Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the mints of the United States, or any foreign coins which are by law made current or are in actual use or circulation as money within the United States; or
Whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or brings into the United States, any such coin, knowing the same to be altered, defaced, mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled, or lightened—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.18 U.S. Code § 331 – Mutilation, diminution, and falsification of coins
Hobo Nickels & Heroin
The commissioner strode through the halls of Gotham Police Department like a Metropolis crime boss from a pulp magazine. No hair or man out of place, he was neatly flanked on all sides by a constituency of goons: thugs-for-hire at the dialing of an operator at what Gordon believed to be a shell corporation.
Lieutenant Jim Gordon walked behind the ocean of “trainees,” with his partner, Detective Selina Kyle walking in stride. Jim had misgivings about tonight, and the dubiousness of The Batman as a suspect was among the lowest among his concerns.
“Tonight, starting now,” Jim muttered to his partner “I want you to stick to me like a wet dress. If I bolt, you bolt. If I stand my ground, you stand yours. I have a bad feeling about how this is gonna go. Stand next to me when I address them, I want them to see you as an authority figure.”
Detective Kyle made an almost imperceptible nod, and Jim’s eyes quickly snapped between her and the double doors to the briefing room, from where the first patrol of the Superhuman Task Force would be dispatched. They swung as the flood of humanity broke through.
Out of the crowd, Gelio emerged. Jim hadn’t noticed the mayor in the mass of mercenaries, but he stood at the head of the room, next to the commissioner. Behind them, a blackboard. And the last to file into the room, photographers and reporters.
“Did they forget to bring the babies to kiss?” Selina’s sarcasm was not subtle, even in her surreptitious whisper.
“People are hurting,” began the mayor. “In Gotham, people are in pain. They’ve lost their sons, their brothers, their grandsons. There is a wound in this city, and if we let it, it will bleed us dry.
“It is why we need resolute, dedicated men, like all of you. Like my friend Lieutenant Gordon, who started this task force to beat back the violent street gangs who wanted to flood our streets with opium tinctures and powders. He is capable and courageous, and I am glad he is training you.”
Gordon gave a brief smile and wave to the assembled, and as the mayor continued, rolled his eyes at the puffery.
“I’m also thrilled that Commissioner Johnny Gelio has been willing to lead our police force. You know they say ‘it’s easy to conquer the world from the back of a horse, but dismounting and governing is hard.’ Let me tell you, governing is hard–” Mayor Karlo paused for laughter, or applause, any kind of reaction, but none came. He cleared his throat.
“– but I don’t envy you, our the men who will conquer this new enemy for the people of Gotham. Supermen have made fighting crime and governing much more sticky, but I’m confident in you all, and I am doubly confident in my friend the commissioner, who is going to tell you more about bringing these murderers to justice.” The mayor swept his hands rightward to present the commissioner, who shook his hand and stepped forward.
His face was stoic and severe, with not a single evident spasm or tic.
“Mayor Karlo said that there is a wound in our city,” he started without warning, even Jim had been jarred out of the daze of Karlo’s inane campaign rhetoric. “But we have staunch men,” a pause, then a glance at Selina, “and women who will stop the bleeding.
“Every one of you has heard a story about one of these caped cowards, and I say ‘coward’ instead of ‘superhuman’ because each of you is a superhuman. What bravery does it take to face down a dozen bank robbers with Thompsons when you know that bullets bounce off of you harmlessly? What kind of mettle is needed to face down knife-wielding hooligans in a dark alley when the blade will bend before you even bleed.
“I ask you all, who is brave: the man who wakes up in the morning and kisses his wife and kid, knowing that he might meet his creator while stopping a purse snatcher, or the one who descends from the skies to choose who is worthy of his protection?” People in the room began to stir, nodding to each other in approval.
“These stories are everywhere, and they’re driving the country insane. Insane with hope, with expectations, and with the minor celebrity that comes with spotting one of these cowards. It’s turning the press insane, as they speculate on these foreign invaders in lieu of having any real understanding of who they are and what they want.
