Breakfast at Wayne Manor was served at 6pm, and traditionally consisted of an egg-white omelette, a pot of black coffee, and a pair of mild painkillers served on a small silver dish to the side of the tray. Lately, Master Bruce had taken to leaving the omelette.
Today was no exception, Alfred noted, stepping out of his employer's bedroom, tray in hand. This was unlike Bruce Wayne, who would force down bloody slabs of meat when sick rather than risk loss of muscle mass.
But Master Bruce hadn't been himself since The Joker died. Alfred expected some change, naturally. But he had hoped his master might relax. Instead, Bruce had attacked Gotham's criminal population with renewed intensity. When Alfred questioned him, Bruce had explained the necessity of striking while the power vacuum remained.
Eminently sensible. Yet Bruce's urgency seemed like that of a man running out of time.
Alfred found Bruce in the Batcave, of course. Already suited, sending revised specifications to Lucius for the new Batmobile.
"Sir," Alfred ventured. "Given that we have no pressing leads this evening and sundown is not for another forty-five minutes, I thought I might tempt you with what remains of your breakfast."
"Forty-two minutes." Bruce kept his eyes on the Batcomputer screen.
Alfred paused for a moment, wondering what possible could have driven the man he raised to keep secrets from him. For the first time in thirty years.
"Very good, sir," Alfred said, before leaving the room.
- Riddle: Founder's Island, Wayne Manor, "A million dollar home for a spoilt child, his parents are dead but his parties are wild."
Hugo Strange followed Ra's al Ghul out onto Wonder Tower's viewing platform. Arkham City gleamed beneath them, a peaceful patchwork of neon and steel.
"How is our Mayor?" Ra's inquired, tightly gripping the railing to steady himself.
"Playing his part," Strange observed.
"People seem quite convinced."
"It would be morally repugnant to a few. But even they cannot deny the impulse..." Ra's closed his eyes. "To wipe the state clean."
Strange had noticed the subtle glitches in his master's behavior. The professor had conducted enough experiments to recognize the symptoms of mental trauma, as well when a patient was trying to mask its effects.
"I wish you would allow me access to the source of your power." Strange said benignly. "I could help. It is here, isn't it? In the base of this tower?"
Ra's laughed and suddenly strange couldn't breathe. "You think you see weakness?" Ra's squeezed, Strange felt his throat tightening, life ebbing away. "How wrong you are."
Ra's released him, and Strange dropped to his knees, sucking in air. Ra's walked back to his place overlooking the city.
"We will rid the Gotham of its vermin. Nothing can stop us."
Strange massaged his neck. "You think we will stand by idly why we murder thousands?"
"Batman won't" Ra's replied. "But Bruce Wayne won't have any choice."
- Riddle: Miagani Island, Wonder Tower, "The highest building in Arkham City, A Strange man worked here, who took no pity."
To find Batman, find the injustice.
"Please God, don't hurt me..." The man in the suit backed away, tossing his wallet onto the ground.
His attackers close in, one of them scooped up the wallet and fingered the notes inside. "Jackpot!" The other cracked his knuckles and threw a punch, dropping the suit to his knees, holding his broken face.
Money won't save you. But he can.
The ripple of taunt fabric as a shadowy cape swooped down.
He'll go for the sweep.
The thug was busy counting when Batman took his legs. The wallet spun into the air as the sound of his skull cracking pinballed around the alleyway. The other thug turned and charged.
His style has changed. Less elaborate.
Batman threw his arm into the swinging hook, popping out the shoulder joint.
Strike the vulnerable areas. End it fast.
His fist slammed the thug's tattooed solar plexus, stopping his body like a bolt of electricity.
The longer the fight, the more it hurts him.
Batman stood over the unconscious man. Head tilted back, eyes shut. Breathing hard.
How can he leave them? They don't deserve to live.
Azrael looked down from the rooftop. He'd studied Batman for long enough. He knew what Gotham needed.
- Riddle: Founder's Island, St. Dumas's Tomb, "An ancient order, lust for power consumed, their patron saint is here entombed."
Two hundred and fifty four days, seventeen hours and nine minutes. It seemed like a lifetime, yet he still hungered, every waking moment a test of will.
He'd never truly be free from the cravings, but at least now he'd found a means to channel all that pain into something productive... something worthwhile.
He'd returned to Santa Prisca broken and desperate, still reeling from his run-in with Batman in Arkham City. He was searching for solace, a fresh start, a means of making the nightmare stop.
When he arrived in the slums of his homeland and found a young boy bleeding out from a gunshot wound in the street, mother wailing by his side. Bane realized what had really drawn him back here.
Beneath the veneer of luxury resorts and spas, Santa Prisca was a hotbed of corruption, ruled by vicious cartels, drug lords armed up on Venom, embroiled in a bloody turf war that had claimed countless innocent lives.
Bane had started from the bottom and worked his way up. Now, as the sun bled out over the horizon, he admired the fruits of his labor : twelve severed head lined up on the beach in various states of decay - the twelve most powerful drug lords on the island.
His work was almost done. Just one target remained - Peña Dura, the stone fortress in which he'd been born, raised, and forever corrupted.
It was time to tear it all down.
- Riddle: Founder's Island, Bane's Gear, "Far away the deflated brute roams, leaving behind what he couldn't ship home."
Three thugs. One hostage. Easy.
First, the guy with the gun.
Barbara dropped behind the nearest of Joker's goons, crouched and launched herself back up. One escrima stick in the back of the knee to drop him. The other met the back of his skull on the way down.
Next, the guy with the knife.
He'd had a knife, anyway. He had a broken wrist now. A wrist she caught between both her sticks and snapped when he lunged at her. She let the arm drop and swung her weapons back and over her shoulders, onto his head. The sad clown make-up looked perfect as he fell to the floor.
And now the mop up.
She dropped and swung a sweeping kick to meet the last thug as he charged her, sending him barreling into a wall.
The hostage was crying, curled fetal with his back to her from the corner of the room. Odd, for a police officer in Gotham. They've usually seen worse.
"It's Ok," Barbara took a step towards him. "It's me. Batgirl."
The sobbing got worse. Louder. Hysterical. And then Barbara froze. He wasn't crying at all.
"What's wrong ?" the officer crooned. "Aren't you going to rescue me ?"
"Not exactly." Barbara's eyes scanned for exits. Her feet took a fighting stance.
"Well then", said Joker, twisting round to face her until he was lounging, in a blood-stained police officer's uniform, on his side. "Why don't you rescue Commissioner Gordon instead... ?"
- Riddle: Bleake Island, Oracle's Old Batsuit, "Joining your mission can come with a cost, this empty reminder shows just what she lost."
Happy New Year, diary. I feel melancholy. The old dates hold no magic anymore. My New Year's resolution is to find new occasions to celebrate.
