Batman: Ornamental | Issue 10 – Finality, Pt. 1 by Drew Van Dyke

Image source: Linda Thai, an animation student at Laguna College of Art and Design. Her hometown is Los Angeles, California. (Her work can be found at linktr.ee/lindatart.)


Your villain sits behind a curtain of long, polished wood and snowfall lace.

One, two…who am I? Humming it, nursery rhyme. Three, four…I am I.

Clicks the pen. Crosses the line.

Fainter, now – clicks the pen, clicks the pen, clicks the pen. Admires their work.

Aye, am I…

*     *     *

{THE BATCAVE. ONE YEAR AGO.}

“There are four skills you must master in order to become an efficient detective. Name them.”

Jason groans down at me from atop the balancing log – this hovering protrusion up from the dark, where he is now perched on just one foot, showing off

“Come on, Bruce…”

            “There are four skills you must—”

“Bruce. Seriously?”

“Name them,” I say.

He hops on the other foot. “And this…can’t wait?”

“Crime never wai—”

“—‘Never waits’, yeah…” The boy glides over to his hands on the beam. Starts to walk across them with ease, on his palms. Stutters a bit, then lifts himself up on one arm. Flips to the side. Slips the dismount. Lands hard on his back with a grimace. “…Yeah. Heard it before. Will hear it again.”

I grab his hand. Pull him up off the floor. Grin.

“Again,” I say.

He glares at me. Cracks his neck. Lifts his shoulders. Drops them. Is already halfway back up the climb to the top. Is the fastest climber I have ever seen.

“One,” he says, his bare feet pattering quietly up the smooth wood, like a glowing Cherokee warrior. His voice is monotone: “Keep your eyes open for patterns…”

*     *     *

{THE BATCAVE. LAST WEEK.}

Across the cave, Bruce’s voice from the computer screen is gentle – pleading.

            “…Boy Wonder.”

            Both Jason and Dick raise their heads.

            “Not you,” he laughs. “The other one.”

“Yeah,” Jason grumbles, “but what if I didn’t just lift my head?”

They ignore the boy, and he leans up against the table. Brushes the tears from beneath his mask so he can more easily see the man again.

This place…it is always your home, if you want it to be…

“I…I want you to take this, son,” he responds – only, he’s talking to Dick, really, but Dick isn’t hearing any of it. His arms across his chest, he takes no notice of the man tearing the cowl from his face. Offering it for him. Giving it back – smiling, but defeated. His hand is shaking – its movements reflecting the whites of the eyes-holes over the keyboard.

            Jason, bemused, sees it quickly shift from “T” to “D,” then skip quickly between “E,” “A,” and “D.”

            “I…I am scared I have lost you,” Bruce Wayne wearily says. “N” to “O” to “T” to “D-E-”.

Wait…

His eyes follow the shaking hand.

D-N-O-T-…

Not random, he says. It’s not random at all…

Like a professional dance, Jason Todd watches the hand following the same choreographed spelling. He looks around him. No one else seems to notice it.

D-E-A-D.

Bruce’s voice breaks. “Since that night in the snow, I have been afraid,” he says.

Like a skilled magician, the master and the prop are in two separate planes of existence.

N-O-T-D-E-A-D.

Jason’s eyes bulge.

“Because I don’t understand it.”

Not. Dead.

“This was always supposed to be yours – this legacy we built for you.”

Dick is fuming – approaches the computer with a full head of steam. Selina and Barbara both reach out for him. Jason stays where he is, leaned up against the far wall.

Impossible, he thinks.

“And I am…”

Not. Dead.

Dick slams his finger into the button on the screen.

“I am sor—”

Not. Dead.

Freezes the screen on the letter “O.”

Not.

Dead.

*     *     *

{THE BATCAVE. ONE YEAR AGO.}

“Two,” I say.

            “Threeeeeeeee,” Jason says. He wraps both legs around the pole and begins to circumnavigate it in far too adult a manner.

            I hold the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger. Close my eyes. Shake my head.

            “Learn to blend—”

            “Learn—” Jason cuts me off. Swings before my face, upside-down, still hanging by his thighs. He crosses his arms. Comes around again. “Learntoblendin!” he says quickly. “Three!”

