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Batman: Devil's Hour

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            "Master Bruce, I've already prepared your belongings for a hasty retreat," Alfred notified the man at the back of the cart. "I have a contact who can take us across the Atlantic."

 

            "Wait, Bruce? You mean, Bruce Wayne? Bruce Wayne is the Batman?!" Jason exclaimed.

 

            “What? You only just put two and two together now?” Dickie smugly teased the younger kid. “The errand Alfred gave us clued me so I’m not surprised.”

 

            “I’m not too dumb to not know how to add but what does this have to do with numbers?” Jason retorted. “Besides, Tim didn’t get it either. Right, Tim?”

 

            “No… I actually got it,” Little Tim replied. “Why else would Alfred go to all this trouble to save Batman if he’s not Bruce Wayne?”

 

            “Smartasses,” Jason’s shoulder’s dropped, Bruce and Selina looking on with smirks of amusement.

 

            “Too bad though. I thought that I’ll have a stable life here in Gotham,” Selina mused. “Oh well, it might be back to the circus for me.”

 

            Dickie was staring at Selina intently or more specifically, at an area being impacted on by the unpaved road.

 

            “How about it, kid? Do you want to come with me to the circus?” Dickie’s eyes went upwards to her eyes and she locked her gaze with his. “With your physique, I peg you for the type to soar high. You can become a trapeze artist, maybe?”

 

            “I-I’ve hang from clotheslines before,” the teenage boy replied coyly.

 

            “We’re not joining the circus,” the Batman interrupted. “And we’re not leaving Gotham either. There’s an obvious solution to this.”

 

 

            Morning came and the fire that consumed the fair has been put out rather swiftly considering the affected area. Home went the firemen and it was the police’s turn to investigate. However, their attention was sidetracked.

 

            Bruce Wayne walked up the stairs to the Gotham City Police Department with hands behind his head. They see Bruce Wayne; they mobilize immediately, pointing their guns at the yielding convict. They jostled him to his knees and searched everything about his person.

 

            “So you’ve come to surrender now, eh, Wayne?” Harvey Dent came up to him as coppers prepare to handcuff the supposed criminal. “Escaping like that… even if you didn’t come here, the long arm of justice would have caught up to you just the same.”

 

            “So you say,” Bruce defiantly pronounced. “Yet, I wonder. Had I skipped town, with clear indication that I did, and the killings continued, would you still point to me as the criminal or would another scapegoat be brought to the cull?”

 

            “Wait!” From behind them is a distressed voice of a woman, that of Selina Kyle. “He’s innocent. The true Ripper! He tried to kill me… in the fair!”

 

            A pair of officers who were not roughing Wayne up took the initiative to help her as she stumbles in frantic appeal.

 

            “Speak clearly, woman,” Dent sternly demanded. “Though, whatever it is you may say will not hold weight as you are a woman of ill repute.”

 

            Selina glared back at him before continuing. “I was there! At the fair! I was pleading Wayne’s case with Commissioner Gordon-”

 

            “Pleading the case? Is that what they call it now?” Snidely, Dent said. Snickering ensued among the policemen yet Selina’s frightened face soured.

 

            “Shut up! All of you! The Ripper was right under your noses! It was Gordon, dammit!” She was screaming at Harvey Dent’s face and the volume of her voice forced him backwards. “He suddenly attacked me and if it wasn’t for the Batman, you would have had a new victim and not any closer to the real culprit! I was in shock and couldn't even properly communicate with the police that came to my house searching for Bruce.”

 

            “The Batman?” Harvey’s tone shifted from demeaning to inquisitive. “The Batman caused the fire?!”

 

            “Not him!” Selina testified. “I told you! Gordon was the root of this problem. His attempts to kill me and the Batman caused the fire!”

 

            “Preposterous! I say we have her tried, too, as an accessory to the crime-”

 

            “Allow me to take it from here, Mr. Dent,” Chief Bullock stepped forward to halt the streetside Kangaroo Court. “Do you stand by your words, Ms. Kyle?”

