by Syl Francis
Johnny ran down the deserted midtown boulevard. The lengthening shadows of the Gotham skyscrapers warned him of the lateness of the hour. He'd missed the bus! If he ran, he might still be able to catch it at the next stop. Johnny mentally kicked himself.
He'd been so involved in the wonderful sights and marvelous shops that he'd completely lost track of time. His father was going to kill him. If Johnny missed tonight's performance, he'd be canned for sure.
It would be the third time this season that Johnny missed a show. And anything Papa might say to him would pale in comparison to what Mama would say. At the thought of one of his mother's tongue-lashings, Johnny poured on the speed.
Rounding a corner at a full sprint, Johnny slammed into an angry group of people. Slipping on the wet pavement, Johnny scrambled to regain his feet while apologizing profusely. As he struggled to disentangle his legs he realized that the sole woman was screaming, pleading for help.
"Help me! Please!" she cried.
"Shaddup, lady!" a hulking brute growled. He was fighting to shove her into a waiting, open car. Another goon came up from behind and grabbed the small bundle that she'd been holding.
"No! Please! My baby! Don't hurt my baby!"
That's all Johnny needed to hear. Without pausing, he sprang into action. In a sudden explosion of speed, he flipped in midair and landed with both feet on the back of one of the woman's attackers.
They both went down in a heap. Johnny quickly recovered and back flipped out of harm's way.
"What's going on?"
"Rocco! Get that kid!"
The woman screamed again as she was shoved into the backseat of the waiting car. Desperately, Johnny executed a forward handspring, somersaulted and landed on Rocco's shoulders. He proceeded to pummel the larger man on either side of the head.
"Hey! Get him off'a me!" Rocco yelled.
Johnny back-flipped off the man's shoulders, kicked out with the heel of his right foot, and connected nicely with his opponent's temple. He had to delay these thugs before they--
A shot rang out! Johnny's head exploded in a shower of crimson stars. He heard the woman shriek in horror. A man's evil laughter drowned her out. And above it all, Johnny heard a baby's forlorn, frightened wail echo in the descending darkness
" He's coming to--" Papa?
"Oh, thank God!" Mama?
"Mr. and Mrs. Grayson, I know that this is a terrible time, but we'll have to ask your son a few questions." A stranger's voice.
"Questions?" Mama's desperate voice cried. "Our son was almost killed last night by some terrible hoodlums in your horrible town. I warned you, Papa!" she said. "Gotham City is not safe! We should never have agreed to come here."
"Mama " Papa said soothingly. "Now, now. We go where the Haly Circus goes. It's our home."
"Our home?" Mama said. "Harriman Haly is an idiot. Always with the big ideas and the big shows. Always bigger and bigger. Not like his papa, God rest his soul."
"Mama, Harry and I were boys together growing up in the circus. He's a good man. He has big plans for the circus. Good plans."
"Good plans," Mama said scornfully.
"Now, now, Mama. The good police officer here does not need to hear our dirty laundry. I am sure that he is a very busy man. If Johnny saw what happened to that poor woman and her baby, then he must help. Officer--?"
"Gordon. Detective Jim Gordon."
"Uhhhhhhn " Johnny murmured as he stirred. He hurt. He didn't want to open his eyes, but a sense of urgency overwhelmed him. He could still hear the baby's cries in the night.
He swallowed painfully. Forcing his eyes open, he struggled against the morning light.
"Johnny!" Mama cried. She hugged him immediately, planting several kisses on his face. Johnny stoically withstood his mother's greeting. He looked helplessly over her head at his father. Papa gave him a wink. Johnny smiled in return.
At last, Johnny turned to the other man. His father quickly introduced him.
"Son, can you tell me what happened?" Gordon asked. "Who did this to you?"
"I never saw them before," Johnny whispered. "I was late. I'd missed the bus." He glanced shamefacedly at his father. "I'm sorry, Papa. I missed the show again. I know, I promised "
"Never mind that for now, Johnny. We must help this police officer find these men."
Johnny nodded. He told Gordon about the men who were forcing the woman with the baby into the dark, late model Ford.
