Chapter 9

East Park

Bruce hadn’t had the dreams in almost three weeks. The last he’d seen the monster had sat waiting in a park across the street from his new target’s brownstone, watching the lights in her window. Sometimes she walked her dog at night. That was when he was going to do it.

Bruce found himself in something of a panic. He thought that Alfred had begun to notice his young charge’s interest in the daily newspaper. But what could he do? Alfred still wasn’t sure he wanted Bruce riding the subway by himself. He was just a kid, but the woman was probably in mortal danger. He had no proof, and to try to make a move without any would be entering fully into the world of adults, dealing in matters of life and death. Bruce didn’t feel yet ready to make such a leap.

This was the night. Bane had come prepared with gloves, knife, and Polaroid camera. The police had neglected to tell the world the message he’d left behind when he’d killed Burke. This time he would make sure there was no mistaking.

Sometimes she walked her dog at night. Her boyfriend never went with her. If she did it tonight it would be the last thing she ever did.

The lights were on the second floor of her brownstone. There was little traffic, foot or automobile, on her street. It was one of the city’s wealthiest, located in East Park, which was about one hundred square blocks between the edge of the park and the ocean. Bane would wait another few hours, and if she didn’t show he would leave.

Bruce had just said goodnight to Alfred. He was in bed with the light on reading Watership Down when, like a flash, he was transported elsewhere, into John Banneman again, waching Ms. Maxwell walk down her front stairs to 3rd Street. Bruce felt a terror rise into him when John Banneman stood up from the park bench he’d been seated on and approach his target from behind.

It was over quick. John caught up to her, put his hand over her mouth, and passed the knife across her throat. As she struggled weakly in his arms he lowered her to the ground.

With her blood he wrote the same thing he’d written before: “Bane was here.” He took a picture of his message, then he walked away, throwing his knife into the park.

That was it. The vision ended and Bruce was back in his warm bed with a book in his hands, gape-jawed, horrified, but also angry at what he’d just witnessed.

“Who are you?” he yelled.

You have nothing to be afraid of, something whispered. At least not yet.

“How can you just let him do these things?”

What, you want to do something about it?

Am I crazy? Bruce wondered. Is this really happening?

We’re going to leave you for a while, Bruce, but we’ll be back. If you want to get him yourself, make yourself ready. If you succeed it would be a sight to behold, wouldn’t it?

The picture he’d drawn the day of his parents’ funeral crossed his mind: the hulking thing observing the Joker and Bane at a distance. He would do something about it if he could. But who was it? It couldn’t be he, Bruce, himself, could it?

Prepare yourself, the voice continued. The next time we contact you we expect to have something important to talk about.

Having discarded his knife Bane next deposited his gloves in a sewer drain. He had no blood stain on him. His heart was beating a mile a minute.

Well you’re into it now, boyo, he thought. Now to give the newspapers what the police wouldn’t.

When he got home he sat before his typewriter a few minutes then put the page he’d printed and the pictures he’d taken into an enveloped addressed to the journalist who’d written the story on Burke’s death. Two days from now Bane was going to be famous.

He didn’t sleep that night. He knew what he had become.

4 Days Later, Front Page of the Gotham Globe

GHISLAINE MAXWELL’S KILLER PUBLISHES MANIFESTO

Columnist Alex Jacobs received the following letter, along with the accompanying photos:

My name is Bane. I’ve killed before, but the police chose not to include my message. I’ll do your job for you from now on, by submitting photographs of my work. It is quite simple: Bane Was Here. Tim Burke was my third kill. The first two you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.

It’s a project I’m undertaking, to make the rich and powerful fear me. Some day you might catch me, but not before the whole world knows my name and what I signify. I’m going to be careful, I’m going to be persistent, and I’m going to go down in history. Consider yourselves warned.

Officer Jim Gordon and his wife and son were watching the evening news when the telephone rang. Celia gave him a look.

