Jim had seen pictures of Joker before; the man loved to show off for the security cameras like no other Gotham criminal. But the pictures were definitely just a pale imitation of the men who seemed bent on proving clowns were indeed scary.
A woman screamed somewhere to Jim’s left, as Joker and his goons made their way through the crowd; it opened for them like the Red Sea. Jim counted in his mind; how much time would it take Bruce to get to the suit and back? Did Harvey and Rachel manage to get out safely?
Joker turned his attention to some older man who seemed vaguely familiar to Jim, and it seemed like the things were getting worse.
“Dent’s not here,” Jim said loudly, answering the previously asked question, one that Joker entered with. “But the police will be here any second now,” he added, trying not to flinch under that gaze, now completely fixed on him.
And that was the thing, he thought – you expected a man like the Joker to be completely insane, out of his mind. But the eyes, underneath the make-up and the theatricality, they were cold and calculating and oddly, well, sane.
Or maybe a trick of light and the fact that Jim really, really didn’t enjoy the party were to blame for this impression.
“Seems to me the police is already here,” Joker said. “Well, well, well, Lieutenant Jim Gordon. Now, that’s funny.”
Jim didn’t really see the humour in that one, but well, one doesn’t argue semantics with armed madmen. Well, one shouldn’t, at least.
“Why is that funny?” he asked instead. His voice, which came as a slight surprise to him, stayed calm and steady. He had a flash of realization how insane this was, trying to have a conversation with the Joker but, well, it wasn’t a conversation, was it? It was playing for time.
Joker shrugged, stepping forward. Jim could swear the part of the crowd standing behind him took half a step backwards. Not a comforting thought. “I saw what the papers wrote on you, Lieutenant, and I thought; I have to meet that guy,” he said with a rather worrying smile. “I thought; he makes things happen. That’s interesting. That’s entertaining.”
“Depends on your idea of entertainment,” Jim muttered. He could get a decent shot at Joker, who was armed only in a small knife; he could at least get a punch or a kick in. But that left half a dozen of his goons, who did carry guns. Even if he took his piece, the one currently resting on Bruce’s dresser, it wouldn’t be an even fight, not one he could allow in the crowd.
Joker found the remark hilarious, judging from the way his mouth stretched in a smile. Stretched more, that is. “I like you, you have guts,” he said pleasantly, his voice raise indicating a punchline was coming. “How about we see them spilled, eh?”
“Let’s try something else,” Jim said slowly, his gaze flickering to the side, towards the corridor where Bruce should appear any moment now. “You still have time to step down.”
Joker seemed wildly unimpressed but then again, impressing him wasn’t Jim’s intention.
“I don’t think you know how this game is played, lieutenant,” he said and then, finally, the dark silhouette appeared few steps away from them.
“But I do,” Bruce growled, going for the punch.
Jim got out of his way, knowing he’d be more a liability than anything else. He urged the crowd, who mostly stood and watched in stunned silence to move out, using the distraction Bruce provided.
“Shoot at him,” Joker barked an order to one of his men and Jim turned around to make sure the suit did its job and the bullets didn’t go through. Bruce seemed fine. “No, not him,” Joker muttered and moved to whisk the gun from his lackie’s hands, complaining about never getting good help. “Him,” he announced cheerfully and this time, the sound of the gunshot resonated in Jim’s bones, shocking him more than the brief pain in his leg.
“Jim!” Bruce yelled, just as Jim’s legs gave in and he stumbled to the floor.
“See, entertaining and interesting,” Joker muttered, urging his men to get out, going after them while mumbling about bats spoiling everything.
This, precisely, was why Jim hated parties.
Ten minutes later backup showed up, with Bullock managing the aftermath. He seemed to hate parties even more than Jim did, and really, really disliked to take witness statement from people in bow ties and evening gowns. It amused Jim only slightly.
Batman had disappeared somewhere, but Bruce Wayne was back, complaining to everyone who wanted to listen that he just happened to go to the bathroom and missed all the excitement.
“One day, you’ll overdo on the theatrics,” Jim warned him softly, after the paramedic patched him up and Alfred brought him a glass of whiskey instead of a painkiller.
“Me? Never,” Bruce said, hand to heart, in a very overdone manner.
“If I may make a suggestion, Master Bruce,” Alfred said pointedly, after coughing politely. “Please refrain from bringing your work home on future occasions.”
He was gone after that remark, and Jim snorted. “I think you’re in deep trouble.”
“Yes, he’ll probably send me to sleep without dinner,” Bruce agreed. “I’ll go tell Rachel and Harvey it’s all over.”
“I’ll get Bullock’s report,” Jim nodded, squeezing Bruce’s hand. “And thank you.”
