Chapter 7

The Funeral

The mourners began to gather at Hillside Cemetery at around 2:00 PM the next Sunday. These included friends of the family, professional associates, and a wide array of Gotham City luminaries. The Wayne family itself was not expansive. Neither Thomas nor Karina had any siblings. Bruce had a cousin named Claire Emory on his mother’s side who was a practicing lawyer who lived in Chicago with her family. She, her husband and their two daughters had already been to see him shortly after the murders. They came back for the funeral.

The coffins were transported in the back of a black hearse. It drove slowly up the cemetery’s main avenue to the plot where Bruce’s parents would spend eternity. Before it was a sweeping view of the city. On a good day you could even see the ocean.

Some of Bruce’s friend came too. These included Maria and John Aaron and a few more classmates. They seemed to naturally gravitate to the still visibly unhappy young boy, as if to form a protective shield. Bruce, having been suspended for his altercation with Clorous, had not yet been allowed back to school. That would be tomorrow. It couldn’t be said that the school administrators, and everyone else, didn’t sympathize with him. Clown masks had quickly and decidedly become things of yesteryear. No one ever wore them any more.

Maria stood at Bruce’s left shoulder as they walked up the hill.

“Are you coming back to school tomorrow?” she asked.

Bruce nodded. “Yeah, they’re letting me back.”

“You didn’t miss anything.”

“I can fill you in,” said John Aaron. “You should’ve seen him though.”

“Who?”

“Clorous. He looked all banged up.”

Bruce sighed. “Yeah. I have to talk to him. That’s what they said, that we have to mediate or something. I guess it’s a good idea. I think he’s got an older brother, I don’t want them to beat me up.”

“They won’t do a thing. Everyone agrees with you anyways.”

“I’ll still probably tell him I’m sorry.”

“Don’t,” said Maria. “He knows what happened to you.”

“He knows now. I wish he’d known before it happened. Then no one would have died and I wouldn’t have been suspended.”

Joe Springer, another classmate, put his arm around Bruce’s shoulder. It was a welcome gesture. They walked the rest of the way to the service in silence.

There were about 50 attendees altogether. There were chairs set out in front of the grave which were soon occupied. A crew of orderlies took the coffins out of the hearse and placed them on the pullies that would lower them into the ground. Though the Waynes had not been religiously inclined Alfred had enlisted Pastor Chamberlain, a well-respected Methodist, to deliver the eulogy. He stood to the side of the coffins and began to speak.

Bruce was in the first row. As soon as the words began to flow from the pastor’s mouth he let out a loud groan and lurched out of his chai. All at once he’d become afraid. All at once  he felt alone. It might have been because of the sermon. Since his parents’ death he’d heard a ceaseless litany of sorrow and regret from both public and personal interactions — people who felt the need to extol the many virtues of the late Thomas and Karina: their kindness, their capability, their importance, as if it were everyone who’d lost something and no one knew why, as if it had been some strange collective spasmodic episode, leaving behind Bruce, an 11-year-old boy, completely alone with his name, the company, and the sprawling manor that bore it. He’d seen, in so many eyes, the question as to whether or not he would be able to live up to the challenge of growing up, of taking on his parents’ awesome responsibilities. Indeed, Bruce had little choice in the matter: he would grow up, and he would do it sooner than he would have otherwise. Beyond that were the people who had done this to him, evil men like the Joker and the man he’d been dreaming about, continuing their lives as if nothing had happened, as if they’d recovered from something they’d had no control over. Bruce hated them. He didn’t want one more person, who may or may not have been wearing a clown mask, to tell him how sorry they were. He got out of his chair and lurched off out of ear shot, and when Alfred caught up to him and put his hand on his shoulders Bruce wondered suddenly if he was trustworthy, or if he just wasn’t after Bruce’s money. Alone, utterly alone. That’s what he was. He would never feel safe again.

“Leave me alone, Alfred,” Bruce said. “I can’t take it. I miss them too much.”

They were perhaps 20 yards from the service. Bruce was facing away from Alfred, and he was crying, his thin shoulders heaving up and down. Alfred didn’t know what to say. He knew he wasn’t family.

Bruce shrugged off Alfred’s hands and kept walking.

“Where are you going?” Alfred called after him.

“Home,” Bruce yelled back.

“We can wait with the cars if you like.”

“Can’t you see I’m afraid of them?” Bruce said. “I don’t want to wait for them. I have money, I’m gonna catch a cab.”

“Just let me come with you. You’re too young to be on your own.”

While this was perhaps not quite true, the sentiment behind it was honest. Bruce stopped and stamped his feet and pumped his fists in frustration.