 

            “Y-yes, I do,” Selina’s voice softened from its earlier distress. “After delivering me from danger, he advised me to come here when morning comes and relate what occurred last night. Damning evidence, he said, is in a room beneath the staircase in the Gordon residence.”

 

            Chief Bullock raised an eyebrow and after taking alternating glances between Selina and Bruce, ordered his men, “We’re re-opening the investigation. We’ll go to Gordon’s house. See what we can find.”

 

            “But didn’t we already establish that Bruce Wayne is the Ripper? The evidence clearly pointed to him!” Harvey Dent objected loudly. “We already have him in our custody. What’s the point of another investigation? This will be very irregular, Chief Bullock!”

 

            “If new evidence can attest to his innocence, then there is a miscarriage of justice that must be corrected. If there isn’t, what do we need to fear considering, as you said, we already have him? He should be detained until we reach a proper conclusion,” The chief walked down the stairs and the other policemen followed while Dent was left behind with the policemen who escorted Bruce Wayne inside their station.

 

 

            “Gotham Police, we’re here on official business. Please open the door,” A cop announced their arrival at the doorstep of the Gordon household and knocked.  A minute later and no reply, “What do we do, Chief?”

 

            “Well, keep knocking!” Bullock yelled. “On second thought, get out of the way. I’ll do it myself!” Continuing where the other policeman left off, his hands pounded on the wooden board like the Orientals would with their rounded, loud instrument of noise. “Please, open the door! We’ll let ourselves in otherwise!” He gave a hand signal for them to bring it down but the door swung and out came James’ spouse.

 

            “Thank goodness you’re here! That damned bat intruded last night and… How rude!” The missus have come to receive them, in her apron over her house clothes and draped with a shawl in spite of being indoors.

 

            The last phrase could have been referring to the Batman or the police who just walked past her, as if to insult the woman’s role as the keeper of the house, and began their raid. “Official police business. Excuse us,” Bullock said, quickly flashing an arrest warrant which Mrs. Gordon barely laid her eyes on.

 

            “The Batman told me that the Commissioner had a secret room under the stairs,” Selina said as she followed them inside. “He said that it would be easy to find, as he left one of his important tools.”

 

            The Chief nodded and as if beckoning him, he saw something embedded in the wooden wall under the stairs gleam. He recognized it as the bat-shaped boomerang that has appeared in crime scenes where the vigilante was involved. Dislodging it, the secret door gave way. Immediately, a few policemen flooded the room. The widow Gordon tried to interfere but to no avail. Displayed in front of them are newspaper clippings, surgical tools, dissected animals, and organs of indeterminate origins.

 

            “Good Lord,” The chief uttered.

 

           “M-my husband served as a doctor in the war. He pursued work in law enforcement but his true passion is in medicine,” She tried to pass off her husband’s paraphernalia as a veritable collection like a curator to a museum. “What you see here are the forceps he used to bring our daughter to this world. Unfortunately, she was stillborn. Still, I cannot forget the exemplary skill he displayed when he sewn my...”

 

            The woman rambled on in deranged fanaticism of her husband’s aptitude yet Bullock’s focus had settled on a little book that he began to read, his eyes widening at the content. He turned to face her and interrupted her soliloquy. “Is this your husband’s?” He showed the book to her with a page facing forward.

 

            Barbara took a look and gasped. “That’s not his. I haven’t seen that before. I would know. He tells me everything, that compassionate man,” However, as she read through it, “No… That’s not possible. No, give it back!” She lunged forward and tried to claw at the Chief but two attentive policemen held her back immediately.

 

            “This journal! Why, it describes the Ripper’s killings in their full, disgusting details from the eyes of the murderer himself!” Chief Bullock pointed at the content of the book and waved it like an overzealous preacher.

