Commissioner Gordon stared at the grinning body and felt sick to his soul. They had no leads on the Joker’s whereabouts and that was disturbing for more than the obvious reasons. The Joker rarely snuck around like this, preferring grand entrances and even more spectacular exits. These private killings in a secluded setting just weren’t his style, and the bastard who was supposed to be helping them on this didn’t feel like talking. A rookie was cleaning up part of the crime scene where Bullock, who had seen a lot of crime scenes in his time on the force, had sent his recently devoured doughnuts out of his body the way they had entered.
“Leave it alone, Jeffries. You’ll just contaminate the scene further.”
Gordon looked over at Vicki Vale, who was relaying the scene a third time to Detective Montoya. Montoya was a good officer, capable and intelligent. She put an arm around Vicki in a show of support and understanding, bonding in the way that only people who had undergone traumatic experiences can do.
A voice spoke behind Gordon.
“Will she be all right?”
Gordon closed his eyes and swallowed hard.
“Damn it, man, don’t you worry about giving me a heart attack?” He spoke the words with a harsh tongue but secretly he felt relieved. He was glad to have Batman on his side. Ever since he had struck up an unofficial partnership with the man, he had seen more results than on any other police force he had ever worked on. Unfortunately, it appeared even Batman was up against it this time.
“I thought your heart was made of stone, Jim.”
“Oh, that’s cute.”
Such was the feeling of kinship between the two men that they could express camaraderie on even as grim a scene as this.
“She’s a tough kid, Batman. She’ll be all right. Apparently the victim was an old friend of hers.”
Gordon looked over but Batman was gone. Glancing around, he saw the cloaked figure standing just outside the ring of tape surrounding the corpse. He stood looking down solemnly. Gordon walked over to him.
“I don’t mind telling you, Batman. This troubles me deeply.”
“I know, Jim. It’s not like him.”
“Why would he change his tactics now? It just doesn’t make any sense.”
“There isn’t much about the Joker that does.”
Gordon nodded. “They’ve brought in someone from Chesapeake who’s supposed to help figure out all this, though I have serious reservations about that plan. You’ve probably heard of him. Hannibal...”
“Lecter. Yes, I know.”
“You know of him, then?”
“I spoke to him earlier tonight.”
“What?! You didn’t get clearance to go see him!”
“We can’t afford to waste time on paperwork. I wanted to see what his intentions are for coming here.”
“Well, he won’t speak to me. Thinks I’m a complete idiot. Did you get anywhere?”
“I think so. He wants to talk to me tomorrow about the case. I’m still not sure what he’s up to but I intend to find out.”
“Amazing. Well, if you think it’ll lead anywhere, of course I’ll authorize it. There’s only one problem.”
Batman knew where Gordon was going but asked anyway. “What’s that?”
“Lecter brought some carry-on baggage. Frederick Chilton, a real gloryhound scumbag. Goes around showing off Lecter like he was King Kong. No regard at all for the atrocities that man did. I don’t know if he’ll like you horning in on his show.”
“Then I’ll just have to convince him that it’s for the best.”
Gordon almost smiled. “Just don’t do anything unless I’m there to see it.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
Gordon knelt down to peer again at the clotted remains of Samantha Mathis. “How long do you think we have before the next one?”
His question met with silence.
Gordon glanced up. Batman had gone.
“Suppose I should have seen that one coming.”
Batman leaned back comfortably in the driver’s seat of the Batmobile, feeling the satisfying thrum of the powerful engine. A beeping sound called for his attention from the dashboard. He activated the video phone. The face of Batman’s most trusted friend in the world appeared in all his dapper, patient glory.
“What is it, Alfred?”
“Thought you’d like to know, sir, Miss Vicki Vale has called twice in the last hour. She rather insistently wishes to see you.”
“I thought as much. Put a dinner for two together, will you Alfred?”
“Already cooking, sir. I hope you don’t mind roast beef.”
“Dependable as ever. Thanks, old friend.” Batman switched off the video monitor and dialed Vicki’s cell phone directly. She picked up after the first ring.