            He allows his increasing momentum to propel him around, around, then from that spot to another pole, hanging adjacent and parallel to his, currently. He slings himself out haphazard, like a bead of dispersed sweat.

            Watching him, I never cease to hold my breath.

            His grip comes through – yanks his arms in his sockets, and pulls himself into a sideways crouch, hanging from the bar. The sudden stop is disorienting.

            “’Investigate your subjects fully’,” he says – mimics my husky masked voice. “’Know them like the lyrics to your favorite soooooong.’” His emphasis falls upon that last word, rises to a high sing-song.

            Heh. I hide a smile by turning away.

“Just ‘investigate your subjects fully’, Robin,” I say.

            “I know,” he says – again mockingly gravely. He raises his arm across his face, like he’s handling a long cape – hiding his face in it. “But the ‘favorite song’ thing is a nice touch, don’t you think?”

*     *     *

{THE BATCAVE. LAST WEEK.}

The can strikes like thunder.

            Echoing thunder. Thunder – again. Again, off the stone staircase.

            Down the well, it repeats its ricochet – the small can of sweet and condensed milk, and many yellow apples, which roll from the depths of a brown paper sack until they hit the main level and they roll all apart.

            “My word!” Alfred says. Looks to the screen overhead – to Bruce’s frozen face overhead. Falls down – falls against the sidewall, like his limbs are of deflating balloons.

            Falls forward like the sack of ruined groceries.

            Groceries…?

            Jason takes a step forward.

            Grocery day is Friday, he thinks. Today is…

Wednesday…?

            His eyes narrow.

            Alfred Pennyworth:

Loyal butler.

Personal driver.

            Army medic.

The old man’s mouth opens in a ghost scream. Holds for what seem minutes. Audibly begins to sob.

Classically-trained Shakespearean actor…

“Voice recognition accepted,” the Bat-computer says.

And then Jason Todd is again staring out into the roaring embers of Gotham Park, searching for any small sign of human movement in the flames. He suddenly remembers a recent mission to track down Garfield Lynns – the pyromaniac – he goes by the moniker “Firefly”.

He remembers the pre-mission logs. He remembers one single line of data. A single word, which seems pertinent in that situation.

            “Fireproof.”

            The fireproof capes.

            In the depths of the cave, he recalls this realization – cut by choking and smoke.

“Get in the car!” Selina says to him.  

But…he has a fireproof cape, he thinks.

Back in the cave: Where have you really been this whole time, Penny-one? Jason wonders.

            The boy groans to hide his surprise. A bruised creamscicle apple slowly lops to the tip of his boot. Taps off its rounded end. Stops.

The boy shakes his head. Clears his throat and throws his thumb back at the computer.

“Again with this?” he says.

            No one looks back to him. They are all focused on the crying caretaker, pulled in by the gravity of his sorrowful pose.

*     *     *

{THE BATCAVE. ONE YEAR AGO.}

“Four?” I say.

“Four,” Jason says. Drops down to the floor. Walks up to me. He barely reaches the height of my stomach. “Always…ask the right questions…no matter the cost.”

*     *     *

{WAYNE MANOR. NOW.}

“Why?” Jason asks me – tosses back the folder and looks up to me with these large, glowing silver dollar eyes.

            I sigh. Why, indeed, old Chum…

I point behind him to one of the many television screens. Turn up the volume on only that specific set.

An analyst from the Gotham Finance Bureau rises through the static. The monolithic “W” logo flashes up over her shoulder, sans-serif.

“—breaking news on the Wayne Enterprise front,” she says. Jason raises an eyebrow at me. Doesn’t look. Isn’t interested.

“Does Selina know?” he says.

I motion back at the screen. “…appears the recent drop in the company’s stock price has resulted in a large last-minute buy-out of the company’s assets by a yet-unnamed individual. Our sources have confirmed the buyout is by a sole entity but…”

“Oh, god.” Jason grabs my face in both hands, and lowers it, so I can’t help but look away from the screen; stare him back in the eye. “Bruce—”

I see an angel falling. The broken wing.

“Batman,” I say, instinctively. Shake my head. “I mean, ‘yeah’?”

“You need to call Selina,” he says.

I nod. Nod him back toward the screen. He turns.