"One man called another one, Rocco." He shrugged. "I'm sorry, Detective Gordon, but that's all I know."
"Will that be enough, Jim?" a new voice asked from the open doorway. Startled, Johnny looked over at the tall man in a white lab coat. He had a stethoscope dangling from his neck.
"You should be home, Thomas, in case the kidnappers call," Gordon admonished.
"You know I can't leave my patients, Jim." He reminded Johnny of the tall skyscrapers that he'd admired in the city yesterday. But Johnny also sensed a depth of loss that seemed to radiate from him.
"You didn't answer my question, Jim. Do you have enough information to go on?"
"I don't know, Thomas," Gordon replied, "but it's a start." Gordon turned to Johnny. "Young man, this is Dr. Thomas Wayne. The woman from last night is his wife, Martha. The baby--"
"--The baby is our two-month-old son, Bruce," Wayne finished sadly.
Johnny dropped his eyes in shame. "I'm very sorry, Dr. Wayne. I should've stopped them. I should've--"
"No, son, it's not your fault. Thank you for trying, though." With that, Wayne left the room. Johnny turned sad eyes back to his parents.
"Johnny, if you remember anything else, give me a call at this number," Gordon said, handing him a card. Johnny nodded.
The baby's cries tore at him. Why didn't they feed him? Couldn't they see that the baby was hungry? He could feel the baby's hunger pangs, his need to be held by that soft, tender warmth that he associated with 'mother,' with love and safety.
The baby called to him. Slowly, painfully, he pushed back the covers and sat up in bed. Feeling himself being pulled, he stood and began walking
Johnny woke, startled. He looked around bewildered. He was standing, barefoot, outside of Gotham City General Hospital. He was halfway across the parking lot.
"Johnny, where do you think you're going?" Dr. Wayne ran up to him and grabbed him by the shoulders. "You've suffered a grazing gunshot to the temple. You need to rest!"
Johnny looked at him, his mind in a muddle. He could still hear the faint cries of the baby, but they were quickly fading. He shook his head. Everything was spinning. "Can't you hear it?" he asked confused. "The baby he's crying. I've got to--"
He hears voices, garbled whispers in the dark. After a few moments jumbled words begin to form, soon they become coherent sentences.
"We can't leave him!" Mama says.
"We must!" Papa insists. "The circus train leaves in two hours."
"I don't care. He's just a child," Mama whispers.
"I'm not a child, Mama! I'm nearly fourteen!~" Johnny protests, but they don't hear him.
"The good doctor will take care of our Johnny until he gets better," Papa says.
"But, Ricardo, we are Romany! Dr. Wayne, he is a Gaje--!"
"Graciela!" Papa interrupts sharply. "We go now."
A door quietly opens and closes. Soon, all sound fades once more into the darkness
When he woke, Johnny felt more himself, clear headed. He looked around the room. This wasn't his hospital room. Where was he? Taking a moment to study his surroundings, Johnny noted the massive four-poster that he was lying on. He looked up and took in the expensively carved ceiling and crystal light fixture.
Moving his eyes downward, his somewhat blurred vision fell on a wall-sized tapestry of a woodland scene. Blinking rapidly, he concentrated on the wall hanging and realized that it was scene out of Robin Hood.
Another wall was taken up almost entirely by the largest fireplace Johnny had ever seen. He sat up slowly and threw back the covers. A wave of vertigo passed over him. He looked down. A pair of slippers waited next to the bed. Raising a single eyebrow, he slipped his feet into them.
He stood up slowly and walked up to the drapes, drawing them.
The late morning sun flooded the gloomy room, transforming it into a bright, cheery sanctuary. A set of French doors led outside to a small balcony, which overlooked beautifully manicured grounds. A giant oak stood sentinel immediately on the other side of the balcony.
He smiled to himself. Some lucky kid could have fun jumping on and off the balcony to the lower branches below. That is, if that kid were circus born and raised like he was.
But then no circus kid that he knew would ever be able to afford a home like this, much less live in one. He shrugged philosophically. Well, not too many rich kids would ever be able to 'fly' 200 feet up on the trapeze, either.