“Don’t even. And you’re never getting yourself shot again, just so you know.”
“Well, maybe I wouldn’t, if I had my lucky tie,” Jim grumbled and propped himself up, limping back into the main area, gesturing at Bullock.
“I talked to Montoya,” Bullock said gravely, and his face indicated it wasn’t because talking to Montoya was sometimes a real hard work. “Dent’s lucky to be alive.”
“What do you mean?”
“Loeb and Surillo, they’re both dead. As I said, Dent’s lucky the Bat tends to show up when you need him.”
It wasn’t a pointed comment, more a matter-of-fact statement, but Jim looked away all the same, for a few seconds. “There’s that,” he said evasively, then sighed, taking his glasses off and pinching his nose tiredly. “Seems everyone’s on double shift today. I need people on the Joker’s case, steal them from other departments if needed. I’ll get to the MCU in…” he stopped at Bullock’s adamant headshake. “What?”
“You’re not going anywhere, boss. Not after getting yourself shot.”
“Hate to break the news to you, Bullock, but you don’t decide how I spend my time.”
“No, but Stephens will have my head on a spike if I don’t try and make you rest. And Montoya will drive a spike through another vital part of my body,” he said with a completely earnest expression.
And he was probably right.
Jim sighed, letting the air out slowly. “Fine. But I want reports on the hour, every hour. Understood?”
“Perfectly,” Bullock nodded with some relief.
At least he had that. Jim was far from feeling relieved, especially after Miss Vicki Vale waved at him from the sidelines, from behind the yellow tape. He sighed again, figuring it was better to get the worst out of the way. It couldn’t be as bad as getting shot.
Oh, who was he kidding, of course it could.
He limped towards her and nodded at one of the uniformed cops keeping the press gathered at the side, talking to Sparks from the CSU who had apparently been delegated to dealing with them for some sins.
“Miss Vale,” he said, letting her past the tape.
“Nice tie,” she said instead of a greeting and Jim was pretty sure she was making fun of him. She tapped her notebook with a pen. “So, an eventful night, lieutenant?”
“I’ve had worse,” he muttered. “Let’s get this over with. Joker and his men showed up with the intention of killing Harvey Dent. They’re also responsible for deaths of Commissioner Loeb and Judge Surillo. Fortunately, Dent and Rachel Dawes had left earlier in the evening, and due to Batman’s arrival and help, the entire incident ended without casualties.”
She smiled. “Not exactly what I’m hearing.” At his look, she explained, “I hear you heroically drew Joker’s attention to yourself, getting shot in the process and saving lives.”
“Don’t believe in gossip, Miss Vale,” he told her pleasantly and she waved her pen in cheerful acknowledgement.
“Very well, lieutenant. One final question. Can you tell us who will take over Commissioner Loeb’s chair?”
“I find it rather distasteful to speculate at such a moment, but feel free to do so yourself,” he said dryly. “And in any case, it’s in the Mayor’s purview, I haven’t the slightest idea who would he chose.”
Vicki smiled. “Don’t you? Interesting.” He was beginning to hate that word. “Well, good seeing you, lieutenant, and thank you. I wish you speedy recovery,” she said with an arch smile, as if reveling in the clichéd phrase. She probably did, too.
Rachel and Harvey got out of the hidden room, and right now Harvey was apparently dealing with the information he had gotten by making his way through a bottle of a rather good whiskey.
“How is he?” he asked Rachel and she shrugged.
“Shell-shocked. I’ve heard about Loeb, I’m sorry.”
It was Jim’s turn to shrug. Loeb had been there throughout his whole career, such as it was, and while they rarely saw eye to eye, Loeb was a good cop. “Loeb and Surillo. Harvey was their third target,” he said instead of anything else.
Rachel nodded slowly, her lips tightening. “Lau’s case. But that’s impossible, Joker was robbing the mob’s banks, why would he now try and kill people who were building a case against them?”
“I don’t even dare to guess what goes on in Joker’s head,” Jim muttered.
“Whatever it is,” Harvey said, standing up and placing his glass on Bruce’s nightstand, “we need to get Lau to testify. The first hearing’s tomorrow, I don’t know which judge we’re gonna get now, but it’s far from over.”
“Lau’s at the MCU. Montoya has people watching him,” Jim said, glancing at Bruce. “What is it?”
“The mob’s getting desperate. We blocked their funds, yes, but they’re turning to Joker, who’s unstable and chaotic at best. I can see them wanting Harvey and Loeb and Surillo out of the picture, but Joker’s fixated on me.”
“You mean on Batman,” Harvey said, as if he still couldn’t believe that part. It would take some time to sink in, Jim thought.
“It’s something we could use,” Bruce said quietly.
