Tuesday, April 17, 2012
That was all the note said on the small piece of paper Jake McGentry had found in his drawer just two nights ago. Even now, Jake still wasn’t sure what motivated him to go. He had no enemies and Sandori wasn’t connected enough to have gotten to him so soon after the bust. Maybe it was intrigue or boredom, but Jake, now standing outside of an old worn down mechanic shop, was wishing he had ignored the note and stayed home.
Why was he even here? How could he pull this off?
Jake saw that a light was on in the shop. Someone else was already there. Was it the masked man?
Jake was still trying to wrap his mind around the idea of it all—being Batman. Sure, he had plenty of military training and knew Gotham pretty well, but Batman was more than just some soldier or off-duty cop running around in costume. There had been plenty of wannabes when Batman first came along; mostly guys in hockey gear and bullet-proof vests painted black, but the masked man wanted Jake to be the real deal. How?!
‘Gold, St. Louise, and River.’ Those were the three words that the masked man told Jake to remember. ‘River’ was Jake’s word. He still didn’t know what that meant, but the masked man told him that he would know when to use it.
Nearing the door of the shop, Jake could hear voices—at least two. Jake looked down at the gun in his hand. Sarge wasn’t the only one who still carried around an “old n’ dirty”-- as Sarge called them--, but being off duty, Jake didn’t have a choice and the station didn’t exactly let officers check out pulse guns for the weekend.
“Well if it ain’t James Bond.” Marcus Vincetti said looking at Nick Ward.
Nick was the first to arrive. He was early. Still relatively new to Gotham, he wanted to check things out first, but Marcus had showed up just a few minutes after him.
Nick just looked at Marcus. He figured James Bond was better than Harry Potter; his previous nickname during their last encounter. ‘You’d think no one in Gotham had ever seen an Englishman before.’
“I guess our masked friend is looking for someone with a little more speed.” Nick quipped back.
Marcus scoffed as he continued to look around the old mechanic shop. There wasn’t much there, but it looked like it had been visited recently, possibly by the masked man as some of the tools and machinery looked new, not to mention the three envelopes on one of the work tables.
“Looks like we’re expecting one more.” Marcus said tapping his finger on one of the envelopes.
“What makes you say that?” Nick asked.
“Are you St. Louise?” Marcus asked, holding his gun a little bit tighter at his side. He didn’t exactly expect Nick to be the masked man or any sort of threat, but years of being a detective kept him on his toes and prepared for most anything. Who knows, maybe this whole thing was a sting by Internal Affairs to see which cops were playing it straight and who was willing to bend the rules. Marcus himself had always been a fan of bending and breaking a few rules when necessary, but had been playing it close to vest ever since the Attorney General’s office started cracking down on Gordon and the whole Gotham Police Department. Looking at Nick, Marcus figured he’d be a good candidate to be one of IA’s pawns; young, new, and eager to find his place, but he looked just as uncertain of the whole situation as Marcus was—and Marcus thought Nick couldn’t be that good.
“No, I’m… I’m Gold.” Nick replied.
“Good, then I guess we’re waiting on River.”
“Is that how you figured there were three of us? Three code words? Three envelopes?”
“It makes sense. I seriously doubt the masked man would need his own code word.” Marcus answered. “I figure this must be some sort of try-out or…”
Marcus stopped as he heard movement outside. Nick responded as well, holding up his small revolver, pointing it near the door.
“Stay here.” Marcus said.
Jake opened the door slowly and peeked in, not sure who or what to expect. No one on the shop floor, he moved cautiously inside.
“McGentry?” Marcus questioned, looking down at Jake from the upstairs floor.
Jake jumped and aimed his gun toward the voice above him.
“Woah, easy there. Same team, “ Marcus said easing back. “Shit. Looks like they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel on this one.”
Jake eased off slightly. He knew Marcus Vincetti casually, but they had never worked together. The other guy he had seen before…
“Are you an ocean?” Nick asked Jake, still cautiously aiming his pistol at him from behind one of the work tables.
Jake seemed confused at first, but then remembered his code word. “No. River. And you are?”
“Gold,” Nick responded lowering his gun.
“St. Louise.” Marcus followed in form as he came down the stairs. “So, are we expecting our masked friend?”
“Based on my encounter, I think it’s just us.” Jake replied.
