By T.J. Keitt
The piercing scream of the sirens was almost unbearable. It seemed to multiply by the minute, becoming louder and louder, increasing to a deafening crescendo as the droves of cars pulled into the space surrounding the CyberTel building. All below could see the shattered glass and plumes of smoke rising from the top floor of the massive skyrise looming over Gotham City. All accounts were that there had been a commando style raid on the top floor conference room of this center of techonolgical achievement in Gotham and that there were numerous casualties.
The new crews arrived just about the same time as the police and ambulances did. They had set up along the sidewalk across the way from the police containment zone and began to beam the sketchy details of the story back to their respective studios around town. They had watched as the medics rolled out the covered bodies, four so far, and place them in ambulances to be taken to the morgue. The reporter from Channel Six happened to look over her shoulder to see two medics aide a man wrapped in a blanket out of the front entrance of the building.
Tim Drake had been shot in the head. To be exact, a bullet had ripped across his forehead leaving a deep gash just above his right eye. The first police officers on the scene found him lying unconscious under the conference table with his head tightly bandaged with a sterile dressing. When they awoke him, he was disoriented and not exactly sure as to what had happened, but he began to murmur something the officers couldn't make out about being saved by "Bats." They said he was in shock and quickly called for medics to take him to the hospital.
As Tim stepped out of the CyberTel building, he looked around him with eyes blinded by the light. What he could make out were dozens of police cars, a few ambulances, a fire crew, and numerous news vans. Police officers, dressed in battle armor with automatic rifles resting against their shoulders, patrolled the area making sure that no further incidents occurred. He saw the activity across the street increase with his arrival outside, as the reporters began to talk more feverishly into their microphones, speculating on his identity and what he was doing in the CyberTel building.
One of the medics, a man shorter than Tim with gray eyes and a shaggy beard, said, "Come on fella. Don't pay those guys any mind. Let's get you in the truck." They began to guide Tim towards the open doors of a vacant ambulance. Tim was still groggy, but he was becoming more and more aware of what was going on and what had just happened up there.
Batgirl saved his life. He didn't know who she was, or how she knew the Joker was going to attack the CyberTel building, but he was positive that he saw Batgirl leaning over him, asking "What have they done to you?" That phrase rang in his head as he stepped up into the ambulance and sat down on the gurney inside.
As one of the paramedics hopped out to begin closing the doors, a woman's voice called out, "Hey!" The paramedic looked off to his side and then the woman said, "Don't close up yet. I want to talk to that guy."
The medic stepped aside as a middle aged hispanic woman climbed into the truck. She was a lovely woman, with long black hair that had a few grays in it, brown eyes, and features that set her apart from other women in her youth. She also looked very tired and worn out. Her eyes were creased with lines and bags, crows feet seeming to stretch to her ears. She looked at him with her tired eyes and Tim knew that he was looking at Rene Montoya. She nodded to the bearded paramedic next to him and the man exited the truck to give the two time alone.
Tim said in a scratchy voice, "You're...Montoya, right?"
The woman nodded, correcting, "Commissioner Montoya. I wanted to get to you before my detectives did. What did you see up there, Mister..."
Tim gave a weak smile before replying, "Tim. Tim Drake."
"Right," Montoya said. "Mister Drake. What did you see up there?"
Tim looked off for a minute, trying to collect his thoughts. He still wasn't 100%, and his recollection of the events was a little fuzzy. He rubbed his head for a moment and then answered, "Chaos. Bullets were flying everywhere. And...and I saw the Joker. Yeah, it was the Joker with that chalk white face and emerald hair."
Montoya reached into her trench coat and pulled out a note pad and pen and began to scribble notes. In title, she was Commissioner of the Gotham Police, but at heart she was still a Major Crimes detective. She looked at him intently as she asked, "Are you positive that you saw the Joker?"
Tim nodded quickly and said, "Yeah. It was him." He thought for a minute more and then added, "I saw somebody else too."
Montoya had begun to write again, but she stopped as Tim began to provide more information. After a moment of silence, she said in an agitated voice, "Who?"
Tim looked at her and weakly replied, "Batgirl."
Montoya looked at him sideways for a moment, then became very cross in appearance. She grabbed his shirt very violently and pulled him close, sending a wave of pain through his head. Her eyes were alive with fire and she hissed, "I don't think you did. You didn't see anyone named Batgirl, you clear?"
