Dark night rising,
As the cold winds blow,
Bright moon rising,
As the Ancients know.
"Dark Night Rising"
Clouds scudded across the face of the moon as the wind howled around the corners of the house, rattling the windowpanes. Leaves skittered down the street, whirling in wild arcs as the footsteps of a nervous Gothamite hurried down the cracked pavement.
This was Gotham’s time of year. While it acknowledged every holiday, it lived and breathed Halloween. Houses were decorated and balls and masquerades held, ranging from modest house parties to fancy glittering balls held at the finest hotels and mansions. Children eagerly planned their costumes and trick-or-treating routes.
Jim Gordon looked out the window of the modest house he shared with John Blake. They kept moving as Bane’s men were constantly on the look-out for him. As the Police Commissioner and leader of the Resistance, Jim knew that he was a prime target.
The Occupation had been in effect for three months, and people generally stayed close to their houses. Curfew had been set up and in addition, roving gangs of toughs went around stealing whatever they could lay their hands on. The dwellings of the rich had been ransacked but there was always more to pillage if they looked hard enough.
Jim was glad for the first time that his wife and children had left him. Living under this Occupation was no picnic.
The sound of pots and pans rattling in the kitchen brought a small smile to his face. His young detective was not a bad cook.
“Soup’s on!” John called cheerfully.
Jim let the curtain drop and went to the kitchen. The table was set and something was bubbling in a large pot on the stove.
“Thank you. I managed to scare up some onions, celery, and carrots. Potatoes, too. If we’re lucky that pot can last us awhile.” John bent over and took a cookie sheet out of the oven. The smell of warm garlic bread filled the kitchen.
“Where’d you get that?”
“Some bread, a little garlic powder, butter…voila!”
“Your scrounging abilities never cease to amaze me.”
“Call if the fruits of a misspent youth.” John grinned.
Jim felt better. John never failed to smile or attempt to find a positive spin on things.
John ladled out the stew in bowls and set them on the table. Jim sat down and tasted the stew. “Mmm, very good.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Jim smiled as he ate a piece of bread. “So, on your forage did you hear anything?”
“Just that people are planning to celebrate Halloween.”
Jim took another spoonful of stew. “I noticed the decorations were up on houses.”
“Apparently Bane and his men are fine with it. They seem to find it amusing.”
“They would. Gotham is literally a ticking time bomb and a horror show, so why not celebrate?”
John tore off a piece of bread. “That’s not why people are doing it.”
The younger man smiled. “They figure it’s a form of defiance. Halloween is Gotham’s holiday. They’ll be damned if they let Bane and his thugs ruin it.”
Jim smiled. Gothamites were made of stern stuff.
& & & & & &
He felt a twinge of guilt. Those Catechism lessons were still ingrained in him. He pushed strands of lank hair out of his rheumy brown eyes. He enjoyed living with a bunch of the guys in one of the fancy houses, throwing parties and inviting women over for fun.
Cory pawed through the trinkets. Nothing high-priced in this batch but he should be able to barter this stuff for the best food available. Money was pretty useless now so people had started old-fashioned swapping. He could gift that fox Jen with this pearl necklace.
A cold gust of air swooped down the alley. He pulled the collar of his coat up. Shivering, he felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle. He jerked his head up.
From the shadows of the alley a figure garbed in black appeared, holding his arm out. Cory backed away.
“B…Batman! You’ve been gone! What you doin’ back?”
The figure was silent, still reaching for Cory, who dropped his bag and ran.
& & & & & &
Joe O’Hara leaned forward as his young partner, Brett Dover, gently swirled the ice in his drink. Joe ran a hand through his gray hair. “Can we use the Halloween celebration as cover?”
“We could,” John said. He tipped his chair back, munching a handful of sunflower seeds. “Masks will be allowed but only on that night.”
John shrugged. “Bane finds the idea amusing. Probably because of his own mask.”
Jack Kelly and Max Tolliver rounded out the group. Jack had been on the force for ten years, his handsome face marred by a scar on his left cheek, courtesy of a knife fight when he’d been a rookie patrolman.
Max was a well-muscled African-American who had been the GCPD’s boxing champion for the last three years. He stroked his mustache as he looked thoughtful. “I know a place where we can get costumes.”
“Good.” Jim finished his drink and poured another one. “We can search for the truck carrying the bomb for most of the night.”
“We should take advantage of the circumstances,” Jack said. “Expand our usual grid.”
“You’re right.” John set the chair back down. “We won’t get another chance like this.”
Joe rubbed his face. “I wish the Batman was here.”
Jim felt his stomach clench. He was worried about the Batman. He would never abandon his city to the likes of Bane, especially now that he had become active again.
Where are you? Are you hurt? Please come back. We need you. I need you.
More plans were discussed as the night wore on. Finally they left, careful to go off in pairs and stick to the shadows.
Jim wandered over to the picture window in the living room. He gazed up at the sky, remembering how the Bat-Signal could cleave through the sky. He touched his fingers to the glass, his heart aching.
& & & & & &
Joe was glad that he had seen the Batman in action. He’d told Brett they were in for a show when the Dark Knight had resurfaced after eight years and rescued the Stock Exchange hostages, and the Bat hadn’t disappointed.
Now the Bat was missing again, which worried him. Was the man dead or injured? Bane looked like he could tear ten men apart at once. Had he taken the Batman down?
Probably not. Wouldn’t he put the Bat’s head on a pike in Gotham Square? Lord it over us?
Joe saw the flicker of a shadow and automatically went for the gun on his hip that was no longer there.
“Uh, Joe…” said Brett in a strained voice.
A black-clad figure was moving in the shadows and suddenly appeared in the faint light cast by the streetlight at the end of the alley.
Joe’s face split into a delighted smile. “Batman! Man, are we glad to see you!” His smile vanished as the Dark Knight didn’t speak, his face gaunt and his eyes clouded with pain. “Batman?”
The Batman reached out a hand, his lips moving soundlessly, then he melted back into the shadows and vanished.
Brett’s eyes were huge as he stared open-mouthed at Joe.