Knight's End
Chapter 5: ENDINGS

By Jasen Taylor

Tires squealing, the Batmobile roared into life. The dashboard was beeping. Alfred had recorded a message over an hour ago.

“Sorry to report, Master Bruce, that Miss Vale has gone back to her house against my wishes to pack a suitcase for a more extended stay here. I told her to wait until you got back but then you know how headstrong she is. My apologies.”

Cursing under his breath, Batman called Vicki’s house. No answer. He buried his foot into the pedal as the miles raced by.

Silence greets me as I pry the window open with my knife. It responds stiffly but quietly, without the loud squeak that I had feared. Holding the knife in my teeth, I climb in the bedroom. A packed suitcase is lying on the bed, some fresh clothes laid out. I step lightly to the door and open it a crack. No movement or sound from the other side. I enter the hallway beyond. Two doors down, I hear the sound of water running. The bathroom. I make my way down the hall.

Alfred was in the garden at Wayne Manor. He was investigating the rose bushes that had been slowly dying. Since all the other bushes on this side of the garden were vibrant, he could not fathom a reason for this. Leaning down to investigate, he saw the ground was particularly moist on this side. There had been a good rain last night. Still, he looked closer. There was something odd about the ground. It appeared to be moving. He went to the garage to get the shovel.

Holding tight to the knife and hugging the hallway, I reach up and twist the knob with two gloved fingers. Slowly, I open the door, the sound of running water loud now. The bathtub is filling up, about to overflow. No one in it. Puzzled, I look around the room. Empty. I turn the water off to give myself the advantage of hearing. It works all too well. The click of a gun barrel tells me I have company.

“Don’t move, asshole, or I swear I’ll blow your fucking head off.”

Ah, I just love it when they talk dirty.

Returning with the shovel, Alfred began digging up the bushes. Immediately his senses were assaulted by a pungent smell. One he recognized from his days in the Korean War. He kept digging. Soon the movement of the ground became apparent. Worms. Dozens of them. They had come up from the ground as if running from something. Alfred began to get more and more worried. The shovel bit into the earth several more times before it hit something soft. Prying under the object with the shovel, Alfred propped part of it up out of the ground. What he saw nearly stopped his heart. He got up and ran for the Manor to call Commissioner Gordon.

I turn slowly toward the delightful prey. None of the others had made him work this hard and he was glad for the chance to play at this game. Now she’ll threaten me again, tell me to drop the knife or something. It’s all a delightful dance we play. Except in this dance, the two players fight for the chance to lead. Her reaction is completely unexpected. Instead of firing the gun or yelling at him, she starts shaking her head violently back and forth, as if a fly were in her hair. Her mouth crinkles up as she starts weeping, her shoulders sagging. The gun sags down and I strike out with the knife, slicing the nerves in her hand. The dead extremity drops the gun to the floor. She screams in fear and pain.

With a sweeping kick, I knock the legs out from under her. Not knowing what made her give up the game so quickly but not questioning it either, I hold the gleaming knife up to her tremulous throat. My only regret is that such beauty had to die to undo him. My hated Savior. Then again, the prophets were right.

Life’s a bitch and then you die.

Raising the knife up over my head, I plunge down and down and down again until the wetness of her screams can be heard no more.

Getting to my feet, I move to the towel rack to clean the knife. I spot movement out of the corner of my eye. Whipping around, knife at the ready, my muscles tense for the confrontation to come. Nothing. Just a medicine cabinet door that had swung open. I laugh hysterically thinking how close I had come to smashing my own reflection. Then, I notice something about the mirror or rather my reflection in it. And then in a horrible moment of clarity, my life changed forever.

At Wayne Manor, Commissioner Gordon had arrived and been shown to the garden where a team of detectives were roping off the scene. It didn’t take him long to see why he had been brought here.

“My God...,” he whispered.

Sticking up from the ground was the partially-decayed face of the Joker, his mouth open now in that demonic grin for all time.

In the Batmobile, Batman switched on the video monitor and put in a call to Alfred. It took a minute for him to answer. When he did, Alfred looked like he had aged ten years.

“Sir... Commissioner Gordon is here. There’s been... a terrible discovery.”

Batman bit his lip before replying.

“Alfred, I need you to do something for me. Something I’ve never asked you to do before.”

“What’s that?”

“Talk to Jim.” Alfred waited for Batman to elaborate. When he didn’t, Alfred responded.

“What shall I tell him, sir?”

There was a long pause before Batman said, “Everything.”

“Everything, sir?”

“Yes, Alfred. Tell him to meet me tonight at nine. He’ll know where.”

“Yes sir but, what are you going to do?”

Batman worked his jaw as his hands gripped the wheel tighter. “I’m going to make the dark things go away.”

The Bat Symbol. A proud achievement among Gothamites. It represented a call to help to the hero who lived among them. When it shone its light across the sky, it meant help was on its way. Tonight help would arrive again, but it would not be Batman this time. He was the one who had activated it on this sad night. A night which Gotham would never forget. Batman stood up from his perch atop the roof of the police station. Footsteps were fast approaching.