“It’s something we can talk about later,” Jim muttered, meaning no, not a chance in hell.
“Fine,” Bruce agreed, once more reading Jim all too easily. “Harvey…” he started, his expression hesitant for once.
“I know. Your secret’s safe with me and all…” Harvey said, shaking his head. “And I always thought Rachel was nuts when she said you had hidden depths.
“Not a nice thing to say about your fiancé,” Rachel muttered. “Jim, keep us posted about Lau, if anything goes wrong. He needs to be in court first thing tomorrow.”
“Of course. Now, go and rest,” Jim told her and got a slight glare for his trouble, then a pointed look at his torn trousers and the bandage on his leg. “Yes, I intend to do the same.”
“Good,” she said and leaned to kiss his cheek, then turned to pat Bruce’s shoulder. “See you tomorrow.”
Bruce sighed as the doors closed behind them, and sat down on the bed. “See, don’t tell me I don’t know how to throw an awesome party,” he said with manic cheerfulness and an obviously fake smile, then shook his head, the grin completely gone.
“Look at the bright side; nothing burned down.”
“A definite improvement, yes.”
“Although my new suit is toast,” Jim said happily. “Such a pity, I was beginning to like it.”
“Sure you did.”
“No, really. Everyone noticed. Big hit with the ladies,” Jim said, sitting down next to Bruce, carefully, favouring his good leg.
Bruce smirked. “Yes, I saw you flirting with Miss Vale.”
Jim rolled his eyes at that one. “She annoys me, and I probably make her work all the more difficult. You call that flirting?”
“It’s like you don’t watch movies. It’s endearing,” Bruce said with a smile, his head tilted to the side so it almost rested on Jim’s shoulder. “You know, she interviewed me once, she’s kind of fantastic. Thought about asking her out, but, well, I don’t really date people I like or respect.”
Jim laughed. “Thank you so much.”
“Oh, you know what I meant. You I do like.”
“I thought I shouldn’t count on respect,” Jim said mournfully and leaned into Bruce, letting himself be enveloped by the warmth of that contact, finally allowing himself a moment of peace.
“You do know I’m getting you a new suit?” Bruce asked after a minute or so, prompting Jim to snort a laugh against his neck.
“Yes. I hoped we could avoid that, but alas,” Jim shrugged, but it came out rather flat. He felt tired, and not in the usual way long days made him weary; but then again this hadn’t been a regular day, even by Gotham’s standards. “I think I’m getting old,” he added dryly.
Bruce rolled his eyes; Jim could tell even without looking up. “No, you just got shot today. Come on,” he added, pushing Jim’s jacket off his shoulder and leaning down to discard his shoes. “You could use some sleep.”
“And what are you going to do?” Jim asked suspiciously, raising his eyebrow.
Bruce was silent for a moment, indicating clearly what his plans had been. “I’m going to sleep, of course,” he said finally.
“Good choice.” Jim wasn’t the only one in desperate need of some rest. And, while he couldn’t quite believe he was going to say that even in his thoughts: there was little they could do about Joker before tomorrow, and Jim had his best people on the job already.
He didn’t bother with changing, either; the pants were destroyed already, and once he discarded the expensive tie and the shirt, he was fine. He just pulled Bruce close and soon drifted off.
And of course it turned out to be the wise decision to get at least that much sleep, because the morning came by all too soon.
“I don’t even need an alarm clock,” Jim grumbled, still half-asleep as he picked up his ringing phone. “What is it, Renee?”
“There was a call to the dispatch, from someone claiming to be the Joker, saying that we’ll find Dent at 8th at Orchard… We tried calling Dent but he’s not answering. The Patrol is on the way, but…”
“I got it, Renee,” Jim said and disconnected, wide awake now. He picked up his glasses from the night stand and dialed Rachel’s private cell, the one she answered on her days off. Bruce was already getting up, watching him carefully.
She picked up on the third ring. “Better be important, Jim,” she warned him sleepily.
“Harvey’s with you?”
“Yes, why?” she asked, her voice slightly muffled as she seemed to be moving.
“We had a report that… nevermind, I’ll call you when I have more intel,” Jim shook his head at Bruce who sighed with some relief, his expression softening as the tension eased out. “How is he, anyway?”
“Well, how were you after learning about Bruce being Batman?” she asked dryly and Jim shrugged.
“Really pissed off. And maybe slightly turned on,” he added, just to hear her laugh.
“Fine, bad example. The answer is: still shocked. But he’ll be fine with it, once the surprise wears off and his expression comes back to normal. I swear, he looks surprised even in his sleep. And when…”
“Don’t say anything more, I beg of you,” he told her.