“You’re not my parens, Alfred,” Bruce said.

“I won’t say a word. Let me just make sure you get home.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“Barely, my son. Barely.”

After a moment Bruce kept on walking. Alfred followed at a safe distance. The two walked through the cemetery this way, with Bruce in front and Alfred close enough so that Bruce could hear his footsteps. They reached the main gate. I was two more blocks down Hudson Road to the busier Pleasant Valley Ave., where cabs were common. Alfred helped Bruce hail one, and then they got in the back seat.

“Bruce,” he said. “I just want you to know that I don’t know what you’re going through, but I’m still going to try and help you in any way that I can.”

“I know. It’s your job.”

“It is. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have your best interests at heart.”

This struck Bruce as honest. It was good to hear, but did nothing to help him with his grief. The fear? Well, Alfred had helped a little. In his way, Alfred was trying to assuage his loneliness. Still, Bruce couldn’t force himself to stop crying.

About twenty minutes later they reached Wayne Manor. They got out of the cab. Alfred paid.

“Okay, now leave me alone,” Bruce demanded.

“Where are you going?”

“I don’t know. None of your business. I have to be alone.”

With that Bruce broke out into a run. He reached the main gate and unlocked it with a key Alfred didn’t know he had. On the other side Bruce kept running, and Alfred soon lost track of him. Bruce disappeared through the front door of the towering, palatial mansion that was Wayne Manor. There were plenty of places for him to hide within. Alfred had no hope of being able to find him, so he went to the kitchen, where a few of the caterers were hard at work preparing for the wake.

Alfred poured himself a cup of coffee and sat in the closest dining room. The guests wouldn’t be that much longer. He would do what he could to entertain them.

Wayne Manor was huge. There were empty rooms everywhere, galleries displaying the Waynes’ art collections, consisting of original Picassos, Eschers, and Dalis. There was an out door pool. There was a huge home theater where Bruce watched TV and played Super Nintendo. His friends, of course, liked his house best. He had about four or five of them, and many of his classmates attended each other’s birthday parties. Some of them had been at the funeral. Girls were still something of an abstract concept. Maria seemed to like him. The thought crossed his mind that maybe she could help him feel better, but not now. Now he needed to cry, alone. Somehow, he needed to become strong enough, because even though he was still just a kid he knew well enough that people often treated each other badly, selfishly, and that they might be jealous of him. He had no parents. That meant he might be a target, or even a liability to his father’s company. So many things could go wrong if he ever lost himself or made a bad decision. He would have to be able to look them in the face and tell them what he needed, what he wanted. If he didn’t he might never get it. Even Alfred. He’s an employee. If Bruce was too mean to him he might leave. Self-control and self-mastery would be paramount, lessons few eleven-year-olds need to live up to. That’s what made Bruce’s situation different, difficult, but probably not insurmountable. Bruce’s coming of age would just have to be a few, seven or eight, years ahead of schedule.

Bruce didn’t know where he was going while he thought these things. He careened down the marble passageways, up the stairs to the third floor, knocking into walls, opening doors, whistling and clapping his hands.

He was in the West wing, where his parents’ quarters were. There was also a studio where Karina used to make her pastel drawings, a hobby of hers.

Upon finding this room Bruce walked into it and looked at what she’d done, and what she would never do again. He remembered the absorbed, thoughtful look he’d seen on her face when she was drawing and, wishing so much to hug her, he burst out into tears. He thought of John Banneman, and all the evil Bruce wanted to do to him. He wondered if anyone else was having dreams like his. Gotham was a big city, after all. Bruce couldn’t explain the occurrences in the slightest.

Before he knew what he was doing he took his mother’s unfinished painting off the easel, revealing a big white sheet of paper.

He started to draw. He had never before used it as a way to express himself, but as soon as he started he found it therapeutic.

He drew in dark colors: black, grey, and blue. Before long he realized he was drawing his parents dead on Broadway, with the Joker standing over them, gun drawn. Bruce had seen his picture plastered all over the newspapers: purple suit, white face paint, dyed green hair. John Banneman was there too; he was the more diminutive gunman, because there had been two of them, one who’d done the killing and one who’d stood at his side. Bruce wasn’t in the picture when it was finished, but something else was, something lurking in the background, a hulking, heavy presence wearing a cape and a mask. Bruce couldn’t account for this new thing, which was as terrifying as the Joker and John Banneman in its own right. It just wasn’t ready. If it was it might have intervened to save his parents’ lives, something Bruce had been unable to do.

