graphic violence • gun violence • violent death
“The wretches will suffer punishment and will shortly meet the end which they deserve“Nero Claudius Caesar
Oedipus In Exile
It was unseasonably warm for November, and thunder crashed in the night sky of Gotham City.
Votes were cast amid gunfire and the violent competition for territory by a fractured mob family.
Mayor Basil Karlo was re-elected in a curious (but only if you had the luxury of thinking about it for more than five minutes) landslide.
Each faction of Carmine Falcone’s organization had laid claim to one of Gotham’s five constituent islets, bolstered by a sudden crush of migrant mercenaries; the very same mercenaries who killed twenty-eight people – including frontrunner Dick Grayson – and injured more than a hundred at the candidates’ forum on November 1st.
The people of Gotham stayed indoors for safety unless they absolutely had to go out, and Johnny Gelio, the commissioner of police, was in front of council almost daily trying to gin up new money for his “critically underresourced” police department.
The Batman had torn Gotham City apart looking for Carmine “The Roman” Falcone. After a series of interviews, bribes, and bruised knuckles, he learned about a repurposed evidence locker in subbasement of the Gotham City Police Department Central District Headquarters.
With officers and henchmen alike assigned to “peacekeeping duties” across Gotham, SHED (the superhuman entry, interrogation, and detention facility) was not being guarded. Without a proper superhuman to be contained within, and with the Batman dead at Falcone’s hands, the commissioner was overconfident that simple security measures would keep the Roman contained.
Carmine “The Roman” Falcone didn’t have super powers. Using S.H.E.D. to hold him had been an order given by Commissioner Gelio, because The Roman did have access to incredible attorneys, and near-limitless money to fund bribes and the types of scoundrels who could orchestrate a prison break.
A “flight risk,” which was ironic since any “guilty” verdict would, at this point, be likely to result in a deportation.
So The Roman sat, for now, and pondered. He was certain there was a standing order to serve a writ of habeas corpus to the Gotham Police and police departments in the ten closest major cities if he didn’t check in by Friday, that order didn’t seem to be compelling any of the judges in Gotham to act.
The lights flickered, joined by a tonal change in the noisy electrical hum of his cell. Carmine wrinkled his nose and pushed the tray of hours-old “meatloaf” away.
The whole room smelled like piss, and the lack of a proper toilet meant choosing a corner to make that smell even worse. Five days in this hole.
Left alone after (if his watch was still keeping good time), 9:00pm every night.
The lights flickered again, and then, went out. Carmine carefully felt his way through the pitch black room over to the door, hoping to see if this was a blackout for just the interior of the cell, or the entirety of SHED. The door was locked, per usual, and the legitimate businessman got down on his hands and knees to inspect the window through which his food was served. It was jammed shut, but that that stopped him from trying to slide it open.
Carmine grunted in the darkness, and as he made to pull himself up on the door handle, it turned, slipping from his hands. Falcone fell forward to brace himself, and the hard floor stung his palms.
The door was heavy. Thick steel, lined in lead, then sealed with lead sheets, and painted with lead paint. It took effort to open. And in the darkness, something did.
When the lights flickered again, it was only for a second, and a terrifying, blacker-than-black shape remained as light flooded the rest of the room.
The Roman was joined by The Devil.
The lock on the door into SHED would be easy enough to pick, and as luck would have it, the breaker box was in an unlocked utility closet. Batman reached into one of the pouches on his belt, and pulled out the deconstructed fuse. A sliver of lead coated in rubber, with the rubber burned mostly away would interfere with the connection, creating a flickering effect. It would eventually blow the fuse, but for now, it would create the atmosphere he needed to get into Falcone’s head.
The caped crusader picked the lock with little effort as the lights flickered for the first time. The interior of the room was cold and smelled like metal and human waste – the salt of sweat, the ammonia of urine, and the…sulfur of excrement.
An abandoned card game waited for its players on the table to his left, and the cell meant to hold superhumans stood like Liberty’s plinth in the center of the facility.
Whoever designed this room had nowhere near the level of paranoia required to contain a god; the lock to the cell was a simple knob lock – not even a deadbolt.
When the lights flickered again, Batman pushed the door open.
“You’re supposed to be dead!” the old man was surprisingly calm for seeing what he believed to be a corpse standing in front of him.
Batman lurched forward, and Falcone took a fearful step back, reaching for a holster that wasn’t on his vest; and the Dark Knight stopped short of what he guessed was Falcone’s area of effective reach.
“We need to talk,” he whispered.
“Looking to finish the job you started with my son…” The Roman’s voice trailed off in a mutter that Batman couldn’t comprehend.
“Answers. How did mayor win in such a landslide?”
“Well I got quite a few questions myself, because if you’re still alive, it would follow that you and the cops must’ve set me up.”
“If I were police, I would be on your payroll.”
Carmine spat at this, but the roiling shadow that constituted the Batman stood silent, waiting for a spoken reply.
“That kid, Dick Grayson? Wayne’s little brother. People liked him just fine, but they didn’t think he would keep them safe. Poor people are stupid. They believe the mayor will keep ‘em safe. When the uh – riot – broke out, it was all the more reason for people to vote for ‘Face,” Falcone exhaled like he was blowing cigarette smoke out of his lungs.