 

            “But that couldn’t be his! I tell you! As his wife I would know!” Struggling against the policemen, the only physical contact Barbara managed with the Chief is sputum overshot as she yells. “When he comes home, I’m sure he can clarify it for you.”

 

            “Though this is his handwriting, is it not?” Bullock’s question darted sharply at the woman. “Also, I regret to inform you that your husband will no longer come home tonight. An informant told us of how he burned at the fair. If I am to believe the evidence, which I actually do, he perished just as he lived; Like a devil in hell.”

 

            “You’re lying! My sweet husband couldn’t have...” She fell to her knees and with that, her shawl came off.

 

            It was then that Bullock noticed the strange deformity on the left side of her face. He bent down and turned her face to take a closer look. “What has that fiend done to you?”

 

            Barbara tried to bite his hand but he had retracted it in time. “Fiend, is it? He was doing you lousy so-called enforcers of decency and order a favor by getting rid of vagrants and pests, like that woman who dolls herself up like the Whore of Babylon to drag its victims to the pit!” She pointed spitefully at Selina. “You have allowed this disease of society to spread. Come Doomsday, your heads will roll first!”

 

            “We’ll take that as a confession. Men, bring her with us,” Bullock instructed. “Blackgate or Arkham, the decision comes later.”

 

            Barbara was unwillingly taken by the cops. How long ago was her will no longer her own? Selina thought. From a woman to another, she pitied her. What could a man do to break a woman’s mind that much? Before he was the Ripper, he was a husband. Before the women on the streets, she was his first victim. To witness the man you loved descend to insanity until you, too, succumb to it; Selina couldn’t bear to imagine.

 

 

            “What do you say about it, Bruce? Lend her to me when I feel like it and I promise I’ll pull on my connections to help reduce your sentence.”

 

            Harvey had been taunting, no, tempting Bruce since the others had left to investigate. He's sitting in a chair with its rails facing forward and his torso leaning on it.

 

            “She wouldn’t do it if I just ask her myself but she’ll listen to you. I’m sure she’d been with other men before and one other man wouldn’t hurt. Although, you are the one who can attest so tell me if I’m wrong.” He moved closer by staying seated and paddling with his feet, the chair screeching as it scratches the floor. “Isn’t this a good deal? I mean, afterwards, you’ll be together. Won’t you do it for a friend, for old times’ sake?”

 

            “I’m not… the Ripper,” Bruce replied tersely.

 

            “Get him out of there,” Such were the words of the Chief as soon as he entered the premises. “The lady’s information is right. Gordon was the Ripper.”

 

            “B-but how? The case against Bruce Wayne was perfect!” Harvey immediately came up to him.

 

            “Gordon has a written account of his crimes,” Bullock replies as he seated. “Nothing can trump that.”

 

            Bruce Wayne was let out of his cell and Selina Kyle met him with an embrace. She slid her elbow around his and they were leaving the precinct together when Bullock came in front of them.

 

            “Forgive our wrongful arrest, Mr. Wayne. We’ll see to it that your innocence will circulate in the next morning’s papers.” Afterwards, he tipped his hat and left them to their own.

 

            “H-hey, Bruce,” They met Harvey on their way out. “No hard feelings, right? I was just doing my job. I would be a lousy lawyer if I didn’t-”

 

            Giving no opportunity to finish his sentence, Bruce socked him across the face. “You’re lousy either way. Also, that wasn’t for me. See you in the Dionysus.”

 

           Alfred was standing alongside the carriage and he politely bowed as soon as he saw the two of them. “Welcome back. Master Bruce, Miss Kyle.”

           

            “Nice acting,” Bruce complimented Selina as they sat opposite each other.

 

            “Well, it’s what I do,” She said with a smile. “Though to be honest, I was scared last night alone at home and had to put on the thickest skin I could muster to mislead the police that came to investigate. I knew that I had to trust in your plan. Thankfully, Gordon wrote that journal. If not, you’d still be branded a criminal.”

