gun violence • death • police violence
“Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.”Kurt Vonnegut • Slaughterhouse Five
Sitting in the Commissioner’s office, hued a high blue-green by the fluorescent lighting, Aurelio Liberatore considered the work he was doing. Aurelio wore a badge and had access to every police building in Gotham, but he wasn’t truly an officer of the Gotham Police Department.
The job paid well, and he got to keep himself in fighting shape. But the title of officer wasn’t extended to contract workers. Contractors – like Aurelio – were placed with the department through a company called “Henshaw Allied,” a multifarious organization with a speciality in “private security services.”
In most of New Jersey, that meant union busting, but the places in Gotham that wanted a union had a union. Not to mention, hiring scabs in The Big Gargoyle was basically an invitation for Wayne Enterprises to come in and do a hostile takeover.
The free market giveth, and the free market taketh and maketh more equitable.
Technically speaking, Aurelio’s title was agent, but he held a particular affinity for an epithet that had been hurled at him (alongside stones and glass bottles) by the people of Gotham: brute.
The long, lean, and unnervingly stoic man with a pointy, hard set face sat down across from Aurelio. To the agent, the man looked like a woodcut of Niccolò Machiavelli that he had seen as a boy in the old country. Young, confident, and with a lie ready for any occasion, but a lie that lived underneath layers of truth. He was a general-king, the kind of leader who strode into battle at the front of his regiment. His men trusted him, and Aurelio was slowly becoming one of his men.
Commissioner Johnny Gelio looked directly into Aurelio’s eyes. In most of their work, which was work without the benefit of the full light of day, the man’s eyes appeared a light, dull brown. But here, within arm’s reach, Aurelio could see flecks of dazzling emerald orbiting the commissioner’s unblinking hazel irises. Red veins streaked across them like lightning, a clear sign that the commissioner was doing too good of a job of leading by example. Gelio took a deep breath.
“Agent Liberatore, in your own words,” the commissioner’s lip twitched so slightly that Aurelio might have missed it if he didn’t know about the man’s condition, “please explain what happened when you were on patrol the night of October 30th.”
At approximately 5:40pm, I, (Agent Aurelio Liberatore), on CAPE Act patrol with four other agents (Agents Santori, Antonelli, Panagiotou, and Commissioner Yiannis Gelio identified two men, one negro, one white, exiting alley between 8th Street and Burton Ave (Shoemaker St. Intersection). C.P. Gelio noted to Agent Panagiotou that the two suspects matched description of curfew-breaking vandals charged with malicious mischief for intentional disfigurement of Flying Sphinx statue located in Powhatan Park. At this point, I called out to the individuals, requesting curfew passes. NOTE: Curfew begins at 6 o’clock p.m. which had been updated from 7 o’clock p.m. to match more closely with keeping streets clear after dark. Suspects ignored the request, at which point C.P. Gelio and patrol agents approached suspects in an orderly and courteous manner.
– – – –
“You boys are out awful late! Let’s see those papers’ fellas!”
Jesse slowed down and looked at his watch, pointing at the time, and indicating to Walter that they were still thirty minutes from curfew. The air was filled with mingling aromas of restaurant trash from the alley and burning wood smoke piping out of Gotham chimneys.
“It’s only 5:30, and we just got off work,” Walt shouted over his shoulder. “Heading home for the evening now. Have a good night!” The air was cool, but not so cold that Walter could see his breath.
“Are they cops?” Jesse whispered, and Walter shrugged in answer.
“Can’t really tell, too dark,” he said under his breath. Walt’s heart started beating faster. The police had become especially dangerous recently, or at least that was the chatter – the papers tended to publish their stories based on official comment. People were dying though. Walter’s auntie had told him about a man who she was sharing a taxi with on her way to an overnight shift at Farck & Foster, when the man was pulled out of their yellow cab, and beaten relentlessly. He’d provided a curfew pass from the pharmaceutical manufacturer, and Aunt Bertina was told to head on to work, and that her co-worker would receive the needed medical attention.
The man never returned to work, and she’d attended his funeral last Sunday.
Jesse leaned in close, “Look man, let’s stop and talk to them, show them where we’re going, and we should be fine. Whaddaya say?”
Walter couldn’t focus. He might have agreed if he could sort his thoughts, but instead, he just tapped the back of Jesse’s arm and increased his pace.
Jesse looked back at the men following them. Overcoats. Shiny shoes. And one of them was freak tall, something was off about the way he moved.
“I think that’s that new commissioner, Walt,” Jesse said. “Walt?”