“…Experts say the move was unexpected, but they remain somewhat optimistic that new majority ownership might be forthcoming, following the board’s expected ‘no confidence’ vote on absentee billionaire owner Bruce Wayne later this afternoon…”

He crosses his arms in front of his chest. “She’ll kill you, you know.” Leans back onto mine. “I’ll probably help her. We’re kinda the new dynamic duo, if you haven’t heard…”

I shake my head again. Grin. “I’ll call her.”

“Good,” he says. Pauses for a beat. “You’re an idiot.”

“I know.”

“A holy idiot,” he says.

“I know.”

“…They refused to reveal further details on the identity of said individual, stating that such could come, officially, as early as the meeting’s close today…”

I think he hasn’t been listening, because it gets quiet when I mute the set as the next segment comes on. But when he speaks, I know he’s heard every word.

“So,” he says, “whoever this is has been planning it from the very beginning. To get you out.”

I nod. “The drugs.” I raise my arm to show off the I.V. that is slowly detoxing me back to reliability. “Good catch, by the way.”

He takes as much of a bow as he is allowed from his sitting position. Reaches for the folder again. “What kind of Robin would I be if I hadn’t?”

I nod.

“Harvey. Project Understudy.”

“Really? Those too?”

“—the explosion during our investigation at the park—”

“Ah. Gotcha: Lysander,” he says. Mimics back my thoughtful nod. “Well, he does seem to have the connections. Surely he’s the one behind all this, then.” He closes the folder. Dusts off his hands. “Case closed! Did you say something about a nap earlier?” He stretches his arms for the ceiling. “I’m gonna need one before we go kick ass, so…”

I reach down and pull up my laptop. Sync it to the Bat-computer’s mainframe with a nearby cord.

“—Doesn’t exist,” I say, as the neon green light flows over my squinting face. I turn the screen around to him. Show him my records search. “Not here. Not in this city. Not in this country, even, believe it or not. Nor internationally…at least—” I zoom in on the line I want him to see. “—not since she died…back in 1977.”

“Stolen identity!” he says. “Nice!” He grabs the computer; but then, seeing my look, he attempts to tamper his excitement by setting it down and smoothing off the sheets near him to a pristine spread. “I mean, ‘terrible!’ That’s just—…those people are just the worst, you know? Like, be your own person, amirite? Identity thieves? Bleh…”

                I chuckle.

            “Wait, though,” he says. “So…Trillian Lysander is a…woman…?”

            “See, that’s the funny thing—”

            “This is the funny thing?” Jason says. “’Cause I feel like there’s gonna be some even funnier stuff coming up, as twisted as this already is…”

            Nodding, “Funny thing is,” I say, “we absolutely don’t know. We’ve always assumed Lysander was a man, but I’ve been searching a broad range of media releases at his—”

Or her,” he says.

“—destinations along the Lysander Sideshow’s route,” I turn back around the computer and pull up a compilation of newspaper clippings, “and there are never any pictures. The common news release is pretty straightforward, but there are never any photo ops with Lysander. No interviews with Lysander. No television spots.”

            “Holy terrible marketing campaigns, Batman!” Jason says. “’They’re like a ghost or something…”

            I nod again.

            “But…wait,” he says. He opens his folder and shuffles the papers until he comes to his want. “These purchase records and new pet registration forms for the show all have another signature on them!”

            I didn’t know he’d seen those…

Very good, old Chum.

“All mail-ins,” I say. “Person they spoke with in telephone correspondences said they were a secretary of some sort.”

He holds up a finger to interject. I catch him.

“Gone in the wind,” I say. He holds up his finger again. “They didn’t get a name.” Another finger. “And all the paperwork we could have gained further information from was lost in the—” I clear my throat, “—fire.”

“Oh,” he says. Pauses for a bit, trapped in thought, before saying, “You didn’t actually, you know, start it, did you?”

“What?”

“The fire.”

“I did not,” I say, “set myself on fire. No.”

            “Honestly,” he says, “we’ve seen weirder.” Continues to search the file, undeterred.

            “Honestly,” I say. “You’re not wrong…” I open my file alongside him. Let him look a bit on his own. “Lysander’s not the only one,” I finally add, with a grin.

