officers mourn their loss but will not give up on bringing their killers to justice."
"Was Batman there Commissioner, we have reports that he helped one of your officers and now you are asking for his head." This was from another reporter, a tall thin man with terrible plastic surgery around the eyes in a failed attempt to delay the aging process.
"I cannot comment or give details on an ongoing investigation Todd you know that. Detective Harvey Bullock remains in intensive care as we speak and we will give you more information on him when we get it." More shouted questions, more and more he heard the name Batman rise up out of the cacophony.
Finally one reporter asked a question he was willing to answer, "Do you have any leads on who might have started the fire?"
"At this time we are seeking a female suspect by the name Pamela Isley, also known as Poison Ivy in connection with the Chemical plant," the questions came again, he looked at his watch, he had given them five minutes and that was damn well four minutes and fifty five seconds too long, "Thank you," he said absently and walked away from the podium climbing the stone steps and through the glass frontage of the department ignoring the now ear splitting shouts of the irate news reporters behind him.
Officers dashed about him, many offering salutes or just a simple nod in his direction. His call for the capture of Batman would rip the department in half, but if he had failed to give the warrant Jim Gordon would be heading upstairs to clear out his office and get his belongings. At least now he still had some control, he could help if possible. The vibrating in his pocket brought him out of his thoughts and he fumbled for his phone. Gordon gave a genuine smile as he saw the name flash up on the screen, it took him a few more seconds to finally unlock the phone and speak to the person on the other line, "Don't hang up I'm here Barb'."
Barbara Gordon gave a good natured laugh down the line, "Dad you need to step into the modern age, I got you that phone so you could atleast dip a toe into the wonderful age of technology. Read the manual and you'll be able to answer it straight away."
Gordon continued up the stairs, avoiding the lifts as he always did in an attempt to get a little physical exercise in his daily routine, "You know I dislike this stuff, heck who knows what it's doing to my brain right now."
"Well from what I have just heard on the radio I think something has given you brain damage,"
Gordon could make out background noise now, the whine of a car engine then the deep rumble of a truck, "Where are you?" he asked pausing on the steps.
"I'm heading home dad, remember I said I would be coming up this weekend." Gordon looked at his watch and the date in the smaller inlaid dial, "You forgot, that's okay don't worry it's not like my graduation with full honours or anything...oh wait you missed that too." Gordon closed his eyes, that was two weeks ago and Barbara was heading home as he had begged her to visit so he could atleast try and make it up.
"I didn't forget, I just...ah hell okay I forgot! This place is starting to drown me Barbara but you have me all to yourself tonight I promise."
The line was silent for five seconds then ten, Gordon went to call her name before he finally heard a resigned big sigh followed by "Okay, okay you are lucky I am so forgiving, but you are taking me somewhere posh and expensive."
Gordon's shoulders slumped with relief, "You got it, I love you." The last part stumbled out of his mouth but Barbara had already hung up by then. Gordon put his phone away after examining it up close making sure that indeed the call had ended and that he was not required to press or say anything to the phone for it to go back to sleep.
Wayne Manor, 4:00pm
Bruce stirred from an unsettled sleep, noticing that the sun had risen and passed its high mark hours earlier. Alfred had forced him from the cave and into his bedroom half carrying him along the way. Bruce had fought sleep telling Alfred he had to search the data banks and find out what Ivy was really after, his words had become slurred and he went to protest at the drugs that Alfred had slipped him but his head had fallen back heavy on the pillow and there he had remained for the next six hours.
Bruce sat up then lowered himself back down groaning loudly as dynamite exploded behind his eyes, he scrunched them tightly shut and tried to reach for the intercom with his right arm, before he realised it had been tightly bandaged to his chest. With effort he leaned over and smashed the intercom on with a heavy left hand. "Alfred?" he said his voice hoarse with exhaustion and dehydration.
A few minutes passed before Alfred walked into the room, he knocked politely on the door before entering the room. He carried a large carafe of ice water and a newspaper under one arm. A smile pressed thinly across his weathered face as he saw Bruce open one eye then the other licking his lips at the sight of the water.
"What did you give me?" Bruce asked forcing himself up into a sitting position, using his left arm to hold his weight up. His tongue thick and sluggish in his mouth tasted of old medicine.
"A small sedative, though I doubt you really needed it," Alfred responded as he tipped the carafe pouring a small glass of water. "I wanted to be sure you had some sleep though." He lifted the glass to Bruce's lips letting him take small sips. When Bruce finally nodded, he lowered the glass and with a small amount of trepidation Alfred handed him the newspaper.
