No one had the slightest idea of where the Joker could be, or where he could have taken Lau. Lau’s body hadn’t turned up yet, so there was that, and the few CIs they had who still talked about the mob’s business said it was Chechen who wanted Lau. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so easy to find Chechen when he didn’t want to be found either.
At six am Jim had finally managed to convince Rachel to go home and get rest, succeeding only when he promised to do so himself. “I wasn’t actually injured, you know,” she told him firmly, and on any other day Jim would argue with her, but, well.
“Fine,” he muttered. “After I stop at the hospital to see Renee…” he said and belatedly thought it could be a sore point, but Rachel just nodded at him, her hand resting briefly on his shoulder before she walked out.
He got to the hospital at around seven, long before the visiting hours. He probably shouldn’t have just flashed his badge and said it was official police business, but frankly, he didn’t care that much.
Montoya looked up when he went in and gathered up a weak smile. “Hey, boss. Hope you brought some normal food, because the jelly they gave me here smelt like fish.”
“Sent him to get me coffee,” she frowned at him, taking in the concerned expression. “Aw, boss. I don’t think anyone would try to kill me here.”
Jim shook his head. He’d like to be certain of that.
“Tell you what, I’ll get a security detail if you do,” she told him winningly and patted the side of the bed. “You look worse than I feel,” she added.
“You always know what to say,” he muttered, sitting down. “And how do you feel, really?”
She shrugged. “Like I’ve been run over by a tank. Or, you know, like I’ve been kidnapped by a psychotic clown and strapped to a bomb. I’m sure everyone can relate to this.”
“I’m sorry,” Jim muttered, not looking at her. Montoya reached out and poked his leg.
“What are you sorry for?”
“Getting you tangled up in this. Joker…” he started and she poked him harder. “Montoya,” he muttered, annoyed, and she nodded.
“Yeah, that tone’s better. I’ve heard the Joker story, one of the goons told me you’d have to choose or whatever, and then the Bat gave me the cliff notes version, and I made Bullock tell me the whole story. How you rushed in to save me and all.”
“And if the Joker hadn’t switched the places, we wouldn’t get to you in time.”
“Yeah,” she nodded, reaching to brush her hair off her face, sitting up and resting more comfortably against the pillows. “And I’d be dead and I wouldn’t have this chance to tell you off for being an idiot.”
He gave her a long, slow look. “You know you’re coming dangerously close to insubordination?”
She beamed at him. “I’m excused, I’m on morphine,” she said cheerfully. “It’s good stuff, can see why you get yourself shot so often.”
“Very funny, Montoya,” he muttered and grew serious again. “I just…”
“If you try any mushy stuff, commish, I’m going to retaliate by making a thinly veiled remark about your taste in boyfriends. And their dress style,” she told him pointedly and he blinked at her.
“No idea what you mean,” Jim said dryly and she nodded at him.
“I’ve heard the phone conversation you had. I think Bruce thought I was passed out, and didn’t really put on the voice, but I have to tell you, I had this boyfriend once… really learned how to feign sleep.”
“Renee,” he muttered with exasperation.
“Yeah, yeah, you’re secret’s safe with me and all that. But tell me, boss, how does that go? You roleplay?”
“I’m going to call the nurse in, because you clearly need to have the morphine drip adjusted,” he told her and she winked at him. “But I’m glad to see you’re fine.”
Renee nodded. “Mostly, yeah. How’s Rachel doing?”
Jim shrugged at that. “I’d like to know,” he muttered and shook his head. “Do you need me to call anyone? I’m afraid I can’t stay long, and I’m going to have to take Bullock with me, we need everyone looking for the Joker and Lau.”
She shook her head again. “No, Delia’s in Metropolis, she’ll get here tomorrow. I’m fine.”
She wasn’t, Jim could tell, but it wasn’t his place to ask whether she called her parents. Even if he wanted to.
“Hey, boss,” Bullock said, coming in and handing Montoya a styrofoam cup. “Decaf. Don’t even try, the doctors said you can’t mix caffeine with whatever they have you on. But I brought you that muffins you like,” he added and handed over the paper bag he was hiding behind his back.
“You are a god,” Montoya told him happily and rummaged through the bag, fishing one of the muffins and biting in. Jim rolled his eyes at her.
Bullock cleared his throat. “I am also under strict orders from at least three different people to make sure you get home and get some rest, boss,” he told Jim. “I had an interesting phonecall from Bruce Wayne, who told me to leave your car here and he’ll have someone pick it up later, and to drive you straight to the Manor, because you need to rest. And while I agree, hearing it from Bruce Wayne? Priceless.”
Montoya snorted. “You think that’s priceless.”