“But we know better. We know it isn’t worth a damn to be part of the majority if it means you have to have a screw loose. So tonight, we’re gonna flush out any bats in the belfry. And we’re gonna let them know that we’re not afraid of them, or any other freak in tights.
“Tonight, we take our city back!” Gelio didn’t even finish the words before the task force cheered, Jim clapped to keep up appearances, but was less certain that they’d have their pound of flesh by the end of the patrol. “To help us better understand our enemy, Lieutenant Jim Gordon.”
Jim didn’t move, instead willing the people all around him to create a circular space. Even if these weren’t men he fully trusted, he found that being among his subordinates more effectively led to their trust in him, he hoped that was true of these sellswords.
“My partner, Detective Kyle,” a low catcall sounded from more than one of the circling men, Selina stepped away, disappearing gracefully among the crowd. The sound of a quick scuffle was followed by the sharp exhalation of a punch to the gut, and the detective stands next to Gordon again.
“Ahem. Detective Kyle and I have interviewed more than a hundred witnesses from all over Gotham, each of them claimed to have seen The Batman, many of them before he interrupted the mayor’s fundraiser.” This was a lie; there hadn’t been a hundred witnesses, there were barely a dozen, but Jim didn’t want to let on how he’d arrived at his next conclusion. “Here’s what we know: The Batman unlike Superman in Metropolis, only works at night, or at the very least, in the darkness. This has led to rumors that he’s a vampire, like Dracula, and those rumors are fueled further by the excesses of blood found accompanying the victims.” Gordon was careful not to say his victims. He hadn’t written Batman off as a suspect entirely, but he was lower on his personal list of potential Peter Pans, to be sure.
“We don’t want to spur on further rumors. It doesn’t do anyone any good for people to be scared, because scared people don’t talk to police. So we’ve compiled this list of the Batman’s likely potential powers set based on consistency from eye witness accounts. That doesn’t mean that Batman doesn’t have other powers, and that we shouldn’t be prepared for some of the more outrageous claims, this is just what we have cause to be confident in.
“So, again, he is only active at night. We don’t know if this indicates an aversion to sunlight, in fact, we don’t know what this means, but it means that our resources will be focused on searching after sundown. He moves silently, like a shadow, and he may be able to turn invisible, or translucent, or to teleport into or out of locked rooms; to answer the question you haven’t asked yet, we don’t know how we’ll keep him incarcerated, and we don’t have any ideas.”
A reporter noticed this last line and his pencil sprang to life, and Jim pinched the bridge of his nose, not realizing that this needed to be press-ready.
“He is incredibly fast, we don’t know if he’s Superman-fast, but he’s probably faster than any of us, and he’s bulletproof, just like Superman. Ricochets are plenty dangerous, but, just as important, a box of ammo is almost a week’s pay, so let’s keep our slugs in our sidearms, people. It’s estimated he could dispatch a handful of us all at once, so we’re going to be operating in two squads, and we won’t break down further. If someone has eyes on him, everyone keeps eyes on him. The idea is to contain him, and learn more than we know.”
It wasn’t inspirational, but Gordon didn’t exactly feel inspired.
“Stay together, stay focused, and listen to me and the commissioner, and, if we’re lucky, we’ll bring him in.”
Gelio cleared his throat, and the assembled filled in the hole around and in front of Jim, turning toward the commissioner.
“Thank you, lieutenant, Mr. Mayor. Though I share Lieutenant Gordon’s sentiment that an ideal outcome would be to capture and question the bat, I would add that we should be ready to spend the money if that doesn’t work out.
“Guns ready, boys: tonight, we face down the dueling insanities which are plaguing Gotham. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, the insanity ends.”
Clear skies tonight. Full moon. High visibility, thought Batman.