The door opened behind him. An urbane gentleman walked in and greeted him.
"Good morning, young sir. I am the Wayne family's personal valet, Alfred. I am here to see to your needs. You will find suitable clothing in the drawers and in the closet. Clean towels in the bathroom." He paused.
"Your father and mother came by. The Haly Circus closed earlier than expected, and the circus train should have left the depot already. Dr. Wayne wishes that you remain here during your recovery. Your parents have agreed, and wish you to know that the circus shall be back this way in another three weeks when it heads towards Metropolis. At that time, you'll be able to rejoin them."
"No buts. Everything has been settled already. Dr. Wayne says that you should feel strong enough now to take care of your basic needs, but if you require help getting dressed, I shall be only too happy to--"
"--No! No, I don't need help getting dressed, thanks. I'll be done in a few minutes."
"Very well, sir. I shall be back in twenty minutes."
Johnny found himself nodding to a closed door. Grimacing, he walked to the chest of drawers and found what he needed.
Within minutes he was showered and dressed and standing outside in the cool spring morning. It was a beautiful April day. A bright splash of rainbow colors carpeted the immaculate lawn. Johnny felt a responding leap inside him as he gazed upon the garden of wildflowers.
A sudden cloud passed over the sun, casting a shadow on the earth below. Johnny shivered in the sudden chill breeze.
Somewhere in the recesses of his mind, he heard a baby's cry. The broken-hearted wails tore at him. He had to help the police find Mrs. Wayne and her baby. He had to!
Johnny felt like a rube from the country. The Haly Circus had played in some of the most impressive venues in the country. But to have performed in such places was not the same as living in one.
Johnny had never stayed in such luxurious surroundings. He found himself gaping and consciously closed his mouth.
Wayne greeted him downstairs. He was dressed casually, wearing an expensive smoking jacket with an open collar. He held a pipe in one hand, seemingly forgotten.
"Johnny, I hope you've found your room comfortable. Is there anything else you need? Your mother dropped off some of your clothes, which I see you've already found."
Johnny smiled. "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," he stammered. "Everything's fine. Your house is beautiful, sir!"
Wayne smiled. "Thank you, Johnny. Mrs. Wayne and I--" he stopped. He stared off momentarily, and then abruptly came back to his guest. "I'm sorry. It's hard not knowing where they've taken her. If she's all right. If the baby "
"They haven't called yet, sir?"
Wayne shook his head. "No. Gordon and the FBI say there's little they can do until the kidnappers call and demand a ransom. They could be halfway out of the country by now!"
Johnny felt sorry for Wayne. He seemed like a kind, caring man. Should Johnny reassure him? Should he tell him about the baby's cries? But the doctor was a Gaje, a non-Romany. He would not understand. He might even become angry. He was about to speak, when they were interrupted by Alfred.
"Dr. Wayne, Master John sirs, lunch is served."
"Thank you, Alfred," Wayne said. He looked at Johnny. "Shall we?" Johnny nodded.
The afternoon passed with excruciating slowness. Alfred, carrying rags and furniture polish, disappeared somewhere within the dark nooks of Wayne Manor. Wayne retired to his rooms.
Johnny haunted the quiet corridors of the manor alone.
Eventually, he found a massive door that led into a quiet study. The room was lined with more books than Johnny had ever seen in his life. Curious, he walked in to explore the shelves. As he read the gilded, leather-bound titles, his eyes fell on an eight by ten, antique-framed portrait. It was centered on one of the shelves, surrounded by other, framed family photos.
It was a picture of the woman he'd seen the other night being dragged into the dark car. She was dressed elegantly in a long, shimmering gown with a low decolletage. Her dark hair was swept up a French chignon, held in place with a mother of pearl hair comb. A simple strand of pearls and matching earrings accented the comb.
She was seated in this very room, with the bookshelves serving as backdrop. In her arms, she held a small bundle wrapped in baby-blue blankets.
What struck Johnny as he studied the portrait of mother and son was that Mrs. Wayne had eyes only for her baby. The love she emanated was that of a mother for the miracle of her first born. Whatever the reason, Johnny knew that this was a woman who glowed with warmth and comfort.
