graphic violence against the mentally ill • violent death
“Sometimes you make up your mind about something without knowing why, and your decision persists by the power of inertia. Every year it gets harder to change.“Milan KundeRA • THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING
TOP COP GELIO: “BATMAN IN CUSTODY”
By Lois Lane
Nov. 1 – (GOTHAM) Commissioner Yiannis “Johnny” Gelio, the top cop at Gotham City’s Police Department, claims to have the so-called “superhuman” vigilante and alleged child-killer known as The Batman in custody, according to an exclusive interview granted to this reporter.
“Today, Gotham City becomes the first city in the world to have peacefully apprehended a superhuman,” Gelio said. “The costumed criminal has terrorized our citizens long enough. We have the Batman in custody.”
But Gothamites might want more than an arrest of the alleged criminal. Residents of Gotham have been toiling under a curfew which was unyielding in its rigidity, and led to the deaths of at seven people at the hands of Gotham Police officers and their curfew enforcement agents in October alone.
Many of those officers under Commissioner Gelio’s leadership, say that they are less overworked or burdened with responsibilities that should fall to emergency medical services or the fire department. The commissioner said he believes that his officers and contract “agents” are adjusting well to a fully-resourced and well-staffed police department.
“The commissioner has given us everything we need to be successful,” said Lieutenant James Gordon, the leader of the Super Human Taskforce that apprehended Batman. “According to the rank and file, this is a first. It’s giving us room to breathe. Say what you want about the commissioner, but he has fought for the men and women who protect this city.”
Gelio himself is hopeful for the outlook of Gotham City, and even with Gotham’s history, the commissioner paints a bright picture for the city’s future.
That picture includes the policies that he has championed, such as the Costumed Actor Prosecution for Extralegal Enforcement, or CAPE Act that he championed in October, which criminalizes and provides stiffer penalties for costumed vigilantes, regardless of their perceived benefit.
It was this law that led to Wednesday morning’s arrest, and the commissioner remains optimistic that the individual in custody, Jean-Paul Valley, will allow the city to end the curfew and restore the trust between police and communities.
Mr. Valley, whose identity could not be verified, has lived as a tramp for at least the last six months, with verified accounts of interactions with Valley from multiple homeless eyewitnesses throughout Gotham. Valley displays symptoms of mental dysfunctions, though he has not been formally diagnosed, and claims to have been born in a village in Northern France in the year 1412.
The village, Vosges, is alleged to be the birthplace of Joan of Arc, the 15th century martyr who was canonized into sainthood just fourteen years ago. While Valley cannot verify any such origin, there are also no birth or military records in New Jersey of anyone named Jean-Paul Valley. This reporter attempted to speak with Valley in French, but he did not respond to even simple questions.
Mr. Valley said that he signed a confession for the murder of six different boys, all adolescent, in a series of mysterious crimes referred to as the “Peter Pan killings,” crimes that led to the appointment of Commissioner Gelio and subsequently, the curfew in late summer.
“They needed to be sent to heaven before they lost their innocence,” Valley said. “This is a mission that will endure. There have been others before me, and there will be others after I am gone.” Valley provided no additional explanation to his chilling remarks and remained silent for the remainder of the interview.
“This curfew has been a burden on every man, woman, and child in Gotham City,” said Mayor Basil Karlo. “I thank Commissioner Gelio for his leadership through this tribulation, and am pleased to announce that we will be, effective immediately, lifting the curfew.”
The end of the curfew and arrest and confession of Valley come at a very politically convenient time for Mayor Karlo, a candidate for re-election in next week’s municipal vote. The mayor is scheduled to participate in the only candidate forum of the election cycle tonight, at the Martha’s Crossing Amphitheater on the campus of Gotham Harbor College. The Mayor declined to comment on the timing of these events. [CONTINUED ON PG. 3, “BATMAN”]
Alfred Pennyworth took the silver tray containing the morning’s papers from Misses Ella Worthing, and thanked her, pushing open the door to his favorite room in the house. The family portrait above the mantel was an oil painting of Alfred, Bruce, and Dick, but in a cutout at the center of bookshelves on the opposite wall, remained a smiling family portrait of Thomas, Martha, and Bruce Wayne.
Alfred believed that he’d beaten the younger man to the library, but Bruce was dragging his finger across a page of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.
“Listen to this,” Bruce said, not looking up. “‘They were trying to save their souls- and who but a fool could fail to see that all that was the matter with their souls was that they had not been able to get a decent existence for their bodies?’ It is a miracle that this book didn’t spark a Revolution by itself.”
“It saved lives, Mr. Bruce,” Al said. “Surely more than a Revolution would have cost, but probably fewer than a Revolution could’ve saved, in time. But it is unequivocally better for public health that we no longer eat diseased sausages and tubercular beef.”