Looking down from atop a commercial building several blocks from the Gotham Police Department Central District Headquarters, he observed a caravan vehicles leaving the garage. A pair of police motorcycles, followed by two Holland Coachcraft Streamlines, followed by a hardtop Ford V8 Phaeton, and finally, a third Streamline with its own pair of motorcycles bringing up the rear.
That must be the only new Ford in Gotham. He tried to make out the markings. “Gotham Police” in gold lettering; there was something else underneath, but he couldn’t discern it from this distance.
I need better binoculars, Batman frowned at the matte-black painted Pocoscope opera glasses. They didn’t have the sharp fidelity he wanted for details at a distance, putting their usefulness somewhere in the realm of “getting a headcount.”
He watched as the convoy headed north west toward West Side, and shook his head. The radio reports had suggested that this was a manhunt for him. Why he would be in what could be accurately described as “The Abandoned Spooky Warehouse District” was inscrutable to him, other than reasons of “atmosphere.”
There was an impulse to follow them, to figure out why they were there, and try to overhear something about their thought process, but Batman would be successful because of his ability to remain out of sight, to eventually ambush his antagonist. You could hardly ambush twenty men with guns who were looking for you, specifically. Not to mention warehouses were low ground and offered a lot of vantage points from which to fall prey to an ambush.
“Theatricality and deception are powerful agents for the uninitiated,” Alfred once remarked years ago while they developed strategies and costumes for the Yīnyǐng. “But this isn’t the opera. A talented enemy will learn to expect it. They’ll become initiated, at least to the degree that our tricks won’t make us invincible. The best way to avoid getting arrested is to stay away from the police unless we witness them doing something crooked. We’ll be far more useful as a rumor than we will as felons.”
Batman felt the sensation of being watched, and turned fully around, methodically scanning the rooftop and the surrounding structures.
Then he looked to the sky, surveying the night itself.
Perfect beats good every single time, he thought. But as far as he could see, he was alone.
The police are sloppy, and maybe Gordon is coming around, Batman reflected. Investigate it later, you’re not going to catch two dozen men unawares.
He tuned his scanner to the police channel, but none of the chatter had anything to do with the manhunt. The irony of the precipitous drop in violent crime in the presence of a serial murderer was not lost on him.
Peter Pan was still at large, and the surface level clues that Batman thought might be useful to build a profile of the victims were becoming fewer and further between.
It’s time to stop being a rumor. It’s time to get answers.
The Batman stepped to the edge of the roof, and took his own precipitous drop.
“What are we looking for, exactly, Lieutenant?” Selina leaned in to keep her volume low, Jim only shrugged in answer.
“We believe that the criminal calling himself Batman has a hideout,” announced Gelio in a controlled voice that carried to his squads. “Whether he needs moonlight or darkness to fuel his powers, or whether he simply has an aversion to daylight, we do not know, but we believe that a condemned warehouse, especially one with boarded or frosted windows, would be an ideal place to stage his nightly haunts.”
“We believe what?” Selina was incredulous in her question to Jim who furrowed a brow and looked ready to protest. Being, until very recently, one half of the Super Human Task Force, Selina was privy to most (if not all) of the information involving the case involving Peter Pan and The Batman. This wasn’t a theory Jim had told her about, and he seemed similarly astounded by the claim.
“Tonight,” the commissioner continued, “we are searching for evidence of a bat infestation. Anything that suggests that someone seeking shelter from the daylight would make an encampment. We don’t believe he is here at the moment, but be prepared for anything and question everyone. We don’t know if the suspect is eight feet tall or a red-headed slavic hobo in the throes of insanity. Anyone you find here is a potential suspect, and should be questioned, identified, and, if we need to be absolutely sure, brought in.
“Squad A will go with Lieutenant Gordon, you will investigate the structures on the east side of this yard. Squad B will come with me, and we will explore the warehouses to the west.”
A contingent of men fell in around Selina and the lieutenant. Among them was one of the Henshaw goons she’d punched in the stomach; his face was set in an unflinching line, but he refused to make eye contact with her.
Good, Selina thought. You bruised more than his gut.