            He slowly looks up over the file to me. Is glaring.

            “…WELL!?” he says. I am silent. “Spill it! Spill it!”

            “Or, well…perhaps I should say, Lysander may not be this person’s only disguise.”

            “Oh. My. God,” Jason says. “A master of disguise! Just like you’re a master of disguise! A NEW ARCH-NEMESIS!”

            “Well…” I say.

            “Come oooooooon,” Jason says. He begins chanting: “New arch-ne-me-sis. New arch-ne-me-sis. New—”

            “The coroner,” I say, which stops him with an awkwardly somber open mouth, one that twists his face into a question.

“Your morgue visit?” he says.

            I divert my eyes. Nod.

            “Convenient,” he says.

            “It’s where the clues took me.”

            “Tip-off?”

            “Our third fake identity,” I say.

            He gasps. “Noooooo!”

            “Yes,” I say.

            “Explaaaaain,” he says, in the same excited uptick, “because I am confuuuuuused.”

            I stack the papers in front of me, then tap them gingerly on the bedside table, straightening them before placing them back in the folder, which I set off to the side. I pick up the computer again, and open up the system’s tissue analysis software. I release the slide that is currently in the side port. Hold it up to the light. Look at it. Look through it.

            “Ugh!” Jason says. Wipes his hands off on the front of his shirt. “Was that in there the whole time?”

            I say that it was.

            “When I went to the Gotham P.D. Morgue two weeks ago, I did so in an effort to eliminate, once and for all, all doubt in my mind that Harv—” I stop. “That Two-Face was, in fact, dead. Without knowledge of my then-undiagnosed drug reaction,” I grin down to him, “I was beginning to believe that I had suffered some sort of psychotic break when I, again, believed I had found that man alive and well, running across the rooftops of Gotham City, away from the Gotham Janes crime scene and the old ACE Chemicals plant. I thought, ‘It’s like a dream. Too many things are lining up here.’” I palm the slide. “Turns out, the theory of Occam’s razor held true, here, though: ‘when presented with competing hypothetical answers to my problem, the one selected should make the fewest assumptions.’”

            Jason nods, tentatively.

            “I went to the morgue to try and ground myself in at least one factual piece of information,” I say. “Unbeknownst to me, though, I got much more than that, and merely by happenstance.” I plug the DNA sample back into the laptop. Scan it. Bring up our file on Harvey Dent. “The running theories were twofold: Either 1.) Two-Face fixed his face, was caught by the police, ran away, died running; or 2.)—” I show him the result.

His mouth is agape.

“It wasn’t Two-Face,” he whispers. “You’re sure?”

“By looking?” I say. “Not at all. They’re near-facsimiles, and I’m still attempting to ascertain how that could be. But I just so happened to take a DNA sample, just to corroborate my findings and discover possible anomalies that might explain the facial changes…”

“Skin grafts show up in DNA analysis, huh?” Jason quips.

I grin. “Can’t be too safe these days.”

“So, the body in the morgue…isn’t Harvey Dent, then?” he says, after some time.

“It never has been,” I say. “DNA matches no known assailants in our database. But you wouldn’t know that by the coroner’s report…”

I pull the papers out from within his folder. Point to the signature at the bottom.

S. Loomis, Ph.D.

“Dental’s wrong. Bloodwork’s wrong. Hell, even his damned fingerprints aren’t the same…”

Jason grabs the report out of my hands. “What kind of shoddy work is this?” he says. “Why would he…?”

“Why, indeed,” I say. “Almost as though…he…or she…didn’t test it at all…”

“The Disguise-ster!” he shouts.

“We’ll…work on the name,” I say. “But I believe you are absolutely correct in extrapolating that they may, in fact, be one-in-the-same.”

            Jason nods. “Busy guy.”

            “Or girl,” I say.

            “Honestly?” Jason says.

            “Honestly.”

            He flips again through the file. Looks at the television screen. Flips some more.

            “Well, but who the hell is it, then?” he says. “Why are they doing all this? I mean, it’s gotta be in here, right?”

 I shrug. “That, Chum, is why we’re here.” I pull down his folder, which has steadily grown closer and closer to his nose. “I feel like the ‘who’ here might educate the ‘why.’ At this moment, who are your prime suspects?”