A wave of panic came over Tim. What was wrong with her? Why did the mention of Batgirl set her off? Her eyes were burning with hate as she looked at him and Tim felt a lump develop in his throat that he couldn't find the strength to swallow down. He nodded his head and Montoya shook him again and he cried out, "Yeah! Yeah, I didn't see Batgirl!"
She let him go and began to compose herself. The Commissioner placed her notepad back into her trenchcoat pocket and exited the truck. Tim was confused at what had just happened there. What did he say? The longer he stayed in Gotham, the more he didn't like what he saw. The paramedic climbed back into the ambulance and his partner shut the doors. Pretty soon the ambulance began to make its way towards the hospital. The bearded paramedic saw Tim's nervous state and said, "Don't worry, kid. The one good thing about Gotham's crime situation is that we have the best trauma center in the country at Mercy General. We'll be there in no time."
Outside, Montoya looked around her and then looked up at the buildings surrounding the CyberTel complex. Just across the street, she spotted two figures perched on the ledge with a yellow cape billowing behind one and a purple billowing behind the other. Montoya nodded to them and the two turned off the ledge into the shadows. The city's Top Cop sighed as she reached into her trenchcoat and pulled out a cellular phone. She quickly punched in the numbers and said, "Put me through to the Mayor."
On the top floor of the CyberTel building, there had been eleven casualties. Out of those eleven, only two had been taken to Mercy General alive: Tim Drake and Avery Carter who had refused to die from his numerous gunshot wounds. Carter was in being prepped for surgery when Tim arrived at the hospital, the V.P. requiring immediate work to fix all the bleeding arteries he had in his system, not to mention remove the bullets and possibly his spleen.
Mercy General was nothing like what Tim remembered. The hospital seemed more like a MASH unit than a metropolitan hospital. There had only been two survivors of the CyberTel massacre, but the triage was full of stretchers with horribly wounded people. The doctors scurried about, tagging the injured and prioritizing the people by severeness of the injuries. Tim walked in under his own power and was told to take a seat in the waiting room by one of the ER attendings. As he walked into the waiting room, he saw others crowed in the room with mild injuries as the doors to the triage outside flew open as paramedics brought in casualties of the Gotham street wars.
He sat in the waiting room for about ten minutes then decided to find a phone to call Ariana. He had no doubt that she had seen the news about the shooting, and he wanted to assure her that he had not been seriously injured in the crossfire. He found the payphone and dropped in his two quarters and then dialed the number to his home.
Ariana picked up the phone, her voice excited and edgy, "Hello?"
Tim smiled and replied, "It's me, baby!"
"Tim! Tim, oh my God! I...I just saw on the news..."
"It's all right, it's all right. I'm fine. I...I just got a bump on the head. I'll be all right."
"Oh God, Tim. They...they didn't know who was alive or dead. Your boss called and said when he knew more, I'd know more. Oh God."
Tim rubbed his hair and then said softly, "It's all right, honey. I'm just fine. I'm coming home."
He could hear the baby crying in the back as Ariana said, "Oh God. I love you Timmy."
Tim nodded his head and replied, "I love you too."
He placed the phone on the hook and turned to see two gentlemen standing there looking at him. They were dressed in trench coats and looking pretty irritated. The one on the right was of average height with a decent build, red hair, green eyes, and a unkempt mustache. The man on the left was a bald, African American gentleman with dark brown eyes and a clean shaven face.
The man on the left said, "Tim Drake?"
Tim nodded a little apprehensively as he looked at the men.
The man continued, "I'm Detective Gilcrease, this is Detective Reardon. Major Crimes Unit."
A smile lightened Tim's face as he sighed and replied, "Oh yes. I guess you want to ask me some questions."
Detective Reardon nodded and replied in a monotonous voice, "Yes. If you would just follow us."
The two cops led him to a small conference room adjacent to the waiting room and they all sat down around the small, circular table. Reardon pulled out a notepad and a pen as Gilcrease began to ask the questions. "Mr. Drake, if you would just take us through the events of the assault, starting with the explosion."