“You started that one,” she said cheerfully, and well, she had a point. “Alright, call me when you know more, and I’ll see you at court. And now I should get out of the bathroom, probably.”
“You’re taking your calls there now, too?”
“Yes. In fact, I’m considering moving my office in here on the permanent basis,” she deadpanned.
Jim rolled his eyes and disconnected. “Harvey’s safe.”
“It’s a relief,” Bruce muttered. “And also, worries me more. What is Joker planning?”
“One way to find out. I’ll meet you there?”
Of course, considering that Bruce didn’t have to stick to the actual roads, he got to the crime scene first. Montoya was already there too, talking to the uniform cops who arrived first on the scene, getting their reports.
“Your friend there is taking a few minutes. Says he needs a look before the CSU contaminates the scene. I’d love Matthews and his geeks hear that one,” she said with a small smile. Jim held back a smirk; he was engaged in a permanent feud with Matthews about the evidence gathered and delivered by Batman and this would piss the head of the CSU something awful.
“What do we have on the dispatch call?”
“Made from a disposable cellphone that was paid for by cash.”
“Of course it was,” Jim sighed. Why make it easier for them?
Montoya bit her lip and glanced down, then back up, hesitating. “How’s your leg, boss?”
“I’ll live,” he shrugged. She seemed to want something else, and he waited patiently. Montoya wasn’t one to hold things back.
“We kind of got the message that you were shot and they didn’t tell us how serious it was…” she said quietly.
Jim raised his eyebrows. “Did you worry, Montoya? I’m touched.”
She rolled her eyes. “I just worried I could end up with Stephens as the new boss. That would suck, he’s not half as fun to mock as you are,” she added, then stepped forward and hugged him quickly. “There. Now you can mock me,” she said, tossing her ponytail over her shoulder.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he smiled, reaching to squeeze her shoulder. “Now, come on, let’s see what Batman found for us.”
“Patrick Harvey, Richard Dent,” Bruce said, pointing at the IDs on the victims.
“Harvey Dent,” Montoya nodded. “Not the cleverest pun in the world, but coming from the guy dressing like a clown…”
“I’m going to take fingerprints off the bullet,” Bruce added, ignoring Renee. She looked at him sceptically, glancing at the wall.
“Brick,” Jim confirmed, looking at it as well. “Bullet’s shattered… I don’t even think of asking,” he shrugged and picked up the newspaper from the table, holding it up. “But we know his next target,” he said, nodding at the photo of Garcia, adorned with a red clown smile, next to his obituary. “He put it in tomorrow’s paper.”
Montoya grimaced. “Man, I hate spoilers,” she announced.
Jim was sure even Bruce was rolling his eyes under the mask.
“Montoya, could you…” Jim started and she nodded.
“Yeah, I’ll go and make small talk with the uniforms. You know, I’m getting to know them all pretty well, they’ll soon be on my Christmas Cards’ list,” she said dryly and stomped off pointedly, but the small smile belied her show of annoyance.
“She’s something,” Bruce said, his voice filled with suppressed laughter.
“She certainly is,” Jim agreed fondly. Montoya had grown on him, stealthily. A little bit like a fungus, really. “You really can take fingerprints off a bullet?”
“I have a working theory as of how to do it,” Bruce shrugged. “I’ll let you know if it pans out.”
“Please do,” Jim nodded and sighed, studying the article. “Nothing says when and where, I suppose Joker didn’t want to be too helpful. But it’s going to be during Loeb’s funeral.”
Bruce nodded. “Public venture, lots of places to hide during the march, crowds to hide in and then terrify… Sounds pretty damn perfect.”
“For the Joker. For me, it’s going to be an organizational nightmare. I don’t have men to deal with it, I don’t have the resources to have every angle covered. And convincing Garcia to stay put…”
“Good luck with that one,” Bruce said, his tone of voice clearly indicating he agreed with Jim’s assessment: easier to convince a river to run uphill. Jim resented the fact that it made his work all the more difficult, but he couldn’t blame the man for not giving in to the death threats.
“Well, whatever you find, keep me posted. And you know, if no one actually gets killed today, we could have dinner.”
“I know how to break into your apartment,” Bruce agreed and stepped back into the shadows, melting away. Jim kind of hated when he did that, but it was still damn impressive.
“Montoya,” he called out. “You can let the CSU in. And if you’re done here, I’ll need you on the detail for Loeb’s funeral.”
She nodded. “That’s gonna be a security nightmare.”
“And then some. Start working on the plan with Bullock and Stephens, if they can spare some time. I’ll join you after I get Lau to court and he gives his testimony.”
Montoya slowly breathed out, shaking her head. “It’s one of those days, eh, boss?”
“Looks like it.” And it was barely eight in the morning, too.