The Gotham Times made it plain and simple in big bold type 'WANTED: BATMAN DEAD OR ALIVE' it was a bitter pill to have to keep swallowing. The warning last night had not prepared him for the press conference this morning and now seeing it in print...somehow it drove the message home. Bruce threw the newspaper to one side in disgust, he had grown to respect Jim Gordon now that respect was dwindling he had caved in and marked Batman and in turn Bruce Wayne to death. "Any luck finding what Ivy was really up to?" Bruce asked avoiding the topic of the warrant.
Alfred raised his eyebrows but did not start the line of questioning that had pre-occupied him for most of the day, he swallowed hard then replied, "I am afraid not sir, Axis seem to run things on a lot of levels. The Chemical plant certainly had two faces. The main front we all know and love dearly and then there is or was the Research and development department, shady would be an understatement."
Bruce turned on the bed sitting on the edge of it, feeling the stitches in his side pulling taunt, his recently fixed dislocated shoulder throbbing madly. "We need someone on the inside of Axis or atleast someway of me gaining access to the main frame directly." Bruce pushed himself off the bed standing on his feet for a moment before Alfred caught him and lowered him back down to sitting on the bed. "Find out what upcoming research they need funding for, Batman may be out of action for a while but Bruce Wayne can still function."
"While we are on the subject of Bruce Wayne functioning, you have a dinner date tonight as well as a board meeting with Wayne enterprises tomorrow morning. No doubt you have a story already for your injuries." Alfred nodded to the visible trussed up arm.
"Cancel the date and the meetings can be pushed further back, we have more pressing engagements." Bruce stood up and Alfred pushed him a little too easily back down.
"Batman has to take time off sir, now would be a good time. If you want access into Axis Bruce Wayne needs to be seen about town."
Bruce nodded slowly in agreement, "I cannot even remember who the dinner is with and where?" Bruce said coyly.
"Well lucky for you sir, I do!"
Fox Gardens, Restaurant 8:00pm
For Jim Gordon it did not get any posher than Fox Gardens. The waiting list for the average man on the street was a couple of months but for the police commissioner it only took one phone call and a space had been made for him and his guest no doubt had he been one of the crime family bosses the whole restaurant would have been cleared out for him. Barbara had reached the house late that afternoon and to Jim's relief had given him a huge hug as she got out of her car. He helped her with her bags "I thought this was a flying visit?" he had asked as he opened the boot on the small sedan. She had replied with a crafty smile and told him all would be explained at dinner. She was staying for longer perhaps a month, perhaps longer and this filled Jim with happiness apart from a small ball of ice that had formed in his stomach.
Barbara now sat opposite him, humming a little tune as she looked through the menu. She had cleaned up from her long car journey. Gone were the tattered jeans and dirty t-shirt, now she wore a plain black dress, the neck line not too plunging and the hem within Jim Gordon's acceptable limits. Her red hair that she had inherited from her Mother cascaded down over her shoulders. Jim closed his menu, already knowing that he would be having the steak before he even started to look at the menu. "Come on, you going to tell me why you had so many bags?"
Barbara looked up from her menu then gave a smile that reminded Jim of his dead wife. She lowered the menu biting her lower lip in apprehension. "I've taken a job here in the city." Jim's bushy eyebrows rose up "Its head of the public library, it's not much but a start that will open doors for me." She took a sip of water, expecting her dad to fill the silence between them, hoping that he would. Instead he remained silent forcing her to speak again, even with his own flesh and blood Jim Gordon could be the unshakable detective. "I can get onto a lot of the City's panels; make changes from inside, who knows I could end up on the governing council in a few years and then...who knows?"
"I don't understand you want to be a bureaucrat? My god Barbara your young why would you want to do that?" Jim asked flabbergasted.
Barbara sighed, "Dad it's not like that. This is a stepping stone to bigger things, better things I can make a difference here." Her speech was impassioned but she wasn't telling her dad the whole story, though it was there simmering on the surface if he wanted to dig she would unravel. Barbara knew how she could make a difference in Gotham and the city could do with it right about now. A police car sped past followed by another their lights flashing and sirens roaring, Barbara took the opportunity to change the subject. "Busy night out there, isn't that the forth lot of cars to have sped by?"
Jim nodded he had expected this to happen tonight and for many nights to come. He had asked his station chiefs to start changing their rota's for the foreseeable future. Hot headed beat cops would be partnered with more seasoned officers in an attempt to minimise the risk. Jim was not deaf to the talk going around G.C.P.D talk of illicit bets and odds on who would kill the Batman, there was no talk of taking him alive. Someone was going to wind up dead by daybreak though he knew it would not be Batman. "Stop trying to change the subject." He said gruffly then gave a soft laugh, "It's your life Barb' and you can crash at the house until you find somewhere in the city to live."