“The Voice and The Planet,” Alfred offered the folded papers to Bruce, setting the tray down on a small table, and took a sip of his black coffee.
“Do you think he’s ready, Alfred? Dick, I mean,” Bruce asked, unfolding the morning edition of The Gotham Voice, and placing his copy of The Daily Planet on the ground next to him.
“Age and experience make cynics of all of us,” Alfred said, cracking a modest smile. “Mayor is a job for an optimist.”
Bruce closed his eyes and nodded without a word.
“But the cynic in me wonders,” Alfred continued after a beat, “is Gotham ready for Mister Dick?”
Bruce chuckled at that, and Alfred took a seat in the chair facing Bruce’s. Each man removed a pen from his shirt pocket, and silently began to read the front page of The Gotham Voice.
Their process was so similar that to an observer, it would appear choreographed.
First, a scan of the articles for specific headlines, relating to the debate, the curfew, or, in this case, the Batman. Then, underlining or circling relevant passages and quotes, scratching notes into the whit space between columns, murmuring or nodding thoughts quietly as they read something that bore reflection.
And so it was that father and son, within moments of each other, refolded their newspapers, placed them on their laps, and looked up at one another.
Alfred was a man who wasn’t often at a loss for words, but, as Bruce opened and closed his mouth without actually saying anything, Al only managed to say:
“Well ain’t that something?”
There were easily more than a hundred and fifty people in the street immediately in front of the steps of Gotham City Hall.
Some of them, unquestionably hoped to get a glimpse of the urban legend Batman, some wanted to hear directly from the mayor that the curfew was ending, and some were just victims of the human predisposition to gathering in crowds (regardless of whether you know why you are gathering in a crowd).
But many of them – about fifty if Johnny recalled correctly – were there at his request. There was no reason to leave the recognition that the Gotham City Police Department deserved go without the requisite fanfare. This would be a public relations victory for the mayor, for the department, and for Johnny. And if it couldn’t happen organically, Johnny would put his thumb on the scale like he had with Ms. Lane.
He hadn’t planned on her just transcribing their interview from last night, in fact he was certain she wouldn’t, but he’d said enough to give her the quotes she would need for a story about the visionary young police commissioner who supported his officers and gave them the resources they needed to claim victory against the oppression of a terrorist. By the end of it all, Valley was as good as in the chair for his crimes, and Johnny wasn’t just a hero, but a champion for mankind’s ability to rise to any challenge.
And all it had cost him was giving the exclusive to a reporter who would probably win the Pulitzer this year for her interview with Earth’s first superhuman.
Johnny didn’t like playing games, he liked setting up the board so that any sequence of moves led to a victory for him.
In Gotham, a culture of distrust in the media meant that the citizens would second guess even a world-famous reporter writing for the local paper of record. The city’s reputation for violent crime made it easier to show the need to win an arms race with criminals and get his department the resources they needed. Between the curfew and residents’ concerns about a supernatural serial killer, a precipitous drop in violence was all but inevitable. And the honey on the baklava was a lack of community faith in policing, which paved the way for better-than-average cops like Gordon to deflect from the more aggressive approach that Johnny knew the city needed.
Things didn’t always line up perfectly like they had in Gotham, but knowing what “perfect” looked like and being first in line to be a part of it was the kind of opportunism that could make Gelio a household name.
Commissioner Johnny Gelio stood patiently. Straight-faced, he betrayed no emotion in his dress uniform, not a crease, pin, epaulet, or pleat out of place. Behind the stoic façade, he gleefully pulled his tongue across the back of his teeth.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of Gotham City, we have lived in fear, and in darkness for too long. Because we are Gothamites, because we are a city built on big ideas and even bigger ideals, we value our humanity above all else. But importantly, we value one another, because that is what differentiates humanity from humans. We have cooperated to be more tolerant and understanding of one another, working together to identify and…” Karlo pushed a pair of reading glasses up on the bridge of his nose. “…apprehend the individual responsible for the deaths of our sons. We stood firm, rejecting the idea that any price could be equal in value to human life!
“We have given up so much in these last months; for safety, we made the necessary bargain of sacrificing a degree of freedom.” Basil paused here, for too long, and Johnny almost expected to hear hissing at the idea. “It was something our forefathers warned us against. It’s why we had great minds toiling on how to best negotiate that bargain, how to ensure that power was not abused, and that there was a horizon and that we would all again be able to see the first rays of morning light emerge from behind that horizon. Because people – human people – need the sun. Just as in the ‘Star Spang’led Banner,’ ‘Dawn’s Early Light’ is a quintessential part of who we are, and in Gotham, Humanity Comes First.”
Applause and scattered but enthusiastic cheers erupted throughout the gathered masses.