            He tilts his head and just looks at me.

            “Well…Freeze was my first guess.”

            “Uh huh.”

            “But I can’t imagine he’d be easily disguised – what, with the whole tin can set-up, and all.”

            “Good.”

            “But there’s some connection there with him,” he says. “From what he told me…”

            “I heard, vaguely, Mr. Sun.

            He perks up on the bed – shimmies his shoulders with pride. “There’s something there.”

            “We can work with that. Evidence seems to back a possible connection, too. Good lead.”

“Scarecrow, then! He injected you, way back, at the beginning of all of this! Has to be something with that.”

I rub my neck. “I wondered the same. Crane’s been on the lam ever since his departure from the art exhibit.”

“His escape, Bruce,” Jason says. Looks at me from under his brow. “The one that I could have helped you avoid….”

“He has an alibi,” I say. Pull up surveillance tapes leading in and out of several banks in the Bludhaven area. The skeleton man glances about all frames at the same time. Either misses the camera in most of them, or the feed cuts with a swing of his mighty scythe. Continues his pursuit of the shadows at a leisurely pace. “Merely a pawn, I suspect.”

“Ooooooor he could be withdrawing the money to buy your company out from underneath you,” Jason says.

I look at him. I look down at the camera feeds. 

Nightwing and/or Batgirl jointly sail or run to catch the Scarecrow, who lopes as an antelope in the opposite direction, still penniless, in each of those remaining frames. 

I look back at Jason. Blink.  

            “But what about Two-Face?” he says, to change the subject. “Best way to hide yourself is to kill yourself, right?” I blink again. “The ‘Wayne Enterprise raid’ connection and all…”

            “Timelines don’t add up,” I say. “Harvey’s not in on it.”

            “But how do you know?”

            “I know.”

            “Prove it.”

            He’s glaring at me, now, and rightfully so. I mumble my answer back to him.

            “Huh?” he says.

            “I had Clark find him.”

            “You called in the League on this?” he leans forward. Takes my face in his hands again. “Just how drugged out were you?”

            “He’s sitting in a Nicaraguan jail cell – has been since approximately the day after I saw him on the rooftop.” He raises an eyebrow. “I didn’t have the luxury of transport when I was…” I clear my throat, “…deceased.”

            “So…Superman knew you were alive, but I didn’t?”

            “Yes,” I sigh. I let go of his folder. “May we move on, now?”

            He shakes his torso from side to side, adjusting his position on the bed. “We may,” he finally says, not looking up from a clearly-feigned attempt at reading. “But we are not even close to finished with this conversation, young man. Do you hear me?”

    Over his shoulder, the television monitor flashes up a commercial for a flipping pad of neon-bright Post-It notes.

            “What else do you know?” I say, after another bout of silence.

            “About Mr. Freeze or Two-Face or the missing cops or what?” he says. “Where do you want me to start?”

            “The missing—?”

            He is in the midst of updating me on the special unit discovery when something in the folder catches his eye. He picks it up. Turns it over – once. Twice. Three times.

It’s Riddler’s note – the warning that Catwoman gave to me, all those nights back, following the villains’ regular poker game.

Keep a lookout in homes of rife Boogeymen.

“Ed says, ‘hi,’” I say. “That’s all she gave me. Can’t make heads or tails of the thing, but if Ed’s scared of something – and Ivy was, too, by the way – that must mean something big’s afoo—”

“What?”

Jason’s brow comes down – his eyes narrow, and the pupils begin to dart back and forth over the eight words like they are more than just that.

“Say it again,” he says.

“Um…’Ed says…’”

“’Hi.’” He smiles, first with his lips, and then, when his cheeks will hold that no longer, they part, and his crooked white teeth are beaming.

“It’s right here, Bruce!” he says. He turns the paper around. “It’s so obvious. Can’t you see it?”

I reach for the paper, and in that moment, the door to the bedroom swings open wide. In its atrium stands a (rather alarmed) Alfred Pennyworth, who, with one foot in the room already, is staring us down. His wide eyes quickly regain their composure.

“S-sirs,” he stammers.

“Penny-Oooooooone,” Jason negs. “You sly dog, you! I found him!” He points at me.