“You know that brings up a good point. ‘Us.’” Marcus said looking at the other two men. “No offense, but I kinda figured this was a one and done gig until I saw Prince Charles here—didn’t exactly figure on having to audition for the part if you know what I mean? That is, unless you guys are supposed to be my sidekicks or somethin’?”
“Well, you could use someone to help you with the leg work of it all.” Nick chimed in.
“You still playing that record, Lancelot.” Marcus responded casually pointing his gun at Nick. “Yeah, you helped me catch a guy. My deepest thanks… kind sir.” Marcus said while doing a mock bow and fake English accent.
“I’m just saying that…”
“I think we were all told the same thing.” Jake interrupted.
“What, that we’re all supposed to be Batman?” Marcus replied. “You know, I can’t say I’m completely on board with the whole idea of Gotham NEEDING Batman, as our mutual masked friend said, but don’t you think it would be a little weird with three jabronies running around acting like Batman?”
“Well I don’t know about you two, but I can’t exactly quit the force and spend my time trying to figure out how to be Batman , let alone actually do it.” Jake replied.
“Shifts.” Nick stated. “We’re supposed to work in shifts.” Marcus and Jake looked at him funny. “Why else select the three of us? Why not just one or two? Clearly the masked man knows who we are and like you said, we can’t exactly quit and do this full-time.”
“Great. Well, I’ll alternate holidays and birthdays, and you two can decide between weeks and weekends.” Marcus said walking away. “Geez, I feel like my brother… Oh, and another thing.” Marcus said turning around. “While I hate to throw a monkey wrench in an already well-oiled machine, there’s still that small, inconsequential problem of actually being Batman. I don’t know about you two, but I don’t exactly see any extra Bat costumes lying around, do you?” Marcus said motioning around the room.
“We’ll have to make them… somehow.” Nick answered.
“Yeah, we’re fuc…” Vincetti started to say before a loud crash came from upstairs.
Startled and wondering if there was yet another member to add to their ranks, the three made their way up the stairs to the second floor.
“I think it came from the office.” Nick whispered.
The three men closed in on the office with Jake taking point. The door was ajar, but the lights were off and the windows were covered in a thick layer of dirt and grime that prevented anyone from seeing in or out.
Jake motioned to Marcus who moved in a cover position around the corner while Nick moved opposite of Jake and crouched down below the window.
Pushing the door open slowly, Jake peeked in before he darted into the room—nothing. He did a quick glance under the desk before spinning around, gun pointed at the closet door in the corner of the room. He waited.
Jake then slowly walked toward the closet, surveying the room, but never completely losing focus on the door.
“Well?” shouted Vincetti.
By now, Nick had stood up and entered the office as well.
Jake looked down at the floor near the entrance to the closet before turning to respond to Marcus.
Nick gave him a funny look as he saw that Jake was still focused on the closet door.
It had been a while since Gabby had been inside the old shop, having promised her father a few years ago that she would never go into that part of the city. Until today, she kept that promise, only ever looking at it from afar whenever she would take the rail to see her father whenever she got time away from school. While he always insisted in picking her up, she preferred the rail as it was the only way she knew to keep her promise and still catch a glimpse of the old shop. Even so, it still broke her heart to see it and remember what happened.
Walking around now in the dirty old shop, Gabby began to wonder what it would be like to clean it up and make it new again; and even though the air was stale, it still smelled like a mechanic shop. Except for a few broken windows, the building was still in good shape and looked like it hadn’t been used by anyone in a quite a while. Gabby at least suspected to find a few homeless people or drug addicts living in there, but guessed that Carlos Raines probably had a few guys come by every once in a while to run people off and make sure that no one was using the shop.
Bastard! Gabby thought, but she didn’t have much time to dwell on Raines before she heard someone pulling on the old rusty door.
She rushed quickly upstairs and into the main office, closing the door slightly behind her before the mysterious guest made his way inside. Gabby was thankful that the windows were crusted over with dirt and grime and no one could see her. The problem was that she also couldn’t see him and had no idea who was now there with her. Maybe it was one of Raines’ men to come and check up on the place, but that didn’t explain the strange phone call she overheard several days ago outside her dad’s office. She didn’t get the full details, but knew that whoever had called him had asked about the old shop and that her father seemed confused and slightly excited. Gabby tried to casually ask him about the phone call, but he brushed her off.
