When he saw the next day’s newspaper in the machine on the sidewalk in front of his building John Banneman did something uncharacteristic: he bought one.
CHAOS ON THE STREET. 10 DEAD, INCLUDING BILLIONAIRE THOMAS WAYNE, HIS WIFE KARINA, AND TALK SHOW HOST MURRAY FRANKLIN.
Banneman was on his way to work at Empire Central Bank. He hadn’t heard from his boss or anyone else whether or not the unrest had reached his particular branch. From what he’d seen, where he’d been the night before, he couldn’t say. The theater on 54th and Jackson was on the wrong side of the city, and that’s where he’d been, and that’s why the newspaper had caught his attention.
“Jesus Christ,” John said. “That was me?”
He thought more. How well dressed the family had been. How much money they’d had on them, how nice their watches were.
“Jesus Christ,” he repeated. “That was me.”
He’d never killed anyone before.
He clamped a hand to his mouth and wiped his lips. He folded the paper and put it in his backpack as he walked down the stairs into the subway.
Wow. That really was me.
Maybe his mother hadn’t raised him right. He’d always been angry, always been prone to violence, but he never knew he would shake the world.
The faces around him… who else had done it, he wondered. Boy did most of them look crestfallen, disgusted even, at what had taken place, taken hold of them. Everyone liked the Waynes, too. That had been John. But everyone liked the Waynes. Would they be angry at him if they found out it was him? More than the others who had died? They hadn’t been angry at the Joker. And he’d killed another too, but talk show host Murray Franklin had always been a snide, side-talking little shit, totally unsympathetic to people like John Banneman, who had to work for a living.
The air was especially silent on the train. No one was talking to each other, or even looking at each other, and it was because of him. Him. John Banneman, who had gunned down one of Gotham’s most prominent couples. Maybe, he thought to himself, unable to suppress a grin, he was only just getting started.
He would read the paper during lunch break, to glean what he could from the story, whether they had any leads on who had done it or who hadn’t. Banneman’s friend Kris, his partner in crime… Banneman wondered how he was taking the news. Might be worth having a talk. John didn’t plan on being caught, after all.
John disembarked at 12th and Washington. His place of employment, Gotham Empire Bank, was two blocks away. The streets were still littered with refuse and there was graffiti everywhere, broken glass, broken cars, a kind of rancid smell that might have been what happened to tear gas after it soaked into the pavement.
He knew he shouldn’t be, but John was smiling. If it weren’t for that doe-eyed little kid, Bruce, he might not have even felt bad about it. No, in fact he felt accomplished, powerful. He’d never done anything to make the front page of The Globe with his regular life, after all. And oh how he’d come to hate the rich and comfortable. John had never been one to win popularity contests, and this development surely wouldn’t help his prospects of such. But still, he’d done something to make the world shudder. He would have to have a talk with Kris, just to make sure their secret was safe. Maybe he would even do it again. Maybe, just maybe, it was just the kind of thing he’d been born for, to strike fear into the hearts of the world’s rulers.
Except for that little boy. Except for the boy.
With this, Bruce woke up in bed covered in a cold sweat, eyes suddenly wide as plates and his heart beating triple time.
It hadn’t been a dream. He’d heard that man’s thoughts. Every one of them. The man who had killed his parents, and, it seems, might want to do it again.
He rolled onto his side to look at his alarm clock. It was 6:05 AM. School wasn’t in today.
He rolled back onto his back, but he couldn’t get John Banneman out of his head. Maybe he would pay him a visit. Gotham Empire Bank on 12th. Would Mr. Banneman recognize him? Anyways, it was something to think about.
Unfortunately he couldn’t get back to sleep, so he lay there, staring at the ceiling trying to make heads or tails out of what he’d just seemed to genuinely witness.