Occupation of Gotham City: Day 15
"My father's down there! You have to let me help!" an officer's son yelled.
Gordon held back a sigh at the green eyes brimming with tears. Jimmy would have reacted the same way when he was this boy's age. But it was drawing attention of the other people in the basement storeroom who had volunteered. "I'm sure your mother needs you at home."
Chuck Dixon scowled. "She's got my big sister. Let me help."
"He can be on my team, Commissioner." Before Gordon said anything, Blake knelt next to Dixon. "Where do you live?"
"Bayside," the black-haired boy answered sullenly.
"Great, I don't have anyone there." Blake pulled a small notepad out of his coat. "The detectives can't patrol, all those criminals from Blackgate know they're cops, but they won't suspect kids. So patrol Bayside, watch for Bane's soldiers doing anything, take notes, don't let them notice you. Think you can handle that?"
Dixon nodded. "I can do that."
Blake slapped the notepad into his small hand. "I'll get an update from you once a week." He pulled out a box of chalk. "Do you know how to make the Bat symbol?" Dixon nodded and accepted the stick of chalk. "Draw it all over Bayside, but don't let anyone see you do it."
"To show Bane Gotham doesn't belong to him." The twelve-year-old accepted the logic of that and went across the basement to collect MREs from Gerry Conway, retired GCPD officer and owner of the grocery store they were meeting under.
Blake stood up and faced Gordon. "Talked to the Fire Commissioner. He says he's too busy stopping the damn anarchy idiots from burning down the city, but if we need medical attention get ourselves to a firehouse."
"That's better than nothing," Gordon said.
Blake shoved his hands into his pockets. "If you get any more minors, I'll take 'em. We need all the eyes we can get."
"Yes, that is a good idea, Blake."
"Sherlock Holmes had it first." He shrugged. "Any other messages to get out?"
Gordon shook his head. "We need to find out where they're holding their prisoners." He hated to send Blake on these scouting missions so close to Bane's men, but he was one of the few personnel he had with an unrecognizable face. And he didn't have any family to risk, unlike so many other recruits.
"I'll get right on that, sir." Blake stepped around Stephens with a nod, grabbed a bag of MREs from Chuck Dixon, and accompanied the young boy out of the basement store room.
Stephens set a Styrofoam cup of coffee beside the map stretched across the table next to Gordon. "Blake can't stay in one place, can he?"
"He would stay here if I wasn't." He met Stephens' narrowed eyes. "The truth about Harvey Dent, which doesn't seem to have fazed any veterans of MCU, hit him hard."
Stephens grimaced slightly. "We figured it was something you and Bats cooked up to keep Dent's indictment from falling apart and putting those mobsters back on the streets. And I confirmed it by talking to Ramirez after you made her resign the force."
Gordon's teeth ground together. "You investigated me, Gerard?"
"Your marriage was imploding, Jim."
He picked up the coffee cup and stared into the brown liquid. "Barbara accepted the lies to keep the trial moving forward. She even accepted what I said at the funeral. But when the politicians got involved, passing the Dent Act, turning the day he died into a holiday--" He sipped the scalding drink. "She couldn't take that."
"Nice to have the reason why you fought the Dent Act so hard confirmed." Stephens pulled a nearby stool under his butt.
"I wasn't the only one fighting it." Gordon hadn't expected Bruce Wayne at a private meeting with the Mayor and the City Council. Garcia had a marble-teeth smile for the somber man in a black suit. "Mr. Wayne, I thought you--out of all the citizens of Gotham--would support this Act. After all, Harvey was your friend."
"I'm here for Rachel Dawes, the other murdered member of the District Attorney's office who you are forgetting about in this indecent rush to capitalize off their deaths. She was my oldest friend. This Act you are proposing is a travesty of the justice system she believed in."
One of the Council members spoke up. "With all due respect to your loss, Mr. Wayne, but the Dent Act finally closes loopholes that allowed criminals freedom to do what they pleased on our city streets."
