Chapter Two

The Stacked Deck nightclub, having recently opened near the docks, has already established a seedy reputation. Ran by the newcomers to town, the Falcone family, Carmine is said to be the patriarch. I have yet to see him. The men I've conversed with haven't either. He is becoming more myth than man in record time, and the stories aren't good.

A wife under the name of Louisa seems to run day to day operations of the venue, and has been serving as the face of the family. Her Italian features are easily recognizable, and her beauty would have been worthy of poems and lyrics in days past.

Two young sons, Alberto and Mario, round out the family. Innocents. My business life is handled only at work. My personal life at home. This life is handled on the streets and in the cave.

Below my home is a natural cave system that I've turned into a secure location to aid me in my duties. I keep a list of names there. Big fish needing caught and the best way to catch one is with bait.

Carmine has been attempting to sway politics here in Gotham already if rumors are to be believed. Cops have been paid well to ignore calls. Them, and the politicians, should wear jackets with their endorsers' marks. It would be a better world.

A man by the name of Wesker is said to be the right hand to Carmine. He will serve well for my plan. Drawing out Carmine will likely force him to become reckless but any mistake will likely help me.

From my position, in the shadows, perched from the vantage point of a nearby rooftop I can see that the club has a line of people hoping to get in to forget about life for an afternoon. Overpriced drinks, loud music and hopes of sex are being dealt in bulk. A large bouncer picking only the most attractive women to enter helps sell this fantasy to the incels and the generally aroused. The only men coming through are skipping the line, getting a nod from the doorman as they walk up. Most I recognize as scum in the form of human flesh. It's hard to know for sure what business the family truly specializes in but the three most likely are some combination of human trafficking, drugs, or arms dealing.

My intentions are to bring them to light either way but I will return tomorrow in a different form.

Years ago, the world was first introduced to the concept of a super hero. The debates for and against have existed since. Comics, books, film. Media forms fantasizing the idea. But Hourman was the first to take the concept and truly run with it. He could "get to any major crime in New York and stop it within an hour". That was long ago. Those hours have turned to years. Hourman was one of the first superheroes. His claims of discovering a miracle drug that provided super strength were exaggerated, but he was smart. He made many media appearances, fighting crime at the same time to build a reputation. Before long, everyone believed that he truly was capable of inhuman acts. Parlor tricks, but they worked for a long time. He did a lot of good for the world, before being gunned down in an alley.

His death served a launching point. The shock of his passing hit hard in the minds of his supporters. Some began to mimic his actions, forming a group of like minded men and women around the world, loosely connected in his image. His influence had some sway on me, too.

I was a child when he was murdered. Most of those who picked up after him have gone now, too.

Some also met their ends at the hands of a bullet or knife wound. Others stopped for different reasons. I was seemingly the sole entity now living in the memory of Hourman. I visit his monument every once and a while to remind myself who I am.

Just a man, but also an icon.

A symbol.

WayneCorp was my fathers' achievement. The mask I wear as Batman is in honor of Rex Tyler; Hourman. The mask I wear at work is in honor of my dad's legacy. The business is a multi-layered conglomerate. Shipping, naval shipyards, research and development. Truly a global powerhouse covering many industries. Some aspects of WayneCorp aid me in my pursuit of justice. Most aid the world in general.

The Cryo department, for example, is perusing ways to prolong life until medical advancements can better battle ailments. WayneSteel provides top quality steel. It's the largest mill of it's kind in the world. Lucius, my father's best friend, tends to run things smoothly for me. He's a good man and a rare breed.

Only two people know of my night-time persona. He is one of them. The other is my butler, Alfred. He is more of a father to me though and simply referring to him as, "butler" feels crass.

These are the only two people that I fully truly trust with my life.

The Wayne Foundation is the most important branch of the company, serving to aid healthcare enhancements, reduction of global poverty, and to fund upcoming entrepreneurs, among other things.

I am not a perfect man. But my legacy is one I can at least be proud of.

When night falls again, I return to the Stacked Deck, but this time as Bruce Wayne. Ignoring the line, I walk confidently towards the large bouncer. When I am roughly five feet away he catches sight, looking me directly in the eyes.

He has deep brown eyes. His clean shaven face does little to hide his obvious past troubles. Those eyes alone tell a story.

"Going in", I say with confidence. He says nothing. A flicker of a moment passes that feels longer than it truly is. I feel a hand on my shoulder and notice a  scent of cologne telling me quickly who it belongs to. "He's cool", says the familiar voice. The bouncer nods before removing his attention back to scanning the line for women he deems worthy.

"What brings you here, Bruce"?

"Alfred decided I needed a night out", I replied.