I feel reborn. Today I celebrated National Hugging Day for the first time. I want to Elliot Memorial Hospital, covered myself in infected blood, and visited the children's ward.
Happy Groundhog Day! My new house guest and I are going to watch the stream from Punxsutawney together. If the rodent predicts an early spring, I'll let my new friend go. But if the groundhog retreats to his burrow, I'll bury my guest alive.
World Environment Day, a worthy, important cause. I passed this message onto a class of schoolchildren by forcing them to drink ACE Chemicals runoff. They won't pollute now.
Dear Diary, Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day ! Today I cut off a man's leg and nailed a wooden peg in its place. He couldn't walk the plank. Very disappointing.
Checked on my scurvy victim but she wasn't ready. Next year.
Happy World Peace Day. I left bombs at the Quraci embassy.
Halloween tempts me. I promised Batman I would be present at his end, and All Hallow's Eve is the perfect time to bid farewell to him! I will make this one exception in my year of alternative celebrations.
- Riddle: Founder's Island, Calendar Man's Hideout, "He saved the date! All Hallow's Eve! But this calendar killer took his leave."
Cash lifted the frame photo out of the box and placed it on the desk. He still remembered the day he pinned it to the inside of his locker during his first shift at the Asylum, it had been with him ever since.
"Nice looking family you got there, sir." The sergeant remarked, busily clearing out the previous owner's possessions from a drawer.
Cash was close to telling him it was a lucky charm, but he knew the reaction he'd get. The kid didn't know how crazy things could get; he'd soon end up as superstitious as all the rest. Besides, something was telling Cash luck might not be worth a damn around here; He would be the fifth station supervisor in as many months. The others were all gone.
Cash knew he was putting himself in the cross-hairs; tempting fate. But the Commissioner had asked. And he couldn't refuse a friend.
The sergeant finished packing the dead man's things just as Gordon arrived.
"Aaron." Jim said, offering his hand.
"Didn't think I'd see you tonight." Cash replied, shaking the Commissioner's hand.
Gordon always came down for this part. It was the introduction.
Both men stepped out of the elevator onto the roof. The Bat-Signal illuminated the night sky.
"You know," Cash said, "we have met already."
"I know," Gordon said. "But it's tradition."
Just another word for superstition, Cash thought.
- Riddle: Bleake Island, Cash's Family Photo, "A souvenir from a previous life, why hold with a hand when a hook will surface?"
On The Prowl
Want to find a weak link in a security system? Look for the man with a gun.
Especially when they're in town. Poor guy didn't even know the First Rule of Gotham, Selina mused. The mantra thugs from Bleake to th Bowery drilled into new recruits :
Always look up.
Well he'd know it now. Selina dragged his unconscious body behind a dumpster and slipped through a vent into Arkham Asylum's administrative building. She was late. The meeting had started, ended maybe?
Scarecrow's voice, sonorous yet raspy, carried along the vent like a snake slithering through dry grass.
Another voice replied, young, angry and disguised. Footsteps then silence.
Worthless. Selina needed more. Names. Details. A damn date. Batman was more inclined to ignore the occasional heist when she had information he needed. And besides, it was fun having something to wield over him, seeing the pained, pleading expression on Gotham's apex predator's face when they were alone and she had the upper hand.
She peeked through the vent. Scarecrow's office. No guards by the door. Good. Selina dropped down, twisting her body to land on all fours, and then-
And arc of electricity lash out from the ceiling. Selina dodged it, all reflexes, and saw her attacked floating above the vent. Since when did Scarecrow have security drones?
Damn it Selina, she thought, plotting her exit over the sound of the alarm.
Always look up.
- Riddle: Miagani Island, Catwoman's Explosive Collar, "It doesn't take much to tame a Cat, make them wear this, and then call the bat."
The dozing soldiers snapped awake, dripped their semi-automatic rifles and flicked the safeties off. They weren't sure what it was that had them spooked. Turbulence perhaps. The unit commander nodded towards the container, trigger-finger poised.
The metal box was taking up most of the airship's cargo hold. It must've weighed several tons. And that wasn't including what was trapped inside, the things these men had spent several weeks tracking through marshland on the outskirts of Gotham. Not everyone who started the mission had made it. Their ravaged bodies were left behind unceremoniously; this mission didn't exist, and now neither did they.
A plain clothes agent was reading the file, holding a handkerchief to his face to try and stem the smells of rotting fish emanating from the container. He only had words, photographs, patient history. He wouldn't get to see the creature for real. A relief.
The agent looked up and spotted the panicked faces. These soldiers were tired and burnt out, last thing he needed was any accidents.
"Easy, boys," he yelled over the engine roar, slapping the metal prison. "He ain't waking up for another month."
Within the container the tranquilizer had all but worn off. The opaque membrane withdrew across the eye. The vertical slit-shaped pupils dilated.
Croc was awake... and wanted off this airship.
- Riddle: Bleake Island, Killer Croc's Den, "Bones stripped bare beneath a warning light, pay head, seafarers, not to feel his bite."
Clarke stood on the littered sidewalk looking up at the sign. Until now this place had been a rumor, whispered in the dark : The Deacon's Mission. By the sounds of it you had to take your bread with a little preaching. They could try, Clarke thought. He wasn't that hungry.
Inside, a couple dozen men had their heads down folding up tables and unstacking towers of chairs into rows. Clarke spotted a large stainless steel pot, its lid ajar, the slit puffing steam. He made straight for it, his mouth hung open expectantly as he grabbed the lid.
"They wanted to clear that away," a hand fell on his shoulder and squeezed. "But He told me you'd come."
The voice had that benevolence only a servant of God could muster. Clarke turned around; the Deacon's greying hair and lined face betrayed a searing vitality.
"I'd like something to eat please... sir." Clarke heard himself, the last and only person he addressed that way being his father.
The Deacon released his grip and proceeded to ladle hot soup into a bowl. "The Lord needs us strong." he proclaimed, passing it to Clarke along with a spoon.
The warm liquid snaked down his throat and coiled within his belly. It felt good. Better than expected. Clarke went for another spoonful. Maybe he was that hungry after all.
- Riddle: Bleake Island, The Deacon's Mission, "An open house for bed and dinner, is this sanctuary run by saint or sinner?"
A CLOSE SHOT WITH DEADSHOT By Jack Ryder
"Are you ready, Jack?" Batman asked, looking straight at me, one eye filled with admiration. The other with respect.
"I'm ready, Batman," I replied bravely.
"Then let's do this, Jack. Together," Batman said. Asked, really.
The Dark Knight stood up from behind our cover then, as we prepared to take on the deadly assassin Deadshot together. Was I afraid? Dear reader, I was terrified. But I couldn't let it show. Batman needed me.
Then I saw it, the laser sight playing like a lover's tongue across his nipple.