 

            “He didn’t,” Bruce’s reply caused Selina to tilt her head. “I did. It’s part of my investigative method to narrate the crime as if I’m the one that did it, to take a look inside their mind. I just rewrote it with the forged handwriting I imitated from Gordon. Or specifically, the handwriting from his right hand; he wrote the Ripper’s messages with his left, hence the difference. It’s what I did while hiding since when the police searched my house last night until this morning.”

 

            “You faked the evidence?” Selina said with momentarily widened eyes. “Well, he was the real culprit but that’s a very deceptive ability and startlingly devious of you. Still, how did it get into that room?”

 

            “Before I surrendered, I sneaked into his house and placed the book and batarang. I forced Barbara to sleep with an incapacitating gas that I believed would last until the time for the police to get there.”

 

            There was a silence between them, Selina shifting uncomfortably in contemplation. Then she spoke, “If you are not in the side of good, it would be incredibly frightening.”

 

            “It’s a rather useful ability and would be so for a few more years with the current rate of progress in forensic science. I know it’s wrong but I need to take advantage of it inasmuch as the real crooks do,” Bruce extended his hands to hers rested on her lap. “But more importantly, you don’t need to worry about my allegiances. I’ll be on the right side for as long as I live.”

 

            “I trust you, Bruce,” Selina left her seat and sat beside him. She put her head on his shoulders and closed her eyes, about to doze off… until a question came up. “What’s a batarang?”

 

 

For the first time in a while, the Ripper roamed neither the streets of Gotham nor the Earth that night; yet evil resides not in one man…

 

            Two women are trapped by six men in one of the many dark alleyways of Gotham. Cornered in a dead end, the men approached them with crazed looks in their eyes and flames in their groins. The predators are craving their prey but their meal will have to wait.

 

            “If you want to live, leave them be,” From behind them, a boy warned. He is bald, of short stature, has almond-shaped eyes, and the color of his skin blends with the streetlamp.

 

            They all turned towards him and one of them asked, “Huh? What would a little Chinaman like you do?” The same man flicked his forehead.

 

            “I ask you. If you want to live, leave!” He said again but the men have surrounded him instead. The same man just laughed and flicked his forehead again, twice.

 

            “Even the Buddha, after three times-”

 

            He hasn’t finished his muttering when his forehead was flicked again. His reply was a quick slide of his foot under the man’s legs and push with both of his hands that tossed him across the street. The other surrounding men tried to attack him but they were pushed away with a flurry of kicks and punches. They scampered with the limping ones being helped to their feet by those lucky enough to still be able to walk.

 

            He walked to the women but instead of thanks, they stared angrily at him. They cursed in unison, “You meddling son of a bitch… You let my prey get away! Grrraaaaaaaaaaaa!”

 

            The two women’s clothes vaporized and their bodies began to meld into black goo, amorphous at first but soon resulting in an eight-limbed monstrosity that resembles a giant spider with a head sticking out from both ends. “Here you will die and be my food!”

 

            “Oh?” He crossed his arms and grinned. “But this humble one will not presume to fight you alone.”

 

            From the shadows, a man in a green overcoat with a homburg hat and domino mask emerged. He slung a pocket lamp chained to a ring in his middle finger; with a click, it ignited with a green fire. “Let’s get to burning, Kai-Ro.”

 

            “Right with you, Mr. Scott.”

Chapter Text

Bruce Wayne Vindicated, Gordon the Ripper

 

The headline in large, black, serif letters adorned the newspaper that slid under the Wayne household’s door; it was but ink but to him its content was authentic black diamond. Bruce knelt and picked it up. He took one good look at it then passed it to the person behind him.

 

“It’s official,” Those were Selina’s first words to Bruce that morning, both of them still in their sleepwear. “You’re a free man.” After reading a few paragraphs of the news as she walks to the dining room, her sight glided to the publisher. “Daily Sentinel? I know that I don’t read the papers everyday but this looks new.”

