Authors: Peter David
In an amazing new adventure, Batman, Gotham City's protector, propels himself into a fateful battle against two brilliant but villainous souls who have joined forces in a fearsome alliance. One is know as Two-Face, the former District Attorney disfigured by chance and fueled by vengeance. The other is the Riddler, the alter ego of a computer genius whose fiendish goal is to control the minds of the citizenry. Joining the Dark Knight in this fight for the future in Gotham is a young circus acrobat who transforms into his daredevil partner, Robin. As Two-Face and the Riddler plot their twin schemes against Batman, the commitment is made, the die is cast, and the plan springs into action to destroy Batman . . . Forever!
WARNER BOOKS EDITION
Copyright © 1995 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.
Batman and all characters and related indicia are trademarks of DC Comics © 1995. All Rights Reserved.
Cover design by Rachel McClain
Warner Books, Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
A Time Warner Company
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing: June, 1995
T H E N
he rain poured down in sheets, with such ferocity and intensity that it didn’t seem as if it were originating from the skies. Instead—at least to the young man who was running through it, one arm pumping, the other clasped against his heaving chest—it seemed as if the rain were coming from everywhere at once. From above, below, to the sides . . . everything was a source of violent precipitation, as if all reality itself were in mourning
. . .
He had run from the house, a house that was no longer a home. Something compelled him to turn and look back over his shoulder at it. The ground, however, did not cooperate with the intention, and his feet went out from under him as the mud gave him no traction. It was like ice-skating on dirt.
He tried to catch himself but didn’t succeed, and the impact rattled his teeth. He didn’t care about it particularly, though. Indeed, it had been a while since he cared about anything.
His suit pants were thick with mud. There was mud under his fingernails, mud in his hair, in his mouth. His feet felt heavy and leaden, filling up with filthy water. For just a moment, like a small winged creature, a thought flitted through his mind:
Dad’s going to kill me.
Then he remembered once more how moot that concern was and—for the hundredth time, it seemed, in that day alone—the floodgates in his eyes threatened to burst. But he kept it in, as he had managed to do thus far and had every intention of continuing to do. Previously it had been a matter of willpower. This time, he was so consumed by misery that he had to bite down on his lip to repress it. But he did so, and kept on doing it until the last vestiges of the urge to sob had subsided. He was unaware of the blood trickling down his face from the bite, giving him an appearance similar to that of a vampire from an old horror film. There was a distant stinging in his mouth, but he ignored that. Pain was something that he’d been training himself to disregard. Physical pain, at least. And within moments, the rain had washed the blood away from his face, although the mud had become a bit thicker.
He hauled himself up, turned, and looked back and up at the house. That’s all it was now: a house. Not a home. Home, after all, is where the heart is. But the young man’s heart was elsewhere: It was scattered in small, bloody ruins on the filth-ridden ground of a place recently dubbed “Crime Alley” after its most recent atrocity. His heart lay intermixed with the blood of two people, pouring from them, darker, much darker than he’d imagined blood to be. There had been warmth coming off it, for it had been a very chill evening. Life had gushed from them with a deep, abiding warmth, the heat rising, wafting away two lives and three souls. Leaving behind two corpses and one living creature that only wished he were dead.
And a leering, chortling monster of a man, glowering down at the boy and saying something that made no sense:
“Tell me, kid . . . have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
The boy had frozen. Not out of fear for himself; that was long gone. No, frozen as he’d sensed the blood of the people cooling in the evening. Frozen as his soul, it seemed, had left him.
Then had come the sirens . . . and the lights . . .
The lights now flickered at him from on high. Lights from the police cars were washed away in his awareness by the illumination from the house. The windows flickered like so many glass eyes, blinking down at him from the cliffside above. Like the eyes of God looking down at him, but not kindly. Not divinely. Not sympathetic to the miserable child, but instead with a sort of cold, distant interest of the type that a scientist might possess. It made him feel like a creature in an experiment. A lab rat. A lab rat flown from the lab.
The rain was coming down harder, which he would not have thought remotely possible. It was getting tougher for him to see. He rubbed his eyes, and only succeeded in smearing more dirt on his face. From the nose up, his face was a solid, dark mask of mud, with two small white orbs peering out through slitted eyelids. He held up an arm to try to ward off the rain, but it was like trying to hold back the Atlantic Ocean with a mop.
His father had told him, sternly and repeatedly, to stay away from the area where he presently trod. It was at the outer edges of the property. The ground was uncertain. Even under the best of weather conditions, the young man could fall and hurt himself. And he’d be so far away from the house that help would not easily find him. “You could break your leg,” his father had said and then, with a smile, added, “and, of course, if that happened, we’d have to take you out and shoot you.”
His father had never been one for jokes. Oh, he fancied that he had a sense of humor. Everyone thinks they do, particularly those who don’t. Still, the remark had been amusing enough that the young man had actually laughed. And because of the rareness of such an occasion, the boy had taken care to attend his father’s words.
But his father had no more words.
And the young man had no more father.
Somehow, words of advice as to how to take care of oneself lose their impact when the advisor isn’t able to keep himself from being killed. It seemed to undercut the entire premise.
What, indeed, was the point? What was the point of any of it?
In the distance, vaguely over the roar of thunder, the young man thought he heard something. A voice, an anguished voice, calling his name over and over again. But it was far away, and perhaps even his imagination.
Of course, it might be . . . him. The family servant who seemed to have outlived the family. But the young man couldn’t stand the thought of seeing him right now. He couldn’t stand seeing that gentle, sympathetic face, offering a shoulder to cry on, because he would be damned if he’d cry.