This chapter contains attempted sexual violence
GODHome movies • S01E06 “Director’s Cut”
Welcome to Heaven, Franz.
My name is God.
I think you're going to like it here.
He is Franz Kafka!
“He looks like he could use some sun,” Detective Selina Kyle said to Lieutenant James Gordon (her partner, and the acting commissioner of the Gotham City Police Department), “but he insists he feels like a hundred grand.”
Gordon drummed his desk with his fingers.
“Any word from Karlo?”
“Nothing yet,” she responded, hesitating. “–Not about any permanent changes to the staff. But he did put in a word with Stone about fast tracking Brickhouse’s parole hearing.” Selina dropped a half inch thick sheaf of papers onto Jim’s desk with a thunk. “These are character affidavits from churchgoers, neighbors, and former co-workers. The cherries on top are Wayne and Pennyworth.”
“All these people vouching for some lowlife? A lowlife who refuses to cooperate? He was caught in the act – in front of two hundred witnesses! – by Batman. Why are all these people sticking their necks out for a nobody?”
Selina had read through many of the statements, which were mostly comprised on variations of a single theme: If One Bad Day is enough to break a man, who would be strong enough to lose his son and his wife inside of six months?
“Billy Overlea’s not such a nobody, sir –– Jim.” Selina had spent so much time wiring herself to address her superior officers with the appropriate formality that she had a difficult time switching it off, even with a man with whom she’d been romantically entangled. “People wrote some very nice things about him.”
“I’m supposed to see Gelio at noon,” Jim said, looking at the note on his desk. “Can you handle this hearing? It sounds like it’s a done deal.”
“I can, and it does.”
Selina left Gordon’s office. She filed her appearance for the hearing, to get it on paper, but she was gone before Stone entered the courtroom. She had trophies that needed to be moved to her safe deposit box, and she wanted to not become a conspicuous figure to Wayne or the superhumans that he’d made friends with. At dinner, Gordon told her that he expected Gelio to be back in the captain’s chair by the end of the week.
“If Karlo hasn’t found a replacement by now, he doesn’t intend to.” Jim’s assessment was that Karlo still found Johnny useful, and that Gelio still had the credibility to demonstrate that the administration was taking crime seriously.
If the rumors could be believed, Superman was a killer, and that gave Johnny Gelio something like a stay of execution for his mistake with Bruce Wayne. The mayor may have thought that the time off (“to recover”) and return would put the commissioner on a shorter leash, but if anything, the intervening two weeks only served to justify Johnny’s paranoia around supermen.
“Ya gettin’ enough sun, boss?” Bullock asked off-handedly. “You’re lookin’ a little more like an irishman than a greek today.” The competent-enough detective chuckled in that self-satisfied way that he always had.
Only the desk lamp was on in Johnny’s office, and his blinds were closed. The harsh, fluorescent lighting of the Central District HQ was giving him fierce headaches, but he hadn’t admitted that to anyone.
Johnny stood up without it, but he still walked with the heirloom cane. Even if he simply carried it beneath his arm, he appreciated the additional sophistication that it conveyed. Johnny’d proven many times that the people who underestimated him always ended up with egg on their face.
“I’ve read everything from the night of the Black and White Gala. Are your reports consistent with Gordon’s?”
“Uhh, I-uhh…more or less?” Bullock stammered.
Johnny narrowed his eyes and pushed past the turtle-shaped man and down to the men’s room, crossing the granite floor to a mirror above the sink. He examined his reflection and confirmed that he was noticeably more pallid; the olive complexion of his ancestors had drifted from him without him even noticing. He observed the flecks of green in his eyes seemed to glitter more than before, like they were becoming more the primary color in his formerly brown-dominated hazel eyes.
In the aftermath of a particularly pointed argument with Lily (he hadn’t been in the mood for a party, and no one could’ve predicted the commotion, after all), Lex Luthor had sent him to one of the best doctors in Metropolis to be treated at Luthor’s expense.