 

“They’ve been around in this city for barely a week,” Bruce said as they seated. “How was your sleep last night?”

 

“I-it was fine,” She reservedly replied, thinking back to the conversations of yesterday.

 

oOo

 

“Oh, so that’s a Batarang,” Selina nodded with understanding as Bruce explained the aforesaid tool to her. The Wayne Residence wasn’t far off and they had already caught a glimpse of its frontage. Her elation dampened from seeing it as it’s then that she realized that she forgot to ask to be brought to her home first and it’s too late to turn back. However, she had no choice. ”Hey, Bruce?”

 

“Yeah, what is it?”

 

“I hate to bother you and Alfred but I forgot to have you drop me off my house. Can we, maybe, take a detour? You can just drop me off to the nearest street and I’ll just wait for a carriage.”

 

“About that… I have something in mind regarding your living accommodations.” Bruce said. “Are you really comfortable with that hotel room?”

 

“It’s sufficient. What could a bachelorette like me want more than an undivided living and bedroom? A kitchen?” Her tone made out the last phrase to be a jest.

 

“How about the rent? Is it reasonable?”

 

“Well,” She began exhibiting signs of uncertainty: a softened tone and diverted gaze. “It might be straining the regular pay at my job as a stage performer but rich fans backstage do tip and give presents and that helps me break even.” She noticed that his face suddenly blanched and she felt the need to follow it up. “Oh, for no extra performance at that, if I may add.”

 

“Good! I mean, it’s good to know that you’re doing well.” He cleared his throat. “We’re already here anyway so why don’t you stay here for a while before you go home?” Bruce said with a smile.

 

“If it wouldn’t be a nuisance, then please excuse me,” She said as she stepped down the carriage with Bruce’s hand guiding her.

 

“Please make yourself at home while I prepare something for us to eat,” Bruce said as he made his way to the kitchen while pointing at the sofa.

 

“Oh, Bruce, that would be too much,” Selina tried to stop him but the man was adamant.

 

“Consider this as a celebration of closing the Ripper case,” Bruce insisted. “Also, I want to thank you for helping me several times during and even after that.”

 

A flash of red streaked in her cheeks and she relented. “Alright then, but you saved my life, too.”

 

“Let me help you cook, Master Bruce,” Alfred volunteered.

 

“No, let me do it this time,” Bruce reiterated his intent to do it by himself. “Just keep her company for me, will you?”

 

Bruce vanished behind the kitchen door then Selina and Alfred gave each other perplexed looks.

 

“Bruce can cook?” She inquired.

 

“I think he can,” Alfred gave an assuring answer. “But he only do so when I contract a disease or if I request a day off; both of which I rarely do.”

 

“I wouldn’t have guessed that a rich playboy like him would be willing to do chores, much more cook at home. Even chefs that I’ve met before consider it as an insult to their masculinity to cook in anywhere but a restaurant.”

 

Alfred sighed then gestured to Selina to come nearer. He spoke with a lowered voice, “Don’t tell Bruce that I’ve told you this: his superficial playboy persona? That’s all a ruse.”

 

Selina glanced doubtfully at Alfred and voicelessly mouthed the word “Huh?”

 

“You see, being the Batman, Bruce must be alert at all times and, as much as possible, devote time and focus for his vigilantism,” Alfred began explaining. “But what about Bruce Wayne? He needs to propagate the image of a normal man with above average wealth as much as possible. And following that standard, he must make it seem like he has a healthy… love life, like all other men of his standing. So, a few times in a month, he brings a willing woman home he met somewhere, imbibing alcohol together while making sure he takes less than that night’s lady guest, leading her to his bedchamber, and indulging her until she falls asleep. When the lady wakes up in the morning, remembering very little of the previous night’s tryst, she’ll fill in the blanks herself with what she thought happened.”