After the whole ordeal with Raines a few years ago, Gabby didn’t know what to expect, but now there was another man in the shop. Gabby needed to find a way out before they found out that she was there. Raines knew who she was and some of his men had seen her before. The last thing she needed was to be taken hostage and held for ransom. Her father had lost so much after Raines and with her at Gotham University; she often wondered what he had left for himself. Surely, he’d find a way to get her back, but then he’d probably kill her for breaking her promise.
Focusing back on the mystery at hand, Gabby now heard a second man enter the shop. She tried to listen to the two men and figure what they were talking about and why they were there. One of them had a Jersey accent and the other… English?
Good one Gabby, you walked right into the United Nations of mobsters.
She wasn’t sure, but it sounded like the one of them was named Louis and they were waiting on a masked man.
She tried to listen in a little bit more.
One of the men was coming up the stairs. Had she made a noise? Gabby was panicked and had nowhere to go and what if she moved and made more noise, surely then he’d know someone was up there. Gabby took a deep breath, softly took two steps over behind the door, and stood perfectly still hoping for the best-- closing her eyes trying not to think about the worst.
Public service announcement boys and girls: Never break your promises to your mommies and daddies, because if you do; you’ll find yourself in an old abandoned mechanic shop where angry mobsters will find you, and most likely kidnap and kill you. Of course no one will ever find you because they will dump your body in the river where all the little fish will nibble and gnaw at your dead, lifeless flesh until there’s nothing left but your tiny little bones. Oh and remember to brush your teeth kids so they can identify you later on when they finally fish out your sad promise-breaking little skeleton.
Just breathe Gabby, breathe… not too hard though.
As Gabby tried to recompose herself, she could hear the man going back down the stairs to greet the newest member of the party. Again, she tried to listen to what they were saying and if it had anything to do with her father’s shop or why they were there. She moved back over to the desk so she could hear more.
Gabby leaned closer to the door as she heard the men talking about working in shifts and something about running around like Batman. She couldn’t make out the whole conversation, but it was all getting a lot more confusing. Just then her hand slipped on a piece of paper on the desk and she came crashing forward hitting her head on the door jamb and knocking over several items on the desk and knocking the door forward, but not closed.
As much as her head hurt, she knew she couldn’t sit and have a cry, she needed to get out of there and quickly—but before she could think of trying to go out the door, she could hear them slowly making their way upstairs. They probably had guns and if they didn’t… she couldn’t take that chance. Her only hope was the office closet. At the very least they’d grab her and try to question her, and maybe she could catch them off guard and escape… at least that was the best possible scenario she could think of. She didn’t want to think about worse.
Their shoes clanked on the metal stairs as they slowly made their way up toward Gabby. She could hear them and knew she needed to just make less noise than them while she got into the closet. She hoped it was still empty. It was a coat closet, but her father mainly used it for old files and he had taken those with him when he was forced out.
Jake reached forward, twisted the doorknob quickly, swung open the closet door and jumped back in anticipation of whomever or whatever was to jump out or attack.
“Don’t shoot, don’t shoot! Please, please.” Gabby shouted in fear.
Jake and the other two men let out a sigh of relief. The nerves and muscles of their bodies unwinding slowly at the sight of a young woman curled up in fear.
Jake lowered his gun. “It’s okay, I’m not going to shoot you. My name is Detective McGentry.” Jake said as he reached out a hand towards Gabby to help her out of the closet. She was still terrified and on edge, but after hearing that he was a cop, her nerves calmed a bit as he helped her out of the closet. He could still be a bad cop and she couldn’t completely let her guard down.
“What the hell are you doing?!” Marcus said as he came into the room, grabbing Jake and pulling him outside of the office. “Why’d you tell her who you are? Who knows what all she’s heard up here. She goes to Gordon or IA and this whole thing is over before it even starts and…”
“Vincetti, calm down. We don’t even know who she is, why she’s here or what she’s heard.”
“Not that we’ve said much.” Nick chimed in.
“It’s okay, I didn’t hear anything.” Gabby interjected having overheard the exchange between the three men.
