It was shortly after midnight, and Dick Grayson lay awake in his bed. One part of his mind reflected that it was unusual for him to be in bed so early, but the past week had been just about the strangest week in his life. Not since the death of his parents had his life been in such turmoil. Bruce Wayne had been a central figure in his life even longer than his parents, and his death had been as unexpected as theirs. (*) For the past week, he had left the nightly patrols of Gotham City to others, coordinated by the woman who now slept beside him. He looked over at her, the sheet twisted around her legs and stomach, her bare shoulders visible through the wild spray of hair that almost seemed to glow with a reddish light in the near-darkness of the bedroom. Barbara Gordon had taken it upon herself to see that her lover got through the days and nights with his sanity intact.
“More than you know, lady, more than you know,” Dick mouthed without actually speaking the words. With the ease of one who knows every nuance of his own body, he slid out of the bed and walked out onto the penthouse terrace.
The top floor of the Wayne Foundation building’s penthouse was given over to three bedrooms: the master suite, a self-contained apartment for a butler or other servant, and a guest bedroom. The lower floor of the penthouse was nearly twice as large and provided a terrace overlooking the building’s rooftop off the master bedroom. Dick walked to the edge of the terrace, looking out over the lights of Gotham. A week ago, he had stood near the rooftop swimming pool, considering the city. Now he looked at it in a different light.
It was his now.
It was a foregone conclusion that he would follow in his mentor’s footsteps as Gotham’s guardian. It was also, he knew, fully expected that he would follow in that same man’s footsteps at the helm of Gotham’s largest consortium of industries. A week ago, that prospect had worried him. Now, in light of the death of Bruce Wayne, that same prospect loomed large enough to block out all other considerations.
“Penny for your thoughts, Boy Wonder?”
Dick turned at the sound of the deep baritone voice, feet spreading apart into an L-stance, arms moving slightly out away from his body, prepared to block or strike if needed. Recognition dawned even as he got his first look at the figure in red and black perched on the upper roof above him.
“Arsenal! When did you learn to be so quiet?” Dick relaxed as the former boy bowman lept nimbly down to join him.
“Picking up tricks from some of the boys out at the reservation.” Arsenal laid both hands on Dick’s shoulders and looked him in the eyes. “How you holding up, Dick?”
“I’m holding, Roy.” He reached up and laid a hand on Roy’s wrist. “I’m holding. Thanks. But shouldn’t you be with Lian?”
“She’s with Dinah and Ollie. Hey, did you know that Dinah still keeps an apartment over her old shop here in Gotham?”
“Of course I did. Bruce uses, that is, used it as a safe house on his patrols.” Dick looked away for a second as he brushed his eye with the back of his hand. “Wouldn’t have figured Ollie for babysitting duty.”
“Yeah, right. Lian’s sound asleep, and he and Dinah probably are, too. Me, I’m working on Mountain Time, so it’s still a couple of hours before my normal sack time. Figured I’d make a pass or two through the city, see if there’s any action.” Placing a gloved fingertip up to one ear, he paused for a few seconds. “Speaking of which, the police department is dispatching to a place called Pasquale’s Bistro, a silent hold-up alarm. Address sounds like it’s pretty close. Care to join me?”
Dick sighed. “I wore the costume to the service the JLA had, but I haven’t actually hit the streets in it yet.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See World’s Finest: Superman and Batman: Times Past, 1977: The Devil to Pay, Prologue, 1987: The Wake.]
“Gotta do it soon, man. People’ve gotta see Batman in the city, or they’ll start to wonder.”
Dick nodded his head. “You’re right, Roy. Come on; let’s go downstairs.”
“OK, I can’t figure this out. I know you’re at least two inches shorter than Bruce, so how come you look the same in the costume?” Roy Harper paced back and forth in the abandoned subway tunnel under the Wayne Foundation building, scratching his head.
“Well, I admit the soles on these boots are a bit thicker than what he wore, to make up a little of the difference. There’s also a thicker skullcap under the cowl, and the ears throw off most people’s judgment. Having a thinner build than Bruce also makes me look a little taller in the costume.”
“Whatever. It’s creepy, man. You ready to go?”
“Let me just strap this on.” Dick reached for a heavy yellow belt hanging over a chair. “You know, most people seem to think everything in this utility belt is stored in the cylinders between the segments. They don’t realize those segments are nearly an inch thick, and they hold most of the stuff in here.”
“Yeah, yeah. I think you’re stalling, Dickie-boy. You ready to hit the road?”
Buckling on the belt, Dick turned. Despite years of association with both Dick Grayson and Batman, Roy was taken aback by his first sight of his old friend and former teammate in the full costume. “Dick, all those years of kidding about whether you’d ever be able to fill those boots? Forget it, man.”
“Not yet, Roy. I still have to prove to myself that I can pull this off on the streets.” Pressing a concealed button on the belt, the cave came alive with the sound of a high-powered engine. “Speaking of streets, Gar told me about that little stunt of yours in Virginia Beach. (*) I’m driving.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See The New Titans: Life in the Fast Lane.]
“Of course you are, it’s your — whoa! That’s not the one he’s been using lately, is it?”
