Chapter 13

The First Encounter

After Bane’s fourth kill many in East Park began demanding a stronger police presence in their besieged neighborhood. The city did its best to comply, but it wasn’t enough. Another killing happened, complete with photographs in the next day’s Gotham Globe. So, up in arms, they held a community meeting and agreed to pool their resources and hire a fleet of 50 private security officers. Still, come evening time, the wealthy enclave’s streets became depressingly devoid of life. No one went out any more after the sun went down. It was this reason, as much as the heightened security, that Bane himself decided he would have to find his victims elsewhere. He’d come to choosing them at random, pacing the streets in search of opportunely lonely civilians on ill-lit streets, particularly those that bordered the. Now, it seemed, those days were behind him. This was frustrating. He only wanted to kill those he envied, but he very much still wanted to kill, right up until the very day of his arrest, the more the merrier. On the opposite side of the park was another wealthy area, West Park, though it wasn’t quite as glitzy as its counterpart. Maybe he should go there next. That or he could pick out another target from those that visited his bank, none of whom, however, had enough profile to equal Ghislaine Maxwell’s. He also believed he knew better than to, proverbially, shit where he ate. In other words, Bane decided to plan his next move more carefully. A period of months passed without a new set of photographs. Eventually though he picked out a customer who came in once every couple months to deposit checks into his IRA. The unfortunate’s name was Terrence Mackelray, vice-president of an advertising agency on 12th Street. He lived in a penthouse in Uptown, an entertainment district North of East Park. Bane began to stalk his fresh prey. Mr. Mackelray lived alone, but he had several adult children. He worked most weekends, and usually commuted on foot, since his company was based not far from his residence. While for the most part his routine involved heavily trafficked areas, there were a few blocks in which the deed could probably be accomplished. Bane began to wait there for the moment to come, knife, gloves, and Polaroid at the ready. Imagine his surprise, then, to gradually believe he was not doing so alone.

At first it was an uncomfortable feeling he couldn’t account for. When his grandmother used to say her “ears were burning,” upon her return to a room where the rest of the family had been talking about her, she was usually right. It wasn’t a supernatural ability, but rather an example of heightened intuition. And as John tried to account for this uneasiness, checking over his shoulder and around the darkened streets more carefully, he realized one night that there was, in fact, a presence: a dark shape in the shadow on the very block John occupied. It was there on Thursday, and Bane didn’t make his move. It was there again on Saturday. It was very still, almost lifeless. It could have been mistaken for a statue. It seemed to be wearing a mask, and some kind of cloak.

John sat on the bus stop bench and watched it as Mr. Mackelray walked right in front of him. Had his ears not been burning John could have done the deed right then and there. Instead he decided this to be the right time to instigate a confrontation.

He stood up and began to cross the street, which was otherwise empty of life now that Mr. Mackelray had passed through it. Maybe the presence would serve as an adequate substitute. But as Bane began to approach it it came to life. It was indeed a person, and on the slim side, maybe easy pickings.

John was perhaps 30 yards away from it when there was a flash: a camera! Perhaps a Polaroid like John’s! There was a flash, then the figure turned and ran, cloak billowing in the air.

“Hey! Hey you!” John yelled losing himself in the moment. “Don’t you run from me!”

But the thing was fast indeed. It turned left at the next intersection. John hastened to catch up. There was a space of time perhaps five seconds long where John lost sight of it. Then, when he followed it around the corner, he found himself facing an empty street: no presence to be found. But his ears were still burning. How had it disappeared? It couldn’t have gone far, could it?

John spun around, ran a ways down the street, spun around again, but his reconnaissance was unsuccessful. The thing was gone.

Was it possible he’d hallucinated it? Couldn’t be. And the flash. Now there was evidence somewhere that John had been in the place Mr. Mackelray was to die. It was disturbing to say the least. A short while later John decided to leave, and entered the closest subway stop he could find. At least it wasn’t the police. That was something, but it certainly begged a perplexing questions: what, on Earth, was it, and how much did it already know?

Bruce got home some two hours later. The picture he’d taken had been ill lit. You couldn’t make out the subject’s features, couldn’t tell who it was. But Bruce was reasonably certain that if he hadn’t been there Bane’s new target would have met an untimely demise.

No one saw him come in. Alfred was probably asleep.

There was still adrenaline pumping through Bruce’s veins. He shed his costume in his parents’ room then brushed his teeth and went to his own. He got into be though he wasn’t tired, and spent some time staring at the ceiling in the dark. Then, as he’d hoped they would, his strange supernatural handlers came back. He was looking through John Banneman’s eyes. He had made it back home too. He was shaken up. He poured himself a double shot of brandy to calm his nerves, then he sat at his meagre kitchen table, still wearing his gloves, handling the knife he’d almost put to use. Bruce wondered if there were fingerprints on it.

There are, Bruce heard, their ghostly whisper.

Bruce observed John’s thought process. He was wondering whether or not to continue to pursue Terrence Mackelray.

Do you see? Bruce heard. He’s frightened.

“Who are you?” Bruce asked the empty room.

You’ll know in due time, came the response. Think of us as allies if you want.

John went to his refrigerator and got a can of Diet Coke to chase the brandy. His hands were shaking.

You see the problem, don’t you? The voice asked. You’ve scared him away. You’ll never catch him if you keep doing that.

“What else could I do?”

Wait for him to kill again.

“Again?”

Just keep doing what you’re doing. Keep training. Larry thinks you’re a good pupil. So does Candace.

Those were, respectively, Bruce’s boxing instructor and the Applied Sciences employee teaching him to operate the flying equipment.

It’s our own fault. We wanted to whet your appetite. You might not hear from us for a little while. He has to kill again, then we’ll give you what information you need to nab him. Keep the photo. That was a good idea.

“You’ll let him kill someone?”

Yes we will. It’s for the better, ultimately.

“That’s not right.”

Beggars can’t be choosers, Bruce.

Bane’s hand was on his kitchen table, fingers drumming a staccato. Somehow Bruce knew he was bathed in a cold sweat.

Be ready when the time comes. We promise he won’t get away with what he’s done.

It didn’t sit well with Bruce, the concept of letting another person die. A recurring problem he had with his psychic handlers: he highly disliked them, though he had to admit the thought of catching Bane himself was a highly appealing one.

Bane’s eyesight gradually faded away and Bruce heard no more voices. Eventually he fell asleep, and the next thing he knew Alfred was knocking on his door to wake him for school. Bruce continued on in his routine as if nothing had happened.

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