Marcus looked around Jake giving Gabby an odd look. “Really?” he said, walking over to her, “And why is it always the guys… or gals I should say, that have seen or heard something are the quickest to respond that they hadn’t?”
“Vincetti.” Jake said.
Marcus waved Jake off. “Nah, nah. I wanna hear what the little girl has to say about what she DIDN’T hear?”
“I’m 21.” Gabby replied.
“Oh, I’m sooo sorry. Well if that’s the case, let’s all take this conversation to the bar. We’ll get a few drinks, have a few laughs and you can tell us all about it. How’s that sound?” Marcus said grabbing her shoulder.
Gabby was quickly losing her slice of confidence and was beginning to wonder if she was in just as much trouble as she imagined before when she thought they were mobsters or part of Raines’ crew. Maybe they were bad cops, paid by Raines to do something shady or illegal. Plus, the ‘21’ comment didn’t help.
Real mature Gabby.
“Vincetti. That’s enough.” Jake said as he stepped in-between Marcus and Gabby. Looking at Gabby, he could tell she was still pretty shaken up and hadn’t calmed down much-- Vincetti hadn’t given her too much reason to. Jake could only wonder what might be going on in her head given her current situation. After all, how do you explain three cops secretly meeting in an old mechanic shop in one of the more rundown and poorer parts of Gotham?
Jake looked at Gabby and directed her to the desk chair. “It’s okay” he assured her. “I think we are just all a little on edge right now, but we don’t want to hurt you. Okay?”
Gabby looked at him and saw a softness in his eyes that told her that he was telling her the truth, even if the other guy he called ‘Vincetti’ seemed ready to shoot her and dump the body.
“This is my dad’s old shop and I… I just came here because…”
“Well?” Vincetti interjected, growing impatient with the whole process.
Jake looked back at him with frustration. “Vincetti, why don’t you go downstairs and grab those files and maybe… reorganize something.”
“What am I, the freakin’ secretary now?! No. I’m staying right here and seeing what she heard.” Marcus said pointing at Gabby.
“Fine, then shut up and listen. That work for you, paesan?” Jake said mockingly in his best Italian mobster voice.
Gabby and Nick couldn’t help but stifle laughter as Jake was clearly trying to lighten the mood. Marcus wasn’t laughing though, but he was a little more at ease thinking about Jake’s bad Italian rather than the situation at hand. Marcus hadn’t heard much about Jacob McGentry until a few days ago when rumors were going around about how he and Sarge blew up some drug warehouse and half the guys working it, including the head dealer himself. Of course, most of the stories around the precinct grew and evolved into ridiculousness that it was often hard to know the truth unless you read the actual report, but even so he knew of a few reports describing a giant bat creature flying around Gotham—so even official reports had their absence of reality.
“Now Gabby, why did you say you were here?”
“This is my Dad’s old shop and I overheard him on the phone several days ago talking to someone about letting them use the place.”
“You mean like rent it out?” Jake asked.
“I don’t know. I didn’t hear the other side of the conversation and my dad seemed pretty secretive about it when I asked.”
“Do you have any thoughts on who it might’ve been that he was talking to?”
“No, and when I asked he said it was nothing. But he seemed to know the person. Almost like they were old friends or something.”
Jake and the other two men looked at her funny as if maybe their masked friend made a mistake in picking their new secret hideout. Or better yet, maybe their masked friend was this mysterious caller that Gabby’s father spoke to.
Gabby continued, “My father told me to stay away from here, mostly because of the neighborhood and the guy that owns the neighborhood, Carlos Raines, but I think he mainly wanted me to not feel sorry for him for losing the place. But when I heard that someone was going to be using it, I got curious and well… here I am.”
Jake looked back at Marcus and Nick who were still standing outside listening to Gabby, and then back at her. “Well, I hope the person who called us here is the same person who talked to your father. If not, we might have an interesting situation on our hands.”
“The masked man?” Gabby replied.
“I knew it! She heard. She’s heard everything!” Marcus cried out throwing up his hands. “Well, it’s been real fellas.” He said as he turned to walk away.
“Where are you going?” Nick asked.
“I promise I won’t say anything. I honestly didn’t mean to overhear you. I can keep a secret, I swear.”
Marcus just shook his head.
“Gabby,” Jake said, “I’m going to be honest with you.” He paused a moment and looked back at the other two men. “The reason we’re here is…”
“What are you doing?” Marcus said turning back around.