“We should be going,” Jim said pointedly, standing up. After a moment, he leaned down and kissed Montoya’s forehead. “Take care.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “Yeah, see, I am comfortably resting in a bed. You’re the one overtaxing yourself.”
There was that. Of course, it wasn’t exactly his fault that the universe wouldn’t allow him to catch a break.
“Once you drop me off,” he told Bullock slowly, “drive by Montoya’s parents, give them the news,” he said. Probably not his business, but if she was his daughter, he’d want to know.
“Will do,” Bullock nodded and absently reached out to fiddle with the radio’s controls as they waited for the lights to change.
And this was a further proof of the universe clearly having it in for Jim, because that was the moment the news segment started, headlined by the report on Coleman Reese, a consultant for a prestigious Gotham law firm, knowing Batman’s identity and intending to disclose it on the news.
“Fuck,” Jim muttered, banging his head against the side window.
Bullock nodded, gritting his teeth. “Change of plans, then?” he asked dryly, already preparing to turn the car around.
Seemed like that.
They didn’t get very far in the daily traffic before the program started, transmitted, probably, by every major news network nationwide. Jim had been redialing the same number on his cellphone, trying to get through to Bruce, growing both annoyed at the constant redirection to voice-mail and slightly relieved that he wouldn’t have to carry this particular conversation with Bullock sitting right next to him.
He gave up, finally, and called Alfred, because if anyone would be reliable in this chaos, it would be him.
“We’re watching,” Alfred said, picking up on the first ring.
“Just make sure he doesn’t do anything st…” Jim stopped, as the all too familiar voice came up on the radio. The studio was taking callers from the viewers, and the car was filled with Joker’s voice. Jim reached out and turned up the sound, his hand instinctively tightening around the phone.
“If Coleman Reese isn’t dead in sixty minutes then I blow a hospital,” Joker said and Jim swore, right into the phone receiver.
“Quite so,” Alfred agreed, his cultured voice for once carrying a desire to use profanity himself. A moment later, slightly muffled as Alfred moved the phone away, Jim could hear him asking Bruce if he’d be taking the batpod.
“That falls under the definition of stupid,” Jim muttered.
“You’re welcome to try and stop him, Jim,” Alfred pointed out. “I’m going to check which of your officers have relatives in hospitals.”
“Thanks,” Jim muttered and disconnected. “We need to get to Reese before anyone else does,” he told Bullock who nodded grimly, stepping on the gas. Jim picked up the radio and tuned into dispatch’s frequency. “This is Gordon. Start the evacuation of all the hospitals immediately. Priority’s Gotham General.”
“Renee,” Bullock said through gritted teeth.
“I know,” Jim muttered back, punching another number into his cellphone. Thankfully, she picked up quickly.
“I can hear the sirens from here,” Montoya said, her voice sounding far off, material rustling against the phone. “I’m going to help with the evac as soon as I get dressed. Flashing my ass to the whole world wouldn’t be helpful.”
“Montoya,” Jim said exasperatedly.
“Boss,” she said sweetly. “Look, I’ve seen the news, it’s gonna be total chaos soon.”
“Yes, and that’s why I need you out. You’re not fully recovered and I want you out of there and safe.”
Bullock snorted quietly at the ‘recovered’ bit, which Jim took as a well-deserved pot and kettle remark, but they didn’t have time for that song and dance.
“Commish, I could help here.”
“I know you could,” he said tiredly. Honestly, arguing such things was even less entertaining from this side than it was from the injured one. But well, being on the other side gave him some experience and he wasn’t above playing the guilt card. “But I’d be calmer if I knew you were safe.”
She harrumphed at him. “Low, boss. Low.”
“Thank you,” he muttered. “Go to Bruce’s penthouse. And refrain from doing anything stupid on your way.” With any luck, maybe one person would listen to him tonight. Sensing her hesitation, he frowned. “I can make this an order.”
Renee snorted, and Jim could almost hear the accompanying eyeroll. “My boss orders me to spend some time at the most luxurious penthouse in the city. Awesome,” she said in a tone that was more annoyed and pleased. “Fine,” she added after a moment and disconnected.
“What did I do to deserve this?” Jim asked. Bullock, of course, just shrugged, but Jim didn’t expect an answer anyway, he was already forwarding Alfred’s findings to Stephens.
Just in time, because Bullock was pulling over at the tv station’s building, and uniformed officers were securing the perimeter and making the way for them.
“Reese’s on his way down,” Gerry said, joining Jim and Bullock. “We have a safe house prepared for him.”
“Just need to get him there,” Jim muttered, eyeing the crowd. Easy said. If they had Reese stay at the station it wouldn’t be long before the riots started, they needed to avoid that.
