“You’ve got to be kidding. This is it?”
“What were you expecting, Robin? One of those football-field-sized warehouses?”
“Well, yeah! I thought all the warehouses and shipping companies were huge.” Robin looked at the small, two-story building alongside the river. From their vantage point on the roof of the building across the street, he could see a dock extending a short way into the Gotham River. Two large overhead doors faced the road, and a smaller entrance obviously led into an office area.
“No, there was another import/export company here before Bruce bought it. Now it exists only to receive equipment destined for the ‘Cave.” Nightwing smiled. “I wonder what the workers would think if they knew.”
The earpieces worn by both heroes crackled to life. “Find anything yet?”
“We’re just about to go in. Batwoman and Ragman are following up a lead we got at the Foundry. What are you doing — calling from the bathroom?” asked Nightwing.
“It’s about the only place that I can get away from my escort. For all her disdain, Montoya seems determined that any attempt to grab me will fail.”
“We’ll go in. Probably better if we wait for you to call us before we report, right?”
“You got it. It will probably been an hour, unless I want to try to convince them that Alfred’s cooking has given me an upset stomach.”
“I don’t even want to think about it,” added Robin before the connection was broken.
As one, they cast lines over a projecting ledge of the small warehouse and swung down into a shadowed alley. Once there, they crept to a window.
“Hey, if we own this place, why don’t we just go in?” asked Robin.
“That’s no fun!” replied Nightwing with a grin. “That, and we don’t want any of the employees to know we’re looking. They don’t come in until nine o’clock, so we’ve only got about twenty minutes at the most.” Nightwing slid a couple of tools from a pouch on his stylized belt and worked at the window. In less than half a minute, the casement swung loose in its frame. “You want to go first?”
Robin grasped the frame, swung up, and slipped through. For the older and larger Nightwing, it wasn’t quite so simple, but he squeezed through the small opening.
“Just what are we looking for?” asked Robin.
“Receiving and transfer records. The shipping records from Bannerman Chemicals showed that the Narc-OX was sent here, and they have a signature from one of the employees on the shipping receipt. We’re going to see if Hidalgo’s records show it was really received here, and where it supposedly went from there. Normally, all material received is transferred to another Hidalgo warehouse on the outskirts of Gotham and shipped there by a company truck. What really happens is that Bruce, Alfred, or I show up in that truck in disguise and bring the stuff to the ‘Cave.” Nightwing moved to one file cabinet as Robin started on a second.
“You think the others will be all right?” asked Robin as they searched.
“Sure. Ragman’s a bit of a wild card, but Batwoman can handle him. Those guys don’t remember anything specific about who hired them. Lenny, there, has an eye for architecture. He remembered dropping our friends off at the old Rialto Theater in Crime Alley. Batwoman and Ragman will check it out and call us when they know for sure if Aunt Harriet and the others are there.”
From there, the search continued in silence for five minutes. Robin was the first to pull a sheet from a file. “Got the receiver’s copy of the bill of lading from Bannerman. Six units of standard sleeping gas, eight units of tear gas, three each of blue, black, white, and red smoke capsules, and two units of NarcOX. Received last week.”
“Photo it.” Nightwing continued to pore through the transfer records that he had located. Robin pulled a small camera out of his utility belt, pressed the button to activate its macro focus, and snapped two or three pictures of the paper.
“Here we are. I didn’t expect to find a transfer slip for it, but since no robbery has been reported here, I thought the transfer might have gone through. Four days ago, along with new tires for the main Batmobile, twenty spools of silk-nylon cord, and a piece of software for one of the computers — Windows 2.0?”
“Oh, jeez, I tried that! What a piece of garbage!” Robin wrinkled his nose in disgust. “I told Batman that someone should buy that Microsoft company and dump their so-called programmers.” He came over to snap pictures of the transfer slip. “I think I hear someone coming in the front.”