"Any convicted felon with any organized crime activities on his or her record shall be denied parole." Wayne's icy glare swept over the room. "Parole isn't a loophole; it's rehabilitation."
"We covered those statistics in the public debates over the Dent Act, Mr. Wayne," Garcia smoothly interjected. "Yes, it increases the population of Blackgate Prison for years, but no one will be able to fill the gangland power vacuum left by the Joker's murder spree."
"In fact, it would be irresponsible of us not to protect the citizens of Gotham for the civil liberties of murderers and rapists." The Councilman gulped when Wayne stared at him.
"And it's all a moot point. The Dent Act was signed into law yesterday," Garcia added.
The scrape of the stool on the concrete floor pulled Gordon to the present. "I'm glad you didn't lose your job over it, Commissioner. Blake's young; he'll get over it. Now where are we going to get equipment from since Bane's Army borrowed our armory?"
Gordon pushed aside the unhappy past and focused on securing a future for the city.
Blake knocked on the upper door of the row house and tensed his arm not to pound on it. The joyriding Blackgate Boys were just two blocks up the street. He shuffled the paper bag to his other arm. No need to give those felons an excuse to come investigate. His free hand patted down his pockets for a key. He heard someone on the other side of the door, and he smiled sheepishly at the peephole.
"Are you trying to get yourself killed, John Blake?" Yolanda Ross' pinched her thick lips closed as she shut and locked the door behind him. "You're not blind and you know curfew starts at sundown."
"The food line took longer than expected after I checked on the Dixon family in Bayside." Blake carried the grocery bag of MREs into the kitchen.
"You didn't have to do that. We've got plenty of food." Yolanda trailed after him.
"For now, but nobody knows how long this will last." He stacked the MRE packages on the kitchen table until Yolanda took them to the pantry. "I got a message relay set up with Tyler. He's fine, along with three thousand other cops down there."
"Thank God," she exhaled. She paused before shoving the stack of MREs onto the top shelf. "They're getting food and water?"
"So far. Bane wants to look like a reasonable warlord." Blake reached the bottom of the bag, and held up the waxed paper tub. "Strawberry ice cream for the birthday girl."
"I don't want to know what you did to get that." Yolanda laughed, sounding more like herself. "I don't think Tara will change her mind, even for strawberry ice cream."
"If there was any way I could get Tyler out of there--"
"We know, John." She hugged him tightly. "Don't you dare blame yourself for this madness. Now set the table."
Blake tried hard to follow Yolanda's advice during supper. It was Bane's fault his old partner hadn't been with his family for two weeks; he knew that. But it was hard not to give into the guilt when a five-year-old refused her birthday party again because Bane hadn't let her daddy out yet.
He finished wiping the skillet dry when Yolanda staggered back down the stairs. "You're up, Uncle John. She wants a bedtime story from you."
"Only because she hasn't had a bedtime story from me."
"Do you think that gets Tyler off the hook?"
Blake headed upstairs and knocked on Tara's bedroom door. "You need a bedtime story?"
Tara sat up in her pink and white bed. "Yes, Uncle John! Not those," she added when he stopped at her bookshelf. "I want one nobody else knows."
He sat on the edge of the bed. The dusky-skinned little girl laid her straight black hair on her pillow. She has her father's eyes, Blake realized as he adjusted the nightlight on her bedside table to not shine in them. "I haven't had much practice with bedtime stories, so go easy on me."
"Sure, you start with once upon a time."
"Once upon a time, a kingdom was falling apart. An evil man with lots of money wanted to rule the kingdom, so he hired men to scare and to steal from the citizens of the kingdom. Everybody knew who caused the bad things, but they were too scared of being beat up or worse by Falcon, Duke Falcon's men."
"Why didn't the King stop him?"
"The King didn't know which of his knights were loyal and which ones were paid to ignore Duke Falcon's men. Without knights he could count on, he was helpless in his castle."