Walter kept walking. Not any faster, but he didn’t make any indication that he was slowing down.
“Dammit, Walter.” Jesse shuffled up to Walt, grabbing him by the elbow. “It’s the commissioner. Let’s just let them do whatever they’re going to do, and get the hell home. It’ll be okay. Walt?”
Walter just turned and looked at Jesse. Seeming to shake off an almost fugue-like distance.
“Yeah. Um. Yes.” He muttered.
The two restaurant workers stopped, and turned toward the group of lawmen.
– – – –
When we engaged with the individuals, Walter Wise, appeared nervous, refusing to verbally respond to questions from any of the agents on patrol or C.P. Gelio. Jesse Cook explained that Wise was tired after a long day of work, and that both were headed home. Cook indicated that he and Wise were neighbors in Keaton North neighborhood. I surreptitiously noted to C.P. Gelio that Keaton North was in opposite direction of where Cook was pointing.
C.P. Gelio re-stated the initial request for Curfew Passes, remaining calm and courteous and inviting cooperation from Wise & Cook. Cook muttered something to Wise, at which point Agent Panagiotou warned the men about speaking in a foreign language in front of our patrol.
– – – –
“Look, officers, we don’t have passes at the moment. We usually walk home, and it only takes about ten or fifteen minutes from here.” Jesse was trying to be charming, but there was a catch in his voice, between the brisk air and the tense situation, he was getting nervous. He’d heard Walt’s story about Mr. Holland and it seemed like everyone in the neighborhood had a story about a run in with the curfew patrols. Assuming the stories were true (and at least half of them probably weren’t) the cops had killed about a dozen guys. Even cutting that number in half, they’d done more harm than this dracula that all the kids were spooked by.
“If you’d like, I could go back to Dimitri’s and ask Whip for a couple passes?”
“Dimitri’s eh?” The voice bled from the commissioner with a lilt that seemed unnatural. “Grew up with his family. He working?”
Walter shook his head, Jesse just shrugged.
“Never actually met him, but he hired Walt,” Jesse explained. “Whip hired me, and he’ll be there for a while longer, I think.”
“His father was a gambler,” the commissioner spat. “His mother slept all day. So we just ran the streets, getting into all kinds of trouble.”
Jesse chuckled, and to Walt he sounded nervous.
“You two wouldn’t have been getting into any trouble earlier this week, would you?”
“Sir?” Jesse asked, the fake smile evaporating from his face.
“Just you don’t often see a pair of fellas like the two of you walking toward such a questionable neighborhood after dark without being up to something.”
“We work together,” Jesse said, but he made the statement sound more like a question. “I always kind of thought Keaton was a good area. Safe, ya know?”
Walt’s chest felt tight. He closed his eyes, hard, trying to breathe deeply.
“You pointed that way when we asked where you were headed. Only thing down there is Fingerton and the harbor.”
“Sorry, sir. I must’ve got disoriented.”
“Not a problem. Just want to know where the two of you were the night the statue got busted up,” the spindly officer set his jaw and Jesse noticed that he didn’t sound relaxed, but his face was a blank slate. Free of any visible emotion. Like he was straining to keep a straight face.
“I didn’t know any statues got busted up,” Jesse said.
“Hm,” grunted one of the officers, who leaned to whisper something to the commissioner that Jesse didn’t catch.
“Why don’t you go ahead and get those passes, son?” Jesse nodded, pulling Walter’s arm. The commissioner nodded, adding “He can stay here and wait. You wouldn’t leave your friend, would you? Is he a mute?”
“N-no sir,” Jesse answered, releasing Walter’s arm. “Walt, get a grip man. I’ll be right back. Alright?”
Walt just kept his eyes closed and nodded, and tried to focus on breathing.
– – – –
After refusal to cooperate or produce necessary paperwork, suspect Cook attempted to flee the scene, and myself and Agent Antonelli gave chase. C.P. Gelio attempted to de-escalate the situation, requesting for Agent Santori to subdue and restrain suspect Wise. Wise brandished an improvised weapon, swinging his knapsack menacingly.
Suspect Cook ducked into the same alley from which he and Wise had emerged, ostensibly attempting to use the shadows of the alley for cover.
– – – –
Walter’s hands were in the air, as if to plea for compassion, but he was gasping in panicked, sharp breaths while being held by the collar of his coat in the grip of one of the officers. Jesse started coming into focus in the distance, then bolted toward the scene.
Jesse was a good kid, but that wasn’t doing either of them any good.