"BATMAN! NO!" I shouted dramatically. I dived forward then, knocking the Caped Crusader to the ground as the bullet whizzed past my ear. Batman was back on his feet in an instant, however. He grabbed me and pulled us both into cover behind a chimney chute in a bombed ruin of Arkham City.
"What now, Jack?" Batman asked, his voice cracking slightly under the strain.
I thought for a moment.
"You need to hide behind cover whenever he's looking in our direction, Batman," I explained patiently. "And then try and reach the vent under the helipad."
Batman looked at the distance between him and the sharpshooter marksman.
"You can do it, Batman," I said reassuringly. "I know you can."
- Riddle: Stagg Enterprises Airship, Jack Ryder's Article, "A bragging reporter's worse than a narc, but perhaps the assassin has found his mark?"
Slade pushed the hunting knife along the whetstone, the smooth scrape of steel underscoring the live combat feed. The last Cobra went offline with a burst of radio interference. Slade shook his head, "Damn amateurs."
A surveillance drone was circling above Bleake island replaying the battle below. The Knight was protecting the Cloudburst, and failing. Batman had just taken apart his support, now it was just the two of them left. Slade glanced at the monitor - their heat signatures stalking each other through the city streets,
He ran his thumb along the blade. Still dull.
This was torture, forced to watch from a mobile command center. The ACE Chemicals siege, the occupation, everything. Batman had taken on an entire army, and was winning. Slade didn't belong here observing. It was like watching someone play a video game badly, itching to pick up the controller.
Contingency wasn't his style, he was better than that. But Scarecrow knew just how to sell it. He promised the soldier an end to those nightmares, the fear that made his hands tremble. "Revenge - that is what you seek. And I can give it to you."
The Knight's tank took a strike - systems critical - a plume of white static erupted on the screen. No way was he was making it out of that thing alive.
Seconds later the radio crackled. "It is time." Scarecrow announced. "Batman is yours."
Slade tested the blade. It was sharp enough now.
- Riddle: Bleake Island, Deathstroke's Photo, "Business is best when Bats needs killing, a mercenary's file should receive top billing."
Lynns took a generous swig from his hip-flask then pushed through the heavy oak doors into Tomaso Panessa's office.
"Garfield ! Have a seat." His boss's plump red face and expanded waistline betrayed the fact he was bankrupt. Financially, as well as morally.
Lynns shrunk into a chair as Panessa dispensed with small talk then began to justify the unceremonious firing of this lowly FX artist.
Despite critical acclaim, The Inferno had recovered less than a quarter of its inflated budget in the six months since its release. Such a high-profile failure, combined with increased attention from the IRS meant that laundering millions of dollars of mob money through Panessa Studios was no longer a viable business plan.
"I always liked you, Lynns," he said, like a veterinarian comforting an animal before pushing the plunger on a lethal injection. "But the industry's different now. As a studio, we need to adapt or perish... and that means making some tough decisions."
Garfield declined the proffered cigar with a wave of his hand. He felt sick watching the greasy old bastard wrap his lips around a wad of dried leaves that cost three times his monthly salary.
"I'm sure a man of your intelligence knew this day would come, Garfield. I'm sure you've prepared for every eventuality."
Lynns was prepared all right. He struck a match off the solid oak table and held it up to light the man's cigar. He met his boss's gaze for the last time then expelled a mouthful of nitroglycerine through the dancing flame.
- Riddle: Panessa Studios, The Inferno's Display, "A visual artist with burning ambition: prove he made movies before his ignition."
Wrapped in cold, Nora slumbered. Deep in slumber, Nora dreamed.
She dreamt of Victor. Of the man he was, and of the man she knew he'd become. She heard him sometimes, his new, metallic voice piercing through the frozen veil of her sleep like an ice pick. She heard his curses. His muttered threats. And when whatever new therapy he was working on failed, when cells refused to divide and line up like soldiers on parade, when carefully authored mutations lay stubbornly dormant in unresponsive genes, she heard his harsh, anguished screams.
It had been gradual, this thawing of her consciousness back into something alive.
Something that flowed thickly, liquidly, from a dream to memory and could even snatch in traces of the outside world.
She was trapped, imprisoned in frozen flesh, but not afraid. Fear seemed impossible for her cooled brain, but there was a kind of freedom in this new existence. Freedom from the Huntington's racked body she'd left behind.
"This will work, Nora. This will work."
Victor talked to her most days, worked through scientific problems as if she was his lab assistant, professed his love, reminisced about the early months of their marriage. But the memories were distant now, Nora knew. The details became vaguer every time. She wasn't just a frozen body, Nora had long realized. She was an idealized memory, frozen in time.
Was this love ? Victor said he could save her. But every second's passing drew them further apart.
No, Nora remembered love. Love was warm.
- Riddle: Founder's Island, Gothcorp Logo, "This cold corporation changed his life forever, curing his wife now a chronic endeavor."
"Your honor," Gordon shouted, "The man's insane!"
"For the last time, Commissioner. We are not here to discuss the prisoner's state of mind !" Judge Wessel looked across at Gordon from the parole board panel, a look Jim had seen dozen times this morning. Please, Wessel's watery eyes were saying, don't make this harder than it is.
Gordon shot a more succinct look back. To his left the prisoner started talking.
"Come now, your honor. As slanderous as the commissioner's comments are, he's only expressing his frustration at the farcical nature of this so-called legal proceeding. Perhaps he doesn't understand that his presence is merely for appearance's sake. You are decorative, detective," Riddler concluded, flashing Jim a smug smile.
Gordon understood alright. Thousands of prisoners, all held illegally, and then nearly murdered by Hugo Strange. The inevitable class-action lawsuit had left this tedious, soul-sapping exercise in its wake : hundreds of "parole hearings" that only went one way. The prisoner got their freedom back and Gordon got a signed declaration that the offender promised to be on their best behavior from here on in.
"Now," Riddler continued. "Given that our poor commissioner must endure several hundred more of these hearings, why don't you spare us the tedium of forcing him to reiterate the state's legally soiled case against me, and simply grant me the freedom to which I'm entitled?"
The entire parole board spluttered indignantly.
"Man's got a point," Gordon conceded, as he walked out the door.
- Riddle: Bleake Island, The Batsignal, "Hope shines brightly in a city this dark, find the source of that signal and you'll soon hit your mark."
No more of this 'grief' crap, thought Scratch. Six months since Joker died. Time Harley moved on. And if she couldn't move on? Well it's time the gang did.
Scratch was smart. Everybody said it. And he had a plan. Harley had one of her freaky Joker statues, the ones with a television set sat on the shoulders, in her room. Every night she kissed the creepy video reel of his face goodnight. Right on the grinning lips.
Scratch was gonna put a bomb inside it. Kill Harley and decapitate the old boss too. Nothing says "put Scratch in charge" like that.