Commissioner Gordon walked toward him. When he was ten steps away, Batman spoke.

“That’s close enough, Jim.”

“Batman... Bruce... Hell, I don’t even know what to call you anymore. Montoya and Bullock are up here. I told them to hang back so we could talk. I spoke to Alfred. I don’t even know where to start.”

“Someone told me recently it’s best to start at the beginning. You want to know if I’m sane? I am. My mind has put together what’s happened. I’ve done things... terrible things... but my actions had motives, even if they were only in my head. This is the first time the Symbol has been used since the Joker broke out. The crime rate is astonishingly low now.”

“Thanks to you, Batman. I don’t understand. You act like that’s a bad thing.”

“It isn’t. I guess I just wasn’t ready to give up the fight. Now that you know who I am, you know why I am. I became the Batman to see that no one had to go through what I went through. I’ve betrayed myself, you, and all of Gotham.”

“But why, Batman?”

“Guilt, I guess. That I hadn’t done enough to make up for my inaction during my parent’s deaths. I needed to carry on the mission but there weren’t enough villains left at large to feed my need for salvation. So... I created them.”

‘Part of my mind shut down. I broke the Joker out of prison. I needed to create a system-wide alert. Not wanting the real Joker to run amok, I killed him. He was still laughing as I filled him full of lead. It was the first time I had picked up a gun in years. It felt good. The sick part of my mind capitalized on that. I created another duality, this one Batman/Joker. As Two-Face would say, ‘We’re flip sides of the same coin.’

‘I used the Batcomputer to override the system security locks and cameras. Even the alarms were deactivated. From there it was a simple matter to replicate his Joker gas. The Joker part of me grew in intensity. My rational mind retained no memory of my actions during that time. Until just a few hours ago, when I killed Vicki.” He hung his head, leaning on the Symbol for support.

‘That act shocked me into reality, as I’m sure Lecter knew it would.”

“You can beat this thing. You’re running on all cylinders again. Let’s build on that, one day at a time.”

“No use. I could never live with the shame of what I’ve become. I won’t spend the rest of my days in Arkham looking at all the faces I helped put in there.” He stepped closer to the edge.

Gordon didn’t like what he was seeing.

“Back up, on the double!” Gordon pulled his gun out and aimed it at Batman. “I can’t let you disappear on me this time, Batman. Don’t make me do it. Please.”

Batman smiled at his old friend. “I always admired you, Jim.”

He shot his hand out with lightning-quick speed. The bolo swung around Gordon, pinning his arms to his side. Detectives Montoya and Bullock were on the scene quickly.

“Don’t move, Bats!”

In one motion, Batman grabbed the gun from Commissioner Gordon’s trapped hand and held it to Gordon’s head.

“Back off.” Batman spoke matter of factly, not raising his voice.

“Do what he says,” said Gordon.

They backed away, Bullock hurriedly calling for a chopper.

In a flash, Batman aimed the gun at the Bat Symbol and fired. It shattered in a hail of sparks, plunging the rooftop into darkness.

I am the night.

I am justice.

I am the light of truth in a dark town full of lies. I seek to correct the evil things that have gone before me. Tonight I make good on a promise made to ghosts, that I would never stop avenging their deaths. I am the exactor of vengeance, and I have but one more call to make.

I have gone too far to turn back now. The mission has been tainted. I must seek to put it right again. The gun in my hand feels alien and heavy to me but somehow it is right for this task. The weapon used to kill so many victims must now be turned against its user.

“Goodbye, Jim.”

I raise the gun from Gordon’s head to my own. In the time the bullet takes to travel from the barrel to my brain, I see my life flash before me in a jumble.

I want to be like Zorro, Dad.

The pride I felt in watching Robin as he leapt headlong into battle with me.

Dear Alfred...

Jason Todd, who the Joker took from me.

Selina, I could never offer you what you wanted.

Vicki, her eyes frozen open in a silent scream of betrayal.

Mom and Dad, now I can finally tell you goodbye.

I am justice, the one they call the Dark Knight.

I am Batman, and the night holds no more secrets for me.

Commissioner James Gordon, veteran of three gang wars in Chicago and the longest sitting Commissioner for Gotham City, winced as he heard the gun shot ring out. He heard the thump as his friend and silent partner hit the roof. He wriggled out of the bolo and turned around as Bullock ran up to him.

“I’m okay.”

The helicopter arrived, pinning the area with its searchlight. It found the body of Batman and stayed there. Gordon ran to it and cradled his friend’s head in his lap, the blood still flowing. Gordon barely noticed. He closed the sightless eyes. “Rest in peace. You’ve earned it.” The spotlight on the body, with his cloak billowing out around him, for a moment resembled the Bat Symbol. Gordon’s shoulders sagged as he wept for his fallen comrade.

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