“She’s going to find out one way or another.” Jake replied to Marcus. Looking back at Gabby, “I can tell that she’s a persistent person and is obviously not afraid to break a few rules to find the truth.” He said mainly to reference Gabby’s broken promise to her father and also to let her know that he had a pretty good read on her.
“How can you tell that?” Marcus questioned.
Jake just kept looking Gabby in the eyes, almost as if he was searching for something or trying to rewire her brain to work in some way she didn’t know about, “We can trust you, can’t we Gabby?”
Gabby just looked back at him as if she had just been given a great charge of responsibility, a responsibility she didn’t even know about fully. “Yes,” she responded in a half voice.
“Good.” Jake smiled, but Gabby still wasn’t sure what just happened and she was a little hurt that Jake thought she was some sort of noisy, promise-breaker. She really was a good person and could be trusted, but then again, he did speak up for her so she didn’t know what to think.
The four made their way downstairs and Gabby was still unsure of what she had just agreed to and how all of a sudden she found herself a part of it. Shaking the cobwebs out of her brain she remembered that it had something to do with Batman, so it couldn’t be all bad. Plus, despite the sharp nature of the gruff Vincetti, it didn’t seem like they wanted to hurt her. So if being a noisy promise-breaker kept her alive and safe, she’d be happy to play the part.
The four gathered around one of the shop tables that had the three folders.
“Gabby, this is Detective Marcus Vincetti,”Jake said pointing to Marcus, “and this is…” He paused, confused, having not even gotten Nick’s name during the whole commotion. Of course he had seen him around the Major Crimes Unit, but he was a patrol cop and Jake had never interacted with him until today. Either way, he was kind of glad he was around as he could tell he already had some sort of rapport with Vincetti, but he seemed a lot calmer.
“I’m Nicholas Ward, but you can call me Nick,” Nick answered, extending out a hand to Gabby, smiling as he shook her hand.
Gabby was thankful for his smile. It helped her feel a bit more at ease.
Jake laughed a bit to himself at not getting the name of the man he was about to share one of the biggest secrets of his life with as he reached out to shake Nick’s hand and the two exchanged their previously neglected introductions. Marcus just stood by shaking his head, not sure what to make of the whole ordeal.
“Well, now that we all know each other, it’s best I bring you up to speed Gabby.” Jake said before taking a deep breath. “The reason we’re here is that we’ve been asked to take on the role of Batman.” Even saying it out loud seemed a little weird, but it was true. There really was no easy way to say it. It was crazy and ridiculous, so why not just come out with it? “What that means or what that looks like, I really don’t think we know at this point, but it’s why we’re here. The masked man we were talking about earlier. He contacted me a couple of nights ago… and I assume did the same for Marcus and Nick.” The two men nodded in agreement. “From talking with him I don’t think he was Batman, but someone who knows a little more about him than the rest of us. He couldn’t confirm whether or not Batman was alive or dead, but he was pretty adamant about Gotham needing a Batman, whether it was the real deal or not. And that’s where we come in. I don’t know why he chose us or why he believed we’d agree to do it, but here we are. Like I said, I don’t even know where to begin, but you pretty much now know about as much as we do.”
Gabby wasn’t sure what to make of all the information she had just heard. A masked man? Jake, Nick, and Marcus being asked to be Batman? Especially Marcus. Clearly the masked man knew more than she did or was a crazy lunatic that managed to convince three cops to do something really stupid. Growing up, she had heard stories about Batman, some most likely true, some a stretch on reality, and others completely ridiculous, but she never sat and thought what it would actually mean for a person to be Batman. It all seemed like quite a chore and she could tell by the looks on the faces of her three new cop friends, it was still rattling their brains to just think about it.
Of course, every officer at Gotham PD had at least once thought of what it would be like to be Batman. The idea of enacting one’s own style of justice in Gotham. No rules, no paper work, no lawyers or red tape—just what was ‘right’, at least in one’s own eyes. Batman was different than that though. While he didn’t wear a badge, he still had his own set of rules. Rules that set him apart from the criminals and psychos that he tirelessly pursued night after night.