With Ma all but in the ground, Johnny could see leaving Gotham. Maybe even leaving Jersey. It was clear to him that Luthor was more of a visionary – someone who could see Johnny’s greatness, his talents and value as more than some celebrity-turned-mayor’s mascot. But he was laying the groundwork with Luthor as much as Lex was with him. There was still work to be done in Gotham.
You don’t become the top cop in the most corrupt city in America and expect it to be a walk in the park
Johnny pulled the capsule from the envelope in his pocket. Even in the brighter light of the restroom, it gave off a faint green glow. He popped the capsule into his mouth and swallowed, chasing it with a handful of dog soup from the sink. He smiled at his reflection and an oncoming twitch threatened to pull the corners of his mouth all the way to his eyes.
And he let it.
Johnny planted his cane on the polished stone floor with a tap and headed back to his office.
“We should’ve come up with a method to contact him,” Alfred remarked, putting down his cup of coffee and the same time he’d noticed that he was more on edge
“Contact him?” Bruce replied with marked concern in his voice, pulling his cowl on. “To negotiate the terms of his surrender? He’s imprisoned one man and killed another. Both for intensely personal reasons. Is there something worse than murder or torture?”
“I’ve never shied away from absolutes, Bruce,” Alfred was short, not angry, but trying to put appropriate emphasis on his reaction. “That said, I don’t think he is beyond forgiveness. I don’t think he is beyond redemption. He was raised to hold certain ideals dear, and to believe that our systems work. He believes himself to be the embodiment of those ideals.
“The system is not the ultimate judge he believed it to be. Democracy has flaws; And our particular democracy has flaws that are exploitable if you understand the levers. Mass murderers, mob bosses, and extractive corporations are permitted to bribe, negotiate, and politic their way out of any consequence. Witnesses get intimidated or killed. Juries get paid off. And all of it gets protected and enforced by feckless class traitors who have a monopoly on state violence.
“And that doesn’t even take into consideration that an overcorrection on our part could be an equivalently harmful bias. If taken altogether, instead of temporally, these events represent a very small deviation from his normal modus operandi. Why should we assume it represents a pattern?”
“He is the deviation.” Bruce rebutted. “Yes, these latest developments have given me pause and cause for deeper concern, respectively, but we have always treated this as a place where we were allowed to overcorrect. We let our guard down.”
Alfred took a breath, then added: “Are we so arrogant to think we can exclude a potential revolutionary force just because he got angry? This is our moment to teach him! And it is our responsibility to do so.”
“I need to think,” Bruce started the motorbike with a roar that almost masked his heavy sigh. “I updated The Babylon Protocols after receiving the sample. It’s at the drafting table. I’m going on patrol. Let’s make final decisions before he becomes an eradicator.”
Alfred moved out of Bruce’s way and watched the dark motorcycle and its dark rider disappear moments after exiting the cave. He leafed through the complex, coded document that he’d originally developed with Bruce and Dick, feeling a faint pull on his heart at what they’d lost, and what they might lose.
Not tonight, Al thought, steel feeling on edge. He dimmed the work lights leaving only his own lantern burning, and decided not to open the small lead box where Bruce had stored the alien crystal. He put the protocols into a folio, and took it with him back to the manor.
“Thanks for coming, Barb,” Detective Selina Kyle opened the door to her apartment, and invited in the younger woman – her partner’s daughter. Selina hadn’t spent any time alone with Barbara, though they’d had dinner a handful of times with Jim.
Selina took her jacket and offered her a drink. The bookworm seemed fascinated by the size and appointments of her apartment, and Selina made a note to herself that it might be suspicious to live alone in such a nice place on a detective’s salary. Not that she made a habit of having company. For the most part, Hecate, Anjelico, and Isis were the only company Selina kept at home.
Isis nuzzled Barbara as she slunk past her leg, purring audibly. Barbara knelt down and offered the black cat a pet, and when she stood up straight again, Selina put a generously-filled glass of merlot into her hand, and motioned to a luxurious loveseat which faced a picture window with a dazzling view of the city.
Selina and Barbara discussed the possibilities of Selina’s conundrum when the detective had a flash of insight. Barbara had a sense that, in addition to being sharp-witted, that Barbara was one of those people who put a lot of thought into problems and then, put even more thought into figuring out the best solutions. And she was one of those people who wanted so badly to help.
