“Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy then gives them the drugs to take away their unhappiness. Science fiction is already happening to some extent in our own society. Instead of removing the conditions that make people depressed society gives them drugs. In effect drugs are a means of modifying an individual’s internal state in such a way as to enable him to tolerate social conditions that he would otherwise find intolerable.”


New Jersey Estate Planning and Probate Continuing Legal Education

Over the past month, things had become suspiciously quiet in Gotham.

The mob had coalesced around someone, and Johnny Gelio, commissioner of the Gotham City Police Department, had no leads. There weren’t enough hours in a day, and he found himself more irritable. 

He wasn’t getting the sleep he needed. He’d fallen asleep at his desk last night, and almost missed this appointment with his physician. Sitting in the waiting room, he considered recent developments.

Fifteen agents, all of Italian descent, had left Henshaw Allied to work “private security” elsewhere in Gotham, all without prior notice. There were still Italian agents, of course, but that was five percent of his extra-budgetary workforce just vanished like wisps of fog.

His “incidentals” check – the money that Henshaw had been issuing him monthly had stopped coming altogether. Johnny had anticipated that this would happen much sooner, originally thinking it would happen after Carmine’s arrest, and then believing it would happen after Carmine’s assassination. Johnny definitely didn’t mind the extra money, but he insisted of himself that he not become acclimated to any lifestyle choices that necessitated the funds. 

Johnny knew that he would, if asked, cleverly craft and disseminate the narrative that it was a personal recusal of these checks, to avoid the appearance of impropriety, and that he never took incidentals payments from Henshaw unless they were to cover expenses for him or the department in the regular course of work. It was, strictly speaking, the truth, and would hold up to casual scrutiny.

There’s a new piece on the board, he thought. You’ll need to do more to engender loyalty among your people.

If he lost every Italian man from Henshaw, that would be more than forty percent of the workforce, but, as far as he could tell, the agents were still being paid. Formally converting them to city employees wouldn’t be cheap, but it could be done; all that was needed was to stoke some of the fires of civil unrest among the elected officials.

Dick Grayson had said in a speech once “The police say they’re waging a war on crime, but in such a war, who is the enemy?” It was a childish, overly-optimistic thought, but Johnny did like the rhetorical ring of “war on crime,” and thought it painted exactly the correct picture of his vision.

In the war on crime, Johnny reflected, the enemy combatant is the criminal, of course. It would stand to reason that if you are not committing crimes or aiding a criminal, you have nothing at all to fear.

“Mr. Gelio?” The voice of the nurse punctuated Johnny’s new resolution. “We’re ready for you now.”

Hardly, Johnny thought.


Silvio Falcone was known as “Roman Scionis,” to most people outside of the Seven Seats of the Mandatum, but he preferred to style himself as Black Mask. Levels upon levels of obfuscation.

He had been meticulous and patient, but Black Mask was more passion than politics. He’d waited six years, and wouldn’t allow the city – to which he was the rightful heir – to fall off of its precarious perch into a place fully subjugated by the effete mayor and his arrogant policeman. His brother Carmine had owned the mayor just as his father Vincenzo had before that. Roman was a word of power in Gotham City, even if the men who wore it had betrayed him, and it was his now, and they were too dead to do anything about it.

The first stage of his plan was complete: with Maroni’s treaty solidified and the territories divided in a way that most of the Seats could be happy with, he could redirect men from his brother’s organization to work private security for the Seats and underbosses of the Mandatum, and Henshaw Allied would be paid by the families to do so. A stream of revenue that made the other Seats dependent on him, that had the poetic distinction of kneecapping the commissioner.

A commissioner who, in Black Mask’s estimation, would be losing a substantial percentage of his income, and, given the reorganization of the families in Gotham, the commissioner would be losing access along with it.

And access was one of the few currencies in which somebody like Basil Karlo could trade. A police force with rapid attrition would blemish the commissioner’s golden boy reputation (and if Karlo saw that Gelio’s name and title didn’t give him pull in the city any longer, he might sack him altogether), adding final insult before fatal injury.

There was the matter of this Batman; and Black Mask would’ve dismissed it out of hand if people he trusted hadn’t described the vigilante similarly, on separate occasions, from allegedly personal encounters. His own brother had become obsessed with the legend, if the stories could be believed.

