The Dark Knight Lives (ONE)

It’s early morning in Gotham. So early the sun hasn’t even risen. One black sedan drives down Gotham Boulevard. A silver crossover heads west on East 34th Street. A third white luxury car travels the length of Hunner Lane. A red truck heads down Wayne Commons Road. And a blue convertible leisurely makes its way down Central Avenue.

Each of these cars is alone on the road, with traffic not yet dominating Gotham’s early morning streets. The drivers of these cars do not know their life is in danger but they will very soon.

The cars on their individual streets stop as they come to a red light. There’s an eerie silence that comes with the mornings in Gotham. The lack of noise is almost…disturbing.

As each of their red lights turns green the drivers instinctively press the gas but can’t go any further as their cars are individually surrounded by people who seemed to appear from the very shadow. They’re clothed in black from head to toe and wear black masks with white circles where the eyes are supposed to be.

The driver of his silver crossover, an older man with greying blond hair honks the horn. “Hey! Get the hell out of the way!”

A woman appears from the darkness and when the man sees her his eyes widen with fear.

Her skin is paler than the moon, her hair is dyed hot pink and blond at the tips, her eyes and lips are smothered in blue makeup, an iron choker engraved with the word BRAT accessorizes her neck, she is scantily clad in colorful clothing and wears a maniacal grin, laughing all the way as she skips toward his car, a baseball bat in her right hand.

“Hey sweetie,” she says before destroying his engine with one swift blow to the hood of the car.

She then rests her bat on her shoulder as she saunters around to his side of the car. The older man leans away from the window, his heart pounding in his chest and his hands involuntarily trembling. She stops at his window and completely shatters it with another powerful blow from the bat. The man screams. With that incessant grin, she peers into his car.

“Get out.”

He, like the other frightened drivers whose cars were surrounded on Gotham Boulevard, Hunner Lane, Wayne Commons Road, and Central Avenue, did as their attackers commanded. They exited their cars, their hands raised in a nonhostile manner.

The pale woman laughed as she turned away from him before becoming almost terrifyingly angry the very next second. “You know the drill. Bind his hands and blindfold him!”

The older man said, “What?” as he took a step back directly into one of the black-masked criminals who instantly threw a blindfold over his eyes, darkening everything.

Click. Click. Click. Those were the rhythmic footsteps of a man barely anyone knew but would soon grow to fear.

He walked confidently in a perfectly tailored black suit, his slender brown cane tapping the ground with every step he took. Directly behind him at his right shoulder, walked the most beautiful woman you would ever see. Her caramel-brown skin gleamed, her brown eyes sparkled, her chestnut-colored hair tumbled down her back and framed her face in curls, and there was a way in which she carried her body beneath her elegant dress and black coat studded with golden buttons that would make nearly any man salivate.

In front of them, situated at the dank edge of the criminal underworld by the river where the “good guys” would never come to look, stood a warehouse. As if someone was watching their approach, the warehouse’s doors opened with a foreboding creak. So, naturally, they entered the storehouse, the man’s cane echoing on its rough floor.

The warehouse was nothing special. Boxes stacked to the rafters lined the walls and the light brightening the space was a dull yellow color. It, however, was the five blindfolded hostages clustered in a circle in the middle of the depot that made this the most special place in town.

These hostages weren’t just anyone. They were good friends to the city’s judges and the newly elected mayor of Gotham. But more importantly, they were his key to the beginning of his grand plan in taking over Gotham as his own.

Two dozen gun-toting men who wearing the chilling black masks with the white circles for eyes stood around the hostages. The man with the cane smiled as he beheld the hostages.

“Take their blindfolds off, will you?” he asked, his tone dripping with sophistication.

“Oh that’s no fun,” came a woman’s bubbly tone.

He looked up and saw her. She wasn’t hard to miss.

Harley Quinn perched atop one of the highest boxes, that wide grin she always seemed to have visible even from the warehouse floor. With absolutely no fear whatsoever she tumbled down the boxes, surprisingly landing on her feet before placing her infamous bat on her shoulder. The man surveyed her carefully.