The problem of Selina being recognized was something that she’d considered before, of course, but she also was of a mind that men like those working for the mob wouldn’t spend a lot of time studying her face.
“I don’t think a wig would be enough, and I’d be concerned about the kind of,” Barbara cringed, and took a deep swig of this second glass of wine, like she was buying time to find a word. “…Commitment you’d need to make to pull this off, to become visible to whoever’s in charge of this Mandatum.”
“I’ve done a whole lot worse for a whole lot less,” Selina answered, staring at the hypnotic swirl of deep red liquid spiraling in her glass. “But what if it were just to gather information? See who the players were, see where the money was coming from. Maybe identifying people who play in these places I could find out who their whales are and turn one of them. What if I wouldn’t even have to go higher than that? Just acquiring an informant?”
“You’d know better than me, but wouldn’t you be in extreme danger if anyone recognized you? A big time bust for the department or a raid would probably be safer. If there are twenty cops, there’s a lot less temptation for the mobsters to isolate you and,” she gulped. “Take care of you.”
She set down her glass and scooted closer to the auburn-haired woman, and Isis jump up onto the chair between the two of them, circling before laying her head on Barbara’s thigh. She stroked the cat, whose bright yellow eyes were slowly fading into blank slits. More than once, she “accidentally” grazed Barbara’s hand with her own, offering a quiet apology accompanied by a subtle smile.
“What if it were someone else?,” Selina asked. “Like one of the typists or the administrator?”
“I don’t know,” Barbara answered, putting down her own glass, and folding her hands into her lap. “What does my father think?”
“We’ve discussed the need for someone on the inside, but not the specifics. He wouldn’t want it to be me even if I was the most practical choice. He knows I can handle myself, but the minute he knows what I want to do, he’ll have a lot more influence on how it gets done.”
“Would dad really stand in the way of something that you both agree is the best way to get things under control?”
“He thinks their money is the best way to get things under control, but I wouldn’t say he’s agreed that the so-called ‘secret casinos’ are the best place to hit them in the pocketbooks. Jim –– your father –– thinks we should target their accountants and try to find out where they’re keeping their cash.”
She knew that it would have to be Barbara’s idea. Selina could leave a trail of breadcrumbs, but Barbara would have to follow it. “Another glass?” She asked, pouring one for herself.
“Just a little this time,” Barbara said.
After a more labored effort than Selina’d expected, she began to lose hope, and stopped abruptly mid-conversation. She opened the picture window and climbed out onto the fire escape, breathing in the brisk night air. A few moments later, she was joined by a cautious Barbara, and the two of them stood in quiet awe of the view of Gotham City on an uncommonly clear and quiet evening.
“What if it was me?” Barbara asked, breaking the silence.
“You?” Selina retorted in mock-surprise. Selina wouldn’t have described anything she did as being part of a plan, more like an informal strategy of opportunism. “I don’t know if Jim would go for that.”
“This is about doing what’s right, not what my father allows.”
Selina took Barbara’s hand, staring, unblinking into her eyes. She pressed her thumb into Barbara’s palm hard enough that she could feel her pulse getting faster, but disguising it as a squeeze of affectionate gratitude.
Barbara Gordon thought about how she could be the most useful.
Gotham was falling into chaos. The mob was better-coordinated and more melodramatic than ever, and people were scared. The city was like a hard-boiling pot with Dick Grayson’s death. Now things were simmering again, threatening to boil over at any moment.
Barbara had heard about some of her co-workers at Wayne Enterprises arming themselves with weapons ranging from small knives to brass knuckles. In a safety meeting, she remembered hearing a laundry list of bad ideas until one of her coworkers suggested traveling to and from work together.
She felt like there was more that she could be doing. Seeing the Batman in action had been inspirational, if not practical. But there were resources she would need, research to be done, people to consult without raising too much suspicion.
Ever since the Black & White Gala, she’d thought how convenient it would’ve been if Bruce Wayne were Batman, sometimes daydreaming about the bat appearing in the Gotham Opera House and her looking up at her date, only to find him conspicuously missing.
