Chapter 14

Sarah Stadler’s Office (2)

“I went to stop him the other night,” Bruce said.

“You mean Bane?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Do you want to tell me what happened?”

“It was the third time I did this, but it was the first time he noticed me. I stood very still down the block from him. I don’t know when he saw me, but the guy he wanted to kill passed right in front of him and he didn’t do it.”

“Did your visitors tell you who this man was?”

“His name is Terrence Mackelray, another rich guy. He lives West of Uptown and sometimes walks home at night. Bane’s been watching him for a while. He’s become more careful.”

Sarah made a note in her notebook.

“Like I said,” Bruce continued, “he noticed me. When he started coming towards me I took a picture of him. The he ran towards me. I hid in the next block over and he didn’t see me. Then I went home, and the voices told me I had to wait for him to kill again before they would tell me how to get him. They said there were fingerprints on the knife he was going to use.”

“Bruce,” Sarah said with some feeling, leaning forward, “you know what you’re telling me isn’t possible.”

“I know. What, do you have an explanation?”

“I think you’re creating these things with your mind. Don’t you find it convenient that Bane also happened to kill your parents?”

“He said so himself in the newspaper. He said ‘you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.’”

“It’s just not possible.”

“So you think I’m making it up?”

“Well, I don’t think you’re lying, but…”

“But what?”

“But… I don’t know. I think you wish you could have protected your parents, and that’s something you will always carry with you.”

Bruce slouched a little into his chair. His eyes were locked with Sarah’s, and his had much fire in them.

“I’m going to get him some day, Sarah. Then you’ll see for yourself.”

“But not until someone else dies.”

“That’s what they said. It might not be for a while. I can’t tell them to help me more, can I? I just have to wait.”

“How does it make you feel? That they’re going to let another person die?”

“Feel? It makes me feel rotten. In fact I think I already hate them.”

“But there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“Right.”

“So what, in your mind, would be ideal? If you could have the voices tell you exactly what you wanted to hear, what would it be?”

“How to catch him in the act. How to stop him and trap him and get him for myself. I’m not going to kill him, but I am going to catch him.”

“And then what?”

“And then… I don’t know, maybe to keep doing it. Gotham’s such a scary place. Everyone’s always afraid. Maybe I can help somehow. Why else would I be taking the boxing and flying classes?”

“Why do you want to do this?”

“Honestly? Because I think I’d be good at it.”

Sarah took a sip of water, then leaned back and put her feet on the ottoman in front of her chair. She found herself smiling. Bruce always had a way of making her believe in him, improbable as that could be.

“Sounds like a lot of responsibility.”

“I know I’m still a kid, but who knows when the next Bane or Joker might come around. Maybe I’ll be old enough. I want to be ready for him.”

“I understand you’re speaking with a lot of passion. Since I don’t think I can dissuade you please promise me one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“That you’ll be careful.”

Bruce nodded and thought for a moment.

“It depends on what happens,” he said. “If it’s dangerous…”

“Of course it’s dangerous. If you’re right about all this you’re pursuing one of the worst killers the city’s ever seen, and that’s saying something.”

“I know, but how can I help it?”

Sarah paused.

“You’re saying you won’t promise me,” she said.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I can’t promise anything.”

“You won’t be doing your parents any favors by getting yourself hurt or God forbid killed.”

Bruce nodded slightly, then: “Well, I’m going to do my best. I’m going to be Batman.”

“Is this the character you’ve been drawing?”

“Yep. It took me a while to realize he was me. He was always in the background, watching. If he’d been there he could’ve stopped Bane and his friend. Once I grow up he’ll be anywhere he’s needed.”

“That’s mighty brave of you.”

“I think it’s going to be fun.”

Sarah took another sip of water.

Bruce went on: “And I promise you some day you’ll find out for sure that I’m not crazy. Once I catch Bane everyone’s gonna know about Batman. Don’t you think they’ll like that? Finally someone who doesn’t want to kill them?”

Sarah almost laughed. It was such a strange conversation.

She checked her watch. They were almost out of time.

“You know I have to tell the police if someone’s going to die,” she said.

“That’s the whole point. If it were up to me no one ever would.”

Sarah sighed. She had to admit her training was failing her.

“You’re so very young, Bruce,” she said.

“I know. I can’t wait to grow up.”

“We’re out of time,” she said, standing up. “I’ll see you next week. I hope your schoolwork and Batman training goes well.”

“Thanks. I’ll be as careful as I can be,” he said, then walked past her out of her office.

She closed the door behind him. To call herself intrigued would have been an understatement.

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