“Officers, I have the passes! I have the passes,” Jesse waved his hands emphatically. All of the officers and Walt turned toward the commotion of Jesse’s approach. A woman climbed out onto her fire escape two floors up, having heard arguing outdoors. The world moved in slow motion, punctuated with an officer spitting onto the ground.
Jesse slowed his pace, catching his breath. He tried to force a smile as the officer released his grip on Walter, who hit the ground, hard, but he would be okay.
And then, Jesse reached behind his back to pull the folded forms from his waistband.
“Whip gave me the pa–“
Jesse slumped onto the cobblestone street.
More windows opened up. More heads poking out to see about the commotion in the darkness. Walter’s hands were pressed against his gut, and a bloodstain was spreading on his apron.
He fell to his knees.
– – – –
After pursuit, suspect Cook was surrounded by agents Antonelli and myself, while C.P. Gelio and agents Santori and Panagiotou attempted to subdue a resistant suspect Wise. A shout of “gun!” from behind us, followed by a gunshot indicated that C.P. and agents may have been in need of assistance. Suspect Cook used this as a diversion, and reached behind his back in what agent Antonelli thought was a gun.
I discharged my service weapon, incapacitating Cook, Agent Antonelli then attempted to administer medical attention. I left agent Antonelli and suspect Cook to assist fellow agents with Wise, but upon arrival, suspect was bleeding out on the ground from a gunshot wound to the stomach.
Per the report and confirmation of C.P. Gelio, suspect Wise had made threatening gestures, eventually striking agent Santori and attempting to take his service weapon, at which point C.P. Gelio fired a shot, which grazed agent Santori and hit suspect Wise center-mass.
Both suspects died at the scene before the arrival of paramedic or fire department.
”Thank you Agent Liberatore,” the commissioner never broke eye contact. Aurelio wasn’t nervous because of what happened. Nervous wasn’t the right word. Things had been tense over the past weeks. Curfew patrols, and often conflicting orders from his boss and his Boss.
“We’re going to take care of this, Liberatore,” the young commissioner of Gotham City wasn’t prone to smiling. Aurelio had patrolled with him more than once, and had been as close to him as he allowed any of the contract agents to get. Aurelio had never seen the man laugh or so much as smile. The rumor had been that he couldn’t control his face to even form a smile. “Keep your head down for a few more days, and things will be fine. The whole city is about to forget that the curfew even happened.”
Gelio must’ve thought himself some kind of Svengali. People had long memories, and this made October the deadliest month for curfew breakers (so far).
Eight people had been killed (or shot and then died in the ambulance or a hospital bed), three of them just in the last week!
Walter Wise was the third guy who had been personally shot by the commissioner in October, and the second one to die. Aurelio had to admit that Johnny Stoic had a way with words, but there would have to be a pretty big break to sweep these latest bodies under the rug.
As he thought about it, Aurelio considered his expectations – he sat down at the commissioner’s desk expecting to get canned, but Gelio made no such implication. The man treated them well enough, but there was something to be said for famiglia.
“Could you please send in Antonelli?”
“Of course, sir,” the brute nodded, and left the commissioner’s office.
Lois Lane left the Gotham City Police Department Central District Headquarters with pages full of notes from a commissioner who had all of the obvious narcissism of a politician, and all of the vision of a recently radicalized labor organizer.
She understood how someone would find that charismatic (even if she personally didn’t). Lois had to admit that he made Gotham sound like a place with a bright future ahead of it, and she hadn’t felt that way since she had first come to the city on field trips in grade school.
Metropolis was unquestionably the better of the two cities, which didn’t feel like a fair comparison. Gotham’s motto went so far as to acknowledge this. Quod in urbe umbra suspectus Olympum translated to something like “What is this city in the shadow of Olympus?”
Even giving Gotham her very own resident god, the motto was more true now than ever.
The interview with Gelio was too much of a puff piece, and Valley was whacky enough that Perry would never run the piece, but mashing the two together was probably newsworthy, enough, and the Voice would pay her her standard rate for a thousand words and a byline.
Lois breathed in the comparably fresh air of the city streets, worrying that the smell of Jean-Paul Valley would never leave her nostrils.
I don’t know Batman, Lois thought as she rounded the corner toward the Gotham Voice building, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that that fella isn’t a super human.
At the reception desk, Lois Lane produced her credential and got into the elevator.
“Four please,” she said to the elevator operator. She needed to get to a good typewriter, and Vicki would have some nip bottles of gin in her desk drawer.