Tonight, she was walking home from Selina Kyle’s apartment, which was nicer than she anticipated (but which left her covered in cat hair). The two of them had been brainstorming a way to get Selina into one of the Mandatum casinos undercover.
How would they infiltrate the operation just by being some mobster’s arm candy? It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to Barbara, but there were more complications than the holes in their plotting; the biggest presumed obstacle was that Selina Kyle was something of a local celebrity being the first female detective in Gotham and maybe in any major American city. She was recognizable, as a unique public figure, and for being an exceptionally attractive public figure.
Selina could also prove to be a liability because some significant number of the Mandatum’s goons had previously worked as Gotham Police agents.
A significant number of Mandatum goons were previously Gotham Police henchmen.
The ease of their transition from being police to being hired thugs for the mob wasn’t lost on Barbara. It was like a feather tickling a part of her mind and memory that she hadn’t know was ticklish in the first place, not until she’d worked for Dick. Police equal bad still wasn’t a heuristic she was comfortable with, but it felt more and more like the rule instead of the exception.
Naturally, the course of action had seemed obvious: Barbara would gain access to one of the gambling clubs, pour on the charm and gather some intelligence on who they might be able to connect the mysterious Black Mask to Sal Maroni, the head of the Maroni crime family and one of the power players in the Mandatum.
She broke her stride, pausing for an imperceptible moment to think about what had transpired.
Had Selina planned this?
Barbara thought back over the course of the meeting and wondered if even she had been caught up in the detective’s mesmeric personality. On reflection, it felt almost like Selina Kyle could weave sexual tension like a spider.
She’d always thought herself charming, but she didn’t have the effortless charisma of Selina or Bruce. Being a woman – even being an attractive woman – didn’t mean that she was the best candidate for this mission. And the farther she got from Selina’s apartment building, the more she thought that this mission was hardly the way she could be the most useful.
A long, low whistle and the smell of cheap fortified wine interrupted Barbara’s flow and she turned her head toward a group of men huddled under a streetlamp.
“Hiya, red, how ya doin’ tonight?” Barbara looked away and kept going. “You see the box score ’a da game?”
“Good evening, no, sorry,” Barbara said. She turned right at the next corner, increasing her pace once she’d cleared their eyeshot.
Barbara’s head was a little clearer now. She knew if she wanted to help, she could always ask Alfred about more opportunities to work with the kids. Maybe she could lead some of the lessons? She was snapped out of her train of thought by the sound of machine gun fire from the north and shortly thereafter, a patrol car’s siren from the northeast. She took a step into the latticework of streets that would take her to the Huntington foot bridge, cutting across the alley she always used to avoid the street work happening between her jaunts in midtown and her apartment.
Barbara Gordon didn’t turn around when she heard the faint jangle of metal, instead pulling her smallish handbag closer to her body. There were footsteps now, and it was unclear if it was the acoustics of the labyrinthine alleys but it sounded like it could be the footsteps of more than one person. She didn’t look back when she smelled the wafting fragrance of the fortified wine again.
At least one, maybe two men behind her. As she turned right, she stole a quick glance to get a better idea of who was following her, thankful that she’d laced her well-worn leather aviator boots tight. Three men. One was wearing a Metropolis Monarchs ball cap and walked with a limp a significant distance behind the other two. Another had something metal that caught the reflection of a streetlamp – it probably wasn’t a gun because it was outside of his hand – she thought it might be a chain. She was in an alley with one way out that was 150 yards away and around a blind corner.
“We don’t wanna hurt ya, doll,” said one of the men behind her. A different voice than the one who had catcalled her earlier.
Barbara noticed that he didn’t say they wouldn’t hurt her, not that it made any difference. She stamped down on her back foot and pushed off, hard, taking off in a run toward the corner, and heard the running steps of the drunks in pursuit. Around the bend, there was the chain man, who must’ve broken away from the ball cap man and the man with the bottle to kettle her into the alley. To get away, she’d need to clear She took a few more steps towards chain man, fully clearing the corner with ball cap and bottle’s irregular steps echoing closer and closer.