 

“That’s… a pretty complicated arrangement,” Selina gave her thoughts on Alfred’s exposition. “But was it all necessary? Does he really need to go that far to maintain appearances? By the way you tell it, it seems like it’s a chore for him rather than anything… recreational, in spite of the supposed pleasure-seeking that comes with such a lifestyle.”

 

“Bruce thinks that it’s crucial to stay in the good graces of other influential men here in Gotham, to be recognized as one of them. The often helpful information that those men let slip is one of the reasons why the Batman has managed to keep up his fight against crime. However, isn’t he paying more attention to being Batman than being Bruce Wayne? Putting up a facade to please those people is strengthening the Batman but is hurting Bruce and soon it will be the former wearing the latter as a mask.” With those, he set the subject aside and changed it to another: her. “That was then, this is now; your presence is like a pebble thrown into the water of stagnancy that is Bruce’s life. No two ways about it, young lady; he’s enamored with you and I’ve never seen him like this before. Those other women only knew the decadent heir but not the man that protects this city. I’m not sure how far you and Bruce will go but I’m interested at how you can change him and, of course, I hope it will be for the better. Yet, everything remains to be seen at this point.”

 

“Thanks, Alfred, but why are you telling me all of this?”

 

“Because I want you to know what you’re getting yourself into, for your sake and his,” The elderly man genially said. “And for the very long time that I’ve observed him and kept my opinions secret since he wouldn’t listen, having someone to share this with is also a relief. Also, if I may boldly add, Master Bruce never seemed to have gone too far with the women he’s been with. I could tell by the amount of time, or lack of it, he spends in his bedchamber with those ladies before leaving to carry out his vigil. As I’ve said, he just strives for the bare minimum to keep up his reputation. Make of that what you will.”

 

Wait, could he mean… but it didn’t seem like it. Is he…?

 

Selina took in all of Alfred’s words but was at a loss with her own. She understood; the butler didn’t say it outright but he is warning her that Bruce Wayne is not as experienced, in multiple senses of the word, as he appears to be. With how it could develop between them, she can make or break him. The Batman persona is eating away at his growth as Bruce Wayne and it should be stopped. A balance must be struck between the two.

 

Sparing her from more overwhelming dialogue was Bruce’s voice commanding Alfred from the kitchen.

 

“Alfred, call the children down from the chimney. It’s almost noon. Tell them to take a bath before eating. I’d be done here in a few minutes.”

 

“It’ll only be a moment, miss.” Alfred excused himself.

 

When he returned, he was with three sooty boys. He lead them to the bathroom and by the time they returned, lunch was ready to be served. While the butler and the young robins ate in the dining room, Bruce invited Selina to eat in the balcony.

 

“This is a better view than from my hotel room, I must admit.” Selina said in between sips of tea after they finished their chicken sandwiches, pieces of buttered bread, and cold puddings.

 

“Do you know how to take care of kids?” Bruce blurted out after his relative silence for most of their meal together. He was looking her straight in the eye and at that moment, he saw hers widen.

 

Her cheeks puffed then she gulped, “I think I can, but… what’s with that question?” She asked aflutter.

 

“What I meant is that with the street children that Alfred brought home, someone needs to watch over them. It can’t be Alfred because he’s my butler and it can’t be me because… I’m the Batman.” He whispered the last sentence with a deeper tone and a grin. “Selina, if you’d agree, I want to hire you as their governess. You can still keep your current job if you like since it would just be for the daytime. Just teach them basic knowledge and etiquette for them to adjust to society.”

 

“I don’t think I’m the most suitable person for the job but if you’re asking, I guess I could use the extra income,” A realization dawned on her. “But if I’m to become their governess, would that mean… that I have to live here?”

 

“I think so,” Bruce replied. “I’ll make sure that the pay will be worth your effort and you can negotiate your wage.”

 

“Well, if you’ve set your heart on it… then I accept the offer, Mr. Wayne.” She said with a wink.