Tim nodded, which irritated his head causing another wave of pain. He licked his lips and said, "The explosion...uhhh, there was this sound at the door and the guards went to go check it out. I remember a bright flash of light and then I was airborne. I hit the table and there was lots of shooting. I guess I blacked out for a second, then I came to and rolled to the floor. There were two dead bodies on the floor and I believe Mr. Butler was also on the floor wounded at this time. I assaulted two of the gunmen and went after a third. I got the third one, and I realized that he was the Joker."
Gilcrease cut in and asked, "The Joker. Are you sure he was the Joker?"
Tim nodded, saying, "I grew up here. There's no way I could forget that grotesque face."
Gilcrease nodded and said, "Continue."
"Well...I kicked the Joker and he shot at me. I got out of the way and then I guess that's when I got hit. I went to the floor and blacked out. I guess the Joker's guys thought I was dead because they left me alone."
Gilcrease looked at Tim for a moment and said, "Are you leaving anything out, Mr. Drake?"
Tim thought for a moment. Should he tell the two detectives about Batgirl? He thought about telling them for a moment, then he remembered Montoya's face when he mentioned her before. If he told the two detectives, what would she do to him. What was the big secret, anyway? Tim knew about the vigilante ordinance, but why would Montoya want to keep the secret so bad?
He shook his head and said, "I don't remember anything else."
Gilcrease nodded and said, "So, you don't know who bandaged your head."
Tim had to think for a moment as to what Gilcrease was talking about. He then remembered that there was gauze wrapped around his head to hold the compress over his wound. He shook his head and replied, "I don't know who did. I figured one of your guys did it."
Gilcrease nodded again and stood up. He said, "I want so coffee, you want any coffee, Mr. Drake?" When Tim shook his head, Gilcrease offered his partner who also declined.
Tim put his hand to his forehead. He did not like lying, and he especially did not like lying to the police. After all, for four years of his life, he was an ally to the boys in blue. He knew more, but he couldn't say anything else. Montoya was protecting Batgirl and the person who belonged to the other footsteps in the conference room. He wanted to know what all the hiding was about. He figured the answers lied with one person: the person he thought had turned his back on Gotham.
Reardon said in his monotone, "Should've taken the coffee, Mister Drake. The ER is backed up this afternoon and it could be awhile before the docs can stitch your head."
Tim nodded slightly and said,"I guess. So, I guess Mister Bates didn't make it out of there alive, huh?"
The detective looked at Tim in a funny manner for a few seconds and then said, "That's what we're trying to find out."
Tim returned Reardon's look and quickly asked, "What do you mean?"
Reardon looked at his pad and returned, "The Old Man wasn't one of the stiffs we pulled out of that conference room today."
"He...he was kidnapped?"
Reardon nodded. Tim looked around the room for a moment trying to digest what he had just heard. He had wondered why the Joker and his gang attacked, and now he had the answer: they wanted Bates. A man second to power and influence only to Bruce Wayne, Bates was a perfect choice. Joker had worked it so that he could grab Bates as well as destroy the board of directors to boot. It was a horrible attack and a lot of innocent people died. Tim was angry.
Reardon said, "If you really saw the Joker, we can lock him away for good this time. I'm talkin' serious time at Blackgate."
Tim quickly questioned, "I thought the Joker was criminally insane."
Reardon chuckled before saying, "Not in Gotham. Ol' Harvey Bullock makes sure every criminal, sane or insane, does real time at a real prison. Arkham's more or less a rest home for the rich and famous who need to dry out from cocaine binges, now. They don't even call it Arkham Asylum anymore, they call it Arkham Addiction Treatment Centre."
So, Bullock locked the madmen in with the run-of-the-mill thug and let them fight it out in Blackgate. Tim shook his head and began to wonder why he even asked questions about the Bullock Age of Gotham. The city had gone to hell, and he really didn't think there was a cure.
A nurse peeked into the conference room asking, "Mister Drake?"
Tim looked up and replied, "That's me."
The nurse nodded, her face exhausted, and said, "Come with me."
Mayor Harvey Bullock sat behind his desk looking at his appointed chief of police with an air of annoyance. He steadily drummed his fingers on his copy of All the King's Men and stared at Commissioner Montoya as she stared back at him from her seat. The tension was thick in the air, both people intently looking at one another. The silence had been going on for about ten minutes and the longer it drew out, the more tension built in the air, making the air almost unbreathable.