Of course, he hadn’t seen the bat with his own eyes. Trust, but verify, he thought. 

But first, Black Mask needed to build his own legend.


“This raises questions,” Bruce handed the newspaper to Alfred, folded to the Public Announcements page.

“To whom it may concern,” Al began aloud, then traced the newsprint with his finger, rapidly muttering the words just under his breath:

Let this serve the as the public assertion of an estate claim: The law offices of Haden, Ellis, and Langford, representing a certain client, hereby state the following for the public record: Our client, being first duly sworn, deposes and says:
1. That he or she is the next of kin of Carmine Falcone, who died on or about the 7 day of November, 1934.  
2. That the decedent did not leave a surviving spouse      3. That no personal representative has been appointed for the decedent’s estate in this state or elsewhere and no application for such an appointment is pending in this state or elsewhere.     
4. That this affidavit is made in support of our client’s request for the release of the decedent’s estate and medical records, including autopsy and police reports.      Further, your affiant sayeth naught.

“You mentioned that it seemed that someone was living in the Falcone home, Mister Bruce,” Al said after a time. “Next of kin, though? Who?”

“It could be anyone with even a fairly distant blood relation,” Bruce answered. “New Jersey inheritance order is spouse, children, parents, grandparents, descendants of grandparents, step children. I don’t know that Falcone had any living children who would be aware that they were his, but it would be impossible to guess whether a cousin or second cousin came into the city before the forum. And Haden, Ellis, and Langford’s ‘client’ obviously wants to be kept anonymous.”

“Should I prepare the suit, Mister Bruce?”

Bruce Wayne rolled his shoulders and cracked his bruised knuckles.

“And Bruce,” Alfred paused. “Not all great things come from great pain. Sometimes it’s love. Not everything is a sacrifice.”


“This is typically used to treat congestion, and you can get more of these without a prescription at any drugstore,” said the doctor, handing Johnny the small metal cylinder. “But the company behind these inhalers is running trials on something called Benzedrine Sulfate, and I think you’d be a good candidate.”

“Why me?” Johnny asked, inspecting the vial of colorful pills. 

“You said you’ve had some trouble with fatigue, and these are used to treat narcolepsy. Off-label, people have told me about an increase in their sense of focus and well-being.”

“Have you tried them?”

“I have – via injection, actually, but I take the pills daily now. It’s done quite a lot to optimize my practice.”

 “Optimize, huh?” Johnny rattled the bottle next to his ear, but wasn’t exactly sure why. “So how many of these do I need to take?”


Jeremy Tetch sat in a six by eight prison cell, and his attorney, a smart, talkative woman named Rachel Dawes who had been paid with money from Project ALICE’s wealthiest benefactors, sat across from him on a collapsible camping chair.

“Mr. Tetch, are you listening?” She asked, suddenly, and Jeremy noticed that he had been staring back and forth between her handbag, and the book he’d been reading, which lay face down and open on his humble cot. “The district attorney’s office is going to try to get the chair for you!”

He looked up, not knowing exactly what to do with his hands, rubbing them together nervously, and feeling the dank, heavy air of the penitentiary lay stagnant on his naked head. The prison issued hats, of course, for recreational time in the yard, but they were all far too overlarge and clumsy for him, like his grandmother’s gardening hat.

“Yes, yes, I’m glad they found a chair for you, Miss Dawes – Were you able to bring my…my hat?”

The attorney sighed, handing Jeremy the patched, fraying porkpie hat.

“I can’t promise they won’t confiscate this, Mr. Tetch.“

“Thank you, and please, Miss Dawes,” Jeremy placed the hat on his head, smiled to himself, and then removed it (because you mustn’t be rude in the presence of a professional, they were indoors, after all!) and turned the brim in his hands like a steering wheel. “Call me Jeremy. You were saying?”

“The electric chair, Jeremy. The death penalty.”

“Oh my,” Jeremy felt a warmth in himself. Almost a calmness at the information. “Well, what has become of young Pockets? I do hope he’s alright.”

“I don’t think–“

“–Then you shouldn’t talk,” Jeremy cut in, then blushed and hastily apologized. “I’m sorry, I’ve just…force of habit. Please go on.”

“I don’t believe that there’s a coherent defense. And the D.A. is asserting to the Judge that your insistence on this exonerating orphan who, by all accounts, has either fled the city, doesn’t exist, or is dead, should be taken as evidence of a victim who the police didn’t find.”