 

“Just call me Bruce… but you know that by now, right?” He engaged with her banter and reciprocated with a pleased smile.

 

Later that afternoon, the three adults of the household moved her belongings from the hotel to her own personal chamber in the Wayne Mansion. She was shown around the house afterwards to familiarize her with what could be her home until her wards grow up or, if things go well, forever.

 

But this is Gotham City. How good are her chances?

Chapter Text

“No...” A man knelt among the ashes of the burnt Gotham World’s Fair. With both hands, he scooped the dirt, holding on to it momentarily until it was scattered with the wind. “My wheel! My beautiful wheel!”

 

It’s been a day after the fairground’s flames were put out and the police cordon has been taken off. Investors, shopkeepers, project managers, and other relevant citizens were finally allowed to inspect their ruined exhibits. Similar displays of defeat became the spectacle of the gathering as wails of despair and financial insolvency filled the air.

 

“C’mon, Dad, get up!” A young woman slid her arms under the man’s armpits and raised him up. “Nothing we can do about it now. On the bright side, we can implement the redesigns that came as an afterthought on a new and improved model.”

 

“But our chance to debut our invention has gone! And what about the funds?!” The old man fretted. “We got lucky with our sponsorship the last time but I’m afraid that Mr. Wayne wouldn’t do us another favor again.”

 

“When you put it like that, it does seem hopeless,” His daughter said. “If worst comes to worst, we’ll pitch it to someone else and garner their support. Somehow. They don’t exactly treat our wheel as a scientific achievement.”

 

“And rightfully so!” A man with soft, caramel skin and curly locks interrupted. “What was that hideous thing even supposed to be? An oversized steamboat’s stern wheel with seats?”

 

“Shut up! You don’t have the right to lecture me, you quadro-”

 

“Whoa, Dad! Stop there!” The daughter interceded. “He may be a jerk but that’s a spot you shouldn’t hit anymore. Times have changed, Dad.”

 

“Good to know that someone has a bit of a right mindset in this family,” The man quipped. “And with the changing times should come the changing priorities. What use would this ‘amusing’ giant pinwheel be in this age of progress? And this is hardly the first time someone tried to create something like this. They might have drawn a crowd in the rural towns but the civilized world has no need of such inane objects to take up precious space that could be utilized for better infrastructure.”

 

“Jackson Jekyll, why do you even insist on antagonizing us when we’re not even in the same field of interest?” The lady asked.

 

“Because your pursuits are a waste of effort and talent,” Jekyll said. “It’s not that I’m being rude to you because I dislike you as people, that’s not to say that I’m quite fond of you, but clearly, you should be better off doing something else that would benefit mankind. I think you both might have heard of the phrase ‘reinventing the wheel?’ That’s what you’re doing, in more ways than one.”

 

“That’s none of your damn business!” The father barked.

 

“And here I once looked up to you as a capable engineer, Carl Ferris,” Jekyll taunted further. “You were hailed as the man who’ll design the future but here you are. I’ll gladly pry that responsibility off from you.”

 

“Excuse me,” A sharp-dressed man with a pen and notebook interrupted the conversation. “But may I conduct an interview?”

 

“Of course,” Jackson proclaimed. “Another one so soon, Mr. Scott?”

 

“Huh? Oh, I meant to speak with Engr. Ferris here,” The reporter clarified. “I’ve interviewed you yesterday, didn’t I, Mr. Jekyll?”

 

“Is that so?” The man scoffed. “I thought for sure that the firefighting automatons that I invented and helped put out the fire yesterday would make the headline in your newspaper but, alas, it was lost among your other stories. Though to be fair, Wayne’s acquittal is a big scoop in itself.” After the remarks, he smirked. “You ought to consider hiring more people soon. With you as reporter, editor, and publisher for now, surely you’re stressed out even with the stamina and intellect that is keeping you afloat. Perhaps having more people to lessen your burden will aid in your judgment on what to cover… and what not to.”

