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Thoroughfare Gentleman

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The dim streetlights. The chill winter air. The sound of Gotham at night and the tight fit of his mask just below his chin, where the loop of a noose would tuck.

 

Maybe Macleane will remember these sights, sounds, sensations for the rest of his life. Fuck knows he should never be able to forget how his guts have turned liquid in the lead up to the robbery.  

 

But here’s another possibility.

 

Four, five minutes into the future, a luxury town car will turn onto the same street where Plunkett and Macleane now wait, cloaked in shadows and brandishing guns. The car will meander its way along, its occupants tipsy off of expensive champagne and ignorant to the fact that in Gotham, even in the poshest neighborhood, crime must always be sated with a victim. 

 

Macleane will lead Plunkett into the street. (Plunkett will bristle at this and doubtlessly chastise him for it later. "I'm more experienced, Macleane. I'm the brains, Macleane. You're just playing at a thug, and I'm the genuine artifact, Macleane.") But in the heat of the moment, Plunkett will fall into line, and the pedigreed wanker behind the steering wheel will find himself staring down the barrels of their pistols. 

 

"Stand and deliver!" Macleane will bellow into the night, loudly enough to show their targets that they mean business but not so loudly that he summons the Batman. 

 

Plunkett will take the rich prat’s money, and Macleane will divest Mrs. Rich Prat of her jewelry. Macleane’s movements will be as smooth as silk, and later, when the couple recounts the tale to their wealthy friends, the wife will note how he cut a figure that was both imposing and gentlemanly.  

 

After Plunkett and Macleane have taken everything that isn’t nailed down, the former will toss one of his patented flash bombs into the air. A small part of Macleane worries that particular flair will attract the attention of Gotham’s finest – but he does appreciate showmanship, and they do need to make a clean getaway, so he agreed to the flash bomb’s use.

 

The pair of them will disappear into the night and meander their way back towards their rented apartment in Old Gotham. The address impresses Plunkett to no end, even though it’s three blocks too far from the Clocktower to be considered truly fashionable. Macleane knows his partner’s most recent accommodations were in prison cell in Blackgate and before that a firetrap in the Bowery, but Plunkett’s utter lack of refinery does irk him.

 

Once they’re safely inside the flat, Plunkett will stash the night’s takings and settle into a chair so he can clean and oil their guns. Macleane will slouch onto a settee and watch the other man, envying the contentment Plunkett seems to find from such menial work. Perhaps the pair will exchange barbs, or perhaps Macleane will wait in silence for Plunkett to tire.

 

Eventually, the adrenaline from the night’s escapades will run out, and Plunkett’s heavy lids will droop.

 

“I’m going to bed,” Plunkett will declare.

 

He lacks Macleane’s flourishes, his airs, but even with his rough accent and rougher profession, Plunkett possesses an honesty which Macleane doubts he ever will. It baffles Macleane how Plunkett always seems to mean what he says.

 

Finally, though, Macleane will be left alone with their pile of jewels and cash. When he’s certain Plunkett has fallen asleep, he will creep to the vent where his partner stashes the goods. Macleane will only borrow a little of what they’ve stolen, far less than his true share – and then, who knows? Off to a gambler’s den or an underground fight or a nightclub with cheap liquor and cheap women.

 

Maybe Macleane will drink and carouse and lose enough that the sensations he experiences now, from the way his shoulder keeps brushing Plunkett’s to the scent of pine and impending snow, will be erased from him by morning. Only one constant will remain: that as soon as he can, Macleane will part ways with Plunkett and will never be asked to associate rubies with asshole again.

 

“Take a deep breath,” Plunkett orders him, and Macleane rolls his eyes in the dark.

 

“I’m fine,” he insists.

 

“You’re fidgeting,” Plunkett replies brusquely. “Take a deep breath and calm down.”

 

Macleane inhales deeply, more out of pique than because he takes orders from Plunkett. It bothers him that the other man was right. His muscles loosen, and he feels closer to the highwayman scoundrel he’ll become in just a few moments.

 

“Excellent,” Plunkett says when a set of headlights flashes two blocks up. “We’ve got company.”

 

Macleane adjust his mask one last time as the town car approaches, and as such, Plunkett gets the drop on him. The slim man strides into the street and raises a hand to stop the car when it’s less than a block away. His pride smarting, Macleane makes for the side of the car, making sure the driver sees his gun.

 

“Stand and deliver!” Macleane bellows at the same time Plunkett yells, “Turn off the lights!”

 

Their commands override one another, and Plunkett quickly repeats himself. “Turn off the lights!”