Harley was a different breed of Gotham scum. She had once been a well-known doctor at Arkham Asylum but according to word on the streets she had fallen under the psychotic Joker’s influence and it sent her madly in love with him. She freed The Joker from his cell and together they slipped away from Arkham Asylum undetected besides the trail of dead bodies they had left behind. However, The Joker had acquired lots of enemies in his time and it wasn’t long before The Joker’s lucky streak had ended. Not long after his escape, he was stabbed to death and thrown into the river, never to be seen again.

In her grief, Harley had grown even madder. Now she was a psychotic killing machine who laughed and smiled way too often for the slender man’s opinion. But she would be a great asset to his plan.

She regarded him with her head tilted and a look of childish curiousness.

“So you’re the one?” she began, her Northern accent heavy in her voice. “The one they say looks like a bird.”

His temples bulged but he managed to regain his composure. “Yes, that’s me. Now, as I said before I was so rudely interrupted,” he turned to the masked men, “take off their blindfolds.”

They did as he commanded, ripping the blindfolds off of the hostages who cowered when they saw where they were.

“What’s going on? Where the hell are we?!” one of the hostages, an older man with greying blond hair and very fine clothes, demanded.

The slender man twirled his cane. “You do know that yelling doesn’t help you. It only makes me…” he looked the man in the eyes, “angry.”

That quieted the defiant hostage.

Another one of the captives, a timid looking woman with red hair and glasses, asked, “What do you want?”

The slender man smiled. “Good question. Of course, I can’t tell you.”

“I know what you want,” a third hostage-an Asian man–announced. “How much do you need paying for our ransom?”

That made the slender man laugh. “Ransom? That’s what you think is about?” With a swing of his cane, he sliced the man’s throat open. The man choked on his own blood as his body fluid poured from his throat upon his expensive sweater. The hostages screamed at the sight of the dying man.

“Who needs money when I will have…” the slender man spread his arms, “everything.”

“You’re a monster,” another one of the hostages, a plump white-haired woman with a pearl necklace resting within the folds of her neck, said with a trembling voice.

As he turned his back away from the hostages the greying blond-haired man said, “It’s you, isn’t it? The one who’s been terrorizing Gotham’s lowlifes. The one they call…The Penguin.”

The man turned, his lips holding a hint of a smile.

“Kill them all except,” he looked back at the man who had just spoken, locking eyes with him, “the gentleman there. He will be a good messenger.”

The hostages screamed as the masked men raised their guns. Harley Quinn bounced forward, her bat gripped tightly in her hands.

“Can I help kill them?”

He tried to smile (he learned that smiling kept her happy) but he was certain it came out looking more like a wince.

“No, Ms. Quinn,” he told her. “Not now.”

She was disappointed, swinging her bat wildly with frustration which barely missed clipping The Penguin. He sneered at her while the beautiful woman who had entered the warehouse with him rolled her eyes.

The three of them exited the warehouse, pops of gunshots and horrified screams filling the early morning in their wake. As the doors to the storehouse closed behind them The Penguin continued forward, stopping at the edge of the bank.

He watched the boats with their rancid brown steam billowing from their pipes chugging along in the early morning. The sky, a dull morning blue, was full of storm clouds and the wind was crisp.

“December 1 is coming,” The Penguin began. “The day we are supposed to celebrate Batman for everything he has done to this wonderful city.”

“Screw Batman!” Harley Quinn yelled at the top of her lungs.

The Penguin contained his sigh. He hated being interrupted. “Batman’s time has come and gone. And good riddance. He was a bloated hero. A freak in a mask who fought maniacs. I’m not a psychopath. I’m a businessman, and as a businessman, I know how to win.”

The gorgeous woman smiled. “And my beautiful plants will choke every nonbeliever out of their spidey holes.”

The Penguin pointed his cane at her. “Exactly. Gotham thinks that crime has left their beautiful city. That their new hero, the masked vigilante named Robin and their elderly Commissioner, will keep them safe.” He chuckled. “Gotham is a place of opportunity for the corrupt, for the wicked, and I’m going to give Gotham back to the people who truly built this city’s famous reputation.”

“When do we reveal ourselves to the world, mister?” Harley Quinn asked, bouncing on her toes with that grin.

The Penguin began walking down the street, his cane and footsteps rhythmically tapping against the ground. “We’ve never been hidden.”

This made Harley Quinn laugh hysterically, her crescendoing cackle echoing in the rising dawn.

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