Very carefully, Johnny returned the framed photograph back to its place of honor.
The jangling of the phone on Wayne's desk broke the stillness of the afternoon
"No!" Wayne bellowed, snapping the briefcase shut. "I won't allow either of you to endanger them."
"Thomas, you can't go there alone," Gordon said reasonably. "What if it's a setup? What if all they want is to take the money and kill all three of you?"
"You say they wouldn't let you speak to your wife?" The new speaker was Special Agent Reed, who was assigned to the Wayne kidnapping.
"No, but I don't care! If there's the slightest chance that this money will get my wife and son back, I'm going!"
"Thomas, you're not thinking straight," Gordon urged. "Let the FBI handle this. These people aren't to be trusted."
"No!" Wayne yelled again, his desperation coming to the fore. "Martha and Bruce are depending on me to get them out of this! Don't you understand? They're depending on me. I won't let them down."
"Thomas, we know that you're feeling guilty for not being able to prevent this, but it isn't your fault. These kidnappers tricked all of you--!"
"--Boy, you called that right, Jim!" Wayne interrupted. "First they call me away on some wild goose chase, telling me that one of my patients is going into toxic shock." Pacing around the desk, Wayne laughed in self-mocking anger. "Ever the vigilant doctor I left my wife and two-month-old son at the Gotham Hilton--alone!"
"Thomas, please. They weren't alone. They were with friends. It's unfortunate that she became separated. The concierge says that they received an emergency message about a car accident. She wouldn't wait for the hotel to call her a cab. Instead, she ran outside to hail one. Before any of them could react, a group of men tried to grab her off the street. That's when young Grayson here came along and almost put a stop to it."
Gordon shook his head. "But it wasn't your fault. It was too well planned. To the last detail."
Wayne turned his back on the other men and picked up the same portrait that Johnny had been admiring earlier. Finally, he shook his head. Taking a deep breath, Wayne turned around. He glared at the two police officers, his self-loathing for failing to save his wife and son projecting out at them.
"I'm sorry, Detective Gordon, Agent Reed. But I'm going to have to ask you politely to leave my house. I do not wish either the GCPD or the FBI involved in this." He pressed a buzzer. Alfred appeared instantly. "Alfred? Will you please show the gentlemen out?"
Alfred stared mutely at his employer, his eyes telegraphing his own pain and loss. Recovering quickly, he nodded and addressed Gordon and Reed in his most urbane voice.
"Gentlemen? This way please."
"Thomas--?" Gordon began. Wayne looked determinedly away from his friend. Sighing, Gordon turned and left the study.
"What will you do, sir?"
"What?" Wayne looked around confused as if he'd fallen asleep.
Johnny stood up from the corner easy chair where he'd been sitting quietly watching the proceedings. He walked up to Wayne.
"What will you do now, sir?"
Wayne looked sternly at him. His dark eyes hooded in the growing shadows of the late afternoon. Johnny swallowed, his own gray eyes wide with fear and concern. Wayne's glare softened. He placed a strong hand on the boy's shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Johnny. I didn't mean to snap at you. I'm driving to the pickup point that the caller gave me. When there, we'll make an exchange. They said that if the police came, they'd kill Martha and little Bruce." He shook his head. "I won't risk their safety by allowing Gordon or the feds to help."
"But, sir, what if it is a trap? They wouldn't let you to speak to your wife. You don't know if they even have her or if--" Johnny stopped. Or if she's dead, he'd been about to add.
Wayne's haggard eyes turned back to his wife's portrait.
"I know," he whispered.
The car stopped at last. Johnny let out a relieved breath. "Note to self," Johnny muttered, "do not ever attempt this stunt again!"
He waited a few seconds, not daring to move. Finally, he heard the driver's side door open and Wayne step out of the car. Releasing his feet from their precarious toehold on the car's chassis, Johnny placed them carefully on the pavement below. Once he could feel his feet on the road, Johnny felt it was safe to release his strong grip on the car's bumper.