“Okay listen up,” Jim started from the center of the group, just as he had at headquarters. “It’ll take longer, but we’re going to stick together and enter and leave every single one of these buildings as a unit. Find the person closest to you, and partner up. You stay within an inch of your partner at all times.”
The cat-caller sidled in close to Selina.
“I think we got off on the wrong foot, dollface,” the words oozed from the mans rigid mouth. “Whaddaya say we partner up, and I’ll show you a good time?”
“What you get off on is your business, Noonan, but unless you want to see stars, I’d recommend you back off.”
“Oh, come on blondie, you think a–“ a blurry fist crashed into Noonan’s temple, knocking him out and one of his teeth loose. He hit the ground with a thud, and Jim Gordon only rubbed his knuckles for show.
“Two things, fellas,” Jim started again. “First thing: Detective Kyle here could’ve done that herself, but I wanted it to be absolutely clear that if you disrespect her, you disrespect me, and you disrespect my department. If she tells you that you smell funny, then that’s as good as an order from me to take a bath in the harbor. Kyle is my partner, so there’ll be no need for one of you to try to buddy up with her. Which brings me to my second thing: there are now nine of you, so one of you is gonna need to be a group of three, any questions?” Gordon spat on the ground to punctuate the statement, and Noonan just laid, face down on the lot, rubbing his head.
Squad A headed toward the furthest warehouse, somehow more on edge than before.
The Gotham City District Courthouse always had the faint bouquet of death and ammonia drifting up from the morgue below; the polished marble floors made avoiding detection more of a conscious effort than was ideal – not difficult for a shadow – but it required deliberate thought instead of rote action.
Dr. Victor Fries, Gotham City’s coroner, had a tendency to work late; since Alan had been killed, he had a tendency to work into the next morning, and the detective needed to get answers.
Batman didn’t know, and couldn’t figure out how to quantify the level of panic and actual danger that were needed to trigger a Superman response, but that was a confrontation he could only try to avoid, and be as prepared as possible for when it inevitably happened.
It was a very delicate needle to thread: stealth, fear, and surprise were his greatest assets, and any could cause the alien to descend upon him.
A hypothetical positive here, or maybe it was a rationalization, was that cooler temperatures kept the heart rate high for longer periods, meaning the difference between panic and calm to a casual observer would be less disparate than it might otherwise be.
Perhaps, he thought.
The note was simple, typed in the Bat Cave, and placed into Fries’ typewriter when he left his desk to relieve himself:
Meet me in the cooler.
We need to talk.
So Batman waited alone in the cold, noxious air, in the dark, among the dead.
Dr. Victor Fries, Gotham City’s coroner slid open the door of the cooler, the red lenses of his glasses eerily reflecting the ambient light from the hallway. He didn’t turn on the light.
“Has Death himself finally come to claim the father?” Fries spoke like the title character in a Shakespearian tragedy. “To what do I owe this horror, Batman?”
“Alan,” the whisper left his lips like a breeze on an autumn night. “I need to know what was different about Alan. Why hasn’t his murder been made public?”
Fries took a step back. Batman couldn’t fully read his face, but “inquisitive” seemed the closest word he had.
“Everything was different about Alan! I’m sorry. My son was a good boy. He was obedient, he honored his mother and me at a time when so many children are truants and delinquents. He was a good child.”
“Then why keep his killing under wraps?”
“As a fa-a service, to Nora, my wife. I wanted to allow her to grieve privately. The detectives working on the Peter Pan case, on your case know the relevant details. They are friends of my family. Why come to me?”
“There’s more to learn from the other victims’ families,” Fries actually jumped when Batman’s wuthering voice was suddenly upon him. “But you represent a meeting of both victim and expert.
“Doctor, are there people who wish to hurt you?”
“This is Gotham,” the coroner removed his glasses and cleaned them with his shirt. “If no one wishes to hurt you, then you’re already dead. Which is to say, having spoken with the families of the victims, there was no apparent connection between us.”
