If Bruce Wayne's Not Batmanbymary_is_boy_crazy©
I shook the handle on the door, made sure it was secure.
"Why'd you want to see me, anyway?" said Croc.
"It's about Batman," I said. "We're rethinking some assumptions," said the other Harvey. "Shut up, Harvey," I said.
"If this is about killing the Bat," said Croc, "it's been tried. I mean, his back was broken, he got shot with a time ray, all the Lazarus Pit stuff, the thing with that big rock..."
"You think we oughtta just give up?" I was mad. Too mad. Maybe needed to reel it in, since Croc could tear me in ha-- in two.
"I think the best way to deal with Batman is to stay out of his way." Croc shrugged. "Listen, I know you like to do things yourself. Me too. If I could, I'd settle the whole Batman thing face to face."
"Faces," I hissed.
"For you, yeah," said Croc. "Point is, though, that never works. You know what works? A lot of last year I was with the Penguin."
"Oh yeah? How'd that turn out?" Not that I didn't already know. But I couldn't resist rubbing it in.
"He crossed me, of course. Little stump thinks he's king of the world. Not my point. Penguin made a damn mint that year, and you know how he did it?"
"Let me guess," said the other Harvey, "a low profile?" "Shut up, Harvey," I said.
"That's right," said Croc. "See, one of you knows the score."
I clenched my jaw. Checked my pistol under my coat.
"It's not hard," said Croc, leaning back. His chair groaned, and something in it splintered. "You have your guys sweep for bugs. You jam their phones when things go down. You do a lot of business in the sewers."
"If I wanted to make money, I'd sell postcards," I seethed. "That is not why you're here."
"You said it was about Batman," said Croc sullenly, leaning forward and cradling his chin on his fists.
"It's about Batman's identity," said the other Harvey. I didn't tell him to shut up.
"Doesn't really matter who he is," said Croc. "He's Batman."
"You don't think he's got another identity?" said the other Harvey. "You don't think anyone knows him under the mask?"
"Prob'ly a whole secret hospital knows him, the way he gets beat on," said Croc. "But so what? You're gonna unmask him? He's Batman! He'll have some crazy backup plan, move on to a new identity. No reason to bother. And that's pretending you can find out what Batman doesn't want you to know about him."
"Smarter than you look, Croc," I said grudgingly. "That's what we thought too. Except we thought we knew who Batman was."
"You and Harvey there?" said Croc warily, and I realized he'd gone right to trying to figure out how many people were involved. Smarter than he looked.
"Me and the who's who of Arkham," I said. "Ivy knew. Didn't care, though. She hardly notices people. Penguin knew, but I guess he didn't trust you enough to tell you. Don't think Riddler knew, and it drove him crazy!" I laughed. "The Riddler must have known," said the other Harvey, "but maybe he also knew it wasn't true." "Shut up, Harvey," I said. "The shrink types all knew," I went on, "Scarecrow, Strange, Quinn. They figured it out first." "The Joker pretended to have no idea," said the other Harvey. "Yeah," I said, "the Joker loves the Bat. And when Harley figured out the Joker didn't want anyone knowing, she shot holes in it. Had us convinced it wasn't true for a week. Pissed off Ivy for some reason and she got Crane and Strange together to put on a conference for us about how she was wrong."
"This was after the earthquake, right?"
"I was in solitary for that."
"The aquatic cell?" said the other Harvey. "Technically, special holding."
"Shut up, Harvey," said Croc.
"Don't talk to Harvey like that," I said.
Croc gave me a look that said he knew that I knew he could lunge out of his chair and bite our head off. I gave him a look back that said there were two guns in this room, and he was the one who didn't have one.
"Anyway, I wasn't around," said Croc, "so what's this thing you thought you figured out?"
"We thought Batman was Bruce Wayne," said the other Harvey.
"Huh," said Croc after a long time. "I kinda see it. You know he'd have the money to keep buying new cars. Threw his damn motorcycle in a gas station once. Everything blew up. He had a new one the next night. One time I ate half his cape... but it doesn't work if it's Bruce Wayne pretending to be Batman. The Bat could pretend to be Bruce Wayne, but Bruce Wayne couldn't dress up as Batman."
"Right," said the other Harvey. "Strange said Batman was the dominant personality."
"Naw," said Croc, "I don't think it's even a multiple personality thing. I think Batman is acting. You remember that Russian girl, the actress, she did that interview about sleeping with Wayne. Dulyeta somebody."
"I don't remember," said the other Harvey.
"Said he had a wall up," said Croc. "Said nobody knows the real Bruce. But maybe we do."
"Nice thought, if it was true," I snarled, full of contempt. "What'd I say to start with? Batman can't be Bruce Wayne."
"Why not?" said Croc, like he was busy being thoughtful and forgetting to be mad.
"You see the news tonight?"
"Yeah, your boys got it playing downstairs. Tunnel collapsed under the opera house."
"I know that tunnel."
"Not that! Batman and Bruce Wayne!"
"You mean the part where Batman's supposed to be tearing up Arkham City looking for Wayne," said Croc.
"I mean the part where there are shots of them together!" I said furiously. "What do you say to that?"
"'S just a Robin in a bat suit," said Croc, looking at me coolly like I'm the animal in the room.