“Hello Vicki. Alfred told me you called.” He spoke now in the easy, carefree style of millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne.
“Bruce, something’s happened. I need to see you.”
“Sure. Are you all right?”
“No. I’ll tell you about it when I see you.”
“I’ll be here.”
Batman hung up the phone, punching the engine into fourth gear.
Alfred answered the door before Vicki could even ring the doorbell. “Good evening, Miss Vale. He’s waiting for you in the study.”
She made her way towards the study, looking around the mansion. She had been gone too long. She had missed the homey feel of Wayne Manor, the way it enveloped you in its illustrious jaws, the smell of cleaning solvent mixed with the mustiness of antiquities. She felt pangs of nostalgia as she remembered how safe she had felt within these walls and corridors that always led her back to the waiting arms of...
He stood from the chair he had been sitting in before a roaring fire. It looked as if he had been sitting there for hours instead of hurried minutes spent changing outfits and patting down his unruly hair.
She ran to him and clasped tightly to his waist.
“I saw him, Bruce. He’s killed again. A friend of mine. Oh, Samantha...”
She broke down then, the tears running freely down her face.
“Shhh. I heard them talking about it on the news. You don’t need to tell me.”
She pressed her face against him, the grief and fear pouring out in waves now. The sound of her sobs filled the room. He held her until the tears subsided. She looked up at him, her movie star face giving him that look of angst and barely restrained passion that turned his knees to butter every time.
“Thanks. I needed that.”
Bruce leaned over and hit the remote for the CD changer. Billy Joel started singing about “Honesty”.
“Sorry to walk in and fall apart on you.”
“Don’t apologize. I’m glad you’re here.”
“It’s not safe on the streets these days. I want you where I can keep an eye on you.”
“Why can’t they find him? He was never this hard to catch before.”
“He’s never acted quite this way before. Even Batman can’t locate him.”
“Have the police told you anything? Do they have any leads at all?”
Bruce replied with a frustrated sigh. “None.”
Vicki pulled away. “I’ll understand if you don’t want to get close. I know I’ve hurt you before.”
Bruce went along with the game. He grabbed her arm and pulled her close. Wrapping a hand around the back of her neck, he smoothed her hair out, watching the golden waves wash over his fingers. He traced her arm with his fingertips, finding her hand and interlocking her fingers with his. He began to sway back and forth with her to the rhythm of the music. Staring into her eyes, he wondered what he was thinking about. There was a killer loose in the city, his city. He should be searching tirelessly through the night until the bastard was brought to justice. The self-made mission called to him.
Tonight however, that call was drowned out by the audible distress signal sent out by the woman in his arms who was determinedly trying not to look scared. Putting the mission on hold, he resolved to make certain that tonight at least, there would be a corner of the city where peace would be found. He moved his hands up and down her trembling body. In his studies with martial arts masters around the world, he had learned the position of each pressure point of the human body. Those that dealt out pain... and pleasure.
His fingers sought one of the latter now in the small of her back. The slight gasp in his ear told him he had met with success.
“I don’t want to be alone tonight, Bruce. Tell me anything you want. Lie to me if you have to, just don’t let go.”
He looked down into her eyes, piercing her with his stare. “No more words now.”
Otis Redding replaced Billy Joel to tell the pair about “These Arms of Mine” but they had stopped dancing by that time. Leaning down, Bruce nipped her bottom lip playfully. He gingerly draped her lips, waiting for her to respond. Her trembling lips pushed into his with a passion that had leapt out of the stables and was running free and wild. They held each other, relishing in the warmth and unrestrained pleasure of each other’s company.
Alfred looked over the roast beef dinner with pride, one of his better efforts if he did say so himself. Presenting it aesthetically on a silver platter, he began to carry it into the study. As he entered the wide hallway, he saw Master Bruce carrying Miss Vale up the long flight of stairs leading to the guest bedrooms. Shaking his head with a sigh, he turned around to put the meals back in the oven.