“Twenty years ago, Bruce Wayne and I ran some of the same social circles, a sort of millionaire boys club. We were the young, the rich, the callous. A lot of our peers thought nothing of racing hundred-thousand-dollar sports cars through quiet neighborhoods at three in the morning, making as much noise as they could. Bruce, however, was different. Long before it was fashionable for the wealthy of our generation to care about the less fortunate, Bruce was putting his fortune to work for those less fortunate than himself. He set the example for others like myself, and when I lost my own fortune, it was partly the inspiration of Bruce Wayne and the Foundation he founded in his parents’ memory that led me into a life of activism and working for the underdogs of the world.” Oliver Queen paused as he stood in the pulpit of the church, looking at the people assembled to pay their last respects to his friend. “Anybody who knows me, who reads my columns, knows that I usually don’t have much good to say about the wealthy. But Bruce, he was different, and the world is a far, far better place because he was with us.”
There were more than a few murmured “Amens” and “Oh yeahs” as he walked back to his seat.
“I didn’t know Ollie and Bruce were such friends,” whispered Wally West to Hal Jordan.
“Ollie always tried to live it down, and Bruce never talked much about friendships and such. When Ollie lost his money, he tried to leave behind everything from his days as a millionaire. Sometimes I thought they were on the verge of blowing up at each other, but other times they were thick as thieves.” Hal nudged Carol, sitting on his other side. “Remember when Bruce came out to Coast City after Ollie and I came back from our cross-country trip? He couldn’t seem to decide whether he thought Ollie and I were crazy, or if he wished he could have gone with us.”
“Yes, dear, now hush,” replied Carol in a low voice.
For nearly two hours, friends and acquaintances of Bruce Wayne took to the podium to fondly recall the late millionaire industrialist and philanthropist. Just as the minister was preparing the benediction, a pair of police officers entered through a side door and made their way quickly but quietly to the second pew, where Commissioner James W. Gordon sat.
“Blast it, Walker, couldn’t it wait?” Gordon asked as quietly as he could.
“I’m sorry, sir, but we have a situation.”
Two blocks from the cathedral, the street was filled with people and their belongings. On one side of Sixty-Second Street, demolition trucks were lined up. One of the cranes swung a wrecking ball at a run-down apartment house as bulldozers plowed through the wreckage of three other buildings on the same block.
“Eviction notices for fifty-six different buildings, delivered to seventeen different precinct houses, two hours ago from the Superior Court. They spread it out by having them delivered to the precinct in which the building owners live or do business, instead of the where the buildings are located.” Officer Frank Murphy read from one of the eviction notices in his hand. “‘Owing to the need to initiate construction on these premises in a timely manner–”
“Let me guess — Judge Hardcastle, right?” interjected Commissioner Gordon.
“On every one of the orders.”
“Sounds like one of his self-serving rationalizations. When he’s determined to make the law work for himself or one of his friends, he can dress it up in the fanciest language you’ve ever seen.” Gordon tamped tobacco into his pipe as he looked out at the teeming throng from their vantage point on the roof of a neighboring building. “Any idea how many people we’re talking about here?”
“Some of them have left to stay with relatives or friends. Near as we can figure, there are about nine-hundred people turned out of their homes.”
“Ruby Ryder is one step closer to re-making Gotham to suit her greedy little mind.” Gordon and Murphy turned, surprised to find Dick Grayson standing behind them. “Word is that Rupert Thorne is working with Ryder, and he’s had Hardcastle in his pocket for years, even when he was in prison. They knew that most of the influential people would be at the service this morning. And by scattering the eviction notices through as many precincts as they could, they thought they could push it through without raising too many red flags.”
Lighting his pipe, Gordon took a puff before answering. “And what to do with these poor souls?” he asked, sweeping a hand to indicate the crowds below.
“If you’ll come with me, we can get started on that.”
As word spread throughout the assembled wealthy and famous at Gotham on the Green of the mass eviction that took place in downtown Gotham City during the past two hours, reactions ran the gamut from shocked outrage to amusement. As those who had gathered to remember Bruce Wayne sat down to their lunch, Dick Grayson and James Gordon arrived. Dick went to the front table and tapped his water glass to get people’s attention.
“From what I’m hearing, I’d guess you have already heard about what has happened. As we sit here, there are over a thousand people — working people, poor people, men, women and children — out in the streets with no place to go. We all gathered today to pay our respects to a man who spent his life putting the needs of this city above his own. I’m asking you to honor his memory by doing the same.”
A thin, graying man at one of the front tables stood. “Dick, you know that the Hillside Condominiums are almost complete. I have eighty units there that we can move people into this afternoon. Let me make a few calls to get things in motion.”
“Thank you, Andrew. See, people, that’s what I’m talking about. We all have resources that we can pool to take care of these people while we straighten out what is going on with their homes.”
“What do you mean while you straighten it out? From what I’ve heard, it’s pretty obvious. A developer has bought these properties and is redeveloping them.” This was from a heavy man with silver hair and a pewter gray suit sitting near the back. As he spoke, his hands ran over the large silver head of a black walking stick.
“Dieter, I’ve already been told that several of those properties were yours. Or at least they were until yesterday.” Dick Grayson walked over to the table where the florid-faced man sat. “Interesting, very interesting, especially when you consider the fact that you had an agreement to sell those properties to Wayne Development as part of the Park Row redevelopment project.”
“I’m afraid you’re mistaken, lad. I had an agreement with Bruce Wayne to sell him those properties. He’s gone; therefore, so is the Park Row project.” Dieter Van Gorder grinned. “Or are you going to try running the show, circus boy?”