Harley was out. Gang war with Penguin's crew. That's all they did these days. Defend instead of expand. Scratch was gonna change that, he thought, slipping into her room.
Red and black, everywhere. The curtains, the carpet, the bed. Like playing cards, Harley said when she handed out the new uniforms. Clubs and hearts.
Joker was in the corner. Grinning at him. His eyes followed Scratch around the room, interrupted by occasional static. I dare you, they said, as Scratch crept up to the smiling ghost.
"Sorry boss," he said, taking out the screwdriver and the small explosive charge.
"But I've gotta do this. For the gang."
"Bad idea, Scratchie." Joker replied.
Scratch froze. Terrified.
"Bad idea, Scratchie." Joker said. Same intonation as before.
"Bad idea, Scratchie."
Scratch relaxed. She'd cut it together. Made it out of old tapes. But that meant-
The skull-cracking impact of Harley's baseball bat cut off the thought.
- Riddle: Panessa Studios, Joker's Shrine, "She and her love are no longer together, she'll keep the flames burning forever and ever."
Keep Your Friends Close
"Master Bruce, you have a visitor."
Bruce looked up from his position, curled in a fetal ball, on the window ledge. He'd had plenty of visitors since the death of his parents. And endless stream of grown-ups who suffocated him in kindness, patting him on the head and talking in soft, patronizing voices as if a sentence spoken at normal volume might cause the poor little orphan to detonate, like a bomb they'd rather leave undisturbed then risk having defused.
This wasn't one of those people.
This was Thomas Elliot. Tommy.
The blond boy pushed past Alfred before Bruce could respond. He looked at Bruce and grinned.
"Thank you, Alfred," Bruce said, trying to sound formal in front of his friend.
Alfred coughed awkwardly before leaving the room. It was these moments, when others were around, that he and Bruce were still learning to navigate together. Alfred had reached for Bruce's hand the funeral only for the boy to snatch it away, embarrassed. Yet he refused to let go during the car ride home.
"We have to be kind to you," Tommy slumped casually down next to Bruce and fixed him with an intense stare that mirrored Bruce's own. "That's what Ms Hyslop said at school."
"Everyone's being kind to me, Tommy. It's boring."
Tommy thought about this.
"I wish my parents were dead," he said, eventually. "Then I'd be a billionaire. Like you."
Bruce's stunned laughter echoed around the manor's empty rooms.
- Riddle: Miagani Island, Elliot Memorial Hospital, "Friends of the Waynes thought not as wealthy, their memorial ward keeps Gotham healthy."
Pamela stirred from her slumber and squinted at the lone orchid on her nightstand. Conventional wisdom says a Gloriosa could never survive in such dry, frigid conditions, just as the doctors had predicted she herself would wither and die within a month of her admittance to Seattle General's intensive care unit.
It had been almost six, and the flower was in full bloom, while Pamela had never felt stronger or more in tune with the world around her.
The orchid had been a gift from her mentor Professor Jason Woodrue, the man who'd professed his love for her then left her to die from a toxic cocktail of phytohormones he'd forced her to ingest in the lab they shared.
Pamela's initial heartache seemed paltry in hindsight. She realized Woodrue's parting gift was far greater than even he could have imagined.
The orchid spoke to her now, ethereal whispers of a world beyond these sterile walls, of a higher purpose, a new life.
Pamela feigned sleep when the door opened and the handsome specialist approached the bed to check on her. She thrust out an arm, gripped the back of his neck with inhuman strength, and pulled him in close.
The man was powerless to resist as she planted a deadly kiss on his lips.
Timid wallflower, Pamela Isley, was no more. Poison Ivy had arrived.
- Riddle: Miagani Island, Ivy's Flower, "A natural cure for Scarecrow's doom, your savior's gone but still in bloom."
Jack Ryder's weekly Column - only in the Herald !
Hey there Gotham - Jack's back !
I know, I know, it's been a while. But I've been busy. Book deals. TV appearances. Negotiations to syndicate this very column. Those things take time, Jack-fans. Too much time, actually. And the agents never call you back. So I decided to give up on them. Besides, I already had a starring role in the televisual event of the season.
Yep, that was my handsome face you saw sprouting from an immaculately tailored suit and giving evidence to the Arkham City Commission. And I just want to set the record straight. Yes, I said that Arkham City was illegal. Yes, I produced a documentary evidence of prisoners being abused, degraded, forced to live in squalor and nearly killed. And yes, I said that anyone exposed to such horrors should be released and generously compensated. But let's get one thing straight, Gotham.
I was talking about me.
I didn't need to see that crap. I shouldn't have even been there. I saw one guy eating his own arm when food supplies ran low ! His own arm ! I mean, he didn't look like he was accustomed to haute cuisine on the other side of the wall. But me ? I dine well, Gotham. And I needed therapy after.
So all you losers sending me hate mail. Stop it. It's not my fault all the crooks got free. I just wanted Gotham City to repay its debt to me. And I'm sure you do too.
- Riddle: Bleake Island, Jack Ryder's Desk, "Always looking for names to besmirch, where does this newsman conduct his research?"
Batman was wrong. He'd always been wrong about Joker. There was no madhouse qualified, no prison secure enough. Jason knew that now, after he'd seen tonight-
Little arms, little legs, little heads, crudely, mockingly stitched together.
He'd come straight from the kindergarten, followed a trail of innocent blood back to Arkham Asylum. Tracker switched off. Cowl communications disabled. He was a ghost. Batman wouldn't find him until it was done.
Weeping parents, fighting over patchwork corpses.
The sanatorium had been derelict for years. A burnt-out patch of dead earth on top, a forgotten warren of cells below. Good, Jason thought, he's already in the dirt. There was a moral line that Bruce had sworn never to cross. Jason would cross it for him.
Jason had been watching a grief-stricken mother piece her son together when the kindergarten speaker system came to life.
No, Robin, he thought. Push it down. Jason pulled back to the heavy iron doors that would have once led into a laundry chute, and dropped into the dark.
"Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall," Joker sang.
It was a net, half-way down, that caught him. It broke with his weight, sending him tumbling out of the end of chute onto the granite floor. Jason gritted his teeth breathed through the pa-
The first swing of the crowbar took out two teeth. The second broke his ankle.
"All the king's horses, and all the king's men, couldn't put Humpty together again," Joker was singing.
- Riddle: Arkham Knight HQ, Batman & Robin's picture, "Vengeance burns darkly inside the betrayed, as they stare at reminders of debts unpaid."
"I do not allow him visitors !" Warden Sharp spluttered angrily, as Batman walked past.
"It's not a social call."
Inside the cell, harsh fluorescent bulbs bounced their light off the sterile, while padded walls.
"IT'S REALLY YOU ! YOU'RE HERE !"
The cell's straitjacketed occupant flung himself from the corner of the room until he was slobbering, weeping, at Batman's armored boots.