Slipping the papers back into their files and the files into the drawers, the pair slithered out the window into the alley. Just as he lowered the window back into place, Nightwing saw the light come on in the office they had just vacated.
“You ever consider the fact that we’re probably better at breaking and entering than most of the guys we put away?” asked Robin.
“I guess that would fall into the category of It Takes a Thief. Now if only one of us was a hijacker or embezzler. Because either one of the employees at Hidalgo took the NarcOX and forged the transfer form, or someone managed to steal it out of the Batcave!”
A little over a mile away in the heart of the area once known as Park Row, Batwoman and Ragman carefully surveyed the exterior of the Rialto Theater. Built in the 1920s, designed by theatrical architect Charles Lamb, the Rialto was at one time the most ornate theater in Gotham City. Its large stage and gilded word work attracted the wealthy and those who wanted a small taste of the life of the wealthy, as it played host to vaudeville shows, burlesque, silent movies, low-budget Saturday matinee serials, and big-budget musicals. Like most other large theaters, it was divided into several smaller movie theaters during the 1960s. Five years earlier, the theater closed down. Over the theater, several apartments and offices sat empty. A few of them, however, still had tenants. As a result, the street-level entrances weren’t all sealed up.
“I hear there are plans to restore the old beast,” said Ragman, looking down at the broken neon of the marquee. “Sure would be nice to see.”
“Yeah, my dad said he came here when he was a kid,” replied Batwoman as she tried to look into some of the windows facing them. So far, none of the windows had shown any signs of life. “Looks like the apartment-dwellers have all left for work. See anything resembling mailboxes or a call board?”
Ragman zoomed his binoculars to a doorway next to the theater entrance. “Yeah, I think I see a row of buttons and labels down there. Buzzers to the apartments. Want me to go get a run-down on them?”
“Go for it.”
Moments later, Ragman slipped from the alley alongside the theater to the shadows around the old box office. From there, he was able to read off the list of occupants for Batwoman to hear over their radio link.
“Third floor has Bestel Modelling Agency, Computer Shopper, and Stevens Accounting Services. Fourth floor looks like private residences. J. Walker, S. Duncan, H. Strange, and J. Whitaker. Fifth floor is more residences, J. Messina, B. Raitt, and J. Morrison.”
“Wait a second! Did you just say H. Strange?”
“Yeah. Sound familiar?”
Batwoman’s voice was grim. “Oh, yeah, I think we have a winner.”
“OK, I’m here. Who is where, and what do we have so far?”
“Robin and I are enroute to the Rialto.” Nightwing’s voice crackled in four headsets. “We checked Hidalgo. Based on what we found, and what Batwoman and Rags found, I think they’re in the clear. The NarcOX was received by them and sent along to the ‘Cave.”
“We checked a list of tenants for the Rialto, and it looks like Hugo Strange is one of them,” added Batwoman.
“From all I’ve seen and heard, he’s been clean since he got out of prison last year,” said Batman. “The doctors at Arkham supposedly cured him of his obsession.”
“What sort of obsession, Batman?” asked Robin.
“He thought he was me.”
“It makes sense, though,” said Nightwing. “He knows your identity, he knows where you live, where the Batcave is. He even knows a lot about how we operate.”
“He knew, Nightwing. The hypnosis treatments should have wiped that knowledge from his memory.”
“Hypnosis is a tricky thing folks. I know,” said Batwoman, recalling a case that she and Nightwing were involved in back when he still bore the name of Robin. Then, she had lost her memory of the secret identities of Batman and Robin, seemingly for good. (*) In the years since, however, the memories of what she had known had begun to slowly return.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Mind Warp Mystery,” Detective Comics #489 (April, 1980).]
“Old theater. Lots of room there to hold prisoners,” observed Robin as he and Nightwing arrived on the scene.