There was a noise outside: the gates of Wayne Manor opened. The mourners had arrived. Bruce wanted nothing to do with them. They probably wouldn’t find him if he hid here in his mother’s studio. At some point he would have to face them, but not today. He wanted to revel in silence, and to think and cry where no one could see him. Over the rest of the afternoon and into the evening he did plenty of both. He waited until the last car had left the Manor’s grounds, when he felt it safe to go downstairs and get some food from the kitchen, which he took to his room. After he ate he went to sleep. Unfortunately, it was not restful. The dreams came to meet him:

He’d been turning an idea over in his mind. It was a bit ill-formed, but it didn’t need to be concrete. He imagined the best killers throughout history thought similarly: that they didn’t know for certain why they were doing it. All John Banneman knew, sitting at a Central Park lake as the sun set, was that he’d struck upon a way to make himself truly consequential, and he thought he would be good at it.

Burke should be here any moment now. There were no humans about. All respectable citizens, those with Rolexes on their wrists and money in their wallets, made themselves scarce in the park once evening fell. At night this place was for creatures such as John Banneman, creatures of the night who, when happening upon a citizen with something to lose, might make them regret having lived a life that made themselves such a target. John Banneman? He had nothing to fear. Ever since his discharge from the Marines he’d never worked a job that paid above minimum wage. He lived in a housing project in North West Gotham, in a building filled with spics, wops, niggers and Irish. He hated his job and the people he serviced. Especially her, who seemed to look through him as if he wasn’t there. Her name was Ghislaine Maxwell. She came in once a month to deposit her allowance. Her father’s name was printed on her checks. As heir to the Choc-o-Max candy bar fortune, she would never know what it was like to be anything but a socialite. And she was pretty too. Very pretty.

John knew where she lived. Still, the thought was ill-defined. He’d liked seeing the Waynes’ names in the paper. It had felt like he’d made a mark. Perhaps, with Ghislaine, he would make another one.

But, first thing’s first: Burke was going to meet him here. John knew better than to trust a junky, after all.

John liked looking at the ducks gliding across the water. The sun was all but set. There was no sign of humanity. It would be as good a place as any.

Pretty. Big blue eyes. Long blonde hair. How she might look at him when he did it, as if, by his actions, he’d come to matter more than her. But he would have to be careful. You never know who or what might catch you by surprise.

Presently, he heard footsteps. They were coming down the path that led to the bench he was sitting on.

“John? That you?”

Burke.

“It’s me. Come on over here.”

Burke cautiously approached. John could smell him already: unwashed, layered in dried sweat. He was twitching spasmodically. John wasn’t familiar with the vice Burke favored: that is, methamphetamine. Is this what they look like when they’re high or when they’re jonesing? Soon it wouldn’t matter. One of John’s hands stayed in his jacket pocket.

“Does anyone know you’re here?” John asked.

“Nope.”

“No one saw you come?”

“Man, what do you want? I know you think I’m gonna tell about what we did. You don’t have to worry about me.”

Burke sat down on the bench next to him.

“But what if you can’t afford your next fix? What’ll you do then?”

“Man, I don’t even know why I came to meet you.”

“I do. Because you’re afraid of me.”

“Afraid?”

“And you should be. Because since no one knows you’re here, no one’s gonna find you ’til the morning.”

Burke was staring at him with what John knew to be beady, blood-stained little rat eyes. His intuition, if he had any, failed him. Fatally.

John reached out and grabbed the back of Burke’s neck with his left hand, and stuck the knife into the unfortunate junky’s Adam’s apple. He didn’t even have the chance to scream. Blood came flowing out of him as he collapsed to the pavement the bench was fixed to.

Taking care not to get any blood on his hands John wiped the knife on Burke’s sweater. Now the circumstances of the Waynes’ deaths were known only to himself. He and the child they’d left alive.

It had gone well. John was about to leave. He stood up, but then was struck with an idea.

He knelt by his former partner’s twitching body and dipped his index finger in a pool of blood, then drew these words next to Burke’s head: “Bane was here.”

He wondered as he walked away if those words expressed some sub-conscious wish to be found out some day, so he could tell the world to its face the mistake it had made in making an enemy of him. Who’s to say? It seemed inevitable now that everyone would one day know his name.

Two days later Bruce got the newspaper from the front gate. He took it to the kitchen and opened it to the local news. Sure enough, there it was: “Man found slain in Central Park.” Cause of death: Stabbing. Witnesses: None.

Bruce wished he could explain it. It was as if someone had decided to test him, to see how he would take it. Indeed, as he turned it over in his mind, it felt more and more like some kind of an opportunity. An inside look at his mortal enemy. He found himself very, very interested.

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