"I'm so glad it's you, Bats," Joker sobbed. "They think I'm mad !"
Batman kicked upwards, flipped the maniac onto his back and brought the foot back down to pin him there.
"Three dead. All children. You've been locked up here since Blackgate..."
Batman pushed down. Ribs cracked.
"TELL ME HOW !"
The sudden violence, the guttural sound of Batman's roar, surprised them both.
Batman backed towards the door, appalled. Suddenly freed, Joker rolled on the floor, hysterical.
"I knew it", he giggled. "I knew you cared !"
Batman drew his cape around himself, pushed the anger, the sudden self-disgust, back down.
"You got out, Joker. How ?"
"Maybe I am mad," Joker scrabbled backwards, leaned against the wall, "Because this is the first time I'm hearing of it." He paused then, and spoke with sickening sincerity.
"I didn't kill your kiddies. And you don't need excuses to drop by."
When Sharp returned with security, Joker was alone, grinning ear to ear.
"I'm in his head, Sharpie !"
- Riddle: Bleake Island, Arkham Asylum, "Overgrown, abandoned, the inmates set free, madness could never be held in me."
"Gotham's no kind of place to raise a child."
Those were Ellen's first words when he'd told her about the promotion and transfer to GCPD. To say the move had put a strain on their marriage would be an understatement. The first few months were difficult, but gradually she'd established roots, made new friends, warmed to life in the city. Commissioner Gordon had even promised to use his influence to secure their son Tyler a place at McCallum Academy. Life was good.
Then Arkham City happened. Ellen's doubts resurfaced. The honeymoon period was over.
He'd convinced her to stick it out for another year. If things didn't improve, they'd move back to her family in Keystone. The promise was a gamble - he hated Keystone as much as he hated the in-laws - and at the time Gotham looked like it was spiraling into the abyss. But now, nine months on, as he stood with his family among a throng of tourists on the Lady of Gotham's viewing platform, he was satisfied that the gamble had paid off.
There was a different feel about Gotham these days. Joker was dead, the nightmare of Arkham City was a distant memory, and crime continued to fall.
Across the water, amid the glittering lanterns of Chinatown, Halloween decorations were being hoisted high above the street.
"Dad, are you gonna take me to the parade ?"
"Sorry kiddo, Daddy has to work. But your mother will take you. Right, honey ?"
Ellen jabbed him in the ribs, smiling.
"Whatever you say, Officer Owens."
- Riddle: Bleake Island, Lady of Gotham, "She stands at our center that we may not weaken, a symbol of hope, a towering beacon."
Change of Heart
"More guns, Mister Wayne ?", said Lucius, eying the proposed specifications for the new Batmobile.
They were in Lucius' office. Bruce's office, technically, thought Lucius spent most time here. Bruce had turned up, dutifully, for the bi-annual departmental heads meeting at WayneTech. Lucius had watched Bruce work the room, smiling and shaking the hands of senior technicians, biochemists, engineers, software-security experts, making just enough informed conversation with Lucius' chief systems engineer to impress yet not shock her. And then he and Bruce had retired here. Lucius doubted anyone else had noticed Wayne favoring his right leg as it recovered from whatever he'd subjected to it the night before.
"Can you do it ?" Bruce asked. All the easy charm from the meeting room was gone. It would seem like unfriendliness to a casual observer, Lucius thought. But it was the opposite. Bruce dis his friends, the people he trusted, the honor of not pretending.
Lucius smiled. It wouldn't be easy. WayneTech had been out of the arms industry for a while. Could claim the guns for testing materials when he made the order, he reasoned, and do all the prototyping alone.
"Why the change of heart, Mister Wayne ?"
Lucius, always the pragmatist, had long campaigned for a more offensively equipped Batmobile. Just in case, Bruce had resisted him until now. But ever since Joker died his employer had been... not aggressive, exactly. Lucius couldn't quite identify the change.
"Just in case," Bruce said, as he left the room.
- Riddle: Founder's Island, The Batmobile, "Crusaders of old had a trusty steed. How much horsepower does a Dark Knight need?"
Down the Rabbit Hole
The shear's chipped and rusted blades squeaked open, narrowly missing the neck as they collected a soft clump of blond hair.
"There there pretty, don't move an inch, these bolted daggers smite more than a pinch."
In return, a whimper stifled beneath thick duct tape.
Hatter's grubby fingers gripped and squirmed around the cutter's over-sized ears, one in each hand. Squinting, his tongue curled up in a concentration; a pile of butchered wigs lay tossed behind him. This was the last one and it had to be a success!
"In for a penny in for a pound, let's hope it's just hair that falls to the ground."
Like a crocodile's bite, the shears clapped shut, followed by the thudded wobble of a stool as Hatter hopped down onto the floor to gauge his work.
"Fabulous! What a win, now for the hairs on your chinny chin chin !"
Hatter placed the shears down and picked up a cutthroat razor, delicately fanning out the blade as he turned to face his terrified creation : queen-like and flanked by a row of defiled mannequins. He couldn't get over how well the blue dress fit the man's slender frame, but then that was why he chose him.
He'll do for now, Hatter thought. Until someone better came along.
Someone just like his Alice.
- Riddle: Arkham Knight HQ, White Rabbit Masks, "With a fluffy white coat and ears standing tall, what burrowed the hole in which Alice did fall?"
Dr. Kirk Langstrom surveyed the miracle of evolution splayed out on the table before him: Desmodus rotondus, the common vampire bat. It was perhaps the most magnificent creature he'd ever studied up-close, aside from Francine, of course.
Langstrom dialed up the volume on the sound system and shut his eyes, letting Brahms' Third Symphony swell in his ears. The music conjured memories of happier times with his beautiful wife, before his diagnosis, before the rot set in.
The tinnitus had been subtle at first, like the low hum of a refrigerator in another room, a mildly irritating whine he couldn't quite place yet couldn't quite ignore.
As the weeks wore on, the noise grew overwhelming, until Kirk could hear nothing else unless he concentrated hard enough. The doctor's words, however, had been loud and clear.
Kirk's affliction was rare, chronic and irreversible.
The thought of never enjoying his favorite symphonies again was agonizing, but it was Francine's voice he could miss the most; the subtle inflection she adopted when she teased him, and the way she laughed, as though the little girl inside her had never grown up.
Kirk wasn't prepared to let all that go without a fight. He was a man of science, for Christ's sake! And science would find a way.
The answer, Kirk knew, was staring up at him from the dissection table.
- Riddle: Bleake Island, Kirk Langstrom's Research, "A bat uses these to see at night, the doc's didn't work and his cure caused a fright."
Bruce gripped his father's hand as the elevator rocketed skyward. Confined spaces still made him anxious, but his father provided comfort, just as he did on all those nights Bruce would wake screaming, paralyzed with fear, reliving the moment he'd found himself trapped inside the dank, bat-infested cave beneath the grounds of the manor.