“Indeed, Master Jason,” he says. “So it appears.” He looks over at the stacked television monitors. Looks back at the two of us. Stares down my bandage. “I was just coming to check on your appetite, Master Bruce,” he says. “And to ask whether you would prefer chicken or the soup tonight?”

“Why not both, old friend?” I say. 

He raises an eyebrow.

“Chicken soup?” I say.

Jason nods.

“And why not a bowl of ice cream, as well,” Alfred winks to the boy. “Reincarnation seems as much a time for celebration to me as any, don’t you think?”

The boy pops up from the bed and rushes out behind the butler. His footfalls as the door swings back are like the clicking of summer cicadas down the hall, and then wind on shingles fading from the winding main stairway.

            Smiling, my eyes train to the television screens, and from there to his folder splayed out wanton where he dropped it on the comforter. I pull it to me and begin to straighten the papers back to their original position. Stop on the unfolded sheet of paper – on the green sharpie question mark – on the scrawled handwriting of Edward Nygma.

            “Keep a lookout in homes of rife Boogeymen.” A chill runs the length of my spine.

Selina’s voice is in my ear: Ed says, “hi.”

Hi, Ed.

“…lookout…”

What do you mean, Ed?

            “…rife Boogeymen.”

 No, no, no. You always mean something else…

It’s right here, Bruce!

“…in homes…”

Ed says…

It’s so obvious.

Hi.

Can’t you see it?

            There is the sound of a plastic clatter on muffled hardwood some distance away.

My head snaps up.

            Then…nothing.

Alfred…?

            I find myself standing, and I don’t know when it was that said motion took place. I step forward – toward the door – teeter a bit on my fresh legs, and the force of the movement rips the I.V. needle from my arm; topples the rolling cane hook that holds my fluid bag to the floor behind me. The liquid flops in these wet, oscillating waves before resetting themselves in the form of the clear pocket.

            Why didn’t you knock before coming in, Alfred…?

            “Jason?” I call.

            To my trained ear, there comes no clever response.

I see his foot again – already halfway in the door…

Why didn’t you know we were here, Alfred?

The searing pain along my upper torso returns now, inconveniently, and I hit the side wall, gripping at the burns over my chest, through the bandages.

Forget the pain, I say. No time.

No time.

Silence.

Silence.

 “Jason!” I call again. And I forget the pain. Make my voice more pleasant (May I have a glass of water, please?), so as not to arouse greater suspicion. Crouch behind the heavy door. Grip the knob in my large, wet fist. I take a deep breath. I’m shaking. Throw it back; throw it into the dark.

Emptiness.

Hi.

The hallway beyond me is empty.

Outside the mansion, I hear a car engine ignite and sputter.

My stomach flips, cold. The Bentley…

I lean across the bannister – see the stray of an overturned fruit bowl on the main landing. The tenting of a messed carpet runner.

The front door to the house hangs open, and waves at me with the passing breeze.

I cry Jason’s name again – this time, not afraid of repercussions. Hear the engine of the Bentley rev, and the popping of tires eased over trapped lane gravel.

I cry his name, now, from the top of the stairs – rolling my legs down them as I’m screaming out like the pickup of some grand locomotive wheel bar, pulling and pushing and cranking until I am barreled at full speed into the open air, the smell of fresh-cut grass, then a mixture of sour exhaust and sleeting, spun-up rocks on my face and torso. The Bentley is roaring up from the garage to my right, and turns down the driveway for the road that connects us into the Gotham City main drag. Alfred sits in the driver’s seat, and his beady eyes shift to me in the rearview mirror. I notice what appears to be Jason’s socked foot pressed at an odd angle on the passenger’s side window. 

What haven’t I told him? I think. That morphs to, what more could I have done?

“STOP!” I scream, my calloused feet gliding the jagged terrain with no regard, pumping my arms until it appears that I am gaining ground on the vehicle before me. “STOP! THAT’S MY BOY!”

But I know the only reason I am catching them when the gears groan, and the car lurches and throws up an octave, shifts, and speeds away, still yards out of my reach, down the hill.