“No, no, that won’t do. Pockets isn’t a victim. He’s a boy I assisted. He would verify this, of course!”

“Mr. Tetch – Jeremy – I am beginning to suspect that we may have to consider alternatives.”

“Alternatives?” Jeremy noticed a darkness in the woman’s tone. A voice like hopelessness.

“Understand that I mean this with great care, but perhaps we could we could have you evaluated…for Arkham.”

“Arkham?!” Jeremy gasped. “I could never, Miss Dawes, they’re all mad there.”

Rachel Dawes sighed, and Jeremy thought she looked quite frustrated.

“The Pennyworth Foundation has made significant contributions to Arkham, you know. They’ve made the property beautiful, with topiaries and old trees surrounding the place. You’d have more freedom to walk about the campus and more books to read.”

“Talk to the children. They’ll know where to find Pockets. He’ll turn up. He always does,” Jeremy set his hat down beside him on his cot, and placed the open book to his lap. Jeremy’s smile faded, rather suddenly, and his eyes became quite moist, most unexpectedly. He looked at his young attorney, and said somberly: “I don’t wish to die, Miss Dawes. But I must insist, I would never allow harm to come to a child. But no, no, I don’t wish to die.”

Rachel stood, put her hand through the bars of the cell, and rapped on the lock with her knuckles. 

“Ready!” She called out to the guard, and Jeremy heard the footsteps approaching. The cell door slid open, wrought iron clanking in its track. Miss Dawes turned to face him, her face was stern, dark, and resolved. “Then let’s do what we can to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

The cell door slid closed, and Jeremy Tetch placed his hat back on his head.


The Law offices of Haden, Ellis, and Langford occupied the second and third stories of the Wroughtiron Office Building in Midtown. A small circle of brightness illuminated a sheaf of paperwork from a previously-locked file drawer labeled with a drawing of a skull and crossbones. In the nearest corner of the room, an also-recently-lock-picked drawer reading “A-C” was left just barely open, and the file for “Cobblepot, Oswald” was clumsily-replaced, as if in haste.

The Batman held the flashlight steady in his teeth, scanning a clipped-together stack of papers that was situated behind the last will and testament of Carmine Falcone, and pages and pages of boilerplate contracts, amendments, and memoranda of understanding.

“In the matter of the Falcone Estate…”

These typewritten pages were littered with black bar redactions, the only signature, two slashes of dark blue ink forming an “X.” Soft, but not silent footfalls.

Private security. A silent alarm?

The mob was getting more sophisticated. Batman took a page with a multiple redactions (including a paragraph of black streaks), folded it into a pocket on his belt, and restored the file to the drawer, latching it. He clicked off the flashlight, and searched for another exit. An air duct that was too small to accommodate him, and two similarly-sized privacy windows.

In the adjacent law library, a sudden light revealed two – no, three distorted silhouettes behind the flemish glass, and the doorknob turned.


“Where the hell is the light switch?” Antonelli asked his confederates. All three of them had worked together before. But this was a cushier gig. They all wore dark, tailored suits, and porcelain masks with the elongated, rhinophyma-nose of a Mr. Punch puppet. The second man through the door,  Santori, tried the light switch, finding it unresponsive (but, for some reason, trying it another four times before giving up).

“He’s here,” Antonelli said in a low voice. He fired a shot from his pistol into the ceiling, causing broken plaster debris to fall to the floor. “You have any idea who you’re stealing from?” He shouted.

Something like a marble clanked into a metal waste bin, rolling to an audible stop. Santori and third Coraddo rushed forward, guns pointed, but Antonelli stopped them short with outstretched arms. “Remember, could be gas.“ He tapped on his mask with the barrel of his pistol, indicating the precautions the boss had taken.

Glass broke, and broke again, and light in the law library became darkness. A dark metal batarang clanged loudly onto the floor, and chemical smoke began to fill both rooms.

The three men dashed through the library, but the door was stuck.

Antonelli leveled his gun at the door frame, squeezed the trigger, and sent wood splinters flying. He pulled the door, and the three Mr. Punches darted down the hall to the western stairwell.


The artificial fog began to thin, and the Batman removed his rebreather, retrieved the errant batarang, and moved in near silence to the eastern stairwell.

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