Mayor Basil “Clayface” Karlo hadn’t slept well. Not knowing the disposition of Falcone’s illegals was a source of major stress, and ‘Face had half a mind to cancel the evening’s debate.
The mayor anxiously swapped between neckties, needing to prep for the press conference that he’d be leading on the steps of City Hall in less than an hour. He had his talking points, but he knew that Commissioner Gelio was likely to upstage him.
In any case, it would be a big win for him, and there wouldn’t be a better day to hold the debate than today: Ending the curfew and the manhunt for a dangerous child-killer would be the crowbar he could use to bludgeon Grayson.
By the time he made it to his office, it was 7:30am, and the morning edition of the paper was folded on his desk. Back when he worked as an actor, his pals always told him not to read any of your own coverage, and at this point, the mayor thought of reading the story like a jinx. The picture of Valley didn’t do justice to the man’s monstrous size, but you could practically smell him through the image. It was appropriately haunting.
And now, he’d get to deal with the press on his terms. In the twenty two hours since his police commissioner had arrested the Batman, Mayor Basil Karlo had not taken any requests for interviews, aside from a single sentence to the reporter working on the story, and his secretary had been unrepentantly telling callers that he was out of the office.
So Basil was unsurprisingly jumpy when the intercom on his desk blared to life. It was Dorothy telling him she had Carmine Falcone on the line.
“Put him through, Dorothy.”
Dorothy connected the call, and Basil hoped that she knew that this was not a call she for which she could stay on.
Carmine wasted no time with a flurry of questions and thoughts and expectations. And Basil simply listened.
“I can’t give specifics just yet, Carm, but, yes, we have him in custody. Yes. Batman. The Batman.” the mayor said into the phone. “He’s a little uh, Carm? Carmine?“
Without another word, the line was dead, and Mayor Karlo stared at the handset.
Smoke billowed out of the building, filling the night sky with black clouds. A pair of black boots ground against the gravel on the roof, and a rebreather was whipped from belt to face in a single motion.
The Batman dropped in through the skylight counting off heartbeats, and stood low below the smoke line.
He laid a coughing child soaked in tears over his shoulder. The kid didn’t look badly hurt, but he was red with first and second degree burns.
The Bat stepped to the window with the collapsed fire escape and began working it open. He tried not to imagine the outcome of just breaking the glass with a child slung over his shoulder, and wondered if the kid’s mother had the insurance coverage she would need.
The curfew allowed for the fire to not be quickly attended. That meant that Batman would be able to talk to the mother, and direct her toward resources she would need.
I’ll leave an envelope of cash at the shelter for her, he resolved. Hopefully she’ll come in for it.
He manually deployed the cable of his grappling hook, winding it around a floor radiator, and then his free arm, and leapt from the window, rappelling down the wall to the street below. Batman stepped toward the child’s mother handing the hacking toddler to a weeping mother. He calmly whispered the information about the shelter to her, assuring her that after she left the hospital, there would be a bed available for her and her son for as long as they needed it.
Batman stepped out of the glow of the burning building, and into the darkness of an alley.
– – – –
Steam billowed out of the shower, filling the bathroom with dense fog. A pair of bare feet slapped against the polished stone floors, and a white towel was whipped from waist to clothesline in a single motion.
Dick Grayson dropped to the floor counting off pushups out loud, and stood again when he’d reached fifty.
He laid a washrag soaked in cold water over the scar that Superman had burned into him. It didn’t quite hurt anymore, but it got red and angry whenever hot water hit it.
The boy wonder stepped into the shower and began working a bar of soap into a lather. He tried to imagine possible outcomes of the evening’s debate, and wondered if it would garner the kind of newspaper coverage he was hoping for.
The curfew meant that the debate would only be attended by press which meant Dick wouldn’t have the advantage of playing off the crowd.
Neither will Karlo, though, he reflected, and he’s a professional performer, too.
Dick considered how Barbara Gordon refused to relax, and she took too long to warm up to people, and she wagged her finger at him a lot, but Dick was certain that they’d hired the right campaign manager. She was an incredibly fast study, and, she had an innate understanding of the way of thinking that Al and Bruce had drilled into him. Even if she didn’t know she always understood. She argued well, and made legitimate challenges to Dick’s way of thinking on almost every vector (except police, but nobody’s perfect). If Dick was ready, it was in no small part because Barbara never underestimated Karlo. She compelled him to consider angles he otherwise wouldn’t.
Dick stepped out of the shower and onto the floor of the bathroom.