Inside a fourth-floor apartment, a solitary figure sat at a typewriter. Around him, scattered on the floor, were several wadded-up sheets of paper. One sheet lay face-up on the floor, a title carefully typed across the top of the page. JOURNEYS INTO MADNESS, read the title. Following was a paragraph that introduced the reader to the narrator, a self-described mastermind offering to share his tale of plotting crimes and schemes to best Gotham’s Dark Knight.
“Bah! Twenty years wasted pitting my genius against the Batman, and for what? Nothing gained from it, and now, when I want to put those experiences on paper for a public obsessed with the criminal mind, I can only remember bits and pieces of it! Those idiots at Arkham must surely have messed with my brain!” He got up and paced around the windowless bedroom. Passing by his desk, Hugo Strange reached for a tea cup, only to find it empty. He picked it up, walked out into the living room, and was halfway to the alcove that served as his kitchen with the window shattered under the assault of four pairs of feet.
“All right, Strange! Where are they?” demanded Nightwing as they spread out to surround the twisted scientist.
“What the hell are you talking about? Get the hell out of my home!” replied Strange in a loud voice.
“Robin, take the scope, check the place.” The Boy Wonder pulled an electronic device off his belt and started scanning the walls. Wordlessly, he moved to the bedroom.
“Got something in here, guys!” he called through the door.
Nightwing stepped forward and, with a lightning-fast move, caught both of Strange’s wrists in his hand. Twisting the shorter man around, he cuffed his hands behind his back and pushed him toward the bedroom.
“I don’t know what that twerp thinks he’s found. I’ve done nothing to warrant this intrusion!” Strange was about to say more, when Ragman stepped up to a spot indicated by Robin. The tattered hero reared back and kicked the wall, which came apart like so much tissue paper under the power of the blow.
“Nothing, eh, Strange? Then what are those folks doing in there?” asked Nightwing.
Behind the wall, a well-lit room held some complicated-looking equipment and five chairs. They were occupied by Harriet Cooper, Silver St. Cloud, Leslie Tompkins, Dr. Douglas Dundee, and Lucius Fox. They all looked up at the heroes with a slightly dazed look.
Professor Hugo Strange, for once in his life, looked utterly dumbfounded.
“Mr. Wayne? Are you in there? We’ve just gotten some information about your friends!”
The door of Bruce Wayne’s study opened, and he looked down at the face of Officer Renee Montoya. “Judging from your expression, I assume the news is good.”
“They’ve been found uninjured, and the man responsible for the kidnapping is in custody,” said Montoya. “I understand you have had some dealings with him before. One Hugo Strange.” Together, they walked down the hallway to the living room where the other officers who had been assigned to Wayne Manor were gathering.
“Yes. I was abducted by him four or five years ago. (*) I understand he has had some wild notions about me, which led to him trying to assume my identity.” Bruce looked thoughtful. “The doctors at Arkham told me that he had been cured when he was released.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Dead Yet Live,” Detective Comics #471 (August, 1977) and “I Am the Batman,” Detective Comics #472 (September, 1977).]
“Doctors can be wrong, Mr. Wayne,” was Montoya’s only reply. As they entered the living room, she was called over to a cluster of officers. Bruce stood in the doorway, unsure of what he should do. Alfred Pennyworth came over to stand beside him.
“I gather the others were successful, Master Bruce?”
“As I knew they would be, Alfred. Still, something doesn’t feel right about this. According to Dick and Barbara, Strange seemed totally surprised by the whole thing. Either he is irrationally delusional, or he was set up.”
“Sir, if I may conjecture, Hugo Strange has ever shown himself to be of questionable sanity. He could quite possibly be suffering from something like a multiple-personality disorder, with one persona unaware of what the other is doing.”
“That would explain it. And, of course, I’ll have Professor Nichols check him over at Arkham. He’s the one who erased Strange’s memories of my double identity with hypnosis, and he may be able to determine if that treatment was somehow reversed and why Strange chose to attack me this way now.” Bruce noted that Montoya was signaling for him to come over, and after giving his butler a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder, walked over to join her.