Roman is a childhood friend of mine. He was raised in a house not far from that of mine in principle and in distance. His parents had wealth, and Roman was well off in that sense as a result. But where I was loved, there was always something cold in the Sionis house. Money always came first. His parents were murdered a few years after my own. We have always had a bond, though not all the connections are good ones.

We walk in, immediately greeted by a loud wall of sound. Outside, it was noticeable enough. Within, it was deafening. In front of us was a large room, filled with people dancing and enjoying themselves. A large bar sits in the back of the room where two bartenders serve drinks. Roman points towards the left to stairs leading upwards to the second floor. Another bouncer protects the route from unwanted roamers.

Upon seeing Roman, we are nodded with approval for ascension. The music isn't as loud here, at least. Several sections of tables and booths establish the scene and there's a door on the far right where the Falcone family likely handles business. We take up a spot at the closest table. A woman smokes alone, taking long drags, looking out nearby us. Louisa.

"So, what you wanna do?" Roman looks excited as he speaks.

I suppose it makes sense. He lives for parties.

"Not sure. Figured I'd just come down and have a drink. Check out what the fuss is about."

He admittedly looks a tad disappointed. Years of experiences with me should have prepared him for such an answer yet he likely was still hoping I'd mention hookers and drugs.

A waitress walks up. She's wearing a short yellow skirt and a black top with the club's logo.

"Hey, Cherry. Looking fucking good."

She smiles a fake smile.

"So, what ya having honey, the regular"?

Her question is answered with a smile of his own and a request for a whiskey on the rocks for myself.

Cherry walks away, leaving us alone again while Roman watches her closely as she leaves with clear lust.

"Been working on that one for a while now. No luck getting her to put out yet."

I smile a fake smile.

To Roman, it's as good as the real thing. These fake smiles tend to be so common around him that he doesn't understand the difference. That, or he doesn't care.

He spent much of his inheritance on frivolous things over the years, but has rubbed enough shoulders to remain significant in Gotham. He owns several hotels in the area where he allows certain activities to take place. His name is on my list, but I have held off so far.

Roman returns his full attention my way, "so, ever meet the Falcone's? Louisa is that one over there. She runs this place. A bit cold, but you can tell she's good for the place. Everyone respects her."

"Can't say I have."

My answer gets the desired response.

"Hey, Louisa", he shouts towards her, "got a friend you should meet."

She looks over to see us.

Instant recognition.

She moves with an elegance. Roman stands up in respect.

"This is Bruce Wayne, Lousia. The most powerful man in Gotham."

"Yes, I know. So kind of you to join us here."

Her expressions remain solid.

"Thank you. I just stopped by to check things out. Heard your family is making an immediate impact here in town."

An eyebrow slightly raises.

"Well, don't believe all the rumors. You know how people are. Well, anyway, it was good to meet you. Come anytime. I'll ensure you are given a green light by the doormen any time you wish."

She walks away before anything else can be said. Quick, yet that elegance persists.

Cherry walks up with a tray. She places a whiskey in front of me and a cocktail and burger on the opposite side of the table. It looks like a heart attack on a plate, oozing with cheese and some kind of sauce that I presume is a signature of the location.

"Give me a shout if ya need anything else."

"Still waiting for your number, doll."

Another fake smile.

The rest of the evening was filled with them. I left Roman after about an hour. He wanted me to stay, but was thankful that I was there at all. Knowing the basic layout of Stacked Deck was the goal of the night, and that was a success.

That night I had the same dream I have nearly every night.

Images of my parents, silent and cold in front of me as their robber and murderer fled into the night.

He stole something from me, too.

Less sleep tonight than usual so I walk down to the cave. Staring at the costume there is like looking in a mirror. The bat theme is to further my cause. Criminals are cowards. Using the night as a tool, the costume adds to the myth I provide.

Some say I am a real bat, turned into a monster by radioactive waters. Others just think I am an insane man who belongs at Arkham. Perhaps that last one isn't too far off from reality. Either way, the stories grow.

This cave system has many uses.

A large computer system sits in the middle. Another safe house exists in the form of a storage bunker at WayneYards. There, I store what media coined as a "Batmobile". I'd be lying if I said I hadn't become attached to the name.

Using an otherwise unused tunnel allows me to enter and exit the bunker in secrecy as I wish from the cave.

There I store another suit. I feel safest when I am in the cave but strongest when in the bunker.

The cave system provides silence and reflection. Here I investigate, record data, and plan. The bunker is where I go when I am sure of what I need to do next. This brings piece of mind that is unmatchable, helping ensure that I always center myself before fully going to war.

The Falcone family purchased an estate on the East End. A large penthouse. That's my next target. I only need to decide which mask to wear to scope it out.