"The muscles are wrong," I said.
"Could be Nightwing Robin," said Croc. "None of those bat people are like this anyway." He slapped his chest. Croc was always huge.
"Even Dick Grayson doesn't fit," said the other Harvey. "Ivy got a look at some footage and drew these." He showed Croc the folder.
"How 'bout that," said Croc. "Didn't know Pam could draw."
"They taught her in Arkham," said the other Harvey. "It was supposed to help her manage her anger."
"Did it work?" said Croc.
The three of us shared a laugh.
"Maybe she's right," said Croc, handing back the folder.
"Yeah," I said, "and we've been making decisions like Batman is Bruce Wayne, and now we need to rethink that. Us," I gestured, meaning me and the other Harvey.
"And you brought me in?" said Croc. "They don't hire me to do the thinking." On a lot of chumps, that would be humble. But Croc is proud he's a specialist.
"You got a level head, Croc," I admitted. "Think about my other choices. Quinn's a shrink, but she'd talk me outta the whole thing, then run and tell the Joker. Nobody can find Crane. Strange is running the damn show, like hell he needs anything from us. Ivy already did what she can. The Penguin's not thinking straight, even worse than usual. And the Riddler's in hiding, and if he hears anything about Batman he'll run off to build a giant trap that doesn't work against Batman punching him."
"For what you're offering," said Croc, "I'll do what I can. But I don't got a psych degree."
"I just told you those people were off my list!" I exploded. "Now if Batman isn't Bruce Wayne, who the hell is Batman?"
Croc growled. "Batman is Batman. Who says he has another identity?"
"He never takes off the mask?" said the other Harvey. "Let's say that's true. He still must have come from somewhere. He wasn't born with a cape."
"Or was," said Croc. "Say somebody picks him out, hits him in the head a bunch 'til he gets amnesia, and tells him he's Batman?"
"Like who?" said the other Harvey.
"Quinn and the Joker, or Quinn for the Joker, or Quinn for the Joker without the Joker knowing about it. Crane, he loves to think he's scaring people. Strange, of course, I think he makes those Tyger Guards the same way."
"Harley's too stupid," I spat. "Joker's too crazy. Crane's only got one trick, and how often does Batman look frightened to you? And maybe it's escaped your attention, but Strange's people are hunting Batman! If he was Strange's creature, a bomb in his brain would go off, or he'd be conditioned to go back to Strange every few hours, or he'd need an antidote to an ongoing poison, or he'd be addicted to a drug Strange was feeding him, or Strange would have trigger words he could say to stop his heart or put him in a trance... Strange doesn't leave loose ends! Batman's not somebody's pawn!"
Croc didn't look convinced. "So who you think he is, Harv?"
"I'm asking you."
"Well, he's gotta be a tough guy, knows how to fight," said Croc. "He's got to have money or something to get all those gadgets. He knows the Robins somehow. Got a hideout somewhere in Gotham that nobody's ever found. Big on tricks and disguises. Not in it for money or the good life... means he's crazier than the rest of us."
"Do you think Batman's ever been committed?" said the other Harvey.
"Damn good question," I said, "since there's no question he's a crazy son of a--"
"Yeah, where do you learn to fight like that, anyway?" said Croc, lost in thought. "That's not how cops fight. Or soldiers. I think he was in the slam someplace."
"Maybe he got a taste for fighting," I said. "He picks enough fights with us."
"Who in Gotham was in prison?" said Croc.
"Everyone we know," I said sourly.
"Batman didn't come up in a Gotham prison," said Croc, "or people would remember him. They'd say, 'That guy fought like Batman.'"
"Bane grew up in South American jails," I said slowly.
"Bane!" said, Croc, punching a hole in the floorboards. "He's got the muscles. He can fight. Every time he fights as Bane, he uses Venom so he won't fight like Batman. And Bane's masked too."
"Hell," I muttered. "Bane is definitely a planner," said the other Harvey.
"Maybe Bane likes prisons," said Croc. "If Bane is Batman, and Batman works with the cops, then he's been in Arkham on purpose how many times?"
"A few," I said, still trying to process the idea.
"What did Bane think about your Bruce Wayne theory?"
"He wasn't in Arkham with us after the earthquake," said the other Harvey. "Batman was beat to hell by the time that was over," I added.
"He hid someplace to rest," guessed Croc. "We were all locked up anyway."
"It makes sense," said the other Harvey. "You've been very helpful, Croc."
"So what happens now?" said Croc.
I drew the coin out of my pocket. "The night's not over," I said. "Nobody's seen Bane out here. Tails we spread the word. By dawn we could be pumping Batman full of Titan 'til he pops. That'd be... poetic justice. Downstairs in the courthouse." "But of course it's hearsay," said the other Harvey. "Certainly worth investigating, but we've got bigger problems. And one Batman theory has already turned out to be baseless. Heads we keep it to ourselves."
We flipped the coin.
"Damn," said Croc.
"The coin doesn't lie," said the other Harvey.
Six hours later we were all back in the slam. I wanted to tell Strange about the idea, but he was a mess. I wanted to tell Quinn, but I knew she'd only try to discredit it. I wanted to tell anyone at all, but the other Harvey was right about the coin.