“No. Too many votes. Something was arranged,” Batman’s eyes shifted behind his mask, but Falcone wouldn’t be able to see it. “Karlo’s lost the council. Talk of a federal investigation. Did you help Karlo from in here?”
“Look,” Falcone said, showing the Bat his open, upturned palms. “Maybe I know a little something, but I should’ve been habeas corpus’d the hell outta this hole days ago. You get my lawyer a message, and maybe I can help you.”
“Your lawyer will get the message.”
Carmine paused and sucked his teeth. Trying to appear relaxed, Batman thought after a scan of the man’s body language. He might even be relaxed.
“Basil wanted insurance,” Carmine began, “he’s upside down on a number of volatile investments, and the only currency he has right now is being able to help with permits, award contracts, sweetheart deals. As you know, I’m a legitimate businessman, but back before the Depression? Used to be you could buy a judge. Basil can’t afford no district court or circuit court judge. But an election judge? Sure. Two or three, easy. Town like this? They come pretty cheap.”
“There’s a lot of dead people in Gotham. Fires in every district. Gangs. Your family.”
“A family needs a father. If you can get me outta here, I can get this under control. You took my son from me, you owe me this.”
“I didn’t kill your son. I should kill you for what you did!” An echo of tone and color found its way into Batman’s voice.
Falcone inched back.
“I ain’t no saint, but I-I can fix this,” Falcone rolled his shoulders, straightening his posture into something resembling fearlessness. “Anyhow, I know a lotta guys who say you don’t kill an–“
“I haven’t killed. Doesn’t mean I won’t.”
The color drained out of the Roman’s face, and the lights flickered, then went dark.
A whisper, “But I’m not going to kill you, Carmine. Not tonight.”
Carmine could feel the warmth leave his face. The lights flickered, then went dark.
“But I’m not going to kill you, Carmine. Not tonight”
Any sign of emotion in the Batman’s voice was gone just as quickly as the light, and if he was supposed to feel relief, it wasn’t enough.
“Hello?” Carmine called out, but he didn’t feel Batman in the room anymore.
“What about my lawyer? Hello?”
The only light was distant and soft. Moonlight from the hallway?
Moonlight from the hallway?
The door to his cell was still open, and so was the door to SHED.
Carmine gathered himself up and walked through the open door to the hallway, following a trail of cool grey fog.
Up a cement staircase, like the one he’d descended when he was originally put into this hole.
The fog grew thicker as he climbed, and he found himself covering his mouth, trying to avoid breathing in too much of the miasma. Carmine could make out one person in a Gotham Police uniform with a carpenter’s respirator strapped to his face laying on his stomach. Pieces of a service pistol lay disassembled on the ground in front of him.
The soft glow of Gotham’s light pollution refracted throughout the harshly lit district headquarters, and eventually, Carmine found his way to a side door where he pushed a brass bar, opening it to fresh air.
And a half dozen reporters shouldering their way toward him.
A black car was waiting by the curb – and Carmine’s driver leaned against the door, smoking a cigarette.
“Mr. Falcone! How long have the police been providing you with protection?”
“Mr. Falcone! What was the nature of your arrangement with Gotham Police Department and the Commissioner?”
A dark haired, well-built man cut through the flock of press. He wore thick lens glasses, and Carmine was sure he recognized the guy from somewhere.
The man held out his hand, snatching Carmine’s and leading him to the waiting car.
Reporters attempted to get answers for questions as they got into the waiting vehicle. The driver continued to enjoy his cigarette with patience, as if he had nowhere to go, and the press were shoo’d with a resentful-sounding “no comment!”
A smile tore across Carmine’s face. He recognized Salvatore’s voice, even if the phony mustache and thick glasses managed to make him look unfamiliar. Sal Maroni pushed the Roman into the car without closing the door, and briskly circled the vehicle, entering through the driver’s side rear door, and slamming it shut.
Sal wore a scowl as he tossed the glasses to the floor, blinking hard to adjust his eyes.
“Maroni! You handsome bastard! You were always my best cap–“
“Best rat poison’s always been lead,” The man pulled a revolver – a snubnose Detective Special – and shot Falcone three times in the stomach. “This breaks my heart Carm,” said the man with the gun, pulling the sputtering, choking businessman’s mouth down over the weapon as blood flowed forth from his lips.
“I swear!” Carmine tried to choke out, but he found it hard to enunciate with the burning .38 in his mouth.
Sal pulled the trigger once more, sending bits of bone and viscera into the air behind the Roman. A reporter was spattered, dotting his face and collar in crimson.
The assassin pushed Falcone’s corpse out of the car and into the gutter and pulled the door closed with a slam, startling even the bravest among the reporters who were struggling to regain some level of courage after the shots were fired.
The driver calmly took another drag of his cigarette, got into the car, and drove off into the Gotham night.
Batman winced at the sound of the gunshots, but he needed to be elsewhere.
He mounted a black motorcycle near the mouth of an alley about a half a block from the Gotham Police Department.
Tonight was unseasonably warm for November, and rain started falling in great sheets onto the streets of his fallen city.