“No, but it’s my favorite,” said Dick. “Pulled it out of mothballs this summer, and I was going to refit it without the detailing for my own use. Just as well I didn’t get around to it. Get in.”
Roy put his mask back on as they got into the specially modified Cam-Am and roared down the tunnel that exited into an alley two blocks from the Wayne Foundation building in Finger Alley. He reached down and turned on a police radio.
“Units Adam-17 and Foxtrot-7, stand down. Adam-4 and Morgan-2 have the Pasquale’s situation under control.”
“Looks like they beat us to it.”
“Gotham P.D. does pretty well on its own, Arsenal. Gordon runs a good department.”
“So I’ve heard. Hey, what’s that?” Arsenal pointed down the street. Two blocks away, a rolling white cloud covered the sidewalk and part of the road.
“Let’s see. Unless I’m mistaken, that’s Fowler Savings and Loan. Looks like we might get a little exercise after all. See that shadow over the cloud?”
“What shad — Wha–? Please tell me I’m not seeing a giant umbrella held up by a bunch of birds.”
“That’s what you’re seeing. Which means that any second now we’re going to hear–”
“Awwk! Blast you, Batman, I was hoping you’d be out of town for a few more days.” The Penguin doffed his silk hat in a mock bow as the Batmobile skidded sideways to a halt. “How is a poor humble genius such as myself supposed to fund his latest project if you keep interfering?”
“Gee, my heart just bleeds for you, chubby,” said Arsenal, standing up through the open roof of the car. “So, Batman, what’s the scoop on this butterball?”
“The standard. Criminal genius, likes birds and umbrellas, delusions of grandeur.”
“Yep, the standard. Can I stick an arrow in him, or do you want the pleasure?”
“Blast you, I will not be ignored!” screeched the Penguin, raising a closed umbrella to speak into the handle. “Turn and fire! Turn and fire!”
On command, the birds bearing the ten-foot-long umbrella wheeled around.
“Umm, Batman, are those birds really doing what Tennessee tuxedo, here, told them to do?”
Batman was halfway out the car door. He glanced up and reversed himself. “Arsenal, get down!”
Just as the red-headed archer dropped into the car seat, a blast of white gas erupted from the tip of the giant umbrella. When the smoke cleared, the Batmobile was encased in three feet of ice.
“Damn, I’m glad this thing has the power T-top option.” Arsenal reached up and tapped the black plexiglass panel over his head. “So, any great ideas for getting out of this igloo?”
Batman tapped a button on the dashboard once, twice, three times, watching the windshield ahead of him. “Engine conked out when the liquid nitrogen hit us, so it got up into the compartment. Can’t use engine heat to melt it. Judging from the headlights, ice is at least two feet thick, maybe closer to three.” Below the dash, his foot pressed the brake pedal twice as he looked first at the rear-view mirror, then at the side mirror. “Looks like the ice may have missed the back end, though. Roy, open the glove box and press the yellow button.”
“Ah, now there’s the Boy Wonder I know and love. Nothing that a little analysis can’t get you out of.” Arsenal opened the glove compartment and pressed the button. From the back of the car, he heard the thunk of the trunk release. “There, the trunk is open. If we were locked in the trunk, we’d be all set.”
Reaching up over his shoulders, Batman grabbed the seat back. Pulling his knees up to his chest, his feet just cleared the dashboard. He raised them up and swung his legs up and back over his head. He levered himself up and over the seat back, landing in the cramped back seat. Grasping the rear seat back, he lifted upward until it cleared the hooks holding it in place. “Watch your head, Arsenal,” he said as he lifted the seat back up and swung it around so that it lay atop the driver’s seat and the rear deck. Underneath, a pair of crossed struts left enough room to crawl from the passenger compartment to the trunk.
“Ah-ha! I believe I see the light!” Arsenal twisted around and started to crawl between the seats, then stopped. “After you, my dear Batman.”
First the Batman wriggled through, then Arsenal. As expected, the Penguin and his birds were long gone. However, waiting for them were Lieutenant Harvey Bullock and Detective Renee Montoya of the Gotham City Police Department.
“OK, Bats, do I gotta issue you a ticket for obstructin’ traffic, or is there something else going down here?” Bullock chewed the end of his cigar as he waited for an answer.
“Take a look at the front wall of the Fowler Bank, Lieutenant. I think you’ll find it’s been frozen, too, if not broken through.”
“He’s right, Harv. Windows are broken out because of the ice, but it doesn’t look like anyone got in.” Montoya shined a flashlight in through an empty window frame. “We’ll have to leave a detail down here.”
“Lemme guess — Mister Freeze or the Penguin.”
“The Penguin. And if you’ll excuse us, Lieutenant, we need to get on his trail before it gets too, umm, cold.”
“Haw!” barked the heavyweight detective. “Very punny, Bats. You been hanging around with that kid too long. Hey, by the way, this reminds me…”
“I have a feeling I’m going to regret this,” sighed Arsenal, holstering his crossbow. “Whatever could this situation remind you of?”
“That I need to get the air-conditioning in my car fixed.”