Bullock spoke first, his voice a bit excited, but not elevated in any way: "What do you mean 'kidnapped?'"
Montoya looked at Bullock with a bit of disdain. She did not like the question or the tone it was asked in. She said flatly, "He's gone, Harvey. The Joker snatched him in the attack."
Bullock let out a little sigh, then he leaned back into his chair. He sighed once more and then asked, "Any ideas as to where he's gone?"
Montoya shifted in her chair slightly, a little uncomfortable with the situation and replied, "He one's this damn city Harvey, how the hell should I know?"
Mayor Bullock leaned forward, his voice elevated and full of rage, and yelled, "Don't take that tone with me, Rene! I appointed you to know this! It's your job to know where the Joker is and what he's doing! I have half a mind to--"
"To what," Montoya cut in hotly. "To fire me? To appoint that drunk s.o.b. in Kitch?"
"Kitch would get the job done, Rene!"
"Oh yeah, we can see he's getting the job done over there in the 7th Precinct. What, that's the area that's been a constant warzone between the Vipers and the Crazy Clown Killers. 17 dead officers in the last two years. Yeah, Kitch is really getting the job done." Montoya was fuming. The Governor was all most daily threatening Bullock's job, and he in turn dumped the burden on her, threatening her job unless she brought the Joker to justice. The fact was, she was doing her best, but the resources were stretched beyond the limits all ready. Breaking up the Joker's Wildcard Syndicate was a priority, but she also had to deal with the constant gang wars as well as all the other crime in Gotham. It was enough to make her become an alcoholic.
Bullock turned his chair towards the window and said, "Get out of here, Rene. And don't come back until you have Bates and the Joker."
Commissioner Montoya rose from her chair and left the Mayor's office.
For the wound to his head, Tim Drake received fifteen stitches to close the wound. After that, Tim was ushered out of the curtain area by the detective, through the front desk, and out to their sedan. He was put in the back seat and informed by Detective Gilcrease that he was to be taken back to the Soundgate Hotel where he would be held in protective custody until they arrested the Joker. Tim protested, but the detectives told him it was for his own good and drove on.
As they twisted through the crooked streets, Tim sat in the back seat going over the events of the day. His watch read seven o'clock in the evening. It had only been that morning that he visited Bruce Wayne and discovered he was living with Stephanie Brown, in a Wayne Manor without Alfred. He had learned Bruce was crippled by the Joker's bullet and he had learned that there was no Batman since Dick was out in space fighting some vaguely familiar sounding aliens. Then, he was attacked and almost killed by the Joker's gang who were after the billionaire Gill Bates.
Tim looked over his shoulder and noticed a car following pretty close behind: a tailgater. Tim looked out and saw the light at the next intersection turn red and Detective Gilcrease apply the breaks. Tim looked back and noticed the car behind wasn't stopping and the collision occurred. Drake was rocked forward and he heard a couple of curses from Detective Reardon.
Gilcrease opened his door and got out, followed by Detective Reardon. Reardon looked at Tim who was trying to recollect himself and said, "Stay in the car."
The driver of the second car got out and Gilcrease cried,"What's the problem here? Couldn't you see the I was breaking?"
The driver looked at Gilcrease for a moment then looked into his car. The passenger door swung open and a young man, probably around seventeen or eighteen, popped out with an automatic rifle. Gilcrease struggle to pull his gun from his holster, but was too slow as a hail of hot lead cut through him. Reardon ran to duck behind the open passenger door, but the kid knew his craft and quickly cut down the defenseless officer from behind.
Tim ducked down in his seat as he heard the kid with the rifle yell, "Get the guy in the backseat! The clock's ticking!"
Upon hearing that, Tim opened tried to open the back door of the car, but realized he couldn't because it was a car designed to carry criminals. The other back door popped open and the driver stood before him holding a gun in his hand. The driver said, "Let's go, Drake. The Boss is waiting."
Not knowing what else to do, Tim raised his hands and got out of the car. The driver forced him to the ground and quickly handcuffed him. A blindfold was secured around Tim's eyes and he was then thrown into the backseat of the second car. He heard the driver slam the back door and climb in the driver's seat and speed off into the night.
(To be continued)
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