Traveling at 60 mph, underneath a car might look 'neat' while James Bond was doing it on a movie screen, but Johnny Grayson decided that flying 200 feet in the air was more to his liking. Besides, he thought he'd choke on the gas fumes.
Rolling out from under the car towards the passenger side, Johnny creeped forward until he was crouched next to the front bumper. Staying hidden, he watched Wayne's tall shadow standing next to the driver's side.
The minutes inched by. Johnny was beginning to think that it had all been a hoax, when two high beams suddenly flooded the night. Johnny slipped to the ground and hugged the side of the car, making himself as small as possible.
Two shadows in long, dark overcoats profiled themselves in front of the headlights.
"Dr. Wayne?" one shouted. "You got the money?"
"Not until I see my wife!" Wayne yelled.
"The money first, Wayne. Or your wife and son die!"
Wayne looked like he was about to protest, but instead nodded curtly in surrender.
"Take five steps forward and leave the briefcase on the ground, then step back to the car."
Wayne did as told. As soon as he was back at the car, one of the shadows broke away and walked deliberately to the briefcase and picked it up.
As soon as Wayne began walking towards the drop point, Johnny slipped quietly to the underbrush that lined the desolate, county road. Inching noiselessly, he made his way around to the kidnappers' car.
When Wayne returned to his own sports car, Johnny was crawling just outside the kidnappers' vehicle. Risking a look, he quickly scanned the interior, front and back. It was empty!
He felt a moment of panic. Could Mrs. Wayne and the baby be in the trunk? He had to do something! These men had no intention of returning their victims. Maybe they didn't even have them.
"My wife and son! I want them now! I've held my end of the deal. You said no cops! No feds! Where're my wife and baby?"
The two 'kidnappers' broke into raucous laughter.
"Wish we knew, doc!" one guffawed. "But if we had 'em, you can bet we'd keep 'em until you paid out your entire Wayne fortune!"
"Why you--!" Wayne rushed towards his tormenters, both arms swinging. Still laughing, the two thugs ducked easily under his inexperienced blows. It was obvious to all that, while Wayne was a successful doctor, he was not fighter.
The men easily boxed him in between them, and then began taking turns punching him, first one, and then the other. Wayne rallied valiantly, but he was no match for the two hoodlums.
Johnny watched uncertainly from the sidelines. What should he do? Suddenly, Wayne went down, and the two men, guffawing with the sheer pleasure of rendering pain, began kicking him. Wayne cried out as one of them connected with his midsection.
Enraged, Johnny sprang up and leaped over the car, using his momentum to carry him forward towards the two thugs. He barreled into them with the full force of his 130 pounds, taking them by surprise.
He didn't have time to think about what he was doing. He just moved by instinct. As a trained acrobat, Johnny knew several ways to use his feet to maximum effect. After all, a kid growing up in the circus had to know how to take care of himself. As he kicked out in desperation, he noted that Wayne had managed to regain his feet and joined the fray.
Johnny ducked quickly underneath his opponent's fists. His smaller size made it easier for him to kick and bob. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Wayne subduing his opponent as well. Within minutes, Johnny and Wayne had the two would be extortionists on the ground, immobilized.
"Where are they!" Wayne screamed. His pent up anger, coupled with a sense of overwhelming despair and desperation, manifested itself. Wayne held one of the hoods by the lapels and pounded his head against the pavement. Johnny watched in growing horror as the man's head split open and started bleeding.
"Dr. Wayne! Please, sir! Stop!" he cried.
"I don't know," the hood pleaded, his voice blubbering. "I swear to God, I don't know!" Wayne felt around the pavement until he found the revolver that one of the thugs had dropped. Holding it, Wayne quickly removed the bullets from the cylinder.
Keeping his eyes on the gangster beneath him, Wayne held one bullet out between his thumb and forefinger, allowing the light from the car's high beams to strike it. Smiling ruthlessly, he carefully loaded it. Snapping the cylinder back in place, Wayne grimly turned it several times. Pointing the gun towards the woods by the roadside, he pulled the trigger. The gun clicked.
Holding the revolver to the frightened hood's temple, Wayne addressed him coldly.