What was Joker trying to achieve? The man spent a lot of time trying to get Batman to reveal himself, and now that someone was ready to give up the name he was trying to kill him? Didn’t make any sense. Of course, Joker was insane, but still… distraction? But what for?
The elevator doors’ swished open and Jim moved forward, just to be stopped by Bullock’s hand on his shoulder. “Don’t step into the line of fire again, boss,” he heard and rolled his eyes but stayed put. After all, third time could be the charm, and he really wasn’t effectively trying to get killed, no matter what some people said.
And sure enough, once they started moving a fire rung out, shattering the glass. Bullock pushed Reese down, barking orders for everyone to take cover.
“They’ll trying to kill me,” Reese said, his voice shaking.
Jim rolled his eyes. “Yeah, we’ve noticed that.”
“You could always hope Batman would save you,” Bullock said dryly, surveying the exits. “This way.”
Somehow, they managed to get out without any more shots fired. Probably not that many people carried guns in the middle of the city centre. Give them a few moments, they might be able to procure some.
“At least it’s not that easy to shoot through the armored car’s windows,” Stephens said, as if reading Jim’s mind.
“Easier to crash into it,” Bullock pointed out helpfully and Jim frowned. He didn’t immediately think of this, but if Bullock did, then someone else was bound to as well. Oh, fuck it all to hell.
“There are days I hate my job,” Gerry muttered.
Jim snorted humorlessly. “I hadn’t even gotten through my first week on this job,” he pointed out. “I’m kind of starting to wonder if I will.”
“Cut the optimism, I need to focus,” Bullock said absently, eyes fixed on the road as he tried to maneuver through the traffic. “I don’t think it…” he stopped at the sound of a revving engine. Jim pushed Reese to the floor, just in case, but nothing hit them, instead there was a sound of metal crashing into metal with a great speed.
“What the hell?” Stephens asked, peering through the window.
“Wayne,” Bullock said sharply. Jim was already reaching towards the door handle, glancing outside to see the wreckage.
“Get Reese away from here and to the safe house,” he ordered. Reese was straining his head to look out, shock on his face. “Just stay put, we’re going through a lot of trouble to keep you alive.”
“I didn’t…” Reese started and stopped. “Tell him I’m sorry,” he said finally. Jim gave him a long look.
“Go,” he told Bullock and got out, shutting the door behind him.
The Lamborghini was trashed, the whole front dented and smoking. Bruce was getting out, appearing mostly unscathed. It was a good thing because Jim was ready to kill him otherwise.
Yes, he was aware how ridiculous that sounded.
“What the hell were you thinking?” he asked Bruce, and it came a tad too loud, but frankly, at that moment he didn’t care. He did care about how it felt after Bullock said it was Bruce, after he had seen the car outside.
“Well, I know I shouldn’t have run the red light, commissioner, but honestly, the traffic today is awful for some reason,” Bruce said, his tone bright and fake. Jim had a sudden desire to punch him for that one, a feeling rivaled only by the need to kiss him.
Neither of those would be very helpful right now.
“Are you alright?” he asked instead and Bruce shrugged.
“I know how to crash a car.”
“Clearly,” Jim said pointedly and sighed, reaching out to angle Bruce’s head to the side, making it look as if he was just checking for injuries. He was, but first and foremost he just needed to assure himself that Bruce was fine, safe and sound in front of him. His fingers slid across Bruce’s jaw as he lowered his hand, and he could briefly feel the way Bruce’s throat moved as he swallowed, his muscles tensing and relaxing at the touch.
“On a normal day I’d go to a hospital…” Bruce said wryly and Jim shook his head.
“When was the last normal day we had? I can’t really remember,” he muttered. He glanced around, the perimeter around the accident was now secured, and two of the first news vans were pulling over. “Are you alright?” he repeated the question.
“Mostly. Could be a slight concussion, nothing I can’t handle,” Bruce said flatly, and Jim gave him a look. Just the fact that he admit that one without prompting was telling.
“Second concussion in as many days.”
“Look who’s lecturing me.”
“Not lecturing,” Jim sighed. “Come on, we’ll get you home, at least Alfred will put his medical training to a good use and look you over. And I’m driving,” he added after a moment of thought, startling Bruce into a short laugh that didn’t sound forced. Good.
And just then a distant explosion sounded off. Jim looked in its direction. “Gotham General.”
Bruce nodded, moving to stand at his side. “We need to stop him,” he said, his voice dropping low and dangerous, almost the Batman’s growl but not quite.
“Don’t even know where he can be,” Jim said. “Got any brilliant plans?”
“I got one.”