He breathed a sigh of relief when the elevator finally slowed to a halt and the doors opened into Thomas Wayne's plush new office at the summit of Wayne Tower.
"Take a look, son." His father said, leading Bruce to the vast windows overlooking Gotham's smog-shrouded skyline.
The boy pressed his palms against the cold glass and felt a dizzying rush as he gazed down at the miniature city below.
"Gotham's been good to us, Bruce, and we have a responsibility to give something back. This tower's just the beginning of our legacy, a legacy I hope you'll continue long after I'm gone."
Bruce looked up to meet his father's eyes. The thought of losing him had never crossed the young boy's mind, and suddenly Bruce was back in that cave, alone, the piercing screech of bats filling his ears.
- Riddle: Miagani Island, Wayne Family Photo, "The Prince of Gotham sits high in his tower, yet this picture recalls a happier hour."
Nightwing grappled to the warehouse roof and secreted himself in darkness. He'd chased the truck here on foot and was using a technique Bruce had taught him to control his breathing; a plume of steaming breath could easily give away his position to the guards by the skylight. Not that they sounded very observant.
"I hate this stinking place, give me Gotham any day," the first thug said.
"Yeah, sooner we get back there the better," his buddy replied.
Nightwing was well aware of his adopted city's shortcomings, he just didn't need to hear it from these goons. He considered taking them out, sneaking further inside. No, best do this clean.
"Still, no way we could get away with something like this with Batman around."
"Who we gotta worry about here? Nightwing?! He's like a baby Batman."
Two electrified escrima sticks bounced up and struck the base of both skulls, cutting their laughter short.
That nerve was as raw now as the day he left the manor. Bruce had sent him away like a parent packing a teenage son off to college. He wasn't grown up yet, not in Bruce's eyes.
Looking down through the angled glass, scores of men were busy at work. Hundreds of crates, thousands of guns. The operation was bigger than he thought. And it was heading to back to Gotham.
You missed this one, Bruce. This college kid was going home.
- Riddle: Stagg Enterprises Airship, North Refrigeration Poster, "Need something moved quickly, in a freezer? This company's owned by a cockney geezer!"
Screw Dad. And screw Bruce Wayne.
Barbara walked through Wayne Manor, dropping the mask and cape from her masquerade ball outfit. She should have guessed that other people would have had the Bat idea, too. Not that it mattered, whatever she wore she'd still be 20 years younger than everybody here. Jeez, she'd rather Dad started dating again than drag her to these things.
At least she had her laptop. Thank God. She just needed an access point that wasn't buried beneath fifteen layers of paranoid-rich-guy encryption. The library, maybe? Barbara pulled back the huge oak door and slipped into the room, set her computer on the desk and...
Damn it! We're not all billionaires, Bruce. Some of us need to check we haven't been outbid on that new pair of escrima sticks. In fact, Barbara decided, didn't rich guys like Wayne owe people like her a little unauthorized net access from time to time?
She used the program she'd written to crack GCPD's network, the time Dad left her sitting in an interview room during Bring Your Daughter to Work Day. It was fast. And it found hidden networks, too. Not that Bruce Wayne would need many of-
What was Entrance 6? The signal was strong, close by. Even stronger than the library wireless, in fact. What the hell, Barbara thought, as she tore its defenses apart.
She felt it before she heard anything. A cold guest of air as the bookcase behind her disappeared.
- Riddle: Bleake Island, Wayne Masquerade Ball Poster, "I bet you weren't invited to this lavish do, I wonder how many went dressed up as you?"
Penguin yelped as his foot broke through a sodden floorboard. Moments later one of his bodyguards burst into the room, brandishing a pistol.
"I heard a scream!" He saw Penguin trying to extricate himself. "Boss, what's wrong?!"
"What does it look like?!"
The bodyguard scrambled to find the words, he hoped it wasn't a trick question.
"Never mind!" Penguin barked. "Just help me!"
Holstering his gun, the bodyguard heaved Penguin free and started brushing the watery pulp from his trousers.
"Get out of it!" Penguin snapped, finding his balance against a window still. Out there, looming above, Gotham's latest monstrosity: Wayne Plaza.
"This was my old man's study," Penguin proclaimed. "It'd kill him if he had to see that poxy thing day and night."
Cobblepot Manor had been derelict for years, left to rot. In Penguin's mind, just the way Bruce Wayne wanted it. A permanent reminder of defeat.
The bodyguard was tugging at a strip of wallpaper. "So I guess we wait for the compensation, huh?"
"Not likely," Penguin scooted back to the broken floorboard, dropped to his knees and plunged his arm into the hole. "You think I'm waiting around for Gotham City to cough up, you got another thing coming."
With that he pulled out a yellowing wad of paper. The deeds to a company operating out of Blüdhaven: North Refrigeration.
Penguin pocketed his ace and lit a cigar. "Don't count the Cobblepots out yet, Mr. Wayne."
- Riddle: Founder's Island, Cobblepot Manor,"This tumbledown ruin's not looking its best, what do you expect from the Penguin's old nest?"
Mr. O'Neil staggered into the spotlight. Alone. Gripping a briefcase. Beyond the harsh light the depths of the circus tent were a black void. He squinted, trying to focus. His sleep-deprived mind was playing tricks. He thought for a moment he could see an audience.
"Welcome!" A voice boomed operatically.
The spotlight shifted. There he was: the pig-masked man who'd summoned him, the Professor - standing proudly behind a small boy, his blood tinged hands finger drumming those delicate shoulders. A pained murmur sounded from the child, muffled through a plain white face mask, at its edge, a shoreline of weeping, fused flesh; his salted-slug of a tongue writhing in the mouth-slit. The horror wasn't unimaginable, it was there in front of him. It was fact. Just as he was a parent and this was his son. Butchered and transformed. O'Neil's stomach imploded and bent him double, retching onto the straw bedded ground.
"Daddy-man is upset," whined the Professor. "Daddy-man not pleased with our work." He loosed a terrifying squeal. The young boy moaned like a busted instrument.
"I've got money..." O'Neil wiped the bite from his mouth, then popped the briefcase and threw it to the ground; wads of green packed tight. "Give me my son... please."
The Professor shook his head. "Not your son now. My dol-lo-tron."
Before O'Neil could fathom the meaning of that word, something caught his eye. There in the void, they were being watched. Faces shuffled closer: plain white masks, dozens of them. Encircled. Sons. Mothers. Fathers, once like him.
- Riddle: Founder's Island, Circus of Strange Poster, "Roll up! Roll up! For the circus of strange, this porcine professor is clearly deranged."
Prison. The irony wasn't lost on Quincy Sharp. But that didn't mean he appreciated it.