“Yeah, he didn’t exactly give us much to go on.” Marcus said. “At first I wanted to tell the guy to go screw himself, but after talking to him I figured why not. I mean, who knows who all else he planned on askin’ besides me? I’m a good detective and all, but I wouldn’t exactly be my own first choice… I just happen trust me more than I trust some of the other blockheads in Gotham.”
The others listened to Marcus and shook their heads as they looked around the shop, Jake and Nick explored what tools and equipment they had to work with and how they could use them, and Gabby surveyed the familiar surroundings that used to be her playground.
Marcus joined in after a few moments of personal reflection and mumblings of various moron cops that he knew; turning over old rusted tools, trying to sort out how they were going to make a go at this thing and whether or not they could do it.
“But hey, I got a good team thought, right? We got the English Ninja, Nick, and Jake weren’t you in Iraq or somethin’?” Marcus asked.
“YOU have a good team?” Nick quipped.
“Sorry, WE have a good team I mean. Lighten up, Your Highness.” Marcus replied.
Nick just shook his head, knowing that he was mostly likely in store for a lot more nicknames before it was all over, that is, if it would ever be over-- suddenly realizing he wasn’t sure how long this would last. If Batman was dead…
Marcus interrupted his thought, “And not to be the bearer of bad news or anything, but how exactly are we supposed to BE Batman by the way? I’m sure as hell not gonna run around in all black with a bat painted on my chest… and you know those tech nerds have been monitoring the web to make sure no one is selling any fake Bat suits or black riot gear like those morons from a few years ago who tried to form their own little Batman vigilante club.”
“What about these?!” Gabby said from across the room.
The three made their way over to her to see what she was talking about.
“I noticed these crates looked new and they definitely weren’t here when my dad closed the shop.” Gabby said.
Looking inside the first one, the others noticed that inside was a Wayne Body Armor suit along with a headset and gun, full gear set up for most Gotham police officers. Inside the other two black crates, the same.
“Wow. Whoever our masked friend is either has some high connections or pulled off quite a heist that nobody has heard about yet.” Nick said.
“So what do we do, spray paint these things black, slap a couple of pointy ears on the top, and hope no one notices?” Marcus asked.
Despite Marcus’ complaints thus far, the others had to agree that he had a point. Even if one citizen or officer saw them or took a picture, someone would notice the basic design of the suit and every officer in Gotham would be under investigation. Not to mention the tracking devices built into the suits, headsets, and guns. Hell, they could be tracking the suits now, but not likely as they were still there and had been there even before any of them had shown up. If they were going to get caught or…
“I could help!” Gabby said.
The three men looked at her, puzzled.
“Seriously, I really can. I’m a Mechanical Engineering major at Gotham U and I used to help my Dad around the shop fixing old cars and doing some fabrication work.” Gabby said excitedly.
“Girlie, while I’m impressed as most guy are at female gear head, these aren’t exactly old cars or some beat up radio. Big egg heads at Wayne Tech designed these things and…” Marcus replied.
“I know, but I think I can alter them enough to not look like regular police uniforms without having to recreate them or make something from scratch. Please, I can help.” Gabby said.
Jake looked at Gabby, seeing her excitement and confidence, knowing that he and most likely Marcus or Nick did not have the talent to even come close to what Gabby might be able to do with WBAs. Plus, Marcus was right. Not only did they need to look like Batman, they also needed to not look like cops trying to look like Batman. “Gabby, you’re sure you can do this?”
“Because not only do they need to look distinct from the original or at least look like a stolen design variation, but they need to be safe too… probably more so than they are now.”
“I know.” Gabby replied, her excited look turning to seriousness as she knew the responsibility Jake and the others were placing on her shoulders-- though she was still holding back her excitement at doing something so fun and extremely important. Too bad it couldn’t be one of her classes’ final projects.
“First, we need to remove the tracking devices built into all three. They’re probably not activated, but we need to move quick before somebody realizes these suits are missing and activates them. Just in case.” Jake said.
Marcus and Nick shook their heads in agreement.
“So we’re actually going to do this.” Nick said.
Jake looked at Nick, Marcus, and then back to Gabby. “As soon as Gabby’s ready for us, it looks like it.”
Gabby smiled with excitement.
“Well, until we get caught, killed, or arrested—this oughta be fun.” Marcus said laughing.
Nick and Jake just looked on with less excitement knowing the long road ahead.