 

“I’ll keep that advice in mind,” Scott replied amiably, though with an evidently forced smile.

 

The two gentlemen bowed farewells to each other and Jackson left in one of those newfangled horseless carriages. Scott then turned to the father and daughter mechanics and introduced himself.

 

“Good morning, Engr. Ferris,” He greeted. “I’m Alan Scott from the Daily Sentinel and it would be greatly appreciated if you would humor me with an interview.”

 

“Psh. Can’t you tell when a man is out of sorts?” Carl proceeded to leave with heavy stomps but instructed his daughter. “Carol, go tell the man what he wants to know. Though if he bothers you too much, don’t hesitate to knock his teeth in.” With those parting words, he disappeared behind the onlookers as he dragged his feet wearily.

 

Alan eyed the lady, head to foot. Her hair is unkempt and though she has undeniably a lady’s face, it’s tanned by either the sun or the steam from machines unlike her sheltered counterparts. Scandalously, she wears an overall with linen shirt underneath instead of the acceptable bustle and petticoat. And those sandals are just horrendous, he thought. All in all, a kind of fashion the Victorian era should keep secret. What beautiful, dainty feet though.

 

“So, what do you want?” Carol asked while Alan covertly gulped and his eyes rose to her face again. “Don’t be afraid to ask me anything that you would ask my father. I pretty much know what he knows.”

 

“So, umm... this giant wheel here, what do you call it?” Alan asked his first question.

 

“We intend to call it the Ferris Wheel after ourselves but there are conflicts with the patent so far so we’re not yet allowed to refer to it in that name officially,” Carol explained. “Not yet, at least. We have enough proof that this design is different enough from existing, similar ones to warrant a recognition of originality.”

 

“How much did it cost to build?”

 

“I apologize but I’m not at liberty to discuss it. We signed a confidentiality agreement with our current benefactor, Mr. Bruce Wayne, and his company.”

 

“I respect that. On to the next question then…”

 

The interview went on and after several questions answered by Carol Ferris, ranging from one-liners to entire paragraphs, it was concluded and she asked to be excused politely.

 

“Thank you for your time, Miss,” Alan expressed. “Hopefully, I’ll see you again soon.”

 

“You hope… to see me again?” She raised an eyebrow.

 

“I don’t mean anything in particular by it,” Alan assured. “It’s just that I’m new to this place and it would be great if I get along with the people as much as possible.”

 

“Oh, is that so?” She slowly nodded, looking less enthusiastic than she was during the interview. “Well, I guess I’ll look forward to it then. Welcome to Gotham, Mr. Scott.”

 

With a bow, she left.

 

Smart girl. He thought momentarily but his line of focus shifted to somewhere else. Now for my real purpose of coming here.

 

He stepped within the wreckage of the Ferris Wheel and without anyone else to see, he brought out his pocket lamp. He furtively ignited it, knowing that a flame in a place that was just burnt down wouldn’t be taken lightly. The flame reshaped into something that resembles a magnifying glass and Alan peered into it.

 

As if turning back time, the wheel seen in the fiery lens was reconstructed to its former state and with it, a scene of two figures fighting atop of one of its cabins played like shadow puppetry. The Batman and the Ripper, he presumed, though the magic of the Green Gaslight was not strong enough to depict their finer details. The fight proceeded just as it did in reality two nights’ prior: the vanquished, cuffed to a railing, retreated to the flames.

 

But what was then not seen by the naked eye appeared in the magical lens: from the burning body, an ectoplasmic smoke rose up in the air, undulating and writhing like a living tempest.

 

“That must be it, the Mark of the—”

 

Before he can continue his inward assessment, he was called out from behind him.

 

“You there! It’s not safe to walk under those debris! Get out of there before it falls on you!” A man from the damage control party yelled.

 

“Right! I was just about to leave. I’ve seen what I wanted to see.”