“Maybe you missed the memo, but I was already running this project. And it is going forward.”
“Hah! Look at you, Grayson. An orphan brat that Bruce took into his home out of some misguided sense of sympathy. You dropped out of college and took up a Bohemian life in New York as, what, a writer? Did you even publish anything during that time, or did you spend all your time with that model friend of yours?” Van Gorder’s voice dripped with disdain as he spoke. “A little more than a year ago, you come back, and like the prodigal son, Bruce welcomes you back into his home, and, incredibly, into his business!”
In one corner of the room, two men conferred. “What do you think, Roy? Should I give him a hand?”
“Keep an eye on him, Ollie. Let him try to work it out on his own, but stand ready to step in if it looks like he needs help. After all, it’s been a while since you dealt with these types on their level, remember?”
“Yeah, but I do miss it from time to time.”
Nearby, several others spoke among themselves.
“Shouldn’t we be doing something? We should be able to help out somehow.”
“Adam, you will learn there are some problems that cannot be solved with super-powers. Even my ring can’t whip up a solution for hundreds of people tossed out of their homes. The best we can do right now is to wait and see what sort of solution Dick and the other business people here work out. Then, if they need help with transporting people or getting supplies, the League can pitch in.”
“Cynthia! Come here for a moment, please.”
Cynthia Morningstar looked up from a discussion with a limo driver when she heard her boss calling her. “Excuse me, Mark, I have to run. Don’t leave, though, I’ll let him know what you told me.” She rose from the chair and quickly wound her way through the tables, chairs, and people to Dick Grayson’s side. “What is it, sir?”
“Off the top of your head, how many of Mr. Gorder’s properties do we have investments in?”
“Let’s see, that would be all of the properties at Kane Plaza, the Crown Plaza in New York, his new skyscraper in Metropolis, the new housing tract outside of Boston. Oh, and he has also been seeking our assistance with his plans to rebuild in the Syracuse area.” The attractive blonde paused, searching her memory for other investments. “I think that’s it.”
“And if we pulled everything except for the Syracuse project?”
“That would account for approximately — hmm, one moment.” Cynthia reached into her handbag for a calculator and started punching buttons. “Looks to be about forty-seven million, give or take a few.”
“You wouldn’t dare! You couldn’t, you young punk!” Dieter Van Gorder rose from his chair, his ponderous mass leaning on the table. “You don’t control Wayne’s investments yet, nor do I think you are likely to!”
“No. For the time being, I do.” Lucius Fox stepped up next to Dick. “As the Executive Vice President of Wayne Enterprises, I am in charge until Mr. Wayne’s will is opened, and we discover how his assets are divided. And believe me, Dieter, when I tell you that not only will all Wayne money be pulled from those projects, I will do all in my power to see that the contracts for the rebuilding of the Syracuse area are awarded to your competitors.”
“Oh, and by the way, Mr. Van Gorder, you may wish to consider the impact on your bottom line when Silver Lining Events pulls their convention business from all of your hotels.” Heads turned toward the table where Silver St. Cloud sat with Selina Kyle and the young Anna. “I am sure I can find new locations for every single one of them, especially since I’ve been looking for a good reason stop booking in your hotels for a long time.”
By this time, several of the wealthy attendees had gathered around to see the battle between one of their own and the young man whom many still considered wet behind the ears. Many of them nodded in agreement with Lucius’ comments, and Silver’s veiled threat brought a smile to many faces. Dieter looked around and realized that most of his usual allies were now against him.
“All right, then, if you must know, I signed a deal with Ruby Ryder yesterday. She told me she was moving fast on this, but I had no idea how fast.”
Over in the corner, Ollie Queen nodded his approval.
A few hours later, in a penthouse across town, Ruby Ryder stood looking down at Gotham City. As she raised her cigarette holder and took a long puff, there came a knock on the door. “Come!” she called.
The woman who entered looked like Ruby through a twisted mirror. The red hair that crowned both their heads drew the eye first, and their green eyes flashed with a similar intensity. However, for every bit of style and elegance that Ruby possessed, Vicki Vale possessed none. Her rumpled pants suit, a holdover from several years earlier, was worn and smudged from too many nights of crawling through yards and buildings to get her story. Where Ruby’s hair was pulled back in a sleek, severe style, Vicki’s exploded from her head in curls and spirals, and it was hard to imagine the two women having any common ground.
“He got the court orders, Ruby. Six of the buildings are down completely, and four more can’t be lived in, but seven more weren’t even touched. The courts will have them all tied up for days, and the people who you kicked out can’t go back until it’s settled.” Vicki was reading from a notebook as she dropped into an overstuffed chair.
“Like I should care about them. Most of those places are welfare housing; the best thing we could do is kick them all out of the city and into the ocean.” Ruby turned and walked over to her desk. “I suppose Brucie’s boy wonder is getting all of the displaced people settled?”
“Can you believe it? The Hillside Commons were blasted during the invasion, and they just finished rebuilding. Andrew Colton is putting a bunch of those worthless dregs in there until they can get places of their own.” Vicki pulled a pack of cigarettes from her purse and lit one. “A couple of others are making room for them, and Bruce’s girlfriend convinced the National Medical Association to move their conference to Metropolis, and the affected hotels are putting people up through the next five days. And Grayson is clearing the ballroom and the first three floors of the Wayne Foundation Building for temporary housing. It’s unbelievable.”
“Well, all in all, it was a good day. Bruce Wayne may be resting in peace, but soon his businesses will be resting in pieces. And I’ll be ready to pick them up.”