 

The driver complies. Even though he must have realized the moment he saw Plunkett that his night had taken a turn for the worse – no one with good intentions wore masks in Gotham – he still stopped his car. Plunkett thinks the targets will be docile until the driver begins to shout in a familiar condescending baritone.

 

“Do you have any idea who I am?” Lord Gibson demands.

 

Normally, Macleane would feel guilty about robbing a countryman, but he cannot abide the other man. Gibson’s companion, on the other hand – Macleane’s stomach lurches when he sees Plunkett approach the passenger door of the car and rap on the window with his pistol. Rebecca Gibson hesitates a moment before pressing a button. The window lowers with a mechanic whir.

 

“We know who you are, and we’ll take your money and jewelry all the same,” Plunkett says.

 

Gibson continues to sputter. Macleane hesitates to shove his gun in the pompous man’s face, lest he startle Rebecca.

 

He needn’t worry about her, though. As cool and steady as her uncle is reactive, Rebecca stares at Plunkett unblinkingly. She almost appears bored.

 

“I’d rather not,” she says.

 

“I’m afraid I’m the one whose wants get, love,” Plunkett says in response. He taps his pistol against the passenger door’s windowsill. “Come on, come on.”

 

Finally, Rebecca goes to remove a diamond bracelet around her wrist, a finery as delicate as the curve of her chin. Her acquiesce reminds Macleane of his own duties, and he turns half of his attention to Gibson.

 

“Give me your wallet, now.”

 

Gibson has worked himself into a frothing rage, but even he realizes his threats are no match for the steel of a gun. He proffers his wallet – brimming with cash, naturally – and also parts with, in short order, his watch, a class ring, and a pair of golden cufflinks.

 

“The necklace, love,” Plunkett says to Rebecca.

 

“No,” Rebecca replies. She’s every bit as serene and magnificent as Macleane thought he would be.

 

“The necklace. Now.”

 

Rebecca’s eyes flash, whether with anger or surprise, Macleane can’t tell. Her graceful fingers go to the necklace’s clasp, and Macleane half hopes she’ll ask for his help. To his surprise, instead of handing the jewelry to Plunkett, she reaches across the car and dangles it for him to take.

 

Macleane pauses.

 

“Oh, come on!” Plunkett hisses. Three blocks up, another town car’s lights twinkle. Uninvited company.

 

Macleane takes the necklace, and for a moment, his fingers brush Rebecca’s. Her gaze is a challenge he cannot accept, so he follows Plunkett’s lead and backs away from the car.

 

Gibson has regained some semblance of composure and has found his phone. “Hello, police? I need to report a robbery.”

 

“That’s our cue,” Plunkett mutters. He fishes in his pocket and removes the flash bomb. He tosses it into the air, and Macleane barely remembers to start running when it explodes.

 

As he and Plunkett race into the night, he manages to say, “No Batman. There’s that.”

 

“Yeah, well, the Penguin and the Riddler are in town, aren’t they? Causing a bleeding ruckus. The Caped Crusader won’t bother with the likes of us when there are bigger baddies to catch.”

 

Macleane doesn’t want to admit his partner’s right. He doesn’t want to acknowledge how Plunkett propelled them through the robbery and got them both out the other side. Plunkett is coarse and unrefined, and the notion that Macleane could learn anything but thievery from him disquiets the other man more than Rebecca Gibson’s piercing gaze.

 

He realizes once he arrives at the apartment that he dropped her necklace by her uncle’s car door. Instead of going out that night, Macleane takes to bed and wonders whether she found it and whether he’s earned her favor.

 

***

 

“Fancy meeting you here, Mr. Wayne.” Jim Gordon nodded his greeting.

 

Bruce only knows Lord Gibson to look at him, but the Englishman must be important if his mugging draws the attention of the police commissioner.

 

“I seem to have a knack for appearing at the right time in the right place,” Bruce says.

 

“So you’re a witness?”

 

“To the end of the crime, yes. I drove up as the suspects made their exit.”

 

“I trust my men have taken your statement?”

 

Bruce nodded. “They have.”

 

“Then I won’t keep you waiting any longer. Good evening, Mr. Wayne.”

 

“Commissioner.”

 

Bruce returned to his car. His date for the evening had proffered a not-so-subtle invitation for him to spend the night, and he was glad he’d turned her down. Tim was at home, studying for a test, but he knew his protégé wouldn’t mind the interruption.

 

Bruce dialed a number in the car.

 

“Meet me in the cave,” he said. “We’re working tonight.”