“Today is that sunrise. Today, we get it all back. Earlier this year, we became the first city in America to have a woman detective. And detective Selina Kyle is a bona fide hero! She will be the first in what I am sure will be a rich tradition of women proving that their competence and aptitude more than makes up for any difference between them and their male counterparts!
“Just last month, we became the first city in the world to make a law regulating these so-called supermen because in Gotham, we believe Humanity Comes First.”
A roar of affirmation punctuated the mayor’s words, and even Johnny thrust his hands together to show support.
“I am proud to announce that yesterday, in another first, Gotham City became the first police department in history to peacefully and professionally apprehend and contain a superman. With the news of multiple cases concerning Metropolis’ Superman being heard in the United States Supreme Court, we know Gotham has made ourselves humanity’s vanguard, challenging and, in fact, defeating any notion that mankind is not our Creator’s greatest and most prized and beloved achievement.
“It is with that same spirit that I introduce to you one of Gotham’s greatest achievements. A champion for Humanity, and, in my humble opinion, one of our most successful sons –“
The mayor was interrupted by an even louder ovation than before, one that he obviously hadn’t expected, which hadn’t come at one of his poorly-planned applause breaks.
“Yes,” the mayor chuckled, sharing a wide smile and a grateful wave. “Yes, we feel the same. Yes. If Gotham is the vanguard of humanity, then Gotham’s men and woman in uniform are the spear. And it is my pleasure to introduce to you, the hero who is, by all measures, the tip of humanity’s spear – Commissioner Johnny Gelio!”
Johnny’s men in the crowd started whooping and clapping, and rhythmically stomping their feet. And it was more than his “plants,” others joined the chants and cheers and hollering in kind.
“Today,” Johnny began. His tone was even and cool, but he set both hands on the lectern and gripped the sides with the knuckle-whitening ferocity of a latter-day Jonathan Edwards delivering unto the assembly a Fourth Great Awakening; one that would free humanity from Gods altogether. “I want to thank the people of Gotham for their patience, their understanding, and their assistance through these dark times. As Mayor Karlo said, we have worked together to put Humanity above any assertion that there is something better than us. Today, I am in the debt of the brilliant, decisive, and brave people of Gotham City. I want to thank Detective Selina Kyle for her exceptional bravery and initiative,” here Johnny stopped, raising both of his hands to spur cheers for Detective Kyle, which came in turn. “Her willingness to put herself in harm’s way in the name of protecting this city and the people who call it home cannot be questioned.”
More raucous cheers, from plants and others alike.
“I want to thank Lieutenant James Gordon for his leadership in assembling what would become the Super Human Task Force, which will surely be a model for police across the country.”
Cheers rang out at the mention of Gordon, and at the mention of the department and the standards it was setting for a world where demigods walk among us.
“Our esteemed mayor hasn’t mentioned this, and I thank him for giving me the honor. I’m sure you’ve read it,” Johnny allowed his mouth to play at a grin. “In fact, I’m sure this is why many of you are here today: Effective immediately, the curfew is ended.”
Cheers sprang from the crowd, and Johnny waited for them to die down organically, making no overtures to wanting to interrupt the acclaim.
And in the tumult of the latest round of applause, a man in a black overcoat and hat took his leave.
Carmine “The Roman” Falcone was in one of his cars, being driven away from his estate in Pinewood Barrens within minutes of hanging up the phone.
To The Roman, taking matters into his own hands was a surefire way to get things done, and the arrest of the murderous freak was just more supporting evidence. Henshaw Allied had been a good investment, and could continue to serve as a formless business entity, providing a legitimizing front for almost any need. He could keep it legitimate because of the systems he’d set up to run the business, regardless of its purpose.
A direct intervention from him could stop Henshaw Allied from taking an action, but failing that, the shell company would move along whatever course it was on as though everything were completely on the up-and-up. Financing expenses through contracts, investments, and a trust that Falcone had set up through a third party.
Carmine had believed in inertia ever since he’d learned the word for the concept. Allow things to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force: him. That meant nightly, weekly, and monthly phone calls to check in with his people at various levels of his myriad organizations, but it also left him with a number of self-sustaining streams of income which would outlast him and create wealth for his family in Gotham and back home long after he…
Maybe having Silvio killed was short-sighted, Carmine thought.
Today, he would see justice served. And when justice was served to Carmine’s satisfaction, he would make the call to send his people home. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Basil, but Carmine knew the kinds of lengths that cowards would go to to protect themselves.
Already in motion, was a scheme set up to ensure Basil’s victory. But no amount of ballot box stuffing would be a win for ‘Face if Carmine’s madness was allowed to descend upon Gotham.