"So nobody could stop Duke Falcon?" Tara's brown eyes widened.
"That's what it looked like to everyone in the kingdom. But one man decided that he would stop Duke Falcon's takeover, so he put on black armor and a helmet that hid his face. He chose his battle carefully, and attacked a group of Falcon's men. Falcon watched as this new knight beat all the men he had. He started to run, but the new knight caught him. And everyone in the city called the new knight, the Dark Knight."
"Cause his armor was black?"
"Yeah. The King locked Duke Falcon in a dungeon, but Falcon still had people working for him. They sent word to a powerful sorcerer that Falcon needed his help. The sorcerer wanted to destroy the kingdom, so he pretended that he would help Falcon become king."
"Duke Falcon wasn't very smart."
"No, he wasn't. The sorcerer used Falcon's men to scatter parts of his magic spell all over the kingdom. They worked out of a tower in the most dangerous neighborhood of the kingdom. They didn't think anyone knew what they were up to, but the Dark Knight was watching them. He didn't know what the sorcerer had planned, but he knew Falcon's men were up to something bad. So he watched to see what it was and that's when the kid found him."
"Let's call him Robin. Robin lived with his cousin and his cousin's wife because his parents were dead. They fought all the time and Robin stayed outside as much as possible to avoid the yelling. One rainy night, he went outside and found the Dark Knight watching Falcon's men."
"So the Dark Knight took Robin away from his nasty cousin and trained him to be a knight too?" Tara clapped her hands.
Blake looked at her nightlight. "No, but he did give Robin his fancy spyglass before battling Falcon's men. Anyway, the sorcerer entered the kingdom and started casting his spell in Robin's neighborhood. A mist exploded out of the ground and everyone who breathed it saw monsters everywhere. But really the monsters were other people."
"So people fighting monsters were really fighting other people. He was a very mean sorcerer."
"Yes, he was, but he didn't realize that three people were immune to his spell: the Dark Knight--"
"One of the king's knights who was a friend of the Dark Knight, and the… king's daughter."
"What was she doing there?"
"She was checking on the dungeon in the neighborhood. The sorcerer engineered an escape of all the prisoners including Duke Falcon. But it was a good thing she was there because she found Robin wandering the streets right before the mist exploded all over them."
Tara yawned. "The Princess kept Robin safe?"
"Yeah, she used a magic spell to chase away a scarecrow monster on a fire-breathing horse." Blake looked down at a skeptical face. "At least that's what Robin saw. But the Princess didn't have any more spells, so they had to run away from the other people-monsters. Robin wasn't much help since he had been affected by the mist, but he kept telling the Princess that the Dark Knight would save them."
"I hope so."
"The Princess took the wrong alley shortcut and the people-monsters surrounded her and Robin. The Dark Knight dropped down from the roof, grabbed them both, and pulled them up to the roof using a rope. He made sure they were safe and then ran after the sorcerer. The sorcerer climbed onto his dragon so he could cast his spell all over the kingdom. The Dark Knight caught the flying dragon with his rope, climbed up, and fought the sorcerer on its back high above the kingdom. While he kept the sorcerer distracted, the king's knight not affected by the mist shot an arrow at the dragon. The dragon fell out of the sky. The Dark Knight jumped clear, but the sorcerer and the dragon blew up when they hit the ground."
"Fire breathing dragons are prone to explosions. And that's how the kingdom was saved from Duke Falcon."
"Pretty good story, Uncle John, but the princess needs to show up earlier." Tara rolled over onto her side.
"I'll remember that. Good-night," Blake stepped into the hall.
"Batman's coming back, right?"
"I'm looking for him." It would be a lot easier if Bane hadn't made barricades and posted guards at the Wayne Enterprises building or if Blake could find Lucius Fox. "Batman loves surprises. As soon as Bane doesn't expect him, that's when we'll see him."