“Do you have any theories?” Fries asked the darkness.
“Still in development, nothing solid. Not yet.”
“Lieutenant Gordon doesn’t think it’s you, still wants to bring you in though.”
Surprising that Gordon told him. You need to let Fries know you’re an ally.
“I report facts, Batman. But in my medical opinion, you belong in Arkham.”
“Was Alan your only child, doctor?”
A beat. Fries took a deep breath.
“Nora is pregnant.”
Silence. Fries stepped forward, then back, and flicked on the light.
The room was empty. He was alone in the cold, noxious air, among the dead.
“Hey,” the agent from Henshaw Allied was ascending the spartan, creaking stairs toward Johnny, holding something shiny. “So, what, you’re the main policeman, or is Gordon your boss?”
Johnny Gelio didn’t love the word “policeman,” because it sounded phonetically and rhythmically like the Greek phrase “που είσαι” which translated, informally, into “what are you up to?”
The word roused suspicion in him, on some kind of nurtured level.
“Gordon is the lead on this investigation, but he ultimately reports to me.”
The man’s badge said “A. Rossi.”
“Found something, somebody anyway. You wanna talk to him?”
Johnny’s eyes betrayed the smallest widening excitement, and just as quickly, he’d forgotten himself, and a spasmic smile tore across his face.
Μαλάκα, he cursed inwardly at the foolish vulnerability, and followed down the perilous stairs, crossing the room to where nine men crowded a metal structural support beam.
“Move, please,” he instructed, using his hand to break through the men to an invalid, leaned precariously against the beam, wearing a ragged wool coat that appeared to be two long forgotten coats stitched together haphazardly. The man leaned forward, then opened his mouth as if to speak, but produced only a low grumble and some drool.
“Sir,” Johnny could feel his irritation rising. He did not suffer incompetence well, and this was clearly just a hobo in the throes of a heroin high. “Are you alright?”
“…Stole our nickel. Valuable. Owes us.”
“He’s lookin’ for this,” Rossi produced the shiny object. “He was trying to hock it when we found him. Asked for two bits. For a nickel.”
Johnny snatched the coin from Rossi to inspect it. A 1913 buffalo nickel, or, it was at least. This one had been carved on both sides. The heads-side had sculpted the Indian into a skull. It was a common practice on these nickels, and the face was filthy with the caked detritus of living in this…filth, it was scraped and scratched with deep gashes looking not unlike scars on the skeletal head. But on the tails-side, the coin looked like it was uncirculated – polished to nearly a mirror finish – and featuring a bat, flying in front of a silver crescent moon.
The commissioner’s eyes narrowed. This isn’t him.
“Have you seen any bats lately, sir?”
“Just the one, flapping round…Crime Alley when we was tryna score. Told us we needa getta job, He could help us score. Looked like a dracula enna devil had a baby.” The man smacked his tongue around his teeth. His mouth was dry.
Talks like he’s lying.
“How about three hot meals, and a place to sleep it off with a proper roof over your head?” Gelio leaned in close to the man and held up the nickel. “Got any more of these?”
“That’s our last one. Lucky, but we could let it go if you, uhh…” the man’s head dipped deeply, like it was unsupported by his neck.
“Bring him in,” Gelio spat, placing the coin in the pocket of his shirt. “He can sleep this off in the drunk tank and we can ask him more about what he saw in the morning.”
Two of the men hoisted the bum onto their shoulders, and he unceremoniously vomited between them.
“What are we arresting him for?” Asked one of the men.
“We’re not, but if we need to charge him, ‘Mutilation of Minted U.S. Coinage.’”
“That’s a law?”
“Get him in the van, and meet me on the lot. Rossi, take someone with you and get Gordon’s squad back to the lot.”
So the Batman is selling heroin, Johnny worked the idea over in his head. Another visit to Mr. Falcone is very much in order.
In Gotham Harbor, the heir to the city’s most powerful crime family floats, face down.