Falcone exited his car, whispering something to his driver on the way out, and slamming the glossy black door behind him. When he entered the Central District Headquarters his eyes were moist with the brisk morning air, which was a fortunate and relatable truth because his emotions roiled within, and it wouldn’t do for the cops to see a man such as him cry.
“Mr. Falcone,” said an agent who Carmine didn’t recognize. Mister felt so incorrect. He’d been explicit with Piccione’s handler – Italians were a priority, and from the Old Country whenever possible.
The Roman shot the man a look out of the side of his eye; Carmine thought the guy had the asiatic subtleties of a Russian, but he didn’t detect an accent. He put a hand on the agent’s shoulder, and gave him a respectful nod.
The agent said something he couldn’t hear to the officer who was working the front desk, and then turned and beckoned Carmine to follow him.
Falcone was acutely aware of the odd lighting. It cast a desaturating hue onto everything, making it look like an old penny pulp cover that had been washed out from sitting in the sun for months.
The agent opened a metal door, and they descended concrete stairs into a basement hall. The sign to the right of a very conspicuously different door covered the words “Evidence II” with masking tape, onto which was written “SHED” in black block letters.
A keychain jangled in a deadbolt, and SHED was opened. This damp-looking blue-hued cavern of a room was what became of Carmine’s donation to the Gotham Police Benevolent Society. A dull, windowless cube dominated his view, and Carmine Falcone marched toward it, outpacing the agent who’d been escorting him.
The man standing guard at the door saw Carmine and looked him in his eye, stepping in front of the door, and unlocking the various latches and bolts which housed a shackled monster, an armed guard, and a telephone.
“Signore,” said the guard, pulling the door open, and flooding Carmine’s olfactory senses with the high ammonia scent of stale piss and the recognizable body odor of an opium user. Falcone dropped his overcoat and hat on the ground outside the door, not wanting to ruin them with what seemed like a very enduring odor.
Entering the cell, he cast a disgusted look at the guard within the box, not understanding how he managed to maintain his watch without so much as a mask. The guard pulled his billy club off of the loop on his waist, and set it on the floor. The dull thud of metal on metal suggested to Carmine that the club was, like the room he stood in, made of lead.
“The phone, if you need us,” said the guard, and he exited the room without making eye contact, closing the door behind a man who was pulling a handkerchief around his face and tying it into a makeshift mask.
A gaunt but muscular invalid sat at a table that was fastened to the ground in the center of the room, and the The Roman heard the bolts click shut behind him. He was shackled into a pair of bracelets that looked a part of the table, and his ankles were likewise restrained at the table’s legs.
He looked like a man who’d survived among the tigers in Kipling’s jungles and had only recently been rescued. He was bandaged and stitched in multiple places, and his filthy, inconsistently-matted blonde hair was tied in a ribbon behind his head.
Carmine wasn’t interested in explaining anything to the man. Strong? Sure, the man looked like a brick shithouse, but you don’t develop the Falcone Crime Family from a collection of numbers runners and bootleggers into a multi-million dollar enterprise by not pressing your advantages.
This monster should suffer, but Carmine could think of better ways to be cathartic. This was about putting a definitive end to unquestionable evil. Carmine owned a judge or two, but there would be no chance for this diavolo to rot in Arkham. It wasn’t worth the risk, and the chair took too long.
Falcone picked up the nightstick, it was cold in his hand, and heavy.
“Look at me you piece of shit,” Carmine commanded, but the man just coughed.
Carmine took a step forward. A rush of air. A spatter of red. A thunk of a man’s head falling dead onto a lead table.
Falcone dropped the club on the floor with a clang, and picked up the phone.
“I’m done in here,” he said, and put down the receiver.
The door was unsecured, and it opened to two men running in, and Carmine emerged feeling triumphant.
The commissioner of the Gotham City Police, Johnny Gelio, stood in the blue-hued room with a face that betrayed no emotion.
“Thank you, Johnny,” Carmine said sincerely. “In my book, you’re as revered as any made man.” The Roman opened his arms as if preparing to hug the commissioner. “I’ve told my guys. Anything you need, it’s yours Johnny. Anything. And tell ‘Face that I took care of that thing for him.”
“Carmine,” Johnny began, two agents tackling the former crime boss of Gotham City. “Falcone, you are under arrest for the murder of Jean-Paul Valley, aka The Batman.”
Carmine could taste blood in his mouth. The tears in his eyes were blinding. He was sure his nose was broken from the rough takedown. The commissioner stepped toward him, then squatted low. The man was a blurry Pinocchio, all points and twiggy, dangling limbs. All stuffed into a dress uniform.
“No, Carmine, thank you.”
“You fucking idiot,” Carmine spat blood onto the floor onto Johnny’s shiny leather shoes. “You have no ide–“
The world went black.