Quincy cried on the hard, cramped bed in his small, sterile cell longing for the splendor of his City Hall. He wished his master was here. Dr. Hugo Strange had awoken Quincy, lifted him to a higher state of awareness. Made him Mayor of Gotham! The... therapy. The drugs. The loss of free will. A fair, fair price for such a gift. In return Quincy had defended Strange through both trials.
Even now, he clutched onto Strange's remaining secrets - dear mementos of a parted friend.
"It's OK, Quincy," he heard Strange say. "I'm here."
"Hugo?" Quincy asked, wiping his tears on the cheap Arkham City jumpsuit the guards made him wear.
There he was. Dr. Hugo Strange, with his radiant white lab coat and paternal smile.
"Quincy. My servant. My friend," Hugo said. "We don't have much time."
Quincy was crying again, with joy. "How, master, how did you-?"
"Psychology, Quincy. Science. I'm a being of suggestion, etched into your subconscious by my living self."
The therapy, Quincy realized. The hypnosis. The drugs.
"Stay with me master, please!" Quincy tried to grab hold a phantom hand.
"I cannot." Strange said, looking benevolently down at Quincy, stroking his hair with a touch the prisoner couldn't feel. "But there is one last service you can perform me."
"Anything, Hugo, please."
"First, remove the sheet from your bed, Quincy. And tie it to the light-fixture on the ceiling."
- Riddle: Miagani Island, Quincy Sharp for Mayor Banner, "A former warden who had a Strange turn, his appointment as mayor was a cause for concern."
The Demon's Head
The messenger dropped down onto the puddled street and stayed crouched in shadow, her hand resting on the hilt of a katana; caution was innate, trained into every sinew and fiber of her body.
She waited for the drunken couple to stagger past and approached her canvas: a wall of decaying posters. She unfolded the stencil and held it in place. The small nozzle concealed in her wrist guard released a pressurized spray of black paint. With a few waves of her hand the image was complete.
It would join the others she had spent the night emblazoning on Gotham's walls. Most people would think it was just another work of art. They wouldn't know of the war that raged. The war to bring him back. To resurrect Ra's al Ghul.
The air whistled; instinct turned her head as a blade grazed skin and embedded itself in the center of the dripping insignia.
The assassin stepped out of her throwing stance and drew a sword from her back. "You openly defy the League of Assassins. The penalty is death."
Wiping the blood from her cheek, the messenger faced her enemy. "There is no league without him, that is the truth!"
Surveying her surroundings, the assassin approached. "You will not find his body."
"What makes you think we're still looking?" The messenger unsheathed her katana. "The Demon's Head will live again."
- Riddle: Miagani Island, League of Assasins Grafitti, "The League of Assassins stuck blades through hearts, now they impale each other's art."
"Y do u attack B@tman? He is BASED ! U r a fa-"
Riddler deleted the email, and all the others like it, as prickly hot anger and shame squirmed through his insides. No point denying it: #CrusaderGate had been a disastrous social media campaign.
He couldn't understand it. It seemed the internet's idiotic and easily roused rabble could froth itself into a full-fat cappuccino of frenzy over 'white knights'. But offer it up a Dark one - on a plate! - and you get a soy latte's worth of indignation at best! Didn't they understand what Batman had done?
The memories rise up like bile: Riddler is back in Arkham City, Batman places an explosive hat - Riddler's OWN invention - on his head, forces him to march in endless circles lest the device detonates. It's hours before Riddler realizes the trick, that the explosives had been defused.
Having borne witness to shame, this computer was tainted now. Yet Riddler paused. He still had electrical burns from the last time he'd angrily ripped 128 gigs of RAM from a motherboard.
His search for a hammer concluded when another email arrived.
"To the owner of Enigmatic Holdings Ltd., Gotham City Council hereby APPROVES your purchase of the disused sewerage and water processing facilities beneath the city", it began.
For the first time in months, Edward smiled.
- Riddle: Miagani Island, Riddler's Explosive Helmet, "You forced this contraption over my brain, I'll reward you with punishment, debasement and pain."
Roach wrenched against his restraints, and watched the beetles skitter across Scarecrow's gloved hand. He wasn't sure what made him sicker: Scarecrow's creepy new face. Or the rocking of the damn cargo container they were hidden inside. Joker wouldn't find him, surely? They couldn't have gone far from the Steel Mill.
"Fascinating creatures, aren't they?" Scarecrow said. "So small." Scarecrow was holding a bug by one of its legs, now, as the other five limbs scrabbled at the air. A wave hit the boat and the poor thing swung back and forth. "No warning colors, either." He dropped the bug to the floor, it scuttled towards Roach who fought back to the urge to stamp on it. He didn't want to look afraid.
"Do they want their predators to fall for it?" Scarecrow asked, watching another insect creep across his palm. "To sink their teeth into this fragile shell?"
Scarecrow made a fist, crushing the insect in his hand.
"The beast that does so will regret it," Scarecrow explained, wiping the mashed up insect into a glass beaker. "Not through sickness, or death." He added chemicals to the beaker now, muddling the mixture into a greenish-black, sludgy cocktail. "But through the hallucinations this creature's toxic secretions cause. Through the beating of their overworked heart, the adrenaline coursing through their bloodstream. Through fear."
He turned to Roach now, the beaker in one hand. A funnel in the other.
"My toxin failed me at Arkham. Together, we will ensure that never happens again."
- Riddle: Arkham Knight HQ, Fear Gas Cloud, "A psychotic doctor who caught the fear bug, the fruits of his research: a powerful drug."
Pyrophobia. Fear of fire.
Some fears make more sense than others, Alex thought, crunching his eyes shut against the flames and retreating into the furthest corner of his cell. He read a case study once, when he was sane, about a man with Pharmacophobia. Fear of medicine! The poor man suffered from epileptic seizures yet refused to take his pills. Madness. Counter-intuitive. Misfiring self-preservation instinct rejecting the very things that preserved.
But fear of fire? That made evolutionary sense, Alex comforted himself, picturing humanity's ancestors scattered across the veldt as flames licked dry grass. He wasn't mad. He was just too sensitive. His phobia was just awareness of the damage that the inferno raging in front of him could do to his delicate tissues.
If it was real.
Simon had summoned him, Alex remembered. Accused him of betrayal. And now he here was. A test subject. Meat for the grinder. Brain matter for the thresher. More data for Stagg. They'd stopped pumping toxin into his cell hours ago. But still the fires burned around him. A phantom wall of flame.
They started closing in.
Alex Sartorius screamed as the flames consumed him. Screams of terror, not pain. To an outside observer the result was slapstick - a whitecoated scientist flailing at nothing. But all Alex could see was flames eating at his flesh, gnawing down to the bone.
- Riddle: Stagg Enterprises Airship, Albino Chimpanzee, "No Dark Knight, Stagg's pet is no figment, it's just lacking the usual pigment."