“What?” he said. “You know it’s gonna be for you.”

“I know no such thing.”

Gordon sighed, clapped his hands on the easy chair’s armrests, and lifted himself to his feet.

“I’m not even going to say ‘hello.’ That’s how sure I am that it won’t be for me.”

Neither wife nor son responded.

Gordon crossed the living room of their apartment to the kitchen and picked up the phone from its wall mount. Just as he’d promised he said nothing.

“Hello?” he heard. It sounded like a child’s voice. Okay, must be for Andy.

“Is this Officer Gordon?” the voice asked.

“Yes, this is Jim Gordon.”

“I have something to tell you. I know who’s doing the killings.”

“Excuse me?”

“Bane. I know who he is.”

“How do you know this?”

There was a slight pause. There was strange feeling in the child’s voice. It took Gordon a moment to identify it as anger.

“His name is John Banneman. He works at a bank.”

“If you have something to say you should call the homicide division.”

“I know, it’s just, I have your number.”

“How do you know this?” Gordon repeated.

“I can’t tell you. I don’t think I’m going to say any more. His name is John Banneman. He works at a bank. Please catch him before he does it again.”

Then there was a click followed by dial tone. Whoever it was had hung up. There had been passion in what he’d said. It had sounded like he’d meant it.

“Jim?” Celia called out. “Who is it?”

Gordon walked slowly back to his easy chair and sat down.

“Who was it?”

“I don’t know. They didn’t say.”

He decided he would tell Detective Stark about the phone call. It was probably worth a mention any way. Thought-provoking if nothing else.

It was about 11:00 AM the next Saturday, and John’s shift at Empire Bank was passing much as they always did. John noticed the tall, lanky boy waiting in line, and also saw that the boy seemed to have noticed him. In fact he was staring. In fact he looked flushed, angry even, as if he knew John and already hated him. Indeed, John couldn’t place it, but there was something familiar about him.

The boy’s turn in line came. John was busy with another customer, though he couldn’t stop sending glances the boy’s way. He was making John uncomfortable.

There were three tellers servicing the line. John noticed the boy decline to see another teller, and the person in line behind him walked past.

John counted his current customer’s money and gave him the receipt.

“Have a nice day,” he said, and watched as the tall boy, perhaps eleven or twelve years old, approached.

“Can I help you?” John asked.

“I know who you are.”

“Excuse me?”

“I told the police about you. You’re going to jail, John Banneman. Or should I say Bane?”

The boy wasn’t talking loudly, but John felt an instance of panic any way. He didn’t know what to say. He became afraid that a red flush instantly rose up from his shirt collar.

“I’m going to get you some day. I wanted to tell you. I’m watching.”

“Look, I don’t know what you think you know.”

“I know you killed my parents. I know you killed that lady in the park. I just want you to see my face, because I’m going to get you. Watch your back, Bane. Killer. You killed my parents and some day I’m going to get you.”

Then the boy left. John looked all around his immediate surroundings and was reasonably sure no one had noticed the interaction, but he was hyperventilating anyway. He needed a moment to collect himself before he could take care of the next customer.

Parents? Who could it be?

And then it hit him. Bruce Wayne. Bane had, indeed, killed his parents. That’s why he was familiar. But no one had done anything. He’d been wearing a mask. Bane had thought that one at least safely over and done with. Apparently it wasn’t.

The next customer came forward. Bane spent much of the rest of the day futilely trying to forget what had happened. After all there wasn’t much else he could do. From here on out he would have to be more careful. He told himself unexpected things could happen. After all, he’d already told the world what he intended. He wouldn’t be so easily dissuaded. No, he was locked in. He would just have to be more careful from here on out. You never know who might be watching.

Days passed, then weeks. The police never showed up. Bane was almost able to imagine the interaction had never taken place at all. But that, too, would be foolish. Just grow eyes on the back of your head. That was the best that could be done.

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