"Now you listen to me and you listen good!" he snarled. "The cops kept my wife and baby's kidnapping out of the papers. There's only one way that you could've known. You have a choice to make. Understand?"
The hood shook his head. "I-I swear I don't know," his voice squeaked in terror.
Wayne pulled the trigger. It clicked on an empty chamber.
His terrified prisoner started whimpering almost incoherently, tears streaming down his face. "I-I swear! Please!"
Wayne pulled the trigger again.
"All right!" the kidnapper cried desperately. "Please! Put that thing away I'll tell you everything I know!"
"Talk!" Wayne screamed.
"O-okay! Okay!" he sniveled. "Me'n Ted, w-we overheard two guys talking. I swear--!"
"Where?! Where did you hear them talking?" Wayne demanded. He was almost nose-to-nose with the man.
"At Sharkey's Bar. On 20th and West. A coupla guys I-I think they work for Snapper Daggett--"
"Shut up, Leo!" his partner shouted. "Are you crazy?"
"You shut up, Ted! You ain't got no gun to your head!" Leo whined. "I ain't goin' up the river for no kidnapping of no baby and his mother. You know what the cons at Blackgate will do to us?"
"You know what Daggett will do to us?"
"Johnny! Find something to tie these two with," Wayne instructed brusquely. "Stay with them. I'm headed for Sharkey's Bar."
"Sorry, Dr. Wayne," Johnny said, "I'm going with you."
"Absolutely not, Johnny!" Wayne said sharply. "I won't let you risk your life."
Johnny looked steadily at Wayne and then broke into a wide, bright grin.
"I'm afraid that you don't have a choice, Dr. Wayne."
Holding onto the door handle to avoid sliding over to the driver side, Johnny looked askance at Wayne. The doctor was driving like a maniac, taking blind curves around the hills that surrounded the outskirts of Gotham City with careless abandon.
Johnny's lifestyle was one of thrills and constant danger, but his family trained incessantly to minimize risk and maximize safety. Wayne was acting just plain crazy!
"Who's Snapper Daggett?" Johnny asked, as much to get his mind off the danger as to gain information. He quickly closed his eyes and looked away as yet another huge tree seemed to be careening straight towards them. Wayne jerked the wheel to the left at the last possible moment. The low sports car took the sharp curve on screeching wheels.
After a seemingly long pause in which Johnny had just about decided that Wayne wasn't going to answer his question, the doctor began talking reluctantly.
"Samuel Daggett, AKA Snapper Daggett, is the CEO and founder of Daggett Pharmaceuticals, a chain of medical supplies store. DP has stores in Gotham, Metropolis, and is currently looking to expand to Central City."
"I don't understand, sir," Johnny said perplexed. "He doesn't sound like someone who'd stoop to kidnapping."
"You work in the circus, kid," Wayne said. "You should know that looks can be deceiving. Gotham General Hospital awarded a multi-million dollar contract to DP about nine months ago for the latest in preemie neonatal care incubators."
At Johnny's obvious look of incomprehension, Wayne explained. "'Preemie' is just a term we use for premature babies. 'Preemie neonatal care' is the medical care we provide premature babies following birth. Because preemies are at times not fully developed, they require being placed in incubators to allow their tiny bodies the time necessary to come to term. That is, the time they didn't get due to being born too soon."
Johnny swallowed. "Elinore gave birth to a 'preemie'. The baby didn't live long. Bartholomew, the elephant handler, was heartbroken. I was, too. I love Elinore. Everyone in the circus does. The audience loves her, too."
"Who's Elinore?" Wayne asked curiously. "One of the circus performers?" Johnny laughed.
"You could say that again! Elinore is the star of Haly Circus--she's our prize elephant and gets to lead the circus parade every show. Sometimes Bartholomew lets me ride her."
Wayne smiled. "It must be fun growing up in the circus," he mused.
"It's the best. But it's also a lot of hard work," Johnny added. "Anyway, I still don't understand. Why would Daggett kidnap Mrs. Wayne and the baby?"
"Soon after we began to change over to the incubators that DP sent us, the neonatal nursing staff began to notice an alarmingly high failure rate in the units. Invariably, we'd have to change back to one of the old incubators until DP could supply us with replacements." Wayne paused, disgusted.
