“Are you ready, Clark? We should get going.”
“Just a moment dear.” Clark Kent closed the suitcase and lifted it easily, walking toward the living room. Kristin Wells waited by the door, having already seen to it that young Jasma was securely strapped into her car seat in the car outside. “All set.”
Suddenly, a third person stood between them. Wrapped in an ebony cape, his face hidden beneath the brim of a black hat, the Phantom Stranger lifted his head and turned to look at each of them in turn.
“A chapter in the Book of All That Is has ended. I hope that you now understand why I was forced to stop your attempt to unravel the mystery of Bruce Wayne’s death, Kal-El.”
“Bruce filled me in about Vincent Speach and Preston Payne, so I presume they are the ones you were talking about in your little speech when I tried to go back in time.”
“They are. Speach has met the punishment he so richly deserved, and Payne’s tortured existence has ended with his redemption. It has come to pass as it was meant to be.”
Kristin Wells spoke up. “If you’re expecting us to thank you or something, you’re in for a disappointment, Stranger. You could simply have told us what was going on. Or don’t you trust us to stay out of something if we’re asked?”
“Kristin Wells, you come from a time when human nature is altered from what it is now, but you have already adopted the ways of this era. You know well that, knowing your friend was in danger, or that innocents were endangered, you could do aught but try to help. To do otherwise would be a violation of your very being.” The unearthly visitor shook his head as he faded from view. “The burden of such knowledge can only be borne by one who is but an observer in this world, one destined to ever be a Stranger.”
“Ah, my dear Talia, I should not have lost faith in the Detective. Have you seen the reports from Gotham?”
“Yes, Father. I thought it impossible, but it appears to be true. Your agents will verify it, I presume?”
“Already in progress. Within forty-eight hours, they will report back to–”
“Master! Humble apologies!” The door slammed open, and a giant of a man stumbled in and fell to his knees.
“Ubu! What is the meaning of this?” Ra’s al Ghul rose from the lone seat in the room and came to stand before the trembling man-servant.
“That would be me, old boy!” Ra’s and Talia stared in wonder as the Joker strolled through the door. “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”