I’m still running for at least half a mile, before the car becomes a dot in my eye, and my toes are bleeding and the dirt cakes me from the air – clings to my bruised and broken frame as I hit the button on my waist that brings the Batmobile out from its secret access and down the lane behind me. It stops only a moment, so that I, still plainclothes, can leap up over the side and will it to begin again. As the door slides closed, I slam the throttle forward, and a streaking line of red flame heaves my body back.

“Computer!” I roar, through dying breath. “Lock onto the coordinates of car 5.”

“Locked, Batman.”

“Follow,” I gasp. The tracking screen lights up before me. The cursors begin to ping. 

Myself. 

My prey.

            Ed says, “hi.”

The phrase keeps rolling in my brain.

Ed says, “hi.”

Pounding with the blood rushing through my ears.

Ed says, “hi.”

I enhance the schematic of the city, and follow the trajectory of the Bentley – the rhythmic light syncs to my heartbeat; or, perhaps, it is the other way around.

No time.

Keep a lookout in homes of rife Boogeymen. 

Ed says, “hi.”

An intruder. A spy. For how long were you Alfred?

My old friend…how long have you been gone…?

Stupid, Bruce. Careless. 

…in homes…

It was right there, all along. He was right there…

Stop. I’m blinking. I’m blinking hard – a tick of my steadied thought. A blankness. An empty glass. The filling of an empty glass.

In. Homes.

Ed says, “hi.”

I. H. 

Or…H-I. 

Hi.

A cypher, I know, now. The reason Jason was staring the paper down so thoroughly. Of course! 

You always mean something else…

I remove those words beginning with “H” and with “I” from the warning.  

“Keep a lookout of rife Boogeymen.”  

What, I think, would you do if you knew you were surrounded? How would you tell someone, lost in the crowd? 

Then I pare down those words to only their opening letters. 

Keep – “K”, A – “A”, Lookout – “L”, Of – “O”, Rife – “R”, Boogeymen – “B”.

K-A-L-O-R-B.

Hold on…

I shuffle the anagram; notice the pattern. Run through my list of possible suspects. 

Suddenly, it all makes sense.

Lysander: the Shakespearean character who befalls magical misfortune at the hands of the mischievous fairy, Puck.

Loomis: the doctor in the cinematic horror series, Halloween – the keeper of Michael Meyers.

Harvey Dent: a tragic actor in the game of life. The mask of a fallen man.

The Bentley veers quickly to the right, now only half a mile my lead. I know exactly where it’s going. I ask the question. Pull up the interface of my carphone line. Find the number. Select it.

What did you say, Ed?

Ed says, “hi.”

Hi.

H-I.

Hi, B—…

*     *     *

{WAYNE ENTERPRISE BOARD ROOM}

“A telephone call for you, Mr. Karlo? They say it’s urgent.”

*     *     *

{THE BATMOBILE}

K-A-R-L-O.

My cup…

Hi, B. Karlo.

…runneth over.

*     *     *

{WAYNE ENTERPRISE BOARD ROOM}

Your villain clicks his pen. Clicks his pen again. Smiles up at the Wayne Enterprise board of directors in a sweeping arc from across this curtain of long, polished wood and snowfall lace.

*     *     *

{THE BATMOBILE}

Hello, Clayface.

I kick my pedal down to the floor. Re-set the coordinates for Wayne Enterprises.

It’s been a long time.

*     *     *

{WAYNE ENTERPRISE BOARD ROOM}

“Ladies and gentlemen” Boris Karlo says; runs his fingers over his wide, white mustache. He flashes a wry smile to the secretary at the door. Stands up from his thick, plush chair. 

“Shall we take,” he says, with a smart, proper bow, “a quick…intermission?” 

TO BE CONTINUED…

in BATMAN: ORNAMENTAL 

Issue 11 – Finality, Part 2


C.D. DyVanc currently lives in the Midwestern United States. He is an award-winning journalist, and, in his free time, enjoys jumping out of airplanes, reading comic books, and being the epitome of the living dad joke with his wife and stepson. His works have appeared or are upcoming in Drunk Monkeys, Rue Scribe, Dream Pop Press, and Five:2:One’s #thesideshow. His chapbook, rhi(n.)oceros, won the 2017 Midwest Chapbook Contest, and is currently available through Greentower Press. You can find his horrible use of GIFs on Twitter (@CDDyVanc), if you’d like. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s