"To make a long story short, the replacements failed, as well." Wayne concentrated on his driving for a few moments. Johnny noticed that since they'd started talking, the doctor's driving had settled down to a safer speed. Finally, Wayne continued.
"Unfortunately, we lost three babies in the process, Gotham General's first set of triplets: Amy Marie, one pound, two ounces, Christopher Robin, one pound, one ounce, and Lindsey Lee, one pound, three ounces. They were barely thirty-six hours old. Little Amy Marie held my finger during her first feeding."
Wayne's voice caught. Out of the corner of his eyes, Johnny saw the good doctor bring his hand surreptitiously up to his eyes. Johnny looked determinedly away.
Wayne cleared his throat. "I had to tell Jeannie and Robert Miller that all three of their babies were dead due to massive heart and lung failure caused by the catastrophic malfunction of the Daggett Pharmaceutical incubators."
Wayne's jaw hardened into a grim line.
"I vowed that I would never have to break identical news to another set of parents. Needless to say, Gotham General Hospital sued Daggett Pharmaceuticals for medical malpractice. The Gotham State Medical Board found DP guilty of willful negligence, and they lost their medical license to sell medical supplies in Gotham City. DP's stock took a downward turn, but that wasn't the worst of the fallout." Wayne paused momentarily, reflecting on the previous months of anger and frustration at Daggett's supply company.
"The Gotham District Attorney's office decided it had enough evidence to bring the case against Daggett Pharmaceutical to a Grand Jury. My medical testimony was largely responsible for Snapper Daggett and several of his Board of Directors being indicted on three counts of involuntary manslaughter." Wayne sighed. "The criminal case is due to go to jury trial in another two weeks. I am, again, the lead medical expert witness for the prosecution."
Wayne futilely slammed his hand on the steering wheel. "I thought that this was almost behind me. I underestimated the lengths to which Snapper Daggett would stoop."
Johnny nodded in agreement, and then keeping his eyes straight ahead, he asked the question that was uppermost in his mind.
"Would you have killed him ? That guy back there?"
They drove on for a long moment in complete silence. Finally, Wayne held out his open palm to Johnny. Curiously, Johnny waited to see what he was up to.
"As I said earlier--" Wayne closed his hand into a tight fist. "--looks can be deceiving." He shook his closed hand, opened it, and then snapped his fingers. "Presto! Change-o! The hand is quicker that the eye!" The soft moonlight streaming in through the windshield caught a metallic glimmer in the palm of his hand.
Wide-eyed, Johnny reached for the gleaming bullet in the doctor's hand.
"You mean, you never--?" Johnny whispered awed.
"I'm a doctor, son. I've taken an oath to save lives I don't take them."
"Even if they're responsible--?"
"Even if," Wayne said. "Otherwise, how will I ever be able to look Bruce in the eyes in the future?"
Johnny nodded. He settled in his seat, lost in thought.
"What will you do if we get in?" Johnny asked. They were sneaking outside the filthy alleyway next to Sharkey's Bar. Wayne didn't answer him. Instead, he turned and held his finger to his lips in a shushing motion. Johnny rolled his eyes.
Following stealthily behind Wayne, Johnny kept a sharp lookout for anyone who might sneak up behind them. Wayne found a window further down, obviously leading to the basement. He tried it, but it was locked.
He looked around for something to break it with. Johnny stopped him, urgently signaling Wayne for attention. Wayne looked impatiently at him. Johnny pointed straight up. There was a pipe that ran all the way to the roof.
Wayne's eyes widened. "Are you crazy?" he hissed. Johnny grinned. He suddenly leaped up, grabbed a firm handhold, and began climbing.
"It's really easy, doc," he said. "Hold the pipe like this keep your feet and knees like this and pull up like this!" Within minutes, he was up on the roof. Looking down, he waved encouragingly at Wayne.
Shaking his head in bemusement, Wayne looked at the pipe, looked at his hands, shrugged, and went for it.
All characters are DC Comics
This story is © 2000 by Syl Francis.
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