Zak hated Mondays. He'd been working the early shift at the morgue for all of three weeks and he was already starting to resemble a pallid corpse. The bourbon-induced hangover certainly wasn't helping. His stomach had been growling all morning and it was still an hour until lunch. His bowels lurched at the thought of another plate of slop from the commissary, only this time the accompanying growl was deeper, more resonant. From another place.
He scanned the room for the source. The stiffs sometimes released pockets of gas when they started to decompose. Pungent gifts from the afterlife. But this sound was different, almost like a word trying to be formed, trapping by shuddering lips. It was coming from one of the new cold storage units.
These compartments weren't supposed to have locks, but this one had four. They weren't usually this big either. And they certainly didn't have WayneTech branding. The door swung open and plumes of dry ice poured out around Zak's legs.
As the lights flickered on, he could see the outline of a hulking corpse spread out on the floor. It was inhumanly large and... breathing?!
Zak slipped on the tiles and landed hard, sending his glasses skidding across the room. Feeling with his hands, he worked his way over the huge slabs of cold muscle to the wrist - as thick as a thigh. He wiped the frost off the plastic ID tag and strained to see the name: Solomon Grundy.
Like the nursery rhyme...
The body shifted, its giant lungs filling with ice-cold air. The voice was rough, guttural... angry.
"BORN ON A MONDAY!"
- Riddle: Founder's Island, Solomon Grundy's Shrine, "He lives and dies in seven days, this beast you've tamed but his song still plays."
Robin stood at Oracle's side as they watched a 3D model of an inconspicuous blood cell rotate on the Batcomputer's monitor.
"He's still showing no symptoms?" Oracle asked as she developed deeper into the cell structure: Cell walls were intact, plasma healthy and clear.
"Nothing," Tim replied.
Oracle glanced over her shoulder. Tim was staring straight ahead, arms folded, the muscle in his jaw flexed. No smile, not today. He was working hard, they both were. Gotham demanded everything of them, every day.
"Come on, Mr. Adams," Oracle asked, fighting off a wave of exhaustion. "What are you hiding?"
"The protein chemicals, maybe?" Tim leant in to point at the image. When he drew his arm away, his hand grazed Barbara's neck.
Barbara stopped typing, caught her breath. Tim went still. The moment he drew itself out, each second marked by the Clock Tower's mechanical heartbeat.
And then Tim turned away.
"We can't do this. Not again."
"Hematology never was your strong suit, huh Drake?" Barbara joked painfully, but Tim was already gone.
She sat there wondering why he didn't come back. And why she didn't try and stop him, like he must have hoped she would. But why make things harder than they had to be? Gotham came first, the job. It's the only choice they made, they could turn their backs on each other, but not on that.
- Riddle: Panessa Studios, Robin, "You? A father figure? Don't make me laugh. You overwork and break your staff."
Taking Out The Trash
"Garbage collectors?" asked Pipes, sat in the Hell's Gate offices holding the stained, second-hand uniform at arms' length, like a new parent with their first dirty diaper. "You uh, completely sure about this, boss?"
"We're sure," Dent growled from across the desk.
Pipes didn't argue. It wasn't Nice Harvey speaking. You could tell, after a while. The way a group of school friends can tell the pair of identical twins among them awhile.
It's not about the voice. Not always. It's about the face. Which eye swings round faster to look at you; which side of the mouth - the lantern jaw or the charred, twisted lips - the smile plays across first.
"We need a front, for the bank job," Dent said. "And you owe us. All of you."
The compensation claims. Arkham City had been corrupt as hell, sure. But Pipes had run-ins with enough dirty cops to know justice flowed one way in Gotham. Well, it does if you haven't got the best lawyer the city ever saw running your class-action suit from behind the scenes.
"I get it, boss, I do," Pipes stammered. "It's just: Hell's Gate Waste Disposal and Legal Services? Really?"
Dent leaned forward. Pipes tried not to shudder as the weeping skin peeled from the leather chair.
"Trust me," Nice Harvey answered. "They're one and the same in this town."
- Riddle: Miagani Island, Hell's Gate Main Office, "Are you suffering a mental split? Take out the trash before you defend it."
"Live in 10, Vicki," her cameraman said.
They had the steps to themselves. Huddles of reporters looked at her enviously over the police cordon. It was a technically, really. But as a material witness to Sharp's crimes she'd given evidence at the courthouse that morning. She'd been impossible to get rid of, after that.
"Good evening, Gotham, I'm Vicki Vale. Behind me stands Solomon Wayne Court House. Once part of Arkham City, today the venue in which former Mayor Quincy Sharp was acquitted of his participation in that conspiracy."
"I am vindicated!" Sharp screamed, bursting out of the courthouse and into a bombardment of camera flashes. It was Vicki he honed in on, despite his lawyer's protests.
"Pleased with not guilty verdict, Quincy?" Vale asked. Her voice level; calm reporter tones.
"Oh I'm guilty!" Sharp spluttered. "Of maintaining order! Punishing the guilty! Weaning this thankless city off its reliance on vigilante justice!"
"What about funneling weapons into Arkham City?" Vale asked, an edge to her voice now. "Weapons like the rocket launcher that killed my helicopter pilot and friend."
"Unthinkable," Sharp said. "Which is precisely why I was acquitted on that and all other charges. Your journalistic objectivity has been compromised by trauma, Miss Vale."
"Are you sure, Quincy?" Vale asked, handing him a sheet of paper. "Because it looks like your signature on this requisition order."
Sharp froze. The cameras kept flashing. She should have said it in court. But it was her scoop, after all.
- Riddle: Miagani Island, Vicki Vale Show billboard, "Disarming, charming, quite the inquisitor. She'll pull back the vale, whoever her visitor."
Victor savored the familiar warmth of arterial blood splashing his face as he eased another of Penguin's lackeys into oblivion. He wiped the blade on his victim's biker jacket then searched his own forearm for a clean plot of flesh amid the latticework of scars and fresh incisions.
It had been an eventful night and the blood loss was starting to drain Victor's energy. He'd planned to liberate just a handful of Penguin and Two-Face's men, leave the bodies in plain sight, and send a message to the Scarecrow who seemed determined to exclude him from his plans. But when he tallied the first victim, felt the knife's cold steel, Victor knew he wouldn't be satisfied until he'd felled a dozen or more.
Sirens howled in the distance and Zsasz looked up to see the sky illuminated by the symbol of a bat. It seemed Scarecrow's Halloween festivities had already begun.
Instinctively, Victor's fingers traced the smooth patch of skin he was saving especially for Batman. Let Scarecrow have his fun tonight, he thought. Batman would no doubt humiliate him and the others who'd followed his farcical plan. Then Zsasz would find him. That patch of skin wouldn't be smooth for long.
- Riddle: Founder's Island, Zsasz's Work, "A psycho killer's grim design, what has an angle but just one line?"