She tested her footing, then settled into a fighting stance, and Chain let out some slack and began whirling his weapon.
“C’mon doll,” Chain said, his teeth like giant glistening pearls in the dim light. “We thoughtcha might be a workin’ girl. We’re prepared to compensate you for your time.”
“Whoa, Denny,” said Ball Cap. “Let’s not get too hasty. We gotta negotiate terms here.”
The chain spun in the air casually like a stage performer twirling a cane, and Barbara knew she’d need to take Denny down first.
“It’d be a real shame to bruise up such a pretty face, red,” Denny said, closing much of the gap between the end of his flail and Barbara.
“I don’t think you’re very pretty at all,” Barbara fell backward into the wall behind her, kicking off of it with her boot and pushing all of her momentum into slinging her purse around. The chain narrowly grazed her armpit as her handbag slammed into Denny’s neck, and the chain unraveled from his fist as fell to his knees making panicked gasps for air.
“What the hell?” Denny wheezed, supporting himself on one hand and gripping his neck with the other. Blood dripped out from behind his palm, and Barbara spun her purse toward her own neck, where the strap wrapped around once, twice, and then at the last possible moment (before the heavy brick which, besides a couple dollars for the ferry, was the only thing in her bag could actually hit her neck) she shifted her weight in the direction of the other goons, unraveling the leather strap and nearly smashing into bottle’s temple, but instead hitting him in the shoulder.
“FUUHH!” Bottle said, chucking the bottle through the air in Barbara’s direction before charging.
She needed to get back some of the momentum for a more precise shot, so she swept her bag across her body using her forearm as a fulcrum to pivot the brick upward right into Bottle’s sternum.
He reeled and gasped, but tore the brick bag away from her and discarded it with rage in his eyes. This man was shorter than Denny, but much more sturdy, like a scaled down version of that knucklehead boxer her father worked with.
“I’m gonna make this hurt, bi–“
Bottle began speaking and then she felt the cool rush of air as she leapt upward, thrusting her knee at an angle into the man’s chest,
He misstepped and crumpled backwards into Ball Cap.
“You think I don’t have one more in me, pal?” Barbara shouted at Ball Cap, who had barely avoided being pinned beneath Bottle’s writhing form. He held his hands up in surrender, and backed away. She wasn’t even winded.
And then two hands, one of them covered in blood, were gripping Barbara’s shoulders.
“Get up Smiddy,” Denny hacked. His face was so close to hers that she could smell the iron in his blood, she could feel the heat and spittle as he struggled to speak. She motioned to elbow him and break free, but his grip was concrete, so she leaned forward then thrust back, hooking his ankle with her foot as she smashed the back of her head into his face.
Barbara was back on her feet with an ugly kip-up, and Denny was out cold beneath her. The way was clear behind her, but it would mean turning her back on two assailants, including one who probably had a significant strength advantage over her. She re-centered herself and breathed deeply, exhaling into a ready stance again when she heard the zoom of a cable.
Smiddy shrieked as he disappeared into the obstinate blackness behind him. There was a grunt, and Ball Cap hit the ground, being dragged into the darkness with terrified screams.
The shadows seemed to concentrate into one place, coalescing into a figure of living fear: The Batman.
He took another step forward, but Barbara heard nothing, momentarily entranced by Batman’s reflective, predatory eyes. In the span of moments, he was almost close enough to touch.
“Alive?” Batman whispered, and his eerie black seemed to Barbara to flow in the direction of Denny. She caught the faintest notes of a familiar scent, but couldn’t pinpoint what exactly.
“I–I’m not sure,” she stammered, not out of fear, but from something more like awe at seeing him so close.
“Go,” the bat commanded, and Barbara knelt down to retrieve her bag, then backed away, keeping her eye on Batman as she did.
Barbara Gordon was in the back of a taxicab, chewing on the inside of her lip.
“Ma’am,” said the cabby, who had been stopped for some time before Barbara had snapped out of it, thanking and paying the driver before heading into her apartment building.
She was on her floor – the fourth floor – before she could place the smell.
Bruce Wayne’s aftershave.